Packaging Notes – Squeeze Only Once!

In every aspect of marketing, a good plan is essential but implementation is what makes all the difference.

Case in point. The upside down condiment bottle has worked pretty well for ketchup and salad dressings. So when we saw that same packaging on Heinz mustard at Harris Teeter, we assumed it would be just as functional. Wrong.

Many months later, when the bottle wasn’t full any longer, a squeeze of the package  revealed the major implementation fail. The flex of the ketchup bottle was missing! Try as we might, we could not restore the package to its original shape.

Frustrated, we threw it out, but not before @ShopperAnnie got the photo that proves the devil is always in the details.

No squeezing!
No squeezing!


A Penny Less is Not Less

Really? Come on Walmart algorithms.

I’m not one to bash retailers that compete with Amazon. I say this because it’s really about experience, not price.  But retailers believe that for most shoppers,  it’s about price, so being a shopper marketing consultant, I play the game.

That said, I’ve installed this app called Invisible Hand, which tells me, when I’m browsing online, where I can find what I’m looking at cheaper. Note the yellow bar at the top of the “screen capture” below.


png_ Price compare


This morning I get an e-mail from Barnes & Noble about new books. I’m looking at Bobby Deen’s just-released today cookbook. He’s taken his Mams Paula Deen’s recipes and slashed the fat and calories, but not the flavor.

I jump over to Amazon (without clicking on B&N site, sorry) and check out the Kindle version, then the paperback version. Then the yellow bar pops up and tells me I can get this book for $0.01 cheaper at

As I said, I’n not a retail basher at heart. I truly believe that some algorithm somewhere in cyberland did this to me today.

I want to declare to the technology bot that “A Penny Less is NOT Less.” If the bot tells its human programmer, that’s good. but it probably won’t, because it’s probably not listening to the human reaction I had.

With that behind me, I can now experience the experience Amazon has perfected, the one-click order button. I’ll be testing recipes on Thursday.

Ice Chimes Ring in the New Year

Usually, when I hear that pretty tinkling sound, it’s coming from my neighbor’s wind chimes that sing like the wind in Costa Rica.

Imagine my surprise in hearing the wind chime song from ice breaking up on a big lake on a cold gray windy New Year’s Eve.

The wind blew in from the north, and with temps in the high 20’s, a thin layer of ice on the west shore of Hubbard Lake began to crack and drift apart. I ventured out with my camera.

And while the pictures are cool, what I will always remember is how pretty that sound was on the lakeshore. I’ve never heard anything quite like that from a lake.


Later that evening, the wind was howling and the ice changed to garish crunching and cracking which, despite a full moon, sent me back inside to find the memory of my special winter wind chimes that, to me, were singing Happy New Year!

The Grabbing Power of Visual Icons

During a recent visit to Target in search of new earbuds to replace a pair that got stepped on, I found myself standing at the electronics counter making a purchase. While I am in fact a shopper that notices many things, clutter around a retail counter rarely gets any attention. Mainly I think its annoying and in the way.

But, in the midst of paying, SOMETHING ICONIC caught my eye. It was on a typical rack of gift cards –  a sea of clutter that’s hard to read and impossible to shop, in my humble opinion.

But these babies jumped out at me big time. Why?

These icons spell “pleasure” to the brain!!


Because my brain is patterned to recognize the two images as associated with pleasure. So, while out of context in a store versus on a screen, they break through the clutter and get noticed.

Nice work, Apple.  I almost gifted myself on the spot. Almost.

Be. Very. Afraid.

Just take a look at this chart.


What shoppers had to say in Q1 2012 about their method of shopping.

Shoppers said shopping in bricks and mortar retailers is reliable and safe.

Reliable and Safe. Reminds me of the guys my parents used to tell me to date when I was seventeen. I then brought home guys of whom they were very afraid.

Reliable and Safe. Major brick and mortar retailers in the U. S. should be very afraid.  These words are not the hallmarks of the future of in-store retail, in my humble opinion.

The kids are bringing home convenient, easy and favorite.

Recently, I was reading The Buying Brain, which has a chapter about several types of in-store experiences that engage shoppers’  brains, causing them to rate that experience as more superior. In this neuroscience research, conducted by Nielsen-owned NeuroFocus, the types of experiences shoppers connect with in brick and mortar stores have one of the following elements:


Information. (as in findability)


Social/Self Worth.


We need to ask shoppers about these words. But, first, we need to deliver on them in store-based retail. It’s not impossible, but it takes commitment and investment in more than just the goods on the shelf.

Reliable and Safe. These words are a hint to the kiss of death, not the kiss of a passionate connection.

Real live retail without a passionate connection to the shopper?

Be. Very. Afraid.

Hello Kitty

I’ve always been a fan of the Hello Kitty brand, mostly because the founders never “gave” the brand a positioning, It was always about letting the consumer define what it meant to her. I loved that.

Until yesterday, I was cool with that. But yesterday I wandered around the Chicago Cultural Center (which is an amazing space) during a break from the 8th Annual Marketing to Women Conference, into an exhibit that was a celebration of type and fonts and words. (very cool exhibit, btw)

Being a marketing woman for decades, I must say the exhibit was super engaging and I took a bunch of pictures and fully enjoyed the visual stimulation.

And then I found this image titled “Hell No Kitty” and it made me sad. Especially since some guy, named Zach Schrey, whoever he is (and I’m NOT googling him) exhibited this screen print he did in 201o of the Hello Kitty image.

a sad day for women

I’m sad because this was and is an iconic brand that always inspired women to create their own meaning, which is an uber-powerful concept, especially in marketing, where the norm is to push your brand meaning out and on to your target audience. Hello Kitty trail-blazed the idea that women, even young girls, had power to create meaning in the world.

And then,  some random guy who I don’t even know just trashes all that goodness with what he calls art, titled “Hell No Kitty.” All I can say is UGH! Well, I could say more but it might be profane.

I’m posting his “art” even though I don’t want to give him any press. But I am posting it so women might be inspired to rise up and say “HELL YES KITTY” as an anthem for women to make their own mark and their own meaning in the world of marketing today.

That is the inspiration I got from the 2012 Marketing to Women conference called She’s Got the Power. She does, and she is me and you and us. So let’s just use that power. Shall we? I plan to use mine by buying and gifting Hello Kitty merchandise to all the young girls I know. Will you join me?




Is price the only answer to showrooming at retail? I think not.

If you touch retail in any manner in your profession, you’ve no doubt heard about “showrooming” – the practice of using a smartphone from a store aisle to check prices and potentially buy from another retailer or an online only retailer.

This practice isn’t going away, in fact I believe it will increase, causing a potential billion dollar problem for our nation’s retailers. Amazon is the most notable beneficiary of the dollars that leak out of both the retailer’s physical store and website.

This week, an article in the Wall Street Journal posed the thought that the only answer to this problem is price. The common belief is that retailers have to do whatever it takes to get their price points down to match Amazon. I SAY THIS IS CRAZY.  If price is the only rathole left for retailers to go down, I, for one, am going to call it a day and go work on a golf course driving the beverage cart. (my dream retirement job, in case you don’t know me that well).

Why do I feel this way? Because my years in the business of marketing strategy have taught me a few things about the almighty shopper, even those with the smartphone in their hands in the aisle.

First point. Price is important.There are a lot of shoppers who will flit from retailer to retailer for price. So let’s just give up now, right? WRONG.

There’s one solution on the table that makes sense in the digital world, and that is to use “near-field” communications to offer an in-aisle shopper a price-match to retain the sale in the store. “Offering people personalized prices through their mobile device may be the most effective way to beat showrooming,” said Anne Zybowski, director of retail insights for KantarRetail, a global consulting firm. But that practice has huge margin implications, for the likes of Walmart, Target and BestBuy, especially as showrooming behavior escalates.

BestBuy is on to a good old fashioned retail idea – incentivize the sales person to close the sale on the floor. Really.

If you are a student of human behavior, and I am, it’s clear that marketing should always intersect with anthropology. You’ll want to remember that for ages and ages, and still today, the number one influencer of purchase behavior is information from other people. Also known as word-of-mouth. Human influence. Yes, it can come from a smartphone in the aisle, in the form of ratings and reviews. The shoppers are absorbing content that influences their behavior from other humans. The smartphone is just the device to bring the content to them in a most convenient way! But really, it’s best from human to human.

REMEMBER THIS  – Over 70% of conversations that influence behavior take place face-to-face. Read this blog post from Keller Fay to see the details. Only 10% of it happens online.

REMEMBER THIS TOO – 75% of consumers say they will walk out of the store if they don’t have access to knowledgeable associates. And 80% of consumers say their shopping experience is improved when staff is eager to help. This comes from a whitepaper from Retail TouchPoints based on research conducted late in 2011.

AND THIS – 71% of retail executives say that shoppers want a meaningful experience with the sales associate as brand ambassador with strong product knowledge and the ability to up-sell and cross-sell for greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. This comes from a Deloitte Retail Survey in 2011.

Just consider those recent research results. I’ve been reading similar research for decades. So why is price the only solution to showrooming? It’s not.

Maybe if the retail show room actually was a showroom with people to “show shoppers” something, to perhaps participate in some face-to-face human influence, retailers might have a more powerful weapon against Amazon and other online only retailers. And they might just provide the kind of shopping experience shoppers crave. Fancy that.

Despite whatever is said about not being able to “afford” this human solution, I propose that it might just be worthy of a little more face-to-face discussion. I’d bring the chart below from Nielsen as Exhibit A.

Human conversation. Face to Face. A alternative solution to showrooming.

Windows into the Future

Occasionally, when I’m out and about, I’ll take photos and post my personal opinions about retail merchandising. If you find cool things and want to share them here, let me know and I’ll lend you a page here to do that!

Perhaps taking a page from the Ralph Lauren book of best-in-class story-telling at retail, BestBuy gets a “nice job” from ShopperAnnie on the window displays I ran across in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. Dramatic in their styling, each tells a different lifestyle story, and two of three featured QR codes to embellish the information available to window shoppers.

My particular favorite is the kitchen window featuring Keurig coffee makers. Who knew you could get one of those at BestBuy? Perhaps I’m enamored more because I covet a Keurig. BestBuy not only tweaked my desire, but got on the list. Time did not allow me to explore the in-store presentation in the Chicago store, but I’ve got a trip to BestBuy on my brain to check it out. Do I dare hope to get an actual cup of coffee while in-store? If it were me, I’d make that event happen in-store and add, even on a temporary basis, a window cling with “come on in for a cup of coffee” on it.

Come on in for a cup of coffee!

I also liked the “photo story” window, although it may have been stronger if it featured an actual photo story.

Every picture tells a story, don't it?

The least impactful window, to me, featured tablets. In a category that’s hot, this display effort, while matching the visual theme of the other two, fell way short of creating any real desire. Maybe they’ll jazz it up a bit with the iPad 3 launch.

And by the way, enjoy the reflections of a bit of Chicago in the photos. It was a gorgeous sunny Saturday when we shopped Chicago.


I’ve spent many years in my career(s) being responsible for looking out the front window of the car, being responsible for having a view on what to think about next, and what to do about it. I’ve always called it the “So What, Do What” capability.

Now that I am an independent consultant, I find this to be the most valuable asset in my portfolio of services. Today’s pace of change is reminds me of a hot day in July a few years back, where I literally put the pedal to the metal and raced my little red BMW down the back road at 120+ mph. Windows open, wind in my face…..thrilling.

Scary? Sure, for the one second I thought about getting a ticket. But the thrill of the pace totally outweighs the fear. I’m not saying I’m going to race my car down that road again. But it sure is a thrill to be working in a space that feels so similar. 


ShopperAnnie’s Veggie Adventure

After 24 years of cultivating clay into useable soil for perennials, hostas and ornamental grasses, this  year I  convinced “the boys” to build a frame garden so I could organically grow herbs and veggies in something other than repurposed flower pots.

Meet the boys (as in men). My son Adam, nephew Tommy, both 22, born just days apart. Adam is the figure-it-out guy, who laid out the materials list and organized the building plan. Tommy is the organic man, a young farmer at heart who I’m teaching how to cook. He started some of the seedlings and became adept with the power tools quite quickly!

In three hours, the frame was done and lined with landscape fabric. Then, they took a truck to the Beverly Hills Village offices and loaded up compost to fill the frame. Thank you strong young men, for I would have no garden without your efforts. 🙂

This was a very proud moment!

And we’re off to a great start. The soil, further enriched with compost from my backyard operation & a little organic bagged gold, is fantastic. Lot’s of growing going on…and lots of great colors and textures to enjoy.

I love those little beanie babies!
Nature's hues are the best.

We’re off to the races. Just look at our first little dinner harvest. The bok choy was prolific and so tender!

 Today is 8/29 and we are still getting a harvest of yellow beans every two weeks. I pick them at lunch and dip them in hummus!

In June, the garden was growing up VERY quickly. We had to travel for twelve days for a wedding, before we left I was begging my neighbor to harvest and enjoy whatever was ready to go.

all crops looking good!!

When we got home in late June, the garden was really overgrown but we enjoyed the early harvest. Then we yanked up the golden beets, the bok choy and the lettuces, replacing with brussel sprouts, radishes and fennel. The freaking groundhog that ate my brussel sprouts thanks us; we in turn sprayed what he didn’t eat with home-brewed cayenne chili pepper spray, which sent him packing.

Of course, he returned after several rain events and managed to eat a few bites of heirloom tomatoes until I staked all my three of my tomato plants up and out of his reach, adding my peony cage barriers to keep him at bay!

These San Marzano's escaped the groundhog feast!

In July, we had some hot muggy weather and before long, all four of my squash plants were in trouble. After weeks and weeks of gorgeous blossoms, the plants were mildewed, not bearing fruit and looked to be infested with nematodes, despite the fact that I bought them from an organic farmer.  We treated and prayed to no avail. Bummed, we yanked them out and threw them in the trash, not willing to infest our own compost piles. ;-(

In August, we backed off the daily watering, and added more compost from the backyard for nutrients.

My Dad made my chicken wire sifter almost 15 years ago!

My favorite part of gardening is the evening visit with the kitchen scissors, snipping and sniffing my way around the greek oregano, lemon and orange thyme, the varieties of basil, parsley and sage, imagining how I’ll season whatever we’re having for dinner.

I just found a recipe for grilled pancetta and fennel salad. My funky fennel is about ready to show it’s stuff.

I love the texture of this funky fennel!