Monday, July 12, 2010

Ronnie James Deodorant and Other Smelly Subjects (DigiScents, Upstream Biosciences)

Early one morning, a bad marketing thought popped into my brain. Before tweeting it, I thought I'd check and see if the bad marketing thought had popped into the brains of anyone else.

It had.

IncredibleDisplay's Ronnie James Deodorant:

rocker725's Dio Deodorant:

Now these are parodies, not real products. Luckily for us, the content creators didn't couple their concepts with this real product, which was announced in 1999:

With the DigiScents technology, content developers will be able to add customized scents to enhance the user experience, motivate sales, and more. For instance, a shopper visiting a scent-enhanced cosmetics Web site could sample the newest perfumes; a travel Web site could add the scent of the ocean to promote a Caribbean vacation package; a game player could solve an interactive murder mystery using scented clues. DigiScents' technology includes both software and hardware components.

Later, when compiling its list of the 10 worst products of the decade, CNET put this idea into context.

In the heady days of the dot-com boom, heady scents threatened to take over the Internet. Imagine not only being assaulted by horrible MIDI files and pop-up ads but also the wafting aromas of the Web.

The product, eventually called iSmell, didn't come out in 1999, and I'm not sure that it was ever formally released. But that didn't stop DigiScents company co-founder Joel Lloyd Bellenson from describing the product's potential impact to Wired:

Scentography promises a vast extension of sensory space, with profound implications. "We've lost touch, as a species, with our sense of smell," Bellenson says, speaking so rapidly that his words run together. "Like, our noses are not on the ground anymore, because we don't have to hunt for food. Scent became an art perpetuated by the big fragrance houses in Europe, and the average person was not empowered. You cannot create a new smell, communicate about it, talk about it. But now we can change that! Our mission is to make scent accessible to everyone! We're giving back to humanity our ability to communicate using scent!"

But humanity apparently didn't take the gift, and iSmell was a stinker that now turns up on bad product lists.

If only they had gotten a heavy metal star to promote it.

P.S. Where are they now? Unfortunately, Ronnie James Dio is no longer with us, having passed away on May 16.

Joel Lloyd Bellenson and Dexster L. Smith moved on to Upstream.

Upstream Biosciences Inc. is a biotechnology company, founded in 2004. We discover, develop, and license genetic based diagnostics for cancer susceptibility and drug response. Our proprietary data mining pipeline enables us to locate and analyze genetic variations in the regions of DNA ‘upstream’ of the gene, the ‘gene switches,’ which control the quantities and timing of expression of the genes and proteins important to disease and drug response.

Our initial candidate genetic predisposition markers are targeted against liver, prostate, ovarian and thyroid cancer with a market potential of over one billion dollars and can complement existing detection tests.

Upstream’s proprietary data mining pipeline and assay generate candidate genetic biomarkers.

But another page on the same website states:


Mike McFarland - sole director and officer

So what happened? Bellenson did sign the last SEC quarterly filing for the company on August 31, 2009 - a filing that documented a number of financial issues with the firm, including the statement that they owed over $500,000 to three company officers.

A December 2009 Form 8-K tells what happened next:

Following the continued downturn, low cash reserves, no available financing, and the commencement of litigation with TCF Ventures, our company was left with two available options. The first option was to restructure our company, including a change of its management and board of directors, and the second option was bankruptcy. As bankruptcy would effectively prevent our shareholders from realizing any value in our company, the board agreed to restructure our company. As a result, and following a write-down of the pharmaceutical business operated by Pacific Pharma, our wholly-owned subsidiary, we entered into the Asset Sale Agreement to transfer such assets as described below under the heading “Asset Sale Agreement”. Joel Bellenson and Dexster Smith then agreed to enter into return to treasury agreements and cancel the remaining stock held by them to treasury for no consideration. The entire board of directors and management resigned but not before appointing Mike McFarland as sole director and officer of our company.

Of course, these things can happen when you choose NOT to play it safe. The potential drawbacks are big, but the potential reward is also big. You could become the new singer in an established band and meet great success. Or, you could be involved with a couple of potentially lucrative companies and meet great failure.
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