Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hotel Chocolat's Very British Brand

Now that the UK-based Hotel Chocolat has gone public, it has additional resources to support an expansion strategy. The company began as an online retailer of luxury chocolate gifts, targeting UK consumers and businesses.

A decade after establishing itself on the web, it opened a physical store. Now the company has more than 80 shops across the UK plus an actual hotel adjacent to a cocoa plantation on Saint Lucia.

At one time, Hotel Chocolat had a handful of US stores but closed them a couple of years ago. It retains its online presence selling to US customers, however.

Eyeing another round of international retail expansion, Hotel Chocolat has a franchise presence on Gibraltar and is also opening company-owned chocolate boutiques in Copenhagen to assess the opportunities for this very British brand.

Hotel Chocolat has more than 100k likes on Facebook, 52k followers on Twitter, and more than 3k followers on Pinterest, among other social media activities.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Background on Brands

 B R A N D  R E S E A R C H

Researching a brand for your marketing plan? Search the Web for research about that brand and its main competitors.

As you click through the results of your search, pay attention to where/when/how each research study was conducted. Also look at research results over time--how has the brand's ranking changed? What issues affect the brand's standing year by year? These clues can help you better analyze the brand as you continue your marketing planning.

Here are just a few resources focusing on brands, branding, and public perceptions:
  • YouGov BrandIndex. "Tracking public perceptions of thousands of brands across the world every day." That's how YouGov describes this site, which covers many brands in many markets through ongoing interviews with millions of consumers.
  • InterBrand Best Brands. Interbrand ranks brands within and across countries, with both global and national lists of the best brands.
  • Fortune's rankings. In addition to the Fortune 500, the magazine presents rankings of "most admired" companies, fastest-growing companies, and other key lists to consult.
  • Gallup research on brand engagement. Research examines multiple aspects of brands and customer involvement, including reactions of Millennials.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Marketing With Pokemon Go

The Pokemon Go phenomenon might be a summertime spike or something more lasting, but while it's popular, marketers are jumping on the bandwagon.

Pokemon Go is a new smartphone game based on the old Pokemon characters, with the special twist that players wander in the real world looking to "capture" characters in various locations. Here's what the Pokemon website says about the game:
Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokémon. Explore cities and towns around where you live and even around the globe to capture as many Pokémon as you can. As you move around, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you're near a Pokémon. Once you've encountered a Pokémon, take aim on your smartphone's touch screen and throw a Poké Ball to catch it. Be careful when you try to catch it, or it might run away! Also look for PokéStops located at interesting places, such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments, where you can collect more Poké Balls and other items.
Local businesses are excited about the number of potential customers coming to their premises in search of wild Pokemon characters. Several restaurants and bars reported super increases in sales after investing about $10 for "lure" packages. Businesses can become "poke stops" to boost the user's stock of balls, attracting foot traffic in the process. It's a matter of harnessing high interest and engagement to shape customer behavior, at least increasing awareness of the brand or location and at best, gaining trial and purchasing.

Nonprofits are also part of this craze. From nature preserves to museums and beyond, organizations are taking the opportunity to invite visitors to catch Pokemon characters with them. Although not all places are happy about being involved without first being asked, some nonprofits are suggesting that advocates organize Pokemon Go walking tours to raise money for charity.

Go Pokemon Go!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Today Is the Second Annual Amazon Prime Day

Partial screen shot of Amazon Prime Day home page
Today is Amazon's second annual Prime Day--a shopping day designed to rival Black Friday with low prices and speedy shipping exclusively for members of the retailer's Prime program.

One goal is to attract new Prime members, who pay an annual fee for benefits such as free two-day shipping, access to audio and video entertainment, early notification of bargains, and more. As always, consumers are invited to enroll in Prime for free to try it for 30 days. The more people who try, the more who are likely to remain members after the free trial.

Another goal is to increase interest in and usage of other Amazon offerings such as Alexa, the virtual shopping assistant who's the voice of the Echo speaker. This year, the retailer is offering a number of Alexa-related specials.

Of course, Walmart is taking aim at Amazon by offering its own special deals today. Actually, some of the deals began yesterday and will continue for the week, with free shipping thrown in to combat Amazon's shipping deals for Prime members. Like Amazon, Walmart is relying on sale-priced electronics to catch the eye of shoppers, mixed in with other low-priced products.

How will Walmart do? Will Amazon Prime Day surpass the 2015 sales record? How many new Prime members will sign up--and how many will stay after the free period is over?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Millennials and Marketing

An online search for "Millennials and marketing" shows more than 22 million results. (If we could have searched online for "Boomers and marketing" 30+ years ago, there would have been a similar result.)

Millennials are the target market for many goods and services, with distinct needs, wants, preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. Stereotyping won't work--research is key. Brands that do their homework and get it right can win loyal customers. Brands that don't listen or respond will fall out of favor and have to run hard to catch up (if they can).

Here are some recent articles and analyses about marketing to Millennials:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Brands Ride Along with Disney's Theme Park Expansion Plans

Walt Disney has a new theme park, Shanghai Disneyland. PepsiCo was at the opening, with a limited-edition.

PepsiCo also partnered on a branded stage inside the Shanghai park. Four years ago, Pepsi opened a special R&D center to develop products that fit the taste buds of customers in China. Working with Disney furthers PepsiCo's expansion in China.

Starbucks is another brand that sees opportunity in working with Disney. In Shanghai at the Disney Resort, Starbucks just opened what will be its busiest coffee shop in the world, with 110 baristas to serve 25 million customers yearly. Starbucks already had a presence in each of the Disney parks in Orlando, and in Disneyland California.

These are only two of the global brands that are riding along with Disney's marketing magic in its global expansion. One more brand enjoying the ride is Hasbro, which won the lucrative doll license from Mattel and now produces princess dolls and other toys based on strong Disney brand franchises like Frozen.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Subscription Boxes of Everything

In 2010, Birchbox touched off the craze for marketing of subscriptions to monthly deliveries of . . . well, almost everything, at least these days. Birchbox began by offering boxes of sample-sized cosmetics so women can try new blush, eye makeup, skin cream, and so on.

Samples are provided by the manufacturers, and subscriptions are reasonably priced to encourage people to remain customers for many months. Birchbox now offers monthly boxes of samples for women and men, curated with a theme and personalized to fit subscribers' needs.

Many consumers like the idea of trying new products with minimal financial risk. Variety-seekers are another targeted segment. Like something? Order from Birchbox or buy locally--ideally, from one of the new Birchbox retail stores. UPDATE: Birchbox is scaling back its expansion amid competitive pressures.

Meal ingredients by mail are another focus of marketing attention, with firms like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh targeting Millennials and others who want to pull ingredients out of a box, pick up the supplied recipe, and have a home-cooked meal that's tasty and elegant. Ingredients are premeasured so there's no waste, which enhances the value.

Today, subscription-based curated boxes are available in a wide variety of categories, from international snack foods and men's clothing to travel items and fly-fishing items.

What's the product life cycle of subscription boxes? Hard to say, although it's probably much shorter than the life cycle of catalog marketing (more than a century old and still viable).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mission Statements and Marketing

Writing a marketing plan? Don't skip the mission statement. A carefully-crafted mission can highlight the company or brand's purpose, identify who is being targeted, explain what the value is, and inspire by looking ahead. The mission should guide marketing, both external and internal, just as it is meant to guide management.

Some mission statements are specific, some are more general, but all should be forward-looking and encourage aiming high for a corporate purpose. Inc. has a good article about inspirational mission statements here.

Below is a sample of mission statements from leading companies, along with a bit of my own commentary:
  • PepsiCo: "to provide consumers around the world with delicious, affordable, convenient and complementary foods and beverages from wholesome breakfasts to healthy and fun daytime snacks and beverages to evening treats." [My take: Nicely specific, identifies the customer base and the product categories, includes benefits and attributes for brand image.]
  • Coca-Cola: "to refresh the world...inspire moments of optimism and happiness...create value and make a difference." [My take: Relates to the product mix, has a very upbeat tone and appeals to stakeholder audiences, but could be more specific.]
  • Nike: "bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world." [My take: Direct, indicates customers, highlights core competencies, and positive.]
  • Microsoft: "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more." [My take: Rather broad, doesn't identify any particular customer group or product category, but aspirational wording is a plus.]
  • Samsung: "In everything we do, we strive to help people live better lives." [My take: Too broad, despite positive and aspirational tone, and can be applied to nearly any customer group and any product category.]
  • Sony: "to be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity." [My take: Another positive statement, but lacks specifics and has no obvious connection with the brand and its heritage and products] 
  • tronc (the "new" company brand for what was Tribune): to be a "content curation and monetization company" to "leverage innovative technology to deliver personalized and interactive experiences." [My take: vague, no indication of what "content" is--news? entertainment?--and seems more focused on technology and monetization than indicating the customer base]

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fortune 500 Issue Has Fewer Pages Than in Past 3 Years

This is the time of year when Fortune publishes its door-stop-sized issue listing America's 500 largest corporations. Since 1998, I've tracked the number of pages per issue, which is suggestive of the economic situation because of the number of ads and, therefore, the size of the issue. 

The 2016 issue, alas, is not as fat as 2015, 2014, or 2013, going by the numbered pages. It's only 10 pages bigger than the 2008 issue, which came out in the year of the financial crisis. But then again, this is an election year, which may affect advertising decisions and budgets. 

Another major factor is the increase in digital advertising, which is partly responsible for the plateau (at best) or decline in print advertising overall.
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

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Closer Look at LEGO Serious Play

From LEGO Serious Play
LEGO Serious Play is a division of LEGO devoted to helping businesses and organizations build teamwork. The program "taps into your team's creativity to boost strategic problem-solving and enhance how it handles change."

LEGO isn't the only big name in children's entertainment to offer corporate programs. Walt Disney has a separate division to teach customer service skills and support service teambuilding. It also offers unique team-building opportunities for groups that meet at its hotels and resorts.

LEGO's division is marketing teambuilding activities built around using LEGO blocks to create structures - and, in the process, inject more creativity into working together.

Quoting from the LEGO Serious Play site: The metaphors in the models serve as the basis for group discussion, knowledge sharing and problem solving and help foster creative thinking and finding unique solutions. The idea originated in 1996 and LEGO Serious Play has now certified facilitators all over the world.

There's a book about this teamwork/creativity approach, in case your management wants to try this at home. The Chicago Tribune wrote about LEGO Serious Play in 2015, interviewing one of the book's authors. Others are using LEGO toys to unlock creative potential, as shown on this page about LEGO and Art Lab. And some companies ask job candidates to build LEGO structures during the recruitment process--so be prepared. These ubiquitous plastic bricks have value to people of all ages and at all levels!