Haven’t we been here before? I’ll bet you thought I was going to write about the new administration didn’t you. After all, never in the history of politics (where the more things “change” the more they stay the same) has “change” been more heralded.


Today we are going to talk about Pepsi™.

Three of my two favorite beverages, Diet Pepsi™, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi™, and Tropicana™ Pure Premium Orange Juice, have significantly changed their appearance on the grocery store shelf.

I didn’t like it.

I thought I didn’t like it only because it was difficult for both Anne and me to find the bottle on the shelf. Forest : trees, innit. That’s the old-fogey response except I have to think that, if it is more difficult for me to find the product, it is more difficult for every other buyer to find the product on the shelf.

That seems counter productive.

The Hawthorne effect describes how you change your behavior in response to a change in your environment. The name comes from a series of experiments with telephone relay assemblers at the Hawthorne Works, a manufacturer near Chicago, that began in the 1920s.

The Hawthorne experiments had many facets, most of which counted the number of relays each worker finished and dropped in a chute. Over the years the researchers changed pretty much everything that could impact the workers from payroll frequency to break time to the lighting in the test room.

I particularly remember the lighting.

See, the researchers changed the assembly room lighting and productivity went up. After a while, they changed the lighting back and productivity went up. Again.

That experiment told us for the first time that making a change–any change–can alter peoples’ behavior.

Tropicana™ dropped the long-famous orange-with-a-straw logo in favor of a stemware glass and a squared-off, formal typeface. The carton looks more … generic now.

I doubt that was the intent.

Pepsi-Cola™ has unveiled a new face several times in the past couple of decades, starting with a logo change that the company thought was “younger looking” than Coke’s antiquated script. The company has since changed the swoops and the design on the bottles a few times leading up to the most recent major color change. Diet Pepsi™, which I drink before five in the afternoon, was once in a primarily blue bottle. It is now in a silver bottle that looks brownish in soft light. Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi™, which I drink after five that I might sleep at night, was once in a mostly tan bottle. It is now in a white bottle that looks vaguely blueish in soft light.

Those new bottles look so different, they force a rote buyer to search all the product in the soda aisle to find them. That means the rote buyer no longer makes his or her choice automatically but considers all the other products Pepsi™ sells. I looked for the first time in quite a while at the Max™, the Wild Cherries™, the Jazz™, and even the Caramel™. Caramel?


I guess the change worked. The new bottle design means I really did look at every one of the Pepsi™ bottles on the shelf. Unfortunately, I had also looked at every one of the Canada Dry™ products, the Schweppes™ products, and even the Coke™ products thinking perhaps someone had pulled an unconscionable switch.

Overall, perhaps the change is good. I did relearn about all the different flavors (Caramel?) and it did not drive me to sample the offerings from the competitors. It might just attract the eye of new buyers who very well might try the taste. That is the game: keep your current customers happy with the taste and find new markets with the advertising. And the packaging.

After all that bottle lugging I’m suddenly thirsty.

It is worth noting in the small print that, although both Tropicana™ and all the Pepsi™ beverages mentioned are Pepsico units and that I do own Pepsico stock, there was no product placement payment for this column.

8 thoughts on “Change

  1. Back in the 40’s (1940’s that is), Pepsi advertised on am radio because that was the only one there was:

    Pepsi Cola, hits the spot
    12-ounce bottle, that’s a lot.
    Twice as much for a nickle, too.
    Pepsi Cola is the drink for you.

    I loved the jingle, but I bought RC.
    And a moon pie.

    Later Pepsi did change, which improved the taste; and I bought some and liked it. So, according to Hawthorne, cosmetic change is good not only if it picques human behavior, but I say it’s even better if it enhances product quality.

    Studebaker changed and made a car that looked the same going and coming. Wotever happened to them?

  2. I was at the donut shop a few weeks ago, and two Hispanic gals came in about 4:00. They were dressed in skimpy clothes with lots of askew makeup. They bought two glazed apiece, a couple cups of large coffee to go, and they paid with loose change.

    Mr. Charlie Lee, the owner, told me they were regular customers. They smiled at him and ignored the cops. One of the cops noticed all the quarters and quipped: “Busy night, eh?”

    One gave him a discrete bird and they left.

    Am I in trouble for posting this?

  3. On a more serious note, as I comment on the seriousness of your original content, I know where you are going with this topic of change—as Hawthorne discovered that change always (or almost always) creates improvement. At least that was so with simple things like lighting, new carpet patterns and piped in music, and so forth.

    The same holds true for most environments, as I use that mind game on myself from time to time to aid me at the gym. Today, for example, I wore special leather gloves for lifting that are cut off at or about the last two joints of each finger. The addition of the gloves was a change, and it stimulated me mentally to workout harder and push myself more than I would have otherwise.

    I have done the same thing with running shoes; and even changing (there’s that word again) to a different style of workout shirt is an improvement catalyst.

    The opposite result would occur, however, if I changed to a denim jacket or tried to operate the treadmill in cowboy boots or donned boxing gloves for the bench press. So, here’s my point:

    A change is only beneficial if it does not run contrary to the accepted mode of operation or radically alter the operation. (hiring a basketball coach to replace Joe Torre of the Yanks would have been a change, but not a sensible)

    IMHO, Mr Obama’s change-aims qualify for membership in the latter; as I am convinced that his socialistic (there’s one for you) moves will not bring our economy back. The economy, however, may come back in spite of (and not because of) his change, and—of course—media will give him credit. All things are cyclical.

    The changes may appear to work for a while, as a Ponzi scheme gives that same exuberating illusion. But the change proposals I see are built on a flawed premis. In other words, you cannot borrow yourself into prosperity.

    Remember, capitalism can only succeed as a viable economic system until it learns that liberalism will bail it out.

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