ads without products

the opposite of branded, didactic by accident, impersonal bread

with 2 comments


Print Magazine has a short feature on the Aldi supermarket chain, which it refers to at one point as a “Modernist 99-cent store.” Unfortunately, I can’t find it online, but I’ll type a bit of it up. The person talking in the quotes is “Susan Sellers, partner at the design firm 2X4.”

But once inside the sliding glass doors, we are surrounded by piles – literally piles – of food. Unbranded, unrecognizable, stacked on shipping pallets and in cardboard boxes. No yellow wall of Cheerios, just “toasted oats” on brown boxes: one size, one brand, for almost half the price. No freezers of Ben & Jerry’s, just giant tubs of chocolate and vanilla.

We feel lost.

“Maybe [they] don’t understand that here in the U.S., generic packaging – Helvetica, white, that sort of thing – has this association with the opposite of branded,” Sellers says.

She takes a loaf of bread, swaddled in cellophane, off an eight-crate-high rack. “This is efficient, but it isn’t simple enough to convey freedom from chaos.”

[…]

“Trader Joe’s is about cheap stuff too, but they cultivate a personality. The aesthetic is folksy – like Southwest Airlines – friendly. They wear those Hawaiian shirts. The food is messily displayed. You go there on a Saturday; it’s a madhouse. That’s the Trader Joe’s lifestyle: ideosyncractic, organic.”

Aldi, however, operates with choice-free efficiency. “That’s their biggest gesture: eliminating choice,” Sellers says, ringing up her hot dog buns, veggie chips, pretzels, sugar, and bananas, to the tune of $14.15. “But they’re not in command of the message. It’s didactic by accident.”

I love the bit where the unmarked loaf of bread isn’t “simple” enough, that it doesn’t convey a message (the semi-Orwellian “freedom from chaos” is great too). And I also love the use of the word “personality,” and the implication that Aldi lacks one.

Of course it’s just a marketting come on / business plan, but that doesn’t mean that better things can’t shine through it! Where do you think the productive contradictions are and will be produced, if not in supermarket business plans and customers, well, voting with their feet and the eyes attached! I think we let the Aldi people run the Mosselprom Mini-Markets after the worst is over and better has started up.

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 18, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Posted in ads, simplicity

2 Responses

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  1. I haven’t been to Aldi in the US, but, at least in the UK, it’s not right to say that Aldi products aren’t branded; it’s more marvellous than that. Every product comes in exactly two spurious “brands,” (with “exclusively produced for Aldi” in small print), with both brands packed side-by-side in the same boxes, like a piece of conceptual art demonstrating the falsity of consumer choice.

    voyou

    July 19, 2009 at 12:37 am

  2. How very Baudrillardian! I will admit I haven’t been to one either, even in the US where they were dotted around the last city I lived in. But I am thinking about talking my dad (who is visiting, who is retired from something supermarket related) for a field trip to the branch in Tottenham on Sunday, if childcare and wife’s health permits.

    Ads

    July 19, 2009 at 12:40 am


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