Gentle nudge or guilt-laden shove?

09/13/2013 02:09:00 PM
Pamela Riemenschneider

Mirrors are nothing new in the produce department.

Clever merchandisers have been using them for years to give the illusion of mountains of produce where there might only be foothills. Why not add a little narcissism to produce? It is the prettiest department in a supermarket, after all.

But some researchers are using mirrors — and several other subtle tactics — to get consumers to put down the potato chips and head over to produce.

The tactics, outlined in a New York Times article, included arrows on the floor pointing toward the produce department, dividing carts to show produce vs. non-produce purchases, and in one case, affixing a large mirror to the inside of the cart so you can look at yourself while you shop.

As I understand it, someone with a few pounds to lose would look at themselves in the mirror and feel that pang of guilt about buying ice cream and instead fill their cart with healthful foods.

The greedy, remorseless produce advocate in me says, “Why don’t we just hang mirrors throughout the supermarket danger zones: next to the cake mix, atop the chips, adjacent to the soda and maybe a surprise pop-out mirror in the ice cream case?”

That’ll steer them back to produce, for sure.

But I thought we agreed to leave guilt out of the equation? One of the components of the 5 A Day rebranding to Fruits & Veggies — More Matters! was to remove what consumers might perceive as an unattainable number of daily servings, and reinforce that every little bit counts.

But here’s the deal. Guilt or not, some of these tactics seemed to work. One of the easiest — and most impactful, according to researchers — was a placard affixed to a shopping cart telling consumers how much produce the average shopper bought and which were the highest sellers.

The guinea pig store, Lowe’s in El Paso, Texas, saw a 10% jump in produce purchases and a 91% increase for those participating in the WIC program. Lowe’s said it plans to put the placards in every cart at its 22 El Paso stores, and perhaps expand the program chain-wide.

What a simple idea, and I like it much better than a constant visual reminder of my own health and fitness shortcomings. And who wants to be in charge of keeping those mirrors clean, anyway?



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