Of course, a third is bigger than a quarter but, as it seems, not everyone gets it. Innumeracy is one of America’s biggest problems and there is no better example than the story of why the third pounder burger of A&W’s failed to compete with McDonald’s quarter pounder.
Here’s the fascinating story.
In the early 1980s, in an effort to compete with McDonald’s quarter pounder, A&W food chain released a new hamburger. It had the same price but it contained more meat; a third of pound instead a quarter of a pound. It even won the blind tests and a big marketing campaign was setup to advertise those benefits. But nobody wanted to buy A&W’s third pounder because people thought they were actually getting less meat: (the article continues after the ad)
To understand why sales didn’t meet up to the expectations, the company held several customer focus groups. And that’s when it became clear: because customers misunderstood the value of one-third, they believed that they were being overcharged.
Why, they asked, should they pay the same price for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound at McDonald’s? After all, 3 is less than 4!
The third-pounder burger was a total fail and it was discontinued in the following months. Not because it didn’t taste good or it was marketed wrong but merely because some people couldn’t understand that 1/3 is more than 1/4.