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These Days, Even The Fun Stuff Has An Edge To It

Way back in 1996, the makers of M&M’s asked America to vote on a new color for their candy, resulting in a promotion which jump started that venerable brand with new Blue pieces. Now, Parker Brothers have leveraged this “engage the consumer in a dialogue” marketing technique for their board game Monopoly. They are running a promotion which asks folks to choose a new playing piece from among a diamond ring, a robot, a guitar, a helicopter, and a cat. Voting is open on Facebook until February 5, and the new token will make its debut later this year. Sounds like fun.

But this ain’t 1996; the world today is a much nastier place. In a sinister twist, Parker Brothers is also asking folks to help make room for the new token by removing one of the existing ones. And they’re not pulling punches.  The promotional page on Facebook reads, with a gleeful sneer, “In an unlucky roll of the dice, every Monopoly token has landed in jail. One will be locked up forever and replaced with a new piece.” Mwah-hah-hah-hah! Let’s see who gets voted off Baltic Avenue!  The seven existing tokens facing a future in the slammer are the battleship, the car, the Scottie dog, the top hat, the old shoe, the iron, the wheelbarrow, and the thimble.

Welcome to the “The Angry Games,” the new marketing twist in which brands are built up by encouraging their customers to help tear them down. OK, maybe I’m overreacting, and perhaps some change is just necessary. After all, there have been plenty of Monopoly tokens that no longer exist, including a lantern, a purse, a rocking horse, a cannon, a man on a horse, and a sack of money. But they were all quietly replaced. Do we really need a promotion that encourages consumers to actively trash the things they used to love? I mean, how would it have been, back in 1996 when Tan M&M’s were discontinued in favor of Blue, if we had held the Tan character upside down over a vat of molten chocolate while America chose his replacement?

I’ll tell you how it would have been…it would have been…totally awesome!   What a promotion: “Melt Down the Tan, Man.” Go ahead and melt him down. Everybody hates that Tan. It’s like an old shoe or a stupid old car. It’s something nobody needs any more, like an iron or a thimble. Throw it all in the wheelbarrow, roll it outta here, mwah-hah-hah-hah!  It’s time to make a clean start. Bring in that awesome robot. Bring in that rockin’ guitar. Bring in anything new!!

Anything, as long as it’s not that stupid cat. I hate cats!!!

Welcome to 2013.  We having fun?

– Mike Keeler

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