Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Exceedingly Deceptive Labelling?

Food companies are increasingly required to detail the amounts of fat, salt etc that their products contain so that we can work out which ones are, for example, low-fat (i.e. less than 5% fat). If we are quite numerate that is.


At a recent client meeting, I noticed that this carton had seemingly facilitated that calculation by providing a breakdown of both the weight of the individual constituents and a percentage figure. But look closer.


The percentage figure relates not to the number listed above it but to recommended total daily intake - a calculation one is less likely to be contemplating. Crunch the numbers and you see that the cakes comprise 42% sugar and 15% fat (not the 15% and 7%) you might have assumed.

Is this deliberate misrepresentation from Mr.Kipling or just accidentally misleading design? Who knows? But the marketing lesson is obvious, you can't fool all the people all of the time, so don't try. (Also see Seth today).

8 Comments:

Blogger Rob Mortimer said...

I dont see it as misrepresentation, its usually clearly stated that its talking about daily guidelines.

After all, its much easier to work out how healthy something is that way.

7:53 AM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger john dodds said...

That's because you're focussing on it - nobody around the table could correctly answer my question about the fat content of the product. And show me someone who tots up their consumption of guideline daily amounts during the day and I'll show you someone with an eating disorder.

9:11 AM, November 05, 2007  
Blogger lauren said...

um, doddsy, i don't think i have an eating disorder and i can tell you that when i used to go into tesco to get a (pre-packaged) sandwich, i would look at those same labels and see that said sandwich would have 15% of my daily fat intake and 35% of my daily salt intake. and then buy a salad instead. i agree that the labels aren't particularly user-friendly, especially if you don't REALLY want to read them properly, but i would argue that the fact that they have such a high sugar content for each small slice is just as much a worry as how they portray it.

6:28 PM, November 05, 2007  
Anonymous The Kaiser said...

Is that the only nutritional information on the package?

1:21 AM, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous Angus said...

You're paranoid Dodds. Although I CAN tell you that I've sat in meetings discussing how to fool people into thinking things are healthier via numbers on packaging. Thankfully I've left that category now.

1:48 AM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger john dodds said...

Lauren et al - I am saying that people don't add up the percentages and then think "oh I'm at 77% of my daily recommended intake I must check that I don't exceed 100%".

I nearly wrote "unhealthy realtionship with food" rather than "eating dissorder" but I still think if anyone approaches food in this calculating mode then food just becomes a numbers obsession where sensible eating doesn't. This is why things like Weightwatchers are dubious to me because they focus people's mind on every piece of food intake.

What you descirbe Lauren is different - you see the high levels as just that but you don't say you total things up over the day. Rater you use them to make a yes/no decision and I'd argue that your approach would fall foul of this labelling - remember that here I have zoomed in on the detail to make the point (that image is I think bigger than the actual print), but I would suggest that most people would just glance quickly and thus get the idea that 13.5 g = 15% of the cake because the numbers hit you faster than the writing.

It's the instant impression that counts but even if you read from top down, you could well make an assumption before you read the final line.

And Kaiser - I threw it away but I think there is some info on the back (in small print black and white) but you have to go looking for it and it's not easily decipherable.

Yes the problem is the amount of sugar in the product - and I'm wondering if they know that could be off-putting so they present it in this way.

1:48 AM, November 06, 2007  
Anonymous Rob @ Cynic said...

You still ate 2 slices though didn't you!

2:07 AM, November 06, 2007  
Blogger john dodds said...

Given your absence, that was admittedly slightly more likely than usual but in fact I was too absorbed with the packet and with the gannets in that meeting I didn't get any - nor the lemon slices.

This also debunked the lunacy of the other claim on the package - that they came prepacked in pairs to ensure freshness. Only thing that ensured was more trash on the table.

2:23 AM, November 06, 2007  

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