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.


What is your definition of middle-class success?

$30/day income?


$400?  $500?

What about the costs associated with the standard of living you provide yourself and/or family on that income?

Can you afford your own car?

Let’s take one vehicle as an example of what its cost adds to your standard of living — the 2012 Toyota Avalon Limited (as detailed here):

5 Year Details

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 5 Yr Total
Depreciation $7,139 $3,502 $3,081 $2,731 $2,451 $18,904
Taxes & Fees $3,169 $441 $398 $362 $329 $4,699
Financing $1,175 $934 $683 $422 $151 $3,365
Fuel $2,249 $2,317 $2,386 $2,458 $2,532 $11,942
Insurance $1,480 $1,532 $1,585 $1,641 $1,698 $7,936
Maintenance $42 $404 $568 $919 $2,005 $3,938
Repairs $0 $0 $96 $232 $337 $665
Tax Credit $0 $0
True Cost to Own ® $15,254 $9,130 $8,797 $8,765 $9,503 $51,449

That doesn’t include a place to park your vehicle such as a one/two car garage, driveway or public carpark.

It doesn’t include the time you spend in the vehicle driving yourself through traffic as opposed to whatever else you could be doing in that travel time.

And that’s just one aspect of the life of a car owner, one small portion of a successful middle-class lifestyle.

If you didn’t spend that money on a car, you could spend it on yourself — a nice holiday getaway, perhaps — or on someone else — a loved one or a favourite charity.

When you say the life you live is the life you want to nourish with material goods, what is the cost to the future that you’re spending on yourself today?

The purchasing power of money is a responsibility, a benefit and a danger.

I don’t have kids.

My future is here and now.

I want my wife and myself to enjoy our days together while we can because we’ve seen couples where one spouse or the other died at an early age, including her brother at 51.

My wife and I turn 51 this year so it is an important one in our joint psyche.

We know we’re borrowing from the future to give ourselves some enjoyment today but that’s okay.

Sure, there’s a little guilt that we’re enjoying ourselves when her brother no longer can and that’s okay, too.

Life is what it is.

There may be kids starving out there somewhere but I’m not taking the world on to raise.

With total cost of ownership there is an emotional component as well as a rational mathematical one.

Today the two crossed paths.

Tomorrow we’ll see if we’re as happy today as we thought we’d hope we’re going to be adding a few luxuries to our motorcar collection.

[I’m behind in thanking others — time to catch up soon.]

Under your drawers

While the plumbers were excavating the septic tank in the front yard, they heard a commotion and got my attention.

They lifted the lid and there before us, a whole family of sock puppets were living inside, explaining years and years of single socks disappearing from the clothes washing machine.

An argyle sock.

Several athletic socks — knee-length, ankle-length and arch support.

Twenty-six years of my dress socks forming the extended family members.

A few of my wife’s decorative leggings were used by the sock puppets as a bed.

Two pairs of tights covered the bed to keep condensation from dripping down on the comfy puppets.

Another mystery solved!

Ever feel a hankering for sumpin’?

I feel an urge to combine the following items into something that I don’t quite know what yet:

  1. ScriptKit drag-and-drop programming.
  2. Sarah Palin cutout doll kit.
  3. Cardboard Christmas wrapping paper tubes and Amazon shipping boxes.
  4. “Free stuff” sites like Craigslist, Freecycle and Yerdle.
  5. Valued-added software like InboundWriter.
  6. Je ne sais quoi…

Another stop-action story, perhaps?

A new hand-drawn animated comic?

Why Best Buy lost a sale – abbreviated version

My mother ended up getting an Emerson 39-inch LCD TV from Walmart — now waiting for friends/neighbours to install it.

Let’s back up — my mother’s email on Friday:

Rick, Thanks for your e-mail.  I went to best buy today to check on the Insigna TV there.  It was nice set, but the young man who helped me didn’t seem very  knowledgeable about TV.  It had closed caption, but he said their TV’s were not hooked up to cable, so he could not tell me about it.  That price was $279.99.  I checked back at Walmart.  They have Vizio that has a 37″ screen with 1080 p for $348.They have a product care plan for 3 yrs. for $39 and Best Buy has a plan for 4 yrs. for $49.

I know there is a difference of price between the two, but I just don’t know what to do right now.  Any ideas? Dad and I used to make decisions like this together. I guess I just don’t feel as comfortable as I should about things like this.  I do know Dad did not have much confidence in Best Buy.

I shopped at Walmart this afternoon with my wife and saw that, in addition to the 37″ Vizio, there was a 39″ Emerson for $328 with three font sizes for closed captioning.  The employees in the electronics department, Dan and Karen, were very helpful.

I told my mother about the Emerson TV after she had emailed me her concerns.

She drove to her hometown Walmart and closed the deal.

She finally emailed, “The sales-person said if it didn’t fit, I could bring it back within 90 days for a full return.”

Could Best Buy top that, or do they still charge a restocking fee?