Annals of Commodification

‘Tis once again the season of peak selling, so a roving TCTer’s thoughts naturally turn to the topic of how, even as their socio-economic order finishes devouring the basis for the further maturation of human society, corporate capitalists continue to provide solutions to non-problems.

Now, so far, the system’s critics have been rather less than careful with the topic of product provision and use, having committed to treating it as “consumption” and then swinging various crude hammers pointlessly around the room. Herbert Marcuse, foreshadowing if not script-writing for Ronald Reagan, based his work on the presumption that average black people in the Jim Crow United States had Cadillacs. Such things not only flew with the left but became classics of supposedly critical theory.

Mainstream critics of leftist cultural critics are, sadly, largely correct when they say the left has tended to be way too cavalier about the existence of great capitalist products. This is funny (in both senses) in part because Marx and Engels famously praised some features of capitalism. Yet few subsequent thinkers in the Marxian tradition have thought with precision about the indisputable and extremely important fact that a great many of the products business society has managed to work out and make affordable are things any sane democracy would want to retain in any decent, sustainable future.

The fact that the system also is quite good at turning broad public scientific breakthroughs (for which it then takes undeserved credit, of course) into actual gadgets is nothing to sneeze at, either, if we want to make such a future.

But, having said all this, it remains true that corporate capitalism is, by its core design, drowning us in silly-ass, often hi-tech, crapola.

Once TCT‘s editor finishes his ongoing book about the ultimate platform for this systemic project, our TCT website will get an overdue structural upgrade and thereby return to seeking user interactivity. One thing we’ll work on then is gathering nominees not only for the annual Golden Hicksie, but also a reader-fueled competition for most offensive new commodity of whatever years we have left.

Perhaps, inspired by this here new product, which I encountered yesterday, we will call that new award the Consumer Trap Turkey of the Year:

turkey-fryer

That, friends, is the Waring electric turkey fryer. It retails for more than $600. One would love to know how many times each one sold will ever be used. Surely, the ever-so-perfectly-named Conair Corporation knows. It is the entity that puts this beautifully stupid thing on the market.

Pokemon Go and the Frontiers of Corporate Spying

pokemon logo Advertising Age today includes a typically comico-chilling observation from an ad industry worker. Speaking about big business marketers’ growing ability to gather data about cell phone users’ movements, locations, and behaviors, here’s what “Kirsten McMullen, chief privacy officer at mobile ad firm 4Info” tells AdAge:

Marketers and consumers have both become “way more comfortable with location data being used,” Ms. McMullen said.

The punchline and payload?:

[S]he also added, “Consumers remain largely unaware of it.

Of course they do, but it doesn’t stop the professional DoubeThink required for Ms. McMullen to keep doing her job.

Meanwhile, as its design ensures, corporate capitalism continues its bold march toward stronger and better market-totalitarian behavioral engineering:

While 4Info argues that using store visit data to gauge ad effectiveness is less relevant than measuring actual purchase transactions, which the company does for most of its packaged-goods advertiser clients, Mr. Moxley acknowledged the value of mobile location data for measuring mobile ad campaigns.

“The key to the mobile device is it goes everywhere,” he said. “Nobody carries their TV into the store.”

Quite so, and, as TCT always says, history’s state totalitarians must be looking up from Hades purple-faced, jealous over this deniable system’s ability to keep on rolling. Soviet citizens in 1982 would never have blithely walked around with little Brezhnev boxes in their pockets, or would at least have known who they were serving by doing so. Here, it’s “freedom.”

Marketing to Babies

Chobani Packaging Image Non-Greek “Greek yogurt” peddler Chobani is, according to Advertising Age, gearing up to push their hyper-packaged melted ice cream-ish goop onto babies and toddlers.

The cause is the usual one — the system, a.k.a. corporate capitalist normalcy.

The beginning point is the refusal to countenance price-cutting:

Greek has enjoyed a price premium over regular yogurt, but that has started to erode as competition increases. Mr. McGuinness [Chobani’s chief marketing and brand officer] pledged that Chobani would not go below a dollar per cup, saying Chobani is an “aspirational” brand.

Quite so. Despite the absolute centrality of “natural prices” in Adam Smith’s classic (though not uncritical) attempt to justify capitalism, actual capitalists, as Smith knew but failed to think through, despise price competition:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

If you know your history, you know that, as soon as they were big and strong enough, major investors convinced legislatures to allow them to grow their firms to sizes and scopes that made co-respective pricing (a.k.a. inflation) the new norm. Why would Chobani give up that privilege at this late, market-totalitarian date?

From there, it’s a matter of solving and re-solving the usual business problem, competition via mushrooming, metastasizing marketing efforts within stagnant, mature markets:

The launch [of Chobani Tots] comes as the once-skyrocketing Greek yogurt category begins to show signs of maturity. Slowing growth rates have sparked a market share battle among Chobani, Yoplait, Dannon and other brands. As a result, market leader Chobani can no longer rely on overall category growth to fuel sales and must fight harder to win customers.

“It’s harder in the Greek yogurt category to lead than it used to be,” Mr. McGuinness said during his presentation. Still, the marketer sees opportunity because Greek yogurt’s U.S. household penetration is still just 37%.

The human effects include the usual expansion of marketing efforts to condition humans who cannot yet talk or think:

Chobani wants babies to go Greek. The yogurt maker, which helped pioneer Greek yogurt in the U.S., will target tykes with a new product called Chobani Tots. It’s slated to hit stores in January.

A Worthy Read

richtel-book-imageTCTers may recall the actual journalism of Matt Richtel. Turns out, he has now shaped his work on the politics of distracted driving into a pretty fascinating book, A Deadly Wandering.

It reveals not only the forces promoting the form of mass murder known as “the connected car,” but reviews some pretty important research into the interface between technology and brain science. Both these topics speak volumes about the ruinous direction of human culture under corporate capitalism.

To that point, Richtel quotes David Strayer, the ex-GTE engineer turned safety crusader. While still employed by GTE (now Verizon), Strayer discovered proof that cell phone usage by automobile drivers was wildly and obviously dangerous. The reply of his bosses was, Strayer recalls, this:

Why would we want to know this? That will not help us sell anything.

marx This is not only Fred Taylor-level system voicing, but also a pretty direct confirmation of Karl Marx’s analysis of Mr. Moneybags’ core worldview and ethical status:

Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence, Capital is heedless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.