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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

The Snickers Parable

An important lesson from the grocery store checkout line.

In every family dynamic, each individual holds many roles: provider, support system, disciplinarian, mediator, referee, comedian, and nurturer are a few that come to mind. One of the many roles I play in my family is that of Instacart. For those unfamiliar with Instacart, it's a company that developed an app where one can do their grocery shopping, and said groceries are shopped for and delivered by a personal shopper. I do the bulk of the grocery shopping for my family, and when someone forgets to put something on the list, I'm the one that generally goes back out to the store to procure the omitted item. We've even coined the term "InstaBill" for my repeated trips back to the local Kroger.

  • Forgot napkins? InstaBill.

  • Didn't realize we ran out of toilet paper? InstaBill.

  • No ice cream in the freezer? InstaBill.

  • Only a drop left of Jack Daniels? Well, I don't mind that one so much.

In any event, I was at Kroger recently picking up forgotten Cheez-It's, and, as I walked up to the self-checkout line, I marveled at all the candy choices: M&M's, Twix, Snickers, Milky Way, Butterfinger, Almond Joy, and many others. I then stared at the 5-year-old boy who was screaming at the top of his little lungs how much he "needed" a Snickers bar. As I watched his tantrum unfold, all I could think about how intelligent grocery store designers are with product placement to grab attention.

That's when it hit me: by placing the tasty treats in the field vision of children, grocery stores intentionally create a situation that generates temper tantrums, which, in turn, leads to higher sales of sweet confections. As I drove home with the Extra Toasty Cheez-It's, I realized how ingenious that strategy is for Kroger and how it applies to just about every industry, including promotional products. For example:

  • I didn't realize I needed my entire record collection in my pocket until the iPod was developed and Steve Jobs made me need it.

  • I didn't know I needed instant access to thousands of movies and television shows until Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video decided I did.

  • Much like everyone else, I didn't fully grasp the importance of having a drink container that would keep my cold drinks cold for 30 hours until Yeti made me realize it.

  • A few years ago, busy executives didn't know they needed a stress reliever that spun until someone developed the fidget spinner.

These examples highlight the number one job of marketers and salespeople: to create a desire where it didn't exist before.

In other words, it's their job to emotionally connect with the target audience as emotions dictate most human decisions – including what and when to purchase. Consumers willingly allow their feelings to justify purchases, whether it be a new flavor of potato chips that are sure to add inches to the waistline or a car that's a bit out of the budgeted price range.

With promotional products, the best way to make that emotional connection between product and purpose is to ask yourself the following question repeatedly: Why? Take a power bank that you think is perfect for your client, for example:

  • Why would anyone want a power bank? To keep their portable electronics powered on the go.

  • Why would they want to keep their portable electronics powered on the go? To take pictures of their experiences.

  • Why would they want to take photos of their experiences? To share those experiences with friends and family.

  • Why would they want to share those experiences with friends and family? To create a connection with their loved ones.

When you go through this exercise, you realize you're not selling a power bank; you're selling a sense of human connection. In other words, you are associating a product with an emotional need, which, in turn, removes friction from the purchasing process and drives conversions.

Are you making that emotional connection with your target audience, or are you merely hoping for the best when you show a prospect a catalog with products? Much like that Snickers bar at the Kroger checkout counter, when you can consistently create desire where it simply didn't exist before, you'll do more than build sales; you'll create an emotional bond with your clients that will be the envy of your competition.

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