Is Heat Surge Ruining the Amish ‘Brand’?
For those seeking simplicity in a world of ever-increasing technological and societal complexity, what better role model is there than the Amish? In his blog, Kevin Kelly offers a fascinating article about these pioneers of DIY culture. He explains that the Amish are master tinkerers and far from being unanimously opposed to technology; that technological adoption—like using electricity, GMO corn, etc.—is commonplace. Depending on one’s parish, the Amish have different policies regarding technological adaptation. What he says is a big difference between us and them (assuming you’re not Amish), is, “In contemporary [Western] society our default is set to say ‘yes’ to new things, and in Old Order Amish societies the default is set to ‘no.’ When new things come around, the Amish automatically start by refusing them.” Only after the refusal do they assess something’s merits.
Society’s idealization of this simpler, sensible way of life is evidenced by the ubiquitous multi-page spread for Heat Surge’s Roll-n-Glow Electric Fireplace with Amish mantle. In the faux-editorial ads, sturdy Amish men and young (seemingly photoshopped-in) Amish women build mantles for fireplaces already aglow with raging fires. How do they do that?
Both the New York Times and Treehugger reveal the secret of these “miracle heaters”: they are the combination of a standard Chinese space heater and distinctly not-Amish marketing. Among the $400 space heater’s merits is the “certification of Underwriters Laboratories coveted UL listing.” But doesn’t every other space heater in Home Depot have that too? As for marketing, Heat Surge’s VP told the Times, “It became clear through test marketing the American population is infatuated with—and understands the quality of—an Amish product.”
Looking at Kelly’s article, it’s clear the Amish have much to teach us about sensible technological adoption. But might the Amish be compromising their ‘brand’ by affixing themselves to this type of bald gimmickry? Perhaps they should consider another modern-day addition to their way of life – a brand consultant.