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Sucked Into The Hype Machine

February 8, 2016

Who lost least? On the field, it was the Broncos. You know because they had the highest score and took home the trophy. But it was an ugly game. The commercials were no great shakes either. Some of the filmmaking was top notch. Christopher Walken in the closet discussing beige socks was brilliant. But I suspect precious few will remember that those fantastically delivered lines of dialog were tied to a Kia spot.

And let’s not talk about all the ads about pooping. Either doing too much of it, or struggling to do enough of it.

My old career in advertising didn’t happen by accident. It was a purposeful path I took because I’m so easily influenced by marketing. I figured that if there are those who are doing the manipulating and those being manipulated, I wanted to be the one pulling the strings.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m still not sucked into a clever pitch or some intriguing packaging. In fact, I’m just as tempted by those things as ever. However, I’m starting to be concerned by the hype machine’s ill effects. And I’m wondering if I’m at least partially to blame.

This weekend I was compelled to do a lot of things thanks to the pounding drumbeat of constructed desire.

Friday, when I was picking up my weekly chicken from Whole Foods, they had a display of Nugget Nectar. And they had it in cans. On sale! The only problem was that besides sitting on plenty of beer already, I just bought two six packs especially for the Super Bowl. The last thing I needed was six more beers.

But my online friends at the Capital Region Craft Beer Lovers had been saying good things about it, and I overhead the team at Oliver’s on Colvin suggesting that there would soon be a run on the stuff. So I thought I should get some while the getting was good, even though buying more beer went against my better judgement.

On Saturday, it seemed as if everyone was going to be at Chowderfest, so I thought I should at least check it out to see what all the excitement was about. Yelp also was a sponsor, so it felt like the right thing to do.

Wow, that was even more crowded than I expected. I didn’t allow nearly enough time for it, and Little Miss Fussy didn’t have the patience to wait in the lines. But after a chocolate croissant from Mrs. London’s and a macaron from TC Paris Bakery, she was content. I think the key is to start early.

At Chowderfest I also received a fascinating email. It reminded me that I had pre-ordered, sight unseen, the next big thing from Taco Bell. I couldn’t resist at the time. They said it was going to be huge. They promised it would change everything. Those are big words.

I was thinking maybe it was a torta, and that they were actually bringing buns into a system that prided itself on the absence of buns. Or maybe they were finally bringing pork online, since carnitas and al pastor are fantastic, and Taco Bell has nothing of the sort. It could even have been empanadas.

But it turned out to be none of those truly exciting things. Instead I got a Quesalupa. A cheese stuffed chalupa shell that was formed around a fairly standard Taco Bell taco filling. Yawn.

And on Sunday the rest of the country was exposed to Death Wish Coffee through their viking spot in the third quarter of the game. The placement was good. The score was still close. I suspect most people were glued to their TV sets. The only problem with the spot was there was too much viking and too little branding. The Death Wish coffee voiceover and product shot were fiercely short, and I just wish it could have worked a little harder for the company.

Death Wish Coffee had some national exposure early in the company’s history. It’s really easy to hype the world’s strongest coffee. And that experience nearly destroyed the brand as it struggled to fill orders that came pouring in, and for which it wasn’t fully prepared. But what if the company staffs up to anticipate for demand from a spot with national exposure, and that demand never materializes?

That’s a whole different problem caused by the hype machine.

And maybe that’s part of the story of Sentinel Butchery? I actually have no idea what the story is behind Sentinel Butchery, except for the fact that I met Emily the butcher, and fell in love with her and what she was doing. The shop was a neighborhood and a local media darling. Chefs loved her product and she was working with some of the best in the region. And she had just reached a partnership with Adventure in Food Trading.

Everything I heard indicated the shop was on the right foot. Sure, there was some flip flopping on whether the butcher would offer lunch or not. Sandwiches are a royal pain in the ass, and part of the problem that Troy Grocery experienced. But my understanding was that the butchery side of the business was doing well enough that the shop could walk away from sandwiches and still be fine.

Could it have been that with so much media coverage everyone assumed the shop was fine, so nobody was in a rush to make it in and buy stuff? Perhaps. But whatever the case, the hype machine was all over this thing.

Hopefully, one day I’ll come to understand what went wrong. But right now I’m still in denial.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2016 11:03 am

    I feel so guilty for not going to Sentinel. … I kept meaning too, but I’m one of those people who if parking is a pain in the ass, I’ll put it off. (I grew up in the country… parallel parking is still one of my biggest fears… crazy, right?)
    Also, my freezer was full to the top of meat share meat. So, yeah, I put it off… because I thought they were doing fine.

    I’m also wondering what is going to happen to Death Wish Coffee (another product I’ve not yet tried. I’m not sure my heart could take it)

  2. February 8, 2016 12:07 pm

    Sentinel is over? Kaput? Closed? I can only hope that there will be another incarnation soon! I was managing to get over to Troy frequently to get there, but I’m not buying for a family. Maybe I’m compensating by trumpeting about the good stuff I find with a blog and Yelp. I’m sure they’re taking a few breaths, but did anyone mention what is next for them?

    • February 8, 2016 12:52 pm

      That’s the word. And I don’t know what’s next for Emily. But I’m hoping that if I refuse to believe the news is true that somehow the shop will reopen.

  3. David Nardolillo permalink
    February 8, 2016 8:54 pm

    Restaurants and entertainment appear to do well in Downtown Troy, but retail is fickle. Enough ventures have closed recently there: Some Girls, the Grocery, the Co-op, Dante’s and now this. I think you have to find a census of who actually lives down in that area. Might not be enough for certain retail ventures.

    • David Nardolillo permalink
      February 8, 2016 8:55 pm

      and by “who” I really mean “how many people” live in the neighborhood.

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