Octopus TV Failure Awards ® – April Fools’ Special - Gerber Singles by Andrew Eborn
In this award-winning weekly series renowned international lawyer, strategist, futurist, producer, brand adviser, broadcaster and inspirational speaker, Andrew Eborn, President of Octopus TV and Knot The Truth and Founder of the Octopus TV Failure Awards, shines a light on the products and services, brand extensions and campaigns that failed to take off and have as a result earned entry into The Octopus TV Failure Awards.
As Andrew Eborn points out “we always celebrate success whilst hiding the failures that led to that success. The Octopus TV Failure Awards finally give failure the attention it deserves.”
Andrew Eborn: “If necessity is the mother of invention then failure is the father of success”
“From failed products and services to campaigns and ads we would rather forget, I want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.”
Andrew is in high demand as a presenter, mentalist, magician and speaker around the world.
Thank you for all of your nominations so far. Keep ‘em coming!
Send your nominations now together with full description and images to TOFA@OctopusTV.com
I love April Fool’s Day!
Every year some of the most creative minds flex their intellectual muscle to come up with cleverer and cleverer ways to fool us….and each year we lust for more.
We know it is coming and yet still we are fooled like goldfish with our 3 seconds memory span – how was that ever tested??
We are always told that history repeats itself and yet we still fail to learn the lessons…
This year they have decided to remove the word “gullible” from the dictionary….
We rejoice in our gullibility. I am compiling a list of favourites over the years … watch this space.
In the meantime, here is a flavour of some of my favourites:
This brilliant report appeared in the highly respected current affairs programme, Panorama, in 1957.
Richard Dimbleby talked about the fantastic weather leading to an “an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” in the Canton of Ticino, the southernmost canton of Switzerland.
With the usual pluminess of BBC news reports from the era, we were told that another reason why it might be a bumper year was due to the disappearance of the retched spaghetti weevil.
At a time when spaghetti was little known in the UK the general public swallowed it whole.
Viewers contacted the programme to ask how they themselves could grow their own spaghetti trees. They were apparently told to stick some spaghetti in a tin of chopped tomatoes and hope for the best!
CNN called this "the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled."
Saving Face – Big Ben becomes Digital Dave
The BBC that pillar of British broadcasting loves its annual permission to play.
In 1980 what was then the BBC Overseas Service and later became the BBC World Service tried to convince people that Big Ben was going to go digital with the new clock emitting “beeps” instead of “bongs” on the hour.
The BBC went on to point out that the first people to contact them could win the iconic hands.
BBC apologised for weeks afterwards to the several people who believed the report.
The same prank ran again in April 2015 in the Daily Star who reported:
“ Due to dwindling tourism in the capital Big Ben's analogue clock face will become digital.
Foreign tourists have reportedly been complaining about the "olde worlde" feel of London and want to bring it up to date with other cities such as Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow.” “Many say they cannot read the time on Big Ben and in a survey 90% of respondents said they would only visit the 156-year-old attraction if it were more modern.”
The Daily Star reported that some Londoners expressed shock and outrage at the move.
“Fruit and veg seller Reg Roberts, who has worked on his stall on the corner of Westminster Abbey for almost 60 years, said: "I can't believe they would do this. I blame the EU."
Cabbie Lance Smears added: "How much is this going to cost? It goes without saying it will be us, the taxpayer, footing the bill."
We are very precious about our National Monuments.
Outrage about Big Ben going digital was predictable…. Rinse and repeat!
Similarly, the public burst a blood vessel when on 1st April 1996 Taco Bell took out an ad in various newspapers saying that it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell”.
Blind to the date of the announcement, people were predictably outraged and several called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger.
White House press secretary, Mike McCurry, when asked about the sale to Taco Bell brilliantly explained that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would now be known as the “Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.”…
TOUCAN PLAY AT THAT GAME
Guinness are mischievous masters of the April Fool. We have already seen Crystal Guinness when looking at Octopus TV Failure Awards’ Nominee Crystal Pepsi.
LAME STREAM MEDIA
As we have seen mega media mischief makers play with us every year.
Real joy is experienced when the roles are reversed and serious major publications fall for the joke. .. the main stream media becomes the lame stream media.
…and so it was in 1998 when the Financial Times ran a story that a sponsorship deal had been struck between the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Guinness brewery. According to the report, Guinness was to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebrations. Under the deal Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed “Guinness Mean Time”. Instead of counting seconds in "pips" the Observatory would count them in "pint drips.”
The FT criticized Guinness saying it was setting a "brash tone for the millennium."
Red Faces at the Pink Paper
There were red faces at the pink FT when they realised they had been duped. Publishing a retraction the FT pointed out that the news "was apparently intended as part of an April 1 spoof."
FOOD FOR FOOLS
There have also been several great food and beverage related April Fool’s gags in addition to Panarama’s Spaghetti Trees.
As part of The Octopus TV Failure Awards we have already sampled several superb spoofs which spun out of the crystal craze from the delights of Crystal Guinness to Saturday Night Live’s Crystal Gravy
In 1998 Burger King took a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of the "Left-Handed Whopper". This was to be introduced especially for the 32 million left-handed Americans.
According to the ad, the new left-handed whopper included “the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.). However, the left-handed whopper had "all condiments rotated 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of the condiments will skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger."
“Finally, after years of neglect, left-handed eaters will no longer need to conform to traditional right-handed eating methods when enjoying America’s favourite burger”
FACT FROM FICTION
In this day and age it is hard to separate fact from fiction.
We live in extraordinary times. Reality is far more bizarre that fiction.
The 2011 film Contagion has a stellar cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Elliott Gould and Laurence Fishburne in the midst of a pandemic as the CDC works to find a cure.
WHO ? (See what I did there??!)
CDC is The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading national public health institute of the United States.
As Coronavirus / Covid-19 takes its stranglehold on our lives and temporarily destroys our economy Contagion looks more and more like a documentary with a virus which apparently started with bats in China contaminating the food supply.
The movie is peppered with phrases which now punctuate the incessant news coverage:
“Wash your hands”
“Stay at home”
“Underlying medical conditions”
Science fiction is science fact.
BABY FOOD FOR ADULTS
In light of the brilliant food fool yous you’d be forgiven for dismissing baby food for adults as a joke … only it was not announced on 1st April nor was it meant as a joke. … which is why it is this week’s Octopus TV Failure Awards nominee..
Gerber Products Company is a leader in early childhood nutrition.
Gerber was founded in 1928 in Fremont, Michigan which is about 35 miles southeast of Hart, home of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.
“Nestled along the shore of Lake Michigan and Silver Lake you will find Michigan’s great outdoors with massive sand dunes, beach buggies and miles of hiking and walking trails.” https://www.michigan.org/city/fremont
“Silver Lake Sand Dunes are blessed with several miles of pristine Lake Michigan shoreline perfect for sunning and swimming.”
“The Gerber story, by most accounts, began in 1928 on the production lines of the Fremont Canning Company. Gerber has continued to grow throughout the years. Nearly 190 food products are now labelled in 16 languages and distributed to 80 countries. Always dedicated to the health of its young consumers, Gerber has maintained one of the world's largest private research facilities dedicated exclusively to infant nutrition.”
Go Gerber !
Gerber joined the Nestlé family on September 1, 2007.
As Gerber proudly proclaim, “at Gerber, research informs everything we do – from the products we make, the nutrition education we deliver and the services we offer. Gerber provides resources from the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) for health care professionals at Medical.Gerber.com/FITS and for parents at Gerber.com.”
Let’s face it, locked away in social isolation we start to experiment. Those unlabelled cans lurking threateningly in the darkest corner of the cupboard – undisturbed for years – get opened and contents devoured… even if Rufus the dog misses out on what was supposed to be his….
Even baby food looks tempting and can be comforting … who doesn’t like the occasional mushed banana?
… but launching a whole product range is a step too far ..
In 1974 Gerber, nevertheless, thought it would be a good idea to release Gerber Singles- small servings of food targeted at college students and single adults, packaged in jars that looked the same as those used for baby food.
The range included Beef Burgundy, Creamed Beef and Blueberry Delight.
Gerber Singles made Business Insider’s list of the top 11 Biggest Food Flops of all time – who needs 10 when you can turn the volume up to 11. Tap the Spinal !
As Business Insider pointed out Gerber Singles had a “Fatal Flaw: As it turned out, pre-portioned packages of meat mush didn't exactly scream "cool" to young singles. The epic flop is one of the most frequently referenced brand failures of all time.”
Gerber’s Singles also made it in Mental Floss’s 10 Food Products That (Thankfully) Flopped pointing out that “It didn't take long for Gerber execs to figure out that most consumers, unless they were less than a year old, couldn't get used to eating a pureed meal out of a jar—particularly one depressingly labelled "Singles."
“Baby food for grown-ups was pulled from the marketplace shortly after its birth.”
SINGLE – READY TO MINGLE
Being single is a choice but not everyone’s first choice. By calling the product ‘Singles,’ Gerber shone what for some was an unwelcome spotlight on the fact that people were romantically a failure. According to Susan Casey from Business 2.0, “they might as well have called it ‘I Live Alone and Eat My Meals from a Jar.’”
The Gerber brand is inextricably linked to baby food in the same way as Colgate is inextricably linked with health and that fresh minty taste.
For those who love their meals mushed and wanted to be reminded that they were single, Gerber’s Singles was the perfect product. For the rest of us, it was a brand extension too far and is accordingly is this week’s Octopus TV Failure Awards Nominee.
Whilst baby food for adults was a failure, the demand for baby food for babies is likely to increase. With some many forced to stay at home expect to see a baby boom in the next 9 months with the generation of Quarantinies / Coronials… .. you heard it here first, folks !
Now time to toddle back to explore what else is lurking in the bowels of the kitchen cupboards.
I’ll see you next time for more fantastically fabulous failures ….fact or fake!
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewEborn and @OctopusTV
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From failed products and services to campaigns and ads we would rather forget, we want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.
Send your nominations with full description and images to TOFA@OctopusTV.com
In addition to international recognition and glittering prizes the winners will receive the much valued TOFA.
Andrew Eborn is a columnist, broadcaster and regular presenter and speaker around the world
Photographer: Corrado Amitrano