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If we pitched food the same way we pitched games

If we pitched food the same way we pitched games Exclusive GDMag Exclusive

November 1, 2013 | By Matthew Wasteland

November 1, 2013 | By Matthew Wasteland
More: Design, GD Mag Exclusive, GD Mag

Pitching. It's rarely a pleasant experience. In this humor column reprinted from the October 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, Matthew Wasteland shares how sometimes a very simple core concept can become lost.

Round 1: Turkey, Ham and Swiss

"The new Turkey, Ham, and Swiss sandwich will add the delicious flavor of turkey to the already popular Ham and Swiss product. Eaters across the globe will thrill at the addition of a new ingredient -- turkey -- to this already proven combination. Turkey, Ham, and Swiss will appeal to established fans of Ham and Swiss sandwiches, as well as anyone else looking for a good sandwich."

Thanks for your pitch. If we're not mistaken, all you've done is taken a Ham and Swiss sandwich and added turkey to it. "More of the same" works sometimes, but there isn't really a lot for consumers to get excited about here. I'd encourage you to think about what really differentiates your sandwich from the other lunch options in the marketplace today. We're not just competing with other sandwiches anymore; in these unprecedented times, people are just as likely to eat hot dogs or even pizza.

We appreciate the time you took to put this together -- come back to us once you have a better hook.

Round 2: The Mindblower

"Developed in secret for over 12 years by a small team of sandwich industry mavericks, The Mindblower will make consumers rethink everything they know about sandwiches! The Mindblower's unique combination of tahini, pickled okra, and Pop Rocks in a tomato basil wrap will punch past the jaded, cynical mind of the average sandwich consumer and hit them straight in the gut!"

That's a very interesting approach. We definitely responded to the boldness of your design, and we like that you're willing to take on some risk in pursuit of innovation here. We can see the appeal of getting customers to break out of the "been there, done that" sandwich routine and experience something new. However, there do seem to be certain unproven elements in the design, which are a cause for concern. Particularly, we zeroed in on how the reddish color of the tomato basil wrap might put off consumers who aren't used to eating light red or pinkish foods.

Additionally, because this concept is so off-the-wall, you may want to think about allowing people the opportunity to customize certain elements of the experience to their own preferences. Maybe somebody wants the Mindblower sandwich except on rye bread instead of in a wrap, for example. User customizability is, of course, a big part of our strategy right now.

Round 3: Metasandwich

"Metasandwich is much more than a sandwich -- it's actually a powerful and easy-to-use meal-creation platform. Our dynamic sandwich-assembly system, The Sandwich Counterâ„¢, allows customers to arrange and rearrange their own custom sandwiches on the fly -- in real time. Don't like avocado? Don't put avocado on there. Go crazy and add two slices of cheese, or an extra piece of lettuce. Then, share your personal sandwich creations with your friends using the internet! Metasandwich is lunch for the remix generation."

Okay, we get this. We like the user-generated content strategy here, and the idea that every customer can have the experience they want. It sounds like something that could really take off and sustain itself once the community gathers steam.

At the same time, our design director brought up a good point: We would need to support all the millions of possible combinations that this system would allow. What if someone didn't put any meat on their sandwich and then had a bad experience? I think we'd have to build in some controls -- have some of the elements of the sandwich customizable, and others not -- so that no matter what they do, users are always left with a good-tasting sandwich. We'll also want to put a disclaimer on there saying that modifications to the sandwiches are not necessarily endorsed by us and that we can't guarantee anything about how they taste. I've CCed our legal department here so they can offer some additional suggestions on how to move forward with this.

In the meantime, the community aspect of the pitch was intriguing. You mentioned sharing sandwich creations with friends -- that reminded us a lot of Twitter and Facebook! It'd be great if you could push more of those social aspects into the concept.

Round 4: SandwichTown

"SandwichTown is a connected entertainment experience designed around the wide-ranging fun of making and eating sandwiches. In SandwichTown, customers are challenged to assemble their own sandwich by rounding-up and coordinating groups of friends to perform various tasks, such as gathering wheat, kneading dough, and baking loaves of bread. Advanced sandwich options such as peanut butter or diagonal cuts are gated through a series of microtransaction tiers.

Our pioneering 'sandwich as a service' model allows us to upsell a premium experience at every step of the sandwich-creation process. The Pro Basic monthly subscription level gives lunch customers access to a condiment bar with unlimited mustard, exclusive sneak peeks at upcoming ingredients, and special blue plastic trays instead of ordinary brown ones. The Pro Premium level offers an even more enhanced level of service (exact features TBD). Try SandwichTown today -- all your friends are doing it!"

Yes, we like where you've gone with this. It feels like sandwich-as-sticky-app (and we don't mean because of the grape jelly, ha ha). How soon do you think you could get together a proof-of-concept dynamic sandwich engine up and running? Have you thought about integrating some sort of cloud strategy?

Just one note before we start production: While we do think of this as the way forward, a concern was raised about the core audience and the perception that we might be dumbing down the sandwich experience. Of course we want a big, diverse audience, but we don't want to alienate hardcore sandwich-eaters. Just make sure you've got a value proposition for those customers, too. Maybe in addition to all this, you could also offer something like, I don't know, maybe a simple Ham and Swiss?

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