What that Food Display is Saying
OK, food doesn’t really talk.
But, according to marketing visionary and consumer advocate Martin Lindstrom, food displays actively communicate product claims:
- Fish that is displayed on a bed of crushed ice is signaling that it’s fresh.
- Bananas that are bathed in a specific Pantone shade of yellow light communicate that they’re ripe.
- Chocolate that is packaged in uneven-sized chunks is telling us it’s handmade.
- And let’s not even talk about what those sacks of “local” potatoes that the Five Guys burger chain stacks up on the floor of their restaurants are saying!
These are just a few of the non-verbal techniques that food displays in super chains like Whole Foods or Trader Joes use to convince us that their products are high-quality, local, homey, and hip.
In many cases, those things aren’t true: The fish are frozen, the bananas were picked green, and the chocolate was chopped in the same massive factory that made it.
But we believe what we see (and what we want to believe), because our brains are wired that way.
If You Can’t Trust a Food Display…
I know it’s a stretch to claim that food displays — or at least the marketers who made them — are engaged in deceptive communications practices.
After all, why shouldn‘t a retailer show his or her wares in the best possible light?
Isn’t this what we all do when we adopt Public Speaking Avatars or powerful postures to help us project our very best selves?
But somehow, hearing the gory details, I felt cheated. I wanted to believe that some chunky chocolate maker chunked the chocolate with her own hands — and I don’t like being played for a fool.
What Do “Truthy” Food Displays Say About Public Speaking?
I’m always exhorting my clients to
- Aim for truthfulness, not “truthiness.”
- To be as candid and authentic as possible.
- To proudly present what’s best in themselves, instead of pretending to be what they’re not.
But in a world of doctored food displays, I hope I’m giving them the right advice!