On argument, instruction and authenticity

This Seeds of Change bar is the most delicious chocolate I’ve tasted, and I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate. The dark chocolate, fig and orange are beautifully balanced, like something you might get from a master chocolatier. But before I start sounding a bit Gregg Wallace, I should bring this piece back to words. Once I’d eaten the chocolate I decided to find out more, so I started to read and look at the packaging. I really liked the silhouette visuals, especially little touches such as the leaping toad you find on the back. ‘Grown for pleasure’ is an OK slogan, assuming that they’re not intending some sort of strained pun on ‘grown/groan’. And the ‘Fragrant figs…’ description gets your mental taste buds tingling and tells you what you need to know when shopping. But, for me, a few issues emerge in the detail on the outer back of the pack, in this section:

Frankly, I don’t give a fig for the ‘sustainable organic’ message, but that’s not my issue here. What irks is a manufacturer telling me how to use their product. We all know how to enjoy a piece of expensive chocolate, for goodness sake. We don’t need a copywriter to script our consumption. OK, they almost win me back with the ‘Sexist? Fruitist?’ line, especially as their answer is ‘Unashamedly yes’. But the instructive tone is yet another example of the peculiar tendency for brands to talk to people as if they are eager children. Here’s the point, food companies: if we have the intellectual ability to buy your product we probably know how to eat it.

Inside the wrapper you get the ‘about us’ story, which is a righteous tale of organic seed growing. I like that they present an argument – ‘swept away by ‘progress’ in industrial agriculture’ – even though I’d challenge their sweeping dismissal of large-scale agricultural methods. It’s refreshing to see a business have and express a point of view. It’s a shame that it’s usually only self-consciously environmentalist brands that have the gumption to say something contentious or opinionated about methods of production. Why don’t bigger brands argue that largescale farming can bring bigger benefits? Perhaps they do, but I’ve not seen it.

Another observation on the ‘about us’ story: it flows, it offers a touch of personality (‘well, someone’s got to do it’) and it conveys the quality of the product by taking you to some interesting corners of the world. But, to me, it feels too well written; or put another way – too, well, written. This is how a good professional business writer might tell the story, with all its subtle differentiators and smooth rhythm. It has the ‘just right’ qualities of a decent long copy ad. I just wonder whether it might seem more authentic if it was a tad rougher – like something one of the founders might say. Then again, I see the original company that started up in Santa Fe is now owned by Mars UK, so it’s not entirely clear to me whose authenticity is being expressed.

Tim

 

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