Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Future of US Book Sales

Book sales are far from dead. Recent statistics from the Association of American Publishers show that overall book sales rose nearly 5% in 2014. Of course, e-book sales edged out print books. And--no surprise--sales of children's and young adult books were strong, while sales of adult books were not.

As shown above, e-book sales vary by genre and by time of the year. Print books sell best in the 4th quarter for holiday gift-giving. E-books sell better in the first half of the year, apparently because consumers who receive digital devices as holiday gifts (tablets, e-book readers, etc) stock up on books. Nielsen has a detailed analysis of print vs e-books in its slide show here. Amazon lists the best-selling e-books of 2014 here.

So while book sales are far from dead, what's in transition is how people are reading. And how consumers are buying books. Barnes & Noble says earnings for its book division are flat, which actually is good news--considering how many book retailers have gone under in recent years. There is a future for US book sales, the question is what the marketing channels will look like and how the media will be consumed. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Under Armour in March Madness Spotlight

March Madness is underway, and it's not just a battle on the basketball court--it's also a battle for brand preference and, ultimately, market share.

Under Armour has a full-court press on marketing, looking to gain on Nike's commanding market lead. In fact, Adweek says Nike shoes are on 43 of the 68 teams originally in the tournament. By comparison, BusinessWeek says Under Armour shoes are on 6 teams, a new high for the brand.

Although Under Armour has only been active in the athletic shoe market for a decade, it has aggressively courted teams to put its shoes in the spotlight during championships. Some top seeds will have UA on their shoes. And that translates to a lot of media exposure for the brand, because public interest in the brackets is higher than ever. How will UA's teams do? And how will UA do as a brand?

Monday, March 23, 2015

More About the Gray (or Grey) Market


My recent post about Pirate Joe, a gray market retailer, was so popular that I'm following up with another post about the gray (or grey) market.

The gray market is also called the market for parallel imports because products are procured outside the regular channels--not an illegal practice. Also not a new practice.

An electronics retailer like B & H in New York City may import a branded camera or video unit without going through the manufacturer's official channel(s), for instance. In fact, that's exactly what B & H does in some cases--and it notifies customers on its website about how and why it uses a channel it calls direct import, meaning not through the manufacturer. The reason: the product is cheaper to buy and therefore can be sold at retail at a lower price than the same branded product is being sold at other retail outlets.

However, manufacturers may legitimately refuse to service such products or provide technical support if the items were not purchased from authorized retail channels. Nikon is one of many manufacturers that say so on their websites.

This is an ongoing situation in some product categories, including electronics and luxury goods. As a result, Chanel recently reduced its prices in China to avoid losing sales to non-authorized merchants who were purchasing abroad and selling at prices well below Chanel's retail prices.

Interestingly, companies like Kodak see the gray market as an opportunity to help brands protect themselves. Kodak Security Systems will help firms monitor the flow of products and defend against competition from gray market activities.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Net-a-Porter's Print Magazine Sells

Printed magazines are not obsolete--in fact, they can be powerful marketing tools for advertisers and publishers.

Case in point: Net-a-Porter's year-old Porter magazine, $10 per glossy issue and published every other month for affluent fashionistas. With 152,000 readers in 60 nations, Porter is gaining ground and helping advertisers reach a very desirable audience of women who spend $34,000 yearly on fashion.

One-quarter of the magazine's readers are in the US, 17% are in the UK (where Net-a-Porter began its e-commerce only empire), and other sizable audiences are in France, Germany, and Australia. (Figures are from the magazine's .pdf media kit, viewable here.)

Porter isn't just in print. It's also available for all digital platforms, complete with app, which is important because the magazine allows readers to scan and buy what they see, instantly. The media kit calls it "52 weeks of original shoppable content." This sales capability makes all the difference. No wonder top style brands like Chanel and Ralph Lauren want to advertise in Porter.

Not surprisingly, Porter is social-media savvy, with 47,000 Facebook likes. Net-a-Porter, founded in 2000 as an online-only upscale fashion retailer, has been owned by France's luxury firm Richemont since 2000.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nordstrom's Legendary Customer Service

The most recent American Customer Satisfaction Index survey of retail satisfaction put Nordstrom's at the very top of US store retailers. In fact, the department store's score went up even as other retailers' scores went down. It's not hard to understand why people love Nordstrom's.

The department store has long been known for personalized service with a smile and style, winning long-term customer loyalty. It's also one of the most admired businesses in America.

Customers can return stuff with no questions asked. Sales professionals know what regular customers want and like--and they're proactive about contacting customers when new merchandise or promotions are in the offing.

E-commerce is a Nordstrom's priority, with big investments this year for multichannel marketing. And when mobile or online customers want to chat with customer service, Nordstrom's has various specialists standing by to chat, live, with just a click.

Social media savvy? Of course: 3 million Facebook likes, 563k Twitter followers (not counting followers of its multiple accounts), and 4.4 million Pinterest followers--a must for fashionistas.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Viral Movie Marketing: The Power of Earned Media

This month, two movie publicity stunts have gone viral, showing the power of earned media--meaning buzz gained for free through consumer-shared social media mentions of a promotion or product. Paid media is the norm for most movie promotions but earned media is increasingly vital for the kind of word-of-mouth frenzy that will build anticipation about a movie's debut.

Last Friday, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson walked the runway for Valentino as a promo to introduce Zoolander 2, which will be in movie theaters next year. The buzz swept through Twitter and other social media with the #Zoolander2 hashtag trending high for hours due to retweets. The promo worked not only because it was a surprise but also because the actors walked the runway in character, the way they would in the movie.

Earlier this month, Vince Vaughn and his co-stars were posed in stock photos that can be downloaded for free to be shared and reshared and re-reshared. This promotion is for their new movie Unfinished Business and it pokes fun at the way many businesses use bland, sometimes cheesy corporate-type stock photos available for free or mere pennies. Media coverage of this promo agreed it was brilliant because of the close tie with the movie's business themes. In other words, these marketing moves earned media for the movies.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Marketing Linked to Pi Day

March 14 is Pi Day (3.14, get it?). In fact, it's quite an accurate pi day.

And it's more than a mathematical celebration.

Yes, it's a marketing opportunity for mugs, T-shirts, and much, much more. Just do an Internet search and you'll find lots of marketing linked to Pi Day. Here are 3 examples:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Disney's Next Princess Blockbuster: Cinderella

The Disney princess juggernaut has a new blockbuster due out on March 13: Cinderella, a live-action retelling (with updates) of the traditional glass-slipper story.

Some of the pre-release publicity centers on the Downton Abbey stars who star in Cinderella. Lily James, who plays "Lady Rose" on the posh PBS drama, plays "Ella" (aka Cinderella) who waits on her ugly stepsister Drizella, played by Sophie McShera, the actress who is "Daisy the kitchen assistant" at Downton. A nice promotional twist to draw in adult viewers.

After the incredible global success of the animated movie Frozen and the ongoing interest in all things princess, Disney anticipates a big opening weekend for Cinderella--more than $60 million at the box office. Of course, it won't hurt Cinderella's appeal to have a new Frozen featurette debut before the movie is shown.

Needless to say, Disney sees lots of cross-marketing opportunities, including a souvenir popcorn bucket featuring Cinderella to be sold at Disney theme parks.

JC Penney is one of the retailers with merchandise tie-ins (see photo above). This week, the retailer is running a mobile marketing campaign with rewards and sweepstakes for shoppers who scan the glass slipper signs in stores that feature the special Disney displays.

Even before Cinderella debuts, its Facebook page has more than 13 million likes.

UPDATE: Cinderella's first weekend was a major hit, with $70 million in box office receipts.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pirate Joe, Gray Marketeer


This weekend's Wall Street Journal has a front-page story about a gray market matter: Pirate Joe's, an unabashedly unauthorized grocery retailer that buys legitimate Trader Joe's merchandise in California and sells the products in Vancouver.

What makes Pirate Joe unique is that it pays Trader Joe's retail prices and brings the merchandise to Canada where it sells products at a markup to local buyers. Pirate Joe tells customers up front that it's not affiliated with Trader Joe, and not authorized as a reseller.

Gray market retailers usually obtain products illegally but here, Pirate Joe sends "secret shoppers" to Trader Joe to scoop up products at regular retail prices. They drive to Canada and unload the merchandise for Pirate Joe to resell.

Trader Joe is not amused. It's sued Pirate Joe, but so far, the courts haven't stopped Pirate Joe from retailing Trader Joe products purchased legally in America.

Pirate Joe's Canadian customers sometimes grumble about the high prices but if they don't feel like driving a couple of hours across the border to a Trader Joe store, at least they can buy more conveniently in Vancouver.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Multichannel Marketing for Joe Fresh

Joe Fresh, the Canadian fashion brand owned by Loblaw's, began a promising distribution deal with US-based J.C. Penney in 2011.

Unfortunately, Penney has had difficulties in this challenging retail environment.

At its height, Joe Fresh was featured in nearly 700 Penney stores across the shopping centers of America. Today, the fashion brand is being sold in only 200 Penney stores.

Still, Joe Fresh has number of proprietary stores in the US, and it's expanding 50 Joe Fresh stores in Canada, where the brand is well-known and popular. It's also bringing its brand directly to US consumers via a new app, shown above, available for iPhones and iPads and promoted on the brand's Facebook page (224,000 likes). Multichannel marketing is a must to reach Millennials, as Joe Fresh is well aware.

Joe Fresh is highly social, with 10,000 followers for its Pinterest page, 49,000 Instagram followers, and 76,000 Twitter followers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Stakeholder Analysis for Your Marketing Plan

Earlier this month, I summarized my discussions on competitors as stakeholders. Now I want to continue this look at analyzing the groups that are stakeholders in a particular buiness. This is a vital element in preparing a marketing plan.

Johnson & Johnson, known for its health-care products, has a separate section on its website devoted to relations with stakeholders, within the business's strategic framework. It says, in part:
We foster and maintain ties with the suppliers and external manufacturers who help us make our products; the customers who purchase our products; the doctors, nurses, patients and consumers who use them, and our own employees and shareholders. We routinely engage with civic society leaders in our efforts to ensure access to health care for all.
J&J includes a detailed matrix (excerpt at left) of how it engages each major stakeholder group and the topics of interest to each group. It also has separate pages looking at relations with specific stakeholder groups, such as suppliers.

This level of analysis indicates how important stakeholder relations are to the success of the company--and how important the company is to these internal and external stakeholders.

Your marketing plan should include similar analyses to be sure you understand the concerns and actions of groups that can affect or be affected by your business's performance.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What do "Are Competitors Stakeholders?" and "Target Canada" have in common?

Audience research: What do readers want to know about when they arrive on my blog? The three all-time most popular search terms that land people here are:
  1. Are competitors stakeholders (see my blog entries on this topic, listed below)
  2. Target Canada (mentioned in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, January 2015)
  3. Competitors as stakeholders (see below)
I've addressed the question of competitors of stakeholders several times over the years, including these posts--and the answer is always yes: