Friday, October 29, 2010

hacking corporate store fronts

local business in america is kind of a quagmire. it seems that except for a few small areas where tons of self-interested stuck-up liberals take the initiative to completely force out corporate interests from a given city, corporations run things. most storefronts you find in america are cost-cutting franchises and subsidiaries of conglomerates. it's no wonder americans easily swallow any pre-packaged product sold to them: be it music, food, television, movies, games... it's all made to order with few variations and dumbed-down for everyone's generic tastes. (heh, it's kind of funny that those are the only things americans are interested in, too)

local businesses get pushed out by these bigger corporations, mostly due to extremely competitive prices. but local business could bring a lot of variety to consumers and in effect influence the entire culture wholly through local means, if it was done on a large enough scale. the question is, in this capitalistic dog-eat-dog country, how do you introduce local business when the whole economy is based on cutting them off at the knees?

i think big companies could start by taking their already extremely effective cost-cutting measures and branching them out to more specific tastes. i think that if you work closer with all the producers of "content" that you use to produce your products you can still keep a low cost and generate a higher variety of products. integrate more, produce with more efficiency.

it would be pretty simple in principle: for any given "metro area" or whatever you determine to be an area with a specific taste that you could market a certain regional product to, create a brand. then create a line of products that are "mostly" only sold by that brand. in this way not only do you create the appearance of originality and variety, you can hopefully win over the local populace and generate a kind of grassroots following for your band.

the goal here is to *not* allow people to associate your stores regionally/locally the way people do nationally. they should not be able to say "that's the mcdonalds of east texas." part of that is keeping your brand relatively small, but also making sure your products aren't overly cookie-cutter in nature. nothing turns people away from big business faster than the lack of a mom-and-pop appearance. you need to hire good people to help sell the brand, but your products also need to have a certain element of being created or finished in the store itself.

have you ever seen a national franchise which could, for example, cook an omlette made-to-order in two minutes for a customer? i don't think i have. there must be an expense associated with shipping fresh eggs, keeping them cool, allowing for a kitchen area to prepare the ingredients, etc. but sandwich/sub franchises do almost this very thing. quiznos franchises receive pre-cooked bread and ingredients and assembles them in a matter of minutes for its customers, and produces what i consider to be a fairly high quality sandwich for the price/time. so why can't we ship pre-mixed eggs and the same ingredients, throw them in a bowl, put it in a microwave or some other omlette-cooking machine and give people something fresh(ish) and made-to-order/home made?

all you'd need to do at that point is rename the store for a given region and customize the ambiance, and switch around the recipe a bit depending on the area. your store fronts gain the reputation of being a "local", original, consistent source for (hopefully) good products, and your customers gain the knowledge that they're not just buying the same old crap from a national chain, maybe even believing they are helping the local economy. (maybe they could even go so far as to put more reward in the hands of the local store owners/managers as to actually produce more good for the given region? but now i'm really dreaming)

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