Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cashier or No Cashier? That's Amazon's Question

After a year of testing, Amazon has finally officially opened its Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle. Highly touted: No cashiers--customers simply "grab and go" and their purchases are automatically billed to their online accounts as they leave the store.

This is supposed to save time (and saves Amazon a bit of payroll money). How much time? And do customers care about that extra minute or two? Or are they just happy not to stand in line as they do at traditional stores?

Employees are in the store, restocking shelves and answering questions. But how do customers feel about the setup? One told a reporter that "you feel like you're stealing when you go out the door" because there's no checkout.

Of course, the lanes set up to capture purchases electronically do suggest a checkout kind of feeling when customers walk out. You can see them just behind the customer in the photo above, as he enters the store in Seattle (photo from Amazon's website). These lanes resemble traditional security scanners in certain department stores.

Is this more comfortable or convenient for shoppers than walking up to a cashier when completing a purchase transaction? That's what Amazon will be finding out if it expands Amazon Go beyond its own hometown.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nestlé and Ferrero Shape Up US Product Portfolios

Nestlé USA, whose parent company is based in Switzerland, just announced the sale of its U.S. candy products to Ferrero. Included are the familiar brands shown above.

Not included are the iconic Toll House products and even more iconic KitKat chocolate products. Interestingly, Nestlé doesn't make or market the KitKat bars you buy in U.S. markets--those are made and marketed by Hershey.

This acquisition puts Ferrero into the number-three slot among US candy marketers, behind Mars and Hershey. Ferrero has actually been on a buying spree, picking up Ferrara Candy and Fannie May in 2017. Ferrero already owns well-known brands like Nutella and TicTac, marketed for decades and popular with loyal customers. 

Both Nestlé and Ferrero view their product portfolios from a global perspective. What sells well and where? Where and why are products not just popular but profitable? And what are the long-term prospects for growth? Nestlé is reshaping its portfolio as it sets profit goals and examines consumption and buying trends. Ferrero is looking ahead to production expansion and technological innovation being drivers of sustainable growth. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Marketing the Film-and-Food Experience

Alamo Drafthouse is one of a growing number of movie theaters marketing an eat-in menu along with the film.

Alamo is known for offering meals and snacks (and beverages, it is a drafthouse) keyed to the theme of the movies it shows. The idea is to make the movie-going experience about more than the film.

Alamo famously bans phones and texting during the movie to prevent distractions. And, unlike most movie chains, Alamo doesn't make the audience sit through previews and ads before the feature. The film and the food are the focus.

Now Alamo is trying something new, bringing back the old idea of a video store. It will even rent VCR equipment to people who want to watch VHS tapes rather than DVDs or Blu-Ray DVDs.

Movie Tavern is another food-and-film chain, marketed with the tag line "Movies never tasted so good." The company's svp of culinary and guest experience notes that Movie Tavern's menu has to be "bold in flavor and approachable in design, due to the fact our guests are eating in the dark."

When Movie Tavern changes its menu, it gives thought to the eating experience as well as the latest flavors and new food trends. From craft beer to shakes to mixed drinks, beverages add a special touch to the in-cinema experience.

Another marketer of food-and-films is iPic Entertainment, which actually makes more money from food and beverage sales than it does from ticket sales. The motto is "Your Ultimate Night Out" as iPic serves seasonal foods and beverages.

The biggest theater chains have taken notice and are testing food offerings to attract movie lovers to pay for the big-screen experience again and again. It's all about the customer experience.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Influential 2018 Marketing Trends

A Look Ahead: 2018
Here are some of the marketing trends expected to be among the most influential in the coming year:
  • Video is still one of the top ways to engage customers and prospects. Facebook and Instagram are vital here . . . and for longer-form video, YouTube and branded microsites rule. Think cross-platform as consumers switch among devices.
  • Influencer marketing will be even more important in 2018, with marketers working with multiple influencers to extend reach, reinforce messages, gain better targeting, create new associations.
  • Apps are in the spotlight--both branded apps and in-app advertising. Retailers in particular are using apps to help consumers make better buying decisions.
  • Content marketing for B2B (and B2C) will be more targeted, more integrated with other marketing activities, and held accountable for achieving results. Again, think cross-platform and multimedia, as consumers access content via multiple devices and media.
  • Mobile marketing (such as geofencing) will increase in importance, given the maturity of the smartphone market and the popularity of mobile devices.
  • More transparency than ever before will be demanded by consumers and by marketers. This means better information about supply chains, about audience characteristics, about products, about privacy policies, and about results.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Marketing the Experience of the Brand

It's not enough to market a good product or a brand. Today, more firms are marketing the experience of the brand. This is a positive way to make the brand tangible and memorable through a specific experience. It's also a way to generate word of mouth and social media mentions as visitors post selfies or comments about their experience of the brand.

Hershey, known for its Kisses and other chocolate treats, already operates the Hershey's Chocolate World theme park in Pennsylvania, offering the "sweetest feeling of pure happiness." It also has a new store, Hershey's Chocolate World, just opening in New York City's touristy Times Square. The company planned three distinct candy aromas for those who step inside. According to an executive, "we wanted it to be highly experiential so it becomes part of the family's narrative and storytelling when they talk about their adventure in New York."

At the retail level, brands are upping their game by adding to the atmospherics and offering unique experiences to encourage engagement and, well, sales. Brands that do this particularly well in retailing are LEGO and Disney, among others.

LEGO House recently opened in the company's HQ city of Billund, Denmark, attracting fans of the iconic plastic building block. Some exhibits in this sprawling building require paid admission, other areas are free. "All activities in the house are related to our LEGO philosophy that learning through play promotes innovation and creativity," states LEGO House's CEO. It's a unique way to enhance the experience of the brand beyond a typical retail environment.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Unboxing Craze Puts Packaging in the Spotlight

Unboxing is a big deal on social media. By one estimate, videos of kids and adults unwrapping all kinds of products attract as many as 10 billion views every month. That's a lot of eyeballs and a lot of marketing impressions for the products and brands coming out of boxes--brands as diverse as Disney, L'Oreal, and Apple, to name only three.

In fact, unboxing videos have been on a sharp upward trend since 2006, reflecting consumer appetite for an inside peek at something new. What's really inside the box when you buy that new product? What accessories are included? And what does that new product actually look like?

Even before unboxing begins, the spotlight is on product packaging. And that's why brands are paying even closer attention to this key marketing element. Sure, packaging is meant to protect the contents and keep the product intact during shipping. But in today's marketing environment, packaging highlights a brand's image and reflects personality as much as functionality.

Toys are being designed to specifically incorporate the element of surprising during unboxing. At left, one of the LOL Surprise Pets, marketed as having 7 unboxing layers to hint at which pet is inside.

Increasingly, toy unboxing is big business as manufacturers court social media stars (AKA opinion leaders) to unwrap their products. Kids like watching the hot "must have" toy of the season being unboxed...and marketers want their toy to be inside that coveted box, attracting millions of eyeballs.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

McDonald's Serves Up Value (Again)

Did you know McDonald's rings up $25 billion in annual sales? That's "billions and billions" of burgers, fries, soft drinks, Egg McMuffins, and other popular menu items sold every year.

In fact, its "all day breakfast" initiative has helped turn around the fast-food giant's sales momentum.

But value remains a key element in the consumer's perception of fast-casual food. And that's why McDonald's is planning to rev up its value menu--again. This time, only a few items are priced at $1, with other special deals at $2, $3, and $5. Not to mention the "Extra Value Meal Deals" that bundle a sandwich and a beverage and a side for customers morning, noon, and night.

The idea is to attract price-conscious fast-food fans and preserve some of the profit margin. And have more weapons in the price war with competing fast-food chains.

What's more, McDonald's is putting coffee front and center with hot and cold, tall and short offerings, targeting coffee-lovers of all ages and all value perceptions. A recent Snap "disappearing coffee" bitmoji is an example of engaging content created especially for a younger targeted segment, for instance.

With more than 75 million Facebook likes, 3.5 million Twitter followers, and 2.8 million Instagram followers, plus a presence on Tumblr and YouTube, McDonald's has a gigantic social media audience. The fast-food giant is leveraging this reach to encourage more visits, stimulate product trial, and reinforce brand loyalty.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Brands and Authenticity

A recent survey by Cohen & Wolfe asked a sample of U.S. consumers to name the country's most authentic brands. Authenticity is not just about the brand's heritage--it's also about the brand's commitment to innovation.

At right, the logo of the #1 brand on this list of most authentic.

Recognize it?

Hint: You'll see it on boxes shipped by this retailer.

Answer: Amazon.

After Amazon, the most authentic U.S. brands as ranked in this survey were:

2. PayPal (financial payment services)

3. Burt's Bees (skin care and more)

4. Crayola (crayons, markers, and more)

5. M&M's (chocolate candies)

An interesting mix of tangible goods and intangible services, don't you think? And an interesting mix of legacy brands (Crayola, M&M's) and tech-fueled brands (Amazon, PayPal).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Beyond Turkey: Retailers and Consumers Face Choices

It's November. And that means consumers and retailers have some interesting choices to make.

Walmart is one of a handful of stores that will be open all day on Thanksgiving Day. Other retailers, like Best Buy and Macy's, will open later on Thanksgiving to attract shoppers who want to start their gift buying after enjoying a holiday meal.

Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) is, of course, traditionally a big shopping day for many consumers who seek bargains. But outdoor retailer REI is promoting an alternative for the third consecutive year. As shown above, it uses the hashtag #OptOutside to encourage consumers (and employees) to enjoy nature rather than crowd into stores and plunk down money. This unusual campaign has differentiated REI from every other retailer and endeared it to brand fans and employees alike.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is now known as Small Business Saturday. Created by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is a day for encouraging consumers to choose to support small and local businesses. There are nearly 3.5 million Facebook likes for Small Business Saturday's page, featuring #ShopSmall as the hashtag.

Then comes CyberMonday, a day when online retailers promote deals to attract buyers galore. This has become a major tradition as online buying grows in popularity. Especially given the big push into ecommerce by Walmart and other store-based retailers, CyberMonday will continue to be an important day for dueling discounts (and the consumer wins).

Finally, Giving Tuesday is the youngest of these "holidays," a day that encourages charitable donations, volunteerism, and support of good causes. Founded in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a good reminder of the many ways consumers and groups can make a difference by giving of their time, talents, and money.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Black Friday Expands to Black November

Not so long ago, retailers would plan "door buster" deep discounts for the Friday after Thanksgiving, aiming to entice shoppers who wanted to get a jump on their holiday gift purchases.

These days, Black Friday isn't just a single day--or even a single week. Nope, it's several weeks long. Above, Amazon posts new discounts every day on its "countdown to Black Friday" page. Best Buy already has Black Friday specials.

So does Walmart, which is also planning to open many of its stores on Thanksgiving and feature deep-discount Black Friday deals at 6 pm on Thursday evening. For online shoppers, Walmart will kick off Black Friday all day on Turkey Day, as shown here on its website.

Walmart is trying something new this year: in-store parties to demonstrate products and create a special experience for shoppers who choose to buy in person. The plan is to throw some 20,000 parties nationwide, inviting shoppers to come on in and try new products, taste new foods, or watch new demonstrations--get in a festive mood and buy!