Stop and Look Around

Take these social sightings and turn them into c-store sensations.

Kevin Higar, Author, Foodservice Marketing Consultant

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Why? Historically the channel was a go-to for background insights on significant events. While it’s important to know where we came from and why, many would also label this boring (my personal definition as a restless 16-year-old in state history class). Now fast-forward to 2013. What you find is a channel thriving with shows such as “Pawn Stars.” It’s generating this strong appeal because of the interesting way backstories are being told.

Heck, even when History airs something related to a specific historical event, the channel is doing it in a manner that captures the audience’s attention and tells the story in a captivating manner.

Capitalizing at the C-Store Level: Ingredient characteristics, product sourcing details, anniversaries tied to key employees or the concept, foodservice menu items, or social and cultural events all offer the opportunity to tie in to background stories.

These cultural insights can set the stage for narratives that illustrate competitive differentiation and justify price points that protect fair profit margins. They can also be partnered with limited-time offers in which a price value is extended to customers. The narrative of this deal can create a time frame around the special pricing, thus protecting the long-term brand-pricing image of the concept. 

No. 4: NYC Adult Playground

Located in Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx, the $200,000 playground features 15 pieces of equipment designed to make exercising fun for grownups. One of the most popular is a pair of metal seats that rise and fall with the push of foot pedals. The city would like to build as many as 24 more of these parks across all five boroughs by the end of 2014. The reason? People have short- and long-term personal bucket lists, and successful completion requires being physically, mentally and nutritionally prepared. So it’s no surprise companies are offering consumers solutions that align with their personal quality-of-life requirements.

Capitalizing at the C-Store Level: Historically, consumers’ definitions of quality of life focused primarily on nutritional characteristics such as calories, fat or sodium. Today two more general interpretations have gone mainstream. Online restaurant ordering service GrubHub recently reported that takeout orders containing gluten-free items grew by nearly 60% from April 2012 to May 2013. Accommodating intolerances such as these and a growing number of allergies are a second quality-of-life definition. Finally, consumers seek items that just let them have the energy to accomplish what’s important throughout the course of a normal 24 hours. Successful c-store foodservice programs should consider addressing all three definitions based on their current and desired customer need profiles. Where will consumers perceptually give you credit? It may be focusing on specific ingredients used in various specialty hot and cold beverages that increase the energy levels of people on the go. Perhaps baked goods can incorporate ancient grains such as quinoa or millet that are not only perceived as low fat in nature, but can often be produced gluten-free. Focus the marketing message on how these specific foodservice product elements will integrate into your targeted customers’ average days and assist in their ability to accomplish what needs to be done. 

No. 5: Packed Comic-Book Store

Do you remember those exciting radio dramas of yesterday? (OK, me neither.) But if you did, then one of the things that made those serials so popular was the way they often had a running theme, with one episode building on the next. It’s the same way in today’s comic world. Go pick up any superhero series. The cliffhanger of one episode has a fanatical group of fans clamoring around the comic-book store waiting for the next one to arrive. People are drawn to common themes with ongoing, unexpected plot twists.

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