business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Okay soccer/football fans: prepare to get angry. Like the vast majority of Americans I would describe the World Cup in South Africa with one word: Dull!

I’m one of those people who prefer American football, despite it capturing the two worst elements of life in the US—sporadic violence and frequent meetings. Soccer just doesn’t do it for me, even though I actually played the sport in high school. Any chance of my watching the World Cup is being killed by a combination of the strange crowd noises and the complete lack of scoring and shooting.

By now, some of you are seething and are set to pound out a note telling me what a fool I am. You’ll tell me I simply don’t understand the “beautiful game.” You will tell me that I don’t appreciate the nuance, the passing and the intricacy of the entire event. Trust me, I’ve heard it before.

Save your anger: I fully accept and agree with all your criticism. You are totally right. I just don’t get it.

But here’s the funny thing: my favorite sport is baseball, which moves slower than soccer. (Much slower if the Yankees and Red Sox are playing.) However, I know baseball really well and I totally appreciate the nuance and intricacy and can watch it endlessly. So my problem isn’t patience, it’s education. If someone taught me soccer I might find I would like it much more.

And in that we find a great lesson in marketing. Too often products are displayed, advertised and merchandised without any thought to consumer education. If we don’t take time to educate the shopper, we completely miss the opportunity to raise them from observer to buyer.

Today’s stores increasingly have new and different items. In food stores there are countless products - from cheese to produce and artisan breads to balsamic vinegar - that consumers won’t appreciate unless they are taught how to use them. This problem is hardly limited to supermarkets. Electronics stores feature the never-ending parade of new technologies that many consumers barely understand. There are new features in cars, sourcing issues on apparel…well, you get the picture. Complexity keeps growing and the problem is the education of the shopper is lacking if not completely absent.

We need to think about product marketing in the way World Cup fans need to think about their beautiful game. Don’t assume the rest of us get it and don’t scold us for what we don’t know. Instead, try to educate and lift us up. Help us understand what we should know and you may be surprised. If you take the time to teach us the complexity and the nuance, we can learn to appreciate it. In short order, we could become fans and customers.

Once that happens, we might actually start talking to others. And that is the best form of shopper marketing for any product, store or even the World Cup.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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