The Pepsi Challenge is a classic in the advertising world: people were blindfolded and asked to try two different sodas. Although Coke was the far more popular brand, when people couldn’t see what brand they were drinking they preferred the taste of Pepsi by a large margin. So why do brand names affect how things taste?

How do we taste food?

Brett Heavner, MD

The tastes we perceive are a combination of both the sense of taste from our taste buds – clusters of sensory cells connected to nerve fibers that receive taste sensations – as well as the sense of smell. When your smell and taste nerves are stimulated, signals are sent to the brain, which translates those signals and identifies what you are tasting, CEENTA ENT doctor Brett Heavner, MD, said.

So, if the sense of taste is so scientifically wired into our bodies, why does branding affect us?

The effect on all our senses

Advertisers and brand designers know that there is a major psychological component to how we taste food. For example, red, the color of Coke cans, is so tied to an association with sweetness that a red bowl can make salty food taste sweeter.

Also, if a child – or anyone – sees a number of advertisements for something like McDonald’s, for example, they will likely have positive associations with that brand.

While the Pepsi Challenge is one of the most famous examples that demonstrates this, it’s not the only one. For example, one study has shown that children believe food tastes better if it’s from McDonald’s, even if they are being served literally identical food without the branding, because of their positive associations with the restaurant chain.

Care for your taste

If you are having difficulty tasting food regardless of the branding, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a CEENTA ENT doctor. They’ll help you taste what you eat and drink, whether you can see the packaging or you are trying it blindfolded.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Dr. Heavner practices in our Steele Creek office. To make an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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