On my JetBlue flight to New York yesterday, I was served a small bottle of water and a little pouch of chocolate chip cookies. Both “food products” tried to create additional value beyond the food/drink by latching on to a cause:
- The packaging of Chocobilly’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies has the slogan, “Cookies with a cause” and claims that the company, Immaculate Baking, donates a part of the proceeds for art supplies and folk art workshops. The text spends more time patting the company on the back than it does talking about its “good works.”There is also an uplifting biography of Jimmy Lee Sudduth, who evidently was a storyteller specializing in “colorful stories” about growing up in rural Alabama.
- The water, from Aquarius Springs, has a legend across the label that reads, “Hydrate, Donate, Participate.” Aquarius Springs, which comes in a nonbiodegradable plastic bottle, provides a water-saving tip under the headline, “What else can you do?” We can only assume that the “what else” means “what else besides drinking our water,” since there is no other reference to actions other than the three-word legend. The tip: to shut the water while soaping up in the shower.
Let’s disregard the fact that Aquarius Springs distorts the values of environmentalism by trying to turn an environmentally unsound act—drinking water from a disposable plastic bottle—into an environmentally correct activity.
Let’s instead focus on the similarity in the marketing approach of both products. Both companies think they can add value by making the consumer feel good about the social implications of using the product. But it’s a cheap, unsatisfying kind of value, at best, akin to eating sawdust and calling it nutritious.
In both cases, there seems to something fishy about the cause: For Aquarius it’s the deception by silence about the plastic bottles. For Chocobilly, it’s the self-serving nature of the text that left me a bit suspicious.
What I find most interesting, though, is that JetBlue served both. Does JetBlue think that people will feel better about flying in its planes if they believe that when they consume the food products available on flight that they are actually doing a good deed and helping society or others? But of course, nobody believes that. It’s just more hype that most won’t even read (and why should they, since most people expect hype from product packaging).