Mark Dolliver’s Takes: Too Much Food on Their Plates

The “hungry man” has long been a stock character of ads in which fast-food outlets and other eateries vow to satisfy the heartiest appetites. Look at the chart below, though, and you’ll wonder whether that approach has outlived its usefulness—particularly for reaching upper-income consumers. The study, by Decision Analyst, found little difference in opinion about portion size from one age group to the next, until one gets to the 65-and-up contingent. Sixty-eight percent of the old folks said the portions are often too large, which suggests restaurants’ “early-bird specials” could afford to get smaller.

Impervious to VIRTUE

People like companies to be do-gooders. But does this do-gooding affect consumer choices? A Harris Poll got at the issue by letting people indicate the extent to which “a company’s reputation for social responsibility” shapes their buying decisions. Just 16 percent said it “has a strong effect on my decisions.” Thirty-four percent said it “sometimes” has this effect; 28 percent said it does so “once in a while”; 22 percent said it has “no effect at all.” (The rest weren’t sure.) Sixteen percent of the population is a lot of consumers, so some companies will do well by doing good. But the numbers also suggest marketers must reconcile themselves to the fact that beneficent behavior won’t make a decisive practical impression on a majority of people. Good thing virtue is its own reward, eh?

Those Acquisitive men

Who says women are more avid shoppers than men? A BIGresearch poll asked adults whether they expect to make purchases in some big-ticket categories in the next six months. Except for furniture and vacation travel, men were more likely than women to say they’ll be buying in each sector. The gap was widest for computers, which 15 percent of men and 8 percent of women plan to buy. The disparity was nearly as big for TVs (12 percent of men, 6 percent of women). You’d think women would be the more apt to buy home appliances, but men had the edge here, too (9 percent vs. 7 percent). The same is true of digital cameras (8 percent vs. 7 percent). Proportionally, the gap was largest for stereo equipment (5 percent of men, 2 percent of women).