Monday, May 9, 2011

it Dawn-ed on me


Last week we got a new bottle of dish detergent, same brand as always (Dawn), same color as always (blue), same price as always ($1.69) and same size as always (or so I thought). Years of advertising and family use of Dawn has imprinted their brand has deep in my subconscious. As a result, I just grab the familiar looking bottle and toss it in the cart without thinking too much about it. When I got home and switched out the old bottle with the new, something didn't feel right, I did a double take and inspected the bottles closer. I noticed that the new bottle of Dawn although it looked almost identical to the old bottle was actually 3.7 ounces less: 10.3oz as opposed to 14oz.

At least they softened the blow by putting a cute picture of a mother penguin and her baby on the new bottle and informing us that “Dawn Helps Save Wildlife.” I hope my 3.7 ounces of soap went to clean oil off of some bird in the gulf instead of greasing the pockets of Procter and Gamble shareholders.

Due to the tough economic times and increasing cost of raw materials, producers across the board have been put in the position to either raise prices (not an option with people watching their budgets closer than ever) or find creative ways to cut costs, which more often than not involves giving consumers less for the same price. Most every product in the super market has been affected, from dried pasta, to canned vegetables to orange juice to dish detergent.

It is not just savvy shoppers like my mom who have been noticing the change, experts agree too. In a recent New York Times piece, John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School said, “Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity and companies try to do it in such a way that you don’t notice, maybe keeping the height and width the same, but changing the depth so the silhouette of the package on the shelf looks the same. Or sometimes they add more air to the chips bag or a scoop in the bottom of the peanut butter jar so it looks the same size.”

Companies have been using the guise of “being green” in the recent downsizing of product sizes, reengineering their packaging to use less materials and hold less product. They are making the environment greener by taking the green out of our wallets. Companies blame the recession for smaller packaging, but when have they ever given consumers more during good economic times? The higher price changes are here to stay.

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