Pointlessness Galore

Posted on February 21, 2007



I’m a seafood lover. A big one actually. But I must question the point of Abalone, it’s fundamental reason for existence. I simply hate it.  

Abalone just doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. Not in the ocean (biologists shush!), not in cans on supermarket shelves, not in restaurants and certainly not in the mouths of human beings. The real madness is the fact that canned abalone is quite heavily advertised during Chinese New Year in my part of the world. And it sells for S$45-50 (approx. US$26-29) per can.  

I just can’t figure it out. And I’ve tried. Hard.  

This confirms to me that the value, be it that of a brand or a product, lies entirely in the eyes (or mouths) of the beholder. If you’ve been taught by your socio-cultural environment that abalone is an expensive delicacy you’re supposed to consume at special occasions, such as Chinese New Year, the product has effectively been branded on your mind and given ‘added value’ correlating with its socio-culturally symbolic significance.

(Some people I know would actually argue that bacon enjoys a disproportionately unfavourable perception in some parts of the world, similar to that of abalone, and that the appreciation of sausage – relative to that of bacon – is suffering as a result).  

If you ask me, this ‘added value’ outstrips abalone’s culinary value manifold. I don’t think any human being on this planet can truly appreciate the taste and texture of abalone without the social-cultural brainwashing I’m taking about. And I should point out that I’m a person who loves food…almost any kind. And lots of it. 

Learnings so far: Abalone is pointless.  

As if the pointlessness of abalone itself wasn’t bad enough, the product is being used as bait in what appears to be an even more pointless exercise; a big bank in
Singapore is using an “abalone gift set” in one of their CNY promotions.  

This is their promotional offer: 

Redeem your New Moon NZ Abalone & Pacific Clams Gift Set* at any Jack’s Place Steak House & Restaurants when you charge a minimum of S$1,388, including S$38 spent at Jack’s Place Steak House & Restaurants, within 8 charge slips. 

In the “Terms and Conditions” section, you learn that in order to qualify and redeem your pointless set of abalone at Jack’s Place Steak House (that’s right….a steak house) you need to spend $1,388 on your credit card between February 3-16 (minimum of $38 spent at Jack’s Place). And you can only redeem this offer at this steak house between February 15 and 16 (and that’s while stock lasts!!!!!).  The terms and conditions section is so extensive and complicated that I doubt any credit card holder can manage to get their hands on one of these pointless gift sets even if they go for a steak dinner at Jack’s place on either of the two days stipulated.

Why is it that so many promotions like this one are launched without a reality check? Here is a free tip to the marketing people in the bank. Ask yourself this simple question: Are human beings with brains wired quite analogously to that in your own head likely to increase their credit card spending (to exceed $1,388) when canned abalone is used as the carrot….and they need to have steak for more than $38 at a particular steak restaurant on either of two specified days in the month of February?

My guess is NO.

Let’s take a step back. This is a promotion primarily meant to drive credit card spending. I get that bit. But what’s the relevant linkage between this outrageously expensive canned crap food and this bank brand? Associating the biggest mistake in evolution to this brand can’t possibly do it, or any other brand for that matter, any good. Promotions should be selected based on their potential to also enforce a brand’s positioning in the minds of conumsers, not only to increase sales in the short term. Selecting relevant promotions becomes a whole lot easier when a brand is anchored on a brand idea – a core though the brand stands for, believes in and sticks to. I suspect it’s the idea that’s lacking in the case of this bank brand. Therefore, there is simply nothing in place to provide directions with regards to promotions. 

The only near-logical reason I can think of why abalone is used in this promotion is that it’s bloody expensive. Therefore I suspect it is being rationalised and justified (internally by the bank) using every brand owner’s (client’s) favourite word, “PREMIUM”. (That’s how most brand-irrelevant credit card promotions are justified.)

But with the word “premium” ends the completely undifferentiated relevancy of this promotion.

Pointlessness in credit card promotions has reached new heights. 

Being a bank is a bad starting point if you want to build a brand that consumers feel an affinity towards. So why would you want to give people unnecessary reasons to hate you by offering a ‘promotion’ that is complicated, disgusting and pointless? Or is demotion the new promotion?


Yes, of course I am being culturally sensitive and totally objective here.


Posted in: Opinion