Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Deconstructing an ad

Ripped from the pages of Italy's Oggi magazine, this ad shows how deceptively simple and straightforward an ad message can be--and how effective.

All the message has to do is show the featured items (clothing), list the prices, name the store, and show the URL. This is not rocket science--it's the art and science of advertising.

Note the subtle art direction, which guides the viewer's eyes down the listing of apparel items, continuing down to see the child's outfit and to the bottom of the ad, where the marketer's name and strapline are located.

Piazza Italia likes to mix English and Italian in its ads and catalogs, adding a nice international touch that appeals to the target audience.

In this era of flashy adverts, when products may not even be shown and brands may be represented by logos only, simpler ads can actually stand out and be successful in attracting attention and stimulating customer response. Isn't that the bottom line for an ad message?

Good advertising, well planned and implemented, gets my vote.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Being green isn't easy: 2011 preview

A few months ago, the Lincolnshire County Council took Sainsbury's to court, charging it with "excessive packaging" of a joint of beef. Then the Council abruptly dropped the case, saying it was "no longer in the public interest" since the grocery chain had reduced its packaging.

Excess packaging is only one of the eco-issues that marketers will be facing in 2011. Others include:
  • Who's watching? Customers will be more impressed by claims verified by independent groups. Kimberly-Clark's Kleenex tissues, for example, have met Forest Stewardship Council certification standards.
  • Be ambitious. Small changes won't be enough as competitors jump on the green bandwagon. Unilever has aggressive goals for going green--a risk if it can't deliver, but a big plus if it can.
  • Industry-wide practices. In some industries, marketers are joining together to meet standards for eco-friendly practices. Setting goals isn't enough--the marketers must submit annual reports showing progress toward goals, as Carrefour and others are doing.
  • Online reporting for transparency. Some firms, including IKEA and BT, are posting goals and reports online where they can quickly and easily be read by customers, employees and other stakeholders.
  • There's an app for that. Even when shoppers are standing in the store, they'll be able to check green claims via apps such as barcoo.
Any way you look at it, environmental issues will be a major element in marketing plans for the coming year.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Most liked adverts of 2010

And the winner is: Meerkats (see full listing with links to postings on YouTube here). Nielsen surveyed 1.5 million UK TV watchers and learned that the most liked adverts of the past year are:

  1. Meerkats (for CompareTheMarket.com)
  2. Magners Irish cider
  3. Maltesers (candy with a kick)
  4. Santander Bank
  5. Snickers candy
  6. Cancer Research (Race for Life)
  7. Marks and Spencer Christmas ad
  8. Velvet paper towels 
  9.  Cushelle bathroom tissue
  10. Pepsi Max

I like the Meerkats ad because of its originality. Which is your fave?

Friday, 17 December 2010

Store window displays, 2010 edition

If you thought last year's store windows were spectacular, take a look at this year's holiday displays.

Here's a quick overview of some lovely holiday window displays in London and New York stores this year. Enjoy!
  • Diesel put gothic fairy tale scenes in the downtown store windows. Wow!
  • Selfridges has a playful theme with windows to delight children of all ages.
  • Harrods put Peter Pan into its holiday windows. Fly away!
  • Hamleys made teddy bears the stars of its windows.
  • Macy's has two styles of holiday windows in New York this year: One echoes the Miracle on 34th Street movie theme, and the other features Virginia, the young letter-writer who wanted to know whether Santa was real.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue has stars, stars, stars to dazzle shoppers.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Harley steers into India

Harley-Davidson, the iconic US motorcycle brand, has begun making bikes in India, a sign of how much growth the company expects in this market. Previously, Harley had imported its heavy-weight motorcycles, but taxes and transportation costs pushed the price exceedingly high.

Currently, Harley offers 12 models through dealers in 5 cities. Now the company and its dealers are planning brand community events in India through the Harley Owners Group (HOG). The idea is to bring owners together, reinforce brand loyalty and build a buzz nationwide about these powerful motorcycles. Will Harley's brand translate into high profits in India?

Friday, 10 December 2010

Sales of Tata's Nano slow down

The Tata Nano was one of the most eagerly-anticipated cars ever introduced in India--not to mention being the lowest-priced car in the world--when it made its debut in 2009. This update to the example on p. 122 of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning 2d edition explores what's happened since then.

After a strong launch period and high initial demand, the Nano has faced a number of challenges and is now selling much more slowly than it was last year. Last month, Tata sold only 509 units. Why?
  • Reports of a few Nanos catching fire may have made consumers wary of the model, even though Tata offers free safety upgrades to owners.
  • The ongoing global recession is hurting demand.
  • Tata says that buyers are having difficulty obtaining loans to buy the Nano.
To stimulate purchasing, Tata has announced a new four-year warranty (see image above). The warranty will cover previously-purchased Nanos as well as new purchases. Tata has also arranged for its financing division to offer low-interest loans to Nano buyers. Will these marketing steps accelerate Nano sales in 2011?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Royal Wedding = Marketing Opportunity!

UK marketers are getting ready for the biggest royal event in years--of course, it's the wedding of Prince William and Miss Kate Middleton, scheduled for April 29, 2011 (and now designated as a bank holiday, as well). Only officially-approved images may be used, and certain product categories (such as tea towels) have been not been authorized.

Several years ago, when marketers expected a royal engagement announcement, some went so far as to design new products for the occasion.  Above is the special plate design that Woolworths wasn't able to put on sale in 2007 because the Prince's engagement (although widely anticipated) didn't take place.

Intense public interest in the 2011 royal wedding should make the event a major marketing opportunity for retailers and manufacturers as well as for travel and tourism marketers. However, not all royal weddings become extra-profitable marketing opportunities. This year's Swedish royal wedding, for example, failed to increase tourism, and product sales weren't as strong as expected.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

UK consumers choose debit cards over cash

The Payments Council reports that now UK shoppers are using debit cards more often than they use cash. A Council official says:
“Once credit cards were the only convenient way to pay as alternatives to physical cash and cheques, but now people have far more options. Conscious of the need to repay credit borrowed, consumers are increasingly choosing their debit card over credit card.  Contrary to expectation, the possibility of greater financial stress during the recession and beyond has not driven people to rely more heavily on their credit cards.”
In other words, the recession and changing attitudes toward credit have reshaped consumers' payment behaviour.

At the same time, UK consumers are writing fewer cheques each year, possibly as a result of their increased reliance on debit cards.

Now that many consumers are diving into the social media economy with purchases via Facebook credits and other e-payment alternatives, and mobile-based payments are starting to become popular, it's clear that credit/debit/cheque usage will change even more dramatically by 2015.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Smart marketing: eco-friendly cars

Buyers have many questions about eco-friendly cars, such as where to recharge electric vehicles and how often recharging is needed. To get buying into high gear, marketers of non-petrol cars are preparing buyers with information and helping set expectations for what non-petrol cars can and can't do.

Where can electric cars get charged? That's a key point for buyers. And to demonstrate availability of recharging points--and reward buyers for eco-friendly behaviour--governments are putting recharging stations in very desirable locations, such as directly in front of downtown buildings where parking is otherwise very difficult. The recharging point shown above is in central London, for example.

Governments are also encouraging purchases of eco-friendly vehicles through subsidies, tax breaks and the like. And Waitrose and other firms are doing their part by building recharging points in customer-accessible areas adjacent to their stores or business locations. Smart marketing!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Are DVDs Going, Gone, Gone?

Today's Guardian reports that the DVD industry is in crisis as sales of disks slump while consumers turn to on-demand viewing and downloads to networked devices such as iPads, iPods, video game consoles and other gadgets.

Just a few years ago, the DVD industry was extremely worried about piracy. Yet much of the download/on-demand entertainment viewing is paid, not free or pirated.

Despite the downward trend in sales, DVD rental sites such as LoveFilm and Tesco DVD Rental continue to attract customers in part because of the flexibility of delivery they offer. And stand-alone rental kiosks have some appeal, capturing impulse customers who want to take a DVD home for the day.

In the US, Netflix (see above) is a major market leader that has transformed the DVD rental industry and is using pricing to encourage online viewing rather than by-mail rentals. Recently it raised its by-mail subscription prices and introduced a budget-priced instant-viewing subscription option that will help the firm cut postal and delivery costs.

However, the outlook for DVD sales isn't entirely bleak. Videogames are a bright spot. All in all, reports of the DVD's demise are premature.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Black Friday update

Here it is, midway through Amazon's self-declared Black Friday week in the UK, and the promotion is getting mixed reviews. Frustrated shoppers who weren't able to grab the most deeply-discounted deals are complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority about the limited amounts of merchandise available for brief periods.

Still, the possibility of buying a hit videogame or cutting-edge TV at a rock-bottom price is so attractive that Amazon's site and its Facebook page are attracting lots and lots of shoppers this week.

Will Black Friday be a plus or a minus for Amazon, after the week is over?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Will UK shoppers shop like it's Black Friday?

In the US, the holiday shopping season goes into high gear on the Friday after Thanksgiving (this year, that's Friday, 26 November). It's called Black Friday because (so one story goes) that's the day when retailers' balance sheets swing into the "black"--meaning they become profitable. Some malls and retailers are opening just after midnight on that Friday to let shoppers start their bargain-hunting early. This unusual timing also grabs media attention and gets buyers excited about being among the first to grab popular deeply-discounted items.

Now some retailers are trying to bring Black Friday mania to UK shoppers. Amazon UK, for example, has special bargains starting Monday (see image above). As my earlier posts have noted, UK retailers have already begun their Christmas promotions, with special pages and sometimes free shipping to encourage early shopping.

Will UK shoppers embrace Black Friday deals and shift their shopping to those retailers that offer special discounts next week? Remember, by cutting prices, retailers are cutting margins, so they'll have to sell more to keep up profitability. Will Black Friday bargains help retailers improve the top line (sales) as well as the bottom line (profits)? We'll soon see!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Marketing the Big March

Beatbullying.com hosted the Big March today, with more than 700,000 avatars "marching" across the Web site and MTV screen to call attention to the important anti-bullying message.

The "march" started at 8 am and ended at 7 pm with videos and messages available on the Web, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all day long. This is the start of Anti-Bullying Week and a virtual event is quite a smart marketing approach to getting young people involved in the movement and building awareness of the theme.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Communicating the dangers of smoking

As the New York Times reports, cigarette marketers are seeking profits by concentrating on countries where tobacco marketing is not as highly regulated as in the UK, Europe and the US. In the UK, Action on Smoking and Health is only one group helping to combat smoking.

The World Health Organisation's ongoing battle against tobacco marketing (see image above) is gaining momentum in some areas. Even in Russia, where smoking has traditionally been quite popular, large, specific health warnings on cigarette packaging have been adopted to remind smokers of the health consequences.

For a global gallery of anti-smoking health warnings, click here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

What's ahead for Bebo?

Bebo.com was incredibly popular, especially outside the US, when AOL paid $850 million in 2008 to acquire it. However, AOL didn't invest heavily enough in new features even though competitors like Facebook were aggressively expanding and adding enhanced services month after month. Facebook roared ahead in user numbers and media coverage.

AOL sold Bebo earlier this year (for a paltry $10 million) and now the new CEO insists that the site is "here to stay, and grow." He points to a recent increase in membership (bringing total users to 117 million worldwide) and notes that the personalisation features will help Bebo attract and retain users; he sees MySpace as eventually fading away.

Bebo recently introduced a new instant messaging service and says it has even become profitable. Meanwhile, MySpace is redesigning its site to hold onto users, and Facebook continues to innovate, even as its privacy policies and control of personal data draw attention and, at times, controversy.

What's ahead for Bebo, and how will it affect competition among social media in the coming years?

[Updating coverage of social media marketing in Chapter 9 of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning 2d edition]

Monday, 8 November 2010

Google marketing ideas

Multinational marketers strive to leverage their marketing investments in all locations, yet deliver marketing that is customised (at least in part) for local customers or users.

Google has an interesting way of approaching this issue. Its reach is global, yet it adjusts some aspects of its marketing for local users. For example, on most days, its Google Doodle (the logo shown when users go to the main home page to conduct a search) is the same worldwide. On other days, however, it designs Google Doodles for users who log in from particular countries. These one-day Doodles may celebrate a local holiday or a notable achievement. For a summary of Google Doodles that appeared during a particular period, click here.

Google's marketing also appeals to brand fans who want to buy T-shirts, blankets and other merchandise bearing the Google or YouTube brand at the Google Store. Depending on your location, prices will be shown in pounds, dollars or other currencies.

To build community, Google invites fans to submit their own logos. These unofficial logos express the enthusiasm and talent of Google's users worldwide. Although Google is clearly a giant company, its marketing helps users feel that the company understands local differences all over the world.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Social media's value to e-tailers

According to Hitwise, online retailers are receiving more traffic from social media this year than last year. Although Hitwise's report indicates that entertainment products top the list of retail categories receiving visits from social media users, apparel is #3.
That's why French Connection has opened an online store within YouTube, so viewers can click and buy without leaving the video site. Take a look at the "Youtique" here. The online store describes itself this way: "Look amazing for any occasion with the world's first personal shopping experience on YouTube, hosted by top stylist Louise Roe. Are you ready to get gorgeous?"
 The e-tailer already has more than 160,000 "like" votes on Facebook and an active Twitter presence, with almost 4,600 followers.

French Connection is also involved with mobile marketing, inviting consumers to get text message updates by subscription.

The bottom line for French Connection is: Social media drives online traffic and sales.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Retailers ready for Christmas

Now that Halloween is over, all the major retailers are getting ready for the all-important yearend selling season with all kinds of holiday campaigns and product ranges online.
  • Marks & Spencer, for example, has created a microsite for Christmas shoppers that includes a gift finder, party planner, and 'size detective' (that e-mails gift recipients to check on sizes).
  • Tesco has its own Christmas pages, complete with wine by the case and special credit offers to 'spread the cost of Christmas' with 0% interest for 13 months.
  • Selfridges has a Christmas site that features gift ideas for him, her and kids, plus decorations, foods and traditional hampers.
  • Harrods offers 29 Christmas hampers on its special holiday pages, plus links to the holiday toy catalogue and more.
  • Harvey Nichols is also featuring Christmas hampers, 30 that include either Coca-Cola or other brands.
  • John Lewis has a set of Christmas Web pages selling seasonal decorations and home goods, gifts (segmented 8 ways by gender/age/family relation) and other holiday offerings.
Later in the month I'll look more closely at holiday marketing by UK retailers. Let the shopping begin!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Halloween gains momentum as UK marketing theme

Boo! From tourism to sports to adult events, Halloween is gaining momentum as a seasonal marketing theme. At least one estimate puts Halloween as the UK's third-largest high street sales season.

Here are only a few of the many Halloween-themed promotions for charities, historic places and cities around and beyond the UK:
  • The Stroke Association is holding a series of fundraising fun runs with a Halloween theme in Liverpool, London and Belfast (see above).
  • Derry's Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival includes dozens of events in the weeks leading up to a big spooky night celebration.
  • Dover Castle is promoting its haunted castle event for Halloween Week.
  • The Real Mary King's Close in Edinburgh promotes its haunted legends for Halloween visitors.

Unilever and Crowdsourcing

Earlier this year, Unilever invited consumers to submit movies (really, commercials) focused on the values of its 13 major brands. You can read about its global partnership with MOFILM here.

The results are in, announced at the London Film Festival (and on Unilever's Web site, Twitter feed, etc), and the winners are quite impressive. This is not only a wonderful way to involve consumers in the company's brands, it also gives Unilever access to new creative ideas and approaches. Watch for more crowdsourcing by major companies in the future.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Debenham's fine-tunes its marketing

Debenham's is the latest retailer to jump into in-store/online TV. The company has moved into multimedia in a big way, with an iPhone app, mobile marketing, YouTube-style videos related to products and services, and social media of all types (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, blogs).

Recent blog entries promoted the retailer's contests, fashion designers and other subjects directly related to Debenham's marketing. The store also maintains a beauty club blog (see illustration above) with seasonal tips and product announcements.

With all this marketing momentum, Debenham's profits are up and the retailer is increasing its own-label fashion range to reinforce brand differentiation and loyalty. The big yearend holiday shopping season is almost here--will Debenham's be able to leverage its various media and messages to beat the competition? The outlook is very good.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More about consumer behaviour reset

Marketers of personal care and household products--venerable corporations like Unilever and Procter & Gamble--are noticing definite signs of shifts in consumer behaviour during this prolonged economic downturn.

Essential items are still selling, but non-essentials are selling less strongly than before, and store brands have become increasingly popular among budget-minded consumers--and likely to retain much of their popularity even after UK, US, Asian, and European consumers regain buying power.

ASDA is in the process of reformulating its private-brand food items after extensive consumer testing, with "Chosen by you" as its strapline (see image). This investment in reformulation is likely to pay off in higher awareness and higher sales because consumer behaviour has shifted toward buying products that don't necessarily carry national or international brand names.

In India, store brands are not only gaining share, they're being priced at or near what national brands can command. "We price some of our products on a par with national brands because we sell quality products," says the merchandising executive in charge of food and FMCG at Spencer's Retail. "Our 2010 Shopper Profile Survey has shown that 80% of our store shoppers have been visiting us for more than three months now. It is this trust which rubs off onto our private brands business."

Major firms have introduced lower-priced products to compete with store's private brands, but this strategy brings its own risks. P&G in fact may have found that its Tide Basic was so popular that it was siphoning sales from other Tide variants. Yet if consumer behaviour is being reset, buyers will not make the automatic choices they once made. Tide Basic might now appear a much better value in the "new" consumer mindset, because of the Tide name and the lower price. Yet P&G pulled Tide Basic a few months ago, even as it continues other budget-priced branded variants such as Bounty Basic.

The battle continues as marketers try to determine whether consumer behaviour has been reset for the present or for the longer term.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Consumer behaviour reset?

Is budget-minded behaviour the new normal? During the worst of the recession, Aldi--the super-discount grocery retailer--attracted lots of new UK customers seeking to stretch their budgets by buying low-priced foods and household items. (US shoppers also traded down, changing their shopping habits to buy basic items at Walmart and other discounters.)

This year, however, Aldi has not increased its market share and has sustained losses. In response, Aldi's executives point out that they are investing in the business. However, Aldi's inability to gain market share can also be seen in the light of the competitive pressures exerted by Tesco and the other major UK grocery chains, which are fighting back with price promotions and expanded private-label ranges that give price-conscious shoppers more reasons not to go to Aldi.  

Guardian reports that, in fact, supermarket price promotions are at a high point, yet shoppers aren't necessarily buying those bargains; instead, they're trading down to lower-priced brands and private-label products.

So the question is, are consumers going to remain budget-conscious after the economy improves? Or will they trade up to top brands once they feel more confident in their incomes and buying power? And how will this consumer behaviour affect retailers?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Google Price Index

A mountain of data passes through Google's hands every hour of every day. Now the company has launched the Google Price Index to map the daily progression of inflation with respect to e-commerce. Financial Times quotes Google's chief economist as noting that the Google index, still under construction, will take into account local variations and look at goods and services bought online.

This price index would provide a more timely look at price fluctuations than traditional price indexes calculated by government agencies. However, it's unlikely to replace "official" price indexes. What it will do is add to marketers' understanding of the current economic environment and help them track broad trends in price pressures. Google hasn't yet announced when (or if) the index will be made available. 

Friday, 8 October 2010

Louis Vuitton Focuses on Core Values

It's hard to miss the latest Louis Vuitton campaign, which features rock star/social activist Bono and his fashion designer wife, Ali Hewson, carrying one of the luxury company's signature bags. The photo, by well-known photographer Annie Leibowitz, is especially eye-catching because it lacks the static, posed look that usually characterizes an ad for an upscale brand.
The Daily Mail notes that Bono and Ali are the latest celebrities to appear in Vuitton's Core Values campaign ads, which revolve around the brand's iconic image in the world of travel. Vuitton discusses its campaign here.

The NY Daily News complains about the number of messages packed into this one ad. In addition to featuring the Vuitton luggage, the ad mentions Ali's Edun clothing line and also shows some Kenyan charms made by a Fairtrade company. Plus in tiny print, the ad says that profits from the Vuitton bag (as well as Ali and Bono's fees) will be donated to Conservation Cotton Initiative Uganda.

IMHO, Vuitton's target market is smart, media-savvy, and able to absorb and interpret multiple messages. Just as important, the target market will understand and appreciate the social responsibility angle, which helps to differentiate Vuitton's brand. All in all, I like this campaign.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Marketing fit for a Queen

Cunard is getting ready to launch its newest Queen Elizabeth oceanliner, with a major marketing campaign and a naming ceremony featuring the real Queen Elizabeth. This is an exciting new cruise ship and its maiden voyage sold out in only 30 minutes.

Marketing support includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, public relations promotions of all sorts and much more, leading up to next week's official naming and launch of the new QE ship.

Cunard's parent, Carnival, has seen profit increase as it continues its marketing strategy of differentiating its cruise brands for specific target markets. The new Queen Elizabeth will only reinforce the Cunard brand's upmarket image and British roots. Marketing fit for a Queen!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Chocolate Week

Because the sample marketing plan in my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning is based on a fictional chocolate start-up, I like to see what's going on in this industry. And I notice that 11-17 October is designated as Chocolate Week in the UK. Many choco marketers are participating, including Hotel Chocolat, Divine, Fortnum's and more. In addition to the web site, the event has a Twitter account. And its PR has gotten coverage in multiple media. Sweet idea!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Time for Byte Night

On 8 October, hundreds of IT pros from dozens of high-tech firms will sleep rough to raise money for the Action for Children charity, which helps homeless youth. This year's Byte Night event will take place in five locations (London, Thames Valley, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh).

In addition to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Byte Night's marketing includes local and national PR about celebs who support the event; news coverage of special events leading up to the sleepout (such as Byte Poker); and blog/word of mouth promotion from participating people and companies (such as the Wildfire Tech PR Blog).

Last year's Byte Night raised more than 550,000 pounds, with 700 people sleeping rough. The economic slowdown isn't over but the IT community is continuing its enthusiastic support of Action for Children. I believe Byte Night will surpass its 2009 record. Good luck, sleepers!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Strategies for store brands

Store brands are becoming stronger all the time, as consumers seek to balance price and quality during this recession.

ASDA, Sainsbury and Ocado have just strengthened their already strong store brand strategies, says MarketingWeek.

For ASDA alone, store brands are worth millions of dollars in annual turnover--with higher profit margins than on nationally-advertised manufacturers' brands. Not only is ASDA enlarging its "free from" store brand food range, it's also developing products to be marketed in parent Walmart stores worldwide.

Even as the global economy recovers and moves toward sustained growth, many consumers will stick with store brands for ordinary purchases while returning to manufacturers' brands for selected items, speciality products and so on. During the recession, these shoppers learned that store brands represent value and their newly-acquired shopping habits may linger on for years. For the big brands, a battle is brewing--which means more marketing communications will be needed to explain, educate, persuade and remind buyers of brand promises and benefits.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Word of mouth proves value

A new UK pilot study (of research conducted in the US since 2006) shows that most word of mouth is positive--meaning customers are saying good things about brands. And brands are apparently a hot topic of conversation: people speak about 10 brands per day, especially:

Not surprisingly, research indicates that teens are a major source of word of mouth about brands. No matter who's talking, however, the key is trust. Even if a brand is perceived as having transgressed in some way, showing that the firm listens and responds to customers will help heal the rift and restore trust. In many cases, people will share more positive word of mouth about brands that have righted a wrong and renewed the customer's trust in them.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Marketing Metro Bank

London's first new bank in a century, Metro Bank, now has two high street branches, one in Holborn and one in Kensington. Within five weeks of opening, the Holborn branch had met its new account goals for the year.

Vernon Hill, the marketer behind Metro Bank, is a big believer in customer service. His earlier US banking venture, Commerce Bank, competed against much bigger banks like Citibank and JP Morgan Chase by opening its 'stores' (branches) early, closing them late, offering weekend hours, and streamlining tedious chores like establishing a new account to speed up service. His long-term goal for Metro Bank is to have 200 branches in and around London by 2020.

Although good locations in busy downtown areas are expensive, being visible is the best way to attract customers and bring in deposits. The more deposits, the more profitable a branch will be. And Metro Bank is highly visible--its 'stores' don't look like banks. Instead of the formal, subdued look of an old-fashioned branch, Metro Bank stores have an informal retail atmosphere, with bright colours, friendly staff and open, airy spaces.

The banking industry is highly competitive, however, so Metro Bank will have to maintain very high standards of customer service to win customers away from their current banks and meet its aggressive growth goals. The bank's adverts use the catchy strap line: Love your bank at last! Will customers love Metro Bank? So far, the answer is mostly yes.

PS -- Please read Jeffry Pilcher's comment, below. He's right, loans are more profitable than deposits. However, as a former banker, I know that current accounts in particular are profitable because banks pay little or no interest on them and, with efficient info systems, these accounts need not be expensive to service. Clearly, gathering deposits through branches in densely-populated areas is a relatively cheap way to bring in money to loan.

The Fortune article about Vernon Hill is worth a look, especially the part where he talks about competing against Citi and other banking giants in New York City, one of the toughest markets in the world. Of course London isn't exactly like NYC, but Metro Bank is bringing new rivalry to the market and I expect that other banks will respond.

Friday, 17 September 2010

BP missing from top 100 Best Global Brands

According to Interbrand's annual ranking of the Best Global Brands, Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and GE lead the world today as top brands (Coke was the 2009 leader, as well).

BP's brand lost so much value after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to Interbrand's calculation, that it fell from the top 100 index for the first time in more than a decade. Read the entire Top 100 list here. And read all about what BP has to say about its brands here.

BP's brand problems could have been avoided, says Harvard Business School branding expert Stephen A. Greyser. 'Significantly, in a trust-intensive time, BP's faults have been magnified by its own "green" strategic positioning', Greyser wrote in a recent article. 'BP has to focus now on deeds rather than words'.

Can BP restore confidence in its brand and deliver on what the brand wants to stand for?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Happy Birthday Super Mario Bros

Twenty-five years ago, Nintendo first released its now-iconic Super Mario Bros video game. To celebrate, Nintendo today released a special advert featuring fans as well as the game's well-known characters.

Among other activities to mark the anniversary, Madrid's La Central de Diseno de Matadero museum has an exhibit showing the plumber and his world through the eyes of different artists. And here's a Guardian collection of Mario trivia. Happy birthday!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Cadbury grows: Bliss and more

Cadbury's marketing plan for growth (as discussed in Chapter 1 of the new edition of Essential Guide) relies on new product introductions under its best-known brands. Dairy Milk Bliss, to launch in October, is a good example.

An extension of the successful Cadbury Dairy Milk range, Bliss will be introduced with adverts that, in the recent Cadbury tradition, make the audience smile. To support all this growth, Cadbury has arranged to buy more cocoa from Barry Callebaut.

Looking ahead, Cadbury's marketing plan may change as Kraft's new category chief makes decisions about the corporation's product lines and priorities.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Coca-Cola's latest viral campaign

Coca-Cola has just made a "happiness" viral video for the UK market. The US version, introduced in January, became a viral hit right away. Here's the US version:

Now compare it with the UK version, which has just been released. What do you think?


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Regulating social media marketing

The Advertising Standards Authority will soon regulate social media marketing in the UK the way it regulates advertising in newspapers, on television and in other media. The goal is to protect children and consumers by putting virtually all marketing communications under ASA regulations.

In the past, if the ASA received a complaint about a Web site ad or a claim about ads in social media such as Twitter or Facebook, the watchdog group didn't feel able to take action, saying the complaints were outside its authority. From March, that won't be the case.

ASA chairman Chris Smith says: "When this goes live next March, this will be the most comprehensive approach to the regulation of advertising in website space anywhere in the world.”

To see how Financial Times writer Tim Bradshaw answers readers' questions about this new regulation, read today's thread of comments tagged #FTchat on Twitter and follow him at http://twitter.com/tim.  

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Is the customer always right?

"The customer may be right, but is she in charge?" That's what Thomas A. Stewart asks in a strategy column today. He says marketers have three options: (1) to resist what customers want, (2) to appease customers and (3) to indulge customers (while making a profit, of course). In other words, he believes that the customer may be right, but she also may be too costly to serve.

Yet marketing simply can't succeed without good customer service. Companies that satisfy customers spend less to keep them and continue selling to them. Customers that are delighted by a firm's service will refer friends, family and colleagues.

So the question really is: Is the customer right for us? A firm can't be all things to all customers. Best Buy, the US-based electronics retailer that recently entered the UK market, analysed its customer base several years ago and discovered that some customers were much too expensive to serve (because they were bargain-hunters or returned purchases more often than other customers, for instance). As a result, Best Buy determined to target its "angel" customers and operate its stores accordingly, providing the best service to the best customers. The "angel" customers are always right.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Choco marketing

Because the sample marketing plan in my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning is about Lost Legends Luxury Chocolatier (a made-up firm), I like to watch for developments in marketing chocolate.

The Economist reports that during July, a London-based hedge fund arranged to buy a huge cache of cocoa beans. This is important because the fund actually had the beans delivered to warehouses around Europe, waiting for the right time to resell and profit from market dynamics. And, as the Mail Online notes, it's the largest single purchase of beans in 14 years.

Even before the fund made its move, cocoa prices had been rising, causing choco marketers to either accept slimmer profit margins or--more frequently--increase prices. Nestle projected, late last year, that the UK choco market would not grow in 2010, in part because of higher costs and in part because of consumers' ongoing concerns about the economic outlook. Nestle has a brief overview of its UK choco manufacturing history here.

Meanwhile, Divine Chocolate (below) has been quite successful in marketing Fairtrade choco sourced from West African beans.

Finally, check out the Times 100 business case study on creating a sustainable choco industry, available in .pdf and mp3 formats.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The marketing galaxy of Doctor Who

Finally, Doctor Who and friends (and enemies) will be available to play on Nintendo devices, starting later this year. Shown above, Doctor Who "Return to Earth" for the Wii, featuring (obviously) the Cybermen. For Nintendo DS, Doctor Who "Evacuation Earth" will feature the Daleks.

So far, these Doctor Who games will be available in the UK, Europe and elsewhere but not in the US.

The BBC's downloadable Doctor Who games have been extremely popular, especially the ongoing series of family-friendly interactive episodes featuring Matt Smith and Karen Gillian.

Doctor Who is the marketing engine behind all kinds of goods and services, as you can see on the official BBC site and other authorised sites that sell related action figures, magazines, books and more.

Doctor Who's marketability is as strong as ever, and eager fans worldwide await his Nintendo debut. What marketing galaxy will the doctor and his companion invade (or save) next?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Telly Ads

According to a recent study, consumers remember TV ads more than they remember online ads. (Even newspaper ads were more memorable than TV ads.) But most of those surveyed also said that when they record a TV programme to watch later, they skip through the ads.

So who's watching telly ads? You, if you click to tellyAds, where you can view ads from 2006-7-8-9 or even yesterday. And if you want to see older adverts, look at these tellyAds links. Not just nostalgic, also instructive. While you watch, see if you can determine the target audience, the action the advertiser wants the viewer to take, the specific benefits or attributes being featured and the brand image being communicated.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The wisdom of crowdsourcing

Companies large and small around the world are trying crowdsourcing for new-product ideas, brand fine-tuning, and other marketing efforts. Waitrose is crowdsourcing its newest dessert. Unilever crowdsourced a TV advert for Peperami. BT crowdsourced the next plot turn in its Adam and Jane campaign. Trek Light Gear, a small business, crowdsources new product concepts.

Crowdsourcing is a popular way to get customers more involved in brands, hear the 'voice of the customer' unfiltered, save money and support the marketing planning process.

Customers are also using crowdsourcing to sift through marketing claims, seek brand recommendations, get peer reaction to products and more via social media. With the click of a mouse or a few taps on their mobiles, they can ask the crowd (or be part of the crowd providing marketing thoughts to companies).

Remember, however, that customers don't always know what they would like in a product or communication, and they can't always articulate their thoughts in a way that marketers can interpret correctly.

The bottom line: Although crowdsourcing can potentially lead to good insights, don't over-rely on the wisdom of crowds when researching and executing a marketing plan.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

How to price online news?

Newspapers and magazines have been experimenting with new business models for profiting from online content. Pricing content that was previously free can be a challenge, however.

The Guardian, for example, began to transition from free online content by selling an app (see above). More than 100,000 people have bought the app so far. From this fall, however, it will charge for a yearly subscription to online content that was formerly free. Will the Guardian be able to convince readers to pay a full-year fee instead of buying a much lower-priced one-time app?

The Financial Times (owned by Pearson, which publishes my textbooks) has been successful in pricing its online content at several levels. In fact, the paper is so confident in its subscription strength that it's publicly revealed its online and print circulation figures.

How many readers will pay for online content--and how much will they pay? Watch for more pricing experiments as the industry monitors reader reaction and searches for the optimal price point.

Friday, 13 August 2010

RFID, marketing and privacy

A few years ago, when the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag was a new idea for tracking products in warehouses, toting tolls and taking store inventory, the cost per tag was high and consumers knew little about this technology.

Today, the price per tag is much lower, which means RFID can be a cost-efficient way to handle many marketing functions. As the price of RFID tags and readers drop, RFID will become commonplace in stores, factories, airports and other public places.

The Finnish furniture manufacturer Martela, for example, adds RFID tags in hidden areas of its products (see left). As part of its full service to business customers, Martela then returns to the customers' facilities every year to inventory the furniture and identify broken or worn-out items to be replaced. Thanks to RFID, this is a speedy process that saves business customers time and money--and gives Martela a competitive advantage over other suppliers.

Privacy concerns remain, however. Consumers don't want RFID tracking their movements or use of individual products. Security is another issue: because RFID tags communicate via radio signals, they might be intercepted and/or blocked.

Walmart, for instance, has added RFID tags to many clothing items in its US stores. Although the retailer plans to "turn off" the RFID when clothing is purchased, privacy advocates worry that some tags will be missed or that the tags will be used to link individual purchasers to specific items and transactions, raising the threat of identity theft.

Stay tuned for more on the future of RFID and marketing.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Grocery shopping apps go mainstream

Mobile grocery shopping is moving mainstream, thanks to new apps and increased consumer interest in using their mobiles for everyday tasks. Tesco has just announced an app--not for the iPhone but for Nokia handsets, because, says a senior exec, 'our core customers are busy mums who don’t have iPhones and we want to focus on them first'.

Ocada had an iPhone app and has added an Android app. The company is seeing a significant increase in orders submitted via apps, indicating that mobile commerce is gaining momentum.

Waitrose has had an iPhone app for some time, plus a shopping we site optimised for mobile screens.

Sainsbury's has not yet announced its m-commerce strategy. However, with competitive grocery shopping apps appearing all over the place, and customers looking to mobiles for convenience, it's only a matter of time.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Marketing to stamp collectors

Stamp collectors as a target market? Stanley Gibbons, the big UK stamp and autograph marketer, is doing well because of renewed interest in collecting stamps for personal enjoyment and, more importantly, for investment purposes.

Stanley Gibbons is particularly interested in expanding into China, where collectors have pent-up demand for local and international stamps, in part because collecting was banned for more than 25 years. Now, with rising household income, collectors in China are increasingly seeking to acquire rare stamps through auctions, for example.

What makes a stamp valuable? According to an expert from Interasia Auctions, which specialises in stamps, a stamp must be both rare and in demand to command a high price.

One New Zealand dealer observes that digital media (the Internet, Facebook and so on) make it easier than ever for collectors to connect with other collectors and with dealers and auction houses. As more people communicate without traditional letters or cards, stamps may be rarer and rarer--which will only add to their value in the coming years.

UPDATE 13 August: With the big auction of Chinese stamps scheduled to start in a few days, the head of Stanley Gibbons comments about stamp prices: "Collectibles are driven by the passion of the collectors, not the sentiments of gamblers."

Monday, 2 August 2010

Should detergent contain sat nav?

Unilever's Omo laundry detergent has a secret ingredient in Brazil, says Ad Age magazine: Some packages contain a sat nav device to track buyers home so the promo agency can follow and give them prizes.

"Try Something New With Omo" is the name of this unusual location-based promotion. The idea is to build excitement by surprising consumers with a free handheld video camera and tickets to a special event.

However, as one blogger points out, consumers may not want to open the door to strangers. Nor are they necessarily going to be pleased that the detergent they bought has a tracking device for following their movements.

Is this kind of promotion a good idea?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Make social media part of the mix

In New Media Age, Charlotte McEleny writes that Ford's Facebook-only launch of its new Explorer model (left) is gutsy, although the approach doesn't make sense for every product:

But let’s face it, launching a life insurance product on Facebook is hardly likely to gather the wider attention that the likes of a car will get. In this case, social needs to step back from the limelight and become part of the mix instead.

I agree: social media should be part of the mix for almost every brand in almost every product category. FB may be appropriate for some brands, while blogging or Twitter might make sense for other brands. Will Procter & Gamble be able to generate a lot of sales of its Max Factor beauty products via FB? Domino's has certainly profited from including social media in the mix, as I wrote earlier this month.

MediaPost has it right: companies must determine their specific objectives before embarking on social media activities. Social media can help companies listen to their customers and make brands better known, for example. As far as actual sales are concerned, Domino's and Dell are major success stories, but not the only ones. Watch for more as companies gain more proficiency in social media marketing.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Group buying gains favour

Group buying has been gaining favour around the world. It got its start in China as tuángòu and now hundreds of Chinese Web sites compete to provide deal-of-the-day discounts to Chinese consumers.

The Groupon site, based in the US, is a popular online destination for consumers seeking special limited-time, deep-discount deals offered by restaurants, stores, hotels, spas and other marketers.

Groupon's London branch maintains a Facebook page where thousands of fans can click to see the deal of the day, suggest new deals and send friends to sign up.

UK consumers can also find deals at Groupola.

Groupon's US competitors include LivingSocial and Tippr.

Can group buying sites be a long-term value proposition? Or is this concept maturing so rapidly that the major competitors will have to evolve other offerings to stay relevant and gain attention in an increasingly crowded marketplace?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

What's new in retailing

As Marketing Week reported not long ago, retailing is putting renewed focus on the customer experience to add value and compete more effectively. The customer experience includes channel choices--allowing buyers to decide how and when and where they want to buy--and service choices. Here are a few examples:

  • Ocado offers an iPhone app (Ocado on the go) to make food shopping convenient and easy for customers
  • Metro Bank, debuting its first London store (branch) next week, will open accounts in just 15 minutes and operate on customer-friendly retail hours instead of limited banking hours.
  • Union Market, just open in London, is a fresh approach to food retailing, a high street-type farmers' market store packed with local fresh foods and beverages.
Retailers have to differentiate themselves to attract customer attention these days, and these three companies are doing just that.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Old Spice goes social

Old Spice, a Procter & Gamble brand for men's personal care products, has gone new media, using Twitter and YouTube to regain visibility with the next generation of buyers.

If you haven't seen the Old Spice Guy videos, take a look at the brand's home page or click here to go straight to the Old Spice YouTube channel. More than 8 million people have looked at these witty videos, giving the brand's fame a big boost.

It all started with a 2010 Super Bowl ad featuring Isaiah Mustafa, a handsome former player from the US National Football League. Building on the buzz his ad created, Old Spice decided to take the campaign viral in July.

And it succeeded, as you can see from this analysis. Old Spice needs some new life, as this analysis suggests. The bottom line: craft a short/simple message, select your audience carefully, leverage opinion leaders, and invite participation to spread the fun. Smart marketing for any brand in any media!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Ryanair to EasyJet founder: "Sorry"

Truth in advertising: Budget airline Ryanair has been forced to apologise to rival EasyJet's founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, for depicting him with a Pinocchio-long nose and tagging his photo with the caption "EasyJet's Mr Late Again."

The dispute was over EasyJet's decision to stop releasing its records of flight delays. Ryanair contended that EasyJet's founder was responsible for this decision.

An outraged Stelios brought Ryanair to court. Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's high-profile CEO, then apologised because Stelios had nothing to do with the decision to stop publishing on-time statistics.

Ryanair is now publishing full-page adverts of its apology to EasyJet's founder and will pay legal fees and other expenses, which Stelios is donating to charity. And Stelios will be publishing his own adverts in response to Ryanair's apology adverts.

What does all this mean for marketers? First, get your facts straight in every marketing message. Second, don't make things personal.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Domino's online success

New Media Age reports that Domino's UK is successfully leveraging online and social media to build loyalty and boost online sales to pizza lovers. From January-June 2010, Domino's online pizza sales exceeded 32% of its total sales, a very good performance.

How does Domino's do it?

  1. Make customers feel at home. "Hello pizza lover" is Domino's greeting to visitors who click on its home page. That's a positive start to the marketing conversation.
  2. Make ordering easy. The Web site is geared towards online ordering, and specials appear on the home page. No need to dig deeper to learn that Tuesdays are 2-for-1 day, for example.
  3. Keep things simple. Click "contact us" and you see three choices: one link to report order problems, one link to reach the corporate office, and one link to stop receiving email and text messages. Simple and easy.
  4. Involve customers. The Facebook page invites comments, stays updated and mirrors the offers on the main Domino's home page. More than 36,000 people have "liked" this Facebook presence.
  5. Reward customers. Every week, Domino's gives away a free pizza to the "king" and "queen" of pizza, the two fans who have brought the most new fans to the Domino's FB page.
But please, Domino's, add a link from your Web site to your Facebook page, so prospective fans can find you there. And what about Twitter?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Marketing Habanos

Despite sluggish economic conditions, the Cuban cigar maker Habanos is creatively facing several key challenges as it increases its share of the premium cigar market:
  • Bans on smoking. Although some countries have banned smoking inside restaurants and other businesses, Habanos works with businesses to publicise convenient outdoor smoking areas and private cigar clubs. This has helped Habanos increase sales in Germany and elsewhere.
  • Limited retail space. Habanos educates its retailers about the company's unique manufacturing process and encourages them to devote special space to its cigars.
  • Lower demand. Although overall demand is down, Habanos now aims to get affluent consumers to buy fewer but more expensive cigars.
Habanos holds its own festival each year to reinforce brand loyalty, win new customers and enhance the brand's associations with quality tobacco and careful production.

Looking ahead, what will global smoking bans and health concerns about smoking mean for Habanos in the long term?

Monday, 5 July 2010

Marketing to mums

Asda knows that mums are perhaps the major influence on household spending, which is why it's marketing to mums online through sites such as Netmums. The retailer recently told Marketing Week:
“We want to involve Asda mums in everything we do, from choosing and designing products to making it easier to shop in our stores with babies and young children. Later this year we’ll be announcing an exciting new project for Asda mums and we’ll be looking for bloggers as well as mums to get involved.”
Cybermummy is a site where UK mums who blog can gather, online or at the annual conference, talk about mummy blogs and meet each other. Asda is using Twitter outreach to encourage Cybermummy participants to get involved with the retailer's initiatives. You can read Twitter messages about the Cybermummy conference by clicking here or using the hashtag #cybermummy in a Twitter search engine.

This is smart marketing to mums who are smart about technology!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Will passengers stand for standing on flights?

For several years, Ryanair has talked of selling cheap tickets to passengers willing to stand for the duration of a flight. The BBC News says this marketing idea simply won't fly--and it's just chief executive Michael O'Leary's way of getting media attention for the airline's main marketing message, which is low price.

As recently as yesterday, O'Leary has been talking of super-low standing tickets and pay toilets on Ryanair. Everything costs extra. In fact, Ryanair recently increased the price of checked luggage to 20 pounds per bag.

How low can Ryanair go--and how many extra fees can it add? Low price is undoubtedly an important competitive advantage in today's pressured economic environment. I'm a big fan of clear marketing messages, and Ryanair has one of the clearest in the airline industry. But is the price still low once passengers add up the extras (including the fee for toilets, if this is implemented)?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Tesco + P&G = stronger Pringles branding

Good marketing partnerships are worth their weight in gold (or pounds sterling). Consider the close collaboration between Tesco and the giant US FMCG supplier, Procter & Gamble.

P&G has created a special range of "Great British Flavours" Pringle-branded snacks only for Tesco. The flavours include sea salt & black pepper, curry, kebab and smokey bacon.

This is a positive marketing development for Tesco--which holds the exclusive on this range--and for P&G, which gains shelf space and increases its brand reach as well as its Tesco-based turnover through improved Pringles sales. Because both companies are expert at marketing and work hard to understand their customers' preferences and tastes, the combination is unusually strong.

By the way, a high court judge recently ruled that Pringles are not potato crisps, because they don't contain enough potatoes to qualify under the legal definition of crisps. As a result, P&G will save millions of pounds every year on VAT, and the retail price of Pringles will go down.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Beautiful bank notes build country's brand

The Telegraph posted a nice photo gallery of "the world's most beautiful currencies." One of my favourites is the bill from French Polynesia.

Although security is an important consideration in the design of currency, I also like the idea of using bank notes as marketing--to promote a country by showing off its beautiful scenery, historic figures and distinctive architecture. Click through and see how bank notes can help build a country's brand.

Update: India just chose a new symbol for its currency, the rupee (symbol is at left). The goal was to "Formalise a symbol for the Indian Rupee which reflects and captures Indian ethos and culture" on the world stage, according to the Finance Minister. Even the symbol for currency serves a marketing purpose.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Tata's Nano gains from petrol dereg

Tata's tiny Nano, the world's cheapest car, was planned as basic transportation with high fuel efficiency (as discussed on p. 122 of the new edition of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning).

Now the Nano looks likely to become even more popular as India deregulates the fuel market and drivers feel the effects in the form of higher petrol prices.

Some observers see Tata gaining more broadly in India because it also markets several diesel cars, and diesel fuel is cheaper than petrol at this point (but possibly not in the future).

Tata's sales are already strong, and with the dereg, the marketing environment is more favourable than ever. In fact, Tata has just decided to go into the financial markets to raise more cash for expansion (having cut debt over the last year).

Meanwhile, Tata has been promoting its Nano with a cross-India drive that attracted media attention and showed the car's capabilities. The Nano appeals to buyers trading up from motorcycles as well as first-time vehicle buyers who might otherwise not be able to afford any type of motorised vehicle.