Corporate Blunders Are A Dime (Bag) A Dozen…

icebreakerspac.jpgC’mon now folks, Target goofed with their ‘talk to the hand’ Web 2.0 media message, but they’re FAR from flying solo in poor choices…

In another “what were you thinking?” moment of kids’ marketing gaffes d’jour, Hershey has only now just decided to stop producing its new form of ICEbreakers Pacs, “nickel-sized dissolvable pouches with a powdered sweetener inside” because law-enforcement and parents couldn’t distinguish the mint powder from crack cocaine and heroine.

But wait…it gets even more absurd. As usual, the “what’s the big deal/you parents are all over-reacting prudes” contingent weighed in, just as with the Target story…(see their comments here)

AND…instead of pulling the products from the shelves in mea culpa mode, after being slammed by child advocates for marketing ‘crack’ candy look-alikes that endanger kids and “give an advantage to the criminals, narcotics users and narcotics dealers,” (MSNBC article here)…Hershey has decided to let them languish through the remainder of the quarter.

Why, oh, why are they shooting themselves in the foot, when they could’ve taken a much stronger ‘oops, I hear ya’ stance and received PR kudos for ‘listening’ to customer feedback?

Who’s at the helm of creative, PR and product development these days?

hersheys-crack.jpgIt’s ludicrous this would be brought to market to begin with. (remember the Cocaine in a can energy drink touted as ‘the legal alternative’ and 350% stronger than Red Bull?)

But the bigger question is…why are we debasing our culture by marketing to kids this way?

It’s bad enough we’re using aspirational marketing for rail thin fashionistas, but now we’re adding drug dealer wannabes and pimps to the list?

One would think a major firm wouldn’t misstep to this degree…They only launched the product recently, so it’s not that hard to do the right thing for, put the cabash on ’em, and call it a day. Allowing this candy to remain out there puts kids at risk, and tax dollars to waste as police waste analysis time discerning the ‘real thing’ vs. candy.

Who’s comin’ up with this ‘evercool’ hip and edgy scenario of sim-city unhealthy trash?

Ugh. It’s making those ol’ candy cigarettes from days of yore look mildly retro, as I wrote here in this article, “Junk Food Branding Hits the Drug Dealing World” all about PopTarts, Pop Rocks and Strawberry Quik.

I just don’t get it. Why can’t we market positive, healthy, energetic, role models? Musicians, athletes, dancers, scholars… (anyone NOT fresh out of rehab, preferably)

bratz-cocaine.jpg Oh…and btw, has anyone got a line on the Bratz mirror compact with the powdered candy in the wand? Ahem.

Check out this post, “Bratz candy teaches kids to do their drugs like a big girl.” Ugh.

Target’s spreadeagle/snowangel controversy is mild by comparison. Really. Back off blogosphere…they blew it. But hopefully they ‘get it’ now? Let’s find the positive and meanwhile look at some of the ‘big think’ higher minded questions overall…

Why are we undermining our own society, desensitizing children with sex, drugs, and violent behavioral cues and normalizing thuggish ‘gangstah style’ in wannabe mode?

Is it some grand counter-marketing gambit to prompt a puritan backlash in ‘hip to be square’ retro Huey Lewis mode?

Hmnn…now there’s an idea…A ‘market correction’ of the highest order, led by youth, fueled by youth…wholesome elegance and romance…‘girls gone mild.’

Bring back the sexiness of a tender touch, the tingle up the spine of clasped hands, piercing eye contact, a tentative kiss, a wisp of hair swept aside with adoration…That’s what I hope our kids get to experience someday instead of raw, crass, in-your-face bump-n-thrust lip-licking commercials and spread-eagle billboards as empty vessels for sex.

Let’s see…the Notebook did okay at the box office and book stores, yes? Hmn…sappy? Or romantic? I think there’s hope judging by the sheer numbers, people…Kids really DO just want to be kids. There’s a market there…

hersheys-logo.jpgSo Hershey’s? Do us all a favor…

Stick to kisses, sweetness and chocolate bars.

Visual Credits: MSNBC –KXAS tv-Dallas

Random Soundbites from, blotter:

A spokesman for Hershey’s said the candy is designed to look like a breath mint and nothing else. Consumers love the product,” he said. “It’s unique and innovative.”

“Knowing that drug dealers are extremely enterprising entrepreneurs, their packaging will begin to look like commercial packaging almost exactly,” said Ford, adding that it will become difficult to tell the difference between a candy product and an illicit drug.”

“If you’ve got these things flying off the shelves and we have youngsters in possession of them, it’s going to waste a lot of resources to determine whether it’s candy or it’s drugs.”

Note to Hershey: Marketing mints as illicit drugs might be one of the many reasons why your 4th quarter net income dipped 65%…Remember, those of us in the industry are parents, too…and some of us think you’re way off ‘target’ here…



  1. “It’s designed to look like a breath mint and nothing else.”

    To think that they would have made it all the way through product development and marketing without anyone raising an eyebrow over the obvious street dealer connection. Right.

    You have to wonder if there aren’t competitors of Hershey’s working inside their product development labs ruminating every day on: “How can we create a product that will help destroy Hershey’s reputation?”

    I think there’s a solid opportunity for positivity marketing, and we’ve seen rumblings of it in Above the Influence campaigns. The language of positive marketing comes across as “soft” to a lot of the creatives behind the campaigns; I see it as a greater challenge. How do you push towards the positive without dissolving into the beige ephemera of self-help books and New Age copy?

    It’s possible, but it’s more challenging… to create, to sell to clients, and to move to the consumer. The path of least resistance will continue to produce crack cocaine breath mints.


  2. E.—yup. you’re right…for every ‘edgy/trying too hard to be provocative’ product, there’s a creative director like me rolling their eyes thinking ‘fire that moron for sheer laziness’…One of my fellow name generation/branding gurus, Nancy, sent me this recent one from retailer Woolworth’s…for a new children’s bed line for the six-year old set, named? “Lolita.”

    Of course they feigned corp. ignorance and innocence at the brand…sound familiar? I kid you not…check it out:

    I’d write a post about it, but it would be the ‘Target’ trolls all over again…bleh. Better things to do tryin’ to ‘raise the bar’…

  3. Ok, so now we have “Blow” energy drink being marketed w/a credit card & mirror (as a powder with an ‘uncut’ tagline) SHEESH?!! –Amy

    From the blog above: “It amazes me how some products are allowed to become available in the first place, this new product called “Blow Energy Drink” comes with a credit card and mirror to “cut” the product, the product is a white powder that you mix into a drink. The tag line for the Blow Energy Drink is “Pure Uncut Energy”, it seems they are trying to make money from the reputation of illegal products. Blow Energy Drink is made up of about 2000 milligrams of taurine and 240 milligrams of caffeine. Do you think?

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