Friday, May 29, 2009

Demarketing Tobacco

In marketing jargon, demarketing means to reduce demand for a product, and that's exactly what the World Health Organization is aiming to do for tobacco products. It's been campaigning to have regulatory agencies worldwide discourage people from smoking by posting pictorial warnings on cigarette packs.

The WSJ has posted a few graphic warnings as a taste of what's to come, if regulators follow WHO's strong suggestion. Canada was the first nation to require pictorial health warnings on cigarettes, and apparently demand is down.

Now some 2 dozen countries do so, and more are following suit. India is poised to start such labeling on June 1, after months of delays and discussions about how graphic the photos should actually be. Thailand is soon to add color photos to better highlight the health risks and, yes, make them graphic to reinforce the dangers. Will the United States go down this road?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Early Mobile Marketing Adopters

OK, it's no surprise that iPhone users are early adopters and opinion leaders. I didn't realize, until I read MediaPost's reports about AdMob's analysis of Gartner cell phone sales stats and NetApplications data, that iPhone users were the biggest consumers of mobile marketing in April.

If this trend continues, will the future of mobile marketing be shaped by iPhone users? Rubicon Consulting's recent report on iPhone users confirms that they're young, affluent, and tech-savvy. ReadWriteWeb observes that the iPhone's success puts pressure on mobile phone makers to improve the mobile web experience in general. Of course this will ultimately lead to new capabilities and new ideas for marketing to . . . people who are joined at the hip to their cell phones.

It makes sense that iPhone users would be early adopters of mobile marketing, in part because they like being the first to try the new new thing and in part because they enjoy exploring every last feature and app. If mobile marketers can generate interest and actual response among iPhone users, other consumers are sure to follow. Just as important, other marketers are sure to follow and continue experimenting to learn what the mobile audience likes and dislikes, praises and pans.

Bottom line for mobile marketers: Pay very close attention to response. Experiment, learn from other marketers, and be sure that whatever you do works well on iPhones.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Parades Online

So many towns and cities have Memorial Day parades . . . and web sites to let people know where and when.

To keep the traditions alive, it's important to use media that reach people of all ages--the web, Twitter, FB, whatever.
  • Washington DC has the big National Memorial Day Parade (see above).
  • I found a state-by-state listing of parades here.
  • Rockville, MD's parade web site is easy to navigate, includes names/logos of corporate sponsors.
  • Canoga Park, CA's parade web site is particularly professional.
  • Milwaukee's parade web site has lots of heart, very colorful.
  • On Facebook, the Memorial Day page by Soldiers Angels, quite moving, is here. Not a parade site, but a memorial and history plus some parade mentions.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Justgiving, a UK company set up to help charities raise money online, is the parent of Firstgiving, a US for-profit business helping nonprofits get the cash they need to do good works. How it works: Firstgiving hosts the fundraising pages for each nonprofit, securely accepts and transfers donations, provides widgets to highlight donation levels, and takes care of all the details of harnessing tech to operate the money side of things. In exchange, Firstgiving gets 7.5% of the amount raised.

Does it work? Well, Firstgiving was the technology behind the 2009 Boston Marathon's fundraising of $1.9 million for nearly 100 charities. Since 2003, Firstgiving has helped 25,476 nonprofits raise more than $96 million. Sounds like a plan.

All kinds of causes are represented on Firstgiving's pages, from the Blue Rudge Rollergirls skating for the Asheville Humane Society to the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics Georgia. Browse charities by tag (such as "education") to see the diversity of causes on Firstgiving's site. Bottom line: A touch of good marketing for some very good causes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Branding The Missing Link

A skull from 47 million years ago may hold the key to linking the evolution of primates with the development of humans. You've seen the headlines screaming: "Missing link." One newspaper calls this the "Holy Grail of human evolution."

But have you thought about the marketing implications? With a History Channel special, book deal, and other hoopla, The Missing Link is evolving into its own brand. The Missing Link is even featured in today's Google's logo (as you can see).

With all of this brand recognition--and all of the WOM buzz--will The Missing Link soon get its own TM or SM or other intellectual property protection? When will The Missing Link have its own YouTube channel, start blogging, start tweeting?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Coca-Cola

Did you know that this month is Coke's 123rd birthday? Take a look at Coke historian/archivist Phil Mooney's blog, Coca-Cola Conversations, for a quick history lesson.

Coca-Cola is featuring photos of US Olympic champs and competitors on its packaging and in-store displays ahead of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, just as it did to promote its sponsorship of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. For 2010, three figure skaters (US Men's Champ Evan Lysacek and US Pairs' Champs Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker) will be featured, along with the well-known Olympic speed-skating medalist Apolo Anton Ohno, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, and ice hockey player Angela Ruggiero. Cool!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hanging Up on Robocalls

Robocalls have a bad rep, especially after the latest round of illegal random calling to scare consumers into buying unneeded vehicle warranty extension service contracts. By this September, robocalls will be illegal unless the recipient agrees in advance, in writing, to receive such calls. Note that political robocalls will NOT be affected by the new FTC rules because they aren't actually promoting the purchase of a good or service. Too bad, because every fall brings a flood of unwanted and sometimes misleading political robocalls.

Although robocalls must now include a way to get off the list by pressing a button or using a voice-activated request, who listens to such calls long enough to get to the part where we can opt out? As soon as I hear the familiar robocall refrain . . . "Your mortgage rate is too high! Press 1 to hear about low mortgage rates in your area," I hang up. Lately I hang up as soon as the robocaller says, "This is your final chance to get low credit card rates . . . "

One type of robocall I don't hang up on: Emergency notifications from my town's government. When heavy rains caused power outages around town not long ago, I received a robocall advising me that an emergency shelter would be open at a nearby school in case residents needed a warm, dry place to sleep that night. I didn't need to take shelter, but it was comforting to know my town was ready to help.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Transit Ads Take Off

Transit advertising never really left, but its use has increased as mass transit gained riders in recent years. In NYC, transit ad possibilities include displays atop station entrances, as shown here, plus posters in stations, posters in subway cars/city buses/suburban commuter trains, and billboards along subway rights-of-way.

In London, transit advertisers have many of the same display possibilities plus the opportunity to make a huge impact by being the sole advertiser on an entire platform, a single station stop, or a particular Underground subway line. Many taxis and buses are wrapped in ads, making them moving "billboards" for goods and services.

Does transit advertising work? A London Metropolitan Business School master's degree candidate concludes that it's especially effective when a single advertiser wraps an entire vehicle (see above) and when the advertiser needs to cut through clutter to reach commuters during rush hour.

For photos of transit ads around the world, try Flickr or Google images.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Space Opera and Nokia

Product placement did not run rampant in the new Star Trek movie. The Nokia placement was in "character" for the brand and the movie, although Engadget and some other blogs disagree. We see a Nokia phone integrated into a classic Corvette driven by the young James T. Kirk. (No spoiler here--check this clip to see the product placement.) Nokia has released a limited edition phone with Star Trek extras like a phaser shot ringtone. More on the marketing tie-ins at May the rejuvenated Star Trek franchise live long and prosper.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Reads? PBS Viewers

PBS has a clever marketing gimmick that's so simple and inexpensive yet not often included in marketing plans (except for those promoting books). It creates free bookmarks about its upcoming series programs and gets them into libraries for distribution. And that's how I first learned about Wallander, the three-episode series starring Kenneth Branagh as brooding Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. Earlier in the year, I noticed PBS's bookmarks promoting its American Experience series. PBS clearly knows that its viewers are also readers--and use their local libraries. Smart marketing!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Seeing Red Over Redbox

Apparently the success of Redbox--those ubiquitous $1 DVD rental kiosks in supermarket and chain stores across America--has upset Blockbuster and some movie studios. Redbox was originally owned by McDonald's but now is owned by Coinstar, whose coin-counting kiosks appear in many of the same chain stores.

The industry argument against Redbox goes like this: Who'll buy a DVD or visit a local Blockbuster when they can rent the latest hits from a self-serve kiosk in a nearby supermarket for only $1 per video per night? Yikes.

Now for the consumer view: Redbox is convenient and perfectly positioned for impulse rentals. Its occasional free movie coupons are a nice plus. However, the selection in any given Redbox is very limited.

Customers can reserve a movie to be ready at one of 15,000 local kiosks, but what if they want to watch that night? And if a store closes before customers return their DVD to the Redbox, they have to either return it at another Redbox elsewhere or pay an additional $1 for a second night's rental (returning the DVD when the store is open the next day).

Still, if Redbox can hold the price line at $1, it will continue to make competitors see red, especially because consumers need to pinch pennies in today's economy. Consumers clearly understand the value difference between renting and owning. If they want to buy and keep a movie, they'll do it. If they want to watch once, they'll rent.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

JCPenney's Attitude of Gratitude

JCPenney sent me a postcard today--and (as a customer and a marketer) I was pleased by the retailer's attitude of gratitude.

The copy adjacent to the address part of the card reads:

A Special Message to You:

I'd like to wish a very Happy Mother's Day to all our friends and customers.

During this special time, I want you to know how much we value your business. There are many places you can choose to shop. We are doing our best to make sure that JCPenney meets -- and even exceeds -- your expectations.

We're stepping up our style, with the quality you expect and the prices you love. This is what you've asked for, and I want you to know we're listening.


Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III
Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer

Style, quality and price matter
Dear Mr. Ullman:

Thanks for your postcard and your company's attitude of gratitude. Thoughtfulness matters too. Even if I don't buy now, JCP is definitely on my list of places to shop. You've earned my respect and I'm glad to know you're listening.


Marian Wood

PS--Blog readers, what do you think of JCP's attitude of gratitude?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bendel's and Filene's Basement

No surprise: Filene's Basement has filed for Ch 11 bankruptcy. A few posts ago I wrote about how the off-price retailing model was never meant to be a mass-market business. Whatever emerges from this Ch 11 bankruptcy, it won't be the treasure-hunt off-price model of the past.

Henri Bendel, the luxe NYC specialty retailer, is leaving apparel behind to concentrate on higher-profit accessories and cosmetics. Not sure Bendel's will make it with such a limited focus (and in a city where shoppers have so many upscale choices).

Where will the wheel of retailing turn next?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mayo Blogs and Tweets

The Mayo Clinic blogs and tweets? It has multiple web sites and e-mail newsletters? Yes--what a great way to polish the rep plus connect with potential patients, colleagues, and other key stakeholders.

The clinic's social media guru, Lee Aase, also runs SMUG, which stands for Social Media University, Global. Check it out for courses about blogging, tweeting, podcasting, and other social media practices. All for free. This is just what the doctor ordered.

Why does Mayo, a well-regarded medical institution of long standing and high stature, believe in social media? Here's the answer, courtesy of a recent article in the Star Tribune:

"As we see people communicating in new ways, we want Mayo Clinic to be part of the conversation," said Dr. Thoralf Sundt, chair of Mayo's marketing committee. "We know the conversations are happening out there. This is a chance for us to join."