Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Retailing 2013: The Year of the Pins

Pinterest is front and center for many retailers during this holiday shopping season, leveraging the power of social media to showcase products that are popular "pins."

Above, Target's Pinterest board (via New York Times), showing "Pins You Love" at top left, and other products by category (sweets, fashion, food, gifts, etc.). Target's CEO explains that Pinterest is "where the customer is" and therefore, “We ultimately concluded that if that’s the way the guest is going to live and shop, then we want to be a showroom. And we love showrooming — provided we can capture that sale.”

Zappos is one of a growing number of retailers partnering with Pinterest to showcase the most popular of their pins drawn from Pinterest every day. Nordstrom (which has more than 4.4 million Pinterest followers) is promoting products in its stores that are the most popular on its Pinterest board.

Happy pinning!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fourth Annual Small Business Saturday

November 30 is Small Business Saturday, started by American Express in 2010 to encourage shoppers to patronize small businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday.

The movement has been embraced by merchants and shoppers alike. Just check the Facebook page, which has 3.2 million likes. Yikes!

The Twitter account has 25,000+ followers. Check for the hashtag #smallbizsat and you'll see all kinds of specials and comments.

The Small Business Administration is one of many organizations supporting the movement with tips and clicks.

Yes, Amex gets a lot of publicity out of it, and yes, it would be nice if Amex got a lot of charge business too. In fact, Amex offers a free $10 credit for shoppers who use its card on Saturday (check the fine print for the details and limitations). Still, an Amex VP says: “Small Business Saturday is payment agnostic,” she says. “As long as consumers shop small, we don’t care how they shop.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Marketing Middle-Earth and Friends

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in December, and of course marketing is building to a crescendo, given the size of the production investment, the importance of the Hobbit brand franchise, and the competition among holiday-time movies. The Hobbit Facebook page has 3.4 million likes, and counting, as the social media marketing machine heats up.

Filmed in New Zealand, like the Lord of the Rings movies, this second in the Hobbit series is renewing interest in New Zealand as a travel destination. All the major players gathered in Wellington for a fan event, one of many marketing activities leading up to the movie debut. Air New Zealand is prepping a jet to look like something out of Middle-Earth and building branded videos and contests around the movie's world premiere.

Other friends of Middle-Earth are also riding on the movie's coat-tails. One example: LEGO is launching a new game based on the Hobbit movie trilogy in 2014.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mobile Payments Grow

Businessweek reports Gartner numbers showing mobile payments around the world growing by 40% per year (see graphic). Consumers think mobile is coming, but not anytime soon. So what's happening?

One notable success is Starbucks. After three years in the marketplace, Starbucks' mobile payment apps now account for 11% of all in-store transactions in US and Canada Starbucks outlets. Buyers aren't just picking up java--they're also buying music and other non-coffee products. Starbucks is using a rewards system to keep mobile customers motivated to use the app again and again. Although 11% penetration after three years isn't an avalanche of support, it's significant progress.

The much-touted Isis Mobile Wallet has finally launched, a joint venture of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. Rewards are also being used to motivate usage: Jamba Juice will have freebie smoothies and My Coke Rewards at vending machines will be linked with Isis.

Google Wallet is pushing its mobile wallet, adding peer-to-peer payments and other functionality to expand usage. Other mobile payment options include apps from Visa and MasterCard.

Coin is taking a different approach: It invites users to load info from multiple credit and debit cards (and gift cards) onto a single card. Paired with an app, the user then selects which card info to use at the point of sale. Intriguing but still in the prototype stage.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Black Friday Evolves Into Black Thursday

With enormous pressure to capture shoppers and generate revenue, retailers are announcing earlier and earlier opening hours for the all-important Black Friday shopping extravaganza. Target will open at 8 pm on Thanksgiving night. To quote a Target senior exec:
For both our guests and team members, Black Friday is an exciting event that officially marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. By offering advance access to deals at and opening our stores earlier, we are making it easier for guests to build a Black Friday ritual that works for them.
In other Black Friday news, Kmart is opening on 6 am on Thanksgiving--and its doors won't close for an amazing (or desperate) 41 hours. Best Buy is opening at 6 pm on Thanksgiving.

Black Friday online deals will begin even sooner! Remember, Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving this year, which makes the buying frenzy a bit more frenzied.

However, Thursday purchases cut into purchases on Friday, with the result that in 2012, the dollar amount of sales on Black Friday was lower than during the previous few years.

Black Friday may be America's busiest shopping day, but in China, the online e-commerce site Alibaba has made today, November 11th, an incredible day of bargains. The Wall Street Journal says Alibaba rakes in more in this one day of shopping than all US online retailers sell on Black Friday AND Cyber Monday.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bye Bye Blockbuster, via Marketing Myopia

Blockbuster turns out to be the definitive case study of a company so successful and so powerful that it couldn't imagine its business model being overtaken by new technology.

Once upon a time, Blockbuster was the 800-lb gorilla of video rentals, with giant stores from coast to coast, filled with thousands of VHS tapes (later, DVDs). Then came Netflix and other DVD-by-mail rental startups, challenging the market leader with inexpensive subscriptions and more lenient return policies. Blockbuster tested some new services but with legacy leases, its retail structure probably dominated strategy discussions year after year.

Another important consideration was customer behavior. Wouldn't viewers rather pick up a DVD for that day's viewing, instead of waiting for a DVD to arrive by mail? Blockbuster clearly thought so, and Redbox had the same strategy. But customers were busy booting up new devices and living the wireless life--disruptive technology. And that's what flattened Blockbuster, in the end.

Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010. Then the brand and assets were bought by Dish Network in 2011. Now Blockbuster is finally admitting defeat and closing all its remaining stores. Redbox still has its DVD rental kiosks but it also has an instant streaming subscription option.

In contrast to Blockbuster's marketing myopia, Netflix had its strategists looking ahead and steered its customer base toward all-digital delivery, reducing costs and allowing for instant analysis of customer likes/dislikes/behavior. Thanks to big data (a top buzzword of 2013), Netflix was able to determine exactly what its customers want to see--and commission or license entertainment exclusively for its streaming viewers. In other words, Netflix realized it was NOT only in the entertainment-by-mail business.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ron Burgundy Sells Durangos--Really

Ron Burgundy--the dim-witted 1970s anchorman from the 2004 movie Anchorman--is coming back to movie theaters just before Christmas.
And what better way to get publicity for his unique personal style than to have Ron endorse the Dodge Durango? Above, Ron delivers a pitch for the redesigned Durango's roomy glove box, a 1970s guy impressed by a 21st century vehicle.

Will Ferrell, appearing as Ron Burgundy, filmed dozens of such commercials as part of the publicity for his new Anchorman 2 movie. Check the YouTube channel to see more in the series.

The target market is Millennials--and this offbeat campaign, launched early in October, is making a real difference in awareness, brand preference, and sales. Within a few days, the Ron Burgundy videos were viral, viewed nearly 3 million times as they became a social media phenom., the car shopping site, says searches for the Durango increased dramatically after Ron's commercials began airing. Dodge's online numbers are way up as well: "We've seen almost an 80 percent increase in Web traffic alone since the campaign launched," confirms the head of the Dodge brand. Dodge's Facebook page is drawing more attention, too.

Ron's lame attempts to sell are actually boosting Durango where it counts the most: Vehicle sales are up by 50% this year, in part because of the new commercials.

Although Chrysler didn't pay Ferrell, it did pay to air the commercials on TV. Everybody wins: Ferrell builds anticipation for his next film, Chrysler builds sales for Durango, and consumers laugh out loud at Ron's clueless commentary.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stylish Marketing for "Catching Fire"

The second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, opens on November 22nd. Like many sequels of hugely popular movies, this one is expected to be a major blockbuster because the brand franchise is solidly established.

The studio's marketing chief, Tim Palen, began a year in advance of the opening with a multidimensional campaign featuring tons of digital and social media. His focus: The super-stylish Capitol District, where Panem's officials are headquartered. He created a faux web-based Capitol Couture magazine with features and fashion photos of Katniss Everdeen and other characters.

The social media angle includes Google Plus, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and (of course) YouTube. Three weeks before the movie opened, the Lionsgate Hunger Games YouTube channel already had more than 221,000 subscribers and many social media mentions.

A natural complement to this focus on style is Cover Girl's Capitol Beauty Studio, a new line of beauty products organized according to the 12 districts represented in the novel and movie. Shown here is the beauty look for District 1--luxury.

The studio is encouraging publicity about the movie's fashions, which are over-the-top. This is an interesting marketing approach that builds buzz based on the look of the movie and the characters. Of course, Hunger Games is such a global phenomenon that the movie is almost guaranteed to be an incredible hit. As a fan of the books, I'm looking forward to this second movie in the series.