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Jewish World Review
June 24, 2008
/ 21 Sivan 5768
Getting the brand back together
When my old college roommate sent me an email directing me to a recent article in the New York Times, I was instantly suspicious, concerned that this was just his latest not-so-subtle attempt to remind me of how badly I'd mistreated him back in school. How else to explain earlier news stories he suggested I might be "interested in" featuring headlines like, "20 Years Later, College Roommate Repays Debt," "Long-time Friend Admits To 'Borrowing,' Totaling Car" and "Using Another's 'Clean' Urine to Pass Drug Test Now Classified as Felony?"
Thankfully, after clicking through I discovered that this time the forwarded article had nothing to do with my alleged past misdeeds that there's no hard evidence to prove I was even involved in. In fact, the story titled "Can a Dead Brand Live Again?" dealt with ways modern marketers are trying to revive discontinued products that, while no longer commercially available, still retain brand awareness among consumers. One example might be the 1980s-era shampoo "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific." The last bottle of this product left store shelves years ago, but many of us still remember it. Why? Most likely because "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific" was by far the best-known consumer product with a name that also doubled as a weirdly inappropriate remark one might make to the product's user. Other, less successful consumer items in this category included the ill-fated "Where Did The Yellow Stains On Your Teeth Go?" toothpaste and "Your House Doesn't Stink Like An Old Lady Anymore, Great-Aunt Agnes" air freshener.
The Times article specifically describes one company's efforts to bring back Brim, a brand of decaffeinated instant coffee pitched with the slogan, "Fill it to the rim - with Brim." For some reason, television during my childhood were populated with countless inane commercials touting the superior taste of instant coffee. Particularly egregious examples include the ads featuring two middle-aged women sharing a cup of General Foods International Coffee and reminiscing about all the men they slept with while backpacking across Europe ("That waiter in Paris, what was his name?" "Jean Luc!"), and the Swedish-accented spokeswoman Mrs. Olson extolling the virtues of "mountain grown" Folgers Coffee, which viewers were no doubt left to assume was cultivated in the legendary coffee-producing regions of the Swedish mountains.
But for sheer coffee commercial dimness, I'd have to give the nod to Brim. Brim's ads typically opened with two rugged-looking people entering a rustic cabin, still riding high from an exhilarating outdoor activity like ice fishing, seaplane flying or calf-birthing. As the celebratory coffees were being poured, some variation of the following dialogue ensued:
Coffee Drinker #1: (raising a hand) "Only half a cup."
Coffee Drinker #2: "What, don't you like my coffee?"
Coffee Drinker #1: "I love the rich taste. It's the caffeine I can do without."
Coffee Drinker #2: "But this is Brim. It's decaffeinated, so you don't have to stop at half a cup."
Coffee Drinker #1: (takes sip) "Mmm, if it tastes this good, I don't want to stop. Fill it to the rim."
Coffee Drinker #2: "With Brim!"
(Both laugh heartily at this clever play on words)
I feel that if the folks mentioned in the Times article are serious about reviving the Brim brand, they should first be required to answer a few questions about this ad campaign:
First, what kind of insecure, paranoid person reacts this defensively and starts demanding answers when a guest requests only half a cup of coffee?
Second, who ever heard of offering someone a cup of coffee and then pouring decaf? Homicide has been committed for less. Are these the same people who used to secretly switch instant coffee for the fine coffee they usually served at elegant restaurants?
Finally, who wants a cup of coffee - or anything else, for that matter - poured to the rim of the cup? Or is that just an instinctively passive aggressive response to being grilled over how much coffee you want to drink? "Sure I like your coffee - I like it spilled all over your white shag rug, jerk!"
Frankly, I would love to see the new owners of the Brim brand remake these ads, but with a different, more realistic take. When the host asks, "Don't you like my coffee?" the guest can respond with, "No, actually, I don't. It tastes like crap. Which is why, after I grudgingly choke down this half-cup of swill you served me, I'm going home to drink some real coffee - Brim. Plus, because Brim is decaffeinated, I won't get all amped up to come back here and explain all the other things I don't like about you, the least of which is your lousy coffee."
And if that doesn't work, they can always try changing the product name to "Gee, Your Coffee Tastes Terrific."
JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
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© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner
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