Monday, 28 March 2011

Marketing the Census

Once every ten years, the UK does a population count. This is the year! People (and some businesses) in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales were supposed to complete the Census form over the weekend. About a million people tried to complete the form online but glitches prevented some from finishing the 43 questions before they were timed out.

The Census is extremely valuable to future genealogists, of course. But it's also an important tool to help government officials and--ultimately--marketing firms understand population trends; look at changes in city, suburb, and rural areas; plan infrastructure for current and projected needs; and project the kinds of goods and services this changing population and workforce will require.

Many voices object that Census questions are time-consuming and knocking on doors also invades privacy. Some say doing a Census is not a good use of public money. The same kind of objections arise when the US does its Census. During the last US Census, in 2010, the government answered objections by restricting the questionnaire to only 10 questions. Unfortunately, the US Census wasn't available to be completed online.

Family tree researchers (like myself) wish for more information, but Census forms that are too long and tedious discourage participation. Look for a shorter, more streamlined UK Census in 2021.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Tablet Computers: Privacy vs Convenience

Tablet computers--iPads and competing tablets--are so light and convenient that shopkeepers in Estonia are using them to show YouTube product demonstrations and tally customers' purchases. Restaurant owners in Tokyo are testing iPad-based menus that allow customers to order with a touch (below). Small and medium-sized businesses are adopting tablets, as well. In hospitals, iPads are making the rounds with physicians.

But will the rush for convenience overwhelm the need for securing private data such as credit card numbers, customer details, and proprietary business information?

Tablet malware is a small but growing problem, for example. And a Harris Interactive poll shows that nearly half of the tablet users in the study are sending sensitive data via tablets.

UK and European regulators have established strict rules for data storage and protection. But they can't force every tablet user to input a strong password and they can't secure every wireless connection. Marketers should consider the privacy angle very carefully before they begin relying on a tablet for business functions.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Upmarket vs Mass Market

How can upmarket brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany maintain their exclusivity while marketing to a much wider target market? This is a major challenge for all kinds of luxury brands, as discussed in a recent Marketing Week story.

Global recession conditions have slowed sales for many and, in an effort to broaden their targeting, some brands are casting a wider net. Yet making the brand more accessible also opens it to a change in perception--risking the loss of exclusivity that gave the brand its cachet in the first place.

Vuitton is now on Facebook (where more than 2 million people "like" it) and posts videos of its fashion shows online. "Liking" a brand isn't the same as buying it, of course, but it does establish a connection, possibly an aspiration.

Finding the right retail space for an upmarket brand can be a problem. Luxury malls appeal to the target market but purely upmarket brands may have to share space with premium brands to attract sufficient footfalls. Premium brands may like to be associated with the top brands, but will consumers change their perceptions of the most luxurious brands in such situations?

Gucci and others are testing China's appetite for luxury with retail openings and social media marketing. Gucci's worldwide director of marketing says: “50 percent of Chinese consumers like to share images and information on luxury brands.” Will that interest translate into profitable sales and support the upmarket image of these luxe brands?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

£74 million raised on Red Nose Day

Fantastic! £74,360,207 is the highest fundraising total ever in the 23 year history of Comic Relief's Red Nose Day. That may not be the final tally, however, because donations are still flowing in.

Google News tracks how many "news" items mentioning a particular phrase ("Red Nose Day") are on the Web and from how many different sources. At left is the graph from 11 am on March 19, the day after Red Nose Day. Last night's BBC special clearly generated a lot of news items, just as it pushed the day's fundraising total much higher.

In a day and night of fun, one of the most hilarious bits was this inspired spoof of Downton Abbey. Well done, Comic Relief. And well done, everyone who participated and donated to the worthy causes supported by Comic Relief!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Helping Japan

Last week's earthquake and tsunami hit Japan incredibly hard, and relief efforts will certainly continue for months, even after the nuclear crisis has passed. Financial firms with Japanese offices moved quickly to make big donations in the days following the disaster.

Other UK businesses are finding ways to help Japan and suggest how their employees and customers can help.

Two examples:

  • Ocado's co-founder (left) donated 20,000 pounds and set up a special Justgiving Web page for donations.
  • Virgin Money Giving set up a special page where people can click to donate to six charities helping with the emergency.
Although Red Nose Day is tomorrow, people are already giving generously to help Japan as well. Thank you.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Battleground: Online grocery shopping

According to one forecast, UK online grocery shopping will reach almost 10 billion pounds by 2015, about twice the amount that UK shoppers spend today. No wonder so many supermarket chains are fighting for position in such a potentially lucrative market.

Morrisons is the #4 UK grocery firm and, until now, it has not been very active in online grocery sales/delivery. The company just invested in the very successful US company Fresh Direct, which has a fresh approach to the online grocery business. In addition to the usual farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, Fresh Direct offers 600 prepared meals, made fresh daily, for the convenience of its customers. It serves the New York City area and is quite profitable, not to mention popular--and it's growing day by day.

If Morrisons can learn lessons from Fresh Direct, it will be better able to battle Ocado, Sainsbury and other rivals active in Internet-based grocery shopping and delivery. Richard Pennycook, finance director for Morrisons, says the firm would only get involved in online grocery sales if it can expect to make a profit: "We will not go into a model where we haven't figured out how it is going to work." Morrisons plans to launch its online site in 2013, if it decides to move ahead.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Red Nose Day - 4,800,000 Google results

With Red Nose Day coming up soon, I did a Google Search to see the latest activities and found 4.8 million results!

The top result was, of course, the official Red Nose Day site. Below were many links to special events and promotional tie-ins, such as the Doctor Who episodes written especially for Red Nose Day, Take That in red noses, Cafe Direct's fundraising offers (see above), Sainsbury's Dance Off, and many more links.

Social media marketing is clearly at work here: Lord Prescott, for example, tweeted about reading the shipping forecast and soon he was signed up to do exactly that on Red Nose Day. TK Maxx (@TKMaxx_UK) tweeted giveaways related to Red Nose Day. For iPhone and iPod users, a Red Nose Day app is available, with news, entertainment, and a "donate" button for contributions. The list of social media involvement goes on and on. Search Twitter for #comicrelief and #rednoseday to see for yourself.

Watch tweets from the official @rednoseday account for the latest on this very special day of fun and fundraising.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Product placement on UK TV

Ofcom, which regulates UK communications, recently relaxed restrictions on product placement during TV programmes. Now that the new rules have taken effect, Nescafe is the first to pay for product placement, during This Morning. The three-month deal reportedly cost Nescafe 100,000 pounds. Viewers will know that the programme has product placement because the P symbol will alert them.

Prior to the first placement, a survey suggested that consumers are concerned about this change. Yet 13% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to buy something that has appeared in a programme via product placement.

Still, some observers are wary of the marriage of programme content and product message. "Editorial content and commercial messages need to be completely and transparently separate," says media commentator Steve Hewlett. "Product placement blurs that line because it puts a commercial product right into the middle of the programme."

Will product placement be effective for the marketers who use it? Will consumers accept these placements or click to another channel to avoid them?