Category Archives: global marketing

Make it a sweet ’16

On the runThis January we reflected on some of the work we have been doing lately and how clients are evolving.  While marketing has become so much more complex, mainly due to the many trends we have posted about here, we also see the net effect as working to make 2016 a “sweet” year for the industry.   You can help make this the Year of the Superhero Marketer by keeping these points in mind:

  • DISRUPTION GOES MAINSTREAM.  Our last post dealt with this topic and was one of our most popular.  It reminded us that back in the day (Mad Men era) and even up to a few years ago, clients were not up for rocking the boat in any way.  This was especially true in large corporations, where playing it safe meant you kept your job. The ethics of the newer generations (Millennials +), mobile workforce, and the power of social media have changed the fear of creativity and innovation.  Heck, it’s ALL disruptive now, with the new popularity of digital detox camps being proof of that (“Leave your cell:  bring your bottle”).  Today, the Big Boys want to show how nimble and with-it they are, and many of their employees are secretly hoping to be fired so they can launch a start-up.
  • SMARTER CLIENTS.  Some of the old-timers decry that marketing was a lot more fun when clients weren’t so in-the-know.  We disagree, as it’s more enjoyable to play tennis with someone who plays better or at least at the same level as you.  A client who is already up on strategic and media tactics that work is one you can take to a whole new level without stomach-churning stops & starts. Turning your client into a thought partner is what it’s about today.
  • INFLUENCING vs. PUSHING.  We have bloggers to thank for helping raise the consumer message bar.  You can’t just dump rubbish on these folks. These arbiters of good (or bad) taste help keep marketers on course by immediately exposing phony pitches, tepid tones and other marketing sins.  Influencing may take longer, but once is sticks, it lasts.
  • MAKE METRICS MATTER.  Perhaps nothing brings more fear to a marketer’s heart than measuring and evaluating programs.  We’ve frequently posted about the importance of metrics, but it wasn’t always easy to measure success in traditional advertising.  Former boss David Ogilvy was just one of the ad gurus credited with saying:  “Half the money spent on advertising is wasted.  We just don’t know which half”.  Again, digital media to the rescue, with myriad ways to check, in real time who reads your stuff, who likes it, who buys it.  If you’re a weak marketer, this  allows you to change a campaign’s direction before disaster strikes.  Think about that benefit alone:  you get to keep the client!

 

 

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Positive disruptors

This week, the National Retail Federation Foundation announced 25 individuals selected for honors,  “representing power players, disruptors, givers, influencers and dreamers who are changing the face of retail – many doing so behind the scenes.” (You can read about them on the link below this post)

For now we want to focus on one descriptor listed above: DISRUPTORS.  More than the others listed, this says what marketers should be all about.  Let the players manipulate, the givers hug, the dreamers doodle, and the influencers network, but if marketers are not shaking things up they are not worth their salt.

You know you were born to be a Disruptor when as a kid your parents received notes from the teacher, reporting:  “An eternal chatterbox”, or “Fidgets and flirts non-stop”, or better:  “Has an answer to everything, sometimes the right one.”  In short, a pain-in-the-ass student.

Now that we are all grown up, the NRF calls us:  “True originals who rock the boat with ideas so crazy, they just might work. These are the people who make you rethink what you thought you knew…opening you up to new worlds never imagined.”

Wow, take a look, Mom!  Aren’t you glad I didn’t drink the KoolAid??

There’s another word — its polar opposite — we use for a lot of companies :  ENTRENCHERS.  The image is of soldiers in (wet!) dugouts, poised with guns pointing, awaiting orders to jump out into a scenario that might mean certain death.

It’s not just big companies that are guilty of Entrenchment.  Small family companies are often the worst , living in their comfortable world,  digging in, believing all should be done the way it has been done for decades.  Until, one day…

Today we know that Disruptors and Entrenchers are a “match.com” (to quote a respected strategic planner colleague).  They are meant to learn from each other and work together to slaughter those sacred cows (see our post re this) that threaten to kill any business that does not innovate and differentiate.

We give special thanks to the NRF for letting us come out of the classroom closet and take a (shy) bow!

Trends forecast

 

Houdini“I see…no, wait…it’s an ad blocker!”

At the start of the year, our clients typically ask us what we see in the areas of consumer marketing and media…a glance into the crystal ball, as it were.

This past year most of us were focused on enhancing digital outreach. We have seen this area at least double in activity in our campaigns over the past two years, as clients’ desire to customize and measure the impact of their messages grow.  We see no different for the new year.

In short,  “If you ain’t doing it digital, you ain’t doing it right”, as one of our agency creative gurus quipped.  But HOW to keep doing it right is the question.

Rather than reinvent the wheel on this topic we are taking the shameless and easy path, excerpting what “alum/chum” Publicis — the world’s largest ad agency — tells us.  If they don’t know  about this, then no one does.  So, without much ado…

1. Programmatic targeting of content, not just ads.  Programmatic targeting of ads is now very common for brands and advertisers. In 2015, we’ll see a critical mass of publishers begin to leverage behavioral data to programmatically target content to optimize experiences for users on publishers’ sites.  Content will be personalized and specifically aimed at individual consumers on websites and blog pages, similar to the way ads have been targeted until now. Medium-to-large sized publishers will also invest in data management platforms and in-house programmatic resources.

2. Content marketing spend will need to deliver a more measurable ROI impact.  In 2015, we’ll start to see more sophisticated means of measuring the impact of content marketing campaigns, leveraging multi-attribution techniques to understand the downstream impact on conversion caused by these higher-funnel marketing activities. For example, a brand might spend $1 million on a native advertising campaign but not understand to what degree — if any — that investment impacted ROI.

3. A critical mass of merchants will finally optimize their mobile affiliate tracking capabilitiesWhile the browsing experience is now largely optimized for mobile devices, the same cannot be said for tracking of performance campaigns on mobile devices. [In 2015], we can expect to see retailers work continuously to improve conversion tracking and affiliate payouts in order to satisfy the demands of their increasingly mobile publishers.

4. The startup bubble will deflate slightly and result in consolidations of a fragmented adtech startup market.The last few years have seen an avalanche of entrepreneur startup companies, many focusing on the adtech space. While this has resulted in a great deal of innovation — publishers and advertisers have benefited from a wealth of choices for optimizing their ad spend — we’ll start to see this slow down as some of these companies struggle to raise successive rounds of funding.

5. Point solutions will struggle, and clients will shift their desire to want to work with more full-funnel marketing suitesIn a similar vein, some adtech companies offering point solutions will also start to struggle, as an overwhelmed publisher and advertiser community will prefer to work with fewer partners, opting for ad tech companies offering full-funnel marketing suites. This likely will result in further consolidations of the fragmented adtech market, resulting in stronger conglomerates offering their customers a number of key services combined.

6. Publishers will develop sophisticated in-house capabilities for behaviorally programmatic targeting of premium advertising. Historically, publishers have worked with ad networks and other programmatic adtech partners to outsource their programmatic ad targeting. However, in 2014, a number of larger publishers started to bring this capability in-house, and invest in infrastructure to manage their audience data, such as data management platforms.

7. Ad blockers will become as big of a problem in 2015 as “viewability” was in 2014. The increasing technical sophistication of the adtech market and the increasing demands on accountability by advertisers saw ‘viewability’ become a dominant theme in 2014. Technologies that can filter out automated bot traffic and determine if a human truthfully saw an ad are regularly used now despite it reducing impression metrics significantly. This movement will continue in 2015, with attention turned towards ad blocker software.

Ad blockers (in the form of toolbars and browser extensions) have quietly gained popularity by users wanting a faster, ad-free browsing experience. However, a little-known fact about these ad blocker companies is that they monetize by charging ad companies to let their ads bypass the blocking software. While a marginal problem in the early days, the popularity of these ad blockers means that ad revenues for publishers are impacted; on average about 20 percent, though up to 50 percent for publishers with a tech-savvy readership.

In 2015, we will see a variety of solutions emerge on the market, offering various experiences around user-driven personalization of advertising. (Credit:  Publicis Alum Group, via LinkedIn.)

 

 

What the VA could learn from P&G

Delivery issues
Delivery issues

We were first told this in Marketing 101 eons ago, but the message continues to be reinforced by experience after experience:  “If you are a marketer, you can market anything”.  This means you can typically apply the “Four Ps” (positioning, product, price, promotion) to just about any industry without really knowing much about it.

But things can and do get lost in translation, or what we term “cross-overs”.   We have seen the industry crossover work well at Apple and disastrously at  J.C. Penny’s (JCP), and a few others.

It really depends on the industry and the immediate challenge being faced…which brings to mind another axiom, this one by sociologist Abraham Maslow:  “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything as if it were a nail.”

We wonder if this will be the case with the most recent and arguably most interesting crossovers in quite a while: consumer packaged goods expert, Bob McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble named head of the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs (known affectionately as “the VA”.)

While the VA appears to have both serious operational and marketing challenges, it will be interesting to see how a veteran of brand wars attacks them.  Since he is a “carpenter”, will he rely solely on his hammer?

In the interest of service to our nation, we have some lessons from our CPG colleagues that may cross over nicely to the VA:

  • DISTRACT FROM DELAYS.  What manufacturer has not experienced delays in getting product to a customer?  Savvy sales execs always have alternatives to soothe the savage beast.  Many times, atop that list is substitution.  In this case, offer something else that pleases or at least distracts while you work on your logistics issues.
  • SUBCONTRACT.  If you don’t have what it takes, let someone else provide the item or service while your company covers the cost.  If you do it in a seamless manner your customer may not even notice…but if they do chances are they will be impressed by your pluck.
  • FOSTER COMPETITION.  Healthy competition between brands has always been a cornerstone of P&G’s success.  The “umbrella” of products need to be complementary, with each brand manager working toward a common corporate vision and purpose, all infused with a healthy dose of friendly competition (and reward$, of course).
  • NIX WEAK EXTENSIONS.  This is one P&G knows well:  kill that dying SKU.  You don’t want too many flavors:  products, services and procedures that don’t add value but instead create customer confusion and erode core competency.
  • BUILD BRAND AMBASSADORS.  Perhaps the key issue for the VA in this case is that only the bad news got out.  What about the millions of satisfied customers?  Develop dozens — no, hundreds — of compelling stories from this group that will galvanize the nation.  In short, what the VA brand seems to be missing is a Marine-like formation that will cultivate media, blog, Tweet, Facebook and Pin, yelling from the mountaintops to the sea til death about how great the place is.

Best of luck, Bob!

“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!