Observation: wording tricks on Baskin Robbins price display

A friend and I went out for ice cream at Baskin Robbins last night before catching a movie. While there, an interesting observation was made. Usually on a price display board, portions or servings are listed in ascending order of size;

  • Small portion $x
  • Regular portion $y
  • Large portion $z

At Baskin Robbins however they use two marketing tricks I hadn’t noticed before. Firstly, regular serves are not called ‘regular’. They’re called ‘popular’. Keep in mind that for many products on offer, Baskin Robbins offers only ‘popular’ and ‘small’ serves. One therefore assumes that this trick is intended to convey a sense of unpopularity or undesirability around ordering the ‘small’ serve. If you buy it, you’re not socially acceptable. Sneaky.

The second trick plays on the ability of our brain to ‘fill in’ anticipated information. Based on the example of ‘small, regular, large’ above, if the options were presented in this order, what do you think the missing piece would be?

  • Regular serve $x
  • Large serve $y
  • [unknown serve] $z

Most people ‘fill in’ the unknown element based on pattern recognition – and will state that the unknown serve is ‘extra large’ or ‘jumbo’ – something to that effect. However, Baskin Robbins uses this against us. Where do you think the ‘small’ serve is positioned? 🙂 That’s right – at the bottom of the list!

  • Popular serve $x
  • Large serve $y
  • Small serve $z

In reality your brain will generally ignore the ‘Small’ option – and make you choose between ‘Popular’ and ‘Large.

Perhaps a psychology major can explain why?