Sunday, January 13, 2008


Those of you conscious in the 80's will remember the advertising slogan that the Ford Motor Company used to market its vehicles in North America. I guess, if the fact that there are still far too many Tempos and Topaz's out there is any indication, Ford may have delivered on its promise.

That is if you think that quality means the ability to function for a long time. Not many of us would think our definition to adequate. We would be suspicious if that definition of quality were applied to food, for example. Food that could 'function' or last for a very long time – I mean like since the eighties – now we would be quite suspicious of that food.

Hank: Hey Sally wanna burger?

Sally: Sure Hank, you got any more of those one's from 1984 left? They sure were high quality.

Anyways, if you're like me thinking about how we define quality rarely enters our brain. Yet this little lever word tends to pry open our mind to suggestions and desires we often fail to realize. Quality as a descriptor of the products peddled to us in advertising is rampant. So maybe we should pay attention to what quality means to us and what it means to others.

Mostly likely we think that quality used as an adjective means: "of superior grade; of high or superior quality or performance."

McDonalds has quality as one of four of its core values (also: Service, Cleanliness and Value (known as Q.S.C.V.)). McDonald's definition of quality is rather different: "…in McDonald's (strategy), quality means something else. It refers to a consistent, reliable, tolerable, culturally appropriate product, rather than an exceptional one."-Prime-Time Society,
Conrad Kottak.
Essentially this version of quality is not something superior but rather likely quite average performance. Technically this would still be an exacting standard to meet and quite difficult to be sure. But the goal is categorically distinct from what we might hold in common understanding.

All this makes me think of the effort that church has taken to make 'the gospel' accessible to the common person. From the Willow Creek and Saddleback franchise churches to the grassroots bring-the-message-to-the-people movements we've sorta bought into the McD's version of quality. Now I'm not advocating that we make our message so 'high quality' that no one understands it. It would also be a fallacy to believe that quality equals some sort of incomprehensibility. I just think it is time that we cared about things like theology. And caring about theology does not happen to mean that we remain entrenched in parochial battle lines of theological animosity.

Alright time to do a few minutes on my treadmill and listen to some great old eighties tunes – now that's quality…


jc said...

check out 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' and its sequel 'lila' for more on quality.

Outgoing... said...

yeah some of that has been bouncing through my head as we have been whipping through these first few lectures in anthro of pop culture