Yeah, I know what you thought upon reading that headline... 🙂
No, this post is about materials and perceptions.
When I was growing up the cool-guy-car surfers always wanted to own was called a Woody: wood-paneled vehicles from the late 1940s and early 1950s.
On the positive side, they looked cool and were great for carrying a surfboard in the rear of the car.
On the negative side, wood isn't a very practical means of decorating the exterior of an automobile. Wind, rain, nasty weather, punishing sun, rocks, and detritus impaling the car's surface at 60 mph were problems requiring more than polish, rubbing compound, and maybe a bit of Bondo and paint to fix.
So it was with a bit of surprise that I spotted a more modern version of the classic Woody. This time from a Chrysler product. Upon closer inspection, I saw the car's "wood" side panels were actually just plastic. A much more practical alternative to wood for its exterior decoration.
While technically better than the real stuff, plastic wood doesn't work for the same reason that artificial yellow oil isn't butter. They are fakes. We are led down a path of expectations only to be let down at the end.
Perceptions are meaningful. If you want to impress me with your stereo system it has to be more than lots of big and expensive pieces of equipment in a well-decorated room.
It actually has to perform as well as it looks.
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