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U3A Writing: The Great Potato Marketing Drive

Sarah Johnson finds it hard to share her husband's excitement about potatoes in this tale by Mike Smark.

Jack Johnson came home in a very excited state. "Sarah, the most exciting thing is about to happen. The Marketing Section has decided that the consumption of potatoes is too low on a per capita basis and the're going to have a major marketing drive to increase potato sales."

Deep down Sarah Johnson's level of excitement had not risen appreciably, but being married to the Manager of the Fruit and Vegetables section of the local supermarket chain, she sometimes had to feign interest in the world of cabbages and cauliflowers.

"That's nice dear, but don't you think everybody eats potatoes now?" she replied. "I can't see how people will eat more potatoes because of advertising."

Jack looked at his nearest and dearest, hurt that she did not share his excitement. He was tempted to start an argument but then decided she did not have enough scientific knowledge to appreciate the marketing and sales of goods.

"But Sarah, scientific surveys have shown that if everyone ate just one more portion of potato it would be the most popular item in Fruit and Vegetables." He continued with mounting excitement, "Marketing has designed saturation advertising, with a lot of input from nutritionists, but the real masterpiece of the drive is that the potato displays are going to be moved from the rear to the front of Fruit and Vegetables," he said triumphantly.

"But darling, everybody knows potatoes are good for you, that's why everybody eats them already and besides, will moving them from the back to the front of the section have any effect? Potatoes are fairly big you know, they are pretty easy to find whether at the front or the back."

At this point Jack decided it was best not to argue any further. Sarah did not understand the world of commerce so he decided to leave it go and let the results speak for themselves.
So the great potato marketing drive commenced with the slogan, 'Eat More Spuds' and Peter Potato is heard ad nauseam over the air waves, talking of the value of carbohydrates and their goodness in the diet. Nutritionists underline the value of carbohydrates, letting the diet-conscious know that they are beneficial without putting on weight.

And in Jack's eyes, the masterpiece of the drive lay in moving the displays from the rear to the front of Fruit and Vegetables. During the first part of the campaign though, Jack received many complaints, firstly from ladies who couldn't find the potatoes in their normal position and later from ladies who complained that they were the same old potatoes and they expected them to be somehow different.

"Peter Potato looks much better than any of the boring looking potatoes in your store," said one irate customer. Jack attempted to point out that Peter Potato was really a symbolic thing but the lady stamped off, convinced that all potatoes should look as good as Peter.

Jack even started to have some niggling doubts about the success of the marketing drive as early figures showed a dramatic drop in potato consumption, but this decrease was soon arrested when the company increased its advertising significantly. With the increased advertising, potato sales gradually increased, and, as they did, Jack's excitement rose. The marketing drive was working! Over the final two weeks of the drive, potatoes were selling like hot (potato?) cakes and Jack explained at length to Sarah, the power of advertising and the science of market analysis and sales.

At the conclusion of the marketing drive, Jack received a confidential memorandum from the supermarket chain which indicated that the overall sales of potatoes during the drive, had been identical to sales before the drive. The memorandum instructed a shattered manager of fruit and vegetables to move the potato display to the rear of the store again.

"I could have told you this would happen." said Sarah, trying none too hard to be seen as rubbing it in. "Your scientific sales and marketing experts overlooked the most important thing - the ladies who buy the potatoes. They are already serving up two pieces each night and they were never going to change." As Sarah carefully and relentlessly made her point she placed Jack's meal in front of him, complete with three pieces of potato instead of the usual helping of two.

Jack looked dismally at the plate. "Uh, I won't have any potatoes tonight love, I don't feel like them at all."

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