Lost in the supermarket

I was wandering the aisles of my local Metro grocery store the other day when I stumbled upon a peculiar-looking machine. At first I thought it was a price checker like the ones you find in department stores, or a product locator like the ones in a Chapters book store – both would be good ideas for the grocery store.

This was something different, though. When I scanned an item in my cart I was presented with variety of menu options that included that ingredient. For kicks, I chose one and hit “print”. What I got was a smallish print out of the recipe and a list of ingredients The printout itself was a little disappointing. A bigger page with a couple colour pictures would have been nice, but it got me thinking about the possibilities.

In addition to the price checker and item finder I mentioned earlier, what if the machine let me browse the sale items by category, or choose the best items based on other criteria. For example, I could search ketchups by lowest fat content, or cereals by highest fibre, or any other criteria.

Even before I got to the store – and while I was still considering which of the six grocery stores in my area to shop at – maybe their website has a weekly menu form that I could fill out and get a list of necessary ingredients so I can go to the store prepared. And it cross-references the ingredients list against sale items to show me deals and estimate my purchase price. Or against my “low-fat” criteria. The options are endless.

Maybe I could get updates on my phone of sale items as I browse the aisles. The possibilities are endless.

Mick Jones of the Clash was warning us against this kind of consumerism in the song this post was named for, but I, for one, welcome the chance to be a little less lost in my supermarket so “I can shop happily.”

Where do you see the future of shopping – in a supermarket or anywhere – taking us?

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Everything I know about marketing I learned in dance class

My four-year-old daughter recently had a year-end dance recital for the dance school she goes to and, in addition to the over-priced pictures, I also took away an example of a smart experiential marketing execution. Those of you with children probably know what I’m talking about – especially those of you with little girls. For the rest of you, let me explain the whole scenario in brief.

Basically, at the end of a term of classes, the school puts on a big recital production. And I’m not talking parents jammed into the regular dance studio. Oh, no, they go big; renting out the local auditorium, choreography, lights, smoke machine. This is off-Broadway, my friends. It seems to be a bit of a money grab for them. First, you have to buy the costume: $40. Then the tickets (yes, you have to buy tickets to the show): $25 each (limit of two); then the photos: basic package: $25; finally, the CD $50. Oh, and in case you thought you could take your own photos and video, sorry, no cameras allowed in the venue.

So, after paying out our $115 (we split the CD with another couple) I’m sitting in the audience trying to forget the cost and get ready to be amazed by my daughter. It was fun, I have to admit. She did pretty well, for four. Lots of getting distracted and doing her own thing, but hey, my baby on stage. But wait, the big lesson is still coming.

It’s no just my daughter’s class at this recital, this is the whole school (or a portion of them) and it encompasses kids from four to 17. Some of those older kids were phenomenal, and looked like they had at least good amateur choreography behind them. I found myself picturing my little Ella in five, 10, 12 years, making some of those moves (albeit with more conservative clothing). My wife had the same thoughts. We talked to a few other couples afterwards and the conversation was the same. They had us.

“Weren’t those older kids amazing?” “Oh, yes. I am so keeping little so-and-so in classes now.” Do you see what they did? They showed us what our kids could become. They managed to get a bunch of somewhat bitter, but excited parents, who had just over paid to watch a dance class with lights to forget about the money they just spent and mentally commit to spending more money. Outstanding.

And they did it by helping us imagine the possibilities. To visualize success and see our children getting there. Those dance teachers (or likely their bosses) are smart marketers. I may just start going to more dance classes to see what else I can learn.