Apocalypse ready

As this pandemic reminds us, life is uncertain and we need to be ready for whatever befalls us. This year it’s the novel coronavirus, next year, flesh-eating zombies?

That’s why I’m looking at the future from a marketing perspective, which is to say, what messaging works in the midst of chaos? It’s difficult to gain people’s attention when they’re worried, and waiting for the apocalypse is worrisome. Madison Avenue’s reaction to the pandemic has been revealing; messages about the safety of home, hearth and love are all over the media, but such marketing only works when placed against the emotional background of angst and fear, subtle reminders that this virus is deadly juxtaposed to reassuring messages intended as counter-points to impending doom.

It’s much like marketing labels attached to food products, like USDA Organic; the word “organic” only has positive resonance due to our reasonable fear of being poisoned by pesticides. This is how marketing works: hyping a comfortable solution makes an audience think about an uncomfortable problem. It’s the same approach all the pharmaceutical companies use in their advertising. Want soothing relief from those nagging aches and pains you’re having? Maybe it’s rheumatoid arthritis; ask your doctor!

This is why I’m introducing the Apocalypse Ready label, a reassuring message that points directly to doom and gloom. That can of vegetarian black beans with the USDA Organic icon is even more appealing when it’s also Apocalypse Ready. And what, exactly, does Apocalypse Ready mean? Well, here’s the magic: nothing and everything.

Song writer Tom Lehrer discovered such magic in the early 1960s with apocalyptic hits like “The Wild West Is Where I Wanna Be,” through lyrics about atomic bomb testing: “I will put on my sombrero / and of course I’ll wear a pair o’ Levis / over my lead BVDs.” Explicitly invoking the unthinkable breaks the first rule of marketing, thereby effectively getting to the heart of the matter. Nothing’s truthier than the truth. “We’ll all fry together when we fry,” he sang in a dittie about nuclear war, “We’ll be French fries together by and by.” All his cheery playfulness, of course, romped in the dark shadow of the hydrogen bomb, the earth-ending weaponry of war still hanging over humanity’s head.

If you will, imagine the Apocalypse Ready label on your bag of potato chips or granola bar. They’ll never disappoint you, even as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse come galloping over the hill to reveal your ultimate fate. Centuries from now, the tattered remnants of human civilization will still be finding and eating cans of organic, Apocalyse Ready black beans; what could be more reassuring than that?

The word “apocalypse” is not derived from “calypso” by the way, but from the Greek word “apokalupsis,” which translates as “uncovering” or “lifting the veil.” What’s uncovered is the psychological truth of the situation we spend great effort to ignore, the doom of death, what William Shakespeare poetically invoked as shaking off “our mortal coil.” The beauty of the Apocalypse Ready label lies within its deepest truth: whatever doom awaits us, our energetic essence is indestructible (and fully recyclable!). In this respect, all and everything is Apocalypse Ready, or in the transcendental marketing wisdom of Buddhism’s ancient Heart Sutra: “There is no birth and no cessation…”

In any event, I’m offering the Apocalypse Ready label to all comers without charge. Remember: Apocalypse Ready = Apocalypse Safe!

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