March 10, 2005

The Brand-Extension Blight

A FRIEND THAT EDITS A MAGAZINE WRITES, to his personal email list of cranks, loonies, and general malcontents:

To all: For an upcoming article celebrating curmudgeons, we're planning a list of "50 things that aren't as good as they used to be" and we invite your contributions. Thanks a bunch. Creativity counts. Crankiness too. Here are two, to give you an idea: Not as good as they used to be: TV News Anchors -- Buncha movie star pretty boys. Chet Huntley had a dog face, but you could trust him. Traveling Carnivals: They've shut down the freak shows and moved them to FOX.
My just-off-the-top-of-my-head response reads as follows.

OREOS -- This was, without a doubt, America's greatest store bought cookie ever. And it dominated the market. But was that good enough for the sleazoid 90s "marketing" department? No. They wanted more and even more. As a result they have 'New-Coked' this cookie into oblivion with endless variations on the theme.

The heresy began with "Double Stuffed" Oreos. This simple-minded d-oh moment came when somebody thought, "Hey, let's double the stuffing!" It did not matter to them that the perfect proportion of white cream stuffing had already been achieved. Nope, this is the DoublePattyWhopper school of marketing drool: 'If one is good, two is twice as good.' Actually, if one is good, two in the same bun or cookie wafers is a bloody mess. And in addition, in order to get the double stuffing working correctly, they've upped the glue in the stuffing. No double stuffed Oreo comes apart neatly and cleanly. It always shatters. The pleasure of the original Oreo was that you could take it apart and have a chocolate wafer option. A bittersweet chocolate wafer option. Now even the wafer's been made sweeter.

MUSIC IN RESTAURANTS, BARS AND EVERYPLACE ELSE: God forbid we actually have to talk to each other in any of the places that we congregate. And, with the now universal notion that if the music is bad you make it louder, all conversations are conducted at a shout. Having Coldplay's latest hit follow you into the john is the final insult.

TWO BY FOURS: The basic structural unit of building. This, along with candy bars, has been getting progressively smaller as it becomes more expensive. Collapsing modern homes' problems can be traced to this basic unit. Take a tape measure with you the next time you go to a lumber yard and see that this item has been steadily whittled down. How low can it go before it becomes a default one by two?

THE DAILY NEW YORK TIMES: No, not because they make things up, but because of the "section creep." This thing used to be two sections. You could have all the news that fits in your head in a brief commute. Now it arrives in endless sections and assumes that you are unemployed. You have to be in order to have the time to read it.

AUTOMOBILE CONTROLS: Once upon a time, three speeds forward, one reverse, steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator. Nice and simple and made the car go where and when you wanted it to go. Not so anymore as the feature creep of computer programs invades the automobiles of America. This reached its apotheosis when BMW launched the 7-series with controls so complicated that it took the average driver over two hours of training to even begin to understand how to get the car to move forward. The much touted iDrive system came with over 700 functions with eight main point and click menus plus submenus. It failed to come with a dedicated factory computer nerd to help the hapless driver. What you get when you combine German Engineering with Windows 2.0 is a car that will have you over the edge of the road when you try and tune your radio.

FLYING: Everybody's favorite. On my first flight to Europe, everyone dressed for success. Now everyone dresses for Gold's Gym. And I'm sure the next step in TOTAL SECURITY will be to require everyone who is not of Arab descent to arrive with a note from their doctor attesting that they had a high colonic an hour before the airport to make the body cavity searches a bit more pleasant for the staff. Then there's the added coach thrill of a blood clot developing in the legs that stops your heart at 50,000 feet. Plus... no peanuts! After all, think of the allergic children! Add to that the new innovation, no pillows! I don't see why the airlines don't simply install hooks and, working in concert with government's laughable security cops, require everyone to hang from said hooks naked. It will come to that. You know it will.

PARIS: Let's put the politics aside for a moment. First, they *cleaned* it. Scrubbed all the buildings. Then they scraped Les Halles off the map and replaced it with a half-buried mall. No more onion soup at 4 AM. Then they renovated all the really cheap hotels on the Left Bank. And, the final insult, the Pompedieu Center -- looked cheap and broken the day it opened and time has not been kind.

ACTION MOVIES: If I want to see endless morphing and slo-mo disasters stacked up one on top of the other I'll just tune into the Weather Channel and/or the Speed Channel, thank you. Arnold vs. Keanu? KO in one nanosecond.

RAP MUSIC would be included in things that are not as good as they used to be if it had been any good to start with.

TEENAGE CLOTHING TRENDS: I've seen it go from Ivy League to Hippie to Yuppie to the current wave of what can only be described as the Ghetto Gangster mophing to Balkan Refugee look. And it's now been in a look-loop for over a decade. I really think these cutting edge kids have to move on.

NATIONAL POLITICAL CONVENTIONS: Nominations used to be decided in smoke-filled rooms on the fifth ballot. Now they're decided in Iowa? Even the Networks have given up on these charades.

MEN'S NEW HAIRSTYLES: I must have missed the moment when the hairdressers of America decided that men's hair had to be cut with machetes in order to give it that permanent bed-head look.

GLOBAL ENEMIES: "Hey, come out, stand up, get some uniforms, jets, tanks and fight like a Russkie, please."

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Posted by Vanderleun at March 10, 2005 5:16 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

DAMES: When I was a kid, even party girls were pretty classy, or at least attractively dressed, well groomed, and polite. Now pudgy broads in wrinkled smocks huddle together at clubs, talk smack, line dance with each other, and carry on like some of the more flamboyant gay men. No wonder guys are turning queer.

CANDY BARS: Trapped in an endless cycle of same price-but-smaller, then same size-but-more expensive, then.... Kee-rist, it's enough to make you start smoking.

TV COMMERICALS: I never thought I'd wax nostalgic for Alka-Seltzer's "speecy-spicy meatball" guy. Now it's po-faced androgynes wandering the landscape in search of the latest patent medicine. WTF DOES that stuff do besides give you gas, liver damage, diarrhea, and sexual disfunction?

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: Back in the 20th century, real scientists wrote articles for this mag, and one book review could run 5 or 6 pages. There were science projects and math puzzles that would reduce Ph.D.'s to tears. Now the damn thing looks like GQ and the writing would embarass an eighth-grader.

Posted by: slimedog at March 10, 2005 8:03 PM

"And, the final insult, the Pompedieu Center -- looked cheap and broken the day it opened and time has not been kind."

I am still laughing.

Posted by: Final Historian at March 10, 2005 8:10 PM

Actually, you're close about the hair being cut with a machete. They actually use a razor.

So sue me for being contemporary.

Posted by: Ken J at March 11, 2005 7:43 AM

Calling a business: If you don't get the receptionist who picks up the phone and promptly says: "Can you hold, please?!" to which you have no choice but to utter a grunt, you get a litany of instructions for which number to push for your particular need. By the time you listen to all the options and realize none of them fit your need, you get that feeling of wanting to crawl through the phone line in search of a neck.

Posted by: Amy at March 11, 2005 8:34 AM

The Mint Oreo is the greatest reinvention of an old product of the 21st century. The Uh-Oh Oreo's (chocolate creme inside vanilla cookies) is pretty damn good, too. Not a big fan of the regular or double stuffed.

Posted by: JohnO at March 11, 2005 7:15 PM
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