Gladwell on TED

Malcolm Gladwell: What we can learn from spaghetti sauce
The author of Blink and the Tipping Point speaks of a psychophisicist named Howard. What is the right amount of sweetness for Diet Pepsi? This was a question posed to Howard by Pepsi. The data was random.

After years of speculation, Howard realized that there was no single 'Sweet Spot' for a whole population. There were many sweet spots. Then when Cambell's came to him for a suggestion to beat Raghu spaghetti sauce, he created 45 varieties of Tomato sauce based on many factors.

After an experimental tour of the country to test out his 45 sauces, he now had data for the best spaghetti sauces. He did not look for a single silver bullet. He grouped them into three clusters: Plain, spicy and extra chunky.

The last is what he went with and Prego(Cambell) created a chunky sauce and created $600M worth of spagetti sauces. This resulted in many varieties of spagetti sauce on the market.

This an enormously important development in the food market. It meant that the method of asking customers what they wanted was wrong. No one knew that they wanted chunky spaghetti sauce. 'The mind does not know what the tongue wants.'

Howard also made us realize that the importance of 'Horizontal Segmentation'. There were two mustards in the market not long ago selling at $8. Grey Poupon came along and sold it at $4 and reaped big profits. Howard said that this was not the way to go. There was no single great mustard.

Howard also proved that there was no single best way to make a dish. (Also called the platonic way to make dishes.) Italian Tomato sauce was thin with no visible solids. Howard proved that giving everyone the culturally authentic sauce was the best way to please others was not necessarily the best strategy.

Science too now looks for understanding variability than searching for universals. Howard said that the search for universals was a disservice to ourselves. When we embrace the diversity of human beings, we find happiness.

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