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Waiter, There’s Pseudo-Science in My Soup

Campbell’s chooses “neuromarketing” over consumer feedback in rebranding its iconic soup cans.

Campbell's Soup

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It’s the last thing a designer expects to hear from a client: “Can you make our logo smaller?” But that’s exactly what Campbell’s has just done. One of the most iconic brands on the shelves, immortalized by Warhol, synonymous with soup, is shrinking its logo. Why? It’s neuroscience, stupid.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Campbell’s has just unveiled a rebrand of its canned soups, spurred by two years of “neuromarketing” analysis. The new cans hit supermarkets this fall. Campbell’s said traditional customer feedback wasn’t telling the company why soup sales weren’t doing so hot. “A 2005 Campbell analysis revealed that, overall, ads deemed more effective in surveys had little relation to changes in sales,” the WSJ says.

So they turned to “science.” Campbell’s hired Innerscope Research Inc. to conduct tests on a whopping 40-person sample to see what design elements produced the most “emotional engagement.”

The team clipped small video cameras to the testers at eye level and had them later watch tape of themselves shopping for soup. Special vests captured skin-moisture levels, heart rate, depth and pace of breathing, and posture. Sensors tracked eye movements and pupil width.

The result? The bright red logo made the soups blend together. The spoon was not emotional. Steam was.

Tropicana Redesign

Of course, this smacks of the same pseudo-scientific marketing bullshit that Peter Arnell spouted over his Pepsi and Tropicana redesigns. And we all know what happened next. Consumers rejected the redesign, saying all they ever wanted was the classic orange. In fact, Debbie Millman, who designed the previous, now current, Tropicana packaging with Sterling Brands, said the one thing consumers in her feedback research hated most was pictures of orange juice in glasses.

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Perhaps with that debacle in mind, Campbell’s isn’t rebranding its classic Tomato, Chicken Noodle, and Cream of Mushroom–they’re having their soup and eating it too. Just without the spoon.

[Wall Street Journal, sub. req.]