A Modern Potato Head Family

When is the last time you played with Mr. Potato Head toys? Well, it is still around but Hasbro is officially renaming the toy line “Potato Head” without the Mr. and Mrs. labels. The intent of the rebranding is to allow kids to show the many different faces of family, gender, and inclusion – and of course all in its beloved potato format!

Hasbro is not actually getting rid of Mr. Potato Head, who along with Mrs. Potato Head will retain their honorary family titles. However, the company will repackage the toys into a “Create Your Potato Head Family” set with two large and one small potato bodies, along with 42 different accessories in new colors and more inclusive messaging. The change is viewed as part of a larger movement towards greater diversity and inclusion for children and families.

Hasbro is far from alone in revising its toy lines. In 2019, Mattel launched customizable, gender-neutral dolls called “Creatable World” to allow kids to create their own characters. Mattel also has new more diverse Barbie dolls as well, reflecting the changes in society and women’s roles. And, American Girl dolls now has an American Boy to round out its collection.

Let’s play!

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Divide students into groups. Have each group 10 of their all-time favorite toys.
  2. Build the list of toys on the board and challenge students to examine the list.
  3. Are these toys gender-neutral, or are they directed at boys or girls only?
  4. Show the Potato Head site and video: https://corporate.hasbro.com/en-us/articles/create_your_potato_head_family_launching_this_fall
  5. Discuss with students how toys can reflect society and cultures.
  6. Show American Girl dolls: https://www.americangirl.com/shop/c/boy-dolls
  7. Show Barbie dolls: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/barbie-dolls
  8. What other toys could use this approach?

Sources: AdWeek; New York Times; other news sources

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New Products for Snacks and More

It seems as if there is a proliferation of new food products hitting the market this spring. In just one week recently we found a number of new food products from Pillsbury, Kind, and Target. What’s going on? Are consumers hungrier than usual, or are they just hungry for change?

Well, it’s a little of both. Yes, consumers are hungry, but we are now at the one-year point in the Covid-19 pandemic and consumers have also made changes to their eating, cooking, and shopping habits. We eat out less and snack more.

In Target’s case, it is launching a new grocery brand named “Favorite Day” with more than 700 snacks and treats that are focused on consumers who want to indulge. The new line includes cookies, trail mix, ice cream, snacks, beverage mixers, frozen desserts, and more. Target’s research indicates that customers want to treat themselves as they juggle hectic schedules and stress. (The new Favorite Day private-label store brand replaces Archer Farms and Simply Balanced which generated more than $2 billion in sales last year.)

Pillsbury is launching its first-ever ready-to-eat cookies, after years of successfully selling frozen cookie dough. Why the switch to pre-made? Pillsbury’s research shows that consumers are tired of constantly cooking and cleaning and are looking for convenience and shortcuts in the kitchen. Pre-pandemic, the pre-made cookie category was only a single-digit growth market. But now the category has grown in sales by roughly 12% in the past year.

In Kind’s situation, the company has a new frozen smoothie bowl for breakfasts. Smoothie bowels have spiked in popularity, including new kitchen appliances focused on smoothies. And, when a year ago consumers might have eaten a breakfast at a restaurant, there has been a sharp decline in eating breakfast out and instead consumers have turned to granola, cereal, eggs, bagels, fruit, and pancakes. According to research company IRI, frozen breakfast foods increased by 7% last year to $3.7 billion.

Try them out. Will they make it into your regular shopping rotation?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. This is a great example of introducing new products.
  2. Show Target’s new products: https://www.target.com/b/favorite-day/-/N-q643lewlzpu?lnk=snav_rd_favorite_day
  3. Show Pillsbury’s new cookies: https://www.pillsbury.com/products/already-baked-snacks/soft-baked-cookies/soft-baked-butterscotch-chocolate-chip-cookies
  4. View Kind snacks: https://www.kindsnacks.com/
  5. Discuss the steps of the product innovation process.
  6. Discuss the importance of environmental scanning. What are some of the factors that have led these companies to introduce new products?
  7. Finally, use these examples to discuss the various stages of the product life cycle. What are the marketing objectives in each stage?

Source: AdWeek; CNN News; Minneapolis Star Tribune; other news sources.

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More Branding Needs to be Changed

All marketers know that branding is hard to do, and expensive to change. Thus, many brands are reluctant to revise their logos, names, and images. After all, if it’s worked for decades; why go through the trouble and expense to change it now?

The short answer to that question is that society and the world changes (sometimes drastically) and therefore companies have a responsibility to respond to and recognize those events and make changes in order to stay relevant in the marketplace.

A recent topic is that of the use of the name “Jeep Cherokee.” The Chief of the Cherokee Nation has strongly stated that it is wrong of the company to use the Cherokee name to sell cars, and has asked Jeep to discontinue the name.  The Cherokee name belongs to a nation of peoples and they contend that using it for peddling products diminishes it. Jeep has sold the Cherokee vehicle since 1974 and retired it in the early 2000s, then reviving it in 2014. It is a popular model and sold more than 200,000 units last year.

This topic brings to mind the issue of the (former) Washington Redskins NFL team. The team has agreed to drop the name and logo after years of protest, as have MLB team Cleveland Indians. Similar protests last year were made against brands including Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s. Land O’Lakes already dropped its image of a Native American woman from its packaging.

Brands matter.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. This is a tough topic, but discuss racism in business with students. Ask them their views.
  2. Poll students: What products, services, and brands use racist stereotypes?
  3. Discuss the issue of the Jeep Cherokee and show video: https://youtu.be/D6ZrRbS-yxs
  4. Show Jeep Cherokee site: https://www.jeep.com/cherokee.html
  5. Divide students into teams. Have each team reimagine a new name and message for the company.
  6. How would they overhaul the image if they were in charge of marketing at the company?
  7. Show all the student solutions and debrief the exercise.

Source: Associated Press; CNN News; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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