Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unilever's "Shakti" distribution

It's wholesale, it's retail, it's CSR: Unilever's "Shakti" program has Shakti ammas (mothers) and Shaktimaan (men) selling its personal care and household products in tiny villages throughout India. These rural and sometimes remote areas are places where distributing products through traditional channels can be both difficult and costly.

By helping local people become entrepreneurs representing Unilever products, the company not only expands its distribution reach, it helps fight poverty (the corporate social responsibility angle), improve living standards and build its brand.

Hindustan Lever has been using Shakti distribution in India for years. This distribution system has been so effective that Unilever is expanding it to Kenya, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Shakti reps may soon be selling other non-competing goods and services, such as banking services and telecommunication services, increasing their income and making more offers available to their villages. What's next for Unilever's Shakti distribution?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Marketing "Don't Text While Driving"

Fans of Fox's Glee remember the dramatic car crash that injured cheerleader/mom/rebel/college-bound Quinn Fabray: She was texting while driving to Rachel and Finn's wedding and never saw the pickup that smashed into her car.

Now that moment is part of a nationwide PSA campaign, "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks," to discourage texting while driving. Fox is one of many media companies supporting the campaign, which is sponsored by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration and attorneys general in every state. It includes several ads, including this one.

August is "Texting and driving awareness" month in some states. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are making it easy to participate by providing an app that automatically locks cell phones when cars are moving or routes calls to voice-mail to avoid distracting drivers. April was "National distracted driving awareness month" and the Department of Transportation's slogan this year was "One Text or Call Could Wreck It All."

Although texting while driving is illegal in many states, changing attitudes and behavior takes time. The first step is to increase awareness of the dangers, which these marketing campaigns do, and then motivate drivers to do things differently (and encourage their friends to do things differently).

In the UK, after a major newspaper reported that 500,000 crashes each year were caused by women applying make-up while driving, Volkswagen created a public service announcement featuring a YouTube make-up personality with 200,000 followers. Here's the video, which received 1.5 million views:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stand Up to Cancer on September 7

This is the third year of the star-studded Stand Up to Cancer telethon to raise money for anti-cancer research. On Friday, September 7th, the telethon will air without commercials at 8 pm on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and a number of cable channels, including HBO, HBO Latino, Bio, Lifetime Movie Network, Logo, MLB Network, mun2, Palladia, and VH1. It's an effective "roadblock" media technique that helps SU2C reach as many viewers as possible in a very short time.

The money raised will be donated to specialized "dream teams" of cancer researchers who focus on treatments for pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other types of cancer.

With 875,000 Facebook "likes," 104,000 Twitter followers, and videos posted on wurl, SU2C is leveraging its social media presence to get the word out. I'm following @SU2C and hope it raises LOTS of money for this good cause.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School: Marketing Locker Decor

Today's tweens and teens love to personalize everything--including their school lockers. Decorations for lockers are trendy these days, and a small but growing number of marketers have targeted this niche. This is the busy season, of course, and the companies are gearing up for their share of the market. Check any Target store or a local Hallmark and you'll see locker decor in the back-to-school section.

Some of these marketers are even inviting students to do a virtual mix 'n match of accessories and create their dream locker interior before buying.

For example:
  • PB Teen has a locker decoration design site, one of several design tools specifically for back-to-school buying.
  • Locker Lookz, which specializes in locker accessories, has a design site that allows users to choose between complete decor packages and one-at-a-time design.
  • LuvUrLocker (above) has a drag-and-drop design tool to show how rugs, lights, and other decorations look together.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Marketing Microcreameries: It's All about Flavor

Part 2 of my series on marketing ice cream looks at the unusual and attention-getting flavors that artisanal microcreameries are offering. Some are locavore, some exotic, all designed for ice-cream (and gelato) lovers who want something new and novel. I admire their innovation and imagination.

How's a small sample from coast to coast. Enjoy!
  • Gelato Fiasco in Portland, Maine--just celebrating its 5th anniversary--makes Kahlua gelato and other fun flavors.
  • Salt & Straw in Portland, Oregon is known for tasty, farm-fresh ice creams combining ingredients like citra hops and apricots.
  • Sweet Republic in Scottsdale (see photo) makes honey blue cheese ice cream plus other flavors available at its own store and at a handful of local Whole Foods stores.
  • Frozen Pints in Atlanta makes craft beer ice cream in flavors like Pumpkin Ale.
  • Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco offers oolong ice cream, salted black licorice ice cream and other treats for adventurous palates.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Ice Cream Marketing Wars

Unilever's Magnum brand has become a $1.24 billion blockbuster because rich-tasting premium ice cream novelties are back and they're, well, hot. Magnum's Facebook page has more than 4 million likes. The brand was founded in 1989 but Unilever has been taking it global market by market, with very good results.

Until recently, the star of the ice-cream freezer case was the 100-calorie treat, which consumers could enjoy without blowing the entire day's calorie or fat budget. Skinny Cow, founded in 1994 by Nestle, is fighting back against high-cal competitors with new low-fat, high-taste products and unusual promotions like the Dirty Dancing movie tie-in above. Its Facebook page has 564,000 likes and the supermarket freezer case has many facings of Skinny Cow treats, I know from personal observation.

Still, super-premium ice cream treats seem to be today's trend. Graeter's, the Cincinnati-based independent with a growing presence in supermarkets coast to coast, offers ice cream pints in flavors that are fresh and luscious. Toffee Chip, vanilla with gigantic choco chips and Heath chips, is only one of Graeter's fantastic flavors. And Graeter's offers to ship anywhere in the continental US for the enjoyment of consumers whose local markets don't have the brand. Let the ice cream marketing wars continue!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

De-Marketing Cigarettes

To discourage smoking, Australia has passed a plain packaging law mandating that cigarettes not be marketed in colorful brand-specific packages. Instead, cig packages will conform to a simple, unexciting, standard look--accompanied by graphic images depicting the health consequences of smoking. Assuming, of course, that legal challenges don't stop the law's implementation. (UPDATE: Legal challenges failed and tobacco companies have to comply with the new law as of December 1, 2012.)
Australia's plain packages would look similar to this.
Canada was the first country to mandate graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging, and now 50+ nations have followed its lead. Research suggests that changing cig packaging and marketing does influence consumer behavior.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies are trying to delay or derail the use of graphic images on packages and in stores. Although the US Food & Drug Administration has been allowed to regulate tobacco and tobacco marketing since 2009, manufacturers are using legal challenges to protest some aspects. No matter what, the trend toward de-marketing cigarettes will continue--only the pace is in question.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Microsoft Rebrands Hotmail as Outlook

Microsoft is rebranding its market-leading Hotmail Web-based e-mail service, naming it after the company's well-known Outlook e-mail software.

More than 300 million people use Hotmail, which has an estimated 36% share of the global market for online e-mail. Gmail has been catching up quickly, with an estimated 31% of the market (Yahoo! mail has an estimated 32% share). AOL is still hanging in, with about 24 million users, and it's just redesigned its interface.

Despite Gmail's rapid growth and tight integration with Google's offerings, Outlook has a real opportunity to capture more share, for several reasons:
  • The brand is familiar to millions of Microsoft users, both consumers and businesspeople.
  • Microsoft says it won't display ads geared to e-mail content, the way Gmail does--a plus for people irritated by overexposure to ads.
  • The Outlook e-mail interface is clean and uncluttered, easy to navigate.
  • Outlook will have a social media look/feel/functionality and, just as important, it will connect with SkyDrive and (soon) Skype.