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.