So, we’ve had a week of My Food Bag, for those of us who got a free trial. Or a complimentary Food Bag, as a camp friend of mine always liked to say: “Dahlink, we don’t do free, we do complimentary.” And I’m all about the compliments.
Evidently the strategy was to offer complimentary week-long trials to media and social media folk to create some buzz and awareness about it. Too easy. Somewhat unnecessary disclosure: I was one of them. Nobody told me to talk about it, but in the comms from Pead PR, it said “Feel free to share your creations using #MyFoodBag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook”. Yes, "feel free". Not "acceptance of Food Bag is conditional to your agreement to tweet all four meals" or something equally inane.
So I shared. As did a myriad of others. Let’s put food pics on social media! Everyone will love us!
The ensuing backlash was fascinating. It smacked of kids who had seen somebody else offered an ice cream, when they didn’t get one themselves, and they can’t quite figure out why. And now they want to trip you up and push you into the bushes to ruin your ice cream, because who are you to get something that I didn’t get? Who are you, oh uppity albeit clearly special person, with ice cream now smeared all over your face?
The seemingly arbitrary nature of offering certain people a freebie (oops, I mean, something complimentary) while others have to stand by and watch offends our inner child. It takes us right back to the playground and it brings out that sad and angry kid, who doesn’t understand why somebody else got something we didn’t. It isn’t fair! As adults, it’s just a reminder that we don’t live in an equal society. Some of us get complimentary snapper fillets and a buttload of jasmine rice. Some don’t.
The argument was made that the wrong people were given a trial – that they should’ve gone to ‘ordinary everyday people’ rather than, what, yuppie white types? Some sour grapes were definitely seen in the fruit bowl before a couple of people realised their lemon faces were showing.
It’s classic Kiwi territory, isn’t it? We want people to be equal and everybody to have the same thing, the same opportunities, the same amount of birthday cake and exactly the same goodies in their party favour bag when Mum comes to pick us up. But we don’t want to forgo our right to make shedloads of money while other people starve.
The inequality discourse may not be heard very clearly in New Zealand right now, but the #MyFoodBag imbalance was simply a microcosm of what happens all over the country. Some people eat good, wholesome, organic, healthy food for dinner, while others work two jobs to be able to put some baked beans on toast on the table.
I’d argue that those on Twitter, particularly those who were engaged with #MyFoodBag, live in a stream of society that’s very far removed from the rest of the population. We typically work in media or creative disciplines. Many are left-wing, judging by the political temperature. We earn above average. We have either the time or the sort of job that allows us to be on social media during the working day, rather than mopping floors or packing groceries. And most of us could afford to get My Food Bag every week, if we wanted to.
Marketing the service via Twitter – for surely Pead PR knew it would mostly happen on Twitter – is the perfect way to get scale and talkability on a platform with which its potential customers frequently engage. I can see why they went for this strategy, and I don’t see too much wrong with it.
And let’s not forget, that in a consumerist society, it’s Pead PR and My Food Bag’s government-given right to hand out compliments to whomever they damn well want.
More on the topic in case you haven't had enough:
Sim Dotcom’s article on StopPress.co.nz
Dylan Reeve argues it’s not an #ad
Dylan Reeve thinks some more
And now, for some entertainment, the best of the #MyFoodBag tweets.