Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Celebrity Face of Tourism Australia

Celebrities bring star power when they serve as the face of tourism for a destination, in traditional media and in social media.

For example, the actor who plays Thor in Marvel movies, Chris Hemsworth, is the high-profile celebrity face of Tourism Australia. Interviewed by the New York Times, he gave his top reason for tourists to visit Australia: "Besides the sights, the people are also a draw. They are so welcoming."

Aussies are pleased and proud to have this actor represent them in tourism marketing, through ads, interviews, and other tools. In fact, Hemsworth has generated widespread media interest in Australia tourism around the world.

Hemsworth has nearly 11 million Instagram followers and frequently posts with the tag @Australia to promote the country to tourists and fans. He and his wife both mention Australia on social media, leading to hundreds of millions of impressions and positive associations for the destination. Some percentage of the many people reached by the ads or social media mentions will be influenced and then book a trip or extend a trip, resulting in a boost for Australia's tourism businesses.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

US Auto Market Share Brawl

If Toyota is correct and the US auto market has peaked, meaning that total sales by all industry participants combined will barely budge in 2017, then market share is the name of the game. The only way for one company or brand to show growth is by taking share away from a different company or brand (including cannibalizing a brand in the parent's portfolio).

This situation will have a major influence on automaker's US marketing plans for the coming 18-24 months. So far, the signs point to a plateau.

For starters, consumers will likely benefit from increased financial incentives (rebates, for instance) as dealers and brands court switchers or try to hold onto usually brand-loyal customers. Dealers are also benefiting from manufacturers' financial incentives, which they may or may not pass along to consumers in the form of reduced effective pricing.

A table on the Wall Street Journal site shows that sales of light trucks are picking up speed vs sales of passenger cars. Gas prices are low, so even though SUVs and pickups don't deliver fuel efficiency equivalent to cars, buyers are returning to their truck-buying habits.

As a result, the market share brawl is not just a matter of, say, GM vs Toyota, but also cars vs SUVs and pickups, plus gas vs hybrids vs electric. How to stand out? For example, for differentiation and to appeal to targeted segments, Volvo is going all electric by 2019. What complicates this brawl is the aggressive entry of Tesla and its popularly-priced electric car (image at top). The market share brawl is underway!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Big Beer Brands, Craft Beers, and Consumer Behavior

Craft beers are trendy and popular, as well as locally-known--which is why beer giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev are swallowing up many smaller brands. Above, logo of A-B InBev's Blue Point Brewing Co, founded in 1998 and serving the Long Island, NY area.

Fortune magazine has a map and video showing the extent of the "drink local, buy global" trend, including the news that A-B InBev recently purchased its 10th craft brand (Wicked Weed Brewing, based in North Carolina).

A-B InBev seeks two ingredients in craft beer acquisitions: (1) variety, so the parent's product portfolio isn't too heavily weighted toward one type or another; and (2) owners who are interested in working with a deep-pocketed, marketing-savvy parent for growth.

Craft beers aren't the huge growth niche they were a few years ago, but they're still growing. As the extent of involvement by beer giants becomes more widely known, will craft beer lovers be put off or will they be able to judge each brand and brew on its own merits? Marketers will be watching for clues to consumer behavior, attitudes, and actions as competition becomes even more intense between beer brands.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Yogurt Marketing Battle Goes On

Chobani FB image
A decade ago, Chobani upended the US yogurt market with its innovative, tangy Greek yogurt products. Today, the yogurt market representing nearly $8 billion in annual purchases. However, Greek yogurt growth is plateauing.

All you have to do is check the yogurt display in any grocery store and you'll see how the industry's top competitors are reacting by segmenting the market and adding products/lines for target audiences with different tastes.

General Mills image
General Mills just announced a new line of French yogurts from Yoplait, branded Oui. The idea is to encourage yogurt lovers to try this artisanal yogurt (packaged in glass jars) and, once they acquire the taste, make them loyal customers.

Chobani is expanding into smooth yogurts these days, appealing to a broader audience beyond its loyal fans of Greek yogurt. Danone is expanding its Dannon yogurt production facilities even after selling Stonyfield yogurt to complete the acquisition of White Wave plant-based milks.

The marketing battle includes social media. Chobani has more than 100k Twitter followers and 1.4 million Facebook likes. Yoplait has more than 72k Twitter followers and 2 million Facebook likes. Dannon has more than 25k Twitter followers. Watch for more marketing activities as yogurt marketers try to build market share in this intensely competitive industry.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Back to School Begins in June

So soon? Staples has had backpacks and other school supplies prominently displayed in the front of its stores for several weeks--even before school was over!

Other retailers are already promoting back-to-school items, as shown here on Zappos and Dick's today. Visit any website catering to teens and parents (Old Navy, Walmart) and you'll see some school-related items featured.

Rushing the season? Partly...this is a definite trend for all retailers as they try to get a jump on the competition. It's also a function of changing consumer behavior, with parents being price-conscious and interested in bargains, even two months early.

Target has been mounting special college programs for years, and has begun opening smaller stores very close to college campuses, making it convenient for students and parents to browse and buy. "Growth on college campuses and in urban markets is a priority for Target," says a Target VP.

Go into any housewares/home goods store (Bed Bath & Beyond for instance) and dorm room products are the big focus, with helpful checklists and ideas for parents and students. IKEA has its dorm website ready, with body copy that begins: "Ready or not, fall's on its way, and with it, a new school year."

Amazon Prime Day in July may very well be a key turning point in buying for back to school. Not surprisingly, Walmart is battling Amazon on this front for a major piece of the pie. States also recognize the trend toward earlier purchasing and are moving their tax-free weeks earlier to accommodate consumer buying preferences.

Students may roll their eyes when they go into a store and see school-related products. But retailers want to get on the parents' radar and make an impression as the store or website to visit for back-to-school items. So while some people are thinking pool accessories and pickle ball, others are thinking pencils and packs. For savvy marketers, the plan is to present a solid value proposition, polish brand image, and encourage buyers to go ahead and buy--early.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fortune 500 Issue Reflects B2B Advertising Trends

The 2017 edition of the Fortune 500 is, as in other years, a rough indicator of B2B advertising trends.

Judging by the total number of printed pages and the multiple sponsored advertising sections, ad support is clearly strong. Prestige advertisers like Rolex are represented. Well-known brands like Stihl and General Motors have special ad sections. This issue gets high readership, and advertisers want to be there.

As digital advertising comes to the forefront of many marketers' priorities, seeing a 2017 issue with 340 printed pages (slightly fewer than in 2016) actually represents a strong advertising market.

So many magazines are appearing thinner and thinner, yet this Fortune issue is full of ads. True, the number of pages is down from 2016 and earlier years, yet having 340 pages filled with valuable editorial content and repeat advertisers makes a statement about the health of B2B magazine advertising.

2017: 340
2016: 346
2015: 392
2014: 390
2013: 352
2012: 312
2011: 316
2010: 308
2009: 276
2008: 356
2007: 386
2006: 384
2005: 410
2004: 478
2003: 410
2002: 402
2001: 474
2000: 630 - Peak of dot-com boom!
1999: 510
1998: 506

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ecosystem Brands Rule

The well-known BrandZ ranking of top global brands (by value) is out--and so-called ecosystem brands are leading the way, yet again.

In 2017, the top 10 brands, as ranked by BrandZ in terms of value, are:

10. McDonald's (US-based)
9.   IBM (US)
8.   Tencent, owner of WeChat (Chinese)
7.   Visa (US)
6.   AT&T (US)
5.   Facebook (US)
4.   Amazon (US) - ecosystem brand
3.   Microsoft (US) - ecosystem brand
2.   Apple (US) - ecosystem brand
1.   Google (US) - ecosystem brand

A senior BrandZ exec says: "Ecosystem brands cleverly meet our needs and make our lives easier by offering us all sorts of things that are connected so we gain this traction with them."

In other words, Microsoft and other ecosystem brands encourage repeat purchasing and brand loyalty with multiple offerings that supplement and coordinate with each other. Microsoft and Apple, for instance, offer operating systems . . . software . . . hardware . . . services . . . and so on. The more offerings a customer buys into over time, the higher the lifetime customer value. Ecosystem brands offer value and, in turn, customers value those brands highly.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Brand Purpose Boosts Unilever Brand Growth
Some Unilever brands have been emphasizing sustainability and social responsibility initiatives--driving much higher revenue growth for those brands.

Unilever says those purpose-driven brands (including Ben & Jerry's, Lifebuoy, and Dove) are increasing revenue more than 50% faster than its other brands...and helping Unilever continue growing in the global marketplace.

Given the highly competitive nature of the product categories involved (such as ice cream and personal care), Unilever's experience indicates that consumers definitely recognize and respond to differentiation on the basis of non-functional benefits. In other words, many consumers will choose brands because of corporate citizenship and purpose, not just features that deliver benefits.

Yet brand purpose must also go hand-in-hand with brand usefulness, meaning the brand provides value in the form of meeting a consumer need.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Shopper Marketing Today

Academic research has shown the importance of point-of-purchase marketing stimuli for influencing in-store buying decisions. (See this classic 1990 study, for instance).

Yet in recent years, the increased availability of information to supplement in-store buying decisions has altered the dynamics of shopper marketing. Consumers frequently research brands and products before entering the store...knowing exactly what they want and what they want to spend as they walk down each aisle.

So what does this mean for shopper marketing in 2017?
  • Retailers are personalizing offers via app, email, and snail mail. This strengthens ties with existing customers and allows the stores to present relevant offers to interested buyers, keeping brands top of mind.
  • Manufacturers are still paying for in-store displays, but doing more checking to see that the displays actually get set up in visible areas.  
  • Manufacturers are seeking ways to differentiate products in the store--such as printing the "time of manufacture" on juice so shoppers can determine how fresh each product really is, compared with competing products.
  • Retailers are catering to the showrooming trend by offering actual showrooms, with purchases optional (or not even accommodated). Target's showroom for at-home technology is an opportunity to educate. "These products don’t sell themselves, and we are trying to tell a bigger story. We’re asking Americans to become the technologists of tomorrow," explains a Target innovation exec.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Marketing Red Nose Day USA

Today is Red Nose Day in America, a day of fundraising to support children's charities and combat poverty.

NBC is broadcasting a telethon tonight in support of Red Nose Day, along with special programming featuring celebrities who are involved with the charity efforts. This high-profile media attention is a big part of the fundraising effort.

If you don't already have your Red Nose merchandise, hop on over to the local Walgreens and buy a nose or another item where the purchase supports the charities. Walgreens is the official retail partner and its stores are doing their part with signage, enthusiastic employees, etc.

Charity partners are also marketing Red Nose Day. Save the Children, for instance, has its website and social media sites promoting the event and urging donations.

And Red Nose Day USA is extremely active all over social media. Its Twitter account has 60,000 followers and is posting videos, images, and other content to engage and energize people. Go ahead, put on your red nose and get funny for money (to support serious causes).