Friday, October 30, 2009

My List of Twitter Lists

Twitter's new functionality allows users to create lists of tweeters and to become followers of lists created by other tweeters. It's great to be able to learn from the interesting tweets, links, and interactions of groups of Twitter users. The Influential Marketing Blog has a good, quick summary of the advantages of the new list functionality.

Here are a few marketing/social media lists I'm following:
  • @ctmarcom/marketing - Three dozen marketing specialists who tweet (yes, I'm on it), list compiled by Coreen Tossona
  • @jowyang/thought-leaders - List of thought leaders, compiled by uber thought leader Jeremiah Owyang (alas, not including me)
  • @b2bspecialist/CMO - List of 56 chief marketing officers, also compiled by Chris Herbert (I'm not eligible but glad this list is available)
  • @thewebchef/Marketing - From "web chef" Paul Gibler, a listing of must-follow marketing tweeters (I just made it onto this list)
To be continued as the listing of lists grows. Happy Halloween to all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VW's Drive to Overtake Toyota

Volkswagen's long-term goal is to overtake Toyota as the leading automaker on the planet, by 2018. VW is already #3 worldwide and wants to zoom up to the #2 slot soon--not right now, however, since Toyota's most recent results show it pulling away from the pack, thanks to improved sales in Asia.

In a Financial Post article on, the head of Volkswagen Group Canada observes:
“What most people don’t know is that we go quietly along. We sell more Jetta diesels nationwide in a month than Toyota sells Priuses. And yet the Prius gets all the press.”
Stimulus programs have helped VW increase sales in Germany, China, and Brazil, among other markets, and the car company's marketing plans call for more aggressive advertising in the Americas.

VW is revving up its hip factor. When it introduced its 2010 hatchback model recently, the announcement was made not on TV or radio, not in newspapers or magazines, but via a racing game in the form of an iPhone app.

VW's new plant in Tennessee will give it the capacity and the flexibility to produce fuel-efficient cars geared to local driving tastes. The company is also exploring new technology for the car of the future. Can VW get its marketing into overdrive and overtake Toyota by 2018?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Face of Branding: Faces of College Athletes

Watching Notre Dame win over Boston College yesterday, I noticed what you can plainly see in this NBC Sports file photo: Adidas gets audience attention every time the TV camera focuses on quarterback Jimmy Clausen (which is much of the time). Other UND players had Adidas logos on their faces as well. Adidas is one of the team's corporate sponsors, along with Coca-Cola, JP Morgan Chase, Gatorade, McDonald's, and Xerox.

I'm accustomed to seeing logos all over sports uniforms, hats, helmets, etc.. But college football stars' faces as brand billboards?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Twist on Ingredient Marketing

This month's Entrepreneur mag has a full-page ad about Nestle Toll House Cafe by Chip franchise opportunities.

The ad sends readers to the site, where I learned that "The concept was conceived in 1998 and takes advantage of the fact that people love to reward themselves with items they feel have a distinct quality and freshness." The cafes feature Nescafe coffee, cookies with Nestle ingredients, and Dreyer's ice cream--all well-established Nestle brands. The franchisor, Crest Foods, has awarded 100+ franchises and recently opened its own cafe in California.

The Nestle choco chip is often discussed in marketing texts as an example of "ingredient marketing" because it's incorporated into a finished product. This franchising concept puts an entirely new twist on that idea, with the spotlight on multiple Nestle brands that have earned reputations for quality and flavor.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NASCAR Sponsors Chase Brand Connections

This weekend is the TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR race. At first I wasn't sure about connecting the TUMS brand with a NASCAR race; then I realized that this is a good way to reinforce the brand's benefit of speedy relief. Plus TUMS gets thousands and thousands of brand impressions in one day through this sponsorship, not counting pre-race publicity.

Every NASCAR race has a different sponsor, each brand seeking to leverage audience demographics, psychographics, and interests. For instance:
  • Chevy Rock & Roll 400 (natural connection)
  • AAA 400 (associate with auto/travel benefits)
  • Pepsi 500 (link "fun" soft drink with exciting sports event)
  • Amp Energy 500 (high-energy sports event, high-energy Pepsi drink)
  • Ford 400 (another natural connection)
  • Sharpie 500 (get a driver's autograph with a Sharpie?)
  • Carfax 400 (check Carfax before buying used cars?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marketing Win 7

After months of build-up and promotion, Microsoft launches Windows 7 tomorrow. Searching for "Windows 7" on Google a few minutes ago, I found that most of the results on the first page are from Microsoft (good optimization!). The top result was for news, including links to more than 1,000 articles and reviews from publications as diverse as PC Magazine and the Houston Chronicle.

Amazon is selling tons of Windows 7. In the UK, the Daily Mail quotes an Amazon exec as saying: "The launch of Windows 7 has superseded everyone's expectations, storming ahead of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows as the biggest-grossing pre-order product of all time at, and demand is still going strong."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Intel Code Names

Remember Pentium or, even earlier, those Intel microprocessor chips that had only numbers like 386, not names? Today Intel likes to use code names for chips and other products. The company Web site has an alphabetized list of processor code names, starting with Banias and ending with Yorkfield. Chipsets go by code names such as 870, Crestline, and Springdale. Boards carry code names like Buffalo Creek, Fly Creek, and Raisin City. Makes me want to get out my atlas or use Google Earth to look up where in the world these are named for (except 870, of course).

Speaking of Intel, Fast Company has a quick slide show of Intel past, present, and future, to go with its November cover story Intel Risks It All (Again). Worth reading, especially the parts where Intel learns to work with Apple and how its recent ad campaign came about. Chipzilla?!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Social Media Guidelines

On Twitter, I saw a post by @TrendTracker (via @Twitter_Tips) about a site where the public can view the social media policies of dozens of companies, nonprofit groups, and government agencies.

It's Social Media Governance's online database of social media policies, to be exact, and it's worth a click or two to see how organizations are striving for transparency while balancing the need to protect proprietary info.

You can see, among others, the American Red Cross's social media policy for employees and for local units; the Canadian Broadcasting Co's Facebook policy; GM's blogger policy; IBM's social computing guidelines; Microsoft's blogging and tweeting guidelines; Roanoke County's social media policy; the US Air Force's new media policy; and Wal-Mart's Twitter discussion guidelines.

It's smart marketing to let employees (and the world) know about social media policies so there are no misunderstandings or miscommunications. This is especially important in light of the new FTC rules, taking effect soon, that material connections must be disclosed if a blogger or tweeter gets paid or gets freebies for promoting or reviewing a product. I hope more organizations, small businesses included, will post their policies for everyone to see.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Amazon Vine Reviews

Have you heard about Amazon Vine? Here's the description from the web site:
Amazon Vine™ is a program that enables a select group of Amazon customers to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make educated purchase decisions. Customers are invited to become Amazon Vine™ Voices based on the trust they have earned in the Amazon community for writing accurate and insightful reviews. Amazon provides Amazon Vine™ members with free copies of products that have been submitted to the program by vendors. Amazon does not influence the opinions of Amazon Vine™ members, nor do we modify or edit their reviews.
I ran across Amazon Vine reviews when looking at what readers had posted about the hardcover edition of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. In fact, the first three reviews featured for the hardcover, at least today when I looked, were from Amazon Vine and were all posted during late July 2008. All were clearly marked as "Amazon Vine" reviews, a disclosure that I appreciate.

This is an interesting development and I'll be interested to see whether other companies do this, especially in light of the recent FTC rule change requiring bloggers and celebrity endorsers to disclose "material connections" (payment by or freebies from companies).

Monday, October 12, 2009

CSR at the Gap

Corporate social responsibility reports are new for some companies, but not for the Gap. The San Francisco-based retailer got deeply involved in international CSR years ago, after bad publicity about living and working conditions at the overseas factories where its apparel products are made. It instituted strict supplier compliance rules and backed them up with action. It has also focused on going green throughout its value chain.

The Gap has been issuing CSR reports for some time, switching to online-only communications in recent years to save trees and money. Its latest report is a multimedia affair, chock full of info about its factories, suppliers, environmental initiatives, employee engagement and much more.

Check out the Gap's "data dashboard" page with metrics reflecting the retailer's CSR goals and progress. Very well done, easy to understand, and a good tool for letting stakeholders know, at a glance, what the chain has accomplished in CSR.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Boo! Halloween marketing

Theme parks and attractions across the US are doing more to market themselves as fun/frightful destinations for Halloween season. In California, Universal Studios is challenging Knott's Berry Farm as the two parks promote special themed nights, parties, and activities during the run-up to Halloween.

Knott's has been targeting this segment for more than 30 years; Universal's latest Halloween theme initiative began a couple of years ago. If the parks can encourage families and teens to establish a holiday tradition of visiting during the fright events, they'll gain traction and extend the season profitably.

Lake Superior Zoo is marketing "Boo at the Zoo" as a limited-time Halloween event. The Party Central theme park in Shreveport, Louisiana is "Scary Central" for the month of October. The list goes on and on. Plus Halloween and the whole trick-or-treat concept are spreading around the world. Will this year be tricky?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Retail Webcam: Transparency or TMI?

Asda, the Wal-Mart-owned discount chain in the UK, has introduced webcams into some of its production facilities and backrooms. Take a look here for updated views of the dairy where Asda milk is processed and other areas not normally in full view of shoppers.

The idea, says CEO Andy Bond, is to demonstrate that Asda is run "by the consumer for the consumer", and "there is no 'behind the scenes.'" Like a restaurant with an open kitchen to show off its cleanliness and quality, Asda wants to use its webcams to demonstrate transparency. You can see Andy Bond discussing his vision of "democratic consumerism" here.

Now that I've watched bags of carrots moving up and down the conveyor belts on Asda's carrotcam, I can see some of the appeal. If cameras capture the view 24/7, shoppers feel more reassured about the journey their carrots take from field to package to store. These days, consumers are asking more questions about where their food comes from, so this kind of transparency is a good thing.

Yet I can't help wondering: Are such webcams increasing transparency or are they delivering TMI (you know, too much information)?

Is there another way to be transparent without training a webcam on the minutiae of everyday operations? Do I, as a consumer, want to be a quality-assurance inspector for the stores? Not me. Either I trust the store to do its job properly or I don't.

At the same time, I applaud all efforts toward increasing transparency and wish more companies would be more open about their products, processes and policies. I won't be watching carrotcam, but it's good to know that somebody can watch.