Friday, October 29, 2010

HTC Builds Its Brand

Taiwan's HTC was once a mostly-anonymous contract manufacturer, making PDAs (remember them?) for Compaq (remember them?). Today, it's gained prominence as the manufacturing brand behind the popular Android smart phones, which rely on Google's operating system.

Sales are going up, as are marketing costs, due to HTC's plans to maintain a world-class brand. Despite supply shortages, HTC forecasts 4Q global sales of as many as 8.5 million handsets, driven in part by the company's new Win 7 phones, not just Android OS handsets.

Want to see HTC's online brand-building activities? Click on its YouTube channel (nearly 21 million views to date), Twitter account (nearly 300,000 followers), Facebook page (which 282,000 people like), or its regular Web page.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ambitious Growth Goals - Audacious or Reasonable?

How audacious of Procter & Gamble to set a goal of adding 1 billion new customers worldwide by 2014! And yet during this past year, P&G says it added 200 new customers, hitting its short-term goal right on schedule, thanks to its ability to weave its well-known blockbuster brands into consumers' daily lives and habits. Introduce consumers to your brands, let them experience the competitively-superior benefits, and the result is additional sales and market share plus (eventually) profitability enhancement.

Coca-Cola has a 2020 Vision for long-term growth. The cornerstones are to live the brand's values, focus on the market (and its needs/behavior), work smart, act like owners, and "be the brand." Improving economic conditions are certainly part of the reason for Coke's recent growth achievements. But focusing on opportunities in Asian markets has also helped drive the company toward its ambitious global growth goals during the past year.

So are stretch goals, seemingly highly aggressive and possibly outrageous, good for a marketing plan? Yes, under these circumstances:
  • The organization has the resources and willpower to support strong, sustained growth.
  • The managers and employees are motivated and will be rewarded for stretching toward the new goals.
  • The organization will be able to measure interim results and make mid-course corrections if needed to stay on track toward each period's objectives leading up to the long-term goal.
  • The offers are competitively superior and the marketing environment presents suitable opportunities for communicating and delivering benefits to the target segment(s).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Old Marketing Rules Still Apply

Marketing's roots go back to one of Peter Drucker's most famous quotes:

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.”
Peter F. Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices

Even with all the business innovations, technological advances, and economic upheavals of the many decades since this was written, Prof. Drucker's observation is still a succinct description of what marketing should be doing.

In other words, no matter how the tools change, matter how the times change, no matter who the audience is and how it's changing, the old marketing rules still apply.

Video rental giant Blockbuster--now in bankruptcy--is a prime example of not moving quickly enough to keep up with snowballing shifts in customer behavior. In resisting the competitive onslaught of Netflix's online convenience and the instant-gratification benefit of Redbox's vending machines, Blockbuster took its eyes off the purpose of creating and retaining a loyal customer base, and thus lost its long-standing advantage.

Netflix wasn't substituting technology for a focus on the customer--it was using its insights into customer behavior to build a business based on creating and satisfying customers. The same holds true for Redbox, which didn't invent the vending machine but saw it as a cost-effective way to give movie-lovers access to recent releases at a low price and in convenient locations. Redbox created so many customers for its business model that vending machines are now seen as a prime way to distribute movie rentals.

The old marketing rules have not gone fact, they're more important than ever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Opting Out of Online Tracking

Although advertisers use cookies, beacons, and other techniques to gather information so they can target messages to the audience's specific interests and behaviors, the idea that we're being followed around the Web electronically can be disconcerting. Privacy? Not online.

In the interest of transparency--and in the wake of a growing backlash--marketers and agencies are finally telling consumers more explicitly and prominently about how they can opt out of tracking. These systems aren't perfect, but they're a good start to helping consumers regain trust that truly private details might remain, well, private.
  • The Network Advertising Initiative invites consumers to opt out of cookies (see above graphic).
  • Yahoo recently discussed its privacy policies and opt-out options for consumers.
  • Rapleaf offers consumers a way to see what's been collected about them and opt out if they choose.
  • Google explains the data it collects for ad targeting, and offers opt-out choices for consumers who don't want to be tracked.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Marketing Takes on Cyberbullying

Adweek challenged a number of agencies to dream up campaigns against cyberbullying. The results are well worth a look. Arnold, for example, suggested a "Team Up" theme designed for social networking sites, an interesting approach in which teens get each other on board. The campaign would include what was once known as a "roadblock" (at least this was what the technique was called at the height of the broadcast TV era), with all major social media carrying the campaign splash page on sign-in. All the proposed campaigns are fascinating and well done.

Several online activities already advocate against cyberbullying, including the National Crime Prevention Council, McGruff (also NCPC), the Girl Scouts, and STOP cyberbullying. Marketing can and should add its voice to the fight against cyberbullying.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marketing Gets Spooky

Southwest Airlines has a seasonal promo on its Web site right now, featuring "haunted hotels." The headline, as you can see below, reads: "Visit some of the most Spooktacular hotels in the U.S."

Given Southwest's reputation for tongue-in-cheek marketing, this fits right in with the brand image and just might give vacationers the push they need to click and reserve before the Halloween season is over.

Candy manufacturers, of course, are in their glory with the big trick-or-treat season coming to a peak very soon. Price promotions are rampant, but some marketers are getting into the Halloween spirit with themed commercials. Here's a link to the latest Halloween commercial for Snickers. Will it give buyers the frights or make them run to the store for a big bag of Snickers?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smaller Stores for Big Cities

Walmart recently announced it will open smaller stories in big urban markets to take the competitive battle to the small-store competitors and grocery retailers in these areas of opportunity. This new strategy is not so different from what UK supermarket giant Tesco is doing by matching store size to neighborhood needs, real-estate realities, and competitive pressures.

This move will also allow Walmart to better tailor its merchandise mix according to highly local buying patterns, an important advantage for building shopper loyalty and increasing frequency of purchase. It could also add another dimension to Walmart's famously efficient distribution strategy by boosting buying from local suppliers for sale in local markets, rather than having to shift merchandise to and from regional distribution centers. In short, Walmart is showing yet again that it's got merchandising savvy. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brands Align with Bands

Red Bull and Mountain Dew have for some time aligned themselves with up-and-coming musicians to reach out to their mutual audiences--with considerable success. And they're not the only brands putting marketing muscle behind bands. Sneaker marketer Converse has a very active music presence, for instance; the New York Times recently covered the subject with this photo of the brand's new recording studio:
Procter & Gamble tested the waters with a music label deal with Island Def Jam Music Group. The project, announced with fanfare in 2008, lasted only a year. Starbucks has its own label and sells music online as well as through its coffeehouses nationwide.

Music has long been part of the marketing package for many brands, but whether moving into the recording end of the business makes sense is still an open question. The answer probably has more to do with the product and the target market than the music and musicians themselves. Pop culture is not a controllable marketing element; corporations have to allow bands considerable freedom and think long-term for the connection to benefit the brand.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Louis Vuitton Teams Up with Bono and Ali

It's hard to miss the latest Louis Vuitton campaign, which features rock star/social activist Bono and his fashion designer wife, Ali Hewson, carrying one of the luxury company's signature bags. The photo, by well-known photographer Annie Leibowitz, is especially eye-catching because it lacks the static, posed look that usually characterizes an ad for an upscale brand.
The NY Daily News complains about the number of messages packed into this one ad. In addition to featuring the Vuitton luggage, the ad mentions Ali's Edun clothing line and also shows some Kenyan charms made by a Fairtrade company. Plus in tiny print, the ad says that profits from the Vuitton bag (as well as Ali and Bono's fees) will be donated to Conservation Cotton Initiative Uganda.

The Daily Mail notes that Bono and Ali are the latest celebrities to appear in Vuitton's Core Values campaign series, which revolve around the brand's iconic image in the world of travel. Vuitton discusses its campaign here.

IMHO, Vuitton's target market is smart, media-savvy, and able to absorb and interpret multiple messages. Just as important, the target market will understand and appreciate the social responsibility angle, which helps to differentiate Vuitton's brand. All in all, I like this campaign.

Monday, October 4, 2010

GM + SUVs = HUH?

General Motors recently announced that it will move quickly to bring big new SUVs to market. Why? Because these are GM's most profitable vehicles.

Even though high gas prices and sluggish economic conditions have put the brakes on SUV sales, and GM's smaller cars are helping the firm rebuild itself financially, management is looking ahead to better times and bigger profits that can come from high-ticket SUVs. But has anybody asked customers what they want?

Of course GM has to think years ahead, because gearing up for new vehicle launches takes time. By the time tomorrow becomes today, the economy is likely to be far better and unemployment much lower. I'm just not sure how quickly SUV demand will rebound, however.

Some customers will always want SUVs, regardless of gas price ups and downs. But will demand be high enough to justify GM's big investment in accelerating new vehicle intros?

Contrast GM's SUV push with Ford, which has been boosting global sales with smaller, fuel-efficient cars. James Farley, Ford's marketing chief, knows how to intro big vehicles: He was in on Toyota's Tundra pickup launch a few years ago.  And Farley is putting Ford's money into smaller vehicles these days, without starving the F-150s and F-250s for which the firm is known.

No matter how profitable SUVs and pickups may be, if they're not what customers want or need, they won't help anybody's bottom line. That's why I'm concerned that GM + SUV = marketing misstep.