Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vermont's Golden Nights?

I need your help with a little market research for a new product I am thinking of developing. Well, OK, it's not so much a new product as one that has yet to be branded and exploited. Let me know what you think. It would be helpful if you happened to be in, say, Australia at the moment, or anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. That is, I would particularly value opinions from those quarters.

I have noticed lately, especially since we changed the clocks last weekend, that we have a lot of darkness here in Vermont. It's fair to say, in fact, that we have been plunged into darkness. The sun comes up around 11 AM and sets at about 1:30 PM, or thereabouts.

I was driving through a dark misty afternoon this week, shortly after lunch, trying to make out the nearly invisible fog line at the road's edge, and thinking, "Gar, it sure is dark here." Then I thought, "I wonder how people in sunny places are coping with all that light they're getting now. I wonder if all that sunshine gets on their nerves."

I think you probably see where this is heading.

There must be lots of people who would love to have just a bit of a cold and pitch-black-5-PM in their unrelievedly sunny homes. I mean, how do all those transplanted northerners stand it this time of year in Arizona, or Los Angeles? And wouldn't northern daytime darkness have a certain mystery and cachet in the tropics - or the antipodes?

So, why not box it up and sell it?

The Pros: Postage would be minimal, even for a very large box of Vermont darkness. Oppressive as the dark can be around here, it actually weighs - are you holding onto something sturdy? - nothing at all!

Ease of manufacturing? Duh. Labor costs? I think I could handle taping the boxes closed and getting them to the post office. (And cashing the checks and processing the credit cards!)

I think the fact that I am in Vermont, which is, as our State marketing people will tell you, a valuable brand in itself offers me a tremendous business adavantage. Put the Vermont seal of quality, or even just the word "Vermont" on your product and you have announced to the world: "this is the best you can get". Ice cream, wool clothes, flower seeds, honey - precede the product name with "Vermont" and people in Japan will reach for their credit cards so fast that those near them risk injury. (Remember the high-end dog that Bart ordered in that Simpson's episode when he got his own credit card? The crate was marked, "The Vermont Collie.")

Soooo. Big, big upside.

The Cons

I know what you're saying now. "Sure, it's brilliant but you will need a really cool box.

The box is, I grant you, a hurdle.

Also, as an attorney, I am aware that there might be some risk of consumer disappointment if the Vermont darkness were in any way, uhm, mishandled.

I think I could deal with this, however, with a discrete, yet bulletproof disclaimer - one that provides the corporation with legal protection without spoiling the cool box. (If the tobacco people can do it, so can I.) By way of a rough draft:

Caution! Do not open your box of Genuine Vermont Brand Darkness (TM)under conditions involving ANY ambient light. The box should be unsealed only in areas of complete darkness. If you also ordered Genuine Vermont Brand Cold Air (TM), be certain to open your box in a cold room, such as a walk-in freezer. Caution! Before creating conditions of darkness and cold, remove hazards that might make it risky to move around in the dark. Also be certain that you have a way to get back out again. Vermont Environments Envoy, LLC, [just a provisional name - I'll need to convene a few focus groups] will not be held responsible for injuries caused by stumbling in the darkness or getting locked in a freezer.


Contents are guaranteed to have been boxed in Vermont and to have contained, at time of shipping, genuine Vermont Dark and Cold. Opening the box in conditions involving light, or heat, (if you have ordered Vermont Brand Cold Air (TM)), voids the warranty. Settling may have occurred during shipping.

Just a draft, of course.


What do you think for a price point?

Should various sizes be made available?

Hey - and what about expanding the product line in December with Vermont Brand Ice and Snow? Hmmm.

Shipping would be more difficult... But Rome wasn't built in a day.

Have I mentioned that I will be in Florida for two weeks in February? I'll pack some northern dark and cold for my mother and sister, who both live down there now. I am sure they're missing it already. They'll be dying for it by February.