This 11 November, you can take your “cheese” and shove it.

As the leaves turn crimson red and the crisp scent of chilled air begins to emerge, it means only one thing in Japan. That’s right, another Pocky Day is fast upon us.

This holiday is celebrated every year on 11 November because the date written out as numerals looks like four Pocky sticks in a row, plus a kind of slanty one if you use a slash to write it. And the cookie-stick giant has a lot to celebrate this year in particular.

Last June Pocky earned another Guinness World Record as the “Largest Chocolate-Coated Biscuit Brand” for 2019. That year snack-maker Ezaki Glico moved a whopping US$589,900,000 in Pocky globally, eclipsing second-place Girl Scout cookies’ $324,100,000.

But money isn’t the only thing Pocky is good at generating. A recent study has shown that the brand’s name is more conducive to making people smile than other standard words that are shouted when photos are taken.

Under the guise of university research so as not to bias results, Ezaki Glico surveyed 200 students, asking them to subjectively gauge their own smiles while saying various words typically used among different cultures: cheese, kimchi, spaghetti, qiézi (Chinese for “eggplant”), Pocky, tequila, and whiskey.

The size of the smile that each word triggered was rated by the subject out of 100, and Pocky came in first over all with an average of 77 points, well above all the others which averaged in the 60s.

▼ Cheese (light blue), Pocky (red), kimchi (light green), tequila (purple), spaghetti (dark blue), whiskey (yellow), qiézi (dark green), all measured by their average smile ratings

To find out why this is, Ezaki Glico turned to leading Japanese smile researcher Toru Sugawara who said that saying “Pocky” is unique in that it also includes the “poh” sound (Pocky is meant to be pronounced with a long O sound, not a short A) which aids in achieving a “Duchenne smile.” This kind of smile involves using both the muscles which control the sides of one’s mouth as well as the muscles under one’s eyes, giving a much more sincere and natural sense of joy.

Duchenne smiles are difficult to fake because of the extra muscles involved and it is said that the average person can only pull it off on command 23 percent of the time. While most smile words’ “ee” sounds are good at activating the mouth muscles, saying “poh” and “kee” strengthens both the eye and mouth muscles respectively making a Duchenne smile all the more likely.

This is an Earth-shattering breakthrough that could have ramifications from online dating apps to school photo days, but Ezaki Glico is hoping you use this knowledge to help them ring in Pocky Day 2020 with their Say Pocky! Cheer Street View event.

This event is open to people in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, USA, and Canada and involves taking a selfie with a “Pocky” smile and pinning it to a location of your choosing on a dedicated version of Google Maps and Google Street View via the campaign website linked below. People can also participate as a team (teams appear as the same colored pin on the maps and street views) and the group with the most smiling photo pins will be displayed as a slideshow on the campaign’s website on Pocky Day. The images will appear framed in a digital replica of Osaka’s famous Glico sign landmark.

So, in those times when it pays to show those pearly whites, look past the mind-control refrigerators and Mr. Sato’s advice and just shout “Pocky!” Or, failing that, eating some Pocky probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Source: Say Pocky! Cheer Street View, PR Times
Images: PR Times
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