On a recent visit to McDonalds to feed a Big Mac craving (don’t counsel me on my food choices, my wife already did), I was surprised to see that they served “artisan” buns. I never expected to see the words McDonalds and artisan together, it’s an oxymoron, like military intelligence, or Trump eloquence. As I was waiting for my artisan burger I googled the definition of artisan on my phone, and according to Dictionary.com it means “a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson. 2. a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.”
So, let’s peel that back a bit. Is building burgers at McDonalds an “applied art”? Have you ever been to an art show and admired an artist’s rendition of fresh burgers? Do art students study whether Claude Monet used pickles or tomatoes on his burgers? Does Andy Warhol like mustard or ketchup on his?
What is the symbolism behind 2 all beef patties? Is it about the excess in today’s society, or does it represent the ying and yang of male and female. I was thinking probably not, so I then explored the politically correct term of craftperson which is defined as a person who “practices or is highly skilled in a craft.” And when that didn’t help I looked up the definition of craft, “an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill.” So, is McDonalds saying that it requires “special skills” to make a Big Mac? I peered back to the food preparation area and saw several hapless teenagers mindlessly assembling burgers as fast as they could, and I was pretty sure their only special skill was reaching level 10 on the latest video game.
I then thought about the second part of the definition, “a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities.” I’ll let others debate whether McDonald’s makes a “high-quality or distinctive product”, but how can they claim to be “in small quantities.” Didn’t their own signs promote the fact that “Billions and billions” have been served. One website claims the number as of 2010 was 247 billion. I am pretty sure that is not a small quantity. At this point I began to suspect that McDonalds (or their ad agency), didn’t understand what the word artisan meant. It reminded me of the misuse of the word Inconceivable from the classic movie Princess Bride. To quote Inigo Montoya, the swashbuckler seeking revenge on the 6 fingered man who killed his father, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” So is there marketing department not familiar with the English language, or do they just lack integrity in their choice of marketing terminology? I did recently read that one of the easiest college majors was marketing, (please don’t hate me if you are a Marketing major), so maybe their grasp of the English language is weak. Or maybe they just lack integrity. You decide.
I then left McDonalds (a few pounds heavier) puzzling that question and as I drove past a Taco Bell, I saw a sign, much to my chagrin, that said they were selling “Artisanal Soft-Shell tacos”. I looked on their official webpage and they claim to serve 45 million people a week, nothing small about that. Over the next few weeks I saw more and more restaurants claiming to be artisan this or artisanal that. Wendy’s has an artisan egg sandwich, Burger King has an artisan bun, I was half expecting to see White Castle’s with an artisan slider. Why the sudden over-use of the word “artisan”? Do we Americans yearn for the good ol’ days when each town center was filled with true artisans, and small town restaurants like Traders in Hebron, Kentucky thrived, instead of the ubiquitous chains we see on every street corner now? Or have all the colleges professors teaching marketing gleamed on to that word as the latest trendy word to use in marketing classes? I can picture college professors in plaid jackets with elbow pads giving lessons on the virtues of the word “Artisan”, and sales conventions with motivational speakers talking about the power of “Artisan”.
As I was mulling this over, I discovered another similar marketing trend, the overuse of the word bourbon in describing foods of every type. Now I do admit that using the word bourbon in describing a food gets my undivided attention, like a teenage boy and cheerleaders. But do we really need bourbon ice cream, bourbon infused burgers, bourbon smothered ribs, bourbon encrusted trout, bourbon glazed steaks, and grilled cheese with bourbon melted onions? Of course we do! But in reality, after I tried EVERY one of these products, they didn’t taste any different to me. But I guess this type of marketing works. I wonder if single people should choose similar adjectives in their personal descriptions on the dating websites. “I am 6 foot 2, with bourbon infused brown eyes, and finely crafted artisan buns,” just need to leave out the part that they have “served” billions and billions.
So now I am keeping my eye open for the next trendy adjective that Marketing majors learned in school or advertising firms are touting. It will no doubt be something that became wildly popular that they want to mimic in their ad campaigns to the masses, like Tide pod infused soup, or opioid dusted pancakes. As for myself, I’ll stick to bourbon infused bourbon, preferably barrel proof.
This months song is Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise, of course.