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Waking Up at 40,000 Feet

Edward  Zimmerman
by Edward Zimmerman April 10, 2012
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I was on my way back from an important client meeting in Dallas when the enormity of technology and the enormity of my ignorance merged.

Thunderstorms had delayed my arrival in Dallas by 5 hours, so I got to my hotel room at 3:30 a.m., no problem. Quick nap, shower, client meeting at 8:30. The meeting went well and I found myself on an earlier flight sitting next to a charming 80-year-old woman. She was engaging and bright and asked what I did for a living. I regaled her with stories of the conquests of Pizza War marketing but stayed light regarding internet marketing and online ordering, how would she understand Twitter and mobile apps?

After take-off, the 2 hours of sleep caught up with me and I drifted into typical head bobbing airplane sleep. About an hour later, I awoke, bleary-eyed but somewhat refreshed. My elderly seat-mate, seeing my return to the land of the living, put down her iPad and said, “I was thinking about your pizza marketing and wanted to show you a mobile app I use to order pizza, you didn’t mention them and I thought your customers could use them.”

I was stunned, an 80-something using an iPad AND a mobile app! And I assumed she wouldn’t understand.
Of the 311 Million estimated US population, more than half of all U.S. residents and more than ¾ of all U.S. adults are online.

Targeting young people online seems logical but I did not consider that older Americans have embraced technology and want the benefits and ease of new devises and services. Have my prejudices of “older Americans” limited my advice to my clients? Sort of a “Not Red America, Not Blue America, but One America moment.”

So I did some research and saw a quote that really hit home: “Audiences everywhere are tough. They don’t have time to be bored or brow beaten by old-fashioned advertising. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & BE what people are interested in.” CRAIG DAVIS, CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, WORLDWIDE, J. WALTER THOMPSON (WORLD’S 4TH LARGEST AD AGENCY)

Waking up at 40,000 feet from a deep sleep, now I understand that segmenting marketing to “traditional” for older customers and “new media” for younger is simply not true. America has moved on. Pizza operators that continue to invest in marriage mail and door hangers, really are missing the mark. It’s ok to continue those activities but it is time to begin the complete shift and under-weight traditional activities in your marketing budget. If traditional marketing encompasses 50% of your budget, cut it to 25% and invest the money online with Facebook, Search Engines, email marketing and online ordering.

Wake up, as I did, to the new reality of the restaurant business. BE the conversation, don’t interrupt it.

Wishing you success in foodservice – Ed

Ed Zimmerman is a foodservice industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.


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