An all-nerds bulletin was put out this week over the inclusion of PepsiCo’s “Food Frontiers” blog on the ScienceBlogs network. The brouhaha fizzed out when the biggest names on ScienceBlogs’ network threatened to pull out and the Pepsi-ganda was put on ice. Obviously, the planners were one can short of a twelve-pack (or is it now a 15-pack?) on their strategy to infuse the dialog with their particular flavor of science. Loss: Pepsi.
Compare this approach to their archrival, Coke. Earlier this year, I was cajoled into paying $15 to enter the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. And what a world it is. Act One starts innocently enough in the Coca-Cola Loft where we are immersed “in the rich heritage of Coca-Cola.” The taste quickly turns sour as a mind-numbing Q&A about the history of Coke ensues. In a twist on the age-old museum model of you ask, they answer — in the World of Coke they ask the questions and you give the answers. In fact you must give the correct answers. Every. Single. Time. And the audience is drilled until they do. Only then do they mercifully move on to the next question and the Socratic process begins again. As I discovered, this was simply a precursor to my realization that this isn’t your typical museum.
Act Two is a film, “Inside the Happiness Factory”, which I blocked until this writing. It’s unlike any animated film you’ve ever seen. It’s supposed to be about funny characters who inhabit a magical world inside a coke machine and who make your coke one bottle at a time as soon as the money is dropped into the slot. Money in: fun-in-a-bottle out. What it actually is, is a brilliant dystopian animated nightmare that the creators made underneath the noses of the corporate bosses who didn’t get the subtext. In it a documentary crew interviews the slutty, unstable cheerleader; obese diabetic bottlers on the line; and a myriad of Juan Miro meets Spongebob Squarepants character types who are all neurotic, catatonic, suicidal and HAVE NO EYES. No joke. No eyes. None of them. It’s so insane it would make Tim Burton say “Now, that’s fucked up.”
And yet that wasn’t the most traumatic film of the day. Act Three, “In Search of the Secret Formula” is a motion ride in 4-D which both flooded (yes, with actual water) and thrashed us about so insanely that it nearly detached my friend’s retina. Think Leni Riefenstahl meets a car wash on Space Mountain.
The denouement is bad sodas from many lands – hundreds of them. Have high fructose corn syrup, will travel! And in the middle of all of the madness, simply, elegantly stood a fountain of original Coke. I filled my cup and tasted as if it was Napa’s finest vintage. I thought about the secret ingredient –what is it? Vanilla? Black Cherry? I didn’t know, but I was asking the question. Suddenly, my programming and conditioning from the last hour kicked in and I remembered, the secret ingredient is “you”.
I am the secret ingredient.
I am in awe of Coke. Not only did I spend an hour and a half inside a giant Coke bottle of propaganda while engaging my lizard-brain in a fright or flight opera of mental and emotional fizziness, but I paid FIFTEEN DOLLARS for the privilege! Win: Coke.
Also this week, (it’s a long walk for this one but worth it my friends) Sarah Palin’s PAC sent out her “grizzly mom” video to the delight of her adoring hoards. In an astonishing, and frankly impressive, display of “there’s no there, there” anti-messaging-messaging, her image-makers created a 2 minute piece filled with “shucks” and fury signifying nothing. Watch:
But that’s not the point, is it? The video makes her look like a President but feel like a mom. Two tastes that taste great together.
Palin’s posse and the conservatives, who play a much better game of “hide the (legislative) sausage” than neo-liberals, get the simple truth that in our society emotion trumps reason. Fear trumps Facts. Terror trumps Wisdom. Which is why I have come to the conclusion that the conservatives are Coke and the neo-liberals are Pepsi.
You see, Pepsi (like Obama and his team in the blue can) always wants us to “take the Pepsi challenge”: just wait until you see the health care bill in action; log onto to recovery.gov and see for yourself that the Stimulus worked. As if a little additional real-world fact checking, a little thought given to comparing and contrasting different points of view – as if our logic brain will finally, at long last, override our emotions, and we would finally be won over by the facts. Pepsi does taste better than Coke. The Stimulus did work.
Herein lies the problem with Pepsi’s marketing — they’re playing straight from the neo-Liberal playbook. As if logic matters. As if facts matter. They do. But not in a vacuum. And ideas don’t stick without emotion and passion. (Sidebar: Is there any coincidence that Pepsi stole the Obama campaign logo design in late 2008? Do you wonder if they regret that today?)
Coke and the conservatives (in the red can), on the other hand, don’t care because they believe there’s no need for logical comparisons only emotional connection. They’ve created a “museum” that is an anti-museum where we learn nothing. They’ve created a “candidate” that is an anti-candidate who knows nothing. Who believes that all that is needed is a “secret ingredient”: “American Exceptionalism”, “A Christian Nation”, “Drill, Baby, Drill”, “Honest, Hardworking Americans”, “Joe-Six Pack”, and “Hockey Moms” just to name a few.
And the kicker is, as Palin has told us all along and has done so again in “Grizzly Mom”, the secret ingredient is you.
Unfortunately for all of us, no matter whether it’s Coke or Pepsi, Neo-Liberals or Conservitives – the choice, in the end, is no choice at all.
They’re both just colas.