Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Where have all the squirrels gone?

When market analysis goes wrong: the story behind the success of the ‘Rocky’ aftershave product line

We get it wrong sometimes at Blader Industries, Inc., something I’ll be the very first to admit. It’s not at all uncommon for a big player in any industry to act upon poorly developed data or upon the basis of errant assumptions.

Well, at Blader Industries, Inc., our guiding principle is that recovery from institutional error defines us just as much as do our successful product campaigns.

I’m often asked, “Blader, how did your Rocky fragrance become such a great success?” Well, the story is far more convoluted then you could possibly imagine, but like all good stories, it begins with a chautaqua that first led to a marketing disaster.

While out on a chautauqua in western New York state, I just love the chautauqua, I spent an afternoon reflecting alone in a temperate mixed oak/hickory climax forest. A pair of squirrels scampering on the branches and limbs above served as a distraction. At one point, they raced down a tree trunk from high in the canopy to ground level, pausing in front of me on an old decaying fallen tree. There, fifteen feet away, the male, without taking his eyes off of me, briefly mounted the female while perched on a bed of lichen. And they copulated.

If I had turned my head for only an instant I would have missed it. But I was transfixed by the boldness of their act and could think of nothing else for the remainder of the week-long chautauqua.

Each afternoon I returned to that forest, but never saw the squirrel pair again.

Before that day, I had only observed copulation between wild animals at the zoo, or on the Discovery Channel. At home during the night, I am sometimes awakened by the sounds of feral cats “doing the deed”. But that’s as close as its come.

And so it struck me that what I had witnessed was something rare and privileged, not unlike, for example, getting a peak inside Catherine Zeta-Jones’ locker at her health club.

Upon returning to the executive suite at our corporate headquarters, I promptly called a meeting to confer with our New Products subsidiary. Heady over the enormously successful rollout of our ‘Forged’ and ‘Cast” copulatory aids, we hatched a plan to market product that all of us felt would be a sure thing: radio controlled stuffed squirrels as toys.

You know how the mind can race at times, and I confess that this idea crystallized in my mind out in that forest as quickly as those two squirrels completed their business.

We stole a page from the book of my good friend Bill Gates and so a member of my crack team of MBA’s came up with a code name for the development phase of the product. We called it “Rocky doing the wild thing”, as it aptly describes a unique feature of the product unprecedented in the radio commanded toy space: By flipping a switch Rocky and his mate could be directed to mimic any of three copulatory acts….missionary style, spoon style or the rear mounting “squirrelly style” I witnessed in that New York forest.

Working off of some dusty market research data that Blader Industries, Inc. had collected years before, we felt we could use “Rocky doing the wild thing” to tap into a niche market comprised of children, aged 4-8, who enjoy both fury animals and who were developing important motor skills with simple radio controlled toy objects. Our target market also included those who are also regular viewers of nature programming on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel.

We positioned “Rocky doing the wild thing”, a stuffed animal toy that could copulate upon command, to take the environmental educational toy sector to an entirely new level. The idea was both robust and revolutionary, exactly the kind of thing consumers have come to expect from Blader Industries, Inc.

You might wonder by now what on earth any of this has to do with a successful aftershave fragrance?

Unfortunately, two issues conspired to destroy the genius of “Rocky doing the wild thing”. First, we were quickly sued by attorneys representing a class of customers claiming defective manufacture and false advertising.

These parents mistakenly believed they were purchasing toys that would only copulate. In fact, the toys were programmed to scamper up and down trees and across telephone lines, leaping into nearby bird feeders, and so on, and to copulate at any point in this ‘foreplay’ upon command. The parents claimed to incur extraordinary, painful and unexpectedly high battery costs as a consequence of this programmed ‘foreplay’.

Furthermore, since the children so much enjoyed watching the toys copulate, they would trigger the ‘copulate’ button whilst the toys scampered high on wires or in trees. Oftentimes, the toys would lose their balance and fall from these positions. Unlike real squirrels, the toys would shatter and break from falls in excess of 50 feet or so. On this basis, their lawyers claimed defective manufacture.

A second crippling issue was that 80% of our inventory during the rollout phase was purchased at retail cost by a single, and initially mysterious, client. This made it very difficult to keep up with demand from our retail outlet customers, who eventually grew tired of the persistent back orders and eventually stopped ordering the product.

Before we knew it, competitors had taken a cue from us and began marketing copulatory paired toys. For example, Mattel began co-packaging Barbie dolls with members of their GI Joe collection. Before we knew it, the competition had saturated the very market that Blader Industries first cultivated!

Details on the mysterious client were initially nebulous. But it soon became clear that it was none other than JDerion, who attempted to remain anonymous during the process. He would instruct our delivery personnel to deliver shipments to a remote and apparently abandoned New Jersey warehouse in the vicinity of the Pine Valley Golf Club, making every attempt to evade visual contact. He ordered the shipment to be stacked outside the warehouse, from which he would only emerge after the driver had left and was well down the road.

I had spent much of the rollout period, while all this was going on, in the Djiboutian Highlands, negotiating for delivery of the fall wool harvest. I only became aware of this development well after the damage was done.

I knew instantly that it was JDerion when our driver mentioned, almost in passing, that the oddest feature of what had become for him a regular delivery, was the music booming over the warehouse campus each time he visited: Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” :

Well, I really don't mind the rain
And a smile can hide all the pain
But you're down when you're ridin' the train that's takin' the long way
And I dream of the things I'll do
With a subway token and a dollar tucked inside my shoe
There'll be a load of compromisin'
On the road to my horizon
But I'm gonna be where the lights are shinin' on me
Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Rhinestone cowboy
Gettin' cards and letters from people I don't even know
And offers comin' over the phone

Knowing JDerion’s obsession with my life’s work, and his compulsive taste for awful music, it was simple to connect the dots.

Our associates were eventually able to draw him out of the warehouse by erecting a king kong sized fake stuffed squirrel near the entrance of Pine Valley. Upon entering, they managed to shut off “Rhinestone Cowboy” only to be horrified by the sight of tens of thousands of stuffed squirrels strewn about the facility haphazardly. Perhaps what is most sickening was that a small incision was made in the genital region of each male, from which the os baculum was removed. The stuffed female squirrels were untouched but the missing os baculum were nowhere to be found.

We faced a problem. What on earth could we do with the corpses, albeit lifelike in every way thanks to the finest taxidermy this side of the Pecos, of tens of thousands of stuffed squirrels, half of which no longer possessed their os baculum?

After a quick brainstorming session we struck upon an obvious solution: We’d make a male aftershave fragrance based upon a squirrel motif. It turned out, at that very point, we were searching for a product that could go head to head against “Ouder”, the latest from the formidable marketing talents of our competitors at Calvin Klein.

We called our aftershave “Rocky”, and the real genius behind Rocky is our sales driving promotion: with each bottle sold, the customer receives a complementary mounted squirrel head, for show in his home or office or even in his remote wilderness cabin. Our customers know that nothing primes their mates better for copulatory activities than wall-mounted representation of fierce, wild creatures, slain by their man in a death match for the ages!

The “Rocky” fragrance rollout has been so successful that we’ve long since exhausted our supply of squirrel heads from that New Jersey warehouse.

And so this story also explains how Blader Industries Inc. has become the top squirrel farmer in North America, where simple due to corporate necessity we have revolutioned sustainable squirrel farming to the extent that we’ve practically invented the industry as everyone now knows it.



JDerion!!! said...

He took little Rocky to the Junior Prom
Excitable boy, they all said

And he raped him and killed him, then he took him home
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he's just an excitable boy

After ten long years they let him out of the home
Excitable boy, they all said

And he dug up his grave and built a cage for blader with his os baculum and the os baculum of like 20,000 of his furry friends
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he's just an excitable boy

Consider yourself Warrened.

fearless leader said...

As you can see for yourself, against my better judgment I've posted your FAQ.

I have my reservations that your FAQ is little more than some sort of decadent code, perhaps activating a sleeper cell of jihadists.

Truth is, I worked it over for 5 sleepless days and nights...even tried your old low dose peyote if it is code, it's a clever one, I'll grant you that.

fearless leader said...

ps: Release the adolescents, they meant you no harm.

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