© Copyright 2017 Reuben Kiblitsky, Ryerson University.
It’s not unusual to wind up in the aisles of a local supermarket, sometimes making multiple trips a week. Sometimes we are in a rush and power through our “routine items,” where other times we like to take our time and let the new products catch our eyes. While supermarkets spend a lot of resources on finding the most profitable locations where their businesses will strive, comparable foresight is put into product placement. This concept is known as planogram (Kendall).
Each product is placed into a specific spot for one carefully thought out reason or another—whether it is to upsell customers or to promote new products—but the motive is always profit! When looking a picture of the cereal aisle, it is no coincidence that the more expensive brands are at eye level. When referring to the planogram, a common saying is, “Eye level is buy level” (Kendall). The pressure supermarkets place on their shoppers through “upselling” might seem alarming, yet many overlook this tactic.
Every individual has a different experience at the grocery store. Some may see it as a necessity; going to the store strictly to purchase the items they need to survive. Alternatively, others can find it relaxing or exciting, as they explore new recipes, ingredients, and cuisine.
The pictured cereal aisle is a small glimpse into a much larger issue. The bright lights, clean atmosphere, and symmetrically aligned boxes construct a welcoming shopping experience on the surface but, under further scrutiny, may in fact stem from manipulative tactics.
Considering the many brands of cereal, it’s clear that there is a wide selection. All have something different to offer, yet some might argue our choice has but a minor impact. There are many reasons we choose a product—whether we are comfortable with the brand, enjoy the packaging, or just want to try something new—we have the option to decide which products we purchase. Looking deeper into the aisle, however, we see the monopoly of companies hiding behind the branded logos of the individualized products. It becomes clear that, while we decide on what product we desire the most, the value of options has become an illusion.
We cannot hide the fact that supermarkets do indeed provide a positive service, in that they deliver a variety of life’s necessities (and even luxury items). We also cannot hide the fact that how we look at supermarkets can trigger an emotional response. With each individual’s experience searching the aisles being so drastically different, based on our unique needs and desires, it naturally follows that analyzing both the common and differing needs and desires will improve shoppers’ abilities to make an educated choice for every purchase.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York, Routledge, 2000.
Kendall, Graham. “The science that makes us spend more in supermarkets, and feel good while we do it.” The Conversation, 4 Mar. 2014, theconversation.com/the-science-that-makes-us-spend-more-in-supermarkets-and-feel-good-while-we-do-it-23857.
Kiblitsky, Reuben. “Supermarket Tour.” Photograph. Ryerson University. 09 February 2017.
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.