Well well well—I’m back, and I thought I would post a little update for you about some writing and stuff I have been doing in other places. I think I am also going to re-enable the “Instagram feed posts over here” function, just so you can be amused by my daily “Random Photos” I have been doing lately. I finally pulled six years’ worth of photos off of my phone, and am posting one every morning for your amusement. Here is a link: My Instagram feed.
Here are some places you can check out my writing:
Aren't we all just feeling a little like this giant bear from Costco right now? I swear, every time I see one of these bears, I wonder how many days it has before it either a) is returned to Costco because it is crapping up someone's house, or b) is moved out to garage purgatory because it is crapping up someone's house. I guarantee this impractically enormous teddy bear is no one's favorite thing for a long period of time.
A photo posted by Lori Culwell (@lori_culwell) on
Yesterday I got an unsolicited email from a company called “CabinetonDemand.com.” I would now like to just enumerate all of the ways this is amusing to me, and to say for the record that I do not feel badly about calling them out, because I have never visited their website or signed up for their email list. I feel that by insinuating themselves into my inbox, they are asking for some light mocking.
Here are my issues with CabinetOnDemand.com and their email:
Again, I am not even trying to get mean here, but I did not sign up for this newsletter. I have never interacted with this company, I don’t know anyone there, and I don’t need any cabinets, so the complete randomness of this email just showing up in my inbox is kind of funny to me in general. The topic is oddly specific, the email is oddly sloppy given the gravity of a purchase like this, and the offer itself is unclear, even when I go to the website. What, exactly, does the $1920 in the newsletter cover? The fine print is so small, I honestly cannot tell. When, exactly, will my cabinets be delivered? Again, unclear. Who, exactly, is going to install these mysterious economical cabinets? I am just not getting that from this email. Why, exactly, am I on this mailing list? I simply do not know, although I would imagine that after this, I am going to be removed.
Stay tuned for this company to contact me and argue with me!
First, Happy 4th of July (early)! I am frantically trying to get to "inbox zero" status before the holiday begins, and failing somewhat because it seems like half of all people are already out of the office. This email just came to me, though, and I thought I would tell you about it. Because here is, in my opinion, a totally hilarious example of technology that is not quite as sophisticated as it should be.
I don’t know if you’re a member of Rite Aid’s ambitious “Plenti Points” program—it is a co-branded system that they rolled out last year that is overcomplicated to the point of absurdism, and I predict that it is not going to last. Here is one example of how they are trying so hard, but somehow failing.
Let me now say that it is NOT THAT HARD to write a simple script that eliminates a zero value parameter and would eliminate the possibility of an email like this going out. The administrators of this autoresponder would simply need to code in a parameter indicating that people with ZERO points would not receive this email, since (as you will see), including me in this distribution produced a totally absurd result.
First, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way. Yes, I know, I have not been writing over here for awhile. I apologize for the extended absence—frankly, I was sort of burned out on writing all the time, and if you write at all, you know that when you are burned out, you just switch subjects, because THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING YOU CAN DO is “take a break” from writing. When you take a break from writing, you then have to train yourself to get back in the habit, which is just as terrible as it sounds. Even knowing this, I took a break and got out of the habit. Now I have to get back in, and wow. Not fun. Should have just switched topics. Painful.
To get back on the proverbial horse, I thought I would start by talking about something that you know is one of my favorite topics, and that would be: companies trying to extend their brands by releasing strange and hilarious products. I thought today I would also couple this with a brief look at this particular company’s stock, since it might be interesting to draw a correlation between brand extension and the company’s actual success.
In a funny way, though, because I know you come here for the ha-ha.
I have mentioned the Mondelez corporation before—they make Oreos, as you probably know, but I think the company’s name makes them sound like they have offices inside Mount Rushmore, and like they must have a corporate jet that takes off by flying out of George Washington’s mouth. Am I alone in this?
Mondelez has been extending their brand equity further and further by releasing Oreo flavors that can, at this point, only be described as “surprising.” I am, of course, referring to flavors like red velvet, cinnamon bun, strawberry shortcake, s’mores, fruit punch, and the latest, fantastically random blueberry pie. I’m as sure as I can be that these novelty flavors are meant to pique interest in the brand, and that this is a curiosity play on Mondelez’ part, meaning enough people are curious about the flavor to buy one or two packages. These weird flavors are also usually only available for a short period of time, so that might add to the urgency and represent a bump in sales if a flavor ends up being really delicious (like cupcake Oreos, which are so good, I drove around town buying them up like I was the subject of Hoarders: Cookie Edition). This strategy is unique and funny, but also a little aggravating, because if a flavor sells through really well, wouldn’t it make logical sense to just add it to your permanent collection? I’m just saying.
Another weird thing to me about this strategy is that it is really not reflected on the Oreo website. You would think that since “making weird flavors” is something they’re doing now, they would know that people are going to wonder about the flavors and probably go to the website to find out more about what inspired them, how long they will be around, which ones are being developed, etc. Did I find any of that on Oreo.com? No I did not. That is crazy to me. Dude! Mondelez! People want to know about your weird cookies! Add a section on your website instead of just pointing people to an esoteric “Flavor Vault” video which tells us nothing. If you need a brand and content strategy person to help you make that happen, hit me up. I not only appreciate your strange flavor combinations, but I have actual experience in this exact area. Irene Rosenfeld (CEO), don’t you even want to issue a press release when these new flavors come out? Come ON!!!
Without further ado, let me give you my taste-test analysis of the blueberry pie flavor. I’m not a big fan of pie, but I am a fan of weirdness, so of course I bought a package of these cookies and am trying to get everyone who comes into my house to try them. By the way, yes, I did try the s’mores flavor, which tasted vaguely of s’mores and does have a graham cracker flavored cookie. I wanted to like that one more than I did, because I super love s’mores in general. Overall I liked the concept of that flavor more than the execution, as I felt like once it was in cookie form, the s’mores flavor was a little faded, meaning it was just a vague hint of chocolate and marshmallow, eliciting only a slight “Meh” and a shrug from not only myself, but almost everyone at my mother-in-law’s birthday party last month, where I had those out in case anyone wanted to taste them.
Let me add another caveat on the blueberry pie: I am not a huge fan of fruit-flavored desserts of any kind., because warm fruit is disgusting to me (yes, even apple pie. I am clearly mental). With that said, this cookie was NOT BAD, although I would say it tastes more like the cookie form of a blueberry muffin made from a package than an blueberry pie. Stephan also tried it and deemed the flavor to be “uncannily like a blueberry Pop Tart.” He seemed to like it more than I did.
The packaging on this flavor is hilarious to me as well, with its ambitious busy-ness. This might be the Oreo cookie flavor that is trying the hardest to be something that it is not. It’s a blueberry-flavored cookie, ok? Let’s relax with showing a WHOLE PIE on the package, next to a cookie that looks nothing like the pie itself. We are not playing a food-related game of "one of these things is not like the other."
So—blueberry flavor, graham cracker-ish crust. I’m giving this one a thumbs up, but since I’m more of a chocolate person myself, I’m probably going to give the rest of these away and try to get some more passionate reactions.
The final question, of course, is: is this strategy actually working? I’m going to tentatively conclude that it is, since a) they keep doing it, and b) Mondelez’ stock price has steadily been on the incline since they started doing this regularly. Yes, they do own a number of other brands (like Cadbury, Chips Ahoy!, Honey Maid, Wheat Thins, and many others—like Tang. Did you know that Tang is still a thing?), so strong sales of each of these operating companies could be informing the upward trend.
All in all, I am consistently amused by this strategy and hope it lasts forever and gets progressively weirder. Honestly, I hope they keep pushing it until they just turn the corner and start releasing batshit crazy flavors like “Super Spicy Jalapeno and Bacon” Oreos.
And with that, I'M BACK!