The success of Lunchables derives from a combo of a high-fat food and a message that is "about kids being able to put together what they want to eat, anytime, anywhere." Oh, and: the optimal crunching pressure of a potato chip for is four pounds per square inch. This New York Times Magazine piece by Michael Moss is packed with such details, which I found just as addictive as a bag of Lays. In it, he traces the intersection of science and marketing that's made junk food so delicious, so profitable, and so very bad for you. The piece starts at a secret meeting among the CEOs of America's largest food companies in 1999, at which some execs tried to veer the industry along a healthier path (using the dreaded comparison of Big Tobacco), only to be shut down by the head of General Mills. What comes next is a detailed look at how brands like Dr Pepper, Oscar Mayer, and Frito-Lay hired sought-after experts to make their food taste just so, combining the taste perfection with psychologically effective marketing.
Cheetos are perhaps "one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure," while Dr. Pepper launched its successful Cherry Vanilla flavor after a leading expert researched the "bliss point" of the soda, handing over the data in a 135-page report. And a recent New England Journal of Medicine study found that, because of its engineering, the food most likely to cause weight gain is the potato chip. How delicious.
In a recent study highlighted by BuzzFeed's Anna North, Jessica Keeney and other researchers at Michigan State designed a survey that asked 3,000 people, almost half with kids, how often work kept them from doing 48 key activities. Turns out that jobs most often got in the way of education — not family time, as you might expect. The range of activities affected also included "health, leisure, household management, friendships, and romantic relationships." She concludes, "even for parents, thinking about life only as a balance between work and childcare doesn't tell the whole story. And since about two thirds of American households don't include children, it makes sense to look at how work is affecting all aspects of life, not just family."
What if you could "pay" your employees in such a way as to not only give them something they valued but simultaneously improve their commitment or job-related knowledge? You can. As a reward for high performance, you can give employees the freedom to redesign their jobs, or you can provide extra training. Or how about giving them a sabbatical? That will get their attention. Herman Aguinis of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University lays out the options for nonmonetary compensation in Business Horizons. —Andy O'Connell