Verbal indigestion

I recently picked up a copy of Superquinn's Christmas magazine. I’ve been looking for some kind of mental Rennie ever since.

Published by Harmonia, it gave me the distinct impression of people going through the motions, with far too little creative editorial thought having been given to how to match Superquinn’s communications to its excellent food & service. This is glossy marketing by the book - written according to a formula that says fawning over Superquinn's products is enough to sell them.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work. I shop at Superquinn because they make good food easily available in tolerable surroundings. I find it patronising to be repeatedly told in the magazine that their food is not good - but the best in the world. When they tell me that it's better than anything else, not only do I immediately sense that they're bullshitting, I object. And not only do I object, but I am distracted from the actual great aspects of Superquinn: a missed opportunity to reinforce the unique characteristics of the company.

To give an example, here's the introductory line to one of the first features in the magazine.

"Driven by key criteria - unmatchable quality and provenance - we have scoured the country and indeed the world - for the freshest, most natural and authentic ingredients."

“Most natural and authentic ingredients”? “Unmatchable”? Come off it! All these superlatives, and ridiculous claims about scouring the world, not only ring false, they also suggest a failure to appreciate what Superquinn actually has achieved.

The overkill on superlatives is not confined to Superquinn products:

"Nothing rouses the festive spirit quicker than the heady scent of cinnamon .."

eh ...except, perhaps, gifts, jingles, cards, presents, Santa hats, fruit cake, brandy butter, turkey, Brussels sprouts, Slade, Christmas crackers, and so on. No one believes this kind of remark, no one thinks like this … not even the author, I’m pretty sure. Why use it?

Even if cinnamon needs a PR boost, Superquinn doesn't. It can afford to play it cool, but this magazine is anything but cool.

“Superquinn undoubtedly offers the freshest seafood than any other supermarket. And with a selection to rival none, our fish counter should be your first port of call.”

Typo or no typo in this paragraph, it is just not the way to market Superquinn’s fish offering.

Without doubt, the publication does have merits, some useful tips and recipes for Christmas, for instance, but it's obvious that the text, the whole production, in fact, was very much “run off”, a matter going through the motions for another year, another full-colour, glossy mag with pics of lovely food. Whatever editorial policy was developed gave little or no thought to what Superquinn really has to offer, what its competitive advantages are, who shops there and how they feel about it. I would love to see what a few creative NCAD students would have proposed for such a publication given the right brief: something more radical, I can say that with confidence, and perhaps more effective too. Or even if Harmonia had looked to someone like Nigella Lawson to see how to sell food without false claims.

Incidentally, there was no sub-editor listed in the credits: a terrible corner to cut, and it shows in the general writing, headings and subheadings throughout.

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