Friday, February 28, 2014

Hashtags Keep the Marketing Conversation Going

It's a hashtag world for marketers these days. On Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Vine, and Facebook, marketers and consumers use hashtags to identify content about specific brands, products, topics, events, occasions, people, and more. The idea is to start or add to a conversation, potentially propel a hashtag into viral territory, maybe even make people smile--and, ideally, give the brand a promotional push.

One key element of hashtags is that they must be short and to the point. A brand like KitKat uses a Twitter hashtag like #HaveABreak to encourage consumers to post photos or other content related to enjoying KitKat bars as, well, a break. For tips on choosing a hashtag for marketing purposes, check this MediaBistro infographic. To see which hashtag campaigns Search Engine Watch named the best of 2013, click here.

For more impact, keep the marketing conversation going across social media sites with hashtags. For visual impact, think Pinterest or Instagram. Instagram explains how to use hashtags for photo campaigns here. Don't miss the links to marketing uses by General Electric and #charitywater.

Monday, February 24, 2014

LEGO Movie Fan? Save the Date: May 26, 2017

The animated LEGO Movie has been a tremendous box office success, out-grossing competitors for three consecutive weeks. Of course, having instant brand recognition among movie-goers of all ages doesn't hurt. But first-hand reports from family and friends indicate that the movie is actually laugh-out-loud fun for young and old.

Over the weekend, Warner Bros announced the sequel will be released on May 26, 2017. Mark your calendar! Speculation was that the sequel would be in movie theaters during 2016, but that was cutting it too close for development and production. In addition, a Ninjago LEGO movie is in the works, based on the success of the Cartoon Network animated series. In other words, LEGO is making excellent use of its brand franchises.

Some critics say that the LEGO Movie is, in fact, a full-length commercial--very entertaining, but advertising nonetheless. Still, the youngsters I know have insisted on seeing it twice (and they definitely want to own it when it comes out on DVD). 

Year by year, brick by brick, LEGO is identifying new opportunities to make the most of the mini-figure characters and themes in its product portfolio. Video games are in the works, and new building sets based on multimedia projects starring LEGOs.

Integrated marketing and careful, deliberate brand management is giving LEGO an even brighter future in the second decade of the 21st century.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Joe Fresh Goes Abroad

In September, 2011, Canadian-based affordable fashion brand Joe Fresh, owned by Loblaw and popular in its home country, launched itself in New York and New Jersey. Initially, Joe Fresh was marketed in standalone U.S. flagship stores. Soon after, it arranged to put the Joe Fresh brand in hundreds of J.C. Penney's U.S. stores.

Given J.C. Penney's ongoing problems, it's not surprising that Loblaw's executive chairman recently had this to say about the relationship: "It obviously hasn’t gone like we hoped that it would." He remains optimistic, given Penney's commitment to Joe Fresh and the level of its merchandise purchases.

Now Joe Fresh is moving outward from its base by partnering with companies that will showcase it in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and South Korea. By the end of 2018, these partnerships will result in 120 new Joe Fresh stores spread across 23 nations. Joe Fresh is also in talks with Selfridges, with the aim of having a branded store or space within the London retailer's store.  

The target market is young, style-conscious, budget-conscious consumers. These are social-media-savvy buyers, which is why Joe Fresh keeps its Facebook page fresh (with 188,000 likes) and updates its Twitter feed regularly.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ethnographic Research for Marketing

Genevieve Bell plays a vital role in Intel's long-term strategy and marketing plans. It's all about understanding people.

As director of user experience research, Bell and dozens of her researchers fan out across the planet to observe and question consumers about their use of tech gadgets, in everyday situations. She even has her own page and video on the Intel website.

Recently, Bell told the New York Times about her role at Intel:
My mandate at Intel has always been to bring the stories of everyone outside the building inside the building — and make them count. You have to understand people to build the next generation of technology.
Ethnographic marketing research is on the rise, as companies like Intel, Procter & Gamble, Whirlpool, Diageo, and Ford strive to learn much more about their consumers--what they actually do, what they actually like, how they actually use products at home or in out-of-home circumstances, and what motivates them to choose and use one product rather than another. Often, consumers can't identify, articulate, or accurately describe what they do or want--yet ethnographic researchers may identify important clues through observation and follow-up questions.

Ford hired ethnographic researchers in the 1990s to discover why consumers weren't connecting with the new Mustang's power and styling. Riding along with consumers, the researchers learned that drivers sensed a car's power in many ways, through feeling the engine's rumble, listening to its sound, and viewing the design as an elemental cue to power and speed.

Based on these insights, Ford redesigned the Mustang to effectively convey the positioning of power and speed. According to a Ford design executive: "This vehicle has that sense of motion, even when it’s standing still. It captures your eye from 50 feet away — it’s instantly recognizable as a Mustang."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Brand Vision and Living the Brand

Here, in their own words, are the mission and core values of three major brands. Notice the emphasis on brand image/personality, as well as on connecting with customers and other stakeholders (investors and the world at large).

Staples, the office products retailer (with 1.1 million Facebook likes and 267,000 Twitter followers), says about the values of its brand:
  • When you buy our brand, quality is more than expected — it’s guaranteed. We source durable materials, develop premium features and conduct rigorous tests to make affordable products you can count on. Because high quality doesn’t have to come at a high price. 
Coca-Cola (with nearly 3 million YouTube views and 176,000 Twitter followers) says its mission in the beverage segment is:
  • To refresh the world...
  • To inspire moments of optimism and happiness...
  • To create value and make a difference.
Brother, which makes printers, sewing machines, and other items, says its corporate vision:
  • places the customer first in all activities and in many ways. Moreover, the Brother Group is a company that provides good values obviously to our "existing" customers but also to potential "future" customers.
  • Our goal is to ensure the customer perception that Brother is a "trustworthy brand."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Parody as a Marketing Move

Dumb Starbucks is, as the world now knows, a parody cafe set up by comedian Nathan Fielder. Or perhaps I should use the past tense, because Dumb Starbucks opened on February 7 and was closed by the L.A. Dept. of Public Health on February 10. The cafe had been serving--for free--hot beverages like Dumb Espresso, Dumb Brewed Coffee, and Dumb Tea.

As any 21st century entrepreneurial venture would do, Dumb Starbucks publicized itself via Twitter. Around the time the cafe was shut down, the Twitter account had 13,100 followers and only 8 tweets, including a retweet of this ABC story.

Dumb Starbucks explained its existence this way: "In the eyes of the law, our 'coffee shop' is actually an art gallery and the 'coffee' you're buying is considered the art."

What does Starbucks say? Its official statement is: "We are aware of the store, it is not affiliated with Starbucks. We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark."

Parody as marketing helped Nathan Fielder capture an incredible amount of media coverage--just the way to launch his second season of Nathan for You on Comedy Central. In each episode, Fielder helps struggling businesses by suggesting offbeat marketing ideas that sometimes turn out well. 

A high-profile publicity stunt like Dumb Starbucks is certainly well beyond the budget of most entrepreneurs, however.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The First Half Century of Beatles Marketing

Fifty years ago, the Beatles made their US television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Was it "The Night That Changed America," which is the name of the TV special paying tribute to this major musical event?

It was certainly a big merchandising event by any standard, then and now. As the British Invasion took hold through the 1960s, Beatles wigs, stationery, lunch boxes, posters, paper plates, buttons, hats, and other branded merchandise showed up on store shelves everywhere. Just use your favorite search engine to look for "Beatles merchandise" and vintage images will flood in--from Beatles Scrabble and Monopoly games to dolls, mugs, T-shirts, toys, wristwatches, you name it.

Over the years, the Beatles and family tightened control over their merchandise and marketing, to maintain the brand and its image. In fact, the Beatles filed suit after Michael Jackson's company licensed Revolution to Nike for a 1987 commercial (Jackson's company owned the rights to Beatles music at that time). You can view the commercial here. The lawsuit was settled and the Nike ad stopped airing after a time, but some people continued to express outrage whenever other high-profile performers licensed their music for commercial use.

For the past 20-plus years, the Beatles have been marketing faves in many categories of goods and services, not just music and books. Three examples: tourism (Liverpool, for instance), replicas of Beatles iconic items, and live shows by non-Beatles about the Beatles (Beatlemania and spinoffs, for example). The Beatles are part of history (you can see write-ups and programs on the History Channel, among others). Beatles merchandise (see photos above) has even been featured at Disney theme parks.

Given the Beatles' perennial popularity among successive generations of music lovers, I expect Beatles marketing to continue strong for the next half century. Of course, the offerings may be entirely different--in part, due to technology--but the echoes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo will be unmistakeable.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CVS Drops Tobacco: A Lesson in Positioning

The classic definition of positioning is to create, via marketing, a competitively distinctive position for your brand or product in the mind of the target market. This concept is relatively new to marketing, having been introduced by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their 1980 book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

CVS's unexpected announcement that the drug retailer will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October is a classic example of positioning at work in the marketplace.

Take a look at CVS's competitive situation. It's battling two other major US chains, Walgreens and Rite-Aid. During the past year, Walgreens has used the slogan "At the corner of Happy and Healthy" in its advertising, website and social media. Rite-Aid's marketing focuses on its Wellness+ rewards program. In other words, both drug chains want consumers to associate them with health and wellness.

Now, with one announcement, CVS has positioned itself as the drug chain that is so concerned about consumer health that it is giving up the sale of tobacco products. CVS won't be sacrificing a huge amount of revenue (about $2 billion out of $123 billion or so), and tobacco is certainly not a growth product category.

Without jeopardizing a lot of money, CVS is generating a ton of free media coverage and goodwill for its principled stand. It already has 1.3 million Facebook likes, and I know the company's decision has been shared and tweeted many, many times since it was announced. (Some consumers are angry, but most appear to be applauding CVS.) One of its Twitter accounts has been posting messages thanking such groups as the American Diabetes Association for their public support.

Now when you think of CVS, what comes to mind? If your first thought is that the retailer has dumped tobacco, CVS has succeeded in positioning itself in a way that is meaningful, distinctive, and memorable. Giving up tobacco is a good thing for health and a good thing for positioning, too. Walgreens and Rite-Aid might even have to follow suit. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winter Olympics: Ad Avalanche Across Platforms and Media

The Winter Olympics ad avalanche is in full swing, with integration across platforms and media. For example, the "Olympic Preview" issue of Time included these ads:
  • Citibank/Visa, featuring Ted Ligety, U.S. alpine skier (in Citi's commercials, too)
  • United Airlines, flying Team USA (photo of pairs skaters)
  • AT&T, featuring Shani Davis, U.S. speedskater (in commercials too)
Among viral ads, Procter & Gamble has attracted millions of views with its "Thank you, Mom" ads, celebrating the role of mothers in supporting their Olympic athlete children. P&G calls itself "the proud sponsor of Moms" on its "thank you mom" Facebook page (more than 800,000 likes) and Twitter account (@thankyoumom, #thankyoumom). Visiting the P&G YouTube channel, these commercials are trending into the millions of views:
  • "Pick Them Back Up" is an inspiring commercial that has been shared countless times on FB and discussed by many moms I know. More than 13 million views.
  • "Raising an Olympian: Lindsey Vonn" has garnered nearly 2 million YouTube views, despite Lindsay's inability to compete at Sochi this month.
  • "Raising an Olympian: Mikaela Shiffrin" has more than 1 million YouTube views.
  • "Raising an Olympian: Evan Lysacek" has 1.3 million views, even though this US gold medalist won't be competing at Sochi.
AT&T's ads use the tag line "It's Our Time" and feature athletes who aren't as high profile.

These include skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace, short-track speed skater Alyson Dudek, and alpine skier Heath Calhoun. The hashtag #ItsOurTime carries the campaign through to Twitter.

AT&T's store pages on major mall sites (like AT&T at The Mall at Fox Run) also feature Instagram photos of U.S. Olympic athletes, with the request to cheer them on via #ItsOurTime tweets.