It’s cold, and the damp Tule fog is only adding to the chill in my bones. I pull into the lot. At least my favorite parking spot is available. It is on an end, shielding one side of my car from the unattended shopping carts. It is also the perfect distance from the entrance. It’s far enough away that I don’t feel lazy, close enough that I am not lugging bags too far when I return.
I walk in the second door, grab a shopping cart from inside. I always grab a cart from the inside. The handles are dry and warm. I pull the list out of my back pocket, and I take a hard right turn into the produce section. After getting the requisite fruits and veggies, I head straight back to the service deli to pick up lunch meat. I then travel two aisles over, head halfway up the aisle and grab the peanut butter on the third shelf. I continue zigging and zagging my way through the store in rote fashion. I am habitual, ritualistic. I have a pattern that I follow whenever I shop. That’s why I always go to the same store. I feel lost when I step into some foreign store with a different layout. I am comfortable here, efficient. My mind is occupied by bigger things, what’s for lunch, work, sports. I am just going through the motions.
I am the typical grocery shopper, and brands and their marketing minions have been trying for years to figure out the perfect recipe to interrupt my habit driven autonomic shopping behavior. The conventional weapons used to create “shopper interruption” as it is often called, are the4 “P’s”; pricing, packaging, promotion, and position (on-shelf and in-store). While these remain mildly effective, there is a new secret weapon, born out of the intersection of the Foodie movement and social media. It’s stories and shoppers love to eat them for lunch.
Let me take you back to my morning shopping trip. As I make my way from the produce section to the service deli, I pass the specialty cheese case. There I see a sign for Fiscalini Cheese. I just heard about this brand on Facebook. Their family has been dairy farmers, farming the same land for over 100-years. A little over a decade ago, they decided to build a cheese plant right on the farm property. They hired a Paraguayan cheese maker and his first cheese, a bandaged wrapped cheddar, was named the world’s best cheddar cheese at the World Cheese Awards in London, and has since won it two more times. Yep, I need to grab some of that to take home and try.
I continue my way down the back aisle of the store arriving at the dairy case. Yogurt is on my list. I go to reach down to grab my normal quart and sitting next to it is a brand I’ve not seen before, Pavel’s. Oh yeah, this is the one my wife mentioned she saw on Pinterest. It too has a really cool story. Pavel’s is small batch artisanal yogurt. The brand’s namesake started making this recipe in Siberia. He was on the wrong side of the Bolshevik Revolution, took his yogurt and fled to China where he again started making it for a British dairy in Shanghai. But, as luck would have it, this was right before the Communist Party came into power. Once again, Pavel found himself on the move. This time he wound up in Brazil. Not long after his arrival, he met and married an American school teacher. Eventually, they moved back to her hometown of San Francisco where now, on his 4th continent, Pavel began making his yogurt. He hired a young college student to help him, and would eventually sell the company to him. That student ran the company for the next 35-years, and just this year stepped aside to allow his son to take it over. I pick up the Pavel’s and put it in my cart. How could I not? It’s such a cool story.
Not every brand has a story as rich as the two above, both of which are true by the way. But, most brands have something to share. Facts such as the brand’s history, where the idea for the product came from, its journey to the shelf. Consumers love stories. They literally eat them up, and a good one told in the right channels could be a powerful weapon used to interrupt the habit driven shopper. So, what’s your brand’s story?