It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It

Prairie Gleanings

Apparently, there is a flowery term for GMO.

Published on: November 23, 2009

Once again, my worst fears about consumers have been confirmed.


In a recent University of Illinois study, consumers were given descriptions of two different apples. One was described as locally grown, while the other was said to be genetically modified. Consumers overwhelmingly checked the box for locally grown. (Keep in mind, there was no taste test, just descriptions on paper.)


In a second questionnaire, researchers pitted locally grown versus apples with a "reduced environmental impact." Consumers overwhelmingly chose the reduced environmental impact apples, a.k.a. GMO. Researchers used the wording "reduced environmental impact" because fewer chemicals are used in the disease-resistant apples' production. The research was conducted by U of I economist Michael Mazzocco and Augustana College marketing professor Nadia Novotorova.


The researchers point out that there's potential for the food industry to promote GMO products in a manner that consumers appreciate. That is, play up the environmental angle.


To me, it proves it's not what you say, but how you say it. Several weeks ago, a Facebook friend asked if I'd like to join a group. In essence, the group was called something like "Tell Obama to do whatever it takes to improve our environment." Slightly reworded, the group could be called "Support Cap and Trade legislation."


I commented to my wife that I'd like to create a group called "Tell Obama to save U.S. jobs through any means necessary." I would probably get a number of the same folks to sign up with my group, not even realizing the group does not support Cap and Trade.


When it comes down to it, I think there are two options here. Do you accept the consumer's ignorance and play the marketing game? Or, should you try to better educate the consumer to see through the marketing deception?


Regardless of how we try to reach consumers, we must realize how important marketing is in shaping and forming perceptions. Just think, for most consumers, the only thing they know about food is what's written on the packaging.


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