Commentary by Joel Warady, Principal, Joel Warady Group
In today’s connected world, where most companies are asking their marketing departments to figure out how to better utilize social media to spread their brand, isn’t it interesting when companies do things that can be seen as self-destructive?
I’m talking about the use of cameras in stores.
It is still common practice that many retailers do not allow photography in their stores. Most recently, although this has happened to me multiple times, I took my iPhone out and took a photo in a Whole Foods store. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that within 90 seconds, two–not one but two–Whole Foods employees swarmed down on me like members of an elite anti-terrorist force, asking if I had just taken a photo in their store. In my mind (here is where the exaggeration does come in), here is how the conversation went:
Whole Foods Employee: Excuse me sir, did you just take a picture of that display?
Angelic Joel: Yes, why?
WFE: We do not allow photos to be taken within the store walls. I’m sorry, I have to confiscate the film.
AJ: What do you mean the film? Who uses film? The photo is digital.
WFE: Then we will need to watch you delete the photo.
AJ: I don’t think so. Anyway, this is an iPhone, and you don’t know whether or not I have already emailed the photo to all of my contacts. So what does it matter if you make me delete the image now?
WFE: Hold on a second…I’m receiving a message from Whole Foods Central in my earpiece. They are saying you may keep the iPhone, but do not take any more photos while in the store, or we will have to ask you to leave. Thank you sir.
AJ: Can I use the phone to make a call?
WFE: We’d prefer that you didn’t. We are trying to limit corporate espionage.
Seriously, there was only a little exaggeration in this conversation.
Whole Foods is all over Twitter. They are all over Facebook. They want to have their brand spread utilizing social networking. What possible secrets can be lurking in a display of chocolate bars?
Lighten up Whole Foods. You are making yourselves look ridiculous! You should want your customers sharing information about your stores, to whomever they choose. It’s 2009.
Say, "Overpriced imported cheeeese…"
Discussion Questions: Should retailers be eliminating rules against taking pictures in stores? Has the immersion of social media and camera-imbedded devices across society made this restriction something that could actually hurt the relationship between retailers and consumers?