Today, I had about 4 hours to kill between the time that I arrived in Minneapolis and when my dad landed. Luckily, it's easy to get from the airport to the Mall of America, so I spent my afternoon there.
If you've never been there, this place is big. It's huge. It's the largest mall in America (thus the name) and has an entire amusement park inside. There are 4 Caribou Coffee stores and 2 Starbucks. There's really no rhyme or reason or possibility of walking the whole thing and still be remotely interested in what the stores have to offer.
I began to wonder how, with so many stores, any of them can possibly stand out. There really aren't that many stores that you can't visit at any other mall. As I meandered around, I noticed the normal offerings at the malls near me in Nashville: The Gap, Old Navy, Ruby Tuesday, Abercrombie, Victoria's Secret, American Eagle, Bath and Body Works.
Don't get me wrong - if you've never been to a mall before, this place would be awesome. If you live somewhere and can't find a great selection of designer jeans, then this place is like Christmas. But, given the fact that most people have been to a mall before, what's the allure?
Granted, it's big. There's a certain novelty to that. But, if you're an individual store in a place where people can't remember which door they came in, how do you get people to come in your store when they have hundreds to choose from? And if you get them to come in, how do you get them to buy something?
Retail that works today needs to have a story. And that's what made me buy a jar of $7 peanut butter.
I noticed a store called PB Loco from the second floor. I couldn't really tell what was going on inside from where I stood, but if it was a store that specialized in peanut butter (as the name suggested), it might be worth my going down the escalator and checking it out.
And so I did.
PB Loco has a chance to revolutionize the way we eat and even think about peanut butter. I assume that most people only eat PB&J when they're in grade school or when they can't think of anything else to make. I personally like a good PB&J every now and then, but most of us don't think of peanut butter as a delicacy or something to serve our guests.
PB Loco offers gourmet peanut butter in a variety of flavors. You can get Sun Dried Tomato Peanut Butter, Raspberry Dark Chocolate, Jungle Banana, Asian Curry, and Sun Ripened Apricot. You can mix these flavors with marshmallows or fruit, dip animal crackers or celery in them, or order an array of creative sandwiches. You wouldn't do this with Peter Pan or Jif.
As I samples various flavors, I felt like I did when I ate PB&J every day when I was 8. And because of the experience and the remarkability of the idea, I forked over $6.95 for a can of European Cafe Mocha Peanut Butter.
I can't wait to put it on some toast for an afternoon snack. Or serve it to my guests. And when they ask where it came from, I'll tell them this story. And then they'll tell the story to someone they know the next time peanut butter comes up in conversation.
And that's how you stand out in a crowded marketplace - you have to sell more than peanut butter. You have to sell stories.