Mixed Blessings

Man is a tool-using animal, anthropologists tell us. Ah, but which tool? In a survey by ORC International, men were given a list of tools and asked which they’d keep if they could choose just one. The screwdriver won a plurality (32 percent), easily surpassing the drill (19 percent), hammer (18 percent) and pliers (12 percent). Down in singledigits were the wrench (8 percent), circularsaw (6 percent), hand saw (2 percent) and sander (less than 1 percent).

In our celebrity-crazed era, do non-celebs wish they were famous? Plenty don’t, to judge by an online poll conducted via CNN.com. Asked whether “the price of fame is too high,” 58 percent of participants said it is.

Honors this week for Best Nonexistent Brand in an Ad go to Leaning Tower Natural Spring Water. Its catchy slogan: “We’re bent on purity.” The point of the ad is that Label-Aire (which does exist) is the best choice for “your next big labeling job.” Ross/Brown Integrated Marketing Communications of Naperville, Ill., created the piece.

Is it worth working long hours to gain a higher standard of living? Fewer Americans think so now than when the recession was just starting. An ABCNews poll in March 2001 found 46 percent of respondents saying it’s worth it to work long hours. Posing the same question last month, a new poll found 33 percent saying so. In its analysis of the data, ABCNews suggests the growing aversion to long hours at work reflects a post-9/11 surge in devotion to family life. Maybe so, but the proportion of parents who say long hours are worth it (29 percent) is no different from the proportion of total married adults who say so. Elsewhere in the survey, men were more likely than women to say it’s worth working long hours (41 percent vs. 26 percent).

If your friends and relatives dress badly, maybe you’re to blame. A RoperASW poll asked people to cite the “outside factors” that influence the way they dress. Standing atop the list (cited by 58 percent) were “friends and family.” Other sartorial influences: merchandise catalogs (50 percent), ads in magazines(38 percent), TV (34 percent), “what people at work wear” (34 percent) and articles in magazines (30 percent).

They’re not tightwads, precisely. They’re just picky. That’s the conclusion of an Accenture study of consumers in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Spain. The polling suggests “consumers are willing to spend more on products and services, but only on those that are innovative and offer features meaningful to them.” Conspicuous for a lack of innovation, respondents said, are such categories as apparel and home furnishings. People are keen on “entry-level luxury”—i.e., lower-priced items from luxury brands. “Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they prefer to purchase one superior product rather than multiple lesser brands.”

With the possible exception of their parents, nobody will be happier to see 20somethings marry than marketers of wedding-related wares. In its annual report on the tabletop industry (i.e., dinnerware, glassware, etc.), Unity Marketing forecasts “significant growth in the bridal market starting about 2005” as the kids of baby boomers marry in large numbers. That should give a boost to the tabletop sector, whose sales grew a modest 1.3 percent last year vs. 2000.

Why go to the expense of putting a fancy car in an automotive ad when a hood ornament will suffice? An ingenious outdoor campaign for Toronto’s Mercedes dealers operates on that principal as it lets local drivers view the Mercedes icon above the hoods of their clunkers. Of course, some folks will figure that parking at one of these lots is cheaper than (but almost as fun as) buying a whole Mercedes, but others will feel drawn to a dealership. Axmith McIntyre Wicht of Toronto created the campaign.

In the unlikely event you’re doing so, don’t count on new technology companies to give the ad business a boost anytime soon. A study of startup tech firms finds their marketing budgets pared to the bone. Polled by Launch Pad and Blanc & Otus, marketing executives at such companies said their role has been reduced to a “sales support function,” with scant resources left for genuine branding. “Public relations and collateral/sales tools are viewed as the most effective marketing programs. Advertising in all forms is viewed as least.”

Now that the feds have standardized rules for calling foods “organic,” is this market poised for great growth? Less than you might suppose, judging by an ACNielsen study. While the people who buy such foods are “extremely loyal” to them, non-buyers have “virtually no interest in organic products.” Among the two-thirds of Americans who don’t already buy organics, just 3 percent plan to do so in the next six months. Price is the sticking point. The 63 percent ofconsumers who said organic foods are “more expensive than similar non-organic products” far outnumbered the 26 percent who described them as “healthier.”