Arachibutyrophobia: The Fear of Peanut Butter Part I

In February of 2007, Peter Pan was forced to issue a recall for certain jars of its peanut butter (those with a lot number beginning with 2111) due to Salmonella contamination. The next day as I walked through the grocery store, all Peter Pan jars were noticeably absent from my grocer’s shelves. The damage done in this kind of recall is two-fold. The first impact is that the recall disrupts habitual behavior. The automatic purchase behavior of every Peter Pan customer was disrupted because they literally could not buy the product for an extended period of time. For most, peanut butter is a staple; they could not wait the months that it took for their favorite brand to reappear. A new brand of peanut butter shows up on the cupboard; the kids protest, but having no other choice, eat the replacement. If they eat it enough times, there is a good chance they will develop, if not a preference, at least an acceptance of the other brand.

The second impact is a loss of trust for the brand. Automatic repurchase behavior allows the executive mind to relegate a decision to the habit-based mind. This process can only occur if the brand is trusted. Lose the trust; lose the habit, possibly forever.

Peter Pan was wounded, but its parent, ConAgra, had the money and wherewithal to keep the brand alive.

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