Posts tagged “cleaning products”

Adventures in taste


I run into these Kettle Chips any time I’m in a fancy/yuppie/specialty kind of food store. I admit to not having paid attention closely over the years, but I remember them appearing as a brand of authentic old-timey traditional (i.e., “quality”) chips, and it seems that all of a sudden they’ve been coming out with crazier and crazier flavors.

This would be a good Consumed piece, don’t you think? How did the brand offering evolve to what it is now? Their website outlines their commitment to adventurous flavors, all natural, and more on the type of ingredients and preparation process. Much of that is typical for a food company, but the flavors is an interesting twist. I’m reminded of Method, who have built a story around cleaning products that are safe, not animal-tested, effective, smell good, and are packaged to look good. You can pick one or two of those (i.e., beautiful packaging) as a hook and identify with that, rather than have the whole story be important. It’s surprising to see a gourmet/quality story with unusual flavors, it’s surprising to see a safe cleanser with a gorgeous package that you can leave out. But beyond surprise is a sense that these might be the real attractors, while all that other stuff is just fine, of course.

Meanwhile, thinking about flavors reminded me of the awesome social commentary found in this riff from the Kids in the Hall:

In the beginning, there was Miracle Whip. One kind of cheese, and fish came in sticks. Bread was white, and milk was homo [there is a carton of “homo milk”]. Our condiments were mustard, relish, and ketchup. Our spices were salt, pepper, and paprika. These were our sacraments. [closes fridge]

Garlic was ethnic. Mysterious. Something out of the Arabian Nights. And then one day it happened. Food exploded. People, yeah, people put down their Alan’s Apple Juice and share of pudding, picked up a bowl of tofu, slathered it with President’s Choice spicy Thai sauce, yeah, and washed it all down with a mango-guava seltzer.

You know, there are so many new products nowadays and I confess half of them I can’t identify. I guess it’s like that with people too. You know I can’t tell a pita bread from a cactus pear or a Korean from a Filipino. I feel left behind. I do. I’m not *modern*.

I’m embarrassed to buy water in a bottle unless it’s for the iron. And I still believe– call me square but I still believe that tangerines are just for Christmas. You know what? I think it all started with marble cheese. I do! Yep. Well, think about it ’cause right after they introduced that, they came up with salt and vinegar chips. Then it was sour cream ‘n’ onion, homestyle, before you know it chips were being sold in a tuuube. Where will it all end?

This is what happens in user research!

Snipped from an article today about chemical-based cleaners in the home

Cory McKee, 27, a stay-at-home mom of three in Tridell, Utah, started ordering Seventh Generation brand cleaning products online two years ago after learning that her oldest child, now 7, had celiac disease, a gluten intolerance. Ms. McKee said that although the disease is not caused by toxins in the home, dealing with it raised her awareness about other health issues. [italics mine]

“That really woke me up,” Ms. McKee said. “I really need to make sure our home is safe.” She lost confidence in the cleaners she had been using in part because the labels of some products do not list all of their ingredients. That made it impossible to know what her family was being exposed to when she sprayed the windows, she said.

I love this, even after it’s gone through the journalistic clarifying filter. People’s ideas jump from one arena to the next. We conflate different concerns. Ask someone about their eating habits, and they’ll talk about exercise, or ask about being fit and they’ll talk about bedtime, or how to stay calm and deal with stress. We’re not good at compartmentalizing. And so ethnographers, using a conversational tool, encounter this all the time. A decision about one thing is related to a concern about something else. Even though there was no causal relationship between the celiac disease and the cleaners (and not to mention that they child already has celiac disease) the person being interviewed puts forth a causal relationship.

I hear this sort of thing all the time when I talk with people, and it’s usually much less clear than this. Complex purchase decisions, tasks, and lifestyle choices (of which our lives are full) often are told in slippery stories that start off in one place and end up in another. Teasing those apart (as this writer did here), asking for clarification, and being open to understanding how A could possibly connect to B in someone’s mind are crucial to getting at those applicable insights.


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