Monday, December 18, 2017

Marketing the Experience of the Brand

It's not enough to market a good product or a brand. Today, more firms are marketing the experience of the brand. This is a positive way to make the brand tangible and memorable through a specific experience. It's also a way to generate word of mouth and social media mentions as visitors post selfies or comments about their experience of the brand.

Hershey, known for its Kisses and other chocolate treats, already operates the Hershey's Chocolate World theme park in Pennsylvania, offering the "sweetest feeling of pure happiness." It also has a new store, Hershey's Chocolate World, just opening in New York City's touristy Times Square. The company planned three distinct candy aromas for those who step inside. According to an executive, "we wanted it to be highly experiential so it becomes part of the family's narrative and storytelling when they talk about their adventure in New York."

At the retail level, brands are upping their game by adding to the atmospherics and offering unique experiences to encourage engagement and, well, sales. Brands that do this particularly well in retailing are LEGO and Disney, among others.

LEGO House recently opened in the company's HQ city of Billund, Denmark, attracting fans of the iconic plastic building block. Some exhibits in this sprawling building require paid admission, other areas are free. "All activities in the house are related to our LEGO philosophy that learning through play promotes innovation and creativity," states LEGO House's CEO. It's a unique way to enhance the experience of the brand beyond a typical retail environment.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Unboxing Craze Puts Packaging in the Spotlight

Unboxing is a big deal on social media. By one estimate, videos of kids and adults unwrapping all kinds of products attract as many as 10 billion views every month. That's a lot of eyeballs and a lot of marketing impressions for the products and brands coming out of boxes--brands as diverse as Disney, L'Oreal, and Apple, to name only three.

In fact, unboxing videos have been on a sharp upward trend since 2006, reflecting consumer appetite for an inside peek at something new. What's really inside the box when you buy that new product? What accessories are included? And what does that new product actually look like?

Even before unboxing begins, the spotlight is on product packaging. And that's why brands are paying even closer attention to this key marketing element. Sure, packaging is meant to protect the contents and keep the product intact during shipping. But in today's marketing environment, packaging highlights a brand's image and reflects personality as much as functionality.

Toys are being designed to specifically incorporate the element of surprising during unboxing. At left, one of the LOL Surprise Pets, marketed as having 7 unboxing layers to hint at which pet is inside.

Increasingly, toy unboxing is big business as manufacturers court social media stars (AKA opinion leaders) to unwrap their products. Kids like watching the hot "must have" toy of the season being unboxed...and marketers want their toy to be inside that coveted box, attracting millions of eyeballs.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

McDonald's Serves Up Value (Again)

Did you know McDonald's rings up $25 billion in annual sales? That's "billions and billions" of burgers, fries, soft drinks, Egg McMuffins, and other popular menu items sold every year.

In fact, its "all day breakfast" initiative has helped turn around the fast-food giant's sales momentum.

But value remains a key element in the consumer's perception of fast-casual food. And that's why McDonald's is planning to rev up its value menu--again. This time, only a few items are priced at $1, with other special deals at $2, $3, and $5. Not to mention the "Extra Value Meal Deals" that bundle a sandwich and a beverage and a side for customers morning, noon, and night.

The idea is to attract price-conscious fast-food fans and preserve some of the profit margin. And have more weapons in the price war with competing fast-food chains.

What's more, McDonald's is putting coffee front and center with hot and cold, tall and short offerings, targeting coffee-lovers of all ages and all value perceptions. A recent Snap "disappearing coffee" bitmoji is an example of engaging content created especially for a younger targeted segment, for instance.

With more than 75 million Facebook likes, 3.5 million Twitter followers, and 2.8 million Instagram followers, plus a presence on Tumblr and YouTube, McDonald's has a gigantic social media audience. The fast-food giant is leveraging this reach to encourage more visits, stimulate product trial, and reinforce brand loyalty.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Brands and Authenticity

A recent survey by Cohen & Wolfe asked a sample of U.S. consumers to name the country's most authentic brands. Authenticity is not just about the brand's heritage--it's also about the brand's commitment to innovation.

At right, the logo of the #1 brand on this list of most authentic.

Recognize it?

Hint: You'll see it on boxes shipped by this retailer.

Answer: Amazon.

After Amazon, the most authentic U.S. brands as ranked in this survey were:

2. PayPal (financial payment services)

3. Burt's Bees (skin care and more)

4. Crayola (crayons, markers, and more)

5. M&M's (chocolate candies)

An interesting mix of tangible goods and intangible services, don't you think? And an interesting mix of legacy brands (Crayola, M&M's) and tech-fueled brands (Amazon, PayPal).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Beyond Turkey: Retailers and Consumers Face Choices

It's November. And that means consumers and retailers have some interesting choices to make.

Walmart is one of a handful of stores that will be open all day on Thanksgiving Day. Other retailers, like Best Buy and Macy's, will open later on Thanksgiving to attract shoppers who want to start their gift buying after enjoying a holiday meal.

Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) is, of course, traditionally a big shopping day for many consumers who seek bargains. But outdoor retailer REI is promoting an alternative for the third consecutive year. As shown above, it uses the hashtag #OptOutside to encourage consumers (and employees) to enjoy nature rather than crowd into stores and plunk down money. This unusual campaign has differentiated REI from every other retailer and endeared it to brand fans and employees alike.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is now known as Small Business Saturday. Created by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is a day for encouraging consumers to choose to support small and local businesses. There are nearly 3.5 million Facebook likes for Small Business Saturday's page, featuring #ShopSmall as the hashtag.

Then comes CyberMonday, a day when online retailers promote deals to attract buyers galore. This has become a major tradition as online buying grows in popularity. Especially given the big push into ecommerce by Walmart and other store-based retailers, CyberMonday will continue to be an important day for dueling discounts (and the consumer wins).

Finally, Giving Tuesday is the youngest of these "holidays," a day that encourages charitable donations, volunteerism, and support of good causes. Founded in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a good reminder of the many ways consumers and groups can make a difference by giving of their time, talents, and money.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Black Friday Expands to Black November

Not so long ago, retailers would plan "door buster" deep discounts for the Friday after Thanksgiving, aiming to entice shoppers who wanted to get a jump on their holiday gift purchases.

These days, Black Friday isn't just a single day--or even a single week. Nope, it's several weeks long. Above, Amazon posts new discounts every day on its "countdown to Black Friday" page. Best Buy already has Black Friday specials.

So does Walmart, which is also planning to open many of its stores on Thanksgiving and feature deep-discount Black Friday deals at 6 pm on Thursday evening. For online shoppers, Walmart will kick off Black Friday all day on Turkey Day, as shown here on its website.

Walmart is trying something new this year: in-store parties to demonstrate products and create a special experience for shoppers who choose to buy in person. The plan is to throw some 20,000 parties nationwide, inviting shoppers to come on in and try new products, taste new foods, or watch new demonstrations--get in a festive mood and buy!

Monday, November 6, 2017

What's New at Legoland

Legoland theme parks in Florida and California attract millions of visitors every year. Now Merlin Entertainments, which operates the parks, is planning a Legoland in Goshen, New York, within an easy drive of big cities like the Big Apple and Boston. Merlin anticipates this Legoland will welcome more than 2 million visitors annually when it opens in 2020 or so.

Already, the company has a FB page for Legoland New York. It maintains separate social media accounts for each theme park. Legoland Florida's Twitter account, for instance, has 23k followers, while the California Legoland Twitter account has more than 60k followers.

Legoland parks target families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. To boost profits, Merlin is planning more hotel and resort rooms, as a way of capturing more vacation dollars from Legoland visitors. This could be a good marketing opportunity now that theme park visits have been affected by external concerns in the marketing environment such as extreme weather and terror threats.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Marketing the 2018 Winter Olympics

Although the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are still a few months away, marketing has been in full swing for some time. Already, the list of global marketing sponsors for the PyeongChang Games is posted on the official website.
  • Official Olympic partners include Coca-Cola, Alibaba, Atos, Bridgestone, Dow, GE, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Toyota, and Visa.
  • Official Winter Games partners include McDonald's, KT (Korea Telecomm), The North Face, Korean Air, Samsung, Hyundai/Kia, SK, LG, Lotte, and Posco.
The official Twitter page has 200k followers; official FB page has nearly 500k followers; official Instagram account has 33k followers; plus there's a Weibo account for the many hundreds of thousands of Asian fans.

NBC is selling advertising for the televised games...and sales are quite strong. The advertising world has changed a bit since the Sochi Winter Games, so viewers are likely to be exposed to many more 6-second commercials than last time.

NBC is also segmenting the market for coverage: "We are getting deeper into the mindset and motivations of Olympic viewers … we are not looking at demographics, but leaning more toward psychographics," says the CMO of NBC Sports Group. With content tailored for each segment, NBC expects better viewer numbers (which helps advertisers reach the people they're trying to reach).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Shopper Marketing Coordinated with Social Media Marketing

With Halloween approaching, store displays and social media accounts are promoting the season with limited-edition pumpkin-spiced products and Halloween treats galore.

Above, packages of a limited-edition Hostess baked treat displayed on a supermarket endcap. These Glo Balls are a seasonal variation on the brand's Sno Balls products. Interstate Bakeries acquired the Hostess brands in 1995 and changed its corporate name to Hostess in 2009. More than 1.2 million brand fans have clicked to like the Hostess Facebook page.

Another familiar technique for shopper marketing is to use a seasonal point-of-purchase display. This Hershey Halloween cardboard display, at the front of a supermarket, has plenty of room for family-sized bags of Hershey-branded candies, for home or for trick-or-treat give-aways. The company also promotes recipes and crafts featuring its branded chocolates on the web and social media. Nearly 10 million people have liked Hershey's Facebook page, by the way.

Finally, an unusual pumpkin-spiced product: Gouda cheese, found in the supermarket's cheese refrigerated case. Only for a limited time. Not the usual autumn flavor combo, to say the least.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shopper Marketing: In-store Displays Cue Consumers to Buy

Marketers are increasingly interested in targeted shopper marketing (marketing to shoppers at the point of purchase). For example, now that the cold and flu season is approaching, marketers are reminding consumers about appropriate products.

At top, a shelf display in the paper-goods aisle, where Puffs tissues are stocked. Attached to the shelf is a small display tray holding a handful of Vicks NyQuil cold/cough products. Complementary marketing, wouldn't you say? Once you notice that both NyQuil and Puffs are made by Procter & Gamble, it makes even more sense to stock these products next to each other during this season. Sell from the shelf!
Another example of shopper marketing is this stand-alone display of BodyArmor sports drinks, positioned near other sports drinks and fruit beverages. The target audience is clearly "switchers" who might be interested in trying a different sports drink (other than Gatorade or PowerAde or other competitors). Not only does BodyArmor attract attention in the aisle where shoppers look for sports drinks, it explicitly invites consumers to "switch" to its brand.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Marketing to Pet Owners

Pet owners spend an estimated $66 billion+ spent every year on foods, treats, toys, and other goods and services for their pampered pets. Most of that money goes toward pet food, with pet supplies and vet services the next-biggest category of spending within the industry.

It's a ginormous marketing opportunity: More than 60 million US households have a dog, nearly 50 million households have a cat, and 15 million households have fish. Nestle Purina, one of the market leaders, is expanding production and distribution of products like Friskies and Dog Chow, to keep up with higher demand by the growing ranks of pet owners.
Now, as Millennials become a driving force in buying for pets, marketing is more critical than ever. Given this target market's focus on healthy eating, it makes sense that pet-food marketers are emphasizing healthy ingredients like quinoa--yes, quinoa, the grain.

No wonder celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray have their own pet food brands now. And Olympic star Michael Phelps is appearing in ads for Nulo pet food, which promotes its low-carb nutritional benefits.

Nulo, by the way, has more than 141k likes on Facebook, compared with 1.1m likes for Purina Dog Chow on FB. Everyone's going social to connect with this major market.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Inside the Non-Cola Wars

Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are finding that colas aren't in as high demand as they once were. So the "cola wars" that raged for decades are actually becoming the "non-cola wars" between these two industry giants. Not to mention the "water wars" as Coke's Dasani brand battles Pepsi's Aquafina brand for sales and market share.

In fact, Coke recently acquired the Topo Chico mineral water brand, adding to its strength in bottled waters. Coca-Cola is also refreshing non-cola brands, like Schweppes, to rebuild awareness and encourage preference among adults. A UK marketing exec with Coca-Cola says the goal with Schweppes is to "re-establish the brand in the hearts and minds of consumers."

Pepsi's water portfolio is also receiving marketing attention, as the company shifts away from sugary/fizzy drinks. "We're on a multiyear journey to move people to healthier products, to lower-calorie options," says Pepsi's finance chief. But moving marketing attention away from traditional flagship brands like Pepsi and Mountain Dew is hurting soft-drink results.

Interestingly, Pepsi has decided to move aggressively into e-commerce activities as it sees the shifting landscape in grocery retailing. And, not surprisingly, Coca-Cola is also involved in e-commerce, seeing that consumer behavior is changing and therefore the brands that make the shopping list/restock list will be the ones ordered and delivered. In other words, understanding the evolution of the consumer buying process is vital for marketers waging the non-cola wars.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Marketing for Plus Size Fashions

Some sponsors of CurvyCon 2017
At CurvyCon, a recent fashion-week event featuring plus-size women's fashions, the CEO of plus-size fashion subscription firm Dia & Co observed: "We are so far away from true size inclusivity when it comes to fashion." In the words of entrepreneur CeCe Olisa, "if every brand carried every size, then we wouldn’t have to specify plus-size or not." CurvyCon attracted a lot of sponsors eager to reach this target market, estimated at $21 billion--and growing quickly.

It's a new marketing era for "plus size" amid rebranding to avoid negative connotations and signal a better understanding of consumer behavior in this target market. For example, after listening to customer feedback, women's clothing in larger sizes at Kmart will now be marketed as "fabulously sized."

More fashions for this market are on the way. PVH, which counts Calvin Klein among its brands, has recognized the profit potential in plus, and is marketing a new line of plus-sized lingerie. PVH recently acquired True & Co, which is established in the plus lingerie business.

A growing number of online marketers are targeting plus women, from ModCloth to EShakti and Eloquii. ModCloth's CEO notes: "There’s this belief that plus-size customers simply don’t spend as much — but that is only because of a lack of choice." His firm's research found that this target market would spend more if fashions in their sizes were available. And they tend to shop more frequently, another plus for plus size marketing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Food Trucks Roll into the Future

Food trucks have been a major fad since 2008, when the L.A. area saw the birth of the soon wildly popular Korean tacos served by Kogi BBQ trucks. Almost immediately, food trucks began popping up in streetscapes from coast to coast, offering both niche foods and mainstream foods.

Now food trucks represent an estimated $2.7 billion in revenues and a consumer behavior shift toward eating food on the move. Entrepreneurs, in particular, find food trucks a great way to test new products and new dining concepts without investing in high-overhead brick-and-mortar restaurants. Even restaurants are testing food trucks to reach customers interested in easy, casual food at easy, casual prices--competing with fast-food and fast-casual dining, in particular.

The most popular food trucks in 2017 are offering favorites like gourmet grilled cheese, burgers, and tacos (of course). Above, Mac Mart, which is both a food truck and a mac 'n cheese restaurant. Consumers are also flocking to food truck festivals around the country, enjoying different cuisines in one park or parking lot.

In some areas, the fad for food trucks is starting to fade a bit, partly due to overexposure and partly because of cities resisting the trucks to allow traditional restaurants some space to regain customers. Yet food trucks also represent a major opportunity for B2B marketers, including insurance firms that want to offer just the right coverage for food trucks.

The food truck fad is likely to evolve as the marketing environment develops and consumer behavior shifts, but for now, food on the move remains popular in many locations.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Multinationals Seek Growth, Niche by Niche

Pukka Herbs specializes in herbal organic teas
Nestle is buying a small California firm known for vegan and vegetarian foods; Unilever is buying a company that makes herbal organic teas. Both of these multinationals are seeking growth by acquiring businesses and products in niches that are attractive because of increasing consumer appeal and the ability to be noticed through distinctive brands/products.

Mainstream brands/products continue to sell--but certain niches are growing more rapidly and delivering customer acquisition (and profits) through specialization. Unilever, for example, pursued Pukka Herbs because it is unusually fast-growing in its niche. Unilever's top tea executive explains: "In the morning a lot of people still drink black tea as it picks you up, but in the afternoon or evening herbal tea is wonderful with different benefits." In other words, Pukka Herbs complements Unilever's existing tea brands and products.

Nestle bought Sweet Earth, a vegan/vegetarian food marketer, to get firmly established in the plant-based protein market. Nestle USA's CEO comments: "One of NestlĂ©’s strategic priorities is to build out our portfolio of vegetarian and flexitarian choices in line with modern health trends."

Watch for more multinationals to exploit niche opportunities by buying firms that have a following and a strong brand image.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Once Again, It's Pumpkin Everything in the Food World

Pumpkin everything season now begins in late summer. Starbucks showed imagination in launching its Pumpkin Spice Latte via live-streaming, building on anticipation from fans. Dunkin' Donuts is doubling down on pumpkin coffees and muffins: "We’ve seen our fans ask for pumpkin earlier and earlier each year," the company explains.

In general, pumpkin everything is turning everything orange in the food aisles and in cafes well before autumn arrives. Some marketers, like Krispy Kreme, really limit the limited-time pumpkin trend: It will offer a pumpkin-spice doughnut for one day only.

Other marketers are riding the pumpkin wave for weeks or months. How about a Kit Kat Pumpkin Pie bar? Or pumpkin spice breakfast cereals like Cheerios? Pumpkin everything reigns in food marketing for autumn.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Browse Marketing History via the Wayback Machine

What did some major marketing brands look like on the web 5, 10, or even 20 years ago? You can find out by checking the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

Not only is this a good way to see the evolution of web design, you can also follow along as logos change, brand ownership changes, and offerings change.

At top, how the Wayback Machine shows the number and timing of web pages captured and saved since January, 1997 to today.

At right, the Sears "about us" page in 1997. This is obviously before the acquisition by Kmart was announced in 2004 and completed in 2005. The brand's logo is prominent along the header and navigation is along the bottom as well as via links embedded in the body copy.

At left, the "overview" page from the corporate page of Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart today.  Navigation is along the side and along the bottom (not shown in this capture).

There is a link to the Sears Archives, where the distinctive blue-and-white logo is prominent at top left of web page. Check this page for the history of the venerable Sears, Roeback & Company, a true pioneer of legacy retailing.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

World's Most Valuable Brands

10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . and 1

Brandz is known for ranking the world's brands in terms of their global value. This year's ranking has a surprise in the #8 position.

Here they are, the world's most valuable brands:

10. McDonald's (US-based) - All-day breakfast and healthy menu items have helped keep this brand on the list.

9. IBM (US-based) - Venerable tech brand is leveraging cloud computing and its Watson brand for growth.

8. Tencent (China-based) - Wildly popular WeChat messaging platform has moved this company into the global eye.

7. Visa (US-based) - Plastic is big again...and Costco's switch from Amex to Visa was a boost for growth.

6. AT&T (US-based) - Telecom giant that's trying to get even bigger by acquiring Time Warner. Will the deal go through?

5. Facebook (US-based) - Of course FB is on the top 10 list. Advertising revenue is growing every day, and Facebook Live is increasing its reach.

4. Amazon (US-based) - Surprised that this brand is only #4? I was. This is the home of Alexa, Prime, and Amazon Web Services. Not to mention Amazon Prime Day.

3. Microsoft (US-based) - A mainstay of top 10 brand lists. Tech has been prominent for more than a decade, and Microsoft remains a leader in software and game tech.

2. Apple (US-based) - Often topping brand lists, this year it's #2 despite solid product sales and high brand preferability ratings.

1. Google (US-based) - Often trades places with Apple on brand rankings, this year Google tops the list because of its innovative image and lifestyle tech (AI and more).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Geolocation and Target Marketing

Geolocation is a fascinating tool to consider for your marketing plan. Remember Pokemon Go, and all the marketing hoopla associated with firms that leveraged it? That brief craze brought geolocation into the public eye. Even though the fad has faded, there are many marketing possibilities for geolocation, as smartphone-toting customers go to work, go to school, go on vacation, go shopping, or are simply on the go.

Privacy concerns need to be addressed, of course. Still, by defining the audience, the offer, and the objective, marketers can test and refine their use of geolocation to attract new customers and encourage repeat purchasing.
  • Target customers in or near your location. Through geofencing, you can define an area within which you will communicate incentives to visit your venue or buy a particular offering. Coca-Cola sends messages to shoppers' phones while customers are inside Albertsons supermarkets, for instance, directing them to promotional deals in the soft-drink aisle. 
  • Have something to say. This is sales promotion territory--meaning the marketing should convey a sense of urgency, such as a limited-time offer. American Eagle Outfitters identifies shoppers entering the mall parking lot and communicates about new products and other news, boosting foot traffic.
  • Make location count. Starbucks uses geolocation to transmit the customer's mobile order to the nearest convenient location via the ordering app. Customers like the speed and convenience. Starbucks likes the efficiency. Win-win all the way around.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marketing Electric Cars to Green Buyers

Tesla has had considerable success targeting green car buyers as it markets its initial two models of luxury all-electric cars, priced about $70k and up.

Now its biggest challenge is to meet the expected tsunami of demand for the popularly-priced all-electric Tesla 3. Starting at about $35,000, this stylish sedan is priced at half of what the other Teslas cost, yet it also carries the cachet of the Tesla brand, no small consideration. So Tesla has been active in the bond market to raise funds for the steep production increase needed to keep up with Tesla 3 demand.

Meanwhile, Tesla is booking way more than 1,000 reservations for the Tesla 3 every day. Delivery won't be for at least a year. This gives competitors like the Nissan Leaf time to appeal to buyers who want to drive green cars. Nissan is leaking bits and pieces of its new 2018 Leaf design to build anticipation and interest.

California is doing its part to encourage green buyers--it's looking at big rebates for all-electic and plug-in hybrids. This would bring the price of electric vehicles down to a level where mainstream buyers would do the math and see the financial benefit as well as the environmental benefit. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Wristwatches Tick Along on Social Media Marketing

Wristwatches are decidedly old-fashioned--yet their fashion appeal lives on into the 21st century, despite the many substitutes (like the mobile devices everyone totes around, or the smartwatches made by Apple and others).

Retro, antique, and high fashion watches are ticking along on social media marketing. Just days ago, a New York Times article reported on how upscale vintage wristwatches, posted on Instagram, are drawing the interest of collectors and beyond. In fact, expensive vintage watches are selling well despite the many digital substitutes. 

As shown at top, Gucci is using Instagram for an artistic approach to marketing its stylish watches. And it's not the only brand leveraging social media. Swatch has nearly 5 million Facebook fans, for instance, and 771k Instagram followers.

Swatch--which revolutionized the watch market decades ago--is actually doing very well with its fashion watches, even in this digital era. Swatch's CEO says: "In July, our factories are at maximum capacity because the demand coming from our own brands is so strong." Swatch maintains handsome stores in airports and through carefully-selected retail stores.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Back-to-School Shoppers Are in the Stores

My search for "back-to-school shopping" returned 324 million results. Here are the top 4 from the list--all ads. Zappos, Walmart, Retailmenot (coupon site), and Staples. Zappos is promoting its "fast and free shipping," and its "huge selection." The others are promoting "save, save, save."

The LA Times notes that BTS is an $84 billion market (research by the National Retail Federation). And other research indicates that lots of shoppers are looking at price promotions carefully.

Most important, many BTS shoppers prefer to buy in person, to see, touch, and evaluate merchandise rather than click to buy. And when children are part of the process, they want a say in what gets purchased (which in some cases, results in a higher transaction amount). Legacy retailing is the beneficiary of this consumer behavior pattern.

Despite supply lists provided by schools, BTS shopping still needs organization. And that's where physical stores are doing their part to group merchandise needed by students for easy access. Nearly every store has a college dorm section, and a separate school supplies section. School days begin in a matter of days. Stores are ready to outfit students in advance, attracting shoppers to malls and big-box retail locations alike.

Monday, July 24, 2017

CMO Issues: Accountability and Metrics

Accountability still counts!
Chief marketing officers are under pressure as never before to be accountable for results. This is nothing new, really, but with more marketing tools at their disposal and the constraint of carefully-controlled budgets, accountability is a priority.

This means that metrics have to be chosen and applied to enable CMOs to track, measure, and evaluate marketing campaigns in great detail. No wonder CMOs are examining media and social media metrics to be sure that these reflect the reality of how campaigns are performing and avoid misleading, fraudulent, and imprecise measures.

Meanwhile, social media platforms are introducing better metrics and analysis tools to enable measurement and performance assessment. This is crucial, because CMOs must be able to trust the numbers. However, despite closer scrutiny of marketing tactics and results, a few CMOs are either choosing inappropriate/old-fashioned metrics or not selecting metrics at all.

Another way to look at accountability is through the lens of big-picture marketing goals. Some businesses use the Net Promoter Score to see how marketing affects the customer experience and willingness to recommend the brand or organization. No matter which metrics you apply, be sure you are measuring what matters--and include interim benchmarks in your marketing, so you can adjust campaigns if preliminary results aren't close to present targets.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Celebrity Face of Tourism Australia

Celebrities bring star power when they serve as the face of tourism for a destination, in traditional media and in social media.

For example, the actor who plays Thor in Marvel movies, Chris Hemsworth, is the high-profile celebrity face of Tourism Australia. Interviewed by the New York Times, he gave his top reason for tourists to visit Australia: "Besides the sights, the people are also a draw. They are so welcoming."

Aussies are pleased and proud to have this actor represent them in tourism marketing, through ads, interviews, and other tools. In fact, Hemsworth has generated widespread media interest in Australia tourism around the world.

Hemsworth has nearly 11 million Instagram followers and frequently posts with the tag @Australia to promote the country to tourists and fans. He and his wife both mention Australia on social media, leading to hundreds of millions of impressions and positive associations for the destination. Some percentage of the many people reached by the ads or social media mentions will be influenced and then book a trip or extend a trip, resulting in a boost for Australia's tourism businesses.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

US Auto Market Share Brawl

If Toyota is correct and the US auto market has peaked, meaning that total sales by all industry participants combined will barely budge in 2017, then market share is the name of the game. The only way for one company or brand to show growth is by taking share away from a different company or brand (including cannibalizing a brand in the parent's portfolio).

This situation will have a major influence on automaker's US marketing plans for the coming 18-24 months. So far, the signs point to a plateau.

For starters, consumers will likely benefit from increased financial incentives (rebates, for instance) as dealers and brands court switchers or try to hold onto usually brand-loyal customers. Dealers are also benefiting from manufacturers' financial incentives, which they may or may not pass along to consumers in the form of reduced effective pricing.

A table on the Wall Street Journal site shows that sales of light trucks are picking up speed vs sales of passenger cars. Gas prices are low, so even though SUVs and pickups don't deliver fuel efficiency equivalent to cars, buyers are returning to their truck-buying habits.

As a result, the market share brawl is not just a matter of, say, GM vs Toyota, but also cars vs SUVs and pickups, plus gas vs hybrids vs electric. How to stand out? For example, for differentiation and to appeal to targeted segments, Volvo is going all electric by 2019. What complicates this brawl is the aggressive entry of Tesla and its popularly-priced electric car (image at top). The market share brawl is underway!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Big Beer Brands, Craft Beers, and Consumer Behavior

Craft beers are trendy and popular, as well as locally-known--which is why beer giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev are swallowing up many smaller brands. Above, logo of A-B InBev's Blue Point Brewing Co, founded in 1998 and serving the Long Island, NY area.

Fortune magazine has a map and video showing the extent of the "drink local, buy global" trend, including the news that A-B InBev recently purchased its 10th craft brand (Wicked Weed Brewing, based in North Carolina).

A-B InBev seeks two ingredients in craft beer acquisitions: (1) variety, so the parent's product portfolio isn't too heavily weighted toward one type or another; and (2) owners who are interested in working with a deep-pocketed, marketing-savvy parent for growth.

Craft beers aren't the huge growth niche they were a few years ago, but they're still growing. As the extent of involvement by beer giants becomes more widely known, will craft beer lovers be put off or will they be able to judge each brand and brew on its own merits? Marketers will be watching for clues to consumer behavior, attitudes, and actions as competition becomes even more intense between beer brands.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Yogurt Marketing Battle Goes On

Chobani FB image
A decade ago, Chobani upended the US yogurt market with its innovative, tangy Greek yogurt products. Today, the yogurt market representing nearly $8 billion in annual purchases. However, Greek yogurt growth is plateauing.

All you have to do is check the yogurt display in any grocery store and you'll see how the industry's top competitors are reacting by segmenting the market and adding products/lines for target audiences with different tastes.

General Mills image
General Mills just announced a new line of French yogurts from Yoplait, branded Oui. The idea is to encourage yogurt lovers to try this artisanal yogurt (packaged in glass jars) and, once they acquire the taste, make them loyal customers.

Chobani is expanding into smooth yogurts these days, appealing to a broader audience beyond its loyal fans of Greek yogurt. Danone is expanding its Dannon yogurt production facilities even after selling Stonyfield yogurt to complete the acquisition of White Wave plant-based milks.

The marketing battle includes social media. Chobani has more than 100k Twitter followers and 1.4 million Facebook likes. Yoplait has more than 72k Twitter followers and 2 million Facebook likes. Dannon has more than 25k Twitter followers. Watch for more marketing activities as yogurt marketers try to build market share in this intensely competitive industry.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Back to School Begins in June

So soon? Staples has had backpacks and other school supplies prominently displayed in the front of its stores for several weeks--even before school was over!

Other retailers are already promoting back-to-school items, as shown here on Zappos and Dick's today. Visit any website catering to teens and parents (Old Navy, Walmart) and you'll see some school-related items featured.

Rushing the season? Partly...this is a definite trend for all retailers as they try to get a jump on the competition. It's also a function of changing consumer behavior, with parents being price-conscious and interested in bargains, even two months early.

Target has been mounting special college programs for years, and has begun opening smaller stores very close to college campuses, making it convenient for students and parents to browse and buy. "Growth on college campuses and in urban markets is a priority for Target," says a Target VP.

Go into any housewares/home goods store (Bed Bath & Beyond for instance) and dorm room products are the big focus, with helpful checklists and ideas for parents and students. IKEA has its dorm website ready, with body copy that begins: "Ready or not, fall's on its way, and with it, a new school year."

Amazon Prime Day in July may very well be a key turning point in buying for back to school. Not surprisingly, Walmart is battling Amazon on this front for a major piece of the pie. States also recognize the trend toward earlier purchasing and are moving their tax-free weeks earlier to accommodate consumer buying preferences.

Students may roll their eyes when they go into a store and see school-related products. But retailers want to get on the parents' radar and make an impression as the store or website to visit for back-to-school items. So while some people are thinking pool accessories and pickle ball, others are thinking pencils and packs. For savvy marketers, the plan is to present a solid value proposition, polish brand image, and encourage buyers to go ahead and buy--early.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fortune 500 Issue Reflects B2B Advertising Trends

The 2017 edition of the Fortune 500 is, as in other years, a rough indicator of B2B advertising trends.

Judging by the total number of printed pages and the multiple sponsored advertising sections, ad support is clearly strong. Prestige advertisers like Rolex are represented. Well-known brands like Stihl and General Motors have special ad sections. This issue gets high readership, and advertisers want to be there.

As digital advertising comes to the forefront of many marketers' priorities, seeing a 2017 issue with 340 printed pages (slightly fewer than in 2016) actually represents a strong advertising market.

So many magazines are appearing thinner and thinner, yet this Fortune issue is full of ads. True, the number of pages is down from 2016 and earlier years, yet having 340 pages filled with valuable editorial content and repeat advertisers makes a statement about the health of B2B magazine advertising.

2017: 340
2016: 346
2015: 392
2014: 390
2013: 352
2012: 312
2011: 316
2010: 308
2009: 276
2008: 356
2007: 386
2006: 384
2005: 410
2004: 478
2003: 410
2002: 402
2001: 474
2000: 630 - Peak of dot-com boom!
1999: 510
1998: 506

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ecosystem Brands Rule

The well-known BrandZ ranking of top global brands (by value) is out--and so-called ecosystem brands are leading the way, yet again.

In 2017, the top 10 brands, as ranked by BrandZ in terms of value, are:

10. McDonald's (US-based)
9.   IBM (US)
8.   Tencent, owner of WeChat (Chinese)
7.   Visa (US)
6.   AT&T (US)
5.   Facebook (US)
4.   Amazon (US) - ecosystem brand
3.   Microsoft (US) - ecosystem brand
2.   Apple (US) - ecosystem brand
1.   Google (US) - ecosystem brand

A senior BrandZ exec says: "Ecosystem brands cleverly meet our needs and make our lives easier by offering us all sorts of things that are connected so we gain this traction with them."

In other words, Microsoft and other ecosystem brands encourage repeat purchasing and brand loyalty with multiple offerings that supplement and coordinate with each other. Microsoft and Apple, for instance, offer operating systems . . . software . . . hardware . . . services . . . and so on. The more offerings a customer buys into over time, the higher the lifetime customer value. Ecosystem brands offer value and, in turn, customers value those brands highly.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Brand Purpose Boosts Unilever Brand Growth
Some Unilever brands have been emphasizing sustainability and social responsibility initiatives--driving much higher revenue growth for those brands.

Unilever says those purpose-driven brands (including Ben & Jerry's, Lifebuoy, and Dove) are increasing revenue more than 50% faster than its other brands...and helping Unilever continue growing in the global marketplace.

Given the highly competitive nature of the product categories involved (such as ice cream and personal care), Unilever's experience indicates that consumers definitely recognize and respond to differentiation on the basis of non-functional benefits. In other words, many consumers will choose brands because of corporate citizenship and purpose, not just features that deliver benefits.

Yet brand purpose must also go hand-in-hand with brand usefulness, meaning the brand provides value in the form of meeting a consumer need.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Shopper Marketing Today

Academic research has shown the importance of point-of-purchase marketing stimuli for influencing in-store buying decisions. (See this classic 1990 study, for instance).

Yet in recent years, the increased availability of information to supplement in-store buying decisions has altered the dynamics of shopper marketing. Consumers frequently research brands and products before entering the store...knowing exactly what they want and what they want to spend as they walk down each aisle.

So what does this mean for shopper marketing in 2017?
  • Retailers are personalizing offers via app, email, and snail mail. This strengthens ties with existing customers and allows the stores to present relevant offers to interested buyers, keeping brands top of mind.
  • Manufacturers are still paying for in-store displays, but doing more checking to see that the displays actually get set up in visible areas.  
  • Manufacturers are seeking ways to differentiate products in the store--such as printing the "time of manufacture" on juice so shoppers can determine how fresh each product really is, compared with competing products.
  • Retailers are catering to the showrooming trend by offering actual showrooms, with purchases optional (or not even accommodated). Target's showroom for at-home technology is an opportunity to educate. "These products don’t sell themselves, and we are trying to tell a bigger story. We’re asking Americans to become the technologists of tomorrow," explains a Target innovation exec.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Marketing Red Nose Day USA

Today is Red Nose Day in America, a day of fundraising to support children's charities and combat poverty.

NBC is broadcasting a telethon tonight in support of Red Nose Day, along with special programming featuring celebrities who are involved with the charity efforts. This high-profile media attention is a big part of the fundraising effort.

If you don't already have your Red Nose merchandise, hop on over to the local Walgreens and buy a nose or another item where the purchase supports the charities. Walgreens is the official retail partner and its stores are doing their part with signage, enthusiastic employees, etc.

Charity partners are also marketing Red Nose Day. Save the Children, for instance, has its website and social media sites promoting the event and urging donations.

And Red Nose Day USA is extremely active all over social media. Its Twitter account has 60,000 followers and is posting videos, images, and other content to engage and energize people. Go ahead, put on your red nose and get funny for money (to support serious causes).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Are QR Codes Still a Viable Marketing Element?

Remember QR codes? They're sprinkled through the latest edition of my Marketing Plan Handbook and they therefore date the book to a period when QR codes were everywhere. Then apps became ubiquitous and many experts declared QR codes a thing of the past.

Not so fast. In fact, QR codes have new life among social media sites! Snapchat, for instance, invites businesses to create Snapcodes that are QR codes. Updating the QR code for the Snap generation, in other words.

Pinterest is also updating the QR code idea, with its object-recognition lens that can understand a QR code and then open the website associated with that code. No special app, just use Pinterest.

Facebook recently tested a QR code reward program, geared toward retailers and their customers.

Google Allo can also work via QR codes to quickly expand a user's friend base or share chat functions. QR scanning is easy and convenient.

So the answer is YES--QR codes are not only viable, they're trendy. Again. Watch for creative marketing with QR this year.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Customer Satisfaction and Your Marketing Plan

If you're writing a marketing plan, you need to understand customer satisfaction with your products, with your brand, within your industry (and of course, your competitors). Sometimes you can find secondary data that will give you some ideas as you scan the external environment for your situational analysis.

For instance, are airline passengers satisfied with their flying experience? Which airline earns the highest marks from customers?

Click to the American Customer Satisfaction Index and find out. The latest surveys indicate that JetBlue, Southwest Air, Alaska Air, and other budget carriers are ahead of the pack, and price is one reason why. And while you're there, take a look at other industries to see what U.S. consumers think.

Also click to J.D. Power, which ranks brands within industries according to customer satisfactions. Dyson, for instance, is on top in the latest U.S. vacuum satisfaction survey.

Search for customer satisfaction by industry, and you'll find industry-sponsored surveys like the one undertaken for Airlines for America. The most recent survey indicates that more Americans are flying and more are satisfied with flying. Of course, this research was completed well before the highly publicized problems with overbooking and passengers being forcibly removed from jets.

Other groups conduct customer satisfaction surveys to provide consumers with input as they make buying decisions. looks at the "best car insurance companies," as an example.

So when you are developing a marketing plan, dig deep to see how consumers view your industry, your competitors, and your company or brand or products.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Marketing, Innovation, and Growth

Chief Innovation Officer & Chief Growth Officer

Coca-Cola just announced the creation of a senior-management post, Chief Innovation Officer. Coke's new CEO wants innovation not tucked away in R&D but visible and reporting to the top, leading the way with brand ideas for future growth beyond the company's current brand/product portfolio.

A current Coke innovation exec says: "We scan the broad spectrum of trends, and get inspiration from -- not trying to solve specific business problems because that is incremental - but where we have to go." So Coke is investing in promising startups that will help it innovate marketing (new products, new processes, new communications) more quickly through partnerships. 

Coke also has a chief growth officer, replacing the chief marketing officer (CMO) with a broader leadership position. The CGO role is to streamline marketing across brands and divisions with a global view and responsive marketing. Coke's president explains: "To keep up with the fast-moving consumer landscape around us, our organization has to be ready and willing to change at a faster pace probably than at any time in our history." That's what the CGO will do for Coke.

In the context of intense competition among beverage marketers, and ongoing changes in consumer attitudes and preferences concerning soft drinks, Coke wants these two new positions to jump-start growth on a global basis.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blurring the Lines Between Marketing and PR

A new study finds increasing overlap between public relations and marketing. One of the study's co-sponsors, Paul Holmes, says:
PR has the opportunity to move aggressively into paid content, an arena long dominated by advertising but that will require investment and training. The bigger challenge for the profession and for society is what happens when consumers no longer know the source or the nature of the information they receive, and how that impacts the credibility of that information.
And that's both a plus and a minus for marketing in general and society at large. 

The three key developments fueling this trend are (1) social listening, (2) digital storytelling, and (3) real-time marketing.

As a top official of ANA states: "Digital has put PR front and center, as it allows immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback."

PR's traditional function has been to "listen" to the interests and concerns of an organization's publics (consumers, community members, and other stakeholders) and allow for response through programs or other means. PR also explains the organization's position to the publics and helps protect reputation, both reactively and proactively. So in a real sense, PR has been an integral element in the marketing plan from the beginning.

With the rise of product placement and influencer marketing, among other techniques, consumers are increasingly surrounded by content that they can't as easily evaluate in terms of source (paid? spontaneous? stunt?). This is where transparency becomes critical.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How Walmart Keeps Reinventing Itself

Walmart is the quintessential store-based legacy retailer, offering vast product selection at low prices. It continues to innovate to attract foot traffic, such as by seeking out made-in-America merchandise, particularly local goods, that are distinctive and appeal to local or regional shoppers.

But while Walmart was growing into the world's largest store operator, along came the Internet, and with it, Amazon. Walmart's retail dominance continues in the world of bricks and mortar, but it's still working on a successful strategy to achieve big gains in online retailing. And that's where comes in.

Walmart acquired last year, to gain not only the site and its customers but also the e-commerce savvy of the founder, Marc Lore, who now heads all of Walmart's e-commerce operations. Lore recognizes the power of omnichannel marketing, saying: "If you don’t want to let another business cannibalize your customer, you have to let them shop whatever way they want to."

Not only is Walmart reinvigorating its online operations, it's also offering inducements to bring online shoppers into stores. Similar to the way offers discounts for those who can wait to receive items, Walmart will offer discounts to shoppers who pick up their purchases in one of its nearby stores.

Quoting Lore: "Now they [shoppers] can either pick up and save even more money, or ship two-day for free to home, without paying for a membership." Fighting words as Walmart battles Amazon. In fact, Walmart is looking for a patent on a system to compete with Amazon's Dash buttons. Here, the hook would be automatic replenishment, without even pushing a button.