Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free range chicken: the progressives' version of driving a BMW

"Normally when we fill our advertising with outrageous lies, we have to dress them up to make them believable.  But the beauty of this whole free range, humane treatment thing is our target audience wants to be lied to.  The wilder and more preposterous the lie the better.  We say our chickens have more space to romp around in, they live under sunny blue skies, every day is heaven on earth and, cha ching, our target audience will pay whatever we charge.  My term for our target audience is the "aspirational ethicals."  They consider themselves progressive, concerned about problems beyond their own personal self-interest.  This perceived altruism is a source of moral superiority for the aspirational ethicals and source of profit for us.  So what does our target audience look like?  You'll often see them dressed in earth preservation-themed tee shirts, carrying canvass shopping bags, world music smiles on their faces.  If there's a petition outside the store, they're all over it.  Clean air, clean water, homelessness, literacy -- where do they sign?  So when they hear about how animals are mistreated on factory farms, it disturbs them, not so much because the animal is suffering, though that's part of it, but because they're helping perpetuate that suffering and sensitive ethical people like themselves shouldn't do that.  That's why they're so susceptible to our bogus humane treatment pitch.  Most consumers are cynical.  They've got their defenses up, they're on the lookout for our lies.  But, as I said before, our aspirational ethicals want us to lie to them.  Please, tell me the chicken led a happy life.  I'll pay anything so long as you let me feel like I'm an ethical shopper.   Then when they're in our store, purchasing the free range chickens, not only do they get to feel like an ethical person who cares about the well-being of the animals they eat, other people get to see them acting ethical.  It's the progressive version of driving a BMW.  You'll see them standing outside the refrigerated section, picking up the chicken, saying something like, "I'm so glad this chicken had a happy life," in a voice loud enough for all the surrounding shoppers to hear them and be impressed by their social conscience.  People, the sky's the limit with the aspirational ethicals.  The profit margin on our free range products is through the roof.  To sum up, cha ching!"