Business

2015 was another weird, wacky year for business

Associated Press

Ernie Boch Jr. ponied up for a new statue of Lucille Ball in Celoron, N.Y., when “Scary Lucy” caused a ruckus.

Amid the talk of unicorns and interest rates this year, we had more than a few weird events emerge in the Boston business scene to liven things up. A runaway blimp? Check. A giant half-naked man on the side of the Hancock Tower? Of course. But no other topic dominated conversations like our record snowfall, with office workers placing bets on when our last speck of snow would melt away (July 14, in case you forgot). At least we laughed a bit along the way, even if our city seemed to be trapped in a giant glacier for half of the year. So let’s grab a shovel and start digging into some of our favorites.

Most imaginative way to sell razor blades

Gillette couldn’t have planned it any better if it tried: When Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke publicly for the first time about Deflategate, he did so in front of a Gillette ad that read “#Flexball.” Interest in the Gillette technology surged on social media. The razor maker says it wasn’t trying to take advantage of all the media coverage around the Patriots’ seemingly flexible footballs.

Best attempt to liven up state government

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The Administration & Finance office directed callers to a “free and fun party line” — a recorded message that rattles off phone numbers for sex-chat lines — after replacing the 857 area code with 617 in a phone number on a routine press release from the agency. A spokesman promised this was an obvious typo, telling the Boston Herald that “nothing is free and fun in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.”

Most unexpected financial adviser

Rob Gronkowski’s got a party boat? Sign us up. But here’s one thing we didn’t see coming from the Patriots star who brought us a floating frat house: the “Gronkonomics” campaign with Capital One, aimed at encouraging people to save their money. It was weird to see Gronk shilling for a bank. But come to think of it, he’s probably more reliable than the band of ragged Vikings that Capital One previously used as its pitchmen.

Most creative startup

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Even in an entrepreneurial hotbed like Boston, some startups still surprise us. Kyle Waring launched ShipSnowYo.com, which promised to ship 6 pounds of white stuff from Massachusetts’ historic snowfall to anywhere in the nation for $90. Waring’s snarky slogan? “Help us revolutionize the snow-shipping industry.” He had plenty to box up last winter, of course. But this winter, he’s had to go out-of-state for supplies. Runner up: Who else but Waring would dream up ShipFoliage.com, which sells dead leaves for up to $19.99 a package?

Most prominent failure

Sure, we had the Runaway Red Line. But that’s nothing compared to the Runaway Blimp, brought to us by Waltham-based military conglomerate Raytheon Co. The football field-foot-long dirigible, known by the obligatory acronym JLENS, went on a wild ride for 150 miles after coming loose from its mooring in Maryland, but not before it took down a number of power lines along the way. Photos captured the aerostat drifting over Amish country. The locals weren’t quite sure what to make of it, other than to make more Deflategate jokes.

Loftiest art installation

What is that gray silhouette hanging above Copley Square, against the cold glass of the Hancock Tower (sorry, we mean “200 Clarendon”)? The building’s owner, Boston Properties, wouldn’t say much. Some suspected that it was a picture of Vladimir Putin. Others said Yogi Berra or Whitey Bulger. The man became a kind of a Rorschach test for a city that doesn’t agree on much. But at least we can agree on this: No matter what Boston Properties does, the skyscraper will still be known as the John Hancock Tower.

A new public art piece went up on the former John Hancock building on Sept. 24.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File

A new public art piece went up on the former John Hancock building on Sept. 24.

Boldest social media stunt

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The live-streaming platform Periscope was barely a month old when a marketing firm, Racepoint Global, harnessed its power. To promote the Glidden brand of paint, Racepoint invited people to watch fresh paint dry on the wall of its Boston conference room. More than 2,500 people tuned in. (Offers of free paint were involved.) As AdWeek put it: “File this under the dumbest use of live-streaming video . . . Or is it the most brilliant?”

Best example of corporate optimism

Keolis, the French company running the MBTA’s commuter rail system (or not running, as was often the case), handed out buttons to staff with a target date to get things back to normal and a message: “March 30” and “We can do this!” Yes, we know it was a tough winter. But shouldn’t it be a given that by the time spring starts, trains should be running without much of a hitch?

Most unexpected smackdown

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Mitt Romney and Evander Holyfield faced off in Salt Lake City May 15.

He defeated Shannon O’Brien, but was bested by Barack Obama. Mitt Romney’s latest foe: Evander Holyfield? In May, the private equity man-turned-politician landed in a cage-match, dubbed “The Quake in Salt Lake,” by donning boxer shorts and gloves and entering the ring with Holyfield, the heavyweight champion, to raise money for charity. Romney still looked a heck of a lot happier post-“fight” than he did on Election Night in 2012.

Weirdest philanthropic effort

Car dealer Ernie Boch Jr. brought us Donald Trump. He brought us Bochtoberfest. But his biggest accomplishment for 2015? Saving tiny Celoron, N.Y., from the “Scary Lucy” statue, a not-so-flattering likeness meant to honor comedienne Lucille Ball. He forked over $20K for a replacement and summed up what was on many people’s minds: “It looks like something from a creature double-feature movie.”

Smartest corporate name change

You have to wonder what took the Stoughton medical device company formerly known as STD so long. Finally, in January, it became Primo Medical Group. (The letters, by the way, originally stood for Stoughton Tool & Die, before it entered the medical device business.) The press release announcing the change doesn’t really explain why the “STD Med” moniker was no longer working for the company. A name like that? No explanation needed.

Most timely computer game

Forget, for a moment, all the movies shot in and around Boston lately. In 2015, when we spent roughly a third of the year encased in a giant snowbank, it took a computer game to reflect what it was like to live here. “Fallout 4” gave Boston a starring role as an apocalyptic wasteland. You’ll be glad to know Fenway Park somehow survived the fictional nuclear winter. More surprising: that it survived last winter.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.
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