Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Marketing Oreo's 100th Birthday

Millions of people are helping Oreo celebrate its 100th birthday through videos, Facebook (28 million "likes"), Pinterest, and YouTube (5 million views).

Every day for 100 days, Oreo has been posting a new image or ad as part of its "Daily Twist" campaign in print and social media.

The finale is next Tuesday (October 1), when that day's ad will be revealed in New York City's Times Square, based on customers' ideas and submissions.

Some of the Oreo promotions in this centenary year are taking the iconic cookie in distinctly different directions from its chocolate roots.

As an example, the new seasonal Halloween-themed version exclusive to Target stores, with "candy corn" flavor and icing, has received mixed reviews.

Still, this unusual twist on the traditional cookie is keeping the Oreo name in the spotlight and headlines! Happy birthday, Oreo.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Building Buzz, Building Loyalty: Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has one foot in the past (the deep past--generation upon generation of genealogical data) and one foot firmly in today, via its savvy marketing. The site operates on a subscription model, selling access by the month, or for 6 or 12 months at a time.

I'm one of Ancestry's 2 million worldwide subscribers. (Above, my grandpa, as a young man, in his grocery store.) The company reported revenues of $166 million in 2007 and by 2011, revenues had grown to $400 million--strong growth regardless of the challenging economic situation. Estimated revenues this year will be $480 million. Some reports point to Ancestry's profitability and refer to a possible buyout.

This week's Businessweek analyzes Ancestry's smart marketing moves. Every few months, Ancestry announces some startling discovery about the family history of a well-known politician or celebrity. That gets people buzzing about genealogy in general and Ancestry in particular, leading some to visit the Web site and register for the company's 14-day free trial. After two weeks, many people find Ancestry so convenient and user-friendly that they become subscribers.

The site also sends subscribers e-mails about "hints"--new documents or research connections that pertain to specific people on their family trees. Hints keep subscribers coming back to the site over and over in search of the latest documents that have been digitized or for connections to distant relatives who are researching the same ancestors.

For holidays such as Memorial Day and July 4th, Ancestry opens certain databases to the public for free searches. This is a different version of the tried-and-true "free trial" promotion that has helped Ancestry attract and maintain a strong and loyal subscriber base.

PS: This is my 701st marketing post! Many more to come in the months and years ahead.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What About Your Stakeholders?

All marketers have stakeholders--but who are they and what do they want? Use this list as a starting point for identifying the people and organizations that (1) can affect your marketing performance or (2) are affected by your marketing performance:
  • customers
  • employees/managers
  • owners/shareholders
  • government (regulators, legislators, etc) 
  • members of the media 
  • securities analysts 
  • suppliers, partners, and service firms (ad agencies, banks, etc)
  • special interest groups
  • competitors
Depending on your market, mission, goals, and plans, you may have other stakeholders. For example, if your company is involved with cause-related marketing, the nonprofit group that benefits from this connection is definitely a stakeholder. Why? Because the amount of money it receives depends on your marketing performance in the cause-related campaign.

In other words, UNICEF is a stakeholder of Giorgio Armani Fragrances and other corporate partners that sponsor the UNICEF Tap Project to get clean drinking water to children worldwide.

As you create your next marketing plan, take time to list your stakeholders and identify how they affect you and how you affect them. If their influence is particularly important to the success of your marketing, think about what they want or expect from your organization and what you can do to communicate with them, if appropriate.

Remember, it's illegal to communicate with competitors to coordinate pricing decisions, for example. Yet for industrywide challenges such as conserving natural resources or reducing fraud, representatives of competing firms might serve together on panels or committees. A number of competitors are members of the Sustainability Consortium, a group that's developing methods for measuring and communicating the environmental impact of goods and services. All are stakeholders in the system that will emerge from this consortium...and as customers, we're stakeholders, as well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Walmart and Sustainability

Remember back in 2007, when Walmart began to go green in a big way?

The world's largest retailer surprised a lot of people with its full-speed-ahead sustainability initiatives. It began adding solar panels to distribution centers and stores, introduced many green products, and jumped on the recycling and CFL bandwagons. Given the huge influence Walmart has on its supplier base, this was a very promising beginning.

Since then, Walmart has logged many accomplishments in its sustainability efforts, including adding alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on traditional energy generation and reducing excess packaging to keep stuff out of landfills. The retailer recycles more than 80% of its waste, not quite reaching its 100% goal--but given the company's global operations, this milestone is positive from any perspective.

Some programs are moving ahead more slowly. Walmart's Sustainability Index, announced in 2009, is making some progress through an industry consortium. However, some observers say the pace is too slow.

On the other hand, even small changes can make a difference in sustainability. Walmart is asking PC manufacturers to put their computers into sleep mode sooner, as an energy saving measure. Its SVP of sustainability explains: "We've really been trying to focus on things that we can do that can provide a benefit but that won't cost our customer[s] more because that's not something we believe that they'll pay for."

Read all about Walmart's green goals and achievements in the company's latest sustainability report.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tracking In-Store Shoppers

Time recently polled its online readers about the practice of stores tracking shoppers by following their smartphone signals or by facial recognition technology. Out of 294 respondents (as of the day I participated), more than half were against the practice. Here's the tally as of September 15:
  • 52% agreed that it violates their privacy and they'd avoid stores using such tracking.
  • 25% agreed that it "creeps me out a little" and they'd prefer to opt out.
  • 5% were neutral.
  • 12% weren't bothered, seeing this tracking as just another data point like the info in a credit report.
  • 5% thought it would be a positive if such tracking helped stores personalize product suggestions and promotional deals for individual customers.
Last November, a mall in California and one in Virginia started tracking shoppers via their mobile devices on Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving, one of the season's biggest shopping days).

Although the malls posted notices about the tracking, the only way to opt out was to turn cell phones off. After a NY senator contacted the malls to question this practice, the tracking was suspended.

As the yearend holiday shopping season draws near, such tracking may again become an issue. New tests are about to begin in which shoppers are tracked via Wi-Fi accessed as they visit stores. Will the info be useful to retailers? Will consumers object?

Friday, September 14, 2012

21st Century Trade Shows

Virtual trade show
Trade shows are still alive and well, bringing B2B marketers together with customers in person or online. 

Marketing Profs recently ran an insightful article summarizing why businesspeople attend trade shows. The top reason, of course, is to see what's new. Here are the main reasons, from most cited to least cited:
  1. See new goods and services.
  2. Collect information for planning purposes.
  3. Gather ideas on near-term trends and changes for decision-makers to consider.
  4. Meet with experts.
  5. Meet with people who can "make things happen."
  6. Meet people with common interests.
  7. See friends and travel to interesting places.
Not everyone visits a trade show in person. One growing trend is toward virtual trade shows that take place online. For example:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Legos for Girls are Selling Well

My first blog entry of 2012 was about Legos Friends, a line of Legos blocks and figurines designed specifically for girls.

Despite some worries about this product line reinforcing gender stereotypes, Legos Friends are selling well--at a rate that's double what Legos projected, which the CEO says is "astonishing."

In a period of economic uncertainty, with purchases of many non-essential items languishing, Lego's profits are actually up by 35%. Its market share has risen by a full percentage point, which in the multi-billion-dollar toy market represents a lot of money.

Now Lego is ramping up to stock store shelves with Lego Friends for the big holiday-buying season ahead. The market has spoken.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pop-up Stores for Pop Groups

One Direction is a UK "boy band" with an international fan base and a big MTV video win to its credit. It made its name on the X Factor show (one of the shows that inspired American Idol) and has been touring the world.

Instead of simply selling T-shirts and other band-branded items at each venue on the concert tour, the band's merchandising company decided to open limited-time pop-up stores in Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and Chicago when One Direction came to town.

Thanks to the Facebook page and other social media, 1D World was the talk of tweens well before One Direction's concert dates. “Before we were coming, before we announced, they all knew about 1D World,” the merchandising firm's managing director tells Maclean's.

Pop-ups featuring music are popping up all over. Two pop-ups opened in Chicago for this year's Record Store Day, one devoted to the now defunct local group Hot Jams and one by Numero Group--both loaded with vintage or new vinyl releases.

The next big occasion for pop-ups is Halloween, when temporary shops open all over America to offer holiday-themed costumes, makeup, and merchandise. Even before the Halloween stores close, the Christmas pop-ups will be open (with enough fake snow to cover the globe several times over!).

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's a Tab, Tab, Tab, Tab World

Amazon has new Kindle tablets on tap (see left)...Samsung recently launched its Galaxy tablets (which may be affected by the Apple-Samsung intellectual property battle)...Lenovo has its own tablet...and more tablet computers are on the way, especially with the imminent launch of Windows 8.

The prototypical tablet is, of course, Apple's iPad. Rumors suggest that an iPad mini is coming soon, just at the time when many competitors think that larger screen size is the way to out-tablet the iPad. The tablet revolution is truly worldwide: In Nigeria, startup Encipher is offering its affordable Inye tablet as an iPad alternative, for example.

Gartner Group projects that 119 million tablets will be sold this year, double the number sold globally last year. Where will PCs, laptops, netbooks and other computer-type devices fit in this tab, tab, tab, tab world?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Supermarkets Rev Up Wedding-Cake Revenues

As independent bakeries disappear from many suburban areas, supermarkets with in-house bakeries are courting couples who want anything from a basic wedding cake to an elaborately decorated extravaganza.

Often, customers can save hundreds of dollars by buying from a supermarket, thanks to a large company's buying power and efficiency. Another reason, apart from price: Wedding-related reality shows and cooking shows are putting the spotlight on custom creations, giving couples ideas they can adapt for their special day (and their budget). Supermarkets are sending their bakers to school to learn these trendy techniques and come back prepared for almost any special event challenge.
Cake by Publix

Publix Supermarkets, headquartered in Florida, has offered wedding cakes for many years. Last year alone, it reported a 4% increase in wedding-cake sales. The retailer advertises in wedding magazines and exhibits at wedding expos around its five-state trading area. Some branches include an in-house event planning service, Apron's, to help customers with customized cakes, food, flowers and other special-event needs.

Cake by Farm Fresh
Farm Fresh and other supermarkets owned by Supervalu, based in Minnesota, are also boosting their bakery business with a 5% increase in wedding cake sales, year over year. "We’re working in various ways to promote our wedding cakes — word of mouth, in-store information and bridal shows," a Supervalu exec tells Supermarket News.

Of course, couples that order a cake from the local supermarket may also look at flowers while they're in the store...