It’s February and nothing starts off the month like the Super Bowl. While the whole production, from the game itself to the halftime show and even most of the commercials were a bit of a yawn, there was one commercial that stood out to me not necessarily because of the quality but because of its approach. The Michelob Ultra Pure Gold Organic Beer ad featuring Zoe Kravitz incorporated techniques meant to elicit an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). This is something that has become an online phenomenon, particularly on youTube, in which specific auditory and/or visual stimuli such as a whispered voice or a gentle tapping is meant to create a tingling sensation often in the scalp or the back of the neck that can move down the arms and the legs and into the fingers and toes. It is often described as having a relaxing effect and watching videos catered towards ASMR have been known to help alleviate insomnia. The beer company has engaged this cutting edge approach to market its beer in order to target Millennials, many who have turned away from to wines and hard liquors instead, because they are perceived as the “healthier” options as far as alcohol is concerned. The commercial, which incorporates many quick nature scenes before opening up to a breathtaking mountain vista, has spokesperson Kravitz whisper very simple but soothing words about the beer as she melodically drums her fingers against the bottle, releasing a pleasing fwssssssshing sound as the bottle is uncapped. Even the fizzing noise you hear as the beer is poured into a glass is therapeutic. It all has a very meditative quality, except let’s keep in mind that it is still just a beer, even if its organic. But maybe the perceived notion that it’s a healthier choice versus its competitors (Millennials love labels such as “organic” and “non-GMO,” even when they don’t fully understand them) will be enough to turn the tides in beer sales. If it does, expect to see many more spine-tingling ASMR-targeting ads in the near future.
Also very big in February is anything romance related as the commercial holiday of Valentine’s Day is here to try to guilt consumers into emptying their pockets to prove their affection and allegiance to loved ones. But in this day and age when health has become a major concern for a lot of people, the heart-shaped box of chocolates and candies aren’t going to cut it anymore. The Stop & Shop stores in Hartford, CT have just the solution for today’s Paleo and Keto fanatics for whom sugar is a big no-no. This year, between February 7 and 14, the retailer will be featuring raw, heart shaped steaks and steak tip roses on a bed of greens – meat cuts dolled up to look pretty for that very special someone who has cut the sugar out of his or her diet. The packaged meats even have elaborately tied red satin ribbons to make your Valentine’s heart swoon (if not for the aesthetic factor, then because it will soon be overloaded with a huge dose of animal protein). Too perishable a product for you? Another meat-based alternative for showcasing your affection is the Beef Jerky Valentine’s Day bouquet, available for a limited time from The Manly Man Company. The treats, which come as a half dozen or a dozen, are your choice of rose or daisy shaped jerky “flowers” with the option of one of four flavors: original, mixed, hot or and teriyaki. They even get delivered in a glass or stainless pint glass emblazoned with the company’s name. The company also offers stemless bacon jerky dipped in dark chocolate for those looking to give sweets to their sweet instead. How’s that for a romantic gesture?
And for those of you who believe Valentine’s Day cannot be complete without the nostalgic chalk-like Sweetheart candy hearts that have simple statements like “Be Mine” and “Love You” stamped on in a red typewriter font, worry no more! Even though Necco, the New England based confectioner that created these iconic Valentine’s staples went out of business and the company that bought them, Spangler Candy Co., could not get production up and running in time for this year’s holiday, Brach’s has come to save the day. The Oak Brook, IL-based candy manufacturer, which has been selling its own version of heart-shaped confections with cute messages – Conversation Hearts – since the 60s, will make their candies widely available at mass retailers this year. Plus, in addition to the time-honored messages that we are accustomed to, they feature more modern phrases and acronyms such as LYMY (Love You Miss You) and TTYL (Talk to You Later), which are more the norm in this text and tech savvy world.
Speaking of being tech savvy, McCormick & Company, the global leader in spices and seasonings, is turning to AI to help it come up with new products. The Hunt Valley, MD-based manufacturer partnered up with IBM Research to mine 40-plus years of data it has collected about spices, taste profiles and customer preferences to accelerate the creation of new flavor combinations. The first three fruits of this labor will be introduced as a line of one dish recipe mixes called “ONE” by mid-2019: Tuscan Shrimp, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin and New Orleans Sausage. The manufacturer currently depends on a five-step system to produce new flavor combos: ideation, development, testing, scale up, and commercialization and maintenance. Most efforts go into the initial two first steps and the testing aspect alone can take 50 to 150 iterations over a time period spanning anywhere from two weeks to six months. McCormick believes the use of AI can accelerate the speed of new flavor products to market by up to three times. “McCormick’s use of artificial intelligence highlights our commitment to insight-driven innovation and the application of the most forward-looking technologies to continually enhance our products and bring new flavors to market,” said company chairman, president and CEO Lawrence Kurzius. “This is one of several projects in our pipeline where we’ve embraced new and emerging technologies.” The company plans to scale this technology globally by 2021.