All posts by Manager

“Not your father’s” marketing trends

Could it be 25 years already that the TV ad spot  “This is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” (see video below, starring the still-slender William Shatner) became an instant classic?!  The catchy phrase was quickly adopted in any context (“This is not your father’s whatever”) reflecting the gestalt of the era.  In other words:  things had changed…

Yet perhaps the change mantra has never been so applicable as in marketing today.  The game has changed, and for many reasons.  To commemorate the New year, below are some of the key ones we see:  the trends we see coming at us less like an Olds and more like a Corvette:

  1. CONSUMER AS CREATOR.  God forbid you asked the customer to help develop your product!  You only dared came out with it after exhaustive research, branding and budgeting.  In today’s era of crowd funding and social signals  (“Like”, “Follow”, etc),  consumers want to share in the creative process.
  2. CALLS TO ACTION VS. CAMPAIGNS.  Used to be you planned a nice and orderly campaign months in advance and ran it on the media schedule you chose.  Today, you need to communicate with your customer all the time:  they pick the time they want to receive your (timely and relevant) message.
  3. MOBILE MATTERS.  It’s all about the smartphone now.  If you don’t have a mobile app you lose cred with consumers, period.
  4. SOCIAL STRATEGY SMARTS.  Before, getting your company name or product up on Google was enough.  Now, with tighter content controls, search engine optimization (SEO) has become quite a science.  With SE recognition of complete questions instead of just keywords,  this provides more opportunity for capturing them (the good news), but you have to keep working at it.
  5. INBOUND ABOUNDS.  It’s not about pushing your product out the door any more.  Attracting customers by the online content you create and the value your company provides is the all-important pull strategy that builds long-term loyalty.
  6. OMNICHANNEL SURFING.  Back in the day, it was solely the bricks & mortar  that counted.  Today, you may still want to get them in the store but the outreach now involves additional platforms, all working together to achieve “omnichannel”, or seamless shopping experience for the customer. (We’ve posted about this trend a few times, so please check out the topics on right)
  7. B2B SPECIALTY.  More than at any other time, business-to-business marketing is becoming a recognized and respected specialization.  Helping businesses do business better is critical in these times of reduced resources, higher costs, aggressive competitors and demanding consumers.

Lost in translation: convert shopper intel into action

lesson #1:
Is your shopper intel lost in translation? (Photo: NapaneeGal)

There’s no question information is power, especially when it comes to targeting shoppers.  Companies  like Kantar and Marketing Lab, among others, specialize in providing insights to help retailers better align their shopper research, store ops, merchandising and upper-management buy-in with vendor products and programs.

The ability, or more emphatically, the willingness of chain management to translate this information into actionable sales steps for their stores is critical.  However, it seems most can’t or won’t do it.

MarketingLab’s recent retail survey reported that 85% of chains have been participating in vendor-funded shopper programs.  However, less than five percent of those feel they are successful in incorporating insights into action. This is a grim rate, indeed, especially given the effort and money involved.

Why do these marketing insights appear “lost in translation”? Did the chain not understand the information?  Was there directive from Corporate on how to best align those with sales goals?  Was the vendor at fault for not providing more guidance?

The answer is probably a combination of all three, but most likely the third:  vendor at fault.  We say that because we, ourselves, have been guilty of this in the past.

We admit we have conducted exhaustive (and pricey) studies of a client’s category or products, matched the findings nicely with a retailer’s customer profiles, then handed the whole kit & kaboodle to the chain’s marketing execs.

With a handshake and a big smile, we’re off.  But when we call on them again months later, we see the  file still sitting on their desks, gathering dust…

This situation is not only a waste of everyone’s time, but goes against the basic premise of the vendor/retail partnership, which is mutual advantage.   It’s not that the chain doesn’t want that intel;  it’s just that their personnel may not have the creativity, knowledge and even less time to review it and execute relevant programs.

It is then incumbent on the supplier to take steps to ensure their valuable support is both appreciated and executed.   We have found that these six simple steps help get action in that area:

  1. Findings are not enough.  Fascinating factoids about a chain’s customer base without relevant implications and proposed next steps is a time-waster.  Specific proposed solutions should be part of every research study.
  2. Work within strategies already in place.  Don’t propose, say, an aggressive mobile marketing campaign when the chain has never done one, or is unsure of its commitment to mobile to begin with.  The learning curve is too steep to ensure timely and successful results for both client and retailer.  Stick with the venues and strategies they are already comfortable with.
  3. Ensure upper-level buy-in.  If the Big Cheese doesn’t like it, or the intel doesn’t fit the chain’s goals, culture or capabilities, it won’t make it to store level.
  4. Taking it to the streets.  Conversely, we have found that field merchandisers — foot soldiers who visit stores frequently– are often instrumental in gaining program execution.  In many cases they are the ones in there putting up the POS, running the customer surveys, guiding department managers, etc.  In short, making sure the program is given life.   Sometimes the influence works upward:  an excited department manager tells Corporate he can’t live without the  program. (Caution:  some chains won’t allow this type of vendor interaction at store level.  Get it OKed first.)
  5. Start small, then roll out (maybe).  Don’t go in with the entire enchilada.  A big program that involves all stores in a chain is a risky proposition for all.  Start with specific stores, districts or other grouping that best align with your target consumer and program.  Test small, then increase  gradually, measuring results along the way.  It may never reach complete roll-out, but at least you’ll have a track record and case history to boast about.
  6. Address the “YIIFM?” Factor.  Competitive and job-security issues are at the top of many retail personnel concerns today.   “What’s in it for me?” is a question often asked or at least implied.  Be sure to sell in the benefits of their having the program to begin with, or otherwise appeal to the self-interests of the personnel involved.  Is it general PR they lust after?  Do they want to gain attention from their boss?  Is it all a vanity effort with no care for ROI? Go with what floats their boat, and thus avoid the sinking ship.

Is “Grey Thursday” here to stay?

Some pals not involved in the retail world have asked me why they call the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday.  Our esteemed (and smart) readers all know the answer.  (For those still in the dark, check out Wikipedia.)

English: Nordstrom at Washington Square (Orego...
No Grey Thursday for them…

Let’s clarify one thing:  we LOVE a hot sale!  We are all about selling; it’s our reason for being.  In the food business, this is the most profitable time of the year. Bring’em on!

What we are not so hot about is this new trend of shopping for stuff on Thanksgiving Day.  So many seem to be doing it now (in the states with no Blue Laws, of course). Many, except for our revered Nordstrom.

Our love affair with the chain began when we first blogged about them years ago.  We highlighted a personal experience involving the delivery of an evening gown, expertly altered,  to our very doorstep by their department manager a couple of hours before a special event.

The other custom that sometimes backfired on them but made you love them even more was their no-questions-asked return policy.   We understand they even took back a few car batteries…

In short, “Nordys” gets retail, espousing the “ABCs” of customer service.  According to Boston Retail Partners, these are:

  1. Anticipate customers’ questions before they ask.
  2. Be ready to offer suggestions for upsells and cross-sells.
  3. Create an interactive experience throughout the store.
  4. Deliver personalized offers and promotions.
  5. Execute a seamless checkout experience.

Their strong understanding of what they do and why they do it  is why you won’t see any Christmas decorations or hear any carols sung in Nordstrom stores until Friday. “We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time,” their signs and ads say.  

Their web site also explains why they believe their employees should spend holidays with family.   Judging from the positive comments about this on their and other news sites, consumers are on their side.

The idea they espouse of “celebrating one holiday at a time” is sound, especially when you consider that Christmas decorations as early as Halloween (even in August, in some cases!) are really an affront to our senses.  As a business strategy, it also reflects a  lack of imagination, and we know that to succeed at retail you need lots of imagination.

There was a time, not long ago, when only a few retailers would open at Thanksgiving.  Not a great idea, but at least they were different; they stood out.   Now, everyone seems to be doing it.

We all know that swimming in a sea of sameness is the death knell for retail.  In fact, there is already a segmentation between customers of the lower-end, price-strategy chains (who are open on Thursday) and the service-strategy ones who don’t, and that the twain shall never meet.

Today we applaud those retailers who know how to take a stand but also how to stand out in the marketplace.

A VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOURS!

Mad over metrics, or looking for stuff where the light is better

English: John Wanamaker
Smarter than Don Draper?

Consider this statement from a renowned retailer:

“…Another experience that goes largely in ordinary advertising is the waste of money.  There have been many calculations concerning the vast sums of money expended upon advertising in this country.  I do not recall what their magnitude is, but the figures compiled by observers are really astounding.   I think if we could manage to analyze that expenditure…we would find that a vast percentage of it, probably one-half, is entirely wasted…”
 

Was this WalMart’s lament at the last shareholder meeting?  Or,  perhaps JCP’s excuse for its continuing doldrums?  Neither, dear reader.  It was part of an industry speech by none other than John Wanamaker (pictured left), founder of the late, great Wanamaker’s department store, in…1898.

100+ years later, the issue still hounds marketers, albeit pared to the more sound-bitey:  “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” 

When Wanamaker wailed about advertising, the term “marketing metrics” was unheard of.   There was no TV, of course, and “social networking” meant getting together for tea with your neighbor.

Even more than half a century later, in the 1960s (the Mad Men days) there were only three TV networks and three national news magazines to consider.  With limited venues and a high captive audience, advertising was, as a “Don Draper” type quipped: “like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Those halcyon days are now clearly over, as expanded communication venues and, especially, social media, provide an audience of mega-millions.  Expectations are high:  there are so many more fish to shoot!

However, this has created a climate where marketers wish to quantify everything.  How many Followers, Pokes, or Likes did we get today?  How many unique viewers visited the site?  For how long were they engaged?  What was the conversion rate of the ad?  There is barely a company today not pondering their metrics, or, how to measure the effectiveness of their PR, advertising, social media, and myriad other marketing activities.

There is even a new crop of “consultants to consultants” looking to advise agencies how to win big by “generating metric reports that dazzle!”, or by offering “100 Ways to Keep Clients Happy and Budgets Intact” (without having to bribe them with booze, drugs, or game tickets, we assume…)

One such group recently advised to be careful how we use nouns vs. verbs in our metrics reports, as they can dramatically “affect the effect.”  No wonder self-professed “AdHo” George Parker, a veteran of the already-waning Mad Men era in the 70s, says we’ve all gone mad over metrics.

He claims we often measure things without considering what it is, exactly, we are looking for.   And if we were to find it, what does it all mean?  He clarifies:  “It’s like a guy losing his car keys in the garage but going into the living room to look for them because the light is better there.”

This “looking for stuff where the light is better” trend rings true.  Truth is, marketing programs should be measured, but not all marketers should or know how to do the math. (Actually, the only old math they need to memorize is:  REACH + FREQUENCY = IMPACT.  It still holds true today.)

Never having made it to Statistics 101 in college, they certainly don’t have time to deal with it now.  They just want a good story to sell.  “Put up a realistic number that makes us look good”  they beg, preparing the slides for the upcoming stockholders meeting.

On the other side, we have recently slogged through an extensive (and expensive) report by a respected university. It contained complex, multi-page regression analyses to help justify the client’s advertising campaign. (People, it’s just advertising!)

Of course, there’s no harm in searching for brightness where the light is dim.  If, say, your post-campaign survey reveals 40% of consumers “seldom” buy your product and 20% “sometimes” do, then you can probably safely say 60% are “frequent purchasers.”  We used to call this a minor statistical enhancement.  Now, it’s metrics.

In summary, good advertising is part science, part art, and lots faith.  There are things that we can’t put an immediate number to, but we just know are right.

They sound and feel right, and we get the right reaction to it.  That’s the emotion “metric” the best ad-makers have always gone for.

John Wanamaker knew that, and that’s why, grumbling, he kept up his ad spending to build one of the most successful retail chains in the world.

Food deserts & double jeopardy

Bit of an urban sprawl
Searching for the green in urban sprawl (Wikipedia)

On a recent trip to Latin America, we were sharply  aware of the great divide that exists rich and poor, between “good” and “bad” neighborhoods.

While this delineation exists in the U.S. of course,  it seems more marked down there.  As you drive through gargantuan urban sprawl, it’s like crossing invisible border fences.

One of the key aspects of this economic divide is the dearth of supermarkets in lower-middle class to poor neighborhoods.  These are the so-called “food deserts” that blight large cities, where not one fresh tomato can be found within miles, and where eating healthy is never in the cards.   If you are what you eat, then these folks will remain forever poor.  (see related stories, below)

It’s not only the lack of green vegetables that is troubling:  it’s the lack of green, period.  With mom & pop or convenience stores charging far more than traditional supermarkets, few folk have any money left after shopping for basic food items.

The recent opening of a Sam’s Club in a poor section outside Rio was greeted with a shrug and comment by a local:  “Stock up?  We can barely afford one toilet-paper roll at a time.”  The question then begs:  are food chains positioned to serve this population segment?

This week, the Journal of Preventive Medicine addressed this topic in a study which showed that poor, mostly black neighborhoods face “double jeopardy” when it comes to supermarket access.  Specifically, the study strove to address what it meant  to be in a poorer white neighborhood versus a wealthier black neighborhood.

Here’s an excerpt:

“…living in a poor, mostly black neighborhood presented “a double disadvantage” in supermarket access.  Unsurprisingly, poor black neighborhoods had fewer supermarkets than wealthier black neighborhoods. But they also had fewer supermarkets than poor white neighborhoods, suggesting that race still played a role apart from poverty.”

However, this was different in Latino neighborhoods.  Though they had fewer supermarkets than Anglo areas, Latino neighborhoods had more grocery stores than black areas, regardless of the  poverty level.

In short, the lack of supermarkets in disadvantaged area was not only an economic but a racial issue as well.  This infers that supermarket chains who traditionally profile customers by income level should look more carefully at the the race equation as well.

Accurate profiling of retail customers has never been as important, especially since today a “traditional family” can mean two gay guys with a dog.  For marketers, it’s a reminder that, more than ever, one size no longer fits all.

The “Fear Factor” in sales

His fear may be your freedom
His fear may mean your freedom

Fear. . .arguably the strongest sentiment in both animals and humans.  In fact, a friend who leans toward spiritual matters say that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

This philosophy is definitely worth pondering over a glass or two of wine after a long day.  However, in the harsh blue light of our iPads, as we prepare a presentation to a sales prospect, it also merits immediate consideration.

After all, most of us who work for a living live in some fear:  of losing the job, of upsetting the boss, not making the sale, etc.  Yet how many of us think about the fears of the other person sitting across the desk or conference table,  the one we’re trying so hard to impress?

Let’s put ourselves in his or her shoes.  In fact, this person may have a lot more fear than you and thus need you more than you need them.

This quandary arose recently in our client work, where we evaluated the key challenges for supplier/marketers (us!) vs. receiver/retailer/customer (them!) when introducing a new product.   It provided a simple gap analysis of the complex retailer/supplier relationship today.

We saw how often a weakness on one side correlates directly to the other, like balancing scales. Importantly, the exercise helped provide perspective in relationships we often view as one-sided: where the other side has all the benefits and we have all the Benzedrine.

To help us keep calm and carry on during sales presentations to retailers, we refer to our “Fear Factor” table:

SUPPLIER

RETAILER

Focused on being unique vs. meeting need Shuns creativity and plays it “corporate”
Takes short cuts in key market research Has access to data but no time to review
Prefers sales now vs. slow-building the biz Lives by P&L vs. what market wants now
Slow to “seize” category and be a leader Oversees too many categories to know
Has too much freedom; gets into trouble Runs from trouble…and opportunities

While this table is not new in insight, it does serve as a quick reminder that sometimes someone else’s fear may spell your freedom:  freedom to take the reins and run with them.

Social media awakens sleeping giant

"Independency or death." Despiction ...
“Independency or death.” Despiction of the declaration of the Brazilian independence by Prince Pedro (later Emperor Pedro I) on 7 September 1822. Oil on Canvas painting by Pedro Américo (1888). (credit: Wikipedia)

“Mas, se ergues da justiça a clava forte/Verás que um filho teu não foge à luta/ Nem teme, quem te adora, a própria morte…”

♠  ♠  ♠  ♠  ♠ 
(excerpt from Brazil’s national anthem, written c. 1880s, Verse 2, roughly translated from Portuguese:  “If the strong arm of justice raises up, you will see your adoring son will not flee the fight nor fear death.”)

This was the week that may have changed Brazil.  We’re not talking about how they beat Mexico at the stadium, although that’s big stuff (if you care about soccer).

We’re talking of the huge public demonstrations simultaneously mobilizing every major city in the vast country.  This we should care about.

If you follow global news you know it all started with a student-driven protest about the increased bus and metro fares in the major cities, but soon escalated to cries about the exhorbitant World Cup and Olympics infrastructure expenses while schools and hospitals crumble.  The people took to the streets, proudly singing their national anthem (see above), using the greatest tool of democracy:  protest.

But this is not the typical student protest:  they’ve had plenty of those before.  We’re talking about estimated millions of young and old, rich or poor, taking to the streets.  As with the Arab Spring,  this movement (now dubbed the “Tropical Spring”) could not have happened without social media.

It’s the perfect cocktail for today’s world:  social unrest + social media = new society.  Yet lest we believe this unrest is new, let’s take a look at the old.

Beyond the specific complaints of the people now, this week reflects the symptom of a greater and older malaise.  This general dissatisfaction can belie the blindness when faced with Brazil’s famed “Four Bs”:   beaches, bikinis, beer, and barbecue.

Beyond the “fab four”, this Brazilian malaise — a general feeling things are not quite right — has been an underlying sentiment as far back as we can recall.  We remember because some of us actually grew up there.

This was Brazil pre-democracy, a country where benign yet brazen dictators ruled and where popular singers were exiled for defamatory lyrics; a place where someone you knew would just simply disappear one day, never to be heard from again, and where you tripped daily over crumbling mosaic sidewalks.

The bureaucracy was stupefying.  If you wanted anything done in the public sector, you paid someone else lots to do it.  You also paid some poor peon peanuts to hold your place in line at the bank because it might take all day to cash your paycheck.

(Actually, it took two peons:  one to hold your place and the other to run up to your office to tell you when your turn was close.  So…how many Brazilians does it take to screw in a light bulb?)

Yet we kept our mouths shut.  Ah, Brazil…love it or leave it.  Some of us did.

Today’s Brazil is a different place, with educated and progressive leaders, economic growth, and expanding natural resources making it “The Miracle” once again.  Formerly low-heeled friends now own three cars:  the American dream!   It should all work very nicely, and the people (and a peaceful people, too!) should be happy…but apparently not.

As of this post, the people of Brazil just got their low bus fares back.  Emboldened, they will ask for other things,  and they will keep on demanding.

Today, the sleeping giant is up and boarding the bus.

Related articles:

Pretail: the new shopping trend

A new trend is poised to change shopping as we know it:  pretailing.   This emerging practice could really throw a wrench on our beloved “path to purchase.  According to agency JWT, pretailing is not just a fad but a “top ten” consumer trend.

English: Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise Русский:...
With crowd-funding, you can make like Leonardo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What may be game-changing about this is it’s not about giving consumers a sneak-peek at your new creation, as at an auto show.  Instead, it’s about people creating the product they want to buy.  In fact, they want it to so much they are willing to pay you to make it.  It’s like being commissioned for a great work, Leonardo da Vinci-style.

Success can quickly go to your head in the new world of pretailing because you actually see the money pot being raised.  Yet the idea of shopper-as-mad-scientist — co-creator of your grand idea —  may not actually thrill because you could lose all control.

Pretailing is brought to you via the new darlings of the “internether”:  crowd-funding.  Sites such as  KickStarter, Christie Street, Outgrow.me, the winsomely-named Tiny Light Bulbs, and others are where they have you at: “Hello…what the heck is THIS?”  And every new “this” means money.

The “pretailing marketplace” grew 85% to USD 1.4 billion during 2012.   Trendwatching reported that in one year, Kickstarter recorded 2.2 million people in 177 countries putting down  $275M to see their favorite products produced.

With all this warm & fuzzy acceptance pre-prototype, marketers may fear the R&D, focus groups, ideation sessions, channel analyses etc.  they excel in will all go pffft…   Do we need to destroy the smoke machines and wrap the mirrors in black?

Before we panic,  let’s remember that this is all about getting a product made.  But how about its survival?  Only time will tell if pretailing will decrease the high rate of new products that fail on the shelf.  In a fragmented distribution world, the right product is a good thing but the right channel is the secret of life.

That’s why we don’t see any decreased demand in expert marketing research and roll-out strategies for new products.  In fact, in a crowd-funded world, the challenge may be to stand apart from it.

In fact, we predict the demand for comprehensive market and trends research to ensure staying power will be even greater with pretail, especially since there is OPM (or, “other people’s money”) involved.   As every public company executive knows too well:  where there is OPM, there are rules.

Paying to play

Supermarket
Expensive real estate (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The reports of Walmart paying bribes in Mexico to get permits to build stores  have certainly stirred a lot of industry buzz.  Pundits pose on both sides of the issue, debating whether this is truly illegal or merely how global business is done today. (For a thoughtful discussion of this issue, see:  www.perishablepundit.com )

While the final verdict on the case may take years and we’re not expressing our opinion, nor are we legal experts (disclaimers!), we can safely say here that this type of thing is rampant in most parts of the world.  In fact, in most cases it is just life as usual.

In Brazil, for example, the country would not function were it not for what the Mexicans call “gestores” and in Portuguese are “procuradores” and their many minions.  In a country where bureaucracy is endemic,  it’s the only way to survive.

If you have to wait in line for a document to prove you are still alive, you may very well die before you get it.   That’s why you hire someone to stand in line for you:  so you can get on with your life.

We assume this also applies to commercial construction permits.   In retail, a month may be a lifetime, so it’s easy to see the type of pressure this exerts on a company trying to enter a new market.

But let’s digress a bit to something we do know a little about, and that’s the concept of “paying to play”.  When we talk about this we are of course referring to the cost of doing business at retail outlets, sometimes delicately termed “real estate fees”.

Clients are often shocked when we tell them what it takes to get their products up on supermarket shelves.  Shelf slotting fees are said to be a $9B+ industry alone, and can easily run over $30,000 per SKU. (AMA)

So, if you have a brand with three different flavors, that’s three separate SKUs (you do the math.)  Note that this is typically in addition to off-invoice, case allowances or any other relevant fees to get your products promoted properly.

When you look at the one to two percent annual margins of most supermarket chains today you can see  that slotting is an attractive profit center.   But it’s important to also remember that a simpatico retail partner can make or break you.  So,  if you’re lucky and end up with your products on their shelves, why, you may soon retire in grand style.

Yet many of the sweet-hearted folk who make the great-tasting  jams you see at your local farmer’s markets don’t know or understand this.  They remain at the farmer’s market for that key reason:  they can’t get their products into the great indoors because they have no money.

We often run into the great  jam-&-jelly-makers of this world who spend thousands of dollars to participate in trade shows where they hope to meet supermarket buyers, yet have no capital to go any further.  They believe that just having great-tasting stuff is enough.

It’s like a pretty, aspiring actress hoping to be discovered sitting at a Hollywood lunch counter.   Does it still happen?  Maybe, but the “price” can be high, as these gals will tell ‘ya…

“No such thing as a free lunch” is the adage marketers need to keep in mind here.   If not actual hard cash, then certainly you need the “capital” of a well-thought out strategic marketing plan and a product that is totally of  the moment:  ideally, an “Aha!” item a chain may wish to keep for itself.   Additionally, to deal with the pressure you need a large set of what from Spanish roughly translates to “spherical male organs”…

Still, even if you have THOSE, you may wish to pray for some venture capital angel or a M&A expert to show up and offer to sell your wonder product to a major company so you can go sip Margaritas pool-side and forget all this stuff.

The Retail Games

Black Friday line
Let the Games begin!

For the sake of your health and safety, not to mention sanity,  we trust you came away unscathed from the recent shopping madness this past weekend that concluded with Cyber Monday.

What’s next:  “Techie Tuesday”?, “Wacky Wednesday?”  (Don’t laugh, and remember:  you saw it here first).

You’d hardly know there was a recession going on for the crowds that made this Black Friday allegedly the best on record (final sales figures still to be tallied), sending retail chain stocks soaring 5%+.  The Occupy Wall Street folks who organized to boycott “big chains” during the Holiday didn’t seem to have made a dent.

For marketers this urge to splurge is a rather thrilling, if unsettling, phenom.  After all, it was only a few years ago that the term “Black Friday” even became part of the American lexicon.  An elderly family member still thinks it’s some newfangled  religious holiday…

With stores now open during the sacrosant Thanksgiving Day, retail is now a new ball game:  one where nice guys finish last.

The protests of the pious about spending this time with family makes a good point, but the harsh truth is that retailers would not be opening their doors if there wasn’t demand.  And consumer demand has apparently reached a fever pitch as shoppers with pepper sprays and push strategies win the day.

As marketers, here are some key questions to ask ourselves about this trend:

  • If everyone’s already shopped out by Black Friday, what becomes of other Fridays…or any other day before Christmas?
  • What happens to manufacturers when inventories are already depleted for the Holidays and no new orders come in?
  • What do retailers do when their gross margins are dented by these deep discounts?  Do they dive even deeper?
  • If consumers only crave deep discounts, how will we wean them back into EDLP?

You may recall the halcyon days when many chains employed  Hi/Low pricing strategies, where discounts were something to be savored, special promotions were creative hallmarks, and blowouts only occurred post-Holiday. 

With Everyday Low Pricing the norm and “extreme couponing” the end game, it’s a challenge to make a case for brand-building.  Or is it?

We’ve blogged about the complex human character that hungers to shop.  There are elements at work in our subconscious that take pleasure in these animalistic rituals taking place in the retail jungles.  In short, the Thanksgiving spending spree is just one big game hunt.

Yet, once the thrill of the chase, the stampede of the crowd, and all that glitters disappears and shoppers finally view their prize quietly at home, do they hear the little voice asking:  “What is this garbage you just spent your last dollar on?!”