How Clorox Took Over the Cleaning World and Became a Household Staple

Last month, the Harris Poll surveyed 34,000 American consumers and asked which companies enjoyed the best reputation with them. Skulking at the bottom of the list were Facebook, e-cigarette maker Juul and the Trump Organization. And at the very top, even above Hershey’s chocolate and much-loved grocery chain Wegmans, was Clorox. Granted, were Americans not…

No Matter How You Pronounce It, Jif Is a Kitchen Staple—Especially for Choosy Moms

One of the more colorful moments in the world of tech took place in 2013 when Steve Wilhite rose from his seat in New York’s Cipriani Wall Street to accept his Webby Award for lifetime achievement. Wilhite is the inventor of the graphics interchange format, an animated loop better known as the GIF, which the…

Don’t Look Now, Doc, but America’s Original Influencer Bugs Bunny Just Turned 80

It was the second week of February 1961, and Mel Blanc was in deep trouble. Two weeks earlier, the “man of a thousand voices” who’d given breath to a slew of cartoon characters ranging from Porky Pig to Speedy Gonzalez, had been driving his Aston Martin down Hollywood Boulevard when a college kid in an…

Because of Its Willingness to Change, Nascar Is Still in the Race for Younger Viewers

On April 7, 2019, drivers at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway started their engines and ran the Food City 500. The race was as fast and exciting as ever, but fans couldn’t help but notice a problem: a lack of other fans. Not many years ago, it was hard to get a ticket to Bristol. But…

As More People Shop Online, Bubble Wrap Is Surging in Popularity Again

A few years ago, a video game company reached out to Sealed Air Corp. with a strange request: It wanted to license the trademarked name of Bubble Wrap for a stress-relieving app it was working on. A 2012 study by Kelton Research revealed that one minute of Bubble Wrap popping furnished the same stress-relieving effect…

Crocs Found a Way Back Onto People’s Feet Amid the Pandemic

On March 25, as the country reeled with the news that the novel coronavirus had infected at least 65,000 people across the United States and Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the spread was “accelerating,” a tweet went out from Crocs headquarters in Niwot, Colo. “Now and always, we need to take care of each other,”…

Though Deceptively Simple, Scrabble Has a Consumer Appeal That’s Persevered for Decades

For a man who commanded the Allied Expeditionary Force in WWII and then became the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower still valued his leisure time. His affinity for the links made golf the official sport of postwar suburbia. But the first lady didn’t play golf, which is possibly why a July…

Born During the Great Depression, Fritos Is Once Again Homebound Americans’ Snack of Choice

Like every year, 2018 racked up its share of lugubrious news. The federal government shut down (twice), the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian officials for conspiring to hack the election and adult film star Stormy Daniels revealed her intimate relationship with President Trump. But one development from 2018 shocked and saddened millions of Americans like…

We All Need Baby Yoda Right Now, and Covid-19 Has Kept the Cute Little Creature Popular

A year and a half ago, Lucasfilm announced that writer/producer Jon Favreau’s new Star Wars series would be called The Mandalorian and would feature Bryce Dallas Howard as director for its fourth episode. For Howard, already a seasoned actress, Mandalorian would not only be her first major directing gig, but also the first time a…

How Hello Kitty Became a Global Olympic Ambassador

Were the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to proceed as planned this summer, Team USA would have boasted a truly world-famous member. A deal inked in February officially announced Team USA’s Global Ambassador for Inclusivity–“an iconic symbol for equal opportunity, fair play and global harmony.” And who was this vaunted dignitary? Hello Kitty. Alas, the mouthless white…

People Are Swooping Up Purell as Soon as the Hand Sanitizer Hits the Shelves

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is a busy man these days. In the last week or so, he’s thrown his weight behind numerous initiatives to help his home state, including SBA loans, food distribution and the procurement of a COVID-19 testing machine. But another of Portman’s maneuverings affects people across the entire nation. That’s because Ohio…

A Bacardi Rum Factory Is Now Producing Hand Sanitizer

In 1930, residents of Havana gazed upwards and for the first time saw something other than the withering tropical sun. They saw a sculpture of a fruit bat. It was massive, cast in bronze and sitting atop the city’s first skyscraper built by the Bacardi Corp. The structure was a 12-story colossus of red granite…

The Inspiration Behind Bounce Was a Man Trying to Help His Wife Do Laundry

If you’re enjoying the soft feeling of your jeans or shirt against your skin at the moment, the odds are good that you owe a debt of gratitude to a woman named Audrey Gaiser. She wasn’t an inventor or an executive or a marketer, but something better than all three: She was an inspiration. In…

Shiny Aluminum Luggage Is Popular Now, but Zero Halliburton Pioneered It

On a recent winter afternoon, Tom Nelson looks over the display of luggage at Zero Halliburton’s flagship store in Manhattan. There’s nothing flashy about the place or its cases, which rest atop spindly black-metal stands below the trained gaze of spotlights. But the one thing that truly stands out is the silvery sheen of aluminum…

Mark Cross, the 175-year-old ‘American Hermès,’ Regains Its Luxury Status

Well into the second half of Rear Window, Paramount’s 1954 classic directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Lisa Fremont (played by Grace Kelly) and photographer L.B. Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) are mulling through the evidence that their neighbor Lars Thorwald has murdered his wife. A key indicator: Mrs. Thorwald has vanished from the apartment across the way–leaving behind…

How the Revolutionary ‘Cheese Food’ Velveeta Became a Super Bowl Staple

Exactly six years ago, as football fans were gearing up for Super Bowl XLVIII, a minor crisis erupted in the shopping aisles of America. It began as a rumor, a suspected hoax, until Kraft Foods took to Facebook to confirm the worst in a Jan. 9 post: “As you have likely seen or heard by…

Polaroids Are Popular (Again) With Gen Z and Millennials Enamored by Vintage Appeal

In 1977, The Rockford Files on NBC was entering its fourth season. Playing the dashing but down-on-his-luck private eye Jim Rockford was veteran Hollywood actor James Garner. The gig made the handsomely weathered Garner one of the most recognized men on the tube. So when Polaroid hired him to pitch its latest product, Americans sat…

The Happy Meal Ranks Among the Most Successful—and Copied—Ideas

If the annals of branding prove one maxim over and over, it’s this: The best ideas often hit when you least expect. Case in point: the kitchen of a Kansas City, Mo., adman named Bob Bernstein. It was sometime in 1975. His agency, Bernstein-Rein, was sitting on a prestigious regional account for McDonald’s, which had…

You Don’t Have to Tickle Him if You Don’t Want To

Two decades ago, toy inventor Ron Dubren heard giggles coming from a playground. It was a bunch of kids tickling one other. Inspired, Dubren created Tickles the Chimp. Tickles didn’t make it very far, but after Tyco Preschool combined Dubren’s invention with a Sesame Street licensing deal, the toy became Tickle Me Elmo–so popular that…

You Can Thank Prohibition for Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider

When Prohibition became the law of the land in 1919, the near-immediate effect (apart from taking everyone’s favorite libations away) was economic disaster. Across the country, countless companies went out of business: breweries, restaurants and taverns closed their doors. Truckers who hauled beer lost their routes. Even barrel makers laid down their mallets. Economists estimated…