Saturday, September 30 at 2:08 p.m.
In which is discussed headaches, cereal, potato chips and a bottle of coke.

I have a habit of not eating, especially on the weekends. The result is that I find myself, almost unawares, with a headache by the time Sunday night rolls along. What follows is a hurried dash to the kitchen to find something to eat in order to stave off what could potentially be a migraine, the kind that leaves me in bed for the greater part of the following day.

So (very) early one morning a little while ago, as I was in the process of getting myself a bowl of cereal and trying my best to do so quietly - a futile attempt, mind you, with the kind of plastic used in cereal bags - I was reminded of an essay I read during my first year of university.

The author of the essay suggested that many products, potato chips especially, are manufactured in such a way as to make as much noise as possible - in order to enhance the experience of consuming them. And while I've never actually investigated this idea, considering the ridiculous amount of crackling a bag of Doritos or Lays makes when you open it, I can see why anyone would think that.1

When you open a bag of chips, that distinctive crinkle carries with it a lot of other ideas and actions: freshness, crispiness and - some might suggest - even more abstract ideas like the opening of a gift.2

A few months ago, during a particularly trying shift at al&d, I made my way to a nearby 7-Eleven to pick up a drink. Now, normally, I just walk in, buy a Dr. Pepper, and leave. But I wasn't really feeling that at the moment, so I looked around for something different. I ended up choosing a Coke with Lime.3

While waiting in line to pay, I was looking the bottle over and noticed something unusual about the packaging. Coke's bottled products usually have a white or black lid to them. This drink had a green lid - a green that didn't even match particularly well with the shade of green on the label.

I was puzzled by this choice of colour, but didn't give it much more thought until a few weeks later, when I reached the fifth chapter of Blink, a book by Malcolm Gladwell, through which I'm (slowly) making my way at the moment.

Blink is about the subconscious and the advantages and prattfalls of rapid cognition. That chapter in particular discusses "sensation transference" - the way in which the packaging of many products are designed to not only elicit our attention but to also make us feel and think a certain way as we use or consume them.

The example used in the book is that of 7-Up. Darrel Rhea, a principle of the Cheskin marketing firm, described some interesting results from research conducted by the company:

"We tested Seven-Up. We had several versions, and what we found is that if you add fifteen percent more yellow to the green on the package - if you take this green and add more yellow - what people report is that the taste experience has lot more lime or lemon flavour."4

So, if this sort of research was applied to the design of the Coke with Lime bottle, that means the particular green chosen for the lid is supposed to 'set the stage' as it were, for your first taste of the drink.

In some ways, I guess, that's a very disturbing thought. How much of what we buy is based on reactions that we can't consciously control? And leaving aside purchases, how many of our daily decisions are made on these types of signals? Signals we should be aware of but seldom are.

There's a very good case for how useful such quick thinking can be. But we shouldn't let it influence us so much that we leave our faculties for fact and logic behind.

  • 1Contrast this with a bag of "Miss Vickies" potato chips. They're far less so, to go with, I suppose, their attempts at selling a healthier and classier, and ultimately, much more 'real' product.

  • 2That might seem like a rather bold claim. And after reading that, you might be saying "Wait a minute - I don't think about opening presents when I eat chips." But bear with me a moment longer.

  • 3I don't know how many of you remember Pepsi Twist, but it was one of my favourite drinks at the time it was on the shelves. I figured this new Coke might be similar in taste, and it didn't disappoint.

  • 4Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink. pg 163.

  • And a song, of course, since I've been quiet for so long.

    Bring On The Wonder
    Susan Enan

    I can't see the stars anymore living here
    Lets go to the hills where the outlines are clear

    Bring on the wonder
    Bring on the song
    I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long

    I fell through the cracks at the end of our street
    Lets go to the beach, get the sand through our feet

    Bring on the wonder
    Bring on the song
    I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long

    Bring on the wonder
    We got it all wrong
    We pushed you down deep in our souls for too long

    I dont have the time for a drink from the cup
    Let's rest for a while 'til our souls catch us up

    Bring on the wonder
    Bring on the song
    I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long

    Bring on the wonder
    We got it all wrong
    We pushed you down deep in our souls, so hang on

    Bring on the wonder
    Bring on the song
    I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long.

    A good weekend to all.