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October 01, 2004

Ketchup, Blinking, and Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell can write. He writes silly good. He could write about ketchup and keep me enthralled.

In fact ... he did just that for the New Yorker a few weeks ago with the article, The Ketchup Conundrum: Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?

Ketchup_1As a marketer, I was spellbound by the story Malcolm told of Jim Wigon’s attempt to purple cow ketchup.

Malcolm writes, “The rise of Grey Poupon proved that the American supermarket shopper was willing to pay more --in this case, $3.99 instead of $1.49 for eight ounces--as long as what they were buying carried with it an air of sophistication and complex aromatics. Its success showed, furthermore, that the boundaries of taste and custom were not fixed: that just because mustard had always been yellow didn't mean that consumers would use only yellow mustard. It is because of Grey Poupon that the standard American supermarket today has an entire mustard section.

And it is because of Grey Poupon that a man named Jim Wigon decided, four years ago, to enter the ketchup business. Isn't the ketchup business today exactly where mustard was thirty years ago? There is Heinz and, far behind, Hunt's and Del Monte and a handful of private-label brands. Jim Wigon wanted to create the Grey Poupon of ketchup.”

Click here to read the entire KETCHUP CONUNDRUM article.

Blink_4And if you are interested … Malcolm’s newest book, BLINK: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, is set to be published in January 2005. The book is based upon a New Yorker article he wrote in 2002 titled, The Naked Face. (And yes … this article is a worthy read.) You can read more about BLINK in this Kottke.org blog post.

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While going through my RSS reader for work (check out our shiny new blog!), I came across via Brand Autopsy an interesting article from The New Yorker entitled The Ketchup Conundrum: Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has... [Read More]

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