Friday, April 06, 2007

Stop claiming value! (part one)

Any smart advertiser or economist will tell you that it is an absolute necessity to add value and claim value where value is to be claimed. My favorite example of claiming value is at the counter of the all-you-can-eat buffet VIPS, where the same cookies you were just thinking looked kind of cheap when you were in the restaurant are packaged and sold as souvenirs for an obscene $2 for 12 little nothing cookies. They don't sell any cookies, I guarantee, but they remind you that food ain't free, regardless of what you thought when you were on your third plate of tropical salad inside the restaurant.
Claiming valueis not a sin when there's value to claim, but when marketing people start taking blind stabs in the dark, trying to connect people and products that have no business being together, it gets on my nerves. Take gingko biloba. In Korea, Gingko trees grow on the street because they're pretty, and people use their nuts in various traditional remedies. No extravagant health claims are made, and those that are are taken with a grain of salt. No one thinks gingko's a panacea.
This whole adding value thing has gotten out of control, and it takes pleasure out of your lives to think of things we used to enjoy in terms of maximized value. The worst sector for this is without a doubt food. People seem to no longer be able to think of food in terms of taste. Health benefits or ethical concerns are always a factor in people's food purchases. This includes fair trade coffee, foodies and their slow food movement, the Korean 'wellbing' craze and the tendency for all food to be judged by it's fat, vitamin, calorie and mineral content. The inevitable result of all that added value is a decrease in the enjoyment we get from food Rather than the intended added satisfaction of eating healthily or ethically, we are just saddled with the stress of choice.
For more on this, check out "Unhappy Meals" by Michael Pollan, an article about this very topic.

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