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