Bran(d)ing Food

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It took me awhile to get into cereal, as a kid. It just didn’t excite me. And we had plenty of bread products around. Also, oatmeal.

When I finally came around, one of the great bonuses, I thought, were the health benefits. And it only got better when I started sampling – and more regularly consuming – these cereals that I thought were meant for grandparents. Fiber One was one of those cereals. And I put cereals like this in the same category as prunes – great for you and great to ensure your system runs smoothly on all cylinders.

I find marketing and branding infinitely interesting. What do you choose to – or not to – share about what you have and what it does? What do people choose to – or not to – listen to and what do they choose to care about, reflected through the decisions they make with their actions, their time, and their currency of choice?

Every situation is a bit different. Different people have different perceptions, which are influenced by a whole host of things that ultimately boils down to what they have experienced and what people tell them.

This morning I was looking at a box of Fiber One, and read what you see in the photo above, “With Whole Grain First Ingredient.” My first thought: what a funny thing to put on a box.

As I thought back to my experience as a cereal consumer, a consumer of information about cereal and of food in general, and my interest in marketing and communications, the next logical place to go? The ingredients.

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And there it was, Whole Grain Wheat (first ingredient). Then, Corn Bran, Modified Wheat Starch, Xanthan Gum, Color Added, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Baking Soda, Aspartame, and then a whole slew of vitamins and minerals.

I could not have told you (before I looked each of them up), what most of these ingredients are or mean. And now that I do, they are fillers, but mostly harmless.

To contrast, while snooping around a farmer’s market the other day in New Haven, I came across an interesting breakfast product: quinoa oatmeal strawberry cereal [made by Garden Fresh Baby in Westport, CT]. An appropriately named product in that what’s-in-the-name is the same as what’s-in-the-package.

What does the marketing, communications, and branding of food look like in the future? Will whole food products have names that are greater than the sum of their parts? Or do people just need a reminder of what’s inside straight away once they are in the space of certain brands they trust?

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Addendum: Admittedly, I have never done much reading into various ingredients in processed foods. Here are several articles I found of interest for corn bran, modified food starch, xanthan gum, and aspartame. The article on aspartame is particularly good food for thought given how studied and talked about this food sweetener has been over the years.

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Auto Communication

I’ve never been much of a driver. From the beginning, I was not in a rush to get my license. I learned for functional purposes.

When moving from point A to point B, I generally prefer to be a passenger whenever possible. Be it by plane, train, or automobile, I enjoy time spent on the road, traveling alone, surrounded by strangers. On the road is where I do some of my best thinking. It’s right up there with the thinking I do while washing dishes or folding laundry.

If we were having this conversation a year ago, I might have told you I hate driving. But with more time spent behind the wheel over the past year – for functional purposes – I’ve seen the finer sides of driving, and appreciate it for the different type of quality time it provides for me, myself, and I.

While on a 2+ hour drive just yesterday, I got to thinking about driving as one of the most solitary social activities I know.

There’s something about the focused solitude of driving, especially when driving for distance. Yet there is a slightly interesting social aspect. On the one hand you’re completely cut off from everyone else – at least verbally – yet everybody’s in it together.

As drivers, we don’t talk, but we do interact. It starts with the car we drive – the color, shape, and make – to how we change lanes, the speed at which we drive, the way we maneuver with more cars around, and how we accommodate others. This all contributes to our driving personality or attitude, a reflection of us. Naturally, this may fluctuate and even change over time.

I had an interesting conversation with someone today, who told me how her driving job changed her. With a significant influx in alone time, she had a great opportunity to think and reflect. With more frequent and longer stretches behind the wheel, she more closely observed how others drove and  how she drove, which led her to consider, “what kind of a driver am I?”

She was not aggressive and thought of herself as a rather courteous driver. But after she started driving for a living she chose to be more proactively courteous. Why be that driver when she could be even more go with the flow?

So what kind of driver are you? Beyond getting from A to B, what does does driving do for you? And what does your driving communicate about you to others?

When Time Becomes Irrelevant

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We often talk about time being the scarce resource it is, but isn’t it funny that it is probably one of the hardest things to measure, or even keep track of where it goes?

Circling back to Movember for a moment, when engaging one of our program leaders in a conversation about joining in the cause and the EWC team, he was a bit hesitant. It had been a long time since he had shaven, and while I thought I had gotten attached to my beard after a handful of months, for Lance it had been years.

But the thing is, between him and Christina, they couldn’t exactly agree on the general time frame for when the beard stuck.

Maybe Lance was pretty clear on the general time frame and didn’t feel the need to pinpoint. And maybe it was just a fun exchange, cycling back through history, slightly challenging to pinpoint the exact timing in that moment. But sometimes these dates just get a little fuzzy, especially with stuff like this that isn’t exactly of paramount importance, despite their appearance.

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When you search “time” in google images, you can probably imagine the number of clocks that might appear in the results. But that would have been far and away the easy way out. Up until this point in selecting images for my posts, I usually find several to chose from, but am oftentimes ultimately drawn to one particular image. Time was a much more difficult choice than expected. Maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate other images at some point … in time. Which got me thinking, time is a pretty interesting concept that crosses a myriad of topics.

But we’re here to give mention to Time Warped, a book by Claudia Hammond. While you’ll find plenty of reviews with a quick search, here’s the overview from the spot where I found the image, posted on the Barnes & Noble website:

Why does life speed up as we get older? Why does the clock in your head sometimes move at a different speed from the one on the wall? Time rules our lives, but how much do we understand it? And is it possible to retrain our brains and improve our relationship with it?

Drawing on the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and biology, and using original research on the way memory shapes our understanding of time, the acclaimed writer and BBC broadcaster Claudia Hammond delves into the mysteries of time perception. Along the way, she introduces us to an extraordinary array of characters willing to go to great lengths in the interests of research, including the French speleologist Michel Siffre, who spends two months in an ice cave in complete darkness.

Time Warped offers insight into how to manage our time more efficiently, speed time up and slow it down at will, plan for the future with more accuracy, and, ultimately, use the warping of time to our own advantage.