Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Strength of Preference

My dad prefers regular Coca-cola Classic. His preference is strong. Even when an adequate substitute, Pepsi-Cola, is on sale at the grocery store, my mom buys Coke for him because it is his strong preference. I prefer tea from Harney and Sons, but I’ll drink whatever is available. My mom drinks either iced tea or water. Josh drinks pop, usually whatever is available.

People question the strength of their preferences every day. My brand of toothpaste is Colgate, Total plus whitening, paste, not gel. I usually have two or three tubes sitting around in my linen closet. And I usually scan the paper for coupons and have a few coupons on hand. Last week, my current tube was low, and I didn’t have any in reserve. Plus, it has been awhile since there were Colgate coupons in the paper. So, when I went grocery shopping, I walked past the tooth paste isle. There was no Colgate Total plus Whitening paste, or gel, or Colgate Total, or Colgate paste! They had Colgate gel. And they didn’t have anything resembling the original Colgate flavor. They had vanilla mint and paradise and cinnamon something or other. Plus they had weird words like “luminous” and other such lofty descriptors. I had to question whether I was truly loyal to Colgate or whether it was time to try a new brand. I am not a big fan of Crest, or the Arm and Hammer stuff Josh uses. I sucked it in and I bought two tubes of the new Colgate and am alternating, trying to develop a preference to one or the other in case they don’t bring back Total with Whitening paste. I am currently rather indifferent between vanilla mint flavored gel, paradise flavored gel, and trying a different brand all together if I can’t find Total with Whitening paste.

This took all of a minute to decide in real life. So, before you think I am some neurotic freak, contemplate your brand loyalty and how long it takes for you to decide in favor of an alternative.

In an economics class several years ago, we talked about strength of preference and how it would be interesting to let people rank their choices at the ballot box. It was right after the Bush/Gore election, in case you’re wondering. So, let’s say you wanted the Vampire for governor. (In Minnesota, you all know who I’m talking about.) If you voted for Vampire as your first choice, who would your second choice be? And, who would you absolutely not want to have as governor?

Back to my tooth paste example. I already know I don’t like Crest or Josh’s brand, so I chose the new Colgate gel flavors because I didn’t know whether or not I like them. So, something entirely new in my brand family was preferable to me then something I knew I didn’t like.

Part of this little discussion on preferences is an exercise in picking out actions to look for among elected officials. How strongly does an elected official support a certain platform issue? Ted Kennedy supports alternative energy sources so long as they don’t wreck his view. John Kline’s son is in the Minnesota National Guard training to go to Iraq. Norm Coleman voted against a bill that included ANWAR drilling to show his strong distaste for such action, but he did not work to defeat the bill. Something that would be helpful for me, and perhaps others in the voting population, is an _expression of strength of belief in platform issues. Instead of spouting off party platform and rhetoric, rank the issues. What issues is a candidate willing or not willing to compromise on? Publishing a more nuanced platform will give the general public a better idea of what to expect in a candidate.

So, how strongly do you like your toothpaste?


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