Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From Zipping and Zapping to Clicking

Thirty years ago, advertisers were bemoaning the increase in zipping and zapping as consumers time-shifted their viewing habits and skipped the commercials. That was in the old VCR era. It continued into the DVR era, with media firms trying to find ways to put commercials in front of viewers, like it or not.

In more recent years, commercials have become a popular part of major TV events like the Super Bowl. Time recently published a list of the most influential Super Bowl ads "of all time." (That list was published before the Patriots won against the Falcons in February.)

For comparison, take a look at Entertainment Weekly's 50 best commercials list published 20 years ago, in 1997.

Now streaming has changed advertising, viewing patterns, and consumer behavior, again. And in an era when there are more choices (broadcast and cable channels, streaming services, YouTube, etc.) than ever before, many commercials are so entertaining that consumers voluntarily click to watch them.

Here's a link to YouTube's advertising leaderboard for January, 2017. Among the top commercials viewed on YouTube were several scheduled to air during the Super Bowl. No zipping, no zapping, but a lot of clicking to preview these ads before they air on TV.

* abbreviations: DVR = digital video recorder, VCR = videocassette recorder. To see what these gadgets used to look like, click on the links to check out their entries on Wikipedia.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Renting Clothing Is Still in Fashion

Back in 2009, Rent the Runway was in the vanguard of the clothing rental business model, offering designer-branded, special-occasion fashions at a fraction of the purchase price, to be worn for a few days and returned. Since then, it has expanded to stores and stores-within-stores at Neiman-Marcus. And gained competitors. And it offers a wider range of products like fashion accessories.

The rental/subscription model is increasingly popular as consumers avoid buying and instead, enjoy wearing in-style clothing for a limited time (a few days or a month). Of course, startups are looking for niches and differentiation so they can fine-tune an effective positioning.

For instance, Le Tote offers clothing by monthly subscription, selected by personal stylists for your consideration. Just check the "tote" to see what's being recommended, then rent, wear, return, and repeat. No shopping, no laundry, hundreds of styles/brands to choose from, and no unworn styles sitting in the back of your closet with the tags still on.

Interestingly, fashion brands that do business with these and other rental startups gain access to feedback that helps them better satisfy their customers, rental or purchase. Le Tote notes what happens to garments that are rented and returned, re-rented and returned. What parts wear out, for instance. And tells the manufacturers so they can do better. Win-win-win (for manufacturer, rental service, and--of course--the next customers.

Other product categories are represented in the rental-subscription business model, too. More on that soon,

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Print Ads on Super Bowl Sunday

Advertising is more than TV commercials and social media. Advertisers even use legacy media like print -- newspapers and magazines -- to reach audiences. Today, for example, is a day when football fans read the sports section in a local or national newspaper for more detail about the teams playing in the Super Bowl.

The entire back page of today's New York Times sports section has the lighthearted ad from Bud Light, shown at top. It sings the praises of "the official holiday of Friendship"--meaning the Super Bowl, but not named as such. A clever ode to sports being an opportunity for friendship and fun, positive brand associations that Bud (an official Super Bowl sponsor) wants to encourage.

The Bud Light website requires visitors to submit their birthdate to enter, as shown here. If you want to see the new Bud Light commercial and other A-B commercials being aired tonight, they're already online.

Inside the same New York Times sports section is a full-age ad from Gatorade, titled "An Open Letter to Athletes..." and singing the praises of serious athletes "pursuing your dreams, setting your goals and giving it all you've got...We are too."

Fans are speculating about which color Gatorade will be poured over the winning coach's head tonight in Houston. Or for interactive brand engagement, just go all Snapchat and dunk your selfie in the Gatorade color of your choice. Gatorade says last year's Snapchat dunk opportunity resulted in 165 million impressions.

Sure, Super Bowl commercials reach a huge audience, but print and other promotions also reach targeted audiences with specific messages that support brand image and personality.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Super Bowl Advertising Preview for 2017

National advertisers are already releasing their Super Bowl ads for 2017, hoping for viral sharing that will boost the brands and, with luck, encourage buying too.
  • Like funny ads? Watch Melissa McCarthy in her Kia ad, teaser already up on YouTube and elsewhere.
  • Like the Patriots? Tom Brady stars in an Intel ad (the ad was up even before Brady knew for sure he was back in the Super Bowl).
  • Like music? Pepsi sponsors the halftime show, and its ad featuring Lady Gaga is, well, musical. 
  • Like quirky feel-good ads? Skittles has one for you this year.
  • Like something new? Mars (which is behind the Skittles ad) will shoot a Snickers commercial live, during the Super Bowl, which has (surprisingly) never been done. Well, it's a bit risky, maybe that's why this is a first. To attract attention, Mars will do a 36-hour livestream branded entertainment show (view at Snickerslive.com) leading up to the game. 
And Yellow Tail wine has stitched together a series of coast-to-coast local ad buys to showcase its Australian wines. Locked out of national because of category-specific Anheuser-Busch InBev's exclusive Super Bowl commitment with Fox, which is televising the big game, Yellow Tail went the local route and will be seen during the game, just like any other big advertiser (except aired locally). The reach and the exposure, just not the "official" advertiser.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mozilla the Pro-Privacy Brand

Mozilla's pop-up "Internet Health" store in NYC
Mozilla--known for its Firefox browser and other digital products--identifies as a pro-privacy brand. To reinforce that association with its brand, Mozilla and the Tactical Technology Collective recently partnered on a pop-up store in Little Italy in Manhattan. 

The Glass House, as it was called, welcomed 10,000 visitors in 17 days and offered thought-provoking, artsy exhibits, not to mention specific instructions for protecting privacy and security online. Mozilla's CMO explained:
The Glass Room is part of a global movement raising awareness for internet health.
Mozilla has been raising awareness of digital privacy and security concerns for years. Its website hosts a portal of information about how individuals can protect themselves online. You can click here to read more.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Amazon vs Legacy Retailers

Legacy retailing continues to look for ways to compete as Amazon innovates in online retailing. Walmart, the world's largest legacy retailer, is cutting corporate jobs to get leaner. It's also reorganizing its e-commerce leadership while it integrates its acquisition of grocery retailer Jet.com.

Above, two news releases from Jet.com's "press" section, showing the acquisition just weeks after Jet celebrated its first anniversary last year. In fact, Jet.com has itself acquired an e-commerce firm known for online shoe retailing in competition with Zappos.com (which is owned by Amazon, of course).

Meanwhile, Amazon is expanding--on a large scale. It recently announced plans to hire 100,000+ employees during the next 18 months. The book industry is coming full circle with Amazon's plans to open additional Amazon bookstores. Which means that the innovator that disrupted book retailing is now joining brick-and-mortar retailing, a very different industry all these years later now that consumer behavior has evolved.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More Legacy Retail Woes

Legacy retailing (aka brick-and-mortar stores) continues to have difficulty meeting the challenges of online shopping.

The Limited--one of the original mall-based women's specialty chains--has just closed its 250 stores from coast to coast and will sell online only. Founded more than 50 years ago, the Limited at one time had hundreds of mall stores and was hugely popular, but that was before the Internet. The retailer's private equity owner said in a statement: "In an increasingly challenging environment for mall-based retail and women's apparel, we are very disappointed that the company has had to make the difficult decision to close its retail locations."

Sears also made an announcement this week: It's selling the well-known Craftsman brand to competitor Stanley Black & Decker. Sears was one of the pioneers of catalog shopping in the 19th century, and Craftsman is one of the three brand jewels in its crown (along with Kenmore and Diehard). Selling a crown jewel to raise money will likely only postpone the inevitable. Sears has been trying for years to strategize its way out of an expensive legacy retailing situation. Sears is closing yet more stores, having already agreed to rent parts of open stores to other retailers (like Primark). 

Macy's announced that it's laying off 10,000 workers and closing 100 stores after a worse-than-anticipated holiday season. The company stated that the stores being closed were "unproductive or are no longer robust shopping destinations because of changes in the local retail shopping landscape."

What is the future of legacy retailing in a world where consumer behavior is evolving along with technology? More posts on that topic soon.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Best Ad Campaigns of 2016

Happy 2017!

Now that 2016 is in the rear view mirror, marketing publications and experts are looking back at the ad campaigns they call the best of the year. Of course, we're now 11 months beyond Super Bowl 50 (and a month before the next Super Bowl).

To give this a global twist, I'm including a few non-US "best campaign" lists here.
  • Canada's best campaigns for nonprofits and causes, as noted by Strategy
  • BrandWatch's 10 best campaigns, including the one above, for Morton Salt.
  • Wall Street Journal's best and worst ads.
  • Adweek's 20 trends that drove the best in marketing 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Marketing Exploding Kittens and Bears vs Babies

Quick, do you know what product category these belong to?
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If you shouted out games, you win!

At left, Exploding Kittens, a card game that takes about 10 minutes to play. And that's due to the consumer behavior of the target market, players who don't want to spend hours on something like the traditional Monopoly board game or even days playing the even more complex Axis & Allies games. 

Notice the wry humor in the game description: "A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats." Hint, hint, about the target market.

Exploding Kittens wasn't the original name...it was tentatively titled "Bomb Squad" but then the developers were told to make it funny. And they did!

A Kickstarter campaign got the game off the ground with money and, just as important, word of mouth. To date, several million of these games have been sold. The goal is entertainment and interaction between players, not solitaire. Family and friends tell family and friends, and the next thing you know, the game has spread to more neighborhoods. (Sounds like the way Angry Birds got its start, right?)

As another clue to the target market: there's an Apple app version and an Android app version of Exploding Kittens. But the card version is reportedly outselling the app versions. It's a social thing.

Now, from the people behind Exploding Kittens, there's Bears vs. Babies, with more wry humor and the same target market. Target date for introduction is June, 2017, but of course the online fundraising and marketing have been in place for weeks now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stores That Thrive on Surprise

Not everyone is clicking or swiping to buy this year. Some shoppers are actually walking into bricks-and-mortar stores to see what's new and buy before someone else snaps up that unexpected treasure.

T.J. Maxx has a winning off-price formula: Put new merchandise out every day or two, offer name brands at low prices, and staff the cash registers to speed shoppers on their way. The stores have focused inventories that change all the time. So when shoppers walk in, they never know what they'll find. Yes, the retailer has an e-commerce operation, but the real appeal is the thrill of the hunt. Consumer behavior in action!

Same at Marshall's, where the slogan is "Your surprise is waiting." Also owned by TJX, Marshall's has a slightly wider variety of merchandise in each store, but the same merchandising philosophy--ship new merchandise regularly to bring shoppers back again and again. While T.J. Maxx does a bit of e-commerce, Marshall's only sells gift cards online. If you want to buy, you have to go to a store. The retailer's hashtag #MarshallsSurprise reinforces the treasure hunt aspect of the shopping experience.

Marshall's has 300,000 Twitter followers; T.J. Maxx has 385,000 Twitter followers. So the retail brands are social, adding word of mouth to the mix.

Sure, e-commerce is growing every day...giving a boost to the USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other carriers. But for some shoppers, the element of surprise is a real lure to real stores.