However, I noticed an interesting thing. No, not the coupons or book packaging/design. It
was actually pretty simple and bland. It was the fact that they offered me coupons for FREE store items that I have purchased many times over: carrots and cherry tomatoes. Then the rest of the book had discounted items on things relevant to my purchase history at their stores.
I'm not too clear on the inner workings of the Kroger business--but this is fantastic marketing--and it all begins with the data pulled from some sort of CRM system. They analyze my purchases and find cheap things that I like to buy. Then, they offer them to me for free--just to get me in the store. They know I'm going to buy more things (most likely) when I come in. Giving away cherry tomatoes and carrots might cost them a few bucks. The incentive to go to the store is the free items. The incentive to shop more are the coupons. The kicker is not only the relationship development (by getting great deals from them), but then the follow through when I'm actually in the store. Friendly people, pleasant environment and convenient locations. It's all one well-oiled machine and THAT is a very good reason why Kroger is a successful business.
Another firm I've seen use similar tactics is Chik-Fil-A. Whoever is behind their marketing and customer relationship is doing a fantastic job.
The main point is that we can draw lessons from companies like fast-food or grocery stores. If you can find out enough information about your customers, treat them well and offer them creative deals to make them feel special--then follow through to deliver on the expectations you created--you can create quite the customer following and quite the business.
I've heard a lot of people say something along the lines of "Well, their company is completely different than ours--so, that would never work." In the 1950's Toyota utilized an inventory technique in a Piggly Wiggly that changed their company and eventually shaped their success (Toyota Production System). We should not shy away from great marketing. It's everywhere and with a little tweaking and imagination, it can be harnessed by AEC companies anywhere and applied to their business model as a successful strategy.