Controversy in a Box
One of the funniest online arguments I have seen in quite a while is currently raging over at Salon.com. It all started with an article "exposing" the marketing machine behind Annie's brand Mac & Cheese, and has devolved into members of the liberal intelligencia trying to out-do one-another with accounts of who is indeed the busiest, most stressed-out parent in the world and why this means that they can or cannot cook a square meal for their families. I have several things to point out here.
1.) The article vilifies Annie's for branding itself as a progressive, wholesome brand when in fact, the product it sells is hardly any better than Kraft Mac and Cheese.
Okay, true. However, I would like to direct the author's attention to a disturbing yet true cultural point that will better help contextualize Annie's within the present-day market place. We live in what the experts call a "capitalist society." In laymen's terms this means that the buying and selling of goods drives our economy. A large part of sales relies of course, on the ability of companies to successfully brand and market their products. Annie's found a niche in the ever-growing organic/healthy foods movement and is using it to move their product.
It is wholly naive for people to expect products that are marketed as "healthy" or "natural" to be above clever or slightly duplicitous marketing schemes. Nowhere does the box state its parent company's moral superiority or commitment to taking down the man. I understand the left's desire to vilify mainstream advertising strategies and to hold companies that they perceive to be members of their "community" to a higher standard, but that's not the way the marketplace works. Perhaps a better messaging strategy for Annie's could be "We suck slightly less than Kraft."
Moreover, as a member of the left I am so tired of my fellow progressive thinkers being so short-sited in their attitudes towards marketing. It's a practice that is here to stay and the sooner we accept it and use it to our own advantage to move our own ideas, the better off we'll all be.
2.) Just because it's available at Whole Foods, doesn't mean it's going to save you.
In my opinion, Whole Foods is genius branding at work. It has created an image of itself in the eyes of many as a company that can do no wrong. Surely if you buy it at Whole Foods, it's the best you can buy, right? If it's organic, you should buy it, right? Sure, sometimes, but not always. That organic apple you just bought sure looks tasty, and it's ORGANIC. But in many cases, you'd be doing something much better for the environment if you bought a non-organic locally grown apple. But we don't like to think about that because it's WHOLE FOODS so it must be good. Um, not always.
Bringing this point back around to the article, the author is outraged that Annie's Mac and Cheese isn't much healthier than Kraft.
Well, duh. Does anyone buy the stuff thinking they've made a great nutritious choice? It's an indulgence, a treat, not something intended for human's to successfully subsist off of.
3.) Many of the people trading comments on the article are arguing the virtues of home-cooking vs. Annie's. Many are claiming to be so incredibly busy and important, yet capable of scraping together a few precious moments from their days to cook a square meals for their families. To them I say, Brava, you are surely a better person than I, who after the gym at night prefers to collapse onto the sofa with a glass of wine and a few pieces of cheese, dreading the day she'll ever be required to provide sustenance for her offspring. But if you're sooooooo busy and important, I ask you this:
Why are you wasting your time debating the merits of boxed macaroni products in the comments section of liberal e-zine? Shouldn't you be out saving polar bears or something?