Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Responding to competitor attack ads

AT&T counters Verizon's claims

Early in fall 2009, Verizon unveiled a new advertising effort attacking rival AT&T to complement its long running "Can you hear me now?" campaign.

Using coverage maps, Verizon's new campaign claimed AT&T's wireless 3G coverage paled in comparison to Verizon. Verizon hoped that a picture was indeed worth "a thousand words".

AT&T did not wait long to respond
However, it was a lawsuit petitioning the court to require Verizon to stop the ads. The request was declined.

If at first you don't succeed...
Immediately after their court defeat in November 2009, AT&T moved to counter Verizon's claims with an advertising campaign of their own. Since then, AT&T advertisements have been run across media. The ads had themes similar to the ads below.

Where things currently stand
There has been no slowdown at year end 2009 as the wireless giants continue to trade advertising punches. However, AT&T is not allowing Verizon to solely frame and control the messages put out to the public.

And in the meantime
Sprint and T-Mobile will be happy that Verizon and AT&T keep beating each other up.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking advertising for a drive

billboards + SUVs + word-of-mouth = new twist on advertising

For the last several years, "wrapped" buses have acted as moving billboards.

Now, companies are getting family vehicles into the act as well.

By selecting the drivers carefully, advertisers not only get roving promotion... they get product ambassadors who provide word-of-mouth about the advertised store or product to family, friends, acquaintances, and the otherwise curious.

Here's how it works:
Today Show, 12-23-09 -- Jenna Wolfe reporting

Monday, December 21, 2009

The shopping experience

Dressing rooms, merchandising, the senses, and more...

This morning, the Today Show showed an interesting segment on retail shopping. The segment shows several retailing strategies and tactics that facilitate a pleasurable experience.

The portion of the segment below features a visit to a mall by the reporter, Janice Lieberman, and Marshal Cohen -- the author of "Why Customers Do What They Do".

Retailers need to analyze if, and if so how, their stores provide customers with experiences that makes shopping pleasurable and interesting.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The last shopping days before Christmas (2009)

'Twas the last days before Christmas, when all through the stores
Not enough customers were coming thru the sliding front doors.
The shopping carts were arranged in a tidy neat row,
Awaiting frenzied shoppers to spend lots of dough.

The registers were staffed by an anticipating crew,
With hopes that paying shoppers were surely soon due.
And the manager with keys and the new hire named Don,
Had just checked the front sign to make sure it was on.

When out in the parking lot there arose such a stew,
Employees rushed to the windows to see the new view.
Away from the panes they returned to their places,
With not a grin but frowns on their faces.

For it was not future buyers making the fuss,
But just a trash truck and a big passing bus.
Now time was short to start making sales,
Discounts and coupons should cure all that ails.

But customers still did not buy in quantities sought,
Retailers scared of low revenues from products not bought.
Wishing but knowing that holiday earnings wouldn't be stout,
But in the back of their minds, Congress might bail them out.

Maybe this is a time to just try to scrape by,
And come back December 26th to give it another try.
For then unwrapped gift cards will be burning a hole,
In wallets of shoppers ready to give it another go.

To get what they want, to make post-Christmas hay,
Let's hope they spend until this New Year's Day.
Retailing is tough, this holiday season two thousand-eight,
Let's just survive and see next year's fate.

So from the advertisements giving it one more last try,
"Happy Christmas to all, and please from us buy."
Not much has changed since last year --
re-posted from this blog (12-18-08)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A viral - guerrilla marketing hybrid

T-Mobile's "dance" spread virally, impacted spectators

Definitions (adapted from Wikipedia)
Viral marketing refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives through self-replicating viral processes by users spreading a message among their various reference groups and associations -- analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages.

The concept of guerrilla marketing was invented as an unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than a big marketing budget. Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are unexpected and unconventional; potentially interactive; and consumers are targeted in unexpected places.

How it's a hybrid promotion
Viral marketing: The T-Mobile video below was passed along to me by a family member, who had received it from a friend. Naturally, I watched the video since I received it from family... score one for T-Mobile!

Guerrilla marketing: As you watch the video, notice the reactions of the spectators. One can safely assume they talked about this to friends, co-workers and family for quite some time... score another for T-Mobile!

Three things that can be learned from this promotion:

  1. Businesses have the opportunity to make promotions that are not "just the same old thing". Such promotions can often cut through the clutter of advertisements that consumers are bombarded by on a daily basis.
  2. Fun can work... it does not always have to be about celebrities, sensualness or fear.
  3. People are willing to be a "message emmissary" -- passing along to others what they find fun, cute, interesting, unusual, etc.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Can celebrity endorsements work?

Some still wonder if celebrities can really influence behavior.

Take a couple of minutes and watch the following two videos... then you decide.

NOTE: If you want to see something interesting, play both at the same time... starting the second video once Taylor Swift starts singing in the first.

Since celebrity endorsers represent a brand, selection and affiliation should be undertaken with great care. However, celebrities can/do influence consumer behavior.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Music can add the right note

Songs, jingles and melodies can catch your attention and stick in your brain.

Imagine a teacher leaving a high school classroom... the boys start rhythmically drumming their desks in unison.

What's going on? A disorderly mob? No... it was That's G.

Don't know what "That's G" is? Play the following video.

Need to set a tone in a commercial... consider including a song. Regions Bank wants to show how happy they make their customers.

How? Just listen.

Can jingles really help message retention? How much is a foot-long Subway?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day promotions

Applebee's and Macy's approach national holiday differently.

Applebee's Veterans Day 2009 promotion
Applebee's Restaurants offered free entrees to all veterans and active military personnel on Veterans Day to show "sincere gratitude for your honorable service".

Macy's Veterans Day 2009 promotion
A traditional sale.

With the U.S. military at war in multiple theaters
++++Macy's promotion rings a bit shallow.
++++Applebee's promotion feels right.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's (already) beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Retailers not waiting to start the holiday season... will it be discounts as usual?

Sitting in my home waiting for trick-or-treaters to start arriving in a few hours, it is interesting to consider the upcoming holiday retail season. Retailers of all types -- from big box discounters to small specialty stores, brick-and-mortars to clicks-only -- are struggling to figure out how to handle another slow holiday season. ............................................. ................................................
Typical move
Many have already started offering and promoting products for purchase for the holidays -- either as gifts or decorations -- in the hope to capture the expected limited consumer spending this season.

While this might have a bit of success for some, this strategy has to overcome a major hurdle taught to consumers by retailers themselves.

Retailers have taught consumers that if they wait, retailers will flinch first when holiday sales are slow and then the discounts will come. Consumers are not dumb. They've learned that they will be rewarded with lower prices if they postpone the start of their holiday shopping. ...................................................................... .........................
What retailers are trying
It seems that more retailers are trying to move away from extreme holiday discounting by limiting inventory -- hoping consumers will buy at closer-to-full price if they are concerned that the products they want are in short supply.

Price-conscious shoppers or retailers... who will win?
My money is on consumers. Several major retailers have already started holiday discounting including Sears, Borders, and Kohl's. About a week ago, Walmart announced a holiday season discount pricing format where sales would rotate for different products throughout the holiday shopping season.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeny Jr 10-30-09)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Will passengers get frequent flyer miles?

Northwest airlines has a public relations fiasco... how it is dealt with will be worth watching.

How does an airplane fly past a destination by 150 miles? Apparently when the Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight crew was too busy arguing to maintain "situational awareness".

Ouch. What a public relations mess.

While the airline has reportedly temporarily suspended the two pilots, the flying public will be watching how NWA (and its parent Delta) continues to deal with this situation.

What's at stake? Only convincing future passengers that they will be in good hands if they fly with NWA .

The 144 passengers on the wayward NWA flight could have only wished for U.S. Airways Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III (right) -- pilot of the "Miracle on the Hudson River".

This will be an interesting public relations case study to watch unfold over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Answering consumer questions

Starbucks does not leave consumers wondering why to buy new instant coffee

If anyone had doubts why to buy Starbucks' newly introduced instant coffee, they only needed to open the two-page advertising spreads in the October 23, 2009 editions of The New York Times (A24 & 25) and USA Today (8A & 9) to get some suggestions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This parody in advertisement well done

If the old adage "parody is the sincerest form of flattery" is true, then parody can make for pretty entertaining and attention getting commercials too.

Good natured parody of online matchmaking services -- like eHarmony -- is used in a new commercial. It's fun, unexpected and an attention getter. And that guy must really love that product... a very clear brand image to leave the viewer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Starbucks gift cards... they really ran out?

Stock outs equal sales lost... that may never be gotten back.

Needing a gift for a business acquaintance this morning, I stopped by a local Starbucks to pick up a gift card only to be told they had run out -- "come back in two days when they might be in".

Undeterred, I proceeded to a second Starbucks and found that they too were out. Upon being asked how this could happen to multiple stores, a worker stated that there was a delay in getting the new Fall themed gift cards. The worker then suggested buying one at a local Walmart or grocery store (they might not have run out of the old style).

The end result today? A local competitor to Starbucks sold a $20 gift card. That does not sound like much because it isn't... but add that to how many other gift cards sales were lost due to this multi-day stock out snafu and Starbucks might be out a decent amount of sales.

In any event, although a minor consumer matter, it was not very impressive marketing effort by Starbucks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I like this T.V. commercial... maybe not

We love it when celebrities poke fun at themselves

If you are a pro football fan you know the annual story from the last few years... will he or won't he? Anyone who does not know who the "he" is will miss the joke in the television advertisement.

Who is he and what's the annual event? Future NFL hall-0f-fame quarterback Brett Favre and his annual "I might retire, I might not retire" drama that has been played out on ESPN and the newspaper sports pages across America for the last several years (FYI... he has not retired yet).

Sears is featuring a play on Favre and his indecision in a current T.V. commercial. It's good natured fun and attention getting (at least to football fans). Sears hopes that watching Favre = getting their brand message (tagged at the end of the ad).

Monday, October 5, 2009

A formula for increasing sales during a recession

Competitors are hurting - how does Hyundai do it?

September 2009 sales statistics tell a grime story for U.S. auto sales... as soon as the summer federal auto bailout program ended, auto sales plummeted... except for Hyundai and Kia (which Hyundai has a significant ownership stake in).

Read it and weep
While September '09 auto sales declined for General Motors, Toyota,Honda, Chrysler, Nissan and Ford, Hyundai sales were up 27%.

How do they do it?
Hyundai has implemented a fundamental tenet of marketing -- an attractive product with high quality offered at a "good"(in the eyes of the customer) price = customer value. And if that value is judged significant enough, consumers will buy -- even in a down economy.
This is not the only strategy option but it is the one Hyundai chose and is delivering on.
Two decades ago, Hyundai was a 'dirty' word in the U.S.
The introduction of the Hyundai brand in the U.S. was less than successful. A butt of jokes, quality issues negatively impacted the brand to the extent that Hyundai abandoned the U.S. auto market. After correcting quality flaws, Hyundai restarted U.S. sales... but had to offer 10 year warranties to induce consumers to buy a brand they remembered as inferior. While still offering the warranty, an increasing number of drivers are attracted to the combination of product, quality and price.
Truth in advertising
Hyundai's current slogan describes it well: Hyundai Momentum

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Instilling consumer confidence

Always remember -- consumers pick up cues about businesses from a variety of inputs.

Does this sign instill confidence that you want this repair shop to work on your car?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Retailers... let customers know about your services

It is a great service that I had never heard about. In fact, it is a bit difficult to get information about the service from the retailer's website. Bed Bath and Beyond allows you to shop and order online or at a store and then have the order waiting for pick up at a different store -- even if that location is across the country.

The service worked well for my family as we shipped a child off to college... no need to stuff a car full of items bought at home or pay for extra suitcases to carry more things on an airplane. Just order and have the products waiting at the local (to where ever the university is) Bed Bath and Beyond store.

The only problem was we found out about this valuable service by chance. We never heard or saw any ads about it. Even the retailer's website does not make it clear -- even on their "Shop for College" web page.

Using the service worked out great for us... I just wonder how many more families would have used it if they would have only known?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Don't add confusion to marketing effort

I actually like the commercial. It's just that the choice of Dunkin Donuts, used as an example to emphasize a point in a nationally televised Sprint commercial, that is interesting .

While Dunkin Donuts is well known in various parts of the county, the chain is only in 34 of the 50 states (68%). The region where I live happens to be one of the areas without them.

I asked some people who I saw the commercial with whether they "got" the Dunkin Donuts reference. It did not mean much to any of them -- though several had heard of the donut chain.

Does it hurt the advertisement? I do not know. But such a brand non-recognition or attachment to a "hook" in your commercial sure can't help.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Impress customers, not yourself

If you have thoughts similar to these, think twice:

  • "I've been in this business for 20 years... I know what to do."
  • "Customers don't know what they want but I do."
  • "Customers are dumb."

Thinking you know more than customers is a trap more common than one might think.

A case study:

The current Burger King advertising campaign featuring a very hip king (see above) gets attention and some acclaim for creativity. One never knows where the king will show up. From waking up people to promote breakfast at BK (right) to dancing with Sponge Bob Square Pants to promote Kid's Meals (see video below)... the BK King certainly gets around.

Burger King's current problem?

While fast food consumers seek products at lower prices, BK is sticking to the image of the hip king with little in response to customer pricing desires.

While McDonald's has responded to consumer economic concerns with an expanded "Dollar Menu", Burger King has been airing the booty bumping Sponge Bob commercial (and just recently adding a $1 Whopper Jr. TV commercial).

The results? Burger King revenue is down since March 2009 while McDonald's rose 7% in April 2009 alone .

Even in the current economy, Burger King thought their customers should value image over prices. Apparently, BK was wrong.

P.S. Promoting Kid's Meals with a crotch grabbing king and shaking square booties? That's a topic for a future posting.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

TV commercials that reflect the times we are in

Timeliness of subject

A direct jab at competitor to stimulate sales

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Profiting from local "super bowls"

Businesses need to maximize benefits from local happenings.

With the kick off of Super Bowl XLIII just a few hours away, the vast majority of game-related purchases of flat screen TVs, food and drink have been made.

But before sitting back and watching the game and commercials (or should that be commercials and the game?), a bit of marketing reflection is in order.

What's in it if your business is not a Pepsi, E-Trade or Budweiser?

How can a local business benefit from the Super Bowl if you don't sell chips, pizzas, drinks and television? It's pretty limited if it's only the real Super Bowl. Either you sell "game" items or you don't.

The wider lesson is what can be learned from the business of the Super Bowl.

What local events provide a "super bowl" for the customer base served by your business?

The area I reside in hosts:
  • a street 3-on-3 basketball tournament that draws tens of thousands of players
  • a 7 mile run with over 40,000 participants annually
  • a wide range of events in the main city park - from concerts to fireworks, food-fests to theatre.
  • events at the convention center
  • sporting events of the local universities and high schools

These are just a few of the many events... most of which are smaller events targeting a tightly focused group of customers who share many traits -- a true target marketing opportunity.

Businesses should identify and benefit from events in their areas that offer mini-super bowls. Consider sponsorships, participation in as vendors, offering products for participants, special pricing, event ticket sales for a discount price when bought at your business, and so forth.

The opportunities for your business to benefit from a (local) super bowl are there. Consider taking them.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

dey gru ^ txtN -- w@ wl biznessz nd 2 do?

Translation: "they grew up texting -- what will businesses need to do?"

Cross-posted @ Generational Impact blog

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Every store can't be Walmart

Every business cannot offer the lowest prices... so what else can be done to increase the chances that customers will buy?

Two January 2009 shopping trips, two very different scenes.

Trip #1 to a local mall on a Saturday afternoon. Few shoppers. Even fewer buyers -- it was startling how few people were carrying shopping bags with purchases.

Trip #2 to a local Walmart on a Saturday afternoon. Hard to find an empty parking spot (picture just below). The store was packed with shoppers. 35 of 38 cash registers were open and all had lines.

Fact: In the current economic climate, shoppers are attracted to low prices.

Fact: Not all stores can compete price-wise with the Walmarts of the world.

Beyond low prices, what are businesses doing to increase customer purchases?

Note: While not new tactics, the following are examples of methods some firms are employing in attempt to keep customers buying.

  1. Bundle current products together for a "deal". Recently, Jack In The Box announced the new "Jumbo Deal" (picture below) that combined a sandwich, tacos and fries for $2.99. Even if the price covers only costs, the fast food restaurant can profit from the likely sale of a highly profitable soft drink.

  2. Reduce purchase risk by offering attractive warranties and guarantees. Already tightening their purse strings and wallets, even willing consumers are looking for methods to minimize risks of unwise spending on products. Businesses can increase consumer confidence in purchases by offering strong (as perceived by the buyers) product warranties and guarantees (money back if not satisfied, you will not find at a lower price, etc.).

  3. Allow consumers to try the product before purchasing. More businesses are finding ways to allow customers to "test drive" their products. Starbucks is offering free trials of two new Tazo tea drinks (with a coupon from a USA Today advertising insert -- picture below). This allows customers to be more sure that they like the product before purchase thereby increasing their buying confidence to overcome risks of spending money that is in short supply.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The "surprising" state of brand perception at General Motors

GM's recent television spots seem to be an admission of what the company knows too many consumers think about their vehicles

During the holiday season of 2008, General Motors ran a series of television advertisements for a "Red Tag" sales event (that would run through early January 2009). As would be expected, these spots were visually appealing and conveyed various logical GM branding points to consumers --such as vehicle safety, high resale value, good fuel mileage, and appealing / attractive vehicle makes and models.

However, upon deeper examination, it was not these points that were most revealing. Rather it was a tag line and story line that gave a glimpse into what General Motors understands how their products are perceived by the car buying public.

Example 1: "Made by GM... Surprised?"
One set of commercials for multiple GM makes and models highlighted product value points -- safety awards, resale value, fuel mileage -- of the featured vehicles. It is worth noting that after listing such a good vehicle attribute comes the tag line of "Made by GM... Surprised?".

These four words reveal what GM knows about the state of their brand. Should consumers be surprised that GM can make a quality vehicle? Apparently GM thinks so.

Here are three of the spots.

Example 2: Customer at Saturn dealership can't believe his eyes

Another television spot shows a customer walking into a Saturn showroom, then upon seeing attractive vehicles there, looks back outside at the street sign to make sure he was at a Saturn dealer. He is surprised to learn that Saturn has attractive vehicles. From the comments of the salespeople, many others share his surprise.

This glimpse into what GM understands -- that consumers perceive Saturn product offerings as non-appealing design-wise and that consumers will be surprised that Saturn can build attractive vehicles.

It is amazing to think that good vehicles from General Motors should be surprising to American consumers.