Friday, June 1, 2012

Crumbly Cheese and Holey Bread: Quality failures we love

I cut a block of matured cheddar yesterday and it was crumbly. A nice surprise, I haven't had crumbly cheese for years. I'm sure it exists in the premium brands such as Cracker Barrel where they really do age it for 18 months before cutting it for the supermarket.

So I call that a win. But it did remind me of how "variability" is considered a quality failure. So much so, that during the 80s, National Foods had some luck with a brand they called "Ol Smoothy", a matured cheese that wasn't crumbly. A hilarious TV ad too.

Love that 80s branding where they'd create the name around one of the brand benefits: Ol Smoothy, Ol Bitey, "Skimmer" for milk.

My buddy Nate who works as technical services manager for a very large bakery tells me that variation always generates customer complaints. Letters he has to deal with, even when the change is for the better.

Bubbles in their bread which create one inch holes in a slice. You'd think that's a bad thing, right. Nate tells me that years ago when they fixed that - he got letters. As consumers we're funny creatures.

The phrase "perception is reality" is too often used by people who want to sound clever and haven't really thought about it.

But the crumbly cheese and holey bread story reminds me that it doesn't matter what you think you're giving a customer. It matters what they think you're giving them.

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