Diets and Desire

Language and food marketing Ask a group of participants in a research study to blind test two anonymous brown soda drinks and you will find that Pepsi often wins out in taste over Coca Cola. Ask, instead, that participants drink either a glass labeled ‘Coke’or one labeled ‘Pepsi’and see how exposure to the brand name will tip preferences towards each participant’s prior stated favorite. 3 Similarly, other taste tests show that products advertised as containing ‘soy’are judged less pleasant than when the same product is tasted without this ingredient highlighted on the label. 4 And the research goes on: consumers prefer the same cheese when described as ‘regular’rather than ‘light,’5 favor identical soups labeled as containing normal levels of salt rather than ‘less sodium’versions, 6 are more willing to pay for wine described evocatively than when blind tested, 7 and even show differences in their hunger hormone response when sampling chocolate milkshakes labeled as ‘620-calorie indulgent’rather than ‘140-calorie sensible.’8Changing diets It is no secret that businesses actively capitalize on the fact that language influences expectations and experiences of food in order to boost consumer demand, and work hard to develop the right type of wording to enhance sales of their products. 9 Recently, however, a new and different audience has begun to consider how to take advantage of the persuasive capabilities of language–interventionists, policymakers and researchers who are looking to find more effective ways to encourage populations around the world to purchase healthier and more environmentally sustainable foods.

S Attwood, J Wise, D Vennard – IN CONSUMER INSIGHTS?
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