It was the early 1980’s, and Prego was losing the spaghetti sauce battle to Ragu. Prego refused to be crushed (like the tomatoes they used to make their sauces), so they hired Howard Moskowitz, who has a doctorate in psychophysics from Harvard. (Coincidentally, this is an educational path I almost took.) (Except I had never heard of, and still can’t pronounce, psychophysics.) (Not to mention the fact that I’m not allowed to even walk onto the campus of Harvard.) Moskowitz does market research, and Prego’s plan was to have him determine the best possible tasting sauce. Prego created 45 versions of their sauce, and Moskowitz hit the road, having people all over the country taste and rate each.
Prego’s question: Which version is the best tasting spaghetti sauce?
After his research, Moskowitz’s conclusion: It depends.
That may seem obvious to us, but it wasn’t then. For centuries the “Greek ideal” dominated people’s thinking. It was the idea that there is always an ideal. There was one perfect body type. There was “perfect art” for which artists should be aspiring. There was perfect architecture, perfect thinking and, yes, perfect spaghetti sauce. But Moskowitz explained to Prego that there is no ideal when it comes to sauce. There maybe one ideal body type. (And if you want to see it, I can send you a picture of me in a bathing suit.) But there is no ideal sauce type. What’s best depends on the person eating it. He noted that certain themes had emerged – some people liked more plain tasting sauce, another group preferred spicier flavors, and yet another segment enjoyed chunkier sauce, but there was no “best-tasting” sauce. Prego was stunned, especially by the idea that one third of the population wanted their sauce chunky. At the time, there were no chunky sauces for sale at the grocery store. (Some claim that B.C. refers to the time “Before Chunky” but the historicity for that is lacking.) So, instead of coming out with one new and improved sauce, Prego came out with several varieties of sauces, including Extra Chunky. (If you want to see what extra chunky looks like, I can send you a picture of me in a bathing suit – un-photoshopped.) Over the next 10 years, Prego made over 600 million dollars off of their Extra Chunky sauces.
And everyone else noticed. Including Ragu, who went from their one “ideal” sauce to today offering 36 (!) varieties of sauces. Go to your supermarket today and you’ll find 353 kinds of Oreos, 270 kinds of olive oil, and 2,131 kinds of Doritos (including “Blazing Dragon Chile Fire Lime Sweet and Zesty Ranch with Jalapeno”). (Ok, I made that one up.)
So what does all this have to do with church? Well, lots. But I’ll tell you that in my next post in this series. I will tell you now that the answer has a lot to do with why I’m excited about working with Auxano.