Saturday, December 20, 2008

A mentoring conversation in the marketing department of Whole Foods

-- So people are really falling for this whole humane treatment thing?
-- Four words.  Sales through the roof.
-- How come my personal lies never work this well?  Tell my wife I'm working late, busted.  Tell friends I can't come to their party because I'm out of town, busted.
-- Because your personal lies never benefit anyone but you.  Our humane treatment lie benefits us and our customers.
-- Explain.
-- People like thinking of themselves as morally superior to the people around them.  At Whole Foods, we tend to attract politically progressive customers who think what makes them morally superior is their concern for the planet and the less fortunate, which of course includes animals.  They despise people like the tailgating gluttons at football games, howling and waving their slabs of meat at the camera, because these tailgating gluttons couldn't care less about the suffering of the animals they eat.
-- But aren't the animals the progressives eat brutalized and slaughtered just like the animals eaten by the tailgating gluttons?
-- Exactly.  So the progressives try convincing themselves that unlike those tailgating gluttons, they feel guilty about causing animals to suffer and die.  But for some progressives this sense of guilt alone isn't enough.  They still can't in good conscience feel morally superior to the tailgating gluttons.
-- And that's where humane treatment comes in?
-- Precisely.  Our progressive shoppers can tell themselves they're willing to buy humanely treated free range chicken from Whole Foods for double the price.  Only someone with a highly developed sense of justice and sympathy for the plight of the weak would spend so much more than they had to to make sure the chicken had a happy, carefree pre-slaughter life.  Now these progressives can legitimately despise the tailgating glutton who buys his discount pack of Tyson drumsticks from Von's.  The beautiful thing about this particular type of moral superiority is that it has a dual benefit:  not only does it enable the progressive to look down his nose and make sly and sardonic comments about the tailgating gluttons.  It also eliminates any post-dinner guilt the progressive might have felt when he contemplated the suffering of the animal he just consumed.
-- So when we run our deceptive advertisements...
-- Deceptive?
-- Our blatant lies?
-- That's better.
-- When we run our blatantly lying advertisements about humanely treated chicken, we're not really selling chicken.  We're selling a sense of moral superiority.  We're helping our valued progressive customers to delude themselves into feeling a sense of self-righteousness that overpowers the guilt they might otherwise have felt over the suffering they caused?
-- You'll go far.