Buyer Beware

Today I will be analyzing some of the worst products I’ve ever had the displeasure of possessing.

First, Sweet Tarts chews.

Intended Message: It’s the latest product from Wonka! It’s SweetTarts, but they’re chewy!

Perceived Message: I had a little bit of difficulty finding an image of this product because the product was later redesigned and renamed not long after it’s release. Hopefully that gives you an idea about why this product was such a blunder.

It was a my sophomore high school English class, and we each were required to give a presentation on a certain chapter of the book Les Miserables. It was well established that bringing in food for your project made it much more enjoyable to the students than possessing even the finest of oratory skills. The presenter chose to hand these “treats” out as “rewards” for the little trivia game he held over the events of his chapter. I was rather underwhelmed.

To be fair here, SweetTarts chews don’t taste that bad. In fact, they taste a lot like Laffy Taffy. Okay, so they taste and look exactly like Laffy Taffy. So what’s my issue here? I mean, Wonka’s only fault can be copying another company’s product in order to compete with them, and lots of knock-off companies are guilty of that.

The issue is that Wonka makes Laffy Taffy. So yes, dear reader, Wonka got the brilliant idea to produce a knock-off product of one of its own products.

Laffy Taffy at least has cringeworthy jokes to make it worthwhile.

Fortunately, Wonka realized its error and, as I stated previously, redesigned the product so that the product at least no longer looks like Laffy Taffy and instead looks like chewable SweetTarts. Nice save there, Wonka.

Next, movie storybooks based off movies based off books.

The Chronicles of Narnia

Intended Message: Did you love the movie? Here’s a great way to help remember the story in a simple, easy to digest storybook!

Perceived Message: How about instead of “Did you love the movie? Give the filmmakers more money!” we say “Did you love the movie? Read the actual book!”

Honestly. Is our culture that much opposed to taking a little extra time to read a chapter book that we have to produce an incredibly simplified version of the movie the book was based on? The worst offense of these books is that they’re nothing more than shameless marketing techniques for the movies, trying to draw in younger viewers.

Having read both The Chronicles of Narnia movie storybook as well as the Prince of Egypt movie storybook, I find it incredibly amusing how blatantly ambiguous the language they use is to desperately try to cover up the Christian/Jewish themes present in the source material, and to a lesser extent, even the movies. Obviously, alluding to these themes would limit the potential audience for the movie storybooks, rile some secular parents into a frenzy from the horror that their child was reading something religious, and decrease revenue for the movies. The question I have to ask is if you, as a filmmaker, are that opposed to the themes in the source material, why did you choose to produce it in the first place?

Now, Unfrosted Mini-Wheats.

Now with extra bland!

Intended Message: It’s the Mini-Wheats you love without the extra sugar!

Perceived Message: They taste like a bundle of sand, wrapped in tissue paper, eaten and then regurgitated by a horse with a rotten front tooth, then placed in a box for your breakfast pleasure. When you take a bite, you feel like it takes twice as long to chew and swallow as a piece of Laffy Taffy SweetTarts chews. Honestly, the taste is so horrid and it takes so long to chew, that you’ll be fearful of ever being able to swallow in time to choose another cereal.

Yes. The frosting makes that much of a difference.

Also, it didn’t come with the raspberries it showed me on the box. 😦

Finally, the Wonder Ball. (Click for a Wonder Ball commercial)

Intended Message: It’s a hollow chocolate ball with a prize inside. What could go wrong?

Perceived Message: I used to think these things were the shizz when I was 8. The marketing campaign behind these was especially effective at making me think that I needed to dump my allowance each week on a hollow ball of chocolate with a prize inside that, if I didn’t choke on it, I’d lose it on my way home from the grocery store.

Obviously, the choking hazard was a legitimate issue that Nestle had to address. So instead of recalling the product entirely, it replaced the mini, plastic toys with stickers and hard candy. I was devastated. In my mind, stickers were completely and in all ways inferior to the cheap plastic toys, and I hated hard candy. Where could I blow my allowance now? Drugs? Claw-machines?

What left me with an even worst taste in my mouth for this product was my final experience buying one. I remember going to the pharmacy with my dad and discovering a huge stack of Wonder Balls near some of the other candies. While my dad made his purchases, the incredibly catchy theme song rang ceaselessly through my mind. I couldn’t help but satisfy my wonder behind what was in one of the Wonder Balls. Maybe Nestle had repented of their unthinkable decision to switch the plastic prize to candy and stickers. Maybe! But I wouldn’t want to spend my allowance on a Wonder Ball if there weren’t a plastic toy inside. This was the pinnacle of all 8-year-old dilemmas.

So what did I do? I opened up the box, gently worked back the foil surrounding the chocolate, punched a hole in the shell of the ball and peered inside to see if I could make out a plastic toy. I couldn’t, so I was about to put the Wonder Ball back on the shelf, when my dad returned and caught me in the act. He told me plainly that I was going to pay for the Wonder Ball and explain what I did to the minimum wage cashier. Weeping and crying, I pulled myself up, stumbled over to the counter, handed my dollar bill to the cashier, and confessed my sin amidst many tears.

My favorite treat had betrayed me. I never bought a Wonder Ball again.

So that’s all for this week folks. I know what you’re thinking. “But if these products are all so awful, then what makes a good product?” Well I’m glad you asked. Be sure to stayed tuned a week from today when I reveal several of my one-of-a-kind, million dollar ideas for products that have not yet been invented. You won’t want to miss it.

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