Consumer Behaviour and The Potato

Rory Sutherland self professed ad man discusses his views on consumerism and perception. He discusses that intangible  value is more valuable than material value. Intangible value is subjective or perceived value in this case Sutherland refers to the intangible values depicted in advertising and marketing strategies. Real value he explains is typically associated with physical commodities and limited resources.

Sutherland uses a number of examples to explain this, notedly the example of rebranding the potato by Frederick the Great of Prussia. Here Frederick wanted to introduce the potato to the Germans in the hopes that they would consume more. The real value recognised by Frederick the great was that the addition of the potato as a staple carbohydrate into the populations diet would not only reduce the likelihood of price volatility in bread but would also increase the chances of survival in the case of a famine where there would be two crops as opposed to one.

download (2)Firstly, to force the population to consume the potato he attempted to make the vegetable compulsory. This failed entirely and even resulted in a number of people being executed for refusing to grow the crop. Following this Frederick the Great adopted a marketing strategy to promote the potato. This strategy involved the potato being declared a royal vegetable. The potato was portrayed to the public as being only for the royal family and were grown and guarded in a royal vegetable garden. The guards in question were supposedly instructed not to guard this garden very well for all intensive purposes. The general public then “perceived” that the potato was more valuable than before due to it being framed as a royal vegetable only for the elite monarchy.

The potato was made exclusive and a luxury. As with many commodities that are made illegal for the public to possess such as drugs in today’s society, the forbidden potato essentially entered the black market. The vegetables were stolen from the royal garden and sold illegally at a higher monetary value. The potato itself remained the same but the perceived value of it was increased. Frederick the Great had succeeded in re-branding the potato using the addition of intangible value (1)

The next example Sutherland uses is the launch of Diamond Shreddies. This incorporated a marketing strategy based entirely on intangible value. Shreddies are a wholegrain breakfast cereal that are square shaped. This marketing campaign changed the perceived value of an ordinary Shreddie by turning it on it’s side. By rotating the Shreddie it appears diamond shaped but the actual Shreddie has in reality not been altered whatsoever. Shreddies actually carried out extensive market research to find out how people compared the Diamond Shreddie to the ordinary Shreddies. People actually claimed that they preferred the taste of the Diamond Shreddies even though there was no difference between the two. Researchers found that audiences found the Diamond Shreddie was more interesting than the original product. This is another funny example of how intangible value of marketing and advertising is exploited.






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