About 6 and a half years ago, I opened my kitchen cabinet to find General Mills wanted me to share my love of Cheerios on Facebook and I penned this rant. In the interim I have often thought of collecting all the meaningless advertising twaddle we are daily subjected to and scarcely even notice the null idiocy of. But every now and then, I find myself accidentally giving a moment’s thought to one of these banal, meaningless little mendacities and wondering how anyone can stand to be lied to in such obvious and meaningless ways without screaming (that’s changed for a lot of us after the 2016 Presidential election in the US).
So today, I open the cabinet and find Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farms (14 ozs of pure carbohydrates for only $3.89) asking, “Can a cookie be good for the soul?” and then in an underlined handwriting font they answer their own rhetorical question, “We think so.”
So, of course this doesn’t really mean anything. It is presumably meant to create a subliminal feeling of consanguinary warmth about the brand. But let’s be pedantic for a few moments and deconstruct this particular shard of bumf.
Can a cookie be good for the soul? Without wanting to go all Wittgenstein, let’s consider. What is the soul? Are we talking about a Christian soul here, concerned with getting to heaven and Jesus at the end of a good life? Or a Hindu one, striving for oneness with the Supreme Being? Or perhaps with a less religiously aligned soul that is conceived as being spiritual and non-material, or not even a spiritual soul but merely the spark of life animating our body, or one that is only a mental faculty of self-ness? Can any of these conceptions of soul be much concerned with Milano cookies? Can Milano cookies be good for any of these? Frankly, it’s hard to fathom. Let’s check the package and see if they have any soul-satisfying ingredients: hallucinogenic mushrooms maybe, or evanescent tea extracts?
Unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid), dark chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, chocolate liquor processed with alkali (Dutched), cocoa butter, butter oil, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), sugar, vegetable oils (palm and/or interesterified and hydrogenated soybean and/or hydrogenated cottonseed), eggs, contains 2 percent or less of: cornstarch, egg whites, dehydrated skim milk, salt, soy lecithin, natural flavors and leavening (baking soda).
So that’s probably a “no,” then.
But, “we think so.” So who are we? Some lone marketing genius in Pepperidge Farm’s advertising agency? The entire Packaged Goods marketing team at Pepperidge Farm? Perhaps the Marketing team polled all the employees of Pepperidge Farm or all of Campbell’s Soup which own Pepperidge Farm, together with Bolthouse Farms, Prego, V8, and Swanson brands to find out what they think about Milano cookies’ soul-benefiting qualities, so they speak with some authority when they claim, “we think so.”
I turn the package around and find the now ubiquitous exhortation of companies that are building so-called “communities” of brand lovers: “Share your love for Milano® cookies at: facebook.com/pepperidgefarmmilano.” And what do I learn when I get there?
There are a lot of discount sellers of Milano cookies. The majority of posts are from discount and coupon online stores offering Pepperidge Farms cookies at discounts. There are genuine lovers of Milano cookies who like them well enough to post comments to that effect on Facebook. Evidently not readers of Naomi Klein’s classic, No Logo.
So, having got this off my chest, we return to our regularly scheduled programming. I do have half a mind to continue collecting these ephemeral, meaningless, social-media-oriented, commercial earwigs and posting off-topic rants about them from time to time. Please let me know what you think…