Tag Archives: design

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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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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That Robot Can Dance!

We love robots. They are endlessly fascinating to us as we contemplate the technological advances that make robots useful to humans. They can carry gear, map territories, and enter spaces unsafe to humans. But of all their uses, we particularly like how robots can bust a move and dance (remember Spot the robot dancing to Uptown Funk?)!

Thanks to its incredibly animated robots and technology, Boston Dynamics may be the world’s most well-known robotics company. Boston Dynamics was originally an offshoot of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now owned by Hyundai Motor Group. Its robots include Atlas, Spot, Big Dog, and Handle.

Programming the robots to dance was a daunting task, requiring hundreds of hours of work. The programming had to let robots balance, bounce, and (seemingly) even carry a rhythm. Atlas the robot uses a vast array of sensors, actuators, and a gyroscope to help it balance. It also contains three quad-core onboard computers. The result is an imaginative display of robotic versatility and possibility.

Dancing to the 1962 hit song “Do you love me?” by The Contours, Atlas and friends seem determined to get humans to love them indeed.

But can they salsa?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. First, show the video of Atlas and Spot dancing: https://youtu.be/fn3KWM1kuAw
  2. Bring up Boston Dynamics’s Web site: http://www.bostondynamics.com
  3. Bring up Boston Dynamics YouTube page with videos and show robots in action: https://www.youtube.com/user/BostonDynamics
  4. Dancing Spot can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/kHBcVlqpvZ8
  5. Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
  6. What are commercial and business applications for each robot?
  7. What companies might buy robots (beyond the military)?
  8. Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a business-to-business marketing campaign for robots.

Source:  Associated Press; Boston Dynamics

 

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