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  • I think I was supposed to talk about my new book,

  • which is called "Blink," and it's about snap judgments and first impressions.

  • And it comes out in January, and I hope you all buy it in triplicate.

  • But I was thinking about this,

  • and I realized that although my new book makes me happy,

  • and I think would make my mother happy,

  • it's not really about happiness.

  • So I decided instead, I would talk about someone who

  • I think has done as much to make Americans happy

  • as perhaps anyone over the last 20 years.

  • A man who is a great personal hero of mine.

  • Someone by the name of Howard Moskowitz,

  • who is most famous for reinventing spaghetti sauce.

  • Howard's about this high, and he's round,

  • and he's in his sixties, and he has big huge glasses

  • and thinning grey hair, and he has a kind of wonderful exuberance and vitality,

  • and he has a parrot, and he loves the opera,

  • and he's a great aficionado of medieval history.

  • And by profession, he's a psychophysicist.

  • Now, I should tell you that I have no idea what psychophysics is,

  • although at some point in my life, I dated a girl for two years who was getting

  • her doctorate in psychophysics.

  • Which should tell you something about that relationship. (Laughter)

  • As far as I know, psychophysics is about measuring things.

  • And Howard is very interested in measuring things.

  • And he graduated with his doctorate from Harvard,

  • and he set up a little consulting shop in White Plains, New York.

  • And one of his first clients was -- this is many years ago, back in the early '70s

  • -- one of his first clients was Pepsi.

  • And Pepsi came to Howard and they said,

  • "You know, there's this new thing called aspartame,

  • and we would like to make Diet Pepsi.

  • We'd like you to figure out how much aspartame we should put in

  • each can of Diet Pepsi, in order to have the perfect drink." Right?

  • Now that sounds like an incredibly straightforward question to answer,

  • and that's what Howard thought. Because Pepsi told him,

  • "Look, we're working with a band between eight and 12 percent.

  • Anything below eight percent sweetness is not sweet enough,

  • anything above 12 percent sweetness is too sweet.

  • We want to know, what's the sweet spot between eight and 12?"

  • Now, if I gave you this problem to do, you would all say, it's very simple.

  • What we do, is you make up a big experimental batch of Pepsi,

  • at every degree of sweetness -- eight percent, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3,

  • all the way up to 12 -- and we try this out with thousands of people,

  • and we plot the results on a curve,

  • and we take the most popular concentration. Right? Really simple.

  • Howard does the experiment, and he gets the data back, and he plots it on a curve,

  • and all of a sudden he realizes it's not a nice bell curve.

  • In fact, the data doesn't make any sense.

  • It's a mess. It's all over the place.

  • Now, most people in that business, in the world of testing food and such,

  • are not dismayed when the data comes back a mess.

  • They think, well, you know, figuring out what people think about cola's not that easy.

  • You know, maybe we made an error somewhere along the way.

  • You know, let's just make an educated guess,

  • and they simply point and they go for 10 percent, right in the middle.

  • Howard is not so easily placated.

  • Howard is a man of a certain degree of intellectual standards.

  • And this was not good enough for him,

  • and this question bedeviled him for years.

  • And he would think it through and say, what was wrong?

  • Why could we not make sense of this experiment with Diet Pepsi?

  • And one day, he was sitting in a diner in White Plains,

  • about to go trying to dream up some work for NescafE.

  • And suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, the answer came to him.

  • And that is, that when they analyzed the Diet Pepsi data,

  • they were asking the wrong question.

  • They were looking for the perfect Pepsi,

  • and they should have been looking for the perfect Pepsis. Trust me.

  • This was an enormous revelation.

  • This was one of the most brilliant breakthroughs in all of food science.

  • And Howard immediately went on the road,

  • and he would go to conferences around the country,

  • would stand up and he would say,

  • "You had been looking for the perfect Pepsi. You're wrong.

  • You should be looking for the perfect Pepsis."

  • And people would look at him with a blank look, and they would say,

  • "What are you talking about? This is craziness."

  • And they would say, you know, "Move! Next!"

  • Tried to get business, nobody would hire him -- he was obsessed, though,

  • and he talked about it and talked about it and talked about it.

  • Howard loves the Yiddish expression

  • "to a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish."

  • This was his horseradish. (Laughter) He was obsessed with it!

  • And finally, he had a breakthrough. Vlasic Pickles came to him,

  • and they said, "Mr. Moskowitz -- Doctor Moskowitz --

  • we want to make the perfect pickle." And he said,

  • "There is no perfect pickle, there are only perfect pickles."

  • And he came back to them and he said, "You don't just need to improve your regular,

  • you need to create zesty."

  • And that's where we got zesty pickles.

  • Then the next person came to him, and that was Campbell's Soup.

  • And this was even more important. In fact,

  • Campbell's Soup is where Howard made his reputation.

  • Campbell's made Prego, and Prego, in the early '80s, was struggling next to Ragu,

  • which was the dominant spaghetti sauce of the '70s and '80s.

  • Now in the industry -- I don't know whether you care about this,

  • or how much time I have to go into this.

  • But it was, technically speaking -- this is an aside --

  • Prego is a better tomato sauce than Ragu.

  • The quality of the tomato paste is much better, the spice mix is far superior,

  • it adheres to the pasta in a much more pleasing way. In fact,

  • they would do the famous bowl test back in the '70s with Ragu and Prego.

  • You'd have a plate of spaghetti, and you would pour it on, right?

  • And the Ragu would all go to the bottom, and the Prego would sit on top.

  • That's called "adherence."

  • And, anyway, despite the fact that they were far superior in adherence,

  • and the quality of their tomato paste, Prego was struggling.

  • So they came to Howard, and they said, fix us.

  • And Howard looked at their product line, and he said,

  • what you have is a dead tomato society.

  • So he said, this is what I want to do.

  • And he got together with the Campbell's soup kitchen,

  • and he made 45 varieties of spaghetti sauce. And he varied them

  • according to every conceivable way that you can vary tomato sauce.

  • By sweetness, by level of garlic, by tartness, by sourness, by tomatoey-ness,

  • by visible solids -- my favorite term in the spaghetti sauce business. (Laughter)

  • Every conceivable way you can vary spaghetti sauce, he varied spaghetti sauce.

  • And then he took this whole raft of 45 spaghetti sauces, and he went on the road.

  • He went to New York, he went to Chicago, he went to Jacksonville,

  • he went to Los Angeles. And he brought in people by the truckload. Into big halls.

  • And he sat them down for two hours, and he gave them,

  • over the course of that two hours, ten bowls.

  • Ten small bowls of pasta, with a different spaghetti sauce on each one.

  • And after they ate each bowl, they had to rate, from 0 to 100,

  • how good they thought the spaghetti sauce was.

  • At the end of that process, after doing it for months and months,

  • he had a mountain of data

  • about how the American people feel about spaghetti sauce.

  • And then he analyzed the data.

  • Now, did he look for the most popular brand variety of spaghetti sauce? No!

  • Howard doesn't believe that there is such a thing.

  • Instead, he looked at the data, and he said,

  • let's see if we can group all these different data points into clusters.

  • Let's see if they congregate around certain ideas.

  • And sure enough, if you sit down, and you analyze all this data on spaghetti sauce,

  • you realize that all Americans fall into one of three groups.

  • There are people who like their spaghetti sauce plain,

  • there are people who like their spaghetti sauce spicy

  • and there are people who like it extra chunky.

  • And of those three facts, the third one was the most significant.

  • Because at the time, in the early 1980s,

  • if you went to a supermarket,

  • you would not find extra-chunky spaghetti sauce.

  • And Prego turned to Howard, and they said,

  • "You telling me that one third of Americans crave extra-chunky spaghetti sauce

  • and yet no one is servicing their needs?" And he said yes!

  • (Laughter) And Prego then went back,

  • and completely reformulated their spaghetti sauce,

  • and came out with a line of extra chunky that immediately and completely

  • took over the spaghetti sauce business in this country.

  • And over the next 10 years, they made 600 million dollars

  • off their line of extra-chunky sauces.

  • And everyone else in the industry looked at what Howard had done, and they said,

  • "Oh my god! We've been thinking all wrong!"

  • And that's when you started getting seven different kinds of vinegar,

  • and 14 different kinds of mustard, and 71 different kinds of olive oil --

  • and then eventually even Ragu hired Howard,

  • and Howard did the exact same thing for Ragu that he did for Prego.

  • And today, if you go to the supermarket, a really good one,

  • and you look at how many Ragus there are --

  • Do you know how many they are? 36!

  • In six varieties: Cheese, Light, Robusto,

  • Rich & Hearty, Old World Traditional, Extra-Chunky Garden. (Laughter)

  • That's Howard's doing. That is Howard's gift to the American people.

  • Now why is that important?

  • It is, in fact, enormously important. I'll explain to you why.

  • What Howard did is he fundamentally changed the way the food industry thinks

  • about making you happy.

  • Assumption number one in the food industry used to be

  • that the way to find out what people want to eat --

  • what will make people happy -- is to ask them.

  • And for years and years and years and years, Ragu and Prego would have

  • focus groups, and they would sit all you people down, and they would say,

  • "What do you want in a spaghetti sauce? Tell us what you want in a spaghetti sauce."

  • And for all those years -- 20, 30 years --

  • through all those focus group sessions,

  • no one ever said they wanted extra-chunky.

  • Even though at least a third of them, deep in their hearts, actually did.

  • (Laughter)

  • People don't know what they want! Right?

  • As Howard loves to say, "The mind knows not what the tongue wants."

  • It's a mystery!

  • And a critically important step in understanding our own desires

  • and tastes is to realize that we cannot always explain what we want deep down.

  • If I asked all of you, for example, in this room, what you want in a coffee,

  • you know what you'd say? Every one of you would say "I want a dark, rich, hearty roast."

  • It's what people always say when you ask them what they want in a coffee.

  • What do you like? Dark, rich, hearty roast!

  • What percentage of you actually like a dark, rich, hearty roast?

  • According to Howard, somewhere between 25 and 27 percent of you.

  • Most of you like milky, weak coffee.

  • But you will never, ever say to someone who asks you what you want --

  • that "I want a milky, weak coffee." (Laughter)

  • So that's number one thing that Howard did.

  • Number two thing that Howard did is he made us realize --

  • it's another very critical point --

  • he made us realize in the importance of what he likes to call horizontal segmentation.

  • Why is this critical? It's critical because

  • this is the way the food industry thought before Howard. Right?

  • What were they obsessed with in the early '80s? They were obsessed with mustard.

  • In particular, they were obsessed with the story of Grey Poupon. Right?

  • Used to be, there were two mustards. French's and Gulden's.

  • What were they? Yellow mustard. What's in yellow mustard?

  • Yellow mustard seeds, turmeric, and paprika. That was mustard.

  • Grey Poupon came along, with a Dijon. Right?

  • Much more volatile brown mustard seed, some white wine, a nose hit,

  • much more delicate aromatics. And what do they do?

  • They put it in a little tiny glass jar, with a wonderful enameled label on it,

  • made it look French, even though it's made in Oxnard, California.

  • And instead of charging a dollar-fifty for the eight-ounce bottle,

  • the way the French's and Gulden's did, they decided to charge four dollars.

  • And then they had those ads, right? With the guy in the Rolls Royce,

  • and he's eating the Grey Poupon, the other Rolls Royce pulls up,

  • and he says, do you have any Grey Poupon?

  • And the whole thing, after they did that, Grey Poupon takes off!

  • Takes over the mustard business!

  • And everyone's take-home lesson from that was

  • that the way to get to make people happy

  • is to give them something that is more expensive, something to aspire to. Right?

  • It's to make them turn their back on what they think they like now,

  • and reach out for something higher up the mustard hierarchy.

  • A better mustard! A more expensive mustard!

  • A mustard of more sophistication and culture and meaning.

  • And Howard looked to that and said, that's wrong!

  • Mustard does not exist on a hierarchy.

  • Mustard exists, just like tomato sauce, on a horizontal plane.

  • There is no good mustard, or bad mustard.

  • There is no perfect mustard, or imperfect mustard.

  • There are only different kinds of mustards that suit different kinds of people.

  • He fundamentally democratized the way we think about taste.

  • And for that, as well, we owe Howard Moskowitz a huge vote of thanks.

  • Third thing that Howard did, and perhaps the most important,

  • is Howard confronted the notion of the Platonic dish. (Laughter)

  • What do I mean by that?

  • For the longest time in the food industry,

  • there was a sense that there was one way, a perfect way, to make a dish.

  • You go to Chez Panisse, they give you the red-tail sashimi

  • with roasted pumpkin seeds in a something something reduction.

  • They don't give you five options on the reduction, right?