Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ford Steers Toward SUVs, Crossovers, and Trucks

Now that oil prices have been well below $100/barrel for an extended period, Ford Motor Co. says it's cutting back on its line of passenger cars because of much higher demand for larger vehicles--which deliver higher profits.

As the tweet above indicates, Ford is "transforming our North American lineup by 2020..." The transformation means that U.S. dealers will soon sell only two passenger-type vehicles: the Mustang and the Focus Active (a forthcoming crossover).

The rest of the vehicles in Ford showrooms will be SUVs, trucks, and crossovers. So is Ford speeding away from passenger cars? Not really. The head of global markets says: "We will have a very diverse passenger car business. It just won’t be traditional silhouetted sedans that tend to be commoditized."

In other words, Ford is busy reinventing vehicles with a remix of benefits and design for the next generation of car buyers, resulting in distinctive products that are differentiated from competitive vehicles. The company is also slashing costs to improve profitability. Because the smaller cars don't deliver as much profitability as the larger vehicles, they're being dropped from the product mix.

By 2022, Ford's dealerships in North America will stock none of these models: Fiesta, Focus, and Taurus. The phaseouts will follow the company's product lifecycle schedule. Remember that Ford's marketing in the rest of the world will continue to feature passenger cars that are fuel efficient and fit the driving preferences of local buyers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Heinz Gets Social Media Talking

Heinz recently asked on Twitter for a "vote" on whether the company should launch an official version of mayonnaise-ketchup, or "Mayochup." Of course, consumers have been mixing mayo and ketchup at home to create their own condiment for years. In Utah, it's simply "Fry Sauce."

But now Heinz wanted to know whether demand was high enough for a branded product. And, probably not coincidentally, the social-media "vote" was also a way to get attention for Heinz's branded mayo, which is competing with long-established Hellman's mayo (owned by Unilever).

If Heinz received half a million "yes" votes, it said it would introduce the new product. In the end, Heinz received 511,000+ "yes" votes and announced it would launch the new product later in 2018. Lots of comments, too, and coverage by news outlets.

Next social media question: What should the new product be named, if not Mayochup? No matter the result, Heinz understands that involving the public via crowdsourcing and voting attracts media attention, too.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marketing Earth Day

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, and within months, the US Environmental Protection Agency had been created to protect our precious environment.

Earth Day 2018 will be on Sunday, April 22. This year, the focus will be on plastics--specifically, removing plastics from our waterways and preventing plastics from harming the natural environment.

Of course, Earth Day has its own Twitter account (with 48k followers), its own FB account (with nearly 400k likes), a YouTube channel, Instagram account, and a blog housed on its website.

Businesses, educational groups, and other organizations are going green every day and using Earth Day to put the focus on education and action for ecological health. A few examples: Dow has teamed up with Erb Institute (U of Michigan) for a new sustainability education project. Apple announced, in time for Earth Day, that all its facilities run on 100% green energy. Indiana State University has a bike-share program as part of its Earth Day events, which also include bringing vendors on campus to provide info to students and faculty. Major League Soccer is working toward greener goals on Earth Day. The United Nations has declared the day International Mother Earth Day.

Watch for more environmental activities that encourage consumer and business involvement, along with nonprofits providing education and guidance, leading up to Earth Day and beyond.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Are Competitors Really Stakeholders? Yes!

By far the most popular posts on my marketing blog are those about competitors as stakeholders. Definition of stakeholders: "People or organizations that are affected by or that can affect an organization's performance."

So for the record, let's say it again: Competitors are definitely stakeholders. One academic paper gave six good reasons why this is so--starting with the fact that competitors' interests are not in direct opposition to the interests of a particular marketing organization. In many instances, a rival's goals and situation will be so close to yours that you absolutely must take its actions into consideration. Not to copy that rival but to anticipate and defend against competitive challenges--that's the real reason to look at competitors as stakeholders.

When a competitor introduces a new product that directly competes with your existing product, it's going to have some influence on what happens to your product. When a competitor changes a price (either up or down), that will likely change industry demand and therefore have an impact on your organization. When a competitor trumpets its sustainability initiatives, it could very well have some impact on how customers and other stakeholders compare what you're doing to what that rival is doing. More than ever, consumers care about the ethics and social responsibility of the brands they see. They also have changing preferences that competitors may detect or influence, adding to pressure on you and your industry.

A great example is Amazon vs. Walmart. Each watches the other closely, you can be sure. Walmart is playing catchup in e-commerce but doing a very credible job, even as Amazon encroaches on traditional retailing. Don't forget that this rivalry is having an impact on the rest of the retail industry, as well. The giants make moves, and even other giants must be ready to defend or deflect or initiate something new and different to influence consumer behavior.

As you scan the marketing environment, be sure that rivals are on your stakeholder list. NOT because you want to coordinate price changes--collusion is illegal in most countries--but because your strategy is necessarily influenced by the strategy and tactics of competitors. Be ready.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Changing Face of Brand Typefaces

Southwest Airlines changed its brand's typeface a few years ago. The intent was to give the brand a more friendly, caring look. Instead of all caps, the new brand is written in upper and lower case (better readability, more accessible). And the addition of a heart (shown here in the Twitter account profile) puts "caring" into the spotlight in a very visible way.

I used the Wayback Machine to look at the Southwest brand in 2013. Above, the logo from the airline's website in that year. Notice the all-caps name. Color scheme is same as today, but no heart.

Compare with the Southwest brand in 1999, again from the Wayback Machine's captures of the company's website. All-caps name, no blue, no heart.

With airline industry consolidation a long-term trend, Southwest is no longer the scrappy startup it once was, but a strong, established carrier with a proud history and loyal customer base. The company's forecasts are closely watched for clues to industry trends. And like all airlines, Southwest watches out for price wars that can affect consumer behavior, market share, and profitability.

Therefore, when Southwest changed its brand typeface, the airline wanted to convey a certain attitude toward its customers, giving it a way to stand out in the crowded skies. It even created a separate website, "Southwest Heart," to explain the heart element in its logo.

"Now we have a unique font that really embodies our personality as a brand," explains Southwest's director of brand communications, adding that this helps differentiate the airline from competitors.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Marketing Insects as Food?

Here's an interesting marketing trend in the world of food: Eat bugs.

In Canada, Loblaw's is marketing Cricket Powder, made from ground-up crickets. It's not just full of protein, it's an environmentally-friendly approach to eating. "By making products like Cricket Powder widely available in our grocery stores, we are giving Canadians the option to not only try something new, but to also make a conscious decision on what they eat and how it impacts the environment," says a Loblaw vice-president.

In fact, cricket flour is being incorporated into a range of products. Chapul specializes in cricket-protein chocolate bars, among other edibles. Cowboy Cricket Farms produces 20 million crickets yearly and makes cookies from cricket flour. Chirps chips are made from, yes, cricket flour.

Today, insect-based protein foods are niche products. Do they have the potential to become mainstream products in the not-so-distant future?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Newly Updated: Links to Resources for Your Marketing Plan

Writing or revising a marketing plan? Click here to see more than 60 links to news, ideas, and sources of data for developing or refining a marketing plan.

The links include these categories:

  • Info about the marketing environment, customers, and markets
  • Info about businesses and competition
  • Info about social responsibility, ethics, and sustainability
  • Info about marketing tools, processes, and analytics
  • Trends in retailing and marketing channels
  • Trends in mobile marketing and online retailing
One link I check often is Knowledge @ Wharton, where experts analyze timely trends in business and nonprofit marketing. Take a look and see what you can take away that will help you with your marketing plans.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Marketing Makeup for Men

Makeup for men is gaining increased marketing attention worldwide. "Makup for men is a thing now" read the headline on MarketWatch last August, and it's even more of a thing in 2018.

For instance, David Beckham has a new men's grooming brand, House 99, marketed by L'Oreal. Just launched--and already its Facebook page has more than 11k followers.

MMUK Man opened the first retail store specifically for men's skin-care products only a few months ago. The five-year-old brand is growing rapidly and showing bigger brands that this is a niche worth watching.

Another startup, Ava-J, is also leveraging men's interest in skin care by marketing grooming products and looking for boutique distribution, not supermarket distribution.

Cosmetics for men are a major trend in China these days, where global brands like L'Oreal, Nivea, and Clinique are especially prized.

Watch for more major brands to launch product lines targeting men and create distribution deals to ensure that men know where they can find these new products in retail channels.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Most Reputable Brands in 2018

Which brands came out on top in the recent Harris Poll consumer survey about reputation? Harris asks about six dimensions affecting reputation, including products, social responsibility, emotional appeal, workplace environment, financial results, and vision/leadership.

Hint: The same company has topped the list for three consecutive years. In other words, this company's reputation has remained the highest among surveyed consumers.

Here's the list of top 10 most reputable brands in 2018:

10. Aldi (deep-discount grocery retailer)
9. Patagonia (retailer of outdoor apparel and equipment)
8. Publix Super Markets (major grocery retailer)
7. UPS (package delivery service)
6. HEB Grocery (Texas-based grocery retailer)
5. Walt Disney (entertainment company)
4. Chick-fil-A (fast-food restaurant chain)
3. Tesla (automotive and solar energy firm)
2. Wegmans (grocery retailer)

and the top firm in this year's poll is . . . . . .

1. Amazon (pioneering online retailer)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Marketing Coca-Cola

Passing through Atlanta, Coca-Cola's home town, I noticed this vending machine chock full of the company's sodas, waters, and juices. The Cherry Coke caught my eye. This traditional favorite was introduced 33 years ago, and now comes in regular plus zero sugar versions.

What also caught my eye is the recent news that Coca-Cola is launching an "alcopop" beverage in Japan. The new beverage is a low-alcohol drink designed specifically for that market. In fact, Coke experiments with up to 100 new products in Japan every year, gearing its marketing to consumers who enjoy variety and eagerly snap up limited-edition and limited-time (seasonal) products.

Tempting variety-seekers is a wise strategy for mature markets. The company's recent financial results show that fizzy-drink sales are flat, but water, tea, and coffee beverages are scoring well with consumers.

To reignite interest in sodas, Coke is introducing different flavors like peach and raspberry Coke in America. Extensive marketing research showed the appeal of these "vintage" varieties so reminiscent of local flavors mixed up by soda jerks behind the soda fountains of a bygone era. The company is also adding varieties like Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Peach in UK and beyond.

Watch for more new products as Coke continues to be guided by its 2020 mission of refreshing the world, inspiring happiness and optimism, and creating value.