Archive for the ‘Practical Applications’ Category

WWWTP? – Garnier Fructis Shampoo Edition

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Sometime last year, my girlfriend DVR’d a copy of this commercial for Garnier Fructis shampoo because she saw it had chemistry in it and because she is awesome:

 

If you pause the video at 0:13, you will notice quite a few chemical atrocities:

 wwwtp_garnier_fructis

Basically, nothing is right. Note the surfeit of Texas carbons. I also love the asymmetry of their elemental fluorine, though maybe those things labeled “F” are atoms of fruit? And what is up with that ideal gas law? You’d think they’d be able to get a structure for biotin in there, considering how big they wrote the word on the chalkboard. Argh…

Anyway, great catch by the ol’ g/f…whom I am now happy and proud to call my fiancée.

Long Weekend, Big Plans

Friday, August 31st, 2012

My plans for Labor Day weekend are all set thanks to a nice discovery during a group clean-up yesterday:

Plenty of gloves? Check. Multiple boxes of FIXANAL? Check.

Who would name a brand of buffer concentrates “FIX ANAL” and shape the container like a…well…errrr?

Germans. That’s who. I guess you can just add this to the list of cross-cultural marketing blunders, though I am not certain that there wasn’t someone who did this on purpose. Who else sells buffer mix in an odd tube like that?

My Chemical-Free Nightmare

Friday, April 6th, 2012

One of the perks of having a girlfriend with a broken leg is that she requires assistance in the shower, which I am happy to provide. In my extra time in the bathroom this week, I was horrified to pluck these inconspicuous containers from a lush forest of colorful beauty products:

Organic! Chemical free!            Wait.          Chemical free?!

Hmmm. It sure looks like there is matter inside these bottles, and I’ll bet this matter comprises chemicals of some sort. Why don’t we just take a look at the list of ingredients, shall we?

Nope, I was wrong. No chemicals. Just enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and fatty acids. No chemicals here :/

I have blurred out the designer of these products because he is my girlfriend’s hairdresser and friend, and I don’t want an army of irate readers to descend on Los Angeles. That said, I have instructed my ladyfriend to relay my emphatic disapproval—in no uncertain terms—of the use of “chemical-free” to describe anything except a completely empty container.

Chemistry has all but completely lost hold of its brand in the sphere of public perception, and in today’s society, that can have disastrous consequences. In politics, parties actively try to sink their competitors by painting them in a negative light. Republicans never miss a chance to label Democrats as “the party that wants to raise your taxes”, while Dems counter that the GOP “only cares about the rich”. This childish back-and-forth is tiresome, but effective. That is why you see politicians jabbing and name calling at every opportunity the media grants them. It’s a vicious cycle, because if you decide to take the high road and not fight back, the negative slogans—whether accurate or not—will stick and seriously damage your brand.

Unlike for political parties, the science of chemistry has no natural enemies. Physicists aren’t going on TV to complain that dirty chemists are getting too much grant money. But, what is happening is that we have stood by while marketing agencies have hijacked and rebranded a few key terms from our jargon. For instance, they have imbued the term “organic” with all sorts of positivity and wholesomeness, while warping its definition from what chemists have historically understood “organic” to mean.

The case of “organic” might not be so bad, but the problem is unequivocally dire for “chemical”. In today’s advertisements, “chemical” no longer has just a negative connotation, it essentially denotes “toxic ingredient”. Somehow, one of our most generic terms—and one that lies at the very foundation of our profession—has been twisted into something dreadfully sinister.

How could we allow such a thing to happen? The answer is obvious: we have never fought back. While our field was maturing as a science and an industry in the 20th century, we proudly trumpeted the idea of “Better Living Through Chemistry”. DuPont even adopted the phrase as a company slogan…only to drop it in the 1980s. Since then, it is hard to point to a solitary example of a serious PR campaign on behalf of chemistry. In the meantime, we have allowed Madison Avenue to fill this vacuum by painting “chemicals” as bad in a wildly successful tactic for marketing consumer products.

In my mind, this is easily the biggest failure of the American Chemical Society, and to me, it appears that the ACS continues to do next to nothing to solve the problem. Chemists cannot count on chemistry and science to “sell itself”. While we know chemistry offers all sorts of benefits to society, we are going to have to load our weapons and mow down the booger-eating ad executives who are wiping the floor with us. The sustained growth and financial support of our field depends on it.

And incidentally, this is the sort of thing for which I pay ACS dues. While the matter is phenomenally important, I really don’t have the time, expertise, or resources ($$$) to mount a national PR campaign to promote our field. That said, I do have the time to campaign against apathetic ACS officers and candidates in the annual ACS elections. Mark my words: we’ll remember come November.

WWWTP? – Creepiness at Phenomenex

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

It’s time for another edition of WWWTP?, which in this case, could just as easily stand for “What’s Wrong with these People?”

This image was kindly forwarded to ChemBark by a concerned reader and patron of Phenomenex. The company ships their products in these sexually suggestive cardboard boxes. The innuendo would make sense and qualify as mildly clever double entendre if the company dealt with genomics, but Phenomenex sells chromatography supplies. I guess someone thought they had a good idea and decided to roll with it:

Inside the box, a colorful brochure contained less disguised innuendo: the words “unzip me” and what appears to be anthropomorphic female genitalia with legs and a cane. Closer inspection of the Phenomenex Web site reveals that these characters are based on an astonishingly yonic logo for Kinetex (R), the company’s core-shell adsorbent materials for chromatography. Hmmm.

I feel it necessary to warn any of you who might be (i) charged with purchasing HPLC supplies and (ii) perverted, that I hear the customer service at Phenomenex is awful.

Now Buckyballs, Too?

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

On a recent cross-country flight, I happened upon this advertisement on page 125 of the Holiday 2011 edition of SkyMall:

As if it wasn’t bad enough that some despicable marketing hacks re-branded the term “organic“, now “Buckyballs” has been pilfered from the world of chemistry. Sadly, a Google search of the term returns the toys before the molecules. I don’t understand what, exactly, is so “bucky” about these balls. I also don’t understand how you could get away with trademarking that name, which has famously referred to C60 and friends since the 1980s.

I hope these toy makers get lumps of coal in their stockings this Christmas.