Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Food rules, via experience marketing

Using experience marketing to improve one's lifestyle; if there was ever a case of déformation professionnelle…

A while ago I saw this quote in The London Lounge:
Fitzroy Maclean, the real-life James Bond who died a few years ago, always carried with him on his travels a tube of anchovy paste. He explained that in his experience one could always locate some alcohol and a crust of bread: his tube made it a party. This sort of discernment has much to do with small luxuries: too luxurious and they cease to be fun, too small and they cease to be rare.
I thought it very insightful, added some marketing knowledge and a dash of Paleo to it, and came to the conclusion that life is much better if I stick to the following rules:

1. Life is too short to eat bad food. Corollary: better to go hungry than eat bad food, considering that I have subcutaneous energy reserves. When we consider the needs serviced by food, in particular hedonic needs, the satisfaction created by bad food, which at best satisfies a functional need for calories, is necessarily inferior to that of an experience good; why waste a perfectly good opportunity of high value need satisfaction with mediocre product? What are we, an airline?

2. Small luxuries, infrequently consumed. Three reasons for this: (a) experiences saturate fast in an individual consumption occasion, i.e. the pleasure from eating 25g of Brie is much higher than 1/20 the pleasure from eating 500g of Brie in a single seating [yes, it's possible, with enough baguette]; (b) longer periods between consumption occasions lead to better experience, first by decreasing any habituation that might lower the situational consumption value, second by increasing the anticipatory value of the experience; (c) infrequent consumption of unhealthy items (such as crème brulée) doesn't have the long-term health damaging effects of frequent consumption (like insulin resistance). One of the great advantages of intermittent fasting (eating only when hungry, which sometimes means less than once a day) is that each meal is a noteworthy experience: fasting takes you off the hedonic treadmill. Oh, yes, there are also some health advantages, but who cares about that?

3. Creative use of available resources yields surprising value. When we productize an experience, such as with packaged food, a lot of the degrees of freedom for consumer adaptation of the experience are lost. But when we deconstruct the productized experience, as in the quote above, the result is that surprisingly good value can be achieved with minor adjustments. "Anchovy paste, therefore party" is not something that would have come to mind easily, but it's remarkable what a few drops of white truffle-infused olive oil can do to boring fish or a thin slice of foie gras (Nein! Verboten in Kalifornien!) to a green salad.

And two general rules that have to do with how manufacturing and marketing work. (Shush, don't tell anyone.)

4. Ignore most talk about nutrition. Most people are "educated" by marketing and PR, usually without realizing it, and the purpose of marketing is to deliver value and capture part of the surplus created, not to educate people about scientific results. Not that marketing communications are outright lies, but there are entire floors of copywriters in advertising agencies and buildings full of PR people whose job is to shape the narrative. (Doesn't that sound much better than "obfuscate, defuse, and deflect?") Read Salt, sugar, and fat; great marketing book, but will raise some heckles about manufactured food. (I'm assigning a few excerpts in my value proposition design modules.)

5. Cook your own food. Corollary: learn about food and cooking, from sources like On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen, The professional chef, Larousse gastronomique, and Alton Brown. (Famous chef cookbooks are worthless, as they are mostly productization of the chef's brand equity. Neat marketing, worthless pedagogy. Julia Child excepted, because in her case the fame followed the cookbook.) With a little practice and learning, cooking becomes a multi-faceted experience (sense, think, and act, sometimes even feel – all in one activity), plus it can become a free part of one's identity, replacing those expensive Pradarmani clothes [so 1990s].

Former students will recognize much of the above, except in the opposite direction of what we discussed in class. Experience marketing is the foundation for this post, but here I'm optimizing for the point of view of the consumer while in class we optimized for the point of view of the seller.

Bon appétit