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Three Marketing Professors Are at a Finger Buffet...

October 2022


An apocryphal tale about in-fighting, prawn rings and the need for a balanced diet.

Three marketing professors standing at a finger buffet were asked for their opinion on what the best finger buffet food was.

Without a moment’s hesitation the first professor piped up. "Vol-au-vents," he asserted. "There are lots of potential flavours to choose from, you just need to pick the one likely to be of the greatest appeal to your audience and – boom –guaranteed no leftovers."

A few people waiting in line agreed. But an equal number voiced their disagreement.

The second professor pointed to the table with a self-satisfied smirk and raised his voice above the murmur of dissent.

"Everyone knows that the only buffet food you need nowadays is a prawn ring," he said. "Vol-au-vents are a relic from the past and anyone thinking they have any place on this table is a crack-smoking dinosaur!"

, said the first professor, going as pink as the prawn ring. "If you remove vol-au-vents, you break the buffet."

"Au contraire,"
said the second professor. "I’d go so far as to say Francois Manin, the inventor of vol-au-vents, should be discredited. What do the French know about buffets anyway?"

"Er, they invented them?"
said the first professor.

"That’s as may be, but me and my colleagues wrote the book about the value of a prawn ring looking exactly like a prawn ring, and not being mistakable for a circle of scampi or crab sticks arranged in a hoop."

At this point Buffet Today magazine got wind of the smorgasbord-spat and ran the story, allowing other people to fan the embers of their own offence into a full furnace of performative indignation. The ensuing Twitter storm was swift and vitriolic:

"Vol-au-vent based dick waddery," said one user.

"Everyone knows that the prawn ring is the modern-day amuse bouche of choice,"
said another.

"There can be only one canapé, and the vol-au-vent is it!"

Someone posted a chart unfavourably comparing the nutritional value of prawns to vol-au-vents.

Someone else created a menu demonstrating how the vol-au-vent lacked merit, being as it was so easily substituted for other pastry-based options like the sausage roll, the quiche or the cheese straw.

Some eminent strategist said what he felt buffets really needed was innovative thinking, but when pressed on what that might be could only produce something that looked a lot like cheese and pineapple sticks in the shape of the TikTok logo.

A creative planner mentioned that he preferred those filled iceberg lettuce cups as an appetiser. Naturally a side argument ensued in which someone said anyone using icebergs instead of little gems was a fucking moron who deserved to be flayed and left to freeze to death on an actual iceberg. He would later be removed from the platform for glacial hatred.

Many people refused to be drawn into the debate, instead commenting on the ridiculousness of the debate itself, only to find themselves sucked into a debate over the ridiculousness of the debate, until eventually all of Buffet Twitter became one big pointless mass debate.

Back in the room the first professor was saying that none of the people he worked with had ever even heard of a prawn ring, and when it was first mentioned he thought it was a reference to a shrimp’s anus.

At this point the third professor, who had written at length about the vol-au-vent / prawn ring crisis engulfing the buffet industry, entered the fray.

"What about a new type of finger food?" he said. "One that combines the best bits of the prawn ring AND the vol-au-vent."

Someone at the back tried to point out that that wasn’t a new thing at all, it was just a prawn vol-au-vent, which people had been eating for years.

"No it fucking isn’t," said the third professor. "This thing is a totally legitimate, entirely novel, revolutionary new party snack idea. It even has its own name to prove it – The Crustaceopastry™."

Just when it looked like no consensus could be reached, a small voice pitched up. "Excuse me," said a young girl. "Is there a reason why everyone’s stood round talking about the buffet rather than actually eating it?"

The room fell quiet as the girl set about putting a whole selection of the food that suited her particular tastes and appetite on the little paper plate she was clutching.

After she had finished, she looked up at the three marketing professors with innocent eyes. "You lot need to chill the fuck out," she said. "Have you not heard of the benefits of a balanced diet? It’s a buffet for a reason." And away she walked, munching on a scotch egg and a stick of pepper as she went.

And it would be lovely to report that from that day forth the three marketing professors lived happily ever after, creating a collective smorgasbord of strategic insight and thought-leadership that would help other buffet-goers make balanced choices without the need for partisanship or infighting.

But sadly, the world of buffets isn’t like that. And neither is the world of marketing.


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