Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Newly Updated List of Marketing Links

Given the huge growth in online retailing, mobile commerce, and related marketing activities, I've added a new section to my List of Marketing Links. You can always find the list by looking for the tab on this blog (see screen shot above).

Currently, the list includes more than 70 links to sources of marketing information, statistics, business trends, and other vital data for marketing planning. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to see everything.

In addition, the list includes a link to an online Sample Marketing Plan I created and an online glossary of contemporary marketing terms.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Airline Safety Videos Reinforce Brand Personality

Airlines have distinct brand personalities, and more carriers are reinforcing those images with unique and entertaining on-board safety videos.

The latest is by Air New Zealand, the "Official Airline of Middle-Earth." Here's a link to what the airline calls "the most epic safety video ever." The airline posted it on Youtube yesterday and in 24 hours, the video has attracted 616,000 views. And no wonder: It stars some of the Hobbit stars, including Elijah Wood, and takes the viewer on a journey that crosses New Zealand and enters the realm of elves and other Middle-Earth inhabitants.

Other airlines are using safety videos to reflect and reinforce brand personality--and to put a smile on passengers' faces while providing serious safety information. Virgin America has attracted millions of views for its animated safety video, for instance. 

Considering the intense competition among today's airlines, making safety videos entertaining and brand-related is a good way to give passengers a positive experience while getting ready for takeoff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hot Holiday Toys 2014

Those "hot holiday toy" lists have been out for weeks. There are some obvious selections (Frozen merchandise) and some not so obvious, ready for gift-givers to browse and buy. Promotions and publicity now--the bigger, the better--will build brand awareness and recognition, even preference and early purchasing, in advance of the holiday shopping season that accelerates in late November.

Toy review site TTPM says: Disney Frozen dolls, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures, and Doc McStuffins (at left) will be hot this year, among others.

Walmart says Frozen plus: Air Hogs RC Zero Gravity Laser Racer, Airstorm Firetech Bow (think Hunger Games), Barbie, Hot Wheels, and others, including the Vtech smartwatch (at right) for kids.

Toys 'R' Us toy list includes Legos, Little Live Pets Bird Cage with "live" birds, FurReal Friends toy pets, and Transformers, among others.

And if you're shopping in the UK, Hamleys has the My Friend Cayla doll (which looks things up on Google for your children), Doh Vinci modeling set (a la 3D printing), and the Xeno the Cheeky Interactive Baby Monster (at left).

Amazon categorizes its top holiday picks, including "retro," "Mom picks," "classic brands," and "in the movies." 

Get 'em while they're hot! Or at least while they're in stock.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Black, white, and green all over: newspaper merchandise

If you've opened the New York Times lately, you know that the "grey lady" has its own merchandise for sale. You can't miss the full-page ads on Sunday, marketing everything from its own photographs to front page reprints to logo-emblazoned T-shirts, caps, and keychains. Other merchandise includes vintage typewriters, baseball memorabilia, and personalized gifts for all ages and special occasions (see wedding gift, above). The Times also markets "journeys" such as small group tours of historic places or areas with special political significance.

With print advertising revenues down and fewer US consumers getting their news primarily from newspapers, merchandise marketing has two benefits for papers: it boosts revenues and it appeals to loyal media brand fans who want to be identified with that paper. NY baseball fans might wear a Yankees or Mets cap, while NY news fans might wear a NY Times cap.

Reader profiles differ from paper to paper, so the merchandise being marketed differs, as well. Here are a few other examples of newspapers marketing merchandise, a trend not limited to US markets:
  • The Denver Post sells photos from its newspaper.
  • The Los Angeles Times markets T-shirts, photos, back issues, and LA-related merchandise like mugs.
  • The Chicago Tribune shop features back issues, photos, T-shirts, and made-in-Chicago merchandise.
  • The UK Guardian newspaper has an online store featuring T-shirts, wallets, and more--including satirical figurines based on political figures.
  • The Sydney Morning Herald offers Australian products like books, art prints, wristwatches, and more.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Vertu's Strategy Tweak: "Understated Luxury"

Remember the original Vertu cell phones, dripping in diamonds and looking like the status symbols that they're meant to be? Vertu has been sold (it used to belong to Nokia) and the new owners have tweaked its strategy and switched technology.

Now that smartphones have taken over, old-style "brick" handsets are out. Vertu's phones have to not just look smart, they have to be smart. The new Vertu wants to be known for "understated luxury" with a high price that puts an exclamation point in exclusivity.

Above, the Vertu Aster, which features a leather case on the outside and inside, Android KitKat OS. Details like Dolby digital sound and three different network connectivity methods (GSM, 3G, 4G) add to the functionality. In ostrich leather, handcrafted by an artisan, the Aster is priced about $9,500. Precious stones are extra.

The CEO says Vertu is "taking a more understated luxury approach to match what the consumer is today...The world has changed in terms of phones and in terms of customers."

Women's Wear Daily observes that Vertu is targeting a younger customer (particularly in emerging markets) with high-end fashion touches. It operates 70 Vertu-only stores worldwide to control the ambiance and service in which its top-end phones are sold.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Retailers Go Bankrupt

CNBC has a slide show with store logos of retailers that have disappeared in the recent past. On the list: Borders, Tower Records, KB Toys, Circuit City, CompUSA, Blockbuster, Woolworth, Mervyn's, Linens 'n Things, Bombay, and Coldwater Creek. The Boston Glove has its own slide show of defunct retailers.

Not on most of these recent lists because they're LONG gone: Kresge, Higbee's, Halle's, Peck & Peck, Gimbels, B. Altman, Loehmann's...the list really does go on and on. Just do an online search and you'll find Wikipedia pages devoted to defunct retailers.

Also see the retailer graveyard at Retailer Graveyard, maintained by Green Light Retail Real Estate Services. Here's a link to the dead department stores, for instance.

Why do retailers go bankrupt? A variety of forces in the marketing environment are at play:
  • The economy
  • Changing consumer tastes
  • Changing shopper behavior
  • Population shifts 
  • Industry consolidation
  • Management issues
  • Financial woes 
  • Technology 
Ecko expanded rapidly and filed for bankruptcy only 21 years after its founding. Coldwater Creek faced changing fashion tastes. Circuit City expanded at too fast a pace and faced intense competitive challenges. Even during the current economic recovery, some retailers may not make it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Greek Yogurt Marketers Compete in the Streets

Chobani--the entrepreneurial company that almost singlehandedly made Greek yogurt into the most popular yogurt in America--wants to know what consumers like and dislike and how tastes are changing. So it opened a cafe in the trendy SoHo section of Manhattan and now tests new flavors and products there.

The cafe sells food but it also doubles as brand promotion: “Everybody who leaves the cafe says they are more likely to buy our product at the grocery store,” says the head of Chobani's marketing and branding. Chobani is high social: With nearly 1 million Facebook likes and 83,000 Twitter followers, Chobani is staying in touch with consumers for a two-way conversation.

Competitors Yoplait (owned by General Mills) and Dannon (Danone) are countering the Chobani cafe with their own pop-up shops and food trucks in SoHo. Yoplait declared a "taste-off" with its pop-up shop, inviting consumers to come in and taste flavors and compare for three days early this year.

Dannon has put Oikos yogurt food trucks on the road to bring a taste of its Greek yogurt to the streets. Naturally, the Oikos trucks prowled SoHo during the same time as Yoplait's pop-up shop was open and the Chobani cafe was serving.

Look at supermarket shelves, and it's clear Greek yogurt has virtually taken over, a huge change from just a few years ago, when it was a niche business. What's next for yogurt marketing?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Major League Soccer's New Brand Logo

It's a new branding era for Major League Soccer. As the 20th season of the league approaches, it wants to signal the next stage in its North American growth. So the boot and ball are gone, replaced by this striking new brand logo that lends itself to team-by-team adaptation. Here's what the MLS's CMO told Sports Illustrated about this latest version of the brand logo:
The more modern brands of the world don’t need to telegraph a specific category or line of business they’re in. In many cases, they stand for something much bigger. A great example of that is Apple.
Not everyone is enamored of the new logo. A Boston Globe writer says: "... while I don’t have a great sense for design, I’m not sure I even like the new logo. But I do find the switch itself interesting. It conveys that MLS, which is calling the rebranding effort ‘MLS NEXT,’ thinks it’s entering a new era."

I definitely agree--MLS is using this modern brand element to reflect its emergence as an established sports league. No longer a startup that has to explain itself over and over, the MLS of today has big-league players, major media coverage, good audience numbers, and marketing confidence.

In fact, MLS has become so good at marketing the game experience that college football is using it as a model.