Consider the Peanut Butter Jar

In an age when product containers can easily and almost costlessly be shaped at the whim of their issuers, why does peanut butter continue to come in tall jars rather than squat tubs?

A corporate PR department would surely assert that it’s because that’s what people are used to and expect.

That, of course, is 99% horse feathers.

The real reason is salable waste, aka planned osolescence.

Tall, narrow containers make it needlessly difficult to use all the sticky, amorphous gels residing in them. This structural difficulty, in turn, leads to a small but meaningful amount of the peanut butter being throw away, rather than used. It means, on average, people buy the next jar of peanut butter a day earlier than they would if the stuff came in a short, wide tub that permitted easy access to the last portions.

If you have been around big-brand peanut butter lately, you’ll know that this point stands double. Nationally advertised peanut butter jars are not just tall cylinders, but, within that form, are fairly riddled with flanges and recesses that heighten the difficulty of using the last spoonfuls. Why?

Again, there’s only one plausible answer — the obvious one: Corporate capitalist product planners want us to throw away some of what they know we want and need.

Interestingly, this very example was apparently central to the career of Brooks Stevens, the industrial designer who first publicly enunciated/acknowledged the concept of “planned obsolescence.” Here is how Stevens, near the end of his life, explained his early entry into a field in which he eventually became a superstar:

Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches inspired one of Brooks Stevens’s simplest and most ubiquitous designs.

“I loved peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches,” Mr. Stevens says. But the jars the peanut butter came in were tall with small caps. “I could never get the peanut butter out of the shoulders of the jar.”

“So I squared up the jar,” he recalls. “And then I made the opening the full diameter of the width of the jar, so that it was a big circle and had a big cap. Then you could get it all out of there.”

The obvious question for Stevens was why he stopped there. Why not go from jar to tub?

The answer was inherent in the job description of the modern corporate capitalist product engineer:

[The industrial designer] has to be a salesman, an engineer, a manufacturer — in the sense of knowledgeable about process and materials — and an artist, and in that order.

-Brooks Stevens to The Chroncile of Higher Education, September 16, 1992

It bears repeating, and remembering: Salesman, then engineer…in that order.

Facebook’s One True Fear

According to The Washington Post, as a move in its defense against now-pending anti-trust litigation, Facebook has recently done this:

In an attempt to illustrate its commitment to competition, the company’s top lawyers signaled that they would be open to changing some of its business practices, according to three people familiar with the matter. One of the ideas Facebook floated would have allowed another firm or developer to license access to its powerful code — and its users’ intricate web of relationships — so that they could more easily create their own version of a social network, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity

The Washington Post, December 22, 2020

The Post, of course, never for a second considers what this action ultimately discloses. Yes, Facebook dislikes being sued for excessive market power, as this report has it. But what Facebook really fears is the utterly obvious thing that would actually kill it: a public, not-for-profit version of itself.

As this Post report confirms, Facebook will be quite happy to have its would-be competitors arise from the private sector. That’s because the private sector will never dare do the things the public-sector would do as a matter of course — and hence will never do more than slightly dent Facebook’s artificial dominance.

Only if and when the public modernizes the United States Postal Service and includes in that effort a non-commercial, reliably private forum for quick interpersonal internet communication will Facebook’s empire face its true comeuppance.

Alas, in our almost completely corporate media ecology, this simple prospect — despite surely being an object of serious worry inside the Facebook boardroom — remains unmentioned and unmentionable.

McKinsey Caught Shredding

papers burning

In its work on behalf of Purdue Pharma, the corporate consulting agency McKinsey left a stray end: It forgot to delete the emails in which its executives agreed to commence shredding evidence of their work perpetuating a profitable addiction.

Here is what The New York Times reports, from the court records:

Though McKinsey has not been charged by the federal government or sued, it began to worry about legal repercussions in 2018, according to the documents. After Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Purdue, Martin Elling, a leader for McKinsey’s North American pharmaceutical practice, wrote to another senior partner, Arnab Ghatak: “It probably makes sense to have a quick conversation with the risk committee to see if we should be doing anything” other than “eliminating all our documents and emails. Suspect not but as things get tougher there someone might turn to us.”

Mr. Ghatak, who also advised Purdue, replied: “Thanks for the heads up. Will do.”

This revelation is rare, but the behavior it documents certainly is not. Not the least proof of this is the nonchalance of the Ghatak reply to Elling’s idea: Not “Wait!, ” or “What…?,” or “please explain,” but this: “Thanks for the heads up. Will do.”

To say that this little report speaks volumes is to belabor the obvious.

One of the pertinent lesssons here is confirmation of the fact that we will never know the full degree and dimension of our ruling elite’s plans to keep killing for money. Records have been destroyed.

The Actual Use of Corporate Capital

Any guesses what this graphic depicts?:

That is the percentage of free cash flow the firms included in the S&P 500 Index spent across the 2010s buying back their own shares, according to Bloomberg Business Week.

This is not an error or an optical illusion.

To say it again: From 2010 through 2019, U.S.-based big businesses, as a group, spent more than half their net profits buying back claims to their own future profits — i.e. helping their future shareholders extract even more wealth from forthcoming corporate endeavors. More than half.

Compare this fact to your Adam Smith model, pro-capitalist friends.

Marching Orders

TCT got started by pointing out the relationship between marketing and mainstream politics in the United States. Since power concedes nothing without an adequate demand, this has hardly changed in the past 12 years.

As a service to your own sanity in this latest season of “politics,” TCT encourages all its friends to acquaint themselves with the Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future.

This front group is the obvious-but-unreported locus from which the petty-elite that still runs the Democratic Party takes its main position in the upcoming 2020 marketing contest.

The nature of the thing is not difficult to discern, for those few of us lucky enough to know how to locate the relevant facts within our corporate media ecology’s maelstrom of distractions and diversions.

With Joe Biden, the DP elite is showing itself to be entirely willing to lose the next election by running the most hagged-out candidate in its long history of running hagged-out candidates, rather than sever such ties.

This, in the year 2020, against the supposedly hated Trump.

Cities as Spyware

Have you heard about “smart cities”? Guess what? They are a marketing research operation.

This, of course, is no surprise to those of us hip to what corporate capitalism really is. By its nature, it fuels an ever-growing marketing race, which itself requires more and more spaces, places, experiences, and entities to become platforms for commodity-promotion.

Consider LinkNYC. It is run by Intersection, which is a corporate marketing agency.

Here is how Intersection’s Chief Revenue Officer describes LinkNYC, which, again, his firm runs:

With award-winning products like LinkNYC, the largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi network in the world, Intersection connects the digital and physical worlds, enhancing people’s journeys through their cities and offering brands the opportunity to drive more relevant and engaging advertising, rooted in real-world context.

Source: Advertising Age, June 20, 2019

So, yes, sports fans, the moment has arrived: American towns and cities are now themselves data-gathering tools for our behavior-engineering overclass. Big business marketing is now bigger than the biggest metropolises, which it now treats as just another deployable asset.

All, of course, with the help of our dear liberal leaders.