Friday, August 27, 2010

The power of advertising

I love advertising and marketing, a sucker for them actually. Guess that makes sense being that I've made a career out of both since 1999. But even long before that I loved package design, ad layouts, funky fonts and good campaigns. I have a particular style of things I prefer of course, we all do, but an attractive and well done display or marketing message even outside my normal style and interests can reel me in - even inspire me.

I happen to love coffee. I brew a pot for me and the hubby every morning and often brew a small pot in the afternoon or make a trip to the coffee shop. I prefer Peet's Coffee but usually end up at Starbucks because it's in a more convenient location. I go back and forth about how I feel about Starbucks. I actually worked there for a brief time in 2005. Working there gave me a little more perspective on the company and ultimately, I'm okay with them. Yes, they were sorta trying to take over the world (maybe still trying), running quite a few smaller cafes out of business and can be terribly inconsistent with the quality of their espresso drinks (a crappy latte can really piss me off). I think the declining quality and consistency at the espresso bar is due to expanding their menu to include things like sandwiches, salads, smoothies, etc. AND the fact that they've created a customer base of picky MF's (excuse my language) that put the barista under so much scrutiny that the result is a half ass drink for the rest of us. Anyway... what was this post about?

Oh yeah, the power of advertising. Starbucks is a great example of powerful branding and convincing marketing. They have nice looking displays, filled with cool looking, reasonably priced products and attractive, perfectly placed signage that brings it all together and inserts a level of trust with the consumer. Especially the coffee and food, they are a cafe after all. I do a decent job of avoiding the pastry case but do occasionally indulge. My son and I actually go there as a treat sometimes for a drink and a piece of banana or pumpkin bread.

While on one of those special trips the other day, I noticed a new design on the bags (pictured at the beginning of this post). On the front, the first statement is "REAL FOOD." Certainly caught my attention so I continued to read. In short, it goes on to say they've removed artificial ingredients from their food and they reiterate their statement on the back of the bag correspondence style using a handwritten font. Did reading the message make me feel better about our snacks? It did actually. And that's the magic of good marketing.

Now is the banana bread any different from the one they were serving prior to the new bags or is it just a new bag? I don't know. Not yet anyway. It certainly looks the same and tastes the same as it did when I worked there in 2005. Have their items always had a fairly clean ingredient list and it's just being highlighted now? Or did their items have a bunch of crap in them and now they don't? I guess if I still worked there, I'd be able to answer these questions. One thing I do know now that I didn't want to and intentionally avoided is the banana bread packs 490 calories! Oh well, everything in moderation.

Clever messages and healthy looking packaging is one of those genius but often deceptive things we have to contend with. I will take the time to uncover the truth behind health statements on packaging and the companies behind them but a lot of people don't. If you've ever read Michael Pollan, you'd know it's likely the more health claims a package lists, the less healthy and more processed it actually is. I still look beyond the box regardless but it is something to be aware of. So next time you see that kraft color, natural looking packet of sugar, package of cookies or dairy with cows grazing in a pasture on the container - examine it, compare it and make the better choice, even if it's not the healthiest looking package.


  1. I love this! Seriously, I'm in love with your blog. We are so kindred spirits on this. Oh how I'd love to just have my own giant garden and make everything from scratch. I'd be doing it from my straight jacket in the nuthouse, but, you know... It's just not realistic for us. But what you're talking about in this blog totally is. Kudos! I think you're on to something great!

  2. Thanks for the kind words girls, I appreciate it!