Today's shopping culture is turning the shopper into a zombie—and the thrill of the hunt into the robotic management of inventory. We are in danger of losing a resonant personal ritual, replaced by the boring habitual. For millions of us, the sizzle of a daily shopping experience has devolved into a relentless acquisition of the okay, available, and cheap. Why are we willing to pay $3.50 for a latte at Starbucks, but bristle at a 10-cent increase in the price of toothpaste? Why do we drive miles out of our way to buy a bag of 100 razor blades for 50 cents less than at our local store, and then spend $3.99 on a tub of pretzels that we don't need? We're wasting our time and money at the cost of our patience and good will.
In Shopportunity!—a manifesto-cum-exposé—marketing expert Kate Newlin looks behind the aisles of our best-known retailers to reveal that the dopamine rush of getting a good deal is confusing shoppers' wants with their needs. Packed with perceptive reporting, Shopportunity! provides an insider's view of how marketers create a brand and the overwhelming power of retailers to interfere with the transformational joys that great brands bring to our daily lives. It is time for shoppers to revolutionize their shopping experience and take the power away from retailers.
One generation of marketers has hooked three generations on the addiction of price promotion, and it has wreaked havoc on our waistlines, credit ratings, and life experience. From Wal-Mart to Macy's, Ralph Lauren, Whole Foods, and the Home Shopping Network, Newlin reveals what the world's leading retailers really know about us, and what it takes to kick the addiction to getting the best deal possible. Culminating in a Shopper's Bill of Rights, Shopportunity! will liberate shoppers—as well as the manufacturers and retailers who serve them—from the tyranny of the cheap.
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About the Author
Kate Newlin is the principal owner of Kate Newlin Consulting, where she works with Fortune 100 and entrepreneurial firms. Prior to that she was president of Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve, a trend-based marketing consulting firm. During her career, Newlin has consulted with scores of large and small companies, including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Nabisco, Waldenbooks, Title 9 Sports, Specialized Mountain Bikes, Johnson & Johnson, WeightWatchers, and Godiva Chocolatier. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Shopportunity!How to Be a Retail Revolutionary
By Kate Newlin
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Kate Newlin
All right reserved.
The Mother Lode: The Promise of Products
Phyllis is with her mother and it is important. They are shopping for her wedding dress. Other times they've fought about what she could buy, what would look right, what would be appropriate. Once she took her babysitting money and snuck away with a friend to New Brunswick, N.J., to buy a chiffon dress for the church field trip. She wanted to choose it for herself, escaping her mother's taste, her mother's control. But this time is different. This time Phyllis seeks her mother's opinion.
"We've gone to bridal fairs, we've gone to boutiques, we've looked at all the magazines," says Phyllis, her hands clasped primly in her lap. "We're in a bridal shop in a Victorian house. I know what I want. I trust the salesperson. She owns the shop. She's the one who's bringing in all the accessories: crown, veil, shoes, bag.
"I feel she knows what goes together and I'm right! It is all perfect. She has good taste. She's recommending. It's going to be perfect. I just know it."
Phyllis stops talking. Her eyes have been and remain closed. She seems happy: happy to have found the right dress, happy to have experienced the memory, happy to haveshared it. Her wedding was more than 20 years ago, but there in her mind's eye is the dress, fresh, perfect, new, now. There she is, Bridal Phyllis, ensconced in the reimagined muted gray, carpeted dressing room with the white lacquered, louvered wooden door and burnished brass door handle. She and her mother sit on plush mauve chairs, surrounded by mirrors, contemplating, discussing, choosing, anticipating.
An hour ago, Phyllis had been noticeably nervous as she sat down at the table. She had placed the tent card with her name in front of her, glanced quickly around, catching and immediately releasing her own gaze in the massive mirror that claims nearly an entire wall. She was not surprised by the fact of such a reflection; she has been in a focus group before, albeit not like this one. In this group, the women will be hypnotized.
She is a woman of a certain age and income, a college graduate and teacher, married with no children, but no one is inquiring about any of that. It has already been detailed in a telephone questionnaire and summarized on a sheet of paper. She has made the cut. Phyllis is someone to whom we want to listen.
A tall, slender woman, she wears a green leaf print cotton dress with a pale pink form-fitting jacket. Her blond hair is parted in the middle and curls softly in layers before turning up slightly at her shoulder, an aging homage to a youthful Farrah Fawcett. Her purse is placed under her chair. Her feet, as she's been told they should be, are flat on the floor.
She is not alone, of course. There are six other women around the table. Angie weeps to remember how youthful her mother looked when she helped Angie shop for her wedding dress, with its beads and ruffles and deeply debated veil. "She's so young," Angie sobs. "So young."
There is a man here, too: Hal Goldberg, who has hypnotized them. This is Hal's life. The mesmerizing world of the hypnosis focus group. Yesterday, he talked with men about beer; tomorrow he will talk with mothers of six-year-olds about presweetened breakfast cereal. Through each two-and-a-half-hour session, he calmly excavates memory, meaning and mayhem from the web of associations that filter our choices when we shop. And I sit on the other side of the mirror, eating too many peanut M&Ms and staring intently at consumers as though I am Jane Goodall and they are primates in the wild.
Hal's is a calm presence. His sandy hair is flecked with gray. He is carefully groomed in a sedate, deep brown pinstriped suit, minutely patterned beige and chocolate tie and clunky, if earnest, cordovan wingtips. His formality seems otherworldly in this suburban office park setting, where most women are more inclined than Phyllis to wear jogging suits or jeans with halter tops. Hal's demeanor induces serious serenity; his voice, the verbal equivalent of a neck massage.
"I want you to stare at the green dot above my head," he has told them. "I want your faces toward me, but your eyes on the green dot." Each time he hits his mark. Quietly shuffling the papers that hold his notes, he walks them back, into and through their memories. "Let your imaginations--lend me your imaginations--let your imaginations drift," he says, time and again, the stutter step of this exhortation replicated with precision, group after group, day after day, week after week, year after year. How can he do it so exactly the same? Is there some reason he does it this way? I have always wondered and never asked, any more than he asks me what I do with this information.
The women trust his soothing tone and relax. They follow his instruction to go down, down, down into the tranquil, bemused state he compares with "highway hypnosis," when they drive by their exits, minds aware but daydreaming.
"Has anybody here ever daydreamed? I think I spend half my life daydreaming," he shyly admits, as they smile. The same wee joke made in the same place in the script each time. Ah, yes. They are all in it together. They have all driven by their exits. Hal knows and understands.
Eyes flutter shut and, when he calmly explains their eyelids are the most relaxed muscles in their bodies, unable now to open even if they wanted, he is right. Their eyelids have been sealed; their memories opened.
For 30 minutes Hal drones on, taking them ever further into the peaceful realm from which they will each recall a first, a most powerful, and a most recent memory of shopping. He relaxes and regresses them to a place where the rigid . . .
Excerpted from Shopportunity! by Kate Newlin Copyright © 2006 by Kate Newlin. Excerpted by permission.
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