Every so often, less than once in a generation, an innovation comes along that is so revolutionary that it catalyzes a titanic shift in the way humans live and interact. In spite of the disruption they cause, these innovations have traditionally been given some pretty sedate names: fire, bow and arrow, the arch, the steam engine, the airplane, the semiconductor. One of the greatest leaps forward in the history of mankind deserved to be called “the Gutenberg-this-will-change-the-world-as-we-know-it-forever press”, but those were simpler times.
Nowadays, even the most mundane, everyday products get awesome misnomers to convince people that they want them:
- The Ford Fiesta (your life will be a constant party with this car)
- POWERADE (This is more than just sugar and water. This will literally make you stronger.)
- The Samsung Galaxy (It’s bigger than the whole world. It’s even bigger than the solar system!)
There’s a blender called the Nutri Ninja®. Apparently it’s a pretty good blender. But come on, even if it chops up food ten times better than the next blender, it still just chops up food.
In this bombastic environment, what’s a marketer to do when they actually have a truly transcendental product? How do you set it apart from all these lame, everyday widgets that come with overblown promises? There just so happens to be an innovation sweeping the globe right now, that is faced with this very issue; a recent innovation that is generations ahead of anything else in its class. A product available to the average consumer that will profoundly change the way they live for the better.
I’m musing, of course, on Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser.
As a 21st century American, my brain is trained to filter words like “magic”, just like it’s trained to filter “fiesta”, “galaxy”, and “ninja”. These are all very cool things in their own right, and if I could count on people to use their names literally, they would all cause me to lose track of whatever I was doing. “There’s a ninja on the back shelf.” “I’ve got a galaxy in my pocket.” “Did you see the fiesta in the driveway?” But the amount of exploitation their good names suffer at the hands of an obnoxious consumer society make them count for almost nothing. Yes, I’m one of the ones that comes up with lofty misnomers for products. Tragedy of the commons. Point being, when I first became acquainted with Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser…well, I have no idea when I first became acquainted with Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, because my brain probably filtered out the first fifty impressions.
But now I’m definitely acquainted with Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, and I gotta tell ya, “magic” isn’t nearly strong enough to describe it, in light of the fact that “magic” is also used to plug a VOIP phone jack and a gimmicky 8-ball. If you’re thinking about magic in the traditional sense, like love potion and flying carpets and wishes coming true, it comes a little closer to the mark.
I can’t explain the Magic Eraser. I was fairly impressed when it took crayon off the wall and eight years of child residue off our Bauhaus couches. In conversation, a few people–whom I consider both adequately skeptical and intelligent–had lauded its merits to a disarming degree, and sort of nodded along because hey, the couches. But it wasn’t until just this week that the word “magic” took on a whole new meaning, or maybe more appropriately, its old meaning.
We put in bamboo floors. It’s like hardwood, but engineered from fast-growing, renewable grass rather than ages-old forests that turn a glorious red in the fall, so I can have a nice house and feel environmentally conscious at the same time. We put the floor in ourselves, which isn’t a problem; I’m as handy as they come, and have crafted some pretty swell home beautification projects with less collateral damage than any contractor would. Except for one thing. I underestimated the persistence of the mastic used to affix the planks to the concrete slab (i.e. glue them down). When you’re laying a floor, you still need somewhere to walk, so of course you wind up walking all over the polished wood floor you just made. Mastic invariably gets tracked on the wood, and if the only person you have handy with a rag and mineral spirits is five, it dries in place. And unlike anything else on the planet, when this stuff dries, it’s there for life. I’ve already sent a letter to NASA recommending Roberts R1504 Wood and Bamboo Flooring Urethane Adhesive as a new coating for the space shuttle, in case they ever decide to make another one. If they would just use sensible products like this, they wouldn’t need a hundred-trillion dollars to get a few people into orbit.
Seriously, Roberts R1504 stands up to everything: the aforementioned mineral spirits, paint thinner, denatured alcohol, turpentine, peanut butter, kerosine, DW-40, De-Solv-It, and a steel chisel. I wrote a letter to Roberts, and they told me to clean the mastic off before it dried. Obviously that window had closed, but maybe I could try as industrial grade flooring mastic remover. I did, and it failed.
When Elizabeth, on a whim, waved her magic eraser over the urethane blemishes that were causing so much angst, well, they just went away. I have no other way to explain it. It was actually a little more than a wave. It took a spritz of water and some rubbing. But the spots went away! All of them! The Magic Eraser was like Jesus on a leprous floor, and my new-found belief in the Magic Eraser was truly transcendental. This thing should cost way more than eighty cents, or whatever it costs.
I immediately began pondering on the other problems I could make go away with my Magic Eraser. Grease stains on clothes. Gone. Kid marks on paintings. Gone. And it’s not wholesale destruction the Magic Eraser inflicts–it knows what you want to stay and what you want to go! We have an undesirable neighbor who once stole my wife’s iPad right out of our living room (we got it back, broken); I hid in the bushes, and as she walked by, I threw the magic eraser at her kidney. Gone! The whole neighbor, kidney and all! Shortly thereafter, I received a summons where the authorities wanted to question me about her disappearance. I rubbed the summons with my Magic Eraser. Gone! The next morning, I came upon a traffic jam on my way to work, but had fortuitously tied eight magic erasers to my front bumper, and when I coasted in to the back of the car in front of me, it vanished! Same with the next car, and the next, and the next. I was cruising down a gridlocked I-10 at 55 MPH, and the cars in front of me were vanishing like I was Mario with Star Power! The Magic Eraser has since erased a whole host of issues from my life: sadness, taxes, failure, expanding waistline. All gone.
What on earth do you call this little foam wonder block that erases all your problems? If a blender…(Not the Nutri Ninja®; I’m speaking now of the Magic Bullet. Obviously it’s quite the game to make one blender seem any better than another.)…if a blender can be “magic”, what do you call something that’s actually magic? I think it should be called “The Magic (no, seriously) Eraser”, and let it speak for itself. I’ll write a letter to Mr. Clean.
Fun fact: My buddy Curtis’ mom (not the Curtis you all know–a different Curtis) dated the real Mr. Clean. Not the original Mr. Clean, but a successor to House Peters Jr. At least that’s what he told us. I’ve never been able to independently verify the claim, but he totally looked like Mr. Clean, and that was good enough for us.