Marketing Mix: Soap Box - FMCG must take its place in the Millennium Dome

You would have thought a can of baked beans that can be opened without severing an artery would surely be worthy of an award. But it seems not.

You would have thought a can of baked beans that can be opened

without severing an artery would surely be worthy of an award. But it

seems not.

The fact that it has not been invented yet goes some way to explaining

why the said can has failed to make it into the pantheon of industrial

designs which are to fill the Millennium Dome.

Nor did I see a bottle of bathroom cleaner fitted with a nozzle which

remains free of gunge.

In fact there was not a single product from the world of fast-moving

consumer goods represented in Millennium Products, the showcase of

British design, which we are told, is at the vanguard of a PR campaign

to show the rest of the world that British industrial design has come a

long way since the days of the Austin Princess.

So when Prime Minister Tony Blair examined the products on show did we

hear him cry: ’You know this is something that Cherie and I would find

really useful in the kitchen - and it only costs pounds 3.50.’ No we did


Instead, paraded before Blair and the press were some truly astounding

products and inventions that could change lives on a scale that perhaps

the easy-open can could not. This was the work of the good and


It was not the work of the new product development department at

Letchworth HQ.

The Rolls-Royce jet engine with turbine blades which, if broken, grow

back from a single molecule, or the escape chute from a ferry that

rights itself in a stormy sea were hailed as fine examples to which

every company should aspire.

Little surprise then that the more prosaic objects inhabiting our lives

were not chosen as a means of laying down a challenge to British


What chance has a potato peeler that saves time got against a simple,

yet effective, water bucket that saves lives in the Third World? But, I

am assured, this does not mean the doors to the exhibition will remain

shut if your product lacks that altruistic quality or is insufficiently

ambitious to impress the panel of 50 judges.

Among those on the panel are figures which hail from the world of

marketing: John Hegarty of Bartle Bogle Hegarty; Simon Bullimore of

Mars, and The Ministry of Sound’s James Palumbo. They are not there

simply to make up numbers. They were chosen by the Design Council to

cast judgement on behalf of the marketing community. They are there to

ask questions such as: ’Yes, this is fascinating but will it sell?’ or

’What does it say about British design?’ The exercise is, after all,

just another element of the marketing mix that Blair is employing to

sell brand Britain to foreign buyers and investors.

It would be easy to ignore the calls for creativity in favour of gains

in productivity, to ignore the demands this government is making of a

business community that has just cast off the crutches that saw it

through the recession. That is why it is unlikely the phone lines

between the design community and FMCG manufacturers will be busy as they

strive to make the deadline.

I doubt the can will make it into Peter Mandelson’s dome. Then again, I

doubt the dome will even make it.


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