retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

There is a new book coming out that I’m looking forward to reading. It is by movie producer Peter Guber, and is entitled “Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade & Triumph With The Hidden Power of Story.”

According to the New York Times, Guber has come to the conclusion that “we are wired to organize our lives” around the notion of story, and that when you discover or define a narrative, it can drive one’s professional life and success. The paper writes that Guber “theorizes that we respond to story - an aspiring executive’s self-description in a job interview, a digital entrepreneur’s pitch to a potential backer, a team owner’s plea for a city-financed stadium - because we can’t help it. Eons of genetic and cultural programming compel us toward a narrative form with beginnings, endings and moral lessons, whether or not those are in sync with the random ways of the universe.”

Now, I know a little something about this subject. After all, Michael Sansolo and I wrote a little book called The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies, which uses movie metaphors as a way of creating narratives that can help business thought leaders express their vision and strategies. (The Big Picture, by the way, is available on and makes a great St. Patrick’s Day present. But I digress...)

This continues to be an important lesson for businesses, and I’m glad to see that Guber is advancing the cause. I spent a lot of time in retail stores, and it is fairly easy to identify the ones in which ownership has a sense of story, and those that do not. The ones with a sense of narrative almost always are the most engaging and compelling shopping experiences.

I’ve been on the road lately, and there are two independent retailers that I’ve visited that do an excellent job in this area. One is Sendik’s, in Milwaukee, where I was impressed by the fact that the company has essentially created its own in-store television network ... not simply outsourcing the enterprise, asking some media company to simply create programming, sell ads and write them a check. It is more expensive to do it the way Sendik’s is doing it ... but it is controlling the story, controlling the delivery, and the company seems to feel that the investment will benefit it in the long term.

The other is Metropolitan Markets in Seattle, where the story is simple and compelling from the moment you walk in the front door: we’re all about food. There are few stores that do it was well as this six-store company ... and I’ll say something that I’ve said before: They make the best cioppino that you can imagine, and the smell and taste informs the entire experience.

The power of storytelling cannot be overestimated, and should not be underestimated. It is what creates an experience, and is one of the most compelling ways to define a differential advantage.

That’s what’s on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what’s on yours.
KC's View: