Are you the kind of person who enjoys reading product packaging at the table?

I am. I’ll read anything, even if I don’t eat it. The story of how my natural Sea Salt gets from the sun drenched shores of the Mediterranean Sea to my table. The instructions on how to properly fold a US Flag as part of a Leann Rimes/US Flag promotion on the back of a Kelloggs Corn Flakes box. The exotic ingredients below the parrot on the beautiful label of a bottle of tangy Pickapeppa Sauce from Shooters Hill, Jamaica. (Mangoes and raisins? Mmmm.)

Recently I was reading the side of the Silk Soy Milk carton while having breakfast with my family, and found myself first educated, then disappointed and finally, offended.

Now don’t get me wrong. Silk has a great story, which I learned from reading the side of the carton. I quote, “Did you know that every delicious drop of silk is powered by clean, renewable wind energy?” On the carton I also discovered that Silk has 11 essential vitamins and minerals, natural Omega-3s and antioxidants, 20% less fat and calories than 1% milk, 30% of your daily calcium per serving, and 6.25grams of soy protein per serving.

So I’m thinking now I’m an expert on Silk Soy Milk. I could answer any Soy-based question they asked me on Jeopardy, even one in Final Jeopardy for all the marbles. I could be the lifeline a friend calls on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” when the question is “How many grams of protein are in an 8 oz. glass of Silk Soy Milk?”

And then I get to the “Test Your Soy-Q” side of the box. Man, am I ready to rock or what?

What follows is the actual copy on the carton (and as such I’m sure is Copyright 2008 by Silk or whoever owns it now):

  1. Silk is full of surprises — including some flavors and varieties you might not expect. Can you spot the imposter in a Silk Soymilk lineup?   A) Silk Light Vanilla   B) Silk Banana   C) Silk Chai   D) Silk Plus Fiber
  2. Silk’s so delicious, it’s easy to get carried away. However, Silk is not intended for use in:  A) Coffee   B) Macaroni & Cheese   C) The Bath   D) Smoothies
  3. Nine out of ten Silk drinkers agree that SIlk tastes best:   A) Nice and cold   B) Among friends   C) On weekends   D) All of the above

Not done learning? Good for you! Visit http://www.silksoymilk.com

Answers:

  1. B — Yes, we have no banana. But we do have Vanilla, Very Vanilla, Chocolate Mocha, Cofee, Plain and unsweetened — Plus a few more that we can’t squeeze on this carton. (Visit us online to learn more!)
  2. C — Although we’ve heard some stories.
  3. D — The tenth guy thinks it tastes best in the bath.

Shockingly, I didn’t get a single answer correct. So, why am I disappointed and offended by this cheesy yet innocuous piece of drivel on the side of a box of liquid squeezed out of a bean masquerading as the fluid produced by the mammary glands of a mammal?

Because as a marketer, I was disappointed that Silk wasted the most interactive, engaging element on their packaging with bad jokes and incompetent cross sell. As a customer, I’m offended because Silk enticed me with the tasty promise of ego gratification based on my ingestion of their product attributes and then made me feel stupid for swallowing it. (Plus, I know if I’d just studied the right material prior to the exam, my Soy-Q would be considerably higher than it is now. Oh, the shame, the shame!)

But really, aren’t I making too much of this? I thought I might be, which was why I held off writing this particular post. Until I read a post by Seth Godin the other day about political spin, media outlets and marketers. Speaking of politicians lying, he says, “The spinners lie constantly. They lie with a straight face. They lie sentence after sentence, relentlessly…we don’t really know what to do in the face of non-stop lying. Is this person an alien? Do they think we’re stupid? How are we supposed to respond to the onslaught of disrespect?”

“Do they think we’re stupid?” And then it hit me. I felt personally disrespected by the Silk Soy Milk box.

Sure, as a marketer I care that Silk missed an opportunity to interactively engage their customers. And that if they’d actually asked some interesting and even challenging questions, customers might actually have been “Not done learning?” and “visited us online to learn more!”, thereby increasing site visits, deepening relationship and creating more and better developed opportunities for cross sell and product trial.

But why I’m really offended, what I really care about, is that they have so little respect for me, as a customer, that they think they can treat me like an idiot, and I’ll lap it up. It’s the same way I feel when Ellen Degeneres, whom I adore, tries to tell me that she doesn’t have any “people” who can get her into a Beyonce concert in that stupid American Express commercial. (Full Disclosure:  I have multiple Amex Cards, I love the company, and I wish Ellen and Portia all the best in their marriage.)

These are not companies who are ignorant of customer relationships. Far from it — both were built because they understood what their customers wanted and gave them something other companies did not. And they usually engage with their customers and prospects in an intelligent way. (After all, it’s not like we’re not talking about Budweiser, here.)

So can someone please explain to me why even good marketers sometimes create advertising that assumes their customers are too stupid to tell when they’re being treated like morons?

Comments
  1. Chris Moran says:

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Jeff says:

    Thanks, Chris. I look forward to writing more for you to read:)

  3. Renee says:

    too bad they were too in love with their cleverness to get their message across.

    Renee

  4. Josef Katz says:

    Jeff,
    I think this was one of your best posts yet. I can only guess that they thought they were creating a fun personality with their quiz. Obviously they didn’t take a holistic approach and step back and realize they were mixing humor (or attempted humor) with the previous educational content. I would chalk this up to bad judgment on someones part.

  5. jlsimons says:

    Thanks Renee and Josef. I think one of the occupational hazards of copywriting, and having been a copywriter I can speak with some experience, is falling in love with a line that’s clever or funny to you but not so much to others. I’d write more, but my bathtub full of soy milk is ready and waiting. Gotta go before it gets too tepid. (See what I mean? Not funny at all.)

  6. […] Coffee: Silk Soy Products have really come a long way. It looks like “coffee,” is cropped in this pic. Think […]

  7. jlsimons says:

    Hi Veg of the Week. Thanks for the mention. I loved your post on Truffle Oil. I like it on brown rice.

  8. Princess says:

    I thought you had something worth while to report. Instead you ramble on about what silk soy has on their box. Great you are no better than silk soy. Because this was just stupid. I’m sorry, but as long as silk soy is delicious and they keep all negative stuff off of the box, I don’t care what they write on it. And if you keep wasting your time on this trivial stuff you’re going to give yourself an ulcer.

    • jlsimons says:

      Thanks for your comment, Princess, even though it’s pretty insulting. But I was happy to know people are still reading this post which is over a year old. It’s true what they say: the internet is forever.

      Now, let’s address your comment. The “some thing worthwhile I had to report” isn’t a report at all, but rather my own informed perspective as a marketer on the marketing and advertising aspects of Silk’s packaging. Silk spends a lot of money on their marketing efforts, and I believe they could get more value from those efforts and create deeper customer engagement by using that space more effectively.

      As for ineffective marketing spending being trivial, I respectively suggest to you that the billions spent in packaging and marketing of the products you take for granted is hardly trivial.

      Finally, I’d like to thank you for being so interested in my health. Ulcers are no laughing matter — do you have any other advice that might help me avoid getting one?

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