A Cracker Jack Idea?
Remember eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks at the ballpark? Finding a free prize inside? Blowing into the half-filled cardboard box to make obnoxious noises? Well forget all that. Today the guy sitting next to you is allergic to peanuts. The free prize is a video game card. And the waxed box is now a flimsy bag. Oh, and Cracker Jack just updated its iconic logo. Let’s hope they haven’t added kale to the ingredients.
Truth be told, the paper Cracker Jack prizes of late have been on the chintzy side. But now the brand "embraces a modernized, young-at-heart attitude," and the parent company, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, is ending their 125-year tradition of including a toy prize inside and replacing it with stickers containing digital codes.
All you need to get in on the action is a smartphone.
Fans of the caramel-coated popcorn and peanut combo (concocted by a German immigrant named F. W. Rueckheim in 1872) will have to first download an app and then scan the sticker to play one of four "baseball-themed experiences."
The company is hoping you’ll forget about the toys and play its new digital games: Dot Dash, Dance Cam, Baseball Star, and Get Carded.
According to Haston Lewis, senior director of marketing at Frito-Lay, "The new Prize Inside allows families to enjoy their favorite baseball moments through a new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic Prize Inside to life."
I prefer the toy myself.
Preferably one made by an artist named Carey Cloud, the genius who created, produced and delivered over 700 million toys for the Cracker Jack Company from 1938 to 1965.
Described as “a man who made Santa Claus look like a piker,” Cloud was offered the dream job of making toys for Cracker Jack and always had fond memories of the very first one he designed: a bobble head tin animal.
In one particular year, Cloud figured he manufactured 45 million toys for the company. He estimated that if each child played with their prize for only 10 minutes, he had provided nearly 7.5 million hours of play in just 12 months (Question: Do kids even play anymore?).
Because he was always “thinking toys,” everything around him served as inspiration. He had two U.S. plants pumping out the gems after Cracker Jack stopped buying its toys from Japan.
During the Second World War, when metal was scarce, Cloud — ever the creative problem-solver — made do with metal scraps from the lids of Ball Brothers glass jars. These scraps were quickly converted into goofy coins and daffy dollars. Some one hundred million of them went directly into the snack boxes. No rationing necessary.
The only toy Cloud could remember being recalled was a metal sea captain who had the bad luck to resemble Joseph Stalin, the Russian dictator.
Legend has it that a salesman sampled a handful of the caramel snack in 1890 and cried out, “That sure was a Cracker Jack...!” (21st century translation: a surefire winner).
I can’t say the same about the sticker with the digital code but everyone and everything must “change-or-die,” and the Prize Inside apparently got the message.
From paper coupons redeemable for premiums...to sharp metal toys perfect for choking on...to plastic molds with break-off parts...and cardboard pinball games with plastic covers...to disappointing paper inserts...
It’s time to take me out to the smartphone.