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The Apple You Eat

Comparing apples to apples

An apple (the kind you eat) and an apple slice (the kind your mother cuts for you) are arguably the same product. They are both apples; you can eat either one and they taste the same. Reason indicates that an apple and a sliced apple are equally good, but if examined through the lens of which version of an apple has greater appeal to a specific consumer group, then they are actually very different.

Cornell University conducted a fascinating experiment comparing the edibility of these two variants among school children. What actually happens to apple purchase and consumption when it’s pre-sliced as opposed to not? Sliced apples result in a 71% increase.

If all you had to do to get a 71% increase in sales was change the package, would you do it?

So on one level the difference between a whole apple and a sliced apple is trivial, but when measured on a behavioral scale with a particular target consumer in mind, the difference is dramatic.

What would you give for a 71% increase in sales? If all you had to do to get a 71% increase in sales was to change the package, would you do it? That’s what’s happening here. The product is the same—a nutritious and tasty snack—but tweaking the convenience of its delivery (sliced as opposed to whole) yields an entirely different result.

The Apple You Eat sliced into bunny rabbits

Tactical user-level interface

It seems silly, but what we are talking about here is the tactical user-level interface. This is where the rubber hits the road or in this case, the food hits the mandibles.

If I know a great deal about apples—if I am an apple expert—I will know the taste and texture of a mutsu and what it should be used for and all about the Rhode Island Greening and maybe a good deal about many of the other 7,500 apple cultivars. I will, in fact, know all sorts of important things about apples. But all of this knowledge does not help me in this case and it may actually get in the way because this kind of detailed insider knowledge can actually obscure what is truly important—looking at the issue from the perspective and needs of the consumer.

Is the extra effort of biting into a whole apple just too much?

Is what matters convenience? Is the extra effort of biting into a whole apple just too much? The behavioral difference is real. The collection of actual factors that results in this behavioral difference, less so. Maybe middle schoolers think they look uncool biting into a whole apple. Maybe they are not practiced in doing so because their helicopter moms have always sliced their apples for them. Maybe we have just become ridiculously lazy as a species.

The fact remains. If I want more people to happily consume my product, whatever it is, I damn well better figure out how to deeply satisfy them.

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