I first heard this expression when I was running Seagram America’s marketing and went with the CEO to visit markets in South America.
His view of senior management market visits can best be summed up as follows: “What a waste of time. Everything we will see in the stores will be staged for our visit. It’s a tunnel of love tour but we need to do it.”
I felt he kind of missed the point a bit. Market visits were, and still are, designed to “see how we look” and in that regard it’s in the human condition to put your best foot forward. But you can’t stage how the competition looks and what they are up to at point of sale and who can control what Mr. Retailer has to say.
My favorite tunnel of love anecdote took place in a large, important US market known more for its on-premise business than retail stores. Nevertheless, the distributor wanted to show us how good he and our local marketing and sales reps were doing and how our floor programs stood out.
The entourage — a better description might be the sheriff and the posse — went off on the visit/tour and once inside a store, some spoke to the owner or manager while others checked the displays and floor programs.
A member of the group was fascinated by a multi-case display of one of our brands and the very attractive and large case card that accompanied it. Never having seen it before, but still admiring it, he called others over to have a look. Someone touched the case card and to his surprise, smudged it. It was hand painted… and still wet. We all smiled at what appeared to be a permanent holiday display that obviously had just been put up for our visit. “That’s okay,” someone said, “maybe it’ll stay up and look how much real estate the brands have.”
Smiles turned to laughter at the next stop, also a large store with a massive display right at the entrance.
There was the same case card with the same smudge in the same spot.
I have no idea how they moved that thing so quickly.