Stephen Colbert Mocks Marketingspeak By Cramming Face With 17 Wheat Thins

Have you ever wondered about the specific brand rules that regulate product placement and on-air sponsorships of products on TV? Yeah, us either. Until Stephen Colbert spent the entire second act of his show last night dissecting and mocking a memo from Nabisco spelling out precisely how Wheat Thins can be consumed and presented on the program.

So what should you know before you show Wheat Thins on television? No overconsumption. The serving size is 16 crackers, and a bowl of Wheat Thins shown on TV can’t have any more than 16 crackers.

What is the meaning of Wheat Thins? Who eats them? As the company describes in the memo, Wheat Thins are “[a] snack for anyone who is actively seeking experiences.” Okay. And eating them evidently “[k]eeps you on the path to, and proud of, doing what you love to do, no matter what that is.”

As long as those aren’t “isolated, un-shareable experiences.” Wheat Thins function only to connect “like-minded people, encouraging sharing.” Which isn’t to say that you can’t eat them if your social life consists of watching TV on the couch with your cat. Wheat Thins aren’t an “exclusionary brand.” Good. But Wheat Thins aren’t an iconoclastic cracker, either. The memo also insists that they’re not “[a] crusader or rebel looking to change an individual’s path (or the world.)”

No, we are not making any of this up.

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  1. PHRoG says:

    I love this man.

  2. C. Ogle says:

    Hard to tell if this was a unsuccessful commercial or not, since it definitely raised awareness of the Wheat Thins product over however many minutes it. If it was a regular commercial I would have muted it or switched the channel, but Colbert probably made me pay more attention to Wheat Thins than I would have otherwise with 10 years worth of their commercials.

  3. scoosdad says:

    I guess that pretty much rules out my house on a reality TV series if you can’t show a dog eating Wheat Thins enthusiastically. Unless of course the dog is actively seeking experiences.

    You can’t make this stuff up, you really couldn’t. Can you just see the meetings at Nabisco to discuss and develop these guidelines? This is Dilbert territory for sure. Kudos to S. Colbert.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Dogs are always actively seeking experiences. Right now my dog is actively seeking the experience of gnawing on a steer penis while sprawled across the head of my bed.

  4. MMD says:

    Bizarre as this Wheat Thins “personality profile” is, I can’t say I’m that surprised. I’ve done a couple of paid focus groups, and they spent all kinds of time trying to get us to talk about the personalities of various shampoos. It really felt ridiculous, and I’m sure that they didn’t like me much when I said that I generally don’t try to make friends with my shampoo.

    I get that they’re trying to identify a target market, etc., but they really lose me when they try to ascribe sentience to groceries.

    • PHRoG says:

      Try painting a face on said object with your own blood and calling it Wilson. it worked for Tom Hanks!

    • teamplur says:

      Perfect place to use the word Anthropomorphize! I see people use it when talking about animals and things that ACTUALLY do have emotions and personalities, like pets. Sorry, I’m on a bit of a crusade againt’s people using the A word in arguments along the lines of:
      “oh my (insert pet) loves me!”
      “pets don’t feel! you are anthropomorphizing!!”

      I don’t think animals can feel the same way we do, but anyone who thinks animals don’t have emotional responses is a moron. Did your dog “MISS” you while you were away? Well define what that means to miss someone… an animal is comfortable with you around. Sees you as it’s source of food/shelter/treats/comfort. If you are away it might or might not know if you will be back. It can feel fear or distress that it might lose the source of those comforts. How different is that from humans feeling that they miss someone? (other than we usually know they will be back)

      sorry way off topic, mornings are always spazy for me 0_o

      • Tim says:

        Well, the problem is that there ARE some human-like qualities you can ascribe to animals. So sure, it’s anthropomorphizing, but there’s nothing wrong with it in that case.

        If I say my cat likes attention, that’s anthropomorphizing, but it’s true. If I say my chair likes attention, that’s anthropomorphizing and wrong.

        • kobresia says:

          I would agree somewhat– saying a cat wants attention or a dog misses its owner are just observations. In and of themselves, those observations are not anthropomorphism.

          Anthropomorphism would be better described as attributing human motivations to animal behavior. One of the worst offenses is calling a dog, cat, or horse licking your face or hand “kissing” with the human connotations of the word, when they’re all likely just trying to *taste* you and don’t at all consider licking to be a form of affection or greeting.

          More specifically, in the case of cats, they are always just trying to taste your tears* when they lick you.

          *or sweat, whatever contains traces of delicious salt, they’d just as soon lick all the salt off your crackers as off your skin.

          • Firethorn says:

            when they’re all likely just trying to *taste* you and don’t at all consider licking to be a form of affection or greeting.

            I have to disagree somewhat – they aren’t ‘greeting’ you, but in many ways it IS a form of affection, in the form of mutual grooming. Wolves will lick at the face of their superior as a form of submission. That you taste like you’re smeared in something good is just a bonus.

      • Kryndis says:

        I think you’re working with a slightly wrong definition of anthropomorphize. The word specifically means “to ascribe human characteristics to something that is not human.” It’s not simply ascribing emotions of any kind to anything.

        So saying that a dog missed you is a perfect example. You even make the case for it by saying that you don’t believe animals feel emotions the same way humans do.

        Anyway, not trying to be a pedantic jerk or anything, just figured I’d point it out.

        You’re correct that it’s the perfect word for what MMD was describing, however.

        • Firethorn says:

          Actually, he’s pointing out how a lot of people misuse it. Dogs have emotions, yes. They aren’t human emotions, but there are many analogies. They can even have many of the same mental problems that humans have.

          When you understand these differences is when you have have a extremely happy and fulfilling relationship. The dog knows it’s place, you know the rules, everything goes smooth.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        Don’t anthropomorphize computers. They hate that.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      I did a focus group once on dips, and first they had us talk about different kinds of dips and what kind of person we see them as. People talked about Guac, Hummus, Salsa and then I chimed in with “but bean dip is the guy in the corner by himself who smells bad.”

      Turns out the actual research they were doing was for a new line of bean dip. Most people from the focus group were asked to continue on to round 2, I was not asked to stay.

      • MMD says:

        Anthropomorphize…I regret missing the opportunity to use this word in my post.
        I shall now try to work it into a conversation at some point today.

    • kranky says:

      Here I thought I was the only one who could not understand surveys which ask “How does eating Product X make you feel? Happy, comfortable, secure, energetic…” I never know how to respond to questions like that. I like the taste or I don’t. There are no emotional attributes involved.

  5. Orrie says:

    Aaargh. Marketing morons! I usually choose Wheat Thins over other crackers, actually, but NOT because I have any feelings whatsoever about the freakin’ brand or “how it makes me feel”. You could call them “Crap Squares” or “Crunchy Stuff for your Mouth”, packages them in plain white cardboard and I’d still buy them — because they taste all right, go well with cheese, and most brands are missing or light on HFCS compared to everything else in the cracker aisle. Oh, and the serving size for even the flavored ones isn’t ridiculous like “3.5 wafers”, like some brands.

    Stuff THAT in your focus group. Psychobabble nonsense wasting tons of time and money on this crap when they could make stuff just be cheaper instead…

    • MMD says:

      I agree with most of what you said…except that I probably would not buy a box labeled “Crap Thins”.

      • red says:

        I might buy it if they tasted good just so I would have the novelty.
        “Hmm guess I’ll have some Crap Thins. Would anyone else like some Crap Thins?”

    • MutantMonkey says:

      The amount of money spent on research vs. all other aspects of brand growth is extremely minimal.

      If they cut out research, the effective price change for a single product under a brand umbrella would be pennies, if that.

      Usually a single study that would nail down a segmentation like this is maybe $125K and that is usually for several products in a line, ie. the different flavors Wheat Thins comes in.

      Also worth noting is that research is usually what leads to the prices you see on the shelf as pricing studies are one of the most important studies these companies can do. Mispricing a product as little as 10 cents can have severely negative effects on revenue.

      If you want to see prices drop, you need to look to where companies spend most of their money which is on advertisement and payroll.

      • Orrie says:

        Meh. You know what? You’ve made me realize I’m not angry at the waste in terms of contribution to the shelf price. I’m REALLY angry that there are legions of professional marketers who get paid WAY better than I do for this inane, low-imagination, worthless drivel. I could generate that kind of copy all day if it would earn me what Madison Avenue pays! Why should those fools get such a cushy career if they’re not actually generating anything of value?

  6. Rocket says:

    Wheat Thins are delicious :-)

  7. dolemite says:

    I’m beginning to think marketing people are from another planet. That sketch was hilarious. I love that Wheat Thins are not rebels.

    • MutantMonkey says:

      They completely are. I work for a market research company so we see a lot of the type of stuff in the Colbert segment and it is legitimately that ridiculous.

      Segmentation is a big deal an companies spend a lot of money to come up with those profiles. Granted there is a lot of work that goes into it and is not as simple as just writing gibberish, even though that is what it may seem like.

  8. Powerlurker says:

    Kirk, crackers are a family food. Happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers, we don’t know. Frankly, we don’t want to know. It’s a market we can do without.

    • some.nerd says:

      My dad’s a pretty big wheel down at the cracker factory… at least, he was until they became worse than Allied biscuit and his wife left him for an American Gladiator.

  9. q`Tzal says:

    Weird Al did this with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in his parody “Smells Like Nirvana” starting about 1:20 in to the video.
    On youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FklUAoZ6KxY or top search hit with “Weird Al Smells Like Teen Spirit”

  10. ellmar says:

    I am actively seeking the experience of witnessing the memo writers standing in the unemployment line. I can’t believe that anyone who isn’t Steven Colbert gets paid to think about the Wheat Thin Experience. Now I am going to have a hard time convincing myself to ever buy Wheat Thins again. Thanks a lot, twat waffles.

  11. Ben says:

    I wish these people would listen to Bill Hicks.

  12. MikeVx says:

    So if Wheat Thins is all about sharing, they should consider sponsoring The Pirate Bay. Is it even possible to torrent a box of Wheat Thins?

  13. nybiker says:

    If memory serves, the boxes of regular WT weigh 10 ounces. I just wish they’d keep all the varieties at that size so we can all easily see the actual price differences. The unit price labels aren’t always legible or in the same location as the boxes (you look at a unit price label and see a price and then when you double-check it you discover that it applies to the boxes 2 feet away on the shelf).
    Anyway, funny skit. Good cracker (at the least the original – I haven’t bought the other varieties).

  14. Press1forDialTone says:

    As they say, “can buy this kind of publicity”, unless of course you buy it
    from Steve Colbert.

  15. nishioka says:

    “You think you know Wheat Thins? Fuck you.”

    rofl