Packaging and Product

The title of this article may be a little misleading because this will not be an article which extols the virtues of packaging for a product. No, sadly, this will be an article which admonishes consumerism, and encourages “connoisseurism”.


Anyone who knows me, knows that I love whisky (specifically without the “e”: The Difference between Whiskey and Whisky). I started drinking only about four years ago after a long sordid affair with sobriety, and I haven’t looked back since. That’s right. I am a recovering soberholic and am a better person for it, seriously. More on that later …


In any case, various articles, updates, newsletters tend to filter through my various inboxes and newsfeeds for my perusal and education including this latest interesting piece:


Being a business person, and someone who loves a good dram of scotch, it engaged immediately me and got me thinking right away:

“What is the difference between consumerism and connoisseurism anyway?”


This article highlights the issue of enticing the general public into purchasing a product which requires a slight bit of sophistication. To explain: one of the reasons why I enjoy scotch is because there is so much to learn about it. At a high level, there are a distinct variety of flavors from each region ranging from the rich and smokey like the charred tips of a good barbecue (e.g. Laphroaig) to the soft, delicate, sweetness of fruit and honey (e.g. Glenfiddich). There are copious details to indulge in of how each different distilleries creates its flavors, and most appreciatively, there is consistency because it becomes an art and a science, not a crap-shoot of nature (convenient dig on wine, sorry).


Connoisseurism involves understanding a little bit more about not just that you like something, but also a little bit about why. I believe you should understand a little about the things you enjoy, and you should enjoy things that have aspects that are worth learning about.


I draw the line here:


That’s just ridiculous. Chicken is food, I don’t need to know it’s name, or that he had friends. I do think it’s valuable to understand the larger questions though, about whether something is organic, whether it makes sense, and what it means to you – After all, I am a proponent of “better living through science”.


Packaging vs Product

Back to packaging though, what I mean is while yes, packaging matters to entice the interest of customers (you!), and in some cases are a nice way to cover up an inferior product (e.g. Johnnie), endeavor to dig a little deeper, look past the pretty gilded paper wrapping and at the richness, and subtleties within. Someone worked hard to put it there and if this is the case, he probably poured his attention into what goes into the bottle, and not what’s on it. You might be pleasantly surprised. Some of my favorite bottles of scotch came in nothing more than a simple paper box not unlike those used to box up action figures (e.g. Springbank Hazelburn, and Auchentoshan). Some bottles which I personally detest but keep in my library for friends came in fancy wooden boxes with hinges and clasps (e.g. The Balvenie 21).

JohnnieBlack Springbank10
Johnnie Walker Black ($42) Springbank 10yr ($55)

That said, I get it.


The Professional Package: Life

It’s an acute metaphor for how I’ve approached my career, how I’ve learned to do better, and how (as mentioned) I’ve become a better person for it. For many years, I focused solely on the quality of my work, and not how I presented it, or the politics surrounding it. Get the work done, do it well, I thought, and the rewards will come. This is how I was raised, and how I was taught the world should work. Negative, Charlie, you are SOL. I watched as person after person was moved up, invited to inner circles, etc. while I was left out in the cold, passed over numerous times, cut out of deals on a few occasions, even retaliated against and almost left for ruin (literally, bankruptcy). You, me, we’ve all been there to some degree.


Lesson learned: I didn’t manage my presentation, and the perceptions of others. I didn’t play the politics, but now I’ve learned the importance of doing so … just like these distilleries are now learning the importance of putting out a pretty package, as much as the importance of putting out a potent and perfected product. After all, between our head which understands our limitations, and our hearts which power our passions, are our eyes which deceive us by accepting illusions. While they’ll figure it out at some point, ask yourself in life (as I have) in the meantime whether you want to be the manager who advances the employee who puts on a pretty face, or the one that puts out a powerful product? Do you want to be the consumer who buys the pretty package, or the slightly educated connoisseur who knows if there’s actually substance in the product behind the packaging.


Do better. I have faith in you.


Ultimately, I think this is why Mike and I decided it would be valuable for us to put our thoughts down on paper and share what we’ve learned with the world (or whoever might be interested in passing through). Correct me if I’m wrong …


If you are the aforementioned latter, then you are welcome to come and share a dram of one of my best scotch whisky … it comes in a cardboard box.

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