What caused the end of the small local grocery shops?
Well, yes, but they were only an answer to a need.
They couldn’t have existed unless people wanted them.
So why did people want supermarkets?
The answer is in our kitchens.
Before the fridge, no-one could store food.
You bought only what you could eat that day because it would spoil overnight.
It had to be thrown out the next day.
So you had to buy your food fresh every day at the local shops.
With a fridge, you didn’t need to do that.
You could buy your food at a supermarket and store it.
Even partially eaten food could be kept fresh and eaten later in the week.
Food that was left over from a meal didn’t have to be thrown out.
In fact, leftovers became a staple in every house.
But leftovers didn’t exist before 1910.
So who invented "leftovers"?
It was an American company called McCray Refrigerator Co.
People don’t buy anything without a reason.
So, to sell fridges, McCray had to sell a need first.
To sell fridges as the answer to a problem, they needed to establish a problem.
To educate people about storing and using food.
So they invented leftovers.
They commissioned a book by chef Elizabeth O Hiller called Left-Over Foods and How to Use Them.
The object being to get people to break their old habits and create new ones.
To put unfinished food into the fridge instead of throwing it out.
To re-use that food later, to stop waste, to save money.
So they had a chef prepare a book of recipes for unused, stored foods.
And the concept of leftovers was born.
And with it, savings on food.
Before 1910, the average American family was spending 45 per cent of its income on food.
Today, that’s down to 15 per cent.
You see, before you can sell something, you need to sell the need.
You can’t sell a means of keeping food cold if no-one wants to keep food cold.
First, you have to tell people what’s good about keeping food cold.
And so you introduce the concept of leftovers to people who had never known leftover food.
Suddenly, they saw that leftover food was actually quite a smart use of food.
But you can’t have leftovers without a fridge.
So guess what you need to buy.
What we are always selling is a way of achieving a vision.
But that’s no good if the vision doesn’t exist.
So first we sell the vision.
Then people will want to buy whatever achieves that vision.
There’s an old advertising saying:
"No-one wants a nail. They want a picture hung on the wall."
Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)