A common quandary in business is how to prioritise scarce resources. Scarce resource allocation is a conventional way of looking at the problem of where to focus. However, why be limited by what’s scarce. Why not consider alternatives in abundance which are conventionally not employed for the task instead and not be faced with a limitation problem?
We love the examples below of two companies who have applied this unordinary thinking to great effect. But first to The Wombles who recognised this commercial opportunity way before the rest of us. Created by Elisabeth Beresford in the late 60’s, the Wombles were profiting by making the most of the rubbish that everyday folk left behind. They focussed on plentiful resources which for whatever reason were deemed not desirable. They then turned them into something better altogether.
This unordinary thinking theme taps into that logic; investing time in figuring out how to turn plentiful but unwanted resources into something of value is more fulfilling than figuring out how to stretch desired but limited resources further.
The supermarket which made ugly fruit popular
The first example is from Intermarche. The French supermarket identified there were more than 300 million tonnes of ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables thrown away each year. Whether it was the supermarkets fault for defining quality through beauty, the media’s fault for parading perfection as a minimum standard or our own subconscious emotional drivers for seeking betterment to blame, good enough food is being wasted.
Their cause was to rehabilitate the ‘Inglorious fruit and vegetables’, supporting the 2014 European year against food waste initiative. The fruits and vegetables nutritional value is as good as their better looking cousins but because they were surplus to requirements they could be brought to the supermarket shelves for less which was passed on as a 30% saving to customers.
Although it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Such was the shoppers mistrust of the ugly, they needed some reassurance that different looking didn’t mean a different taste. So Intermarche pulped and mashed and created the Inglorious soup and juice selection. And with what they looked like taken out of the equation, the shopper could appreciate that under the skin they were just as delicious as their beautiful cousins.
Here’s their engaging film playing out the story. It wonderfully demonstrates the value of seeking alternative under-utilised resources and ‘training’ them to do the job in hand. It wont be for every customer, but for those who it is, once they’ve dismissed a buying criteria such as ‘what food looks like’, they get the same quality but for less cost. And the farmer gets a return on previously rejected produce as well.
It’s a principal that can be applied to business too. Once you start co-creating with customers you often find they are be prepared to trade on an element you focussed on if another criteria is better fulfilled.
Knowing Barcelona back to front and inside out
When you visit a city, you always feel you know the landscape and its history better if you’ve been on a walking tour with a local or someone who knows the city. But tour guides who have the knowledge, the inclination and the availability are hard to come by if you are looking to set up a tour guide operation. So who can you turn to take your tours?
Having lost her job in Barcelona, Lisa Grace, decided to set up Hidden City Tours. She wanted guides who really knew the streets and could talk about their stories and the stories of the people from those streets – mixing social history with social reality.
Attracting established tour guides from other companies would be expensive. Apart from the money, why would they switch company? And even if they did, where would they find the new knowledge that Lisa felt would help her tours stand out? The reality was these scarce resources were out of the question so Lisa looked to a underutilised resource in abundance in Barcelona, the homeless. With numbers doubling to 6,000 in the last two years there was a choice when seeking those who fit her ‘advanced expert’ criteria.
Lisa now has five tour guides who are/were homeless. Each has a back story which brought them to the streets and to where they are now. These stories add richness and humanity to the history of Barcelona’s streets. Lisa helps them make the most of this experience, ‘they’ve just fallen on hard times. It could happen to anyone.” says Lisa, “we select our guides based on their attitude. The guides are fantastic and it’s really worked.”
Whilst both inglorious fruit and vegetables and hiddencitytours are cause related projects, the commercial potential behind the unordinary thinking concepts is to be admired. Taking an unordinary look beyond the conventional can often find a different solution which proves to be a better one too.
Posted by Christopher Brooks
Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing strategy
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