Consumer products companies and retailers know a lot about us. They understand our foibles, our habits, our reactions to marketing and our buying patterns. They also know how to create and sell products that appeal to our deepest needs, urges and instincts.
In contrast, the average consumer knows next to nothing about consumer products companies, and even less about the many pricing, marketing and selling techniques the industry uses.
Back in my old business, we called this a market with asymmetric information. When two parties are exchanging products or services (or worse, risky investments) and there's asymmetric information, it just isn't a fair fight for the less-informed player. And in many ways the world of modern consumer products retailing really isn't a fair fight for the average consumer.
But Casual Kitchen readers aren't interested in wringing their hands or shaking their fists at the evil food industry. We won't engage in whining, and we won't give our power away.
I, for one, am more interested in leveling the information playing field so my readers can understand more of what goes on behind the store shelves where we spend our precious consumer dollars.
And that's what this upcoming post series is all about. It's called Understanding the Consumer Products Industry, and its purpose is to help you understand more of what makes the consumer products and retailing businesses tick, so you can get the maximum value from what you spend.
I'll talk about various marketing, branding and retailing conventions that the industry uses to separate unwitting consumers from their money. And I'll go over various pricing traps and discounting strategies that can signal good value, or a total lack thereof, for the consumer. Finally, I hope to go over some specific financial terms and concepts that can help consumers understand and appreciate exactly what happens to their consumer dollars when they buy the products sitting on their store shelves.
This will be a wide-ranging and multi-part post series that, admittedly, steps somewhat outside the scope of Casual Kitchen's typical subject area. However, as with everything I write here, I intend to make it useful, practical and thought-provoking to readers.
I want my readers to be aware, empowered, savvy, and when necessary, cynical with their spending decisions. And when you've finished with this post series, you should be able to apply the various concepts I discuss to help you do three things:
1) Understand what the food industry, the restaurant industry and the consumer products industry is up to when it offers you a complex range of products at many price points,
2) Use this information to obtain good value for the money you spend, and
3) Make the best and best-informed purchasing decisions you can in all areas of your life.
Tomorrow I'll run the first post in this series, which will begin a discussion of the pricing strategies lurking behind the consumer products we buy.
Going forward, this series will run on an on-and-off basis over the next several weeks (and maybe months, depending on what readers think of it). Below is a preliminary index of the upcoming titles and subjects I'm hoping to cover in the discussion. Wherever you see a live link, you can click it to take you to that specific article. Keep in mind, the index may (uh, will) be subject to change as I come up with additional subjects or ideas in the future.
Finally, readers, if there is a subject or a concept you'd like to see covered that you don't yet see below, please suggest it in the comments!
Understanding The Consumer Products Industry Post Index:
1) Price is Just a Number
2) What Drives Prices? The Secret to Maximizing Your Consumer Dollar
3) The Do-Nothing Brand
4) Ten Thoughts on the Value of Brands
5) Prices, Zombies, and the Advertising-Consumption Cycle
6) Divorce Yourself From the False Reality of Your Grocery Store
7) Three Follow-Up Thoughts On the Realities of Your Grocery Store
8) The Cold Logic of Stealth Price Hikes
9) Three Fantasies For the Consumer Products Industry
10) How to Own the Consumer Products Industry--And I Mean Literally Own It
11) On the "Value" of Low-Calorie Foods
12) Consumers vs. Companies: A Manifesto
13) Understanding the Guys on the Other Side
14) Your Top Favorite Consumer Empowerment Strategies
15) What's Wrong With the Government Limiting Food Marketing to Kids?
16) How Do You Like Your Prices Raised?
17) How to Defeat the Retail Industry's Ninja Mind Tricks
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from Amazon.com via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!