Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh Yeah!

[This is a repost of a item originally posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2007]

Oh Yeah!

When Kool-Aid Man burst through the walls of the courtroom in the very first episode of "Family Guy," no one was more delighted than yours truly. I love Kool-Aid Man! But other than the occasional appearance on "Family Guy," he really doesn't draw much water these days. (Pun intended, with my apologies.)
On a bookshelf in my living room sits a plush, stuffed Kool-Aid Man. At least 15 years old by now, he's still in almost-new condition. He's got to be a rare item; I'm the only one I know who has one. He is a cherished possession. He is always smiling.

My Kool-Aid Man toy is just one of many items I ordered from the Wacky Warehouse. The Wacky Warehouse, for those of you who weren't around for it, is one of the most ingenious promotional programs ever invented. It was based on one simple conceit: kids like to get mail.

Lots of food products, particularly those aimed at kids, give away bonus prizes if you send in proof-of-purchase UPCs. Kool-Aid came up with a better idea. Instead of boring old bar codes, they developed a point system. The larger the amount of Kool-Aid you bought, the more points you would get. If you got those crappy little powder-mix sleeves that required additional sugar, you got the crappy amount of 1 point. But if you got the big canisters that required only water, you got 12 points!

You'd pick up a Wacky Warehouse order form from strategic locations, such as check-out lines or corner stores. You know, places where a kid might feel compelled to annoy a parent into buying an extra box of candy, or otherwise spend some disposable income.

If I remember correctly, the Wacky Warehouse had mostly junk when it first began. We're talking skee-ball-ticket prizes, here. But I think the promotion caught on stronger than Kraft had anticipated. Before long, they had stuff that people actually wanted, like Hot Wheels and Barbies and radio-controlled cars. In the days before downloads, they would even offer music compilation tapes made to order from the songs you chose from their catalogue.
But even if all you were getting was a kazoo with the Kool-Aid logo on it, it was still great. Kids LOVE getting stuff in the mail. For several years, I had a pretty steady rotation of out-going orders and incoming items. I had my share of Rock-A-Dile Red t-shirts, Purplesaurus Rex thermoses, Kool-Aid Man wrist watches, and even a bright red canvas waist pack. It's a bit embarrassing now, but you have to admit, at least I was getting things that had a practical use. The visor really did block the sun; the beach towel really did dry you off.
All the items would eventually break or wear out or just become too childish as I progressed into my teen years. But not that stuffed Kool-Aid Man. If there was one thing I knew I could get away with, it was keeping an iconic marketing character. People collect all sorts of logos and G.I Joes and models based on comic book characters and "Star Wars" action figures. I have a Kool-Aid Man, and a Bart Simpson, and a Garfield. One of these days, my young nephew is bound to ask me what the hell that red thing on my bookshelf is. The Kool-Aid Man character is essentially retired. And, for the life of me, I can't understand why. Did kids stop drinking Kool-Aid? Do kids not like cartoon characters anymore? According to Wikipedia, the Kool-Aid Kool Points/Wacky Warehouse program will be discontinued after June 30 [2007]. This wouldn't be quite so sad if, say, they had a brand new promotional idea for a new generation of consumers. But it doesn't look like they do. So why end the Warehouse? Do kids no longer enjoy getting mail? Do kids no longer enjoy getting free toys? Have things changed that much? I guess the beverage trend these days is "energy drinks." Your Red Bulls and Amps and Full Throttles. Gatorade has been able to position itself in that market as well. So the question is, why doesn't Kool-Aid do the same thing? I offer the following ideas at no charge to the Kraft General Foods company. My reward will be to see my beloved Kool-Aid Man endure. Kraft: Create a new line of highly caffeinated, guarana- and taurine-infused Kool-Aid flavors. Call it, oh, I don't know, "Kool-Aid Extreme." Or maybe "X-treme." People like things to be "extreme" these days. Or give it some meaningless number, like "Kool-Aid 180" or "Kool-Aid 2.0!" Tell you what... I haven't given much thought to the name thing, so you can come up with your own name for it. The important thing is... This is the perfect opportunity to bring back Kool-Aid Man! I mean, the dude was always a spazz; what, with destroying walls and parachuting onto cars and speeding around on motorcycles. You know, just generally making people uncomfortable. THAT'S the Kool-Aid Man I want to see returned to the spotlight. And if you give him the excuse that he's all tweaked out on crack-laced Kool-Aid, then all the more reason for him to run around wrecking the place. It's so obvious, isn't it?!
Oh, and one last note, Kraft: none of this computer animated garbage. I seem to recall, shortly before Kool-Aid Man disappeared altogether, the man-in-a-giant-pitcher-costume was retired in favor of the ghetto-est computer animation ever. Uh-uh. I insist that you put a real, living human inside of a giant, awkward, overheated, foam-rubber costume. THAT is what Kool-Aid Man is. Now get to work on that and, in a few years, get back to me on how to revitalize the Wacky Warehouse.