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!