Category Archives: Creativity

Information Does Not Equal Insight

Information is not the same thing as knowledge. Information is just a step up from data, which has no value until you are able to formulate, test and learn from a hypothesis about said data.

Then it becomes knowledge.

Knowledge is not actionable until it becomes insight. This is a transformation brought about by experience and an innate/learned ability to analyze and dissect said knowledge within a broad or specific context. In other words, all knowledge must be plugged into a sort of “mental regression equation” to bounce the dependent variable off a number of independent variables in various scenarios in order to arrive at some sort of worthwhile observation.

This is an insight.

It takes a little bit of the scientific method and a lot of reading between the lines to get to an insight. THEN you might be ready to take action.

We believe insight is essential for profitable decisions in the marketplace. We believe insight is what sets us apart from our peers and competitors.

You can take it from us or from the thousands of new products and small businesses that start and fail each year based on data and information masquerading as an insightful new way to approach the market:

Information does not an insight make.

The Spoon is now on Facebook

We couldn’t stay away. The Spoon is now live on Facebook. Join the Marketing Spoonful Blog Network by visiting:

http://apps.new.facebook.com/blognetworks/blogpage.php?blogid=13906.

C’mon, be a fan!

To a master food marketer be, learn the Jedi way you must.

Every few times a millenium, something really special comes along and changes the galaxy for the better.

A super-sharp guy from our company and a friend of his sat down to watch Star Wars Episodes 1 through 6 and started thinking: Wouldn’t it be cool to apply the Jedi way of thinking to what we do in advertising?

The answer: Yes. Yes it would be cool.

So they did, and we want to share it with you. Just go to the American Copywriter blog by clicking the link on the right or just click here.

Enjoy Clone Wars this weekend. And may the force be with you.

Hu Hot is Pretty Much All That as Americans Expand Their Tastes

We tried a great little restaurant last night in the Little Apple (that’s Manhattan, KANSAS, if you’re keeping score at home). Bottom line: Tasty and fun but slightly overpriced.

Hu Hot is the latest iteration of the Mongolian grill for the American masses. Greater numbers of people seem ready to embrace the concept of putting your food in a bowl and carrying it to someone so he can cook it for you while you stand there and wait for it. There have been others before it, but Hu Hot might have the timing right.

The Spoon’s most important observation about the concept is that it delivers intense flavor, an exotic menu and an interactive experience in a relatively small physical footprint. This location was tucked away in the front corner of a shopping mall, and it was not roomy inside. Two servers, two cooks and one go-fer in the back had a crowd of 60 diners easily covered.

To give you an idea of the overall experience of eating at Hu Hot, we’d tell you that the food was fresh and hot. The flavors were true to their respective Asian heritage of Thai, Sechuan and Japanese. It was a bit more down to earth than P.F. Chang’s, like they’re not trying to impress anyone.

A bowl of rice and your choice of soup or salad accompanied the meal.

As far as preparation, stuff that was supposed to be gingery was gingery, and stuff that was supposed to be crispy was crispy. But there were some twists, such as just enough chili in the fried spring roll to sting your lips a bit. Tasty.

When it came time for throwing sauce on the stuff in the bowl, we chose pork and pad thai noodles with a few veggies. While traditional Mongolian grills have stuff like “garlic water” and “sa cha,” Hu Hot allows you to play around with combining flavors like Black Thai Peanut, Yellow Belly Curry and Feed the Hordes Hoisin to create crazy-tasty fusion.

Make your own or try it The Spoon Way: 3 ladles Black Thai Peanut, 1 ladle Feed the Hordes Hoisin, 1 ladle sweet red chili, 1 ladle ginger. A very nice Thai-style complement to pork pad thai.

The actual cooking was like any other Mongolian grill, if you’ve seen it. Two guys with spatulas turn your stuff over and over on a large round grill until it’s done.

Try the appetizer sampler to share with your family or group. The most compelling item is the potsticker that’s fried Rangoon-style.

For dessert, the 5-layer chocolate cake, called Choco Khan, will rock you.

Shopping and Mood are Strongly Correlated

We were surfing MSNBC to get the latest US medal count when we came across this little dandy:

“Shopping in a lousy mood will cost you.”

You’ve heard how hungry shoppers spend more? Well, a study shows the SADDER you are, the more you spend. Check it out here.

The good news for food marketers is that shopping can actually LIFT your mood.

Can’t you just see a whole new line of weekly supermarket promotions?

Perk up your disposition with outrageous deals on asparagus and T-bones.

Give your mood a lift with this week’s stock-up sale on meat.

Feeling blue? Our two-for-one blueberry special will fix you right up!

It may seem trite, but this study adds to the credibility of our conventional wisdom that there is a strong relationship between the visceral feelings and the act of buying something.

People are less likely to SEARCH for a solution than to REACH for the nearest solution to their discomfort. We happen to be selling one of their favorites: FOOD.

Traditionally, we’ve focused almost completely on price. What if circulars were more about promising feelings than discounts?

Obviously, it’s something that will require a delicate balance in the current economic climate, but it bears repeating:

Emotion sells and emotion spurs purchase.

Portable + Tasty = Profitable

OK, class, it’s time for equations.

Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Granola Bar + Gatorade G2 = BREAKFAST

Slim Jim + Handi-Snacks Crackers ‘n Cheez + apple = LUNCH

Capri Sun juice pouch + Cheetos snack size bag = AFTERNOON SNACK

There’s no need to get scientific here. If you can make it portable, you’ve just increased your food product’s chances of being relevant to consumers, and thus, purchased by them more often.

We need to make it happen. Especially with food products that are truly commodities. It’s that simple.

There are challenges, though. For example:

  • How do you balance freshness with portability, i.e. how do you make a tasty steak portable?
  • How do you balance “natural” with portability, i.e. how do you cut back on preservatives?

Technology and creativity can help solve these problems. After all, we’ve turned cranberries into a tasty snack called Craisins, made fruit into fun strips and created shelf-stable milk. We should be able to give consumers more protein, fiber and carbohydrate food options for life on the go.

Stylish AND Cheap Sells; Good Advertising Helps

Just because we advocate appealing to people’s heightened dollar-value consciousness doesn’t mean we necessarily advocate abdicating style, fun and intellectual and emotional appeal.

What do these things have in common?

a. Burger King Whopper Jr.
b. Taco Bell bean burrito
c. McDonald’s Big N’ Tasty
d. Wendy’s Small Frosty

We’ll give you a hint: They’re all available for about a buck on the value menus of their respective QSRs (quick service restaurants).

In a recent post, we talked about how fast and cheap seem to be winning out, at least if three-year stock performance is any indication.

But as we’ve also discussed, being fast and cheap, even under the threat of rising prices and reduced productivity, isn’t enough. Consumers want it all, remember? And they’re always right. You have to be cool, stylish and lifestyle-relevant while satisfying the more mundane elements of the value equation.

So, once again, we sing the praises of the Golden Arches. “What makes them so great?” You ask. Check this out.

Hot (at least half the time) food, wrapped in paper and set on a tray is nothing special. That’s where advertising comes in.

Food, any kind of food, fast food included, has numerous close substitutes. And regardless of what we tell ourselves, there’s only so much we can do to the product itself. We can improve service, make the experience more exotic and, importantly, we can create an expecation or reinforce a decision with the use of properly placed, relevant and compelling advertising.

In a world with hundreds of different fast food options, McDonald’s makes people feel good about having just visited one of the chain’s thousands of locations by reinforcing their choice with messages like the Chicken Dance commercial.

It may not get you to run right out and by an Extra Value Meal. But it will reduce the cognitive dissonance that many people feel before, during and after eating at the restaurant. “I really want the burger and fries, but I know that later I’ll feel like I could have made a healthier choice. Still, it’s always so satisfying.”

It doesn’t hurt that this particular ad is tagged with a shot of a seemingly healthy wrap, Dasani bottled water and a fruit/yogurt parfait. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that many of us won’t be ordering that particular combination of menu items.

But that doesn’t matter. McDonald’s has given us the options, shown us how much fun their brand adds to our lives and simply asked us to make them a part of our lives. It’s not a push-y strategy at all. They’ve even toned it down on the promotional offers, specials and movie tie-ins. It’s not all about product and price.

If McDonald’s and Wal-Mart can do it, smaller competitors who trail them better take notice.

Vacation Odyssey Day Four: Breakfast—The Most Important Snack of the Day

Does it count as a snack if you eat it for breakfast? When does it stop being a snack and become a meal?

A meal should fill one completely. Maybe breakfast is less about filling the tank and more about providing enough fuel for the initial spark that gets the engine going for the day.

If that’s the case, then let’s take a look at some of our favorites, and why they’re our favorite snack and/or brand of snack.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s easy. Pretty much everybody likes it. It’s a fantastic family cereal. Cereal, even with added sugar and corn syrup, is hard to beat for a meal, in-between snack or, as designed, for breakfast.

Odwalla Bar! Nourishing Food Bar. Huzzah! Four words: Eight grams of protein. An energy bar that tastes good and still packs a nutrient-rich punch. We like the chocolate chip peanut bar. This bar is also worthy of applause because it’s a natural product-line extension for the people known for being natural, energizing and body-friendly because their juices were rich, tasty, funky and minimally-processed before it was cool. (Available online from Amazon and many grocery stores.)

Pie or brownies. These unbranded little daisies are great vacation breakfast food that’s easy to eat, pleasing to the palate and full of quick energy, plus carbs. There’s a reason why pie is served at rest stops on long bicycle rides. We’ve already seen “breakfast” and “energy” cookies for on-the-go professionals and sportos. Heck, Snickers has an energy candy bar. So we think some smart food marketer should come up with breakfast brownie or pie that has health and energy benefits but plenty of sweetness!

Courtesy gotmilkbottles.com

gotmilkbottles.com

got milk? It’s still a commodity, so we’re not going to lie and say anyone has done a good job of marketing their own brand (except maybe Borden, Shatto-two brands with whom we work-and a select group with an enduring brand, family focus or locally-grown point of differentiation.) But you gotta have the cold, creamy white stuff to complement the snacks we’ve covered above. As Cosmo Kramer would say, “Delicious. Nutritious. Outrageous!”

Top Ten Things We Like About the New Wal-Mart Supercenter

We got the chance to peruse the surroundings and selection at a brand-new Wal-Mart Supercenter in South Tulsa this week. Here’s what we liked most about it, in no particular order:

  1. Stained concrete floors made to look like giant slabs of stone. Elegant, functional and clean-looking.
  2. Oversized, wide side aisles. They make it easier to browse alongside other shoppers and easier to peer down them from the center aisles so you can see what’s on them.
  3. Wide-open produce area right up front has tidy black bins and kiosks. Good-looking produce too.
  4. On-demand lighting in the freezer section conserves energy.
  5. No more stark white painting on the open-framed ceiling. Much more soothing.
  6. The exterior of the building is attractive stone.
  7. The requisite enormous parking lot is unobtrusive thanks to the creative use of landscaping.
  8. They have maintained the same basic layout of the Supercenter, so familiarity is maintained.
  9. There is plenty of room in the store for everything, so it doesn’t feel cramped or crowded.
  10. The store combines the best of Super Target with the best of Wal-Mart Supercenter to give the shopper a stylish, comfortable, utilitarian store.

Presentation isn’t everything, but it sure helps

Even the Spoon has to take time to eat. And today’s epicurean excursion was to El Guapo’s in Tulsa, billed as “Probablamente la mejor cantina en Tulsa.” Translated: Probably the best cantina in Tulsa.

The shrimp cocktail (coctel de camarones) was menued as ceviche. It was spicy, fresh and loaded with shrimp. It was a meal in itself, so no entree was necessary.

The coolest thing was how they served it: In a parfait glass with tortilla chips arranged on the plate. A lime quarter on the glass and a long spoon completed the presentation. It was nice touch.

A very Pumpboys and Dinettes experience, complete with a San Juan Diego prayer candle on the table. Nice.