salt expiry date closeup

How long do you plan to be in business?

salt with expiry date

So I was using this salt, and I spotted this sticker on the lid, and I grimaced.

Salt doesn’t expire; it’s almost literally a rock.

There’ll be a process behind this sticker. It didn’t arrive on my salt by accident. My inner empath says it’s a sad result of tens of people rolling over and saying “yeah, whatever” under pressure from an FDA-level external force demanding everything display an expiry date, even if that thing is a rock.

My inner cynic says it’s a clumsy attempt to sell more salt, by rendering your current salt, “old”.

Either way, for those who don’t notice this sticker, it’s a waste of space, materials and human effort to produce the sticker in the first place. For those who do? It’s a waste of attention, and opportunity, as well as resources.

What would smart design do with this sticker instead? Would it celebrate salt’s longevity instead – via a series of stickers each handily listing expiry times of other common items? Or encourage usage – via a micro-list of ways to use up salt?

Whacking an expiry sticker on something that doesn’t expire smacks of short-termism: Get the thing done, right now, because someone says now is when it has to be done. So we do it, because that’s how business works when it’s your job and not your vocation.

I’ve seen this happen so many times in ad-land briefings, at the arse-end of the marketing function: yes, the product is flawed, yes, it’s impossible to explain, and no, we don’t know why people would buy it, but we have to advertise it because we’ve got it.

And every time we ask, “what’s the opportunity to re-look at this?”, the answer is “just do it, and we might fix it later once we see if it works” – or, we’re going to risk our pants testing this on real people because we haven’t done our design-thinking up front.

Yet design thinking is so bloody simple to do.

Here’s one of my favourite approaches – partly because of the psychology of “concreting” a future state, and partly because it introduces the mere idea that this thing might not work…

“Our exercise,” Dr. Klein explains, “is to ask planners to imagine that it is months into the future and that their plan has been carried out. And it has failed. That is all they know; they have to explain why they think it failed.”

Maybe the plan had an expiry date?