Is the story of the A&W third pounder, and how it failed because the average American didn’t understand fractions.
In the 80’s, A&W tried to cash in on the popularity of Mcdonald’s Quarter Pounder by introducing their own, bigger, better, and Cheaper third pounder burger.
A&W would use fresh beef instead of McDonalds 80’s frozen hocky puck patties, they would offer a bigger burger (a third pound instead of a quarter pound) and it would have a cheaper price point. It even outperformed McDonalds burgers in blind taste tests.
Slam Dunk, right?
But when it came to actual sales, the third pounder wasn’t selling. A&W couldn’t understand why their bigger, fresher, cheaper burger wasn’t selling so they did focus group research to understand why this burger simply wasn’t selling.
More than half of the participants in the Yankelovich focus groups questioned the price of our burger. “Why,” they asked, “should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s? You’re overcharging us.” Honestly. People thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter of a pound. After all, three is less than four!
Not understanding that a fourth is actually smaller than a third, many consumers eschewed the better-tasting burger in favor of the one they thought was the better deal. According to Taubman, A&W recalibrated their marketing, saying, “The customer, regardless of his or her proficiency with fractions, is always right.”
I’ve told this story here before. My mother was a teacher. The province decided to implement a new math program and was going to teach how to implement it. The “math expert” didn’t know how to get a common denominator (to either add the fractions or compare them can’t remember which now). One of my mother’s friends got up and showed her how to do it. The “math expert” asked if the teacher could join them, because I guess none of these “math experts” could perform elementary school math.
I’m skeptical this is the reason it failed. Could be for another reason and some exec is covering his ass. It’s not like that study on why the burger failed is on pubmed. We’re just supposed to take some slimy corporate execs word for it. It’s funny how easily you guys fall for propaganda but the scientists and medical professionals are the dumb ones.