Corporate "Expertise" and "Beneficial" Beverages

I don’t buy soda very often, but occasionally I will buy some 12-packs if they are on sale. One such recent sale had me snapping up some Diet Coke Plus (marketed with slogan “We include the “L” so you don't make a wry face®”) which, as far as soda goes, is right up there behind root beer. Despite the colorful logo it seems that Diet Coke Plus has a hard time selling, because the advertising copy writers are now digging deep into their reserves of “phrases we can use to sell sugar water.” A quick picture of the box will explain what I mean.

Refreshing. Uplifting. Hydrating?
It’s true. Research shows that all beverages contribute to proper hydration. That means that whether it’s your first can of the day or your afternoon pick-me-up, Diet Coke Plus helps you stay hydrated all day long. So stick with the Diet Coke Plus taste you love. Your body will thank you for it.

While it’s true that drinking fluids does hydrate you, claiming that Coke is an efficient way of doing so is a lot like saying that smoking cigarettes "contributes to air inhalation and lung expansion," or that eating Twinkies "contributes to reducing hunger." It is technically true, but it’s not, as soccer players would say, in the spirit of the game. Appealing to the lowest common denominator, human health, is not an effective marketing strategy. Neither is suggesting that drinking carbonated soda in the morning is normal. Not even if you have an accompanying website.

Coca-Cola appeals to research, but they don’t tell who’s research. Their own? An independent third-party’s? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Because they are an multi-national corporation, surely they can be trusted, right? After all, they have statistics, so they must be the experts.

Corporations claiming expertise is hot-button issue with me. A while back I went to a seafood restaurant. While I was being seated I was assured that a server would be with me shortly, and that they would be a seafood expert. Much to my astonishment, a teen-age girl soon arrived, menus in hand. Now, I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but, having visited a world-class fish market years earlier, I already had a pretty ingrained image of what a “seafood expert” was. This girl, on the other hand, might not have known how to pronounce ‘cichlid’. My prejudice can perhaps be best portrayed in this Venn diagram.

Calling everyone who works for you an “expert,” whether in seafood restaurants, car audio installation booths, or cheap bars, doesn’t make me want to recommend your business establishment to anyone. I want to decide, to make the judgment, on whether or not you employ experts.

There’s a clerk at my local Hollywood video who "researches" so many movies that she writes her DVD rentals off her taxes as a work expense. She can recommend five other movies that you may like based on your current and past selections. If someone I know needs some movie variety, I’d send them to her. Likewise there is a hole-in-the-wall yakitori restaurant in Tokyo that I enjoy that was recommended to me by my friend, who himself is friends with a yakitori connoisseur. It is truly delicious, and it took two experts (the chef and the connoisseur) to allow me to partake in excellent yakitori.

But it’s not just the corporately-instituted “experts” that bug me - it’s the unique naming of employees by corporations in general. Some companies do it rather conservatively, like Wal-Mart (“associates)” and Target (“team members”). Other places do not fair so well. I don’t care what anyone says, putting ingredients that I ask for on my sandwich for me does not make someone a “sandwich artist”.

These days, corporately-bestowed expertise practically precludes actual knowledge or significant ability. Rather, customer-recognized expertise should be honored, and hopefully it is at thousands of businesses around the country. Is the flood of so-called “experts” a passing symptom of global corporatization, or a portent of impending mediocrity? Whatever it is, I think I now need a vitamin-enhanced water beverage with which to rehydrate myself.


give po’ man a break

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Sometimes You Just Really Need Help

I no longer actively play video games, but I still manage to crack a smile when I see the sly hand of a Goodwill gamer at work.


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Pink Ribbons for the Cure!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is cool, because fighting breast cancer helps the world suck less. It also means that my store stocks pink suckers and Susan G. Komen cookies - fun products that let me use my sweet marketing psychology skills to good-naturedly rib regular (male) customers.

ME: “Hey, how’s it goin?”
CUSTOMER: “Pretty sweet. The sun’s out.”
ME: “Yeah. Just the milk for you today?
CUSTOMER: “Yeah, that’ll do it.”
ME: “Ok. You should totally buy one of those pink suckers and support the fight against breast cancer.”
CUSTOMER: “I think I’ll be OK with these, thanks”
ME: “If you don’t buy one, it means you hate breasts!”
ME: “I bet you’re standing there right now thinking, ‘What have breasts ever done for me?’ That’s cold, man.”
CUSTOMER: “You put me in an awkward situation now, because I do like breasts.”
ME: “I know! So buy one.”
CUSTOMER: “So a sucker, or what, those cookies over there?”
ME: “Yup. And buy two, because breasts come in pairs!”

You all have no idea how often this works.

My sentiments are best summed up in what my coworker yelled after a female customer today -

Happy Breast Awareness Month!


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