Out There: The repackaging of Bamba

Pretentious marketing has potential. Imagine how we could sell some Israeli products using a similar scheme.

bamba 248.88 (photo credit: )
bamba 248.88
(photo credit: )
Having gone to college in Boulder, Colorado – that hub of hip, that core of cool – I know from groovy.
Not that I was ever groovy myself, mind you, but I know from it. Heck, I used to live just a couple doors down from the Naropa Institute – that Buddhist center of higher education, where beat poet Allen Ginsberg would hang out and do yoga. It doesn’t get much groovier than that.
As a result, I understand from things like wheat germ on your chili, bean sprouts on your salads, Ultimate Frisbee in the snow, lacrosse and Celestial Seasonings teas. Especially Celestial Seasonings teas, because Celestial Seasonings tea is manufactured right there in Boulder, just as it should be.
It was there at the University of Colorado, ensconced so un-coolly in the musty stacks of Norlin Library, where I first discovered the power of packaging. Coming from a traditional Lipton Tea home – where the tea was sold in a simple yellow cardboard box that just said “Lipton Tea” – I was completely dazzled when a study partner brought me some tea and I gazed upon the packaging of this new brand.
The boxes were colorful, with fairy-tale pictures of dragons and princesses on the cover. And the tea wasn’t just called tea, it had funky names like Mandarin Orange Spice, or Red Zinger, or my personal favorite – the super-caffeinated Morning Thunder (during finals, to stay awake and study, I’d suck on the tea bags).
But there was more. On the back of the boxes, right alongside the price and near those important nutrition facts, was a quote, something along the lines of: “Happiness consists not in having much, but in being content with little – Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington.”
I was spellbound. “Look at this wisdom,” I gushed to my friend, “right there on the back of a tea box!” Boy you don’t get that on a bag of Ruffles potato chips. “I got to collect these,” I thought, “I got to buy more tea.”
Which I did, until I realized that all herbal teas pretty much taste alike, and that the quotes, when you actually sit down and ponder them, were not that darned profound. If I wanted quotes, I’d buy a quote book.
BUT, NEVER mind, Celestial Seasonings was definitely onto something. How do I know? Because now, three decades later, many of the tea companies, and other fancy food and drink manufacturers, have taken up the idea, and various tea bags or bottles of newfangled drink now come – if not with a quote – at least with a flowery explanation of what you just bought.
For instance, on the back of a sleeve of Tazo Calm Infusion tea is the following: “A single cup of Tazo Calm has been known to have the same effect as sitting for 45 minutes in a mountain meadow on a sunny day with your shoes off.”
And then, underneath the ingredients, it says: “To ask questions, share observations or simply have a bit of human contact, write us...”
“Have a bit of human contact?” I just want a cup of tea.
Another drink I tried recently, called “Prometheus Pomegranate Black Pepper” – an odd mix of ingredients if ever one existed – had this written on the back: “Arm yourself with the crisp, just-peeled essence of white pomegranate layered with the robust flame of fresh black pepper. This powerful elixir helps protect and defend against the stress of any opposition.”
One of the key ingredients in the drink – capsaicin – is described as “colorless, odorless and delightfully painful.”
Wow, that’s Celestial Seasonings gone mad. It’s as if a wine reviewer suddenly became a marketing man.
Indeed, it sounds like a wine review, a combination of words that sound nice but don’t – at least to the uninitiated – have any anchor in reality. “Delightfully painful”?
Though I went to school in Boulder, I’m no wine buff. So when I read wine reviews, or what’s written on the bottles, I’m often channeling the same thought I had while reading that Prometheus label: “Are you kidding me?”
A typical wine review – this one culled from the Internet – reads like this: “The wine opens to reveal a tempting array of blackberry, raspberry, plum and cassis fruits, supported nicely by hints of smoky cedarwood and chocolate, leading to a gently spicy and notably long finish.”
Were I drinking that same dry wine – a 2004 merlot – I’d be thinking, “Damn, they forgot to add the sugar.” Cassis fruits? I thought cassis was a digital watch.
If I want an oaky taste, as some wines proclaim, I’d chew on some bark; if I wanted an earthy taste, as others boast, I’d stand open mouthed in last week’s sandstorm. I don’t want an earthy taste on anything, which is essentially why I always wash my vegetables. Why would I want an earthy taste with my dinner?
But this pretentious marketing has potential. Imagine how we could sell some Israeli products – such as Bamba, Milkies or s’hug – using a similar scheme.
“Crunching on Bamba will propel you back to your childhood, walking barefoot on cold balatot [floor tiles] with an irresistible desire to wallop a sibling,” one could write on a bag of Bamba.
Or, for the Milki, why not write that a “spoonful of this delightful chocolate pudding and whipped cream confection will conjure up soothing images of the supermarket, and the dour checkout lady leaving her seat and leisurely walking to the manager to get a check authorized for the customer in front of you.”
As to s’hug, I know I’d be happy were my next container to read that this “delightfully painful bread spread, with a hint of its plastic container and an array of devil-hot earthy vegetables, conjures up – from the tongue via the nostrils right to the mind – the calming hustle and bustle of a Middle Eastern shouk.”
A shuk where one buys only loose teas, and thick, sickeningly sweet kiddush wine.