A Placement Puzzle

April 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm 4 comments

This week we bring you a fun post, an interesting twist to a well-known sales and marketing funda.

If you’ve read ‘Why we Buy : The Science of Shopping’, Paco Underhill’s classic on the retail environment and how to influence consumers to buy more, you already know a whole lot of interesting facts. You know that products meant for the elderly should not be kept on the lowest shelves as they find it difficult to bend down and pick up products, and sales of these products end up being lower than they ought to be. You’ve also read about the ‘butt-brush’ effect (really apt naming here) – in narrow aisles people get jostled and brush against one another, nobody really likes this and hence they spend less time browsing these aisles and rush out of them as soon as they can. ( If you haven’t read the book yet, do get your hands on it, it’s well-written, fun to read and a lot of what he observes is fairly intuitive and gives the reader a sense of ‘aha, this sounds so logical, why did I not notice this before’.)

You’ve also probably noticed certain products being stocked next to each other or on adjacent shelves at the grocers; for instance, shampoo next to conditioners, moisturisers and face-wash and creams together, all cosmetics together. The logic here is fairly obvious.

So, using that as the base to begin from, here’re two questions for you.

Q1) In some shops in Gujarat, why do shelves stocking a certain brand of fruit juice also have yeast packets stocked ?

Q2) If you look closely, you’ll see that yeast is stocked next to packs of only a certain brand of fruit juice, not all; why is this ?

(Disclaimer : Cannot take credit for working hard and noticing this in the retail environment myself, I heard this at a party this weekend ; am yet to visit Gujarat and verify this for myself, would be glad to hear from any reader who visits or has visited Gujarat too)

And here’s the answer :

Two hints first, so you can try figuring it out yourself. One, Gujarat is a dry state ; two, grape juice, though the answer applies equally to other juices too.

Didn’t get it yet ? Fermented grape juice…wine ! In a dry state, one easy way of making your own alcohol is to buy fruit juice, pour it into a glass bottle, add yeast and wait for it to ferment.

And, to help you out, retailers even keep the juice and the yeast together on the same shelf.

And the answer to the second question is that this doesn’t work with all brands of fruit juice, some have preservatives that kill the action of the yeast. Hence, not all brands of fruit juice have the yeast packets stocked next to them.

[ Additional info courtesy a reader’s comment (Thanks, Rohit). Apparently the grape juice and yeast trick was fairly common during the prohibition era in the U.S. and has been mentioned in this documentary too. Even more interesting is that the write-up mentions that ‘with a wink and a nod, the American grape industry began selling kits of juice concentrate with warnings not to leave them sitting too long or else they could ferment and turn into wine’. Yes indeed, something to really worry about and avoid, I’m sure.]

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Entry filed under: Observations. Tags: .

Updates – on brand bloopers, gold and vitamin water Technology – Age No Bar

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rohit Grover  |  April 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Re. yeast and grape juice (or concentrate): Saw a documentary on the prohibition in the United States last year (http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/unintended-consequences/), and this was a common practice back then. Pretty funny, really.


    • 2. escapevelocityblog  |  April 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Hey Rohit,
      First time I’m seeing a comment from you on the blog – how cool – you read the posts too, well, at least occasionally. 🙂
      Thanks for the link to the documentary on the prohibition, will take a look at it. May I add it to the blogpost ? Will credit you with sharing the link, of course.


  • 3. Rahul Jhaveri  |  April 26, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Interesting post. A lot of things seem so logical – like not putting products aimed towards the elderly on lower shelves. The same way I believe a lot of grocery stores prefer to keep their fresh produce stocked in the front of their store so people have to pass it whenever they want to pick up something in the back which they might pick up more regularly. This way consumers who pick up fresh produce once a week might get tempted to pick something else up even if they are coming in for something routine. However, I have notices that stores nowadays tend too keep too many options on a shelf. I want orange juice – but there are so many companies and product variations that it can get overwhelming. This is probably where packaging and brand recognition comes into play. Marketing 101 but its something that registers when you experience it.


    • 4. escapevelocityblog  |  April 26, 2013 at 10:16 am

      Hi RJ,
      You have to read ‘Why we Buy’, you’ll love it.
      Someone’s borrowed my copy, else I’d lend it to you.



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