Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Why do folks order a smaller soda at the drive-in?

Via anthropologi.info , a cute story from this summer of a commercial anthropology detective story. Coca-cola had noticed that people consistently ordered a smaller sized drink at McDonald's when they used the drive-through compared to indoor customers. They couldn't figure out why, so (cue Indiana Jones) they hired an anthropologist.

Coke had already ruled out my first theory, which was fear of greater spillage (Ah, fatherhood: never pour more liquid than you're prepared to see on the rug.)

Of course, the best approach would be to interview the drive-in customers, but they're by definition going somewhere, which makes them impatient. Also, the author decided to dress in a suit and tie, which was off-putting:
So most of your interviews last about 22 seconds. It is hot, very hot. It is so hot that I am soaked right through and my camera person, Suz, has discovered that the sun block has run off her forehead into her eyes and she can barely see. At this point, we aren’t getting very much more on camera than we are in the interviews.

The answer (kept secret in the post) was arrived at intuitively, and has something to do with cooking in the sun. So the anthropology part of collecting data failed to contribute.

The point of the post was the frequent impracticality of jamming a camera in someone's face in order to get data. The anthropologist needs creativity, and a bit of humility in interviewing people: they are the expert and you are the supplicant.

Looks like this story was trackbacked by Kottke a while ago...

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