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Votes: 13

 An Analysis of Marketing Techniques in Supermarkets.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Aug 23, 2001
In this modern, commercial society it is of vital importance that the consumer be aware of all the marketing techniques employed by those temples of capitalism, the supermarkets. It is often said that the modern housewife behaves like an ancient, matriarchal gatherer when ambling down the aisles, collecting seeds, vegetables and such staples for her family group, and that the male behaves as an ancient mammoth hunter, darting around the shop purposefully, his mission clear and his goals precise. You might think, with their eyes set squarely in front of their heads and perfectly evolved for predatory activities, that these 21st century Zulu would be well equipped for the weekly shop.

But you didn't reckon on the underhand techniques of the modern supermarket. Well aware of the primitive desires driving on the consumer, they have evolved, even designed their produce to take advantage of these Cro Magnon-esque urges.


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'Preposterous!' I hear you splutter. 'I know they pump an artificial smell of fresh bread into the shop and put sweets by the checkout, but I'm damned if they fiddle with my hypothalamus!'

Au Contraire

They do. And my proof? Well, lets take a Saturday shopping stroll with a typical consumptive. A woman in her mid thirties, say, called Mary, with productive looking hips, running to fat only slightly, a household to feed and a tight budget, gleaned from social welfare and a small inheritance from her late father.

She shops in Wal Mart, does Mary, and like a certain Miss Magdalene before her likes the freedom of the market, as she can wander unmolested by her offspring and spouse for a while, free to sample the delights of random flirtations in the aisles.

As usual, when she enters the shop she is plunged into an overwhelming sense-o-rama! All around shoppers shop, check out girls check out, shelf packers pack, and the smell of fresh croissants mingled with oriental fruits is in the air. First off is the fruit&veg aisle, as it is a universal law in supermarkets that the consumer be confronted with fleshy delights from around the globe as quickly as possible.

She is conscientious about making sure she has a goodly supply of fruit and vegetables around the home, for the sake of her children, so she makes sure to stock up well. But with what? A random choice on her part, she thinks, but carefully considered by the doyens in charge of this particular multinational.

She pauses at the tomato stall. Here there are the cheap, everyday tomatoes, scarlet with promise and bulbous with expectation. Next to them lie the beef tomatoes, wildly expensive but so big and red! They are curvaceous, lightly perspiring, muscular and smell muskily of Dutch soil. How can she resist? She picks the Beef tomatoes, GM engineered and brought to fruition by tomato sex pheromones just in time for her perusal. Little does she know that this chemical monstrosity invites penetration only to disappoint. What an expensive tease!

Potatoes - she buys the Irish brand, imported and deluxe, outrageously expensive but pregnant with the lusty seed of the Irish soil.

Bananas - She strokes the slightly curved shaft of a carribean corker, appreciating the turgid feel in her hands and wondering if it is not a little too pricey? Nonetheless, she can't resist - into the basket it goes.

Melons - She feels the weighty melons, touching them, letting her fingers taper down from one rigid nipple to another. She knows that the exterior may be hard and uncompromising, but she can imagine the fleshy, almost liquid goodness within. She longs so to eat the innards of this tantalising, tempting delight that without thought she places it in her basket.

Now she is lost to sense.

A few other items in her trolley, she wanders onwards to the meat isle. Here there are many meats from around the world. Aberdeen Angus steaks, fillet steaks direct from Argentina, Chicken, New Zealand lamb. Quivering with anticipation and lust, it is all she can do to stop herself throwing all these things in.

Nonetheless, she is selective to some degree. She grabs an impossibly large Teutonic salami and inhales deeply, almost putting her lips around the fleshy end of this mighty Germanic meat such is her lust for the toned, spicy flesh.

Some chicken thighs and breasts are her next target - they call out to her from across the aisle and, after a brief and barely critical investigation of their rational merits, into the basket they fall.

Now she wanders around the shop, almost aimlessly. She has forgotten she has a list of precise instructions on what to get, and finds herself lost in a trance of orgiastic consumption. Anything is game.

French bread, long and thin, with a rough, ribbed texture. Olives, stuffed with Anchovies and succulent, waiting to be pincered in forceped fingers and orally consumed. Ice Cream, straight from Napoli and on the verge of melting, a fine lubricant and satisfier of any appetite.

After a long while, and yet after no time at all, she finds her trolley won't accept any more. Spent and tired, she wanders out to the check outs and prepares to pay and go home.


$300!!! She can hardly believe it. Her family income is only $150 a month. Shame faced, she hands over her credit card and vows not to lose herself next week as well. She knows the bank account is dwindling, and this is money she can barely afford. How to send the children through college when her net funds are decreasing at this rate?

And this sorry tale is repeated millions of times everyday across this small globe of ours. How can you protect yourself against the subconscious ministrations of the supermarkets? I am not sure. For in protecting ourselves, we would lose so much. My only suggestion is that shopping be done in groups, such that we can keep an eye on each other and make sure we do not fall into the trap of wanton shopping. I really don't have a better answer.

[Editor's Note, by zikzak]
Adequacy senior staff member bc neglected to take his medication today. We first became alerted to the problem when we found his office door nailed shut and heard what sounded like Simon and Garfunkle songs being played backward at about 1/2 speed. Upon kicking the door in we discovered bc naked save for one dirty sock and a prodigious amount of ketchup on his legs and arms. Once paramedics removed him and the office settled back to normalcy, we realized that this article had been posted. Our apologies.


Considering your descriptions (none / 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 23rd, 2001 at 04:06:43 PM PST
Do you get an erection when you go to the store, bc?

No (none / 0) (#3)
by bc on Thu Aug 23rd, 2001 at 04:20:50 PM PST
I am but an independent observer. I have no such delusions myself, most of the time.

♥, bc.

You've sparked me (none / 0) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 23rd, 2001 at 05:24:58 PM PST
I have a sudden desire for melons. Thank you.

This... is... bizarre... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by Wiggy on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 02:23:15 AM PST
A woman in her mid thirties, say, called Mary, with productive looking hips, running to fat only slightly, a household to feed and a tight budget, gleaned from social welfare and a small inheritance from her late father.

Well, she's a bit old for me, but if takes everything in life this way, I'd still like to meet her. :-)

I actually disagree with nearly everything in here, though. In the UK, super markets have very different techniques. The smell of fresh bread is real, as most (even small) super markets these days will have a bakery in them somewhere. There is definitely a lot of trickery going on with lighting (bright blue/white near the toothpaste and sanitary products, etc.), but the smells are just... well... of a super market.

In the UK super markets seem to concentrate their marketing messages on price - or as they present it, 'value' - you aren't doing your job properly as a mother unless you are getting not only the basics but all the extra expensive stuff that your family wants (beer for dad, coca-cola for the kids, loads of chocolate, bubble bath, etc. etc.) and guess what - if you shop at Asda, you will save so much money anyway, why not? Tesco seems to concentrate on the family service approach - they're there to help, they will know your family, and your family's needs, always respectful - but I still hate the 'Granny' in their adverts...

Still, I do the majority of my food shopping from home. Half an hour on a website where my interaction is nothing more than a text list of items I may want, and the next day a guy in a van turns up with a few hundred quids worth of food to keep me going for a month or more. A far nicer way to shop.

You have a rational personality (5.00 / 2) (#6)
by bc on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 05:00:51 AM PST
You work in the computing industry, and from your other posts I have deduced that you are a rational sort.

This is all very well, but the bread and butter of the supermarket is not the 20-something mathematically trained male, it is the 30-something female with family to feed.

Females, generally speaking, are more sensuous than males, and 30-something females are at their peak of sensuousness. When you buy a melon, how do you determine how fresh it is? I bet you are the sort who looks at the best before date.

Not us sensuous types. We feel the melon, smell it, embrace its essence to determine its worth.

I for one could never shop via the internet, I just wouldn't be sure what I was getting. I much prefer to select the produce based on its tactile qualities.

Many are like me - we are in the majority. You probably don't think supermarkets smell of much at all, and are unaware of their forbidden fruits, but we sensual types find supermarkets ovrpowering.

It is us, people like Mary, that the supermarkets aim for. I can hardly blame you for not noticing, thats just a scientific education and personality for you.

♥, bc.

Hang on... (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by Wiggy on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 08:04:15 AM PST
... you aren't one of the guys who was in the papers a few years ago for having a concrete fetish that manifestes itself in you attempting to make love a paving slab in the middle of a shopping centre, are you?

I just don't see why I want to spend hours in a supermarket. Especially because I don't drive and would have to carry it all home. And somebody is prepared to deliver exactly what I want/need for a five quid delivery charge.

Perhaps I'm a freak. Probably.

P.S. - never assume I'm rational. :-)

Oh, you must be very young (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by greyrat on Fri Aug 24th, 2001 at 09:37:31 AM PST
...and 30-something females are at their peak of sensuousness.
Wrong you are! But you'll have to wait a couple of decades I'd wager until you get within the age range of truly sensuous women.


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