There are times when we have been thinking about something for a while, muse about it, and then the moment of truth strikes when we know we have to raise our voice. For me this moment was when I read an article on Adage titled “How to reach Muslim women (Hint: They’re not an aesthetic)”. The arguments presented in the article are over simplified and I will be gentle in my criticism of the female writer cutting her some slack for her young age. Nevertheless, why can’t they be an aesthetic? I didn’t quite understand what the writer meant by the hint.
“Micro moments really matter to users because small niggling problems, which they know can be fixed, drive them more mad than bigger problems. Feelings of empathy towards the brand can make users a little forgiving when it comes to big problems.”
We regularly get our bread from Jalal Sons and do most of our shopping at its DHA Phase 5 outlet. This is the first time I have come across such a horrible experience with the store in the years of being their loyal customer. My husband and I got a little used to eating good quality bread in the UK and in Pakistan we found Jalal Sons to be doing a reasonable job at making bread. Just that my experience on June 26th 2015 of buying the famous Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn from Jalal Sons makes me want to question so much. Different expiry dates were displayed on the popcorn box containing three bags of popcorn, the outside flaps of the individual popcorn bags and the inside flaps of the popcorn bags. How is that even possible with a brand of ConAgra Foods? I opened up the packaging in the kitchen and told my daughter that the popcorn is bad so she wouldn’t be able to eat it. She didn’t question me because she saw the condition of the butter soaked packaging of the popcorn. We like to eat healthy food in our house and popcorn is an occasional treat for the kids. Why opt for Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn? Because it is healthier than the other popcorn brands available in local stores.
The popcorn box has a printed label of ‘Best by June 13 2016’ displayed on it. Sounds safe to eat. The popcorn bags inside the box tell a different story with a label of ‘Best by March 2016’. Still safe to eat but how come the stamps are all placed in different positions on the bags? How come the bags have a different expiry date from the box? Hmmmm. Upon opening the bags, the moment of truth happens. The stamp of one of the three inside flaps is smudged ((B) – Gosh! its the expired butter I tell you), another inside flap is stamped ‘Best by July 2014’ (A) and the third one is stamped ‘Best by August 2014’ (C). Does it sound like a world famous brand of popcorn to you? The inconsistency is uncanny and frightening.
This incident takes place just when I thought that I have had enough with food quality and related marketing issues in Pakistan. Last year I coauthored a business case study on the removal of McDonald’s breakfast tagline of “the world’s best breakfast” from their marketing campaigns. Speaking at the seminar on World Competition Day 2014 on the topic of “Unfair trade practices and loss to consumer welfare”, arranged by the Competition Commission of Pakistan, I spoke about how the consumer in Pakistan is undoubtedly at a loss by malpractices of big players and small ones. I want to be proven wrong but I am still looking for evidence against my argument.
Who is responsible for printing the conflicting expiry dates on the outside and inside of this popcorn box? Is there a factory somewhere in some obscure part of Punjab that prints millions by faking expiry dates? Even the glue on the packaged box of popcorn was anything but original. Branded packaged boxes open in a user friendly way. You don’t have to fight with the box in order to open it well. The entire experience makes me feel like not eating anything – bread, popcorn – anything.
I question as a Pakistani customer about my rights to safety and getting the value that I pay for. Sometimes people have referred to me as a consumer rights activist and I do feel that brands have an obligation to deliver on the brand promise. I am willing to pay more money to Jalal Sons only for getting better quality. The equation makes perfect sense if price premium actually comes with better quality. Its a call for action for everyone to check the expiry dates on every product and in every layer of the packaging vigilantly. Who wants to put poison in a bowl for their loved ones? No sane parent for sure! I would urge everyone who reads this to share the message so that more people are aware of malpractices. I thought of writing this as an open letter to the CEO of Jalal Sons but much to my dismay all the links in the “About Us” section on the website of Jalal Sons are in Latin! (http://www.jalalsons.com.pk/index.php?_a=viewDoc&docId=15). The website also has western models only!
If you have come across similar malpractices, please share your experiences. Lets help more people make better decisions about what they eat.
A few years ago we thought of running a blog which would be called www.whataneyesore.com. The idea originated from the poor aesthetics in general and design sense (graphic, visual and UX) in particular that Pakistani marketing collateral suffers from. Most of the creative works are an eyesore. They hurt your senses, your mood, and sometimes make you angry somewhere deep inside. While we maybe doing somewhat decent work in TV advertising and print materials in terms of creativity and skill, the story of digital marketing in Pakistan is a dark one with websites that are shabbily designed and basic information like contact numbers (common sense anyone?) are hard to find. Eventually we decided to pursue more constructive things than this blog as eyesores were too many which would have resulted in content overload. There was so much wonderful stuff that we could create at Obscure UX and that is just what we did.
Who is paying so much to agencies of all sizes to create such eyesores?! We have too many companies suffering at the hands of agencies who do not care about reputation, lack a belief system, and would sell their soul for making a quick buck. I thought of visiting the grand mall that Alfatah launched in Lahore only recently near the all famous Hussain Chowk of Gulberg. The Mall has it all from a Pakistani standard – groceries, imported and local brands, various floors that are categorised thoughtfully, but this flyer was something worth sharing. This is what happens to a brand with a reasonable size in retail but limited experience in marketing communications.
According to Christensen, Cook & Hall (2005), “Much advertising is wasted in the mistaken belief that it alone can build brands. Advertising cannot build brands, but it can tell people about an existing branded product’s ability to do a job well.” Discuss.
Source: Christensen, C. M. & Cook, S. & Hall, T. (2005), Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure”, Harvard Business Review.