Wednesday, September 30, 2015

LEGO Dimensions and Mashup Marketing

LEGO turned its fortunes around years ago by producing building sets that license some of the best-known (and best-loved) brands on the planet, from Star Wars and Minecraft to Disney's Frozen, among others.

The next big LEGO product, a video game from Warner Bros. Interactive Dimensions, is a mashup of mashups that promises to be a huge Christmas hit in the "toys to life" category. Mashup #1 is the marriage of digital with physical: the electronic part features some super character franchises AND works with a physical game platform where players build LEGO structures that can advance the game.

Mashup #2 has to do with the way players manipulate characters in the game: They can, for instance, team Batman with Doctor Who (or any of the Doctors, actually) or mashup some other combination from the growing list of brand franchises available. This is a major marketing feat because so many children and adults have their own favorite characters--and now they can have more than one brand franchise represented within the game, for more complications and fun.

Mashup #3 is the combo of star voices for the characters in the game...stars like Chris Pratt, Michael J. Fox, Peter Capaldi, and more.

From a marketing perspective, the pricing is interesting, as well. Initial platforms cost $99, but future enhancements will be priced lower because they'll be add-ons, such as additional characters. In fact, characters are all available within the video game, so after
the initial purchase, players can enjoy mashups of all kinds, as long as they don't mind playing in the guise of the first character they purchased with the initial platform.

Naturally, LEGO Dimensions is being promoted cross-platform in multiple media (see YouTube snippet above). And it's available for multiple game platforms (Wii, XBox, PS).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Obligations Do Businesses Owe Competitors as Stakeholders?

The controversy over whether competitors should be considered stakeholders has been discussed many times. Ivey Business Journal, in tackling this issue, says in a 2004 article about stakeholder theory:
Competitors can certainly affect an organization and should therefore be considered legitimate stakeholders, but the organization and its managers have no moral obligation to attend to their well-being.
I agree with the first half of the statement, but not completely with the second half. Businesses definitely have legal and ethical obligations to competitors, based on accepted principles of fairness and honesty.

As one example, the tire company Pirelli codifies this obligation on its page on stakeholder relations, updated just a few months ago. Pirelli recognizes that fair competition is the backbone of corporate citizenship worldwide. Here's an excerpt from that page, with emphasis added to highlight the section on competitors:

Pirelli’s role in the economic and social context is inseparably tied to its capacity to create value with a multi-stakeholder approach, which means it pursues sustainable and lasting growth based as far as possible on the fair reconciliation of the interests and expectations of all those who interact with the Company with an awareness of its own global responsibilities as a Corporate Global Citizen, and in particular:
  • shareholders, investors and the financial community;
  • customers, since the Pirelli way of doing business is based on customer satisfaction;
  • employees, who are the repository of Group know-how and drive its development;
  • suppliers, with which it shares a responsible approach to business;
  • the environment, since it’s the only source of livelihood for all human activities in the present and future time;
  • competitors, because improved customer service and market position depend on fair competition;
  • institutions, governmental and non-governmental bodies, and the communities around the world where the Group operates.
My view: Although no company is obligated to help a rival compete, it is required to make decisions and take actions that are ethical and legal. Gaining market share by, for example, using predatory or unfair pricing, distorted product claims, or corporate espionage does not live up to the ethical and legal obligations a business owes its competitors or, in the long run, the obligations owed to shareholders and customers, among other stakeholders.

Strong competitors compel a company to do more in striving for excellence, to compete even more effectively. Strong competitors give customers real choices. Strong competitors encourage entrepreneurs and suppliers to innovate and profit by serving a strong industry. Acting ethically meets these obligations and benefits all stakeholders.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Marketers Plan to Target Gen Z

Generation Z (people born during the period of roughly 1996-2010) is becoming the marketing target du jour. Sunday's New York Times included a long article comparing Gen Z with Millennials and concluding that Gen Z is a distinctly different target market.

The differences go deeper than age. Note that Gen Zers range in age from kindergarten kids to college students, whereas Millennials are just graduating college and the older cohort segments are in their 30s, establishing their careers and their families.

Ad Age points out that Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural consumer group in American history, and that Gen Zers are planning to make their own success, having grown up during the difficult Great Recession period, not to mention global unrest.

Fast Company observes that Gen Z has entrepreneurial drive and ambition. They saw adults lose jobs during the economic upheaval. They also witnessed the rise of entrepreneurial heroes who can make a difference, locally and globally. Plus they're digital natives, and apps are a natural.

Public Relations Society of America notes that members of Gen Z are realists. They're mobile-savvy and information-hungry. Sharing (info, images, etc) has always been part of their cohort culture.

Direct Marketing mentions the buying power and behavior of Gen Z, including their readiness to spend on food as well as clothes; their Facebook fluency; and their influence on household buying, especially food.

As so many headlines say, "Move over, Millennials." Members of Gen Z have their own wants, needs, hopes, priorities, and patterns that businesses must understand to be effective in marketing to this emerging consumer group.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Newly Updated! Links to Resources for Marketing Plans

Developing a marketing plan? Looking for background info on market trends, competitors, channel options, social media marketing, social responsibility, retailing, and more?
Click to my newly updated list of marketing links, which has more than 75 resources, organized by subject matter (see excerpt above).

With more than 4,600 views, the marketing links page has been a popular starting point for researching and formulating a marketing plan.

Also included in this list, at the top for handy reference (see red arrows), are links to (1) my glossary of marketing terms, from my Marketing Plan Handbook; (2) my sample marketing plan for the fictional product "Sonic 3D+ SecurePhone;" and (3) my summary of reasons why competitors are stakeholders. 

Please go ahead and take a look!

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Marketing Force in Marketing the Force

Hundreds of thousands of brand fans worldwide were involved in Force Friday on September 4th, a day devoted to marketing Star Wars movies and merchandise.

From Disney and Hasbro to Toys 'R' Us, Target, and beyond, retail and manufacturing partners jumped on the Force Friday marketing bandwagon to market merchandise tied to the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, due for release in December.

Mattel, which is making Hot Wheels tie-ins, worked with Uber to send out Dodge Charger cars decorated like Storm Troopers so fans could ride in brand style. Even Major League Baseball got involved, with a light-saber duel after the first pitch in a NY Mets/Florida Marlins game on Friday.

Disney began its movie promotion a year in advance, and promoted #ForceFriday as only one in a series of marketing activities leading up to the new movie's debut. Social media was a huge element in Force Friday, including a coordinated multi-city "unboxing" event for YouTube.

Many stores (and websites) planned for midnight promotions, building buzz by including guest appearances and other special events tied to Force Friday. The stars of the show: New merchandise keyed to new characters and new technology to be fully revealed in the new movie. Brand community was a major part of the appeal to customers, with costumes and entertainment and photos and more. In short, the marketing force is strong for this new Star Wars movie and its merchandise.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Prep Your Marketing Plan: Market Share

So you're writing a marketing plan? Be ready to research the market share of each main competitor.

Why? First, this forces you to identify the key competitors and newly-emerging rivals, revealing some underlying competitive dynamics of the marketing environment. Second, market-share changes over time serve as metrics for measuring how your marketing strategy is affecting your product or brand's progress toward goals such as higher market share.

The formula for calculating market share is:

One firm's product or brand sales in a given market (units or dollars)
Overall industry sales of that product in that market (units or dollars) 

So if Marketer A sells 1 million widgets across America, and the entire industry's widget sales in America totals 20 million, Marketer A's market share is calculated this way:

1,000,000  ÷ 20,000,000 = .05 or 5% market share

Market share is often calculated month by month for competitive industries such as cars and trucks. Here, for instance, is Edmund's August market-share calculation for the US market for autos, broken out by manufacturer. This is only for the month of August, 2015. The numbers will look different in September, and again in October, and so on, as manufacturers implement and tweak their marketing plans for products and categories.

High-tech marketers are also intensely interested in market share. Microsoft, for instance, has most certainly set a goal of achieving a certain market share for its Windows 10 operating system. One month after launch, the brand has begun to achieve gains in market share, as measured in several ways. Interestingly, even outsiders are comparing the Win 10 market-share gains over time with previous Windows releases, to gauge trends in consumer acceptance.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Studying Marketing? Use The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine

Are you researching the history of a particular company or a marketing technique? For example, what if you want to see just how far online retailing has come since the days of dial-up Internet service?

You can use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to research a specific website at particular points in its history.

At left, for example, is the way the JC Penney retail website looked in December, 1996. This is online retailing in its youngest days. Compared with today's whiz-bang sites, there's no animation, no audio, no social media links.

Yet the merchandise photos add interest. Also note how the company explains the process of "secure online shopping."

By 2002, JC Penney was making graphics the star of the show for Christmas (at right). The site isn't as busy looking and the logo is prominent and recognizable.

By 2012, the short-lived "square deal" JC Penney logo was in place (see below) and the retailer was promoting its social responsibility connections as well as its merchandise.

Today's 2015 JC Penney site is shown at bottom. The logo is nearly the same as it was in the 1996 screen capture by the Wayback Machine.

This home page echoes the look of the JC Penney ad flyers. Labor Day sales are the main focus, discounting is the message of the day.

Not shown here are the 5 social media links at the lower edge of the page.

Go ahead--follow a different marketer back through the years to see how its online look, logo, and messages have changed.