Product truth: postmodern epistemology

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POSTED: September 29, 2017

I have excerpted the following from an article in The Guardian today that concerns a scandal in a meat factory where, apparently, Lidl’s returns ended up as Tesco “exclusive” Willow Farm products.

Willow Farm is one of seven so called “farm” brands launched by Tesco last year to stop customers defecting to cheaper rivals Aldi and Lidl. The use of fake British-sounding farm names, such as Woodside, Willow and Boswell was controversial from the outset with the National Farmers’ Union pointing to the abundance of real farms in Britain.

Tesco have advertised this brand as “reared exclusively for Tesco”. When the repackaged products emerged during a Guardian investigation, lawyers for the meat factory quickly found some hairs to split and announced that “The Willow Farms brand is exclusive to Tesco, but the raw material is not”. Nothing to see here then.

What about the brand itself, which uses a fictitious farm to hint at things that Tesco cannot actually say (because that would constitute lying)?

The Tesco boss, Dave Lewis, a marketer who spent most of his career at consumer brands giant Unilever, has always defended the no-frills farm brands which span meat, poultry and other produce, and have been a big hit with shoppers…

Last year Lewis insisted that customers were “savvy” about how marketing worked. He added: “Do they come from farms? Yes. Can one farm satisfy all the demand from Tesco? No. The product truth is absolutely right.”

Ah, the product truth! I think we can regard that as a fluffy free-floating concept that neatly avoids meaning much at all; a kind of epistemological cheeky chappie preparing to do a three-card trick.

We live in fictional times.