The Anonymity of Mass Appeal

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

This past Sunday, Business Week posted a fascinating piece that provides an overview of the most popular items across all sorts of categories.  The most common new car color in the United States? White, at almost 18%.  And a close second?  Black, at 17%.  So much for vehicular polychromatism…

Actually, we might reserve that for lipstick.  More specifically, Revlon lipsticks.  And more specifically still, Revlon SoftSilver Rose lipstick.

But the figure that really blew my doors off was this: of all the individual SKU’s driving Wal-Mart’s staggering $450 billion dollars in annual sales, the lowly banana stands at the top of the most-purchased list.

That’s unbelievable.  A fruit, a perishable, dominates at the cash registers of the world’s retail giant. The United States may lead the world in obesity, but dag, this must be doing something for our collective potassium levels.

The lesson here is that cultural game-changers like Walkmans and iPads and Mini Coopers always come and go.  Harry Potter falls to Twilight which will in turn, topple to something else.

It’s not the critical darling, the talked about it-object, that builds dynasties: it’s the staple, the product we reach for without pausing to consider our action.

There can be enormous power in anonymity and unremarkability.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

2 thoughts on “The Anonymity of Mass Appeal

  1. Joe says:

    Walmart has a distribution center within 10 miles of us. A number of years ago I was asked to give a price to replace some concrete outside and inside their warehouse (which I decided not to do). While being shown the various projects the manager showed me the banana facility. This was incredibly elaborate and very important because it is such a volume item. They feel that they handle bananas better than any of their competitors.

    The description of the banana storage rooms is very involved, so I won’t go there. What was interesting is that they are in constant use and the amount of time they have for cleaning is very limited.

    Be well,


  2. Alan Spindle says:

    I heard this on the radio. Between my car and the office, I saw three people brandishing bananas. Who knows how many were concealed?

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