Malcom Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce

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Malcom Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce 2004

The problem: Pepsi wins taste tests against Coca-Cola, but Pepsi sales lag behind Coke. What does food science have to do with customer care?

On the face of it, a discussion of the effects of artificial sweeteners on long-term customer behavior seems rather divorced from customer care. But in Gladwell’s signature style, he relates the choices that a company makes about the qualities of its products, its advertising, and its relationship with its customers, to the ways in which people behave over long periods. He points out that what gives us pleasure in the moment, may not inspire us to be loyal, or to be happy in the long term. A sweet soda tastes better than a bitter soda, but that doesn’t mean we will buy it. The experience is more than one thing. In relation to customer care, his point comes home: what drives the needle in the short term, and what drives the needle in the long term, are sometimes mutually exclusive. Pepsi was listening to its customers too much- it was reacting to what they wanted in the short term, but not to what they needed in the long term.

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