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In previous editions we have looked far and near for ponderous consumer experiences. This time around we are looking a little closer at the messages targeting us and what meanings they explicitly and unintentionally reveal.


On my last overseas flight, by the time they came around with the meal, I was more than ready. Sure, the crew didn’t seem to know what the options were, where words like “beef” and “chicken” were interchangeable options (and one attendant was freestyling with the radical “lentils” offering). Given the uncertainty, I went for the most-likely-to-keep-me-from-dying-of-low-blood-sugar-option: pasta. Looks like I made the right choice, because the pasta was homemade! Well, sure, the perfect formation of noodle-cheese-sauce may not evoke the sense of the artisinal, but the industrial inkjet printing on the foil covering reassures me that it was indeed homemade. Just like an artist numbers her limited edition prints, the pastacraftsman behind this meal uses a special code to document the individual pride and care. Sure, it tasted like crap, but I was thrilled to have homemade airborne crap.


In this park in Lisbon, we found a phone hole, where a payphone once was, but is no more. The sign helpfully suggests that the phone is temporarily unavailable while being repaired. But let’s face facts, that phone is long gone and ain’t never coming back. Lisbon telco maintenance people, please don’t set up expectations you can’t meet!


I recently received this card from an agent at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter. It included a lovely little flower-shaped piece of paper with flower seeds in it that I can plant wherever I choose. While I “luv” the idea of Southwest giving me flowers, I am baffled for a few reasons. Firstly, it seems like an unnecessary use of paper. Why not just print the promo message directly on the flower paper? Why use up a not plantable piece of paper to give me one that is? I have seen this kind of paper printed on before so I know that it is possible. Secondly, I don’t understand the campaign purpose. In preparation for this post I visited the Southwest Citizenship link on the card and found no connection to this item. I expected to see an image of this card or something, anything really, that would visually or conceptually close the loop between the gift, the targeted behavior (visit the site) and the message. A flowery fail, really.


Celebrity sighting. For all of you out there wondering “Whatever happened to Johnny 5 from the 1986 film Short Circuit?” I believe I have the answer! While my son and I were returning a movie to a DVD rental kiosk in our local market this message appeared on the screen. My son doubted the likelihood of a little old-fashioned robot inside of the kiosk handling the check-out and return process. Of course, he is much too young to remember Johnny 5. So while he left the store incredulous, I left sighing with satisfaction that even 26 year-old robots can find relevant work in today’s economy.

Tamara Christensen

Tamara is the founder of Tamara Christensen Consulting. She loves to talk to strangers and is intrigued by how people narrate their lives and what their stories reveal about how they make meaning. She is driven by a desire to uncover everyday creativity in the way people establish rituals and relationships.

Steve Portigal

Steve Portigal is the founder of Portigal Consulting, a bite-sized firm that helps clients to discover and act on new insights about themselves and their customers. He writes regularly for interactions magazine, Core77 and the Portigal Consulting blog, All This ChittahChattah.

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