The Principle of Parsimony: Not For Marketing

I’m reading a book about philosophy called “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar …”. In one section while explaining the Principle of Parsimony (essentially the idea that one should always choose the simplest explanation for something, one that requires the fewest leaps of logic) they share a little joke and some insight on Tupperware that got me thinking…

We’re often told to keep it simple, in fact, even recently I’ve blogged about it myself, but here’s where it differs: In our systems, in our strategies, in our business endeavors, with clients, processes and so forth we want to keep it simple, but when presenting something for a sale there’s no harm in embellishing it. The simple existence of your product or service is not enough. People need to be convinced, so our talk needs to be convincing. Tupperware got it…

“One evening after dinner, a five-year-old son noticed that his mother had gone out and asked his father, “Where did mommy go?”
His father told him, “Mommy is at a Tupperware party.”
This explanation satisfied him for only a moment. Puzzled, he asked, “What’s a Tupperware party, Dad?”
The man had always given his son honest answers, so he figured a simple explanation would be the best approach. “Well, son,” he said, “at a Tupperware party, a bunch of ladies sit around and sell plastic bowls to each other.”
He nodded, indicating that he understood this curious pastime. Then he burst into laughter. “Come on, Dad,” he said. “What is it really?”

The simple truth is that a Tupperware party really is a bunch of ladies sitting around selling plastic bowls to each other. But the marketing folks at the Tupperware Corporation, metaphysicians that they are, would have us believe it’s more complex than that.”

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