When a Favorite Product Goes Away

Does everyone remember the Seinfeld episode when Elaine discovers that her favorite form of birth control, the Today sponge, was off the market? She spends the first part of the show finding and hoarding the sponges from every available source. She fills a closet with her beloved sponges. But she goes beyond just gathering the remaining sponges, she rations them too. At the end of the show she queries whether or not a boyfriend is “sponge-worthy.”

Well, that scenario is happening to me. Years ago I fell in love with the Listerine jj-1894_1zPocketPaks Breath Strips in Fresh Citrus flavor. Then, the company that made them changed hands and through some terrible twist of fate, the Fresh Citrus flavor was discontinued. The horror!

I consider the Listerine PocketPaks Breath Strips to be one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century, right behind the automobile and the internet. I’m not alone; Esquire magazine has praised them as a modern marvel.

Like Elaine, I began hoarding. I ordered dozens of packages from every source I could find. I had stashes at home and stashes at the office. I kept looking for new sources and hidden caches to be uncovered. Alas, I’m down to my last couple of packs. I’ve ordered a few more off Ebay, paying well above retail price, but I know the end is coming soon and I will not be able to get them ever again.

I’ve started experimenting with other flavors. The Cool Mint is OK, and I can live with the Fresh Burst, but the Arctic Berry and Cool Heat are non-starters for me. But none of the new flavors come close to my favorite Fresh Citrus.

Yes, I’ve started to wonder whether the person I’m talking to is worthy of a coveted Fresh Citrus Listerine Breath Strip, or should I just confront them with bad breath. If anyone knows where a guy can score a few Fresh Citrus PocketPaks, please hook me up before I have to determine whether or not you are breath strip worthy.

– Jim

The Holy Grail Found In A Small Pub

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Hearthside.

Walking into Jim’s Tap is like walking into the pub that all the beast slayers and bounty hunters hang out at after a long day of escapading, exchanging tales of adventure and whimsy over tall flagons of ale. The dim orange lighting and red carpet is accompanied by the warm glow of a fireplace illuminating a mounted boar’s head above its mantel. The walls are adorned with various medieval décor (including knight’s armor) hanging over the bar’s wooden tables and black chairs with silver-studded upholstery.

When I was a college student in Brookings, SD, Jim’s Tap was my bar. I and my social circle could frequently be found there next to the fireplace, tables pushed together, enjoying a bounty of brew (sometimes perhaps too bountiful) and exchanging our own tales of whimsy, our conversation getting louder and louder as the night ages. (My social circle was pretty big, comprised of many smaller, more close-knit cliques.) When we weren’t drinking tap beer we’d be downing Backpackers – a concoction unique to Jim’s Tap. Not much is known about the Backpacker other than the fact that it’s enchantingly delicious and neon green in color, which only adds to the bar’s fanciful mystique.

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Not my hog.

When I think of Jim’s Tap today, I think of the many laughs I shared around those pushed-together tables. I think of some of the greatest times I had with old friends and new. I think of the initial formative moments I spent there getting to know my now fiancé (who hailed from a neighboring clique), chatting and crushing on each other over the noise of our surrounding friends. I think of all this, set to a scene of perfect ambiance that sparked the imagination.

Every once in a while you come across a business that doesn’t need to talk you into liking it. It doesn’t need to have big sales promotions to keep customers coming back or launch social media campaigns with an inhumanly gregarious presence; it’s perfectly happy with its 133 Facebook Likes and sparse, punctuation-less updates. Sometimes businesses win consumers over by just being themselves, humbly doing what they do best. If they do it right, they can acquire what I think is the holy grail of business – true customer loyalty. This loyalty is not won by drink specials or fast service; it’s won by consistent positive experiences, experiences that turn into life-long memories.

So what makes Jim’s Tap so special to me? Why does it ignite such passionate nostalgia? Is it the boar’s head or the free snack mix? Nope, it is the memories. To me, Jim’s Tap isn’t just some bar; it’s a symbol of the good times. And if I lived in Brookings today, you can bet that I’d still be frequenting that old pub.

After living in Sioux Falls for about a year now, I have yet to find a Jim’s Tap replacement. Any recommendations? A mounted boar’s head is a plus.

– Andrew

Sticks and stones can’t break their bones, but words can hurt brands.

In the past, if someone had a beef with a business, the worst they could do was to tell their friends and family about the horrible service at “Al’s Diner,” and maybe send a spiteful letter to Al. But now they can unleash their opinions and words of venom to the world through a never-ending list of business review sites, social media channels, forums etc., for all fellow consumers to read.

A major part of a brand’s identity comes from the way its consumers perceive it. And a part of the consumer’s perception of a brand is influenced by what other people are saying about it. In this Digital Age in which we are all connected, the modern consumer is capable of reaching a lot of people, potentially affecting their opinions, perspectives and feelings about a business.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of power, much more than consumers have ever had in the past, and both good and evil can come from that. As the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

I completely support the consumer’s right to be heard, as long as they’re honest and fair. The consumer voice of reason keeps businesses in line and helps them improve. It’s the unreasonable people that I have a problem with. It’s way too easy to turn on the laptop and rip a business a new one just because the cashier “looked at you wrong.”

We may assume that our lone little rants, out there amongst thousands of others, don’t have an impact, but they do. They’re out there for the world to see. Whether just one reader or 1,000 readers stumble across the consumer review, it has the potential to affect people’s perception of the brand. And if the review is unfair, irrational, unnecessarily mean, or a flat out lie, then that’s not fair to the business (no matter how big or small it is), nor the  bystander who now has the wrong impression.

The Digital Age has connected businesses and consumers in an unprecedented way. Both are now on an even playing field. And just as we expect integrity and fairness from brands, we are responsible for reciprocating. If we as consumers aren’t fair and judicious with our comments, reviews and complaints, then we’re just as bad as the allegedly loathsome businesses we’re complaining about.

– Andrew

More Than A Clown

More Than A Clown Jun 29, 2012

I know a guy who could probably write a book on public relations, or at least a chapter. He’s not a bigwig in a suite or an award-clenching hot shot. You might actually know him. He’s tall, has red hair, really big feet… his name is Ronald McDonald.

McDonald’s is one of our clients. When there’s a special celebration or promotion going on at a restaurant, Ronald McDonald is sure to be there, and it’s my duty to assist him. He signs autographs, takes pictures with customers, performs magic tricks for kids, hands out stickers and jokes around with the locals. I just carry his bag of magic and make sure no one messes with him.

When I assisted Ronald for the first time, I expected your run-of-the-mill clown, the kind that makes bad puns, smells like cigars, and pretty much repels every adult and child in his path. But I was wrong.

I was surprised to see the amount of joy that Ronald brought to customers. He put a smile on just about every single person’s face, young and old, with his sense of humor and welcoming character. People are really drawn to the guy. Sometimes customers will hang around the restaurant for the entire duration of Ronald’s stay just to see his antics. I’ve seen elderly women slow-dance with him, boyish grins light up the faces of tough guys, and people hugging him as if he was their long-lost father. It’s evident that Ronald really enjoys making people happy.

With Ronald there is no hidden sales agenda or marketing scheme. Yes, he’s tied to McDonald’s, but his sole purpose is to bring customers joy, that’s it.

I can’t put my finger on what it is about him that elates people so much. But for one thing, Ronald is a genuine people-person. And people appreciate authenticity, especially when it comes to interacting with a brand. So maybe people can pick up on Ronald’s sincere desire to make them laugh, to make them feel welcome, and to make them feel appreciated. And that may be the best kind of PR any business could hope to achieve.

– Andrew