An ode to list writing – and why FMCG ad men should take note

If I ever get asked to speak at anything like an Interesting un-conference again and have to talk about another of my secret obsessions, I think I’d choose Lists.

I love lists and I love list making.  The mere act of writing everything down on a piece of paper makes me feel calmer and more in control.  I’m obviously not as bad as the girl in BBC3’s Freak Like Me who lives her whole life via lists, but I do come from a long line of enthusiastic list writers. 

My Dad loves a good list, except his are pretty much illegible and written in reporter’s notebooks, whereas my Mum must have been into recycling long before it was trendy as she used to write her lists on the back of old Christmas cards.  Lists of things to pack when we went to stay at Grandma’s house, recipes, shopping lists – all tended to have a cheery robin or Santa on the other side.

The shopping list is an interesting one.  As we are busy hurtling into the second half of a double-dip recession, it seems reasonable to assume that we are all going to stay savvy shoppers and be sensible with our money.  If households start budgeting by writing a shopping list (rather than impulse buying in store) and the point of decision-to-purchase shifts, we could see marketing activity having to be targeted at the point of writing the list, not the traditional ‘point of purchase’ when our customer is staring at the shelf.  You could argue that this is already the case for those who shop online.

I think, considering how central it can be to the purchase process, list writing is an under-explored subject.  It’s time we started considering list writing as part of the customer journey.

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