Archive for the ‘Marketing’ category

The Power of Branded Apparel

December 25, 2015

Thanks to Microsoft for a great holiday ad and a perfect demonstration of the power of branded merchandise.

I saw this ad before a movie at AMC.  It shows Microsoft people, dressed in Microsoft branded hats, t-shirts and scarves singing to Apple employees.

Some of you who read my blog know that I have been working in the promotional goods industry for just under 5 years now.  I am CIO for a mid sized company that works with Fortune 1000 clients to help them buy their branded merchandise (my team creates the websites / estores they use to shop for the products and merchandises the products on the stores).

I enjoy my job, but I rarely have contact with the marketing teams or those who make the choices about what branded merchandise to purchase.  So I can become disengaged with the meaning and impact of what we do for our clients.  This commercial was a great reminder of the power of branded merchandise.

Imagine this commercial without the branded hats, t-shirts and scarves.  How would you know who they were and what brands were represented?   They walk through the streets of New York to get to the Apple store. How could you have picked them out in the crowd if they didn’t have the hats on?  And if the Apple team members didn’t have the Apple logo on their shirts, you would have entirely missed the message of peace on earth between these 2 big competitors.

Nice work Microsoft.  Thanks for the demonstration and reminder that logos and branded merchandise can speak louder than words.





Big Lots Goes Real

December 25, 2015

This blog is a shout out to Big Lots for using real sized women for their holiday ads.  I saw the first one for Black Friday and then the one that followed where they sang “Christmas doesn’t happen without me.”

It was so refreshing to see ads that don’t feature stick figures dancing and singing.  And to have the words of the song recognize how hard many women, moms and heads of households work to get the gifts and the holidays together was wonderful as well.  I can see the average Big Lots consumer saying to themselves, “Big Lots gets me.  They realize how hard I work to make the holidays special and they are going to help me do it.”  I would love to see their loyalty ratings before and after – I truly hope they get the jump they deserve.

The only thing that saddened me was to see the stupid comments on the YouTube site where I grabbed this link.  I am always amazed at the ignorance of the average person who feels the need to take the time to say something negative about an ad.  At least there were some positive comments on there as well. Sigh.  I long for the days when we didn’t have to see everyone’s opinion of everything.  But then I guess, no one would read my blog.  Drat.  Another catch 22.

Wishing you a happy and positive holiday season.


Nice Job GNC

July 10, 2014

It has been a while since I have posted, but today I was inspired by GNC to write.

GNC has launched a new ad campaign called Beat Average.  You can view it here. 

I am impressed with this campaign for 4 reasons:

1. It has tremendous insight into consumer behavior and the reality of how we think and act.  They are truly holding up a mirror to the bulk of the population.

2. They are buying time in very smart ways.  I first saw it this morning as the ad that ran after I had played an on demand exercise video.  I had just worked out and it was almost a reward / pat on the back for me that I was not average today.  They understood me at that moment.  Nicely timed.

3. The ad is very motivating.  It is well written, filmed and edited.

4. They are launching this campaign in the middle of summer.  Usually, we see the “you need to diet and exercise” ads all crammed together in January (post New Year’s resolution) or in May / June at the beginning of swimsuit season.  GNC (who may have actually been late to the party for reasons beyond their control or actually made this a conscious decision) is not competing with all those other ads right now.  So their’s stands out.

Nice job GNC.  I may stroll over and get some Whey Protein Powder just to encourage such smart moves.

Social Media – It isn’t news

September 8, 2011

I attended a presentation last night at the University of Chicago Marketing Round Table.  The presenter, Jonathan Salem Baskin, made some interesting points about social media that I wanted to share.

He recently wrote a book where he traces social media throughout history.  With many major technology innovations in the past, our ability to connect with others has increased.  The social media concept isn’t new (he gave some great examples in history – the telegraph, the radio, the telephone, television, expressways built in the 50’s – all things that allowed us to connect with others in a new way).   Facebook and Twitter were the most recent examples.  And there will be others in the future that we can’t correctly predict now.  Technology innovations will always be developed to help us connect better with others.  In other words, technology change is a constant. 

While I didn’t agree with everything he said, I do think the part of his discussion that was impactful was the reminder that since technology changes will always be there, we should be focused more on the messages we give to our customers and less on the technology

We need purpose driven content – something that is meaningful to our audience. 

We need to consider who we are targeting and how they want to hear from us.  Finding your most receptive audiences and have a conversation with them if it will enhance the relationship.  If not, do not waste their time.

And I would add that if you are delivering a stellar product or service and doing it in a way that provides awesome customer service; your customer will reward you.  Great marketing – social or traditional – cannot make up for a bad product or bad service.

Customer Control and Social Media

May 5, 2011

Peter Kim from the Dachus Group (formerly with Forrester and also a UPenn alum) is a long time writer and consultant about social media.  I subscribe to his posts and want to reprint one for you in its entirety today.  I think this presents a truly balanced perspective on the amount of power consumers have through social media.  The perception is that they have a ton of power.  But the reality is that when the decision makes sense for a corporation, the corporation will make the changes requested by the consumer.  But when the change will not make sense or will not pay out in the long run, the corporation is unlikely to make the change.  And for business, that does make dollars and sense.

Here is Peter’s Post:

Customers aren’t in control.

At least not in the way that the social media cliche would have you believe.

I was on an Alaska Airlines flight last week from Austin to San Jose. This route is nicknamed “the nerd bird.” However, Alaska announced that it would be canceling the route in May. While we were boarding, a passenger was lamenting its demise to a flight attendant. She told him that another frequent flyer had been on a mission collecting comment cards from the in-flight magazine to stage a write-in campaign to save the route.

Which reminds me of another write-in campaign that was once touted a feel-good best practice example of the POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA. As background, I disclose that I’m no stranger to being on the business end of multiple write-in campaigns. I’ve heard an earful about chimpanzee exploitation, racist reggae artists, and sexually suggestive advertising. But that was before social media – faxes, phone calls, and email are all one-to-one communication. Today, detractors can voice their displeasure publicly and incite others more quickly to their cause; examples like Comcast Must Die abound. The apparent takeaway for brands: customers are in control whether you like it or not.

 In 2006, US television network CBS piloted a new show called “Jericho.” It was a tale about a small town in middle America and nuclear holocaust, with plot driven by the principles having a lack of information. CBS programming executives had all the information they needed, watching show ratings drop like a bomb. The show was cancelled. That was when social media swung into action.

CBS is nutsJericho fanatics started a write-in campaign to save their show. But they took it a step further. In the show’s final episode, a protagonist utters the rallying cry “nuts!” before heading into battle. Jericho enthusiasts embraced the idea and decided to send nuts to CBS President Nina Tassler. 40 tons of nuts. Finally, the network makes the decision to bring Jericho back for another season and tells fans, “P.S. Please stop sending us nuts.

The story is described as a victory of social media. Power to the people! Consumers are in control!

But that’s not where the story ends. Jericho came back to TV – but no one was watching. Ratings were worse than when the show went off the air. Without ratings, a network can’t drive advertising revenue – and fans aren’t enough to offset a lack of corporate sponsorship. Jericho was cancelled again and finally put to rest. People rarely tell the part of the story where social media is proven wrong and that’s important to understand.

It’s true that consumers vote with their dollars. Social media can also generate business results when used properly. Plenty of opportunities exist for applying new thinking to content, operations, viewer engagement, commercial support, cross-platform integration, and elsewhere. It’s dangerous to rely on blanket statements from the early days of social media to today’s social business operating environment.

Pete Blackshaw of Nestle offers great advice regarding customers in control:

The overheated rhetoric acts as a deceptive rationalization. We marketers have far more control than we let on. We buy the media, make the product, write the message, pick the messaging platform, select the suppliers, and hire the employees who ultimately do all the above.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to the Alaska Airlines route, but it’ll most likely go away as scheduled. I doubt loyalists think strategically about the decision – passenger loads, fuel costs, competition from Southwest, better yield on Hawaii flights – before beating their social and traditional media drums in complaint.

Organizations must have process and policy in place to deal with detractors (individuals and groups) rather than using a blanket approach based on the wisdom of the crowd – or lack thereof. And confidence that control is best shared in carefully measured cases.”

Why vs. What

April 27, 2011

Sometimes I think marketers and consumer products companies get lost in what they are doing.  They lose their vision of the consumer and the reasons why people make purchases.  They focus on the “what” instead of the “why.”  What do I mean?  People don’t just buy things to have them – they buy them because they have a reason or a “why” to buy them.

I spent 10 years in the gifting business and we often made this mistake.  We got caught up in thinking we were selling flowers and gifts to people instead of selling to the emotion and the occasion that was the reason for the purchase.  People didn’t buy flowers just to send flowers – they bought flowers to send good wishes for a birthday or a holiday occasion.  They wanted someone they loved to know they were thinking of them.  They sent gifts to make someone else feel good or even to make themselves feel good for having been thoughtful.

Even in everyday purchases of soap, tooth paste or peanut butter; consumers are buying the items for their home with an underlying emotional intention.  They are trying to do their best to take care of themselves or others, and make the choice that fits their needs and their image of themselves. While features, price and functions play a role; so does ego and the desire to reinforce relationships.

This is true in corporate purchasing, particularly for items that carry a company’s logo.  Sales people and corporate staff buy items with their logo on them to build relationships with their employees or customers.  They are not buying pens, they are buying something that will form a reminder and a connection with another person.  An extension of themselves and their pride in the work they do and the companies they work for.

The bottom line – as a marketer and as a product innovator, start with the why and you will always end up with a better what and better sales.

Change is a good thing?

March 20, 2011

Did you catch the question mark in the headline?  The old saying is that the only thing that is constant is change.  And I agree that companies must continuously find ways to provide better products and services and to keep up with their competition.

But I also have to say that change for change sake is a waste of time.  Leo Burnett said (and I am paraphrasing here) that companies should talk to consumers when they have news.  So brand companies go off and try to create news and excitement.  And that is fine, when it is meaningful news and excitement.  Unfortunately, a good portion of the time, the changes have little consumer benefit. 

Take for example a product I used to love (and those who know me personally can attest to my love affair with this product) – Wrigley’s Big Red Gum (r). 


I was a major purchasor of this gum for probably more than 10 years.  And over the years they have made several changes to this product.  Here are a few that I can remember as well as my thoughts on the benefit:

Flavor changes:  They change the flavor on this gum about every 18 months.  And each flavor change gets worse.  I don’t know what they are doing to taste test this stuff, but they need to go back to ground zero.   (Need I remind you of the New Coke debacle?)  BAD CHANGE.

Removing the paper that separated the sticks in multi-packs:  This was to reduce waste and be more environmentally friendly. Now the sticks fall out of the packaging, which stinks.  But I will give on the environmental issues. GOOD CHANGE.

Adding Aspartame to the Product: Aspartame makes the product cheaper as they have to use less to attain the same level of sweetness.  It is also cheaper to transport.  Did they pass on any of the cost savings to customers?  Nope.  Did they reduce the calories on the gum at the same time? Nope?  Was this the only gum on the market without Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners in it before they made the change?  Yes.  Did it make the taste better?  No.  BAD CHANGE

Switching to paper wrappers from foil:  Again this was to help the environment.  GOOD CHANGE.

Package design changes: A big waste of time.  No consumer impact what so ever.  BAD CHANGE.

Switching from 18 piece multi-packs to 15 piece multi-packs:  They covered this change up with a new multi-pack design that opens like a cigarette box.  The pack is really not that great and the value decline was made worse by an immediate price increase on the product. BAD CHANGE.

I used to work for a brand company and I understand when you have profit targets to meet and demands from the retailers for more margin.  I get it that companies have to find cost savings and periodically have to raise prices to increase shareholder value.  And I know that  they do the math to estimate how many customers they will lose when they make these changes and they do the changes anyway because the results are still net additive to their bottom line.

But seriously, these companies need to find more innovative ways to accomplish these goals.  Because if you don’t, in the long run, the only change these companies are going to see is a continuous decline in buyers.