vidalias must advertise

Dave Long (
Fri, 30 Oct 1998 00:48:41 -0800

Horrors! How could someone think that a "sweet Vidalia" brand means that an
onion should literally taste sweet, and not merely be produced within a
certain geographical area? I suppose they'd demand their tartar sauce to be
made of real Tartars, too.

(_Murder Must Advertise_, by Dorothy Sayers[0], not only contains a
discussion of the distinctions to be made between claims that a product is
made "of", "from", and "with" an ingredient[1], but also presents a nice
parallel storyline between the drug-running villians and tobacco-advertising
good guys. Since the story was written and is set over half-a-century ago,
it reassures the modern reader that the state of the world has perhaps not
gone so downhill from the "good old days". FoRK bonus: not only a healthy
dose of school snobbery[2], but the plot hinges on event notification

been in the business of maximizing revenue R by utilizing practices P which
maximize onions O and minimize inputs I. Of course one needs land L, but
since onions are onions, one shouldn't pay too much attention to the land as
long as the onion count is good (Gresham's law of Produce). Then Mr.
Burrell comes along, and not only requires a good onion count, but good
onions as well: one's crop valuation is suddenly affected not by something
one can control (P, or I), but by the relatively "accidental" state of L.

Luckily for us, we're software people, and as long as we have great
technical designs (yep, tons of elegant onions), no Mr. Burrell is going to
come along and make it economically clear that consumers may be more
interested in customer support or distribution channel or brand identity :-)
Of course, if we have a strong brand and are moving product through the
channel, we'd better hope that there aren't any Burrell-equivalents who have
an undisputedly accurate test that allows the consumer to determine if that
upgrade be sweet or hot... (or for that matter, to just be tired of onions
and instead Wanting Fries With That)


[0] a great example of a bootstrapped career: Sayers worked in advertizing
until publishing her mysteries; after Lord Peter had given her enough
substance, she married him off and devoted her energies to her primary
interest, publishing serious theology works.

[1] is anyone else here affronted by drink formulations that claim to have
"2% real fruit juice"? Is that dilution a feature?

[2] but one must read _Gaudy Night_ for a (rather philosophical) mystery set
in such locations[3] -- the sort of place where one might receive a
professorship for success as a crytographer in the English Civil War[4], not
that breakaway technical college in the fens known for their association
with upstart computer companies.

[3] among other things, dealing with women in academia -- not quite
engineering, but still quite aproFoRK. (amusingly enough, the paperback
version I read didn't do proper content-negotiation - what should've been
greek was typeset as line noise, or at least it wasn't greek to me)

[4] From _Fourier Analysis_ by T.W. Koerner. More mathematical gobbledygook
than _The Pleasures of Counting_ (unfortunately, not titled _The Joy of x_),
but equally well written. Both out of the University Press of TBTCITF.