If it tastes good…

As an industry consultant, I’ve seen just about every combination of cross-product marketing there is.

Until now!

A popular soft drink manufacturer, in order to increase its market share because of recent losses to niche products, asked me to look for inspiration that its vast advertising/marketing executives had not found.

So, in order to figure out just what makes a soft drink a soft drink, I bought 7 days of time to have a small, local, corner convenience store to myself for a week.

The first day we removed the labels from every product in the store.  Customers were left to decide what they wanted simply by looking at the foodstuff inside the container.

Most customers were perplexed.  They wanted to know if the shape of the bottle or bag indicated the product they were used to.

Using a hidden earbud system, I told the employees behind the counter to say yes.

The second day, we applied the labels of popular colognes and perfumes to the drink and food containers.

For instance:

  • The two most popular soft drink competitors we labeled Chanel and Dior.
  • The three most popular beer competitors we labeled Old Spice, Grey Flannel and English Leather.
  • The five most popular chip/cookie competitors we labeled Drakkar Noir, Stetson, Wild Musk, White Diamonds and Viva La Juicy.

The customers from the day before were a little confused but went ahead and bought the bottle shapes or bag sizes with which they were familiar.

New customers again were perplexed.  Some of them wanted to know if the shape of the bottle or bag indicated the product they were used to.

Again, using a hidden earbud system, I told the employees behind the counter to say yes.

That left a large group of customers who couldn’t remember the shapes or sizes of the products they thought they liked.

Their formerly favourite labeled can of energy drink looked like the can of beer labeled Brut and their formerly favourite labeled bag of cookies looked like the bag of cheese crisps labeled Nautica.

I told the employees behind the counter to assure the customers that their satisfaction was 100% guaranteed — if they didn’t like their mysteriously-labeled product, they could return it for a full refund.

Without prompting the employees to encourage the idea or coaxing the customers to think otherwise, within a couple of days, customers both old and new came into the store to get their more exciting product, which seemed more flavourful and nutritious despite the only change being a new label.

Our lip gloss section we left alone since it already contained liquids and waxes with names like Dunkin Donuts and Dr. Pepper.

Of course, in our small three-shelf section of fragrances, we applied labels like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Coors, Doritos, Golden Flake, Twix and other foodstuff products.

Those few customers who bought their fragrances at our convenience store were surprised at how their usual cologne or perfume had a new aroma, a certain je ne sais quos that enhanced their dating prospects for the night.

By the end of the week, we had increased sales for the convenience store owner due mostly to the curiosity factor.

The following week, the proper labeled bottles and bags were returned to their respectful locations, disappointing a whole new customer base that complained the old labeled products just didn’t taste as delicious as the products with the switched labels from the week before.

I completed the research project report and gave a short presentation to the popular soft drink manufacturer.

Thus, I imagine, you will soon see new adverts promoting the carbonated beverages and processed foods you like, combining them with fragrance manufacturers to show how your whole lifestyle will change when you drink Dior’s favourite wine cooler or Fanta’s favourite cologne.

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