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Thinking Inside the Box

How Do You Like Them Apples?

May 9, 2012
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I have been travelling for the past seven weeks through Latin America, Australia and China. One thing that stood out in every country was the piled high displays of the Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson in every place, in every language.

And then I read an article in a paper quoting the head of private label at a major retailer who was quoted as saying “we don’t classify bags of fruit as private label products.”

Which took me back to a retailer friend of mine and a discussion we had a couple of months ago about apples. It was the time of year when it seemed that every apple tasted more or less floury. And I do love my apples! This friend of mine told me that there was in the stores, at that very moment, some of the best apples she had ever tasted. I went looking and found the piled high displays of apples, and the one she told me about was there, but with no fanfare, no great description or anything to encourage me to try it.

  Whether it's apples or bananas, or anything else that
has a story, rethink the supply chain. 

Which brings me back to Steve Jobs. When he returned to Apple in 1997, he started the new campaign that was based on a new logo and the words “Think Different.” So my conclusion to this is that unique and different apples are a tough sell when you don’t have a bag (plastic, paper, net) or some description to play with in terms of branding and product description. Sure there are all those theories and practices that say customers want to touch and pick the apples themselves. And there also are those theories that some retailers want to shout out what’s new. And it’s tough to do with individual fruit. Or individual anything. And if you do bag some of those items, consider the advantage of being able to say that there’s something different with these apples versus all those other ones.

So, folks. Whether it’s apples, or bananas, or anything else that has a story, rethink the supply chain. Rethink the grower that puts a special effort into cultivating a new variety and how to get their story onto your bag. Think about the irrigation engineering going into producing the fruit. The trucking that runs on sustainable fuel that delivers them. Tough to say anything on that tiny little sticker with the PLU code and variety name.

So maybe we should all put a little “different thinking” into how we do things in one of the most important areas of the store. And maybe the next bag of apples will have a different story to tell. Courtesy of one of the greatest creative thinkers in our time.


 Tom Stephens is the founder of Brand Strategy Consultants, North York, Ontario. He can be reached at 416-907-9848 or Skype at stephenscrimson or email at tomstephens@brandstrategyconsultants.ca Stephens says thinking “inside the box” is often appropriate, since answers to 90 percent of retail problems can be found inside the four walls of the store.  

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