Saturday, August 11, 2007

Consuming Folly

Now pretty much all my life my family has trusted the Green Giant when it comes to quality canned corn. And so since tonight we're once again feasting on my mother's delicious fried chicken, I grabbed a can of niblets in the cupboard to enjoy my meal with.

But to my utter surprise, my dad already had a can out - a can of DEL MONTE WHOLE KERNEL CORN. Discerning the shock in my countenance, my parents attempted to comfort my woes. My mom told me it's better. My dad tells me, "It's FreshCut!"

I look at the can and, well, my dad is absolutely right: It's "FreshCut"! There's some fancy word art slapped on the can that says "FreshCut" in some corny pseudo-semi-asian font.

Ummm... what does "FreshCut" mean? Does it mean the corn was freshly cut? So, like, when was fresh, and how was it cut?

The thing that's so funny about advertising is that you can take a pointless, meaningless, vague or even nonexistent aspect of a product and play it up to sell something. I have a half-gallon of Breyers ice cream sitting in my freezer. Half-eaten because it's delicious, but that's not the important part. The important part is that my mom bought it because since "All Natural" is in such big, showy script that ices over any other text on the carton, my mother was left to be the lovable victim of this chilly exploitation of the health food trend.

Mmmm... all natural. What can be bad about all natural? It's not that anything is bad about it, it's just that when it comes to grocery store ice cream, almost all ice cream is all natural (excluding the notoriously cheap and sticky generic imitations that taste like runny, milky spit). Pretty much all your favorite brands are, surprisingly, all natural. It's harder finding something that's not.

So while Breyers pride themselves on being "THE ALL NATURAL ICE CREAM" (see the Pledge of Purity on the side of the carton), what they don't want you to know is that their entire advertising scheme is all based on something rather meaningless. Other ice creams may be all natural too, but Breyers' creative department already took that idea!

And even though I'd still buy Breyers just because it tastes so damn good, how many others would too if it were merely sold along the lines of being delicious? I doubt "THE DELICIOUS ICE CREAM" or the Pledge of Tastiness would do so well. Unfortunately, tasting good just isn't good enough anymore.

Flavors can get pretty ridiculous too. Have you ever had New York cheesecake-flavored something? How about pink lemonade? Anything "flaming hot"? What do all these adjectives mean, anyway? What makes cheescake "New Yorkish," and lemonade taste pink? What makes Cheetos... flaming? The answer is: nothing. But there must be a reason French vanilla tastes better than plain vanilla...

Nowadays, all of this market competition has driven contesters to advertise some of the silliest features. Companies come up with witty gimmicks and conjure fashionable fads, overspeculate hype and attack one another in their attempts at topping the rest. I care less about your "commitment to quality" or how many slogans you've trademarked than I do about about how your product actually is.

Sometimes I wonder how shopping would be if ads and label designs were gone. Trips to the grocery store would be bland, but then again we'd probably be able to find better stuff without the tight grip of sly advertising, tempting pictures, clever artwork, and believable lies.

p.s. If you were wondering, I still trust the Green Giant.