Happy 37th birthday, Breakout. You’ve come a long way. You helped develop the first generation of kids with the best hand-eye coordination the world had seen (up until that point). You were the biggest deal in childhood until Star Wars was released a year later and changed the world forever. You were the son of Pong, the father of Pac-Man and the future DNA of Halo. You were technology at its most innocent, before it became associated with porn and violence. You, Breakout, helped millions of children break out of their realities at a time when divorce was skyrocketing and our parents began cooking our meals in microwaves.
Once again, Google makes an excellent PR move by celebrating a milestone in our culture that everyone else would have overlooked. And to recognize Atari Breakout’s birthday with a coveted Google Easter Egg is just perfect considering it’s a gesture from one storied technology entity to another. (To see it yourself visit Google Images and type in “Atari Breakout.”)
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Any adult who hasn’t had their inner child beaten out of them by life would jump at the chance to go to space. Who hasn’t dreamed of walking out of your kitchen only to pause and tell your spouse and kids, “Hey, I’ll be home a little late this evening. My spacecraft doesn’t land until 6:45.”
Today, Virgin Galactic took a major step forward with the successful test run of its SpaceShip 2 spacecraft, which reached an altitude of 56,000 feet and broke the sound barrier. Though SpaceShip 2 did not enter space, it did effectively demonstrate that its rocket and critical systems were ready for the next step. In fact, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson said the brand plans on full space flight by the end of 2013—yes, this year. Cool.
As a child you probably thought we’d all be commuting to work in flying cars by now, but that’s what happens when you’re raised on The Jetsons and Star Wars. Reality, of course, is much different. Today, it doesn’t matter when you were born as much as how much money you have. And for a mere $200,000 you too can soon experience the miracle of space flight and even several minutes of weightlessness.
What does any of this have to do with public relations? Plenty. People want to be inspired. Deep within everyone’s DNA is the spirit of human adventure—that same cryptic drive that took mankind across tumultuous seas and frigid mountaintops just to see what lied beyond them.
We went island to island, continent to continent, and space is the logical next step. It comforts and excites the public to know that we’re not done. That we’ll keep pushing forward. Brands that can capture this dream will resonate with the public. So kudos to Virgin Galactic. You get us, and by us we don’t mean simply the people with a spare $200,000, but all of us.
Sure, there are aspirational brands out there that promise a life of exquisite luxury and decadent indulgences, but those promises only work for a certain demographic. Even the wealthiest and most perfectly tanned financiers who have just returned from St. Barts can’t compete with the pale geek who just returned from outer space. That’s just how the universe works.
If you think CGI technology ruined Star Wars and that Jar Jar Binks is an abomination, then we have some bad news to report about the Kool-Aid man. And if you are the actual Kool-Aid man, then the news is even worse (sorry, brother, but you’re losing your job).
That’s right. The Kool-Aid man that generations of Americans came to know and love from commercials where he burst through walls and into our living rooms proclaiming “Oh Yeah!” is being replaced by a digital spokesperson, or spokespitcher. Since his inception in 1954 the Kool-Aid man has undergone makeovers to make him more appealing to more recent generations of kids, but for many of us this update is particularly disturbing.
The Kool-Aid man had become part of our childhood, like Twinkies and Captain Kangaroo. It was comforting to know that there was a person sitting on an airplane somewhere, or perhaps at the end of a dark bar, who when asked what he did for a living, answered, “I’m the Kool-Aid man.” With the computer animated Kool-Aid man, those days are over.
However, moms and dads will be happy that along with the rebrand—which features the updated slogan “Smile. It’s Kool-Aid”—Kraft is introducing a new sugar free drink mix in pocket-sized bottles. The brand is hoping to leverage the portability angle which has worked for its MiO product lines. And, yes, a Kool-Aid mobile app will debut at the beginning of the summer.
As PR professionals we recognize this is simply a business decision, but we can’t help being a little wistful about this development. Our industry is about people, and we don’t like to see real people—which the Kool-Aid man certainly was (you could tell by his walk)—being replaced by a bunch of code. If the Kool-Aid man can be replaced by a computer animated personality, then what exactly is the reality of our childhoods?
The press, which happens to consist of a bunch of nerds, gave President Obama a bit of flack today for supposedly confusing the Star Wars “Jedi Mind Trick” with the Star Trek “Vulcan Mind Meld”, thereby creating the “Jedi Mind Meld” meme during a speech on some extremely important topic that we’d rather not think about right now. But the White House communications team was more than ready:
Hey Oreo, looks like the folks in government know a thing or two about “real-time marketing”. And yes, the “mind meld” URL does link to a page detailing the President’s deficit reduction plan. The team may not have been as quick on the draw as Han Solo or the cookie guys, but they did paint their sci-fi critics as “a bunch of stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herders.”
Toy-makers crossing the gender barrier by marketing “boy toys” to girls and vice versa has been all the rage lately (remember the Easy-Bake Oven for boys?). But does this sort of often controversial rebranding pay off? In the case of LEGO‘s girl-geared LEGO Friends, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Full disclosure: I’m a girl. I also played with LEGOs. But apparently, there weren’t quite enough block-building little girls like me, so LEGO decided to create a line of toys geared exclusively to tots of the female variety. In December 2011, the company launched LEGO Friends, a new line of building sets aimed at girls. The new collection steered away from male-targeted themes like ninjas, Star Wars and superheros, featuring instead a pastel color palate, taller and slimmer female minifigures, and cliche female-friendly scenarios like a suburban home, a beauty parlor and a horse stable.
While LEGO Friends drew ire for being sexist and pandering, and even spawned an oppositional movement and petition promising to #LiberateLEGO, the line has become a huge success. The company reported last week that LEGO Friends proved to be the company’s fourth-bestselling line in its first year, helping the LEGO company increase its revenue by 25 percent and record its best financial returns in its 81 years of existence.
“Our data show that we tripled the number of girls who are building with Lego bricks in the U.S. market since the launch of Friends, and we’ve significantly shifted the gender split among Lego users,” said Michael McNally, Lego’s U.S. spokesman. Yet another win for LEGO.
Still, this girl would take a Star Wars set over a horse stable any day.
We recently told you that a petition urging the US government to build its very own “fully operational” Death Star garnered enough signatures to require a response from the White House.
Well, ladies and gentlemen (and wookies and Ewoks), this weekend brought us the official response, and while the Obama administration has decided (unsurprisingly but disappointingly) to deny the American people our very own Death Star, it has demonstrated both a sense of humor and an admirable level of geekiness in its response.
Some of the reasons the White House will not be building a Death Star are pretty predictable (the fact that it would cost roughly $850,000,000,000,000,000 and would therefore not help the deficit, and that the administration does not support blowing up other planets, blah blah). But even the most dedicated Star Wars fans couldn’t argue some of the other justifications. As chief science guy Paul Shawcross writes, “why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship”? Touche, sir.
The administration also urges us not to be too disappointed, because even though “we don’t have a Death Star…we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers”. Fair enough, we suppose.
Click through for the response in full. Its title alone assured us that we weren’t about to read an average cookie-cutter form letter, but one that might actually be worthy of its impassioned, Force-filled audience:
Today in Duh, This Is Totally the Solution to the Financial Crisis News, a petition demanding that the US begin construction on its very own genuine, “fully operational” Death Star has garnered the 25,000 signatures needed to warrant an official response from the White House. The petition reads:
“Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016. By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.”
Job creation, national defense, the revival of space exploration and undeniable awesomeness? Sounds like good political PR all around. In fact, as long as the work isn’t outsourced to Ewoks or droids, we can’t really see a downside. The White House has a few years to respond to the petition, but perhaps the powers that be will be so moved by the dedication of geeks everywhere that they’ll drop what they’re doing (i.e. arguing ceaselessly about the fiscal cliff) and sign a Death Star bill into law ASAP. Hey, it could happen.
Today in Been There, Done That Media News: Walt Disney Co., fresh off its efforts to turn the once-stellar Pixar into a mediocre sequel factory, has announced plans to acquireLucasfilm Ltd. for a cool $4 billion, thereby taking ownership of the series that defined the childhood of every American born between…oh, who are we kidding? Every kid around the world loves the (original) “Star Wars” trilogy. We’ll just avoid mentioning episodes 1 through 3 (along with certain parts of “Return of the Jedi”), because we’d rather not get our blood pressure up this late in the afternoon.
Anyway: Get ready for more “Star Wars” rides at DisneyWorld!
The worst part of this announcement? ”Star WarsEpisode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future”–and George Lucas will serve as “creative consultant” on this monster of a vanity project.
Serious question: Did anyone anywhere in the world ask for another “Star Wars” movie? Or is George Lucas just making one last attempt to revive the embarrassing husk of what was once a promising career?
We leave you with the only appropriate response to this announcement: