Taking a position

Posted by on Mar 11, 2006 in Positioning
Taking a position

Meanwhile out there in the more mundane universe beyond the universe-unto-itself we know as Google, a couple of other things recently caught my attention. Specifically in the retail arena. “OK, I’m heading out to the store,” I announce last week, grateful for a break from the PC screen. The shopping list I’ve jotted has “Costco” written all over it, but I’m kind of in a hurry and decide I am going to pop in to the Smart&Final, which is a shorter trip. The shopping list doesn’t include a big screen TV, a vacuum cleaner, 12-packs of kids’ socks, or the new Harry Potter video; just food stuff and cleaning supplies, so Smart&Final seems to make sense.

Funny, the minute I decide on Smart&Final I feel a sense of…what is it? Remorse? Disappointment? I like the cavernous vastness and absurd package sizes of Costco. I feel at home there. How much am I really saving buying 100 rolls of toilet paper at a time? Who knows? I admit the one thing I dislike about the place is the often tedious waiting in the checkout line, the impatient guesswork about which line to get into based on how fast they’re all moving. Naturally, I typically end up in the wrong one…

So I enter the local Smart&Final and have to walk past the ckeckout, and as I glance up I see the little tagline on the checker’s LCD, right where it pays to be reminded: “The Smaller, Faster Warehouse Store.” So many of the companies we work with struggle to position themselves simply. They want to get to that nirvana of “one simple, repeatable idea” that not only sets them apart from everyone else, but helps the right customers love them. And there it is, sharp as “the discount broker,” or “the computer for the rest of us.” Smart&Final nailed it. And they nailed based on a need that stands out like a sore thumb, at least for a range of time-constrained customers. Get your bulk eggs or paper cups or refried beans, and get out.

Then again, does anyone even know about Smart&Final? Did their radio ads drive traffic for them? Is it on the right shoppers’ radar? And how much more do you need to pay to get “faster”? I’d have to dive into some data to find out. But “The Smaller, Faster Warehouse.” Yeah. What it is.