Home > Uncategorized > BMW vs. Krasdale

BMW vs. Krasdale

If you’ve ever watched TV with me, you have perhaps noticed that I have two basic modes of interaction with the frequent barrage of advertisements that one is subjected to during said activity.

My most basic mode is to ignore the commercials completely; to zone out and think about something else entirely. You will see that this is the case, for example, when you comment to me on a commercial that has just aired, and your words to me are met with a blank pause. This means I am accessing my immediate short term memory to see if I can recall enough relevant information from the commercial to venture forth a coherent response to your comment (this happens to me a lot–not just with commercials; I really need to work on this!). Usually the answer is no.

My secondary mode, however, is an attitude of active scorn towards the commercials that I am being subjected to. Here, I attempt to come up with humorous comments relating to the ridiculousness of the position put forth, implicitly or explicitly, by the commercial. Normally, I would consider scorn to be, spiritually, dangerous territory. Scorn is an infectious condition of mind. When one seeks actively to scoff and mock one thing, the attitude spreads and begins to affect all areas of life. One becomes a scoffer. So I try to avoid it. However, when it comes to advertising, I just cannot help myself. It doesn’t help that, in fact, I believe that scorn towards many commercials may be entirely justified, morally. Here is an example:

(I cringe, by the way, at the fact that Patrick Stewart allowed his voice to be used for this commercial)

The last line is what I would like to focus on: “At BMW, we don’t just make cars. We make joy.” Considered as a bare statement of fact, this sentence is completely and utterly absurd. How could a car company “make joy?” What on earth could that ever even mean in this context? Is it even remotely within their capacity to determine whether or not the people who drive their cars will be joyful or not? It would seem that that depends on a lot of factors completely beyond the control of a car manufacturer. And what, by the way, is wrong with just making cars? Isn’t that what you are supposed to do as a car company; isn’t that what society expects you to do?

Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying that a car company has no right to make cars that are fun to drive, and to have that be a guiding principle behind their efforts, perhaps as an idea that shapes the company’s approach to what they are doing. Indeed that may be a good thing. Car manufactures should think about the experience people have while driving, to consider how the lives of the people who use their product are affected by it. We could use more of that, in fact. But that is not what is going on here. We have, instead, an attempt at manipulation, an effort to sell a certain image. What is upsetting to me is the posturing, and the attempt at psychological manipulation. It is fundamentally dishonest, this dishonesty is easily perceivable to any thinking person, and the only reason we, as a society, tolerate such behavior is because we have gotten used to it.

By the way, a good way of measuring the honesty of a commercial is to forget that the appeal you are being given is the invention of corporation, or a marketing team, and imagine that the claims are being put forth by an ordinary human being. What if it was a single individual building your car, and he said to you before he began: “by the way, if you are considering hiring someone else to do this job, keep this in mind: I am not just making you a car. I’m making joy, for you!” Wouldn’t such a person seem to you to be completely nuts?

Now this commercial is not, by any means, out of the ordinary. I do find it frightening that we live in a mental climate where such absurd statements come to us day in and day out, and yet we rarely blink an eye. These sort of statements are the norm now; indeed advertisers are routinely expected to come up with such things, to brand their products in certain ways, to generate out of thin air a perception of what the product is like, simply so that people will buy it.

I feel bad now, because I know some people in advertising, marketing, or related jobs, and I believe that they would feel I haven’t given a fair portrayal of the sorts of things that they do. So I should say, not all such things are subject to my disapproval. Here is an example of what, in my view, is excellent branding, full of honesty:

Ah, Krasdale! The name itself suggests that this company has virtually no concern about its image. “24 Heavy Duty Pieces”–I love it! This is exactly what you are getting, and you are told right on the box exactly how much it costs. Wouldn’t it be great if BMW followed suit? They could say simply, “here is our new, luxury car, for 40,350 dollars.” They could even print the price on the car itself! That would be great. By the way, I got this price off of a third party website; the BMW website tried to sell me “lifestyle products,” and did not have a price tag in clear sight. I closed the tab after it started playing a video without my permission.

But the Krasdale branding is great because it reflects what the company actually is: a company that makes a variety of different cheap items that you can buy at the supermarket. You know, going in, that there is nothing spectacular about their product. It is cheap and generic. But they have what you need: spoons, coffee filters, etc. Now let’s turn the box over and see what else they have to say about this particular product.

Beautiful! Not a single statement there that I can honestly accuse of being false. See, with Krasdale, I know what I’m getting: I’m getting some cheap plastic spoons. That’s what I wanted, after all, when I bought them (actually, I didn’t buy these particular spoons, but you get my point). The product tells you what it is, lists its relevant attributes, and doesn’t claim to be anything more. The strongest push they make is simply in reminding you of what plastic spoons are good for: “For easy serving and cleanup, include Krasdale plastic cutlery at your next occasion!” That is, indeed, why someone would buy plastic spoons.

It tells us also that they are heavy duty, with a “large bowl, suitable for soup.” It is good that they point these things out, because these are legitimate points of reservation when purchasing plastic spoons: whether they will work well for soup, and also whether they will be sturdy. But there is no oversell. I can imagine a more audacious plastic spoon company perhaps making, in a complicated advertising campaign, some sort of convoluted appeal to self interest, by harping on the freedom that one gains by not having to worry about using the dishwasher. But not Krasdale.

But be forewarned, advertisers: don’t take this praise of Krasdale as in invitation to, in cynical postmodern fashion, make this “no-nonsense honesty” your image, or something like that. I’m serious: don’t. I can tell when you do that.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 28, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Isn’t the real travesty. . . plastic spoons?

  2. March 28, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Or cars?

    This post was about the effect of commercials on the mind. The effect of various consumer items on the environment (which I assume is what you are getting at) is an important topic, but isn’t something I tend to have passionate things to say about. I’ll leave that to you!

  3. March 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Have you seen Crazy People starring Dudley Moore?

    • March 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      Never heard of it, no…

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