The social life of food #2 | buying our daily bread

easy as pie

Grocery shopping is something you put on the ‘to-do’ list, not a part of your social calendar. However, that was not always the case. Markets, the place where food was bought and sold, were places of social interactions and a place where news was spread. Now, we don’t have to shop every few days because we are able to store food for longer periods of time. Our ‘daily bread’ can become our ‘monthly bread’ – if we store it in the freezer.

Carolyn Steel, author of The Hungry City,  identifies the moment we pay for our food at the cash register as the last direct link we have with those who produce our food. But on top of that, our exchange with the cashier may also be the only social moment left in our process of buying food. Large supermarkets are rarely located in central parts of town with ample parking space so that we can load in a week’s worth of groceries. Once in the supermarket, most marketers have agreed on the best layout: vegetables at the entrance, candy at the cash register, and the smell of baked bread present throughout the store.

If we want to re-create our relationship with food we also need to re-think the way we design our (super)markets. My suggestions:

Stimulate explorers

Imagine entering a market where you can taste a sample of bread while faintly smelling the smoked meat from the butcher department or citrus fruit from the produce section… by increasing the sensory stimulation consumers will be stimulated to try new things.

Increase in-house knowledge

A market used to have salesmen to explain what a product was and how it could be prepared. Increase the information available for consumers about how to prepare food so that they are challenged to try different things. Knowledgeable store staff can increase the sociability of the shopping experience.

Increase traceability

Allow consumers to question where the product comes from and be curious about their food.

image from here

perfectly branded | Shiseido Eye Color Bar


Sometimes I bump into products that are so cleverly designed to support a brand concept, it seems marketing textbook-worthy. Hence, I can’t help but analyse it from a classical marketing perspective: using the 4 P’s.

Shiseido has already won prizes for the luxury feel of their packaging but for his holiday season they are also showing their playful side with the Shiseido Eye Color Bar.

Product |Eye Colour Bar

Shiseido’s first 9-color eye shadow pallet, this product signifies something new. The product is launched as a playful pallet with the names of the eye shadows referencing alcoholic drinks – perfect for making cocktails. The bottom right shadow is the only one with a  non-alcoholic name: soda. Then again, club soda is the perfect filler for any good cocktail. The playful names and on-trend colours fit with the innovative and lively nature of Shiseido’s head make-up artist Dick Page.

Place / timing |Holiday season

The holiday season is an excellent moment to launch a luxury make-up item that matches fall trends in fashion. The general increase in social events will be a reason for many consumers to ‘allow’ themselves to buy a luxury item. The names of the eye shadows playfully remind the consumer of this social calendar as well.

Price |€37,90

This price fits with the general pricing strategy of Shiseido and underlines that it is a luxury brand.

Promotion |Limited edition

Publicising the color bar as a limited edition may help it attain a cult-status.

The Postman will keep ringing twice | why postcards remain relevant

hello from someplace beautiful card

When looking at the possibilities of the internet, it may seem as if sending and receiving mail through the post is no longer relevant. Yet, when entering any museum shop, one usually finds a wall filled with postcards. So what is it about postcards that enables them to survive the demise of the postman?

A post card for yourself…

Moncole reports that for museums, postcards remain big business. Perhaps because they are an easy, cheap souvenir? Or do they also have symbolic value? Alain de Botton said that when looking at a painting, we realize that it is important to us – but it also represents something we can’t quite reach [on seeing and noticing]. A postcard can serve as a small daily reminder of this emotion. If museums were to track which cards were most popular would we see subsequent bestsellers? Or would our postcard choice ebb and flow with the social trends that society is subject to?

…or a post card for a friend?

Receiving a postcard represents an effort made by the sender. The effort of choosing a postcard, writing it and, perhaps the biggest challenge, actually sending it. Sending and receiving postcards has become a part of our culture and rituals throughout the year – Christmas, Valentine’s day and a note to home when you’re away during the summer.

Do you still send postcards regularly? Or do you buy them for yourself as little memories?

Check a selection of my favourite stationary here.

image from here

scents and sensibility | developing scents at IFF

“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting” – Christian Dior

kate spade live colorfully perfume visual

There is a certain romance surrounding scents – driven by the luxury of perfumes and the mystery and suspense of Perfume by Suskind. Scents also have the uncanny ability to immediately conjure up memories. That’s because (unlike sight, touch and hearing) scents are directly processed by the hippocampus, the brains centre of long-term memory.

Last week I attended a lecture presented by the scent and flavour development company International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF). They not only specialize in the creation of luxury perfumes, but are also the noses and brains behind many of the scents you encounter in daily life – laundry detergents, air fresheners, fabric softeners…etc. The thought and research that is placed behind those ‘daily life’ scents are what surprised/interested me the most.

Smells like clean spirit

An example was how they designed laundry detergent smells for different markets. I had heard of the idea that scents have different ‘notes’: a top note that is smelled directly but evaporates quickly, a heart that is the essence of the scent and stays longer and the base note that underlines the scent and remains when all the other notes have gone. For the design of laundry detergent, the various notes of the scent are also relevant. The top note is the scent you smell when you open the bottle, the heart is the scent that is released whilst washing and the base note is the smell that remains on your sheets after they have dried. When designing a new laundry detergent smell for a particular market, IFF analyses how the target group does their laundry and what their expectations are. For example, in South Africa they found that doing the laundry was a long task that was mainly performed by hand. This meant that it was extra important that the heart note (that was released during the washing process) was pleasant. Furthermore, the women that did the wash there exhibited pride in clean clothes that were freshly washed – so a strong base note that lingered was also positive because it signalled to the neighbours that the women of the household were diligent washers.

Smells like victory!

The lecture ended with a brief to design a scent for a ‘pink fabric softener’. Scents can also be associated with colours, and it was important that this scent smelled ‘pink’. Although it may seem silly, apparently most people associate smells with different colours – so it was important that the associated colour of the scent matched the colour of the actual product.  The team that created a scent that was voted most appropriate received a scent as prize. And our team won!! But even though I was mesmerized by the thought and care behind designing the smell of a pink fabric softener or laundry detergent, I decided to pick a perfume for my prize rather than a laundry detergent…

image by Kate Spade, found here.

all quiet on the branding front |Selfridges ‘no noise’ campaign

heinz ketchup - brandless

From the 7th of January until the end of February, Selfridges is introducing something interesting – the ‘No Noise’ concept. This campaign includes a re-introduction of a quiet room for visitors to rest (apparently already once launched by  Harry Selfridge himself in 1909), a collaboration with meditation experts and – my favorite – a selection of de-branded products. A selection of name brand products are stripped of superfluous text and images so that they feature just enough to be able to recognize the product and brand. The philosophy behind this transformation? The idea that we (consumers) are overloaded with sensory information when we view a packet. However, can this also be a way to increase the luxury- and cult-factor of the featured products? Classic example – the simple channel no 5 bottle design was so different than other perfume bottles that raised quite a few eyebrows back in 1921. The ‘less is more’ approach can be a way to suggest that quality is preferred above quantity. But how much is too little? Although the Heinz products remain fairly recognizable, the Creme de la Mer looks like it is victem to censorship (with only it’s pink smudge).  Will the ‘de-branded’ products become collector’s items for the philosophical hipster or become unrecognizable when taken off the store’s shelf?

creme de la mer - brandless

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