A friend of mine is in consumer packaging.
He says people are drawn to things you’d expect: eye-grabbing packaging that’s direct, honest and simple, and which promises something solid within. As he was talking, I imagined the little cereal circles that come in that cheery yellow box.
But really, what can you name today that isn’t packaged for mass consumption, be it surfboards, smart phones or supermodels?
In a disarming Ted Talk* last year, Cameron Russell bemoaned the success she’s enjoyed because of her, well, packaging. True, it’s hard to stir up sympathy for a woman who’s made millions off her looks.
But Russell clearly won new fans by revealing that her magazine photos “…are pretty much all touched up. These are not pictures of me; they’re constructions.”
Russell said she became a runway sensation not because of who she is, but because she won “a genetic lottery.”
Why would she go public with such misgivings?
Russell says that when making choices and judgments, we simply must look past the cover.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan* has also weighed in, mocking anyone who thinks we haven’t all fallen victim to variations of the same packaging.
“I’m tired of people acting like they’re better than McDonald’s, … “ the comic says in his act. “Maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read Us Weekly. Hey, that’s still McDonald’s; it’s just served up a little different. Maybe your Starbucks is telling you that a frappuccino is not a milkshake. Or maybe you watch Glee. It’s all McDonald’s, McDonald’s of the soul.”
Wow, do we all have McDonald’s of the soul?
Do we vote on looks or substance, issues or sound bites? Do we buy what we need or eat what we should, based on what makes us happy or healthy, or on what’s hot at the moment?
Did you know that companies in America spent roughly $166 billion on advertising last year?*
The marketplace is cluttered as the subway at rush hour with people who want a piece of your mind or wallet. One way they try to stand out is with their packaging, be it a slick suit, a clever jingle, or an athlete’s endorsement. Some just yell until you pay attention or change the channel.
Before we grab up the pitchforks, let’s remember they’re just trying to make a living like everyone else. It’s up to you whether to tune in or out.
Or to try making your fortune as an underwear model.
Before you do, though, consider Russell, who says models, despite a package that includes “the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes,” are among the most physically insecure women “on the planet.”
Read more posts by Steve Piacente, a former print journalist and correspondent. Steve is a blogger for JenningsWire.