Iconic? "Science" says your brain doesn't buy it. . . at least according to Campbell's


Campbell's is redesigning their iconic red-and-white soup packaging. Why? The answer's in your brain - or so they think:

Campbell's said traditional customer feedback wasn't telling the company why soup sales weren't doing so hot. "A 2005 Campbell analysis revealed that, overall, ads deemed more effective in surveys had little relation to changes in sales," the WSJ says.

So they turned to "science." Campbell's hired Innerscope Research Inc. to conduct tests on a whopping 40-person sample to see what design elements produced the most "emotional engagement."

The team clipped small video cameras to the testers at eye level and had them later watch tape of themselves shopping for soup. Special vests captured skin-moisture levels, heart rate, depth and pace of breathing, and posture. Sensors tracked eye movements and pupil width.

The result? The bright red logo made the soups blend together. The spoon was not emotional. Steam was.

Fast Company has the full story; they don't sound too impressed with the biological basis for the testing. Without more detail in the methodology, I really can't weigh in, except to say that good design is anything but an exact. . . .science. Given the value of instant recognition in the saturated grocery business, I'd be hesitant to abandon such an iconic design. It was good enough for Andy Warhol, after all.

Campbell's Soup Cans
Andy Warhol, 1962.
Displayed in Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Cambell's will be leaving a few of their soups old-style. See Fast Company for the details.

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Great post. I just wrote something on my blog about employee engagement at Campbell's, so how funny to see this.

It's interesting what triggers our emotional involvement. For me, even though I use a teaspoon to eat my soup, stew, whatever so that I don't gobble, when I think of a teaspoon, I think of it with icky tasting medicine. I wonder whether other people's internal representations (that's an NLP term for the pictures we make of stuff in our brains) are like mine.

Good food for thought!

Carolann Jacobs

I may be in a minority, but I think the provided example of the new label is quite attractive, with a nice use of curves and presenting all the information in a way that's easy to find, and the Campbell's logo is still recognizable. That doesn't mean the "science" is good, though.

This may be way off base, but I'm really not a fan of soup in a can no matter how it is labeled. The reason I don't buy it is simple - it tastes disgusting to me. Yes, the label is cute, but I'm still not going to buy it because I know I won't eat it.

I'm not sure I'd characterize your comment as off base, Snippet, but I am at a bit of a loss why you think it is important to share that you hate canned soup and/or how others should respond. Um. . . "good for you?" "I apologize for my horrible taste in occasionally eating canned soup, you are clearly gastronomically superior to me?"

As far as Campbell's is concerned, of course, your opinion is irrelevant since you won't buy their soup regardless of how they package it. :)