business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Yesterday's Eye-Opener was a pointed criticism of a local Stop & Shop store for this endcap display:

I wrote, in part:

"Enjoy the many flavors of Pride Month?"

Really?

Best I can tell, none of the products so haphazardly and indifferently displayed on this endcap have anything to do with Pride month.  They don't even have anything to do with each other.

From the top, there are cookies.  Flavored water.  Cheese balls and twists.  And a different kind of flavored water.

They're all on sale.  And that's about it.  Nothing else in common.  No apparent connection to the Pride month celebration.

I went on:

I'm picking on Stop & Shop here, but I suspect that they're not alone in this.  (Go check out your own endcaps and promotions when you get a sec.)

If you're actually going to do a themed promotion, you actually ought to spend a sliver of time considering a) what the theme is, and b) how to best tie in the retail brand's equity to that theme.

And maybe, while you're at it, you could make sure that the endcap - did any of these brands actually pay for this placement, by the way? - looks like someone gives a damn about making sure it looks good and is fully stocked.

I got several emails about my Eye-Opener, but I want to use this morning's Eye-Opener to focus on one of them (and clarify part of my criticism):

MNB reader Caleb Siegel wrote:

Hi…love your content…most of the time. However with this article I think you miss the mark with the actual issue with the display. A quick Google search will show the brands on the end cap are all LGBTQ+ owned/founded companies. The exception is Vitamin Water which is being touted as supporting the community (that’s another argument).

However, I do agree that the message isn’t communicated very well on the display as least as presented in the picture. This is a problem with many marketing campaigns and I believe you have written about before, the disconnect between the actual marketing message and execution at shelf edge…still lots of opportunity for many retailers including this one. 

Fair enough.  But let me respond, if I may.

I still think my point is valid - lousy communications.  If they’d said, "Support these LGBTQ+ Founded/Owned Companies," I’d have no quibble.  (Except for the fact that it is a kind of crappy display.). But they didn't do that.  Maybe it was a choice, because they thought it would get them boycotted.  Or maybe it was just nobody-gives-a-damn syndrome.  I suspect it was the latter.  And if it was the former, shame on them.

But here's the deal.

I went on the websites of all the companies displayed on the endcap - Mightylicious Cookies, Shine Water, Pipcorn, and Vitamin Water - and there was nothing obvious on any of their sites about their founders and/or owners being part of the LGBTQ+ community, or even their support and/or connection to that community.

Which is fine.

Mightylicious Cookies looks more focused on creating a healthy cookie, especially for people with celiac disease, than on cultural issues.  Prime Water seems to have adopted World Health as a cause.  Pipcorn wants to make snacks from heirloom produce items.  And Vitamin Water, from Coca-Cola, is all about, well, flavored vitamin water.

I'm not suggesting that these brands should be anything else other than what they are.

My problem is with lumping them together on an endcap in what appears to be a haphazard, desultory manner and then using the "Pride" umbrella in a way that doesn't make sense and doesn't really communicate anything other than laziness.

Again, I'm picking on Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop here, but not just on Stop & Shop.  It is a pretty good bet that there are other retailers around the country equally guilty of similar missteps.

I am not suggesting that companies should or should not link themselves to Pride month, or the LGBTQ+ community.  That's up to them.

What I am suggesting is that if companies are going to do it, they should make it meaningful.  They should be thoughtful about it.  They should be respectful about it.  And they should do it in an Eye-Opening way that hopefully expands their customer bases and sales, communicating both value and values.