Tricked-Out Lab Coats, Cuddly Pathogens | April 9, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 15 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 15 | p. 56 | Newscripts
Issue Date: April 9, 2012

Tricked-Out Lab Coats, Cuddly Pathogens

Department: Newscripts
Keywords: Newscripts, Pittcon, Matheson, lab coats, airbrush, GIANTmicrobes, dolls
An artist at Pittcon airbrushes custom lab coats, including one featuring C&EN’s unofficial mascot, Beaker.
Airbrush artistry: Sicoli brings style to Pittcon. Sicoli decks out a lab coat with the image of a gorilla. A completed lab coat featuring Muppets Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker stands on display to the right.
Credit: Matheson

The annual Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy, aka Pittcon, is one of the premier instrumentation conferences and expositions—a near-endless showcase for the cutting-edge technology that could one day facilitate discoveries previously deemed impossible by the world’s scientific community. It’s also a gold mine for free swag.

With more than 900 exhibitors competing for the attention of 15,000-plus attendees, giveaways played a notable role in the marketing strategy used by several companies at Pittcon 2012. Take Matheson, for instance.

At last month’s meeting in Orlando, the industrial/specialty gas and equipment provider drew large crowds thanks to a daily raffle featuring lab coats airbrushed by Philadelphia-based artist Freddy Sicoli. In a mini art studio at Matheson’s booth, Sicoli delighted onlookers by airbrushing lab coats with playful caricatures that included some of pop culture’s favorite scientists. Dexter from the Cartoon Network show “Dexter’s Laboratory” and Muppets Dr. Bunsen Honey­dew and Beaker were among them.

“I didn’t know if it was going to go off so well at first,” recalls Sicoli, who was surprised by the number of people who approached him to request their own personalized lab coats. “So many people were asking me for my number that I ran out of cards,” he says.

“What two things could be more different than airbrush art and specialty gas? But they make a great partnership,” says Beth Sullivan, corporate marketing and communications manager at Matheson, which will soon release a limited-edition welding helmet with artwork designed by Sicoli. As for Sicoli himself, he and the rest of his crew at Killer Kreations Art Studio will continue filling airbrush orders that come in through their website for automobiles, surfboards, and, yes, even lab coats.

Salmonella: Now With An Adorable Mop Of Flagella
Salmonella: Now with an adorable mop of flagella!
Credit: GIANTmicrobes
A promotional photograph of the Salmonella stuffed toy from the GIANT Microbes toy line.
Salmonella: Now With An Adorable Mop Of Flagella
Salmonella: Now with an adorable mop of flagella!
Credit: GIANTmicrobes

Elsewhere on the Pittcon floor, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (SSI) made quite the splash by passing along the common cold, mad cow disease, and Salmonella to its customers. Before concerned readers report the company to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, however, Newscripts should probably mention that these harbingers of disease came in the benign form of GIANTmicrobes—those lovable plush dolls designed in the shape of microorganisms. A new microbe emblazoned with the SSI logo was distributed during each day of the convention.

“People were coming constantly to the booth to ask about them,” says Kevin McLaughlin, SSI senior marketing and communications coordinator, of the dolls. “On a day-by-day basis, you’d see some of the same people come back. ‘Oh, I was here on Monday for the common cold. What do you have today?’ ”

For GIANTmicrobes Vice President of Marketing Laura Sullivan, the excitement generated by her company’s dolls at Pittcon makes perfect sense. “In the world of corporate premiums, like mugs and T-shirts and pens,” she says, “this is just a fun, new way to capture customers’ or partners’ attention.”

According to Sullivan, a large part of the stuffed microbes’ appeal comes from their scientific integrity. For instance, GIANTmicrobes’ common cold is actually shaped like a rhinovirus, and mad cow disease is a cuddly prion with black and white bovine spots. “At the heart of it all, it really is about the content and the education,” Sullivan says of the dolls.

For readers hoping to cuddle up next to disease agents such as flesh-eating bacteria or Escherichia coli, GIANTmicrobes are available at specialty gift shops and through the company’s website.

Photo Gallery: Click here to see more pictures of Sicoli and his airbrush in action at Pittcon 2012.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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