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McGill Reporter
September 25, 2003 - Volume 36 Number 02
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Off campus

Grazing

Pinch me, I'm dreaming. Is this New York?

Illustration of coffee and fruit

Step off the sidewalk and it's like you're in another city. Power suits and sleek lookers alike are flocking to the latest gourmet store cum lunch counter, Montreal Bread Company (aka MBCo). The shelves are stacked with epicurean goodies and kitchen tchotchkes. You can order chi chi pizzas, salads, sandwiches and fluffy-cloud omelets. Even their muffins are arty, and all the ingredients are high end — think truffle oil, lobster flesh, and croissants baked with butter from the Charentes region in France. To finish your meal, you can rely on the busy baristas to pump out a good espresso.

1447 Stanley, 284-0404, www.mbco.ca

Browsing

Maybe you've just moved in and the apartment's looking a little bare, maybe you want to sell an old tripod you tripped over in the basement. Maybe you're looking for a samurai katana sword, a Honer accordian, or tickets to Pearl Jam. Whatever your household needs, you can find online ads at www.ifind.ca, one of Montreal's newest websites, or www.mtlnetads.com. Knowledge of French helps with www.acam.ca and the newsgroup mtl.vendre-forsale is a hotbed of (we hope not hot) beds, tables, computers and other paraphernalia. Think more locally with www.mcgill.ca/classified or the message boards at www.pgss/mcgill.ca

Marching
Figurine of a traditionally dressed Scottish soldier

Ahhh, the Scots. What would Montreal be without these kilt-wearin' haggis eatin' bagpipe lovin' whisky drinkers? Well, it could very well be devoid of some of the most interesting architecture in the city. The McCord Museum, as part of their new "The Scots — Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers" exhibit and in tandem with the CBC Montreal Matters series on the home will be providing walking tours of mansions of local Scots who made it good.

The tour will hit such notable landmarks as the Allan Memorial Institute, which in an earlier incarnation was known by the inviting moniker of "Ravenscrag." The hour-long tour will set you back $12 bucks but as those with a true penny-pinching Scots heart will appreciate, admission to the museum is included.

Tours run every Sunday at 11 am throughout October. Meet in front of the McCord Museum. Call 398-7100, ex. 234 to reserve.

Illustration of a ridiculously large candy bar

Mea culpa
We marketers helped make your kids fat

Marketing techniques could aid the battle against obesity, say McGill's Faculty of Management professors Karl Moore and Laurette Dubé

Canadian children and adults are growing increasingly obese. The statistics — and the evidence in malls and classrooms across Canada — are abundantly clear. Who's to blame for our fat epidemic? Of course, big eaters and constant snackers must accept some responsibility, but we marketers have more than played our part.

The most obvious marketing strategy that has led to increased obesity is "super-sizing." A decade ago, most consumers bought standard 10-ounce cans of soft drinks; today, movie theatres are more likely to peddle 64-ounce monsters, which have close to one-third of the recommended daily calories for Canadians.

Fast-food restaurant meals have also been super-sized. McDonald's original hamburger, fries and a 12-ounce Coke provided 590 calories. Today, a super-size Extra Value Meal of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, super-size fries and a super-size Coke delivers well over 1,400 calories.

McDonald's is not alone; many fast-food restaurants are super-sizing. No wonder so many of us are getting bigger.

The business logic of this super-sizing strategy is clear. Consumers feel guilty if they buy two bags of fries, but marketers know that if we simply make a single bag of fries bigger, consumers will munch away to their heart's content, guilt-free. Moreover, it's only slightly more expensive to double or triple the amount of soft drink in a cup or fries in a bag, but business can charge considerably more than the actual cost. For example, it costs $1 to produce a $1.25 bag of fries, but the fries themselves cost only 20 cents. Add 50 percent more fries, raise the price by 25 cents, and the production cost goes up 10 cents. Because most of the overhead remains unchanged, the larger size means 15 cents more profit.

From a marketing point of view, the biggest cost in a fast-food restaurant is getting customers through the door. A bigger, 64-ounce cup costs less than a penny more, and the extra soft drink to fill it costs only a few pennies more. The logic of profit trumps health concerns all too often.

Another common marketing approach that contributes to the obesity epidemic is the fact that clothing sizes have gradually increased. Clothing manufacturers have admitted to us privately that clothing sizes have grown over the past decade. A size six, from some manufacturers, is now the equivalent of what we called a size seven a decade ago. This may be a harmless enough deceit, but for the fact that it removes a key signal to a shopper that weight is gained.

Not only that, clothing manufacturers are also turning out more clothing with elastic waists that stretch with the wearer's increasing size. Again, this denies you, the wearer, an important clue that you should hit the treadmill or cut back on calories.

As marketers, we should also admit that our profession targets children relentlessly. Again, the logic of profit suggests that children are a great target market — and they are. Marketers know that if they can create a loyal consumer at a young age, they have achieved greater "customer lifetime revenue" potential.

Consumers are ultimately responsible for their own health, but marketers should feel some responsibility. We teach at a business school and aren't opposed to the profit principle. But we believe it makes sense for smart marketers to help deal with the problem of obesity.

The good news is some leading firms are beginning to understand this. Kraft Foods Inc. recently announced that it would eliminate in-school marketing to children, introduce smaller portion sizes and develop healthier, more nutritious products. McDonald's is also selling salads along with its traditional hamburgers.

We believe that marketing has tremendous power; it can be harnessed to help our children stay healthy. Value-based marketing strategies should not be viewed as strictly providing more quantity for a lower price (i.e., super-sizing). Instead, those who market restaurants and food services might think about how consumers value the pleasure of sharing, or how to create an ambience that suggests good health. These are sources of value that would have market and profit potential without making anyone any bigger.

We also think that health professionals and policy-makers could benefit from integrating more marketing concepts in their attempts at influencing food behaviour to prevent obesity. These communities could learn much from marketers. What if, instead of the didactic, knowledge-based messages they typically use, they designed health-promotion campaigns to take into account the fact that reason alone doesn't shape behaviour? What if they borrowed powerful marketing tools and techniques to make healthy eating more enticing to children? We can all play our part in downsizing Canadians.

Karl Moore and Laurette Dubé teach marketing strategy and consumer behaviour.

This article is reprinted courtesy of the Globe and Mail.

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