Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chipotle's Challenge: Crisis Management

Chipotle has had months of negative headlines over the contamination crises at some of its restaurants.

Search for "Chipotle AND crisis" and you'll find more than 2 million links. Some of these links relate to the E. coli outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, some relate to a norovirus problem in Boston. Many look at the company's management of this crisis.

Food safety is at the core of the crisis. When consumers eat out, they expect their food will not make them sick. And since Chipotle has made its reputation on the basis of natural food prepared fresh, this crisis is especially challenging.

The restaurant chain's reputation has definitely suffered. Rebuilding trust and reassuring customers that they can safely enjoy Chipotle's food will be a top priority in 2016, once the source(s) of the outbreaks have been identified and dealt with.

Chipotle's CEO has publicly apologized and outlined a number of steps to strengthen food safety. Yet until the outbreaks are out of the headlines, Chipotle's marketing activities can't get back into high gear.

Maybe one way to reassure the public and start to resture trust is for Chipotle's management to be seen (with their families) eating at local Chipotle's all around the country, every day, especially in restaurants affected by these outbreaks. That would go a long way toward reassuring consumers IMHO.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Star Wars and Trans-Generational Emotional Resonance

The president of Hasbro's brand division coined a term for what happens when parents (well, primarily fathers) who grew up loving Star Wars or Marvel comics characters and shared that brand fandom with their children. The term is "trans-generational emotional resonance." Hasbro makes Star Wars toys under license from Disney, and it's a particularly lucrative partnership this year. Force Friday showed the power of the brand, and it's only the beginning.

The immense opening weekend box office success of Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens demonstrates the power of trans-generational emotional resonance. Disney says the new movie took in $248 million in North America alone. Worldwide, the movie generated ticket sales of $529 million. Both are records for opening weekend ticket sales. News coverage often showed parents and children attending the movie together, some dressed as Star Wars characters, some chanting dialogue from older movies in the series.

This latest movie is tweaking the brand marketing to appeal to females, by casting Daisy Ridley in the leading role of Rey. Will Star Wars: The Force Awakens, supported by star power and many millions of dollars in marketing, make Rey as popular a character as Hunger Games's Katniss Everdeen? Will it tap into trans-generational emotional resonance so that, 20 years in the future, mothers buy Rey merchandise for their daughters? Hasbro is in good position to benefit, because it has the Star Wars toy license until 2020.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Why Use Age for Market Segmentation?

In this age of behavioral, attitudinal, and lifestyle segmentation, how important is age as a segmentation variable to identify consumer groups within a market?

Pew Research Center has an excellent analysis, titled "The Whys and Hows of Generations Research," that explains how members of generational cohorts (think "Millennials" and "Baby Boomers") are influenced by the same world events, music, technology, media, product fads, and other elements.

Clearly, the attitudes, actions, needs, and priorities of one generation are typically not the same as members of another generation. Even when multiple generations adopt a particular technology (smart phones or activity trackers), their reasoning and usage will vary by age. So age continues to be a key variable for market segmentation.

Interestingly, Pew found that Millennials don't like to call themselves by that generational name. What Millennials do say about themselves is that they are idealistic. For more on Pew's studies of Millennials, check here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Toys to Life" Brand Franchises Beckon in Toy Stores

Toy stores everywhere have themed aisles to attract children and parents who are interested in specific brand franchises

The brand franchise method of categorizing toys neatly sidesteps the hoopla over not categorizing toys by gender, to avoid stereotyping.

At left, a portion of the LEGO Dimensions aisle at a nearby Toys 'R' Us. Dimensions is one of the growing number of high-tech toys that combine a game base with WiFi- or Bluetooth-enabled character add-ons that bring "toys to life" and let users take game-playing to new levels.

Skylanders, launched in 2011, has been a huge success. To date, it has sold 250 million units that interact with its video components, and generated $3 billion in revenue for Activision. Skylanders has its own aisle in Toys 'R' Us to make holiday gift-giving simple for parents and grandparents.

Disney Infinity is also popular, with well-known characters from Star Wars, among other top movie franchises. Newly-launched Disney Infinity for Apple TV offers figures from many of Disney's movies, including Inside Out.

Of course, the "toys to life" trend isn't entirely taking over toy stores in 2015. Traditional brand franchises such as Barbie have their own aisles, as do old-fashioned board games (remember Monopoly?) and crafts (even the adult coloring fad).

Friday, December 4, 2015

Marketing Around the World

Whether you're writing a marketing plan or looking for fresh takes on marketing themes, check out these selected sites featuring marketing ideas and information from around the world.
  • Creative - From Think with Google, a gallery with graphics and coverage of the latest in the marriage of marketing and technology. 
  • Asahi Shimbun business pages - See what Japanese businesses are doing with new products and new marketing.
  • The Guardian UK business - Coverage, by the UK newspaper, of business and news in the UK and beyond.
  • Canadian Business - Just what the publication title says: news about marketing, entrepreneurship, and finance in the world of Canadian business. 
  • Business Day - from the Sydney Morning Herald, business and marketing in Australia and the region.
  • Advertising Around the World - As shown above, Pinterest board with ads from everywhere.
You can use key words like "global marketing" or "advertising around the world" to search out other sites on your own. Try different searches (and click on "web" results or "news" results to look at different lists of results).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Post-It's Millennial Target Marketing

3M's Post-It Notes have been around for decades. Now 3M Canada has chosen the target market of Millennials on campus for special promotional attention.

This fall, six campuses around Ontario hosted the Post-It Brand Tweet Machine, a vending machine that dispenses--what else?--Post-It samples to students in exchange for tweets featuring the promotional code. Along with free samples, students received a discount coupon for Post-It purchases at the campus book store. (Brand ambassadors gave away samples to students who don't use Twitter.) See Canada Post-It's Twitter account here.

The non-digital portion of the promotion invited students to use real Post-Its to leave notes for fellow students, reinforcing one of the key benefits of the product.

3M has been using social media to reach brand fans in both consumer and industrial segments, as this story about the firm's recent video illustrates.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Small Business Saturday Is Almost Here

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American Express to encourage shoppers to buy from small and local businesses.

By now, social media marketing is a standard for this themed holiday shopping day, which falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

On Twitter, @ShopSmall has nearly 50,000 followers. On Facebook, Small Business Saturday has nearly 3.5 million likes. On Instagram, it has nearly 12,000 followers.

Businesses and shoppers are encouraged to use #shopsmall and #SmallBizSat to identify social media posts related to Small Business Saturday.

Publicity is helping spread the word, as well. Search for "Small Business Saturday" and you'll see more than 229 million results. Some are links to small businesses and some are links to news stories, local commentaries, and more. The Small Business Administration is also spreading the word. I'm doing my part on Saturday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hot Sauce Marketing Heats Up

Once upon a time--after the Civil War and into the dawn of the 20th century--Tabasco had the hot-sauce market to itself. Its famous concentrated pepper sauce spiced up bland foods drop by drop. Banker Edmund McIlhenny founded the firm, and his 2d great-grandson, the current head, sums up the original venture this way: "There was no commercially sold hot sauce before Tabasco. Edmund invented the category."

The now iconic Tabasco bottle is an example of early recycling in action: McIlhenny originally used discarded cologne bottles for his sauce because they were readily available, and users could dispense just one hot drop at a time. When he began marketing the sauce commercially, he ordered new "cologne" bottles because the size and shape made sense for his hot sauce. The bottle became so identified with the product that Tabasco trademarked the size/shape. You can see Tabasco on Facebook, where it has more than 3.2 million likes.

In recent years, new hot sauces have invaded grocery shelves, and competition continues to heat up. Huy Fong's chili-and-garlic sriracha sauce is a good example: It has become increasingly popular, especially among foodies, and also has a highly recognizable bottle profile and label, including the rooster.

Sriracha is such a "hot" food product that Tabasco now has its own version...as do other sauce marketers. Although Huy Fong's owner David Tran never trademarked the "sriracha" product name, he says the new-product activity in the sauce market increases awareness of sriracha and acts like free advertising for his, the original sauce of its kind. Check out Huy Fong on Facebook (240,000+ likes), where founder David Tran is the face of the brand. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Toms, Mission-Driven Marketing, and the Retail Experience

Stores are where brands sell. Retail experiences are how people buy. And that's why the footwear/eyeware firm Toms pays special attention to the nuances of atmospherics and community when opening its Toms Outpost retail spaces.

Toms is known for its "one for one" charitable program, an integral part of its mission-driven marketing strategy: every time shoppers buy one pair of shoes/eyewear, Toms donates one to someone in need, somewhere in the world.

When thinking about "stores," founder Blake Mycoskie focused on the firm's value-added strategy: "I didn't want to start with a store. I didn't feel like that added any value." His vision was that of a "community outpost" where people can meet, get information, enjoy activities, and--of course--view and purchase products.

The Toms Outpost in lower Manhattan, for example, encourages customers to hang up their coats or hats, sit and sip a latte, and browse branded eyewear and casual clothing or look at what community groups have posted on the bulletin board. It's low-key and allows browsers to explore the brand's values as presented in the retail experience.

The Toms store in Venice, California invites visitors to put on virtual reality glasses and see how purchases of Toms products make a real difference through the "one for one" program. In other words, the mission-driven marketing is on display as part of the retail experience.

By the way, Toms recently launched a line of shoes through a licensing deal with National Geographic Society. The Society's head of licensing stated: “Mission-driven products are more important than ever and this partnership celebrates a new way of thinking for brands and the good they can do through collaboration.”

Friday, November 13, 2015

Newly Updated List of Marketing Resource Links

Looking for links to marketing definitions, trends, how-to ideas, and more? Check my newly updated List of Marketing Links.

You'll find more than 80 links to information about the marketing environment, social responsibility and ethics in marketing, mobile and digital marketing, marketing strategy and techniques, marketing channels, marketing competition, customer behavior, demographic shifts, and lots more.

At the top of this list are links to my glossary of marketing terms, a sample marketing plan, and a discussion of why competitors are stakeholders. Check back often because I update this list regularly.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Triumph of Multi-Channel Marketing

When Amazon tests physical stores, you know multi-channel marketing is here to stay. Left, the online pioneer's new store in Seattle University Village.

Unlike traditional stores, this one will stock only products that have been rated highly by customer reviews. (A "curated" merchandise assortment.)

With two decades of cutting-edge experience in Internet-based retailing, Amazon has a mountain of data and insights into customer behavior--so why have a bricks-and-mortar retail presence?

It's the next step in implementing a multi-channel marketing strategy, that's why. Here's a quote from the V.P. of Amazon Books:
"We've applied 20 years of online book-selling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping."
Not coincidentally, the location of this bookstore is a few miles from Amazon's headquarters. Like all retail outlets located close to the mothership, this is likely to be a test-tube for experimentation and data collection. What sells well in a store may not sell as well online, and vice versa. If nothing else, it's an opportunity to see how shelf position and book characteristics (cover art, color, size) affect sales.

Naturally, Kindle products get ample space. And, naturally, customers have the option of browsing Amazon's online stock. So multi-channel marketing provides another channel for shopping and, in addition, another channel through which Amazon can observe customer behavior and hone its marketing techniques.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Micro-Moments and Mobile Marketing

It's official: When we want to check a price, find a coupon, or search for reviews, we use the ubiquitious smartphone more often than a desktop computer or tablet computer. These are "micro-moments" of consumer behavior when we have a need or want, seek information, or plan to buy--at that instant. And a large percentage of local searches using mobile devices results in a purchase.

All of which makes these micro-moments key opportunities for mobile marketing. 
  • Simply anticipating and having a presence ready for consumers who search on the spur of the moment can help a brand or product move into the consideration set
  • Planning marketing tactics that are quick and to the point for mobile interaction can be of benefit to consumers and brands.
  • Think of the customer's needs, wants, preferences and do what makes sense for them in their context. In that micro-moment, customer-friendly marketing makes the difference!
  • Speed is critical. If a marketing site doesn't load or a marketing app doesn't work in a micro-moment, consumers will move on.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Competitors as Stakeholders: Look at the Airline Industry

In my long-running series discussing the fact that competitors are stakeholders, this post looks at what happens to the airline industry when competitors make major changes.

The four largest carriers in the U.S. airline industry (an oligopoly because of the relatively few carriers who compete) are the target of a Department of Justice probe over "capacity discipline." Translation: Are American, Delta, Southwest, and United working together -- illegally -- to constrain expansion, which has the effect of increasing the pricing power of the airlines and therefore keeping up healthy profits? 

In the airline industry, "adding capacity" can lead to profit-sapping price wars as airline carriers seek to fill more seats by slashing prices to attract passengers (who in some cases might otherwise fly a different airline). During the Great Recession that followed the financial turmoil of 2008, most airlines found themselves with excess capacity as business and vacation travelers alike reduced their travel budgets. So for economic reasons, the carriers restricted capacity individually and, in that way, kept costs like fuel and payroll under control.

Clearly, if and when Southwest or American Airlines or another major airline adds flights, its competitors need to pay close attention. In fact, American's CEO recently said that although lower fuel costs are improving profit margins and can support more capacity, his airline won't aggressively add capacity in the near future. So America is maintaining capacity discipline on its own.

Yet Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said during an interview  that he's sticking to his plans to increase capacity: "Our competitors are always complaining about Southwest, and we're just going to continue to focus on running a great airline…" Not maintaining capacity discipline, in other words, which will inevitably affect the marketing strategies of other major competitors.


Meanwhile, airlines are looking at ways to increase productivity by increasing the number of seats crammed into every aircraft. This would boost per-flight profitability, but would be likely to decrease passenger satisfaction.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Open or Closed On Thanksgiving and Black Friday?

Bucking the retail trend, REI is purposely closing on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally serves as the kickoff to serious holiday shopping. Above is its announcement, shown on its home page.

Other retailers are resisting the competitive urge to open on Thanksgiving. In some years, the trend toward store openings on Thanksgiving sparked a bit of a consumer backlash, but online retailers recognize that shopping takes place any time, anywhere, and that's what store retailers are up against.

As of October 28, here are some of the highlights of who's doing what on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
  • REI has announced it will not only be closed for Black Friday, it wants to encourage customers and employees to enjoy nature with its #OptOutside campaign. An REI exec explains: "This is a unique moment to extend that period of thanks and really be thankful for all that the outdoor world gives to us." You can see the CEO talking about this decision here. Oh, and REI's employees will be paid for Black Friday.
  • Costco, Nordstrom, and TJ Maxx will remain closed on Thanksgiving but will welcome shoppers on Black Friday. 
  • Staples was open on some previous Thanksgivings but not this year. Black Friday (starting at 6 am) is time enough to pick up a new printer or toner cartridge or whatever.
  • GameStop is closed on Thanksgiving. But if you want to line up for Black Friday specials, the doors open at 5 am on Friday.
  • Dollar General will open at 7 am on Thanksgiving (and, for the holiday, close 2 hours earlier than usual).
Will REI's new movement encourage consumers to change their behavior on one of the busiest shopping days of the year? Maybe not, but #OptOutside is a fresh message and puts a halo around the brand to boot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Robots in the Warehouse

Robots have been in warehouses for some years--but what's new is how robots are streamlining physical distribution and speeding customer order delivery by participating in the Internet of Things.

As shown above, robots are working side-by-side with Amazon employees to handle heavy, tedious, repetitive tasks. MIT Technology Review calls this human-robot symbiosis. Here's how that works at Amazon: "To encourage workers to see robots as companions, each unit is given a different name by an Amazon employee, and the name is entered into the system, so workstation workers can refer to them by name instead of a serial number."

Amazon recently awarded cash prizes for robots that (on their own) can read customer orders, gather and pack the merchandise, and have everything ready for shipment. Given the company's huge throughput and seasonal peaks, warehouse automation is needed to supplement traditional employee activities. That's one reason why Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012 and renamed it Amazon Robotics.

Here's the vision of Amazon Robotics:
Amazon Robotics automates fulfilment center operations using various methods of robotic technology including autonomous mobile robots, sophisticated control software, language perception, power management, computer vision, depth sensing, machine learning, object recognition, and semantic understanding of commands.
Amazon isn't the only firm working on robots to collect orders and send them on their way. Fetch Robotics makes robots that carry bins and help warehouse workers retrieve merchandise to complete customer orders. Once a bin is filled, that robot peels away and another rolls up to continue helping the worker.

Clearpath Robotics is another firm marketing robots. It originally developed robots for dirty, dangerous jobs like mining. Now it has robots for warehouse use. An executive explains: "Our robots operate in collaboration with what human beings are already doing, meaning you can implement them within operations in facilities that already exist."

With customer satisfaction as the ultimate priority, what's next for robots in the warehouse? And how will businesses tighten tech security as the Internet of Things expands into more domains?

Friday, October 23, 2015

McDonald's Starts Its Turnaround

McDonald's reported good quarterly earnings for a change. Competition from other casual dining chains has been a problem. Also helping the turnaround: new menu items and revamped favorites with quality ingredients (like using butter in the Egg McMuffin instead of non-butter). Not to mention that McDonald's also figured out (finally) how to meet demand for all-day breakfast (promoted with #AllDayBreakfast)--results that should show up in the next earnings report.

The venerable burger chain is testing "customizable burgers" in particular locations--and also testing sweet potato fries and Monster energy drinks. The Value Menu (needed during the recent recession) could very well be the next revamp. Meanwhile, with ethical sourcing and sustainability on the menu, McDonald's is moving toward using only eggs from cage-free chickens little by little in the US and Canada.

For smartphone users, the McDonald's app provides directions to the nearest location and, of course, weekly specials.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How Brands Stand the Test of Time

Visiting a historical society near the Ohio headquarters of Procter & Gamble, I noticed this wooden crate that once held 100 "cakes" (bars) of Ivory soap. Since the Ivory brand is more than a century old, it's hard to know when this label art was in use. But Ivory still embraces the image and personality of its early days. If you click to the Ivory Tumblr page, you'll see the brand's intro:
This isn’t your grandmother’s soap. This is your great-great-grandmother’s soap! For 130 years, we’ve brought simple, effective cleaning products to families everywhere. If it’s good enough for your Nana, it’s good enough for you.
How does a brand stand the test of time? Year in and year out, Ivory stays true to its brand roots while updating the way it reaches out to customers. For instance, Ivory's Facebook page has more than 50k likes. P&G Canada's Ivory web page includes a detailed history of how the soap was developed, starting in 1878.

Distribution is critical, and Ivory is represented in hundreds of thousands of grocery outlets all over the planet. However, Ivory's market share has been moving lower as consumers shift their buying behavior to body washes and liquid soaps and also try specialized personal cleansing products.

Will P&G sell Ivory as it reduces its brand portfolio? Even if it does, Ivory should be able to maintain a core customer base who believe in the brand and its benefits.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Behind the Ban on Plastic Bags

Environmental concerns have been driving more municipalities, states, and even some nations to ban those lightweight one-use plastic bags given away free to store shoppers. As noted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, "Regulating bags can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes and the wildlife that inhabit them. Reducing bag use can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management." On the other hand, the New Scientist notes that these plastic bags are only a tiny part of the waste stream and unlikely to make a dramatic impact on the environment, saying: "Reducing use of plastic bags has a far greater social than environmental benefit."

With an eye toward cleaner streets, streams, and landfills, Denmark didn't ban the bags; instead, it began taxing them in 1994. Not surprisingly, Danish residents now use only four bags per year. 

The city of Austin, TX banned these lightweight bags and did find a decrease in such bags discarded in landfills. However, Austin also discovered an unintended consequence: people are now throwing away reusable plastic bags at a higher rate, and those bags take up nearly as much more space in landfills as the lightweight freebie bags.

Now Great Britain is forcing stores to charge for disposable plastic bags (5 pence each) to discourage their widespread use. Stores are being encouraged to give the money to charity, and the charge (which translates to about 8 cents per bag) is expected to influence consumer behavior to reduce the number of plastic bags being used and thrown away.

Some areas of the U.S. (including Portland, Maine) have retailers charging a nickel for each single-use bag. And in Portland, the use of reusable bags for shopping has increased, showing that consumer behavior can be shaped by a nickel here and a nickel there.

Meanwhile, a movement is growing to ban the bans. A California law to ban the bags has been delayed--and now the issue will go to voters in 2016 in the form of a statewide referendum. Will California ban or keep the bags? These environmental, political, and legislative concerns will have an effect on retail marketers, bag manufacturers, and the behavior and pocketbooks of consumers.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Marketing Pumpkin Everything in Autumn

Despite the great pumpkin shortage of 2015, autumn is the time when pumpkin invades the food world. In 2003, Starbucks and its marketing muscle helped launch this now annual fad of pumpkin-inspired beverages, desserts, and other foods of the season.

The marketing approach involves generating excitement for a flavor that many love but only offering products with pumpkin for a limited time. In other words: "Hurry and buy before it's gone and you have to wait another year."

And it works: According to the NPD Group, the average transaction for a purchase involving pumpkin-seasonal food/beverage is higher than without the pumpkin. This is a powerful profit reason for many marketers to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon.

A few samples of pumpkin marketing this fall:
  • Starbucks is adding real pumpkin to its Pumpkin Spice Latte, the original seasonal favorite that kicked off the pumpkin craze. 
  • Pumpkin Ale is a seasonal specialty at Saint Louis Brewery and at a growing number of other breweries, including Colorado's Upslope Brewing.
  • Dunkin' Donuts has gone wild with pumpkin for its 65th anniversary, offering donuts, coffees, and much more.
  • M&Ms now come in a seasonal pumpkin spice latte flavor.
  • Quaker Oatmeal has a seasonal pumpkin flavor too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Airport Kiosk Closeup: Benefit

Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland is home to a cute cosmetics kiosk from Benefit, based in San Francisco. The kiosk is eye-catching because it's pink, retro, and markets its beauty products with a touch of humor. In fact, retro whimsy is integrated into the brand personality (as is the color pink)--even throughout the company's HQ. For differentiation and image purposes, sometimes it helps to not take your brand too seriously--a marketing approach that appeals to certain customer segments.

Here's the kiosk's appeal: If you're running for a plane but need to refill your beauty bag or you forgot a staple item such as mascara or face cleanser, just watch for Benefits' "Glam Up & Away" automated beauty kiosk "loaded with jet-setting beauty problem solvers" in Cleveland, Baltimore/Washington Intl Airport, Logan Airport in Boston, and other gateways for jet-setters. A touch on the screen, one swipe of your plastic, and you're on your way with what you need.

Benefit does distribute via traditional retail establishments like Macy's and Sephora, of course, but the nearly 40-year-old company (now part of the luxury marketer LVMH) also operates dozens of its own-brand stores in the US and internationally.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Single-Serve Pods Beyond Coffee

Keurig Kold
Keurig Green Mountain has just introduced a new product, the Keurig KOLD Drinkmaker - a machine for making ice-cold sodas and other chilled beverages, one serving at a time, at home.

Why? Now that K-cup coffeemakers are ubiquitous (meaning in the maturity stage of the product life-cycle), marketers are looking to take single-serve pods beyond coffee. This would extend the life-cycle and also attract new customers (such as those who aren't coffee fans, for instance). This is also in line with the trend toward at-home beverage makers like the SodaStream.
 
Keurig estimates its US market share of single-serve coffee-makers at 17%. By targeting the chilled soft-drink market, the company can reach a new audience and increase penetration. The KOLD machine is a stand-alone product, although Keurig is working on one machine that can produce both hot and cold drinks.

"It's a premium, it's about choice and convenience," explains Keurig's CEO about the 90-second process, which chills the beverage as it carbonates and adds flavor. Among the first sodas to be dispensed through the KOLD are Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, and Sprite. Instead of having to store bottles or cans of soda, KOLD customers can make a fresh glass of the flavor of their choice.


Will KOLD find a large audience?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

LEGO Dimensions and Mashup Marketing

LEGO turned its fortunes around years ago by producing building sets that license some of the best-known (and best-loved) brands on the planet, from Star Wars and Minecraft to Disney's Frozen, among others.

The next big LEGO product, a video game from Warner Bros. Interactive Dimensions, is a mashup of mashups that promises to be a huge Christmas hit in the "toys to life" category. Mashup #1 is the marriage of digital with physical: the electronic part features some super character franchises AND works with a physical game platform where players build LEGO structures that can advance the game.

Mashup #2 has to do with the way players manipulate characters in the game: They can, for instance, team Batman with Doctor Who (or any of the Doctors, actually) or mashup some other combination from the growing list of brand franchises available. This is a major marketing feat because so many children and adults have their own favorite characters--and now they can have more than one brand franchise represented within the game, for more complications and fun.

Mashup #3 is the combo of star voices for the characters in the game...stars like Chris Pratt, Michael J. Fox, Peter Capaldi, and more.

From a marketing perspective, the pricing is interesting, as well. Initial platforms cost $99, but future enhancements will be priced lower because they'll be add-ons, such as additional characters. In fact, characters are all available within the video game, so after
the initial purchase, players can enjoy mashups of all kinds, as long as they don't mind playing in the guise of the first character they purchased with the initial platform.

Naturally, LEGO Dimensions is being promoted cross-platform in multiple media (see YouTube snippet above). And it's available for multiple game platforms (Wii, XBox, PS).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Obligations Do Businesses Owe Competitors as Stakeholders?

The controversy over whether competitors should be considered stakeholders has been discussed many times. Ivey Business Journal, in tackling this issue, says in a 2004 article about stakeholder theory:
Competitors can certainly affect an organization and should therefore be considered legitimate stakeholders, but the organization and its managers have no moral obligation to attend to their well-being.
I agree with the first half of the statement, but not completely with the second half. Businesses definitely have legal and ethical obligations to competitors, based on accepted principles of fairness and honesty.

As one example, the tire company Pirelli codifies this obligation on its page on stakeholder relations, updated just a few months ago. Pirelli recognizes that fair competition is the backbone of corporate citizenship worldwide. Here's an excerpt from that page, with emphasis added to highlight the section on competitors:

Pirelli’s role in the economic and social context is inseparably tied to its capacity to create value with a multi-stakeholder approach, which means it pursues sustainable and lasting growth based as far as possible on the fair reconciliation of the interests and expectations of all those who interact with the Company with an awareness of its own global responsibilities as a Corporate Global Citizen, and in particular:
  • shareholders, investors and the financial community;
  • customers, since the Pirelli way of doing business is based on customer satisfaction;
  • employees, who are the repository of Group know-how and drive its development;
  • suppliers, with which it shares a responsible approach to business;
  • the environment, since it’s the only source of livelihood for all human activities in the present and future time;
  • competitors, because improved customer service and market position depend on fair competition;
  • institutions, governmental and non-governmental bodies, and the communities around the world where the Group operates.
My view: Although no company is obligated to help a rival compete, it is required to make decisions and take actions that are ethical and legal. Gaining market share by, for example, using predatory or unfair pricing, distorted product claims, or corporate espionage does not live up to the ethical and legal obligations a business owes its competitors or, in the long run, the obligations owed to shareholders and customers, among other stakeholders.

Strong competitors compel a company to do more in striving for excellence, to compete even more effectively. Strong competitors give customers real choices. Strong competitors encourage entrepreneurs and suppliers to innovate and profit by serving a strong industry. Acting ethically meets these obligations and benefits all stakeholders.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Marketers Plan to Target Gen Z

GENERATION Z
Generation Z (people born during the period of roughly 1996-2010) is becoming the marketing target du jour. Sunday's New York Times included a long article comparing Gen Z with Millennials and concluding that Gen Z is a distinctly different target market.

The differences go deeper than age. Note that Gen Zers range in age from kindergarten kids to college students, whereas Millennials are just graduating college and the older cohort segments are in their 30s, establishing their careers and their families.

Ad Age points out that Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural consumer group in American history, and that Gen Zers are planning to make their own success, having grown up during the difficult Great Recession period, not to mention global unrest.

Fast Company observes that Gen Z has entrepreneurial drive and ambition. They saw adults lose jobs during the economic upheaval. They also witnessed the rise of entrepreneurial heroes who can make a difference, locally and globally. Plus they're digital natives, and apps are a natural.

Public Relations Society of America notes that members of Gen Z are realists. They're mobile-savvy and information-hungry. Sharing (info, images, etc) has always been part of their cohort culture.

Direct Marketing mentions the buying power and behavior of Gen Z, including their readiness to spend on food as well as clothes; their Facebook fluency; and their influence on household buying, especially food.

As so many headlines say, "Move over, Millennials." Members of Gen Z have their own wants, needs, hopes, priorities, and patterns that businesses must understand to be effective in marketing to this emerging consumer group.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Newly Updated! Links to Resources for Marketing Plans

Developing a marketing plan? Looking for background info on market trends, competitors, channel options, social media marketing, social responsibility, retailing, and more?
Click to my newly updated list of marketing links, which has more than 75 resources, organized by subject matter (see excerpt above).

With more than 4,600 views, the marketing links page has been a popular starting point for researching and formulating a marketing plan.

Also included in this list, at the top for handy reference (see red arrows), are links to (1) my glossary of marketing terms, from my Marketing Plan Handbook; (2) my sample marketing plan for the fictional product "Sonic 3D+ SecurePhone;" and (3) my summary of reasons why competitors are stakeholders. 

Please go ahead and take a look!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Malls Market the Experience

Shopping centers are evolving in this age of retail consolidation and online browsing and buying.
  • Many malls had a high number of empty stores during the recent recession and the industry is still recuperating from the glut of retail space. 
  • An ongoing trend is toward mixed-use centers that combine retailing with multiple destination restaurants, some business or industrial tenants, and hotel or residential space. 
  • Shopping centers and downtown shopping districts are being redeveloped with entertainment anchors (movies/theaters), restaurants, and other consumer attractions that bring the area alive day and night with customers.
  • To compete, existing malls are getting face-lifts and adding amusement centers and other out-of-the-ordinary retail concepts that will bring people in to browse and have fun. 
  • Increasingly, malls are differentiating themselves with distinctive experiences (splash parks and farmers' markets, for instance) that make the shopping center a destination for targeted segments such as families and Millennials.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Marketing Force in Marketing the Force

Hundreds of thousands of brand fans worldwide were involved in Force Friday on September 4th, a day devoted to marketing Star Wars movies and merchandise.

From Disney and Hasbro to Toys 'R' Us, Target, and beyond, retail and manufacturing partners jumped on the Force Friday marketing bandwagon to market merchandise tied to the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, due for release in December.

Mattel, which is making Hot Wheels tie-ins, worked with Uber to send out Dodge Charger cars decorated like Storm Troopers so fans could ride in brand style. Even Major League Baseball got involved, with a light-saber duel after the first pitch in a NY Mets/Florida Marlins game on Friday.

Disney began its movie promotion a year in advance, and promoted #ForceFriday as only one in a series of marketing activities leading up to the new movie's debut. Social media was a huge element in Force Friday, including a coordinated multi-city "unboxing" event for YouTube.

Many stores (and websites) planned for midnight promotions, building buzz by including guest appearances and other special events tied to Force Friday. The stars of the show: New merchandise keyed to new characters and new technology to be fully revealed in the new movie. Brand community was a major part of the appeal to customers, with costumes and entertainment and photos and more. In short, the marketing force is strong for this new Star Wars movie and its merchandise.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Prep Your Marketing Plan: Market Share

PREP YOUR MARKETING PLAN
So you're writing a marketing plan? Be ready to research the market share of each main competitor.

Why? First, this forces you to identify the key competitors and newly-emerging rivals, revealing some underlying competitive dynamics of the marketing environment. Second, market-share changes over time serve as metrics for measuring how your marketing strategy is affecting your product or brand's progress toward goals such as higher market share.

The formula for calculating market share is:

One firm's product or brand sales in a given market (units or dollars)
Overall industry sales of that product in that market (units or dollars) 

So if Marketer A sells 1 million widgets across America, and the entire industry's widget sales in America totals 20 million, Marketer A's market share is calculated this way:

1,000,000  ÷ 20,000,000 = .05 or 5% market share

Market share is often calculated month by month for competitive industries such as cars and trucks. Here, for instance, is Edmund's August market-share calculation for the US market for autos, broken out by manufacturer. This is only for the month of August, 2015. The numbers will look different in September, and again in October, and so on, as manufacturers implement and tweak their marketing plans for products and categories.

High-tech marketers are also intensely interested in market share. Microsoft, for instance, has most certainly set a goal of achieving a certain market share for its Windows 10 operating system. One month after launch, the brand has begun to achieve gains in market share, as measured in several ways. Interestingly, even outsiders are comparing the Win 10 market-share gains over time with previous Windows releases, to gauge trends in consumer acceptance.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Studying Marketing? Use The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine

Are you researching the history of a particular company or a marketing technique? For example, what if you want to see just how far online retailing has come since the days of dial-up Internet service?

You can use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to research a specific website at particular points in its history.

At left, for example, is the way the JC Penney retail website looked in December, 1996. This is online retailing in its youngest days. Compared with today's whiz-bang sites, there's no animation, no audio, no social media links.

Yet the merchandise photos add interest. Also note how the company explains the process of "secure online shopping."

By 2002, JC Penney was making graphics the star of the show for Christmas (at right). The site isn't as busy looking and the logo is prominent and recognizable.

By 2012, the short-lived "square deal" JC Penney logo was in place (see below) and the retailer was promoting its social responsibility connections as well as its merchandise.

Today's 2015 JC Penney site is shown at bottom. The logo is nearly the same as it was in the 1996 screen capture by the Wayback Machine.

This home page echoes the look of the JC Penney ad flyers. Labor Day sales are the main focus, discounting is the message of the day.

Not shown here are the 5 social media links at the lower edge of the page.

Go ahead--follow a different marketer back through the years to see how its online look, logo, and messages have changed.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Burger King and the Burger "Peace"



Last week, Burger King used high-profile advertising to suggest to archrival McDonald's that they cooperate in a pop-up burger restaurant for Peace Day on September 21. Burger King suggested collaborating on a McWhopper for the occasion, mixing things up between the two chains' recipes. Proceeds would go to a peace charity.

McDonald's said no to the pop-up idea, as the tweet above (from the chain's FB page) shows.

But the social media possibilities were too much to resist, so Wayback Burgers and Denny's (burger shown here) both put themselves forward as Burger King's partners on Peace Day. So did Krystal, a chain known for its sliders.

The burger wars continue . . . even for Peace Day. Which chains will benefit most from the publicity?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pennies for Social Responsibility

Do pennies count?

Marketers sometimes ask customers to "round up" or donate a few pennies each time they make a purchase, and the proceeds benefit a worthy cause.

Such microdonations tap into an aspect of consumer behavior where each consumer, giving a little, can feel good about doing his or her part in what becomes a significant donation.

Here are a few examples of making pennies count for social responsibility:

  • JC Penney's "Pennies from Heaven" - Shoppers round up and donate the extra pennies to the retailer's backpack purchase program. This is only one of the JCP Cares community programs.
  • Coinstar asks consumers to donate some of the change they count to designated charities. Different Coinstar units send the money to different charities (World Wildlife Fund, Unicef, etc).
  • Pennies is a UK charity that supports dozens of charities with pennies rounded up from purchases at Domino's, Cellar & Kitchen stores, and other participating marketers.
  • Penny Harvest is a NY charitable program that supports local causes with pennies collected and donated by students.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wake Up to Eggs with Bacon Campaign

"Nobody knows eggs better than Bacon, Kevin Bacon." That's only part of the ad copy written for the American Egg Board's campaign starring Kevin Bacon, aiming to increase consumption of eggs. Yes, that's the "Six Degrees of Separation" actor, Kevin Bacon.

Bacon is, of course, having its extended 15 minutes of fame as a star food of everything from donuts to ice cream and beyond. So having Kevin Bacon star in this egg-citing campaign makes egg-cellent sense. This celebrity endorsement is a clever way to attract attention and allow the target audience to smile along with the campaign. A positive attitude is a plus and adds to audience receptivity. Even the typeface of the headline adds to the humor, not to mention the ironic T-shirt that is all over the American Egg Board's popular social media accounts (see Twitter, with 25,000 followers, for example, and FB with 773,000 likes).

Clearly, the movie-star celebrity factor works in favor of the actor-matchup with bacon/Bacon  . . .  and if the American Egg Board can keep up the momentum, maybe "a side of Bacon" will become as recognizable as the "milk moustache" ads that were ended last year after two decades.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Marketing in the Experience Economy

Way back in 1998, Pine and Gilmore's Harvard Business Review article about the Experience Economy outlined a four-step progression from undifferentiated commodity positioning/market pricing to the highly differentiated culmination of staging an experience at premium pricing. "To realize the full benefit of staging experiences, however, businesses must deliberately design engaging experiences that command a fee," the authors wrote.

Today, consumers are surrounded and distracted by more potential experiences than ever--facilitated by connectivity and ever-present digital devices. In a very real sense, then, marketing must be ever-present and available to reach customers and deliver experiences when and where desired.

In fact, material goods are so ubiquitous that consumers often crave an interesting or unique experience in conjunction with a purchase OR rather than the purchase of a tangible item. (Think "Spotify" instead of music download, for instance, Uber car service instead of a traditional taxi service.)

Not surprisingly, consumer behavior favoring experiences is having an effect on the retail industry. Stores can't simply be stores. Prices can't simply be prices. Showrooming and webrooming rule. The key to marketing in this experience economy is to understand your customers and adapt to their needs and wants--quickly--with appropriate/differentiated offerings and customer services that set the offering apart from competing offerings.

Even purchases like Uber rides are actually experiences, especially since both driver and passenger rate the experience. Bad experience? Bad rating. Good experience? Good ratings add to the potential for further differentiating this offering and charging more for the experience.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Check the Pew Research Center For Marketing Background

Writing a marketing plan? Be sure to click to the Pew Research Center to see the latest info about trends in population shifts, household formation, consumer behavior, technology attitudes and usage, media consumption, and other aspects of the external marketing environment.
Pew Research Center data and graphics

Every marketer can benefit by exploring the variety of topics researched by this well-known and objective organization. Here are just four examples:
  • Wondering about where Millennials are living now that the recession is over? Pew says more are still at home with their parents--and that has important implications for businesses that sell home furnishings, mortgages, insurance, and other housing-related goods and services. See chart at right for a quick overview of the plateau in independent Millennial households.
  • Targeting Internet users? Remember that 15% of the U.S. population doesn't use the Internet. Pew examines this group here.
  • Reaching out to Hispanic Americans? Pew covers the world of Hispanic media here. This is a good overview of various media and vehicles, audiences, and issues to keep in mind for marketing communications.
  • Is the global middle class really growing? Pew discusses this complex topic here. If you're targeting emerging nations, you'll need to know that despite income increases, most people are still not enjoying a robust middle-class lifestyle.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Arby's Savvy Salute to Jon Stewart

Now that Jon Stewart is signing off as host of The Daily Show, one of his long-time targets--fast-food marketer Arby's--has prepared a clever "thank you" video montage of his insults against its sandwiches.

The one-minute montage (which Arby's aired during a commercial break in The Daily Show) features Stewart making fun of Arby's in all kinds of ways.

It's positive (and self-deprecating) publicity for Arby's and a fun way to make the most of Jon Stewart's witty put-downs to reach an audience that appreciates irony and shuns outright or heavy-handed commercial promotion.

Search for "Arby's Jon Stewart" on Twitter and you'll see many links to Arby's montage, plus lots of comments in appreciation of the good-natured fun. The Arby's ad made the "top 5" of the week as it attracted an ever-larger audience. As Inc. says, you can fight--or you can join in the fun. Arby's chose fun. It hits just the right tone for the audience and the times--just right to light up the social media stratosphere with comments, too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Multichannel Marketing in the Age of Showrooming and Webrooming

Multichannel marketing is more vital than ever before as consumer behavior evolves. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article discussed the difficulty that traditional stores have in keeping up with minute-to-minute price changes from online competitors. Shoppers will be comparing prices online vs in-store, so retailers can't afford to neglect this competitive issue.

Nebraska Furniture Mart, for instance, replaced printed price tags with digital price displays so it can make a price change in all stores with one click. The retailer is known for beating competitors' prices, so digital pricing is a big help when shoppers apply showrooming and use smartphones to check prices while they browse the aisles in person. Carrefour and other chains use digital price tags as well, such as those provided by Pricer (sample shown above).

Multichannel Merchant magazine explains that webrooming is when a consumer researches a purchase online and then goes to a store to buy. This is an emerging trend shaping marketing. For instance, IKEA was successful in using Facebook ads to increase in-store traffic by attracting online browsers who then visited a local store.

Webrooming is increasingly popular among shoppers who don't want to pay for shipping, who want to touch/see a product before buying, and who want to be sure a product is in stock before going to the store.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Public Buildings as Promotional Vehicles

The Discovery Channel implemented a large-scale video projection promotion yesterday to highlight an upcoming series on endangered species. Using dozens of video projectors aimed at the world-famous Empire State Building, it showed a rotating series of 400-foot-high images of endangered animals over a three-hour period. This promotion drew the attention of passers-by and made news internationally.

You can see a video about a similar projection on the United Nations building in New York City here.

The Discovery Channel has projected images and video onto public buildings for some time as it seeks to engage the public in its programming. One promotion in 2013 drew criticism because it showed flames seeming to engulf Battersea Power Station in London--prompting onlookers to call firefighters.

In general, such large-scale promotions on public buildings illustrate the power of understanding consumer behavior: The images catch the eye and generate comment because they are unexpected, vivid, and colorful. For example, to promote Shark Week, Discovery Channel projected shark fins moving atop New York City skyscrapers.

The Discovery Channel also promoted Shark Week using 3D fins and other shark parts attached to its headquarter building in Silver Spring, MD. What could be more incongruous--and therefore attract attention?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Microsoft Markets the Launch of Windows 10

Not known for giving much away, Microsoft is introducing the long-awaited new Windows 10 operating system as an upgrade freebie (for now). Ultimately, Win 10 will be in place across platforms, so users don't have to learn new systems for each product.

One obvious result is that current Windows users are more likely to upgrade to Win 10, a major consideration at a time when some PC users are considering changing to Apple products because of their good experiences with the iPhone, the iPad, and other well-known products. Another result is that PC sales--currently stalled while users await reviews of Win 10--should begin to edge upward for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

Free means users have an opportunity to experience all the bells and whistles without financial risk. And Microsoft is playing up the user-friendly aspects of Win 10, including Windows Hello (facial recognition as a security feature) and Microsoft Edge (a new Internet browser that could reignite the browser market-share wars).

Microsoft thoroughly tested this new OS with more than 5 million beta testers, and decided to roll it out around the world, with launch events on every continent. From Beijing to Berlin, New York to Nairobi, engineers who worked on Win 10 will meet with fans and discuss the new features and benefits. Of course the 20 million Windows fans on Facebook already know some of the details from frequent posts.

Will Windows 10 gain rapid acceptance and diffusion among users? Will it polish Microsoft's reputation for user-friendly innovation? We'll have to give the new OS time and see how reviewers and users react in the coming months.