The Cake Is A LieDespite what the ad industry tries to sell you, the business world offers few legitimate guarantees; yet one can always count on the power of money to keep things in perspective. Not only does money talk, it speaks loudest— and usually has the last word.

Having the ability to successfully predict the consumption trends of the fickle public is like owning a goose that lays golden eggs. Right now countless cultural trend analysts sit at workstations throughout America, studying figures, plotting charts and graphs, trying to distill patterns from the constant barrage of data fed to them from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. It’s like betting on a horse race: if you can reliably predict the outcome of a given contest (or the rising popularity of a future trend), you can write your own ticket to success.

In the ancient world it was understood that while Roman Legions crushed entire continents beneath their marching sandals, the power WITHIN Rome rested in the hands of the mob. The mob was numerous enough to tear down every structure in the city, and terrifyingly unpredictable. The fate of any powerful Roman, in business or politics, depended upon his ability to successfully gauge the mood of the city population and forecast trends of behavior among them. Whoever can move the mob, it was said, can move the entire world.

Little has changed. Fortunes are made and lost every day based on the shifting preferences of the consumer herd. It’s still a good idea to pay attention to public opinion, lest you suddenly go out-of-business when your target demographic drops your product like a jelly donut in a health club.

Of course, sometimes consumer reactions don’t count for much because the most vocal critics of a product are so thoroughly hooked on it that their complaints carry no weight. Take Star Wars, for example: winnowing fanboys geekily complain that George Lucas has spoiled the Star Wars franchise— but why should the bean-counters care? How bad were the last three Star Wars “prequels”? Were they, say… $25 BILLION DOLLARS bad? Because that’s what the Star Wars franchise has earned and continues to earn at the rate of roughly 2 billion dollars a year. No matter what hardcore fanboys may insist, that kind of money won’t EVER get marked down on ANY business ledger under the “epic fail” column. Not even when Jar Jar Binks is part of the equation. So when critical fans complain that the massive Star Wars money-making machine fails to meet their needs, it makes perfect business sense to do what Lucasfilm does: pat them on the head, thank them for the free publicity, and go right on taking their money.

Everyone still wants the same things the Roman mob wanted: bread and circuses. To be fed and entertained. Given a choice of what to eat, they want Ambrosia, the magic food of the gods that confers immortality and perpetual good health. That’s why marketers in the food industry invent bogus health benefits to inspire food trends. But a cupcake (though smaller) is still just cake, and is NEVER good for you. The cake is a lie. Muffins can’t prevent cancer. Gluten-free food products don’t do you much good UNLESS you are one of the 1 percent of the population prone to Celiac disease— if not, you are paying extra for a big load of nothing.

Ambrosia is a myth. The ad men keep offering it to us in new forms as we keep figuring out yesterday’s hot new product was a load of bullshit. It’s cyclical. Fresh bread and circuses can appease the mob; but only those dexterous and clever enough to surf the wave of the latest trend can stay on top of the game.

Today’s Shake Weight is tomorrow’s Thighmaster. It always was. And it will be again.