Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flavored by Fleur de Sel

For the sample marketing plan in my "Essential Guide to Marketing Planning," I created a company that markets luxury chocolates, including one type of chocolate with a light sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Now desserts (chocolates, caramel, etc) garnished with expensive specialty salt have burst into the mainstream (see NY Times article) because the intense flavor adds an unexpected but welcome finishing touch. Happy new year!
clipped from

How Caramel Developed a Taste for Salt
clipped from
Fleur De Sel De Camargue French Sea Salt 125 G 4.4 Oz

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MOD (Made on Demand) Is Back

Made on demand--also known as MOD--is back, but will it succeed this time around? Twenty years ago, a company placed its made-on-demand cassette kiosks in the Sam Goody record chain. Customers sampled songs at the kiosks, punched in the numbers of the songs they wanted, typed in the name of their custom-made cassette, and picked it up at the cash register a few minutes later. The volume wasn’t there and the kiosks disappeared from the stores (and, in fact, the once thriving New York-based chain itself went through wrenching ownership and merchandise changes, but that’s a different story).

Now Mod Systems is pushing MOD in retail stores, with music, movies, TV shows, and other entertainment available for downloading onto SD chips from retail kiosks. (Here's a brief video clip.) With smart phones ever more popular, this idea seems more appealing than burning a DVD while customers wait (or remote ordering for later delivery). As this interview indicates, Toshiba, pushing its SD technology, has invested in Mod Systems.

However, I believe the challenge will be achieving volume from the in-store delivery format. Consumers have multiple options for immediate gratification, including: swapping digital music files; nearly ubiquitous availability of video on demand and DVR; and instantly viewable movies from Netflix and others. Going to a store to get media on an SD chip seems much less convenient. Shoppers, in short, are too limited an audience to make this a big winner, IMHO. What do you think?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Big Sales, Tiny Profit Margins

The mad dash to save-save-save extends to after-Christmas sales, where recipients of gift cards as well as veteran bargain hunters go on the hunt for the lowest prices. Look for well below-average profit margins when the retailers report their annual figures, because it takes a BIG sale to draw shoppers during this difficult year. (Note the retailers' use of red on their web sites--attention-getting but also a harbinger of lower profits, IMHO.)
clipped from
After Christmas sale and clearance
clipped from

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve

NORAD's amazingly accurate tracking systems show Santa's progress after liftoff. What more can I say but Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night!
clipped from
clipped from

The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, we use our second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface are equipped with infrared sensors which enable them to detect heat. Amazingly, Rudolph's bright red nose gives off an infrared signature which allow our satellites to detect Rudolph and Santa.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Discovery's Smart Marketing to Educators

This week's BusinessWeek has an article about how the Discovery Channel repurposed its vast library of videos to sell to the educational market. This isn't just a new label on old stuff--it's a package with free grade-specific lesson plans and teacher's guides. Discovery has a good brand and followers among teachers, parents, and children. "These students are going to be our TV viewers of tomorrow," says the head of this Discovery business. Smart targeting, smart product development.

Browse Lesson Plans

View lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students. Lesson plans correspond to VHS and DVD titles located in The Store.

Find hundreds of original lesson plans, all written by teachers for teachers. Use the pull-down menus below to browse by subject, grade, or both.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Season to Do Good

Macy's and Toys 'R Us are each featuring a cause on their home pages: Macy's is showcasing its environmental initiatives and offering info on how visitors can save the planet; Toys 'R Us is requesting donations for Toys for Tots. Even though the holiday shopping season is at its most frenzied, these retailers are taking precious space on their web sites to remind visitors that this is also the season to do good.
clipped from
clipped from
Macy's Earth Week

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Oatmeal Wars

Starbucks and Jamba Juice are among the growing number of restaurants serving oatmeal for breakfast (see Sun Times article). No instant mush this--real, hearty, cooked oatmeal (with toppings) for a hot start to the day. I wonder whether I can request 1% milk or fat-free milk or half-and-half or even whipped cream to top my bowl-to-go? Let the oatmeal wars begin!
clipped from
clipped from

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Season for Silliness in Toys has compiled a list of the most ridiculous toys ever created (snarky comments and all). How were these toys test-marketed before the big launch? How many companies had focus groups of children check out the toys during the development process? Who made these marketing decisions? Of course the list also includes perennial favorites that aren't silly, such as beads. Ho ho ho!
clipped from

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

46 Days Till Super Bowl 43

And already the publicity machine is gearing up to get people buzzing about the commercials. Weatherproof Garment Co, according to the WSJ, is advertising to find 9 others who want to share its 30-second TV spot during the big game.

The offering price is $300,000 per 3 seconds of screen time, which seems steep for a blink of an eye. Of course, the media coverage of the 10-company commercial would be worth more than the price any one firm pays. I think if Weatherproof delays its real push till January, some companies may actually come forward and give this thing a try. I'll be tuning in to see how it turns out. How about you? Oh, and there'll be a football game on at the same time, remember.

46 Days 09 Hrs 17 Mins

clipped from

Splitting a Super Bowl Spot 10 Ways

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deadlines for Buying

We're in the final mad dash to the Christmas/Hanukkah deadline, as these web sites warn. For those who like to buy online, now is the time to order to be sure gifts get there in time!

I like that e-tailers let us know right on the home page so we can plan our purchases accordingly. I hope Amazon Marketplace merchants abide by these deadlines as well.
clipped from
clipped from
clipped from
ONLY 4 DAYS To Get Gifts In Time For Christmas | FREE SHIPPING SITEWIDE On Orders Over $29

Friday, December 12, 2008

The New McDonald's Packaging

Business Week reports that McDonald's has redesigned its packaging. The Golden Arches are still there, reinforcing the store signage and echoing the McDonald's "M."

I like these more contemporary designs, which smartly reinterpret the long-standing, traditional red-and-yellow packages. Sometimes brand updates move too far from the familiar. This update is very 2009 without losing the McDonald's touch (it's the special sauce, right?).

McDonald's is rolling out new designs for its food packaging aimed at fortifying the brand and staying ahead of obesity concerns

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forrester Asks: Who Do You Trust?

And its answer: Friends and reviews. Company blogs are at the bottom of the list. That's a big problem for companies trying to build relationships by blogging about their products, challenges, successes, and so forth. Forrester suggests studying good corporate blogs; it specifically points to Rubbermaid's blog as a good example. Also read the Blog Council's take on this report.

More trust leads to a stronger relationship and more brand commitment--which is why this issue is so important, especially during these tough economic times.
clipped from
blog trust

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ryanair's Bargain Fares

Ryanair's web site practically shouts "bargain fares." If it were a radio commercial, the volume would be turned up HIGH. If it were a billboard, it would have bright flood lights all around the rim. No one can mistake Ryanair's competitive strategy--a strategy in synch with the current consumer mindset of saving money.

Given the economic environment and slowdown in air travel, will Ryanair be able to afford to acquire and really assimilate Aer Lingus, as it has wanted to do for some time?
clipped from
Cheap Flights -  [Birmingham - Barcelona Reus]
Calendar '09 Presale

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bakugan: Must-Have for Boys

This week's BusinessWeek says there's no "must-have" toy for Xmas 2008, although the closest thing to a blockbuster may be Bakugan magnetic balls, for boys 5-10. Other news sources have been touting Bakugan's blockbuster status for a few weeks.

Have you tried to buy Bakugan toys? Talk about popular: Amazon's sellers are nearly sold out and customer comments indicate that prices have been rising as the holidays draw nearer.

Then there's the Wal-Mart "Site to Store" secret. I was in Wal-Mart yesterday at 9 am to buy Bakugan. Employees in the toy section sent me to the hidden "Site to Store" pickup area, part of a stock room off the main selling floor. IF the store has any Bakugan items in stock, you can buy ONE of each kind at a time. That's exactly what I did. Better hurry--inventory is limited. Bakugan seems to be muscling its way past Pokemon.
clipped from

Results 1 - 10 of about 1,690,000 for bakugan. (0.07 seconds)

clipped from

Friday, December 5, 2008

Harajuku Lovers in US?

How many US girls know where Harajuku is, let alone why the brand is focused on cuteness? A local Macy's has a tiny Harajuku Lovers display with perfume locked inside and cute T-shirts on a rack next to the display case. Nobody noticed the display the day I was there, even though it was next to the checkout.

I was in Harajuku last year and enjoyed watching the teens and 20-somethings parade in sometimes cute, sometimes edgy fashions. Even though Tokyo teens are fashion-forward, and teen style mags know Harajuku, I wonder if the neighborhood has real fashion cachet here. This isn't Hello Kitty, you know.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Big Three Automakers Online

Given the U.S. auto industry's hat-in-hand bailout requests, I thought I'd look at what they're saying on their web sites. GM wants to set the record straight and mobilize brand fans on its behalf. Ford is trumpeting its new direction. Chrysler isn't even addressing the current crisis.

Sorry, Chrysler, denial won't get you anywhere these days, even with gas prices way down from their summer peaks. IMHO, GM's approach is interesting for its involvement angle (whip up public support for yet another taxpayer-funded bailout?). To my non-industry eye, Ford's approach is a curious combo of spin and plan. What next?
clipped from

  • Make Your Voice Heard

    From dealerships to diners,
    what happens in the automotive
    industry affects us all.
    Tell Congress the U.S. auto
    industry matters.

    » Mobilize now

  • At Ford, we are headed in a new direction. After turning a profit this year
    in the first quarter and making significant progress on cost reductions, we were
    hit by a spike in gas prices, followed by the current credit crisis. But instead
    of focusing on our challenges, we’d like you to know how very far Ford has
    come and how we’re doing business differently.
    clipped from
  • Chrysler LLC Celebrates 25th Anniversary of the Minivan11/3/2008
    Subjects: Design - Town & Country
    Source: Chrysler Media Services LLC