Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

On Selling Products Intriguingly Vile

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

On Selling Products Intriguingly Vile

Article excerpt

And now for something completely inane.

About 10 days from now, the Clearly Canadian Beverage Corp., which has built a $100 million business selling overpriced sugar water to gullible Americans, will launch its boldest -- and most bald-faced -- marketing gambit yet. It's called Orbitz, a "texturally enhanced beverage."

The concoction is so intriguingly vile that CCBC expects to sell several million cases to Yankee kiddos before parents intervene and flush the stuff down the toilet.

What is/are Orbitz? Primarily, it's a concept: A clear, fruit- flavored soft drink with tiny, edible Jell-O balls suspended in the liquid. (The Jell-O balls are called "naturally colored, vegetable- based gel spheres" because Jell-O is somebody's else's trademark.)

The drink and the gel balls come in complementary flavors: orange- flavored balls "orbiting" in vanilla liquid; lemon balls in raspberry and so on.

"It's freaky," says Jonathan Cronin, CCBC's marketing chief."No one knows if you're supposed to drink the orbs or not."

(Hint: You are.)

The Orbitz marketing campaign will build to an un-subtle Memorial Day crescendo at "launch sites" in Boston, New York, Arizona and four cities in Ohio, wherever that is. The emphasis is on hip, cool, vapid. Naturally there is an Orbitz "Defy Gravity" Web site (www.orbitz.com). That the site is nonfunctional is part of its ineffable, Gen-X allure.

Remember Pop Rocks, the carbonated candy sensation of the 1970s? The little sugar granules lay quietly in the palm of your hand, then detonated inside your mouth. Every kid in North America tried them -- once. That is the business plan for Orbitz. Gross out goes gold: Garbage Pail Kids; Gak; Gob Stoppers. Kids love `em. Parents hate `em. That's all you need to know.

Or is it?

I conducted my own Orbitz focus group in an upscale suburb, and here are the results. (I thought the stuff tasted like toilet bowl cleaner with phlegm balls, but what do I know? …

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