Just the other day, I was looking at a box of breakfast cereal. The largest lettering on the box were the three words naming the cereal: Frosted Shredded Wheat. Next in prominence came the tag line: “Contains 6 g. of fiber per serving.”
You’re probably thinking, “so what?” Manufacturers of processed food make claims like this so frequently that we’ve all gotten used to them.
But it is actually remarkable that marketers have concluded that the best way to sell cereal is by announcing how many grams of fiber it contains. After all, the manufacturer isn’t claiming that the cereal is delicious — just that it contains the dietary cousin of sawdust.
Notice something else about this claim: it includes the abbreviation “g.” Evidently the marketers feel confident that supermarket shoppers — the same people who buy oregano and chocolate by the ounce — know that “g.” stands for “gram.” That’s good. It’s evidence that American buyers of breakfast cereal aren’t fazed by the metric system. (Could this mean that consumers will soon be comfortable with joules?)
To me, this tag line — “Contains 6 g. of fiber per serving” — seems doomed to failure. But clearly, I have no background in marketing. In spite of my opinion, it is probable that this tag line is successfully moving a lot of cereal.
A window into the American soul
For some strange reason, when consumers go shopping for breakfast cereal, they apparently care more about technical specifications (measured in grams, even) than they care about flavor or delight. But when the same consumers go shopping for a new home, most couldn’t care less about technical specifications. All they want to see is a three-car garage and a Jacuzzi tub.
What’s going on here?
Frustrated home performance contractors often recount a familiar story: homeowners will tune you out if you try to discuss energy performance. Buyers just don’t care. These frustrated contractors have learned that it is safer to market comfort.
It doesn’t take much Web surfing to come up with a few quotes to illustrate what I’m talking about:
Clearly, the green builder with the bruised head is in the wrong business. Instead of trying to educate home buyers about the energy features of buildings, he should be standing in the aisle of his local supermarket, selling shredded wheat.
Martin Holladay’s previous blog: “All About Dehumidifiers.”