Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Culture, Cunning, Innovation, Insight, Planning
One of the things I love about being a planner is that it allows us to do stuff in the name of ‘investigation’.
Recently we worked with a client in the fast food industry.
They had approached us because in addition to wanting communication, they wanted help with where to locate their stores.
Given the incredible cost of real estate in Shanghai, they didn’t have the funds to support being located in ultra high traffic areas but they obviously didn’t want to be so hidden away that people couldn’t find them.
Retail location is an art.
It may sound easy, but there are so many factors to consider.
In fact, having sat down with our client over a number of weeks, I’d now say ‘the potential for passing trade’ is one of the least important criteria.
Anyway, we were exploring possible locations when someone talked about the importance and influence of scent.
Our clients product emits a very distinctive and appealing smell and it seemed mad to us that we hadn’t thought about how this may help us with our challenge.
Could scent act as ‘directions’ to our store?
Could scent pull people away from our competitors store?
How far could our scent actually travel?
It was this 3rd point that we found the most interesting because it had implications on how far we could be from major traffic areas and yet still attract customers.
But here was the problem …
While the client was pushing us to explore new places for their stores to be located, we would need to do it in a way that justified this new approach to their board of directors.
And this is where the planning madness came in.
To find out the ‘reach’ of our clients product smell, we turned to someone who had the most sensitive nose we knew.
Sam is a beautiful 4 year old brown labrador who spends his days walking around Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport checking suitcases for food.
Yep, Sam is a Police pooch.
Sam was hired [we paid him in treats and we paid his handler in cash] to tell us just how far our clients food could be smelt from.
Yes, dogs have far more sensitive noses than humans – and Sam’s was more sensitive than most – but doing this would [hopefully] allow us to identify the ‘peak distance’ we could be from high–traffic areas.
OK, so I know using sniffer dogs for things other than finding food or drugs is not new – and we knew there was a very good chance this could all collapse in a heap – but having seen how prostitutes and priests had helped us solve some very complex client challenges, we were excited about trying out a new hypothesis, not to mention being very relieved we had a client [and a dog handler] who were willing to let us experiment with it, which is why we went at it at full force.
Over 4 weekends, Sam and his handler were taken to different high public traffic areas of Shanghai.
Before he arrived, members of our planning team [Paula and Carina] took samples of our clients products and walked from the initial drop-off, out towards the back streets.
I must admit, things did not go as smoothly as we hoped.
Sam would sometimes get distracted by other smells and people had a nasty habit of wanting to pat him which caused him to lose the scent … however after multiple attempts, we were able to prove that our clients food scent would travel an average of 430 meters.
That might not sound a lot, but that 430 meters meant our clients average retail space costs could go down from 46,000RMB to 27,000RMB per week … a saving of 42%, which over 15 stores would mean an investment saving of over 285,000 RMB [US$43,000] a week.
Now of course it wasn’t just a case of finding a location 430 meters away from major thoroughfares and opening a store – if only it was that simple – but what it did do was open more possibilities of retail location for our client, which meant their initial capital investment could go significantly down without major implications to their ‘audience attraction’ potential.
All this shows the importance of finding out what your clients real problem is … because when you do that, it not only allows you to be more focused in your solution, it liberates the way you can achieve it.
And when it lets you turn sniffer dogs into ‘planners with retail location capabilities’, how can you not be excited by that.
And if you believe any of this, you need to be bitten in the neck by an Alsation.
Though I doubt you did fall for it because, let’s be honest, it’s not vey good this year is it.
Certainly not as good as Method Planning.
Oh well, there’s always next year.
Happy April 1st.
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