On the way to dropping my son at school this morning we heard an ad for a fast-food restaurant that was boasting “hand-mashed” guacamole.
“That’s sounds kind of gross,” I said.
“Especially if it’s mashed by dirty hands,” my son added.
“Ewww” we both shouted.
Why would the advertiser think that was a desirable trait? It reminded me of the same discussion of Grandma’s mashed potatoes from last week, and the underlying values we assign in society.
Values in any society are the central “shoulds” and “oughts.” Values are deeply embedded and consciously or unconsciously control our behaviors on a daily basis. Values vary from culture to culture; how values are expressed vary from culture to culture, and the same action in two different cultures might not trace back to the same value.
One culture may value individualism and competition (for example USAmerican Culture). Another culture may value group and collaboration (for example, Japanese culture). Individuals from both cultures may work equally hard (the action) but for one it’s for personal gain, for the other it may be so the group succeeds–the underlying value is different.
On the flip side, two individuals may intend to show deep respect for another person. In one culture deep respect is demonstrated by direct, steady eye contact; in another culture, the ultimate show of respect is avoiding eye contact. You can imagine the misunderstandings or tension that might underlie an exchange between people of these different backgrounds.
But back to my guacamole. The underlying value here and with the potatoes is that something made by hand, as opposed to a machine, is better. It hearkens back to a day when automated assistance (aka kitchen gadgets) weren’t as readily available, restaurants and convenience foods weren’t an option, and “home made” was often the only option.
And my question is…does that value still hold true in USAmerican Society? We like fresh, we like healthy, but we like convenience. We want it now. We like time spent with our mom, not time she spends hidden in a kitchen.
Marketers spend oodles of time thinking about marketing to international cultures. But maybe it’s time to reevaluate the changing values of society, and how we are marketing to consumers here at home.
For me, I’d be more tempted by the potatoes from the Chef at Mon Ami Gabi, and I’d rather not think too deeply how you made my guacamole. What about you?
Photo Credit: Whatscookingamerica.net