The sneaky genius of New World’s little shop

You’ve got to hand it to the marketing people at New World: those mini supermarket toys are a massive hit with the kids.

Every forty dollars spent at New World buys you a grocery miniature. The toys are teeny tiny replicas of products like Sanitarium Weet-Bix, Edmonds flour and Huggies nappies.

Notice that I’m mentioning the brand names. That’s the genius. Children collect these things to play supermarkets at home. They are being stamped with brand loyalty in the process.

It’s better than all the television advertising in the world. Pak ‘n’ Save can’t compete with New World’s Little Shop. What does Pak ‘n’ Save have to offer? Meat Week.

Our boys have enlisted the grandparents to speed up their mini supermarket expansion before the promotion ends. On shopping days they flock to the kitchen to see which new tiny items have arrived. When they’re not falling off their bikes or beating each other up on the trampoline, they’re trading Flora Pro-activ spread and Persil Sensitive laundry powder with the neighbours.

They’ll probably all want to be supermarket checkout operators when they grow up. At the very least they’ll be sure to buy Rexona deodorant and Fancy Feast cat food. The Little Shop product partners must be loving this.

Branding makes the world go round. Much of it is nonsense, when you unpack it for a closer look. There’s a television commercial running at the moment in which New World customers swipe their Fly Buys cards. With each swipe, animals in a warmly lit cartoon jungle get inexplicably happier. Frogs, chimpanzees and giraffes inhale the magical goodness of New Zealand’s loyalty program. The tag line is ‘every time you swipe, something a little bit good happens’. To chimpanzees?

It’s a patently ridiculous concept that has nothing to do with what actually happens when you swipe for those miniscule rewards. Yet the idea behind it is cunningly infused with a feel-good glow.

The next time I’m asked for my card I won’t necessarily think about animals getting high on Fly Buys, but without even realising it, I might feel more warmly toward this cold piece of plastic. Warm fuzzies are important to distract me from suspecting that the Fly Buys scheme doesn’t actually love me as much as it pretends to.

The next mini shop promotion should probably include Fly Buys. No, wait, the Fly Buys logo is already there on the Little Shop cash register.

We’ve chosen not to buy the cash register and have settled for using an ice cream container. I am regularly required to make Little Shop transactions with my five year old over the coffee table. I wonder if he notices I never buy the fruit?

The design team apparently faltered when it came to building the fruit. All care and attention went into recreating miniature Keri orange juices and Fresh ‘n Fruity yoghurts, but those mini apples look like they fell off a Warehouse trolley.

It’s as though the marketing people were instructed at the very last minute to put something healthy in there.

“Team, I love your idea, but if we’re going to brainwash New World’s children, we’ve got to do it responsibly.”

“What do you suggest, sir?”

“Fresh fruit is the answer. Throw in a plastic apple.”

“Just an apple?”

“And a banana. Aw, shove a pineapple in there too, why not. I know you’re on deadline so make it really big and no one will notice the veges are missing.”

As a result the fruit items are all out of scale. The apple really annoys me. How can you play supermarkets properly when your apple is twice the size of your Vogel’s bread?

Actually, it doesn’t matter. The kids don’t seem to care, and more importantly there is a Dole sticker on the plastic pineapple. At the end of the day, it’s that brand on the sticker that really counts.


First published in Bay of Plenty Times 18 October 2013. Reproduced with permission.