Monday, 17 December 2018

Competitors as partners (and stakeholders)

Not only can competitors be key stakeholders (meaning your marketing performance may be influenced by rivals and influence the performance of rivals) - but in some cases, competitors can be key partners.

An entrepreneur recently explained when he considers it good business to partner with a competitor in strategic ways:

  • Partner to take advantage of opportunities for entering new markets - with co-developed products, for instance. Or to tap a new channel for distribution.
  • Partner to co-purchase raw materials used by both, at a lower price due to high-volume buying in combination.
  • Partner with complementary products or marketing, letting customers know about the complementary offerings and receiving customer referrals from the partner as well.
  • Partner to undertake activities that will achieve societal objectives.
Microsoft, the giant technology company, asked last year: 'Are we partners or competitors?' The answer: 'Yes, we are.'

Partners, whether competitors or non-competing vendors, are clearly stakeholders when it comes to each other's performance.

In this 2017 blog post, Microsoft wrote the following about working together with competitors as partners to provide customers with what they need and add value for all participants.
It’s not a we-win-you-lose sort of deal. In fact, it’s the opposite. Every time we come together with our partners for a solution, we open a new socket that creates value for everyone. We all need to work together and use transformative technology to help partners build successful ecosystems for customers.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Tracking trends via Google search results

What were some key UK trends in 2018?

Google recently published a list of the most frequently-used search terms amongst UK users. It's not a surprise that many people searched for Meghan Markle, given the hoopla over the royal wedding this year. I was surprised that her name was not at the TOP of the search list. It was #2, followed by the royal wedding.*

At #4 was searches for Black Panther, the blockbuster movie.

At the very top of the list, at #1, was the World Cup. Football fever!

To see the trends globally and country, by country, go to the page Google's Year in Search and select a place.

Globally, for example, Google says the #1 search was . . . World Cup.

Even in the United States, World Cup was the #1 search during 2018.

For historical comparison, you can also select a different year. No individual country results are available for 2001, but globally, the top search term was Nokia, followed by Sony, BMW, Palm (remember that brand? It was a personal digital assistant back in the day) and Adobe.

Fun and an interesting look back on trends from the past.

*Expect Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and the royal baby to trend very high in 2019 search results, right?

Friday, 7 December 2018

When brands include sounds

For many years, computer users have noticed a specific musical sound during bootup: Microsoft Windows has one sound, Apple Macintosh has another sound. These are examples of sonic branding. Similarly, brand jingles and musical straplines are part of sonic identity.

Now sonic branding is becoming increasingly important as brands seek to further differentiate themselves in this era of Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Echo and other virtual assistants and smart speakers.

In other words, the audio component of branding must support visual elements and other aspects of brand identity, because so many consumers rely on voice commands and audio response.

To be effective, the sound must be brief and memorable, consistent with other brand elements. It can be used in both audio and video brand experiences. And it should appeal to the target market, developing an emotional connection with the brand.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Marketing fashion products made from recycled materials

The world's oceans contain all kinds of rubbish, particularly plastic that pollutes and never decomposes--and fishing nets that have been thrown away. Now companies are turning ocean rubbish into 'green' clothing and accessories, stylish as well as a good path to sustainability. Consumers appreciate being able to make a difference through their purchases, the companies seek to accomplish societal objectives and the planet gets a little cleaner in the process.

Some brands are working with the nonprofit Parley for the Oceans to build awareness of the threats to ocean life and reuse discarded plastic in new products. Stella McCartney created a fashion collection based on recycled ocean plastics, for example, and also uses recycled nylon and polyester in fashion items. The sunglass brand Clean Waves markets products made from recycled ocean plastics, again in partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

The fast-fashion retailer H&M is buying nylon made from recycled fishing nets (from Aquafil) and turning it into stylish clothing. This partnership increases education about the challenges of ocean pollution and also showcases H&M as a firm actively working to improve sustainability.

Watch for more such partnerships as consumers increasingly seek out brands that are transparent about ethical sourcing and active in pursuing societal objectives.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Scooters and the sharing economy

The fast-growing 'sharing economy' includes firms like Airbnb (flats and homes) and Uber (car hires). Customers book what they need, when they need it, on demand, via app or the web. Convenient, easy, affordable and low-stress.

In America, electric scooters are already part of the sharing economy. Pioneering firms like Lime and Bird have put hundreds of lightweight, rechargeable scooters on the streets of major cities and on university campuses. Consumers unlock the scooters by logging into an app and paying about £1 to start. Operating fees depend on how long the ride continues, but the entire cost is usually much less than hiring a car or hailing a cab.

Scooters don't pollute, and they don't take up much space on streets or in car parks. Riding is fun and easy after a bit of trial and error. More scooters could mean less traffic and congestion in cities and on campuses. So why aren't UK cities encouraging scooters and the sharing economy?

Currently, UK law doesn't allow motorized scooters on paved streets/public roads. And based on the US experience, which has been both positive and negative, UK municipalities may be wary of consumers weaving in and out of traffic, riding on sidewalks and/or leaving scooters on the side of the street.

Now US-based Bird is among those seeking permission to operate in the UK. Its first test is a limited pilot programme on one private path near Bird's London offices. Will UK regulators change the rules to allow scooter-sharing services to operate?

Monday, 12 November 2018

Pop-up shops for holiday marketing

'Tis the season for holiday pop-up shoppes opening around the UK. More than ever, brands and businesses see pop-ups as a good way to offer a limited-time, in-person experience controlled by the brand.

This allows the companies to try new products or new displays, learn more about customers' interests and preferences, understand response to pricing and test response to communication messages featuring the pop-up. Once the pop-up closes, marketers can analyse the results and make decisions about future products, pricing, promotion and distribution possibilities--made possible by limited spending on a limited-time retail space in a targeted geographic area.

For instance:

  • Seedlip, which markets non-alcoholic drinks, is opening a Mayfair pop-up focused on its beverages as well as bar products.
  • Amazon, the pioneering online retailer, is opening a London fashion shop for one week to experiment with bricks-and-mortar store marketing.
  • Cards for Good Causes, a nonprofit, has a holiday pop-up inside a public library, selling greeting cards to benefit numerous charities.
  • One of the more unusual pop-ups is in Manchester, where Classic Football Shirts sells, well, classic football shirts like an original #7 Beckham ManU shirt, amongst others.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Holiday marketing begins early

How early? Well, UK retailer John Lewis actually plans two years ahead, analysing trends and preparing themes for holiday windows, displays and communications content. This is the only way to coordinate products, messages and in-store merchandising on schedule.

Selfridges was the earliest of all UK retailers to reveal its 2018 holiday window displays, on 18 October. The theme is rock 'n roll. Quoting the store: 'It’s about freedom, exuberance, living for today, and having a rocking time to the accompaniment of a great soundtrack'. See the full window displays from Oxford Street, London, here!

Hamley's Regent Street windows are all about holiday time in London, including markets and festivals. This year's focus is on plush toys, plush toys, plush toys in the windows and inside (plus other must-have toys).

Fenwick Newcastle's windows feature a jolly snowman come to life, from the children's book by Raymond Briggs, delighting the small boy who built the snowman.

Aldi's holiday advert again features Kevin the Carrot, returning from 2017 and 2016. The hashtag #SaveKevin engaged viewers to trend Aldi on social media following the advert on air.

Rival Lidl is airing three holiday adverts this year, themed 'upgrade your Christmas' with funny consequences. A Lidl exec says: 'Our classic humour and imagination runs through the series, providing Lidl laughs and mouth-watering products to marvel at'.

Nearly every day now, a retailer will be revealing windows or adverts and -- of course! -- special promotions to attract shoppers.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Top UK brands ranked by value


In the latest BrandZ listing of Top 75 UK brands, a brand's value depends on consumer perceptions of innovation, differentiation and communication. Strong brands not only innovate, they communicate their differentiation to remain top of mind amongst the target market of consumers.

According to Kantar Millward Brown, which conducts the BrandZ studies, the top five UK brands in terms of value are all well established with consumers and have a high public profile:

5. Sky (telecom)

4. BT (telecom)

3. Shell (energy)

2. HSBC (financial services)

1. Vodafone (telecom)

Kantar also notes the value growth of many relatively new brands such as Deliveroo (delivery of takeaway orders) and BrewDog (craft beer).

What do brands need to increase or maintain their value amongst consumers?

'To grow, they need to work on increasing consumer perceptions that they are different, innovative and relevant', says a Kantar UK exec. 'The disruptors entering the ranking, meanwhile, need to make their difference meaningful and salient to consumers – if they fail to do so they could have a short lifespan'.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

How retail marketers can use blockchain

Blockchain is best known as the secure technology driving crytocurrencies such as bitcoin. Because of its security and the speed/accuracy of exchanging data, blockchain is increasingly being considered by retail marketers worldwide.

One key function of blockchain is to identify the supply-chain provenance of a product and track its movement through the distribution network. This is extremely important as retailers source products from around the world.

Carrefour, the French hypermarket retailer, is planning to implement blockchain for fresh foods such as tomatoes and chickens. This will enable the retailer to trace back to the source any possible problems.

Consumers will be reassured that Carrefour can quickly and accurately identify where fresh foods come from--and have confidence about the source. With 33,000 stores in 12 nations, blockchain will be a plus for Carrefour's ability to manage its fresh foods supply chain.

'The key thing for us as Carrefour is to be able to say when there is a crisis that we have the blockchain technology, so we are able to trace products and tell the story of the products', says the retailer's Secretary General.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Hire or buy clothing?

Two US entrepreneurs set the trend in motion when they opened Rent the Runway, a designer clothing-for-hire business in 2009. The idea was to offer women (and, later, men) the opportunity to hire a fancy outfit for several days, at a fraction of the purchase price.

The one-time hire price includes shipping plus cleaning as a complete package. Just choose an outfit, click to hire and return postage-free after the special occasion. Rent the Runway and other US rivals also offer subscription pricing, so customers can choose a certain number of everyday outfits per month at one low for-hire fee. In other words, for-hire isn't just for special occasions.

Now clothing for hire is going global. UK businesses that offer designer frocks include Girl Meets Dress. 'Customers had never hired before, so the main thing was getting them to do this', says Girl Meets Dress founder Anna Bance, whose data systems had to account for the time clothing spends in transit and in cleaning between hire periods.

In Australia, GlamCorner offers women's designer clothing for hire. The company, founded in 2012, markets via email and digital campaigns. It's experienced significant growth as more customers try for-hire clothing and appreciate the benefits.

In China, YCloset is growing as it educates the market about the benefits of clothing-hire and erases doubts about wearing clothing previously hired by others. A social-media influencer recently created a viral video in which she visited YCloset's cleaning facility, to reassure customers that any clothing they hire will be quite clean and presentable. Will consumers choose to hire more clothing or will they remain committed to buying?

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

How Tesco competes with deep-discount retailers

Tesco has a new weapon in its battle with deep-discount retail chains Lidl and Aldi.

It just opened two discount-price stores in a new chain it calls Jack, for Tesco's founder, Sir Jack Cohen. Short name, easy to remember, limited assortment, low prices, local merchandise. And the store openings coincide with Tesco's celebration of 100 years of low prices.

Most of the products will be branded own-label, but some will be well-known global brands like Coca-Cola. To reinforce the British origin of local merchandise, and the chain's British heritage, Jack signage features the Union Jack.

Tesco's CEO says the target market is 'economically challenged [consumers] that need a bargain and the affluent shopper that wants a bargain'. Adding a 'treasure hunt' element, the centre aisle of each Jack's store displays WIGIG promotions--bargain products that will go quickly, so 'when it's gone, it's gone'.

Lidl and Aldi have challenged Tesco and other full-service supermarkets in recent years, attracting price-conscious consumers willing to buy what they want at low, low prices in a no-frills retail atmosphere.

A few months ago, Tesco closed its Tesco Direct business, which sold non-food products directly to consumers. That business had been operating for nearly 12  years but was not yet profitable. Will Jack's enable Tesco to compete effectively in a highly pressured retail environment--and be profitable at the same time?

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Sleeping out to raise money on Byte Night

The next Byte Night fundraiser takes place on Friday evening, 5 October. This annual event supports the nonprofit Action for Children, a children's charity that helps those in need avoid homelessness. Participants sleep out (this year, in 12 different UK locations) to raise money for the charity, among other special fundraising events.

Founded by leaders in the UK tech sector, Byte Night has a strong social media  marketing element. The poster above shows not only the event's web address but also its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. There is also a LinkedIn presence to catch the eye of professionals.

Byte Night's promotions begin months in advance, allowing time for companies and individuals to register and to recruit friends and associates for the fundraising effort. The event is on special event calendars and promoted by other nonprofits, councils and sponsors (Royal Mail, for instance).

In 2018, 1,800 sleepers are expected to participate. Wishing everyone a successful sleep out and successful fundraising!

UPDATE: The 2018 sleepout raised £852,999 for charity. Congratulations!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Brand marketing: relevance and experience

According to a recent ranking, the three most relevant brands in the UK are: Apple, Lego and Playstation.

More than 10k consumers responded to the survey, saying that--for the third consecutive year--Apple is the most relevant brand in their lives. What is relevance? According to the Brand Relevance Index, it means 1) consumer obsession, 2) inspiration, 3) innovation and 4) pragmatism.

Lego is #2 in this survey, a brand that understands consumer behaviour and knows how important personal experience influences relevance. Lego is using event marketing and other in-person experiences to compete in newer markets such as Hong Kong. The Lego House in Denmark is an in-person brand experience built from 25 million plastic Lego bricks.

In fact, more brands are marketing themselves through experiences. For instance, Converse--which makes athletic shoes--refashioned a London hotel into a limited-time brand experience earlier this year.

Watch for more brand marketing via experiences during the holiday shopping season as companies seek to build awareness, preference and purchasing.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Coca-Cola adds coffee with Costa acquisition

Diversifying its product and brand portfolio, Coca-Cola has moved to buy Costa, the UK-based coffee shop chain now owned by Whitbread. Currently, Costa has 4,000 locations in 32 countries, plus thousands of self-serve coffee vending machines.

This acquisition will enable Coca-Cola to build on Costa's strong brand identity and, at the same time, enhance the non-cola beverage elements of its product portfolio. The acquisition has implications for global marketing, as well. Costa does well in China, for instance, and Coca-Cola already owns the best-selling Georgia coffee brand in Japan.

But as consumer behaviour changes, and coffee consumption grows year after year, Coca-Cola sees Costa as a brand with significant potential for further global expansion. 'Costa has strengths in many countries and in many key distribution channels of the coffee business', says Coca-Cola's CEO.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The race to market electric cars

Although Tesla is one of the best-known electric car brands on the planet, many automakers have marketing plans that include the introduction of electric cars.

Especially now that Tesla appears to be having difficulty consistently producing its Model 3 mainstream auto in sufficient quantities to meet its objectives, other automakers see real opportunity to gain market share with their own electric vehicles.

For example, Germany's Mercedes recently introduced an all-electric SUV, branded the EQC (for 'crossover'). The interior has many familiar features, including a robust infotainment unit.

Porsche is preparing its Mission E vehicle for 2019 introduction, with the goal of having plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles comprise half of all of its vehicle deliveries by 2025.

Volkswagen is investing heavily to develop and market electric cars in global markets. Chinese carmaker Geely is also gearing up to introduce more electric cars in more markets, including its recently-launched SUV crossover.

As a result, Tesla will face global markets more crowded with electric cars than ever in the past. How will it keep its production and its marketing plan on pace?

This post updates the Marketing in Practice example in Chapter 6 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Metro Bank continues its 'challenger' marketing

This post updates the preview and closer look at Metro Bank in Chapter 11
Metro Bank's marketing has, from its founding in 2010, encouraged customers to 'join the revolution'. This means, for example, an emphasis on retail hours that are convenient for customers, with lively and colourful branch interiors that have an attractive retail ambiance. It also means offering safety-deposit boxes when competitors are closing branches and eliminating boxes.

Despite intense competition, Metro Bank, as a challenger bank, has become profitable and is expanding its branch network, although a bit less aggressively than previously planned. The acquisition of a home loan portfolio is another way Metro Bank has added new customers in pursuit of growth. On the other hand, rising interest rates are putting pressure on profit margins.

Understanding that many customers want e-banking as well as retail banking services, Metro Bank has introduced a 'developer portal' for third-party developers who are creating apps to complement and enhance bank services.

At the same time, Metro Bank University is providing apprenticeship training to prepare new employees for delivering quality customer service in its busy branches--service that Metro Bank sees as being a differentiating factor in its competition for customers.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The global reach of Evolve Skateboards

More than 120k Facebook users 'like' Evolve Skateboards, more than 26k Instagram users follow Evolve Skateboards and nearly 16k people subscribe to the company's YouTube channel. Those social media interactions have helped accelerate word of mouth about this fast-growing brand of electric skateboards.

The Australian-based company founded by entrepreneur Jeff Anning and his wife, Fleur Anning, has an international customer base, distribution in multiple countries and many thousands of social media-minded brand fans. Target market: young professionals who see the boards as a convenient and fun way to commute on city streets.

The company was global from its first days in business. Two years ago, when Evolve launched a new product, it attracted A$ 1 million in orders in a single day. One challenge in growing so quickly has been signing with suppliers and manufacturing facilities that meet the firm's quality and performance standards.

Today, Evolve's annual turnover exceeds A$ 15 million as consumers worldwide are introduced to the product category of electric skateboards and come to prefer the Evolve brand. Thanks to social media, Evolve can stay in close contact with its target market in many nations, well beyond the firm's base in Australia.

Friday, 7 September 2018

UK advertising trends

The UK economy is growing, which helps the UK advertising business rebound. As of 2018's first quarter, advertisers increased investments in digital advertising by more than 10%, not a surprise. What was a surprise was the increase of 12.5% in spending on radio advertising by 12.5%, a very strong result for this medium.

Another surprise was the increase in national newspaper advertising. Newspaper advertising spend had been decreasing since the end of 2010--until now.

Digital is, of course, a major focus for many advertisers. Yet transparency and trust remain a concern. The UK Competition and Markets Authority recently warned several influencers that any sponsored/commissioned posts on social media must be clearly marked as such.

Because celebrities and social media stars have millions of followers, what they post can make a difference in brand recognition, awareness and preference. That's why, says the senior director of the CMA, consumers should be 'clearly told whether a celebrity is promoting a product because they have bought it themselves, or because they have been paid or thanked in some way by the brand'.

Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority is looking closely at marketers targeting children. It recently told Cadbury, Chewits, Squashies, KFC and Kellogg's to stop targeting children with digital adverts for foods that contain large amounts of fat, sugar or salt. For more about how the ASA protects children and vulnerable audiences, and for examples of banned adverts, see its explanation here.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Discount train travel builds customer base

Italo (nick-named the 'Ferrari train') was founded in 2012 as a high-speed, low-fare direct competitor to Trenitalia, Italy's state-controlled railway system. The combination of low fares and speedy, comfortable travel has attracted millions of loyal passengers and given Italo a profit margin of more than 30%.

Some of these customers used to ride Trenitalia's trains and some used to fly Ryanair and Easyjet between Rome and Milan. Now Italo is adding more trains and extending its coverage to new destinations as its discount pricing structure has helped it grow to the second-largest train system in Italy.

Four price levels allow passengers to choose the value they're willing to pay for. Italo even has a frequent-rider loyalty reward scheme and a cobranded American Express credit card that offers upgrades and other benefits.

Watch for discount train travel to become more of a competitive challenge for railway systems and no-frills airlines in other European nations, as well.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Why is red used so often in retail logos?

According to a recent international study of logos, red is frequently chosen by retailers like Argos and Tesco to attract the attention of shoppers. This makes sense: people walking or driving past a store are more likely to notice a bright, bold, vivid colour. The same holds true for McDonald's, which has a red and yellow logo that is easy to see, day or night, from a distance.

Today, what are the UK's top 5 favourite brand logos? According to Avery UK's poll, they are: (1) Coca-Cola (the red really attracts attention), (2) McDonald's (again, attention-getting), (3) Mickey Mouse (the well-known silhouette of mouse ears, a Disney brand), (4) Cadbury (featuring a special purple it has tried to trademark) and (5) Apple (shape and rainbow colours are unique).

The Coca-Cola logo is more than a century old and still popular, always distinctive--important in the ongoing cola marketing battles. Cadbury's purple logo stands out on its wrappers and in its adverts, a quick identifier for buyers. Apple's logo is an apple with one bite gone, simple yet powerful as a point of differentiation in the sea of logos.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Trends in UK consumer media usage
No surprise: UK adult consumers continue to be online for many hours of the day. According to Ofcom, which regulates UK telecommunications, they are online, on average, more than 24 hours every week. One in five UK adults is online 40 hours per week.

As shown in the chart above, fewer UK consumers are using desktop PCs. Instead, they're using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets (which were in their infancy in 2008).

Similarly, both smart watches and smart speakers are gaining in popularity--products that weren't available a decade earlier.

On the other hand, DVD players are losing ground, as are MP3 players.

Ofcom presents this timeline showing what products and services were introduced, and when.

How many of the products and companies named in this infographic will still be going strong in 2028?

Note that eMarketer recently reported that UK consumers consume media for 9 hours and 23 minutes per day, on average. This covers books and newspapers, not just broadcast and digital media. No growth since the previous year, indicating overall media consumption is not growing. However, mobile usage is up, within that 'flat' media usage statistic.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

L'Occitane teams with TerraCycle for sustainability

Group L'Occitane markets all-natural and organic personal care products through 3,200+ retail stores in 90 nations. With headquarters in Luxembourg and Switzerland, L'Occitane's annual turnover exceeds €1,300 million.

Tech-savvy L'Occitane is leveraging the trend of consumers connecting via mobile devices to personalise offers and encourage purchasing through the firm's many e-commerce sites worldwide.

Behind the scenes, the company also works with Provence-based suppliers to source sustainably-produced ingredients for its beauty products.

It's very committed to achieving goals for recycling. As this window display shows, L'Occitane stores in Canada and the US will accept empty containers from any cosmetics brand and recycle them in partnership with Terracycle, which turns the recycled and upcycled materials into eco-friendly new products for sale.

UK consumers can participate in Terracycle recycling in various ways, including bringing recyclable items to a nearby 'brigade' for free recycling.

This post offers an additional example of societal objectives as covered in Chapter 5 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Private brands sell well

Private brands are owned and marketed by retailers and other channel members

Private brands traditionally sell well during periods of economic recession. That certainly was the case after the 2008 financial crash that led to a global financial downturn, when more expensive national and global brands saw price-conscious consumers switching to less-expensive private brands for many categories of purchases.

In fact, premium private brands have been part of the reason for consumers to switch away from other brands. These provide a 'halo effect' to help boost the image of all the private-brand products in the marketer's portfolio and make these products look more appealing in the eyes of consumers.

Private brands reportedly outperform national brands in four European nations, according to one source. They are strongest in the UK grocery market; research shows consumers consider the quality to be equal to that of national brands (and some consumers say the quality of private brands even exceeds that of national brands).

Many UK supermarket shoppers are admittedly looking for value. The rise of deep-discount grocery chains like Aldi and Lidl is due, in part, to the attractiveness of private brands that provide price-conscious consumers with quality alternatives to national brands.

This post updates private brand coverage in Chapter 6 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning, 4e.

Monday, 6 August 2018

What makes co-branding successful?

Co-branding . . . when a product carries two (or more) brands. 

One of the classic co-branding categories is the credit card. For years, companies like MasterCard and Visa have offered co-branding opportunities. Virgin Group co-brands credit cards with MasterCard, for instance. American Express co-brands a credit card with British Airways, as another example. Individual banks that issue cards are also co-branding, as Barclaycard has done with its Uber Visa card (combining 3 brands in all).

Co-branding is most successful when both brands are well known, reputable and able to appeal to each other's customer base. The communication styles and marketing content of the brands involved must be compatible, as well. The synergy from combining brands will be strongest under these conditions.

Google has used co-branding to name its Android operating systems more than once. Last year, it co-branded with the famous biscuit brand Oreo to name the Android Oreo OS. In 2013, it co-branded with the popular chocolate bar KitKat for an Android OS name that also appeared on the candy bar wrappers. The co-branding worked because the combined names were quirky and attention-getting.

This post updates material on co-branding in Chapter 6 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning, 4e.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Lego: 60 years of marketing plastic bricks


The Lego Group began marketing its iconic plastic brick sets in 1958. Fast-forward to 2018, and the 60-year-old product is one of the world's most popular toys, with marketing reinvented for the next generation. The brand is also estimated to be the world's most valuable toy brand.

The CMO notes that the brand's mission is 'to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, to reach more kids'. It continues to introduce new building sets, many linked to strong brand franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Ninjago.

Lego's sales in Europe and the US didn't meet company expectations last year. It experienced very good growth in China, however, and the company plans to open more branded stores there as demand surges.

The brand is also building on the strength of Legoland theme parks to keep its toys in the public eye. For the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, for instance, Lego built a small-scale version of Windsor Castle on the grounds of Legoland Windsor.

And, with an eye toward social responsibility, Lego is beginning to make some of its bricks from plant-based materials. The idea is to become more environmentally-friendly and demonstrate good corporate citizenship.

This post updates the Lego Group example that opens Chapter 5 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Omni-channel choices for cosmetics buyers
For more than 125 years, Avon (now headquartered in the UK) has sold its beauty products door to door, via representatives who meet with customers, demonstrate makeup techniques, take orders and deliver products personally.

These days, however, time-pressured buyers are often buying online and watching social media tutorials rather than working with door-to-door salespeople.

So Avon now offers omni-channel choices. Buyers can still request a representative visit. They can also click to buy directly from the online Avon shop and receive purchases via courier.

To engage with buyers, Avon UK is active on Twitter (102k followers), Instagram (115k), Facebook (more than 20m followers), YouTube (24k subscribers) and its own Beauty Connects club blog (254k members).

Some Avon reps have their own social media accounts to show products and explain benefits. After all, in a world where makeup experts can attract hundreds of thousands of social media followers, Avon's reps can shine by offering special tips and personalised service for buyers.

Avon's products are competitively priced and attractively positioned. However, with improved profitability in mind, the global beauty brand is closing some markets to focus on higher-potential regions.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Three visions of the future of retailing

What is the future of retailing? Different businesses have differing visions of how people will shop and buy in the future. Here are three visions among the many being planned and tested worldwide:

  • Suning, a Chinese retailer, is testing unstaffed stores. (Photo above is from its news release.) The company calls this 'smart retailing' because of omnichannel choices and automation. Shoppers who have registered their Suning financial services account are identified via facial recognition and gain entry to the unstaffed stores. The idea is that some shoppers prefer to examine merchandise and buy in person, with tech assistance to speed transactions. 
    Start Today
  • Twenty-year-old Japanese fashion e-commerce firm Start Today wants to help customers order clothing in the correct size. Shoppers dress in a Zozosuit and their measurements are captured electronically. Then shoppers can order clothing made to fit. 
  • Retailers (both online and offline) are increasingly stocking a larger selection of preowned products (meaning gently-used merchandise). This is a trend in the upmarket wristwatch business, for example. It's also a trend in designer clothing and accessories. Not vintage, necessarily, but used items that originally were luxury priced.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Bargains Draw Buyers on Amazon Prime Day

Once again, Amazon Prime Day has broken all records for merchandise sales. Eager shoppers clicked or swiped to buy more merchandise on 16 July than on Black Friday or CyberMonday, two "shopping holidays" that lead into Christmas buying season. Small businesses were among the big winners, promoting discounts to their customers via the Amazon retail platform.

Although Amazon generally puts special emphasis on electronics on Prime Day, Drapers reports that the retailer sold 287k clothing items during its shopping holiday--many of these from the company's private brand collections. Amazon has been more aggressively promoting its private brands in recent years, with product launches scheduled during Prime Day in 2018.

One of the year's most popular appliances sold out--the Instant Pot. But, not surprisingly, Amazon's own Echo Dot speaker was the biggest seller of all on Prime Day, along with its own Fire Stick TV device.

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Fourth Year of Amazon Prime Day Discounts

For the fourth consecutive year, the gigantic online retailer Amazon is celebrating Prime Day, a members-only sale that rivals Black Friday in the number of special discount deals.

To increase anticipation in advance of this sale, Amazon put a count-down clock on its home page. Here's what the clock looked like on 12 July. Despite the name, Prime Day takes place over more than 24 hours, as the clock indicates. According to one evaluation, Prime Day UK's average discount in 2017 was 21%.

In addition to deep discounts on cameras and other electronics, Amazon is also promoting discounts on its own brands, including Amazon Basics. The company's private brands have been attracting customers and increasing revenue year after year.

Currently, Amazon markets 80+ private brands such as Mama Bear, Echo speakers, and Happy Belly bottled water. In 2017, the top-selling product during Prime Day in the UK market was, in fact, the Amazon Echo speaker. Electronics and kitchen products were also strong sellers.

New this year: limited-edition products and new products launched especially on Prime Day.

Based on reports from previous years, bargain-hunting UK shoppers are likely to make Prime Day 2018 the most successful selling day of the year--again. UPDATE HERE

Friday, 6 July 2018

Primark continues Primania

Primark, a master at marketing low-priced fast fashion, continues to engage price-conscious brand fans via its Primania page of consumer-generated fashion content. Want to see how other Primark customers accessorise a special dress or wear the company's newest tops? Browse more than 16k images uploaded by brand fans, subject to the marketer's content guidelines.

Founded in Dublin in 1969, the company now markets under a variety of private brands, including Young Dimension and Ocean Club. In addition, Primark partners with groups to market special product collections. Its recent LGBT+ Pride collection is in partnership with Stonewall, a nonprofit that promotes equality, and a portion of each purchase benefits the nonprofit.

Primark operates more than 350 stores in 12 countries. Its US stores are doing well, but the company is awaiting long-term analysis before expanding there. Unlike nearly every other retailer on the planet, Primark does not sell online, only in physical stores.

Yet its social media presence is impressive. Primark has nearly 6mm Instagram followers, 98k Pinterest followers, 225k Twitter followers.

How will Primark use marketing to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019?

This post updates the "Marketing at Primark" feature in Chapter 1 of Essential Guide to Marketing Planning, 4th edition.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Update on the UK chocolate market

The UK chocolate market continues to grow, with more competition than ever and new products attracting attention. Consumers in the UK eat more chocolate per capita than consumers in any other nation. Seasonal products are leading the way, as are niche products that represent social responsibility commitments.

Tony's Chocoloney is a company that markets ethically-produced chocolate products. Based in the Netherlands, and already selling to the US market, Tony's plans to launch its first chocolate bars in the UK next year.

For a niche marketer, the company has a solid social-media following (more than 100k Facebook likes, for instance). Its ethical-source mission resonates with many consumers who seek out brands with purpose.

The upmarket company Hotel Chocolat continues to expand. It operates 103 retail stores, some with cafes attached, as well as a sustainability-based cocoa plantation. The company recently reported higher earnings.

Hotel Chocolat recently repaid thousands of bond-holders who invested in its so-called chocolate bonds, providing funding for the firm's sustainability projects and more. The firm recently prevailed in a dispute with Waitrose, saying that the grocer appeared to have copied the company's signature slab chocolate products. Waitrose stopped marketing the chocolates and the CEOs of both firms planned to sit down and chat over a cup of cocoa.

This post updates background information in the "Lost Legends Luxury Chocolatier" sample marketing plan, in the Appendix of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning, 4th edition.

Friday, 22 June 2018

HSBC's marketing for growth

HSBC Facebook:
UK-based HSBC bank has a new CEO and a new growth strategy, supported by new marketing.

John Flint, the new CEO, aims to expand HSBC within the UK market and market mortgages more aggressively.

Technology investment is key to the bank's future growth strategy. Meanwhile, recently appointed group head of marketing Leanne Cutts is looking at HSBC's traditional roots for connections to the bank's marketing future.

As shown in the illustration from the bank's UK Facebook page, HSBC's traditional red-and-white logo is being reimagined for the digital age. 'Most of our transactions with customers are digital, so having something easily recognisable is incredibly powerful. It helps the customer to cut through the clutter', Cutts explains.

The same logo is shown on HSBC's YouTube channel at this time, as well as on its Twitter account. The bank uploads not only adverts to YouTube but also videos about how to use its mobile banking app and other topics of interest to bank customers.  The bank has thousands of followers on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. HSBC is now reviewing agencies for its social media activities, which means changes as the bank positions its marketing to support future growth.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Unilever improves transparency in influencer marketing

Unilever, which markets such famous brands as Magnum, Omo, Luxe and Lifebuoy, wants more transparency in the world of influencer marketing (marketing mentions by celebrities and social-media stars who have many followers and who serve as opinion leaders).

When a major marketing power like Unilever takes a stand, the advertising and social media ecosystems take notice.

Unilever's chief marketing officer says the company's brands will neither buy followers nor have a marketing relationship with influencers who buy followers. The company is also prioritising relationships with digital platforms that promote transparency.

The background: Unilever respects and appreciates the close, organic connection between influencers and their followers. After all, that's why these influencers have an influence on consumers. So Unilever wants brand fans to know it will not be associated with those who buy followers to boost their numbers on social media.

This is the next step in Unilever's initiative to increase trust and integrity in influencer marketing whilst also reducing 'toxic content' online. Read more about Unilever's pledge to improve transparency here.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Burberry leverages the power of social media
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter play a central marketing role for the UK fashion brand Burberry. Its marketing strategy actually relies on four distinct pillars: product, communication, distribution and digital. About communication, the company explains: 'We are evolving our communications to be led by product and made for social media'.

One study found that Burberry topped the list of 20 most valuable UK brands using social media in 2017. Fashion industry publication WWD says Burberry had the best-performing social media strategy during February's 2018 London Fashion Week. This is actually nothing new for the brand, which has long put special emphasis on social media and ecommerce: CampaignLive hailed Burberry's savvy social media strategy during London Fashion Week in 2014.

By cultivating tech-savvy consumers, Burberry has amassed an Instagram following of more than 11 million people. Its Twitter account is followed by 8.7 million people. More than 17 million people have clicked to like its Facebook page. In short, Burberry is leveraging the power of social media to reach and engage style-conscious brand fans who buy in stores or online or both.

This post updates the Burberry example in Chapter 8 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Latest marketing strategy for Merlin
Families with small children are the target demographic for Merlin Entertainments and its Legoland theme parks. The company recently opened a Castle Hotel next to its Legoland in California, a hotel that looks built from Lego bricks and features theme decor. 'It’s like painting the story and making you feel like you’re living inside a medieval castle', says a Merlin executive.

Some rooms are decorated for knights, others for wizards...a fun, magical theme-park feeling for families that stay overnight. The hotel is differentiated and memorable, definitely not a bland, ordinary place to stay. This supports the brand image, as well.

Of course, Walt Disney is the market leader among theme park marketers. Given the intense competition within this industry, Merlin is pouring on the marketing magic to attract families during the all-important summer holiday period. In fact, Merlin drew a record 66m visitors globally in 2017.

Now Merlin is focusing on building hotels next to Legoland theme parks to capture more revenue and increase profits. It will not invest as heavily in its Madame Tussauds attractions. Nonetheless, in London and New York, Madame Tussauds recently installed wax figures of the new Duchess of Sussex, a good way to stay in the public eye after the royal wedding.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Tesco fine-tunes retailing strategy

UK retailing giant Tesco continues to fine-tune its retailing strategy, both on the store side and online.

As shown above, it recently announced the closing of Tesco Direct, the company's profitless e-commerce initiative for non-food products. ( is the company's grocery website.) Fulfilment is costly, maintaining an online shopping platform is costly and the company saw no way to profit from this venture. Most likely, competition was also a factor, with Amazon and others offering so many of the same brand-name products that were sold on Tesco Direct's site.

Yet Tesco continues to invest in physical stores. It opened a new supermarket in Dublin that features eco-friendly features such as energy conservation systems and recycling facilities.

The Tesco Clubcard is a major competitive strength, enabling the retailer to communicate with loyal customers and personalise offers. And Tesco will need this strength as it faces the soon-to-merge Sainsbury/Asda combination.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Bringing together well-known food and beverage brands
Thirty-two years ago, Pret a Manger opened its doors in London. Ten years ago, the fast-growing chain of coffee/food shoppes was sold to a private equity firm. And now, Pret a Manger has another new owner.

The new owner, JAB Holdings has acquired a number of well-known coffee and food brands. These include Krispy Kreme, Douwe Egberts, Tassimo, Panera Bread, Dr Pepper Snapple and Keurig Green Mountain.

With 530 shoppes in the UK, US, China, Hong Kong and France, Pret a Manger has a loyal customer following, in person and on social media. Will JAB, the new owner, co-brand shoppes or products, given the high profile of its pantry of products? Will the new owner use the shoppes (Panera Bread and Pret a Manger, for instance) as a distribution channel for other brands in the company's portfolio? Lots of possibilities for strategic synergy!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Is Ryanair's 'Always Getting Better' strategy working?

The low-price, no-frills airline Ryanair implemented a strategy for improvement, 'Always Getting Better,' in 2014. Is this strategy working?

In a word, yes. The airline recently announced record profitability. Despite glitches like last year's pilot roster problems, the airline is attracting passengers because of its cheap, cheap flights. In fact, most flights are nearly full, which means finding room for carry-on baggage can be a hassle.

But the 'Always Getting Better' strategy helps keep Ryanair competitive by focusing the company on affordability, punctuality, sustainability and expansion of connecting flights.

Recently, Ryanair announced a refund offer for customers who book early and then find a lower airfare elsewhere. Not only will Ryanair return the airfare paid, it will credit customers with €5 to their Ryanair accounts. In other words, it's telling customers to go ahead and buy tickets without worrying about overpaying.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Beverage marketing evolves

From Innocent's new dairy-free beverages to Pepsi J-Cola for Japanese taste preferences, marketers are expanding their product mixes to expand their customer base and appeal to variety-seeking loyal brand fans.

Another reason for the proliferation of product extensions and brand extensions is consumers' desire for healthy, nutritious beverages. At the same time, beverage marketers are responding to governmental efforts to encourage healthier lifestyles.

In the UK, there is now a levy on high-added-sugar drinks. Beverages that are made of 100% fruit or vegetables will not be subject to this levy. Ireland and South Africa are also taxing high-sugar beverage products. Individual US cities are similarly taxing high-sugar soft drinks, all part of the effort to encourage healthy eating.

In this UK marketing environment, Britvic has experienced strong demand for its no- and low-sugar soft drinks. Barr is also experiencing strong demand for its low-sugar and no-sugar soft drinks. Watch for more product introductions as beverage marketers compete for the attention of consumers during the high-demand summer months.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Barbie and Ken show market segmentation in action

The original Barbie doll, made by Mattel, had blonde hair, blue eyes and long legs. Today, Barbie dolls (and Ken dolls) come in so many sizes, shapes and colours that there is a Barbie or Ken for everybody--market segmentation in action!

Royal dreams? Mattel markets the Dreamtopia Barbie and Prince Ken. A fan of Jurassic World movies? Buy a Claire Barbie or an Owen Barbie. Got a pocket? Barbie on the Go is sized to go with you to school or play or anywhere (see photo above). Want to try on different hair colours? Try the Barbie Colour Surprise Doll, with hair that changes colour when sprayed with water. 

As these products demonstrate, segmentation is not just a matter of age and gender. Mattel segments the market for dolls according to factors such as lifestyle ("on the go" for instance), desire for variety or novelty (Barbie Colour Surprise), interest in a blockbuster movie (like Jurassic World) and royalty fantasy (both prince and princess).

Not that Barbie is alone in the doll world. Bratz, for instance, is a direct competitor. And Barbie also competes with other types of playthings, not just dolls--including videogames and other digital play possibilities. Barbie and Ken have had mixed sales results in recent years. Will further market segmentation have a positive effect on consumer behaviour?

Monday, 14 May 2018

Riding the Royal Wedding marketing wave

On Sunday, 19 May, Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle will be wed at St George's Chapel. Both traditional and social media reflect the global excitement about this Royal Wedding. Above, the Instagram post announcing that Queen Elizabeth officially signed the Instrument of Consent for this wedding to take place.

Even before the Royal Wedding, consumers fascinated by Harry and Meghan began buying products they favour. Meghan's dresses and coats? Sold out within hours of her appearances. When she arrives for the actual wedding, expect media frenzy over her choice of designer and her accessories, not just her wedding gown--as marketers frantically scramble to produce similar products for non-royal consumers.

Wedding-related marketing continues strong on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, one estimate suggests that tourism, product sales and all other marketing connected with Harry and Meghan could add an economic boost of up to £ 1 billion this year. From wedding souvenirs sold by John Lewis to white chocolate hearts with the bride and groom's faces, there are a variety of products to satisfy every budget and interest. One UK charity is already marketing wedding products to raise money for helping homeless people.

Across the pond, brands are finding different ways to ride the wedding marketing wave. A salad dressing looking to promote a royal connection? Yes. A New Orleans hotel showing off royal flair for the royal occasion? Yes. So many US media outlets are airing programmes about Harry and Meghan and the royal family, it's easy to lose count.

Congratulations to Prince Harry and his bride, Meghan!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Marketing fashions with sustainability in mind


Inditex, which owns Zara and other well-known fashion brands, now disassembles old apparel to remake into 'garments with a past'. Its Join Life label features clothing made in part from reclaimed materials and made using processes that are more earth-friendly.

The company also invites customers to bring old/unwanted clothes to selected stores for recycling. If you live in Spain, where Inditex is headquartered, you can have the courier who drops off your Zara purchases take your old clothes back for recycling--quite convenient!

Inditex and other fashion marketers are becoming more active in adopting sustainability and promoting this aspect of their products to customers, suppliers and partners.

H&M, the fast-fashion retailer based in Sweden, has set the ambitious goal of sustainably manufacturing all its fashions by 2030. 'H&M group is . . . pushing the development towards a shift to a circular model; where materials are maximised and waste is minimised', according to its 2017 Sustainability Report. It is investing in startups that search for ways to make fabrics and recycle materials without environmental harm. 'We need to speed the shift toward waste-free models [of business]', says H&M's CEO.

Watch for more sustainability activities as companies seek to conserve natural resources, reduce waste, help the planet and differentiate their brands in the competitive global marketplace.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Latest in Specsavers marketing

Specsavers, the multinational chain of more than 2000 retail shops, appeals to consumers on the basis of local expertise, fashion design and affordable pricing. The company's multichannel strategy appeals to multiple market segments.

Local Specsavers shops examine the external marketing environment for spectacles and other eyewear products and offer products and services to meet the needs of their retail clientele.

Specsavers particularly wants to be known for its community involvement and social responsibility. So, for example, some UK stores recently participated in charity efforts like fundraising for Brain Tumour research.

The UK Specsavers organisation is highly social...and has attracted hundreds of thousands of views for its YouTube videos over the years. Its Twitter account, opened eight years ago, has nearly 40k followers. Its Instagram page features stylish eyewear for men and women, a complement to the pricing promotions in other media.

In Africa, nearly 300 franchised Specsavers shops emphasise affordable eyewear via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The organisation offers free try-on of glass frames by mail, so customers can see how frames look at home.

In Australia, the Specsavers organisation uses the strapline 'Good looking styles at feel good prices' on its website. Its Instagram account asks brand fans to 'snap a spec selfie' and upload with the tag #LoveGlasses for a chance to win a prize. Its Facebook page has more than 110k followers and its YouTube account has nearly 1000 followers. The Australian Specsavers stores support hundreds of local community causes.

This updates the Specsavers example in the chapter on Analysing Customers and Markets, in my book Essential Guide to Marketing Planning.