Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why Did They Feel The Need To Cheat On Their Own Test?

A few years back, I took the Pepsi Challenge at a music festival. Pepsi was not handling it themselves but rather had hired a marketing firm to do it for them. The challenge, if you have not heard of it, is to blind taste test Pepsi vs Coke.  

It was a hot summer day; probably in the 90s. I got in line for the challenge simply because I wanted a cold drink and the drink lines were long. 

When I got to the front, the man went to a little fridge plugged into a long extension cord and pulled out a frosty can. The label was covered but the can was obviously cold. He then turned around and pulled another can out of a cardboard box sitting in the heat. This label, too, was covered.

He poured me a little sip size cup of each. I knew right away the first one was Pepsi for two reasons.

1) Pepsi has a burst of citrus-like taste to it when you first sip it.


2) It was frosty cold while the second one was beyond warm. This was, after all, the Pepsi Challenge.

The second cup contained the overly warm and therefore, not at all appetizing, Coke.

In those circumstances, I had to say, "Yes, I preferred the first one." and low and behold, he took the sleeve off the can and it was revealed as Pepsi.

I did not walk away from that thinking, "Wow, I should switch to Pepsi." I walked away thinking, "They had to cheat to beat Coke." Now as I said, this was not Pepsi themselves, but rather an outside firm. I'm sure they simply wanted to give their customer data that made them look good but to me it was a cheat.

I am reminded of this now because I am reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and in it, he talks about how Coke did their own blind taste test and found it was true. Based on just one sip, people preferred Pepsi. It is when drinking a full can or bottle that people tend to prefer Coke. Pepsi, Gladwell says, is sweeter and therefore, people prefer it when drinking small amounts but tend to prefer Coke when drinking large amounts.

So Pepsi tended to win the sip challenge and yet this company still felt the need to cheat. I guess they did not have a lot of faith in their own test. It's too bad. If nothing else, we should be able to have faith in our own plans. Plus the thought that they had cheated just left a bad taste in my mouth.

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