Saturday, September 27, 2014

Campbell's Soup Revamps Marketing Recipe

These are difficult times for Campbell's, which is struggling through lower consumption of canned soups and changes in consumer lifestyles and tastes. The company's traditional condensed soups in red-and-white cans may be iconic, but they also may seem old-fashioned to Millennial buyers who seek spicier flavors and either speedier preparation or fresh, home-made meals.

Those accustomed to microwave meals or add-boiling-water noodle soup may not necessarily be interested in other types of soups. And the growing interest in home-made meals--fueled, in part, by the foodie culture, including food and cooking programs, web sites, blogs, and more--is also eroding sales of canned foods. Yet convenience is an important factor: canned soup is shelf-stable, quick and easy to make on the stove or in the microwave.

The Chunky line of soups target men, in particular, which is why Campbell's has a sponsorship relationship with the NFL. Above, a photo of Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and his mother, who appear in "Mama's Boy" TV commercials for Chunky soup; among other NFL players and their moms who appear in Chunky commercials are Demarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys and Todd Heap of the Baltimore Ravens.

Campbell is introducing hundreds of new products each year to find the most appealing and enduring. It's also diversifying its product portfolio through acquisitions, as part of its marketing plan to reverse weak results.

Meanwhile, Campbell of Canada is updating the look of its heat-and-eat soup labels to stand out on the shelf and communicate contents to busy shoppers. The label redesign was based on eye-tracking research and is intended to "sell from the shelf" as part of the marketing plan.

“The number one objective is breaking through and being very distinct at shelf-level and having the consumer be able to either very quickly find the variety they’re looking for, or discover a new variety,” explains the senior director of marketing.

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Product Success: 10 Million Sold in 3 Days

The headline says it all: Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6+ are big, big hits. Although analysts expected high demand, an opening weekend figure of 10 million indicates that Apple has once again correctly identified the sweet spot of consumer interest. This time, the larger screens are a major attraction for iPhone fans--not to mention the status of being among the earliest adopters of this new product.

Although Android is the big market share winner worldwide, Apple's iOS dominates the US market, with a nearly 42% share. New iPhones have caused a frenzy in the past, but this latest product launch eclipses Apple's previous records.

Apple has traditionally shown initiative and power in product launches. Its ability to orchestrate and implement all the details of product development, production, and introduction--including the all-important intro marketing campaign--is a major strength. That doesn't stop rivals from sniping, of course, as Samsung did one day after Apple's highly publicized launch of the iPhones and Apple Watch.

With customers deciding between tablets and phones--and sometimes buying both--the industry is seeing even more innovation and crowding than ever. This final quarter of 2014 will feature a number of competitive smartphone launches, including:
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Samsung Z
  • Sony Xperia Z3
  • Nexus 6
  • Moto X + 1

Friday, September 19, 2014

Derek Jeter, Legendary Brand Ambassador

Derek Jeter's retirement from the NY Yankees is unlikely to halt his success as a brand ambassador. Jeter has maintained the respect of peers, sponsors, and the public, even as some other star athletes have been embroiled in controversy and scandals. His involvement with brands adds that "halo" of legend, a plus in sports marketing.



One of several tributes to Jeter in his final Major League Baseball season is this stylish commercial from Gatorade. Jeter himself suggested the action and the Frank Sinatra musical accompaniment. There's a print tribute as well.

Nike, another brand endorsed by Jeter, has its own plans for tributes

Whether the Yanks get to the 2014 playoffs or not, Jeter has had a terrific baseball career--and his successful marketing career still has a lot of momentum.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ranking the Top Hotel Brands

No two brand rankings are exactly alike--as these rankings of top hotel brands clearly show.

This week's Fortune magazine lists the top 5 hotel brands as ranked by a survey conducted among business travelers who are readers of Fortune and Travel + Leisure. Their picks:
  1. Ritz-Carlton
  2. Luxury Collection
  3. Kimpton
  4. Waldorf Astoria Collection
  5. Fairmont 
Travel + Leisure separately ranked the world's top hotel brands earlier in the year this way:
  1. Amanresorts
  2. Oberoi Hotels
  3. One & Only
  4. Four Seasons
  5. Mandarin Oriental
U.S. News & World Report ranked North American hotel brands this way in January:
  1. Park Hyatt, Chicago
  2. Ritz-Carlton, Montreal
  3. Rosewood Hotel Georgia (Vancouver)
  4. Waldorf-Astoria, Chicago
  5. St. Regis Punta Mita (Mexico)
The American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks hotel brands this way as of April:
  1. Ritz-Carlton
  2. J.W. Marriott
  3. Hyatt
  4. Hyatt Place
  5. Westin

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

L'Oreal's Makeup App Offers Virtual Product Trial

There's no end to the number of apps out there and yet L'Oreal recently released Makeup Genius, a free app that helps women try on new beauty looks in private and without paying. 

This solves a big problem for buyers: How to know what makeup will look like without actually buying and trying. This is akin to the sales promotion technique of sampling, except no actual L'Oreal products change hands. 

The app is iPad and iPhone ready, downloadable from the iTunes store, starts with a selfie that you can then use as your base when you apply your choice of L'Oreal makeup products virtually. Another option is to have the app show what you would look like in a preset beauty style (such as "smoky eyes"). 

It has been described as a little like looking into the mirror of your smartphone and seeing yourself with different beauty looks--in effect, a mobile-based "virtual fitting room" for cosmetics. If you like what you see, you can buy through the app or go to a local retailer to pick out products in person. 

The concept is clever and appealing to tech-savvy mobile users. Will L'Oreal's slick app give it a marketing edge in the competitive beauty industry?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Goodbye Traditional iPod, 2001-2014

The product life cycle is very accelerated for tech products, but still it's a surprise and a disappointment that Apple is pulling the plug on its iconic traditional iPod.

My household has purchased 5 in the past 13 years, rejoicing as the profile became slimmer and lighter while storage expanded over the years. At home, at the gym, in the car, out walking, the iPod has been a companion and a convenient way to listen to music, audio books, and podcasts. No subscription fees, just a one-time purchase price and all the audio files I could fit (plus photos and other files). What could be easier?

As so many others have noted, the iPod wasn't the first digital music player. But the click wheel and easy connection to iTunes started a design revolution that had a ripple effect on tech products in many categories.

In the pantheon of must-have trendy gadgets, the white ear buds of the iPod stood out and made a design statement. The TV commercials and print ads were striking and stylish, not to mention entertaining. Often imitated, never duplicated.

No matter what happens with the Apple Watch product launch, the iPod will be missed. Its legacy will live on in the elegance of advertising and design of gadgets, including the Watch, and in the way new product launches are orchestrated throughout the industry.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Uniqlo's Logo Makes the Front Page

Kei Nishikori is playing in the U.S. Open tennis tournament finals--and that's front page news for his sponsor Uniqlo, the Japan-based clothing retailer that's been expanding worldwide. With the goal of becoming the biggest clothing company on the planet by 2020, Uniqlo's marketing plan includes opening dozens of stores in America and other areas outside its Asian home region.

Uniqlo also sponsors Novak Djokovic--so when they played each other in the semi-final match yesterday, spectators saw Uniqlo's brand logo on the clothing worn by both of these top-notch tennis players. Uniqlo's chairman characterized the contest this way: "It's a dream match."

Above, today's cover photo of Uniqlo's US Facebook page (770,000+ likes). Both of these outstanding athletes are shown in photos all over the newspapers and magazines today, not to mention Web news pages and TV sports news. Uniqlo is reinforcing those images and the positive associations with its very visible red-and-white brand logo.

As of today, Uniqlo lists four names on its list of "Uniqlo Sponsored Athletes" page: golfer Adam Scott, tennis stars Nishikori and Djokovic, and wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda. Watch for more sightings of Uniqlo logos as the brand continues to implement its marketing plan for growth.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Fast and Hot: Marketing Drive-Through Coffee

It's not your imagination: There really are more drive-through coffee places these days.

Not everyone has the time or the lifestyle for the full cafe experience. Just as drive-through purchasing is essential for the fast-food industry, it's increasingly a key element in the world of coffee. Taste is very important, but so is convenience and the ability to get a good cup o'joe when you're in too much of a hurry to unsnap your seat belt.

Seattle's Best has been implementing drive-through-only coffee locations since 2012. Independents are also marketing drive-through coffee, with various points of differentiation, ranging from bikini-clad baristas to stand-alone kiosks featuring--of all things--a goat. (That's Crazy Mocha in the photo above, opening its newest drive-through in the Pittsburgh area.) 

Starbucks has noticed the preference for speed and convenience, and many of its stores already have drive-through lanes. Now the chain is about to open smaller, limited-menu Starbucks Express stores, catering to commuters and anyone else who wants a latte or espresso hot and in a hurry.

Panera Bread is also adding drive-throughs for coffee and more, which should allow it to attract customers at all hours, not just the main meal periods. 


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

CVS's Marketing Plan for Branding and Positioning

The drug-store chain CVS announced seven months ago that it would ban cigarette sales in its 7,600+ stores as of October. The goal is to strengthen the brand's positioning on the core benefit of helping consumers be healthy. 

As part of its marketing plan for branding and positioning, CVS began removing tobacco products from its stores today, a month ahead of schedule. This attracted a lot of media attention because the retailer also changed its company name to CVS Health and initiated a smoking cessation campaign. According to the CEO, "The contradiction of selling tobacco was becoming a growing obstacle to playing a bigger role in health care delivery."

The company is promoting the results of a new CVS study showing that removing tobacco products from its stores leads some percentage of shoppers to kick the smoking habit altogether.

Its marketing plan calls for opening hundreds of new MinuteClinic in-store health facilities within three years, bringing shoppers in when a child has an earache or for other minor medical needs. Positioning CVS as the go-to brand for health could also further enhance its ability to expand private-label products, which typically yield higher margins than non-store brands.

The CVS move to drop tobacco this week comes as the media world is gearing up for Stand Up to Cancer on Friday night, a nationwide entertainment industry initiative to raise money for cancer research.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Remember Store Credit Cards and Cash?

Credit cards remain a highly popular payment method in America. Thirty years ago, nearly every major retailer in America had its own proprietary charge card, usually self-funded but sometimes backed by a third party such as General Electric or Citicorp. Many consumers had wallets filled with cards from Sears and other mainstream retailers, happy to be billed once a month for purchases made all month--and happy to get catalogs and special offers only for cardholders.
About that time, MasterCard (originally Master Charge) and Visa began charging into the department store industry, seeking to be accepted at the point of sale. Looking at an old issue of Mart magazine, as of mid-1977, 32 out of the top 100 U.S. department stores honored MasterCard and Visa, compared with only nine of the top 100 department stores honoring the bank cards in 1974.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. Very few department and specialty stores operate their own credit programs these days. Most have sold their receivables to a third party, and accept all kinds of plastic at the point of sale. For example, Synchrony (formerly part of General Electric) provides private-label credit services to Walmart, JC Penney, and other retailers. Citi Retail Services provides private-label credit services to Staples, Office Max, Best Buy, and other stores.

Cash is still around, but some consumers prefer plastic or mobile payments. According to a new survey, Millennials are more inclined toward digital payments for small purchases, while Boomers will use old-fashioned cash for payments under $5. Gadgets like Square and Amazon's new Local Register make it easy for small businesses to quickly authorize card payments via mobile, so why carry cash?

Consumers know about digital wallets (Google Wallet, PayPal, Apple Passbook) but actual usage is still relatively low, according to research. Apps are helping to fuel mobile payments. Will your wallet have any credit cards by 2020? Will you even be carrying a wallet with dollar bills and coins?