Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Hello Kitty: Marketing kawaii (cute)

Cute beer? Yes, Japan's superstar licensed character, Hello Kitty, now has her own branded, low-alcohol fruit-flavoured beer. Given Hello Kitty's high kawaii (cuteness) factor, beer might not seem quite appropriate for a brand that has children as its primary target market. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, insists that young women in China and Taiwan are the actual target for this product, because they have literally grown up with the brand. The kitty character was launched 40 years ago, and her appeal crosses national and generational boundaries.

Hello Kitty's pop-culture cachet has made it a perfect partner for Western celebrities and brands eager for recognition and acceptance in Asia. Lady Gaga did a photo shoot in November to promote a Hello Kitty doll in her likeness. Other performers (including Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne) have also been photographed with Hello Kitty for promotional purposes. Avril even released a song called 'Hello Kitty' on her latest CD.

Sanrio earns more than 4 billion pounds each year from sales of Hello Kitty merchandise. It's no surprise that Hello Kitty is extremely social: Her Facebook page has nearly 14 million likes. Kawaii!



Thursday, 19 December 2013

EasyJet vs Ryanair: Rivalry in the sky

EasyJet vs Ryanair--a long-time rivalry in the sky is simmering once again as budget carrier EasyJet soars to new profit heights and competitor Ryanair's profit falls for the first time in years.

2013 was a brilliant year for EasyJet. Its well-received 'Generation EasyJet' campaign has expanded brand awareness across Europe and put its customer-oriented moves into the spotlight. More and more of its flights use major airports instead of out-of-the-way secondary airports. Rather than having a last-minute crush for seating, passengers can now check in via mobile and receive boarding passes the same way. Combine the new convenience with the low fares, and EasyJet is flying high as a brand and as a business.

For Ryanair, 2013 was not so brilliant. Even its own execs say it's 'the airline everyone loves to hate'. The chief financial officer comments: 'We cannot offer low fares without having a really low-cost base. So if that means we have to get up in the morning and have a fight with everybody, we will'. In the past, passengers would endure brusque employees and airport inconvenience to save a lot of money. Not these days. Competition is so fierce, and Ryanair's service reputation is so poor, that chief exec Michael O'Leary has cut excess baggage fees and is taking other steps to try to win back customers--starting with thanking customers for their business.

How will this long-time rivalry evolve in 2014?

Monday, 16 December 2013

Multichannel marketing and the 'last mile' challenge

Customers want to be able to buy in a store or online or via app, from anywhere, at any time. Perhaps the most problematic aspect of multichannel marketing is actually getting products to buyers--the 'last mile' challenge.

Different retailers are tackling the 'last mile' challenge in different ways, as Marketing Week points out in its yearend review of UK marketing. 
  • Waitrose is storing grocery purchases in temperature-controlled lockers that buyers unlock with a code delivered via mobile. This allows the grocery chain to serve customers in areas where it has no stores.
  • Ebay purchased Shutl in October, with the goal of speeding purchases to customers in a growing number of markets worldwide. 
  • Asda's 'click & collect' program adds convenience by encouraging shopping via app and convenient pickup from locations near customers' homes or offices. 
  • Amazon has announced plans to investigate the use of drones (Octocopters) for delivery within 30 minutes of online ordering. Really.
Watch for more innovations and experiments as online marketers test new ways to make buying and receiving products as convenient and painless as possible.


Monday, 9 December 2013

Opera, theatre, ballet, museums and Doctor Who

When Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special was simulcast on BBC channels and in 800 movie theatres around the world, it was only the latest in a growing trend toward selling specially-priced tickets to special performances on the big screen.

The concept of showing a series of live or special events in HD at local cinemas began eight seasons ago with New York's Metropolitan Opera HD Live series of opera performance transmissions. Today, more than 2,000 theatres in 64 nations show Met HD Live performances. Over the past eight years, more than 14 million people have attended an HD Live performance in their local theatre. The ticket prices are far lower than at the Met's opera house, but higher than movie ticket prices. Most important, the ability to reach millions of people in one season was the main marketing reason for starting this project. And yes, the Met HD Live is profitable.

Now all kinds of cultural organizations are bringing their performances or exhibits to larger audiences on the big screen. National Theatre Live brings "the best of British theatre" to local cinemas worldwide. Royal Opera House Live brings opera to cinema audiences in 30 countries. Ballet in Cinema brings performances from the Bolshoi and other renowned ballet companies to theatre-goers. World-class museums are opening special exhibits to cinema goers in many countries. And some rock concerts are showing on the big screen, as well.

Watch for more big screen events, thanks to the success of these cultural pioneers in marketing.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Hot toys of today . . . and yesterday

When Debenhams looked back at the most popular toys of the past 50 years, it discovered that Cabbage Patch Dolls were far ahead of perennial favourites like Barbie and Lego.

The retailer's top picks for 2013 feature some technology toys (see Kurio) and some traditional toys (Monster High dolls, Lego sets).

The Toy Retailers Association has listed its top 2013 picks, which include Lego, Furby and of course tech toys like the LeapPad Ultra.

Hamleys is carrying today's hot toys, but it also put another old favourite Beanie Babies, in its Regent Street Xmas windows this year. The toy store says an updated version of the Teksta robotic dog has been selling well. And, like so many other retailers, Hamleys invites customers to join the conversation on its Facebook page.

Monday, 2 December 2013

'Share a Coke' Goes Global

Two years ago, Coca-Cola and its marketing agencies created a marketing plan designed to boost sales and stimulate buzz in Australia. Research showed that teenagers and soft-drink lovers in their 20s weren't drinking Coke as much or as often. The marketers developed a plan for the summer months, with two goals in mind.
The primary campaign objective was simple: to increase consumption of Coca-Cola over the summer period. The secondary objective was to get people talking about Coke again.
Coca-Cola chose the 150 most popular first names in the country and printed them on Coke bottle labels. Before publicity or advertising began, the new Coke bottles were shipped to stores for shoppers to discover and share.

This started a lively social-media conversation that continued as publicity and adverts joined the mix. Consumer feedback via social media resulted in crowdsourced ideas for 50 additional names to be printed on Coke labels.

The campaign worked: Consumption by consumers in their teens and twenties increased by 7% during the summer months, giving sales a significant boost. The Coca-Cola Australia FB page was the most talked-about FB page in the country, with traffic increasing by an amazing 870% during the campaign.

Today, Coca-Cola Australia's Facebook page has more than one million likes and the company is constantly changing the content to promote its products and keep up a dialogue with brand fans.

Note the metrics: First, consumption--which drives sales--and then social-media interactions that involve the Coke brand. Results Down Under!

'Share a Coke' was so successful that Coca-Cola used it in Europe during the summer of 2013, again choosing the 150 most popular names, country by country. The long-term goal is to double Coke's sales by 2020, and successful campaigns like 'Share a Coke' are going global to help achieve that ambitious target.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Retailing 2014: Customer-driven, tech-driven

What's ahead for retailing in the coming year? The trends can be summed up in two phrases: tech-driven and customer-driven.
Argos is one example of the customer-driven trend in retailing. In showcase stores, it's finally doing away with those laminated catalogues and tiny pencils and substituting iPads and super-speedy service. FastTrack, shown above, is the retailer's new service that promises to retrieve merchandise ordered on the website within 60 seconds of the customer entering the store. The idea is to make shopping more convenient at every point, from ordering to picking up to paying. Instead of looking at a catalogue, shoppers can browse via iPad kiosks and speak with live employees. Watch for several of these new stores to open around London before Christmas.

Burberry is another example, because of its multichannel marketing. Customers like choices--buy online? buy in a store? order online and pick up in a store? get more info? see what other customers have to say?--and Burberry lets the customer choose. With 16.7 million FB likes, Burberry has a lot of social conversations going. Incoming chief executive Christopher Bailey will build on Burberry's success and creativity to keep the brand at the forefront of multichannel marketing.

Amazon is, of course, a good example of the tech-driven trend. No detail is too small for the giant of online retailing. It files for thousands of patents every year, covering innovations as seemingly small as being able to churn out boxes in the proper size and shape for the endless array of merchandise it sells. It has just launched Amazon Coins, a proprietary virtual currency that Kindle users can use to buy apps or make in-app purchases.

Traditional retailers are using tech to make apparel fitting more convenient and more precise; to give customers access to exclusive content; and to better understand customer behavior. Privacy concerns are definitely an issue for customer-tracking systems (such as those that track shoppers via their mobile signals), but this trend will certainly accelerate in 2014.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Marketing Merlin (Now a Public Company)

Merlin Entertainments became a publicly-traded company on November 8, building on several years of brand building. Merlin is known for its Sea Life aquariums, Alton Towers, Legoland theme parks, Madame Tussauds wax museums and other attractions, including the iconic Eye (below). Last year, Merlin attractions entertained 53 million visitors worldwide.


Merlin's strategy is: 'To create a high growth, high return, family entertainment company based on strong brands and a global portfolio that is naturally balanced against the impact of external factors'.
 
This strategy means strengthening the global focus of its brand marketing. 'We have over 40 Sea Life aquariums around the world, which do site-based activity to reflect the local culture and market, but there is also now an overarching global marketing team that is ultimately the keeper of the brand', explains the head of corporate affairs.

Madame Tussauds is particularly profitable because once the figures are in place, the attraction requires much less additional investment than high-tech theme parks and aquariums. A social brand, Madame Tussauds has more than 300,000 Facebook likes and 30,000 Twitter followers.

Earlier this month, Madame Tussauds asked football fans to vote for the legendary player they want to see installed as the latest wax creation: Pele, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore or Brazil's Ronaldo. The winner: Bobby Moore (England's 1966 captain), whose wax figure will be ready for the World Cup 2014.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

LEGO: Ready for the holidays and the movies

Just in time for the holidays, LEGO is once again showing sophisticated displays built of plastic blocks in Covent Garden. This year's winter display is a giant snow globe filled with miniature versions of the London Eye, Big Ben and other iconic sites of the UK. Last year, LEGO built an advent calendar out of plastic blocks...all to show the creativity and versatility of a toy that remains on most "must-have" lists. In fact, according to experts, the 2013 top holiday toy list includes the LEGO City Coast Guard block set.

Yes, LEGO designs are big business. A new display of LEGO architecture at the Paisley Museum recreates many familiar sites from around London, from Olympic Park to St Pancras Station. Visitors will appreciate the ingenuity of the designs and go home inspired to build their own versions, or assemble something from the many available kits.

LEGO, the world's 2d-largest toy maker, stays on top through constant innovation. Designers hoping for a LEGO job arrive in Denmark every year to participate in a challenging two-day "recruit workshop." They receive a bag of LEGO blocks with instructions to build something that fits with a current product-line theme; they're asked to design mini-figures; and all the projects must be completed within a strict time period, working alongside other competitors for the few LEGO jobs that are to be filled. 

What's next? Early in 2014, watch for the LEGO movie being released by Warner Bros. and promoted by social media.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Trust + reputation + service = Customer experience

The latest survey of Top 100 UK Brands for customer experience shows what happens when well-known brands get a reputation for trying to dodge corporate taxes.

As shown at right, the top 2013 brand for customer experience is John Lewis. However, Starbucks, which has been criticised for avoiding UK corporate taxes for several years, isn't anywhere to be found on this year's list of 100 brands.

Nunwood, the consultancy behind this survey, notes that customer service in meeting needs is important, but so is trustworthiness and reputation. The companies in this 2013 Top 100 list scored the highest on all those dimensions.

Some companies are new to the top of the list, others have been near or at the top for some time. Take a look at this comparison of the top 10 in 2011 and the top 10 in 2013. John Lewis, Amazon, Virgin Atlantic and M&S (food and brand) have extended their top-10 stays, even though they're not at exactly the same spot in the survey from one year to the other.

2013
  1. John Lewis
  2. QVC
  3. First Direct
  4. Amazon
  5. Virgin Atlantic
  6. Marks & Spencer (food)
  7. Lush
  8. Ocado
  9. Marks & Spencer (brand)
  10. Waitrose
2011
  1. Amazon
  2. John Lewis
  3. Virgin Atlantic
  4. Emirates airline
  5. Marks & Spencer (brand)
  6. Marks & Spencer (food)
  7. Millie's cookies
  8. Gregg's
  9. Hilton hotels
  10. Krispy Kreme donuts

Friday, 8 November 2013

2013 holiday adverts debut online

At one time, November meant the unveiling of dazzling holiday window displays in high street stores.

Now November also stands for holiday advert debuts. M&S is only one of many UK retailers revealing its holiday ads on multiple screens--TV, mobile, and beyond.

John Lewis is unveiling its 2013 holiday animated advert this weekend, as if you didn't know by seeing the Twitter hashtag #sleepingbear and the teaser ads leading up to the big event. Of course, John Lewis showed its advert online first. The official TV debut is during X Factor. 

Tesco is going all out for nostalgia, complete with a Rod Stewart soundtrack for its holiday advert.

Designer clothes are the stars of the Debenhams holiday advert this year, adding glamour to a heartwarming reunion story. The finale takes place on ice, just the right touch for a winter holiday feeling.

Marketing Week critiques what it calls the winner, the runners-up, the losers and the bizarre holiday ads here.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Digital sparkle for Marks and Sparkle

Marks and Sparkle--er, Marks and Spencer--has adopted a digital-first marketing strategy.

Whatever it does, it does on social media or online first. Like its Holiday 2013 advert (see at right), which went live on YouTube before appearing anywhere else. As the economy improves, M&S wants its ads to sparkle and capture the magic of the holiday season.

Digital-led marketing is part of M&S's strategy to capture younger shoppers and let them browse and buy in a multichannel manner. Apps? Yes.  Shop Your Way, the M&S program offering buy-by-mobile, buy with a call, buy online, order in a store, and so on, is leading the way towards a 28.5% multichannel sales increase. However, profits are lower as M&S invests in stores and marketing.

Social media marketing is a battleground for retailers and upscale brands these days. Here's where M&S stands with social media fans:


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Marketing for Halloween 2013

Halloween is an increasingly popular marketing opportunity for UK businesses and nonprofits.

Especially now that zombies and vampires are part of pop culture, Halloween is easing into the mainstream and spending may be even higher than for Guy Fawkes Day festivities.

According to Planet Retail, Halloween is now the third-largest holiday in terms of UK consumer spending, after Christmas and Easter.

Here are just a few of the many All Hallow's Eve offerings being marketed for the 2013 holiday:
  • Splashing out on a costume? Think about the one-million-pound Morphsuit, with more than 20,000 diamonds (at left).
  • For a ghoulish day with lots of exotic animals, visit Bristol Zoo and join the lantern parade (see above).
  • How about a spooky evening ride on the Ghost Train in Leicestershire?
  • The London Canal Museum has a special Halloween boat experience waiting, complete with children's activities.
  • Tour the haunted castle at Muncaster in Cumbria, with magic and a baby dragon and more.
A few tricks and a lot of treats for a day of trick-or-treating!


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

More top brands lists from around the world

According to the research firm Colmar Brunton, the top brands in New Zealand are mainly those with a long history in the country:

  1. Whittakers (chocolate)
  2. Tip Top (ice cream)
  3. All Black's (rugby)
  4. Cadbury (chocolate)
  5. Trade Me (online auctions)
  6. Air New Zealand (airline)
  7. Pineapple Lumps (choco-covered sweets)
  8. Edmonds (baking products)
  9. Heinz Wattie's (foods)
  10. L&P Lemon & Paeroa (soft drink)
According to the Reputation Institute, the top brands in Canada are also well established--and, interestingly, local brand Tim Horton's is #10, while global fave Apple is way down the list at #27:
  1. Disney (entertainment)
  2. LEGO (toys)
  3. Johnson & Johnson (health)
  4. Rolex (luxury watches)
  5. Nestle (foods)
  6. Microsoft (software)
  7. Google (you know)
  8. BMW (autos)
  9. Sony (electronics)
  10. Tim Horton's (restaurants)
According to Millward Brown, the top 10 most valuable local brands in China are:
  1. China Mobile (telecom)
  2. ICBC (banking)
  3. China Construction Bank (banking)
  4. Baidu (tech)
  5. Tencent (tech)
  6. Agricultural Bank of China (banking)
  7. China Life (insurance)
  8. Bank of China (banking)
  9. Moutai Baijiu (alcoholic beverages)
  10. Sinodec (petrol/gas)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Reckitt Benckiser's Vision: Healthier Lives, Happier Homes

The mission of multinational household/health products giant Reckitt Benckiser is to make a difference by giving people innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes. The company, known for brands such as Mucinex, Strepsils, Dettol, Durex and French's, operates according to four values: achievement, entrepreneurship, partnership and ownership.

Now, updating the preview example from chapter 1 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning, here's more about Reckitt Benckiser's marketing plan for future growth.

The company is launching innovative products under established brands such as Nurofen to build profitable turnover in emerging markets like Latin America. CEO Rakesh Kapoor says: 'Scarcity is the mother of invention'. His point is that an abundance of resources is not needed to stimulate innovation--in fact, people become more creative when they don't have everything they need to develop a new product.

What about communications and creativity? Reckitt Benckiser's brands are now reaching online audiences through captcha advertising activities.

As at left, when an Internet user has to show that he or she is a person, not a bot, the captcha at right achieves that goal with a touch of brand-related whimsy. Users drag the rusty penny into the Cillit Bang cleaner--linking the brand with its benefit.

Finally, Reckitt Banckiser is currently considering a major strategic change: Whether to sell its pharmaceuticals business, which is under pressure from lower-priced products.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Planning B2B content marketing

According to the infographic at left, from a Content 4 Demand survey, social media is used by many business decision makers to share white papers, case studies and other content that can influence what and when companies buy.

It's not a surprise that LinkedIn is the top social media site for sharing B2B content and for researching vendors that sell all kinds of goods and services that businesses buy. Technology firms in particular are heavy users of LinkedIn for B2B content marketing.

A Content Marketing Institute survey shows that 93% of businesses use content marketing for B2B marketing--yet few firms are confident that content marketing is actually effective in achieving marketing objectives. Mobile marketing, now a growing element in consumer plans, is not yet a major focus of B2B content marketing.

B2B experts suggest these five tips for developing effective content marketing for a B2B marketing plan:

1. Know your target audience and what those businesspeople need. Also understand what media the target audience uses. However, don't restrict your targeting too narrowly, or you may not reach the people who might need your content (such as 'influencers' in the buying centre).
2. Understand how targeted businesses buy, how long the buying cycle might last and what will help bring decision-makers through the process towards a purchase.
3. Consider what content businesses need at each stage of the buying process. Early on, they might need more general information and then, just before they buy, more details about specifications and training. Don't push too hard to close a sale before buyers have barely begun to look at your content marketing.
4. Be sure to highlight how your offer solves an important problem for your buyers--specifically, the benefits the product will deliver.
5. Have a definite plan for content marketing, including a schedule of what content you will release and in which media (social and traditional) during each step of your overall marketing campaign.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Ikea's ambitious marketing plans

Ikea UK is aiming to increase turnover to £2 billion annually by 2020 and double its market share at the same time, through the addition of new stores and higher online sales. This is part of Ikea's worldwide goal of doubling turnover by 2020. The company currently operates 303 stores, but in this age of multichannel marketing, it's smart to increase its emphasis on online sales.

Ikea carefully plans ahead for new products, especially expensive product systems like new kitchens that will be marketed to tens of millions of customers all over the globe. Recently, the Swedish furniture retailer introduced a newly designed kitchen system that can be tailored to each buyer's specific situation.

The product development process unfolded over more than five years--an unusually long period but necessary because Ikea sells one million custom-designed kitchens every year.


The process began with indepth studies of customers in 38 nations. Ikea's researchers visited home after home, observing how customers moved around their kitchens, where they stored utensils and what they liked and disliked. The company also examined trends to envision future needs.

Next, Ikea's designers developed each component, working closely with suppliers and transportation experts to keep costs within the company's strict guidelines. Not every component will be bought by every customer, but all must look good and fit properly, delivering both function and fashion benefits at affordable prices.

The catalogue is Ikea's main marketing tool outside the stores. New for 2014, Ikea has an augmented reality app that helps customers get a preview of how a table or another product pictured in the catalogue might look in their home or office.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Supermarket shopping expands on Boxing Day

In today's multichannel world, shoppers can click to buy online or via mobile or on a tablet computer. They can use QR codes or UPC codes or browse virtual products. In short, store shopping isn't the only way to buy.

Yet some supermarkets are already announcing that they'll open more stores on Boxing Day, accelerating a trend that began after the turn of the century (this century!).

Back in 2007, Asda opened NO stores on Boxing Day, while rival Tesco opened a few dozen of its supermarkets. Fast-forward to 2010, when Asda opened 105 of its stores, Tesco opened 410 supermarkets and Sainsbury opened 236 stores.

For 2013, Morrisons will be opening grocery stores on Boxing Day--a first for that chain--while Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco will continue adding to the number of stores they open. Given the slow pace of economic recovery and the intense competition for shoppers, this isn't surprising. A Morrisons manager explains: 'We believe these opening hours mean customers will come to us rather than a competitor'. . .

Supermarket competition is especially intense because, according to a Payments Council study, 58p of every pound spent at a retailer goes to a UK supermarket. Those pence add up, and every grocery chain wants to get their share.

Two more factors are driving these Boxing Day openings: Bargain hunters are shopping at giant deep-discounters such as Aldi and more shoppers are seeking convenience. So even though grocery purchases are forecast to rise in the coming years, supermarkets will be fighting to hold onto their store shoppers every day, including Boxing Day.

Monday, 7 October 2013

No Cadbury trademark for Dairy Milk purple

Colour really counts: Consumers often recognise products by the distinctive packaging or labelling colours. Over time, a certain colour comes to be closely associated with the brand and individual branded products. Cadbury has been wrapping its milk chocolate bars in purple packaging since 1905, so when it applied to trademark the colour in 2004, that tradition seemed in the brand's favour.

In 2008, rival chocolatier Nestle contested the trademark, starting a legal battle that appears to be over--for now. Last year, Cadbury prevailed in court. Last week, however, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that Cadbury cannot have the trademark because the application 'required clarity, precision, self containment, durability and objectivity to qualify for registration'.

The result is that Cadbury is not able to have exclusive use of this purple colour for milk chocolate bars or any other product. However, it still retains the legal right to prevent competitors from copying its trade dress (the visual appearance of a product, including its shape and the colour of packaging) in an attempt to 'pass off their products as Cadbury chocolate', as the company notes in a statement.

Cadbury has the option of appealing through EU legal channels. Or it may reapply for trademark protection with more specific language.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Most Social Byte Night Ever

Friday, 4th October, was Byte Night 2013, a night to sleep rough as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Action for Children. The goal was to raise £1 million to support the fight against homelessness and poverty.

This year's sleepout was the most social ever, building awareness, increasing participation and encouraging sleepers to raise lots of money. Although the final numbers are not yet available, Byte Night probably achieved its fundraising goals and involved many more sleepers and sponsors than in the past.

Here's a small sample of the social media marketing supporting Byte Night 2013:
  • The official Byte Night site instructed participants to share their photos via Instagram with regional hashtags (above). It also included links to Action for Children, where donations can be made online, plus instructions for texting donations.
  • Byte Night tweets from organisers, sleepers, sponsors and others kept up the marketing momentum all night and into the morning, using hashtags such as #MakeIt1Million (see below). The official Byte Night Twitter account has more than 1,000 followers.
  • Byte Night has its own LinkedIn admin profile, with 47 connections--corporate connections that mean multiple relationships to attract sleepers and donations.
  • The Byte Night Facebook page has 729 likes and its YouTube page has videos from this year as well as those uploaded on previous years.
  • Many industry groups and companies got involved, donating supplies, posting tweets and photos, interviews and updates before and during Byte Night.
Now we have to wait for the final numbers!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top Global Brands: Apple Tops Two Lists

Interbrand just released its 2013 list of best global brands. As the table at left shows, Apple has zoomed to the top, followed by Google and then Coca-Cola.

This is the first time in 14 years that Coke is not the leader in the Interbrand list.

MillwardBrown publishes its own 2013 list of top global brands, and Apple is at the top of that list, too.

Its top 5 global brands are: Apple, Google, IBM, McDonald's and Coca-Cola.

In the UK, MillwardBrown names these as the top 5 brands: Vodafone, HSBC, Shell, Tesco and BP.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

VW gears up for the future

Volkswagen's iconic camper-van, above, is not going to be part of the German company's product line for much longer. Because of the difficulty of adding airbags to protect all passengers, the van is being dropped in favor of newer models and technologies that will help in the drive for future growth. This is part of VW's long-term goal of becoming the world's number one automaker by 2018.

China is VW's most important market these days, so the company is boosting production of the Golf and other models to meet projected demand. It's also investing more heavily in its existing joint ventures inside China, where the ever-expanding middle class segment has the income to buy new vehicles.

Meanwhile, European car sales have been slow but as the economic recovery continues, volume is likely to rise. Thanks to VW's large portfolio of brands, it remains Europe's top-selling car company. Its truck brand, Scania, reports healthy sales as fleet operators get ready for stricter emissions rules.

Like other automakers, VW is increasingly active in engaging car buyers through social media. Its UK website has links to Facebook (404,000 likes), Twitter (63,000 followers), YouTube, and Flickr. VW US has a popular Pinterest board, as well.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Updating the marketing plan for chocolate

My latest edition of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning includes a sample marketing plan for Lost Legends Luxury Chocolatier, a fictitious startup that will market premium gourmet chocolates to adults in the United Kingdom.

No marketing plan can remain static, because the marketing environment is always changing. In this case, Lost Legends Luxury Chocolatier must update its marketing plan to take into account recent developments that can affect its business.

For example, higher demand for chocolate is pushing up the cost of ingredients, a factor that must be considered when setting price and calculating profit. In addition, dry weather in West Africa is affecting the cocoa crop, which in turn could lead to chocolate shortages as well as sharply higher costs in the coming year or two.

Another factor is social-cultural: Stronger demand for dark chocolate products is based on perceptions of health benefits and bolder flavours. Dark chocolate appears to have a calming affect when eaten, among other perceived nutritional advantages (such as anti-oxidants and the fact that dark chocolate bars often have lower sugar content than milk chocolate bars). Media coverage of trends in high-quality chocolate is helping to support the development of a "chocolate culture" that, like the "coffee culture," encourages consumers to be more discriminating in their buying decisions. What can Lost Legends Luxury Chocolatier do to make the most of these opportunities?

The economy continues to influence consumer purchasing patterns. "As the economy recovers ever-so-slowly, consumer demand for the affordable indulgence that chocolate provides is expected to remain and interest in chocolate as part of the larger food culture will continue," says one expert analyst. What does this mean for the company's positioning and pricing decisions?

Globally, premium chocolate consumption is on the rise. In India, for example, the amount of chocolate consumed by adults tripled in the 2005-2013 period. This is a positive sign for Lost Legends Luxury Chocolatier, which is considering expanding into the European market and then beyond in future years.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Grand Theft Auto V sets sales records

Grand Theft Auto V, the new video game from Edinburgh-based Rockstar North, has set new sales records, both in units sold and revenues. Its first-day sales of £496m  surpassed the previous record, held by Call of Duty: Black Ops. 

With nearly 1.5 million Facebook likes, and widespread media attention in recent weeks, GTAV was eagerly anticipated by gamers in many markets. Online retailers such as Amazon accepted advance orders and tried to time delivery to the release date.

Many UK stores opened at midnight for gamers who wanted to buy this latest version at the earliest possible moment. "Our customers really want to get their hands on this game," explains a manager at GAME. "People are just really excited in terms of the things that they can do on GTA that they could never do before."

The original GTA was released 16 years ago. Then, as now, the game generated controversy, with critics complaining about adult content, drug references and extreme violence, among other issues.

Add up the development and marketing costs, and GTAV is among the most expensive games ever sold. How will the expected release of next-generation game consoles affect its sales in the coming months? And will GTAV inspire a new movie franchise based on its characters and plot?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Dunkin' Donuts Returns to London as Coffee Culture Continues

US-based Dunkin' Donuts has been marketing doughnuts and coffee, with some menu additions, since 1950. Today, it has 10,000 franchised doughnut shops worldwide and also owns other brands, including Baskin-Robbins ice cream, that are popular beyond North America. The company has sales and profit momentum and big marketing plans for future growth.

During the 1990s, Dunkin' opened franchised doughnut shops in UK markets but closed them to concentrate on more profitable opportunities. It has expanded its Baskin-Robbins shops in the UK but, until now, has not marketed doughnuts again in the UK.

Very soon, Dunkin' Donuts plans to return to the UK with 50 new franchised doughnut shops throughout London. The timing is right, says Dunkin's management, because of the established strength of the coffee culture in the UK and because of Dunkin's expanded menu offerings, including breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

Specifically, the head of Dunkin' Donuts is targeting consumers who might otherwise go to Starbucks or McDonald's for coffee or breakfast/lunch. This time around, Dunkin' must carefully differentiate itself to effectively compete with Krispy Kreme, another US-based chain of doughnut shops that entered the UK a few years ago.

What role will mobile marketing play in Dunkin's strategy to return to London?

In the US, the company is promoting its easy-pay mobile app that not only speeds up transactions, it also gives users access to exclusive mobile offers (see ad).

Starbucks UK already has an easy-pay mobile app for iPhones and Android phones.

So it would make sense for Dunkin's London stores to offer mobile options when they open, don't you think?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Shopper tracking: Who's watching and why?

Retailers want to know who's in their stores, what they look at, how long they stay, which aisles they visit and which marketing techniques are likely to result in buying behaviour.

Some retailers are trying to track shoppers throughout the buying decision process, to learn about underlying needs and preferences as well as to improve offerings and service before, during and after the sale.

For example:
  • Waitrose is considering using the GPS in a customer's mobile to track the distance to its UK "click and collect" locations. By the time the customer arrives at the Waitrose store, having clicked to order groceries earlier, the sacks will be ready to be picked up, saving time and effort at the end of the buying process.
  • A Toronto supermarket installed RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on its trolleys as a test, to where shoppers went in the store, how long they lingered in front of displays and be able to compare actual product purchases to time spent in front of product displays. In the future, the grocery chain might make point-of-sale offers to loyalty customers based on where in the store they are standing.
  • American Apparel stores needed to plan staffing for its busiest hours. With cameras mounted above entranceways in US stores, it counted footfall hour by hour and used the data to be sure it had sufficient salespeople available when shoppers were browsing and buying--resulting in higher sales.
  • Synqera, in Russia, uses cameras in its checkout areas to analyse shoppers' facial expressions and tailor point-of-sale offers to the mood and behaviour of the moment.
  • Some US malls have been tracking shoppers via their mobiles. Reaction is mixed. The marketers want to better understand their shoppers' behaviour. But some shoppers object to this for privacy reasons. 
Privacy concerns may, in the end, be a major challenge, because some customers are uncomfortable about having their movements and moods tracked. In the interest of transparency, disclosure is vital to be sure shoppers know they're being tracked and have a way to opt out--or opt in, if they want special offers for those who have registered.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Metrics for sustainability marketing

When Marks & Spencer announced its Plan A for sustainability marketing in 2007, it set goals for reducing its carbon footprint, achieving zero landfill waste, buying from sustainable sources, fair trade practices and helping customers lead healthier lives. The UK retailer pledged to invest £200 million over a five-year period to achieve these goals.

According to the metrics, M&S has made significant progress towards its goals and created a net cost-savings to the company. The retailer sends nothing to the landfill, has achieved its lower carbon footprint targets, is developing additional sustainable sources for products and materials it buys and has established workable fair trade practices as well as provided consumers with tools for healthy living. For transparency reasons, M&S reports its sustainability results on a special site and in periodic reports.

One important element in the marketing plan to keep waste from landfills has been M&S's partnership with Oxfam, which encourages shoppers to 'shwop it'--bring in an unwanted piece of apparel that M&S will give to Oxfam for resale or recycling. This partnership has kept 3.5 million items of clothing from landing in landfills, and given Oxfam the opportunity to raise £2 million by selling 'shwopped' clothing. One last metric: Shoppers feel good about participating, and their positive attitudes affect the way they perceive M&S and Oxfam.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Stoptober: It's like October but without the cigarettes

Stoptober, the UK campaign to encourage smokers to quit for 28 days, will launch on 1 October. The campaign targets the estimated 8 million UK consumers who currently smoke. From a consumer behaviour perspective, smokers who give up tobacco for four weeks are five times more likely to permanently quit than smokers who quit for only a few days.

As a result, the Stoptober campaign isn't just informational--it invites smokers to change their behaviour by quitting for 28 days, during which they can draw strength from other participants.

In 2012, 160,000 people joined the campaign. What happened? Although not everyone completed the 28-day challenge, Devon's experience was very positive: the number of quitters increased by 15% during the second half of the year.

For 2013, the Stoptober campaign will be bigger and better, with more ways for participants to receive info and support. Traditional media such as radio and TV will introduce the campaign to the public and build interest. Involvement techniques include social media messages, mobile apps, text messages, e-mails, online videos, special events and local activities. Several websites will provide detailed info, tools for support and even stress-busting music.

Last year, celebrities such as former England player Ian Wright, Apprentice contestant Kate Walsh and make-up artist Gary Cockerill all put their fame to work encouraging smokers to quit for 28 days. Opinion leaders will do the same this year, in mass media and digital media.

The Stoptober Twitter account already has more than 10,000 followers. Tweets with hashtags such as #stoptober are building anticipation and participation. The NHS Smokefree Stoptober Facebook page, with 167,000 likes, is also active. Pinterest fans can browse pinned images on the Stoptober Pinterest account. And of course, YouTube videos are part of the marketing plan, as well. Watch for more messages throughout the month of Stoptober.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Lego becomes world's #2 toymaker

Lego has just moved up in the toy world, passing Hasbro to become the second largest toymaker on the planet.

(US-based Mattel, maker of Barbie and American Girl dolls, remains the world's top toymaker.)

One big reason for Lego's continued increase in sales and market share: the global success of the best-selling Friends play sets for girls.

Another big reason: Lego's Chima sets, which feature animals--especially popular in China, a market being targeted for additional marketing attention. 'Asia has not been a major focus for us as a company up until this point, but we see now with the emerging middle class, more and more consumers that are really interested in our ... products', the Chief Financial Officer tells Reuters. Not surprisingly, Lego will be building a factory in China so it can meet growing demand for its bricks and figurines. 

Lego also has some highly popular brand licenses (Star Wars, for example) and marketing partners that have licensed its brand (such as Merlin Entertainment). The company's knowledge of customer behaviour, branding expertise, product development skills and distribution savvy have all contributed to its worldwide success.

In UK shops and online stores, Lego's products are often featured on special themed shelves and pages. Argos has web pages devoted only to Lego, as do Amazon and Toys 'R' Us. This allows display of the full Lego range and keeps the focus on the brand and its unique personality.



Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Should Microsoft Rebrand Nokia Phones?

Now that Microsoft is buying Nokia's handset unit, what should it do about branding the phones?
Microsoft's involvement with Nokia began two years ago as a strategy to put Windows software on as many phones as possible while Apple and Android were growing ever stronger. Since then, Nokia--which once was a worldwide leader in mobiles--has lost market share, and Windows hasn't become as popular as Microsoft had hoped.

The new deal puts Nokia's mobiles under the Microsoft umbrella. Moreover, the Nokia brand will be licensed to Microsoft for the coming decade. Should Microsoft rebrand the mobiles it now owns as Windows or Microsoft? Or should it retain the Nokia brand for as long as possible, given the history and brand recognition (as well as positive perceptions)?

One analyst comments: 'The Nokia brand still has a high value to people. That doesn’t mean the Microsoft brand is not known - but what does it mean to people?'


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Rolls-Royce 'not a volume-driven luxury car brand'

Rolls-Royce has great expectations for its latest Wraith model in India, a powerful yet elegant car. 'Wraith is drawing interest from the new customers who have not considered a Rolls-Royce before', says the automaker's general manager for emerging markets-Asia. 

Who is the target market for Rolls-Royce in India? Highly successful entrepreneurs, says the general manager. Although Wraith may attract new customers, it may also be purchased by current Rolls-Royce owners who own more than one car (the Ghost model might be used for business while the Wraith might be used for non-business driving, for instance). 

The company's approach to the market is not volume-driven, because the product is so very upmarket. Yet surely Rolls-Royce monitors sales units and revenues as metrics, and will be tracking progress toward sales goals, especially since overall car sales in India have been trending lower as petrol prices rise.

Festival time is traditionally a time when car purchases occur--and many brands are hoping to gain market share in the competitive Indian market. Rolls-Royce chose to announce its Wraith on its Facebook page, just one of many ways the company stays in touch with its market.

Friday, 23 August 2013

De-escalating price promotions

Reckitt Benckiser--the corporate name behind so many familiar household brands--wants to get off the price promotion treadmill. 'When consumers’ only criteria is to do BOGOF [buy one, get one free] or half price, then you can do the most engaging campaign but they don’t care. They will buy the competitor if they are half price', says RB's Jérome Lemaire in a Marketing Week interview. So RB is in talks with its retail partners about other kinds of promotions.

Of course, after years of store promotions by retail chains trying to retain market share and increase shopper visits during the recession, de-escalating price promotions will not be easy for any brand. Supermarkets have been locked in a battle for price, position and image, as well, which affects how brands on their shelves are perceived by shoppers.

RB invests heavily in adverts to remind shoppers of its brands and benefits. It's on Facebook (88,000 likes), Twitter (9,500 followers), YouTube, Weibo (China) and other social networks. Even when RB markets digitally, it must rely on retail partners to actually sell the products, at least until its e-commerce strategy is tested and implemented. Meanwhile, the company has considerable sales momentum worldwide this year, thanks in part to its brand-by-brand and overall corporate marketing plans.

This post updates the opening example in Chapter 1 of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

How Grill'd markets healthy burgers

'Finally, a burger you can eat without having a hangover first'. That's how Grill'd introduces itself to website visitors in Australia. The site and its Facebook page have a slightly cheeky, cheerful attitude, but the burger is the star. Grill'd demonstrates that its burgers are NOT the usual, and no mistake.

Grill'd became a reality when founder Simon Crowe got tired of complaining about the usual burger. Without a food background, he set out to reinvent the product and create a fun, healthy and hearty eating experience for restaurant customers.

A strong, differentiated brand is Crowe's key to sustained growth and customer loyalty. 'We want to be a lifestyle brand that talks very much to our constituents who are 20-something urbanites, loving music, being very social and always getting together with friends,' he explains. 'We know that in part, our brand is two parts: it’s a rebel with a cause, it needs to have a lifestyle element to it, but on a rational basis'.

Crowe pays close attention to all the details that add to the experience. 'If we get our music volume right, the product quality right, and if we get the ambient features relating to lighting and/or temperature right, then what we’ve created is a brand that actually engages with our local community', he says

Through a combination of company-owned restaurants and franchising, Grill'd has already grown to more than 50 locations, with additional restaurants soon to be announced. Where is Grill'd headed next? When Ernst & Young named Crowe its 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year, he mentioned the possibility of opening restaurants in Asia and the US.


Friday, 16 August 2013

ASDA mixes multichannel marketing and social media

ASDA's latest financial results reflect the progress of its multichannel marketing initiatives. 'Our focus on opening up more ways for more customers to shop with us, particularly in areas currently underserved by Asda, provides us with real opportunity to grow space and channels to adapt our business to today’s customer', explains the CEO.

Stores are vital to ASDA's marketing plan for growth, and the company continues to seek out good locations. Not in the sense of a space race, which used to be the preferred method of expansion through opening more and more stores, but in the sense of strategic locations that will enhance ASDA's market presence.

Despite the importance of retail locations, 'click and collect' is seen as the key to cost-effectively serving customers in a multichannel way. The idea is to allow customers to shop (online or via mobile app) from anywhere and at any time. Shoppers select the store where they wish to collect their purchases (if groceries, they also indicate a time slot). No more trolleys, no more queues.

Social media marketing complements multichannel marketing, and that's where ASDA has been gaining strength. The company has 1 million Facebook likes, which is fewer than Tesco, but the number continues to rise steadily. ASDA also has two Twitter accounts, one for news and offers and one for special deals. Now a customer can learn about a special deal, click to buy and select a convenient location to pick up a purchase--all without leaving home or office, using a mobile or tablet or computer.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Remember outdoor advertising?

The industry group Outdoor Media Centre notes that expenditures on outdoor advertising (on billboards, transit posters, bus wraps and so on) now account for more than 10% of all UK display advertising. At least up to this point, outdoor (also known as out-of-home) ad spending exceeds Internet ad spending. And more than ever, some municipalities are seeing outdoor as an opportunity to make use of space and make money.

Posters and other outdoor ad materials don't have much time to grab attention--perhaps a matter of seconds as a bus drives by or a train rolls into the station. That's why marketers are testing new outdoor techniques and technologies to engage consumers and get their messages across more effectively and efficiently.
During the 2013 Wimbledon tennis tournament, for instance, Hertz asked its agency to update posters on the Wimbledon train platform every day, to keep passengers informed of who had the fastest serve the day before. Posters were easy to read, with just a few words and a few statistics, shown in Hertz's trademark bright yellow background and with its logo displayed as the sponsor.

Adobe, maker of Photoshop software, tested an unusual, personalised twist on bus advertising: It had a Photoshop expert hiding near a bus stop in Stockholm to take photos of consumers waiting for the bus. He instantly inserted these faces into fake "ads" displayed on the bus poster, showing the passengers in various amusing or unexpected settings. (Very personalised!) Then Adobe filmed the reactions of these passengers and posted the video on YouTube, where it caught the eye of 12 million viewers.

One more example: Sky combined digital billboards with mobile marketing not long ago. Travelers waiting at a train station read the digital billboard's question about what kinds of shows they wanted to watch. If they used their mobiles to tweet a request for show ideas using the hashtag #whatsonsky, the ad agency immediately tweeted specific suggestions. It also posted these same replies instantly on the billboard, making travelers smile and giving them a few seconds of public recognition. Again, personalisation helped engage the audience and make the ad a topic of word-of-mouth conversation.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Goals and metrics for Byte Night 2013

On the night of 4 October, more than 1,000 people from the info-tech industry will sleep rough to raise money during Byte Night. The money goes to help homeless children through the registered charity Action for Children.

In 2012, Byte Night set a marketing goal of recruiting 1,000 sleepers and raising £900,000. It achieved these goals, raising a record-breaking £950,000. In all, Byte Night has been responsible for donating more than £5 million to Action for Children during its first 15 years.

Now, in its 16th year, Byte Night has ambitious new goals: It aims to recruit 1,500 sleepers and collect £1 million in donations. To do this, it is reaching out to info-tech businesses and professionals, asking them to organise teams for 4 October and hold other fundraising events. Companies like Workbooks and schools like the University of St. Andrews have already announced their support and started planning their participation.

How will Byte Night measure success? Of course, the top two metrics are (1) the amount of money raised and (2) the number of participating sleepers. Interim measures of the number of sleepers who have committed to the project helps Byte Night gauge the effectiveness of its marketing efforts and make changes as needed to improve awareness and involvement before the event takes place.

In addition, Byte Night can count the number of Facebook likes for its page and the number of Twitter followers, then track comments and posts throughout social media to see how quickly the message is spreading. Byte Night's LinkedIn presence is another platform for engaging sleepers. The higher the number of comments and participants, the higher the awareness of Byte Night.

This updates the opening example in Chapter 11 of the new edition of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Apps to help shoppers make better decisions

New apps are shaping consumer behaviour, giving retailers a competitive advantage and adding value to the shopping experience.
    IKEA's augmented reality app, just released, has a lot of potential. The idea is to show shoppers how furniture would look in a home, because it can be difficult to visualise new pieces in a home setting before the purchase (see the app in action above).

    A marketing exec for IKEA explains: 'Our customers want to be able to test out whether the products they’ve been inspired by in our catalogue will work in their own homes, particularly when it comes to larger pieces of furniture'.

    This would be a benefit for both shoppers and the store (reduces returns, improves shopper satisfaction). And if the sample rooms are appealing enough, shoppers may even order other furniture after using the app.

    IBM's image recognition app (see left) is in the testing stage. Due out soon, this app would identify merchandise on store shelves, provide extra information and enable shoppers to organise choices by price or other attribute.

    For instance, the app might help shoppers eliminate products that contain gluten or dairy. The purpose is to help shoppers make more informed buying decisions.

    In this age of showrooming, when shoppers can do price comparisons with apps while standing in the store and then click to buy from an online rival, retailers see apps as a way to demonstrate their understanding of customer needs. 

    Monday, 5 August 2013

    What makes for good content marketing?

    How does a marketer demonstrate thought leadership, communicate authenticity and engage customers? With content marketing designed to benefit the target audience, not just meet the needs of the marketer.

    According to a new survey, 43% of people in the 18- to 24-year-old age group rely on social media to search for content.

    But what makes for good content marketing? Buzzfeed's UK editor told an audience not long ago that a video titled 31 Insanely Easy and Clever DIY Projects was viewed 7 million times. Yet a video titled 21 Awesome Facts about David Bowie had much, much lower viewership.

    Why did DIY do so much better than David Bowie? Jonny Rose of idio (a content marketing agency) explains that 'in order to excel in the world of content marketing, companies must remember that customers don't care about you, your products, your services. They care about themselves, their wants and their needs. So it’s crucial to be helpful'.
    “31 Insanely Easy and Clever DIY Projects” got over 7 million views, whilst “21 Awesome Facts About David Bowie” nosedived.
    Read more at http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2013/07/12/compelling-brands-content-marketing-insights-buzzfeed-youtube-channelflip-seven#iOCcJuoQgBryFpX4.99
    “31 Insanely Easy and Clever DIY Projects” got over 7 million views, whilst “21 Awesome Facts About David Bowie” nosedived.
    Read more at http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2013/07/12/compelling-brands-content-marketing-insights-buzzfeed-youtube-channelflip-seven#iOCcJuoQgBryFpX4.99

    Rose points out why Makeup.com, owned by L'Oréal, is successful at content marketing. The site covers cosmetics tips, celebrity looks, beauty trends and specific product ideas. It also makes it easy to share content via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube.

    Most important, Makeup.com is designed as much for advice as it is for commerce. L'Oréal brands are featured, but the focus is on helping consumers learn about the latest makeup colours and styles to see what they like and might want to try. When consumers perceive a benefit in exploring the beauty tips and ideas, they become regular visitors to Makeup.com and are more inclined to buy products they see there.

    For more about content marketing, see chapter 9 in my new edition of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.