Food for thought!

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One of the benefits of being a flighty entrepreneur is the natural ability to recall useless information at the drop of a hat, sometimes employing said trivia at an initial client meeting (”hey sandra, did you know Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher survived on four hours sleep a night, yeah its true! Now please sign here”), other times injecting some truth-deprived prose in our marketing literature (”31% of our survey respondents said they were 66% sure they might consider our product over the leading competitor!). However sometimes commercial trivia/statistics/lore can actually be quite useful.Take food facts for instance. Food technology, or Psychophysics fascinates me, as does the marketing and technological initiatives employed by those who tango with our esophagus (esophagi?).

So this week I thought I’d share this little passion, research, and then adequately present five food facts in such a way that they might indeed apply to your industry. Read on my succulent suitors, and by all means let me know if I’ve missed any juicy bits.

  1. Fast Food Giant or Real Estate Circus?
    The Psedonym “The Golden Arches” should have been our first clue, because McDonalds isn’t actually a food business, nor is it a lifestyle brand, but rather they are one of the worlds most successful landlords. Harry Sonneborn (McDonalds 2IC) once said ““We are in the real estate business. The only reason we sell hamburgers is because they are the greatest producer of revenue from which our tenants can pay us rent.”. Mmmm bricks and mortar. So what’s the takeout here? Well I’d like to think that in all businesses the chief role of the marketer is to differentiate by presenting an alternate core message to one’s competitors, but perhaps the real message here is that we’re all missing some prime opportunity that exists right under our noses!
  2. Red & Yellow
    On the subject of fast food, ever wondered why most if not all fast food chains use Red and Yellow in their logos/marketing collateral? The psychology of color has long attributed these colours to the conditioned responses of hunger, desire, and urgency. Others posit that it may hark back to when we as humans needed to decipher between raw and ripe fruit. In any case this phenomenon is completely at odds with my days as a branding consultant, where 9 out of 10 clients wanted a royal blue logo and some kind of swoosh. What colours are you employing in your identity/marketing collateral, and are you aware of the kind of affects they can have on prospects/existing clients?
  3. The Just Noticeable Difference
    My Marketing Lecturer (Hi Bronwyn) once enthralled our entire class with the Just Noticeable Difference theorem (or the JND for the hip marketers out there). The JND is the statistical measurement of noticeable change used by marketers to (usually) reduce a product without raising the ire of the customer. While usually somewhat sinister in its application (e.g. charging the same price for a packet of chips that has 5 fewer crisps inside, or reducing a mars bar by 4% to save costs) the technique can also be applied to packaging for environmental reasons (e.g. cocacola reducing the amount of aluminium required in their cans) or indeed you might use it to cut costs or increase the time available to service your beloved clients.
  4. Intermission – A video!
    One of my favourite business-related texts is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (if you’ve never read it go directly to your local independent book store and buy it, now! Go on! The rest of this blog pales in comparison). So here I pay my respects to Malcolm Gladwell, paying his respects to Dr Howard Moskowitz, the father of focus group testing and just generally making Americans Happy. Here Malcom recounts how Howard changed the entire food industry in the US, not by discovering the perfect pickle, but rather the perfect pickles.
  5. Finally, a slight on supermarkets
    Supermarket Tech is perhaps the most conniving of all food-related marketing technology, . They position their bread and milk at the diagonal extremities of the building to encourage compulsive purchases, they position red lights over their meat to present a better product, they play Coldplay to slow shoppers down (you could just shorten that to “they play Coldplay”), and some parent-hating-venomous-visual-merchandiser out there once decided to place all of the lollies at 5-year old eye-level at the counter (right when you’re parental patience has ebbed to capitulation levels!). These are all amazing marketing techniques, and I love them for what they are, but please remember that using such techniques may increase your bottom line but will also increase your time in purgatory.

– Ben Prendergast

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