Saturday, July 10, 2021

Panera's New "Swim Soup Collection"

Many years ago, I wrote an article about the evil that is Panera (aka "Why Adam Smith's Invisible Hand Reaches For Lousy Chow"). It was cited a couple times by marketing guru Seth Godin, who also seemed to disagree with every word in it. I never really grokked his position.

Anyhoo, Panera seems to have segued from demonic evil to fatuous craziness. Thanks (if that's the word) to friend-of-the-Slog Paul Trapani for pointing out their "Swim Soup Collection". Please understand that this is not satire. This is not a Simpsons episode.

Panera's terribly brainy market research finds that 70% of us have no qualms about eating soup in hot weather. To "celebrate" (if that's the word) this fact, and to remind the other 30% of what they're missing, they've launched a line of soup-themed swimwear and pool floats "designed to help you cool down this summer as you commit to eating your favorite hot soups despite soaring temperatures."

These are the final days.

Actually, y'know what, forget the above part about how this isn't evil. Just because you've revealed the utter absurdity of your airlessly skewed thinking (if that's the word), that doesn't mitigate your evil. This represents the ultimate fruition of their view of their business, their customers, and their world, which is too spine-chillingly alien for me to delve into. The deeply manipulative geniuses who came up with this aren't clueless airheads; there's an inhuman intelligence at work, and it's behind everything they've ever done and every revolting speck of their shiny, non-carbon-based food. And let's not forget that it's worked. They've grown into a five billion dollar operation.

This campaign could succeed. Hideously awful ideas - ideas so transparently and grotesquely "off" that you'd never suspect they'd possibly catch on - do prevail...a lot (half of my friends won't vaccinate against COVID - the other half make their kids wear masks while walking outdoors - and I'd have bet $$$ against that outcome in summer 2020). If you can dream it, you can achieve it. And god help us all.

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