Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bye-Bye Coke Classic

New Coke was one of the classic marketing mistakes of new product introduction. It was 1985, the height of the cola wars, and Coca-Cola wanted to make a bold product move against archrival Pepsi with a new, sweeter-tasting Coke. Big mistake.

Coke's brand fans were outraged--not at the new version but at the loss of the old version--and the uproar forced the company to reintroduce the old Coke as Classic Coke only a few weeks later. Faster than you can say "Mentos and Coke," Classic began outselling New Coke and actually added new fizz to the company's revenues.

New Coke is long gone, and the company this week decided that the Classic variant will be known, starting now, as just plain Coca-Cola. Here's the NY Times story. Drink up!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hello Senate, Hello USPS: A Stamp Is a Promise

The USPS wants to go to a 5-day delivery week. Sounds like a fast way to hammer the business prospects of companies that depend on postal service AND a nightmare for people who pay their bills or send vital documents via snail mail.

This idea gets a thumbs down from me. A stamp is a promise to deliver (Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.)

So, USPS, try dumping all the non-packaging merchandise you carry (tote bags with stamp pictures, greeting cards, stuffed animals, anything that isn't directly related to mailing something). Some of the items for sale in my local post office are from the old 37-cent stamp days. Stick to what you know--dependable delivery.

Super Bowl Sunday Ad Preview

Miller Brewing is getting a lot of mileage from the idea of a one-second Super Bowl ad. It's got an entire campaign microsite with longer ads explaining the one-second idea. You have to be legal age to enter, but if you're reading this, you probably qualify :)

Then there are the new 3D ads, one touting Pixar's Monsters vs. Aliens and one for Sobe Lifewater energy drink. (Sobe Lizard Lake is fun...)

This week I've seen the Super Bowl theme in supermarkets, convenience stores, etc. It's such a big cultural icon (in US, anyway) that I wouldn't be surprised to see the date marked like a holiday on mainstream calendars. It's probably more of a holiday than, say, Groundhog Day or National Boss Day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Self-Publishing: Marketing Is Key

Today's NY Times has a fascinating article about self-published books. Read it here. It boils down to this: Thanks to the economy, book retailers are hurting and publishers are laying off employees and concentrating mainly on best-selling "brand name" authors. Yet people who want to be published authors are not giving up--instead, they're self-publishing through companies like Author Solutions, iUniverse, Blurb, Lulu, and CreateSpace.

A Google search for "self-publishing" turned up 6.5 million search results, and a Google search for "print on demand" turned up more than 20 million results! No wonder the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has posted a warning about POD along with a lengthy list of links to help aspiring writers assess their options.

Self-published authors must have a solid marketing plan that goes beyond the basics of finishing the book (the product), setting up a blog (communication), setting a price, and getting the book listed on Amazon and (distribution). For ideas, check out John Kremer's links to book marketing resources.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Smucker's Puts You in Sequins and Skates

One way Smucker's, the peanut butter and jam company, targets women (moms in particular) is by sponsoring figure skating. Its name is on the Stars on Ice show touring the country and it was front and center during the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland last week (makes sense--company HQ is in Ohio).

Checking out the Smucker's web site, I noticed a fun interactive called "Skate Superstar." It works much like the wildly viral Office Max "Elf Yourself" promotion. Upload a photo, click to choose a sparkly costume, and get ready to do a triple Axel (in pixels, anyway).

Good targeting online and on TV. Note to Smucker's advertising personnel: Please add a few new commercials into the rotation so loyal viewers don't get tired of the same old, same old.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

B of A Twitter Rep Cuts Through Red Tape

Twitter isn't just for "what are you doing right now" comments--a small but growing number of businesses are monitoring consumer tweets and responding. Today's has this story about Bank of America's official Twitter rep.

According to the B of A Twitter page, the rep's role is "to help, listen, and learn from our customers."

Other companies represented on Twitter include the online retailer Zappos, Dell, BBC, and Starbucks. The list is growing because, in 2009, every company has to have a plan for integrating social media (Twitter, blogs, etc.) into its customer contact activities. This is a must for maintaining a dialogue with customers and others. B of A's description of its Twitter role explains why. Enough said.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fun Fakes: Obama and His BlackBerry (Ads)

The NY Daily News asked advertising agencies to mock up fake BlackBerry ads featuring President Obama, who loves his BlackBerry. This is one of my favorites, but they're all worth a peek.

Talk about testimonials! Research in Motion doesn't even need to run any of these ads--its product has a glowing halo from association with the new president, worth millions in advertising time in any medium.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Social Media Marketing 2009

Thanks to Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent, you can download a free ebook (in .pdf format) about social media marketing trends in 2009. She asked 12 experts about how, exactly, marketers can use and should use social media.

They responded with great advice (in just 30 pages!). Three quick quotes:
  • "Start with measurement, create content for the open Web and for mobility"--Matt Dickman
  • "Goals absolutely must be built on business objectives"--Amber Naslund
  • "The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C's. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution"--Mike Fruchter

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Used Games Boost GameStop's Sales

GameStop's strong revenue growth (during a period of grim retail results) is not just a sign of the economic times--it's a nod to consumer behavior, especially that of young gamers who tire of favorite games and crave novelty. GameStop accepts old video games as trade-ins for new and used game purchases. This provides extensive inventory of used games for sale to bargain-hunters . . . and it fuels sales of all the retailer's games.

Amelia B, who's 11, recently mentioned GameStop to me when thinking out loud about saving her allowance to buy a game she wants. She doesn't care if the game is new or used--either way, it would be new to her. Saving money would be even better.

Of course, game marketers are not as thrilled because they don't make money on the resale of previously purchased games. Book publishers don't make money on the resale of used books, either. But that's the way of the future as consumers look for savings and make more of what they own.
clipped from

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hydrox Hits 100

Hydrox vs. Oreo? Hydrox sandwich cookies disappeared for some time but Kellogg recently brought them back with special marketing support (and an updated, healthier recipe). A quote from Kellogg's news release:

"Limited Edition 100th Anniversary Hydrox cookies will follow the original, beloved Hydrox cookie recipe, though they will contain zero grams trans fat per serving."

Not all repackaging projects turn out well. In this case, the new anniversary packaging is a good way to call attention to an old product. Instead of "new, improved" or "new packaging, same great taste," the message is "celebrate 100 years of Hydrox." Why not?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Layaway Makes a Comeback

Layaway is returning to the retail scene as an alternative to the "charge it, take it, pay later" mentality. The Internet has also prompted an update, as you can see from the eLayaway site.

It's difficult to know exactly how popular this payment method is becoming. According to MSNBC, "Burlington Coat Factory said its layaway sales made up 5.3 percent of its business in August [2008], a 15 percent increase over the same month last year." No word yet on Christmas 2008 layaway figures.

One concern: Will customers use layaway to "reserve" products, make a few payments, then drop the layaway if the products go on sale/clearance--and buy at the new, lower price, knowing they've had that item put aside for weeks?
clipped from
discover the easy way to pay Kmart Layaway
clipped from

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Buckle Bucks Downward Trend

BusinessWeek says that Buckle, a retailer serving 15-25-yr-olds, is doing very well despite the economy that's taking down many store chains. Its merchandising strategy is to have different colors and styles in replacement stock shipments so customers don't see their choices on everybody else. Customers want to be individualistic yet wear the same fashions as their best buds. Makes sense (cents!).
clipped from
Welcome to Buckle

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dell Gets Social Media Marketing

I'm always interested in Dell's marketing, not just because I write about it but also because I buy its products. I recently discovered its YouTube channel and found a number of interesting videos, including this 50-second one (without narration) that shows how a customer suggestion submitted to Dell's IdeaStorm site was transformed into a product feature. Customers talk, Dell listens--that's the message.

Dell learned its lesson after the Dell Hell crisis. Now Dell people blog, they're on Twitter, they're on YouTube.
clipped from

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Color Is Pure Emotion"--Benjamin Moore

That's the headline on one of the main color pages on the Benjamin Moore paint site. Naming colors can be tricky: You want to evoke positive response and distinguish one shade from another, even when the differences are minute. So here are some of the paint names I found on this site:

- Genesis White
- November Rain
- October Sky
- August Morning
- Cloud Nine
- Minced Onion
- Timid White
- Spring Dust

Imagine you've just redecorated and friends ask, "What color paint did you use?" and you answer "Timid White" or "Minced Onion." Maybe you'd get a better reaction if you say, "Cloud Nine."

Seriously, visit the Benjamin Moore site for a wonderful interactive opportunity to click and try out different colors in different rooms before you head to the paint store. And check out the site's videos for helpful how-to info.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Texting without Permission

Millions of AT&T Wireless customers recently received texts about the season premiere of American Idol, says the NY Times. Since millions vote via cell phone (AT&T is an Idol sponsor), this probably didn't sound like a bad idea to the AT&T people who decided to send the texts.

But lots of AT&T Wireless customers were unhappy. Although they didn't pay for the texts, many viewed the messages as spam because they hadn't granted permission. The FTC said the texts didn't appear to violate regulations or legal restrictions. But who wants to alienate the very people you count on for revenue, especially in an industry known for high customer churn?

Better idea: Invite voters to sign up for "updates" and then, with permission, send information that will be welcomed and discussed, building positive word of mouth. A growing number of TV programs offer this option and it makes more sense than pushing texts on people who haven't opted in.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Software as a Service - Everything Old Is New Again

Remember time sharing? Your company bought X number of hours on some distant mainframe (sometimes for heavy-duty processing in the middle of the night) and sent your data via phone lines. It was a big deal in the 1970s.

As soon as companies could buy software licenses and have programs customized to their specs to run on their machines, they did. Processing on your own schedule and in control of your own equipment became more and more popular.

Software as a service (Saas) is a different twist, in that you or your company gets to your data and programs via the Internet. You don't have to worry about updates (the software provider does that) and the software is ready and waiting when you need it. You pay for what you use. No more site licenses or worries about incompatibility with different computers. Oracle and others are busy helping get SaaS programs off the ground. Some media are hailing the environmentally-friendly aspects of SaaS.

But what happens when an outage prevents you from using the service, as DM News reports happened to not long ago? The outage lasted less than an hour but Salesforce's users must have been biting their fingernails every second, unsure when access would be restored. And what happens when (not if) a SaaS provider raises its price? What options do users have if they want to quickly, safely, securely switch? These kinds of questions are likely to keep SaaS from widespread acceptance for now, IMHO.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nokia's Viral Marketing

Here's a link to a quick commercial on YouTube UK for Nokia. It's part of a promotional campaign that includes field marketing (personal contact with consumers in offices, stores, on the street, etc), prizes, and more. OK, the magic trick looks a bit lame if you know how it works, so don't read any of the comments till you watch.

Visit Unruly Media's Top 20 Viral Videos to see other popular commercials that have gone viral around the world.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Backstage 101 in Sony's Online Learning Center

Got questions about digital photography, digital videos, PC tech, or home entertainment tech? Get answers at Backstage 101, Sony's Online Learning Center with free (yes, free) how-to courses in bite-size modules (complete with quizzes). Q&A and discussion forums reflect the high level of the course content and the attentiveness of the instructors.

This is the kind of extra support that makes Sony customers so loyal--and encourages non-customers to add Sony to their consideration set. The whole idea is a definite marketing plus for savvy Sony.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just Means . . . Where Good Work Lives

Today's visit to a local Best Buy store, where I noticed a battery recycling center, prompted me to visit its web site. That's where I learned that Best Buy is a founding member of, which has as its vision "a world where companies integrate social and environmental initiatives into their core business strategies."

The JustMeans site facilitates social networking to foster communication between consumers and corporations about the issues. And I'm delighted to note the involvement of the Pearson Foundation, which is connected to my US and UK publishers.
clipped from
justmeans, where you can talk to
companies about their social &
environmental impact.
clipped from

Friday, January 9, 2009

Whopper Sacrifice

Good or silly use of Facebook for promotional purposes? Burger King is offering a free Whopper for every 10 "friends" you de-friend on Facebook, to demonstrate what people will sacrifice for a whopper.

Thanks to Jim B for pointing this one out with the comments: "Twisted. Begrudging respect to Burger King." Totally agree. At this moment, nearly 60,000 people have been "de-friended" on Facebook in the name of a free Whopper. This promo looks like a winner with people willing to laugh all the way to a Whopper.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Home Depot Ends Olympian Program

As this photo from Home Depot's site shows, the retailer has supported Olympic and Paralympic athletes since 1992 with a unique jobs program that allows them flexible hours and a living wage so they can afford to train. Now that program is ending because the retailer must tighten its economic belt to cope with recessionary pressures. More info in this news story.

Although I understand that Home Depot's financial situation requires major changes, I'm sorry to see its Olympic support go away. The retailer really polished its image with the Olympic program, even including its Olympic employees in advertising, etc. I'm especially disappointed because Olympic hopefuls are in full training mode for the 2010 winter Olympics and some may not be able to continue training at the level they need to make the U.S. team. Will another sponsor step up?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Inaugural souvenir from USPS

So much of the merchandise on display in post offices is outdated (bearing images of 30-something-cent stamps, for instance). Almost no items have a price tag, either, so customers have to wait on line to ask before they make up their minds. I wish the USPS would get out of the merchandise business, which it doesn't understand, and concentrate on letter and parcel delivery.

This inaugural souvenir is, however, a good fit for the USPS: It's a special "mailing" reminder of an historic event that will draw many millions of viewers in person and on TV. I particularly like that it's being sold online.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Good-for-the-planet Nonprofit Fundraising

Recently a school-age relative asked me to participate in her school's fundraiser selling eco-friendly items from Greenraising. I received a link to the Greenraising site and completed my purchase online, with credit for the purchase going to the proper school (and class).

My purchases arrived in earth-friendly wrapping and are good quality as well as being eco-safe. In fact, everyone in the family made purchases and we were all pleased with the results (plus the school benefited, of course).

Bottom line: I hope more schools choose this kind of fundraising program, rather than selling candy etc.

Register Your Non-Profit!

The perfect way to raise funds for your non-profit!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Applying Science to Marketing

The NY Times reports on a new neuromarketing venture to analyze the way people mentally process public service ads.

What a wonderful idea--using neuromarketing to fine-tune PSAs so they capture attention, touch people intellectually and emotionally, and have a better chance of affecting attitudes and behavior.

Watch for new, improved messages, even better than the old standby taglines "This is your brain on drugs" and "Only you can prevent forest fires."
clipped from

A Neuromarketer on the Frontier of Buyology

After viewing ads on obesity, a consumer is given food choices: healthful or not. The prefrontal lobe, in crosshairs, shows new activity. Did the message get through?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Got Photos? Get Printing

Holiday photos waiting to be printed? Good news: There's a bit of a price war going on in the photo printing business. My guess is that the number of actual prints has plateaued or is already on the decline because people are storing their images digitally and printing very selectively. Digital photo frames will also start to cut into the photo printing business.

Customized photo books seem to be gaining ground. They're ubiquitous and convenient, certainly much faster and easier to create than crafty, time-intensive scrapbook albums. And many photo services are offering specials on photo books at this time of year. Time to get printing.
clipped from
clipped from
 20 free prints
Get 9 cent 4 x 6

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Worst & Best Ads of 2008 - Multiple Views

Happy new year! It's time once again for "worst & best" lists of everything in the public eye. Here, the NY Times, Slate, and Wall Street Journal discuss their picks in the world of advertising. What stands out, for me, is the urgent need to stand out in a cluttered media environment.

With the Super Bowl just weeks away, I'm sure we can look forward to seeing a number of new commercials that will wind up on the "best & worst" lists for 2009.
clipped from
clipped from

Ads We HateThe worst commercials on television.

clipped from
[Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates teamed up in some head-scratching ads for Microsoft]