What is Quality?

Surface Media CEO Marc Lotenberg offers his take on a current buzzword, idea, or trend.

Quality has become one of the more bastardized words of our era—a phenomenon that’s left the term almost completely bereft of meaning. Even McDonald’s, the classic American purveyor of sugar burgers known for its creepy clown mascot and its contribution to the country’s growing obesity epidemic, now stakes a claim to the term with the manifesto “Commitment to Quality” published on its corporate website. This begs the question: What is quality, exactly? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, it’s “a high level of value or excellence,” and for me, it’s brands like Apple and Hermès that fit that definition— but then again, I’m an entitled snob. Maybe it’s relative. If your other options are Carl’s Jr., Top Ramen, or Spam, then perhaps McDonald’s is the best quality that’s available. Yet it’s indisputable that its creators have designed a restaurant experience and product that appeals to many people, from across the socio-economic spectrum, the less fortunate and yuppies alike. McDonald’s must be doing something right if even investment bankers can willingly put down their silver spoons on special occasions to scarf down a Big Mac. Quality, though, isn’t the draw there, but rather the lack thereof.

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