Every time a brand comes out with a new product, I’m interested in how far they’ve pushed the envelope. Is it just a new variation on the product, or a completely new take? The brands that interest me the most are the ones influenced by pop culture and willing to take risks. These brands tend to play up a more edgy side and are not afraid to stir up controversy.
For example, take the Tokidoki Barbie that came out last October. Described as a “funky fashionista,” she has a bright pink hairdo and tattoos all over her neck and back, and is sporting leopard-print leggings and a mini skirt. Pretty scandalous, I’d say. Not surprisingly, there was an uproar from parents who claimed it was a bad example for their children; Mattel responded by saying that the doll isn’t necessarily marketed to all audiences. In a poll taken by the Huffington Post asking if they would buy the doll for their child, almost 50% said, “Absolutely, It’s just a toy,” while 30% said the stark opposite, “Never. I don’t like the tattoos.” Personally, I was impressed that Mattel pushed the envelope with the doll. Today’s girls want to see empowered women who aren’t afraid to express themselves, which is exactly what Tokidoki embodies. And I’m pretty confident that young girls know the difference between fantasy and reality – or have parents who can teach them about that difference.
Another brand pushing the envelope – and which has done so for the past three decades – is Ben & Jerry’s. I’m sure you’ve heard about their latest “limited batch” ice cream flavor, “Schweddy Balls.” Funny, but sort of gross, don’t you agree? The company has always been known for clever names like Phish Food and Cherry Garcia, but the latest introduction – named for an SNL skit from 1998 starring Alec Baldwin – has gotten a lot of (deserved) attention. Some are boycotting the ice cream, saying that the brand has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something vulgar and inappropriate. A spokeswoman for Ben & Jerry’s said they weren’t trying to offend anyone, just trying to have a sense of humor. Interestingly enough, this limited edition flavor might become end up becoming a permanent member of the B&J family because of all the attention it’s received.
The last brand to get my kudos for taking risks is SnackWell’s – yup, Snackwell’s. The brand launched a new ad campaign and packaging early last year, and they’ve taken a very different approach to their indulgent but calorie-limited treats. The ads, which feature women in leather stiletto-heeled boots and on motorcycles, shouts attitude. The packaging has also been updated with a green that pops off the shelf and tiger print strips in an array of colors. The new products and reintroduction was inspired by sales that have been lagging since their initial success in 1995. Since the new portion control treats are no longer 100-calories (but rather 130 and 150), the new tagline, “Be bad. Snack well.” makes perfect sense.
These brands, and several others out there, prove that when introducing a new product or changing up an existing one, brands need to know their audience and how relevant the product will be for them. Not everyone wants the edginess, but if done correctly, it can pay off big time in the long run.