Mixed Blessings

So much for the idea that less is more. Mintel’s Global New Products Database noted diverging trends last year in nutritional claims made for new products. Fewer brands made a big deal about what had been removed (calories, salt and so on); a higher proportion emphasized “what has been added or what is inherently good about the products,” such as calcium and fiber. The exception to this pattern was a rise in the number of products claiming reduced/low sugar, a fact Mintel relates to the epidemic of adult-onset diabetes.

Has beauty’s prestige really fallen so low? A poll by ORC International asked adults to say which of four attributes they’d choose if they could have just one—beauty, good personality, intelligence or wealth? Intelligence drew 50 percent of the vote, with good personality the runner-up (32 percent) and wealth a poor third (15 percent). Though praised by the poets more than those other three traits combined, beauty won just 2 percent of the vote. One intriguing gender gap: Men were more than twice as likely as women to pick wealth (21 percent vs. 9 percent).

This week’s honors for Most Buoyant Fund-Raising Appeal go to a poster campaign created by Young & Rubicam’s San Francisco office. It seems the Sausalito Fire Department needs a fire boat, but doesn’t have the money for one in its budget. So, Y&R has stepped in with a pro bono appeal to drum up contributions. As another poster in the series remarks, “Contrary to popular belief, firemen cannot walk on water.”

Read this before you risk having an office romance. According to a Maritz Poll, 12 percent of American adults met their spouse or partner at work. Among people age 35-44, the number rises to 18 percent. This may or may not explain why 50 percent of respondents said they don’t feel it’s acceptable for co-workers to date each other. Women were more likely than men (53 percent vs. 43 percent) to take this dim view of workplace romance.

If only Americans were as eager to exceed the recommended dosage of vegetables. Polling conducted for the National Consumers League finds that people routinely take bigger doses of over-the-counter pain remedies than the labels specify. Among those who’ve used such a medication during the past year, 44 percent said they’d exceeded the recommended dose. As if that weren’t enough, folks are free and easy about taking OTC pain relievers in combination with other drugs. For instance, 45 percent believe it’s safe to take an OTC pain medication while taking another OTC cold or flu remedy; 34 percent think it’s safe to take the OTC drug while also taking a prescription medicine. These findings reflect the urgency consumers feel about getting rid of pain. Asked whether they worry about the possible side effects of OTC pain relievers, 45 percent agreed that “it’s more important to control pain regardless of risk.”

Until hydrogen-powered cars turn up at dealerships, U.S. consumers may trend toward diesel. It’s true that hybrid gasoline-plus-electric cars get most of the attention when there’s talk of unconventional (but more-or-less available) engine technologies. However, research by J.D. Power and Associates finds consumers are more intrigued by “clean diesel technology”—i.e., motors comparable to gasoline engines in performance, but without the characteristic diesel noise, vibration and pollution. Clean-diesel vehicles are expected to reach the market by 2006, the report notes. Asked what sort of motor they’d like in their next car, 27 percent of those polled picked clean diesel and 22 percent chose electric hybrid, while the rest said they’d stick with plain old gasoline engines.

Taking steady aim at its shaky target audience, a beverage named Bawls uses its unusual bottle to emphasize the product’s high caffeine quotient. At last, consumers can chug a “wake-up drink” without running the risk of dropping the bottle from their jittery fingers. Brown Parker & DeMarinis of Miami created the ad.

When will the shy market get its due? It’s a big chunk of the population, if one can extrapolate from a reader poll conducted by Biography magazine. Sixty-five percent of the poll’s participants said they consider themselves shy. Nearly half (49 percent) said they believe shyness has held them back in their careers. And these, mind you, were the ones bold enough to take part in the poll.

Frightening Factoid of the Week: In a Harris Interactive YouthQuery poll of kids age 13-18, 46 percent said they’ve “learned the most about love and relationships” from television. Ten percent said they’ve learned the most from online chat rooms; 13 percent cited Web sites. The highest vote in the poll, which allowed for multiple answers, went to “my friends” (56 percent). Mothers were cited as a source much more often than fathers (33 percent vs. 15 percent), with “my brother or sister” falling in between (25 percent). “My boyfriend or girlfriend” drew twice as many votes as “my religion” (34 percent vs. 17 percent). School was cited by 44 percent of the respondents, while magazines (30 percent) and books (28 percent) also made a respectable showing.

Want your teenager to spend more time with his friends? Forbid him to watch certain TV shows. According to a study by an Ohio State University professor, teens whose parents proscribe programs “are likely to watch the restricted shows at friends’ houses.” Moreover, teens who were subjected to such restrictions “had less positive feelings toward their parents than did other adolescents.”