I’m a sucker for clever packaging.
As a somewhat intelligent woman, it bugs me that bottle in a cool shape or a unique label makes me want to buy something.
I watch Mad Men. I know that it’s all just marketing, that some advertising person made the bottle that shape or picked that label just so the product would appeal to me.
And I hate that it works. But it does.
For instance, I use a lot of mouthwash. Maybe I’m addicted to it, or maybe I just like minty fresh breath (I’m referring to minty fresh the feeling, not Minty Fresh the death merchant in Christopher Moore’s books. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading this blog and go pick up A Dirty Job or Coyote Blue. Right now.)
I’ve never been picky about which mouthwash I use, probably because I use so much of it that I just bought the cheapest bottle I could find. Store brand, Listerine, whatever.
But then I saw Scope Outlast in the store. I liked that it was supposed to make my breath feel fresh five times longer, but I loved the shape of the bottle even more.
It made me think of the bottle from I Dream of Jeannie.
I’ve been buying Scope Outlast ever since, even though it’s more expensive. And, given the shape of the bottle, it probably holds less.
It’s so aesthetically pleasing that I’ve never checked how many ounces are in there.
I also wash all my black clothes in Woolite Extra Dark Care, just because it says on the bottle that it’s better for dark clothes.
It’s probably just regular old detergent in a black bottle, but I buy it anyway. Just in case it really works. Just in case my black pants will stay black longer.
My favorite example of how packaging snagged me is Smints.
I’m not a gum person. My jaw makes a popping noise when I open it more than a quarter of an inch or so. I doesn’t hurt, just pops. It certainly doesn’t stop me from opening my mouth. A lot. But it does stop me from chewing gum.
Plus I always feel like gum collects all the plaque on your teeth and then you keep chewing it, so you end up chewing a great big ball of gunk from your own teeth. Blech.
But I do like mints… back to that minty fresh feeling I’m obsessed with.
My favorites are Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (cute name) and Tic Tacs (clever packaging.)
And for a while I was buying some called Great Bite mints. They came in what looked like a Tic Tac box, with a shark bite taken out of the bottom corner and the mints were ovals with bites out of them too.
But Smints are the ultimate in mint packaging.
Smints come in a small blue box. When you push the top, a Smint comes flying out of the bottom on the box at you. Almost like a grown up version of the Pez dispenser, minus the creepy heads.
I would eat Smints one right after the other just because it was fun to make them pop out of the box.
And even the mints were cool looking, triangles instead of the usual boring round or oval shape.
Did Smints taste better than Tic Tacs or Lifesavers? Did they make my breath smell better? Did that minty fresh feeling last longer?
Frankly, I don’t remember. But I remember that box.
I wonder if they still make Smints.
The most recent blatant marketing ploy that lured me in was on a package of socks.
In January I was heading to a conference in New York. I go every year and every year I have to go sock shopping before the trip.
I’m in a constant quest for the perfect pair of socks and it seems more urgent just before I’m about to spend unimaginable hours on by feet, tramping the city streets.
I like trouser socks because they are snug around the band and stay up, but they are thin and aren’t warm enough for winter.
And socks that keep your feet warm are too thick and make my boots feel tight.
Knee socks always fall down around my ankles, which I hate.
Socks that hit mid-calf sometimes stay up, but usually twist around on my foot, which I hate more than socks that fall down.
Sometimes I wear two pair: a pair of trouser socks and a pair of knee socks. The knees socks keep my feet warm and the trouser socks make it so I can’t really feel the knee socks falling down.
But wearing two pair of socks makes my feet feel claustrophobic.
Anyway, every January the great sock hunt begins.
I was in Wal-Mart, pursuing the sock aisle when I saw a pair of grey socks with hot pink heels and toes.
The package proclaimed that they were “boot socks.”
Do you remember that episode of Friends when Rachel’s sister goes on a shopping spree and buys a pair of “don’t you want to rent me this apartment” pants and then Phoebe, covering up the spree, tells Rachel she bought “apartment pants?”
That’s what the boot socks made me think of at first.
And then I thought, “Well, I’m looking for socks to wear under boots so why not buy boot socks?”
I knew that boot socks are really just knee socks. They were only called boot socks to make them stand out, to make them more relevant to someone buying socks to wear with boots.
But I bought them anyway.
And guess what. They are just about the most perfect socks I’ve ever owned. They are the right height and thickness, they stay up and they don’t twist around.
I wore them every day in New York and was comfortable the whole time.
So maybe I’m not an idiot for falling for fancy packaging. Maybe sometimes the product actually lives up the hype.