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Ronald and the Forbidden Fruit

It's 3 pm, and she waddles back home from the bus stop. Before responding to any question coming from the kitchen, she grapples with the unwieldy grey sheets of paper, resorting to using her forearms and even her head for support. With an almost zen-like concentration, she folded it twice, now as large as her largest textbook, to finally ease her breath. Using her ink-spotted fingers as a guide, she quickly goes down the right column to see if a movie she likes is on. If she found one, she moved left quickly to check the time and channel. A deep sigh having realised the show had just ended. If only she could skip school. She gets back into the right column, determined to find another option. As soon as she locks in, she declares the time and channel—the first time she has interacted with the voices around her, emerging from a trance akin to the isolation promised by today's noise-cancelling headsets.

A few hours later, a phone rings, and she runs out. A less tidy version returns home with the sole intention of sitting for the 8.30 pm show on a channel she had memorised after loudly shouting, "I finished my homework." The only challenge remaining was guarding the remote and keeping the snacks ready to grab during ad breaks.

Those were tough times, weren't they?

Fast forward, she's on a packed plane, skipping the ‘two doors ahead and two doors back’ monologue, intently staring at a tiny screen, waiting to see how Tom Cruise jumps off a cliff. Unaware, the plane starts its climb, and fear, now translating to real life, she resorts to a change — now cracking up on a joke about Ross and his sandwich. Much better. By the time the dry and almost rock-solid sandwiches are trolleyed out on the plane, she has switched through enough content options that the person sitting next is secretly disappointed with each switch. 

So, what’s happened here? Aside from a judgemental stranger feeling hurt.

In this age of endless options for content consumption, where the freedom to watch any show or movie from the comfort of our couch has become the norm, I stumbled upon an intriguing sight – Ronald McDonald perched on a bench outside an upcoming Apple Store. The scene sparked a whimsical thought: perhaps even Ronald indulges in an apple occasionally. It's a testament to the multitude of choices surrounding us. Choices that inspire us. But more on that later.

Photo Credits: Sage Penwood

Two phenomena relating to choices have been brought to my attention a few times—these choices are slowly looking alike, despite the disruptions that have marked history, and this deluge of options needs structuring for the creatures of habit we are. Not to mention that short attention span.

Let me explain. Going back, we have to remember that McDonald’s Speedy Service System with standardised portions and non-cutlery-style packaging was an exciting move from the McDonald’s brothers, eventually leading Ray Croc to push this globally. Similarly, Jony Ive’s contribution to the design of the iPod and Macs revived Apple after Steve Jobs joined back. These were disruptive strategies convincing consumers of the newest in the market, leading them to flock to stores in a now decades long zombie march. I understand that these products were extremely intuitive and therefore, cannibalised most of the competition almost immediately. This does not always happen.

In a world brimming with Primes and Netflixs, Barbies and Oppenheimers, Alexas and Siris, ChatGPTs and BERTs, I, as a consumer, now enjoy an unprecedented level of choice. I can explore various options, sampling a bit of everything before deciding what truly resonates with me. Surrounded by an array of powerful choices, it's as if they all stand as Gods, overwhelming in their presence. Yet, upon closer examination, each holds unique abilities distinct from the others. I recently found that we can join communities and see channels and statuses on WhatsApp. The purpose is to create groups and keep everyone updated, which incidentally I can do on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, X, and presumably any other social media channel that is ‘curated’ to be ‘commonplace.’ So, let me weigh my options. I could be on every platform for all my 'fans' who adore me, despite not having starred in a movie, changed the world, or even brought peace. Alternatively, I could choose just one or none at all. Waving from my balcony is also an option. What? Shahrukh Khan does that. The biggest reason all these options are available and continue to stay available is they collectively make for a combination of all our preferences in usage and FOMO, in equal measure. I believe, as a consumer, this is a wonderful indicator that brands, big and small, can now transcend to the next step with this technological landscape as an advantage.

The next step is making The Hydrator. Yes, you read it right! If you haven’t already, imagine popping a coin-sized burger in an oven-like machine, and after 2 minutes, out comes a fully sized burger. That Back to the Future 2 scene becoming a reality is only possible if there are many solutions that, when combined, bring new experiences being industry agnostic. After all, it would be insanely cool to own an AI powered Apple Hydrator with McDonald’s burgers that are whipped out without being sloppy. From only cooking at home to using Zomato to get meals at your doorstep, we have already come a long way, with our need for a good experience being constant. This is evidence of our ability to create the Hydrator - a product symbolic of user empathy through collaboration.

The coexistence and competition among top-tier brands drive the accommodation of diverse options. This approach prioritises catering to individual consumer preferences by crafting personalised experiences that combine industry capabilities. It fosters winners uniquely perceived by each consumer while extending this tailored approach to all consumers, championing individual choices on a global scale. As consumers, we don’t see brands, we don’t see data. We see only that they understand our feelings and keep up with our feelings. With the comfort of sitting on his bench outside the upcoming store, I suspect it's as if an apple fell on Ronald's head to add an Apple Pie to the menu, you know? I wonder if Ronald's colourful outfits are inspiring Apple too.


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