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The Can of Beans.

ABOUT A DECADE AGO. IN THE BOARDROOM OF A MAJOR NATIONAL SUPERMARKET CHAIN, TWENTY MARKETING PEOPLE (AND ME AS A FREELANCE WRITER ON AN IN-HOUSE VISIT) ARE SITTING AROUND A MASSIVE TABLE. THE CHIEF MARKETING EXECUTIVE HAD BRIEFED THE COMPANY'S ADVERTISING AGENCY TO COME UP WITH A NEW NAME FOR ITS HOUSE BRAND LINE OF GROCERIES AND WAS MIFFED WHEN THE AGENCY FAILED TO PRODUCE AN EXTENSIVE POWERPOINT PRESENTATION, PRESENTING ITS NAMING IDEAS ON TRADITIONAL PHYSICAL BOARDS INSTEAD. THE SUPERMARKET CHAIN, IN A FIT OF PIQUE, HAS DECIDED TO SPURN ITS AGENCY AND PRODUCE THE IN-HOUSE BRAND ITSELF.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON NAMED PAMELA (FIFTIES, BOBBED FAKE-BLONDE HAIRCUT, RED LIPSTICK, EARRINGS TO MATCH, CHAIN OF CHUNKY RED STONES, SLEEVELESS WHITE LINEN DRESS, RED HEELS): Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you could all make it this morning. It's an important day in the annals of supermarket retailing in this country. And an important day in the history of great brands, because today we are commencing Australia-wide domination for a brand new brand. (SHE LAUGHS) Brand new brand. Get it?

BORED TITTERS FROM THOSE ACTUALLY LISTENING.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON CONTINUES: As you know, we asked our advertising agency to present on this momentous challenge to the future of our industry and to come up with names and pack designs for this iconic new house brand.

DOOR BANGS OPEN, ANOTHER THREE MARKETING PEOPLE ENTER WITH COFFEE CUPS IN HAND.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON CONTINUES, SMILE UNDISTURBED: Oh, good morning: I was just explaining some of the history of the development of our new initiative in the packaged goods area ...

THE INTERRUPTERS SIT DOWN NOISILY.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON: ... and how we briefed our very expensive advertising agency on directions for the new brand name and packaging design and how they presented their concept ...

SHE SHAKES HER HEAD AND TRAILS OFF BEFORE CONTINUING.

... on boards! Can you believe that? I still can't. I mean, what is PowerPoint for? The launch of a new in-house product for a major national supermarket chain deserves at the very least a two-hour PowerPoint presentation with what, fifty pages of development, strategy and creative execution?

A BORED MARKETING EXECUTIVE SITTING AT THE TABLE: Maybe they figured it was just a 99 cent can of beans.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON (STOPS SMILING MOMENTARILY): It's not about the beans, Tony. It's about the prestige of a major national supermarket chain. Mere suppliers need to recognise our importance. I expect nothing less.

TONY: But some suppliers are actually quite good at efficiency and perhaps don't see the need to spend three hours and an endless PowerPoint presentation to introduce a new name for ...

SMILING MARKETING PERSON (NOW NOT SMILING AGAIN): Efficiency? Efficiency? What's efficiency got to do with it?

TONY: Well, it's just that some of the agencies I've worked with (prior to joining this company) no longer believe in complex and colourful but ultimately vapid technology for its own sake; and have gone back to the simplicity of presenting concepts on tactile boards that artists have actually created.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON: Not here they don't. And anyway, we're efficient: we've eliminated several hundred suppliers to our supermarkets in our inexorable drive to world house-brand domination. That's efficiency. Imagine not having to deal with all those suppliers.

SHE HITS A BUTTON AND THE SCREEN LIGHTS UP. SHE CONTINUES: And so we thanked the agency very much, saw them to the door, slammed it behind them and decided to come up with a new house brand name ourselves. After all, we know ourselves best, don't we?

SHE LOOKS AROUND ENQUIRINGLY AT THE GATHERED MARKETING DEPARTMENT, SOME OF WHOM ARE LISTENING.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON: So we invested great time and major resources in researching the history of our house brands. First there was Embassy. That was too '60s and nationalistic. Then there was Farmland. That was too childish and unbelievable and anyway, Woolworths owns the Fresh Food people and has farmers in its ads. I can't think why.

And after much deliberation, I am very glad to say (SHUFFLING THROUGH A FEW MORE PPT PAGES OF MEANINGLESS GRAPHS AND SQUIGGLES AND CLICHES) that we have been able to come up with a name so exceedingly memorable that people will not fail to take it to their hearts and never buy a proprietary brand again.

A name that reflects the beloved position our very own company holds in the hearts of every Australian.

A name that might ultimately grace products in every aisle of every one of our stores across this great nation of ours.

SHE CLICKS ONTO THE REVEAL SHOT, WHICH SHOWS THE NEW NAME IN THREE COLOURS:

You'll Love Coles.

THE BOARDROOM ERUPTS INTO DESULTORY APPLAUSE FROM ABOUT THREE PEOPLE. THE REST JUST STARE.

SMILING MARKETING PERSON: You'll Love Coles! Isn't it wonderful! Because people do! They love us! They love our clean, well-stocked stores, they love our friendly service, they love the way our staff treat them, they love everything about us! And they will love that they will now be able to buy their favourite product under our very own name! Heinz, SPC, Kraft - who needs them?

SHE PAUSES FOR BREATH

And we will love the extra margin and not having to deal with brand managers.

THEY EXIT AND GO TO LUNCH IN THE HEAD OFFICE CAFETERIA THE SIZE OF A FOOTBALL STADIUM THAT SERVES BAD COFFEE AND CELLOPHANE-WRAPPED SALAD ROLLS THAT ARE ALREADY LIMP AND MOIST.

TWO MONTHS LATER.

LATE ONE EVENING. AFTER A LONG DAY WRITING TENDERS FOR A NATIONAL OFFICE SUPPLIES CLIENT, I AM PICKING UP SOME GROCERIES FOR DINNER IN MY LOCAL SUPERMARKET IN THE NORTHERN SUBURBS. WORKERS ARE STACKING SHELVES WITH NEW YOU'LL LOVE COLES BAKED BEANS. THE STORE MANAGER WALKS PAST.

STORE MANAGER: Great name, isn't it? I wonder which head office genius came up with that.

HE PAUSES. THE SHELF STACKERS LOOK AT HIM, PICKING UP IMMEDIATELY ON HIS SARCASM.

STORE MANAGER: Because people don't love Coles at all. They fucking hate Coles.

SUDDENLY ONE OF THE STACKS COLLAPSES, AND EIGHT HUNDRED CANS OF YOU'LL LOVE COLES REDUCED-SALT BAKED BEANS COME CRASHING DOWN.

STORE MANAGER: Says it all, really.

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  1. What a shame the marketing person wasn't there to see it.

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