Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A conversation with someone who works in marketing regarding a new range of crisps

A conversation with someone who works in marketing regarding a new range of crisps

backwards7: “These are clearly badly-crushed Roast Beef flavour crisps. In common with all crisps in this flavour bracket they taste absolutely nothing like roast beef.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “We like to think of them as a deconstruction of the traditional Roast Beef flavour.”

backwards7: “So what you seem to be telling me is that you plan to sell broken crisps – what the general public more commonly refer to as crumbs. And you plan to do this at an unusually high mark-up at retail.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “We like to imagine that when our customers open a bag of our crisps they embark upon a journey where they piece together our product and make their own story. That's one of our advertising slogans: “Make your own story.” For multi-packs we plan to substitute the word “saga” for “story” so as to better sum-up the epic nature of sitting on a settee and eating six packets of crisps, one after the other.”

backwards7: And people will 'make their own story' by shovelling handfuls of greasy crumbs into their mouths and chewing them until they form an homogeneous potatoey mush?”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Our market research clearly shows that customers want to play a more active role in shaping the end product.”

backwards7: “In this instance by using their teeth, tongue and saliva.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Exactly.”

backwards7: Moving on, I see that you are keen to use the word “artisan” in association with your product. I get the impression that we both have very different ideas as to to what this word means. For me an artisan product is something that is hand-crafted and made with reference to a traditional set of skills and techniques that have been passed-down through the centuries, from generation to generation. I think stone masonry would probably fall into this category.

“Based on my previous conversations with your colleagues in marketing, your definition of “artisan” is a small amount of something placed inside rustic packaging, with the name of the person involved in the manufacture written somewhere on the exterior (e.g. these crisps were hand-cooked for you on Tuesday by Derek). For this you charge 10-times what one would usually pay for a similar non-artisan product.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Well, I think our company is artisan in the aspirational sense, rather than making any tangible claims towards artisan status for our products.”

backwards7: “So you're saying that while you aspire to make artisan crisps, you don't actually make them in a manner that employs a high level of skill or craftsmanship?”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Hmm? ...sorry my mother just texted me. Can you repeat the question.”

backwards7: I was just remarking that this artisan pose you're adopting seems to be nothing more than superficial brand positioning.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: (furiously texting) “Yes. Yes, totally.”

backwards7: I also understand that you are unhappy with “Roast Beef” as a flavour description and are angling towards something more exotic.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “The group-feel on this is that 'Roast Beef' is too evocative of the 1970s, and not in the good way that might appeal to young men with unusual facial hair, who listen exclusively to gramophone records and ride penny farthings to their IT job on the Silicon Roundabout.

“When we were throwing the idea ball around the office yesterday afternoon the best description we came up with wa: Hoisin-glazed beef in a red wine reduction, served with baby parsnips and a warm red onion marmalade. That was a joint effort by me and the rest of the creative team.”

backwards7: It took all five of you to come up with that?”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Yes, after a few false starts.”

backwards7: “You see I think if you added chargrill flavour enhancers then you might just about get away with calling this product “Pan-seared Steak” flavour. But there's a point where you're just taking the piss. These deep-fried shards of thinly-sliced potato carry none of the aromas and textures that one associates with traditional-English/Asian fusion cooking. So I think that you need to go away and rethink that, or you could just go away.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “We're also very keen to promote the fact that are crisps are hand-cooked.”

backwards7: “This is another problematic area: When you say hand-cooked I imagine boiling sunflower oil being poured into cupped hands, into which thin slices of potato are added and then deep-fried a few at a time. None of this strikes me as particularly hygienic. I think the main issue is that, at this temperature, the oil is liable to fry the flesh of the cook. So the end product would be a combination of crispy human skin and deep-fried potato.

“There's also an ethical issue: How will your customers react to the knowledge that the person who cooked their crisps is a patient in a burn unit, facing skin-grafts and extensive rehabilitation in order to regain the lost function in their fingers?

“I think when you say 'hand-cooked' what you mean is that the potato was added manually to the fryer by someone who then stares down at their trembling reflection in the boiling oil, in the same manner that one might gaze into the black abyss of the human soul. But that isn't really 'hand-cooked' is it, so you probably need to come up with a better description of the process.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: On my gap year in India I met a sadhu who cooked me a banana curry in his hands. It was delicious.”

backwards7: “Were the crisps that I've just eaten hand-cooked between the palms of an Indian mystic? Because I can see roast beef flavour being problematic for a Hindu or an ethical vegetarian.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Nigel's grandparents are from India and he's a wizard in the kitchen.”

backwards7: “Just to confirm, you're referring to the same Nigel who operates your potato slicer and runs your company's social media account.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Yes.”

backwards7: “Does Nigel cook the crisps in his hands in the manner I previously described.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “No.”

backwards7: “Well then.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: There was a thought that we could call them 'Kettle chips.'”

backwards7: Are these crisps made in a kettle?”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: Well actually it's more of a series of stainless steel tubs.”

backwards7: “Okay, we can cross that one off too.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: On the packet we'd like to include a blurb outlining our company philosophy. Just a bit of zany text that mentions music festivals and social networking and apps. We also want to include some childlike drawings that we've paid an advertising firm to do on our behalf. And we want a QR code that can be scanned by mobile phones or tablets. It will link you to a video of a folk song we've written about product. It's like a kooky version of Mumford & Sons, played on a ukulele.”

backwards7: I'm beginning to understand the logic of selling pre-smashed crisps. Because if I was confronted by any of what you're just described, my immediate reaction would be to punch the packet as hard as possible.”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “Okay, so based on what we've discussed, as far as names go I'm thinking: Colonel Rupert's One-Month-Aged Sirloin Flavour, 00-Gauge Potato Slices.

backwards7: “Sorry, who's Colonel Rupert?”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “He our brand mascot. We imagine him as an officer in the war... who invented crisps.”

backwards7: “Which war?”

Executive in charge of Crisp Taxonomy: “I don't know... the first one?”

backwards7: “Oh, for fuck's sake.”

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