User Testing Ketchup Bottles Leads To Counter Intuitive Surge In Profits

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Seinfeld_Ketchup

One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is assuming they understand how their customers use their product or want to use their product without actually observing them using it. 

I have never seen a user test that did not highlight a frustrating feature or unknown issue to the owner of the website. 

Malcolm Gladwell, the brilliant author and journalist from the New Yorker investigated why Ketchup bottles are made the way they are and discovered an exteremely counter intuitive insight into how people use ketchup bottles. 

Let's start with the fundamental goal of the Ketchup marketing department and bottle design sub-committe. 

Mission: To Get Consumers To Use As Much Ketchup as Possible, so they go back to the store and buy more as often as possible. 

This was accomplished for many years by having a very wide opening to the top of the bottle. This way, every time someone tried to pour themselves some ketchup, a ton would pour out, leading to them finishing the bottle quickly. 

ketchupold

From what I can tell, this bottle design is optimal for Heinz's business goals. So, why do they have a bottle nowadays with a really small opening which gives the user much more control over how much ketchup they consume. Logically I would assume that the old fashioned bottles would be better for business. 

Malcolm Gladwell however discovered that the new bottle design actually leads to consumers consuming much more ketchup than previously. This is very perplexing until you hear the story about how Heinz came to the discovery that is probably worth tens of millions of dollars a year to them. 

Heinz sent their executives into the homes of their customers to observe how they consume ketchup.

What they discovered was quite fascinating. 

1. They discovered that kids consume MUCH MORE ketchup than adults. 

2. When Parents pour their kids ketchup, they pour them a smaller portion than the kid would pour themselves.

3. Since the Old Ketchup bottles were messy, Parents wouldn't let their kids pour themselves ketchup. (leading to less ketchup consumption.)

Heinz took this very valuable information and came to the conclusion that if they can create a ketchup bottle that parents would trust their kids with, the kids would consume much more ketchup than they did when their parents handled the bottle. 

So, Heinz created the small opening and easy squeeze bottle, which led to much more ketchup consumption. 

kidketchup

This is a perfect example of how important and valuable it is to observe your users interact with your website, app or product. One little insight can lead to massive profits. 

In today's market, there is no excuse not to do this. You can simply go to a starbucks with a computer and offer to buy people coffee to use your product. You can also use one of the many user testing websites, where you hire a few people to interact with your website and give you video feedback. (remember, feedback from your mom doesn't count 😉

 

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About David Melamed

David Melamed is the Founder of Tenfold Traffic, a search and content marketing agency with over $15,000,000 of paid search experience and battle tested results in content development, premium content promotion and distribution, Link Profile Analysis, Multinational/Multilingual PPC and SEO, and Direct Response Copywriting.

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