I haven’t talked package design in awhile, but sometimes there is one jumping around on store shelves just screaming for attention and cannot be denied. I’d like you to meet PEST OFFENSE, a plug-in device that uses ultrasound to repel rats, mice, roaches, and other household pests.
Pest Offense Products, Inc. uses every sales angle it can to grab consumers by the lapels. There’s the “As Seen On TV” icon to add instant credibility — we all know that nothing in life is worthwhile if it hasn’t been televised. There’s the environmental pitch — no hazardous chemicals and no harm to people, pets, and food. There’s even the heartstrings appeal — in this case, a picture of device inventor Don Hodgskin with his lovely grandkids. The problem here is that Don and his creative package design team have succumbed to the desire to say and sell too much — the kitchen sink approach, in which 10 pounds is crammed into a 5 pound bag (or in this case, folding carton).
Because of this confusing mix of messages, I could have easily walked past this product, but there was one front and center pronouncement I couldn’t ignore — the most dubious patriotic product plug I have ever seen. I never object to American manufacturers who put our flag on their products to underscore that they are made right here stateside. I am also pleased to see someone call out his product as “An American Invention.” However, Old Glory coupled with the catch-phrase “Putting the USA back to work” is more than I can bear. I appreciate Mr. Hodgskin announcing his intention to hire American workers, but we’re talking about a small, plug-in, ultrasound pest device, not an auto plant or a new steel mill. Our national economic challenges run deep, and even factoring in that every small step helps, it is more than a little disheartening to see America’s once (and still) formidable manufacturing prowess leveraged with late-night infomercial pitch tactics.
The kicker comes when flipping the package over to read the following words on the back — Assembled in The USA. To put a fine point on this, PEST OFFENSE is not fully manufactured here. It is put together from some percentage of parts made elsewhere. Ouch. If you are going to wave the flag for American manufacturing, please don’t wind up sounding like a dictionary-embellishing politician.