Marketing as theater


About four years ago, a vacant lot in northeast Bellevue, Washington was turned into a new Whole Foods. This, for better or worse, was a stone’s throw away from the building in which I was working at the time.

Very quickly, Whole Foods became a lunch destination almost every day. Never mind that we quickly dubbed it “whole paycheck” for it’s crazy prices (sandwich and soup for $14 wasn’t unusual). We went anyway.

Jackie wrote yesterday about her week-long experience at Whole Foods, and described how much of the experience is more than just shopping for groceries.

It’s theater. It’s fun. It’s Disneyland for foodies.

Gotta tell ya, I don’t go to Safeway just to “look around.” But I’ve done that at Whole Foods.

Their sense of theater isn’t just in what’s actively happening around you, either. Stand at the end of their meat department and you’ll know what I mean. The miles of meat, game, fish and other protein-rich delights – it’s just mesmerizing to look at. Throughout the store, their sense of theater is as much in the merchandising and presentation as anything else.

For each of our businesses and brands, there’s functional and theatrical potential alike. Most of us live in the functional world – our product does this, it gives you X benefit, etc.

But how do you bring that same product to life? How do you make your customers and prospects want to be closer to it – to touch it, feel it, experience it?

Whole Foods is, essentially, selling the same products and services as Safeway and a variety of other “functional” supermarkets. Yet the experience is 180-degrees different.

Why can’t the same happen for you?