I don’t believe in fairy stories and neither do I believe that the majority of actions most companies take are purely altruistic. As Phoebe Buffay might say, “There’s no such thing as a selfless good deed”.
Yet even in a world where we are being marketed to in some way for most of our waking lives, I still find it sad that a question from the mouth of a still innocent three-and-a-half year-old child has been labelled as an evil PR stunt.
I believe the letter is real. I really don’t think Sainsbury’s marketing department would stoop so low as to create a five-and-a-half year old fake blog just so it could sell more bread.
Proud parents of Lily Robinson decided to post an entry on their blog when Sainsbury’s wrote to them to thank them for the letter their daughter had sent in.
She wanted to know why “tiger bread” was called “tiger bread” when its pattern looked more like that found on a giraffe.
To cut a long story short, a Sainsbury’s staff member wrote a charming letter back explaining the bread’s history. Mum Lucy was pleased. Lisa was pleased. Chris King (aged 27 1/3) was pleased, and is now apparently training to become a primary school teacher. Good for him.
Who isn’t pleased? The cynics.
You see, there are many, many reasons to be cynical. If you can pick at least three then you’re a super cynic:
- It’s made up. Lily is made up. The letter is made up. It’s a PR stunt to sell more bread.
- It’s exploitative of Lily. The parents are profiting.
- Only £3 of vouchers? That’s a bit stingy.
- We’re all victims of a capitalist society where soulless advertising and PR executives exploit us to sell us more crap.
Honestly, I’ve had it with the cynics. (You could say I’m cynical about cynics, but being a recovering one that could soon become an existential quandary, so it’s best you don’t say it).
Excuse the crude imagery, but where much of the world appears to be disappearing down the toilet faster than last night’s Vindaloo, isn’t it nice to be told a story — hey, perhaps even a truth-slightly-twisted story — that’s a little heartwarming?
A story where a three-and-a-half year-old child — presumably one who attends a kindergarten where toddling prophets of doom aren’t allowed — has asked a simple question of a store that she sees mum buy groceries at.
I’m sure if Lucy had shopped at the blue and red store, or the green store, instead of the orange one, then Lily would’ve written to Mr Tesco or Mr Asda (sorry, I mean Mr Walmart) instead. They all sell Tiger bread, after all.
Yet apparently it’s all exploitative. It’s not entirely clear who is exploiting who, but knowing how cynics work, it’ll be everyone and everything.
Lucy will be exploiting Lily by somehow profiting (to the tune of £3 and by asking people to donate money to the Disasters Emergency Committee) from the fact her little corner of the Internet suddenly went viral.
Sainsbury’s has masterminded the whole charade in order to sell more bread, thereby exploiting the family, and us, and society, which will now see “lines for bread like they were in post WW1 Germany” (no, really).
And it all feeds into this giant, wholly evil capitalist society. Who’d’ve thought the innocent letter of a three-and-a-half year-old girl could spark all that off?
Now, I do know that Sainsbury’s works with bloggers in order to promote its business. Many companies do, and there’s nothing very new in that.
I also know that a lot of the good things that happen in society are championed by corporations primarily to get their name associated with a cause and lap up a bit of free press.
But surely we all have a duty to allow a child’s innocence to last for as long as possible?
These sorts of stories will crop up time and time again. Some will be real, borne out of a parent’s genuine interest in sharing a little piece of their child’s life that, to them, is highly significant. Others will be generated by companies.
We won’t always know the difference, but does it matter? Sainsbury’s isn’t using kids to sell us illegal drugs. It’s a loaf of bread for crying out loud!
If there was something illicit about these goodwill stories, we’d have the right to be up in arms. Yet adults all have brains and free will. I already like Tiger / Giraffe bread. I’m not going to buy more just because of this story. If I do, it’ll probably be from Morrison’s anyway.
There’s a time and a place for looking at company exploitation, corporate greed, and the system as a whole. It just makes me sad when a little ray of sunshine story is trampled all over in the race to moralise over societal decline.