Published on: August 10, 2017
Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy. I’m coming to you this week from Burlington, Vermont … I made a quick trip here from Portland, and between classes at Portland State University, to help facilitate a Customer Days event for MyWebGrocer.
Now, this is the point in the commentary where I quite properly point out that MyWebGrocer is a longtime and valued MNB sponsor. CEO Rich Tarrant and I were talking about it this week, and MWG is maybe a year or so older than MNB, and we’ve been with each other almost from the beginning … both of us persuaded, even when many other people weren’t, about the potential power and inevitability of e-grocery.
In fact, we’ve been doing this so long that I don’t think that people were even using words like “disruption” to describe what we were both were doing. I was trying to be provocative and opinionated in a segment of my business that seemed to luxuriate in vanilla writing, passionless opinions and a decided preference for the status quo. And MWG was pioneering and evolving even as entities like Webvan and HomeGrocer were collapsing.
The evolution continues. One of the things that impressed me about this week’s event was that while MWG is first and foremost a technology company, this was not a conference that focused solely on technology. Sure, there was a session about Amazon and Whole Foods … because it would be irresponsible to have any sort of food industry conference these days and not discuss this pending deal and its implications for the industry.
And sure, there was a session by Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and founder of digital intelligence firm L2, in which he addressed the overwhelming and even unfair advantages enjoyed by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. (And the greatest of these, he argued, is Amazon.) But even Galloway argued that these enormously powerful digital/technology companies can be competed with by bricks and mortar companies - and he suggested that Apple actually is the best proof of this. The Apple Store is “a temple to the brand,” he said, and demonstrates how great physical retail can not just work, but be transformative.
There also was a presentation about “power of play,” and what marketers can learn from how and why people play games. Go figure, different people play games because they are seeking different psychic rewards - status, a treasure, the ability to feel smarter, for example. I was listening to Marguerite Dibble, founder/CEO of a company called Game Theory, go down the list, and it occurred to me that in a really good retail environment, that’s exactly what stores offer shoppers - psychic rewards that go beyond the tangible products they put in their shopping carts. (Sadly, some just offer the products … and this can be what separates the excellent from the merely mundane.)
I had the chance to moderate panel discussion on the subject of using content to be better marketers - not just in the digital realm, but in store and in the mass media. We talked about how the best “content” is just storytelling, and how the best retail and CPG companies weave compelling stories in and around their brands. (Since my self-chosen title is “Content Guy,” and I co-wrote a book with Michael Sansolo about the importance of storytelling, they had me pretty much at “hello.”)
We also did a session about the likely impact of Aldi and Lidl on the marketplace, framed as a conversation between Barry Clogan and myself. While Barry now is EVP-Retail at MWG, he used to be at Tesco, and saw firsthand the impact that the two German discounters had on the UK market. Alarm bells were sounded, and I think we all walked away with a greater understanding of how potent a force they could be.
My point is this. We were talking about disruption in many forms, not just digital. That’s a critical insight, I believe, because companies have to start thinking about holistic disruption if they are to survive - you can’t just innovate on one side of your business without innovating everywhere, and you can’t disrupt from within only a single silo of your business. It’d be nice if you could, but you can’t.
Holistic disruption. I kind of like the sound of that.
That’s what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: