Random: The way potatoes were made popular in certain parts of Europe is arguably one of the most cunning displays of marketing and packaging of a product in history.
During 10 years launching and running nightclubs here and abroad, it, at times, stunned me that certain customers were so drawn towards the ‘exclusive’ VIP areas of venues. I summarised that it was their intent to symbolise and validate their status, popularity, wealth, and networking capabilities. All highly important to the psyche of most individuals, in basic human form. Apparently.
At times, I felt as though we could have placed a VIP sign above the stock room in the basement, and the overly zealous VIP-inclined would find themselves intrigued by what lay behind the door, willing to pay a premium to stand in the stock room all night, on their own, with only their eccentric personality and wanton need for adulation for company.
As the legend Jimmy Greaves used to say, ‘It’s a funny old game’.
Anyway, let’s travel back in time to the mid-16th century for a minute, and discuss the introduction of the Potato. Throughout Europe, Potatoes were regarded with suspicion, distaste and fear. They were considered unfit for human consumption, and were used mainly for animal fodder and sustenance for the starving. Peasants of the time refused to eat them, because they were ugly and misshapen. It was even considered that they were the work of the devil, or witches.
However, the upper classes saw the potato’s potential, and the encouragement to begin growing potatoes had to come from above. In England, positive PR from the elite classes, and the media, fed down to the lower classes slowly. Eventually, after articles in such publications as The Times, potato-based recipes filtered into the mindset of the lower classes, and usage became more widespread.
However, it was Frederick the Great of Prussia’s strategy that really made an impression with me, and led me to pen this blog. He saw the potato’s potential to help feed his nation and lower the price of bread, but faced the challenge of overcoming the people’s prejudice against the plant.
When Frederick issued an order, in 1774, for his subjects to grow potatoes as protection against famine, the town of Kolberg replied: “The things have neither smell nor taste, not even the dogs will eat them, so what use are they to us?”
Frederick then made the conscious decision to become a millennial nightclub promoter, almost 300 years before his time: he planted what he called a ‘royal field’ of potato plants, and stationed a heavy guard to protect this field from ‘thieves’.
Nearby peasants naturally assumed that anything worth guarding was worth stealing, and so snuck into the field and snatched the plants for their home gardens. Of course, this was entirely in line with Frederick’s plans, and the Potato was adopted without further delay by his subjects.
I must at this point clarify that I am not referring to my former customers as thieving peasants. And furthermore, I am not referring to myself as Frederick the Great of Prussia.
This was, however, a genius display of reverse psychology. In fact, if the stars were to have aligned in my favour, I would have employed Frederick as a VIP host at PRIVA without a second thought.
What I’m pointing out here is the scarcity complex strategy. It was clearly in play long before you saw that ‘One VIP Table Left This Saturday, Contact Me Now’ post on social media from your local nightclub Potatoe-pusher. If you want to initiate aspiration in certain lines of work, you should metaphorically, or physically in some cases, rope it off, guard it, up its price, and tell people there’s limited supply.
Thanks for reading.