I have reached the point in life where I find I am telling my kids and my millennial coworkers about what life was like before all of the technology we now take for granted. Now, clearly I’m “hip” and “down” but I’m starting to feel a little old when I have to explain what a pay phone was and why I was thrilled to buy a car stereo with a cassette deck. Now, when I was a kid we always had a TV (it got 3 channels, even with the outside antenna), and when Commadore came out with the Commadore 64, we got one right away so I guess I have always been an early adopter of technology.
I have heard it said that life moves too fast and people miss simpler times, but I’m going to step out there and suggest that life has never been better and we have never had as many amazing choices as we do today! Technology is awesome – it’s how we choose to use it that either gives us freedom or ties us down. My cell phone goes everywhere with me. It goes with me when I go out at night and I take it on family vacations. I find it way easier to relax when I know what’s going on at work and what’s waiting for me when I get back. I am also very good about not answering calls when I’m off. I have the technology and I make a CHOICE to use it or not. Early in my sales career, before we had reliable cell phone coverage, on a typical Canadian winter evening, I got stuck in the snow on the way home from work, in the middle of no-where (it may or may not have been on a no-winter maintenance road that turned into a snowmobile trail). Today, I would be able to phone for a tow and use my handy map program to give the tow truck driver an exact location. So, in that instance I, and the local Mennonite farmer who I pulled away from his chores to pull me out, would have very much benefited from technology!
Not only does technology offer us a better lifestyle today, we have the ability to to live longer and be healthier than any other time in history. Our understanding of nutrition and medical science continues to advance at a spectacular rate. That said, we also have the most out of shape population in history. It’s still about CHOICE. Technology advancements in farming have made food way more affordable. Canadian families in 1969 spent an average of about 19% of their total spending on food; by 2009 that number has dropped to 10%, thus freeing up valuable dollars to spend on ripped designer jeans and bedazzled Converse sneakers. Along with advances in productivity, technology has made food way safer – pasteurization, refrigeration and genetic selection have all led to dramatically increased confidence that the food we eat is safe. Even Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs), the red headed stepchild of conventional ag, has made life better for millions of people. GMOs have a marketing problem – the first thing people associate with GMO is Round Up ready soybeans, which help increase yields, but don’t provide a WOW factor for consumers. Imagine if the very first thing people associated GMOs with was Golden Rice, which contains high levels of beta-carotene, correcting a vitamin A deficiency and saving hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Might make GMOs easier to brand as a big positive.
People appreciate history – some people are nuts for old movies, others are computer nerds, I’m an old car buff and I appreciate the ingenuity and development of these products over the years. I have a 1966 Mustang with a big V8 engine that sounds and looks great, but if you put it next to pretty much any new car, it loses in every category. The same advancements have been made in agriculture and yet smart, educated consumers seem to think it’s better for them if farmers used 50 year old technology to produce their food. In a science and tech world, peoples beliefs about food are not rooted based on science. The same person who will wait in line all night to get the newest, most advanced smart phone will pay a premium for vegetables, simply because the technology used to grow them is less advanced. Now think about that same person buying a car – they are going to want to know, in detail, why that car is the safest car on the market and will demand the government certified report to prove it. Imagine if the salesman tired to tell them that they should buy the “heritage car” built using a 30 year old design because it’s the right thing to do….. CHOICE?
For some reason, even consumers who agree that conventional food is safe and affordable still don’t think it’s better than organic, natural or GMO free. I think it’s time to take a marketing tip from the car companies and re-brand “conventional” food with a new term – EXCEPTIONAL. Consumers will still have the CHOICE, but now they can choose between organic, natural, GMO free and EXCEPTIONAL food. Tag line – our food is only sourced from EXCEPTIONAL growers. Using the most proven and reliable EXCEPTIONAL farming methods. What kind of farmer are you? EXCEPTIONAL! The bottom line is that consumers have lots of awesome options for food. Don’ t you want your food to be EXCEPTIONAL? Interesting CHOICE…