Archive for October, 2010

October 27th, 2010

Cooking with Cream Cheese: Kraft Plays With Context

By Kyle Morich

There was a time that baking soda was just a crystalline substance that was used in baking to release carbon dioxide and help dough rise.  And then Arm & Hammer got very creative and suggested keeping an open box in your refrigerator to eliminate odors.  And now the uber-substance is used everywhere, from toothpaste to antacids.  We don’t give this a second thought, yet consider this: the same substance you put in your mouth you also sprinkle in your cat’s litter box. That’s marketing, ladies and gentlemen.

We always talk about how Context is a key component to habit formation.  If a behavior isn’t associated with a particular context, that behavior can never become habitual.  But flipped another way, Context can be used to identify tremendous growth opportunities.  By marketing baking soda in the context of odor elimination (or stain-lifting, or whatever), Arm & Hammer expanded the pie and moved their brand out of the Cooking context.  Kraft Foods and their Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand are doing the same thing with their launch of “Cooking Creme.”  This extra creamy version of cream cheese can be added to pastas or other foods to add richness and texture.  Some experienced bakers have known about this versatility for years, but creating a new context for the average consumer has Kraft anticipating a huge uptick in revenue.

Brand managers often think their brand exist in isolation, rising atop a hill awash in the golden glow of the rising sun as their consumers run toward it, extolling their love and joy for the brand and how critical it is to their daily existence.  But the truth is that the consumer world is messy.  Odds are you interact with between 50 to 70 brands before you even leave for work in the morning.  Can you name all of them?  Most of the time, consumers would rather a brand just solve their problems.  We often ask our clients, “Are you the meal, a course, or the ingredient?”  The point is to think about what role a product plays in behavior.  Everyone wants to be the center of attention, but there is big business in being a behind-the-scenes part of a behavior.

Kraft saw a huge opportunity for consumers to start using cream cheese as an ingredient in their recipes, not just as a spread to put on the morning bagel.  Now they still have a tough path ahead of them to make the behaviors in this alternate context habitual.  Consumers will need to repeatedly use the cream cheese product in their recipes, notice the difference, find the difference appealing, and continue to buy the product.  But for recognizing the current Cream Cheese context was saturated and for seeking different contexts for growth, Kraft is at least moving in the right direction.

October 15th, 2010

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

By Kyle Morich

Priming occurs when exposure to some stimulus affects the way you respond to another stimulus.  A classic study of priming by John Bargh (1) examined how exposing an individual to traits and stereotypes from another group affected that individual’s behavior.  Bargh took 30 NYU psych students and had them complete a scrambled sentence test.  Unbeknownst to half of the students, their tests contained words associated with elderly stereotypes (e.g., Florida, old, grey, wise, bingo, retired, etc.).  None of the students had any idea they had been primed with the sentence tests.  What Bargh did next was brilliant, and provided some of the first evidence that what our brains perceive has a tangible impact on our subsequent behavior.  After each student completed his or her test, he timed how long it took for the student to walk down the hall to the elevator.  Bargh discovered that those students primed with the elderly stereotype walked slower to the elevator.

But the curiosities of priming on social behavior don’t stop here.  Bargh’s experiment showed that an individual tends to assimilate the behavior traits of a different group when exposed to stereotypes of that group.  We actually see the opposite effect when an individual is exposed to the traits of another individual.  In a recreation of the Bargh experiment by Dijksterhuis (2), individuals primed with a specific example of an elderly individual (in this case, the Dutch Queen Mother) walked faster than the control group.  This behavioral contrast occurs because our brains implicitly compare its traits with that of the primed example.  We tend to naturally contrast ourselves against individuals we see as different than us. (more…)

October 13th, 2010

Habit Roundup – 10.13.10

By Kyle Morich

A new series of short takes on interesting articles.

Gap’s Logo Misfire (AdAge)

In the least surprising news of the week, Gap, Inc. switched back to its classic logo four days after announcing a new, “evolved” logo to reflect the “changing” nature of the store.  Gap’s sales problems were not caused by consumer confusion about what the logo meant.  Gap never successfully retargeted its brand beyond the “Everybody in Khakis” spots from the mid to late 90s.  I applaud them for undertaking the difficult task of revitalizing their brand image to their target market, especially in the midst of a recession, but they clearly misaligned their priorities.

Changing the image of their clothes, stores, and reputation takes time, and consumers need enough experience with Gap to reset how they view the Brand.  Changing the logo before this process occurs almost feels like cheating, or repainting a rusty car without fixing the damage first.  By changing the logo and announcing to the world “look how much we’ve changed,” the subtle approach was lost.  Gap made consumers consciously consider whether the company had changed, and they responded with a resounding “nope.”

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