Saturday, October 09, 2010

In the Sun Chips Bag: a Lesson in Marketing Innovation and Demand Generation.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know Sun Chips is getting out of the eco-bag business? In another high-volume “end of the world as we know it” outcry, the eco-pundits have already massively condemned Frito-Lay, from the local (Lauren Marmaduke, Houston Press) to the national (Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones)

Marmaduke is a blaster: “…the morons at Frito-Lay.” Sheppard’s more balanced: “I don't necessarily blame Frito-Lay. It’s a corporation and its job is to keep customers happy (and make money), so I can forgive them a little timidity on the issue, given that Sun Chips sales were apparently plummeting.”

Let’s take this single paragraph as a guide to seeing where perceived social good and marketing intersect, and what happens then. The Wall Street Journal’s Eric Felten exposes pundits’ contempt for American consumers while defending the market process: “You can add the Sun Chip bags to the pile of eco-virtuous products that consumers found less desirable than the traditional products they replaced.” (This sentence, I believe, is key.)

Felten’s must-read article fairly describes the market process and how it works, when it comes to consumerism. Eco-products have to work better than the items they aim to replace. Or the marketplace will drive them out.

Frito-Lay, like many consumer companies, is superb at introducing new lines: I wrote about its Flat Earth Baked Veggie Chips here. And when these Sun Chips biodegradable bags were introduced, Frito-Lay was a hero yet again. This week, it’s a goat.

To build a Matt Ridley argument, the introduction and marketing of biodegradable Sun Chips packaging with its subsequent glowing praise; the bags’ elimination with its screaming (and one-sided) condemnation; and the company’s pledge to find a more consumer-friendly replacement are all part of “the perpetual innovation machine that drives the modern economy.”

Now will you please stop whining about the damn bags.


Mimi said...

LOL...Most of the people complaining were sneaking Sun Chips and didn't want to get caught.
Your blog is very interesting and I look forward to reading it often.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Thanks, Mimi - I appreciate the note.