Dr. Phineas Blakenship stared with a vacant mind out of his office window onto a small park below. The afternoon sun in Omaha was baking the playground equipment, reflecting aluminums and plastic yellows back onto the building of the Cauliflower Council. His eyes transfixed on the dirt. The same dirt from which sprung his life’s obsession. Normally a very focused individual, Dr. Blankenship now seemed at a loss, awash in a cloud of worry on this bright day.“Well?” said a voice. “Are you finally all out of ideas?”
“It would finally appear that way, Margret,” he replied, snapping out of his hypnosis. “I feel as though for the past thirty years I’ve done my damndest to keep Cauliflower relevant. But it’s been like ice skating up-hill. And now,” he trailed off.
“We’ve been through these patches before,” replied Margret, head of Sales. “It’s not like we haven’t overcome the same obstacles we’re facing now.”
The numbers for Cauliflower were bad, down twenty-nine percent compared to last year. No one in that building in Omaha knew what to make of it. Product development said it wasn’t their fault. Marketing said it wasn’t their fault. Even the Sales team seemed to avoid culpability.
“It’s different now,” Dr. Blankenship turned and faced the rest of the meeting participants. “I feel like we don’t have one fresh idea. No one has made an innovation in Cauliflower for at least a decade. We need something to spark us back to life.” He thought for a moment. “If I have to hear from those bastards over at the Broccoli Trust what a banner year their having, I’m going to lose control.”
The Broccoli Trust was the much more successful branch of Brassicaceae, INC, a global conglomerate representing cabbage, brussel sprouts and kale, amongst others.
“Jim, give us an update on marketing. The yearly reports should have just come out. How’s the competitive landscape out there?”, asked the Doctor.
Jim was a disheveled ex-farmer who came up from the fields of Nebraska. He was promoted to his position mainly because of his passion and knowledge of cauliflower, but he was rigidly tied to the classic traditions of the vegetable. If you suggested anything besides steaming the cauliflower to prepare it, Jim would do his best to hide that he was deeply offended.
“Let’s see,” he said as he pulled out a large binder. “Asparagus has been maintaining its dominance. Beets seem to be making a small comeback. They’re up twelve percent to last year. And as everyone knows, avocado is just on fire right now.”
“What are they doing that we can replicate or draw from Jim?”, asked Marget, folding a new shet over on her legal pad.
“They’re putting it on everything,” he replied coldly. “Those avocado tramps somehow got in good with the bacon people and then BOOM! They’re making a big splash. It’s a damn abomination if you ask me, putting it on sandwiches. Sandwiches! Even the big three are starting to get scared.”
“Potato, Celery and Carrot aren’t scared of anyone,” Dr. Blankenship interjected.
“Dr. Blankenship, as much as I disagree with it, you just can’t put carrots on a sandwich. That has them scared.” There was a murmur of approval from the team.
Marget perked up. “I say we go right after the bastards. We mount a smear campaign on avocado. What’s with that skin? It looks like a Dragon’s pimple. And that big seed in the middle? Hello? Choking hazard. Cauliflower doesn’t have that.”
“An avocado is colorful though,” said Rick, the free-spirited, creative-type in product development. “Those deep shades of green. They just scream attitude. Like, whatever man. I’ll be you’re guacamole, but you’re going to have to mash me first.”
Everyone looked confused. “We can’t focus on attacking just one other vegetable,” Dr. Blankenship argued. “That will just leave a bad taste in the consumer’s’ mouth.”
“You mean like Rutabaga?” Jim quipped. They all laughed. Stupid Rutabaga.
“Rick, we tried different colors of Cauliflower,” Margret said softly. “Green, Purple, Orange and none of them have moved the needle at all. Let’s face it, we’re just a white vegetable when it comes down to it.”
Jim jumped in, “I blame it on Obama.” The group groaned as a whole.
“We need the young and hip crowd,” said Dr. Blankenship. “We need to show our product in a light that will capture that 18-26 year old male with disposable income. We need hipsters and nerds. Can we get a musical group to endorse them? What about the Black Eyed Peas?”
“We looked into that,” reported Janice from advertising. “They’re too expensive and they’re already on a retainer with the Pea people. Pretty obvious really.”
Dr. Blankenship turned back to the blinding light of the window. “We need to show Cauliflower in a new light.” Some sprinklers had started to spray the office park grass. The blinding sun cut through the mist, fracturing the white light and sending colors flying into all directions. Beet Red to Broccoli Green to Eggplant Violet. Fractured dimensions reassembled back into white light. White Cauliflower light.
“You know what the kids are into these days?” Dr. Blankenship asked rhetorically, a glint of hope in his eyes.
“Is Bieber fever still something that people say?”
“Yes, but no.”
“Well, what?” Margret snapped.
“Drugs,” Rick answered.
“Exactly, Rick. Drugs. Youth loves drugs. Rick, what’s the trippiest thing about Cauliflower?”
“It’s like ghost broccoli?”
“No. Think about the shape. Cauliflower grows in fractal patterns. It’s geometry is detailed and complex and natural.”
“So if the avocado people can partner up with the bacon folks, why can’t we get in with the marijuana people and get pot heads hooked? Think about it. Pot heads get the munchies all the time. If we can convince them that Cauliflower is not only a healthy alternative to Bar-B-Q Fritos (rich in dietary fiber, folate and Vitamin C) but also that the patterns in the florets can reveal some type of deep inner truth about the Universe. I’d say we’re sitting on a white gold mine.”
The team, aware of the moral and legal implications was still excited.
“I’ll call some contacts in Mexico, see if we can get a meeting,” said Margret.
“I’ll work on some data to see how we can cross-market the products in a grassroots campaign,” said Jim.
“I’m going to go do some more research on marijuana,” said Rick, the most excited of the bunch. He stood up from the table, felt his jacket pocket for a lighter, and left.
Dr. Blankeship smirked. He returned to the window and squinted his eyes.