The Tom Peters Experience

Jun 13, 2003

By Al

In a wide-ranging, energetic presentation at the recent IDDBA (International
Dairy Deli Bakery Association) convention, management guru Tom Peters (
expressed his ideas on branding in an age of commodities. Mr. Peters offered
tips for bringing excitement to retail and moving from a service mentality to
what he refers to as an experience model.

According to Mr. Peters, consumers have been climbing an “experience ladder” throughout the years. In the 1940’s, for example, consumers baked a cake from essentially raw materials. By 1955, they made it from a mix, experiencing the goods economy. In the 1970’s, consumers bought cakes from bakeries, in the service economy. By 1990 consumers held the party (and got the cake) at a Chuck E. Cheese, in the “experience economy”.

Mr. Peters offered examples of companies who have turned services into experiences. These included Club Med, which provides complete vacation experiences, Starbucks, which created a place where consumers can go for refuge, and Harley Davidson, which helped bald, middle-aged, fat guys experience a “rebel lifestyle”.

Retailers need to create centers of entertainment and excitement, where selection, presentation, and personal service create a wow experience, leading to spontaneous purchases, according to Mr. Peters. In general, he believes retailers do a poor job with dairy/deli/bakery departments, and finds this hard to believe, since he points out that these departments offer fun food, and have so much potential to be exciting to consumers.

What’s the first step? How about hiring a theater director? For a great experience, he cites Cirque de Soleil, and suggests retailers hire someone in the business of entertaining to create a shopping experience consumers will want to repeat.

Another idea is to embrace the “dream business” — to promote the dream, not the product, which involves building buzz and creating cults. Target was cited as one such company. It is and will always be a discounter, but has transformed itself into a “champion of America’s new design democracy,” according to Time magazine.

Mr. Peters believes, without doubt, men do not understand women and cannot design for their needs. The unambiguous message is to promote women to positions of responsibility for creating the shopping environment, because it will be good for business.

Moderator’s Comment: Do you agree with Tom Peters on
the “experience economy”? How can retailers create experiences shoppers will
want to repeat?

Retailers such as Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Costco,
and Stew Leonard’s all share one thing. They provide shoppers with an experience
they wish to repeat. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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