Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ah, Blimps!

When I was a kid, one of the most thrilling things I experienced was seeing a blimp wafting over the skies of Worcester. Admittedly, my childhood was not exactly thrill-packed, but still, the occasional sighting of a blimp – which appeared so mysteriously, and so silently – was right up there.

I have no idea what a blimp might have been doing in the Heart of the Commonwealth. We didn’t have much going by way of the mass events that seem to attract blimp-vertising. Maybe they’d just blown off course.

Anyway, blimps, dirigibles, zeppelins (oh, the humanity!), have always fascinated me. What’s not to like about a flying machine that moves about as rapidly as a rowboat? And they’re so adorably chubby…

Because of my historic interest in things dirigible, I was happy to see a recent article on the Goodyear Blimp.

The good news is that just last week, Goodyear, for the first time in 45 years, introduced a new version of its famous airship.

…The world’s biggest floating billboard is now longer, faster, and more maneuverable. It’s the Usain Bolt of blimps. (Source: Business Week.)

The better news:

…it’s still … well … fat and slow.

Over the years, Goodyear has built approximately 300 blimps.

I don’t know how effective they’ve been as an advertising gimmick –  personally, I’ve often thought of it as the Goodrich Blimp.

Goodrich. Goodyear.

Kind of raises the philosophical question: would you rather have a good year, or be good and rich?

Forget I asked. If you can be both good and rich, what’s not to like?

Anyway, they’re both tire brands, aren’t they?

But it’s Goodyear that does the blimp thing.

The company typically keeps three blimps around the country and has one in China. Goodyear deploys them during a lot of major events including college football games, the Kentucky Derby, and parades.

The new model is bigger than the prior version, and can carry 12 passengers (vs. 7). It’s computerized. And it’s relatively speedy: it can push the envelope at 73 m.p.h. up from 54 m.p.h. (In either case, that’s a lot faster than I would have thought. But most of the time when we’re seeing the blimp over a stadium they’re more or less in idle or slow-speed cruise mode.)

You may ask what a blimp – which “isn’t even made of rubber” – has to do with Goodrich Goodyear, and the answer is nothing, really. It’s just part of their advertising strategy, building “name recognition and goodwill.”

Well, they’ve been doing it for so long, it must be working.


Of course, “name recognition and goodwill” are those two wonderful marketing things that just defy measurement, especially “goodwill”. But you do have to question just how much “name recognition and goodwill” you get if the average blimp spotter manages to confuse Goodyear with Goodrich.

Oh, well, no one’s asking me.

Meanwhile, when I think of blimps, I also think about another thrill of my childhood, which was eating Sunshine Toy Cookies.

Okay, even in my non-thrill-packed childhood, Sunshine cookies – which were kind of bland – weren’t exactly a thrill. They couldn’t hold a candle to a home-made Toll House cookie. Sunshine cookie - from flickrOr even to a Fig Newton. But what made them fun was that they came in shapes, the best of which was – ta-da – the blimp.

That cookie blimp was nowhere near as sleek as the new Goodyear Blimp. It was more the classic stubby blimp. (That’s it, in the lower right-hand corner, next to the clock, under the drum.)

Sunshine is now part of Keebler, and the Toy Cookies are, alas, no longer made. (Sunshine also produced the ghastly Hyrdox Cookies, the fake Oreos that my mother bought. Yuck!) But Sunshine lives on in a box of Cheez-its.

Ah, well.

It’s almost baseball season, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing the Goodyear Blimp floating over Fenway at some big-game point.

But as I wait for that to 220px-Hood_Blimphappen, I’ll have to be satisfied and cheered by the regular appearance of our home town honey, the Hood Milk Blimp, which flies regularly over Red Sox games.

Nothing like looking out the window on game day and seeing the Hood Blimp hovering outside of Kenmore Square.

Ah, blimps!

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