Thursday, July 28, 2011

E-Books and Print-on-Demand Reshape Book Business

Once upon a time, publishers released a paperback a year or more after a successful hardcover. These days, e-books are adding to the marketing buzz of a new hardcover, not to mention bringing down the average price of books sold during that first "printing." As a result, paperbacks are being released months (not years) after hardcover editions, to ride on the momentum of the hardcover/e-book excitement.

Now some analysts and observers are concerned that books will face even higher hurdles as Amazon expands its retail range into non-media products in search of higher profit margins.

Yet Amazon is involved with another fast-growing business: Producing print-on-demand books for independent authors. In other words, everybody can be an author and make his/her own books available through Amazon's CreateSpace POD publishing arm. Some of these independently-published books are so successful that mainstream publishers sign the authors to traditional contracts and reissue the books via traditional distribution channels.

And, of course, e-book readers like Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook are reshaping the way people read, which in turn will change buying patterns for physical books and digital versions. This is only the beginning of the evolution--more changes are on the way.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Brands Are Built on Trust

McDonald's new UK vp of food and marketing made an interesting point during a recent interview with Marketing Week. Here's his quote:
Our evidence from talking to customers is that trust in our brand is higher than ever - last year we reached a point where more people trusted us than didn’t, which is important.
Brands are built on trust. The higher the trust, the stronger the brand--which increases the possibility that customers will be attracted to the brand and remain loyal over the long term. McDonald's keeps its brand promise with every transaction in every outlet around the world.

If a brand doesn't keep its promise, the loss of trust can be crippling or even fatal. When a scandal erupts, such as the recent revelation that high-end Da Vinci furniture sold in China as "made in Italy" was really made in China and had quality problems to boot, it's no wonder that consumers lose confidence in the brand. Brands can regain trust, but it takes time and a lot of effort to do so.

Remember, consumers are willing to pay a price premium for brands they trust. In other words, trust is a bottom-line issue. All you have to do is look at Fortune's list of the World's Most Admired Companies to see that the most admired firms--which market brands trusted by loyal customers--are generally highly profitable. McDonald's is #10 on that list. Apple is #1. Enough said!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marketing the European Capitals of Culture

For more than two decades, the European Union has designated one or more cities as cultural "capitals" worthy of traveler attention every year. Countries compete for this distinction because it helps raise awareness of destinations that are sometimes off the beaten track but have historical significance, interesting architecture, or other features that appeal to travelers.

In 2011, the co-Capitals of Culture are Tallinn, Estonia, and Turku, Finland. When I was in Tallinn last month, I saw blue and white "Capital of Culture" banners billowing from one of the gates in the city's medieval town wall, just one of the many ways this capital is promoting itself. (Estonia adopted the euro as its currency this year, which also simplifies money matters for visitors from Europe and beyond.)

Tallinn and Turku are both enjoying considerable publicity from consumer and business publications because of their capital designations. Both have commissioned their own marketing initiatives to play up their cultural strengths and showcase tourism opportunities.

Social media? Of course: Tallinn has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. Right now, the audience numbers are small, but perhaps by the end of 2011, more people will have discovered this Capital of Culture that's a jewel of the Baltic.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nespresso: The Apple Store of Coffee-Machine Boutiques

Nestle's Nespresso boutiques sell high-end espresso and coffee machines in 50 countries worldwide. The Nespresso store in downtown Copenhagen, left, is stylishly designed and has the feel of an Apple retail store, with products prominently yet tastefully displayed and highly knowledgeable experts on hand to demonstrate, educate, answer questions, and help customers buy.

The ambiance, the fixtures, the lighting, and all other visual clues reinforce the upscale positioning and create the expectation that customers are going to receive personalized, specialized service as they shop for a coffee machine or coffee capsules.

Browsing in the boutique, I took this photo of a George Clooney poster. Clooney has been the face of Nespresso for 9 months now, in TV commercials and in store signage. Clooney's sophisticated image only adds to Nespresso's coffee-maker cachet.

Consumers are adopting single-serving coffee-makers (for home or office) at a rapid rate, driving Nespresso's annual global sales to nearly $4 billion even as it defends against competition.

Is the coffee culture at its peak or can Nespresso extend its success by opening new boutiques in additional US and international markets?

Friday, July 15, 2011

TGI Friday's Puts American Image to Work

This all-American looking TGI Friday's restaurant could be anywhere--but it's actually in downtown Riga, where I visited a couple of weeks ago.

Dining outside is a summer tradition in the Baltic, and TGI Friday's has its fresh-air area ready for tourists and locals alike.

According to the Web site, the chain has 2 outlets in Latvia, 2 in Russia, 2 in Great Britain, 1 in Ireland, 5 in Spain, and so on. It's looking for international franchisees in Southeast Asia, Europe, Canada, and South Africa. Its Philippines franchise outlets are doing well, thanks to generous portions.

Suddenly TGI Friday's is back on the radar: In the new movie Zookeeper, a gorilla asks: "Is TGI Friday's as incredible as it looks?" This product placement cost the company nothing and stands to gain it a lot of exposure to new audiences. Leveraging this opportunity, TGI Friday's has a link from its home page to the Zookeeper site.

Also watch for TGI Friday's in the supermarket freezer section, where its snacks and entrees (made under license by Heinz) are ready to heat and serve.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ben & Jerry's Cool Flavors

Not too many companies flaunt their late, great product variations but Ben & Jerry's (a unit of Unilever) has a fun "Flavor Graveyard" available year-round, not just at Halloween. Among the flavors buried in the graveyard are: Economic Crunch, White Russian, and Rainforest Crunch.

Although these flavors are gone, visitors are invited to write in to say what flavors they'd like to have brought back, using a form called, appropriately enough, "Resurrect My Favorite Flavor."

By the end of the year, Ben & Jerry's might (according to a rumor) introduce a new Schweddy Balls flavor (think Saturday Night Live).

Want to taste a new Ben & Jerry's flavor, like Bonnaroo Buzz or Late Night Snack?

Watch for the Summer Scoop tour (an ice cream van offering free samples) coming to your area.

For the latest locations, check the Twitter accounts here (East) or here (West).

Fun sales promotion for a fun-loving brand!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Will Bricks-and-Mortar Book Stores Go Extinct?

The Economist is the latest to comment on the seemingly-inevitable demise of the physical book store, springboarding off the bankruptcy of Borders Books.

This is a worldwide phenomenon, not limited to the US. Some college book stores are also biting the dust, stung by intense competition from online retailers and from digital textbooks.

Yet some independent book stores are very much alive and growing through a combination of niche marketing, social media, and customer service. Three examples of why I think book retailers will always have a storefront on a street or avenue somewhere:

  • Northshire Bookstore in Vermont (video above) uses cutting-edge technology to serve its customers, including print-on-demand books--plus old-fashioned, personalized service that's hard to find in big chain stores. Northshire maintains a blog and is active in other social media.
  • Seek Books in Boston (only 2 years old) specializes in used sci-fi books, a niche where it faces minimal competition and caters to an avid customer base.
  • The Bookcase in Minnesota, more than 50 years old, schedules all kinds of activities to engage booklovers of all ages.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Coca-Cola Is Bubbling in Russia

Cafe inside the Hermitage
Visiting St. Petersburg, Russia, last month, I couldn't help but notice Coca-Cola's instantly-recognizable logo virtually everywhere.

For example, cafe signage inside the famed Hermitage museum includes the Coca-Cola name, as you can see from this photo. Many stores featured Coke. Also, dozens of street vendors outside major tourist destinations sold Cokes from under branded red-and-white umbrellas.

In fact, sales of the Coca-Cola brand grew by 26% in Russia last year alone, thanks to the company's intensive marketing focus, an improving local economy, and numerous sponsorships that put the name before the public in so many different places and ways.

According to Coca-Cola's research, Russians consume only 18% as much Coke as Americans drink. In other words, as strong as the brand's sales have become, there is plenty of room for growth and increased profitability.

Yet dairy and fruit drinks are also becoming huge battlegrounds for the traditional Coke vs. Pepsi rivalry. Pepsi has bought a major beverage and food marketer to expand in Russia, so Coca-Cola will have to keep pouring on the marketing muscle to grow its business in all beverages, not just its flagship carbonated brand.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tere McDonald's, привет McDonald's

Tallinn, Estonia

McDonald's has installed a McCafe at its busy restaurant in the heart of the old town of Tallinn, Estonia.

Thousands of tourists pass this corner every day during the peak summer travel period. On this day in late June when I was in Tallinn, McDonald's was promoting its McWrap sandwiches with window and in-store signage.
St. Petersburg, Russia

Driving around St. Petersburg, Russia, with a hankering for burgers? You can't miss this sign telling you where to turn to reach one of the highly-popular downtown McDonald's restaurants.

In fact, Russia is a hotbed for fast-food expansion these days. The ever-larger middle class has an appetite for American-style fast food, and McDonald's is expanding by targeting these consumers in Russia.