March 01, 2012

What Are We Selling? Memories?

At the Arizona Opry, they sell memories.  

The two hour musical extravaganza takes you from the 1950s to the 1970s.  Judy loves this show (as does June, her 75 year old friend who is wintering in Mesa).  During a typical performance, 480 people spend $32 each for a chicken & stuffing & mashers dinner and entertainment.  They spend even more on CDs and jewelry and gadgets that remind the attendees what life was like before home foreclosures and rising gas prices and escalating health care costs ruined life as we knew it ... reminding us instead of when we only worried about rising gas prices and the threat of a nuclear attack from the USSR and a war in Vietnam and what might happen in the season finale of M*A*S*H.

Trust me, while the singing is credible and the musicians are good, you're not paying for talent as much as you are paying for memories at the Arizona Opry.

What exactly are we selling our customers?

Sometimes, I think we have everything backwards.  We're told we have to be "so-mo-lo", or social/mobile/local, because "the modern customer demands it".  Well, maybe Jasmine demands that, right?  We're told we have to offer 20% off plus free shipping, because "the modern customer is in charge".  Well, maybe Jennifer is in charge.

Be honest ... does 59 year old Judy (or her 75 year old friend June) care about "so-mo-lo"?  To Judy and June, "social" is sharing a lemonade during the encore presentation of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" at the Arizona Opry with 478 like-minded individuals.  

Would Jasmine ever be caught dead at the Arizona Opry?

Catalogers are going to pivot in one of at least five different directions.

  1. Ride Judy into retirement ... selling her need-based products that complement her lifestyle.
  2. Ride Judy into retirement ... selling her memories.  Think about all of the casinos out there featuring Herman's Hermits, right?
  3. Migrating into Jennifer's demographic ... selling her "moxie" ... via discounts and promotions that help Jennifer feel like she got the best deal possible ... these discounts and promotions will be funded by significant reductions in catalog ad cost expense to Jennifer (like going from 18 to 4 catalogs a year).
  4. Migrating into Jasmine's demographic ... where "mobile" matters, a lot ... this will cause the cataloger to lose identity, but may be great for the long-term survival of the brand.  This is a whole different business model, one where the profit from the catalog is used to re-invest in new business models.
  5. Brand erosion as Judy heads into retirement, caused by not selling her what she needs, or by not selling her memories.

I know, you're going to disagree with me.  You'll tell me about the 26 year old who just picked up the phone and ordered from a catalog ... you'll tell me that memories are "for old people" ... you'll tell me that your 65 year old Aunt loves her iPad ... you'll tell me that 67% of your sales happen online, so you're just fine.

Most of those instances are simply outliers.

In the real world, we might consider evaluating what business we have, and consider what we are truly selling:

  • Judy = Memories.
  • Jennifer = Moxie.
  • Jasmine = Mobile.
Who is your customer?  What are you really selling that customer?

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