Shelf Talk

For some time now, individuals wearing tattoos have enjoyed the status in North American society of representing an acceptable level of radical chic. So why haven't retailers taken advantage of the tattoo's cultural cachet? It's a question Chris Lipper, inventor and...
September 1, 1998

For some time now, individuals wearing tattoos have enjoyed the status in North American society of representing an acceptable level of radical chic. So why haven’t retailers taken advantage of the tattoo’s cultural cachet? It’s a question Chris Lipper, inventor and owner of the patent for Removable Tattoo Hangtags, is starting to pose.

Removable Tattoo Hangtags are, ostensibly, hangtags that come with tattoos for products and company logos. In 1995, Lipper’s Morristown, New Jersey-based company Chris Co. began producing them for apparel and shoe manufacturers (for example, Converse and Skechers U.S.A.), who, in turn, would ship them with their merchandise, free of charge, to retailers.

Since the hangtags are free to consumers, they provide an added-value feature that can be used to help build brand awareness and brand loyalty, says Lipper.

While the majority of Chris Co.’s customers thus far have been manufacturers, the hangtags do have applications for retailers. Lipper has suggested developing Christmas and Halloween-themed Tattoo Hangtags, as a way of enlivening product offerings. The hangtags, he adds, would also be of interest to retailers who are hoping to distinguish their own private-label lines of product from those of their competitors. Chris Co.’s Tattoo Hangtags vary in price from US$.05 to US$.85, depending on the number of units purchased.

Oralgiene’s 60-Second Time Machine Power Toothbrush (US$79.95) promises to transport kids away from the monotony of brushing their teeth, while simultaneously relieving parents of endless hours of nagging. Made of clear plastic, the battery-powered, dual-head toothbrush encases a set of gears and lights that, when activated, move around and blink for 60 seconds-the minimum time needed to ensure a proper brushing, says Lauren Krok, marketing director at the Culver City, California-based company. Although Oralgiene does not produce any toothbrushes that use licensed kids characters, Krok says Oralgiene is looking to cross-promote the 60-Second Time Machine Power Toothbrush, released last winter, with a popular kids TV show or movie. The 60-Second Time Machine Power Toothbrush is available at specialty toy and hobby stores in the U.S., through a number of mail order catalogs and directly from Oralgiene at 1-800-933-ORAL.

The V-Chip is getting some competition in the war against four-letter words. TVGuardian, The Foul Language Filter, developed by Principle Solutions, of Rogers, Arkansas, is an electronic device that can detect and remove most examples of offensive language that appear on your TV screen-an ideal appliance for parents who want to rent the latest video release, but are concerned the diaglogue might not be suitable for their children. Unlike the V-Chip, which blocks out only network-rated programming not deemed kid-appropriate, TVGuardian can be used with all formats, provided that they contain a closed-caption signal.

A small black box you hook up to your television, video machine, laser disc, DVD player or satellite receiver, TVGuardian checks a program’s or a movie’s encoded signal against a pre-set dictionary of nearly 100 objectionable words and phrases. When it identifies the offending passage, it mutes the audio, and then inserts the text of an approved, inoffensive word or phrase in its place. TVGuardian claims a 95% accuracy rate, and comes with two settings-strict, which deletes all potentially offensive language, and tolerant, which permits words like ‘sucks’ and ‘butt-head.’ So far, Principle Solutions has been working with Christian groups and family organizations to help promote the device, but it is hoping to get it distributed at mass and in electronics stores like Radio Shack and Circuit City as soon as possible. At present, TVGuardian (US$199.95) is only available via the Internet at, and by phone at 1-888-7994TVG.

You shouldn’t need a censoring device of any kind to listen to Barney-not anymore, at least. Recently, members of the media received a press release from Nina Stern Public Relations stating that some person, or persons, had tampered with the master tape for the new Barney Sing Along video and audio titles, resulting ‘in the addition of some inappropriate language.’ In July, Stern’s client, Barney creator Lyrick Studios, unknowingly sent out review copies of the tapes to journalists that contained the Purple One cursing a blue streak. Lyrick has since seized the bogus master tape, however, and is now on the hunt for the source of the tampering.

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