The Bounce Metaphor

June 13, 2019

Long ago people used to dry their clothes outdoors on a rope or wire called a clothes line.  The clothes dried fine outside in the sunshine, maybe a little stiff, but fine.  Put sometimes it rained.  Or the wind blew the clothes off the line.

Washing the clothes was also a lot of work.  So we invented washing machines that automatically washed your clothes.  But drying…

Voila!  We invented the clothes dryer.  It could dry the clothes by heating and tumbling them indoors.  No problems with weather or nosy folks next door checking your underwear.

Problem solved.  But not quite.  The tumbling, dryness and heat created a few problems: static electricity, clothes were not soft, and the smell was of the detergent or scorching and not outdoors.  So first came Downy to soften clothes in the washing machine by coating them with long chain molecules to keep the clothes feeling soft and without static.  The product was very successful with one of the great commercial strategic visuals – the bottle dropping into a soft pile of towels.  However, it was inconvenient to get Downy into the washer at the right moment.  Then came dryer based softeners.

I recall watching some Bounce commercials with their creators Bernie Most and Walter Cohen in New York back in the day.  The commercials had what we called a catalog of benefits.  Bernie and Walter made commercials that repeated the benefits, over and over, without explaining them because there were many benefits and they were pretty understandable.  There would be a claim and then someone sniffing the clothe, or separating them without static cling.

What struck me was that almost every time we humans create a patchwork solution, there are adjustments that come out of that adjustment. Unforeseen problems that must be solved to compensate for our solutions.

We do it all the time with all kinds of technology.  Every new piece of tech seems to require constant updates.  We adjust all the time, shrug and get on with it.  Climate change was an unintended consequence of our fossil fuel age.  We figured out how to burn the leftover bodies of dead plants and animals.  But the unintended consequences maybe that human settlements go under water, or weather changes so that crops can no longer be grown where we though they could.

It is a constant adjustment needed to almost every change.  It is like Bounce (woops, that’s a simile).

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