Friday, July 16, 2010

my cookie function is disabled

i recently purchased a package of cookies to eat while i was camping. unfortunately, i did not eat the cookies during my time sleeping in a tent. now, i have a package of cookies i purchased essentially because they looked fantastically awful and were made by a company with a ridiculous name. they're not exactly your average bad cookies either-they're chocolate chip sandwich cookies.

these wonders of generic product development combine mediocre chocolate chip cookies with mediocre sandwich cookies to produce something that is uniquely unpleasant to eat. i would argue that bad sandwich cookies, being something of a known phenomenon, are somewhat edible. bad chocolate chip cookies i'm not so sure about; it may be that i have simply never had chocolate chip cookies this tasteless.

the short-term solution to the cookie problem is to de-sandwich them. i have found it is much easier to eat something that is only one type of bad cookie than something that simultaneously hits two categories of disappointment. removing the filling from the sandwiches also creates a sort of visual mess which might distract from the taste of the remaining cookies. despite this minor improvement in the cookie consumption process, a larger and more permanent solution remains elusive.

it seems to me that i may need to start my own generic cookie business. the only real way to ensure that products that meet my highest standards of road-weary fatalism have a reasonably decent taste is to become the person who tastes the cookies before they go into the package. i can't imagine myself as a quality control taster or hired cookie chef, and so it's the ownership angle that i need to pursue.

with a little capital and some ambition, i think i can make a big impact in the discount cookie arena. the four keys to proper generic product development lie mainly in marketing. now, you may think this is counter-intuitive, because generic products are not advertised via television or bulk facsimile. however, that is precisely why good branding is crucial.

a good discount brand should be memorable, because the consumer will probably only engage with the brand at an actual store. first of all, imaginary and whimsical characters should be clearly associated with the product. they should be pictured on the package in a variety of primary and neon colors. the product name may ideally incorporate these characters, or they can merely be placed on the package to create an attention-getting incongruity. 'what do these graham crackers have to do with a purple giraffe,' people are saying to themselves - and that is when they've been gotten by the generic machine.

building off of the character idea, it is important to focus on packaging. often, the market leader in the field of, say, tortilla chips has determined a look and feel for the category that many will imitate. while this is not entirely a problem, the use of unusual colors (and characters!) will help ensure that your product is noticed.

once you have the consumer's attention, the biggest remaining elements lie in the food itself. concept and execution are key here. yes, it may be a great idea to make chocolate chip sandwich cookies. that purely ridiculous idea certainly got my attention. generics should be adventurous, their bare-bones corporate backers willing to take risks that larger companies would not, creating flavors and designs that seem obvious to anyone working without the encumbrance of a massive corporate decision-making process. don't just imitate, but you don't need to innovate. simply give people what seems obviously like a good idea.

oh, and last of all: try tasting the product before it hits stores.

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