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Seeing Through the Mists of Marketing

In today’s Chronicle, an article on Humboldt Fog cheese begins with this passage:

Few American artisan cheeses created in recent years have penetrated the national market like Humboldt Fog. Whether because of its striking appearance or superior flavor, consumers have embraced this unusual goat cheese with ash in the middle.
In supermarkets that make no pretense of offering a quality cheese selection, there’s Humboldt Fog. On the menus of small-town restaurants aiming for a little sophistication, there’s Humboldt Fog. Cheesemaker Mary Keehn says she felt she had really arrived when an acquaintance told her about seeing the cheese in Europe.

The secret to Humboldt Fog’s above-average success is not that secret: it’s marketing, pure and simple. Doubtless, there are countless cheeses on the market that offer a similarly superior flavor, quite possibly for less money.

But Humboldt Fog has the gimmick: a layer of ash through the middle and ash in the rind. Now, ash isn’t enough — there are other ash cheeses. So thus, the name, “Humboldt Fog,” which evokes the mysterious romance of California’s northern coast. So the name provides the hook, the necessary fillip that takes this cheese from being one of many tasty artisan cheeses (that all tend to blur together to any but the most ardent connoisseur) to one that stands out.

It’s classic branding really.

I bring it up because I find, at least in the user experience community, an unfortunate baby-with-the-bathwater mentality when it comes to marketing… Because so much marketing *is* bad, and so many marketers *are* clueless, there’s a tendency to dismiss marketing altogether. But Humboldt Fog points out the brilliance of good marketing, the elevation of a truly quality product to a distinct, must-have item.

  1. There is nothing misterious about marketing. Nor philosophical or moral; good or bad. It is America’s gift to pragmatism. It either sells or it doesn’t.

    Bring on your stinky cheeses, oily chardonnays, clunky movies and rollover SUVs. Without the successful marketing of useless products America would just be another Third World country.

  2. Did you ever stop to consider that user experience IS marketing? Marketing is, in essence, finding out what people really want, and giving it to them. How is that different from user experience? From my POV, user experience is just one more marketing tool, like advertising, like PR, like merchandising. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  3. Marketing is America’s gift to pragmatism? Huh? Marketing is finding out what people want and giving it to them? Huh? Marketing is America’s (and the rest of the non-third world’s) way of flogging goods that nobody ever needed in the first place, but are now convinced they must-have. Marketing is responsible for visual and audio pollution of the worst kind, using up valuable resources in order to scream at us every moment of every day. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest Peter.

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