Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Big Ad Spenders of America

Advertising Age used this infographic to show the 25 biggest U.S. advertisers during 2012 (as ranked by measured media spending).

AT&T took the top spot, with an eye-popping $1.59 billion for television, radio, print, outdoor, and online display ads.

Even Budweiser, at the bottom of this top 25 list, spent an impressive $449 million. 

What Ad Age doesn't include is spending on mobile marketing and other digital spending.

Mobile spending alone is projected to increase by double-digits this year and next year as the number of smartphone users continues to rise.

Social media marketing is becoming an ever-larger part of the budget, as well. Procter & Gamble, for instance, has shifted money to boost its investment in digital and mobile marketing. "The bottom line is we need and want to be where the consumer is, and increasingly that is online and mobile," a spokesperson explains. It's not the only company to do this--Home Depot and many others are thinking the same thing. This shift will change how and where America's biggest advertisers invest their marketing budgets in 2014 and beyond.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Customer Reviews: To Trust or Not to Trust?

Fake customer reviews of goods, services, and establishments are much in the news these days. Last month, settled a lawsuit it had brought against a company alleged to have posted thousands of fake reviews of car dealerships.

Yelp is working to crack down on fake reviews and warning users to be wary of extremely positive reviews. The site even flags businesses that have been identified as posting fake reviews, a sort of "buyer beware" caution, for more transparency.

Why the focus on reviews? It's a bottom line issue, quite literally. Academic researcher Michael Luca recently determined that a one-star improvement in ratings can translate into a 5-9% revenue increase for the business being reviewed. "Online reviews are shockingly important for a small business that is trying to thrive. Five percent is enough of a difference in sales to make a business stay open or closed," he explains.

The New York attorney general is currently cracking down on fake customer reviews because they are misleading. "When you look at a billboard, you can tell it’s a paid advertisement — but on Yelp or Citysearch, you assume you’re reading authentic consumer opinions, making this practice even more deceiving," he says.

So can customer reviews be trusted? A USA Today writer concludes: "I'm convinced that you should believe what you read, or at least some of it, because the reviews might be written by real hotel guests and restaurant patrons, and they can be useful when you're planning your next vacation." In other words, take reviews into consideration as one of several criteria used when making buying decisions. Good advice. Trust, but verify with other sources and use your own judgment.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Making Mobile Marketing Successful

What does it take to make mobile marketing successful in engaging customers and achieving objectives such as building awareness and revenues?
  • Google offers 10 tips for mobile marketing here, emphasizing the benefits and opportunities of customer engagement and usage data analysis. 
  • Forrester's recipe for mobile marketing success includes establishing objectives, planning for measurement, and "big helpings of analysis."
  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau mentions the most fundamental principle of all: Be sure your mobile website is optimized for users' screens, needs, and behavior, a point reiterated by the CEO of Brightedge.
  • Be multichannel ready as customers choose either smartphone or tablet for convenient, instant access to goods, services, and information.
IKEA has the right idea: Understanding that customers want to be able to envision how a piece of furniture or an accessory would look in their home, the retailer has released a free augmented reality app (iOS and Android), keyed to 90 products in its latest catalog. Highlighted products will be identified by a special symbol in the catalog. Here's how it will work, according to an IKEA manager:

"That particular IKEA product will be able to be ... photographed or lifted off the IKEA catalog page and superimposed in that location in [customers' homes]. Let’s say it’s a sofa that they want to try out, in their own living room, to see how that sofa would look amongst the other furniture they have in their home."

In short, the app helps customers make a more informed buying decision, providing added detail when and where needed, whether in the store or when paging through the catalog. No wonder the IKEA app was the top marketing branded app downloaded during 2012, according to Econsultancy. Research showed the IKEA app engaged customers for a longer period than the catalog alone, a measure of success.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Marketing Mallomars, the Century-Old Cookies

Have you heard of Mallomars? The cookies are produced only during cool weather, starting with a graham cracker base, topped with a marshmallow filling, and coated with chocolate.

Because of limited availability, Mallomars has developed a bit of a mystique among brand fans. A search for Mallomars turns up more than 58,000 hits, many of them blog entries or inquiries by people who love the cookies and look forward to their reappearance every September.

Now that the brand is marking its 100th birthday, parent company Nabisco (part of Mondelez, the company formerly known as Kraft) has created a special Facebook page for the cookies. Stores in the Northeast are trumpeting the arrival of Mallomars with signage and special point-of-sale displays that boost the profile of this usually low-key cookie.

Although the Mallomars brand is less well known than Oreo--which celebrated its centennial in 2012, also orchestrated by parent Nabisco--loyal brand fans are buzzing about the cookie's birthday and, just as important, they're buying boxes for themselves and for their friends.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rubber Band Loom Fad Fueled by Social Media

Have you noticed those woven rubber band bracelets on the wrists of children and adults alike? Yes, this is the fad that's taken over where Silly Bandz and its competitors left off a couple of years ago.

Entrepreneur Cheong Choon Ng, an engineer at Nissan, came up with the idea for the Rainbow Loom after watching his daughters weave tiny rubber bands into intricate bracelets by hand. He filed a patent to protect his new product and ordered looms and rubber bands from a manufacturer in China.

Sales were sluggish until his daughters created videos showing how to use the loom to make all kinds of bracelets and anklets. Rainbow Loom's official Facebook page encourages fans to share their designs and its official Instagram page does the same. Soon fans began posting their own YouTube videos showing individual designs and techniques, sending the craze viral. Suddenly, sales gained momentum and Rainbow Looms became the product of the moment, with distribution through Learning Express and other stores. 

Now that Rainbow Loom has sold more than 1 million kits, competitors are marketing their own versions of rubber band looms. Entrepreneur Ng is suing, alleging patent infringement over the C-connector used to close the bracelets, among other legal issues. Meanwhile, he is also looking ahead to extend the product life cycle by identifying other ways to use the Rainbow Loom. How long will the rubber band loom fad continue before it fades?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Segment Personas: What Would Ocean and Duke Wear?

Marketers for Lululemon, the hugely successful maker of workout clothing, design new products and programs by thinking about what Ocean and Duke would wear, what they need, what they like and what they don't like.

Ocean is 32 years old, a graphic designer who's physically fit, well educated, and affluent.

Ocean is married to Duke, a 34-year-old architect who's also interested in staying fit.

Ocean and Duke are segment personas (also known as buyer personas), fictitious profiles representing how the customers in a target market behave, live, and buy. Giving them a name and a lifestyle turns buyers into real people rather than nameless, faceless customers who are indistinguishable from nonbuyers. Segment personas also help the firm avoid assumptions or misperceptions about who its buyers are and what they want/need. So Lululemon uses personas to inspire its designers and stay focused on the needs and activities that are relevant to customers in the targeted segments.
Intuit, which markets Quicken, Quickbooks,, and other financial services-related tech products, has an informative explanation of the what and why of personas here. Content Marketing Institute explains how to keep personas fresh and up-to-date here. And Hubspot describes the value of developing negative as well as positive personas here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Old Spice Down Under

Remember the social media marketing success story of Old Spice? In 2010, the brand and its sales were reenergized by clever, timely web videos of Isaiah Mustafa as "the man your man could smell like." Sure, the campaign kicked off with TV commercials...but then it kicked into high gear with YouTube releases personalized to address various celebrities, one by one by one by one.
In the space of just a few days, Old Spice produced and released 180+ individual videos, attracted nearly 6 million views, and generated 22,500 comments. Those stats were just for the first week--and they don't count the impact of the original Super Bowl commercials, which were seen by millions. You can view ad agency Wieden & Kennedy's case study about this game-changing multimedia campaign here.

What made Old Spice's campaign so effective? One of the writers and creative directors for the campaign tells Inc.: "The key is interacting with consumers and building a relationship that's not just putting out a TV spot every once in awhile and hoping that works." In other words, the social media aspect allowed Old Spice to keep up a dialogue with consumers instead of a monologue.

Now Old Spice is bringing the campaign down under. Next week, the Old Spice Man will be in Australia and New Zealand to shoot new content designed for local audiences. Putting an Aussie/Kiwi spin on a campaign for Aussie/Kiwi consumers is smart marketing, sure to jump-start the dialogue with consumers and bring the brand cachet that retailers will appreciate, as well.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Amazon Invests in Distribution Power

Amazon is investing billions of dollars to expand its distribution capabilities...not just to accommodate aggressive growth but also for competitive/cost advantage in same-day delivery.

And it's figuring out ways of cramming more product into the same space and retrieving it more quickly. "We now get about twice as much product in this building [a new warehouse] as we would have four or five years ago," says the VP of worldwide operations and customer service. That translates to improved cost-efficiency, important because of Amazon's policy of free shipping for orders of $25 or more.

Interestingly, Amazon UK is amending its free shipping offer, excluding thousands of products just as the all-important year-end holiday buying season is about to start. Whether this change will remain as competitors crank up their holiday promos is uncertain.

Each Amazon warehouse employs thousands of people in multiple shifts...and with so many new warehouses, Amazon may be able to compete in product categories where others have had difficulty--such as grocery delivery. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wristwatches for Fashion (and Function)

Yesterday's post considered innovations in high-tech smartwatches. Today, a look at trends in wristwatches. Not 21st-century digital watches for Dick Tracy, but watches that actually show the minute and hour. Here, consumers are looking for more than functionality.

At the high end of the market, luxury watches serve as status symbols. "It’s a great, timeless way to show your wealth, but also an investment in a stable market which has hardly shifted in decades," says one expert.

In fact, the vintage trend includes the purchase of expensive "pre-owned" luxury watches, with new marketing channels popping up to accommodate buyers and sellers.

Popularly-priced watches are fashion statements and functional gadgets for the rest of us. Remember Swatch, the affordable fashion watch that revolutionized the industry 30 years ago? It's still going strong--not only profitable but also extending its product mix to include high-end brands like Harry Winston. Many fashion brands have their own watch product lines, and a range of prices as well. A watch for every wrist, a watch for every occasion or outfit, fitting today's diverse consumer attitudes and behavior.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What Would Dick Tracy Wear?

Do people want smartwatches, in the style of Dick Tracy? OK, Dick's watch was a 2-way radio, introduced in 1946 . . . but do Millennials really want to strap on a phone/web browser/personal data storage device?

When the New York Times's digital expert David Pogue looked at smartwatches just seven months ago, he was unimpressed. "As though by silent agreement, the gadget industry seems to have decided that 2013 is the year of the smartwatch," he wrote in February. He concluded at the time that the gadgets he reviewed weren't very impressive (and were expensive to boot).

That was before Samsung's Galaxy Gear, to be introduced shortly (photo above is from the intro presentation--product to be available from October in US stores). Samsung wants to polish its innovation credentials and beat Apple to the punch in launching a new wearable device that is both fashionable and functional. Pre-intro, speculation is that the Gear will have a 4-meg camera, be Android-operable, and have both Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities--when paired with a smartphone, most likely. (Intro: 1.63" screen, make/take calls without having phone in hand, Bluetooth connection...and available in 6 colors, as shown above.)

But what about the smartwatch as a product category? Given the enormous popularity of tablet computers, and the ongoing erosion of PC sales, will the smartwatch be a short-lived niche or will it develop into a sizable segment? Already, one-third of U.S. consumers own some sort of tablet (iPad, Kindle Fire, Tab, Nexus, etc). And many tablets are downsizing for better portability. How tiny do consumers want their screens to be?

Would Dick Tracy strap on a Galaxy Gear?