The paradox of pictures

I got busted at the Stop and Shop this morning.

It turns out that there are now even more than 19 flavors of Oreos. So I needed a photo of the new flavor for my presentation. The manager saw the flash and ran over. He made it clear that I needed permission from corporate headquarters to take pictures, and followed me around the store to make sure I didn’t take any more illicit photos.

Compare this to the easiest way in the world to attract a crowd at a trade show–hire some folks to film your booth, preferably with bright lights, Bauer battery packs and a big-ass camera. Sure enough, people will show up, like moths to a candle.

The irony of the Stop & Shop approach is that the people who you don’t want taking pictures–snoopy journalists or competitors–can easily conceal their cameras and you’ll never know. But the raving fans, the bloggers, the folks twisted enough to want to take and flickrize their supermarket experiences are your friends.

Of course, Ahold (owner of S&S) has every right to discourage shoppers from photography. So does Disney. But Disney learned a long time ago that flipping the funnel and letting tourists become your salesforce is a great idea. In an experience economy, where a bear workshop or furniture superstore is a form of tourism, photography is part of the deal. (Thanks to Rob Clark for the illustration).