Thursday, August 25, 2016

Consumer activism

I sent this email to my friends at Marmite UK. 

Good morning.

How are you?

Some time ago you ran a campaign which may be regarded as successful with the adage “Marmite, love it or hate it”. I, however, fall into neither camp. I regularly consume your product, but it is not one about which I would enthuse or be moved to tears of ecstasy in describing.

I am far less ambivalent, however, about the preponderance of the harbinger of the apocalypse that is your “Big Squeezy” container. There are insufficient existing words to describe the opprobrium which this abomination arouses in me, but I will share a modicum of them with you, if you will indulge me.

I am an autodidact when it comes to the use of your commodity. I do not possess a training manual, neither have I attended evening classes. Through arduous practice I have deduced that it is possible to extract (geddit?) marmite from your excellent glass jars by using a knife or similar implement. The knife has to be narrow enough to fit through the neck of the jar and not so sharp as to result in the obliteration of the toast when the substance is spread. The shape of the bottle and the consistency of the comestible allow almost all of the contents to be successfully removed, eventually. It is not a carefully calculated operation; experience suffices to judge whether an approximate measure has been extricated. I am so adept at this exercise that I seldom give it much thought. The outcome of this is that, from your perspective, there is a happy customer.

Of late, however, these fine glass jars, unsung and seemingly merely utilitarian, are not available at my local Sainsbury’s. Instead they have been replaced by these plastic plagues. (Your product is available in the smaller jars, which are neither economical nor large enough to contain enough Marmite to cover one of Mrs McTavish’s Organic Highland Oatcakes). Having learnt to use the traditional container, I do not wish to devote any of the time remaining to me in this world in trying to guess how to use it. Is it supposed to be inverted and squeezed thereby making impossible any attempt to judge the quantity required? What happens when the container is 75% empty - how hard will I have to squeeze to get the last bit out? So, let’s admit we have had enough of this nonsense and dispense with these plastic horrors forthwith.

As a large international conglomerate, I suspect that you have a large annual intake of graduates from our fine academic establishments, each one brandishing a third class degree in the economics of the cellphone or some such. These fine people, not so much educated as Goved, begin their careers with you in the hope that, one day, they will be promoted and have a salary increase that will result in a reduction in their net pay as they begin to repay their crippling student loans. You are kind enough to offer them shelter, a chair, a computer terminal, perhaps free beverages and an eight week course in how to use the sum function in Excel. They are cosseted by your kindness and distracted from the Bleak New World’s rising violence, environmental pollution and emptiness for a few hours each week. The rest of us are grateful to you for taking these people off of the streets and giving them something futile to do as they await an old age and funeral which they will not be able to afford. However, in their midst is some bright spark who came up with the idea of the Big Squeezy. I urge you to find this person, and in a very loving and tolerant manner explain to them that their purpose is not to come up with new ideas, particularly damn silly ones. The microprocessor, wind turbines and the Dilshan Scoop have already been invented and their efforts to improve the world will not turn out well. Sedate them if necessary and, should they be intelligent enough to understand, explain that the purpose of modern education is not to stimulate creativity but rather to create a passive and grateful workforce.

I checked to see whether Lord Lever or anyone else I knew was available to be sent this communication. I note that your chief marketing officer is Keith Weed. Is this a case of nominative determinism? Was he gently sitting in his office one day when the idea of the plastic container for Marmite was muted and responded through a foggy haze, “Yeah, man, far out!”? I sincerely hope not.

So, dear friend, oblige me by stamping out this atrocity. When Lord Sainsbury or one of his gormless lackies ‘phones through with their weekly order, explain to them without flinching that the public have spoken and Marmite will be encased in glass, and glass alone henceforth.

Love and peace