Marketing Like the Spork

Somewhere in the annals of bad ideas masquerading as genius, the Spork must have a rippingly bad review. Conceived as the answer for a combination spoon, and fork, it sports a bowl that is too shallow to work effectively as a spoon, and tines that are incapable of spearing anything at all. The results of trying to eat a meal using this poor excuse for flatware, is most often hacking solid foods to bits in an attempt to fork them up, and soup running down your chin because it spills between the tines. Even a fork is more effective at eating liquids, and a spoon at eating solids, than this warped piece of plastic which not only fails at delivering the function of either one, but fails to deliver any useful function which one could not obtain by using their bare hands (it is often not any cleaner to use a Spork than to use your fingers, the only difference is that in using your hands, the food ends up on your fingers instead of on your clothes).

The Spork is loved by one class of people – which accounts for the otherwise unaccountable continuation of such an appallingly ineffective piece of culinary hardware.  It is loved by cheap financial managers. Combine the spoon and the fork, and you eliminate the need to purchase two objects, and can purchase just a single one instead. Since the Spork is invariably produced on very thin, cheap, plastic (clearly intended to break under minimal stress, thereby further frustrating the already annoyed customer), the savings are magnified even more.

The customer invariably HATES the Spork. It is a singularly uncomfortable eating utensil. One usually ends up having to drink liquids and having to spoon up forkable foods, simply because the thing just won’t work using any of the more familiar eating etiquettes. I love KFC potatoes and gravy – but somehow the indignity of having to try to get a smooth spoonful using the Spork that they provide, spoils the flavor and my enjoyment of it. I’d rather take it home and eat it using a real spoon or fork.

Let’s consider the Spork as a marketing method. One size fits all… Which we know, never does. In fact, one size rarely fits even HALF. More often, in the attempt to do everything with too little, one ends up, like the Spork, with a clever idea that utterly fails to work in actual practice.

If you market like that – trying to BE all things to everyone, you’ll fail too. You need to decide whether you are a fork, or a spoon. Or even a toothpick or napkin (hey, with all those Sporks running around, there’s a real niche for napkins!). Choose your purpose. And stick to that. Work out a cohesive message that targets a real need. Then work it. If it doesn’t work, tweak it – how many times do you think that flatware designers modified the spear into various incarnations of the fork, before they came up with a convenient, four tined, easily grippable utensil which allows even a two year old to eat solid foods without wounding themselves? Keep trying, and eventually you’ll work out the perfect marketing utensil as well.

If you run across a marketer who tries to sell you a package that “does everything”, or that promises to deliver all possible customers, RUN. They are trying to make a Spork, and you, as the unfortunate customer, are going to be left having invested in something that fragments your customers instead of gently lifting them, and leaves customer service soup running down your chin.

2 Responses to Marketing Like the Spork

  • This whole analogy is based on the effectiveness of a cheap, plastic utensil. To be fair, cheap plastic spoons and forks aren’t much better than the spork that you describe.

    However, if you invest in a quality spork (usually made from titanium), you’ll find that it’s a fantastic little device that can accomplish quite a bit. Is it perfect for every specific task? No.

    Is it an affordable alternative that will get you most of the way there? Definitely. In fact, most of the time, you wouldn’t notice a difference.

    I named my marketing company after the spork for two reasons. First, it’s a funny, memorable little word. Second, it’s symbolic of efficiency.

    I hear your point, but slandering all sporks because of some cheap plasticware you’ve used is unfair.

  • Laura says:

    Ok, I’m not buying it. While I can also see YOUR point, I don’t think that your opinion of the spork is shared by the general populace. The average person, when presented with a spork as the only option for an eating utensil, is going to groan and wish they had another choice – and that won’t change by giving them an expensive one instead of a cheap one.

    If you research the Spork, you find that it has sort of a cultish following, mostly of people who think the name is funny so they have to have one. They don’t really buy them to USE them so much as to add one to their collection of oddities. Metal sporks are hard to find – only a couple of companies even make them. The true market in the spork still seems to be the cheap plastic ones that are used only to pinch pennies in the fast food industry.

    Making one of metal only reduces the breakage issue – it does not make the utensil any more usable. The bowl is still too small, and the tines are still too short. If I were going to carry an emergency eating utensil for camping or hiking, or if I were to stow something away in the glove box of the car, I’d choose a nice Hobo Tool, which costs about $4, offers better functionality, and contains a knife as well.

    To continue the marketing analogy further, the Hobo Tool concept is a better one for marketing also. Selecting what is most important, modifying it in a smart way to work for the particular market, results in a more effective outcome, rather than trying to do a little bit of everything halfway, which just never seems to work well.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.