Thursday, August 23, 2007

Acquired tastes

Anyone who knows me well or has ever worked with me knows that I am rarely more than an arm’s reach from a can of Diet Pepsi. I love the taste, I love the sound the can makes when it opens, and I have many great memories of drinking this Lovemark. Who could be surprised then that when Japan launched Pepsi Ice Cucumber, some wag sent me the details. As if I’d swap! Still, it did get me to thinking again about taste and how it forms such powerful emotional connections. It is interesting, for instance, how many of the tastes we love are, at first trial, difficult, and in some cases, downright unpleasant. Anyone who has seen a small child with a mouthful of food considering whether she is going to spit it out or swallow it knows exactly what I mean. Who can honestly say they loved their first sip of coffee or first encounter with an anchovy? What drives us on to learn to love? We want to be part of the gang, we want to show we are all grown-up, we simply want to prove we can. Today the range of foods we can get is amazing and curiosity about flavor is a shared passion. The best part is that out there on the Edge there are still remarkable tastes and textures to explore. Jonathan Swift said that it was a bold man that first ate an oyster, and he was right. We might not be there first, but how about expanding your taste repertoire with one of the following delicacies listed by Wikipedia. Go on, you know you want to!

  1. Casu marzu, a Sardinian cheese containing live insect larvae

  2. Durian, a pungent southeast Asian fruit

  3. Fernet Branca, a particularly strong, grape based, herbal digestif

  4. Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish mainly consisting of minced sheep offal, boiled in a sheep's stomach

  5. Hákarl, putrefied Icelandic shark

  6. Head cheese, a dish made of meat from an animal's skull and covered with gelatin (usually set in a mold)

  7. Huitlacoche, fungus-infected maize, popular in Mexico

  8. Pu-erh, a compressed, aged tea dominated by strong, earthy overtones

  9. Salmiak, Nordic/Dutch ammonium salt liquorice candy

  10. Tempeh, a fermented food made from soybeans popular in Southeast Asia

You should add to that list two of my own favorites care of Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, where I ate last week and which is, along with El Bulli, the best restaurant in the world. They are snail porridge and egg and bacon ice cream. You can check out The Fat Duck’s tasting menu here.
These tastes may be a long way from the global mainstream today, but so was sushi 30 years ago. Sometimes we most enjoy the things we work for. This is certainly true of many Lovemarks. The relationship is not always instant because people are getting used to the ‘taste’. Brand creators should remember this when they put new brands into the market. In these days of fast change, it is easy to lose faith too quickly when something don’t take straight away. We have seen this happen with some terrific TV shows. Given an extra season, they might well have become hits. You’ve got to have faith to win Loyalty Beyond Reason. Faith in the taste of the consumer.