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Top gum: Cornell students who chew through prelim spit out high scores

William "Bill" Perez '69, president and CEO of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., sent 700 packages of his company's new "lifestyle" gum -- called "5" -- to a Cornell class on the fundamentals of marketing, Sept. 19. The next day, the 591 students took their first prelim and indicated whether they had chewed any of the gum (and whether they were chewing it during the exam).

"The really amazing thing is that when we reported the scores of how the students did on their prelim, students that were chewing gum during the exam had a mean score of 90, compared with the class mean of 78," said Cornell Professor Ed McLaughlin, who teaches the introductory marketing class in the Department of Applied Economics and Marketing (AEM).

Part of the company's massive marketing campaign, the students were to learn on Sept. 24 in a conference call with the company's marketing director, was that Wrigley is trying to inform consumers that gum has benefits other than as a breath freshener -- it is a low-cal snack that can help control eating. And recent research has shown that chewing gum promotes blood flow to the brain by some 25 percent, allegedly increasing concentration and test performance.

Noting that this was not a scientific study, just an informal one, McLaughlin was nevertheless struck that students who had chewed none of the gum received a mean score of 60; students who had chewed several pieces had a mean score of 81; and those who chewed the whole pack, 86.

"There was no control group, we did this just for fun, but there were over 150 people in each of these categories!" McLaughlin noted.

During their prelim, students were offered extra credit for submitting a winning slogan for the new gum, called "5" because it is intended to appeal to all five senses.

"There was some outstanding marketing thinking in this exercise, and there were many, many close-to-professional slogans," said McLaughlin, director of Cornell's undergraduate business program, the largest major on campus in any one college (biology is larger but in various colleges).

The winners were:

"Rock all the senses";

"Give your mouth something to talk about";

"Amplify your senses";

"Satis-5 your senses"; and

"Mastica con estilo" ("Chew with style" in Spanish -- the student who wrote this motto knew that Wrigley has the largest international gum market share).

Another clever slogan, McLaughlin noted, was the student who considered Perez's former position as CEO of Nike and suggested the slogan: "Just chew it."

Perez, along with 31 Cornell alumni and friends who are members of the Undergraduate Business Program's Advisory Council, will be on campus, Sept. 27-28, for the fall council meeting and launch of AEM's new Business Opportunities in Leadership and Diversity, or BOLD, program, which is intended to coordinate leadership and diversity initiatives to enhance the learning experience of undergraduate business majors and promote a climate that values diversity.

Media Contact

Blaine Friedlander