by Michael Sansolo
There's the message. There's the way it is delivered. And there's the perspective that informs it. All three factors matter when communicating.
For example: A while back I was in a quick serve restaurant that featured the usual tip jar with a very unusual message.
Rather than plead for gratuities the jar offered up an interesting bit of philosophy: “If you hate change, leave it here.” It is a double message, in that it both asks for tips and embraces the anxiety we all feel, every day.
And perhaps never more than now.
Just think about some of the stories you read here on MNB each day. The stories may be different and far-flung (for KC, the further-flung, the better), but the lessons are always pretty straightforward, with a common through-line: Change is simply inevitable and those who try to ignore it rarely make out well. We all have a choice - keep up, or fall behind.
A great example of this was the story earlier this week about the new effort at Walmart to start installing electric vehicle charging stations at its stores. It’s a small story with the potential for massive impact.
The reality is that electric vehicles, no matter how you might feel about them, are coming and fast. The federal approach to public policy is aimed at assuring that a significant percentage of new car sales will be of electric vehicles with a decade. It’s impossible to watch anything on television without seeing ads for all new types of electric vehicles from muscle cars to pick-up trucks. And the reality is the drivers of those vehicles are going to need to charge up, which makes Walmart’s move look both prescient and brilliant.
As we've suggested here numerous times in the past, charging vehicles brings an entirely new reality to retail because it can take a significant amount of time to full charge an EV, even with today’s rapid chargers. So at a minimum you need to think of ways to happily occupy shoppers for that length of time.
The executive of a European convenience store chain a few years back predicted that her stores would soon feature manicure stations and yoga classes as ways to help customers pass the time productively while their vehicles charge.
One has to believe that Walmart recognizes this as well. A vehicle charging for, let’s say 90 minutes, in a Walmart parking lot means that shopper has lots of time to kill while browsing the many aisles in a supercenter. That, in turn, might well lead to some additional sales and profits. Perhaps even some new categories in which Walmart sees opportunity, creating new competition for existing businesses.
Supermarkets need also consider how the marriage of EV charging stations and in-store eateries might also produce some wonderful results. Think about how cooking classes might take on added importance for people who have time to kill and are looking for productive ways in which to fill it.
The reality is this: you won’t be the only business thinking along these lines. No doubt restaurants and other retailers will also see the benefits in providing shoppers a needed EV charge and a place to spend a chunk of time eating or handling chores.
So like it or not, the world of electric vehicles and charging stations is coming for you and as Walmart’s announcement makes clear, the time to jump on board is now.
The message to shoppers will be simple: We can fill your EV-related needs.
The way that message is delivered will matter: Retailers will have to find ways to do so with a little panache, some style, even some humor. These things will differentiate the retailer from others.
And perspective will matter: Retailers need to factor these new opportunities into their broader brand images and value propositions, in ways that are consistent and sustainable.
One final note. Every narrative can be delivered with a different perspective. Consider KC's discussion this week of the classic Broadway show "Camelot." The original Lerner & Loewe show had one take on the King Arthur legend, which writer Aaron Sorkin has updated in a new production that keeps the original music but updates the book in a way that frames its discussion of democratic values in a more informed context.
But Sorkin isn't the first to take a new approach to this narrative, Monty Python did the same thing in 1975, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, though its political perspective was a little more tongue in cheek (though also, in an odd way, a take on what the simple folks do). Watch this clip.
It’s a reminder that the truths, challenges and opportunities we all face can look very different depending on our perspective.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.
For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.