Last night my wife and I went on a triple date with her brother and parents to see Wonder Woman. Before the movie we had dinner at a falafel place, the type of restaurant that at first glance you are not sure what to expect. It looked unpromising, with a plasticky menu above the counter and basically no decor on the walls. There was almost no one there when we arrived.
My first impression was totally wrong. The food was incredible, with falafel plucked in front of our eyes out of the oil and handed to us on a paper plate to try. The pita pockets were assembled in front of our eyes and it was the quickest, cheapest and most delicious meal I have eaten out in a long time.
But what I really appreciated about the experience was the absolute lack of pretension. The food was served on paper plates. The cook stepped outside after assembling our food and smoked a cigarette in plain view. The other customers were a mix of college students, construction workers, an old man in a wheelchair and a woman in a headscarf.
We are accustomed to businesses packaging themselves in way that supports or establishes our feelings for them before we even buy anything. Before we do anything besides glance at a website or walk in the door, we are exposed to a carefully curated experience. The goal is to associate our brand with desirable things or a certain type of experience, but this presentation is not the same thing as the product itself.
There is a belief that if you present an object beautifully that it will increase our perception of its value. The falafel place is a wonderful example of the complete opposite sometimes being true, where the lack of any of this artifice makes the food (or the whatever) that much more amazing. Because it is so clearly not leaning on any of these marketing things to be great (and that is the rub, that the thing itself must be great for this to work).
In the spooncarving world, we use this sort of marketing all the time. We photograph our spoons beautifully, we package them in ways that are meant to evoke positive emotions and associations, we show only the parts of our lives that do the same. This is certainly true of me. But last night's meal made me want to push harder in the opposite direction. To show the real, without pretense, and to strive to have my spoons be great enough that they will be a surprise and delight when they arrive on someone's door, rather than leave the vague feeling that they were suckers for my packaging.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card