Friday, October 31, 2008

Small comforts

You have to love CNN. How else would I find out in the midst of one of the greatest shifts in our economy for decades that the big selling items in the UK are safes and chocolate? Safe sales have been up 45 percent in the last three months and chocolate up 20 percent over September.

It’s classic fight and flight. Fight the bastards trying to lose your cash by putting it in a safe, and flight to the world of small comforts with the mega-comforter chocolate. That is especially true if it is made by one of my Lovemarks, Cadbury. And let's not forget their Irresistible Gorilla either (Thank you Fallon!)

I expect many people see the purchase of a safe as a highly rational decision, especially in these tumultuous times. I see it as completely emotional and in fact rather romantic. I suspect most people who buy safes aren’t doing it to prevent burglaries but to buy into emotional metaphors for safe-keeping. That’s the way we are. I further suspect that any safe salesperson who found a way to touch this emotional need would be on their way to a tropical island as Salesperson of the Year. For most people safe-sellers are not in the security business at all; they are in the comfort business. The chocolate people have always known that’s where they belonged and built a US$74 billion business on the insight. No one who sells chocolate ever thinks of it as food. Try and talk about chocolate as a food without sounding ridiculous.

Keeping an eye on what your business is really selling to consumers is the way to get focus and stay focused. The archives of every business school are littered with case studies of the many, many companies that have faltered for the want of understanding that, for example, while they thought they were selling cameras, consumers were buying boxes to capture memories. Take a few minutes out to capture what you think you’re selling and then go out and listen to consumers. Is that what they think too?