Pouch obsession can pose dangers for toddlers.

Sometimes a key insight smacks you like cold water in the face.

I had the honor of watching my 21 month old grandchild in my home last week. Believe me,  I got plenty of water in my face as she showed me her swimming kicks at every bath!

But I also realized that anything in a pouch type package goes directly in the mouth, which I witnessed in horror as she grabbed and sucked on an open sample pouch of organic baby shampoo her Mom left for us to use.

Given the surge in Mommy using pouch packed foods as convenient nutrition, even this “real-foods” based girl has had pouch foods for on-the-go nutrition. So we’d been at Harris Teeter earlier that day to grab two Plum Organic pouches of airplane-ready travel food for the trip home later in the week.  I quickly stashed it out of sight, but all day she pestered me to “hold it” or “have pouch” or “eat pouch”, all of which I successfully dodged.

Later in the bath, she saw and immediately grabbed the shampoo pouch, gleefully exclaiming “Maren do it” and into the mouth it went. You can imagine the ruckus that began when I snatched it out of her slippery little hand. This girl modeled her objection after Adele. Full-bodied, loud and long.

The insight hit me again the next day when we tried to apply sunscreen from, yes, you guessed it, a pouch-like container. I got the full blown “Maren do it” and had to act lightning fast to avoid another episode.

I bring this up not as a new “so-what” but as a “do-what” for anyone who looks after a child. An insight is only useful if applied. Realize these things:

  • the associations made in the toddler brain can’t discern the difference between good or bad things in pouch packaging
  • the toddleer sucking for nutrition and satisfaction instinct is still very strong
  • the inherent default for a toddler is “I do it” and they get great satisfaction and praise from others for just about any accomplishment
  • when “they do it”  – they get a dopamine shot in the brain and then they crave it again and again
  • no amount of  logical conversation with a toddler changes this.

Pouched nutrition is a convenient way to accomplish feeding young ones. But we must all be aware that the dangers of “pouch obsession” translating to ingesting very bad substances are very real and must be managed with great care by parents and childcare professionals alike.

Retail Fitness? Off the scale……

My son, 23, can not afford a fancy gym membership, but he does pay for a basic workout membership at a local franchised Planet Fitness.

In the club, there’s a separate area with tanning beds, massage tables… you know…the spa side. It’s usually not very busy.

So, when he inquired about the option for a per-use visit fee, seeking to book a massage, he was told that basic members cannot buy services in the mostly empty spa side on a one-off basis.


“Because it’s too confusing for the employees.”

You tell me why “retail” is so unfit today!


The Primal Urge

It’s August and I’m shopping. Like a siren, the back-to-school shopping crave pulls me into Nordstrom.  But my kids are out of school and I’m not in school. I saw no ads, I have no flyers from the postman. I should resist the primal urge. But the bell’s ringing in my head and I want to be in the stores.

I have rationale, believe me! Industry conference season is coming up and I’m a consultant. That equals a need, but really, a desire to be in the stores browsing all the new arrivals is the real pull.

I have yet another rationale! This one involves upcoming  travel to the Caribbean and summer sale racks. This means nice clothes without sticker shock. Works for me, and is surely the reason the for a jam packed parking lot.

I know why July retail sales were up, and why Back-To_School forecasts f02 2012 are up. It’s just that we really WANT to be in the marketplace. It’s primal, and seasonal. Just like the urge to go to the farmer’s market for the late summer harvest, we are pulled to the mall.

For the sake of the industry of shopping, this pleases me.

So does this cute seasons’ hottest mustard skirt I bought.  And the shoes!  Nothing beats new red shoes!.


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.

The debate on using BIG DATA for retail insights!

Yesterday, the RetailWire discussion board posed some questions about the merits of using big data sets to gain understandings and insights into shoppers. Use of big data sets is a growing trend, in part because the data is available, and in part because advanced (and mega-fast) analytics truly can churn out a lot of information.

But the key is what is actually done with the data, both on the front-end query and the back-end actions taken from data outputs.

The comments are here in the link below. Whatever your job, if you touch retail in any manner, this is worth ten minutes of your time to read.

(In my humble shopper marketing opinion!)




Best Buy Trains Shoppers to Distrust Pricing


…that 86% of consumers are somewhat or highly likely to move their business to another retail brand when they encounter inconsistent pricing across channels?

It’s true, and here’s the source: 2011 Shopper Preference Study, RetailTouchPoints Whitepaper, August 2011

One would think that major retailers would know this. Best Buy obviously doesn’t know, or doesn’t care. It’s no wonder the press is all over the stories of their imminent demise.

All I can say is this. Good thing I did my pre-store homework, researching for a portable phone to replace one that no longer works. On the Best Buy website, I put one in the cart, but decided to visit the store since I was going to drive by it anyway on another errand.

The online price – $24.99 – either shipped or for store pick up. The in-store price – $34.99

I expressed my STUNNED reaction to the $10 upcharge to the sales guy, who offered to price match. Then, I followed him around to not one, but two in-store terminals so he could verify the online price. He then walked me to the register with a price adjustment slip, but when I checked out,  I had to wait even longer for a manager to come over and approve the transaction price.


When I asked the cash wrap guy why, in today’s age of transparent information, there could be a ten dollar discrepancy on a $25 item, he just shrugged and said  “that’s a good question” as if he could have cared less.


I think Best Buy has the power and knowledge to fix this problem. I also think ShopperAnnie is not unique in saying she might be done with Best Buy if they don’t.

Sparked-Up Takeaways from 2011 Shopper Insights In Action

Last week I spent three days at the IIR Shopper Insights in Action conference in Chicago. It was my seventh annual, and I must say 7/11/11 was more than just free Slurpee day, it was a lucky day to start slurping up new and highly useful insights.

I think I heard the phrase “Insights to Activation” about a hundred times. Having spent the better part of the last ten years preaching and practicing the mantra, I am happy the phrase is now ubiquitous.

However, my 2011 conference mindset was really to be both radar and sponge for what’s out at the fringes. And this year, the clear winner for sparked-up insight was neuro-research, despite the litany of pros and cons. Why? Because so much of the neuro research can indeed validate intuition; what many of us have spent years cultivating, which is a profound sense of what might disrupt things for shoppers in a positive manner.

I feel lucky to have had (at the 2011 SIA conference) multiple exposures to this young (by comparison) science that can help provide oft-needed validation to many “gut-level” genius ideas that emerge from innovation and never get funded. It makes me feel more hopeful about the future of shopper marketing.

On Wednesday I heard the phrase “Insight to Innovation to Income” from keynote speaker Dr. A.K. Pradeep of NeuroFocus:  It became the key takeaway of the conference for me in a nanosecond. (Frankly, it gave me goosebumps, as I applied some of the immediate learnings to a new retail concept I’ve personally been working on.)

At the end of the day, success is always about applying a deeper understanding of shopper behavior. Neuro research has unlocked a way for us to understand how shoppers are in touch with their deepest emotions, and how emotions influence decision making. It has also unlocked information about how important it is to understand visual processing, how memory works, and the importance of non-conscious processing and patterning that guides decisions.

While the learning is fantastic, the excitement, for me, is in the application, what I’ve always called the “so what and the do what.” I’m so willing, and I hope I’m not the only one, to play on the fringes and begin testing some of the key learnings as stimulus for the ShopperSparks(SM) Innovation sessions my firm sells.

Who else is game? I’m thinking about an innovation session that focuses on what could be dramatic, simple and disruptive retail and shopping models for the future. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who had tons of new ideas that jumped out from listening to many of the neuro research findings from smart, savvy presenters like Jonah Lehrer, Siemon Scamell-Katz of TNS and Dr. Pradeep.

I’m deep into the new Lehrer book, How We Decide, and next on my docket is Pradeep’s book The Buying Brain. New stimulus, combined with passion, innovative minds and a workshop format that encourages building-on practices will take learning from the leading edge of science and into practices that can result in pure shopper delight.

What’s not to love about that! 


Fascination Triggers – a shortcut worth exploring in shopper marketing

Were you, like me, taught that taking shortcuts is a bad idea? Were you taught that the slow and thorough way of working was “THE” path to success?

And do you, today, after working for many years, want to throw that slower way of working out the window for good and get on with life at the pace of NASCAR?

Tough call, isn’t it. When I’m in creation mode, especially when it comes to strategic insights, I make myself slow down and let things “bake in my brain” while I garden, take a walk, go shopping, or clean up my office. Subconscious contemplation time is essential to a lot of my good output and I am not going to shortcut that in any way.

But, when it comes time to DO SOMETHING with an insight, as in “create the brief that inspires the messaging to the target shopper”, I think there is a shortcut we forget about and don’t use. The short cut is to really understand the target, and get right to what the brain always craves when we write message concepts, and that is fascination. Sally Hogshead gives us a way to do just that in her Fascinate book.

The BENEFIT of the applying her concept is this: We can shortcut the TARGET SHOPPER’S decision making process to plus or minus 9 seconds when we hit the right triggers and cut right through all the distraction.


The only marketers who  can get away NOT cutting through distraction are “THE Monopoly” players. But I would posit that some of those, like Apple, got there because they “get the concept” and have applied it from the get-go.

I know it’s a long video, but block 20 minutes in the next few days to watch Sally Hogshead talk about the concept of fascination at TEDX Atlanta. In the video she gives us six fascination triggers. In the book, oddly enough, she gives us seven, and starts with lust.

Power. Passion. Mystique. Prestige. Alarm. Vice. LUST.

I just had to put LUST in all caps. It’s a shopper thing, right?

A month ago I bought her book and it’s already full of highlights, turned corners and margin notes. Sally encourages everyone to find their natural  primary, secondary combination of personal fascination trigger,  harness them in your first 9 seconds of everything you do. It will get you past “just communicating” and move you to “make people fall in love.”

Not only am I going to try this for a new biz concept/company I’m working on, I’ve also used it to identify the triggers for target shopper strategy projects as well. It may well be a very beneficial shortcut on the path to purchase.

I’ll post my 9 second round-up as soon as I finish the process. Wonder what my words will end up being?