TV is toast

Marmitey goodness

Full toast

And so we turn our attention to personalisation, food and making something look bigger by helping it work harder…

Why do we prefer toast that has been cut into triangles?

My children like toast that way, and like all the best truths, they are best illustrated with an anecdote about an atypical family.  If I had given them the slice above (rather than eating it myself), they also would have favoured the bottom half to the top half – they like Marmite, but only a little.

The answer to our preference for triangles, it seems is that we have an aversion to crusts and a triangle reduces the proportion of crusty edges to non-crusted ones.  If you don’t cut or fold the slice you have to go through the crust to get to the bit you want.

If you cut it horizontally then approximately a 3rd of the total edge is non-crust.  If you cut it diagonally the non-crusty part is the longest edge, about a third longer than a horizontal edge.

Mmm... Look at the marmitey hypotenuse.

Mmm…an uncrusted marmitey hypotenuse

Look, the crust is only one of the three sides!

Look, the crust is only one side (albeit the long one)

Witchcraft? The crusty side is now one of the shorter edges

Witchcraft? The crusty side is now a short edge

Mind-blown! Half have no crust at all (the good ones)

Mind-blown! Half have no crust at all


If you carry on cutting, the % of crust falls further. Eventually half the triangles have no side at all with any crust.

But it’s not just about crust

1. It looks bigger when you cut it all up

2. The pieces start to be different.  Some have more marmite than others.  Some have virtually none.


What has all this to do with television?

Personalisation is championed as a way to target viewers more effectively: on demand precision targeting compared with supposed broadcast wastage. Deliver programmes on an a la carte basis, it argues, means viewers choose what they want and can be targeted with the right messaging about programmes that fit their tastes.

In this analogy, broadcast television was the uncut piece – or the one cut in half horizontally – whereas video on demand and other OTT offers are like the triangles.  Personalisation identifies our open, uncrusty side and works with it.  With ‘clustered’ distribution of Marmite, it also lets the toast eaters who like a lot of Marmite, or love a little, get the toast they prefer.

Which is great.

Although it’s worth pointing out that which ever way you cut it, it’s the same toast and and the same amount of Marmite.

And dividing it may reduce the sense of cohesion – how they fit together.

It risks inefficiency too – the time and effort taken to cut it up.  My preference is the happy balance between scale and design offered by the quartered pieces – some variation in taste, a happy surprise or two, and I can eat them in the order I want, giving me a sense of control.  But when you get to 16 pieces and beyond, you’re turning delicious lovely toast into something far less attractive.



Next time: Why set top boxes are like soldiers.


PS. Why is TV NOT like marmite?  Everyone loves television.

Some people can be so cruel.