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Know your customer

© June 2008 Anthony Lawrence

While food shopping last week, we came across a cart full of discontinued items. Prominent among them were a large number of boxes of Peace Cereal "Organic Hearty Raisin Bran with Crunchy Oat Clusters". My first thought was "Why are they discontinuing these and why haven't they sold?".

A quick look at the ingredients gave me a clue: "Milled Cane Sugar" came right after the raisins and was followed by Barley Malt Syrup and then by the Whole Rolled Oats: this stuff was probably too sweet. We bought a couple of boxes anyway and when I tried it later that day my suspicion was confirmed: way too much sweetness.

That's OK - we're cereal mixers. If we mix a small amount of this in with a small amount of each of the other cereals we buy, the result is fine. We can bypass the problem.

Who buys organic foods? People concerned about our global environment, sure. Peace Cereal does fine there and even donates 10% of its profits to humanitarian causes. Great, but what other reasons are there for buying organic?

We buy organic (when we can and when we can afford it) because we are selfishly concerned about our own health. That's our primary motivation: not to save the planet, not to help struggling small farmers in third world countries.. those are wonderful things, but we eat healthily because we want to be healthy.

We don't want unnecessary sugar (or salt!) added to our foods. If we ever thought something needed a little sweetening, we have sugar and honey on our pantry shelves - we don't need the manufacturer to add it.

I bet I know exactly what happened here. They probably test marketed this stuff to ordinary consumers who don't care about healthy eating and probably every one of them said "needs sugar". But the people who actually buy organic foods would never say that, and that's probably why the supermarket got stuck with unsold cases: people bought it once, didn't like it, and will never buy it again.

Think about who your customer is and what they really want.

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Wed Jun 25 16:21:47 2008: 4374   JonR

Tony, are the other Peace cereals also that sweet? (They don't seem available locally.)

A lot must depend, in marketing, on how test and focus groups are selected. And it seems to me it would be very easy to slip up here, with the higher management none the wiser.

One principle that seems sound is: Don't pretend to be what you aren't. I'm 68 years old, yet I cringe daily when I hear or see advertisers using slang and jargon that went out of date five or ten years ago, in a pathetic attempt to attract young customers. Even if they find themselves exposed to the message, they're not going to rush to purchase something on the basis of clumsy and patronising advertising.

Wed Jun 25 22:44:45 2008: 4376   TonyLawrence

I don't know if the others are as bad..


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