Oatmeal-onomics: Lessons From Starbucks' Breakthrough

Predicting a Rash of So-Old-It's-New-Again Innovations

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Oatmeal is hot, and the place it's hottest is Starbucks. Although rumors suggest Howard Schultz and his ad agency angrily parted ways after he orchestrated a tasting and they proposed, "Tastes blech, too filling" (as well as, later, "I mush in the morning," and, "Hello, gruel world"), you know that other marketers are seething with hot-cereal envy. Inevitably, they, too, are going to jump on the old-fashioned, down-home, frugal-yet-festive bandwagon.

I'm predicting a rash of so-old-it's-new-again innovations, including:


THE SAMSONITE STICK-TOTE

If you thought that once the luggage industry finally came up with a rolling suitcase that didn't keel over, its work was done. But that was before Samsonite unveiled its latest luggage triumph: the bag on a stick. Easily carried over the shoulder, the Stick-Tote makes travel a breeze -- by plane, foot or box car. The simple tie-up bag unfolds into a handy workman's shirt -- a must for any "road warrior." The pocket is just right for any digital or corncob-based device. And the sturdy, all-wood stick can be used as a walking aid, weapon or potato baking spear.


THE FORD MODEL U

If you liked the Model T, you'll love the Model U -- as in U-turn, for the troubled Motown mainstay. The Model U boasts the first running boards our country has seen on a sedan in 70 years -- perfect for piling on carpoolers (provided they pitch in for gas). A crank-start engine saves on spark plugs while building muscles. And as a special promotion, Ford is launching its most ambitious sweepstakes ever: "Win an Auto Dealership!"

Second prize: two auto dealerships.


CARILLON DISTILLERS PRESENTS ABSOLUT HOOCH

Distilled from mash, hops, hash, mops, granny's secret recipe and (shhh!) unsold Miller Lite, Hooch is the hippest drink among the coveted 18-to-85 unemployed-except-for-part-time-work-at-Del Taco demographic. But don't be fooled by the $4.93 price tag. This is a drink that keeps fine company. Try it mixed with America's Choice Cola! Or just enjoy it straight from the carton.


THE PPHONE

Apple has done it again. After months of buzz, Steve Jobs gathered the world's leading tech journalists and gizmo groupies to unveil his game-changing "pPhone." "Enough with the iPhone!" Jobs announced to deafening cheers. "Enough with cellphones, period! You have to charge them, and you have to remember to take them with you in the morning, which is, like, impossible. And you have to pay that huge monthly fee. My bad. But now, introducing the revolutionary, pay-as-you-go, cash-based pPhone! As we begin our radical plan to place giant pPhones all over America, the cell will become but a quaint relic of the past. Convenient pPhones will be everywhere, from street corners to soda fountains, enclosed in our patented pBooths," said Jobs, stepping into a prototype and closing the door. "No more traffic noise to disturb your conversation," he said from inside. "And get this: It only costs a quarter!" Uncertain as to when to applaud, some attendees rose uneasily for an ovation, while others who could lip-read report that Jobs added he will be selling plastic, nano-size, "pPhone change purses" in 10 stylish colors for just $399 each.


DASANI BOTTLED-WATER BOTTLE

Tired of lugging home heavy water bottles? This conveniently empty Dasani bottle can be filled from any standard tap at home. And remember: If you're heading in to your shift at Del Taco, the bottle also works with Absolut Hooch.
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