Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Future of Catalogs

My mailbox was full of catalogs this holiday season, including some from firms I haven't done business with in more than a decade. Is the Web killing off catalogs? Business Week looked at that issue in November and then examined the opt-out situation in December.

The Direct Marketing Association offers its Mail Preference Service, which allows consumers to specify which catalogs they prefer not to receive. But (and it's a big but) consumers have to include a credit card number to (1) verify their identity and (2) pay DMA $1 for the service. The association assures consumers that it uses "secure payment transaction processing to protect your credit card information."

So does the DMA think someone might maliciously decide to submit my name to be removed from the mailing list of a catalog I absolutely love? Or is this a way to make it more difficult for me to keep my mailbox clear of catalog clutter?

The DMA told Business Week that it will soon eliminate the $1 fee. But what about the requirement of submitting a credit card number? Sounds like a lot of unnecessary paperwork to discourage consumers from opting out. Ironically, the catalog companies are the real losers, since they spend time and money printing and mailing catalogs to too many people who just dump them in the recycle bin. Is that the future of catalogs?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Go Green with a ch-ch-ch-Chia Pet

Hard to believe, but new Chia Pets are introduced every year. Take a look at the latest crop (pun intended) on the site of maker Joseph Enterprises. From Shrek and Donkey to Bart and Homer Simpson, Chias are ready for your holiday gag gift-giving. Go green with ch-ch-ch-Chia!

Smithsonian Magazine recently covered Joe Pedott's marketing prowess in making Chia Pet the iconic brand it is today. Pedott is also responsible for making the Clapper a big hit. Who knew?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Troops of Bothers

Here's part of the packaging from a "Military Play Set--Soldier Heroism" made in China and imported by a company in California. Just below the word "soldier" is an interesting title: "Troops of Bothers." So that's what these toys are? Actually, they were cheapo plastic military trucks, cars, boats with fall-off wheels.

Flipping over the Flip

Just 1" deep, smaller than most digital cameras (at 2 1/8" x 4"), the Flip video device is handy and easy to use. Who needs a bulky, complicated camcorder when you can flip over the Flip? I put it on a tiny tripod to take unattended vids of important occasions like young family members trimming the tree. (Nobody even notices it's there--but I know because the red light shows that it's recording up to 60 mins worth of memories.)

To transfer video to my PC, I just flip out the built-in USB connector and let the included software walk me through the process. I can even grab snapshots from video segments or edit and bring segments together to make a movie. What could be handier?

Read about it on The Flip site. Worth checking out!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Tis the Season to Be Clever and Creative

Letting my fingers do the walking, I paged through the cleverly-written Coldwater Creek catalog. The entries are imaginative and engage the senses with descriptions of color, touch, experience, and lifestyle.

Online, the firm uses just a few words to get attention but those few words capture the feeling of wearing each piece of apparel. Take a look here. None of these jackets is simply "red" or "gold." One is "alluring," one is "opulent," one is "cozy." Isn't that good marketing (in a nutshell)?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sirius's Serious Segmentation

Sirius Satellite Radio is obviously serious about segmenting its market using powerful variables like interests and lifestyle: Check out its channel guide, with everything from an all-Elvis, all-the-time channel to a college sports channel (featuring football, basketball, you name it). Just launched: a Grateful Dead channel for Deadheads who can't get enough of Jerry Garcia and his buddies. Whatever your taste in music, talk, news, sports, or entertainment, Sirius is working hard to have channels for you.

Will Sirius and XM merge? Seems likely and would make sense but who knows?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Get an Eyeful of Pepsi

Because Pepsi's HQ is just over the border in Westchester, I like to keep an eye on the company's doings. It works hard to give every brand a distinct personality, using the name, packaging, clever tag line, and so on (here's a page with all the Pepsi-family brands available in the U.S.).

Pepsi Lime's tagline: "Have the lime of your life." Tropicana Juice Drinks: "The official juice drink of your backyard." See what I mean?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rating charities

The American Institute of Philanthropy's no-nonsense A to F ratings of nonprofit organizations indicate whether a charity is spending money on its cause or devoting too much to salaries, administration, and fundraising expenses. Thanks to this information, I'm now supporting charities where my contributions will do the most good.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Listen up: podcast alert

Listen up: If you've never heard Peter Day's World of Business (from the BBC), consider downloading at least one podcast to sample. Day interviews some of the leading executives and business thinkers of our time; many of his questions are refreshingly pointed and direct (politely phrased, of course). Usually Day's podcasts are topical and timely even a few months after their original broadcast date.

Another staple of business podcasts is Marketplace (from American Public Media). In addition to the regular Monday-through-Friday 30 minute programs, you can also download or subscribe to specialized features like Marketplace Money. Although Marketplace usually takes its cue from the day's business stories, some of its stories are worth listening to weeks after they've first aired.

Here's something that sounds intriguing from Harvard Business Review: HBR IdeaCast. Finally, check out BusinessWeek's blogs, podcasts, slide shows, and other features about design.

What business podcasts do you listen to?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Corporate Web Site: Steak or Sizzle?

The most stripped-down corporate Web site I've ever seen is that of Berkshire Hathaway. Fancy graphics? Not here. No, the sizzle comes from Warren Buffett's steak.

Of course, the site has prominent links to the site of its very own GEICO insurance (featuring graphics, color, and the familiar gecko) and, interestingly, to a tasteful, upscale e-commerce site for Borsheim's Fine Jewelry in downtown Omaha.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Marketers Get into the Spirit of Halloween

If you didn't love Halloween before, you better get into the spirit -- orange and black stuff is at stores and malls all over America. Most malls have pop-up seasonal shops with costumes and more; Wal-Mart has set aside a big section adjacent to its Christmas shop. Restaurants and bars are getting into the spirit with theme decorations and parties.

This is a big-time marketing opportunity to target teens, twenty-somethings and families with young kids. Check out Hershey's Trick or Treats for a taste. Hallmark's Halloween-themed pages offer cards, candles, and much, much more.

And have you seen Stop by for Halloween jokes, costumes, lore, haunted house directory, and more. Another all-Halloween site is Everything Halloween. Bottom line: you need green to go orange and black.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shutterfly Soars, Imagestation Closes

I really like the quality of Shutterfly's photo books and its photo sharing capabilities. These points of differentiation were entirely intentional, says the CEO in this Newsweek article.

Last week Sony Imagestation, another digital photo site, announced it will close in February, even though it was named the top photo site by PC Magazine less than a year ago. Imagestation's photo prints were good quality at a very reasonable price but delivery slowed as the site became more popular, unfortunately. What was Sony thinking? The brand has traditionally been known for technological excellence, not its service orientation.

At least Sony planned ahead to leave customers with a positive image (pun intended). Customers can opt to have their stored photos sent to . . . Shutterfly! And as a reward, customers who transfer their photos get a free photo book too. I'll be cashing in my reward before the holidays.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How Webkinz Handles Rumors

Seems like nearly every kid under the age of 10 knows about Webkinz, stuffed animals that come with a name and secret code that lets the owner play with the animal's avatar online in Webkinz World. One 9-yr-old I know has 13 Webkinz and has figured out how to do an Internet search for store locations so she can plan her next purchase.

But apparently rumors have been flying about the safety of Webkinz avatars. How does a company reassure youngsters that their online pets haven't been harmed? Check out the "concerned about a rumor?" page on the Webkinz site to see how Ganz handled this sensitive issue.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

BIG Discount from Expedia

Squint a bit and you'll see that when I got around to booking my trip to Quebec, Expedia notified me that it had found a "better price" -- the price decreased from $255,441 to $340.

Whew! Good thing too--the original price was over my credit card limit. Seeing this drastic price reduction (for a 410-mile trip each way) encouraged me to buy immediately.

Who could make up this kind of stuff?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Green marketing with a mercury lining

Maybe I've had my head in the sand, but after replacing lots of incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents, now I find out that the CFLs must be recycled carefully because they contain mercury. The October Consumer Reports magazine has a two-page report (starting on p. 28) about how to choose and what to do if a bulb breaks.

Sylvania is offering CFL recycling kits for $15 and up. Here's a more general site, from the state of Montana, discussing CFLs, how they save money, and how to recycle them. (Bottom line, I'll be saving my dead CFLs until I can turn them in during my local community's hazardous waste day.)

Interesting unintended consequence of "green" marketing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Meet the Ryan People

Next month, my local AMA chapter is hosting a speaker from Catapult Marketing, a division of the Ryan Partnership. I don't know these agencies, so I Googled them and was fascinated by Ryan's Web site.

I particularly enjoyed the "At Your Service" section, where the company's experts talk about what they can do for clients. This added a very personal dimension to Ryan's message, with the special appeal of "hey, we're real people, we really understand good marketing, and we're ready to help you engage and motivate your customers." Great combination of one-to-one B2B communication wrapped in a sleek, accessible online package. Click and see for yourself. And be sure your speakers are on!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Putting a Pricetag on Humor

One of the best laugh values I've ever seen is My Comics Page. For about $1 a month, you can have up to 150 comics delivered to your e-mailbox every morning. Just about everything is here, Dick Tracy to Doonesbury, Agnes to Andy Capp, plus political cartoons for left, right, and middle.

There's no risk--you get a two-week free trial to see whether you're getting a buck's worth of laughs. Thank you to my friend Nancy R. for tipping me off to this great site!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Psst! Wanna Invest in a Pool of 50-Year Mortgages?

Statewide Bancorp of Rancho Cucamonga (I'm not making this up) began offering a 50-year mortgage loan in the spring of 2006 (see its original press release). Less than two months later, it expanded the program to subprime borrowers.

The idea is to make monthly payments more affordable for borrowers. Lending Tree analyzes the pros and cons of 50-year mortgages here. Your tradeoff for low monthly payments is another two decades of paying interest on the principal.

In today's subprime mortgage mess, the real issue is how any bank will be able to package and sell such loans to investors. Without investor interest, the 50-year mortgage loan will wither away.

Hey, anybody interested in a short-term loan to buy eyeglasses? Put on your specs and see my July 26th entry.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the Dark Side, Dripping with Irony

Harley-Davidson's ad campaign for its Night Rod Special cleverly taps into the grown-up outlaw image with a solid dose of irony. The headline is "Scare Life Back into Roadkill" and the body copy talks about "Marinated in bad." Take a look at HD's Web page for this model. Below the photo of the big, bad motorcycle is the subhead: "It came from the dark side of wherever your mother told you not to go." Ooooooh, who couldn't resist at least taking a look?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Marketing in a Web, Web, Web, Web World

Pepsi and Toyota do a lot of brand-building off the Web, based on consumers' interests and lifestyles, and reinforce those activities online. Makes sense to get the most bang for the buck using the Web to engage consumers in as many marketing activities as possible. More examples to follow. For now, check these out:
  • One page on Pepsi's Web site showcases the company's involvement in car culture; another page focuses on fashion (not just Pepsi-branded apparel).
  • A special page on Toyota's Web site trumpets the company's sponsorship of teams at events like the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament Trail and the Danskin Women's Triathlon Series.
  • Coca-Cola's Web site links to all kinds of marketing activities, including exclusive music downloads and its Second Life "Virtual Thirst" contest.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can you see financing eyeglasses?

Today's mail brought an offer to finance my next pair of eyeglasses at Lenscrafters: "Stop in today to view the latest trends in eyewear, and take up to 6 months to pay."

Take a look at the separate financing page on Lenscrafters' web site. Yikes! I need a super-strong pair of glasses just to read all the fine print. Sure wouldn't want any fancy new eyeglasses to get repossessed (or even possessed).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Nikon: Watch and learn

Photos and videos to show how to use a digital camera? Yes, Nikon cleverly markets its compact D40 digital SLR with a number of interesting, informative visual promotions.
  • It recently used camera sized/shaped ads stitched into magazines (such as Budget Travel) to show the actual size of the camera. The ads open to reveal body copy about how the 200 residents of Georgetown, SC used D40s to take photos (and include the URL to see the results).
  • The main D40 microsite offers a useful Digitutor video with tips on how to take digital photos of pets, etc. (see bottom right of site).
Seeing is believing--Nikon knows that a picture is worth a thousand ... you know. I like how it's marketing the D40. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Celebrity steel?

Time was, Nucor was the "rock star" of the steel business because of its innovations, both in management and in manufacturing. Yesterday's New York Times carried one of its recent series of corporate image ads, also posted on Nucor's Web site. The ads are attractive and engaging--they really do tell what Nucor calls "Our Stories."

Two suggestions: In the print ad, the body copy is small, center-justified, and white on a dark green background. It's almost impossible to read in the half-page Times ad. So my first suggestion is, choose substance over style and make absolutely sure the all-important text is actually readable.

My second suggestion is to position the Nucor brand more prominently. In this ad, it's buried at bottom left and is too subtle, IMHO. Suppose a reader wants to find out more (or invest in the stock)? Always make it easy to figure out who the ad is about. The company's URL is included at the bottom of the body copy but is too faint to be of much use.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's the Experience, Stupid

A recent article on the Business Week site, titled "Experience Is the Product," brings up a topic that can never be flogged enough. Yes, it's a long article (3 screens) but a quick read . . . and yes, some of the products it mentions are really old (like a Kodak camera from the turn of the last century).

Four words sum it all up: It's the experience, stupid. Let me repeat: The only thing that customers care about is the product experience. The niftiest packaging, the glitziest commercial, the slickest features, the best pricing won't make a best-seller of a product that's difficult, inconvenient, or downright unsafe to use.

The article brought me back to some of the experiences I've had, as a customer, with favorite and not-so-favorite products. I love my iPod, for instance, but disliked the tedious process of unpacking it, hunting for every little component in the nooks and crannies, and ending up with a mountain of packaging stuff. Another Apple thought: will the company hit a speed bump if iPhone buyers don't like the quality of the AT&T network they'll have to use?

Why can't all companies put their "customer hats" on and remember that the product experience is the only thing that counts?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Marketing in Second Life: Effective?

Lately, Second Life has been getting a lot of coverage in the traditional print media as people debate its value in marketing:
  • Business Week's "Beyond Second Life" article observes that Starwood Hotels, Wells Fargo, and some other major corporations are seeking online alternatives. Take a peek at the slide show connected to this article.
  • The New York Times's "Awaiting Real Sales from Virtual Shoppers" article indicates that American Apparel, Reebok, and other marketers with a presence in Second Life are not yet seeing tangible results.
  • Financial Times quotes Second Life veterans, in "Virtual Style? In Another Life," saying that established, real-world brands have no particular edge in Second Life.
Sounds like Second Life may support brand awareness among the avatar crowd but bankable "ka-ching" activities are virtually elusive at this point ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Happy 125th Birthday, Grandpa

Today would be my paternal grandfather's 125th birthday. Although he died before I was born, I'm learning about his life through genealogical research.

In fact, Internet entrepreneur Paul Allen, who owns a small stake in (parent of, sees immense industry growth potential as millions of consumers worldwide log on to find their ancestors. Tapping this interest,, the #1 genealogy Web site, uses the marketing technique of free limited-time trial subscriptions (plus word-of-mouth communication) to attract new members.

A few days ago, my friends Mary and Ray, genealogy enthusiasts of considerable expertise, told me about Ancestry's free trial period. Now I'm happily filling in my family tree with data about relatives going back three and four generations. So birthday greetings, Grandpa, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sailing and Sales

How many people who follow the America's Cup races are influenced by the brands shown on the yachts' sails? Sponsors often hire "brand counters" such as Arbiter to determine how much media exposure their logos receive during sports events. (For more on sponsors and the America's Cup series, see this New York Times article.)

Without question, the brand logos on the BMW Oracle Racing yacht were highly visible and received prominent media play during the semifinals last week. But does this kind of exposure always result in positive attitudes and associations? When a yacht loses, what are the repercussions for the sponsoring brands? And does significant media exposure during the America's Cup races translate into higher sales for the sponsors?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Intel Likes Light and Skinny

A B2B brand that became known in the consumer world as an "ingredient" brand (remember the "Intel Inside" campaign for its computer chips?), Intel has now made its mark in laptops. Working with Ziba Design, Intel's engineers have created the world's skinniest laptop--not even an inch thick and a featherweight 2.25 pounds, with user-friendly design details that any Mac (or iPod) lover would appreciate. Business Week has a story and slide show about this snazzy laptop, which puts design at center stage as Intel works to combat competition from rival AMD.

Friday, May 18, 2007

E-mail Signoffs as Marketing

Do you add a signature block to the end of every e-mail? If you include more than your name, address, phone/fax, and e-mail, you're using your signoff as a marketing vehicle. (My own signoff includes a link to this blog as well as to my Web site.)

Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about signatures that go way beyond subtle. Here's the subhead on that article: "Re: annoying email sign-offs. Katherine Rosman on packing the 'sig' with graphics, links and logos -- and why it's about to get worse."

I've seen quotes, logos, and links at the end of e-mails, but no photos or video snippets (yet). When does a personalized signoff step over the line from subtle marketing to annoyance? A signoff with bandwidth-hogging animation/video or with sledgehammer political or religious preaching would annoy me, having the opposite effect of what the sender probably intends. Your thoughts?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Marketing Books: Do Quirky Titles Work?

Notice how quirky book titles are becoming more commonplace? In such a crowded marketplace, capturing buyer attention is increasingly difficult--therefore, quirky titles are one way to get a book noticed. But do quirky titles sell books? The answer is: sometimes.

Recently I gave a 5-star Amazon review to Your Gut Is Still Not Smarter than Your Head by Clancy and Krieg, because it's a thoughtful antidote to "blink marketing." The title is definitely quirky but the contents are not; judging by its ranking, Amazon buyers have been adding this book to their shopping carts.

I haven't read the following books but their titles are certainly evocative and intriguing:
  • The No-Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn't (office politics - I've seen this reviewed in business publications)
  • Presentation Skills for Quivering Wrecks (public speaking how-to - I found it posted on Amazon's UK site)
I'll add to this list as I come across more books with quirky titles.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Let the People Speak: Customer input

Dell wants to know what you and I and other PC buyers want (and don't want). At Dell IdeaStorm, you can add your thoughts about new features or extras, comment on what others have suggested, and basically help design Dell's new products. The day I visited, one idea (for which I voted) is "To have Firefox pre-installed as default browser." Why not take a moment and tell Dell what you think?

The current BusinessWeek has an excellent story about how Xerox uncovered surprising insights by listening to its customers--before building a prototype. Customer-driven marketing works.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hello Kitty Goth, Hello Kitty Lolita

Sanrio, which markets the Hello Kitty line, offers the tamest goth/Lolita stuff on the planet. Here are a few of the items, as seen on Amazon UK. These are cell phone/USB key charms, the kind seen dangling from gadgets held by men, women, and children all over Japan. How counterculture can Hello Kitty be? Not!

Take a look at the official Sanrio site for the latest Hello Kitty permutations :)

Update on April 28: BusinessWeek noticed the Goth/Loli phenomenon and reported on how fashion marketers are testing new items on Tokyo's stylish Harajuku teens before ramping up production.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Retail marketing in Japan

Service is alive and well in Japanese department stores, where merchandise is impeccably displayed and priced to reflect the special attention. Behind the scenes, a lot is going on. For example:
  • Customers of the Seibu department store in Japan can use their cell phones to check the store's fashion and beauty news, as you can see here.
  • Shoppers have lots of payment options at Takashimaya, one of the leading department stores.
  • Directions on how to use Mitsukoshi's digital catalogue, which is filled with thousands of items for men, women, children, and home.
  • Read the blog from Hankyu department store here.
  • At Sogo department store, the information desk staffers really do provide multilingual service with a smile.
  • Finally, Isetan extends a warm welcome to foreign shoppers here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Captain Santa Revisited

Captain Santa has a longer history than I thought. When singer Bobby Helms released his hit single Jingle Bell Rock in 1957, the B side was Captain Santa Claus and His Reindeer Space Patrol. Here's a link to a website where you can hear the song in all its glory. There's no marketing mystery about why this was the B side . . .

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Marketing in Japan

I just got back from Japan, where many ads feature movie stars or other celebrity opinion leaders. Tommy Lee Jones is the face of "Boss" beverages on vending machines all over Tokyo, for example.

Then there's Santa Claus, the brand--instant recognition for the Captain Santa Club, a store in the middle of the busy Hiroshima shopping district. Check out the company's website. The positioning seems to be preppy clothes for active people, or at least those who like to look like they sail or play golf. Now this is one brand name that should get high recall, wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

One water: drink up!

Global Ethics, a U.K. nonprofit, markets One water (yes, bottled water) to raise money for pumps that provide clean drinking water to a growing number of villages in South Africa and neighboring nations.

Simple logo, simple label, simple premise--good marketing for a good cause. And distribution through Tesco, Waitrose, Total gas stations, and other convenient places puts One water in the right place for grab-and-go purchases as well as regular family shopping trips. Who needs glitz and glam when you can make people feel good by doing good?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Tapping that big market of non-users

So many marketers want to convert non-users to users, but India's Air Deccan has actually done it. Take a look at how the no-frills airline describes itself. It started with a single airplane and now, according to one published report, will take delivery of a new plane every month for roughly the next 8 years. That's a lot of seats to fill.

No-frills airlines are gobbling up market share across India, which is where non-users come in: On many Air Deccan flights, more than half of the passengers have never flown before. Of course, it helps that Air Deccan is flying to some destinations served by no other airline. Low costs, low fares, new routes, even new channels for ticketing--that's how Air Deccan taps the huge market of non-users.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Smart marketing, international style

Dinero Express and Electrolux

As I researched new examples for the new edition of my U.S. text (due out in April) and my European text (due out in June), I came across a number of interesting international examples of smart marketing. Dinero Express and Electrolux serve entirely different markets and their products are worlds apart but both understand good marketing.

Dinero Express. The Spanish bank BBVA is targeting immigrants with special Dinero Express branch offices that remain open 12 hours a day, 364 days a year, offering basic banking services plus affordable extras that this niche market needs, like making cheap international phone calls from the branch. BBVA is expanding in the Americas, as well. For more, look at: BBVA's web site and an International Herald Tribune story.

Electrolux. Sweden's Electrolux is targeting higher-value market segments by analyzing unmet consumer needs, measuring how well its current and proposed household appliances meet those needs, and using metrics to track new product development and introductions. Rather than rely solely on consumer surveys, it uses ethnographic research and then constructs personas representing the targeted segments to help staff members better visualize and understand their customers. For more, see this Business Week story.

Watch this space for additional examples of smart marketing in the coming weeks...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The iPod's packaging is clever marketing . . . but too much of a good thing

The iPod's package is a clever marketing tool, as I discovered when I was gifted with one this week. The compact, black-and-white packaging features a full-size rendition of the iPod inside. Actually, two renditions, front and back of packaging.

If you haven't already seen "Pirates of the Caribbean," one side of the box shows Captain Jack Sparrow smiling out from the new larger iPod color screen, inviting you to download the movie. (Presumably, the featured movie will change as Apple makes deals to showcase other movies and TV shows on the box. Take a look at the featured programming on the iPods on Apple's site and you'll see what I mean.)

The reverse side of the box features the Red Hot Chili Peppers album with a song "playing" exactly as it would look on the iPod in use. Great suggestive selling and brand reinforcement.

What's not so clever is the overpackaging. After I popped the iPod out of its nest, I still had to unwrap countless pieces of plastic, open plastic envelopes, and figure out how to pull the earbuds and connectors from their snug hiding places. Remember how 12 clowns used to pop out of the tiny clown car at the circus? That's what it's like to take the iPod packaging apart to get at all the accessories, instruction booklet, etc.

Apple, you know how to make fabulous products. But please rethink your overpackaging to make it more environmentally-friendly!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Sustainable marketing

If you haven't heard about sustainable marketing, you will--and soon. It's attracted more attention, especially in Europe, in the past year.

Definitions vary, but basically, sustainable marketing is intended to meet the needs of customers and the organization while protecting the natural environment (and, in fact, supporting sustainability on a number of levels).

Clearly, sustainable marketing is essential for eco-tourism, for instance: unless the marketing effort is an asset to the preservation of the local ecology, tourists will stop coming because the destination will lose the unspoiled atmosphere that made it so appealing in the first place. In other words, sustainable marketing is a kind of balancing act.

Here are links to three recent company reports on sustainability:

SABMiller BP Vivendi

And two links to more information about sustainable marketing:

Smart: Know-Net (practical information about many topics, including sustainability in product marketing, etc.)

Patrick E. Murphy (academic overview of the history of sustainable marketing by a professor at Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame)

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Hint to Symantec: Fix Your Customer Service and Support

Bad customer service can undo all the goodwill in the world, as I've said in my marketing planning books. Case in point: Symantec, which triggered an 11-day PC crisis that seems to be at an end.

The whole thing started when I downloaded and tried to install a new version of Symantec Norton Systemworks, which crashed my Windows XP. I called Symantec, paid $$FEE to talk with a tech, and got nowhere because the solution he suggested was to wipe my drive by reinstalling XP. Of course I said no.

After speaking with Dell tech people on and off for more than 3 hours (I have a so-called service contract), I was no closer to a solution. So I called Microsoft and paid $FEE to speak with a series of Windows XP experts for days and days--literally. Finally I got an appointment (appointment!) with a top-level expert who fixed the problem by guiding me through the download of a Symantec removal tool! Too bad Symantec didn't suggest this at the outset, especially since I paid plenty for technical support.

Getting Symantec to change my fee from a repair fee to an installation fee has been a big challenge, to say the least. One of the reps, "Mary," refused to let me speak to her supervisor. The Symantec tech expert who helped me successfully reinstall the Norton software (thanks, Craig!) suggested I call in again to talk with the front-end people about adjusting the fee. Later, perhaps, when I'm prepared to spend another 57 minutes on hold waiting to get someone on the phone. Symantec, your customer service and tech support leave a LOT to be desired. My phone's battery nearly went dead while I waited to talk with a live human being. Goodbye brand image.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Super software problems

No posts recently because an attempt to install Norton Systemworks 2007 (purchased and downloaded from Symantec) put my PC into a tizzy, apparently corrupting Windows to a serious degree. I've spoken with Symantec's tech people, Dell's tech people and Microsoft's tech people for a total of about 9 hrs. On Wednesday a "Level 2" Windows specialist will call me for a final try at fixing the problem. Symantec will be getting an earful from me, especially since it charged me $69.95 for the privilege of tech expertise and couldn't solve my problem.

Back to marketing posts once I have a working PC. Enjoy the Super Bowl (the ads, anyway). Update: The 2007 Super Bowl ads weren't very exciting, IMHO. I liked the GM robotic arm ad but not the Snickers ad, which was immediately pulled because it offended a lot of people (and they couldn't figure this out beforehand??).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who opens FSIs any more?

If it's Sunday, it must be FSI day. Twas a time when I opened those FSIs and clipped a few coupons. These days I usually transfer the FSI directly to the recycle bin. Why? Here's what I found in the Valassis FSI for the NY area:
  1. The cover is uninviting, featuring Puritan's Pride supplements sold by mail, fax, phone, or online with a special code. Even if I were interested, I can't buy these in a store so I just skip the cover.
  2. Inside front cover is a Citi/AmEx credit card promotion. How many people need yet another credit card? Next page...
  3. Mrs. T's Pierogies and Finlandia cheese are on p. 3. Yes! Except who has room in the freezer for THREE boxes of Mrs. T's just to save $1? Get real. Coneheads consume in massive quantities, the rest of us buy in ordinary amounts.
  4. Skip to back cover, a good LensCrafters promotion, which I've gotten via direct mail. Redundant. That's all for Valassis.
Now to the SmartSource (NewsAmerica Marketing) FSI:
  1. Colorful, inviting cover featuring Emerald premium snacks and a $1-off coupon on 5-oz pkg or larger. Could be worth clipping.
  2. More national brands I recognize and can find in local supermarkets: Equal, Prego, Wrigley's, Welch's. I'll think about getting my scissors.
  3. The "big game" is only weeks away, and if I didn't already know that, the football-themed promotions would tip me off. The centerfold is a series of coupons for Smithfield smoked meats, "proud sponsor of Super Bowl XLI." Go Patriots! (OK, that's not in the ad, but it doesn't hurt to wave the flag.)
  4. Last half of FSI has some brands I actually prefer: Windex, Fantastik, Ziploc. Definitely worth having the scissors handy.
  5. Back page: Save $1 on any two or any three of the pictured Breakstone's products. The old "load-up" strategy just doesn't work when fridge space is at a premium. I'll stick to coupons where I can buy one or at most two of something.
What I especially like about the SmartSource FSI is that the graphic is much larger than the coupon. I can quickly figure out what's being promoted and recognize the package by label and trade dress, more often than not. Consumers are busy. If you give them visual cues, they'll at least keep their scissors handy. And they'll be able to recognize the product when they spot it on the supermarket shelf.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Meet or Beat Any Price?

This is a story of theory and reality. Theory: What happens to competition when rivals say they'll "meet or beat" any advertised price (or, in rarer cases, any unadvertised price)? Hal R. Varian writes about this in today's New York Times, citing a pre-publication version of an academic paper you can read here: "On the Use of Low-Price Guarantees to Discourage Price Cutting."

In examining newspaper ads for tires, the researchers found that low-price marketers offered to match any price (advertised or not) about 14% of the time. On the other hand, the low-price marketers offered to match a competitor's advertised price about 75% of the time. If you, as a customer, come in with a rival's super-sale flyer in your hand, the low-price marketer will match or beat it. If you don't know about any lower advertised prices, you'll simply pay the low-price marketer's regular (presumably low) price.

Reality: I bought a sewing machine at during a special sale, after a web search that found the same machine at similar prices elsewhere but with a longer wait for delivery. The machine was to be delivered on Tuesday afternoon. That morning, I received an e-mail from Costco, saying:

Recently, our buyers were able to negotiate an additional savings for this item. It is Costco's policy to always pass on the savings to our members. As such, we will be issuing a credit in the amount of $20.00 (plus tax, where applicable) to the credit card used when placing this order.

Even before the sewing machine had arrived, Costco refunded my $21 (tax, you know). I never had to look for any other marketers' special deals, advertised or not. Don't you like Costco's system?

Monday, January 1, 2007

Holiday Roundup

There's nothing like shopping from the comfort of your own keyboard, especially when it's so easy to find promotions and bargains. Before I pressed the "buy" button at any retail site, I opened a separate browser window and searched for the retailer's name plus the keyword "coupon." Up popped places like Dealcatcher, which collect and post promotional codes from hundreds of sites.

Best Buy did a good job of handling gift returns/exchanges: an employee standing just inside the front door put a hot-pink sticker on any item being brought in for return; shoppers were told to pick out a replacement and then go to the customer service desk to complete the transaction. I had no problem exchanging the Stargate set I had received as a gift (which, horror of horrors, came with DVDs from both seasons 1 and 9!) and I was also able to buy additional items right at the customer service counter (instead of being directed to a separate checkout).

Good digital photo prints at good prices--fast! Thanks to an article in PC Magazine, I found Sony's ImageStation site and ordered 150 prints of holiday photos. Prints were sale-priced at a mere 10 cents each and shipping was cheap too. Best of all: the prints arrived in under 3 days, packaged very safely and professionally.

Happy new year!