Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fiji Water Leaving Fiji?

Can Fiji Water maintain its pure image if the product is bottled outside of Fiji? The Wall Street Journal reports that a tax dispute with Fiji's government may result in Fiji Water leaving the country.

Fiji Water has built its brand image on the associations with Fiji's clean, clear water (see image above, from Fiji Water's Web site). The water is sold in 40 countries, and through product placement in movies and TV, the distinctive bottle is immediately identifiable.

Fiji Water's management is still leaving the door open for further talks, so the brand may not leave Fiji after all. If it does, however, management will have to decide whether to abandon the brand or change water sources without changing the brand. Either way, communication will be needed to explain the situation to loyal customers worldwide.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coca-Cola Goes Freestyle for the Touch-Screen Generation

Introduced last year, Coca-Cola's Freestyle is a sleek, high-tech, self-serve vending machine for the touch-screen generation. (The above photo, downloaded from Coca-Cola's Freestyle media pages, shows how the machine echoes many of the iconic brand's visual elements, a smart marketing move.)

What's new about the Freestyle?
  • It can mix and dispense 106 different soft drinks on demand, customized to each buyer's individual preferences.
  • It's no larger than a conventional vending machine, which translates into more revenue productivity in the same space.
  • Its innovative touch-screen technology appeals to customers who enjoy interacting with cutting-edge gadgets.
  • It communicates customer buying patterns to the restaurant or venue where the machine is located, which helps in planning for future demand and ordering supplies on time.
My Google search for "Coca-Cola Freestyle" turned up more than 500,000 results, a lot of coverage and comments. As the Freestyle is rolled out across the country, it captures media attention and turns heads in venues where it's installed. For more about how the Freestyle looks and works, see this CNBC video segment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Groupon: Growing and Giving

Groupon--the site that offers a local daily discount deal to subscribers in 22 countries--is growing so quickly that highly popular deals have twice crashed its tech network. With the holiday shopping season in full swing next week, Groupon is going all out to attract bargain-hunting buyers and maintain the momentum it's achieved from word of mouth and media mentions, including a spotlight mention on Oprah Winfrey's TV show.

Even non-profit deals are available on Groupon: Kiva recently offered a 40% off deal in which consumers pay only $15 to make a $25 microloan to an entrepreneur in the US or abroad. A minimum of 500 buyers was needed to get this deal going and that minimum was quickly reached and far exceeded, with thousands of buyers taking advantage of the opportunity to do a good deed at a good price. Groupon and its sponsors made up the difference to ensure that the full $25 went toward each microloan. Great marketing for a good cause and a wonderful way to show that Groupon has a heart.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Panera's Loyalty Program

Panera Bread recently launched a loyalty program to reinforce brand choice and patronage. When I stopped in yesterday to get small decaf, I was handed a plastic card and keychain tag. "Just go online to register and you'll start earning rewards right away!" the cashier said--so I did. In some Panera locations, management has set up a computer to encourage immediate enrollment and allow members to check their accounts/rewards on the spot. Great idea to get customers registered and involved right away!

It's easy to click and check my offers earned, rewards waiting, etc. Apparently Panera will offer periodic surprise rewards, in addition to a sign-up reward and a freebie on each member's birthday. This is an example of intermittent reinforcement, which is effective because participants never know exactly when they'll receive a reward or what it will be, so they continue the desired behavior in hopes of obtaining the reward.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Slow Goodbye to Cig Marketing?

Marketing a product that can kill isn't easy--and it's getting harder year by year as countries curb the marketing options available to tobacco companies.

Not only is advertising severely limited or banned in many nations, labels are highly regulated and, in many cases, must include verbal and/or graphic warnings of the health consequences of smoking. Wikipedia offers an interesting roundup of tobacco package warnings. The American Lung Association discusses tobacco industry marketing here. Above is one of the highly graphic package labels proposed by the FDA, designed to highlight the health dangers in full color.

Tobacco marketers are fighting back with lawsuits in some countries and stepped-up marketing in nations that don't yet have as many restrictions. However, with the ongoing campaign by the World Health Organization to combat smoking, the days of prominent cigarette marketing are slowly coming to an end.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Free Shipping Offers Proliferate

Black Friday is still two weeks away, and the free shipping offers are bombarding consumers left and right. In fact, a Google search on "free shipping" turned up 4 million hits. Here are a few notable offers:

  • Walmart just announced free shipping on thousands of gift items, with no minimum purchase.(Walmart hasn't done this before, and it's a major wake-up call for online retailers--how will it affect margins?)
  • Amazon is offering free two-day shipping with a trial of its Amazon Prime premium service OR free shipping on its usual minimum of $25 or more. (I'd be interested to know how many buyers who try Prime stick with it when they have to pay for it.)
  • Blue Nile ships its fine jewelry free via FedEx throughout the US and in 42 countries. (Makes sense with big-ticket items like diamond rings.)
  • LL Bean's free shipping offer, with no minimum, expires just before Christmas (see above).
  • Toys 'R' Us offers free shipping on selected items, with a $49 minimum purchase. (Given Amazon's free shipping offer, I'm not sure how attractive this is.)
  • Macy's offers free shipping with $99 minimum (will that change as competitors increase promotional intensity during December?).
As NewEgg says, "Black November: Shop on!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Marketing Culture in HD

New York's Metropolitan Opera pioneered the idea of transmitting live opera performances in HD to theaters across the country. It added hosts (such as opera star Renee Fleming) and extras (such as on-screen behind-the-scenes tours during live opera intermissions) that delivered extra value at an affordable price to viewers sitting in theaters hundreds or thousands of miles away from the opera house.

With modestly-priced tickets (typically under $25 each), the "Live in HD" performances attract good crowds, often selling out quickly after the schedule is announced. In the 2009-2010 season, the Met attracted 2.4 million HD viewers. Above is an extremely popular Met free summer screening outdoors in Lincoln Center.

The Met has also been streaming opera live online for a fee, to reach far-flung fans who don't want to venture further than their computer screens.

Now other cultural organizations have jumped onto the HD/live-streaming bandwagon.
  • The Los Angeles Philharmonic has launched "LA Phil Live in HD," a 3-concert series in 2011 with extras such as rehearsal footage and Q and A with the conductor. Viewers at theaters around the U.S. will pay about $20 to see the Sunday concerts.
  • The Berlin Philharmonic has been streaming concerts to its Digital Concert Hall for about 18 months.
  • Emerging Pictures is beaming opera, ballet, and other cultural events from well-known companies to audiences in theaters worldwide.
Watch for more marketing experiments as cultural organizations find new ways to tap into demand for affordable events and deliver high-quality experiences using technology.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Marketing Company History

WalletPop has an interesting summary of the origins of 12 famous firms and how they've evolved to new meanings and new products/brands. Some of these evolutions aren't exactly news (Abercrombie & Fitch's earliest merchandise mix featured outdoor gear) but some of the roads these brands followed over the years were out of the ordinary (Nokia was involved in wood and rubber at first--its foray into cell phones began more than a century after the firm's founding).

Having a legacy positioning might seem like something to overcome, but companies with a long and proud heritage--even in an industry far removed from their current core offerings--can often leverage tradition and spin the history to reinforce their emphasis on innovation and demonstrate their continuity of service and experience. 

Nokia, for example, markets its past as "a century and a half of innovation." So the firm's message is: We're innovators.

John Deere, another company in the WalletPop listing, summarizes its history as reflecting its "core values of integrity, quality, commitment and innovation" (the I word again).

Companies such as Harley-Davidson (see photo above, from its Facebook page) are using museums to showcase their past accomplishments. On the other hand, when the economy was struggling, some firms made the economic decision to shut down their museums (Goodyear, for example, did this in 2009).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Timberland's "Moral Capitalism"

The UK newspaper Guardian recently ran an opinion piece by Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland, which is known for its tree-hugging environmentalism as much as for its rugged outdoor apparel and accessories. I was particularly struck by this passage in the piece:
I am an advocate for moral capitalism, for responsible consumerism. Moral capitalism embraces the dialectic of increasing profits and decreasing environmental destruction. Responsible consumerism requires that the CEO re-imagine the goods and services we offer, and the means by which we design and manufacture and deliver those goods and services.
Timberland has been doing this in all kinds of ways, large and small. But being green doesn't mean ignoring customer needs and failing to deliver benefits other than environmental protection. The CEO recognizes that the business side must be totally integrated with social responsibility for Timberland's objectives to be met and for the firm to be successful.

That's why the firm's marketing reflects its dual passions of social responsibility and quality for consumers. The Earthkeepers line of shoes, for example, is partly made from recycled materials and is specifically designed to be taken apart for recycling or reuse after the products have been discarded or are no longer wanted by the consumer. What's next for Timberland?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mobile Marketing Builds on Location, Location, Location

The three keys to retailing success are "location, location, location"--and that's the idea behind mobile apps that reward consumers for visiting stores when they're nearby.

Shopkick, for example, has created iPhone apps for Macy's, Best Buy, and other retail entities. As the above image shows, every time a consumer equipped with Shopkick enters a participating store, he or she is rewarded with "kickbucks" that can be used toward merchandise, plus exclusive price promotions to encourage shopping.

In this month's Stores magazine, Shopkick says its app can deliver physical store conversion rates from 20-95%. That's quite a kick, indeed.

Simon Malls, in partnership with Shopkick, now uses an iPhone app to direct shoppers to its local malls and help them find stores, special events, restaurants, etc. within particular malls.

Another way to look at Shopkick is that its mobile app helps to solve "the last inch problem"--namely, influencing consumer decisions at or near the point of purchase.