J500 Media and the Environment

Malcolm Gladwell: What We Can Learn from Spaghetti Sauce by genghiskuhn
March 11, 2008, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , ,

From Bryan Welch:

In this presentation, Malcolm Gladwell answers an important question that came up during my talk with your class. I’d love for you guys to see it!


3 Comments so far
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I object strongly to Gladwell’s position. By rejecting universals (the “hierarchy of mustards”), he tosses the baby out with the bathwater. Though there are a wide range of equally acceptable mustards, NOT all mustards are created equal. There are mustards whose production gives workers liver cancer and there are mustards that use racist marketing tactics(or maple syrups…hmmm).

For Gladwell, the market would justify these things if people want them- he never addresses problematic intersections of individual desires and ethical universals.

So where does this leave us in terms of niche media? The consumer can’t always be right, but it’s equally important not to force-feed irrelevant or fictional universals to them.

However, I believe that global climate change is important enough to merit aggressive media pushing, whether or not people want to hear it. Similarly, I would argue that candy-coating the message for niche markets is problematic because it distorts and cheapens the core ideals of the green movement. What if our hypothetical mustard(*coughUncleBen’sRicecough*) decided to only make their advertising campaigns slightly racist in order to not alienate consumers?

Boy, I should just get a bunch of T-shirts that say “I ❤ Big Government”.

John K

Comment by genghiskuhn

Like Genghis Kuhn, I wholeheartedly disagree with Gladwell’s premise but for different reasons (although John makes some points I agree with as well). Gladwell uses supermarket food as an example of companies repsonding to consumer demand and being fully cognizant of the nuance of taste and the diversitiy of shoppers. This is a poor example for him to use. If I’m shopping for breakfast cereal and there are 50 “varieties” of cereal but they all orginate with only 4 companies is that a true choice? Often iconic companies end up diluting their own core enterprises by implementing ill-conceived “brand expansions.” One example used in the book “Get Back in the Box” is the case of Coke 2. Not only was it a failure in market research (the same sort of segmentation, clustering, and focus group analysis that Gladwell advocates), but it was a significant brand dilution as well. You have to ask yourself if the “choice” is really just illusory.

-Vince Meserko

Comment by vincemeserko

Let’s extend that choice query a little further, shall we gentlemen? Take a look at this chart. What kinds of “choice” do mainstream media offer?

To Gladwell’s point, I want you to think about why Bryan asked us to take a look at this.

Gladwell says, “In embracing diversity, we will find a way to true happiness.” Coffee is a metaphor. . .as is pasta. And I don’t think he is suggesting that food is the path to salvation but, rather, that when we are given the opportunity to choose, we feel happier and empowered. False choice exists in the food industry and media, no doubt. But I think the overall message is valid and important to consider – from the opportunity to participate/ consume niche media to the choice to take this class.


Comment by j500

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