Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Where Clever Meets Controversial

There is no clear cut answer to what might be clever versus controversial.  But one thing is for sure, there is always a marketer looking for that answer.  American Apparel is the latest brand to discover what that answer is in the case of their 36-hour Hurricane Sandy sale. The story goes that the fashion basics brand sent its locked-down customers in the East Coast a email offering 20 percent off while their customers where "bored" waiting out the storm.

Despite a lack of knowledge of their Sandy sales figures, the customer backlash from the sale is a strong signal that it was a bad idea.  The answer was controversial.

As an aside, perhaps marketers should also be offended by American Apparel using the selling point of consumer boredom.  When did that ever become a compelling reason to by anything?

The marketing industry appears to be one that is comfortable tip toeing around the clever/controversial line.  Whether this is actually the case, the few who are wind up being a loud minority, and are the reason the rest of the industry professionals receive the same reputation.      

Friday, October 26, 2012

In-Flight Thoughts for Airlines

The answer to this question is fairly obvious - it's because there is great demand for air travel.  Every time I'm at an airport, no matter what time of day it is, it's busy.  In a physically far-ranging society, people have to travel long distances and airlines, who cut potential travel time from days to hours, still provide are the most efficient option for doing so.

Yet, most airlines in this country remain on the financial brink.  To cope, most airlines in the United States have adding fees and cut back on amenities like snacks and pillows.  Their biggest gripe is volatility of fuel costs.  Any discussion regarding an airlines financial performance begins and ends with the cost of fuel.

Yet, I'm wondering if airlines are missing out on a great opportunity to capitalize on the demand for air travel.  Currently, if you need a flight somewhere, then you buy a ticket. But what if that wasn't the case.

Would major carriers benefit from selling small blocks of time in addition to tickets?  For example,  my current home in Cincinnati is about an hour flight from my hometown of Rochester, NY.  I know I will go home at least twice a year.  Therefore, it would make sense to purchase, let's says a five hour block with a one-year shelf life long before I ever reserved a flight.  Or, what about a reduced fare for purchasing multiple round-trip tickets to the same destination?  For instance, customers could purchase multiple flights between the two destinations in advance and redeem when they finalize their travel plans.    

In exchange for getting their money way up front airlines could provide discounts or other perks to these customers who make an early commitment.  Consider the potential market of college students who travel great distances several times per year.  Wouldn't an airline greatly benefit from lining their pockets well before the passenger even makes a reservation? 

Just floating the thought out there; as always, thanks for listening.  Email your suggestions for how airlines could improve or add them in the comment section?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gatorade Product Placements Turn Sour

Gatorade's "brand police" are working overtime during the Major League Baseball playoffs this year.  Gatorade, an official sponsor of the league's postseason, has been working diligently to get its logo in front of the camera.  Maybe a little too diligently.

During postseason contests, posters were put up in both dugouts to remind players that Gatorade must remain ever-present in the dugout during postseason games.  Also, during all televised interviews, players and coaches are being instructed to hold a Gatorade branded bottle or cup, even if they are not drinking it.  Not surprisingly, this kind of brand over-reach has created some uncomfortable moments.  During one interview, Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson mocked the brand, sarcastically saying "mmm...this Gatorade is good" after taking a sip of his water.  Similarly, word spread quickly when New York Yankee Raul Ibanez was forced to pour his bottle of water into a Gatorade cup before entering the press room for interviews.  For Gatorade, I guess the oddly staged bottles of Gatorade right next to the microphone don't suffice anymore.

Contrast this the authenticity of the Gatorade shower for the winning coach.  Although the origin of the Gatorade shower has been debated by former New York Giant and Chicago Bear players, it began as a celebratory act during the mid-1980's.  The scene symbolizes a perfect message - winners drink Gatorade.  Perhaps the best part for the brand is that its become a tradition for thousands of winning teams since.

Contrast both tactics.  Although marketing plans shouldn't be left to serendipity, a brand should always remember how absolutely critical authenticity is for a brand.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sears Nails Its New Strategy

The retailer Sears has been without a strong marketing position for decades.  Sears is a store without a focus. You can buy everything from clothes to appliances to tools and lawn movers.  Unfortunately, brands that try to execute an all things to all people strategy always wind up meaning nothing to anyone.  That's the position the retailer has struggled with for decades and they've paid the price.  

So it was great to see this recent Sears advertisement a couple of days ago.  Although I'm not a huge fan of the creative used in the ad, I believe the strategy was perfection.  The ad focuses on Sears strength - its brands.  Popular and brand names like Kenmore and Craftsmen give Sears a dominant in the household appliance and hardware categories. 

This is there strongest position and they should keep hammering home the brands they carry in the Sears store. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Should The NFL Trade Its Pink Ribbon For A Purple One?

The game of football is sacred to American culture. So sacred that practicing football fans (I too am one) are fully aware our Sunday heroes are trading gridiron glory for years off their lives.  Many players who play the game as it's currently enjoyed are know it can be an early death wish as head injuries are commonly suffered on the field and are often life altering in their later years.

If you've watched any football games this month of October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, then you've probably noticed the eye-popping pink in the player's uniforms and scattered throughout the stadium.  The color pink has been branded the official color of breast cancer awareness and has been a stroke of marketing genius for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.  Founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker after her sister, Susan Komen, lost her battle with breast cancer.  Since then the Susan G. Komen for the Cure has grown into a marketing juggernaut, raising over $2 billion dollars for breast cancer research and becoming the world's largest non-profit source for breast cancer research funding.  Most importantly, it's message of regular check-ups and early detection of breast cancer has saved countless lives.

The National Football League began promoting breast cancer awareness a few seasons ago, a movement that was kicked off by Tanya Synder, the wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Synder, who is a breast cancer survivor.

My life has been touched by both diseases.  My family tree includes breast cancer survivors as well as two grandmothers who passed away without any recollection of who I was.  Both breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease impact lives in equally devastating ways and are undoubtedly both worthy causes.  I don't write this to be controversial, but with legions of former players suffering from Alzheimer's and Dementia and a growing connection between the game and the disease, shouldn't the NFL trade its pink ribbons for a purple one?  

I fully understand the conflict that the NFL faces.  They currently back an incredibly worthy cause.  Also, the public relations playbook doesn't call for associating the game to concussions and permanent head trauma.  However, this is a problem the NFL can no longer leave on the sidelines.  It needs to be more proactive than it has been in the past or the problems will worsen.  Wouldn't wearing purple on Sunday's, despite the contradiction being made, also send a strong message of the genuine concern they have for what its retirees currently struggle with and its employees will one day will one day struggle with.

I understand that associating the NFL (and the game of football) with Alzheimer's disease in such a public way is not an easy thing to do.  Initially, it puts the league in a very vulnerable spot.  However, a public partnership with the Alzheimer's Association acknowledges that they care deeply that its employees are at a significantly greater risk of acquiring the diseases than you or I but also that it won't rest until that fact changes.    

Do you agree or disagree that this would be a smart public relations move by the NFL?  As always, thank you for reading and commenting. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pizza Hut Follow Up + Loose Ends

Pizza Hut has cancelled its upcoming Presidential debate promotional stunt.  Contrary to popular belief, all publicity is not good publicity.  The criticism they faced didn't amplify or enrich it's marketing position.

After rolling out dozens of new products, now Burger King is asking agencies to develop a brand position to replace the "Have It Your Way" mantra that helped it gain the number two spot.  What is Burger King?  The strategic plan should have been step one in my opinion.

Although I don't carry a Discover card or have ever had to call them, I know consumer loyalty to the brand is high.  Although good customer Service is a tough thing to convince people of,  I think the the "Peggy" ads, which satire painful situations all consumers can empathize with, do a great job at doing so. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Groupon's Business Model Illustrated

In my last post, I expressed my dismay over Pizza Hut's challenge to consumers to interrupt the next Presidential debate with a pointless question for the candidates about pizza.  It's an awful publicity stunt that's somehow receiving acclaim within the industry.

However, if marketers work their message into this election season, they should take their cue from these brands who are going about it in the right way.  I love the idea by Busken Bakery, to sell candidate cookies and keep a tally of the more popular cookie.  That's a great promotion.

Secondly, this week the editors of approached me about the a topic I've been covering on here - why daily deals websites like Groupon don't work.  They've put together and shared a great illustration that explains how their business model erodes it's client base. 

I'm glad they did so.  First of all, their site features nice blog and video blog full of helpful personal financial tips.  Secondly, it was great marketing by them.  They clearly didn't spam every blogger on the internet, instead approaching only those to whom the topic was relevant.  Next, I was asked for my input and if I would share it on my site. Shout out to Allison at and thank you for sharing. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pizza Hut Cooks Up Poor Tasting Publicity Stunt

Today's AdAge "Creativity Pick of the Day" is a dumb marketing stunt cooked up by Pizza Hut.  Pizza Hut is asking an attendee at the next Presidential debate to ask one of the candidates a nationally irrelevant question about their choice pizza toppings.  The loser willing to oblige Pizza Hut in interrupting a serious debate and abuse their attention being paid to it will win a lifetime supply of pizza.

Although publicity stunts are nothing new, this low level philosophy toward marketing seems to be growing, feed by social media and a desire to go viral.  The industry should be condemning this type of work; not rewarding it with it's "Creativity Pick of the Day."

Perhaps this type of stuff is why the marketing profession is held in such low regard.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Many Brands of Luxottica

Last night, the popular news magazine 60 Minutes did a interesting investigation into Luxottica eyewear.  Triggered by the exploding cost of eyewear, 60 Minutes investigation revealed a market dominated by one company operating many brands - Luxottica. 

Of course, few people know the name Luxottica.  But they know all of their brands. The Italian company owns the names Ray-Ban, Oakley, Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut as well as holding licensing agreements with hundreds of fashion houses like Chanel, Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren to design and produce and sell frames under their respective brand names.  It's this multi-brand approach that has paved the way for Luxottica to dominate the eyewear category.

Even further evidence supporting a focused brand strategy was dropped in the tidbit that despite all the fashion brands line-extending into eyewear, it's still the Ray-Ban, an eyewear only brand, that dominates as Luxottica's highest seller. 

Unintentionally, this 60 Minutes piece is great evidence of the power of a focused brand strategy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Redbox Expands To Ticketing

The movie rental brand Redbox recently began selling tickets to live events like concerts and sports through their movie rental vending machines.  According to Redbox President Anne Saunders, this move "will help drive our core business."

How?  Redbox is known as a place to rent movies; not purchase tickets.  How will Redbox relate these two unrelated purchase items?

Sure, Redbox is merely dipping its toe in the water - selling seats to events with limited demand and only in the Philadelphia area. 

However, Redbox's reach into the world of ticketing is another example a brand trying to expand beyond its product and demographic focus. 

Perhaps there is promise for self-serve ticket vending machines.  But without it's own brand, they will never truly know.