Monday, November 2, 2009

Zero-summy Versus Yummy

Via Ezratabdumplink, I liked this from Eric Asimov:
the enemy of good beer and good wine, and good food in general, is bad beer, bad wine and, yes, bad food.

What unites this team is the striving for real wine, real beer, and real food, as opposed to cynical product. That is the problem, and I think most people realize this no matter what they say or do. Craft beer’s battle is not against wine but against decades of cynical marketing from the giant breweries, which have done everything possible to portray beer drinkers as asinine fools. The enemy of good wine is the atrocious marketing that makes wine an aspirational commodity, just another luxury good to purchase for its status value. That has to offend the reverse snob in all of us.
Aspirational commodities are positional goods. They only get their goodness by being better than other things, which then seem worse. And maybe sometimes something can be appealing as an anti-aspirational commodity (I think Asimov's characterization of beer industry marketing might fit this model), but then it gets its goodness through something else's looking bad in a different kind of way.

So adding goodness to your product through this kind of marketing ends up being a zero-sum game. It's not that aspirational marketing can't increase a consumer's satisfaction with a product, especially an unreflective consumer -- it does. It just accomplishes this by damaging the value of everything else.

But you know what doesn't work like that? Tastiness. For me, eating and drinking are a genuinely fun part of life, because there's so much good food and drink around. (Food especially, out here in Singapore at the nexus of all these different cultures that know how to use spices well.) And while there is such a thing as having high standards and appreciating better food, the overall fun-ness of eating and drinking can be raised by things being more yummy. Things getting more yummy isn't a zero sum game.
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