A Marketing Moral Dilemma

Any advice?

K2 Wrapped in Sterling Silver
A K2 cabochon wrapped as a pendant in sterling silver.

A labradorite cabochon wrapped as a pendant in sterling silver.

Yellow Feather Jasper
A yellow feather jasper cabochon wrapped as a pendant in antiqued copper.

I’m in a bit of a moral dilemma.

To increase the marketability of the semiprecious gemstones I’ve been turning into jewelry, I need to include details about the stone in each piece.

I have no problem writing up the geophysical aspects of the stone, but I’ve been advised by other jewelry makers to include metaphysical aspects, too. And that’s the problem: I don’t believe in any of the purported metaphysical benefits of rocks.

The trouble is, although the stones I’ve been wrapping are attractive pieces of jewelry in their own right (if I do say so myself), many of the people who would consider wearing stones as jewelry do so because they believe in the metaphysical properties of the stones they wear.

Although true believers know what stones they want, borderline believers might not. If I include the “fact” that moss agate, for example, aids in childbirth, I could help convince a pregnant woman to buy a piece of jewelry that includes a piece of moss agate. It certainly wouldn’t hurt her in any way, but I don’t believe it would help her, either.

The moral dilemma is that I believe that including such information is misleading a potential buyer. But what if the buyer expects such information? And if the information is widely available and easily confirmed, why shouldn’t I include it if it could help sales?

Any advice?

Blender Bullshit

Do people really fall for this crap?

I used to own a Kitchenaid blender. It was a pretty simple model with a glass jar. I didn’t use it often, but it worked well enough when I did. Until it broke.

I’d bought one of those Magic Bullet blenders to use in my RV when I traveled. Because I didn’t replace the Kitchenaid, I started using it at home, too.

Magic Bullet
A Magic Bullet blender

A Magic Bullet is basically a blender base with two different blade assemblies and a bunch of plastic cups that the blade assemblies screw into. You fill a cup with what you want to blend, screw on the blade assembly, turn the whole thing upside down, and stick the bottom of the blade assembly into the blender base. When you push down and twist, the blender turns on.

Nowadays the “original” Magic Bullet comes with only a few cups and lids. But when I bought it, it came with about a dozen. I’m not sure why. They were a pain in the ass to store so I threw most of them away, keeping just one of each size. Ditto for the rings that turn the screw-top cups into smooth-top cups. (I’m not going to drink out of a plastic blender cup.) And the lids.

Let me be clear: the Magic Bullet is junk. It’s the same kind of disposable appliance so many Americans bring into their lives. Cheap and functional, but not exactly reliable. I knew mine would break and I knew I would throw it away. The only thing that surprised me is how long it lasted before it finally broke: maybe 8 years?

But it did break. And I was left blenderless.

Immersion Blender
My Braun immersion blender is part of a set that includes a chopper and whisk. I often use the whisk to make fresh whipped cream. I don’t think I’ve ever used the chopper. Maybe I should?

Well, that isn’t exactly true. I have one of those immersion blenders. It’s like a stick that you put blade side down into a pot of soup to puree it while it’s cooking. Mine’s a Braun and it works very well. I didn’t use it often until my Magic Bullet broke. Then I started using it to make smoothies. It got the job done — I’d just stick it into a big cup full of the ingredients and whir it until it was smooth — but I had to be careful if I didn’t want smoothie all over my kitchen.

Clearly, it was time for a replacement blender.

I mentioned it to my Facebook friends and the recommendations started coming in. Apparently, there are a lot of folks out there willing to pay in excess of $300 or $400 for a blender. I think they must use it a lot more than I do. I just wanted a small and functional kitchen appliance that I could store on a shelf in my pantry when not in use.

I was in Costco last month and saw that they had a Nutri Ninja, which another smoothie-making friend had mentioned. Yesterday, I went in to look for it. It was there, next to the $350+ Vitamix, selling for just $99. But it had a lot of parts — those damn blender cups — and I seemed to recall another model with fewer cups and a lower price. I found it hiding behind the Vitamix display for $69. Less parts, less money. I put it in my cart with the other things I’d come to Costco for.

Not the blender I thought I was buying, but I honestly don’t care.

It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered I’d bought another Magic Bullet.

What fooled me was the larger size and the prefix “Nutri” in the product name. It was a NutriBullet, not a Nutri Ninja. Sheesh. I really should pay attention when I shop.

Another person might have taken the damn thing back to Costco. But I honestly didn’t care. All I wanted was another cheap blender and that’s what I got. This one was bigger and beefier with bigger plastic cups than the old one. If I got 5 years out of it, I’d be happy.

The Cookbook
On the surface, this looks like a recipe book, right?

What surprised me, though, was the hard-covered book that came with it. On the surface, it looked like a cookbook. Later, when I went to bed, I took it with me to browse it before I went to sleep. It took only moments to realize what it really was: a piece of marketing material designed to fool people into thinking that they’d bought some kind of special nutrition machine that would make them healthier and help them lose weight like no regular blender could. After all, they’d bought a “nutrition extractor,” not a blender!

Nutrition Extractor!
“Nutrition extractor”? It’s a freaking blender.

Yes, the book had recipes, but it also had a lot of nutritional information about trendy “superfoods” like cacao nibs, organic chia seeds, organic goji berries, and organic maca powder. There were pages and pages about these “foods,” along with information on how you could order them from the NutriBullet website.

And the testimonials! Pages and pages of them from people praising the NutriBullet to high heaven. Here’s an example closing line for one that stretched two full pages:

It has touched my life in more ways than I can explain.

Seriously? A blender? You really need to get out more, Daniel.

I especially liked the recipes that required you to cook a bunch of ingredients, wait for the mix to cool, and then “extract” it in batches before reheating it again. News flash: an immersion blender like my Braun can do it without cooling the soup down, saving hours of food prep time.

In all honesty, I found the recipe book offensive. Cover to cover, it was full of marketing bullshit, touting the mostly imaginary benefits of a crappy blender. I couldn’t believe anything I read inside it and felt insulted that someone thought I might. And the stock photos of the attractive 60+ men and women enjoying their healthy lifestyle were a real turn off. Is this blender for old people?

It amazes me how low marketers will stoop to sell an inferior product.

Anyway, I’ve already tossed the book into my Goodwill box. Maybe someone more gullible than me will find it worth reading.

And yes, today I’ll give it a try. But I won’t be making a “nutriblast.” I’ll be making a good, old fashioned smoothie, just like I always have. And you can keep the goji berries.

Two-Language Packaging Done Right

An example.

I’ve always been interested in marketing. I think it goes back to a marketing course I took in college when I was a freshman. That’s when I began to realize how the choice of words in marketing copy could mislead potential buyers without actually lying. It’s also where I learned how packaging colors and styles could influence purchase decisions. I still think all that is fascinating.

The trick with packaging is providing all the information a potential buyer needs when in a store making a decision. I’ve been buying a lot of items — including small tools — as I continue working on my living space so I find myself relying, over and over, on what’s written on packages to determine which options go into my cart.

I should point out that it’s not only this part of Washington that has a large Spanish-speaking population. It’s any agricultural area in the United States. It’s also many major population areas where hispanic immigrants do the kind of labor Americans simply don’t want to do. While some folks can argue that “Mexicans are taking our jobs,” the truth of the matter is that if immigrant labor disappeared, a lot of jobs would be left unfilled and a lot of work simply wouldn’t be done. (This was the topic of the 2004 movie, A Day Without a Mexican.) I’m not trying to start a political debate on the topic here — I’m simply pointing out my thoughts on the matter based on what I’ve seen over the past few years in the farms and cities of Arizona, California, and Washington.

This area of Washington has a large hispanic population. It’s all because of the agricultural work done here. Let’s face it, Americans don’t want to get their hands dirty planting orchards, running irrigation lines, pruning trees, spraying pesticides, or culling, picking, or sorting fruit. Much of this work is done by migrant farm workers, especially in the busy picking season. But year-round there’s a core hispanic population. These folks live all around us, send their kids to our schools, and shop in our stores. And while most of them have some English-speaking skills — or even speak English fluently — their primary language is Spanish.

A lot of Americans get angry when they see a preponderance of signage and packaging in two languages. Oddly, they seem more angry when the second language is Spanish than if it’s French, but this post isn’t about the politics behind their anger. It’s about finding a compromise that provides the necessary information in both languages without putting the second language in your face.

And that’s where I think this product’s packaging succeeds.

English Packaging
The front side of the packaging is entirely in English.

Spanish Packaging
The same information is provided in Spanish on the back side of the packaging.

It’s a tool I bought in Home Depot, a pad with a handle that’s designed to paint along edges. I bought it because I need to caulk and then re-paint the area around my windows. I don’t want to get paint on the window frame. Based on the information on the front of this package — which is entirely in English — I decided that this tool would do the job and I bought it.

It wasn’t until I opened it up today that I realized the back of the package pretty much duplicated the front — but in Spanish. The name of the tool in big, bold letters (Edger = Bordes); a list of suggested uses (Doors, windows, ceilings & baseboards = Puertas, ventanas, cielos razos y zócalos) the three steps to use (Load, Paint, Release = Cargue, Pinte, Despreda); and even the tag line (A PERFECT EDGE EVERY TIME = ¡Un Borde Perfecto Siempre!). Even the actual numbered instructions were in two languages, but with Spanish played down in a smaller font size. It was all there, in black and white instead of color, on the back instead of the front.

How could that possibly offend a flag-waving, anti-immigration American? Yet it provides the information both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking people need to know that the tool is, what it does, and how it works.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a moment to share my thoughts on this great solution to a politically charged issue. Well done, SHUR-LINE. ¡Olé!