Tuesday, 29 September 2009

That extra mile: Special service

Looking for online sources about good customer service, I clicked to the Extra Mile Scotland website, which posts stories by people who've been delighted by superior service throughout the country.

The site is run by two professionals with extensive travel and tour experience. You can 'Ask Dougal' a question about where to find something or what time of year is best to visit a particular region of Scotland. The site includes a blog with comments about all aspects of travel in Scotland.

I read through a number of glowing recommendations of hotels, restaurants, and tour guides that went out of their way to offer special service in the comments pages. The site will accept negative reviews and even threatens to post such comments (although I couldn't get the "bad stuff" part of the site to load today, for some reason).

Extra Mile also warns:
If you think that, say, this is the place to promote your cousin’s tea-shoppie in Cowdenbeath or anywhere else, then we’ll be on your case. Oh yes, we’ll be checking.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Which health sites are credible?

Looking for info about H1N1 (swine) flu vaccinations, I clicked to the Health Direct site and noticed the HONcode certificate (as shown here). HON stands for Heath on the Net, an NGO 'accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations'.

The goal is to help consumers evaluate the credibility and source of content posted on health-related websites. To be certified under the HONcode, a health website must comply with 8 principles:
  1. The information must be authoritative and provided by qualified personnel (or a disclaimer must be posted if this is not the case).
  2. The information must supplement, not replace, medical advice provided by a medical practitioner to a patient.
  3. The website must respect and protect privacy and confidentiality.
  4. The website should show sources for its information, including a date for the most recent change of content and links to the sources.
  5. The information must be balanced to inform consumers.
  6. The website must apply transparency and include contact information in case visitors want to communicate.
  7. The website must disclose financial support by commercial or non-commercial organisations that provide money or content.
  8. The website must disclose whether advertising is a source of revenue and clearly label ads as distinguishable from health content.
Hundreds of UK sites have been certified under the HONcode; consumers can search certified sites by clicking here.

These 8 principles can actually be applied to any website, whether devoted to health topics or not, and will help any marketer build trust with target audiences.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Top 100 Global Brands

According to Interbrand, the brand with the highest value in all the world is Coca-Cola. Both Marketing magazine and BusinessWeek have stories about this global brand ranking.

Looking at the top 10 brands, 8 are US-based, 1 is in Finland (Nokia, of course), and 1 is in Japan (Tokyo).

The biggest surprise was Google, which rose from #10 in 2008 to #7 in 2009, according to Interbrand.

Here's how Interbrand explains the ranking, its methodology and past years' rankings. Also worth looking at: Interbrand's interviews with global brand leaders.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

BMA seeks ban on alcohol ads

The British Medical Association is calling for a complete ban on alcohol ads and sponsorship, in an attempt to combat binge drinking among young people.

The Guardian quotes from the BMA's report:
'The alcohol industry uses its prodigious marketing skills and massive budgets to promote positive images about alcohol, and back these up with incentives, branding, enticing new products and sophisticated public relations'.
As the Telegraph reports, the industry has voluntarily agreed not to target consumers under 18 years of age. It also quotes Professor Gerard Hastings of Sterling University as saying:
'Our young people are being thoroughly groomed in a behaviour that is extremely damaging to their health'.
The Advertising Standards Authority's studies indicate that the alcohol industry is in 99% compliance of the ad standards, concluding that
'Where the self-regulatory rules apply, advertisers are adhering to them'.
Should alcohol ads and sponsorship be banned? What other steps might be taken to address concerns about binge drinking?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Finding real Cadbury chocolate in US

Today's Wall St. Journal has an article about finding real Cadbury chocolate in the US. Some chocolate lovers, having tried the US-made Cadbury bars made by Hershey's, will drive a long way to buy UK Cadbury choco bars in the US. Others try a real UK Cadbury bar and never bite into one again, because they prefer the sweeter, harder US versions.

The article mentioned a number of US grocery shops that specialise in UK foods, including the Cadbury range. One is Tea & Sympathy in New York City. Another is British Isles shop in Texas. Also: The London Food Co. in New Jersey. Not mentioned but a good source in Connecticut: UK Gourmet, pictured above.

Meanwhile, the Cadbury/Kraft drama continues. Will Cadbury remain independent? Will Kraft's acquisition offer succeed? Will another corporation try to buy Cadbury?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Product placement on the way

In the US, product placement is a common technique used to promote brands within broadcast and cable programmes. American Idol's deal with Coke is only one example. The benefit, for brands, is being associated with popular programmes and seen by millions of viewers.

In the UK, however, product placement has not been allowed in TV programmes, because of concerns about 'editorial independence' and quality. Now that ban is expected to be removed for independent programming (kept for BBC programming and all kids' shows on all channels), which could lead to lots of new placement deals in UK entertainment.

Some consumer advocates on both sides of the Atlantic worry that product placement may interfere with programme integrity...or viewers may misunderstand the promotional aspects. The creator of the reality show Big Brother says that product placement should be done in a transparent way, adding:
"But you have to trust the consumer. If it's overdone or tasteless, viewers will switch off."

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Links to Marketing and Business News

Looking for online links to daily news and analysis of key marketing and business events? To see current editions of newspapers from around the world, try the Newseum site, click on the map, and browse for newspapers nation by nation, region by region. Click to see the website of a particular newspaper, locate the business section and read about what's happening in that area.

Here's a brief listing of some key sites for marketing, media and business news.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Cadbury + Kraft = Oreo Super Goo?

If Kraft and Cadbury wind up under the same corporate umbrella, will we start to see new products that reflect each company's strengths? So far, Cadbury is refusing Kraft's offer, but a sweetened deal may happen after all as Kraft seeks global expansion through mergers.

Kraft owns Oreo, which may well be the most popular biscuit brand in America. This sandwich with creme between two chocolate wafers is advertised on both sides of the Atlantic as the 'twist, lick, dunk' biscuit. Oreos have been sold at Sainsbury for some time, but last year Kraft widened its UK distribution and began a campaign to explain the 'twist, lick, dunk' eating ritual to UK consumers. However, Kraft didn't alter the Oreo recipe for UK consumers...and it's already begun launching brand extensions.

When Kraft introduced Oreos to China, it reduced the sugar content to suit local tastes and has been rewarded with Oreo becoming China's top biscuit brand. Will Oreos become UK favourites? It's too soon to tell.

Meanwhile, Cadbury chocolates are available in the US, but a tie-up with Kraft could open new possibilities for co-branding. Of course Cadbury may eventually be acquired by another corporate parent, but just in case, here are a few ideas I want to offer if Cadbury and Kraft should happen to join together.
  • Oreo Quick-Dunk Creme Eggs--Like Cadbury's famous eggs but with Oreo wafers outside or crushed on the inside, ready to dissolve with a quick dunking.
  • Oreo Double Stuf Caramilk--Oreo wafers with a thick layer of Caramilk creme filling.
  • Oreo Super Goo--Choco wafers with an extra dollop of Twisted Creme filling.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Happy birthday to the Mini

Now owned by BMW, the Mini has 50 years of heritage behind it; yet the new models are not being marketed by nostalgia alone, as noted in today's Times Online.

The Mini's marketing plays up its unique, distinctive styling. Buyers also enjoy configuring their Minis for individual tastes and preferences--including colours and accessories that express personality.

Brand fans can buy other products that offer a special 'Mini' feeling, such as a USB drive shaped like a Mini car.

In Tasmania, as in the UK and around the world, people are marking the Mini's half-century this month. Happy birthday, Mini.