Friday, January 30, 2015

Competitors ARE Stakeholders: The View in 2015

Competitors ARE stakeholders. Here's just one example: Imagine you're a retailer in Canada--and you suddenly find that Target, a feared competitor, is leaving the market. How does that affect your customers and your marketing strategy?

Remember that the definition of stakeholders is: "people and groups that can directly or indirectly affect a company's performance OR that are directly or indirectly affected by a company's performance."

I'm not saying a company should make marketing decisions that would benefit its competitors OR coordinate its decisions with any competitor. No, I'm saying a business must consider what competitors are doing or plan to do, as they prepare their marketing plans and set goals and objectives. Especially big competitors can make a big difference in how consumers act and the health of the overall industry, which in turn affects any one firm's performance,

Target's decision to withdraw from Canada must be a big relief to retailers of all sizes in the area. It stumbled badly in Canada (from a merchandising and a pricing perspective) and is cutting its losses because profitability is too far in the future. Of course, Target's not the only US store to run into difficulties in Canada: Sears is another biggie, among others.

With Target out of Canada, other retailers won't have to worry about its pricing power, its online presence and social media power, its weekly sale flyers, or its diverse, shabby chic product assortment. So if a marketing plan was designed to blunt the effect of Target's shopper attraction, the retailer can go back to the drawing board and revisit tactics and investments. And take Target off the list of groups that can directly its performance.

Yet competitors that are aggressive and savvy--which Target usually is--can bring out the best in what other businesses do to compete. Its withdrawal may result in some stores becoming complacent because they don't see any immediate threat as compelling as Target. And that's a mistake.

Interestingly, Sony will be shuttering its stores in Canada. This move will save money. But it will also mean Sony must depend even more heavily on its retail network to sell in Canada. Sony is a stakeholder for those retailers, and although no brand stores means less image-building for the brand, it could lead to more sales transactions for other retailers.

My earlier posts on competitors as stakeholders are here. Another way to look at competitors as stakeholders is a post I wrote for my UK blog here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Playbook for Marketing to Superbowl Fans

Superbowl Sunday (February 1) is approaching, and that means a stadium-full of marketing. A brief selection of what's happening:
  • It's an ad, ad, ad, ad world. Think with Google has a page of suggestions about how marketers can make the most of Superbowl-related marketing and advertising. One quote that is jaw-dropping: "In 2014, fans spent a staggering 14 million hours watching the top 10 Super Bowl and World Cup ads featured in our annual Ads Rewind. Seventy-five percent of those hours were earned before or after the day of the Super Bowl or the month of the World Cup." In other words, brands that post ads in advance can earn a lot of viewership and social media buzz before, during, and after the game. For instance, Snickers is using a teaser to whet fans' appetites for its Super Bowl commercial.
  • Engaging customers. Doritos is mounting its 9th annual "Crash the Super Bowl" crowdsourced ad contest. Finalists are up right now for voting and this builds anticipation for watching for the ads during the game (not just the game itself).
  • Money matters:
  • Don't just advertise--strategize. Simply airing a well-regarded ad during the big game isn't enough. The business has to get all the fundamentals right. Radio Shack, which had a hit Bowl commercial last year, continues to struggle.
  • What about after the game? For a look at the best Super Bowl ads ever (according to the Ad Meter), check out the USA Today site here. A good ad isn't the be-all and end-all (see Radio Shack comment above) but it can reinforce brand recognition for weeks and months after the Seahawks and Patriots battle for the NFL title.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Key Marketing Terms Defined Online

From derived demand to SWOT analysis, segment personas to neuromarketing, you'll find many key terms defined in the glossary on my Marketing Plan Handbook website. Click and see definitions such as:
  • customer churn Turnover in customers during a specific period; often expressed as a percentage of the organization’s total customer base
  • greenwashing Perception that a company’s claim about its product being environmentally friendly is overblown or untrue
  • market share The percentage of sales in a given market held by a particular company, brand, or product; can be calculated in dollars or units
  • metrics Numerical measures of specific performance-related activities and outcomes
  • societal objectives Targets for achieving specific results in social responsibility

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Target Says "Au Revoir, Canada"

Target had such high hopes for its Canada venture back in 2011, when it took over leases of dozens of defunct Zellers stores. Many Canadians were looking forward to a local Target shopping experience, having been in U.S. Target stores during trips to the States.

Alas, after investing billions of dollars to outfit, stock, staff, and promote 133 stores from coast to coast, Canada couldn't overcome its severe supply-chain problems and get the merchandise pricing optimal for local shoppers while delivering ROI for the parent company. The CEO says:
We were unable to find a realistic scenario that would get Target Canada to profitability until at least 2021.
So Target is saying goodbye to the northern markets when its Canada unit files for bankruptcy protection. By mid-2015, Target expects to have liquidated its Canadian holdings.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Macy's Eyes Off-Price Opportunity

Off-price retailing is nothing new--Loehmann's, Hit or Miss, Marshall's all were in the business decades ago. Of course Marshall's is still going strong, now part of the booming TJX off-price empire that includes Home Goods and T.J. Maxx.

In recent years, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue have enjoyed considerable success with their Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth off-price stores, located in outlet malls and in lifestyle shopping centers. (Saks Off Fifth began as a chain of clearance stores for Saks merchandise and evolved into off-price over time.)

Now Macy's sees significant revenue opportunity in entering the off-price retail space. Its Bloomingdale's department store division has 13 off-price outlet stores, so Macy's has experience in the sector and can evaluate investment vs. profit potential.

Macy's has announced it will shutter 14 of its full-price department stores and open 2 new ones in 2015, as consumer behavior shifts toward online shopping and pursuit of value (meaning lower prices for quality merchandise). The company's possible off-price venture is in the very early planning stages.

Macy's has been an enthusiastic proponent of multichannel marketing. It's also highly social and mobile, with well over 14 million FB likes and 720,000 Twitter followers, plus participation in Apple Pay, among other mobile activities.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015: The Year Wearable Tech Goes Mainstream?

Sure, early adopters are sporting FitBit wristbands and other high-tech activity tracker products. This is the most common form of wearable technology in the category--and it's the prototypical product, meaning that when you think of wearable tech, you think of a wristband activity tracker. (Just like when you think of a digital music player, the iPod is usually the first product that comes to mind.)

Athletes are lining up for wearable tech, of course, because it helps them capture data with ease, track performance over time, and support improvement plans. What about the rest of us?

CNet has a summary page with coverage of wearable tech from this week's Consumer Electronics Show. And wristbands/wrist watches are front and center, including the Guess Connect, shown above, which (through partner Martian) gives you easy wrist access to your smart phone plus classic timepiece styling.

Styling is, in fact, a key element in wearable tech. Nobody wants to wear bulky or clunky devices. Not cool, not comfortable. Wired has a good writeup called "This is the year wearables will stop being so ugly." And once the ugly factor is out of the equation, wearable tech will be ready for its mainstream debut--assuming that prices continue to moderate.

Of course, the much-anticipated Apple Watch could upend the category. That's what happened when the iPod entered the digital music category, and when the iPhone entered the smartphone category. Then Apple pioneered the tablet category.

Will this be the year wearable tech goes mainstream? Looking good.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Have Malls Jumped the Shark?

Definitely. Reports may be exaggerating the imminent demise of the American shopping mall, but there has been a distinct downward spiral during the past decade or so.

Consider these headlines which appeared during the past six months or so:
  • The economics (and nostalgia) of dead malls (NY Times)
  • A dying breed: The American shopping mall (CBS News)
  • Malled: The hollowing out of an American institution (Bloomberg)
  • Here's what's becoming of America's dead shopping malls (NPR)
  • The death and rebirth of the American mall (Smithsonian)
PBS News Hour has an educational page titled "Why malls across America are dying" and that's where I found the graph at the top of this post. Supply is too high while demand is too low. Period.

There are too many enclosed malls and stores chasing too few in-person shoppers. Between the economy's problems and the meteoric rise of online buying, malls don't have the foot traffic they once did. Plus malls are often homogenous, meaning one mall has nearly the same stores as the next (not always, but often), which means little novelty.

Not to mention growing interest in shopping locally and patronizing small businesses who can't afford mall locations. Plus, until recent months, high gas prices discouraged some people from driving to large regional malls for a day of browsing, eating, and perhaps buying. In addition, consumer behavior has changed and now shoppers appear to prefer open-air lifestyle shopping centers where big-box or destination stores are spread along a street with smaller specialty stores and restaurants a walk away or a quick 30-second drive. No more long walks from outside parking lots to inside stores on the 2d or 3d level of an enclosed mall.

So malls have jumped the shark -- meaning they're way past their peak -- and now are using various experiments or innovations to either attract shoppers or . . . . worst case, to breathe new life into a location now devoid of stores.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Tune Up Your Marketing Plan for 2015

Is your marketing plan ready for 2015?
Lots of businesses and organizations are implementing the marketing plans they developed during 4Q/2014. Now it's time to be sure those plans take into account the emerging or ongoing trends that experts believe will have the most impact on digital marketing in 2015.
  • Use social media for content marketing. Sure, this trend was a major factor in 2014--but it's going to be even more important in 2015, especially for B2B marketing. Takeaway: Reexamine your messages and media with an eye toward integrating the newest social media appropriate to your target market.
  • Think mobile first. A growing number of consumers and B2B customers use tablet computers and smart phones primarily (or even exclusively). Knowing this, some firms develop messages for mobile first, then adapt them for other media. Takeaway: Review your branding and messaging strategies for this channel. Web pages look different on mobile screens, remember? And customers often welcome (or expect to receive) special mobile offers, so invite them to opt in.
  • Make the most of marketing memes. Marketers are creatively leveraging memes to boost buzz about their brands and specific offerings. To do this, think visually and add a headline to attract attention, encourage curiosity, even inspire. Takeaway: You want your meme to be shared--if successful, it will give your brand a halo effect.
  • Refresh and personalize. Sweep those cobwebs off your website or YouTube channel--customers and prospects like seeing new and different content (or layouts). They particularly like being able to personalize your site for their needs. If you look at the Wall Street Journal site several times a day, you'll see many of the same top stories but in different positions on the home page. The overall look of the page remains stable, but the day's stories and photos aren't in the same place for very long. Takeaway: For your marketing plan, this means regular updates and changes to your digital properties, both content and position of content on the page(s). Invite visitors to register so they can customize your site, and you'll capture contact info and more.