Thursday, November 1, 2018

Marketing Plan Resources

Thanks for visiting.

If you're formulating a marketing plan, take a peek at the sample plan posted on the website for my U.S. textbook. It will give you an idea of how to organize a marketing plan and the kind of content included.

You can also browse the glossary of key terms on the same website.

For a listing of links to marketing plan resources all over the web, see here. You'll find news sites, marketing data sites, and many other useful sources of statistics and updated info about companies and concepts.

And finally, if you're looking for my perspective on whether competitors are stakeholders, here's one of many posts on the subject. Yes, competitors are stakeholders, in my view!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Marketers Market for Halloween

Yes, "holiday creep" has Halloween candy/costumes in stores even before back-to-school marketing begins. But marketing trends go well beyond these basics.

No matter what you're marketing, be aware that if you're using Halloween themes in email marketing, you may have fewer folks open your messages. Yet the conversion rate is solid, meaning those who open messages can be converted into buyers.

Some marketers prefer to intro or preview Halloween goods and services early, little by little, to build anticipation and awareness. This is certainly the case for theme parks and other service marketers that offer special Halloween experiences.

Seasonal products or campaigns related to Halloween need time to reach audiences and generate response. The soft-drink brand Fanta rolled out Halloween-themed Snap filters early to encourage usage and viral reaction.

Halloween and pumpkins are a traditional association. Pumpkin food products are selling well as the fall season gets into full swing before Halloween. As usual, marketers are pushing pumpkin spice everything. In fact, Starbucks and Dunkin' began marketing pumpkin flavors in August this year. But, despite rumors, there is NO Oscar Meyer pumpkin-flavor bologna.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Should You Collaborate with Competitors?

Competitors are stakeholders. I've established this numerous times on my blog. As shown above, two of my original posts about this topic have attracted more than 16,000 views in 9 years.

What's been changing, in recent years, is the trend toward actively collaborating with competitors for mutual benefit. This does not mean setting prices together, which is illegal. It does mean looking for specific areas where collaboration would be advantageous for two competitors (or perhaps the entire industry).

For example, what about sharing resources with a competitor to give each something unique to market? Read how a brewer came up with a novel idea and recruited competitors to work together.

Advertising agencies are working together, in some cases, to win and service clients. Maybe an agency sees a competitor with a particular focus that can add value for part of a big project. Or maybe an agency wants to bolster its bid for work by combining forces with a specialized agency.

Are there situations when collaboration can help you be a more effective marketer?

Monday, October 1, 2018

8 Sources of Info about Specialized Marketing Topics

Looking for info about specialized marketing topics? Here are 8 good sources to keep you updated:

  • Automotive marketing - weekly news from MediaPost
  • Social media marketing - news from Social Media Today
  • Sports marketing - news from The Drum
  • Mobile marketing - news from Marketing Land
  • Digital marketing - news from Advertising Age
  • Retail marketing - news from Retail Dive
  • Content marketing - news from Direct Marketing News
  • Online marketing - news from Entrepreneur

Monday, September 24, 2018

Growth of the Experience Economy

"The experience economy" is a 20-year-old phrase that refers to a premium, differentiated experience perceived as higher value (by consumers) than, say, service delivery or products alone.

According to the classic Harvard Business Review article about this phenomenon, marketers can "wrap experiences" around traditional goods or services (or both) to enhance the offering. The key benefit of experiences is that they are memorable.

The consulting firm McKinsey notes that spending on experiences has increased much faster than spending on goods. And, McKinsey says, millennials are leading the way in spending on entertainment and fitness-related experiences, for instance. Think about the rise of experience-heavy offerings like the Museum of Ice Cream, which began as a pop-up retail experience in New York City and has sparked spinoffs, extensions, collaborations, and sponsorships.

Growth in the experience economy is a global phenomenon. A cultural event space in Manchester, England, found strong demand for its diverse experience offerings, from theater to music to art and food. "The big change to what I call experientialism is more about finding happiness and status in experiences instead," says author and trendspotter James Wallman.

Does this mean materialism is dead? The lesson from the experience economy is that goods alone may not be the best or only way to satisfy a consumer need, especially for key consumer groups.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dr Pepper Targets College-Age Consumers


More than a century old, Dr Pepper (now merged with Keurig) aims to make itself the soft drink brand of choice for college-age consumers. This market segment tends to be interested in diverse flavors and differentiation, as well as being heavy consumers of soft drinks.

No wonder Dr Pepper is a big sponsor of college football, and is very active on social media (420k Twitter followers, 539k Instagram followers, 14mm Facebook likes, 26k YouTube subscribers). And no wonder the company promotes "pick your Pepper" limited-time designs to catch the eye of variety seekers.

This year, Dr Pepper is trying something new with a soap opera-like series of commercials/episodes that will tell stories coming to an end as the college football season is over in January, 2019. The integrated campaign includes social media plus traditional media to attract attention and increase interest in the story line.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

What Is the Most Popular Color for Logos?

A recent study shows that a few colors tend to be most popular for particular types of brand and company logos.

Here's a hint: At left, the retailer Uniqlo's bold logo. In a sea of mall stores or downtown storefronts, the logo is designed to stand out. Think of Target's red-and-white bull's-eye logo, easily identifiable from the far distance of a highway or across a crowded city street. Or look at Macy's red star, a simple and quick identifier. That's why the most popular color for retailer logos is red.

For companies in the fields of marketing, public relations, healthcare, and technology, blue tends to be the most popular color, according to the study, because of associations with "knowledge, tranquility, security, and trust."

The Cigna Health Insurance logo is mainly blue. So is the logo of Anthem. So is Progressive. And Geico (yes, the gecko is green, but the logo is blue).

Next time you see a retailer's or company's logo, think about why it chose its color(s) and how color contributes to positive marketing associations.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ad Blockers Gain Mobile Ground


Ad blockers are nothing new...yet they're only beginning to be a factor in the world of mobile marketing. One objection is that ads and digital tracking increase the time needed for websites to load. Another objection is loss of privacy and who gets to use the digital footprint of a consumer's online behavior.

Recognizing that consumers want alternatives, Verizon, for instance, has ad-blocking capabilities for mobile users on its new Wi-Fi service.

Similarly, Google's Chrome desktop and mobile browsers have an add-in feature to block ads that repeatedly violate the Better Ads policies.

Microsoft tested the use of AdBlock Plus (a popular add-in blocker) for its Edge browser used on Android mobile devices. Now it has adopted the blocker as part of the Edge browser.

The new browser Brave also includes ad-blocking capabilities, both for mobile and desktop users. In fact, Brave blocks ads by default--which means consumers must opt into any digital tracking if they wish. In the past, the usual situation was "opt out," meaning consumers would be tracked unless they specifically asked not to be tracked.

The trend toward ad blockers affects many advertisers and publishers. Fewer eyeballs translate into lower revenue...and the possibility that, in the future, more websites will request or require payment. One of the pioneers of a paywall was the Wall Street Journal, which has been charging for print and online access (mobile or not) for two decades. Will more consumers be willing to pay for known quality and trusted sites?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Vanilla Shortage Is Back on the Menu
Six years ago, a vanilla shortage was making headlines and pushing up prices of baked goods, ice cream, and other products that incorporate vanilla as a key ingredient. And that wasn't the first time: A vanilla shortage also made headlines in 2004.

Now, the shortage is back, due to poor crop harvests in Madagascar, where much of the world's vanilla is grown. Although the shortage is not as bad as originally feared, it is causing headaches for marketers that must use vanilla in their recipes. "Eighty per cent of the market is industrial vanilla, and that's what drives the pricing," says a senior exec of one vanilla import firm. In other words, consumers aren't the big buyers--businesses are the big buyers of this key ingredient.

As a result of the shortage, some businesses are raising prices to cover the higher cost of buying vanilla. Ice cream marketers are cautiously increasing prices, for instance. Others are seeking out alternatives, such as "vanilla flavor" rather than "vanilla extract." Watch for more research on vanilla as the world copes with periodic shortages that affect the marketing plans of food businesses, perfume businesses, and others that rely on this key ingredient.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Marketing Luxury Car Brands

ACURA . . . LEXUS . . . VOLVO . . . JAGUAR

It's not always obvious who owns which car brands marketed in the United States, which is why Consumer Reports recently published a listing indicating ownership, brand by brand.

Take Acura, the luxury car brand owned by Honda. The separate brand was designed to differentiate those luxury vehicles from other cars and SUVs marketed under the Honda brand. And, in fact, Acura has proven to be a success, with solid sales figures for new crossover vehicles in particular.

Similarly, Lexus is the luxury car brand owned by Toyota, again differentiating those upscale vehicles from the rest of the product portfolio. And again, Lexus has proven successful, currently diversifying its targeting through product placement in Black Panther and through other marketing initiatives.

Volvo has been owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a Chinese firm, for the past decade. It's an established upscale brand with vehicles made in Sweden, China, and the U.S. With record sales so far this year, the company's largest market is, actually, China.

Owned by Tata Motors, Jaguar is another well-known luxury brand, currently trying new product ideas for the next generation of "green" car lovers. The Jaguar I-Pace is all-electric and styled differently from other vehicles in the brand portfolio. Will it resonate with consumers who know the traditional Jaguar luxury brand image for elegance and performance?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bucking the Trend of a Shrinking Retail Presence

Even as so many retailers contract their physical presence, TJX is expanding with new stores in many of its retail brands. It owns TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Sierra Trading Post, Marshalls, and HomeSense (all in the US). Its Canadian brands include Winners, HomeSense, and Marshalls. These are off-price retailing brands, with a "treasure hunt" sensibility and lower-than-traditional-stores pricing.

Home Goods is opening stores from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Above, the grand opening day of one store, where the line to check out reached from front to back of the store for the first three hours. Before the opening, inventory was stocked neatly on shelves and attractive display platforms. Even as shoppers poured in, stock was neatened and replenished.

Wisely, Home Goods had lots of extra employees on hand to answer questions, direct shoppers to the right aisle, and direct cart traffic to keep lines moving quickly and efficiently all day. With a TJMaxx just down the road from this new store, local shoppers were already familiar with the kinds of discounts and merchandise they would find.

Another wise move: Leveraging brand synergy by putting two retail names together under one roof. Home Goods is going in with Marshalls in several sites, capturing more shoppers and, hopefully, more wallet share. This makes sense because all of the TJX brands are known for discount pricing.

The bottom line is, apparently, consumers' bottom line: Lower prices, and the opportunity to grab a bargain, will attract shoppers and keep them coming back periodically.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Polishing the Brand via Corporate Citizenship

Being a good corporate citizen is a good way to polish any brand or company name. So many stakeholders pay attention when companies pursue social responsibility agendas.

For example, Time Warner Cable and Samsung are sponsors of the Space Shuttle Pavilion at New York's Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. Thousands of visitors see those logos and names as they enter the pavilion, adding to the goodwill of these well-known firms.

In the past, some argued against this kind of expenditure, saying that the point of corporations is to be profitable. Today, many recognize that good corporate citizenship is quite compatible with profitability goals. Remember, corporations and brands serve multiple stakeholders, not just investors.

In fact, one survey in Canada showed that people actually want corporate management to take the lead in socially-responsible actions. So when a company or brand is publicly honored for good citizenship, local residents and customers alike can feel proud of their association with it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Payment Trend: Cashless Restaurants

A small but growing number of U.S. restaurants are going cashless--meaning they accept only credit/debit cards or electronic payments such as Apple Pay.

Why? According to restaurant owners interviewed by Visa, the benefits are:

  • Many Millennials prefer cashless transactions
  • Handling cash takes time and costs the restaurant money
  • Transactions are faster, reducing wait times
  • No cash means higher security and lower risk 
Not so very long ago (at least in marketing eras), some restaurants were cash-only, not wanting to pay merchant fees to accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and other plastic. Now Visa has actually offered restaurants a cash bonus to go cashless.

One disadvantage to consider is whether cashless restaurants will be unable to serve the market of people who, by choice or by economic situation, are cardless.

On the other hand, the increased popularity of Starbucks Mobile Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and other payment apps indicates that there is a definite market of people who prefer mobile transactions.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Delta Involves Customers with Social Media

Delta Airlines is using the visual power of social media to involve customers in its brand and to communicate the extent of its services.

Above, Delta's official Instagram account, which invites customers to "share your travel pics" along with the hashtag #Delta. With 716k followers, and lots of stunning travel images to enthrall and inspire, the airline is encouraging two-way communication via Instagram. Note the brand logo in the header, a good way to reinforce and support other marketing efforts for synergy.

The airline's official Twitter account has nearly 1.5 million followers and 750k tweets in 11 years of participation. It announces travel alerts, promos, community activities, and more via Twitter.

Delta's official Facebook page has more than 3mm likes and lots of visually-interesting informational and promotional content, such as new designer uniform photos and new destination photos.

Delta also uses hashtags for promotional purposes. One recent promo, "Pilot Talk Sweepstakes," invites the public to enter and win a free trip to the Delta destination of their choice by spelling out the city or country using "pilot talk" alphabet ("A" is "Alpha," "B" is "Bravo," etc.). Of course #pilottalksweepstakes is the hashtag.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Creative Advertising with Benefits

Last month, Procter & Gamble's SuperBowl campaign "It's a Tide Ad" won big at the Cannes Ad Festival. "Tide Ad is very hard-working, classic marketing but refreshed as if we were inventing that today," said one of the jurors.

If you didn't see the ad pictured above, you can see it here. Join the more than 5 million YouTube viewers who've clicked to see it.

The complete campaign is both classic and newly creative (explaining the big win at Cannes). One of the twists is that the ads appeared to be hijacking other ads during the SuperBowl until...well, the reveal is: "It's a Tide Ad." By design, the point was to have football fans and casual viewers alike look at all the commercials and wonder whether each was from Tide or a different brand.

The 2018 Tide ad spoofs P&G itself, because of the 2010 Old Spice campaign in which Isaiah Mustafa talks with the audience about "the man your man could smell like," ending the ad perched on a white horse on the beach. Now Mustafa is back, on that white horse, helping to reveal that the new ad is for Tide.

Along the way, the Tide ad shows benefits like clean clothes. Too often, today's commercials are so cleverly creative that actual benefits are missing. Not at P&G. The benefits are definitely part of the creative message.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ocado Technology Crosses the Pond

Image from Ocado Group's website
Ocado is well-known in the UK for its efficient web -based grocery retailing business. Today, more than half a million consumers shop online at Ocado's e-commerce site and have their groceries delivered.

The company has developed a highly efficient warehouse system that uses robots to pick and pack. See it in operation here.

Now the US supermarket chain Kroger has an exclusive deal with Ocado to build a series of robotic grocery warehouses across America. Ocado's technology will also help Kroger with delivery logistics, a key element.

Currently, Walmart dominates the US grocery business . . . and Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods Markets turned up the competitive heat last year.

In the long run, Kroger wants to drive down costs and increase efficiency and customer service by transitioning to Ocado's system. Ocado's CEO says the deal with Kroger will "reshape the food retailing industry in the U.S. in the years to come." Meanwhile, how will consumer behavior shape the industry and competition among grocery retailers, online and in stores?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hummus Market Is Humming

Hummus is having its turn in the marketing spotlight. Above, only part of the hummus display at a Wegmans supermarket in Virginia. In addition to the store's private-label hummus (at top right), other national and regional brands are featured.

One of the featured brands is Ithaca, named for a city in upstate New York, where Wegmans got its start. Smart marketing move to give Ithaca chainwide distribution on the East Coast rather than confining it to New York. Variety-seeking consumers and dedicated hummus-lovers outside of NY will see this unfamiliar brand, check out its unique attributes, and give it a try.

In the overall U.S. market, Sabra is the dominant brand, a market-leading position it's held for years. It's growing rapidly and expanding its R&D and manufacturing to keep up with high demand.

Wegmans carries Sabra, of course. But the diverse brands in each of its stores help to differentiate Wegmans from national supermarket chains, encouraging shoppers to return for unique and interesting choices. For the hummus brands, the marketing objective in this competitive marketplace is to secure distribution, raise brand awareness, and reinforce brand loyalty.

Note: This is post #1200 for my Marketing Handbook Blog.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Macy's Fine-Tunes Store Retailing

Macy's is still attracting in-person shoppers, despite the incredible growth of online and mobile shopping, all competing for the attention of customers. Among the innovations it's using to draw shoppers into stores is its outlet-style retail section, known as Backstage.

In my local Macy's, Backstage occupies an area on the lower level, with its own cashiers and decor. Customers can register for text messages about new products, in-store events, and other Backstage specials. This retail brand has its own Instagram account, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Backstage is largely stocked with "off-price" merchandise, often new products purchased out of season or as excess inventory. Mostly apparel, but also home goods, brand-name cosmetics, and lots of shoes.

What caught my eye was the above sign in the handbag department, sitting on top of a showcase featuring "previously loved" merchandise. Turns out these are high-end purses that have been repaired and are now marketed at discounted prices compared with the original new-product price.

One strategy Macy's is using to fine-tune its store retailing is "Growth 50." This involves testing a concept in 50 stores, assessing the lessons learned, and applying the most effective ideas to hundreds of other stores. Watch for more innovations and lessons learned as Macy's reinforces customer loyalty in this age of omnichannel retailing.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Pepsi and "Performance with Purpose"

As part of its "Performance with Purpose" strategy, PepsiCo has three types of product portfolios. One is "fun for you" foods and beverages like Mountain Dew. The second is "better for you" products like Baked Doritos. And the third is "good for you" products like Naked Juice.

 Just a few days ago, it acquired Bare Snacks Inc., which markets Carrot Chips, Apple Chips, and other crunchy snacks made from fruits and veggies. This acquisition expands the pantry of "good for you" products.
In the beginning, Bare Snacks produced apple chips and other products from its own organic apples. The company recently said that no matter who acquired it, Bare Snacks would stay true to its strategy of producing fruit and veggie snacks that taste good, as well as being healthy.

PepsiCo is also using a "brand incubator" to encourage small businesses to pursue "good for you" food and beverage innovation. In addition to money, the entrepreneurial brands enrolled in the Nutrition Greenhouse incubator receive mentoring to grow their businesses.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Yogurt, yogurt everywhere

Walk into any supermarket or health-foods store today, and you'll see a vast array of yogurts in the dairy case. Flash back just 11 years, and the yogurt offerings were meager, to say the least. Dannon was marketing yogurt in US stores, but the food category was miniscule and anything but mainstream.

The incredible growth of yogurt during the 21st century is due, in large part, to the entrance of one brand--Chobani, which launched its Greek yogurt in 2007.

Today, Chobani is competing with brands that didn't exist in 2007, as well as brand and product extensions of companies that were part of the yogurt market in the 20th century. Consumers have responded to the new wave of yogurts by trying new products and, in some cases, becoming loyal yogurt lovers.

No wonder Chobani has been redesigning its products and packaging to stand out in this increasingly crowded environment. The company is also reformulating yogurts with lower sugar and more flavor pop. And it's "stretching" the branded yogurt concept into drinkable products, among other innovations.

Yogurt is everywhere. How will Chobani, Dannon, and other brands maintain the interest and loyalty of consumers in such a competitive marketplace?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Sneakerization of the Non-Dairy Milk Market

Does the "dairy case" in your local supermarket include rows of shelves with alternatives like soy milk and almond milk?

The increase in number and variety of non-dairy milk products illustrates the "sneakerization" of this market--meaning the proliferation of multiple products for microtargeting niche or microniche consumer segments. Ever-finer market segmentation for targeting small niches interested in specific types of products/benefits, in other words.

Even calling these products "___milk" can be controversial. But despite industry efforts like the long-running "Got Milk?" campaign (which morphed into "Milk Life"), consumption of traditional dairy milk is not going up.

In fact, many consumers are seeking out milk alternatives for health, nutrition, and lifestyle reasons.

Consumers are paying attention to these non-dairy milks and seeking out new choices, boosting demand for what was once a tiny niche. This is changing the makeup of the industry. For instance, adapting to this trend toward proliferation of non-milk products, one former dairy producer now makes peanut milk.

Sneakerization of this market means more competition among non-dairy milk products AND milk products, all seeking to improve market share, sales, and profitability.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Upcoming 12th Blogiversary


June will mark the 12th anniversary of this blog! My very first post was about the way Boeing views the future (for strategy reasons) vs. the way competitor Airbus views the future.

At the time, I indicated a preference for Boeing's view, because it envisioned a point-to-point future for passenger flights, whereas Airbus's vision was for giant jets flying passengers from one airport hub to another.

The difference matters, because these visions of the future guide companies in planning for new products and supply-chain priorities. In turn, suppliers and buyers both consider what Boeing and Airbus think about the future of air travel and the airline industry. They factor these and other projections into their planning for marketing strategy.

In general, what Boeing envisioned in 2006 has come to pass now. As a result, there is higher demand for lighter, fuel-efficient jets than for heavy, gigantic jets like the Airbus 380.

Boeing at this moment sees air travel demand increasing from 2017-2036, according to its Current Market Outlook. In fact, it believes this will mean airlines will need to have twice as many passenger jets in service by 2036, compared with fleet sizes today.

Today, Airbus also believes that demand for air travel and air cargo will increase year after year after year, and by 2036, the company projects a need for 35,000 additional aircraft.

The competition between these rivals continues as the market expands and airlines line up new aircraft. In 2017, Airbus sold more aircraft than Boeing. However, Boeing was the leader in aircraft delivered.

Notice that the focus is on Airbus AND Boeing, because these two manufacturers are the two largest in the world.

How will their competition affect the overall market, including smaller manufacturers?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Food Products Tap into Consumer Behavior Trends

Kraft Heinz's logo on Twitter
Kraft Heinz makes some of the world's most recognized brands--Heinz ketchup, Oscar Meyer hot dogs, Kraft cheese, and Ore-Ida frozen potatoes are just four examples.

But it's also facing ongoing changes in consumer behavior (culture by culture, not just internationally), which means it must adapt its products and its marketing to be competitive and successful in the changing marketplace.

"I think the most important thing we can do is provide options, so consumers can make their choice," says the company's CEO, Bernardo Hees. In other words, innovate new products that meet the needs of customers in specific markets, pointing up benefits and features for those segments.

One product Kraft Heinz recently introduced to the U.S. market is Just Crack an Egg, which combines a couple of consumer-behavior trends: interest in different/novel breakfast formats, desire for faster yet healthy meals, need for simplicity in preparation, and affordability.

What makes Just Crack an Egg unusual from a marketing perspective? The combination of multiple brands that make up the product. Its ingredient brands include Ore-Idea potatoes, Oscar Meyer meat, and Kraft cheese. Also, this product is not in the packaged-goods aisles but in the refrigerated foods aisle, which gives Kraft Heinz a new place to grab attention of the target market.

Will the combination of these famous brands and the novelty of preparation and distribution attract customers who will not just try once but become repeat purchasers over time?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ford Steers Toward SUVs, Crossovers, and Trucks

Now that oil prices have been well below $100/barrel for an extended period, Ford Motor Co. says it's cutting back on its line of passenger cars because of much higher demand for larger vehicles--which deliver higher profits.

As the tweet above indicates, Ford is "transforming our North American lineup by 2020..." The transformation means that U.S. dealers will soon sell only two passenger-type vehicles: the Mustang and the Focus Active (a forthcoming crossover).

The rest of the vehicles in Ford showrooms will be SUVs, trucks, and crossovers. So is Ford speeding away from passenger cars? Not really. The head of global markets says: "We will have a very diverse passenger car business. It just won’t be traditional silhouetted sedans that tend to be commoditized."

In other words, Ford is busy reinventing vehicles with a remix of benefits and design for the next generation of car buyers, resulting in distinctive products that are differentiated from competitive vehicles. The company is also slashing costs to improve profitability. Because the smaller cars don't deliver as much profitability as the larger vehicles, they're being dropped from the product mix.

By 2022, Ford's dealerships in North America will stock none of these models: Fiesta, Focus, and Taurus. The phaseouts will follow the company's product lifecycle schedule. Remember that Ford's marketing in the rest of the world will continue to feature passenger cars that are fuel efficient and fit the driving preferences of local buyers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Heinz Gets Social Media Talking

Heinz recently asked on Twitter for a "vote" on whether the company should launch an official version of mayonnaise-ketchup, or "Mayochup." Of course, consumers have been mixing mayo and ketchup at home to create their own condiment for years. In Utah, it's simply "Fry Sauce."

But now Heinz wanted to know whether demand was high enough for a branded product. And, probably not coincidentally, the social-media "vote" was also a way to get attention for Heinz's branded mayo, which is competing with long-established Hellman's mayo (owned by Unilever).

If Heinz received half a million "yes" votes, it said it would introduce the new product. In the end, Heinz received 511,000+ "yes" votes and announced it would launch the new product later in 2018. Lots of comments, too, and coverage by news outlets.

Next social media question: What should the new product be named, if not Mayochup? No matter the result, Heinz understands that involving the public via crowdsourcing and voting attracts media attention, too.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marketing Earth Day

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, and within months, the US Environmental Protection Agency had been created to protect our precious environment.

Earth Day 2018 will be on Sunday, April 22. This year, the focus will be on plastics--specifically, removing plastics from our waterways and preventing plastics from harming the natural environment.

Of course, Earth Day has its own Twitter account (with 48k followers), its own FB account (with nearly 400k likes), a YouTube channel, Instagram account, and a blog housed on its website.

Businesses, educational groups, and other organizations are going green every day and using Earth Day to put the focus on education and action for ecological health. A few examples: Dow has teamed up with Erb Institute (U of Michigan) for a new sustainability education project. Apple announced, in time for Earth Day, that all its facilities run on 100% green energy. Indiana State University has a bike-share program as part of its Earth Day events, which also include bringing vendors on campus to provide info to students and faculty. Major League Soccer is working toward greener goals on Earth Day. The United Nations has declared the day International Mother Earth Day.

Watch for more environmental activities that encourage consumer and business involvement, along with nonprofits providing education and guidance, leading up to Earth Day and beyond.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Are Competitors Really Stakeholders? Yes!

By far the most popular posts on my marketing blog are those about competitors as stakeholders. Definition of stakeholders: "People or organizations that are affected by or that can affect an organization's performance."

So for the record, let's say it again: Competitors are definitely stakeholders. One academic paper gave six good reasons why this is so--starting with the fact that competitors' interests are not in direct opposition to the interests of a particular marketing organization. In many instances, a rival's goals and situation will be so close to yours that you absolutely must take its actions into consideration. Not to copy that rival but to anticipate and defend against competitive challenges--that's the real reason to look at competitors as stakeholders.

When a competitor introduces a new product that directly competes with your existing product, it's going to have some influence on what happens to your product. When a competitor changes a price (either up or down), that will likely change industry demand and therefore have an impact on your organization. When a competitor trumpets its sustainability initiatives, it could very well have some impact on how customers and other stakeholders compare what you're doing to what that rival is doing. More than ever, consumers care about the ethics and social responsibility of the brands they see. They also have changing preferences that competitors may detect or influence, adding to pressure on you and your industry.

A great example is Amazon vs. Walmart. Each watches the other closely, you can be sure. Walmart is playing catchup in e-commerce but doing a very credible job, even as Amazon encroaches on traditional retailing. Don't forget that this rivalry is having an impact on the rest of the retail industry, as well. The giants make moves, and even other giants must be ready to defend or deflect or initiate something new and different to influence consumer behavior.

As you scan the marketing environment, be sure that rivals are on your stakeholder list. NOT because you want to coordinate price changes--collusion is illegal in most countries--but because your strategy is necessarily influenced by the strategy and tactics of competitors. Be ready.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Changing Face of Brand Typefaces

Southwest Airlines changed its brand's typeface a few years ago. The intent was to give the brand a more friendly, caring look. Instead of all caps, the new brand is written in upper and lower case (better readability, more accessible). And the addition of a heart (shown here in the Twitter account profile) puts "caring" into the spotlight in a very visible way.

I used the Wayback Machine to look at the Southwest brand in 2013. Above, the logo from the airline's website in that year. Notice the all-caps name. Color scheme is same as today, but no heart.

Compare with the Southwest brand in 1999, again from the Wayback Machine's captures of the company's website. All-caps name, no blue, no heart.

With airline industry consolidation a long-term trend, Southwest is no longer the scrappy startup it once was, but a strong, established carrier with a proud history and loyal customer base. The company's forecasts are closely watched for clues to industry trends. And like all airlines, Southwest watches out for price wars that can affect consumer behavior, market share, and profitability.

Therefore, when Southwest changed its brand typeface, the airline wanted to convey a certain attitude toward its customers, giving it a way to stand out in the crowded skies. It even created a separate website, "Southwest Heart," to explain the heart element in its logo.

"Now we have a unique font that really embodies our personality as a brand," explains Southwest's director of brand communications, adding that this helps differentiate the airline from competitors.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Marketing Insects as Food?

Here's an interesting marketing trend in the world of food: Eat bugs.

In Canada, Loblaw's is marketing Cricket Powder, made from ground-up crickets. It's not just full of protein, it's an environmentally-friendly approach to eating. "By making products like Cricket Powder widely available in our grocery stores, we are giving Canadians the option to not only try something new, but to also make a conscious decision on what they eat and how it impacts the environment," says a Loblaw vice-president.

In fact, cricket flour is being incorporated into a range of products. Chapul specializes in cricket-protein chocolate bars, among other edibles. Cowboy Cricket Farms produces 20 million crickets yearly and makes cookies from cricket flour. Chirps chips are made from, yes, cricket flour.

Today, insect-based protein foods are niche products. Do they have the potential to become mainstream products in the not-so-distant future?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Newly Updated: Links to Resources for Your Marketing Plan

Writing or revising a marketing plan? Click here to see more than 60 links to news, ideas, and sources of data for developing or refining a marketing plan.

The links include these categories:

  • Info about the marketing environment, customers, and markets
  • Info about businesses and competition
  • Info about social responsibility, ethics, and sustainability
  • Info about marketing tools, processes, and analytics
  • Trends in retailing and marketing channels
  • Trends in mobile marketing and online retailing
One link I check often is Knowledge @ Wharton, where experts analyze timely trends in business and nonprofit marketing. Take a look and see what you can take away that will help you with your marketing plans.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Marketing Makeup for Men

Makeup for men is gaining increased marketing attention worldwide. "Makup for men is a thing now" read the headline on MarketWatch last August, and it's even more of a thing in 2018.

For instance, David Beckham has a new men's grooming brand, House 99, marketed by L'Oreal. Just launched--and already its Facebook page has more than 11k followers.

MMUK Man opened the first retail store specifically for men's skin-care products only a few months ago. The five-year-old brand is growing rapidly and showing bigger brands that this is a niche worth watching.

Another startup, Ava-J, is also leveraging men's interest in skin care by marketing grooming products and looking for boutique distribution, not supermarket distribution.

Cosmetics for men are a major trend in China these days, where global brands like L'Oreal, Nivea, and Clinique are especially prized.

Watch for more major brands to launch product lines targeting men and create distribution deals to ensure that men know where they can find these new products in retail channels.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Most Reputable Brands in 2018

Which brands came out on top in the recent Harris Poll consumer survey about reputation? Harris asks about six dimensions affecting reputation, including products, social responsibility, emotional appeal, workplace environment, financial results, and vision/leadership.

Hint: The same company has topped the list for three consecutive years. In other words, this company's reputation has remained the highest among surveyed consumers.

Here's the list of top 10 most reputable brands in 2018:

10. Aldi (deep-discount grocery retailer)
9. Patagonia (retailer of outdoor apparel and equipment)
8. Publix Super Markets (major grocery retailer)
7. UPS (package delivery service)
6. HEB Grocery (Texas-based grocery retailer)
5. Walt Disney (entertainment company)
4. Chick-fil-A (fast-food restaurant chain)
3. Tesla (automotive and solar energy firm)
2. Wegmans (grocery retailer)

and the top firm in this year's poll is . . . . . .

1. Amazon (pioneering online retailer)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Marketing Coca-Cola

Passing through Atlanta, Coca-Cola's home town, I noticed this vending machine chock full of the company's sodas, waters, and juices. The Cherry Coke caught my eye. This traditional favorite was introduced 33 years ago, and now comes in regular plus zero sugar versions.

What also caught my eye is the recent news that Coca-Cola is launching an "alcopop" beverage in Japan. The new beverage is a low-alcohol drink designed specifically for that market. In fact, Coke experiments with up to 100 new products in Japan every year, gearing its marketing to consumers who enjoy variety and eagerly snap up limited-edition and limited-time (seasonal) products.

Tempting variety-seekers is a wise strategy for mature markets. The company's recent financial results show that fizzy-drink sales are flat, but water, tea, and coffee beverages are scoring well with consumers.

To reignite interest in sodas, Coke is introducing different flavors like peach and raspberry Coke in America. Extensive marketing research showed the appeal of these "vintage" varieties so reminiscent of local flavors mixed up by soda jerks behind the soda fountains of a bygone era. The company is also adding varieties like Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Peach in UK and beyond.

Watch for more new products as Coke continues to be guided by its 2020 mission of refreshing the world, inspiring happiness and optimism, and creating value.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Global Brands Market to China

Nissan Micra
The consumer market in China, which has seen its buying power grow year after year, continues to be the focus of many multinational brands' marketing efforts.

The Japanese automaker Nissan recently announced that it expects China will be the brand's top market within four years. Detroit-based Ford has actively marketed to Chinese consumers for years and, after a reset in 2018 to introduce new products, it sees China as a key market. "In China, you get a big uptick with a new product. And if you don’t have new product, you pay a little bit of a price for that," explains a senior Ford official.

California-based streetwear brand Vans is emphasizing social and digital media in targeting Chinese consumers, using the highly popular WeChat social network in particular. Well-known global fashion brands like YSL, Chanel and Dior are extending their names to makeup products and attracting fans in China, competing with established cosmetics brands popular there, such as Estee Lauder and Shiseido.

Brands can pursue omnichannel marketing to offer consumers in China multiple ways of making a purchase. The ecommerce giant Alibaba, for instance, serves as a valuable distribution channel for global brands like Burberry.

Meanwhile, Chinese brands are targeting US consumers. As just one example, China-based automaker GAC will begin marketing its electric cars and SUVs in America next year. Watch for more Chinese brands to enter Western markets year after year, even as US brands continue entering China.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Consumer Behavior and Ad Blockers


No question, ad blockers like Ad Blocker Plus are increasingly popular. By one estimate, more than 26% of US consumers use ad blockers to avoid advertising when online. And that estimate was from mid-2017. Today, I'm certain the figure is much higher.

The reason consumers install ad blockers is to avoid ads they find annoying, distracting, or intrusive. Of course, that presents a problem to sites like newspapers, which depend on serving up ads to visitors in order to help pay for content. That's why Ad Blocker Plus, for instance, allows some ads through--"acceptable ads" that meet its standards for being non-intrusive.

Google has given registered users the option of "muting" reminder ads since 2012. Users have to sign in for this feature to be operative. This allows consumers to have some level of control over tracking and repetitive ads.

Now Chrome, from Google, will have ad blocking built in as of February 15. This new Chrome feature won't block every ad, just ads that don't meet certain standards. Ads that jack up the volume or that flash will be blocked, among other types of ads. Only an estimated 1% of publishers will be affected, because their ads fail to meet the standards. Remember, Google's parent, Alphabet, derives 84% of its revenue from advertising.

Another key trend is the use of anti-ad-blocking systems to get around the blockers installed by consumers. This trend indicates that the battle for eyes on advertising and consumer attention is still very active, given the high stakes.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Picks for Best Super Bowl Ads of 2018


According to the USA Today Ad Meter, the Amazon commercial where Alexa temporarily loses her voice was the top ad during the Super Bowl, closely followed by my favorite, the NFL commercial featuring Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.

According to NPR, the best celebrity-studded ad of the game was Doritos Blaze vs. Mountain Dew Ice, starring Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman.

ABC chose the Amazon ad as one of its faves, along with the NFL ad, the Budweiser commercial showcasing the company's delivery of clean water to disaster areas, and the Doritos Blaze/Mountain Dew ad.

Time also picked the Amazon ad. In addition, it singled out the funny P&G ads for Tide, featuring David Harbour.

Washington Post liked Tide, Doritos Blaze/Mountain Dew, and Amazon.

Themes this year: funny (as usual), heart warming, and socially-responsible, appealing to emotions rather than logic. Very few ads had anything to do with the old-fashioned USP (unique selling proposition).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Super Bowl Ad Preview 2018: How to Stand Out

How can a brand stand out during the Super Bowl's commercial-packed ad schedule? This is a high priority issue, given the multimillion dollar cost of the commercial time, not to mention production costs and sheer "noise"--meaning the number of ads packed into a commercial break during the big game.

One strategy being used to stand out in 2018: Publicize NOT running an ad during the Super Bowl. No, this time it isn't the classic Go Daddy technique, as in 2015, when the web hosting firm was "forced" to pull an ad at the last minute due to protests about content. At the time, the CMO said: "Now we are at the point where we don’t need to grow brand awareness domestically any more. A platform like the Super Bowl is really not something that’s necessary for us." Lots of publicity about not running a Super Bowl ad!

This time, the company that is NOT running a Super Bowl ad is Skittles. The candy brand had run ads in the past, but for 2018, it's telling the world that only one viewer (a teenager in California) will be able to view the Skittles commercial starring David Schwimmer. One viewer, one time.

The world will be able to watch the viewer's reaction via Facebook Live (the brand has 23 million likes and 22 million followers). No commercial, just the viewer's reaction. Oh, Skittles is using teaser ads, starring Schwimmer, to publicize the lack of a Super Bowl ad and the exclusivity of the audience. And watch for a "documentary" about the one ad/one viewer experience, right after the big game.

Skittles is highly social, with an active Twitter presence and 393,000 followers, plus 40,000 Instagram followers...among other accounts. Lots of David Schwimmer teaser images for the non-Super Bowl ad.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cashier or No Cashier? That's Amazon's Question

After a year of testing, Amazon has finally officially opened its Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle. Highly touted: No cashiers--customers simply "grab and go" and their purchases are automatically billed to their online accounts as they leave the store.

This is supposed to save time (and saves Amazon a bit of payroll money). How much time? And do customers care about that extra minute or two? Or are they just happy not to stand in line as they do at traditional stores?

Employees are in the store, restocking shelves and answering questions. But how do customers feel about the setup? One told a reporter that "you feel like you're stealing when you go out the door" because there's no checkout.

Of course, the lanes set up to capture purchases electronically do suggest a checkout kind of feeling when customers walk out. You can see them just behind the customer in the photo above, as he enters the store in Seattle (photo from Amazon's website). These lanes resemble traditional security scanners in certain department stores.

Is this more comfortable or convenient for shoppers than walking up to a cashier when completing a purchase transaction? That's what Amazon will be finding out if it expands Amazon Go beyond its own hometown.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Nestlé and Ferrero Shape Up US Product Portfolios

Nestlé USA, whose parent company is based in Switzerland, just announced the sale of its U.S. candy products to Ferrero. Included are the familiar brands shown above.

Not included are the iconic Toll House products and even more iconic KitKat chocolate products. Interestingly, Nestlé doesn't make or market the KitKat bars you buy in U.S. markets--those are made and marketed by Hershey.

This acquisition puts Ferrero into the number-three slot among US candy marketers, behind Mars and Hershey. Ferrero has actually been on a buying spree, picking up Ferrara Candy and Fannie May in 2017. Ferrero already owns well-known brands like Nutella and TicTac, marketed for decades and popular with loyal customers. 

Both NestlĂ© and Ferrero view their product portfolios from a global perspective. What sells well and where? Where and why are products not just popular but profitable? And what are the long-term prospects for growth? NestlĂ© is reshaping its portfolio as it sets profit goals and examines consumption and buying trends. Ferrero is looking ahead to production expansion and technological innovation being drivers of sustainable growth. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Marketing the Film-and-Food Experience

Alamo Drafthouse is one of a growing number of movie theaters marketing an eat-in menu along with the film.

Alamo is known for offering meals and snacks (and beverages, it is a drafthouse) keyed to the theme of the movies it shows. The idea is to make the movie-going experience about more than the film.

Alamo famously bans phones and texting during the movie to prevent distractions. And, unlike most movie chains, Alamo doesn't make the audience sit through previews and ads before the feature. The film and the food are the focus.

Now Alamo is trying something new, bringing back the old idea of a video store. It will even rent VCR equipment to people who want to watch VHS tapes rather than DVDs or Blu-Ray DVDs.

Movie Tavern is another food-and-film chain, marketed with the tag line "Movies never tasted so good." The company's svp of culinary and guest experience notes that Movie Tavern's menu has to be "bold in flavor and approachable in design, due to the fact our guests are eating in the dark."

When Movie Tavern changes its menu, it gives thought to the eating experience as well as the latest flavors and new food trends. From craft beer to shakes to mixed drinks, beverages add a special touch to the in-cinema experience.

Another marketer of food-and-films is iPic Entertainment, which actually makes more money from food and beverage sales than it does from ticket sales. The motto is "Your Ultimate Night Out" as iPic serves seasonal foods and beverages.

The biggest theater chains have taken notice and are testing food offerings to attract movie lovers to pay for the big-screen experience again and again. It's all about the customer experience.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Influential 2018 Marketing Trends

A Look Ahead: 2018
Here are some of the marketing trends expected to be among the most influential in the coming year:
  • Video is still one of the top ways to engage customers and prospects. Facebook and Instagram are vital here . . . and for longer-form video, YouTube and branded microsites rule. Think cross-platform as consumers switch among devices.
  • Influencer marketing will be even more important in 2018, with marketers working with multiple influencers to extend reach, reinforce messages, gain better targeting, create new associations.
  • Apps are in the spotlight--both branded apps and in-app advertising. Retailers in particular are using apps to help consumers make better buying decisions.
  • Content marketing for B2B (and B2C) will be more targeted, more integrated with other marketing activities, and held accountable for achieving results. Again, think cross-platform and multimedia, as consumers access content via multiple devices and media.
  • Mobile marketing (such as geofencing) will increase in importance, given the maturity of the smartphone market and the popularity of mobile devices.
  • More transparency than ever before will be demanded by consumers and by marketers. This means better information about supply chains, about audience characteristics, about products, about privacy policies, and about results.