Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fortune 500 Page Count, 1998-2010

This year's Fortune 500 printed issue is definitely fatter than last year's, loaded with many more ads and articles than in 2009. I have the annual 500 issues going back to 1998. Below is the page count, year by year.

Does the size of the issue mirror the economic situation or does it reflect the fortunes of the magazine business? Note that the peak for this period was 2000, when the issue had a whopping 630 pages.

2010: 308
2009: 276
2008: 356
2007: 386
2006: 384
2005: 410
2004: 478
2003: 410
2002: 402
2001: 474
2000: 630
1999: 510
1998: 506

Monday, April 26, 2010

Privacy? What Privacy?

It's no surprise that very little is really private online. But when Ad Age asked a database company to demonstrate what it could find out about one of its reporters, the results were startlingly accurate.

Demographically, the company identified his date of birth, home phone number, political party affiliation, college grad status, married status, household income, and even knew that one parent had passed away.

Psychographically, the company knew about his interest in running, concerts, sports, and computers, among other lifestyle details. The reporter's question: If marketers can get so much info, why aren't they doing a better job of targeting ads?

If you use Facebook, chances are that your personal details are more public than you know, if you haven't already tweaked your privacy settings in the past few days. Gizmodo, a respected tech site, posted a tongue-in-cheek story last week titled: "Facebook's Privacy Changes Get Scary." For a quick and serious look about how to handle FB privacy, see Gawker.

My view is: By default, FB and other social media sites should have privacy settings as strong as possible and clearly advise users about how to make changes. Social media sites are not necessarily places where users expect to be targeted for marketing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day = Big Marketing

Happy 40th anniversary, Earth Day. Save-the-earth activities are now commonplace on the marketing agendas of major corporations. Many promote "green" behavior with merchandise such as the books and toys at left.

It's a day of freebies, from "eco" caps at Disney Stores to free admission at attractions operated by the U.S. National Parks Service.

In fact, many business operations and materials are greener today than they were on the first Earth Day. Energy conservation is high on the agenda, packaging waste is down, organic ingredients are going mainstream.

Still, Ad Age reports that some difficult decisions remain ahead. Durable products are still being thrown away in record numbers, creating a landfill problem even after taking recycling into account.

On the other hand, with Avatar set for its DVD release today, this Earth Day is getting special media attention, thanks to James Cameron's interest in the environment.

The next 40 years are sure to bring more green marketing and more green change. Happy Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coupons, Smucker's, and Stars on Ice

Stars on Ice is in town and attendees get two hours of star power on ice--Olympic, World, and National champions! Great show.

At each seat was a full-color Smucker's coupon with the photo of ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto and an offer of $1.00 off any two Smucker's jams and Jif peanut butters. Two "stars" mentioned Smucker's on ice during the show, and got a round of applause.

During the show, attendees were handed a brief questionnaire asking how we heard about the show, what we thought of it, what we rated highest and lowest, and how we feel about the sponsor. A Dunkin' Donuts commercial showed on screen as intermission came to an end.

On the way out, attendees received a goody bag with Smucker's samples, Folgers coffee samples, Dunkin' Donuts coffee samples, and a handful of coupons for all those products and more. Plus recipes as well!

Surveys are one thing, but tracking coupon redemption will show Smucker's whether Stars on Ice ticket-holders are really a good target market and a financially sound investment of marketing money.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Do Coupons Invade Users' Privacy?

Do online and mobile coupons invade users' privacy? The New York Times reports that by using unique URLs for different offers and customers, the agency that manages the coupon offers on behalf of retailers can capture details about each coupon user: search terms used to find the offer, how to contact the user (for a thank-you or a follow-up offer), whether the user clicked on a banner ad or a search link, even Facebook IDs if the user has joined a company's fan page.

"When someone joins a fan club, the user's Facebook ID becomes visible to the merchandiser," says the co-founder of RevTrax, the agency behind these smart coupons, speaking to the NYT. "We take that and embed it in a bar code or the promotion code." Among RevTrax's clients are Sym's, Filene's Basement, and RiteAid.

On RevTrax's web site I found a link to a guest commentary in Chain Store Age by the co-founders: "How to Save Money and Control Coupons by Switching from Direct Mail to Digital." The main point is that marketers should make it quick and easy for shoppers to use digital coupons.

However, it seems that shoppers have no idea that so much of their online behavior is so easily accessible to marketers when they click on a coupon. Here's how one online advertising expert described the coupon data in the NYT article:
"It's almost like being able to read their mind, because they're confessing to the search engine what they're looking for."
This is where transparency comes into play: Marketers need to clarify exactly what information is being collected and how it's being used. Otherwise, there will be an ugly backlash if and when consumers find out that in exchange for saving $5, they're giving up a lot more information than they ever dreamed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Have a HaptiHeart? Or Take a Punch?

Now who could resist blogging about the HaptiHeart, a wearable item its inventor hopes will sweep Japan and beyond?

The idea is to add a physical component to the virtual experience of someone making your heart beat faster or sending you a hug or some other emotional connection.

This isn't the only product to translate virtual into physical. The Tactile Gaming Vest gives you a punch when you're playing a video game. Yes, if your avatar get punched on the screen, you feel it under the vest too.

I'm not sure these products qualify as "meeting a customer need" but they're intriguing, innovative, original, and interesting food for marketing thought.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Walmart Cuts Prices ... Again

Just when you thought prices couldn't go lower, Walmart announces a new round of cuts. CMO Stephen Quinn was quoted in WSJ as saying:
"We felt we needed to increase the intensity and excitement with our customer, especially the feeling that Wal-Mart has great deals."

Clearly, Walmart's objective is to reinforce its super-discount positioning. Analysts have recently noted that shoppers may be returning to their usual buying patterns--going to local supermarkets rather than going out of their way to visit Walmart. Many grocery chains have already stepped up their sales and promotions to lure once-loyal customers back.

Although Walmart has incredible buying power, and its revamped stores put food front and center (literally), rising gasoline prices may be one reason why shoppers are reluctant to drive further to Walmart. A quick trip to the nearby supermarket may seem faster, cheaper, easier.

Will Walmart's price cuts do the trick?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ad Age Curates YouTube

Now there's a headline I never thought I'd write. Advertising Age has reviewed loads and loads of YouTube ads and blogged to highlight its choices. Here's what Ad Age says:

Ad Age picked some of the best of the recent best with a big hat tip to our sister pub, Creativity. It's true that YouTube sells ads. But it's also true YouTube has made advertising better.

You're probably wondering which video Ad Age picked as the top ad on YouTube. I won't make you wait. The winner is . . . the crowd-pleasing, smile-making minute of:

Evian Roller Babies, international version.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Brazil: Retail Competition Heats Up

Companhia Brasileira de Distribuicao Grupo de Acucar (CBD) is Brazil's largest retailer, with $13 billion in annual sales. But now Walmart is coming on strong. It's #3 in Brazil (Carrefour is #2) and the president of Walmart Brazil says the firm has "a very, very clear plan to win here in Brazil," according to this week's BusinessWeek.

The scramble for market share is shaping up as a costly, high-stakes battle of global giants against a regional powerhouse retailer that has the distinct advantage of knowing the local market extremely well. (CBD, as noted in Chapter 8 of my new Marketing Plan Handbook edition, is a distribution expert and is diversifying to further solidify its considerable strength.) Can CBD leverage its leadership position to keep shoppers loyal?

Euromonitor reports that Brazil's economy is improving, consumers are spending, the infrastructure can support retail expansion, and online shopping is growing. No wonder Walmart and Carrefour see great promise in Brazil, and are digging in for the long term. Between now and 2012, Carrefour plans to invest $1.4 billion on new stores and aggressive marketing. This year alone, Walmart will spend $1.2 billion on expanding its Brazilian operations.

The big three retailers are taking their marketing up a notch, and consumers are the biggest winners of all.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Marketing 3D

Seems everything's going 3D these days. Lots of movies are in 3D (a trend accelerated by Avatar, left, and continued by Alice in Wonderland, to name just two).

Soon 3D TVs will be available. Even Nintendo DS is going 3D, with a new "no-glasses" model in the works for later in 2010.

This weekend, the NCAA Final Four basketball frenzy is being broadcast in 3D to specially-equipped movie theaters.

Of course, 3D equipment and entertainment carry higher price tags than good ole 2D. Although Avatar became the highest-grossing movie of all time, despite the higher ticket prices, how many movies (3D or not) can climb that high?

Some movie insiders worry that studios may simply convert all manner of movies into 3D. This would unleash large numbers of 3D movies in a short time--diluting the marketing impact of the "shot in 3D" films. If the novelty wears off, will box-office results suffer?

Marketing 3D TVs will be a challenge in the short term because so many consumers upgraded to digital sets not too long ago. How many buyers would be willing to upgrade yet again?

Right now, 3D is the new, new thing. Diffusion of innovations such as 3D take time. Early adopters may jump at the chance to have 3D in their homes, but most consumers are likely to wait and watch.