All right, folks, another year is in the books — and the entertaining business stories just seem to keep coming.
The Orange Dinosaur became the North Shore’s version of the Citgo sign. Dunkin’ dropped “Donuts” from its name, but added shampoo and beer to the menu. We bid goodbye to Necco, as well as to dreams of landing Amazon HQ2. And the Wahlbergs — everywhere a Wahlberg.
Here’s a look back at the stories that had us wondering, chuckling, or running out to buy some Donut Fries.
A taxidermist’s dream
Mayor Marty Walsh’s move to unload the city’s public works yard on Frontage Road raises
all sorts of questions. Is this where the Krafts will finally build their long-awaited soccer stadium? Will the whole place be underwater in 20 years, thanks to climate change? Where will wayward parkers get their cars dragged to now? Maybe the most pressing question: Who knew Boston had a 100-square-foot “roadkill freezer” at the tow lot, where crews store all the dead animals they collect from city streets?
The curse of the Time cover
You’ve heard of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Well maybe you should be careful about getting on the cover of Time, too. A year ago, Time put a picture of Jibo’s namesake robot on the cover of its “inventions of the year” issue, and for a moment the little tabletop machine had more attention than R2D2. The $899 buddy robot, Time gushed, “could fundamentally reshape how we interact with machines.” Or not. Within a year Jibo had closed, its intellectual property sold off. Many local companies made Time’s more recent list of top inventions — Gillette, Bose, and Reebok among them. There was even another robot: iRobot’s self-emptying vacuum. Good thing none landed on the cover.
What could possibly go wrong
You know what would take good old-fashioned ax-throwing to the next level? Alcohol! The Somerville outpost of Urban Axes became the first location for competitive ax throwing to open in Greater Boston, with trained “axperts” on hand to keep a watchful eye. Urban Axes beat out Revolution Axe Throwing, a rival that’s opening across the Mystic River that was slowed by the inevitable concerns at the city level about mixing alcohol and flying axes. However, Urban Axes is still waiting for Somerville to issue a liquor license. Some bureaucrats have no sense of adventure.
The dinosaur that won’t die
Fans of the Orange Dinosaur flipped out when the mini golf course on Route 1 in Saugus was destined for extinction, to make way for two hotels and an apartment complex. But in a great victory for dino-kitsch, the old T. Rex still stands guard, now over a construction site. The developer had sold “Saugus-saurus” T-shirts at nearby Kane’s Donuts. More recently, Mystic Brewery cooked up batches of Orange Dinosaur Double IPA. Mystic marketer Tripp Nichols told the Lynn Daily Item: “There is definitely a nostalgic factor . . . We had people e-mailing us asking if we could ship to South Carolina.”
Gone to the dogs
State officials must have thought they were clever when they gave their campaign for Amazon’s second headquarters the code name Project Rufus. That was a not-so-subtle reference to Amazon’s “first canine staffer,” a Welsh corgi that cast a long shadow within the online retailer’s ranks, despite his short stature. Amazon, though, had other plans for the 20 HQ2 finalists — and they also involved dog names. The Seattle company assigned code names to each, all after employees’ pooches. The winners: Project Clancy (New York ) and Project Cooper (Northern Virginia). And Boston? Project Millie. No wonder we were an also-ran.
The award for most unusual product placement just might have to go to Connecticut-based Duracell, which shrouded one of its copper-topped batteries in a gray hoodie not dissimilar to the one worn by a certain locally revered football coach. As the hoodie rotates on the screen, the ad copy from Wieden + Kennedy reads: “Reliable. All business. The guy you’d want next to you in the Foxborough-hole.” We prefer the real Bill Belichick to his metallic imposter. But it’s an open question about which one would give more answers at the next press conference.
They’ve got some . . . er, nerve
Golf equipment maker Acushnet Co. has turned the Titleist brand into a billion-dollar-a-year business. So you can’t blame its execs for asking their IP attorneys at Pierce Atwood to sue after learning that an Australian outfit called Golf Gods was selling balls and caps with the word “Tittiest” written in that recognizable Titleist script. Acushnet cites a testimonial from a Golf Gods customer who got some LOLs out of the fact no one noticed what his cap actually said, not even the “ole lady and daughters.” We’ll see who has the last laugh with this one.
The great sugar panic
Candy sellers were besieged by bulk-buy requests after news broke in March
that the massive Necco plant in Revere would probably be shutting down. Everyone has a favorite: Mary Janes, Clark bars, Candy Buttons, Sweethearts, Sky Bars. Especially Sky Bars. Even the oft-hated, chalky Necco wafers drew fans — such as Katie Samuels, a Florida woman who offered to trade her used Honda Accord for CandyStore.com’s entire wafer stockpile.
X marks the spot
So this is how we make office parks cool: by putting an “X” in the name. That must be the thinking behind dubbing a tech campus the Xchange at Bedford, which sold this year for $108 million. Or maybe it inspired the mixed-use project next to Somerville’s Assembly Row that received master-plan approval, christened XMBLY. Then there’s DivcoWest’s massive project near Lechmere, with big leases signed by Sanofi and Philips Healthcare. Formerly known as NorthPoint, the developer calls it Cambridge Crossing now — or CX for short. As a bonus, DivcoWest offers this bit of marketing splendor: “This is what bravery would look like if bravery were a place.”
Place your bets
Each time a local team makes it to the championships, there are usually some bets between opposing fans involving donning the enemies’ jerseys in public. The Philadelphia Eagles’ surprising Super Bowl victory over the Patriots was no exception. Attorney General Maura Healey knows what we’re talking about. So does the staff at Harpoon Brewery.But employees at Boston Beer and Jack’s Abby breweries went one step further than just wearing jerseys in their friendly wagers with rival breweries in Pennsylvania. They had to wear dog masks, like many Philly fans, in honor of Philly’s underdog status. No, Yuengling employees wouldn’t have had to wear a hoodie if the Pats won. They would have had to put on goat masks instead. Get it? G-O-A-T.
Biggest marketing misfire
Don’t mess with the Celiac crowd. That’s one of the lessons for Party City and ad agency Hill Holliday after the retailer’s ad featuring an “inflatable snack stadium” refers to a party-goer named “Tina” as “gross” because of her need for gluten-free options. Party City and Hill Holliday promptly dropped the ad and apologized. (Among the other concessions: Hill Holliday provided pro bono support to the nonprofit Beyond Celiac.) But not before the inevitable #IamTina social media campaign.
Uncle Pennybags insults the target demographic
We’ve all seen random variations on the classic “Monopoly” board game. “Stranger Things Monopoly,” anyone? But the owner of the longtime board game, Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro, might have gone a bit too far with “Monopoly for Millennials.” The tag line: “Forget real estate, you can’t afford it anyway.” Rather than collecting the most money, players collect experiences — including visiting a friend’s couch. Needless to say, the Twittersphere was not pleased. One disappointed millennial noted the vast majority of her generation can’t even afford to spend money on experiences.
Boston Herald publisher Kevin Corrado must have known employees would grumble about relocating from Boston to Braintree. So in a memo announcing the move, Corrado tried to put the best possible spin on things. You could argue the free parking deserved an exclamation point. But “easy access to local restaurants?” That doesn’t really ease the suburban ennui — especially when the restaurants he named include Dunkin’, Legal Sea Food (sic), Panera, and Subway.
Approaching peak Wahlberg
Actors Donnie and Mark teamed up with chef Paul Wahlberg to be seemingly everywhere
this year. The brothers began selling branded beef in supermarkets. Mark is shooting a new movie, “Wonderland,” based on a Spenser book, in the Boston area, and earlier he got Alex Rodriguez to flip burgers at the Fenway Wahlburgers after A-Rod lost a bet on a Yankees-Red Sox showdown. And the brothers finally opened their namesake restaurant in their home neighborhood of Dorchester. But we might have reached Peak Wahlberg — in Columbus, Ohio, of all places. That’s where Mark and a business partner bought a Chevy dealership, now known as Mark Wahlberg Chevrolet. Mark called it a way “to innovate my brand.”
America runs on . . . brand extensions?
The coffee shop chain formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts brewed up all sorts of new ways to spread its orange-and-pink passion. There was a porter beer from Harpoon made with the Dunkin’ coffee, doughnut-themed sneakers from Saucony, and a Dove shampoo giveaway. And the “Donuts” may be being phased out of the company name, but that didn’t stop the Canton company from bringing us Donut Fries this year.