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Things You Didn’t Know You Need

August 6, 2022
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Well, my last post on Marx and art was met with deafening silence.  Lots of people clicked on it but no one commented.  The hint as to why may be in the off line comments I got.

“Too long.”

“Too boring.”

“Too weird.”

To be honest, I don’t care about long or boring and weird is kind of a compliment. 

Even so, I wasn’t planning on talking about Marx for a while because I thought that may be what made everyone go quiet.  But guess what?  Proof of his theories just keeps coming and this one is a little more simple and straightforward than the pickle on the ceiling example.

Marx thought that because one had to participate in an economy by both producing and consuming in order to survive, over time and with growth of populations and economies, human relationships and interactions would come to be “mediated” by commerce. 

It pretty well describes our reality.  Think about an airplane ride.  To the airline you are solely a commodity.  Your human needs and wants don’t enter into the equation, just the money they are getting out of you.  You have no personal relationship with the ticket agent, the cabin crew or the pilot.  You are purchasing their services from the airline.  And because they work for the airline, their loyalty is to that economic relationship, not to you.

It’s the same with the supermarkets that have driven the local butchers and bakers out of business.  You don’t know them, they don’t know you, it’s a commercial relationship and that’s why no one under 50 knows what a baker’s dozen is any more.

It’s also one of the reasons we are so shocked when doctors, teachers and firemen and people like that go on strike because they are supposed to be altruistic and doing their jobs out of love and service. 

But it’s really all about money at the end of the day.

With that in mind, it’s just a short hop, skip and jump to explain the two bizarre things I saw in the news the other day.  If you project out this concept of human relations being about commerce rather than human interaction, it makes sense that people who create  things for consumption will adopt an attitude of what will they buy rather than what do they need?  That’s why we keep getting Spider Man and Marvel Hero movies over and over.  The business model is “It worked once, let’s try it again!”

That’s why it’s called a consumer economy—it’s an engine to drive consumption.  Why do you think we have things like National Donut Day and National Hot Dog Day?  Not because people who like donuts and hot dogs banded together to celebrate.  Rather, the industry invented them to encourage us to consume.  An extreme example is National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.  A great idea to make us consume even more ice cream! 

There are now so many national product days that, inevitably, sometimes one day may celebrate more than one product.  That happened last month when National Lipstick Day and National [chicken] Wing Day fell on the same day.  This did not create any  new human needs or wants, but it created new opportunities to consume.

The restaurant chain Applebee’s joined up with a lipstick company called Winky Lux to create Saucy Gloss—“a limited-edition (of course) collection of four lip glosses inspired by Applebee’s chicken wing sauces.”

Yes.  Lipstick flavoured like chicken wing sauce. Why not?  Put a price tag on it, hype it and someone will buy it.

The article I saw quoted Applebee’s “chief marketing officer.”  (Think about that and Marx’s idea that we participate in the economy in order to survive.  Now, food, a survival item needs a marketing officer.)

Anyway the CMO advises that the idea is to “spice up your date night” with one of four “flavours”—“Get Me Hot Buffalo,” “Sweet Chile Kiss” (includes chilli specks), “Be My Honey Pepper,” and “Honey BBQ-T.”

Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, the CEO of Winky Lux weighs in and asks “What could be more genuine and fun than spicing up a kiss with our delicious Saucy Gloss!”  Genuine? Fun?  Delicious?

The glosses cost $18 individually or you can get them all for $65.  And I don’t want to think about the packaging and microplastics. 

I decided to have a look at the Winkylux website.  And lost my appetite.  It shows tubes of lipstick laying on a pile of chicken wings.  It turns out that for National Watermelon Day they also had watermelon flavoured gloss.  And their tagline?  “Taste My Face.”

You think that’s bad?  That’s as far as you can take marketing and commoditization? 

Well then you haven’t heard of Gatto Bianco.  In Italian that means White Cat and it’s a pop up restaurant in New York started by the cat food company Fancy Feast.

Surprisingly, given how well our consumer market driven economy has worked out, it’s not a place where people who can’t afford food can buy cat food for sustenance.   Rather, it’s a promotion for a new line of cat food and the in house chef of Fancy Feast has teamed up with an Italian restauranteur to create dishes based on the new cat food line.

It’s bad enough that a cat food company has an in house chef.  But that same person said this:  “Food has the power to connect us to others in meaningful ways and take us to places we have never been. The same is true for our cats. The dishes at Gatto Bianco are prepared in ways that help cat owners understand how their cats experience food — from flavor, to texture, to form — in a way that only Fancy Feast can.”

Maybe I’m in the minority, but when I think of a cat experiencing food, I’m thinking of birds and mice.

Although, “don’t try this at home” seems to apply in this case, if you can’t make it to New York and be one of the 16 people who will be allowed to eat at Gatto Bianco, you can download a cookbook from the Fancy Feast website.  It’s called “Petite Feast—Recipes for Humans Inspired by the Exquisite, Single-service Entrée Cats Love.”

So much for consuming in order to survive.

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