Sunday, 25 February 2018

Brands, transparency and social media

Brands are understandably concerned about how consumers view marketing activities on social media and, actually, how social media influence consumers and society.

For instance, are brands transparent about who they are and what they do in advertising and social media? Among UK consumers responding to a recent survey, more than half say brands are not transparent about their use of social-media influencers. This is a small part of a larger challenge that has been developing in recent years.

Unilever is unhappy with the way social media are being used to spread hate and divide society. Given the company's multibillion-pound advertising/social media budget, its ideas and its expenditures are closely watched by the marketing world.

The company recently outlined a three-point pledge to publicly demonstrate its commitment to positive communications and transparent digital interaction.

  • Unilever will not do business with any social media platform that fails to protect children or that fans the flames of societal divisions.
  • Unilever will continue to fight stereotypes and promote diversity through initiatives like its #unstereotype campaign.
  • Unilever will support digital channels that make a good customer experience their priority.
YouTube, for one, has publicly responded, saying: 'We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand'.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

UK brands market in China
UK brands of all sizes are increasing their investments in marketing to the fast-growing consumer market in China. From 2010 to today, UK exports to China have grown by a healthy 60%.

Why China? For one thing, Brexit uncertainty is an issue in the business environment and therefore, many marketers are looking to new markets for new opportunities. This is one of the reasons why British fruit grower Haygrove farm is expanding in China, providing berries grown in China for that market.

Other brands are choosing to enter the Chinese market through online shopping portals. For instance, JD Worldwide ( is a popular shopping portal in China that already features signature UK fashion brands like Burberry, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.

Also, Chinese consumers are buying from UK marketers because they don't want to risk buying counterfeit goods--they want the real thing, purchased directly from the brand or an authorised retailer.

Alibaba, the largest ecommerce firm in China (or perhaps anywhere), is targeting British marketers that want to connect with Chinese consumers. On Alibaba's Singles Day (11 Nov), UK brands (including New Look and Marks & Spencer) received an enthusiastic response by Chinese buyers making purchases from Alibaba. Watch for more UK brands to target Chinese consumers as they expand their global marketing.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Marketing a mood, not just a raincoat
Stutterheim is a raincoat brand that has grown quickly by marketing a mood--melancholy, to be exact. The strapline: 'Swedish melancholy at its driest'.

To quote the company's website:
 Feeling blue inspires creativity.
Today, Stutterheim is known for handsewn, upmarket raincoats that are functional as well as fashionable in a 'timeless' way. Emphasising fashion as well as function, Stutterheim also markets limited-edition coats.

Specialty stores such as Harvey Nichols and Le Bon Marche stock Stutterheim in major global cities. The company operates its own store in Stockholm and in New York City.

If Stutterheim had no story line, it might be just another quality fashion raincoat manufacturer. But marketing the creativity of the mood, alongside the quality coats and other products, enhances the brand's appeal and differentiates it from competitors. Two key points of difference are in the mix: mood (or lifestyle) and quality.

The mood is captivating a growing number of brand fans: Stutterheim's Instagram account has 55k followers; its Facebook page has 31k likes; and its Twitter feed has nearly 1k followers.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Marketing 'made in Britain'

SWOT: Focus on British heritage as a strength
 In today's global economy, brands are looking for a competitive edge that will attract the attention of customers near and far. From a SWOT perspective, that strength is often 'made in Britain', which provides an edge for British-based marketers.

Grenson is a good example. The company communicates its British heritage when marketing its high quality shoes to local and international customers. Founded by William Green, the company modernised its name to Grenson in 1913, among the first brands legally registered in the UK.

With a long and proud tradition of producing quality shoes, Grenson only became active in wholesaling to major retailers like Harrods and Selfridges in 2011. Grenson launched its first branded overseas retail store in 2016, choosing a trendy neighborhood in lower New York City to influence consumer perceptions of its fashion credentials. Today, Grenson shoes are also stocked by online retailers like Mr Porter (the men's side of online merchant Net-a-Porter), amongst others.

Grenson updates its marketing plan as trends change, consumers change, the marketing environment changes and technology changes. One thing doesn't change: Grenson's brand is always mentioned in the context of its British heritage, keeping 'made in Britain' in the spotlight with every communication channel.

This is true of all Grenson's social media marketing activities: It's on Instagram (87k followers), Facebook (26k followers), Twitter (13.5k followers), Pinterest (2k followers) and Tumblr.

This example extends coverage of SWOT in Chapter 2 of my Essential Guide to Marketing Planning textbook.

Friday, 2 February 2018

McDonald's is marketing convenience and more

And you thought fast food just had to be fast. That's not the only (or even the most important) benefit that McDonald's is marketing for competitive positioning in the hyper-competitive world of casual dining. With 37,000+ restaurants worldwide, the company is a powerful marketer and continues to innovate as part of its growth strategy.

In the UK market, McDonald's is now offering McDelivery. Via Uber, it will deliver meal orders to home or office, a service that has helped the company increase sales despite competition and other elements in the marketing environment. In fact, the company says orders for home delivery on 1/1/18 made that the busiest delivery day to date. Convenience is adding to the appeal of burgers, fries and other McD's menu items.

What else is McDonald's doing? It recently became a sponsor of the NatWest Six Nations rugby tournament, after ending its long-time Olympic sponsorship. The rugby sponsorship is being used to highlight upmarket burgers in its Signature Collection. These three burgers, featuring British and Irish beef, have new, trendy flavors compared with traditional McD's burgers. One is a BBQ burger, one is 'spicy' and one is 'classic' with smoked bacon, Cheddar cheese and a Brioche bun. So not only is convenience important, a menu with more variety--in tune with today's taste buds--makes a difference.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Marks and Spencer and legacy retailing

Marks & Spencer is a legacy retailer--meaning it has been around since long before the ecommerce age and still focuses primarily on in-store retailing.

Online, M&S is enjoying growth increases--but results are not as strong as some analysts had hoped.

Competition from other legacy retailers, as well as competition from online merchants, is causing M&S to make changes to its offline strategy. One issue the retailer is addressing is how many stores it really needs. M&S is planning to close up to 30 of its brick-and-mortar stores in the near future. 'Stores will always be an integral part of our customer experience, alongside M&, but we have to ensure we have the right offer in the right locations', says a company exec.

Looking at the international retail presence, M&S is selling its Hong Kong and Macau retail business as part of its change in strategy. The new owner will retain the M&S brand on store signage as part of the deal.

To keep sales and profits growing, M&S had planned to open dozens of new food stores in its Simply Food chain. But now, after food sales did not meet performance expectations during the key yearend holiday period of 2017, the company is opening fewer stores than originally planned. The company stated that 'headwinds facing our food business have intensified as competitors have encroached on some of our space with the rapid growth of convenience'.