I was cleaning out my marketing binder and came across my favorite article from the class. It is from 1950 and talks about projective tests in marketing research. The premise is that people will respond to the question "do you like product X" with a surface answer similar to "no, because it doesn't taste good". In reality, it is their perceptions of what the product means or represents that they are really responding to. No one will come out and say "SPAM is low-class and only the trashy pathetic poor eat it" but that is what a lot of people think of SPAM and this attitude will frequently cloud their judgment. Those people should be pitied for they shall never enjoy the spiced-hammy goodness.
Anyway, in this article 100 people were given one of two shopping lists and they were to read the list and then "characterize the woman who bought the groceries. Then write a brief description of her personality and character." The two lists were identical except for one item. The identical parts were: 1 1/2 lbs of hamburger, 2 loaves of Wonder bread, bunch of carrots, 1 can Rumsford's Baking Powder, 2 cans Del Monte peaches, 5 lbs potatoes. One list had 1 lb. Maxwell House Coffee and one had Nescafe instant coffee. The respondent's attitudes towards the woman who bought the Nescafe are absolutely priceless. Let me share:
"...appears to be either single or living alone. I would guess she had an office job. She likes to sleep late in the morning...she must appear rather sloppy, taking little time to make up in the morning. She is used to eating supper out too. Perhaps alone rather than with an escort. An old maid probably."
"...seems to be lazy. She doesn't seem to think. Probably just got married."
"...the type who never thinks very far ahead - the type who always sends Junior to the store to buy one item at a time. Also she is fundamentally lazy. ...may be an office girl ...in a sort of haphazard sort of life. "
Dear god, this woman just decided to buy Nescafe and suddenly she is (shudder) an OLD MAID who is sloppy and lazy and an unfit mother and should probably be shot. This purchase of Nescafe was her downfall.
After I read this article I got to thinking about what my shopping list or cart would say about me to other people. I think about the times I go to the store and end up with 20 Lean Cuisines (because they are on sale!), a 28 lb pail of cat litter, many yogurt cups and 12 packs of Diet Coke in my cart. I am pretty sure the contents of my cart scream that the purchaser is a lazy, lonely, overweight spinster who stays at home and talks to her six cats while knitting sweaters from their fur for her imaginary children while watching rented romantic comedies, thinks Patrick Dempsey really is dreamy and moons over that man in purchasing but will never get the nerve to talk to him. The only way it could be worse is if there was a shower massager in the basket.
So, what does your shopping cart say about you?