Friday, April 21, 2017

What's Next for Legacy Retailing?

Stores have been closing as the full impact of consumer behavior shifts is felt by legacy retailers from coast to coast. The head of Urban Outfitters notes: "The U.S. market is oversaturated with retail space and far too much of that space is occupied by stores selling apparel."

Of course, this "over-storing of America" theme is nothing new: legacy retailing has been grappling with so many stores and so many malls for decades--literally. By one account, the number of shopping malls increased twice as fast as population growth between 1970 and 2015.

Lots of malls means lots of stores--yet with the ascendancy of online and mobile shopping, how many stores do legacy retailers really need?

The over-stored phenomenon and shifts in buyer behavior are leading to "zombie malls" and retail bankruptcies. Wet Seal is only one of many retailers to close its doors in 2017 alone. Some retailers are trying to reorganize as smaller chains. Is that how legacy retailing will survive?

Meanwhile, Walmart is buying smaller online businesses like ModCloth in a bid to attract their shoppers and broaden beyond its legacy customer base. Is that how legacy retailing will survive?



Monday, April 17, 2017

How Not to Handle a PR Crisis

Right now, if you do an online search for "United Airlines crisis," more than 1 million results pop up.

That's an indication of how serious a PR crisis United Airlines is facing after forcibly removing a passenger from one of its jets to make room for crew.

The flight from Chicago was fully booked and even offering up to $1,000 in vouchers for future flights didn't bring anyone forward to volunteer. Airline employees said they would have to randomly select passengers to leave the plane.

Three passengers reluctantly agreed when they were asked to leave their seats to make way for United crew members. One refused. And so United's employees brought in the aviation police to forcibly remove the passenger. Things did not go well.

Others on the plane began to video the encounter and post to social media. Soon the entire planet could see how this passenger was being forcibly dragged through the aisle, his face bloody and his body limp. Millions of people viewed and reposted the videos. Many news media posted the videos and their comments. Social media memes popped up in the wake of the incident.

How did United react? Well, despite its stated commitment to customer service (see top), the airline simply didn't do a good job here.

Its CEO didn't know how or when to apologize and try to make things right. At first, he talked about "re-accommodating" the passengers--and that phrase was, of course, widely ridiculed. He then blamed the passenger for being belligerent, which not only contradicted the videos but also made the customer the bad guy in this situation. Wrong.

Finally, the CEO began issuing apologies and saying that all passengers on the plane would receive refunds. By then, United's stock had dropped and even competitors were taking some jabs at the company.

Now all of this is on top of the famous #UnitedBreaksGuitars video, when a musician couldn't get United to pay for a guitar it broke. He wrote a song, did a video, and posted it online. Yes, the hashtag and video went viral. United got the message.

Once again, United Airlines is in the midst of a PR crisis.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Marketing Paints Named with Emotional and Experiential Appeal in Mind

White isn't just white in the marketing world of paint. As Consumer Reports notes, it can be "Simply White" or "White Dove" (both Benjamin Moore). Taupe isn't just taupe--SherwinWilliams says that "Poised Taupe" is its color of 2017 (see above).

In the May issue of Consumer Reports, the color marketing manager for Behr explains how that brand's paint names work: "Names can typically be sorted into four descriptive categories: visual, geographical, emotional, and experiential."

In fact Behr's website presents "Color Trends and Inspiration," where you can see its 2017 trends organized according to three categories: Comfortable (muted), Composed, and Confident (more adventurous).

Behr's Instgram account has nearly 30k followers examining its many paint and decorating idea photos, covering all the rooms in the house and the outside too.

Benjamin Moore has 122k Instagram followers and uses the hashtag #PaintLikeNoOther to identify its creative and colorful idea images for consumers to consider and enjoy.

SherwinWilliams has nearly 76k Instagram followers and uses #SWColorLove to identify its images that inspire and encourage consumers to express themselves with color.

One last thought about color: It seems that consumers tend to prefer paints with fanciful names, such as "mocha" instead of "brown," as more pleasing to the eye. Then there's the sheer marketing appeal of paints with personality-plus names. Why market "white" when you can market "White Dove," for example?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Procter and Gamble Grows in Services

Brands that are successful for products can sometimes be stretched into the service sector. That's what happened when P&G bought Dallas's University Laundry, a service that picks up dirty laundry and delivers clean clothes on the campus of 23 universities.

One of University Laundry's marketing appeals is the potential for built-in repeat business. Students, the target market, get accustomed to the convenience of easy drop-ff and pickup, no waiting in line for washers and dryers, no folding. Also, University Laundry has a "local" feel, taking a local name for its services on each campus. Finally, arrangements are on demand via app, although a toll-free number is available for conversations (a nod to differing consumer behavior and expectation situations).

Now the firm is part of Tide Laundry Services. Tide, a P&G detergent brand you might have heard of? P&G tried Tide laundry services a while back, shelved the idea, and brought it back in a test last year. University Laundry fits into this service pattern of wash-dry-fold and app for convenience.

P&G also operates professional laundry services on site for organizations or institutions. One of its customers is the NFL. Yes, P&G has the scale to handle laundry for football teams, under the Tide brand.

The well-known, well-respected Tide brand is certainly a good fit with this service business. But what are the long-term growth and profit possibilities?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Brand Fanship in the Age of Consumer Skepticism

Brand loyalty is the name of the game for every marketer. And high on the credibility list is peer recommendations. Sure, brand communications carry some influence, especially by boosting brand awareness. But consumers are skeptical of advertising (no surprise).

So who do consumers trust? One study says consumers are seven times more likely to trust what other consumers post in photos about brands on social media sites, compared with what brands put in traditional communications. Seven times. Seeing really is believing, if a peer posts it. No wonder brands are trying to leverage social media content posted by consumers.

Auto manufacturers are intensely interested in loyalty and brand fanship. In Canada, some brands offer loyalty incentives to keep your family's business, car after car.

There are more subtle ways that brands can provide tools for consumers to use in showing brand fanship. Subaru, for example, offers the option of ordering a free Subaru Badge of Ownership to adhere to the back of the car, along with lifestyle icon extras to adhere alongside.

Above, my order to go on the latest Subaru I purchased, showcasing my brand loyalty and icons reflecting family interests. Plus a 100k mile badge for Subaru #5 in the family.

If you pass a parked Subaru and notice a number like this on the back, you know the owner is loyal and happy with the brand. If each badge sparks the interest of a few people, multiply by the number of owners and people influenced year after year. That's a good investment for Subaru, IMHO, enabling brand fans to show the world how they feel, in the age of consumer skepticism. Seeing is believing.

Monday, March 20, 2017

McDonald's Plays Catch-Up with Mobile

McDonald's wants to catch up to what Starbucks and Panera have been doing for many months--encouraging gadget-toting customers to use advance mobile ordering, adding convenience by speeding up transactions in the store.

Of course, Starbucks was so successful in influencing consumer behavior that its stores were bombarded with advance orders and the company had to reorganize work flow to prevent bottlenecks.

As of today, McDonald's US has more than 69 million Facebook likes, 3.4 million Twitter followers, 2.2 million Instagram followers. Its mobile app allows menu browsing, store locator functions, and more--but no order and pay functions, yet. Bear in mind that this company has a definite digital presence and has experience engaging brand fans.

However, according to one report, McDonald's has lost 500 million transactions to competitors since 2012. That's a lot of transactions. And competition is extremely fierce in the fast-food and casual-dining world, where technology is helping to shape and improve the customer experience.

Big chains have to out-innovate smaller, hungrier rivals (pun intended). Moreover, they have to out-innovate each other to retain market share. Panera has had mobile order for more than a year, and the results indicate it's having an effect on sales. So McDonald's is playing catch-up.

Finally, McDonald's is testing a national mobile system for advance ordering. The initial test involves 29 stores in California (and some UK stores). McDonald's expects to roll the system out month after month, with thousands of stores participating by the end of 2017. Will customers use the new process, and will this be a valuable competitive move for McDonald's?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Domino's Mobile-Led Marketing

Domino's, which built its rep on convenient, speedy delivery, wants to make it really easy to order pizza--applying what it knows about consumer behavior. Above, the "zero click" app that will order your favorite pizza (or whatever you like from the menu) with no clicks. Mobile-led marketing that works. Domino's revenues and profits are up.

Want to order one of its pizzas via emoji? You can do that by tweeting the emoji to Domino's. (The pizza giant is very social, with more than 1 million followers on Twitter, 17 million Facebook likes, and 1 million Instagram followers.) Soon, AI tech will enable online voice ordering a la virtual assistant (think "Alexa" for instance), no clicks needed.

For all the focus on mobile-led marketing, Domino's also has its eye on the in-person customer experience. It's been rolling out new store designs where customers can watch their pizzas being made (seeing it made fresh adds to the experience) and eat in rather than taking out.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Marketing, Art or Science?

art or science?

Trick question, because the answer is both, as you know.

But how much of marketing is art and how much is science? The Australian CMO of a software firm says today's marketing is 70% science, 30% art. Basically, if you're not using science (meaning sophisticated analyses, Big Data, etc.) to inform decisions, you're not optimizing your business...but without the creativity of art, marketing can't touch hearts and minds.

Other marketing execs agree that science is an integral part of targeting, in particular. In the quest for "right time, right place, right message," a YouTube marketing exec argues that the science angle is helping pinpoint the right time and right place, but the art angle is the key ingredient in the right message, critical for brand "magic."

The CMO of Progressive Insurance comments that "A lot of marketers are so proud of their art but they don't know their science." In fact Progressive relies on the art for quirky commercials starring Flo and a cast of characters that engage audiences. But the company also has in-house media buying so it can control exactly what gets placed where and when--the science. "We're not going to outspend anybody. We're going to out-create them," is how he says Progressive competes in an intense marketplace.

The head of strategy at an agency notes: "There are cases where all evidence points to a course of action or where intuition has to prevail and we need to be careful to take these chances even where we know measurement is thin." In other words, trust to creativity for breakthrough marketing.

In the end, effectiveness is what matters the most, measured by metrics that relate to strategic KPIs (key performance indicators). And science can help marketers do a better job of planning, testing, and measuring effectiveness of the art in brand communication. Art and science for today's marketing!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

B2B Content Marketing for Thought Leadership, Value Added, and Entertainment

B2B content marketing has always had the goal of establishing a brand or company as an authoritative thought leader and adding value with information.

Now the goal is to entertain as well as to provide information or education. Why?
  • One reason is clutter--so many brands are adopting content marketing for differentiation, it's harder to stand out. Brands need to have the right content for their audiences (and their strategies).
  • Another reason is media access--B2B customers want to be able to access content marketing via any digital device and through a website or social media. This diversity of points of access makes attracting and retaining an audience more challenging.
Not surprisingly, IBM is an expert in B2B content marketing. Its US home page has links to free downloadable subject guides, developer info, free tools, authoritative studies, and more.

The IBM YouTube Channel includes sub-channels for Watson and other categories of interest to a range of B2B buyers.

The IBM Twitter account (tweet above) posts videos and other content of interest--not just product/service related but general interest, as in the AI content promoted above.

And IBM's Facebook account similarly posts frequently with ever-changing content for B2B buyers, as well as serving as a recruiting tool.

Virtually every post has visual interest, whether a photo or video, to add to the appeal. It's not just a data dump, it's content marketing in a format that fits the B2B audiences' preferred method of accessing information. Importantly, the content marketing is ready 24/7 whenever a buyer anywhere wants to learn more about a subject of interest.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ranking Top Brands

Who's #1?

No two brand rankings are alike, which is why sometimes Apple is the world's top brand, sometimes Google, sometimes another brand. Year to year, the exact brand rankings can change, but usually the same group of well-known brands stays in the top tier.

Here are three brand rankings published during the past year:

  • According to Forbes, Apple is the world's most valuable brand, followed by Google, Microsoft, Coke, and Facebook.  (published 2016)
  • According to Interbrand, Apple is the world's best brand followed by Google, Coke, Microsoft, and Toyota. (published 2016)
  • According to Brand Finance, Google is the world's most valuable brand, followed by Apple, Amazon, AT&T, and Microsoft. (published 2017)
Even the very top brands like Google actively integrate their names and logos into entertainment viewed by millions. Google Earth played a pivotal role in the movie Lion, for example, showcasing its functionality and features. Apple is a perennial placement favorite in movies, too. Keeping a high profile adds to the image and the value of brand equity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Power of Co-Branding and Limited-Edition Products


Above, a co-branded food product that just appeared today on supermarket shelves: Limited Edition Peeps Oreo cookies.

Peeps has its own loyal customer base (including 327k Facebook fans) and Oreo has its own loyal customer base (with 42 million-plus Facebook fans).

Combine two powerful brands, add the "buy now" incentive of a limited-edition product with a holiday connection, and you have an end-cap seasonal item that attracts attention from shoppers and the media.

And of course Oreo has created a hashtag for this limited-edition product, to fuel word of mouth: #OreOMG.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From Zipping and Zapping to Clicking

Thirty years ago, advertisers were bemoaning the increase in zipping and zapping as consumers time-shifted their viewing habits and skipped the commercials. That was in the old VCR era. It continued into the DVR era, with media firms trying to find ways to put commercials in front of viewers, like it or not.

In more recent years, commercials have become a popular part of major TV events like the Super Bowl. Time recently published a list of the most influential Super Bowl ads "of all time." (That list was published before the Patriots won against the Falcons in February.)

For comparison, take a look at Entertainment Weekly's 50 best commercials list published 20 years ago, in 1997.

Now streaming has changed advertising, viewing patterns, and consumer behavior, again. And in an era when there are more choices (broadcast and cable channels, streaming services, YouTube, etc.) than ever before, many commercials are so entertaining that consumers voluntarily click to watch them.

Here's a link to YouTube's advertising leaderboard for January, 2017. Among the top commercials viewed on YouTube were several scheduled to air during the Super Bowl. No zipping, no zapping, but a lot of clicking to preview these ads before they air on TV.

* abbreviations: DVR = digital video recorder, VCR = videocassette recorder. To see what these gadgets used to look like, click on the links to check out their entries on Wikipedia.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Renting Clothing Is Still in Fashion

Back in 2009, Rent the Runway was in the vanguard of the clothing rental business model, offering designer-branded, special-occasion fashions at a fraction of the purchase price, to be worn for a few days and returned. Since then, it has expanded to stores and stores-within-stores at Neiman-Marcus. And gained competitors. And it offers a wider range of products like fashion accessories.

The rental/subscription model is increasingly popular as consumers avoid buying and instead, enjoy wearing in-style clothing for a limited time (a few days or a month). Of course, startups are looking for niches and differentiation so they can fine-tune an effective positioning.

For instance, Le Tote offers clothing by monthly subscription, selected by personal stylists for your consideration. Just check the "tote" to see what's being recommended, then rent, wear, return, and repeat. No shopping, no laundry, hundreds of styles/brands to choose from, and no unworn styles sitting in the back of your closet with the tags still on.

Interestingly, fashion brands that do business with these and other rental startups gain access to feedback that helps them better satisfy their customers, rental or purchase. Le Tote notes what happens to garments that are rented and returned, re-rented and returned. What parts wear out, for instance. And tells the manufacturers so they can do better. Win-win-win (for manufacturer, rental service, and--of course--the next customers.

Other product categories are represented in the rental-subscription business model, too. More on that soon,

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Print Ads on Super Bowl Sunday

Advertising is more than TV commercials and social media. Advertisers even use legacy media like print -- newspapers and magazines -- to reach audiences. Today, for example, is a day when football fans read the sports section in a local or national newspaper for more detail about the teams playing in the Super Bowl.

The entire back page of today's New York Times sports section has the lighthearted ad from Bud Light, shown at top. It sings the praises of "the official holiday of Friendship"--meaning the Super Bowl, but not named as such. A clever ode to sports being an opportunity for friendship and fun, positive brand associations that Bud (an official Super Bowl sponsor) wants to encourage.

The Bud Light website requires visitors to submit their birthdate to enter, as shown here. If you want to see the new Bud Light commercial and other A-B commercials being aired tonight, they're already online.

Inside the same New York Times sports section is a full-age ad from Gatorade, titled "An Open Letter to Athletes..." and singing the praises of serious athletes "pursuing your dreams, setting your goals and giving it all you've got...We are too."

Fans are speculating about which color Gatorade will be poured over the winning coach's head tonight in Houston. Or for interactive brand engagement, just go all Snapchat and dunk your selfie in the Gatorade color of your choice. Gatorade says last year's Snapchat dunk opportunity resulted in 165 million impressions.

Sure, Super Bowl commercials reach a huge audience, but print and other promotions also reach targeted audiences with specific messages that support brand image and personality.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Super Bowl Advertising Preview for 2017

National advertisers are already releasing their Super Bowl ads for 2017, hoping for viral sharing that will boost the brands and, with luck, encourage buying too.
  • Like funny ads? Watch Melissa McCarthy in her Kia ad, teaser already up on YouTube and elsewhere.
  • Like the Patriots? Tom Brady stars in an Intel ad (the ad was up even before Brady knew for sure he was back in the Super Bowl).
  • Like music? Pepsi sponsors the halftime show, and its ad featuring Lady Gaga is, well, musical. 
  • Like quirky feel-good ads? Skittles has one for you this year.
  • Like something new? Mars (which is behind the Skittles ad) will shoot a Snickers commercial live, during the Super Bowl, which has (surprisingly) never been done. Well, it's a bit risky, maybe that's why this is a first. To attract attention, Mars will do a 36-hour livestream branded entertainment show (view at Snickerslive.com) leading up to the game. 
And Yellow Tail wine has stitched together a series of coast-to-coast local ad buys to showcase its Australian wines. Locked out of national because of category-specific Anheuser-Busch InBev's exclusive Super Bowl commitment with Fox, which is televising the big game, Yellow Tail went the local route and will be seen during the game, just like any other big advertiser (except aired locally). The reach and the exposure, just not the "official" advertiser.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mozilla the Pro-Privacy Brand

Mozilla's pop-up "Internet Health" store in NYC
Mozilla--known for its Firefox browser and other digital products--identifies as a pro-privacy brand. To reinforce that association with its brand, Mozilla and the Tactical Technology Collective recently partnered on a pop-up store in Little Italy in Manhattan. 

The Glass House, as it was called, welcomed 10,000 visitors in 17 days and offered thought-provoking, artsy exhibits, not to mention specific instructions for protecting privacy and security online. Mozilla's CMO explained:
The Glass Room is part of a global movement raising awareness for internet health.
Mozilla has been raising awareness of digital privacy and security concerns for years. Its website hosts a portal of information about how individuals can protect themselves online. You can click here to read more.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Amazon vs Legacy Retailers

Legacy retailing continues to look for ways to compete as Amazon innovates in online retailing. Walmart, the world's largest legacy retailer, is cutting corporate jobs to get leaner. It's also reorganizing its e-commerce leadership while it integrates its acquisition of grocery retailer Jet.com.

Above, two news releases from Jet.com's "press" section, showing the acquisition just weeks after Jet celebrated its first anniversary last year. In fact, Jet.com has itself acquired an e-commerce firm known for online shoe retailing in competition with Zappos.com (which is owned by Amazon, of course).

Meanwhile, Amazon is expanding--on a large scale. It recently announced plans to hire 100,000+ employees during the next 18 months. The book industry is coming full circle with Amazon's plans to open additional Amazon bookstores. Which means that the innovator that disrupted book retailing is now joining brick-and-mortar retailing, a very different industry all these years later now that consumer behavior has evolved.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More Legacy Retail Woes

Legacy retailing (aka brick-and-mortar stores) continues to have difficulty meeting the challenges of online shopping.

The Limited--one of the original mall-based women's specialty chains--has just closed its 250 stores from coast to coast and will sell online only. Founded more than 50 years ago, the Limited at one time had hundreds of mall stores and was hugely popular, but that was before the Internet. The retailer's private equity owner said in a statement: "In an increasingly challenging environment for mall-based retail and women's apparel, we are very disappointed that the company has had to make the difficult decision to close its retail locations."

Sears also made an announcement this week: It's selling the well-known Craftsman brand to competitor Stanley Black & Decker. Sears was one of the pioneers of catalog shopping in the 19th century, and Craftsman is one of the three brand jewels in its crown (along with Kenmore and Diehard). Selling a crown jewel to raise money will likely only postpone the inevitable. Sears has been trying for years to strategize its way out of an expensive legacy retailing situation. Sears is closing yet more stores, having already agreed to rent parts of open stores to other retailers (like Primark). 

Macy's announced that it's laying off 10,000 workers and closing 100 stores after a worse-than-anticipated holiday season. The company stated that the stores being closed were "unproductive or are no longer robust shopping destinations because of changes in the local retail shopping landscape."

What is the future of legacy retailing in a world where consumer behavior is evolving along with technology? More posts on that topic soon.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Best Ad Campaigns of 2016

Happy 2017!

Now that 2016 is in the rear view mirror, marketing publications and experts are looking back at the ad campaigns they call the best of the year. Of course, we're now 11 months beyond Super Bowl 50 (and a month before the next Super Bowl).

To give this a global twist, I'm including a few non-US "best campaign" lists here.
  • Canada's best campaigns for nonprofits and causes, as noted by Strategy
  • BrandWatch's 10 best campaigns, including the one above, for Morton Salt.
  • Wall Street Journal's best and worst ads.
  • Adweek's 20 trends that drove the best in marketing