One of the things Naomi Klein discussed in No Logo was the idea that my generation and the one following it are the most branded generations in the history of the world. While she may have argued against branding while simultaneously creating a website to transform her own idea into a brand, she did have a point. Most of the people I know will spurn a can of Southern Lightning if there’s Mountain Dew available, and won’t touch a box of store brand macaroni and cheese when there’s Kraft right next to it.
When I stopped on the way home tonight to pick up croissants I noticed a fairly glaring example of branding:
The average shopper knows nothing about those chips except that Doritos makes them. The bland, featureless bag gives no indication of taste or flavor, and black, as a food color, offers no suggestions. If it was red, or orange, you might think spicy or cheesy, or if it was green you might think immediately of sour cream and onion, since that’s the universal color for potato chips in that flavor. Instead it’s black, a deliberate choice on the part of the Doritos marketing department that probably also assumes their target market isn’t old enough to remember the Monterey Jack flavored Doritos, in a black bag, that were available alongside Crystal Pepsi for a while there.
Who would buy a bag of chips, knowing only that Doritos makes them?
Me, of course. I was curious.
The smell inside the bag when you open it is hard to place. There is definite cheese, but also a salty spicy tomato kind of smell, like guacamole sometimes carries. There’s also a hint of onion, but sweet onions.
Visually, they look like any other Doritos, except for the green ones. They’re a yellow corn chip dusted with orange flavoring of some sort. It’s actually the same shade of orange as regular, plain old red bag nacho cheese Doritos, which again is a deliberate choice on the part of the company. When I was in high school we took a trip to the Ontario Science Center, and one of the exhibits was an experiment in flavoring. You put in a quarter and got a container of orange colored candy, and then were supposed to say what it tasted like. Mine, surprisingly in light of the color, tasted like mint. My friend’s tasted sour.
These chips look like the plain old nacho cheese ones, but taste like something else. Like the smell, the flavor is hard to place, and it makes you think about how much packaging and coloring and naming really does work to predefine your experience. I’ve eaten about six chips so far, and I still can’t quite define it. I’m not really enough of a foodie to pick out all the flavors, but it tastes kind of like a pot of chili, but without the bite from the peppers. There’s a vaguely cumulative sense of heat or spice, but it’s not immediate. They’re not tomato-ish or cheesy, either.
Overall, they taste like Sloppy Joes.
I wish they’d come in a smaller bag.