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Designing Women S4 E5 Extra Sugar - Silly Sales

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

In this week’s episode, Anthony, our favorite recently-licensed contractor hung out his shingle and promised to “eat a bug” if the job wasn’t done on time! What other kinds of wacky stunts do companies pull to sell their products? Well, by golly, let’s find out in this week’s edition of “Extra Sugar.”

Here are some references, if you just need moooooooore:

Come on, let’s get into it!



Welcome to this week's edition of Extra Sugar A segment. I'm calling Silly Sales Salina.

Say hi.

So I don't think I've trapped you.

Hi, I've been trapped.

She has not, she has.

We were obviously so happy to see Anthony putting out his own shingle and taking the contractor business by storm this week, in particular, I loved his business card.

Promise to customers if I don't finish your job on time, I'll eat a bug.

It put me in the frame of mind of crazy marketing gimmicks or publicity stunts.

I just love those things.

I just love any time someone does a crazy stunt.

It's almost like you were trained in pr could be, it could be, I also crazy stunt.

Am I right?

Literally my next sentence was it might be my background in pr but as it turns out, there are a fair number of examples as wacky as the inflatable arm flailing tube man outside your local car dealership, Salina's doing it.

Uh So for this segment, I'm gonna start with some gimmicks or stunts that really failed and then I'm gonna talk about a handful that really, really worked.


As always feel free to chime in Salina, especially if there's some that um failed that you really think are hilarious or that you remember if you can remember any of these?

I just love to know uh, if any of this resonates with you.



I'm excited.

Well, now I'm doing this because you're so excited.

So let's start with the bad marketing gimmicks that really failed.

So, cartoons and homemade explosive devices, they go hand in hand, right?



Well, you talked about Ted Turner, the Turner Network CNN.

Well, they came dangerously close to a failed marketing gimmick.

Some might even say it failed when Turner broadcasting uh who was the the network in charge of cartoon network.

Um They found themselves in some really hot water in 2007 because they had a new movie to promote the movie starred their Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Um their brilliant marketing campaign was to place dozens of blinking electronic devices in 10 cities.

Um At close inspection, the led devices depicted show characters, however, from not so close range, they looked like explosive devices and in fact a member or a resident in Boston called the police.

When they thought the device was a bomb, it turned into a full on terrorism exercise.

There were bomb squads sent in area bridges were shut down.

Uh Notably the incident didn't cause similar situations in other cities where the signs appeared, including right here in Atlanta.

Do you remember any of this, this was 2007 downtown Atlanta.

I think so.

I think I, they have been working there where it happened.

We did have like a bomb threat that turned out to be nothing.

Well, no, the, um, the bomb incident was in Boston.

Actually, there was no outcome here in Atlanta.

Nobody had any sort of reaction to it.

It was just in Boston that they had this, like, way overblown reaction.

I think that might be right.

So ultimately, this uh stunt cost Turner broadcasting $2 million and the head of the network stepped down, apparently the two guys who placed the devices.

Um I think they worked at like a Boston area marketing firm.

Uh They were arrested.

Don't worry about them though.

Uh Ultimately, at least like many years later, at least one of the two guys was hired by the city of Boston to do a light show for their new Year, new Year celebration.

Sort of as like a sorry you got arrested for placing a bomb that wasn't really a bomb.

So the fallout on this one actually is a little bit of a mixed bag.

Most of the favor actually ended up falling toward Cartoon Network.

So there have been a few think pieces about the scare, exploring the concept of social panic and other related issues.

Um Interestingly, there was also discussion about the generational chasm of the city of Boston itself.

Um It was noted in a few articles, I read that none of the hundreds of responding officers could identify the character on the sign until a younger staffer in the mayor's office came on the scene.

I see what you're saying.


And they were like, that's a hunger for us and everybody else was like, so is it A B or is it not?

Um So actually, so I said that this particular instance there were 10 other cities where these or nine other cities where these things were placed and there were no other incidents like this, but there was a really similar incident in Los Angeles in 2006.

So just a year prior around the release of mission impossible three.

Um It was like, I wish I had written it down.

It was something like this flyer that had like a little sound box on it that were placed in individual people's mailboxes that it's not a good idea.


And what's terrible about this is like, you know, this goes through like a lot of hands.


Or I assume it does.

You assume it does?


I mean, like, you know, maybe we come from a slightly different perspective or whatever but like, I it just seems like a lot of people would have to sign off on this because millions of dollars are probably being, yes.

So I think that's right.

And no one like stopped and went like, right.

The one, the one in California actually.

So someone did call the police, they did send in a responding unit but like, it was super quick.

They were like, you think it was Tom Cruise?


Yes, it was super quick.

Like this is just a flyer.

We're all ok.

I sort of wonder if it was like the laid back California vibe that like, changed California versus Boston and in Boston they're like the um, so my reaction on this one is just like a, what a mess.

Like, I don't even know who is in the right here.

I got to tell you if I live in town and there's even like the potential threat of a bomb, I'm all over that.

So I read like a few things that were like this guy who called it in.

What a crackpot?

Why did he think that a led sign was a bomb?

And I'm like, I don't know, man, that was just a few years after 9 11.

Like, I feel like I'm glad there are people like that out in the world who aren't taking chances and who see an, you know, a suitcase unattended at the airport and ask someone to take a look at it even closer to other incidents that had happened.

Um, like in a post-9-11 world.

So, you know, I think at all it's not outside of the realm of possibility for people to be like, on this, like Uber high alert.


So that one just sounds like a mess.

This next one just made me laugh.

Um It feels like the setup to a joke and I actually wrote it as the setup to a joke.

What do you get when you mix a popsicle with a hot New York City summer?

A drink?

A big mess.

Uh That's what Snapple learned in 2005.

So they wanted a Guinness World record and they wanted it for the world's largest popsicle.


How do you get a Guinness world record?

Well, you pushed boundaries, Salina?

And that's what they did.

Snapple popsicle.

Do they have popsicles?

No, they were just trying to not, this is not, they erected a 25 ft popsicle, right?

With their time.

That's my place.


You stay in your lane.


Popsicle is in Union Square.

Some pieces I read, said Times Square, but I'm following the New, the New York Times in their reporting on this and it was Union Square.

Uh, they did, er, go on, that's where the election happened.

Uh, it was in June as they started hoisting it up, it started melting and it caused a flood of Kiwi strawberry Snapple on nearby streets.

I, I mean, so that I can't get past the fact that I really want a snaffle popsicle if they want.

I don't even know how long it's been since I had a Snapple.

So they don't sound bad like a pe, the peach tea ones are so good.

So, they had to stop it at a 25° angle because they just couldn't go any further.

They had to bring in the fire department to shut down streets and hose down what they described in a press release as sticky goo.

I'm just also trying to imagine, you know, like New Yorkers don't put up.



Yeah, I just, like, you just accidentally stand in their way.

Not that I've ever had that happen before and just see how fast they like.

Could you imagine like a New Yorker being late to work because there's sticky goo on the alleyway that they use to get to their office.

I would be expecting at least some free snaffle.

So I'm gonna link to the New York Times article in the show notes if you want to read further.

Um, I will say the speculation from both the ice sculptor who was hired for this one and the Snapple representative around what went wrong are really funny.

They really tried to explain it.

So, uh this isn't a direct quote, but this is, this is pretty close.

Well, although we adequately maintain temperature of the exhibit, the middle inexplicably began to melt, leaving a hollow core around which the entire thing collapsed.

Like, couldn't, they have just said we weren't thinking we made a mistake.


But no, they really went into, like, went all in on how this went wrong and I just thought that was I think I would, like, try and like, like lean into the joke aspect of it and be like, but seriously, so sorry, we never meant to inconvenience anybody.

Go buy a Snapple or we'll buy you one.

They're number three.

Well, they were, well, the actual number three on my list is, uh, this one, did you hear the one about the cell phone insurance company who paid professional pick pockets to plant promotional flyers in people's pockets, purses and wallets.

What is it with all the personal space stuff?

You know, mailboxes, blinking lights in the streets.

We'll put something in your pocket um that this is a battle around.

So I and I think some people in Romania felt that way as well, which is where this happened apparently in Romania, a cell phone or at least at the time of this uh marketing gimmick and I didn't write the year down, but it would have been like two thousands era um cell phones and whatnot.

Uh In Romania, a cell phone is stolen every two minutes.

And the, the company was thinking this is like a um a phone insurance company.

They were like people know that, but they're still not getting insurance on their phones.

So we'll just steal it, drive the point home.

So the company is called phone.

Um and they ended up paying professional pick pockets to deposit information flyers on people to raise awareness.

It was really challenging again because this was an international story.

It's hard to find fallout on this one in any sort of like, thoughtful analysis of it.

But I did find an article that alluded to some complaints they received for invading people's privacy, but it really didn't seem like it made people rage the way I really feel like it would have here in the US.

Like, could you imagine a company invading your personal space?

Like someone puts a flyer on my window and they are super lucky.

I don't sue them.

I just don't have the time for it, but it really infuriates me.

I cannot imagine them touching my person to deposit a flyer.

It's just, I'm, I'm I am sort of stuck on this detail of like the, it's not a casting call but like when they're trying to get all these, do you know a professional?

Yeah, like, what is that?

What is that like?

Are you someone, you know, then I got the feeling about like all the American navel gazing, we would have done about what this means about our history and then somebody would have come, come behind that person and be like, well, what this person is saying about our history really means that our history is history of this history.

I mean, just apparently in Romania, they're just like here just another day, they're not wrong, but this is not a good idea.

It's just not a good idea in the interest of fair time.

I wanted to share some that really worked.

Some of these are also creative and sort of nice.

So this first one might actually be my favorite.

It's a typo turned massage.

Let me tell you what I mean.

So, for a person who works in communications, public relation, any public relations, like any of the adjacent fields, there's probably nothing more embarrassing than a typo.

I cannot imagine how mortified I'd be if I green lit something with a significant typo in it, that even one person would see much less hundreds thousands millions, it would just mortify me.

But that's exactly what happened to some poor person or some poor group of people at visible mobile.

And I think that's a, some sort of affiliation with Verizon.

They OKED ads across their hometown of Denver, which said the company offered unlimited massages, minutes and data.

That sounds super embarrassing.


Well, actually, no.

So they ended up doing what you said you would have done with Snapple and they leaned into it.

They set up a pop up massage table in Union Station near one of the typos and offered free massages to passer by that.

That's nice.

And also like, it's a way of being like, we know exactly what we're doing.


That's great.

So, I think obviously that would endear, if you received a massage from the company, it would endear you to the company from a business perspective though, I found one trade article that said the company claimed, claimed a 112% higher engagement rate, engagement rate than expected associated with the stunt translation, it worked.

Um So I have a lot of warm fuzzies for LEGO.

Uh both from having kids who love Legos from having grown up with Legos.

So I want to not LEGO my ego, Lego, the building block, building blocks.

Um So I feel like most people have memories with Lego, they just kind of transport you somewhere, whether it's back to your own childhood or whatever it is.

Um You're probably gonna get a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

This story is going to give you an even more fuzzy feeling.

So the Lego Foundation leaned into this nostalgia with model MRI scanners to make it easier for young patients to receive MRI S.

So when you have to go sit in that tube and have your whole body scanned.

So apparently they built model MRI scanners for kids to play with.

As they were guided by medical professionals, they would sit there and play with this machine and they would say this is what happens now and here's what's gonna happen that was in advance of the procedure to reduce their fear and make them more comfortable with the process.

The project is built on a learning through play approach, that is to say because play motivates children's natural curiosity and openness to try new and sometimes difficult experiences.

It facilitates a safe and comfortable space with all those things in mind, it can help Children develop their social and emotional skills.

Um So it started as a passion project for a Lego employee with a Denmark Hospital.

It turned into a full fledged pilot effort which included 600 models built by LEGO volunteers in their free time.

So it's a relatively new project.

It sounds like most of the feedback at this point is anecdotal, but they're collecting more data as part of the expanded pilot project.

But at the very least, I would imagine that the families who got to benefit from this and their Children got to have a more comfortable MRI experience, they benefited and they really appreciated it.

So I wanted to share that because I thought that was a nice way to generate warm fuzzies.

But also that's a nice story to communicate about LEGO that you're like, I really want to support that company, which is what all of the pr all of the marketing gimmicks in the world are about.

Um Yeah, that's cool.

So we talked about a food related failure early in the segment.

I want to talk about a food related stunt that really succeeded.

So if you rewind in your mind all the way back to January 2020 or as I like to call it the before times um in the gear up to that year's Super Bowl, there was apparently an aggressive battle going amongst leading chocolate makers for yet another Guinness world record.

This time, they wanted the distinction as world record holder for the biggest chocolate nut bar.

So first Snickers released its largest chocolate bar weighing in at £4700 the equivalent of 43,000 Snickers bars and then what they were certified the winners.

But wait for competing, it's not over.

Just two weeks later, Hershey released an enormous £5900 Rees's Take five Bar.

So my totally unprofessional opinion is that if either of these two brands enormous, if either brand secured any media coverage, they at least won some like perception points with people, people are like that's awesome.

A giant candy bar.

I love candy.

Everyone loves chocolate.

Um Not everyone, my friend Jessica doesn't love chocolate, but most people do.

Everybody does love winners.

Um and at least a substantial proportion of people love football.

And since this was all in gear up to the Super Bowl, um all of these things I think helped these companies made these very successful marketing stunts.

But you know, obviously Hershey's won and they did it just two weeks after Snickers.

So my competitive streaks say they're the real winner.

Hershey's owns Reese's.

You said there's also the take five bar is the one that um yeah, there was a Snickers bar and a take five bar.

Oh, ok.

Let me not take you through the 5000 things that are going through my mind about candy bars.

Right now.



Hershey's, it was the Rees's Take Five Bar.

So I guess Hershey owns Reese's.


That's where I was really at.

It took me a second to get back there.

Well, actually what I was saying is like, out of all, like the, like that kind of candy that you could do.

Like, that's two solid ones that I could probably get through a substantial amount of those thousands of pounds of.

I think you're right.

Those are two goodies for me.

I think you're right.


Um The last one I'm gonna mention, I'm just mentioning because for me it was kind of feel good.


So for International Women's Day in 2018, mcdonald's flipped its logo upside down in a show of support for women uh for what it's worth, it seems like this was mostly on social media just like um profile picture changing and things like that.

Um But at least one brick and mortar location in California changed their actual sign.

Um I guess that you flipped the m to a w to show women's um support for women and for women and women causes.

Um But so these things, I feel like things like this are always a little bit open toward ridicule because mcdonald's is never going to win for standing up for women's rights because it's mcdonald's a holes, right?

So you can't do anything.



So I'm honestly not trying to debate whether it is good, bad or otherwise I don't really have that level of expertise or credibility.

I did not research this very far.

Um Except for your pr degree, right?

Except for that.

Um they did get a lot of press coverage because it was a really visible adjustment to quite possibly the world's most iconic logo.

And that's a big statement, that's a big statement to make.

Um I think it helped make really obvious what mcdonald's believes its stance on gender equality is.

So it ended up that uh the company did it again in 2019 and they acknowledged when they did it in 2019 that they got some backlash for it externally.

So a lot of people made fun of us.

They said what a weak way to show how you feel.

But what you guys don't realize is internally, it led to a lot of really good conversations about gender equality about the way we approach our workforce.

And they said because it advanced so many of those internal conversations for them, they wanted to do it again because it was successful.

Um I really admired that I would almost call it bravery because I do think that that's a stunt that some poor pr person pitched to executives and had to see all the way through and stand with it the whole way.

Um I think it's, it's hard to call it bravery because they're, they're like a really wealthy company and they didn't really have that much to lose.

Like people aren't going to stop eating at mcdonald's because they supported gender equality.

You know, even, even if their perception was, it was performative.

Um But I thought like that was, that was kind of nice.

I liked that idea.

Um So I wanted to cover that one as well.

So my, my actual professional opinion is that when it's done really well, um Or that even sometimes when it's done kind of badly, these sorts of gimmicks can at a minimum get people talking about your business.

Um name and brand recognition really is half the battle in a crowded consumer market.

So it's not so bad.

I don't believe all press is good press.

Um and I don't think it's great for example, for consumers to equate your delicious fruity drink to sticky goo that made them late for work that morning.

Um But if it gets your name out there, maybe someone will be thinking about you next time they go to make that purchase.

So anyway, thanks for indulging me.

I hope you enjoyed this segment.

I hope you'll come back Monday where we'll have a fresh take on designing women.

Season four, episode six, the rowdy girls.

As always, you can follow along with us and engage Instagram and Facebook at Sweet Tea and TV; tiktok at Sweet Tea TV pod.

Our email address is Sweet Tea TV pod at gmail dot com and our website is W W W dot Sweet Tea TV dot com.

As always, there are lots of ways to support the show.

Tell your family and friends rate and review us or check out our website on the support us page for additional ways to support.

And thank you for listening to this week's edition of Extra Sugar.


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