business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Yesterday, Kevin used the metaphor of streaming video suppliers to remind us of the explosion of non-traditional competition in today’s world. That article demonstrated perfectly the reason we use so many metaphors here on MNB and in our speeches around the country (both together and separately) - these examples, we believe, provoke conversations that need to take place and shine light into corners where people may not be looking.

So let’s try another one today, using the world of classical music. The Washington Post had an interesting article recently decrying the way classical music is marketed these days - mostly as soothing, relaxing tunes to help you sleep or get through a hot yoga class. As the author explained, nothing could be further from the truth.

Classical music has an incredibly wide range of sounds, many of which are as far from soothing or sleep inducing as you can imagine. Yet, if you happen to stumble onto a radio or other broadcast of classical music, the very tone of the announcements will have you halfway to 40 winks.

The author of the article argued that classical needs to reclaim its voice so that the range of sounds the genre offers can be reintroduced and appreciated by a growing audience.

Full confession time here: my son is a professional classical musician so I’m all in favor of the genre making a huge comeback. But because of him, I have attended countless concerts and have felt the stirring power of the music.

Here’s my other confession: classical music concerts aren’t always welcoming to the uneducated like me and that’s a turn off. Increasingly, though, I notice the atmosphere is changing with conductors talking to the audience about the pieces being performed and helping to improve our enjoyment of the wondrous sounds.

Now let’s examine this as a metaphor for the retail food industry: do we make cooking, shopping and eating as enjoyable as possible. Stores are crowded with all manner of items, but frequently shoppers are given no clues on how to use/prepare/eat specific item, especially the new and different. Consequently, shoppers don’t try many new and unusual items and don’t know what they are missing.

Food, as we know, is fabulous, but only if we help all shoppers understand the incredible range of tastes they can prepare and enjoy and only if we help show them the ease of making incredible recipes. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.

Three decades ago, my then-editor at Progressive Grocer, Ed Walzer, used to rant about the horrible and condescending quality of many ads for food products. What particularly bothered Ed were the endless ads showing clueless dads getting lost in a store, buying the wrong item and landing in trouble at home. His point was simple: we were painting the shopping trip as a mistake-laden minefield, making it less attractive.

I’m not sure the same complaint holds up today especially when it comes to dads. At least the ad industry seems to understand that men are increasingly likely to do the shopping and have learned how to accomplish the task.

More than ever we have the tools to communicate and make the shopping trip and subsequent meal preparation more successful and interesting than ever. Instead, like the classical music industry, we could easily ask if we are really doing that or are we simply playing over their heads.

It’s a metaphor we need to consider just as with those video streaming services. It’s a whole new world, it’s complex and it’s our job to help our consumers succeed or someone else will do it.

It is pretty simple. An experience - music or shopping - can be on-key, or off-key.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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