Marketing minions

I’m disgruntled over those Despicable minions propagating on every which product lately, from McDonald’s WTF unhappy meals to Twinkies and push-pops. None of this can be good, nor good for our kids. Oh, sure, the squishy yellow stumps with headlamps or goggles or whatever they are are cute and entertaining … but is that enough to mean something other than a gilded goose for the few artists, creatives or corporate conglomerates feeding off them?

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It starts as a movie, innocently enough, but it rarely ends there. Actually, it’s never innocent. Movies cost too much to be innocent. No one can conceive of cuteness or cleverness worth the celluloid without considering what else they can sell to support its making, distribution and net-profit skimming. That’s why too many movies feel more like advertisements for franchises and video games than flights of fancy. All that CGI and digitation is built in to translate instantly to other platforms, until we’re awash in yellow squishies. I just can’t get my head around it as a thing that should make me happy. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of the movies since Despicable Me, which left me perplexedly morose.

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Maybe it’s because they look so much like smiley faces, which begat emoticons and emoji, which just make me angry. Have a nice day!

While on a walk in Reston near an office park recently, of all places, the scent of water lily and, later, honeysuckle, hoisted me back to my childhood and a toy that meant something to me and might even prove to be the last thing I recall once I’m in the throes of dementia and can conjure only songs and smells of the petrified past.

My Kiddle Kolognes. Lily of the Valley, to be specific. She was always my favorite, a little genie in a bottle who served to delight and detox me.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 1.34.56 PMMy playmate Elaine Hewlett didn’t like her — she preferred Violet. That was fine with me because we would spend endless hours setting up our Kiddle village and the nine Kologne sisters: Apple Blossom, with green hair; blue-haired Bluebell; white-locked Gardenia; blonde Honeysuckle; orange-headed Orange Blossom; Rosebud the redhead; Sweet Pea — was she pink? Violet was la-la-lavender, and my queen, Lily of the Valley, had lily-white hair you couldn’t comb because of too many blossom tangles. I’ve always preferred wild-looking, unkempt hair, and maybe that’s why.

I wonder if my mom — my 84-year-old mom who handed me a Minions fruit snack to-go after I visited her this month on her birthday — was as taken with the Kiddles, and that’s how I managed to collect them all a few times over, after their scents inevitably diminished. I don’t recall ever begging her for the next one. One day I simply had a completed set.

Could be analogous to the Beanie Babies craze, when we mothers were more obsessive than our kids with each new release (aka birthdate). For me, the ones with the typos were the best. But there was that year we realized the Beanies had exceeded our home’s storage capacity and outlived anyone’s interest — or maybe it dawned on us such consumerism was making us anxious — so I wholesale donated them to my uncle, an Internet entrepreneur, for him to make money off of. (Except those three with typos, still in plastic, in my closet.)

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My Kiddle Kolognes served multiple purposes, teaching me about botany, color, alliteration, geography (I looked up Cologne, Germany, on a map thinking it must be spelled with a “K” because that sounded German and maybe they originated from some fantastic garden there). There was also the natural aromatherapy accompaniment, ensuring calm and creative play while seeding my vivid imagination.

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 2.43.52 PMLooking at them now, of course, on eBay, they appear as chintzy as the minions. Probably just as evil, too, made by Chinese slave labor and lining some Mattel mogul’s gold-flecked pockets. And the marketing — although there was never a Kiddles movie or video game, that I know of, the whole K-K replacement of letters, doctoring the language, smacks of brainwashing — cleverness with an agenda. $$$$$$$$

Perhaps the concept taught me, though, how to be a decent headline writer and seeded my career in marketing ideas to the masses. $$

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One can never quite gauge the impact of toys on our future selves. Yet I ache to tone down the herd mentality of fads and flimsy must-haves and commercialized collectibles and beg parents to let children explore on their own, as I imagine in the days before Toys “R” Us and its “R” Us spinoffs — the bygone days of paper airplanes, pitched pennies and pickup sticks.

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And sucking helium.

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