|LifeSavers Five Flavor candies, 1.14-oz. roll (Nabisco, Inc.)
I'm not sure what it is about my tastes versus those of the public at large, but it seems like the products I love are constantly being targeted for elimination. This is especially true in the realm of snack foods -- for years I favored Hydrox over Oreos, for example, until the folks at Keebler took the matter out of my hands by acquiring the Hydrox brand, renaming it Droxies, and changing the flavor formulation. Similarly, I always had a soft spot in my heart for tan M&M's -- or at least I did until 1995, when the bigwigs at M&M/Mars held that bogus "election" that resulted in blue M&M's being introduced while tan M&M's were purged from the face of the Earth.
That memory was sickeningly fresh in my mind last fall, when the friendly marketers at LifeSavers announced that they were holding an election of their own. It seems that pineapple-flavored LifeSavers -- which happen to be my favorites in the classic Five Flavor roll -- had been deemed to be "Y2K-incompatible," and consumers would therefore be offered a chance to vote on a solution to this oh-so-pressing problem. The options: strawberry, watermelon, or retain pineapple by "upgrading its Y2K-compatibility."
The real story, of course, is that focus groups had indicated that pineapple was the least-popular flavor in the roll. Never mind that there were still countless consumers like myself who diligently dug through each LifeSavers roll in search of those few elusive pineapple candies. Never mind that pineapple had been part of the Five Flavor roll since the product's inception in 1935. And never mind that this was about the lamest Y2K-related promotional scheme on the entire consumer landscape. None of that mattered when stacked up against the chance to run a splashy marketing campaign. So the LifeSavers folks set up a web site and a toll-free phone number where people could vote, ran an ad blitz to publicize the election, and then sat back, secure in the knowledge that the voting results would match up with the focus group data.
But a funny thing happened on the way to pineapple LifeSavers' demise. When the votes were tabulated at the end of March, pineapple had won with 54% of the vote -- more than the other two flavors combined (watermelon clocked in at 25%, while strawberry limped in with 21%). A LifeSavers press release described the outcome as "stunning" and "an upset win," but I wasn't too surprised by the outcome. Pineapple partisans -- many of whom, like myself, hadn't been too happy about the results of the M&M's election a few years back -- were well-prepared for this fight, especially since there was nothing to prevent an individual consumer from voting more than once. I must have voted about 25 or 30 times myself, and I know of several other pineapple fans who did likewise. Do you really think anyone was sufficiently passionate about watermelon or strawberry to vote more than once? No way.
Ah, democracy -- it's a beautiful thing, no? Now if they'd only hold an election to see if people want there to be an all-pineapple LifeSavers roll.
(Nabisco, Inc., East Hanover, NJ 07936)