Burger Promotion For Charity - Taste Buds in the Mouth

This concept was invented during the early 1970s. I tried to get the major fast food chains to use it during 1987 and 1988 with absolutely no interest at all! This presentation was first placed on the Internet in August 1998.

An opportunity exists to earn a LOT of money for charity! It would involve one of the big burger chains and a special promotion. Between $30 million and $50 million should easily be earned for charity, in a period of about 9 months.

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This is a simple promotion, that does not involve any special new equipment, no new or additional products, and it is based on a very simple idea. It will likely only be worth doing once, so it would be necessary to make the one-shot promotion as broad as possible. That's why it would be necessary to involve a large burger chain, that has the large sales volume desirable.

The Concept

If you have a box of saltines available, get two crackers out. Without too many outside distractions, close your eyes and put one in your mouth, then take your time eating it, remembering what it tastes like. When you're done, turn the other cracker upside down, so the salt is down, and do the same. You will note that it tastes SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT!

There is a physiological reason for this. Your mouth has thousands of taste buds in it. There are different varieties of these taste buds, that respond to different tastes. They are NOT uniformly distributed in your mouth! Even different parts of your tongue have different distributions of the different types of taste buds.

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When you turned the one cracker upside down, the presence of the salt triggered entirely different taste buds than for the cracker that was right side up. The brain receives the totality of all stimuli of all the taste buds. The result is that it tastes quite different!

By the way, after you have chewed for a while, everything gets jumbled up and it no longer makes much difference which taste buds are where, but most of the perceived flavor of a food is gleaned from those first moments when it is in your mouth.

If you're not a saltine person, you can confirm the same concept with a number of foods. Even a buttered slice of toast tastes rather different upside down!

The Proposed Product

Chain burger restaurants like McDonalds ALWAYS make their products exactly the same. Employees have little drawings to follow so they add the ketchup and pickle and other things always in the same order, so the product is consistent in taste. That's why you can go to any McDonald's restaurant and order a standard item and it will always taste exactly the same.

While I was in college, I was poor and a growing boy, always hungry. The very cheapest fast food available was McDonald's standard hamburger. I would usually order six of them for a meal, virtually every day. Eventually, I got pretty tired of the taste, but finances didn't allow many options. One day, absent-mindedly, I happened to unwrap one upside down. When I bit into it, I truly thought they had made a mistake and given me a different product. It was THAT distinctively different! Soon, I was still ordering six at a time, but I would usually eat three of them upside down, just to vary the taste.

Therefore, I suggest making some standard hamburgers exactly as normal, except for starting with the top half of the bun on the bottom. When it is all done, the bottom bun is put on top and the whole thing is turned over so it looks like a normal regular burger. A promotional package would enclose two burgers, one regular and one upsi-burger. If regular burgers sold for 49 cents, this dual package would sell for 99 cents.

The Promotion

Burger industry insiders know that regular hamburgers are HUGE profit makers. Unfortunately, few are sold because everyone is either bored with the taste or they opt for the more complex tastes available in other burger products. A National media promotion could be really cute in challenging each viewer to see if he or she could tell the difference in the taste of the two. A TV commercial with a scientist in a white lab coat at a blackboard, explaining locations of taste buds seemed like a good possibility.

We did an informal survey and came to the conclusion that around 90 million Americans would be likely to give the challenge a try, since it was only a buck! A limited number of people would try it a second time, and a very small number would get it repeatedly. Our conclusion is that, over a nine-month period, between 130 million and 150 million promotional packages would be sold system wide. That means a gross direct income of $130-$150 million. With the profitability of regular hamburgers, that represents a net direct profit of $30-$50 million.

Our Efforts

In the late 1980s, I contacted all of the big burger chains, with intent to present the idea to them. Each arrogantly stated that they had plenty of smart people in-house, and that they would ALWAYS come up with every idea having merit. Well, it's over ten years later, and none of them has yet come up with this one!

Even then, my intent was that the bulk of the newfound profits be given to charity in some way. At that time, I DID hope to get a LITTLE out of it for myself, but even that seems less important to me now. I have created this web page in the hopes that someone that has the ear of a high executive in one of those chains might read this and convince the burger company to do this charity promotion.

I think it is obvious that this is a one shot promotion. A second company that would try to duplicate the idea would not likely see much success. Even the company that would do it would never likely be able to repeat it successfully. Once people have been "challenged" and tried it out, they will not likely have interest in ever doing it again.

I am hereby asking the assistance of anyone who thinks they could get this Charity Promotion concept before the executives or Board of one of the giant hamburger restaurant chains. The customers would have fun with the challenge idea. The restaurants would get traffic flow into their stores. But, above all, the charities would benefit from a great influx of revenues.


This presentation was first conceived of around 1970. I tried to get the big fast food chains to discuss it in 1987 and 1988. This presentation was first placed on the Internet in August 1998.


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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago