Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Are you sick of delicious, well-known sodas? Do you find the comforting and familiar to be generally repugnant? Do you need a new soda Right Now, and would prefer to drink it accompanied by the Van Halen song of the same name?
Well, you're in luck! Or at least, you would have been had you expressed these concerns somewhere between 1992 and 1993.
In 1992, Pepsi executives sat down and thought, "Sure, our product is delicious and thirst-quenching...but is it pure?" You may have thought they had learned a key and important lesson in not-tampering-with-a-successful-formula from the 1985 "New Coke" debacle, but you would be wrong. In an ever-ongoing battle for one-upmanship between Pepsico and the Coca Cola Company, no product launch was too ridiculous.
Thankfully, they had an equally absurd ad campaign to accompany the product. Although Crystal Pepsi was indeed clear in color, it tasted pretty much like original Pepsi. I may be going out on a limb here, but I assume that if it tastes the same, there were not major recipe changes for the beverage outside of altering the color of the syrup. This did not stop our friends over at Pepsi from making the supposed "clarity=purity" concept the major cornerstone of their advertising campaigns. The concept in itself was ridiculous; no one was claiming Sprite or 7UP to be particularly pure in comparison to its darker-syruped soda peers. Regardless of the obvious fallibility of this advertising claim, PepsiCo pushed ahead with quintessential 90s commercials like this:
So, what did you learn? Nothing? What? You mean to tell me that despite all of those definitive statements splashed across my screen, not a single one of them tells us anything at all about the product itself aside from its clear color? Well, at least the music drops some heavy hints on when I can expect to find this beverages in stores. I'll give you a hint: it's not later.
Clearly (sorry, I had to), Pepsi was piggybacking on other marketing trends at the time and aiming to portray a product that was simultaneously familiar and improved. Researchers at the time were uncovering some mildly convincing evidence that people's perception of taste or quality is heavily impacted by its color. However, what the Pepsi R&D people failed to take into account was that people's expectations for taste also change significantly with a color shift. While people were expecting Crystal Pepsi to have a lighter taste and lower caloric content (after all, it's not a huge leap from how they market it in the above ad), their tastebuds were in uproar over the eye-to-brain miscommunication.
While Crystal Pepsi had done well in initial test markets, the actual substance of the product failed to live up to the hype. People tasted the cola and were generally unimpressed from its near indistinguishability from the original. In an effort to counterbalance popular public opinion, PepsiCo released the following commercial:
So, what did they think? They claimed it have a "nice lemony-zing taste!" and a "clear" flavor. None of those things were particularly true about the initial Crystal Pepsi formula, but the folks over at Pepsi were desperate to convince us they were so. Confronted with a backlash from loyal Pepsi drinkers, Pepsi continued backpedaling in an effort to extricate themselves from this sticky (though supposedly "less syrupy!") situation.
Suddenly, it was like the Clinton impeachment hearing of soda marketing as the Pepsi people really took it down to semantics. "What do you mean we called it Crystal Pepsi? It's called Crystal from Pepsi!" That's right. Pepsi realized that their staunch classic soda adherents were in a huff over the fact that they tried to pass off this colorless impostor as their old favorite Pepsi. Why, this wasn't Pepsi at all! It's as if their fanbase got together and put out a statement saying, "We don't care if you make it. We don't even care if people know it's from Pepsi. But for God's sake, we can't have people thinking this is Pepsi! Blasphemy!"
And so it was:
At least this ad shows the corporation is able to poke some fun at itself. Pepsi recognized how ridiculous the addition of this meaningless preposition was to the name of their product. They also knew it was absurd that they were forced to add a citrus flavor based on people's perceptions of how a clear soda should taste.
After all of that, I think we can all agree: no more messing with the original. Is that clear?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
It's a well-known fact that all children enjoy staring at a two dimensional image for so long that their eyes begin to glaze over and water uncontrollably. Their heads may ache, their eyes may lose focus, and their patience may wear paper thin, but nothing will impede them from their ultimate visual goal. Though usually it is near impossible to force a child to stay still, set one in front of a Magic Eye book or poster and prepare to be amazed: not by the Magic we were promised, but rather by the level of maddening concentration associated with capturing it.
There was nothing worse than being the one kid who couldn't see the hidden image. If you were ocularly challenged in a manner that hindered your useless ability to view a supposedly three dimensional image amongst a repetitive sea of two-dimensional images, you were relegated to endless ridicule and social alienation. God help you if you suffered from the curse of poor binocular disparity, as you were likely headed for a sad and lonely existence devoid of exciting jump-from-the-page imagery. A seemingly pointless skill of blank staring suddenly set apart the Haves from the Have Nots.
In bookstores and classrooms across the nation, the same conversation was taking place between increasingly frustrated pairs of children:
Kid #1: Look at the picture.
Kid #2: Okay, I'm looking. (long pause) So, what's supposed to happen here?
Kid #1: You'll see something.
Kid #2: I'll see what?
Kid #1: Just look at it!
Kid #2: I am looking.
Kid #1: No, look past it.
Kid #2: Oh, I think I kind of...
Kid #1: Do you see it now?
Kid #2: Um, yeah, I think so.
Kid #1: So what is it?
Kid #2: A...whale?
Kid #1: Ugh, it's the Statue of Liberty. Man, you suck at these things.
(Kid #2 walks off with pounding eye strain-based headache and wounded pride)
Nobody really seemed to know how these things worked, and no one really seemed to care. The real test of 90s childhood street credibility was an uncanny capacity to descramble austereogramatic images. I know, it makes perfect sense. How else are we supposed to prioritize our social structure? Brains? Looks? Give me a break. It was Magic Eye or nothing.
The burning shame of not being one of the Chosen Ones was both crippling and inescapable. Living with the constant fear that our mothers' old adages of our crossed eyes forever sticking that way was not enough to deter us from staring intently until our brains were set to burst. We were determined that this would be the time that we would finally see what everyone was raving about. Those who were skilled in the ways of the Magic Eye were constantly coaching us, insisting that we were doing it wrong. Despite our protests of poor depth perception or an inability to visually construct convergent images, the Seers were neverendingly giving us all sorts of well-meaning contradictory viewing tips:
"Cross your eyes a little!"
"Eyeballs further apart!"
"Look to the left of it!"
"The other left!"
"Try to focus on one spot!"
"Don't focus your eyes on anything at all!"
"Try to look past it!"
That last one was always my favorite. Oh, you want me to look past it? I was foolishly looking at it. Alrighty, no problem. I knew this x-ray vision would eventually come in handy. I'll just gaze straight through the paper to the next page and I'll be set.
Unfortunately, this brand sarcasm was lost on our persistent Magic Eye instructors. After all, who cares about attitude when you've got magical pictures? Hopeful that their Magic Eye proteges may have finally blossomed into fully evolved viewers capable of perceiving 3D imagery, the Seers would eagerly ask, "Can you see it now?" Horribly embarrassed by our ineptitude, we would have to grudgingly admit time and time again that we still lacked the basic ogling skills necessary to deconstruct a series of seemingly meaningless colored dots. Try as we might, we would never be content to simply accept it as a moderately attractive example of pointilistic art. We knew it was so much more, and we wanted in.
Thankfully, our dear uploading friends over at YouTube have put together an instructional video of sorts. Don't let the soothing music and whimsical font fool you. This thing is serious. I followed the instructions to a T, but somewhere along the way my plan to see a glorious hidden three-dimensional image took a turn for the worst. It brought me right back to 1995, with all my Seeing friends telling me, "You're thinking about it too much. Just stare at it. Don't think about it at all." Right. Because telling me not to think too much about it leads me to think about it prominently and intently. Why don't you give it a try and see what you see:
Isn't that nice? They offer that little consolatory image at the end to offset the continued wrenching humiliation of those of us unable to see the 3D picture. If you can see it, congratulations. Your ocular capacity clearly exceeds mine, and I respect your visual superiority. However, if you failed to see the image, you are not alone; in fact, many of our celebrated television personalities faced the same issue, sometimes as a minor offshoot plotline!
On the original Ellen show, Ellen Degeneres desperately tried to hide her secret inability to Magic Eye. An episode of Seinfeld left George and others so transfixed by the Magic Eye task at hand that they were unable to complete the rudimentary functions of their everyday lives. And of course, we can't forget out beloved Friend Ross Gellar, who was chastised by the whole group for his incompetence at drawing out the 3D Statue of Liberty in one of the most popular Magic Eye pictures. US magazine has been right all along, they really are just like us! And they say there are no relatable characters in sitcoms.
Thus if you're feeling down about your lack of Magical Eyes, rest your weary sockets. You're among good company. For those of you who can see the mythical images, well, continue to bask in your transcendent ability. A skill you thought had been laid to rest years ago has briefly returned just long enough for you to reassert your superiority over the Blind. By tomorrow your so-called skill will reclaim its rightful place in obsolescence and your gloating rights will dissolve like the two dimensional dots from the three dimensional Statue of Liberty.
Enjoy it while it lasts, you lucky bastards.
Friday, September 11, 2009
That is to say, I was this close to promising to name my firstborn Alvaro if only he would have reinstated my beloved interweb. Unfortunately, Alvaro did no such thing in saving me from certain cable outage. I was forced to shake my fist despairingly heavenward and intone "ALVARO!" Alvin and the Chipmunks style. My boyfriend (again, very helpfully) proceeded to play me the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song over the phone while I waited for the reports back on Alvaro's snail-like progress, but that's really here nor there.
Where was I? Oh yes, excuses. So, that fabulously insightful post will have to wait, and I will leave you will a solid dose of 90s to get you through your weekend. This was what I'd brilliantly thought to post on Labor Day, only to spend the whole day being neglectful and vacation-prone and sending myself into successive barbecue food comas. Hence, you lucky so-and-sos get a shot at it today. I know, I know. You're welcome.
Via the magic of embeddable playlists, here is the full Daria inter-season movie Is It Fall Yet**? It seems very appropriate as we bid our summers adieu, plus it's one of my favorites here at Children of the 90s. Ask anyone who's been reading a few months and they'll assure you that it's in my secret plan to faithfully spread the gospel of Daria to all those who know not her truth and wisdom. Let me speak to you seriously here for a moment: it's one of the smartest shows to ever air, period, not to mention the most sage teen or cartoon series. Please, proceed with caution, as your watching this will hopefully lead to a lifelong relationship soon to be satiated by the supposedly impending DVD release.
Have a great weekend, 90s kids!
*Unforeseen by me, not by actual meteorologists. No, I'm sure those green-screen facing smug bastards knew all along.
**In this case, the unfortunately correct answer is yes, yes it is
Friday, August 21, 2009
I swear this is not a lazy cop-out Friday post. Depending on your definiton of lazy. Or cop out. Or really, even Friday.
First, as some of you long-time readers may now, I broke my ankle a month ago. Let's all say that together. A month. A long time, yes? Now let's say, just theoretically, that you had been on crutches for a month and were continuing to enjoy your daily life where your apartment in which you live alone is convenient located up a treacherous set of skull-crushingly solid cement steps. Just theoretically, that is.
Now, if this completely theoretical person had not only stupidly missed her doctor's appointment and x-ray the week before but after some desperate, tear-stained rescheduling was told she may be on crutches for an additional six to eight weeks, she might not be in prime posting mood. Again, this is all just hypothetical, but I'm sure you would agree.
Concurrent to this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news re:walking and living, let's imagine for a minute that the desktop computer that she so loved and defended against her pretentious laptop-toting peers came down with a terrible virus. The likes of which may allow a newer computer to recover, but for an old, desolate soul like her desktop will inevitably result in a slow, painful, RAM-eating death. After which the computer will inexplicably keep restarting in a way that can only lead her to believe that it is indeed possessed, forcing her to unplug it to void out the possibility of it growling to her in the night in the voice of Satan.
I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty awful. Sure, she's got a brand-spanking new laptop now that she can't afford, but thanks to the incredible generosity of her very kind, wonderful, endlessly deserving of superlative adjective qualifiers boyfriend, was able to not afford it slightly less. Don't fight it, those double negatives all made perfect sense.
So there you have it. After sobbing gently through this very sad hypothetical story, I'm sure you can understand why there is not a gem of 90s wisdom waiting for you today. Okay, so maybe a percentage of the above tale is true. What? 100 is a percentage. Either way, I could never let you down and thus will share with you some chain-email style observational humor that had me nodding and laughing along all the way.
This has obviously been floating around the internet, as I keep seeing tidbits pop up as people's facebook statuses, but this seems an incredibly appropriate and moderately captive audience for this kind of thing. I did not write this (I take credit for nothing!) but it did arrive in my inbox with the elusive title "Random Thoughts from People Our Age". I am sure some of you have seen it before, but it really is deserving of our attention.
Again, not written by me. Taking no credit for this. Just shamelessly re-posting something I found both humorous and poignant, for which I give you full permission to disseminate via email. As, like I said, I didn't write it. So who am I really to give you permission? But that's neither here not there*.
I hope that was enough to get you your Gen Y weekend fix. Have a wonderful weekend, children of the 90s, and hopefully I'll be back to you on Monday with all sorts of exciting new tricks garnered from this shiny new laptop.
Random thoughts from people our age...
-I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.
-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
-I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?
-Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.
-That's enough, Nickelback.
-I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?
-Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.
-There is a great need for sarcasm font.
-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the f was going on when I first saw it.
-I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.
-How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.
- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
-The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.
- A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.
- Was learning cursive really necessary?
- Lol has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".
- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
- Answering the same letter three times or more in a row on a Scantron test is absolutely petrifying.
- My brother's Municipal League baseball team is named the Stepdads. Seeing as none of the guys on the team are actual stepdads, I inquired about the name. He explained, "Cuz we beat you, and you hate us." Classy, bro.
- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".
- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?
- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!
- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"
-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?
- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.
- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.
-Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
- I would like to officially coin the phrase 'catching the swine flu' to be used as a way to make fun of a friend for hooking up with an overweight woman. Example: "Dave caught the swine flu last night."
-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
- Bad decisions make good stories
-Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!
- Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?
-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.
-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....
-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.
-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.
-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.
-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.
- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.
-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'
-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?
- I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
-When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.
-I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.
-Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles...
- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.
-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
-It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.
-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
-Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it.
-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...
-My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?
-It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on CNN.com and the link takes me to a video instead of text.
-I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.
-I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
-I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.
-The other night I ordered takeout, and when I looked in the bag, saw they had included four sets of plastic silverware. In other words, someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by myself. There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat bastard before dinner.
*Okay, Okay. It's there.