Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Psychology Of Percentages

There's an article in today's Spokesman Review about the increase in size of food product packages and they list various chips as examples. (Note: Even though they call it food packages, this is not food. But that's another topic.) Anyway, the picture shows bags of chips emblazoned with "20% more free". My weird mind has always found use of percentages interesting.

In the examples provided by the article we have various bags of chips increasing in size. I'm going to pick one. A bag of chips going from 12 to 14.5 ounces is an 20% increase (rounded). Sounds good, doesn't it? Going from 14.5 to 12 ounces is a 18% decrease which doesn't seem as bad. So even though the difference is the same, they are expressed in different terms because they have different starting points. And they can be used to make us feel better about the change. One side of this always works out to put the manufacturer in the best light.

Of course, you never hear about the 18% decrease. Normally you notice that the bag seems smaller. The greater the change the more marketable it is. A drastic (and probably unrealistic) example would be a 50% decrease, i.e, paying the same for half the amount. Returning to the original amount is now a 100% increase. Doesn't that sound great?

I hope Breyers dumps the 1.5 quart containers and returns to 1.75 quarts. Josh and I love that mint chocolate chip and that .25 of a quart makes a difference. Better yet, make it 2 like it used to be -- a 33% increase!

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