Corporate Eye

Should Consumers Believe Their Eyes or Ears? The Case of Shrinking Consumables

Customers know when they’re getting a bargain or when they’re getting something other than a bargain. Advertisers tell us what toothpaste is better, what detergents clean better, what food tastes good and even where we need to buy our cars. With all of this dependence on the media for our thoughts on shopping and bargain-hunting, is there any need for us to ever worry about quality…or even size?

Global economic conditions have made financial situations quite bleak, with the necessary budget-tweaking, numbers-crunching and overall cutbacks by both consumers and corporations. With all of the attention on money or the lack thereof, is there reason to give pause when we see that packages that hold our favorite foods or drinks are shrinking while the price for said packages is growing? What gives?

Manufacturers are feeling the crunch of these economic times in a major way and when they try to move their products, they may also see that what used to be a healthy bottom line with black numbers is slowly giving way to smaller numbers with twinges of pink in them, about to go red. What’s a company to do? What is noticeably being done is that companies are simply starting to put less content in our packages, yet still charge us the same price, if not more for the item(s). Consumers are noticing and they do not like it. (news story)

Then, to possibly frustrate the consumer even more, they’ve re-designed the packages, with brighter, bolder colors and font changes. There may even be new models on the box or a new background. This is all in an attempt to make the customer think that they’re getting more, or better, or different content. Essentially, and sadly, the consumer is getting the same thing, for more, in a different package with brighter words. That’s all.

Media advertising is a very tricky animal in that they know that customers purchase with emotion and they buy what they see and what makes them feel good. Think about your favorite brand of something and what you would do if they had a price increase or worse, if the item was about to be discontinued. Let’s say that you were held hostage and told that if you don’t pay slightly more for your favorite thing, that it may go away and never come back. With some manufacturers, brand hostage is happening and consumers are in the middle of it. We know that businesses are in business to make money and to be profitable, but at what expense. Should the customer be tricked or cajoled into paying more for less? Is it right?


Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream giants recently brought attention to a move that their rival competitor, Haagen-Daaz made by shrinking their packaging yet keeping their price the same on their pint-sized goodness. Ben & Jerry’s said that it was a “bad move” on the part of their competitor and that they would never, EVER do such a thing to their customers or with their products. They even Tweeted about it on Twitter saying thanks to their fans for their support and that

Apparently size matters to our fans as well. Thanks for the support here & on facebook 9:04 AM Mar 5th from TweetDeck

Good for Ben & Jerry’s for making us aware of this! But what does Haagen-Daaz have to say? Apparently, they’re being genuine with their move and intention and go into detail to explain it here on their site. I applaud them for being upfront, open and direct and for involving the customer. The worst thing that a company can do to their customers is to insult their intelligence (is this package really smaller or is it just me), and then not offer any explanation about it (your favorite cereal just jumped up $0.75 more per box without any warning). In these economic conditions, that is not a good move and can lose customers for you quicker than anything.

Paying more for less is never a good idea, no matter what it applies to or what industry it’s in. Consumers want what’s fair and they want the value of what they’ve paid for. If you change your prices, tell your customers. Let them decide what they want to do with their dollars. If you change your packaging, tell your customers. Don’t make them wonder if their eyes are playing tricks on them or if they “thought” they saw something different. Consumers appreciate it more when you’re up front with them, like Haagen-Dazs was. Do I like that I now get less in my pint? Absolutely not, but at least I know why.

The following two tabs change content below.

Bridget Wright

Writer, Blogger
I am a freelance writer, blogger and professional motivational speaker. I primarily focus on business content, offering my clients strategic marketing strategies for their businesses. I have been an entrepreneur for over 13 years, after having worked extensively in corporate America.