Marketing as Service Design: The Supermarket of the Future

Thinking about the future of marketing, I’ve been struck over the past few years by the idea of marketing as service design. Specifically, how might agencies partner with clients to produce, as Mel Exon says, advertising good enough to pay for? Digital strategists – having one eye on the consumer and another on the future – are in a unique position to deliver ideas that create real value by baking innovative technology directly into clients’ service offerings – generating effective engines for business growth in doing so.

Unfortunately, the promise of these kinds of ideas has outpaced action, and we only have a handful of case studies that exemplify what this type of marketing might look like. So, I got to thinking… how might we apply current technology to improve the grocery buying process?

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Where are we now?

Supermarkets operate in a highly fragmented, mature market landscape where individual players ruthlessly seek competitive advantage and depend on constantly improving operational efficiency in order to survive. Despite this, the consumer-facing shopping experience hasn’t changed fundamentally in decades.

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4A’s Strategy Festival Talk

Last month, I was honored to be asked to speak at the 4A’s Strategy Festival, which is run in conjunction with the Jay Chiat Awards, now (I believe) in their second year. My brief was to answer the question: 

What inspires you to be more agile? Who does things faster, better, smarter … and what can they teach us? 

…so I spoke for 5 minutes on teenagers. Obviously.

Let me just say that this project was immensely rewarding. Not only did I learn a whole lot more about agile in the process of writing the deck, but presenting my thoughts was a very agile learning experience in itself. I’m definitely going to try to do this again sometime soon - perhaps at SXSW or a TEDx - to apply my learnings from this experience. I might even take an acting or public speaking class in the meantime!

Here’s my deck:

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E. B. White on the three New Yorks

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company… .