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The reason why Coke tastes better out of a glass bottle

  • Opinion
  • May 26, 2016
  • Andrew Lewis
The reason why Coke tastes better out of a glass bottle

Likewise a beer served in a frosty glass, in a cool bar, with some nice tunes, in the sun, is better than the exact same beer, minus one or more of those conditions. 

We have all probably felt this idea from time to time, in some situation or other - the sense that identical products can be experienced differently in differing contexts. And while the differences can feel very real, we’ve probably also tended to think of these differences as quite irrational ideas, figments of our imagination, fuelled by marketing nonsense, willing us towards foolishly parting with our money unnecessarily.

Well, it turns out you should trust your gut. The differences are real and science has proven this to be the case in strange but predictable ways.

Charles Spence is a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, and across a range of experiments he has shown how much our perceptions of food can differ hugely depending on context. Strawberry mousse tastes 10 percent sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black container; adding 70g of weight to a yoghurt pot makes the yoghurt seem 25 percent more filling; changing the music people were listening to while drinking Welsh ale from tinkling xylophones to deep organs changed the taste of the beer from creamy and sweet to dry and bitter.

Crazy stuff, right? How can music fundamentally change the flavour profile of beer? Well, it all comes back to the idea of cross-modal perception. Essentially, our senses do not work as independently as we’d like to think, and what we believe to be a response to a sense, such as taste, is actually being driven extensively by our other senses. 

This is of course powerful stuff for marketers. Where it must lead us is to a conclusion that it is everything to do with a product or experience that creates the sensation people feel toward it, not just the bits we intend or control, and certainly not the essential product or service itself. 

And I’m sure most of us would snort with bemusement and say that this is, at least intuitively, long-known stuff. Of course we know that context is important – retailers have been messing with music and lighting for years. Yet while we all acknowledge the idea at some level, I’m not sure we really embrace what this means in a big way. I am not sure we really believe that this stuff is as important as it is, or, as marketers, consider what this could really mean at a macro level for what we do.

How often when evaluating a service concept, or considering how we optimise the journey a customer takes, do we consider the senses in what we are building? More often than not we are focused on ideas, messages and functional elements of a product or service, leaving the details of execution to chance and the intuition of partners as diverse as architects, store managers, developers and call centre representatives. Sometimes things come together well, but it’s hard to imagine that we are optimising for the customer’s cross-modal perceptions in most circumstances.

The empirical truth, as proven by scientists like Charles Spence, is that it’s everything around our product or service that matter. That simple changes to how we present what we do have huge power to add value to what people take away from it. And the logical conclusion of this too, is that what is at the heart of things — the core service or product we are constructing — must matter a little less than what we think. 

Being customer-centric as a business, ultimately, is about changing our mindset from a focus on the service we are providing, to a focus on the experience that is created, and in embracing this shift, we must leave behind our internal boundaries and priorities that we place on product and service, and embrace the much more messy borderless definition adhered to by the customer.

It’s everything else that matters. 

Andrew Lewis is the managing director of TRA (andrew@tra.co.nz). This article first appeared in the March/April edition of NZ Marketing magazine.

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InStyle names All Is For All’s Grace Stratton a ‘Badass Woman’

  • News
  • July 18, 2019
  • The Register team
InStyle names All Is For All’s Grace Stratton a ‘Badass Woman’

Grace Stratton, the 20-year-old founder of specialty ecommerce site All Is For All, has been named one of 50 global Badass Women by US glossy magazine InStyle. The list includes international celebrities like Mindy Kaling and businesspeople like Stitch Fix chief executive Katrina Lake.

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Wellbeing in the workplace: Here's how its affecting your staff, and your bottom line

  • Opinion
  • July 18, 2019
  • Elly Strang
Wellbeing in the workplace: Here's how its affecting your staff, and your bottom line

Idealog editor Elly Strang recently spoke at the Magazine Publishers Association conference about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, and the key takeaways from Wellness Month. She shares why it shouldn't be thought of as a luxury nice-to-have, like yoga classes, as research is showing it impacts on your bottom line, as well as some tips on how to create change in the workplace.

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How HomeAR is incorporating AR into architecture design

  • technology
  • July 18, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
How HomeAR is incorporating AR into architecture design

Many people struggle to envision plans from simple 2D renders and floor plans, as without a designer's eye, filling in blanks from imagination isn’t the most reliable method when it comes to something as important as building a brand-new home or store. Reactar has launched an augmented reality-based platform, HomeAR, to counteract this, which allows users to see and engage with homes in a virtual way, making the very personal process more reliable.

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Simon West is the new chief executive of Torpedo7

  • Who's Where
  • July 18, 2019
Simon West is the new chief executive of Torpedo7

Simon West, who has 20 years' experience leading companies like Ezibuy, has been appointed the chief executive of The Warehouse Group's outdoor retailer Torpedo7.

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Bay of Plenty D2C Saltysea opens its first store

  • Design
  • July 17, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Bay of Plenty D2C Saltysea opens its first store

Stephanie Saxton has been selling cheeky swimsuits and ethical activewear online out of Bay of Plenty's Athenree since 2018. She's now opened Saltysea's first bricks and mortar store, the Salty Collective.

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What the investment community thinks Kiwi businesses lead on the world stage with

  • News
  • July 16, 2019
  • Idealog
What the investment community thinks Kiwi businesses lead on the world stage with

Every business goes through a life cycle: start-up, growth, maturity and renewal, rebirth or decline. Once you’ve made it past the juicy, creative ideation stage and into the growth and maturity stage, the time for many comes to seek investment. But what do investors look for beyond a commercial return? And what do investors think New Zealand companies excel at when compared to our neighbouring countries around the world? Executive director of the Angel Association of New Zealand Suse Reynolds shares her top tips for those who are looking for investment.

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