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.