Friday, April 21, 2017

What's Next for Legacy Retailing?

Stores have been closing as the full impact of consumer behavior shifts is felt by legacy retailers from coast to coast. The head of Urban Outfitters notes: "The U.S. market is oversaturated with retail space and far too much of that space is occupied by stores selling apparel."

Of course, this "over-storing of America" theme is nothing new: legacy retailing has been grappling with so many stores and so many malls for decades--literally. By one account, the number of shopping malls increased twice as fast as population growth between 1970 and 2015.

Lots of malls means lots of stores--yet with the ascendancy of online and mobile shopping, how many stores do legacy retailers really need?

The over-stored phenomenon and shifts in buyer behavior are leading to "zombie malls" and retail bankruptcies. Wet Seal is only one of many retailers to close its doors in 2017 alone. Some retailers are trying to reorganize as smaller chains. Is that how legacy retailing will survive?

Meanwhile, Walmart is buying smaller online businesses like ModCloth in a bid to attract their shoppers and broaden beyond its legacy customer base. Is that how legacy retailing will survive?



Monday, April 17, 2017

How Not to Handle a PR Crisis

Right now, if you do an online search for "United Airlines crisis," more than 1 million results pop up.

That's an indication of how serious a PR crisis United Airlines is facing after forcibly removing a passenger from one of its jets to make room for crew.

The flight from Chicago was fully booked and even offering up to $1,000 in vouchers for future flights didn't bring anyone forward to volunteer. Airline employees said they would have to randomly select passengers to leave the plane.

Three passengers reluctantly agreed when they were asked to leave their seats to make way for United crew members. One refused. And so United's employees brought in the aviation police to forcibly remove the passenger. Things did not go well.

Others on the plane began to video the encounter and post to social media. Soon the entire planet could see how this passenger was being forcibly dragged through the aisle, his face bloody and his body limp. Millions of people viewed and reposted the videos. Many news media posted the videos and their comments. Social media memes popped up in the wake of the incident.

How did United react? Well, despite its stated commitment to customer service (see top), the airline simply didn't do a good job here.

Its CEO didn't know how or when to apologize and try to make things right. At first, he talked about "re-accommodating" the passengers--and that phrase was, of course, widely ridiculed. He then blamed the passenger for being belligerent, which not only contradicted the videos but also made the customer the bad guy in this situation. Wrong.

Finally, the CEO began issuing apologies and saying that all passengers on the plane would receive refunds. By then, United's stock had dropped and even competitors were taking some jabs at the company.

Now all of this is on top of the famous #UnitedBreaksGuitars video, when a musician couldn't get United to pay for a guitar it broke. He wrote a song, did a video, and posted it online. Yes, the hashtag and video went viral. United got the message.

Once again, United Airlines is in the midst of a PR crisis.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Marketing Paints Named with Emotional and Experiential Appeal in Mind

White isn't just white in the marketing world of paint. As Consumer Reports notes, it can be "Simply White" or "White Dove" (both Benjamin Moore). Taupe isn't just taupe--SherwinWilliams says that "Poised Taupe" is its color of 2017 (see above).

In the May issue of Consumer Reports, the color marketing manager for Behr explains how that brand's paint names work: "Names can typically be sorted into four descriptive categories: visual, geographical, emotional, and experiential."

In fact Behr's website presents "Color Trends and Inspiration," where you can see its 2017 trends organized according to three categories: Comfortable (muted), Composed, and Confident (more adventurous).

Behr's Instgram account has nearly 30k followers examining its many paint and decorating idea photos, covering all the rooms in the house and the outside too.

Benjamin Moore has 122k Instagram followers and uses the hashtag #PaintLikeNoOther to identify its creative and colorful idea images for consumers to consider and enjoy.

SherwinWilliams has nearly 76k Instagram followers and uses #SWColorLove to identify its images that inspire and encourage consumers to express themselves with color.

One last thought about color: It seems that consumers tend to prefer paints with fanciful names, such as "mocha" instead of "brown," as more pleasing to the eye. Then there's the sheer marketing appeal of paints with personality-plus names. Why market "white" when you can market "White Dove," for example?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Procter and Gamble Grows in Services

Brands that are successful for products can sometimes be stretched into the service sector. That's what happened when P&G bought Dallas's University Laundry, a service that picks up dirty laundry and delivers clean clothes on the campus of 23 universities.

One of University Laundry's marketing appeals is the potential for built-in repeat business. Students, the target market, get accustomed to the convenience of easy drop-ff and pickup, no waiting in line for washers and dryers, no folding. Also, University Laundry has a "local" feel, taking a local name for its services on each campus. Finally, arrangements are on demand via app, although a toll-free number is available for conversations (a nod to differing consumer behavior and expectation situations).

Now the firm is part of Tide Laundry Services. Tide, a P&G detergent brand you might have heard of? P&G tried Tide laundry services a while back, shelved the idea, and brought it back in a test last year. University Laundry fits into this service pattern of wash-dry-fold and app for convenience.

P&G also operates professional laundry services on site for organizations or institutions. One of its customers is the NFL. Yes, P&G has the scale to handle laundry for football teams, under the Tide brand.

The well-known, well-respected Tide brand is certainly a good fit with this service business. But what are the long-term growth and profit possibilities?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Brand Fanship in the Age of Consumer Skepticism

Brand loyalty is the name of the game for every marketer. And high on the credibility list is peer recommendations. Sure, brand communications carry some influence, especially by boosting brand awareness. But consumers are skeptical of advertising (no surprise).

So who do consumers trust? One study says consumers are seven times more likely to trust what other consumers post in photos about brands on social media sites, compared with what brands put in traditional communications. Seven times. Seeing really is believing, if a peer posts it. No wonder brands are trying to leverage social media content posted by consumers.

Auto manufacturers are intensely interested in loyalty and brand fanship. In Canada, some brands offer loyalty incentives to keep your family's business, car after car.

There are more subtle ways that brands can provide tools for consumers to use in showing brand fanship. Subaru, for example, offers the option of ordering a free Subaru Badge of Ownership to adhere to the back of the car, along with lifestyle icon extras to adhere alongside.

Above, my order to go on the latest Subaru I purchased, showcasing my brand loyalty and icons reflecting family interests. Plus a 100k mile badge for Subaru #5 in the family.

If you pass a parked Subaru and notice a number like this on the back, you know the owner is loyal and happy with the brand. If each badge sparks the interest of a few people, multiply by the number of owners and people influenced year after year. That's a good investment for Subaru, IMHO, enabling brand fans to show the world how they feel, in the age of consumer skepticism. Seeing is believing.

Monday, March 20, 2017

McDonald's Plays Catch-Up with Mobile

McDonald's wants to catch up to what Starbucks and Panera have been doing for many months--encouraging gadget-toting customers to use advance mobile ordering, adding convenience by speeding up transactions in the store.

Of course, Starbucks was so successful in influencing consumer behavior that its stores were bombarded with advance orders and the company had to reorganize work flow to prevent bottlenecks.

As of today, McDonald's US has more than 69 million Facebook likes, 3.4 million Twitter followers, 2.2 million Instagram followers. Its mobile app allows menu browsing, store locator functions, and more--but no order and pay functions, yet. Bear in mind that this company has a definite digital presence and has experience engaging brand fans.

However, according to one report, McDonald's has lost 500 million transactions to competitors since 2012. That's a lot of transactions. And competition is extremely fierce in the fast-food and casual-dining world, where technology is helping to shape and improve the customer experience.

Big chains have to out-innovate smaller, hungrier rivals (pun intended). Moreover, they have to out-innovate each other to retain market share. Panera has had mobile order for more than a year, and the results indicate it's having an effect on sales. So McDonald's is playing catch-up.

Finally, McDonald's is testing a national mobile system for advance ordering. The initial test involves 29 stores in California (and some UK stores). McDonald's expects to roll the system out month after month, with thousands of stores participating by the end of 2017. Will customers use the new process, and will this be a valuable competitive move for McDonald's?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Domino's Mobile-Led Marketing

Domino's, which built its rep on convenient, speedy delivery, wants to make it really easy to order pizza--applying what it knows about consumer behavior. Above, the "zero click" app that will order your favorite pizza (or whatever you like from the menu) with no clicks. Mobile-led marketing that works. Domino's revenues and profits are up.

Want to order one of its pizzas via emoji? You can do that by tweeting the emoji to Domino's. (The pizza giant is very social, with more than 1 million followers on Twitter, 17 million Facebook likes, and 1 million Instagram followers.) Soon, AI tech will enable online voice ordering a la virtual assistant (think "Alexa" for instance), no clicks needed.

For all the focus on mobile-led marketing, Domino's also has its eye on the in-person customer experience. It's been rolling out new store designs where customers can watch their pizzas being made (seeing it made fresh adds to the experience) and eat in rather than taking out.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Marketing, Art or Science?

art or science?

Trick question, because the answer is both, as you know.

But how much of marketing is art and how much is science? The Australian CMO of a software firm says today's marketing is 70% science, 30% art. Basically, if you're not using science (meaning sophisticated analyses, Big Data, etc.) to inform decisions, you're not optimizing your business...but without the creativity of art, marketing can't touch hearts and minds.

Other marketing execs agree that science is an integral part of targeting, in particular. In the quest for "right time, right place, right message," a YouTube marketing exec argues that the science angle is helping pinpoint the right time and right place, but the art angle is the key ingredient in the right message, critical for brand "magic."

The CMO of Progressive Insurance comments that "A lot of marketers are so proud of their art but they don't know their science." In fact Progressive relies on the art for quirky commercials starring Flo and a cast of characters that engage audiences. But the company also has in-house media buying so it can control exactly what gets placed where and when--the science. "We're not going to outspend anybody. We're going to out-create them," is how he says Progressive competes in an intense marketplace.

The head of strategy at an agency notes: "There are cases where all evidence points to a course of action or where intuition has to prevail and we need to be careful to take these chances even where we know measurement is thin." In other words, trust to creativity for breakthrough marketing.

In the end, effectiveness is what matters the most, measured by metrics that relate to strategic KPIs (key performance indicators). And science can help marketers do a better job of planning, testing, and measuring effectiveness of the art in brand communication. Art and science for today's marketing!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

B2B Content Marketing for Thought Leadership, Value Added, and Entertainment

B2B content marketing has always had the goal of establishing a brand or company as an authoritative thought leader and adding value with information.

Now the goal is to entertain as well as to provide information or education. Why?
  • One reason is clutter--so many brands are adopting content marketing for differentiation, it's harder to stand out. Brands need to have the right content for their audiences (and their strategies).
  • Another reason is media access--B2B customers want to be able to access content marketing via any digital device and through a website or social media. This diversity of points of access makes attracting and retaining an audience more challenging.
Not surprisingly, IBM is an expert in B2B content marketing. Its US home page has links to free downloadable subject guides, developer info, free tools, authoritative studies, and more.

The IBM YouTube Channel includes sub-channels for Watson and other categories of interest to a range of B2B buyers.

The IBM Twitter account (tweet above) posts videos and other content of interest--not just product/service related but general interest, as in the AI content promoted above.

And IBM's Facebook account similarly posts frequently with ever-changing content for B2B buyers, as well as serving as a recruiting tool.

Virtually every post has visual interest, whether a photo or video, to add to the appeal. It's not just a data dump, it's content marketing in a format that fits the B2B audiences' preferred method of accessing information. Importantly, the content marketing is ready 24/7 whenever a buyer anywhere wants to learn more about a subject of interest.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ranking Top Brands

Who's #1?

No two brand rankings are alike, which is why sometimes Apple is the world's top brand, sometimes Google, sometimes another brand. Year to year, the exact brand rankings can change, but usually the same group of well-known brands stays in the top tier.

Here are three brand rankings published during the past year:

  • According to Forbes, Apple is the world's most valuable brand, followed by Google, Microsoft, Coke, and Facebook.  (published 2016)
  • According to Interbrand, Apple is the world's best brand followed by Google, Coke, Microsoft, and Toyota. (published 2016)
  • According to Brand Finance, Google is the world's most valuable brand, followed by Apple, Amazon, AT&T, and Microsoft. (published 2017)
Even the very top brands like Google actively integrate their names and logos into entertainment viewed by millions. Google Earth played a pivotal role in the movie Lion, for example, showcasing its functionality and features. Apple is a perennial placement favorite in movies, too. Keeping a high profile adds to the image and the value of brand equity.