Monday, February 15, 2010

An Ode to the Old Days...errr...before

Dear Celestial Seasonings

Who thought it would be a good idea to cut your box of tea from 20 bags to 18? Sure, this makes sense in your single variety boxes, but in your sampler pack it is ludacris. 20 bags divided perfectly into 5 different flavors, but I can most assuredly say that 18 does not divide evenly by 5.

I know I can look at the positive. It's a surprise in every pack to figure out which flavors come with 3 and which come with 4. And, really, it's only cut by 2 bags. BUT, I feel slighted oh heavenly flavoring tea company. I am not excited by this "innovation" at all. I would have rather seen you increase the price of the box than cut it by an uneven number.

I pay with coupons anyway.

So I work in what is called the CPG (Consumer product goods) industry, more specifically in the c-store (Convenience) channel. I rarely talk about work on this blog, but see, I do work and know at least a little about a lot. ;)

Therefore it stands that I know full well about these package changes as a way to maintain or increase unit sales without losing margin in an economy that won't support too many price changes, either way. If prices increase, customers won't pay and will find a cheaper decent alternative. If prices decrease (for an equal amount), the manufacturer/wholesaler/retailer won't be able to sustain their business and ultimately end up in a layoff, bankruptcy, or other aspects of financial distress which in many cases end up hurting the average Joe as much as increasing the price does.

Nevertheless, I don't like it. Not one bit. This Article on explains the situation in better detail than I could or care to at this moment. Most importantly (to me) is the lack of integrity these organizations are showing in changing package sizes without notifiying the customer. Usually, the size delta is so small that it really doesn't matter anyway and we could probably use less consumption in most households. Even still, the point is that they certainly don't advertise the package size changes, not even with a "new and improved packaging" indicator. Many times they do as much as possible to make the changes with the smallest noticeable sensory changes (visual, tactical, etc.) as possible so that customers won't notice the package change and won't feel slighted.

CPG are underestimating your customers. The consumer is smarter than that. I am smarter than that. I may not notice the change while I'm at the store with a 3 year old begging to walk, threatening to jump out of the cart, or begging to be spiderman climbing the shelves, but don't be fooled...I will notice. And when I do...the once strong loyalty I had to your brand will be damaged severely.

Just be honest. We all know that the economy is bad. In fact, the average Joe's pocket book is looking for ways to shop smart and be healthy. I'm not a marketing person by trade but even I can come up with several ways you could capitalize on this economy without attempting to deceive your customers. I usually wouldn't say that you OWE us anything...but in this case, honesty and integrity is definitely a good approach.

In case you are interested, here is a site I briefly encountered that had some information on consumer watchdog type information. I found it to be a good site to keep my eye on.

I recommend looking down the left navigation column under "Ad Categories" and choosing the category that you are most interested in.


Monkey Momma said...

I noticed this with diapers several years ago. I suddenly was getting fewer and fewer diapers in that big box for the very same price.

Another thing to watch for if you shop at some discount chains like Dollar General. They might seem to have good pricing, but look closely at what you're purchasing. You might get that tub of detergent for $2 cheaper than Wal-Mart or Target, but it's also get 8 ounces less in the "special" DG container, which ultimately ends up being MORE expensive!

Mandi said...

*like* this post. A lot.