Monday, July 09, 2007

Creepy Gum

The Japanese are crazy for Xylitol-based gum and you can find a wide variety of it in most stores. For those who don't know what it is, it's a sweetener which is somewhat lower in calories than sugar but is mainly useful because it doesn't promote tooth decay.

As you can see by the big-mouthed caricature on the package, the idea of how it affects our teeth is paramount. I actually find the drawing and the other bits of artwork of huge choppers on legs on the company's web site rather creepy. However, the company must think it's a pretty appealing graphical element because they offer desktop pictures that include it.

I came across this gum while sorting through the vast collection of crap my husband had shoved into storage areas at his bedside. Even though the gum isn't outdated, it's clearly a variety that is no longer being offered. The gum is like a big Chiclet with a candy-coated exterior but it tastes a bit odd. The flavor is "funky orange" (look carefully at the right side of the box as it's written very lightly there) but it tastes like a strange combination of mint and orange. When I commented on this to my husband, he said that all of the Japanese gum he's tried seems to have a strange minty flavor mixed in with it whether it's a mint derivative or not.

This particular gum is called "digi-gum" and there's a message on the side which says something akin to "don't fail to go to the web site at". This seems just a little strange as it seems pointless to market gum to drive people to your web site but it's very important to some Japanese companies to encourage people to visit their sites.

One of my former students worked for a major electronics manufacturer which is pretty well-known in Japan but mainly known for its monitors alone in the U.S. Her company is currently attempting to increase its brand awareness abroad by putting up a funky series of movies and advertising on other major sites (like CNN) to get people in western countries to go and watch the movies.

During her second to last lesson, she had me go to the site and render an opinion on the content. The movies were weird and incomprehensible in some cases and overly long and tedious in others. One of them had some sort of trampoline sumo which was clearly going to be incomprehensible to anyone outside of Japan even with English sub-titles. What was worse about them than anything is the subtitles contained errors in the English and that made the site's content appear somewhat shoddily put together.

The thing about this situation that puzzled me was why the company focused so much on driving traffic to the web site rather than on getting people to embrace its products. To me, sending people to the web site to see a bunch of movies that had nothing to do with the products wasn't accomplishing much toward recognition of the brand. In fact, all it did was muddy the waters of what the company was all about. At least the Xylish gum web site pushes its products and has those big scary anthropomorphic choppers to tattoo the idea that they produce gum and its good for your teeth on your brain.


CMUwriter said...

I don't know if they have Orbitz gum (made by Wrigley me thinks) but it has the same kind of taste and i really like it. The whole theme with the product is the gum cleans your teeth while you chew it. It is not like yoru traditional wrigley gum either, with five to a pack, it has a bunch of little wrapped up pieces in a cigarette pack-like thing. One flavor that is odd is the bubblegum flavor, despite being flavored like bubblegum, has that strong mint taste. I guess the taste in your mouth is supposed to make it feel clean or something, but it is good gum.

Shari said...

I think it's a pretty good perception/conclusion that the minty flavor may be added to reinforce the notion that the gum is cleaning your teeth. I hadn't thought of that.

I've never seen Orbitz here. In fact, I don't think Wrigley sells gum over here. Gum seems to be one of those things that the taste of has to be spot on for the market because it has to stand on its own (unlike food which is consumed with other food or beverages).

Thanks for your comment!

BTW, I look in on your blog every once in awhile. I guess you're too busy to work on it? I enjoyed the entries you made!