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Can you taste a brand?

The world of marketing relies on the notion that brand, and brand images, matter. Brand images influence our purchasing decisions and our experience of the product. In particular, the food and drink industry have found images exert a significant influence on consumers’ taste perceptions, and retrospective evaluations of the taste.

The importance of brand images on our taste perception was highlighted in 2011, when Coca-Cola changed their iconic red can to a white can for the first time in 125 years, to raise awareness for the threatened polar bear species. This campaign wasn’t as successful as Coca-Cola had hoped. As it so happened, many consumers became convinced that Coca-Cola not only changed their branding but their recipe as well, as they perceived the taste of Coke in the new white can to taste different. Of course, this wasn’t true; Coca-Cola hadn’t touched the recipe.

Cigarette companies understand the effect that brand has over taste perception, which is why they fought hard to create a multimillion pound campaign against plain packaging legislation.

New evidence reveals that their concerns were justified. Recent research conducted on smokers found that when the branding on the cigarette packaging was removed, participants reported that all the cigarettes tasted the same and that they could no longer differentiate between the brands.

Additionally, further research published this month has shown that standardized non-branded packs compared to branded packs were perceived to be significantly less appealing and expected to taste worse. Ultimately, people became less motivated to purchase cigarettes. With Australia having already implemented plain-packaging, and Ireland and other countries about to follow suit, it appears that the tobacco industry is aware of the trouble at hand; they are losing a key aspect of their business that has been a major driving force behind its success – the brand.

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