A fascinating article in FastCompany describes the process of recoding the semiotics of “baby carrots” so they represent a snacky junk-food rather than a vegetable. The money quote is when the advertising executive says, “To have a great advertising idea, you have to get at the truth of the product…The truth about baby carrots is they possess many of the defining characteristics of our favorite junk food. They’re neon orange, they’re crunchy, they’re dippable, they’re kind of addictive.” In other words, the truth about carrots is that they resemble something completely artificial.
If advertising seeks to alter our perception of reality, then this campaign is likely to be hugely successful simply by shifting the category in the consumer’s mind. A carrot is not a “vegetable.” In other words, the advertiser and producer do not want to code carrot as “vegetable”. The word–the sign–“Vegetable” connotes all kinds of things, many of them negative, especially in the minds of children. But “snack” is an altogether different sign. Snack means tasty, convenient, and entertaining. If this works, it suggests the same could be done with celery or cherry tomatoes, which would be a “good thing” if it got more kids to eat vegetables.
And notice also how much attention goes into the design of the packaging, which is probably the most important component of this whole campaign, given that the underlying product is unalterable. Notice the emphasis on certain codes, the use of the window, the colors and text style, etc. Why does this work? Why won’t it?
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