Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
You know 7-Eleven, don't you?
It's open late, it's sometimes a touch threadbare, yet it offers basic convenience when you most need it.
Less likely is that you'd think of it as a repository of classy products.
Yet there's a surprising area in which 7-Eleven is quietly excelling and part of it will now involve a premium offering. A pulsating interview in CSP News Daily gave an insight into the company's present and future.
Andrew Lee, the company's senior category manager of center-store merchandising, offered this little detail:
In regard to premium chocolate, we are focusing on seasonal customers with [our soon-to-be-launched] Belgian chocolate. We know from recent tests that our customers still enjoy indulgent treats.
Premium Belgian chocolate? Would the mere idea of some sub-Godiva proprietary delicacy be associated in your mind with 7-Eleven? Yet here was Lee revealing that this foray into Belgium's finest would enjoy "playful images and a highly approachable price point."
You might think this an aberration, but no. Candy is very much a sweet spot -- my apologies -- for the brand. It may be a differentiating reason for people to go to 7-Eleven.
Lee said the company dug deep into consumer habits. Last year, for example, millennials bought 8 percent more candy than the year before. Chocolate-free candy purchases went up even more.
The thing with these picky generations is that they don't want any old candy. So here is 7-Eleven trying to tempt them -- and their forebears -- with something (relatively) exotic.
Not every 7-Eleven carries the same candy choices. Younger shoppers are veering away from chocolate and toward, well, sour flavors. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that the current state of the world and the darkness being left them by boomers is driving them in this direction.
For the younger generations, in which Lee includes the so-called Gen Alphas -- can you believe millennials are already having kids? -- 7-Eleven is already offering them their own delights, in the hope of securing loyalty. These generations, for whom gadgets are mere limbs, a rewards program and an app are essentials.
Though 7-Eleven is offering other collaborations, such as exclusive projects with Japanese candy Hi-Chew, I'm still stuck on the idea of the late-night convenience store being the home of exclusive premium Belgian chocolate.
It's a lesson, then, in working hard to know your customers and understanding their needs -- even if those needs might appear to be frivolous or merely odd. For 7-Eleven, it's all about exclusives. Said Lee:
We are committed to being a destination for customers to pick up the fun, novelty and limited-edition products they crave.
7-Eleven isn't alone in being a convenience brand with more exalted tastes. I recently wrote about how Walmart will now feature more elevated wine and spirits brands.
It may be a surprise in America, but slip overseas and 7-Eleven has a very different image. In a very pleasant district in Oslo, for example, I found the best bread you could imagine. It was even the place my wife and I left the keys to our Airbnb.
Just before Christmas, I went into a 7-Eleven in Miami every day for a week. I didn't see anything too premium. Now that I know good value premium Belgian chocolate is coming, I just might go to my local 7-Eleven.
I worry, though, that I may get some potato chips as well.