Advertising and marketing stunts that changed the world – Part 2

2. How the world got fat even further.

English: French fries currently sold at restau...

Not even two or three decades ago portion size used to be a lot smaller. Not just in fast-food (but most importantly there), everywhere.

And we’re not talking about just a tad smaller, we’re talking an increase of over 400-500% in the past few decades. Burgers now are super-sized Godzilla’s compared to what they used to be.

And the food companies even earned more from it. Imagine the deals you have today: bigger usually means cheaper. That was always the case. Two servings of french fries today at McDonald’s cost more than one bigger portion that has the same amount of fries in it.

So what went wrong?

Well, around the ’70s, McDonald’s profits stopped growing. So, naturally, McDonald’s hired a specialist named Wallerstein to figure out why. This guy went around McDonald’s locations and just stood there observing. What he quickly picked-up on was that people were just sitting there, after eating, and just picking at crumbs and leftovers from their french fries or burgers, clearly craving for more, but never really ordering more. He soon realized that people were just ashamed of themselves or the others, and were not ordering more from a number of reasons that can be debated from economics to social exclusion. That is not the point. The point was overcoming this.

So Wallerstein proposed to McDonald’s to start increasing portion size, which McDonald’s initially refused. However, they came around and started pitching the idea of “ordering more, bigger portions is normal”. The customers were always asked if they want the “big size” sending unconscious messages that it was OK for them to order bigger. And so they did.

In the end what McDonald’s did was normalize the idea that eating more is OK, thus overcoming their profit stagnation, and of course, getting the world fatter.