With the relentless onslaught of corporate chains gobbling up Mom n’ Pop stores, people are yearning for simpler days. You can no longer go to your local butchers or bakers to pick up the groceries, or pop to your local coffee shop to catch up with the neighborhood gossip. You can if you are rich and live in a neighborhood where independent stores can get away with ludicrous prices, otherwise you are stuck with Safeways and Starbucks. It’s not exactly rustic living, and the masses are getting tired of it.
So what does corporate America do to satiate consumer demand for ‘the real thing’? Simple – put the word ‘handmade’, ‘handcrafted’ and ‘artisanal’ in front of their products, and voila – we’re back to the good ol’ days when stuff was made by real people!
The word ‘Fizzio’ sounds European, and Starbucks employees will make these sodas themselves (or by hand). No longer will your local Starbucks feel like a 1990’s IKEA kitchen, but authentic soda store in an Italian piazza!
The problem is, everything else is ‘handcrafted’ in Starbucks. Baristas make the coffees, the frappaccinos, the hot teas, and even ‘hand pour’ the tap water you get after overdosing on caffeine.
But by putting ‘handcrafted’ etc etc in front of it, you are reminding customers that a real human made the drink, and is therefore a premium product even when it isn’t.
The possibilities are endless:
“Handcrafted sandwiches” – not made by sandwich robots(?).
“Artisanal legal advice” – legal advice from a real lawyer
“Handmade auto repairs” – get your car fixed by an actual person
“Handcrafted articles” – reporting done by a human writer
“Rustic hairdressing” – hair cuts by an old (vintage) person
In the world of mass marketing, it doesn’t really matter whether saying ‘handcrafted’ is just pointing out the obvious, it’s the connotation that counts. Just as the ‘fat free’ label on products like pretzels makes people think they’ll lose weight if they eat them, associating authenticity with whatever you are selling will help you sell more.
When will this latest fad end? When enough people call bullshit and learn to accept the fact that everything they eat comes from a mega corporation anyway. Who knows, perhaps ‘corporate made’ will become a thing. It’s kinda retro, no?
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.