Who would have thought that Etch A Sketch would shake up the 2012 presidential campaign? Certainly not Larry Killgallon, president of The Ohio Art Company, maker of the iconic American toy. According to account executive Nicole Gresh, he was in a meeting when the flurry of phone calls and emails deluged the company.
“About 150,” Gresh told Millionaire Corner on Thursday. “I thought it would dwindle down, but it hasn’t.”
It all began Wednesday when Eric Fehrnstrom, an aide to Mitt Romney, talking about the fall campaign and whether the former Massachussets governor would moderate his conservative positions, said on CNN, “Well, I think you hit a reset button. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again. But I will say, if you look at the exit polling data in Illinois, you'll see that Mitt Romney is broadly acceptable to most of the factions in the party. You have to do that in order to become the nominee…”
Political campaigns turn on such gaffes. So can sale. What may be a fumble for the Romney campaign could be a potentially lucrative windfall for Ohio Art. Etch A Sketch has suddenly become part of the national discussion. Rival candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are being photographed and televised holding up the toy during their campaign speeches. The toys are also being handed out to supporters.
Killgallon was shocked, Gresh said, "but in a good way."
Over 150 million Etch A Sketches have been sold since 1960, Gresh said. The more than century-old company does not have daily reports so it is too soon to see the brouhaha’s impact on sales.
For their part, Ohio Art provided this statement from Martin Killgallon, Senior VP Marketing and Product Development to Millionaire Corner:
“Happy to see Etch A Sketch, an American classic toy, is DRAWING attention with political candidates as a cultural icon and important piece of our society. Nothing is as quintessentially American as Etch A Sketch and a good old fashion political debate. We are pleased with the added attention being drawn to Etch A Sketch which is truly one of the most recognizable, iconic and fun toys ever developed. It is too early to tell, but we are hopeful to see if there is an uptake in sales given this recent exposure.”
Etch A Sketch is not the only venerable piece of Americana to unexpectedly find itself in the spotlight. The Solo Cup Co. in Lake Forest product had no idea that their signature product, the Red Solo Cup, had inspired country superstar Toby Keith’s Top Ten hit, aptly titled, “Red Solo Cup.” “One of our employees saw a video of Toby Keith singing the song in concert,” company CEO Bob Korzenski told The Chicago Tribune. “The video circulated through the building pretty quickly.”
The company has let the song’s irresistible appeal do the marketing heavy lifting. It has yet to use the song in commercials or alter its packaging to reflect the song’s existence.
But anyone looking to see how a media or pop culture mention can positively impact sales, just remember the cameo appearance of Reese’s Pieces in the film E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Young Elliott used the comparatively little-known candies to lure the alien creature out of hiding (M&Ms passed on being used in the film). Sales surged a reported 65 percent in the week’s following the film’s release.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.