A Worthy Read

enjoy The New York Times does have its moments, despite its basic nature and attendant bias. Forthcoming in the Sunday magazine is a robust expose, excerpted from reporter Michael Moss’s forthcoming book, of corporate food marketing. It seems fairly packed with high quality evidence of what Marla Singer mentioned (via Veblen) yesterday: big businesses view prospective customers as so many units to be engineered for profit.

Take the case of standard practice at the Coca-Cola corporation, described by one of its former marketing executives as not having “a sense of humor when it comes to this stuff. They’re a very, very aggressive company.” Moss reports more of what this ex-Cokester admitted to him:

One of the other executives I spoke with at length was Jeffrey Dunn, who, in 2001, at age 44, was directing more than half of Coca-Cola’s $20 billion in annual sales as president and chief operating officer in both North and South America. In an effort to control as much market share as possible, Coke extended its aggressive marketing to especially poor or vulnerable areas of the U.S., like New Orleans — where people were drinking twice as much Coke as the national average — or Rome, Ga., where the per capita intake was nearly three Cokes a day. In Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta, the biggest consumers were referred to as “heavy users.” “The other model we use was called ‘drinks and drinkers,’ ” Dunn said. “How many drinkers do I have? And how many drinks do they drink? If you lost one of those heavy users, if somebody just decided to stop drinking Coke, how many drinkers would you have to get, at low velocity, to make up for that heavy user? The answer is a lot. It’s more efficient to get my existing users to drink more.”

One of Dunn’s lieutenants, Todd Putman, who worked at Coca-Cola from 1997 to 2001, said the goal became much larger than merely beating the rival brands; Coca-Cola strove to outsell every other thing people drank, including milk and water. The marketing division’s efforts boiled down to one question, Putman said: “How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?” (In response to Putman’s remarks, Coke said its goals have changed and that it now focuses on providing consumers with more low- or no-calorie products.)

If you believe Coke’s goals and methods have changed, TCT can also get you a really sweet deal on the Brooklyn Bridge…