Publication: Smart Blogs

Showstopper Packaging: the Power of a Bottle

September 23, 2015

I recall a business meeting where my team hosted 20 colleagues from Japan. At the end of the meeting, each and every one of our guests twisted the cap back onto his soda bottle and placed it in his bag. I had noticed cultural differences via greetings and meeting behaviors throughout the day. This action, however, transcended customs and geographies and I realized in that moment that appreciation for beauty and art is a universal human trait. These people “liked” this showstopper packaging design and decided to keep it. These particular bottles were the streamlined metal Coke and Diet Coke bottles, and would undoubtedly be put on display when they returned home.

Historically, consumers held onto packaging only if it served a functional purpose. Cigar boxes, coffee tins and Quaker Oats canisters were repurposed as storage or toys. They ended up sticking around for days, months or years as subtle reminders of the brand. Growing up, I can remember having Folgers cans in our basement filled with nuts and bolts. The Container Store wasn’t ubiquitous in the 80s, so my dad improvised. As a result, I will never forget those Folgers cans.

Functionality will keep an old package around. Creating […]

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What Neiman Marcus Gets About Retail Technology

August 4, 2015

Do you ever get the sense that retail technology is overhyped?

Personally, I love it. In my career, I have overseen technology roll-outs at thousands of high-touch retail stores nationwide. I have also consulted with major retailers and automakers on a raft of tech-related projects.

But let’s take a moment to get real about the role of technology in retail.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks I often see is the tendency to apply new technology to old techniques. We all feel comfortable sticking with known commodities — the approaches that have generally worked for years or even decades. All too often, the Web and ad agencies with which retailers have existing RFPs and retainers find it easier to rely on status-quo methods. This leads to shortcuts along the lines of, “We already paid $XX,XXX to create that message for the end cap, so let’s just make that show up on someone’s phone, too.” Or, “Make sure to tweet about that new (brand/product/feature).”

Tweeting might seem advanced, but if you think about it, it’s really a one-way communication — the equivalent of taking out a newspaper ad. Likewise, push text messages are hardly different from those pesky hawkers on the […]

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Who Moved My Seaweed?

July 15, 2015

The challenges of merchandising in the ethnic foods aisle

The other day I was in the “ethnic” aisle at our local grocery store picking up some items I needed for a few home-cooked meals. As I strolled past the likes of Mission brand tortillas, Ortega salsa, Kikkoman soy sauce and Goya black beans, the experience at the shelf was unremarkable — that is, until I noticed the Taco Bell-branded taco shells. I had seen them before, butthis time, for some reason, I paused. I was in the ethnic aisle. And there was Taco Bell. In the ethnic aisle. Taco Bell. Ethnic? I found myself contemplating the whole Venn diagram of ethnicity and branding in U.S. retail today — and the way our thinking around these issues can create unnecessary redundancy and confusion.

For starters, this is America. Aren’t we all ethnic? The globalization of cuisine doesn’t just affect major metro areas. This is a national trend. After all, you’re just as likely to find Chipotle in Murfreesboro, Tenn., as in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. Meanwhile, Chinese and Japanese restaurants are in small-town strip malls across the country. In the U.S., believe it or not, salsa outsells ketchup, and […]

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Rethinking branding, what it means to be “new and improved”

March 18, 2015

By David Weinberger

Innovation ain’t easy. For starters, it requires something precious that all consumer product brands must work hard to achieve — trust. And once that trust is finally won, brands naturally tend to stick with the relative safety of the known. Instead of leaping forward with profound innovations — which, after all, could inadvertently alienate those hard-won loyalists — they play it safe and move sideways.

How, then, can CPG brands innovate and meet consumer need even as they leverage their existing levels of consumer trust? Like I said, it ain’t easy. A case in point is the way in which restaurant brands like TGI Fridays, Starbucks, Nathan’s Famous, White Castle and Chi Chis, to name a few, offer iterations of their products in grocery stores. While these brands enjoy distinct advantages, many of these offerings can be found only in the frozen-food aisle, which makes delivering on expected product quality a challenge. Moreover, an important part of enjoying food in a restaurant is the experience and the environment: the servers, the music, the decor and the people you’re eating with. Like consumer trust, the experience that goes along with your brand bears a huge value. While I […]

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3 Reasons to add Foodservice to a Store, and How to Make it a Success

November 25, 2014

By David Weinberger

As consumer expectations continue to evolve, brick and mortar retailers are elevating experience. Clearly. They are not only fighting for your attention and your dollars. They’re also fighting for your stomach.

Retailers understand that they have to offer more than just goods and services in order to thrive. Consumers are perfectly comfortable skipping trips to the store, and ordering online has become common behavior. To combat this, some retailers are adding entertainment value as a means to draw consumers in. Increasingly, however, retailers are adding some form of strategic foodservice in order to attract and retain customers and keep them satisfied. What’s that old saying about a way to a man’s heart?

There are three reasons to add foodservice to a store:

1. To increase foot traffic

Seems obvious, but foodservice can give customers a reason to walk in, and a reason to stay longer. Barnes & Noble Cafes featuring Starbucks beverages are a great example. Teaming with a branded partner can make a lot of sense and give people a reason to come to you. With coffee in hand, customers are more likely to browse the store and make a purchase.

2. To create incremental revenue


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