Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hyper-local Marketing

My town's weekly newspaper (circulation in low five figures) just carried a full-color insert from Netflix, offering a one-month free trial. Lately, Netflix's "standard" trial offer has been two weeks free, so the local offer has been sweetened.

Many friends and neighbors are already Netflix subscribers but others watch movies on premium cable or DirecTV. Plus AT&T's U-verse is expanding into my area. The result: lots of competition and lots of offers. Netflix knows to fish where the fishing is good.

Remember, the market for such services is mature; therefore, acquiring new customers generally means persuading consumers to switch from a competitor. Hyper-local marketing is helping these companies reach out to potential switchers in towns where intense competition has heightened awareness of the many options available. It also helps companies target prospects that resemble current customers (via demographics including geography and via psychographic segmentation).

Too often, national advertisers ignore the targeting possibilities of community newspapers. Yet weekly papers (especially those with paid circulation) can be very good vehicles for reaching consumers who are involved with and connected to their communities. Netflix is smart to take advantage of an underutilized medium in my area.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Naked Marketing?

Pat Lencioni of consultancy the Table Group, writes about "naked consulting" in a BusinessWeek piece this week. His point is that rather than acting like know-it-alls, focusing on looking smart, and doing whatever it takes to be hired by clients, consultants should be "naked" and allow their vulnerability to show through to build trust. They should ask questions (dumb ones too), offer ideas, make suggestions from the very beginning of the relationship, even before they're hired--before they even know whether they'll be hired to consult. In marketing terms, the would-be consultants are adding value and being transparent during the very first interaction.

You can see a video clip and read more about his book, Getting Naked, here. Back to his BW piece, where Lencioni says that naked consultants: no real selling at all, foregoing that activity in order to find a way to help a potential client even if the business never actually becomes a real, paying one.

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything: In an ideal world, customers want and expect marketing and marketers to be naked. They want to know the real benefits of a good or service, they want to know the real price, and they want to know when an offering is not right for them.

It takes courage for a marketer to be naked in front of customers (and competitors) but ultimately, it does build trust and loyalty. This is all about the long term, not just a single transaction. Customers resent obfuscation and crave transparency.

Here's a perspective on naked marketing based on the decades-old rhetorical question, "Would Macy's Tell Gimbel's?" The two department stores were archrivals situated across the street from each other in New York City's busiest retail district. It was a point of competitive pride not to reveal info that would send a customer to the rival.

However, as this blogger points out, Amazon routinely lets transparency rule by listing all sellers of a particular product and showing their offers in price order. Now that's naked marketing--being confident enough to put the customer's needs first. I know Amazon gets a cut of the sale when customers buy from one of its sellers...but it still takes a competent, confident marketer to allow customers to make that decision on their own.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marketing the Hotel Lifestyle for Home

Loved that lamp in your resort room? How about the pillows or mattress in your suite? You can live that lifestyle at home by buying the hotel-branded items of your choice from the hotel's in-room catalog or online listing or gift registry.

The Westin at Home Store features bed, bath, spa, and gifts. Plus the Web site invites bridal registry so friends and family can pick a Westin gift that the happy couple really wants.

Marriott has an in-room catalog offering all kinds of branded hotel items for sale, from soap to robes to bedding. It also has a Honeymoon Registry (see graphic above), where couples can register to have family and friends contribute toward their dream vacation in four categories: Accommodations, Food & Beverages, Activities, and Merchandise (the latter for bringing the hotel lifestyle home).

The Four Seasons promotes selected hotel-branded items for home use in its monthly magazine. A few weeks ago, the featured item was the special Four Seasons bed--available only through a concierge at one of the company's resorts or hotels, an ordering mechanism less convenient than the Westin offers.

Marketing the hotel lifestyle for home is a smart idea because it reinforces what the brands stand for and offers customers the opportunity to bring the brand into their daily lives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Name-Brand Generics

Soon many pharmaceutical blockbusters sold by prescription only will face generic competition; in developing nations, demand for basic prescription drugs is growing much faster than in the U.S. and many Western countries. Retailers are even getting into the act with their own generic versions of drugs.

Based on these trends, the big drug companies are fighting back with name-brand generic strategies. One strategy is to buy pharma firms in India. Another is to license drugs to generic manufacturers overseas (think India).

A third strategy is to market generics under a brand that speaks to consumers' interest in quality as well as price. Margins are healthy, and with many consumers feeling economically challenged, sales of generics are booming.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Edition on March 1st

Modestly, let me note that the new edition of my Marketing Plan Handbook will be published on March 1st, available in college book stores and, of course, on Amazon.

In addition to lots of new content and dozens of new examples, the new edition features a new PowerPoint presentation and new discussion questions. Best of all, Marketing Plan Pro software is bundled with the book for U.S. students.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Can Blockbuster Rebuild?

Blockbuster is having a hard year (and it's only February). It's closing more stores, rolling out more movie kiosks in partnership with NCR, streaming movies online, and trying to regain momentum lost to Netflix and Redbox.

Some observers wonder whether Blockbuster will ever catch up to Netflix, which was once considered a feisty start-up long-shot and now dominates the industry. The Blockbuster brand is well known, but can the company transition from a "retail" brand to a broader concept?

Downloadable, streamable, and DVR-recorded movies from sources such as Amazon and are a competitive challenge for Blockbuster, which not long ago said its 2009 financial performance would not be, well, much of a blockbuster.

The company has a new iPhone app, which is a good thing. It's also got a mobile site, optimized for cell phone screens. But can Blockbuster rebuild in time?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Viral ad/brand videos

One day before the Super Bowl, Unruly Media's listing of non-Super Bowl viral ad/brand videos includes iPad, Adidas' Star Wars, and the Wal-Mart Clown commercial.

What will the Super Bowl offer to pop culture this year? Previews abound. Many ads have been released virally to build buzz well before the Saints and Colts play (you did know those are the teams in this year's game, right?). Above is Danica Patrick, who will star in advertising, posted on the company's site in advance so fans know what to look for.

Last year, CIO mag released its list of "Top 10 Most Viral Super Bowl Ads" a day after the 2009 game. came out on top. Who will be on top in 2010? Tune in tomorrow. Really.

Or watch Twitter, where (as Mashable notes) you can see comments on the trending ads right away.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pricing Content for E-Readers

Following John A. Byrne's Twitter feed, I back-tracked to read his blog posts on his C-Change Media site. The post on Apple's new iPad caught my eye--not for the iPad analysis but for the insight into BusinessWeek's pricing.

Not so long ago, Byrne was BW's executive editor, and his knowledge of the magazine's inner workings is second to none. That's why his discussion of pricing and profit for a print publication reaching out to its audience electronically is so insightful and significant.

In Byrne's iPad blog entry, he wrote:
But for every monthly subscription BusinessWeek sold through Amazon for the Kindle, we received 75 cents--about 15% of the $4.95 cost of a single copy on the newsstand or a tiny fraction of the $49.99 price BW is asking on its website today for a year's subscription. That's right. A monthly subscription to a weekly magazine on the Kindle returned less than a buck to our company--far below our costs to report, write, edit, art, and design the contents of the magazine. Amazon sells a BusinessWeek subscription via Kindle for all of $2.49 a month, a rate that is profitable to Amazon but pretty much a disaster for a traditional media publisher.
Byrne says that instead of reducing the costs of producing a publication, the electronic edition is more likely to hasten the death of traditional media. Sounds like pricing for e-readers will starve traditional media to death by returning only pennies for work that isn't cheap if it's done properly (meaning accurately, in depth, on time, and so forth).

In printed media, as on most TV networks, advertising revenues subsidize editorial content. It's a trade-off we consumers are accustomed to making. Of course, the best ads are targeted to the audience, which is why I pay some attention to the ads in special-interest magazines and in the Sunday newspaper I buy every week. Not every ad is relevant, of course, but I like the cornucopia of possibilities, available for me to browse and consider at my leisure.

And by the way, I'm a BusinessWeek print subscriber, and I hope Bloomberg invests heavily in the magazine to restore it to its glory days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Marketing NetJets

Paging through the February 8th issue of Fortune, which lists the 100 best companies to work for, I stopped at p. 65 to look at an ad featuring Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. (Disclosure: I'm a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder.)

Bill and Warren are shown relaxing on a sofa in a private jet, with playing cards, jelly beans, snacks, and what might be the Financial Times on a table in front of them. It looks like a very comfy way to cross the country or jet halfway around the world. The copy notes that Bill became a NetJets owner in 1999; Warren became one in 1995 and then bought the company in 1998. Very impressive.

Especially impressive when you think about how many ads Bill and Warren typically appear in, let alone together. Not many, which is why this ad for NetJets (which markets fractional ownership shares in private jets) grabbed my attention.

NetJets also runs TV commercials, which are posted on its Web site. The situations depicted include thoroughbred horse racing, top tennis championships, and pro golf tournaments. In other words, the ads showcase specific events that attract affluent consumers and professionals who might consider becoming a NetJet owner. Good marketing.