Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Special K Red Berries: Collectivized Schizophrenia
The supplier of a good in a consumerist market is deeply invested in the creation of demand. Demand is problematic for a post-capitalist market, though; at some point, demand fulfills its purposeful cycle -- one is sated. The demand for a good tapers off in the individual and the group when a sufficient amount has been attained. The capitalist, the owner and supplier of goods, must find a way to increase demand if there is to be an increase in profit.
But why bother with more profit? Capitalism exists by propagating itself through its systematic demands and rules. Think of it more as an animal with organs that must function in a very particular pattern for the animal to live. It's primary goal and its meaning for existence is profit; therefore it forces the capitalist to continuously innovate in order to compete with rival capitalists, creating way for more income to acquire more capital to produce more goods. The structure of capitalism forces the supplier to innovate new demand.
The supplier does this by the fabrication of demand through media hosted fantasy. The supplier also does this by the complexification of demand. Focusing on the latter, it is evident from anthropological and paleontological work that cereal grains have been a part of the human diet during prehistoric times, even predating early agriculture; humans have been chomping down on cereal grains, both wild and harvested, for a very long time. The purest and most primary relationship that humans have had to cereal grains is the collection of wild grains, their mashing and steeping in liquid that goes on to create something like porridge or an oatmeal. One eats it, attains the carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals and the body's demand is sated. There's not much room for profit in that game, now is there?
There are a thousand ways to make this game more complicated and to increase demand through distortion. The supplier can mix food products into the grain, cook the grain differently, process the grains in a hundred ways; they can relabel, re-market, use different colors, slogans, make new claims, etc. The game of complexification is simply the small alterations of products, whatever they may be, while keeping the core, natural product (cereal grains) almost exactly the same. This increases demand by making people believe they are deprived of a product even though they have, at the core of the product, the same exact substance in their home they wish to buy.
This brings me to a particularly pernicious new form of complexification that is so painfully and embarrassingly post-modern. Anti-food, non-food, void-food -- it usually has the word diet, light or some synonym plastered on its technicolor box. It can range from zero calories to the arbitrarily-chosen calorie per serving, mysteriously floating around the magic number 100. This is the apogee of marketing creativity by the supplier that breaks demand down into an almost near-schizophrenic state. Human demand has always sought something, a physical thing of substance and sustenance, to sate it, but now, demand has been ripped from a physical product. Suppliers have orchestrated a chemical hallucination of food (e.g. Diet Coke) that sates a free-floating, senseless demand. This is the highest form of collective insanity in the post-modern market place. The idea of having a demand that needs no real product, that sits on top of real demand, is the splicing of demand and the doubling of it; this is an unprecedented complexification that reaches an absolute bifurcation, where, not only are people buying regular food for sustenance, they are also buying anti-food unrelated to sustenance.
Diet Coke is obviously a better example, but maybe, it is too easy of an example. There's something about Special K Red Berries that I have always despised that made me highlight it. I suppose it is the marketing that harps upon its anti-food qualities, recommending a serving amount of something around 150 calories; it also offers itself as a snack item, or something to replace food, making it a prime example of anti-food marketing.
I figured maybe some honest marketing, pardon the oxymoron, would be appropriate.
"Anorectics eat, too. Special K Red Berries."
"Even when Special K became better known as the horse tranquilizer people use as a recreational drug. We kept the name because we know how important the name Special K Red Berries is to our consumers. Special K Red Berries."
"Yeah, you did eat that entire chocolate cake. Don't worry about us though, we're barely even food, at only 150 calories a serving.* Come on', we forgive you. Special K Red Berries."
* Reflecting you eat 1/4 cup of cereal, 1 oz of skim milk and eat the bowl over the course of 2 days.
"They're strawberries. You can buy them fresh in the next aisle and put them on corn flakes. But, would you really be eating Special K Red Berries?"
"A cereal so committed to you, we thought you were smart and strong enough to be an astronaut, that's why we hooked you up with freeze-dried fruit. Because we love you, Special K Red Berries."
I've got a million more!