Thursday, December 26, 2013

Strolling Down the Starbucks Signature Aisle

Now that Starbucks stores are everywhere, the company that brought coffee culture to America is seeking growth through branded packaged products sold in other stores.

The biggest battleground is in supermarkets. Above, a Starbucks Signature Aisle located inside a Safeway supermarket, showing the special holiday blend and the loyalty program Starbucks is offering to reward frequent buyers, an extension of its highly successful cafe rewards program. Don't forget Evolution Fresh juices (acquired in 2011) and the new yogurt to be cobranded with Danone.

To prepare for this latest growth strategy, Starbucks ended its long-time deal with Kraft, which was its original partner for packaged-coffee sold in supermarkets. Even though the divorce cost Starbucks more than $2.7 billion, the company viewed it as a necessary step toward further expansion.

Knowing what customers buy in a cafe and in a store will help Starbucks do a better job of targeting and promoting all of its foods and beverages.

Meanwhile, watch for more Starbucks cafes with localized decor as 2014 arrives. And if you're the one of the one in 10 Americans who (according to company estimates) receives a Starbucks gift card this holiday season, enjoy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Tis the Season to Pin: Retailers and Pinterest

'Tis the season to pin! Retailers are increasingly pinning their hopes on Pinterest, with marketing campaigns geared to the visual and viral. Here's a quick overview--Pin numbers are as of December 19:
  • Macy's is a Pinterest heavyweight, with more than 10,000 pins, including "Star Gifts," a seasonal board featuring holiday gift ideas.
  • Topshop, the UK-based apparel retailer, partnered with Pinterest on "Dear Topshop," a gifting campaign (see screen shot at left) that lends itself to sharing. Pinterest users can pin their gift wish-lists, exchange ideas about holiday outfits, and more. 5,300 pins and counting.
  • Neiman Marcus continues its Pinterest series of pins under boards with titles like "The Art of Celebration!" and "The Art of Giving." More than 7,300 pins.
  • Walmart has 3,000+ pins, including seasonal gifts, crafts, and entertaining ideas/products. 
  • Target (which today announced a security breach involving as many as 40 million credit/debit cards) has 6,000+ pins, from party goods and gifts to holiday food ideas. 
  • Home Depot has 5,000 pins, covering the usual DIY products plus gifts for him, gifts for her, gifts for kids.
  • Lowe's has 2,275 pins, including gifts for him and gifts for her, and holiday home ideas.
  • Amazon has, surprisingly, only 524 pins. Topping the list: holiday gifts, electronics gifts, toys, and lifestyle.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Social Media Marketing Down Under

A social media agency in Australia has just published its report showing the Facebook Australian brand accounts with the most fans and the Facebook Australian brand accounts with the most engagement.

Counting fans, the winners are shown above. In terms of engagement (shares, comments, etc.), the winners are shown below, a mixture of tourism, products, media, and shared-interest pages:
  1. Australia 242,380
  2. Babyology 79,543
  3. Fifi and Jules 71,163
  4. B105 67,660
  5. 9 News 66,847
  6. Sunrise 65,301
  7. 2Day FM 55,378
  8. Fox FM 49,142
  9. Black Milk Clothing 45,750
  10. Hungry Jack’s 40,082
According to Nielsen, Australians are adopting social media quite enthusiastically, with 70% of all Australians using some form of social media (mainly Facebook). According to Galaxy Research, the top two apps used by Australians traveling abroad are Google Maps and -- Facebook.

At the same time, the majority of people surveyed by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner said they were concerned about online tracking by marketers. Many had chosen to stop doing business with marketers due to privacy concerns.

Given the popularity of social media, what's a marketer to do? First, clearly and prominently explain what information is being collected and how it will be used. Also emphasize security. But don't lose the fun and sociability of social media along the way, which is why people are flocking to Facebook and other sites in the first place.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Where Cobranding Is on the Menu

If you've been to a casual-dining restaurant recently, you've probably seen cobranding on the menu. For example, Doritos Locos Taco is an exclusive Doritos-branded offering at Taco Bell and Strawberry Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich is a dessert available only at Carl's Jr. (see photo).
Ad Age has a brief list of other cobranding deals that include a well-known grocery brand with a well-known casual-dining brand. 

And now, Pepsi has a deal with Buffalo Wild Wings to supply its soft drinks (in place of Coke-branded beverages) and talk about cobranded menu items featuring Frito-Lay snacks.

Cobranding isn't new, but it's being used creatively in the restaurant industry to sharpen the differentiation between competing chains. Cobranding often attracts a lot of media attention, which in turn means curious customers flock in for a taste. Plus, loyal brand fans of the grocery brand may become loyal fans of the new menu item.

Thanks to cobranding, the Doritos Locos Taco became a $1 billion menu item in less than two years, by far the most successful new product launch in Taco Bell's history. 

What new cobranded menu items will we see in 2014?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sports Teams Embrace Dynamic Pricing

The St. Louis Cardinals*, like a growing number of Major League Baseball teams, uses dynamic pricing to "adjust [single game] ticket prices upward or downward on a daily basis based on changing factors such as team performance, pitching matchups, weather and ticket demand."

The team's website notes that 77% of games in 2012 had tickets available for $10 or less, and 37% of games in 2012 had tickets available for only $5. Given the Cardinals' performance in 2013, I'm sure that single-game ticket prices were significantly higher--increasing both revenue and profits for the team.

The Baltimore Orioles have just instituted dynamic pricing for 2014. The Cleveland Indians also use it, which has resulted in raising the traditionally low upper-reserved ticket price from a flat $8 to a higher average price. Season passes aren't affected, only single-game tickets.

Other sports teams use dynamic pricing, as well. In the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers are going to adjust prices every week, based on a variety of factors. Other NBA teams applying dynamic pricing are the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic. The NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs also uses a version of dynamic pricing.

Emory University's analysis of dynamic pricing in sports ticketing notes that the relationship between teams and their fans is a little closer than the relationship between most brands and their customers. In the view of Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, "a reliance on strict demand based pricing will tend to reduce the fan-team relationship to a series of cold economic exchanges."

Dynamic pricing may not be a fan favorite, but it looks like the wave of the future for sports teams.

*2013 National League Champions (they lost to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wisk's Time to Shine

Remember Wisk?

The laundry detergent's ad campaigns during the late 1960s and early 1970s focused on how to get rid of "ring around the collar." (Hint: Use Wisk!)

Now Wisk is back in the spotlight. Why? Because Consumer Reports gave Wisk its top rating in June.

Like thousands of other readers, I went to the store in search of Wisk . . . and came home empty-handed because the fragrance-free HE version wasn't available.

Fast-forward to this morning, when I found this hang-tag on all Wisk liquid laundry detergents in the local supermarket.

What you don't see in the above photo is the $1-off coupon that I detached and used at the checkout.

Lacking the multimillion-dollar budget of Tide and other multinational brands, and lacking prime shelf facings in many places (Wisk was on the bottom shelf, facing my toes), it's using hang-tags and coupons to attract attention and encourage trial.

Wisk's latest campaigns are digital, and the brand is very social, with more than 300,000 Facebook likes and some clever posts (see left). Wisk's Twitter account has fewer than 10,000 followers as of today. Owned by Sun Products, which has only existed since 2008, Wisk is making the most of its marketing opportunities.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Retailing 2013: The Year of the Pins

Pinterest is front and center for many retailers during this holiday shopping season, leveraging the power of social media to showcase products that are popular "pins."

Above, Target's Pinterest board (via New York Times), showing "Pins You Love" at top left, and other products by category (sweets, fashion, food, gifts, etc.). Target's CEO explains that Pinterest is "where the customer is" and therefore, “We ultimately concluded that if that’s the way the guest is going to live and shop, then we want to be a showroom. And we love showrooming — provided we can capture that sale.”

Zappos is one of a growing number of retailers partnering with Pinterest to showcase the most popular of their pins drawn from Pinterest every day. Nordstrom (which has more than 4.4 million Pinterest followers) is promoting products in its stores that are the most popular on its Pinterest board.

Happy pinning!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fourth Annual Small Business Saturday

November 30 is Small Business Saturday, started by American Express in 2010 to encourage shoppers to patronize small businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday.

The movement has been embraced by merchants and shoppers alike. Just check the Facebook page, which has 3.2 million likes. Yikes!

The Twitter account has 25,000+ followers. Check for the hashtag #smallbizsat and you'll see all kinds of specials and comments.

The Small Business Administration is one of many organizations supporting the movement with tips and clicks.

Yes, Amex gets a lot of publicity out of it, and yes, it would be nice if Amex got a lot of charge business too. In fact, Amex offers a free $10 credit for shoppers who use its card on Saturday (check the fine print for the details and limitations). Still, an Amex VP says: “Small Business Saturday is payment agnostic,” she says. “As long as consumers shop small, we don’t care how they shop.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Marketing Middle-Earth and Friends

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in December, and of course marketing is building to a crescendo, given the size of the production investment, the importance of the Hobbit brand franchise, and the competition among holiday-time movies. The Hobbit Facebook page has 3.4 million likes, and counting, as the social media marketing machine heats up.

Filmed in New Zealand, like the Lord of the Rings movies, this second in the Hobbit series is renewing interest in New Zealand as a travel destination. All the major players gathered in Wellington for a fan event, one of many marketing activities leading up to the movie debut. Air New Zealand is prepping a jet to look like something out of Middle-Earth and building branded videos and contests around the movie's world premiere.

Other friends of Middle-Earth are also riding on the movie's coat-tails. One example: LEGO is launching a new game based on the Hobbit movie trilogy in 2014.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mobile Payments Grow

Businessweek reports Gartner numbers showing mobile payments around the world growing by 40% per year (see graphic). Consumers think mobile is coming, but not anytime soon. So what's happening?

One notable success is Starbucks. After three years in the marketplace, Starbucks' mobile payment apps now account for 11% of all in-store transactions in US and Canada Starbucks outlets. Buyers aren't just picking up java--they're also buying music and other non-coffee products. Starbucks is using a rewards system to keep mobile customers motivated to use the app again and again. Although 11% penetration after three years isn't an avalanche of support, it's significant progress.

The much-touted Isis Mobile Wallet has finally launched, a joint venture of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. Rewards are also being used to motivate usage: Jamba Juice will have freebie smoothies and My Coke Rewards at vending machines will be linked with Isis.

Google Wallet is pushing its mobile wallet, adding peer-to-peer payments and other functionality to expand usage. Other mobile payment options include apps from Visa and MasterCard.

Coin is taking a different approach: It invites users to load info from multiple credit and debit cards (and gift cards) onto a single card. Paired with an app, the user then selects which card info to use at the point of sale. Intriguing but still in the prototype stage.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Black Friday Evolves Into Black Thursday

With enormous pressure to capture shoppers and generate revenue, retailers are announcing earlier and earlier opening hours for the all-important Black Friday shopping extravaganza. Target will open at 8 pm on Thanksgiving night. To quote a Target senior exec:
For both our guests and team members, Black Friday is an exciting event that officially marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. By offering advance access to deals at and opening our stores earlier, we are making it easier for guests to build a Black Friday ritual that works for them.
In other Black Friday news, Kmart is opening on 6 am on Thanksgiving--and its doors won't close for an amazing (or desperate) 41 hours. Best Buy is opening at 6 pm on Thanksgiving.

Black Friday online deals will begin even sooner! Remember, Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving this year, which makes the buying frenzy a bit more frenzied.

However, Thursday purchases cut into purchases on Friday, with the result that in 2012, the dollar amount of sales on Black Friday was lower than during the previous few years.

Black Friday may be America's busiest shopping day, but in China, the online e-commerce site Alibaba has made today, November 11th, an incredible day of bargains. The Wall Street Journal says Alibaba rakes in more in this one day of shopping than all US online retailers sell on Black Friday AND Cyber Monday.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bye Bye Blockbuster, via Marketing Myopia

Blockbuster turns out to be the definitive case study of a company so successful and so powerful that it couldn't imagine its business model being overtaken by new technology.

Once upon a time, Blockbuster was the 800-lb gorilla of video rentals, with giant stores from coast to coast, filled with thousands of VHS tapes (later, DVDs). Then came Netflix and other DVD-by-mail rental startups, challenging the market leader with inexpensive subscriptions and more lenient return policies. Blockbuster tested some new services but with legacy leases, its retail structure probably dominated strategy discussions year after year.

Another important consideration was customer behavior. Wouldn't viewers rather pick up a DVD for that day's viewing, instead of waiting for a DVD to arrive by mail? Blockbuster clearly thought so, and Redbox had the same strategy. But customers were busy booting up new devices and living the wireless life--disruptive technology. And that's what flattened Blockbuster, in the end.

Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010. Then the brand and assets were bought by Dish Network in 2011. Now Blockbuster is finally admitting defeat and closing all its remaining stores. Redbox still has its DVD rental kiosks but it also has an instant streaming subscription option.

In contrast to Blockbuster's marketing myopia, Netflix had its strategists looking ahead and steered its customer base toward all-digital delivery, reducing costs and allowing for instant analysis of customer likes/dislikes/behavior. Thanks to big data (a top buzzword of 2013), Netflix was able to determine exactly what its customers want to see--and commission or license entertainment exclusively for its streaming viewers. In other words, Netflix realized it was NOT only in the entertainment-by-mail business.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ron Burgundy Sells Durangos--Really

Ron Burgundy--the dim-witted 1970s anchorman from the 2004 movie Anchorman--is coming back to movie theaters just before Christmas.
And what better way to get publicity for his unique personal style than to have Ron endorse the Dodge Durango? Above, Ron delivers a pitch for the redesigned Durango's roomy glove box, a 1970s guy impressed by a 21st century vehicle.

Will Ferrell, appearing as Ron Burgundy, filmed dozens of such commercials as part of the publicity for his new Anchorman 2 movie. Check the YouTube channel to see more in the series.

The target market is Millennials--and this offbeat campaign, launched early in October, is making a real difference in awareness, brand preference, and sales. Within a few days, the Ron Burgundy videos were viral, viewed nearly 3 million times as they became a social media phenom., the car shopping site, says searches for the Durango increased dramatically after Ron's commercials began airing. Dodge's online numbers are way up as well: "We've seen almost an 80 percent increase in Web traffic alone since the campaign launched," confirms the head of the Dodge brand. Dodge's Facebook page is drawing more attention, too.

Ron's lame attempts to sell are actually boosting Durango where it counts the most: Vehicle sales are up by 50% this year, in part because of the new commercials.

Although Chrysler didn't pay Ferrell, it did pay to air the commercials on TV. Everybody wins: Ferrell builds anticipation for his next film, Chrysler builds sales for Durango, and consumers laugh out loud at Ron's clueless commentary.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stylish Marketing for "Catching Fire"

The second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, opens on November 22nd. Like many sequels of hugely popular movies, this one is expected to be a major blockbuster because the brand franchise is solidly established.

The studio's marketing chief, Tim Palen, began a year in advance of the opening with a multidimensional campaign featuring tons of digital and social media. His focus: The super-stylish Capitol District, where Panem's officials are headquartered. He created a faux web-based Capitol Couture magazine with features and fashion photos of Katniss Everdeen and other characters.

The social media angle includes Google Plus, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and (of course) YouTube. Three weeks before the movie opened, the Lionsgate Hunger Games YouTube channel already had more than 221,000 subscribers and many social media mentions.

A natural complement to this focus on style is Cover Girl's Capitol Beauty Studio, a new line of beauty products organized according to the 12 districts represented in the novel and movie. Shown here is the beauty look for District 1--luxury.

The studio is encouraging publicity about the movie's fashions, which are over-the-top. This is an interesting marketing approach that builds buzz based on the look of the movie and the characters. Of course, Hunger Games is such a global phenomenon that the movie is almost guaranteed to be an incredible hit. As a fan of the books, I'm looking forward to this second movie in the series.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tis the Season for Pop-Up Shops: Blink and They're Gone

Pop-up shops exist to build brands and awareness for only a short time--blink, and they're gone.

Sometimes the goal is to test a new brand or product, or to reach a new market. And sometimes the goal is to encourage the usually dreaded showrooming, meaning customers will look in person but then buy online. With a pop-up, the company wants people to browse the website long after the shop has moved on.

Major downtowns, especially those with retail vacancies, are increasingly benefiting from the pop-up trend. On any given day, New York City may be host to some 200 pop-ups in high-traffic or high-fashion districts (or even in the subway). But pop-ups are popping up in suburbia as well, frequently in vacant mall spaces.

Here are a few trends in pop-ups this fall:
  • Musical groups are using pop-ups to promote new releases. Pearl Jam opened one inside a skate-board retailer and closed it after 24 hours--just enough time to get the buzz going as hundreds of fans lined up to buy the new music (the band wasn't even there).
  • InStyle Essentials has a cause-related connection (see photo), with a mobile pop-up in Boston donating one shirt to Dress for Success for every shirt purchased. It's in a busy location and getting a bit of publicity, too.
  • Ten Thousand Villages, the Fair Trade merchant, tried for years to open a holiday season pop-up around Greenville, N.C. This year it happened, building both awareness and sales in the all-important year-end gift-buying period.
  • In Oxfordshire, two online-only businesses have eight-week leases to show their products for the holiday season, hoping to build website business and of course sell some products in person. If all goes well, one or both may open a retail location in 2014.
  • Dockers is reinventing itself for a younger target market, with an introductory pop-up in New York City and a cross-country mobile pop-up tour.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Audible Ad Hits the Marketing Bull's Eye

IMHO, this magazine ad by Audible is so right for the target audience in so many ways. During the past week, I encountered this print ad in The New Yorker and in the New York Times Book Review.

How does it hit the bull's eye? Let me count the ways:
  • The creative cleverly conveys to the audience: hey, this ad is about something otherworldly that you can listen to via earbuds and your digital device. And of course, those earbuds are white--a subtle nod to those sophisticated Apple iPod ads from a few years ago (see above right).
  • The copy reinforces the message about sci-fi audiobooks and adds its own clever twist: "for when you're teleporting to work." Readers can't help but smile and appreciate the humor (or irony, depending on your viewpoint).
  • A free sample! And one that comes with a built-in tracking code so Audible can determine where you saw its ad. Great for metrics that help the company make informed choices about where to allocate its media budget.
  • Two choices for downloads--Apple App Store and Google Play, for Android. Plus in small print, a notation that membership is billed monthly but members can cancel anytime. Disclosure that's short and sweet.
  • Just in case you didn't know, the ad reminds readers that Audible is part of the Amazon empire. And that means Audible members who have Kindles can take advantage of some synching and bundling options for books with audio and electronic versions.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Best Global Brands vs Most Admired Companies

Pop quiz! Here's a top 10 listing. Is it of best global brands (as ranked by InterBrand) or of most admired companies (as ranked by Fortune)?

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. Coca-Cola
  4. IBM
  5. Microsoft
  6. General Electric
  7. McDonald's
  8. Samsung
  9. Intel
  10. Toyota

Time's up. Here's the OTHER list. Now can you tell the difference?

  1. Apple
  2. Google
  3. Amazon
  4. Coca-Cola
  5. Starbucks
  6. IBM
  7. Southwest Air
  8. Berkshire Hathaway
  9. Walt Disney
  10. FedEx
List #2 contains a key clue: Berkshire Hathaway is a brand name in only one case, for the Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies.

So the top list is from Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2013 and the second list is from Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies.

Notice the overlap: Four of the 10 companies are on the top-10 brand list (Apple, Google, Coke, and IBM). Doesn't this make sense?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mystery Shoppers Go Mobile

Mystery shoppers act as "eyes" and "ears" for management, visiting stores, restaurants, and other businesses to check on service, look at displays, and answer other questions without revealing their mission. I've been on both sides of mystery shopping--as a retail manager receiving feedback and as a mystery shopper myself, visiting stores to buy something, return it, report on the general condition of the store, and so on.

Today, mystery shopping has gone mobile. Mobee (app shown above) is a Boston-based mystery shopping service that has a Yelp-like role in providing instant feedback. Businesses can use it to see how their customers are being treated, how certain branded products are being sold in stores, or for competitive intelligence. "We collect data from customers at your stores, analyze it, and package it into insights that improve your business," says Mobee's web site. At any one time, about 500 "missions" (requests for mystery shopping) are active, many for fast-food franchised restaurants. Mobee's mobile users earn gift cards for answering questions as they visit the outlets being shopped.

Rewardable takes a similar approach in the Connecticut area. Customers open the app when they're near or at a store, see what "tasks" are available, and then click to answer a few questions as mystery shoppers. The company recently completed mystery shopping for a food company interested in checking that its promoted products were on an end cap and visible throughout the sale dates at Stop & Shop supermarket stores.

Mystery shopping is important all over the planet. In Asia, Shopbust is a mystery shopping app with consumers participating in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. Participants receive payments via PayPal. Of course Shopbust is social, with both Twitter and Facebook activity.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Makes Design So Important?

Design isn't just for fashion--it's a vital marketing-mix element for any product these days. Here's what three marketers from three very different industries have to say about the importance of design:

  • The head designer for Russia's Lada cars (sedan at right) says: "Everyone knows what a Lada looks like, but there has never been a real emphasis on design. That will change in the future." His first step--"emotionalize" the car via design, following in the footsteps of automakers that use design to compete. Read more here and here.
  • Nike's CEO sums up the role of design this way: "Any business that wants to realize its potential has to realize good design." He also notes that the world doesn't need more mediocre design. Watch the 30-second video here.
  • Apple's Jonathan Ive says the best design is when "It almost appears like it wasn’t designed." In other words, when the product is so intuitive, so natural feeling, and so functional, that customers can't imagine it any other way. Read more here

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Texas Is Pickup and SUV Country

Bloomberg Businessweek just published this graphic showing where new car sales are strongest--and of course Texas is a hot spot. Yes, North Dakota and Alaska have more registrations, but there's no question that Texas is pickup and SUV country.

The Texas State Fair, which runs for another 12 days, features a dedicated auto show and larger-than-life displays to catch the eye. With 300,000 square feet of auto exhibits, there really is something for everyone. Check out the listings of exhibitors in these photos from the fair's site. Texas-sized marketing!

The state is such an important market that Ford chose it as the location for a media sneak peek of its 2015 F-Series Super-Duty King Ranch Truck. Ford sells a new F-series pickup in Texas every 42 seconds.

GM builds a number of SUVs in Texas, including Chevy Suburban and the Tahoe, among others. Having signed on as the state fair's official sponsor, Chevy gets top billing and some Texas-sized bragging rights.

Toyota is in Texas, too, announcing it produced its 1 millionth truck in its local plant. The new Toyota Tundra comes in a special 1794 edition named for the ranch where the plant is located. But Toyota still has a ways to go to catch up to Ford and GM in the Lone Star State.

Why are SUVs and trucks so important in the marketing scheme of things? They deliver big profits to automakers. So even though fuel-efficient vehicles are increasingly popular, SUVs and trucks boost revenues and profit margins, big-time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick! Who's Using Vine for Marketing?

Have you seen Vine? App-accessed via iPhone or Google Play, Vine is devoted to 6-second videos posted on Vine or on Twitter or Facebook.

Vine videos are bite-size, blink-and-you-miss it compared with YouTube videos, which now seem long-form because length is almost unlimited.

Of course marketers are already experimenting with Vine. General Electric is attracting attention with its #6secondscience Vine videos. Above, one of GE's Vines, mentioned by CNet as a "stellar example" of Vine medium. GE's chief marketing officer explains the reason for seeking buzz: "We are all emotional beings. We want context. We want relevance. We want connection." And Vine helps GE bring its brand to younger buyers.

Disney, which has 3 million Twitter followers and 45 million Facebook likes, recently jumped on the Vine bandwagon, with a contest asking visitors to post Vines of their Disney experiences (not just in the theme parks but also with the characters).

Other examples: Burberry edited a 15-minute fashion show down to 6-second highlights for Vine; Bacardi created 6-second "how to" videos about the making of a cocktail; Lowe's posted 6-second "how to" videos about home improvement projects.

Vine is attracting a cutting-edge community of faithful viewers. Before you join in, know your audience and know what you want to accomplish. Watch some popular Vines and look at the Vine accounts that have the highest number of followers. What can your brand do that would be relevant to the audience and true to your brand/marketing objectives?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Scarcity Marketing for Halloween

You know it's autumn when Starbucks puts pumpkin spice lattes back on the menu. The company has sold 200 million of these lattes in nine years on the market. This year, it's got lots of competition: Panera, McDonald's, and Dunkin' Donuts are in the pumpkin spiced coffee business, as well. A quick Google search of "pumpkin coffee" brings up many other competing products from retailers like Trader Joe's and Fairway.

Halloween is also a time for unusual limited-time food and beverage treats.

  • One bakery in New York is making Cheetos macarons (who could make this up?). 
  • Of course Oreos are out in their Halloween finery (at right). 
  • Jones Soda is bringing back its Halloween flavors. 
  • Cadbury Screme Eggs are back, from Hershey. 

Scarcity marketing generally adds to the excitement of limited-time and seasonal flavors and foods, encouraging people to buy now before it's too late.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cinnabon's Sweet and Social Marketing Success

Above, the well-known Cinnabon Classic bun next to the Minibon. Counting sales in its franchised stores and through other channels, including branded buns in Burger King, Cinnabon sells 100 million cinnamon-infused sweet rolls every year and rings up $1 billion in global sales.

The brand positioning is as a sweet indulgence, not an everyday experience. Still, the caloric Cinnabon Classic (880 calories) is hugely popular, compared to the Minibon (350 calories). Cinnabon is also partnering with Pillsbury and Kellogg, among other big companies, on cobranded food products for supermarket shelves.

More growth and profits are in sight as Cinnabon expands into new markets like Libya and adds new franchise locations in existing markets. After all, with only 1,100 retail locations worldwide, there's lots of room for new stores.

The company is a hit in social media, with nearly 1 million Facebook friends, 48,000 Twitter followers, a YouTube page, a Flickr page, and quick responses to brand references in all media.

Coming up next: Cinnabon K-cup coffee pods from Green Mountain Roasters. What other cobranded products will Cinnabon explore?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Big Ad Spenders of America

Advertising Age used this infographic to show the 25 biggest U.S. advertisers during 2012 (as ranked by measured media spending).

AT&T took the top spot, with an eye-popping $1.59 billion for television, radio, print, outdoor, and online display ads.

Even Budweiser, at the bottom of this top 25 list, spent an impressive $449 million. 

What Ad Age doesn't include is spending on mobile marketing and other digital spending.

Mobile spending alone is projected to increase by double-digits this year and next year as the number of smartphone users continues to rise.

Social media marketing is becoming an ever-larger part of the budget, as well. Procter & Gamble, for instance, has shifted money to boost its investment in digital and mobile marketing. "The bottom line is we need and want to be where the consumer is, and increasingly that is online and mobile," a spokesperson explains. It's not the only company to do this--Home Depot and many others are thinking the same thing. This shift will change how and where America's biggest advertisers invest their marketing budgets in 2014 and beyond.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Customer Reviews: To Trust or Not to Trust?

Fake customer reviews of goods, services, and establishments are much in the news these days. Last month, settled a lawsuit it had brought against a company alleged to have posted thousands of fake reviews of car dealerships.

Yelp is working to crack down on fake reviews and warning users to be wary of extremely positive reviews. The site even flags businesses that have been identified as posting fake reviews, a sort of "buyer beware" caution, for more transparency.

Why the focus on reviews? It's a bottom line issue, quite literally. Academic researcher Michael Luca recently determined that a one-star improvement in ratings can translate into a 5-9% revenue increase for the business being reviewed. "Online reviews are shockingly important for a small business that is trying to thrive. Five percent is enough of a difference in sales to make a business stay open or closed," he explains.

The New York attorney general is currently cracking down on fake customer reviews because they are misleading. "When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving," he says.

So can customer reviews be trusted? A USA Today writer concludes: "I'm convinced that you should believe what you read, or at least some of it, because the reviews might be written by real hotel guests and restaurant patrons, and they can be useful when you're planning your next vacation." In other words, take reviews into consideration as one of several criteria used when making buying decisions. Good advice. Trust, but verify with other sources and use your own judgment.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Making Mobile Marketing Successful

What does it take to make mobile marketing successful in engaging customers and achieving objectives such as building awareness and revenues?
  • Google offers 10 tips for mobile marketing here, emphasizing the benefits and opportunities of customer engagement and usage data analysis. 
  • Forrester's recipe for mobile marketing success includes establishing objectives, planning for measurement, and "big helpings of analysis."
  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau mentions the most fundamental principle of all: Be sure your mobile website is optimized for users' screens, needs, and behavior, a point reiterated by the CEO of Brightedge.
  • Be multichannel ready as customers choose either smartphone or tablet for convenient, instant access to goods, services, and information.
IKEA has the right idea: Understanding that customers want to be able to envision how a piece of furniture or an accessory would look in their home, the retailer has released a free augmented reality app (iOS and Android), keyed to 90 products in its latest catalog. Highlighted products will be identified by a special symbol in the catalog. Here's how it will work, according to an IKEA manager:

"That particular IKEA product will be able to be ... photographed or lifted off the IKEA catalog page and superimposed in that location in [customers' homes]. Let’s say it’s a sofa that they want to try out, in their own living room, to see how that sofa would look amongst the other furniture they have in their home."

In short, the app helps customers make a more informed buying decision, providing added detail when and where needed, whether in the store or when paging through the catalog. No wonder the IKEA app was the top marketing branded app downloaded during 2012, according to Econsultancy. Research showed the IKEA app engaged customers for a longer period than the catalog alone, a measure of success.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Marketing Mallomars, the Century-Old Cookies

Have you heard of Mallomars? The cookies are produced only during cool weather, starting with a graham cracker base, topped with a marshmallow filling, and coated with chocolate.

Because of limited availability, Mallomars has developed a bit of a mystique among brand fans. A search for Mallomars turns up more than 58,000 hits, many of them blog entries or inquiries by people who love the cookies and look forward to their reappearance every September.

Now that the brand is marking its 100th birthday, parent company Nabisco (part of Mondelez, the company formerly known as Kraft) has created a special Facebook page for the cookies. Stores in the Northeast are trumpeting the arrival of Mallomars with signage and special point-of-sale displays that boost the profile of this usually low-key cookie.

Although the Mallomars brand is less well known than Oreo--which celebrated its centennial in 2012, also orchestrated by parent Nabisco--loyal brand fans are buzzing about the cookie's birthday and, just as important, they're buying boxes for themselves and for their friends.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rubber Band Loom Fad Fueled by Social Media

Have you noticed those woven rubber band bracelets on the wrists of children and adults alike? Yes, this is the fad that's taken over where Silly Bandz and its competitors left off a couple of years ago.

Entrepreneur Cheong Choon Ng, an engineer at Nissan, came up with the idea for the Rainbow Loom after watching his daughters weave tiny rubber bands into intricate bracelets by hand. He filed a patent to protect his new product and ordered looms and rubber bands from a manufacturer in China.

Sales were sluggish until his daughters created videos showing how to use the loom to make all kinds of bracelets and anklets. Rainbow Loom's official Facebook page encourages fans to share their designs and its official Instagram page does the same. Soon fans began posting their own YouTube videos showing individual designs and techniques, sending the craze viral. Suddenly, sales gained momentum and Rainbow Looms became the product of the moment, with distribution through Learning Express and other stores. 

Now that Rainbow Loom has sold more than 1 million kits, competitors are marketing their own versions of rubber band looms. Entrepreneur Ng is suing, alleging patent infringement over the C-connector used to close the bracelets, among other legal issues. Meanwhile, he is also looking ahead to extend the product life cycle by identifying other ways to use the Rainbow Loom. How long will the rubber band loom fad continue before it fades?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Segment Personas: What Would Ocean and Duke Wear?

Marketers for Lululemon, the hugely successful maker of workout clothing, design new products and programs by thinking about what Ocean and Duke would wear, what they need, what they like and what they don't like.

Ocean is 32 years old, a graphic designer who's physically fit, well educated, and affluent.

Ocean is married to Duke, a 34-year-old architect who's also interested in staying fit.

Ocean and Duke are segment personas (also known as buyer personas), fictitious profiles representing how the customers in a target market behave, live, and buy. Giving them a name and a lifestyle turns buyers into real people rather than nameless, faceless customers who are indistinguishable from nonbuyers. Segment personas also help the firm avoid assumptions or misperceptions about who its buyers are and what they want/need. So Lululemon uses personas to inspire its designers and stay focused on the needs and activities that are relevant to customers in the targeted segments.
Intuit, which markets Quicken, Quickbooks,, and other financial services-related tech products, has an informative explanation of the what and why of personas here. Content Marketing Institute explains how to keep personas fresh and up-to-date here. And Hubspot describes the value of developing negative as well as positive personas here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Old Spice Down Under

Remember the social media marketing success story of Old Spice? In 2010, the brand and its sales were reenergized by clever, timely web videos of Isaiah Mustafa as "the man your man could smell like." Sure, the campaign kicked off with TV commercials...but then it kicked into high gear with YouTube releases personalized to address various celebrities, one by one by one by one.
In the space of just a few days, Old Spice produced and released 180+ individual videos, attracted nearly 6 million views, and generated 22,500 comments. Those stats were just for the first week--and they don't count the impact of the original Super Bowl commercials, which were seen by millions. You can view ad agency Wieden & Kennedy's case study about this game-changing multimedia campaign here.

What made Old Spice's campaign so effective? One of the writers and creative directors for the campaign tells Inc.: "The key is interacting with consumers and building a relationship that's not just putting out a TV spot every once in awhile and hoping that works." In other words, the social media aspect allowed Old Spice to keep up a dialogue with consumers instead of a monologue.

Now Old Spice is bringing the campaign down under. Next week, the Old Spice Man will be in Australia and New Zealand to shoot new content designed for local audiences. Putting an Aussie/Kiwi spin on a campaign for Aussie/Kiwi consumers is smart marketing, sure to jump-start the dialogue with consumers and bring the brand cachet that retailers will appreciate, as well.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Amazon Invests in Distribution Power

Amazon is investing billions of dollars to expand its distribution capabilities...not just to accommodate aggressive growth but also for competitive/cost advantage in same-day delivery.

And it's figuring out ways of cramming more product into the same space and retrieving it more quickly. "We now get about twice as much product in this building [a new warehouse] as we would have four or five years ago," says the VP of worldwide operations and customer service. That translates to improved cost-efficiency, important because of Amazon's policy of free shipping for orders of $25 or more.

Interestingly, Amazon UK is amending its free shipping offer, excluding thousands of products just as the all-important year-end holiday buying season is about to start. Whether this change will remain as competitors crank up their holiday promos is uncertain.

Each Amazon warehouse employs thousands of people in multiple shifts...and with so many new warehouses, Amazon may be able to compete in product categories where others have had difficulty--such as grocery delivery. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wristwatches for Fashion (and Function)

Yesterday's post considered innovations in high-tech smartwatches. Today, a look at trends in wristwatches. Not 21st-century digital watches for Dick Tracy, but watches that actually show the minute and hour. Here, consumers are looking for more than functionality.

At the high end of the market, luxury watches serve as status symbols. "It’s a great, timeless way to show your wealth, but also an investment in a stable market which has hardly shifted in decades," says one expert.

In fact, the vintage trend includes the purchase of expensive "pre-owned" luxury watches, with new marketing channels popping up to accommodate buyers and sellers.

Popularly-priced watches are fashion statements and functional gadgets for the rest of us. Remember Swatch, the affordable fashion watch that revolutionized the industry 30 years ago? It's still going strong--not only profitable but also extending its product mix to include high-end brands like Harry Winston. Many fashion brands have their own watch product lines, and a range of prices as well. A watch for every wrist, a watch for every occasion or outfit, fitting today's diverse consumer attitudes and behavior.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What Would Dick Tracy Wear?

Do people want smartwatches, in the style of Dick Tracy? OK, Dick's watch was a 2-way radio, introduced in 1946 . . . but do Millennials really want to strap on a phone/web browser/personal data storage device?

When the New York Times's digital expert David Pogue looked at smartwatches just seven months ago, he was unimpressed. "As though by silent agreement, the gadget industry seems to have decided that 2013 is the year of the smartwatch," he wrote in February. He concluded at the time that the gadgets he reviewed weren't very impressive (and were expensive to boot).

That was before Samsung's Galaxy Gear, to be introduced shortly (photo above is from the intro presentation--product to be available from October in US stores). Samsung wants to polish its innovation credentials and beat Apple to the punch in launching a new wearable device that is both fashionable and functional. Pre-intro, speculation is that the Gear will have a 4-meg camera, be Android-operable, and have both Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities--when paired with a smartphone, most likely. (Intro: 1.63" screen, make/take calls without having phone in hand, Bluetooth connection...and available in 6 colors, as shown above.)

But what about the smartwatch as a product category? Given the enormous popularity of tablet computers, and the ongoing erosion of PC sales, will the smartwatch be a short-lived niche or will it develop into a sizable segment? Already, one-third of U.S. consumers own some sort of tablet (iPad, Kindle Fire, Tab, Nexus, etc). And many tablets are downsizing for better portability. How tiny do consumers want their screens to be?

Would Dick Tracy strap on a Galaxy Gear? 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Multibranding at Starbucks

If and when the ubiquitous coffee culture cools off after its long reign, Starbucks will be ready with a fridge full of other food products under various brands. This multibrand strategy is important because it facilitates revenue growth without the expense of opening new cafes--and it reinforces the company's toehold in non-coffee products.

Evolution Fresh juices, a 2011 acquisition, will give Starbucks its intro to the fresh-juice refrigerated section of supermarkets like Whole Foods. (Facebook: 10,700 likes for Evolution Fresh.) The company is smart to make the most of established grocery relationships in its marketing channel. Plus from a profit perspective, doesn't it make sense to sell your own products in your own outlets? That's why Evolution Fresh is replacing the Naked Juice line of fresh juices that Starbucks currently sells in its stores. And adding new Evolution Fresh snack bars to Starbucks menu boards.

In addition, Starbucks is partnering with Danone on a line of Greek yogurt parfait-style products, to be marketed under the Evolution Fresh brand. The idea is to sell them in Starbucks stores and through the grocery distribution channel. This is another bit of diversification that will help Starbucks offer more things to more people without going too far out on a limb. Again, it makes sense to boost a home-grown brand rather than bring in outside brands.
Starbucks not only has high awareness and positive associations among its customer base, also has a very cost-efficient social media platform for promoting itself and its brands (Facebook: 35.2 million likes; Twitter: 4.8 million followers).

And in the corporate social responsibility area, Starbucks is testing new community stores. These specially-designated stores donate a portion of each transaction to local programs for education, youth, health, etc. The newest community store in Seattle, for instance, expects to donate about $100,000 to the local YWCA. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Marketing Ski Season Passes in Summer?

Maybe the weather is hot where you are, but ski enthusiasts are already thinking about the coldest, snowiest days of winter. If you're thinking about boarding or skiing the mountains at Aspen or Vail or other big ski areas, you may have noticed that the price of a season pass is generally going up. Nobody knows how much snow will fall when the temperature falls, but if you wait to buy a pass, you'll pay more than you would if you buy during the dog days of summer.
  • Aspen Skiing Co. is offering a discount until September 13th, when the price rises--and rises again after November 8th.  
  • Sugarbush has special pass pricing until September 12th. Its segmentation includes special pricing for college students, corporate employees, and families with kids.
  • Heavenly Lake Tahoe has special season pass deals until September 2d. Segments being targeted: adult, teen, child, and senior.
  • Sundance Resort is pricing its season passes lower until Halloween. Its segmentation includes targeting college students, "juniors" (6-12 yrs old), "student" (teenagers), corporate skiers, seniors, and night-only skiers.
The good news is that many season passes are good at multiple mountains. Even better news is that some passes include extras like lodging packages. In many cases, buyers enjoy flexibility in choosing when and where to ski, which is especially appreciated by the segment of variety-seekers. The mountains and lodges get money upfront and, just as important, gain a competitive edge when you buy their pass.

Here's how Vail's chief marketing officer explains the season-pass marketing strategy in this week's Time magazine: "After you've bought our pass, are you likely to go skiing elsewhere? No. Passes really drive customer loyalty."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Target to Canada: "Hi Neighbour"

Even before Target opened its Canadian stores, it used a friendly, low-key "Hi, Neighbour!" campaign to reach out to shoppers who knew the store by reputation (and sometimes from shopping in its US stores).

Note the spelling of "neighbour," showing how carefully Target is, well, targeting Canada. The retailer's Canada Facebook page has 1.1 million likes and content that is designed specifically for the market. (Target Canada also has a Facebook page in French, with 64,000 likes.) Target Canada has 65,000 Twitter followers (fewer than 2,000 Twitter followers for the version in French.) Posts are friendly and frequent, with an informal tone that reinforces the "neighbourly" feeling.

Target has tremendous buying power, which helps it to price competitively. Its strong brand image is yet another advantage that helps it compete with long-established rival retailers throughout Canada.

As in many other markets, the retail industry in Canada is experiencing consolidation--creating both opportunities and challenges as supermarkets, drug chains, discount stores, and department stores battle for shoppers and market share. New entrants also put pressure on all stores to reexamine profit margins and slice prices. Despite some criticism that retail prices in Canada should be about the same as those in the US, increased competition from stores like Target may eventually help reduce the pricing gap.

Meanwhile, retailers are making deals to improve efficiencies and accelerate growth. This week, the retailer Metro agreed to operate Target Canada's in-store pharmacies in Quebec. Last month, the Loblaw's grocery chain sealed a deal for Shopper's Drug Mart. Earlier, Sobey's bought Safeway Canada. And in July, Hudson's Bay bought the upscale Saks Fifth Avenue department store chain, weighing further expansion in Canada. Will more US retailers say "Hi Neighbour" as they expand northward?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mobile Changes the Web Browser Wars

This map from the current Economist magazine shows that the Google web browser Chrome (green) has captured considerable market share worldwide during the past 12 months.

The days of Netscape (intro in 1994) vs Microsoft's Internet Explorer (intro in 1995) are so far in the past that Netscape is an unfamiliar brand to most Millennials. Opera (1996) was an early IE competitor, but once Mozilla Firefox was launched (2004), Firefox gained share very quickly. And when Chrome came along (2008), the marketing muscle of parent Google gave it a huge headstart in capturing share.

However, the rapid rise of mobile browsing is changing the equation again. Firefox seems to be having difficulty achieving significant momentum in the mobile market. Opera reportedly has 100 million mobile users in China. And Google is increasing integration of its Chrome for mobile with other Google apps/functionality (like Google Docs).

Which browser will be on top next year at this time?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pricing the Kind Bar

Today's New York Times has an excellent article about pricing, "Doing the Math on a Snack." It's all about how different retailers price the Kind bar, produced by Kind Healthy Snacks and marketed with a brand image of quality, healthiness, and social responsibility.

Kind relies on a multichannel distribution strategy, selling online (direct to consumer and through online merchants) and in different types of retail outlets, including natural foods grocery chains (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's), drug chains (Duane Reade), mass merchants (Walmart and Target), and newsstands/stores at transportation hubs (subway entrances, airport kiosks).

When the New York Times comparison-priced Kind, it found a range of retail prices from a low of $1 per bar (at a Whole Foods store) to a high of $3.50 per bar (at a newsstand at Kennedy Airport).

Why such variation in pricing for the same product? The retailers didn't explain, but the director of Columbia University's Center for Pricing & Revenue Management told the newspaper that stores are probably setting a price they know they can get consumers to pay, especially if the consumer's options are limited (such as being at the airport).

Try this pricing comparison yourself. I found, today, 12 Kind cranberry-almond bars selling on Walmart's web site for $14.44 (note the unusual price point, a signature of Walmart). The same 12 bars were selling via Amazon from Kind itself for $13.72. What prices can you find?

Oh, and of course Kind is social media savvy: Look for the brand on Facebook (136,000 likes) and Twitter (18,000 followers).