My expertise — if you can call it that — was in journalism. I never worked in a retail store until I was over the hill, my career in the rearview mirror, and I was in need of some different kind of misery to while away the hours until I’m dead.
That’s why I never attended business school and never learned a thing about marketing strategy. What I know about marketing would fit inside a thimble with room to spare.
Until I started working at Big Orange, I never knew what a clip strip was, and in my ignorance, I’d refer to wing stacks — their proper name — as “those goddamned cardboard pieces of shit that block the aisle.”
And the worst part is having to confess that even after being exposed to advanced concepts like cross-merchandising, there are aspects of it that still don’t click for me. Judging by what I’ve seen, I would have failed business school miserably.
Cross-merchandising, as it was explained to me, is aimed at the impulse buyer, so for instance, if a woman comes into the store shopping for dimmer switches, you might cross-merchandise some light bulbs nearby because it’s logical to assume that since the customer is already thinking about lighting, she might see the bulbs hanging there by the dimmer switches and remember the burned out light in the living room, and that it needs to be replaced. She didn’t come into the store looking for light bulbs, so when she buys some anyway, it’s an impulse buy and an example of savvy marketing.
But as anyone knows, the deeper you go into any subject, the more complicated it gets, and that’s why I have to admit I’ll probably never understand the finer points, like why you would cross-merchandise rat poison with barbecue pits.
Now that picture right there is actually inside MY Big Orange store, and a few weeks ago I took it upon myself to remove the rat poison because it just didn’t make sense to me. In fact, it seemed to me to be an example of exactly where you shouldn’t have rat poison, because I reasoned that if I’m shopping for a new barbecue pit, the last thing in the world I’d want to be thinking about was rats or the prospect of throwing one on the grill.
All the time at work, people are telling me that I think too much, and worse, that I’m thinking wrong. The rat-poison story is actually a fine example of that, because after I removed it from the barbecue aisle, it didn’t take long before someone more knowledgeable than I corrected my error and repositioned it right back in the same spot! Of course I’m leaving it there now, because obviously this whole cross-merchandising thing is way over my head.
And it’s not just Big Orange, either. I was in my grocery store today, looking for something for dinner, when I spotted this:
I know it’s just me putting my own ignorance on display again, but if I’m being honest, I have to admit that if it was me trying to sell some big hunk o’ meat, I would never have thought to put the picture of a horse on the wrapper.
“Honey, something smells wonderful, what’s for dinner?”
“Mashed potatoes, carrots, and I bought a lovely hunk of hickory-smoked horse at the market!”
Well, it’s too late for me. I didn’t go to business school and missed my chance to learn the ins and outs of advanced marketing techniques that could have earned me millions.
Instead, all I learned about were words, useless words.
I guess it’s true what they say: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”