Thursday, February 25, 2016

Alamo Drafthouse Promotes the Movie Experience

Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse has a movie for every taste and a tasty menu for nearly every taste. The chain, which has 22 theaters and aims for 50 within two years, keeps customers coming back by devising special drinks/foods and contests to complement the movies it shows--the latest hits and classics as well. Customizing by market, by movie, and by occasion helps the company differentiate itself and appeal to movie-lovers who want a different movie experience.

In fact, Alamo's approach to cinema-friendly food (well beyond the usual popcorn and soda pop) earns it reviews in many markets. The food and the movies are tailored to each market, making this not-a-cookie-cutter chain that thinks and acts local. Alamo has even been honored by PETA for its vegan-friendly food.

At Oscar time, Alamo runs a chainwide promotion inviting customers to vote for their Oscar favorites. It releases the results on the night the awards are given out, with prizes for customers who guess correctly.

One rule enforced by every Alamo theater is: No talking or texting during the movie, period. Above, the "don't talk" announcement that airs in Alamo theaters before movies begin. Alamo doesn't even bombard viewers with the usual 5-8 previews ahead of the feature. Instead, it customizes preshow content for its customers. And it has a rewards program that grants every member at least 3 free movie admissions per year, building goodwill and encouraging loyalty.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Crowdsourcing for Marketing

In recent years, one of the highest profile crowdsourcing platforms for consumer products was Quirky. Now the site is under new management, and its platform is being revamped and relaunched.

How else are marketers identifying new product ideas and inventions via crowdsourcing?
  • Innocentive is a site where companies, nonprofits, and government groups can "challenge" the public to solve specific problems that will lead to new goods or services. At left, the header for Cleveland Clinic's page on Innocentive, below which are listed a number of specific medical "methods" that the organization sought innovative ideas for. Corporations also post needs and problems for Innocentive users (from around the world) to consider and submit suggestions.  
  • Some entrepreneurs post on their sites or blogs or social media to attract crowdsourced ideas. Emily Weiss put a post on her digital beauty magazine asking readers about their ideal face wash. She received hundreds of responses and used the input to create and launch Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. 
  • Sir Richard Branson has hosted the entrepreneurs behind the idea-sourcing site Ideapod, where consumers can post ideas on various topics. A cross between Twitter and YouTube, Ideapod can connect companies and consumers through posts of a limited number of words and videos of a limited number of seconds.
Beyond new products, many marketers are crowdsourcing content, such as the tried-and-true contests that have resulted in memorable Super Bowl ads. For 10 years, Doritos ran its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest and put the winning ads on the air and online. This year's contest was the final one, however, with not only a huge reward but also the chance to work with director Zack Snyder on a future project.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Do Companies Say About Their Mission?

Not every company has a mission statement publicly available, but most major corporations post a vision and statement of values for the world to see. Here are some samples of what big companies say about their mission, which in turn drives business strategy, marketing management, and every aspect of operations.

Procter & Gamble writes about its vision this way: Our Purpose unifies us in a common cause and growth strategy of improving more consumers’ lives in small but meaningful ways each day. It inspires P&G people to make a positive contribution every day. Our Values reflect the behaviors that shape the tone of how we work with each other and with our partners. And Our Principles articulate P&G’s unique approach to conducting work every day.

Unilever writes about its purpose and vision: Our Corporate Purpose states that to succeed requires "the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards everyone we work with, the communities we touch, and the environment on which we have an impact." Unilever is committed to supporting sustainability and providing our consumers around the world with the products they need to look good, feel good and get more out of life.

Starbucks writes about its vision: To inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. With our partners, our coffee and our customers at our core, we live these values: [culture of warmth/belonging, courage to challenge status quo, transparency and dignity, accountability]. We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.

L.L. Bean writes about its values: The values that the company's founder, L.L. Bean, was raised to believe in were simple and deeply ingrained. Nature is something to be revered. Family ties are a priority. Being neighborly is a matter of course. And "do unto others" is not just a saying, but a way of life.

McDonald's writes about its values: Everyday all around the globe, McDonald's is putting people, processes and practices into place to make better food, more sustainable sourcing, happier people, a stronger community and a healthier planet.

PepsiCo writes about its mission: As one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world, our mission is to provide consumers around the world with delicious, affordable, convenient and complementary foods and beverages from wholesome breakfasts to healthy and fun daytime snacks and beverages to evening treats. We are committed to investing in our people, our company and the communities where we operate to help position the company for long-term, sustainable growth.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Burger King Wants to Be Hot Dog King?

Burger King recently announced the addition of a new menu item: hot dogs, available in two variations. One is "classic" with relish and other garnishes, the other is a chili-cheese dog.

So far, the fast-food firm says its test-marketing showed customers are adding dogs to their orders, not substituting dogs for burgers or other items. "It was the biggest market test that we ever did," explains the North American BK president.

In other words, this is a top-line revenue generator, and possibly a traffic-booster (at least in the short term). Plus the dogs will be supplied by Oscar Mayer, which has to be a brand boost.

Given how few national chains offer hot dogs, Burger King may see this as a way to differentiate its menu and offer a staple item that appeals across demographic groups. But given the trend toward healthier eating, adding grilled dogs is a counter-intuitive idea that might work out because it isn't "on trend."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl Ads: Lots of Celebs and Animals and Humor, Also Some Duds


Although the most excitement of the evening was on the field as the Denver Broncos stomped the Carolina Panthers, many viewers tuned in to see the ads as much as the game.

Critics gave this year's crop of Super Bowl ads a mixed reception:
  • The New York Times said the ads mostly played it safe, using well-known celebrity power to attract attention and a zoo-full of animals (the famous Clydesdales, plus assorted doggies, a puppy-monkey-baby character, and more).
  • USA Today's top pick was Hyundai's humorous ad featuring a dad tracking his daughter and her date. 
  • NPR liked Heinz's weiner dogs and Honda's singing sheep as the top animal-driven ads.
  • Chicago Tribune liked the weiner dogs but didn't like the constipation ad, LG ad, or puppy-monkey-baby ad.
  • Advertising Age liked puppy-monkey-baby and Avocados from Mexico, among others. 
  • Adweek didn't like the constipation ad, Rocket Mortgage, PayPal, Skittles, and LG's ad. 
In keeping with the upbeat spirit of the night--underdog beats favored team--I enjoyed the Coca-Cola ad, featuring buddy-buddies Ant-Man and Hulk. It has 2 million YouTube views and counting.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Bowl 50: Super Ads?

The pressure is on advertisers to, well, not drop the ball during the Super Bowl. “You want to make sure you're representing your client's brand in the best way possible,” says the head of the ad agency that produced Kia's Optima ad (starring Christopher Walken, above). That means delivering a memorable ad that adds to the brand's reputation or buzz, no lawsuits in sight.

This is a milestone year for the football championship. Will it be a milestone year for bowl ads? Already, marketers are sizing up the size of their response by releasing ads online ahead of the game. CBS is even touting the ads to be posted on game day and promising a fan vote finish for audience involvement.

For insights into how behavioral science is applied in Super Bowl ads, take a look at this fascinating Ad Age piece. And don't forget the perennial approaches that have attracted viewers in the past, such as "see our banned ad."

On Sunday, which ad will score the most audience touchdowns? Which brands will do the best in social media?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Back to the Retail Future: Will Amazon Invest Heavily in Stores?

One reason Amazon can charge such low prices is its relatively low overhead compared with brick-and-mortar stores. No rent, no large employee roster, no fixtures, no electricity. Amazon just posts a photo and description of the merchandise and patents its 1-Click purchasing process. As orders pour in, Amazon can mine the data and use the analysis to plan future marketing initiatives. Slim profit margins work fairly well in this situation.

Last year, Amazon opened a real book store (shown above) stocked with books rated by customers as 4 or 5 stars, plus Amazon's branded gadgets (Kindle for instance). The idea was to study in-store customers, analyze their buying patterns, gain experience with visual merchandising, and see how different products do in the store.

Now Amazon is reportedly looking at a serious store-retailing presence, maybe in malls. Of course, having devastated the retail book business, Amazon's competitive situation is quite different if it enters traditional store retailing in a serious way.

Online, Amazon is such a powerhouse that other retailers are testing different ways to compete online and off-line. One example is the testing of click-to-buy and collect the package free at the store as a way to compete with Amazon, even though that sometimes raises costs and slices margins. Other competitive moves include the use of apps to speed shopping and improve convenience.

If Amazon moves into a nearby shopping area, the competitive landscape will change drastically. Again.