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William Black opened a store in New York City in 1926 where he sold roasted nuts. As the story goes, he called it Chock Full o’ Nuts because the tiny (6 by 20 foot) store was crammed full of dozens of types of nuts. Within six years, he had more than 100 nut shops in the city. Then along came the Great Depression. Nuts became a too-expensive luxury item, so he converted his stores to small coffee shops, brewing his own blend, and the changeover was a successful one. The coffee was popular with New Yorkers, and in 1953, Black began selling his Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee in grocery stores. It quickly became New York’s best selling coffee. In the sixties, Black’s wife, a cabaret vocalist, began singing the “Heavenly Coffee” jingle in the company’s televised advertisements and on sponsored broadcasts. The reason I bring this up is a recent NY Times article I read. In it, writer James Barron said they have recently added a “No Nuts” disclaimer on their coffee can – in response to people thinking the coffee includes some kind of nuts.

Well, no kidding.

Dennis Crawford, senior marketing manager, said, “Every time we’ve done consumer research on why some people do not purchase the product, the number one thing that comes back to us is there’s something in the coffee.”

Well, no kidding.

This “number one thing” has been discovered and ignored for a long time. And it will continue to be the number one thing for a long time to come. The name telegraphs quite clearly that this product is FULL OF NUTS.

Executives explain away the confusion, saying it only exists for those who live outside New York, which in the U.S. alone is more than 300 million people. Who’s chock full of nuts now, Bob?

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