Don't get stuck in the past

In last week's post, I discussed the thesis of a philosophy book that strongly resonates with my approach on storytelling. Basically, it said that people behave accordingly to the group they belong to. They affect each other.

Today I'd like to take the example of the organic food retail business.

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For the last 2-3 years, it's been growing fast again in France. No less than 3 new stores opened near my house in the past year! As always, this market was originally founded by a few pioneers whose message appealed to an early-adopters segment: people who felt strongly about their health and the environment and were very suspicious of the food-processing industry.

But the pioneers were not able to convince everyone. Why is that? Because the communication codes they were using, in terms of style and wording, did not sound like "joy" to other groups:

  • To the poorest, organic retailers meant more expensive, i.e. unaffordable;
  • To the richest, they meant a crappy experience;
  • To the "foodies" they meant not as tasty + less choice.

People can make a little effort for some time or feel bad about not being the perfect citizen they would like to show, but it won't last long. Very soon, they'll fly away from this obvious source of sadness and frustration and will go back to the things that make them truly happy. Especially considering their social group is doing exactly the same.

"Organic's good."

The change comes from within

Until one day a challenger comes along and changes the way things are done:

First, you notice their name: it tells you it's going to be good and simple. And suddenly you see their brand everywhere because their stores spring up like mushrooms. Then a friend suggests to cook you lunch and takes you to one of their stores. It's the kind of place you thought you'd never go back to, but you can't help enjoying the large alleys, the light being not gloomy and the young cashier behaving like a nice fellow. It turns out the meal tasted pretty good too. So when, a few weeks later, you realize an old organic retailer is opening a new store nearby, and the place looks a lot fancier than the old ones, and the ads on the wall talks to you about pleasure and taste - not about saving the planet and yourself -, even if it's a little pricier, you start going there once in a while.

That's how you affect people's behavior. Not by telling them about values or a mission that will make them feel good about themselves for a while. But by building an experience that will make them feel happy every time. If you manage to convince one person of the group, it's likely the rest of the group will follow. Because that's how people know how to behave: they follow their instinct by watching how their fellow people find joy.