by Kenneth Rudich
Having recently completed a two-part installment titled, “Strategically Guarding against the Ills of Obsolescence,” it came as little surprise to me when a vivid illustration of this very subject suddenly emerged in the media.
In case you haven’t heard, Hasbro’s iconic Easy-Bake Oven, a staple toy for generations of kids, is on the verge of having a key facet of it become obsolete.
The culprit — or perhaps victim — is the incandescent bulb it uses to generate heat for baking cakes and other confectionery goodies. An upcoming Federal ban on incandescent light bulbs, set to kick in next year, poses the risk of upsetting an impressively long and successful run for this popular toy.
Unless, of course, the toy manufacturer can somehow save it from the throes of such a deplorable fate. But can it?
the marketing implications
The current plan is to swap out the incandescent bulb with a heating element. In effect, it sounds like they’ll be turning it into a toaster oven, which leaves one to wonder if the toy-like quality of the Easy-Bake Oven might just get lost in translation.
Adults who were exposed to the Easy-Bake Oven somewhere in the past will likely recall the glaring simplicity of using a solitary light bulb as a source of heat. It was cartoonish in appeal, and it quietly but unmistakably murmured with a child-like charm.
A heating element, on the other hand, could well produce the exact opposite effect. It reeks of adult sophistication. A toaster oven is clearly not a children’s toy, and trying to dress it up like one may be viewed as the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.
At the same time, it may be a hurdle that savvy marketing can overcome. After all, we know that Big Bird is a human being wearing a costume. But we’re willing to suspend that reality and play along in believing it’s a goofy gargantuan bird that likes to sing and dance and edu-tain children.
A child’s imagination may yet prove pliable enough to overlook the mature red glow of a heating element, in favor of going back once again to a make believe world like they’ve always done in the past…sans the cartoonish quality of a big goofy light bulb of course.
What do you think? Can Hasbro stave off the ills of obsolescence?
P.S. – I’d be remiss in failing to mention the ultimate irony associated with this turn of events. The fact that the 100 watt incandescent light bulb generated enough heat to bake a cake was a sign of its inefficient use of electrical power. It was that inefficiency that led to the development of an ostensibly better technology, thereby causing it to be declared obsolete by an external force – namely, political intervention.