Saturday, April 25, 2015

Free Samples Build Fans for Comic Books

On Free Comic Book Day, held the first Saturday in May, special issues are given away as an incentive to bring fans and would-be fans into local comics stores. Sponsors include comics publishers. 

It's classic case of sampling, a sales promotion designed to increase short-term interest and start customers on the path toward long-term loyalty. Customers get comic books for free--but then, to keep following the stories and the characters, they have to buy the next issues. And that's how future fans are born.

Comic Book Day is very social, with 600,000+ Facebook fans, 41,000 Twitter followers, and a YouTube presence. The official site has a convenient store locator. In some areas, if you can't make it to a store, you can participate online (as shown in this UK online promotion).

In addition, Comic Book Day is using traditional media to help local shops attract customers. Check local newspapers and you're likely to see an article about the new comics or an ad by a local shop promoting this giveaway. Who wouldn't want to be among the first to see a new Doctor Who comic with three doctors?!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marketing Museums: Selfie Rules (Selfies Rule?)

Museums enjoy positive social media exposure, and selfies certainly fit the bill. According to a recent New York Times article, the Whitney Museum in NY actively encouraged selfies during its retrospective of Jeff Koons art in 2014.

January 21 of this year was, in fact, the second annual museum selfie day.

Some museums ban photographs entirely, not specifically selfies. And when selfies are allowed, the selfie stick might not be. Selfie sticks require space around the selfie-taker--and can lead to unintended consequences such as hurting someone standing nearby or damaging museum artwork or property.

Some museums (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and the Smithsonian) have actually banned selfie sticks. The Smithsonian encourages selfies, just not with sticks.

Others are posting specific rules. At right, the selfie rules posted by the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, for its recent Peter Halley exhibit.

No selfie sticks allowed but please, go ahead and take a selfie with any of the artworks accompanied by a hashtag on the floor (shown above with my caption).

And for extra convenience, the rules include the museum's social media site addresses and even suggested #hashtags. The museum's Facebook page includes selfie posts, naturally.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Red Nose Day: A Good Laugh for a Good Cause

Red Nose Day (from Comic Relief) has been raising money in the U.K. for nearly 30 years. Now this "get funny for money" fundraiser, beloved by U.K. consumers and a major source of charitable donations for fighting poverty and social injustice, is coming to the U.S. for the first time.

It will be nationally broadcast on May 21st as a telethon by NBC, featuring videos from Funny or Die and appearances by a bevy of celebrities. Proceeds will benefit these charities, among others: Boys & Girls Clubs, Feeding America, the Global Fund, Save the Children, and United Way.

Red Nose Day is a perfect fit with social media marketing. The U.S. version is just getting going, with fewer than 3,000 Facebook likes as of today, compared with nearly 700,000 for the UK Red Nose Day Facebook page. The Red Nose Day US Twitter site has nearly 1,000 followers as of today.

Walgreens is the exclusive U.S. retailer of red noses for Red Nose Day, on sale for only $1 each. When I bought my red noses today, I noticed that all Walgreens sales personnel were wearing the official Red Nose t-shirt and asking every customer to donate or participate.

Watch Facebook and Twitter for #RedNose hashtags in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Positioning Shinola vs Apple

Positioning means using marketing to create a unique image or position for the product or brand in the minds of the target market. Positioning is a kind of short-hand that helps prospective buyers understand what the product or brand is all about and what makes it different from others in the same category. Differentiation is the name of the game in brand marketing, distinguishing a product from others in a way that is meaningful to buyers.

Sometimes a marketer positions a product as being similar to another product--and sometimes as being dissimilar to another product.

On the very day Apple announced that it would start accepting preorders for its much-anticipated Apple Watch, Detroit-based manufacturer Shinola positioned its analog watch against the Apple smart watch. The ad, shown at right, cleverly tells the entire positioning story in a single headline that also conveys Shinola's brand attitude:
A watch so smart that it can tell you the time just by looking at it.
Shinola placed its advertising in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and online on the company website. As long as the spotlight was on wristwatches, why not shine some of that light on the traditional analog watch that also happens to be hand-made in America? So Shinola's ad tells buyers a lot about the brand and the product by reminding them that this is not a new-fangled, feature-rich, bells-and-whistles kind of watch for the 21st century. No sirree.

For a glossary of marketing terminology, click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Searching for Unarticulated Niches

Read deep into Bloomberg BusinessWeek's article about Hershey's Will Papa, research chief, and you'll notice this sentence: "In his 30 years at P&G, Papa learned to search for what R&D types call unarticulated niches -- stuff people don’t know they want."

Unarticulated niches: Customer segments with unstated needs that the marketer aims to satisfy with a new product, either new-to-the-world or featuring some innovative twist that differentiates it from an existing product.

North American gum sales are stagnant or falling, in part because gum is no longer a trendy product among teens and because of growing preference for mints. Gum chewers are also fussy about sugar and artificial ingredients--and a bit confused by the proliferation of products screaming for attention at the checkout counter.

No wonder companies like Hershey want to convert chewers to their hybrid products. Above, the result of Papa's research: Hershey's Ice Breakers Cool Blasts, a combination of gum and mint. The idea is to deliver the breath-freshening taste of mint with the satisfying experience of chewing, an unarticulated niche. But does meeting the needs of an unarticulated niche lead to profits?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Yoox + Net-a-Porter = Upscale Fashion E-tail Power

Italy-based luxury e-tailer Yoox just arranged to buy the London-based fashion e-tailer Net-a-Porter. The deal moves Net-a-Porter from Richemont (which owns Cartier and other lux brands) to a new owner that debuted online during the same month and year as Natalie Massenet's brainchild--June, 2000.

Yoox has succeeded where the late Boo.com did not...with a form of off-price retailing that allowed upscale fashion brands to get their out-of-season styles into the hands of tech-savvy consumers with clicks, not bricks. Yoox's founder, Federico Marchetti, knows finance and had a vision of e-tailing that, just before the dot-com bust of 2000, was ready to gain a foothold.

Now Yoox is adding its logistical power and Big Data capabilities to the cachet and service responsiveness of Net-a-Porter, aiming for more momentum in the increasingly competitive online fashion retail space. Yoox's founder says:
E-commerce is a very analytical and process-driven business, while luxury is very visual — it’s all about creativity, the content and image.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Who Needs the Amazon Dash Button?

As shown above, the Amazon Dash Button is for people who want one-touch convenience in online or mobile reordering of all kinds of household products, including Bounty paper towels (note the branded button). Many items are produced by Procter & Gamble (including Bounty) but many are from other producers, as well, as featured on Amazon.com's retail site.

MediaPost asks: "Is the Amazon Dash Button Clever or Ugly?" Don't forget, it was introduced on the eve of April Fool's Day, a rollout that Adweek says was "genius." Amazon Dash received a lot more buzz as media outlets speculated about whether it was a hoax, how practical it was or was it little more than a gimmick.

Amazon's spokesperson explains the reasoning behind the button design: "You should think of it as a physical representation of the one-click button from the website." In other words, Amazon is making buying faster and easier than ever--although shoppers do have the ability to cancel the order if they choose (if, for instance, they reordered more times than they realized).

Actually, Amazon sees the button as part of an evolution toward the Internet of things, in which your appliances can sense low inventory of accessories (like laundry detergent) and reorder in time to never run out. Amazon is already working with several appliance makers to integrate the Dash Replenishment Service technology for auto-reordering.

Who needs the Amazon Dash Button? Well, who needed Amazon Prime, with its annual subscription price for speedier shipping and video viewing perks--now a success for Amazon? Retail pioneer Amazon is known for its insights into customer behavior, and Dash is yet another example.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Going Viral on April Fool's Day

Once again, lots of businesses are making customers smile and getting brands to go viral through April Fool's Day stunts. For example:
  • Think Geek is offering a gaming cabinet for your inner steam-punk. Or maybe you want to play Game of Thrones Clue? Either way, every April 1st brings fun on this geeky e-commerce site with a wicked sense of humor.
  • Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, a long-time April Fool prankster, announced that his Virgin Group's US headquarters will move to Branson, MO. Read all about it and get a laugh here.
  • Google is in on the joke with a variety of offerings, including elgooG
  • The UK Guardian is in on the joke too.
  • Amazon introduced its new Dash button for reordering household staple items just in time for April Fool's -- but turns out it's real, a clever twist on 4/1 marketing.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Future of US Book Sales

Book sales are far from dead. Recent statistics from the Association of American Publishers show that overall book sales rose nearly 5% in 2014. Of course, e-book sales edged out print books. And--no surprise--sales of children's and young adult books were strong, while sales of adult books were not.

As shown above, e-book sales vary by genre and by time of the year. Print books sell best in the 4th quarter for holiday gift-giving. E-books sell better in the first half of the year, apparently because consumers who receive digital devices as holiday gifts (tablets, e-book readers, etc) stock up on books. Nielsen has a detailed analysis of print vs e-books in its slide show here. Amazon lists the best-selling e-books of 2014 here.

So while book sales are far from dead, what's in transition is how people are reading. And how consumers are buying books. Barnes & Noble says earnings for its book division are flat, which actually is good news--considering how many book retailers have gone under in recent years. There is a future for US book sales, the question is what the marketing channels will look like and how the media will be consumed. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Under Armour in March Madness Spotlight

March Madness is underway, and it's not just a battle on the basketball court--it's also a battle for brand preference and, ultimately, market share.

Under Armour has a full-court press on marketing, looking to gain on Nike's commanding market lead. In fact, Adweek says Nike shoes are on 43 of the 68 teams originally in the tournament. By comparison, BusinessWeek says Under Armour shoes are on 6 teams, a new high for the brand.

Although Under Armour has only been active in the athletic shoe market for a decade, it has aggressively courted teams to put its shoes in the spotlight during championships. Some top seeds will have UA on their shoes. And that translates to a lot of media exposure for the brand, because public interest in the brackets is higher than ever. How will UA's teams do? And how will UA do as a brand?