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Symbols sell: what a green easter egg made me think about belonging

You might’ve heard it on the news or seen them on the shelves; Waitrose are re-releasing their chocolate avocado for Easter. It looks like this.

waitrose-avocado

At first, this perplexed me. It seems to be targeting a particular audience with the broad brush strokes a lot of people are tired of: ‘think millennials, think avocados’.

My first thought: Waitrose are fools. This is lazy ‘customer insight’ in action

You know what I mean. Organisations turn people into paint-by-numbers ‘personas’ (Jane, 26, loves avocados and has a strong sense of entitlement) and bucket them under strange semi-descriptive labels. In the past couple of years, I’ve met them all, from your Time-Conscious Mums to your Asset-Rich Greys.

And it’s always seemed so self-defeating. You’re trying to understand your audience so you can empathise with them. Good. You’re trying to paint vivid pictures of people so you can talk to them about things they’ll be interested in. Also good.

But in practice, it always ends up very theoretical: sliced and diced ‘segments’, pages of ‘our customer’ guidelines, and yes, the strange labels. And this egg/avocado seems cooked up (hatched?) in this world. You can almost picture the marketing meeting: ‘how can we target our Egomaniacal Millennial segment for Easter? I know: they love avocados.’

But here was my second thought: Waitrose are geniuses! This is so self-aware!

After all, the avocado isn’t just a symbol of being millennial. It’s also a symbol of a certain middle class smugness – along with what else? Waitrose itself. It’s so meta. So maybe it’s actually an elaborate joke: Waitrose are laughing at themselves, millennials are laughing at themselves, and everyone’s eating green chocolate.

And anyway, this is a re-release. It’s back by popular demand.

I think it must have something to do with social identity theory. These Easter avocados must sell for the same reason church-goers buy fish shapes and stick them to their cars; for the same reason football teams have strips, scarves, crests and colours. As millennials, we might roll our eyes when we’re told we love avocados, but the truth is, avocados sell, and so do symbols. (If that wasn’t true, all this tat wouldn’t exist.)

So what do you think? Slyly self-aware or ‘blunt instrument’ school of customer insight? I’m finding this eggvocado a tough one to crack.