What “New & Improved” Really Means

Why must everything change? I understand that most things have room for improvement, but why do manufacturers and marketers decide they have to continually tinker under the hood of every product? Some things are true… and good… and right just as they are.

We all have favorite consumables: cookies, candles, or soap. It feels like every time you land on that perfect product – the one that fits your tastes exactly, they decide to repackage, update, or rebrand and it isn’t the same! For the love of all that is holy, sometimes, the same is good enough.

We consumers see through marketing tactics. The stores aren’t full of ignorant mice following certain patterns through the maze just to ring a bell so that cheese rains down from the sky. Or are they? After all, when I gave my daughters driving lessons, I taught that the first rule is that “every other driver is a moron until proven otherwise.” Perhaps the same holds true for shoppers.

This angst ignited when I picked up soap at the store. My favorite soap… it was my favorite: Lever 2000 – For all your 2000 body parts. First I noticed the packaging was different. The bars were no longer in eight little boxes joined together by a layer of cellophane. Nope, the cardboard was gone and each bar was individually wrapped. The package said, New Look. Okay, so packaging changed; I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is that the soap is different. There is no lather and it no longer glides smoothly across the body. I didn’t become more frictiony all of a sudden. No, the soap changed. It’s totally different – more than packaging. New Look is a lie!

It turns out, New Look means stickier and annoying. Here are other lies we’re told that are meant to entice us to buy. For handy reference, I have also provided their actual meaning.


On Sale – We lowered our exorbitant prices to make these reasonable prices seem like incredible bargains.

Limited Time Offer – We’ll keep our prices at these levels as long as you fools keep buying.

Bold New Flavor – We tweaked the formula because we had to cut a penny out of each item to please our VP of Idiocracy.

You’re Worth It – It’s going to break the bank. Keep the packaging so if the product sucks, at least people will know what you paid for it.

Contents May Settle – The box is half-empty but we have a boardroom bet that you won’t notice.

Healthy Portions – We’re going to try to convince you that your hand grew, not that Girl Scout cookies shrunk.

You Never Looked So Good – You’re old, wrinkly, and tired. But hey, it’s worth a try – it might knock a year or two off.

Artistically Inspired – Some earthy, crunchy kid in Colorado who hasn’t bathed in months wears it too.

And my favorite – New and Improved. This can mean any number of things, but I think it is marketing codespeak for smaller, more expensiver, and worser. Think New Coke or Microsoft Zune.


All you slick-talking marketing hucksters, please stop treating us like morons. And Lever 2000, please bring back the glide. Until then, I’m prepared to Dial up something new.