The durian is a South East Asian fruit that is so stinky it is banned from airplanes and smart hotels. The smell lingers like a bad fart combined with the ripest blue chees and crusty hard fetid socks that have been worn for weeks in hot humid weather without a change. Mmmmmm! I bet that’s made your mouth water.
But that’s what Asians - and in particular, Malaysians - love about the fruit. The smell is hideous. But as you eat the sticky, custardy, soft flesh, the taste is aromatic and sweet and creamy. And then you have to live with the most dreadful halitosis rotting sewer breath for hours on end.
So some smart guy has come up with a variety of durian that doesn’t smell. Thai scientist Songpol Somsri apparently spent 30 years of his life researching this project, according to the Seattle Times. The article goes on to say that in Malaysia, durian is prized as an aphrodisiac and a farmer is quoted as saying, “If the durian doesn’t have a strong smell the customer only pays one-third the price.”
I picked up this story from Seth Godin, the marketing guru, who uses it to make a great analogy for marketers who try to fix what they perceive as a problem - by focusing on the people who are not buying the product. So marketers aim to fix the problems in order to get the non-buyers to become buyers - in the meantime, destroying the key qualities that the enthusiastic existing buyers rave about and thereby turning away their core customers.
Personally I’m not a great fan and whenever my family have a great durian feast, I have to keep my distance from them all when we’re chatting afterwards! Still, it seems unnatural and sacriligeous to be tampering with the distinctive quality that makes a durian a durian. I’m not sure I’d eat more durian if I was offered the non-stinky variety - the taste and texture of the eating experience just doesn’t do it for me. I’m much more of a mango fan and I’d choose mango over any other fruit any day. So I guess I’m inclined to agree with Seth. What’s the point of a non-stinky durian if the core customers don’t want it - and neither do the ones who never wanted it in the first place?
Photo: thanks to the Seattle Times