A week later, the mob has yet to form. But it’s just a matter of time until torch-wielding restaurateurs chase down Walker Smith, the eminent trend reader, for challenging their conviction that the earth is flat.
Indeed, the heretic sledge-hammered a foundation of the industry’s belief system right before the trade’s eyes, at the People Report Best Practices Conference. Frugality is not the default mode of today’s consumers, he thundered. Cheap isn’t the fix they’re craving.
You could almost hear the gasps of everyone in the room with a dollar menu or a you-pick-three deal. I half expected them to bar the doors and shout, “We can’t let this get out. The board will have our hides.”
Yet Smith, a mesmerizing speaker, had the evidence to keep nooses from being tied. This is not a recession where consumer spending was eroded, he asserted. Rather, confidence ebbed as the risk of losing a job or a home grew exponentially.
But marketers would be foolhardy to equate that fear with stinginess, he continued. Look at sales of smart phones and high-tech entertainment equipment. Indeed, Smith predicted that the iPad, the gizmo of the moment, “will quickly replace the PC.”
“The major lesson from this recession,” he told the 250 restaurateurs in attendance, is “risk translates into prioritization. Your job is to get back on their priority list.”
The Number One way to do it, Smith contended, is through innovation. Left unsaid: “…not a price you can’t refuse.”
Second, surprisingly, in the Gospel of Smith: “Do something that helps people control their health.”
And third: Make it something that the buyer enjoys.
I’m sure it was just a coincidence that Smith left the conference as soon as his speech concluded, ostensibly to head out for another engagement.
I swear I could hear a posse being formed.