Wednesday, 30 December 2015

L’Oréal aims for one billion new customers

Millennials often like to shop in stores but first, they research products online. That's one of the insights L'Oreal is using to support its global marketing initiatives and ambitious long-term goals.

The beauty company, which owns such well-known brands as Lancome, the Body Shop and NYX, has put more emphasis on e-commerce during the past year--and shoppers are responding. The CEO recently said that total e-commerce sales in 2015 will exceed one billion euros, out of total revenues of more than 22 billion euros.

Shoppers in many nations know and trust L'Oreal brands, in part because the company adjusts its products for the needs and preferences of each consumer segment. In fact, L'Oreal features stories of multicultural innovations on its corporate website. Digital is increasingly important to the company as it seeks to attract 1 billion new customers while differentiating itself from competitors all over the planet.

No brand stays the same forever, because the marketing environment is constantly changing, including customer needs and competition, as well as regulations, environmental concerns, product possibilities and materials.

The CEO walked through a redone Body Shop store not long ago, and then told the fashion publication WWD: "The problem is that we have to represent the brand so that it looks new and it doesn’t look like the old Body Shop. That was The Body Shop of our mothers or the Millennials’ mothers and they [millennials] want their [own] brand." Which is why L'Oreal has revamped Body Shop so it represents its brand values in a way that's relevant to younger shoppers, emphasising ethical sourcing, value for price paid, function as well as fashion, natural ingredients and environmentally-friendly products and processes.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

IKEA designs products for today and tomorrow

IKEA's UK FB page has more than 1 million likes, its Instagram account has more than 100k followers, its Pinterest boards have 31k followers, and some of its YouTube videos/adverts have more than 1 million views.

This is a highly social brand that earns the loyalty of customers worldwide through well-designed, reasonably-priced products, delivered with quality service and sourced with sustainability in mind.

The home page of IKEA's UK site tells visitors: 'Welcome to IKEA. We believe everyone deserves to have a beautiful home filled with well-designed furniture. And still have money left over for other things to enjoy in life. That’s why we offer our home furniture at prices so low as many people as possible will be able to afford them.'

To keep IKEA's products both fashionable and affordable, the company develops 2,000 new products every year. It also redesigns 2,000 products every year, refining the style or finding new ways to simplify the construction or cut costs to cut prices. As a result, IKEA must carefully manage inventory and product display within each department and each store, changing 'according to consumer behaviour' based on data analysis from buying patterns and ethnographic research in customers' homes.

Preparing for the products and designs of tomorrow, the company maintains a future living laboratory known as Space10 in Copenhagen. The website explains: 'Space10 investigates the future of urban living through a series of labs. Each lab sets out to tackle a specific challenge, and unfolds through a number of talks, workshops, pitch nights, design residencies, exhibitions, collaborative projects, and other formats.' Space 10 is open to the public and holds workshops for all ages, so visit the next time you're in Copenhagen.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Can banks learn from burger marketing?

ANZ, a major bank in Australia and New Zealand, has a new head of retail distribution--Catriona Noble, a former McDonald's Australia exec who is bringing the lessons of 'burger marketing' to the bank.

Burgers and banking? Success in both requires training staff to have customers' needs in mind in every transaction. Speed and accuracy count in burgers and banking. Of course, the bank, like the burger place, has to evolve the menu of products in the portfolio over time as customers' requirements and preferences change. Technology can add convenience at the till or the cash machine, for burgers and banking alike.

At ANZ, Noble is sprearheading a reimagining of branches to give them a more comfortable ambiance. The idea is to blend in with the community and make customers feel at ease, encouraging repeat visits and positive brand associations. Not so different from burger restaurants, which after all must be refreshed and updated periodically.

"We have to compete on more than just price and more than just product; we have to be part of each local community," Noble says. "It is not like people want banks to be their second-best friend, but you do want to feel like you somewhat matter."

Will bank customers recommend ANZ to their friends? The Net Promoter Score is a key metric to be used in evaluating the bank's progress in satisfying customers. With NPS, customers are asked a single question: How likely is it that you would recommend this brand to a friend or colleague? Noble expects that applying NPS will result in a customer focus that differentiates ANZ from its competitors.

Competition is intense in the world of banking, and ANZ is investing in technology to enable its customers to bank when and where they want, at home or on the go. Still, branches remain a key element because of the opportunity to meet customers face-to-face and gain first-hand knowledge of their preferences, goals and concerns. ANZ is also reaching out via FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and a news portal.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Coca-Cola and Christmas marketing

Coca-Cola's iconic red-and-white logo is almost as Christmasy as can be. At holiday time, the brand uses special marketing to encourage consumers to try, buy and enjoy its soft drinks for parties and for any occasion.

At right, Coca-Cola's photo of its famous truck criss-crossing the UK during holiday season. The field marketing tour began in Inverness and ends in Leicester Square, London, two days before Christmas.

At each stop, consumers can enjoy free samples of Coke soft drinks amidst a wintery season backdrop, complete with festive lights. To increase anticipation and bring consumers to the lorry stop, Coke used the hashtag #holidaysarecoming and promoted the tour on its website and via publicity. Coke's UK FB page has more than 94m likes and its Twitter account has 126k followers, adding up to a huge audience for social media marketing.

This year, Coke is celebrating another marketing milestone: The 100th anniversary of its instantly recognisable contour bottle, which was introduced in 1915.

Now Coke has launched another packaging innovation: a bottle label that converts to a holiday bow. The idea is to encourage consumers to leave Coke bottles on the table and 'unwrap' the novelty bow as part of their holiday meals.

The strapline for this year's UK holiday campaign is: 'Bring happiness home'.

For more images of Coke's Christmas adverts of the past, see its online gallery here.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Marketing and creativity

Whether you're developing a marketing plan or looking for a new marketing idea, here are a few sites to check for inspiration and information:
  • Brand Republic's best digital campaigns - Shown at left, selected mobile, social media and online marketing campaigns.
  • Mobile Marketing Magazine's Innovation Lab - A weekly review of some of the week's tech innovations. Recent innovations pictured include cardboard guitars, sweat-powered clothing and invisible keyboards.
  • Think with Google's Creative gallery page - Articles and advice about advertising, social media, branding and other creative marketing activities.
  • The Drum's creative page - Articles and opinion about advertising, brand creativity and media innovations.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are changing consumer behaviour

Black Friday is influencing consumer behaviour on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. So is Cyber Monday. And the result is higher demand for bargains online at the expense of in-store shopping.

Originally, Black Friday was a long-time US tradition, widely considered the start of the year-end holiday shopping season. Cyber Monday is a term coined by the US trade group National Retail Federation to describe the prevalence of online shopping on the Monday after Black Friday, a trend it began analysing and promoting a decade ago.

Now Black Friday and Cyber Monday have crossed the pond with the help of US-owned retailers like Asda and Amazon. What's more, both of these shopping 'holidays' are increasingly e-commerce driven, given the ubiquity of mobile devices.

2015 was a record year for UK Black Friday purchases, with shoppers spending an estimated £1.1bn to buy from UK online retailers. John Lewis says Black Friday was its single busiest shopping day ever--with online buying accounting for much of the growth in sales. Amazon UK also had its busiest day ever on Black Friday. Asda, however, wasn't participating in Black Friday bargains due to 'shopper fatigue around flash sales'.

Some UK retail sites had difficulty keeping up with the deluge of orders on Black Friday, as shown by the screen shot at top of this page. How many customers clicked away to buy elsewhere isn't known. But it's clear that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are shaping consumer behaviour by encouraging shoppers to look for deep discounts on certain days or weeks and focusing attention on price as a key element in the buying decision.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Applying Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing is the use of marketing techniques to appeal to the consumer's five senses (sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch). The ultimate goal is to encourage a certain attitude or emotion or action when consumers are exposed to the brand or product or marketing message. In other words, to influence consumer behaviour.

Sound. Marketing experts at the grocery chain Morrisons realised that holiday shopping is stressful and therefore they wanted to send customers out with a smile by having 'cheerier' voices saying prerecorded messages like: 'Have yourself a very merry Christmas, from Morrisons' and 'Don't get your tinsel in a tangle, someone's coming to help'. Clearly, the objective is for customers to feel good about shopping at Morrisons.

British Airways is using sound to enhance the taste of its inflight meals, another example of sensory marketing. Based on research that shows how taste is influenced by sound, among other senses, the airline offers 14 musical tracks chosen to complement the foods that passengers eat during flights. 

Smell. The frozen food marketer McCains used aroma to advertise a new frozen potato product, pumping the fragrance of freshly baked potatoes into the air in front of selected transit ads (see photo). Thanks to this sensory marketing, the new product attracted a significant percentage of buyers who were new to the category. Every time a perfume marketer offers a free spritz or scents the air in a store, that's sensory marketing.

Sight. Think of those holiday displays in store windows--the use of sensory marketing is a vital element in retailing. Major retailers like Liberty widely publicise the 'unveiling' of their special holiday windows, drawing crowds for weeks. Every rack, every display, every website, every print ad and TV advert employs sight to enhance, influence and reinforce brand awareness, preference, purchase.

Taste. Free food samples are a common example of sensory marketing. When the Saucy Fish Co. began distributing its seafood products through US grocery retailers, it offered in-store sampling so shoppers could taste before making a purchase. Most supermarkets offer food samples during busy shopping periods, letting consumers try risk-free before they pay for something they've never tried before.

Touch. Samples are also important for new products that depend on consumers being able to touch the product, turn it over, examine it carefully from all angles and test its weight or size. Nuby is one of several companies that provide product samples (in this case, of baby products) to subscription sample companies so that customers get a fresh freebie in a box every month. Grocery items are sometimes launched by including a small-size package with a regular-size package.

Next time you see an ad, walk through a store or scroll through a retailer's website, think about how sensory marketing is being used to appeal to your senses and your heart and mind.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Holiday season marketing

With the biggest shopping season of all just weeks away, product marketers and retailers throughout the UK are readying their holiday campaigns to capture attention, differentiate themselves and enhance brand image.

From kittens to the man in the moon, singers to jazz, these 2015 Christmas campaigns are aiming for the heart.

Above, Cadbury's advent calendar created by the configuration of delivery trucks in the brand's signature purple. See it on YouTube.

The Telegraph has compiled its list of favourite Christmas adverts from years past. How many do you remember?

To build excitement and encourage browsing and buying, the major retailers are planning to unveil their holiday windows with publicity and, of course, coordinated messages in multiple media. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Strategic CSR in India

Strategic corporate social responsibility (CSR) allows marketers to align their plans for sustainability, community involvement and charitable activities with their business goals and activities. The idea is to allocate resources towards efforts that are important to stakeholders and to the business's success. 

Government-set rules in India, for example, now include a goal for businesses to spend 2% of after-tax profit on CSR in the country. Deciding how, when and where to invest money, time and management resources is a matter of strategy.

At Toyota Kirloskar Motor, for example, the CSR mission statement is: Be a socially committed corporate through building vibrant communities in harmony with nature, aiming to become the most admired company in India and meet customer expectation and be rewarded with a smile.

The automaker's CSR focus is on health/hygiene, civic amenities, stakeholder engagement, art and culture, skill development, road safety, education and environment (see graphic above). The firm recently distributed notebooks and book bags to school children in Ramanagara as part of its $50 million CSR strategy.

Hindustan Unilever, which makes personal care products (under brands such as Lifebuoy and Lever), manages its CSR strategy in India according to this vision: To grow our business whilst reducing the environmental impact of our operations and increasing our positive social impact.

The company's managing director said in a recent interview: 'We as a company do not believe in donations or cheque-signing philanthropy. Something that can make a meaningful impact on the environment, the community, and the society at large is something that our sustainable living plan endeavours'.

Two of Hindustan Lever's CSR goals (also CSR goals of its parent, Unilever)are to further sustainability and empower entrepreneurship. Its Shakti program accomplished this by recruiting women from small villagers as distributors of the company's products. The long-term value of this ongoing program not only improves local economies, it benefits the company's market reach.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Alibaba Makes Singles Day into a Global Phenomenon

From Alibaba Group, a screen shot of its video about Singles Day shopping
Singles Day is, like Black Friday, a retailer-promoted shopping day of discounts in which consumers in China (mainly single people but in reality, anyone looking for a bargain) are encouraged to buy for themselves.

Also known as 11-11 or Double 11 in China, Singles Day has become a shopping phenomenon because of the incredible marketing muscle of Alibaba Group, China's powerhouse e-commerce retailing group.

Alibaba began promoting Singles Day in 2009, when millions of Chinese consumers were becoming accustomed to shopping online. The first year, 27 merchants participated.

Today, nearly 700 million consumers in China shop online--a gigantic audience that warrants the serious attention of retailers in China and beyond.

In 2015, Alibaba targeted shoppers worldwide with 11-11 super-bargains, and it saw purchases surge 60% beyond last year's total. During the 24 hours of Singles Day, the company's retail sites processed purchases worth an estimated £9.4 billion, with well more than half of the purchases being made via mobile devices.

Black Friday originated in the US but is increasingly spreading to other countries. UK shoppers are already changing their buying patterns, analysts say, in anticipation of big discounts being offered on 27 November, the day after the US Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, 9 November 2015

King Digital Entertainment and the mobile game saga

If you've played Candy Crush Saga or Bubble Witch on your mobile, then you've used products marketed by King Digital Entertainment. Days ago, the company agreed to be acquired by Activision Blizzard, which makes popular console games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

The combined company will have a customer base of 500 million users worldwide, making it a formidable marketing force in the world of digital games. The combination also allows the company to serve customers on multiple platforms (game consoles, computers, tablets and mobiles).

King's freemium marketing strategy (meaning fees for special features or powers) drove the company through a period of aggressive growth, including significant expansion into Asian markets. Its megahit game Candy Crush was released in 2012 and is still responsible for much of the firm's profitability.

However, mobile games are becoming an increasingly competitive space. Nintendo is finally going to release its first mobile game in 2016, called Mii Friends. As with competing games, Mii Friends will be freemium-priced. Meanwhile, Zynga (known for its once-ubiquitous FarmVille game and Words with Friends) is looking for its next megahit game and facing product launch delays.

King and Activision combined should have more marketing power in mobile games, where much of the growth in game-playing takes place. In-app payments for special powers or widgets are growing, and the firms see a lot of revenue potential from users eager to advance to higher levels and new challenges. Although freemium pricing has its critics, the strategy does allow users flexibility and choices about what they want to spend and when--if they choose to spend on mobile games at all.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Top Global Brands in 2015

Interbrand recently announced its Top 100 Global Brands ranked by brand value. The 10 most valuable brands on the planet are:

1. Apple (computers, digital devices)
2. Google (search, operating systems, more)
3. Coca-Cola (beverages)
4. Microsoft (computers, software, game systems)
5. IBM (computers and tech services)
6. Toyota (vehicles)
7. Samsung (electronics)
8. General Electric (equipment and services)
9. McDonald's (fast food)
10. Amazon (retailing and tech services)

The leading UK brand on this list is HSBC, which is ranked as #37 in value. Which brands will top the list in 2016?

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Marketing Primark on price and store experience

From a single store in Dublin in 1969, the affordable fast-fashion retailer Primark has expanded to 290 stores across Europe and Boston (where one store now operates).

Primark's main competitive strength, says its parent company, is price: 'We want to be known first and foremost for amazing prices'. Teens and 20-something consumers also respond to the retailer's in-store experience, as well as its low prices and on-trend fashions.

The new Madrid store, for example, is equipped with digital LED screens that flash bespoke content and with unique artwork to engage and amaze shoppers. This puts Primark right in the heart of its competitor Zara's territory and sends a message about its positioning and its customer appeal.

With 2.4 million Instagram followers, 4.3 million Facebook likes, 29.5k Pinterest followers and 120k Twitter followers, Primark is taking its message of low-price, fast-fashion to the world via social media marketing.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Halloween marketing is on the Burger King menu

Burger King UK has special menu items for Halloween this year. Above, its Halloween Whopper, already a limited-time regular on the menu in the company's Japanese restaurants (but not under the Halloween name, of course). This marketing is geared to consumer behaviour principles like targeting variety-seekers who like trying different foods and customers who simply want to be the first to try something different.

Keep an eye on BK's UK Facebook page (more than 200,000 likes) for other Halloween treats, including its Chicken Fries. Also watch its Twitter feed for posts about Halloween foods and promotions. The company is using #UnleashYourFreaky to emphasise its unusual foods and Halloween marketing.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Greenwashing: VW's reputation is at risk

Volkswagen, the world's best-selling car company as of 2015, has admitted to using software to manipulate testing for polluting emissions in its diesel-powered cars.

Many hundreds of thousands of vehicles are involved--and, just as critically, the reputation of this venerable automaker is at risk. VW has already dropped the royal warrant from its UK communications.

Being linked to greenwashing will damage any company in the short term. In the case of VW, which has long-term ambitions to remain the top-selling automaker on Earth, dealing with the scandal surrounding its diesel cars' actual pollution performance is complicated by customer claims, shareholder outrage and governmental actions. VW must now rehabilitate its brand and reassure stakeholders of its sincerity and commitment to fixing what's gone wrong.

In this age of social media and online news coverage, when negative headlines can flash around the world within moments, is greenwashing going to disappear? In the words of Nick Timon, chief innovation officer of marketing firm Adjust Your Set:
I don’t mean to sound glib – of course environmental consciousness is important, laudable and pressing – but the way many companies are suddenly developing a social conscience on this front smacks of insincerity and laziness, as if the industry has learnt nothing from the greenwashing debacle and instead is jumping gung-ho into the shiny new sport of ‘purpose-washing’.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Marketing the hottest toys for Holiday 2015

Months in advance, retailers are publicising the toys they say will be the most popular, most purchased for the 2015 holiday season. What's on top?
  • Hamleys: Many parents will remember Tracy Island Playset from decades past--and now, with the Thunderbirds back in the public eye, this newly interactive toy is back in the shops. Skate & Sing Elsa (above, from Disney's Frozen) will also be a top seller, says Hamleys.
  • Argos: Minions Tumbling Stuart toy (from, of course, the Minions movie franchise) will be a top seller, along with My Friend Freddie (an interactive teddy), LEGO Deep Sea Exploration Vehicle and Barbie My Style House.
  • Smyths Toys: Star Wars-the Force Awakens interactive figures, tied to the new movie, will be a big hit, says Smyths. Also: Paw Patroller, Pie Face and Disney Frozen-theme bicycles.
By the way, how does LEGO keep its innovative edge? As the world's largest toy marketer, Denmark-based LEGO must continuously innovate to maintain its marketing momentum. The company's Future Lab is responsible for trying new ideas, testing prototypes with children and using insights from failures to invent even more inventive playthings. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Mobile pay gains momentum in UK market

According to one recent study, nearly half of all online transactions are completed via mobile payments in the UK. That puts the UK ahead of all other nations when it comes to mobile pay.

Starbucks has expanded its mobile order and payment availability to all UK stores--but only for Apple iOS users. Sorry, Android users, you'll have to wait for Starbucks.

But then there's Google's Android Pay, soon to be launched in the UK as a rival to Apple Pay.

And Samsung Pay, a success in the company's home country and now being introduced around the world to rival Apple Pay.

Apple Pay, meanwhile, has been tried at least once by 4 out of 10 Apple device owners in the UK.

Does this mean fewer pence and pounds being handed over at the till? Just this year, cash transactions lost their traditional lead and now non-cash (including credit, debit and mobile) payments account for more than half of all transactions in the UK. So yes, expect fewer cash transactions as Millennials and Gen Y consumers enjoy the contactless payment functionality of their smart phones, tablets and other digital devices.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Private brands continue strong

Aldi's exclusive range of household cleaning products
Private brands -- such as the brands marketed by grocery chains and clothing retailers -- continue to be strong sellers, year after year. Even as the recession reverses course and growth returns, consumers have learned through experience that private brands often are excellent alternatives to manufacturers' brands. And of course private brands, generally priced lower than manufacturers' brands, represent the majority of products at deep-discount grocery giants such as Aldi and Lidl.

Consumers recognise that private brands can offer quality, not just value. Aldi's coffee recently was named the best in a taste test that included Starbucks, Costa and other well-known global brands. Marks & Spencer's private wine brands took home multiple medals at this year's international wine challenge, where a number of grocery chains were awarded medals.

The image and reputation of the marketing entity makes a difference in how its private brands are perceived. Sainsbury is launching its private brands in an online retail environment to reach consumers in China who are interested in the cachet and quality of foreign brands.

Private brands are increasingly a key point of differentiation in the intensely competitive grocery industry, where supermarkets are using price promotions to attract shoppers week by week. Because private brands generally have higher profit margins, they can help retailers compete on the basis of value and quality.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Marketing Byte Night 2015

Byte Night takes place Friday, 2 October. Thousands of people all over the UK (associated with large firms like Accenture, Dell and BT plus many smaller, local firms) will sleep out to raise money for Action for Children charity. The first Byte Night was in 1998, and this year, the charity aims to raise more than a million.

One key element of Byte Night's marketing is its social media presence. On Twitter, the group has 2,000 followers; on Facebook, it has 1,100+ likes; and on LinkedIn, more than 900 members. Action for Children has Byte Night digital marketing leading up to the event, as well. The campaigns use #ByteNight as a unifying hashtag.

Publicity is another key element, with news articles covering the event itself (where will sleepers be? what venues are participating? what is the money to be used for?) and individuals or firms that participate. Plus each firm has its own marketing to promote its involvement in Byte Night and encourage employees and customers to get involved. Harvey Nash has a page on its site explaining all about Byte Night, for instance. Fourth Day has its own page about Band Night.

All these marketing efforts (multiple messages, multiple media, one focus) work together to build awareness and engagement, encourage positive attitudes and actions, with the ultimate goal of raising money. Good marketing for a good cause, #ByteNight!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Online marketers and ad blockers

Online advertisers and content marketers are unhappy with ad blocking software that so many consumers have installed to filter out, well, ads. Annoyed by non-targeted or simply irrelevant ads, or impatient to see content they are waiting to see, 39% of UK consumers in a recent study were found to be using ad blockers to keep ads out of sight. When Apple recently released an updated iPhone operating system, ad blocker apps skyrocketed to the top of the App store ranking. 

But this means web sites don't have as many visitors who count as 'viewers' or 'exposures' to adverts. As a result, some are fighting back by blocking consumers who use ad blockers. At the very least, a number of sites are explaining why consumers shouldn't use ad blockers--namely, because ad revenue helps support quality content, and blocking those ads means revenue is lost to the sites that need it. With lower revenue, sites may have to reduce the quality content they post or find other revenue sources (such as subscriptions).

Other avenues exist for marketers to reach out to consumers in creative ways, with non-ad messages that build brands and reinforce image. Instagram is increasingly used by Nike and other brands, and Pinterest recently added a 'buy' button to facilitate shipping in the US. 

Watch for more innovations as ad blockers continue to be popular and marketers test ideas for engaging consumers in multiple digital media.

Friday, 25 September 2015

How UK advertising is changing

The UK market is the first in the world where £1 in every £2 of advertising spend goes to digital (online, tablet, and--significantly--mobile). In part, this is due to the unique ad-free nature of so much of the UK broadcast media (think BBC).

The full chart, from eMarketer, shows that below the 50% mark for the UK, digital in Norway is 45% of total ad spend, followed by China, with nearly 44% of total ad spend. For comparison, digital is only 31% of ad spend in the US--and a mere 28% in South Korea.

Worldwide, mobile advertising is expected to reach £100 billion by the end of next year, accounting for 51% of all digital ad spend. UK TV advertising continues strong, but print ads are not as strong.

Overall UK advertising spend is also increasing, exhibiting the fastest increase in four years. According to the Advertising Association/Warc Expenditures report, UK advertising spend reached £18,553 billion in 2014, with more than 5% growth projected in 2015 and 2016.

At the same time, UK marketers are choosing to work on some ad projects in-house, which will lead to higher consolidation among ad agencies and fewer agencies overall.

What will ongoing technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour mean for advertising in two years or five years in the future?

Monday, 21 September 2015

The art and science of marketing forecasts

Every marketing plan requires some kind of marketing forecast--usually, sales forecasts on a product by product OR brand by brand OR market by market basis. But how do you develop a reasonable forecast, especially when you're looking at something new or somewhat unpredictable?

Tetlock and Gardner, authors of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, researched people who are more often correct than incorrect in their forecasts, and concluded that three things can improve a forecast:
  1. Don't make up your mind in advance. Instead, be open to new ideas and critically evaluate information. If you want to examine the market for doughnut shops in London, media coverage of National Doughnut Week's top trends can help you think about the ascendancy of doughnuts after years of the cupcake craze, for instance. Try not to rule out information that contradicts your initial thoughts on the forecast--instead, ask hard questions to test the data before relying on it.
  2. Identify the various elements that can influence the forecast. It's difficult to predict exactly how many doughnut shops will open in London next year, but easier to start by calculating the number of residents of London, the number who typically buy doughnuts and the number of doughnut shops already in existence. These statistics will help you consider what drives trends affecting consumption and business formation.
  3. Look at what others are forecasting. Find authoritative sources of information, examine their forecasts (element by element if possible) and see how your forecast compares. Here, you might track the number of new London-area shops opened by Krispy Kreme and other doughnut retailers, analyse how the number of new openings has changed by chain over the years and link this information to other developments in the marketing environment that affect doughnut consumption and retail expansion.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

WOW uses low price for differentiation

Have you heard of WOW Air? It's a young no-frills airline in Iceland that offers bargain fares from London's Gatwick airport to two U.S. cities (via Reykjavik, Iceland, of course) and to a growing number of European destinations.

The three-year-old startup uses only Airbus A 320 and A321 aircraft, for standardisation and for fuel efficiency. Entrepreneur Skúli Mogensen recognises that costs are especially favourable at this moment for two key reasons: first, 'historically very low oil prices' and second, it's a buyer's market for aircraft, which 'is a great opportunity for us'.

As a result of low costs and for marketing differentiation, WOW offers highly discounted fares to attract cost-conscious passengers who are willing to pay extra for extras such as checking luggage and reserving a particular seat in advance.

Why use price as a competitive advantage? Mogensen explains: 'You ask people what’s important to them and they say things like seat pitch – but when they go online to book they don’t get any information like that: 80% of passengers just go for price'. The deepest discounts are offered on a very few selected flights and for limited periods, to encourage immediate customer response and reinforce the bargain image.

Yet competition in the airline industry is notoriously intense, and price wars can sap the profitability of any carrier. Even with a well-crafted positioning and lots of low-cost social media marketing (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube), can WOW Air break through the marketing clutter and fly high for the long term?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Using the Wayback Machine to Explore Online Marketing

If you're studying marketing, you should know about the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It's a tool for understanding how different websites have changed over time--which means, in essence, how companies and NGOs have marketed themselves online on different dates.

Tesco is a good example. Above is a screen capture from the Wayback Machine, showing how Tesco's home page looked in July, 2004. The familiar Tesco logo and strapline are in place at the top of the page. Graphics are minimal, with the emphasis on links to specific product categories and services.

Tesco's marketing evolved and by July, 2007, it was relying more heavily on images to attract attention (see screen capture at right). Notice the "RSS" at the bottom, allowing online visitors to subscribe to a Tesco 'feed'.

By the summer of 2009, Tesco's home page looked like the screen capture at left. The strapline 'Every little helps' is now in the lower right side of the home page.

In the summer of 2013, Tesco's home page looked different than it had in 2009, with social media icons prominently displayed at the top of the screen (see capture below).
Compare these home pages with Tesco's current home page, to see how Tesco's online marketing has evolved since these pages were captured and stored in the Wayback Machine.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Marketing Movies and Merchandise: Force Friday

Star Wars fans are looking forward to the new movie Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Since Disney purchased Lucas Film a few years ago, there has been even more precise coordination of marketing between the movies and the merchandise.

4 September was Force Friday, a day when new Star Wars-related merchandise appeared on store shelves and websites. It was a day for secrets revealed (names of new characters, for instance) and for fans to come together in person and online in a community celebration of a brand franchise they love.

Disney Stores and retail partners around the world had special promotions at midnight leading into Force Friday. For instance, two British stars of the new movie visited the Disney Store in London to sign autographs, appear in selfies and help build excitement. Outside, costumed fans waited for the special event and discussed the latest news (or rumours) about the new movie.

Disney and its marketing partners used #forcefriday to unify the campaign and trend on social media sites. Disney also promoted Youtube 'unboxing' videos of people unwrapping their new Star Wars merchandise, everywhere on the planet.

Not all buyers unboxed their merchandise--collectors kept things intact, hoping to cash in on the global craze for Star Wars originals in original condition.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

McDonald's newest marketing ideas

McDonald's is going hyper-local to satisfy food tastes in certain regions--and to reassure customers of the purity of its ingredients. It's also adjusting its marketing strategy to better differentiate itself and attract new customers, while maintaining the loyalty of current customers who are tempted by the many fast-casual alternatives.

On the McDonald's Japan site, you can see a photo of the newest sandwich, a 'burger with an egg on top' that features cheese from the region of Hokkaido plus a strip of bacon and a dab of secret sauce. Not only does this product introduction fit with changing consumer tastes--such as a preference for eating locally-produced foods--it also fits with a seasonal moon-viewing festival in the autumn, when round-shaped foods are in favour.

Another new marketing idea for McDonald's is table service. After experiments in France, Australia and other nations, McDonald's is testing in-restaurant service in Manchester. The UK market is a bright spot in the McDonald's global empire, because sales continue to increase in the UK even as they've plateaued in the US, where competition is extremely intense and other casual-dining chains are growing quickly.

McDonald's knows that many of its customers are mobile-savvy, so it's preparing its mobile ordering and payment strategy for more convenience and speed in China, among other markets.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The pound store phenomenon: high demand for low prices

As the BBC programme "Pound Shop Wars" demonstrates, shopping for bargains continues to be a key aspect of consumer behaviour--and competition for customers is intense. Pound stores are a relatively recent retail development. Poundland was founded in 1990, 99p Stores was founded in 2001. One reason that pound stores were able to expand so rapidly was the demise of Woolworths, which left many high street retail locations vacant.

Another reason for the pound store phenomenon is that middle-income shoppers are increasingly concerned about the price of their household items and want to stretch their budgets. This results in high demand for low prices. Online shoppers are also bargain hungers: was founded as an online retailer in 2014, for example.

Soon, 99p Stores will be rebranded because it has been acquired by competitor Poundland. The acquisition will mean Poundland operates 800 stores. Despite its size, the retailer will still have to compete with the mighty Aldi, Asda and other large-scale rivals that promote deep discounts to attract shoppers.

As the recession recedes, many shoppers will continue the routine of hunting for bargains. Therefore, the pound stores must now increase their efforts to attract new customers, retain existing customers and clarify their value propositions for meaningful differentiation.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Fast Fashion and Sustainability

Is sustainability compatible with fast fashion? Even though fast fashion is based on speedier fashion cycles and adoption of new styles and clothing items, H&M, Zara and their competitors recognise that 'throw away' fashion is not just wasteful, it can contribute to environmental damage.

H&M, based in Sweden, is increasing its focus on sustainability. It has a Chief Sustainability Officer to keep the retailer on track toward green goals. And it issues a sustainability report to demonstrate what it's doing to save the planet and reassure customers of its commitment to the natural environment.

Further, H&M has added clothing made from sustainable materials and, just as important, it actively encourages recycling inside and outside the organisation. Among other initiatives is a fashion collection programme to encourage consumers and designers to make the most of garments by reusing materials, passing garments along for use by others or turning used garments into something else.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Marketing Brompton Bicycle

Only two companies still manufacture bicycles in the UK, and one is Brompton Bicycle of West London. Brompton's MD says its folding bike is favoured by city-dwellers who want 'a solution to an urban living problem'. He tells the Guardian: 'We are in the urban transport industry; the competition for Brompton is the tube or the car'.

Brompton's bikes are differentiated by their sturdy frames and, more importantly, by how compact they become when folded for storage. The company has a cult following, with some customers chronicling their bike adventures on blogs or via other social media. (Brompton has more than 17,000 Twitter followers and 42,000 Facebook likes plus more than 7,000 Instagram followers.)

Brompton is growing rapidly to meet ever-higher demand for convenient transport in cities domestically and abroad (urban locations and consumer behaviour are clearly key to its market segmentation). This year, the firm projects unit sales of 50,000 in more than 40 nations, with only 20 percent of its output remaining in Britain. Asia and the United States are particular target markets with strong demand for commuting options such as folding bicycles.

By 2021, the company plans to double its output and is therefore relocating to a larger production facility next year. And it's also stretching its product line by planning for an electric version of its popular folding bike, to 'get rid of the sweat and Lycra' and make bike commuting less strenuous and more fun.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Coca-Cola's One Brand Strategy

Even though Coca-Cola isn't changing its name or any of its products' names, the company launched a 'one brand' strategy in the UK market earlier this year. From May, Coca-Cola will be the company brand and individual product lines (such as Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero) will be variants or subsets of the company brand.

The purpose is to increase awareness of the low- and no-cal product variants and -- by 2020 -- achieve the goal of having 50% or more of Coca-Cola sales in Great Britain come from these variants.

Now the Coca-Cola company brand will be the most salient aspect of packaging, with variant names featured below the main brand in this redesign. Ads will focus on the Coca-Cola brand and benefits, with individual variants pictured or mentioned briefly. The aim here is to emphasise the brand's heritage and associations as an umbrella for all variants.

This approach has the potential to strengthen all variants by association with the well-known, well-liked company brand and increase awareness of the low- and no-cal variants as choices available to Coca-Cola fans.

However, changes to packaging (as shown above) can also be risky because consumers may not recognize the variant they prefer in its new packaging or may be confused by the new brand and packaging offers. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is introducing the one brand strategy in more nations and supporting it with advertising and distribution activities to motivate purchase.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Aldi's growth strategy on both sides of the Atlantic

Aldi--the German-owned discount grocery chain known for super-low prices and no frills--is expanding across the UK and in the US.

With a UK market share of more than 5% the chain's growth strategy means investing £600m to open 130 additional stores and increase its workforce to 35,000 by 2022. Costs are low, so prices are low.

Bring-your-own-bags to tote groceries home--and if you buy an Aldi's UK bag, the pennies go to the RSPB, aiding a good cause and reinforcing the company's reputation for social responsibility. Aldi UK has attracted more than 1m Facebook likes, 188k followers on Twitter, 7,500 followers on Pinterest and a few thousand followers in Youtube.

Across the pond, Aldi is getting ready to compete even more aggressively with Trader Joe's and other low-price grocery chains. Within a year, its growth strategy calls for 45 new stores in California, where local consumers value both quality and low prices. Unlike the bare-bones assortments of the past, Aldi's is testing organic specialties such as cage-free eggs and chia seeds to differentiate itself and attract new shoppers.

Aldi US is as social as Aldi UK, with 1.5m Facebook likes, a few thousand Youtube followers, 23k Twitter followers and 24k Pinterest followers.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Even a penny can help UK charities

Even a penny can make a difference--it costs individual consumers little to donate but spare change from many people adds up over time. This is an aspect of consumer behavior being applied by several non-profit groups to encourage micro-donations to charities.

For example, the UK charity Pennies has, for 5 years, been collecting pennies from consumers who agree to 'round up' their purchases at Domino's Pizza and other participating merchants. So far, the group has raised more than 2 million pounds for worthy causes, as you can see by reading its impact report here. Also check its Facebook page for the latest news.

Another non-profit group encouraging micro-donations is Penny for London, part of the Mayor's Fund for London. Here, the focus is on encouraging 1p to 10p donations by consumers who pay for transport or food with contactless methods such as smartphones.

Coinstar, the coin-counting machine network, also encourages micro-donations of coins for its participating charities, including British Red Cross, the Children's Society and Unicef. Pennies do count!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Researching the marketing environment

Every marketing plan begins with a review of the external trends and changes that affect the company, product, customers, buying trends and competition.

To get a headstart on researching the marketing environment, try clicking on the links shown on my Marketing planning links page. Every link is regularly tested and updated as needed--plus new links are added as well.

Links are categorised according to:
  • Preparing for marketing planning
  • Analysing the marketing environment
  • Researching consumer and business demographics
  • Marketing ethics, social responsibility and sustainability
  • Branding issues and ideas
  • Marketing issues and ideas
  • Marketing control and implementation
  • Retailing and channel trends
For a broad overview of the marketing plan, including a free downloadable template, click here.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Ryanair's 30 years of low fares

Every airline has its competitive point of differentiation. Ryanair's is low price, full stop, which is why the carrier--in its 30th year--already flies more passengers than any other European airline.

Despite reducing prices, Ryanair's revenue and profits are flying high. Lower fuel prices are helping. Also, the airline has been improving some services and putting pricing pressure on rivals. If anyone can spark a price war, it's Ryanair.

Meanwhile, Ryanair chief exec Michael O'Leary dislikes the airfare pricing comparison sites and, in fact, has contacted his competitors to ask them to feature multiple airlines' prices on their individual sites. He says: 'I think it is something the big airlines could and should work together on because I think it makes no sense for third-party price comparison websites out there'.

Ryanair has more than 170,000 Twitter followers and an active YouTube and Instagram account. It also has a busy Facebook page. To celebrate its 30th birthday, Ryanair is running a promotion with the hashtag #30Names30Planes that is attracting social media attention.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Apple Pay adds momentum to mobile payment

Apple shows Apple Pay on its devices
Apple Pay recently launched in the UK market, with multiple banks supporting the contactless mobile payment app (meaning tap the phone or click or both to initiate payment).

Users 'store' their credit and debit card details within the app so they can quickly and conveniently pay for tickets, food, merchandise and more.

Among the first banks to offer Apple Pay are NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Nationwide, MBNA, Santander and Ulster Bank. American Express is also participating.

Visa Europe's research indicates a high percentage of UK customers own smartphones, the key element in mobile payments, and it predicts this method 'will fast become a preferred way to store and use a credit or debit card'. However, some consumers are wary of tech-fueled payments (due to security concerns or unfamiliarity). Another issue, being worked on, is the upper limit of how much Apple Pay users can buy with the app. 

With Apple Pay in full launch mode, mobile payment is sure to attract new users among key demographic groups (Millennials, particularly) and accelerate acceptance during 2015 and beyond.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Superior service reinforces customer loyalty at Ritz-Carlton

The world-famous Ritz-Carlton hotels are known for personalised service. The general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto screens prospective employees with the goal of hiring and training those who are enthusiastic about providing superior customer service. He says the key question his employees must ask themselves is: 'How can I make things more hassle-free for the guest?' Read more about the Ritz-Carlton's Gold Standards here.

The hotel company created the acronym MR BIV to focus employees on avoiding and correcting service slipups:

Variation in work processes

According to a J.D. Power survey, hotel guest satisfaction in North America is at an all-time high--which means hotels must work even harder to stand out.

Especially in this digital age, when customers can research hotels and share experiences in an instant, the president of Ritz-Carlton has this to say about the secret to superior customer service:

'Customers today have an expectation of seamless service, in part because of the online experience and other technological factors. It’s important that we provide them with this seamless service– all of the element of the luxury hotel experience must integrate and flow together, from the planning process when they make the reservation, to when they depart the hotel'.

To encourage repeat visits and keep loyal hotel guests informed about new locations and services, the Ritz-Carlton publishes a full-colour online magazine filled with travel possibilities and tips. The corporate FB page has more than 550,000 likes and its Twitter account has attracted nearly 150,000 followers. The hotel is especially active on Pinterest, where its pins are spread across 123 boards with titles such as 'Discover the world' and 'I do.'

Monday, 13 July 2015

Will Amazon Prime Day become Black Friday in July? is celebrating its two-decade birthday on 15 July by launching a special online sale exclusively for members of its annual fee-based Prime programme. Prime members are entitled to free two-day shipping, access to unlimited TV and movie viewing from Amazon's entertainment library, access to a library of thousands of Kindle-based books and early notice of special merchandise, among other privileges.

Prime Day is being promoted with the strapline 'more deals than Black Friday', referring to the big shopping day on the Friday after US Thanksgiving Thursday. Consumers are growing accustomed to doing much of their shopping for Christmas and Hanukkah on Black Friday, thanks to retail deals that attract attention.

Amazon's Prime service has been highly successful in the US market, encouraging shopper loyalty and retention. In the UK, Amazon is adding extras such as one-hour delivery in London for a small extra fee.

Will Prime Day become the summer version of Black Friday? Other retailers that sell online may get a boost from shoppers comparing the Prime Day specials, say experts. Already, Black Friday is an increasingly popular shopping day for UK retailers, and Amazon's July version could very well shape consumer behaviour this year and beyond.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

World's most popular theme parks

According to a new study, the 25 most popular theme parks on the planet attracted 223 million people in 2014. The Magic Kingdom at Disney World (Florida) is the world's most popular theme park, ranked by attendance, followed by Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland California, Tokyo DisneySea Japan, Universal Studios Japan, Epcot in Disney World (Florida), Animal Kingdom in Disney World (Florida), Disney Hollywood Studios (Florida), Disneyland Paris, and Disney's California Adventure Park.

In other words, of the 10 most popular theme parks around the world, only one is not a Disney destination. And to put the attendance numbers into perspective, the #1 theme park (Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida) drew nearly 20 million visitors on its own.

Also, of the top 10 parks, three are located in Japan. Localising the attractions is a good way to increase appeal and differentiate the park experience. With summer holidays on the way, Universal Studios Japan is marketing its new zombie and 'yokai' monster attractions, based on well-known amine, video game and movie characters.

China is a fast-growing market for theme parks, as well. Hong Kong Disneyland has been open for a decade, and other major attractions are being built throughout the country. A new Hello Kitty park recently celebrated its grand opening. Perhaps the strangest theme-park attraction anywhere is in the Window of the World theme park: A 'death simulator' where visitors climb into a coffin, are 'cremated' and then reborn--an interesting application of consumer behaviour research.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Pricing by the Page

Amazon is again a price innovator. This time, Amazon is going to pay authors according to how many pages are read by customers who 'borrow' e-books from the Kindle 'library'.

Here's how Amazon explained it to authors (italics added for emphasis):
Beginning July 1, 2015, we'll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read. We're making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you'll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it. 

Media coverage of the new pricing mentions how it could influence authors to write page-turners to encourage readers to read quickly so Amazon will pay quickly. Or influence authors to write longer books to get paid more as readers read. Canadian Business notes that this pricing policy is a way to objectively assess the value of an e-book to readers, and pay authors according to that value.

Although some authors worry that they will see lower payments, others believe that the new pricing will lead to higher quality. However, books by best-selling authors are generally not part of Amazon's Kindle library and therefore not subject to this new pricing. So pricing by the page is mainly an innovation applied to e-books by indie authors, at least for now.

Overall, pricing of books has gotten increasingly complex over time. Buyers can purchase a printed or electronic book, or 'borrow' from the library (at one low subscription price per year) or 'hire' a textbook for a specific period. Not surprisingly, the complexities can be confusing to both readers and authors. Will pricing by the page establish itself as a long-term policy?