It’s In The Can

31 08 2010

The dustbin of marketing history is full of better mousetraps. Give a tinkerer a box of tools and abundant free time, and voila! Sooner or later he/she will come up with something that swaps simplistic elegance for unnecessary complication.

Like the Candwich. Yes, you read that right. A sandwich in a can. And there’s no charge for all the preservatives.

Available in three varieties (Grape PBJ, Strawberry PBJ and BBQ Chicken), the Candwich seeks to do for bread and fixings what elaborate tubes and water torture did for mice.

When I first about the Candwich a couple of weeks ago, I quickly drove over to the United Market Street to find some. You would have thought I was an alien when I asked the clerk for some help (having circumnavigated the store in vain). Her quizzical look said everything. “You’ve got to be kidding,” her raised eyebrows screamed.

I quickly pulled up a picture on my phone to show her. Convinced it was for real and not an off-season attempt at April Fool’s Day humor, she offered a one-word assessment of my query.

“Hmmmmm.”

Yeah, I knew what she was thinking. Where in the world would you shelve something like this anyway? Would it be near the peanut butter and jelly? Or would it be in the soft drink aisle along with other canned products of similar size and shape?

After towing me around the store (again) in hopes that her grocery expertise exceeded mine, she said with an air of seeming authority. “If we have it, it will be next to the SPAM.”

Oh yeah, the canned lunchmeat the Vikings eat. “Why didn’t I think of that?” I mumbled. Cultural oddity. Antithesis to healthy eating. Sodium delight.

But, alas, there were no Candwiches to be found beside the SPAM. Only tuna and a few other oddball canned foods. “You might try calling our Lubbock offices to tell them you’d like us to stock it,” she said.

I assured her that I was on a marketing mission, not a shopping trip. “Nope. Not interested. I only wanted to buy it to show in class,” I rejoined her.

If I were a military man in a foxhole surviving on MREs, maybe this sandwich-in-a-can idea would sound good. But why, oh why, would I want to contribute to landfill waste caused by unnecessary packaging? (The steel bottom lid tells me this can is probably not easily recycled.) Why would I want to risk eating a sandwich that may have been created six months ago, when I could just as easily tote my lunch made just a few hours earlier? And furthermore, why would I want to pay for the privilege of all this anyway?

I’m sure the mice are laughing, for the Candwich is the height of hilarity. Never even mind that there’s controversy surrounding the developer for misuse of investor funds. No, this is a stupid marketing idea that is as stale as the week-old sandwich you find in your kid’s backpack.

While I am a firm believer that, in general terms, change is good, there had better be a side dish of customer benefit to complement it. Otherwise, I say can it.

Dr “Pop This Top” Gerlich


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One response

2 09 2010
Mark Rogers

The sad thing about all this is that if an alien from another planet were to come down here and look at all the “manufactured” and “fake” foods that are on the shelves in supermarkets and the typical American pantry, the canwich would absolutely NOT stand out to them.

I could go on for days about this. It used to be a sign of prosperity to be overweight. Today it is a sign of poverty because the government subsidizes (a.k.a. makes and keeps cheap) all the foods that are the highest in calories and worst for us (processed sugars, hydrogenated oils, etc). The government also does very little to stop the marketing of these “food” products to our kids.

My wife taught early childhood (4-5 year olds) for five years and the majority of these kids brought fruit roll-ups and marshmallows to school as their lunches. My wife’s a pretty petite person but one of her four year olds weighed MORE than she did. It’s an absolute tragedy and something needs to be done about it.

Processed foods like the canwich (basically anything in a box or with any ingredients you can’t pronounce) cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and a plethora of other nutrient deficiency diseases. We scoff at the canwich but sales for lunchables, TV dinners, cookies, cokes, hot pockets, and candy have never been higher. It’s all the same thing and marketers are now experts at knowing exactly what the typical, lazy, overworked, over-stimulated American will buy with no concern for the sacrifices being made for the sake of convenience.

If you don’t think food companies have dedicated marketing campaigns for kids check out this excerpt from Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser:

“James U. McNeal, a professor of marketing at Texas A&M University, is considered America’s leading authority on marketing to children. In his book Kids as Customers (1992), McNeal provides marketers with a thorough analysis of ‘children’s requesting styles and appeals.’ He classifies juvenile nagging tactics into seven major categories.”

There is an execution strategy for making Americans obese and at high-risk for diabetes and heart disease…and it’s working very well. The categories are pleading, persistent, forceful, demonstrative, sugar-coated, threatening and pity. These marketers have done their homework and are extremely efficient at creating a positive brand image for their horribly dangerous and unhealthy “food” products. By the way, ‘food’ is in quotations because it is absolutely not food in the real sense of the word.

Marketing candy, soda, sugar saturated products, and the canwich to kids should be viewed just as offensive as marketing cigarettes and crack to kids. It’s just as addicting and causes just as many deaths. It took 70 years after the first study linking smoking to cancer for the positive public image to change about cigarettes…I’m rambling…but could literally go on for days about this.

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