Tag Archives: marketing mistakes

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.)

 

 

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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!

Mislabeling and other misdemeanors

Not enough Wonderfulness in the product
Not enough Wonderfulness?

This week “Big Red” (Coca-Cola) took a beating in the Supreme Court from no other than “little red” or  (P♥M Wonderful) about juice that contained a lot less pomegranate than was claimed.  (You can read more about this case in the link below )

We admit we side with “David” here:  the husband-and-wife agribusiness team who took a strange fruit that was a real mess to eat and transformed it into a convenient juice favorite (becoming billionaires in the process, of course.)  “Goliath” then comes along and taps into the wonderfulness.products_pom_blueberry_product_detail

This case takes us back to that powerful feeling as young AEs on “Big Blue” (Pepsi) business whenever we got a chance to bash “Big Red.”   We even helped our clients host an annual event for this very purpose, bringing in the beefiest DSRs for a boozy (Cuba Libres, anyone?) contest with a prize for whoever could smash a Coke vending machine with a sledgehammer the fastest.  (Note this was post-Mad Men era…but obviously not too far ahead of Cro-Magnon Man.)

While the verdict is still out on how the potentially-landmark P♥M vs. Coke case will ultimately affect labeling, we marketers always look at these with great interest and no small amount of fear.

We’ve posted previously about how we can squeeze through the legal gates with what we say to help our client’s product stand apart.  On the flip side, we also mentioned how the once-magical term “natural” is now rendered limp from overuse.

Both the FDA and  USDA are touchy regarding nutritious claims, so food marketers have always avoided even nebulous statements like “…with plenty of Vitamin C!”  “Plenty” needs to correlate to a specific gram or percentage.

The P♥M folks did their homework, though, spending millions on scientific and consumer research to prove that pomegranates were really a nutritional powerhouse.  Absent this kind of support, copywriters have been forced to resort to colorful but unmeasurable terms such as “Chock-full!”.

In summary, the key marketing lesson here is that while smaller brands may fear mislabeling mistakes the most, typically it’s #1 who gets smashed with the sledgehammer.

(Read more re P♥M vs. Coke here)

 

 

 

Slaughtering sacred cows

Is it time for the slaughterhouse?
Is it time for the slaughterhouse?

We marketers are often faced with a quandary.  The client hires us to overhaul the company’s brand, then warn us, “But you can’t touch that!”

“That” can mean anything.  In some cases it’s the logo colors (unchanged since 1945), or where, exactly, the photo of the mascot dog goes on the label, or what we can say about Grandpa, the company’s founder.  In short, we call these “sacred cows”.   Like those fabled beasts of India, they walk along with impunity, daring anyone to run over them.

Yet as marketing consultants, our job should involve doing just that.   In fact, marketing firms should be veritable slaughterhouses.

We don’t do it to exert power over frightened clients:  to show them who’s the real boss.  It’s not about gratuitous change.  Change for change’s sake is rarely a good strategy.

We do it because sacred cows come with a lot of baggage:  stuff  that can weigh down a brand in today’s fickle market, rendering  it unmovable, a victim of irrelevance.   The key is leaning the difference between luggage and wings.  One holds you hostage while the other lets you fly.

In fact, Trendwatching tells us in a recent report how established brands are coming back from irrelevance with…irreverence.   That’s the  ability to laugh at oneself and to let others in on the “joke”;  to place that sacred brand somewhere no one expected; in short:  to do the unthinkable.

There’s an acid test for identifying sacred cows.  Complete the following sentences, and then think about what might happen if you did exactly the opposite of each statement.

“Our brand must ALWAYS ____________________”

“Our brand must NEVER _____________________”

In fact, consider what’s the worse that can happen… That may just be the best thing for your brand!

One example of aggressive slaughtering is the venerable French Champagne brand Moët.  Previously, it was only available at tony bars and high-end liquor stores.  Recently, though, they introduced it in tiny bottles in (gasp!) self-serving coolers…at department stores.

This is an example of “massification”, or making an elite brand mainstream.  They didn’t just change the product format, they changed the entire distribution channel.  Quelle courage!

Another example came from FlyDubai, an all-economy-class carrier representing a country where the roads are paved with gold, or at least good imitations thereof.   Problem was,  the brand didn’t quite appeal to the Arab princes.  It lacked the cachet to match their exploding, luxury-image country.

So they did the opposite of Moët: they upgraded the brand by creating a business class with attendant top-tier services, positioning the airlines as classy and elite.  Sales took off.

Another example involved a gentle repositioning with powerful ramifications involved giant sacred cow Marriott (at least we all know that one!)  The recession and downtrend in sales prompted them to take a new, hard look at the business they were in.

They saw the writing in the wall about cut corporate travel budgets and mobile workforces.  They saw the competition was a “sea of sameness”.

The company was then motivated to root down to the basics, and realized they were really in the business of…(drumroll)…selling space.  So they started doing just that:  selling desk spaces by the day for business people to work from, whether or not they were actually sleeping there, repositioning this “brand extension” as Great Workplaces at Marriott.

We have three good examples of companies who dared to rebrand using mainstreaming, upgrading and differentiation strategies, all slaughtering their sacred cows .

In closing, a caveat:  not all brands should be sent to the slaughterhouse.  There are indeed those with a heritage that has stood the test of time.  You can tell if the brand should be left alone (for now) if sales are steady or rising.

But then again, consider physics:  what goes up, must come down.

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.

FIVE FOLLIES vs. FACTS

Folly is for clowns, not marketers
Folly is for clowns, not marketers

Our count-down series continues!  We found that folks just love lists.  Our blog stats show that the “listy” posts are the best read by far.  It just goes to prove that long-winded explanations of things just doesn’t cut it today.

Having been raised with advertising guru David Ogilvy’s 1980s “long copy sells” adage,  now we learn that the leading Generation Yer marketing guru blogger Seth (it’s OK, check out the competition at: www.sethgoding.typepad.com) favors short & sweet…and bulleted.  So here we go….

 After the amazing 10 MARKETING MISTAKES (post 8/23), followed by our surprising SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS (9/12), we will now address some major follies…in no particular order of foolishness:

  • FOLLY:  After we manufacture our widget, we will put together the marketing plan.”

FACT:  Perhaps that’s the most common mistake marketers make.  Always think of the cement company’s dictum: find a need, then fill it.  If there is no need for your product, no amount of marketing will help you sell it.

  • FOLLY:  “My nephew can do it for cheap.”

FACT:  This is a common approach in family companies trying to keep the lid on costs.  Unless your newphew is an EXPERT on brochures, web sites, category management, what have you, let a professional do it.  Unprofessional results, especially in graphics and image, are immediately and permanently apparent.

  • FOLLY:  “If we give it away for free, then who’ll buy it?”

FACT:  My mother often used this old adage about girls who live with their boyfriends before marriage:  “Why would he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free?”.  While this might be the case with lust,  it’s apparently not so with marketing.   It has been proven that most of the time, if you give a customer/client  something smallish but useful, at no obligation, they’ll come back.   This has been particularly so with web business-to-business, such as white papers, trend reports, guide books, even opinions, that you can download for nothing. 

Afterward, of course, you are invited to join the organization or pay for an annual subscription, etc.  By that time you are typically hooked on the stuff or at least feeling guilty, so you bite… If no one signs up or buys what you are offering, at least you know the product is no good right away.

  • FOLLY:  “If we had a larger budget, we would have gotten better results.”

FACT:  This is the plague of big companies with lots of money to waste.  We have seen more useless stuff come out of those with endless resources than from companies that actually have to use imagination and moxey to get their message across.  The smaller companies are typically better at measuring results also, which is what it’s all about.

  • FOLLY:  “We want everyone Twittering about us!”

FACT:  This is a new one since the explosion of social media.   We find many marketers today want the full plate of media options just so they can be on-trend.  At a recent trade show (posts 10/2 and 10/7) we learned that some produce companies were asking folks to follow them on Twitter.  When we asked them “Why?”, they couldn’t respond strategically.  Perhaps they think people are dying to read about what their melons are up to at any time of the day…

Folks, please have a good strategy before you adopt every new trend.  Even Mylie Cyrus knew when to give up Twitter.

NEXT MONTH, TO FOLLOW OUR OWN ADVICE:  THREE FREE IDEAS!

MISTAKES MARKETERS MAKE (Top 10)

Clients today often want a “quick fix” to business challenges, and marketing is one of them.  Importantly, many are afraid of making a mistake.  Marketing is one of those sciences many think they don’t know much about, but in fact, a lot of it is just common sense.  While we tend to not like these types of  lists (quick fixes!), a client asked, so we are obliging, of course. (When the client says “Jump!”, we jump…) Here it is, with some repeats of previous posts…

1.  LACK OF A PLAN.  Many companies treat marketing activities as a “do-it-as-it-comes-along” proposition, resulting in efforts that don’t meet  goals, not to mention spending more than you have.  You have to have an annual plan, and then to WORK that plan. 

2.  NO (OR BAD) POSITIONING.  This is a complex concept to explain here, so we urge you to read the older but still excellent marketer’s “bible”:  Positioning:  The Battle for Your Mind (Al Reis & Jack Trout.)  Recognize that your widget may be competing with myriad  other widgets, and unless you give it proper branding  in a competitive marketplace, chances are you won’t sell one.  Or, maybe worse,  you’ll sell it for a lot less than you’d like. 

3.  CONFUSING STRATEGIES VS. TACTICS.  This one is easy to confuse but it’s very important to know the difference.  A proper marketing plan starts with an objective, such as:  “Create awareness and demand for Best Widgets with target customers.”  The  strategy follows, i.e.   “Reach women aged 25-45.”  Then your tactic is what you are going to do: the activity to meet the strategy and objective,  i.e.  “Advertise monthly in O magazine.”  Never start with tactics, as we have seen so many do.  This is the correct order of planning to ensure you are always “working your plan.”

4.  THE ONE-AD CAMPAIGN.   Unless you are advertising during half-time in the Super Bowl…and even then (assuming you can afford that, and then you are probably not reading this) the key to advertising success is in the formula:  frequency + reach = impact.  Tests have shown that three consecutive print insertions, for example, provide the minimum frequency to even be noticed.  And this is assuming your ad is compelling, well-written etc.  Reach would then be  circulation, or how many people will see your message.  Always try for the most of both.  If you  have the budget for only one ad, unless you are doing charity, don’t spend it.  (BTW, an oft-quoted mininum expenditure to be successful in consumer mass media is $3 million.  With the right targeting and social networking you will never spend that)

5. A “ONE-HORSE SHOW”.  This is the common mistakes clients make where they think that ONE thing they do will work.  Successful marketing is the integration of several tactics (see above) that, working together over time, achieve results.

6.  MISUNDERSTANDING SALES VS. MARKETING.  We see this a lot.  Please refer to previous post about TERMINOLOGY.  If you follow your marketing plan properly, your sales should improve.

7.  NO MARKET RESEARCH.  This should be at the top of your list.  You cannot have a proper marketing plan without research.  If you are doing B2B (business-to-business marketing) you need to understand the companies that will buy your product:  where they are,their motivation, the competition, the marketplace, etc.  If you are doing consumer marketing, you have to understand your target:  the demographics (where they live), psychographics (how they think) etc. 

8.  LACK OF CONSISTENCY.  This is when your marketing message is confusing:  you say one thing on your brochure, another on your web site, and the overall “look” is different on each sales brochure and customer communications.   Refer to #2:  all your communications should reflect your market positioning and be consistent.

9.  INABILITY TO MEASURE RESULTS.  A common ad industry adage says:  ” 50% of what we spend on advertising is wasted:  the key is to know which 50%.”   Set up specific but measurable goals to ensure your plan is workable.  Goal such as “increase sales by 10%” may or may not be doable, thus the importance of market research, above.  Test concepts and markets.  Remember:  test twice, roll out once.

10.  LACK OF PATIENCE.  Maybe this should have been #1.  Marketers are typically impatient, anxious for quick results.   If your plan is sound, you should see measurable results in one year.  Give your plan at least that amount of time to succeed.

 GOOD LUCK!

NEXT MONTH:  SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS!