Monday, August 31, 2009

The Frugalista - the new cool

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically since the global recession hit. People are acting more conservatively, curtailing their spending, reducing debt, putting more money aside and looking for greater value. According to a study by McKinsey, spending fell in all categories and the reason for belt tightening was both by choice (55%) as well as out of necessity (45%).

What I find interesting is that the savings and debt averages we’re seeing today are in line with long term trends and are not considered abnormal. What has been abnormal is the broad based consumer spending and debt levels seen over the past two decades fueled by easier access to credit.

So what is the new normal going to be?

There is no reason to think that the new frugality mindset will change any time soon. The implication for marketers is to understand how this profound behavioral change will affect strategies fundamental to value creation and sustainable growth for their companies – everything from product development and life-cycle management through to building meaningful relationships and flawless customer service.

Being frugal, however, doesn't mean you can't be cool. Target is jumping on this and even created a new word - the "frugalista". Target is the expert on making discount shopping trendy - now with their "New Frugalista" advertising, blog and videos featuring well known voices in fashion, they want to make being frugal stylish.

My bet is that we'll see a shift in communications and advertising that will celebrate frugality and we'll see more products that are fashionable, affordable and smart because they use recycled materials. Again, Target is doing something innovative in this space with artist designed billboards in Times Square that will launch Labor Day weekend and later be converted into stylish, one-of-a-kind totes designed by Anna Sui.
Expect more, pay less - $29.99 actually.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Social Video - engaging the online video audience

The traditional way of building brand awareness & affinity was to run a cool tv ad that people actually liked. Classic metrics for a broadcast ad campaign are reach, frequency and recall. In social media, success is measured by the social audience - number of viewers that voluntarily download your video. Now anyone with a camera phone can produce a video and post it on-line. There are twenty hours of video being uploaded every hour, every day and some user generated videos like The Evolution of Dance build audiences of over 172 million viewers. While barriers to broadcast are low in social media, the degree of difficulty to breakthrough the clutter is high. For a brand to be remembered, it becomes very difficult indeed.

The pay-off for brands in social media can be huge. A viral hit can reignite a brand’s cache like it did for both Cadbury and Evian in a way that advertising cannot.

On-line, the consumer becomes part of the brand’s storytelling by tapping into the social tendency to share things - sharing the video, sharing comments with friends who pass it on to other friends. A great viral video can create immense separation from competition as did T-Mobile UK Dance and the Samsung HD camera phone. Viewership for a successful viral hit can be stunning, reaching over 10 million views each week for over a 14 week period. Others on the other hand, may reach 1 million viewers and then stall out. Why is that?

What is working?
According to Visible Measures, key success factors for the top viral videos are:
  1. they are whimsical, fun, don’t take themselves too seriously
  2. they challenge the audience and make room for conversations to happen amongst viewers (how did they do that??)
  3. the first week is critical – they need to burst on the scene and get at least a million viewers
  4. they are supported by a broader awareness campaign - offline & on-line - PR, purchased media, social outreach, etc
  5. after the initial burst, they have a sustained marketing effort
What trends are we seeing?
  1. music-video/video-tainment (i.e. Smirnoff Partay, BK Spongebob)
  2. interactive video/how did they do that (T-Mobile Dance, Samsung HD camera trick)
  3. stunts (Nike hyper-dunk , Microsoft's megawoosh )
  4. darn good storytelling (Samsung LED -sheep - my favorite!! Johnnie Walker's Walk)

Do they work?
Ultimately, the question for brands is – can you link these viral hits to business results. According to Visible Measures, the seminal piece of research still needs to be published but brands that do participate in this medium believe viral ads can create greater value because it feels more authentic if their product is promoted by fans.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Keep on tracking....

Not long ago, I wrote a post on the American obsession with tracking. Here's a new application for the NYC bargain fashion retailer Daffys. You can track when/where trucks are delivering new merchandise. You can even sign up on Twitter for updates.

One of my favourite tracking sites is on Zappos where you can watch real time what shoe styles people are buying where.

Don't you think it would be cool if Amazon tracked what people were reading across the country? Now that would be telling. Any other cool sites or ideas you can share?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Optimizing your marketing spend to leverage the Empowered Consumer

The internet has forever changed consumer behavior and the resulting paradigm shift on marketing strategy is both daunting and liberating. There's an explosion of places consumers can assess your brand, compare products and pricing versus your competitors, rate responsiveness to your customer service or judge you by your company's values or actions. The internet also gives brands an incredible number of touch-points and tools to reach out and engage the consumer in very real and meaningful ways. The key for marketers today is to ensure the optimal investment is made at each of the four key touch-points along the consumer purchase decision cycle.
  1. Get your brand into the consideration set - building brand awareness
  2. Get "found" during the consumer research stage - SEO/SEM, product reviews, blogs, etc
  3. Close the sale at the purchase point - conversion online or in the store
  4. Post purchase management - customer service, product reviews, loyalty, Facebook page, etc
I came across this video on the Geary Interactive blog (produced by Twenty-two Squared). It's a great demonstration of the new purchase decision cycle and today's empowered consumer. The savvy marketer will ask: has my marketing mix changed to adapt to the new consumer purchase decision journey? Am I engaging current and potential customers at the right moments to influence their purchase decisions? Are all my customer facing activities integrated - marketing, PR, CRM? Do I know what drives loyalty and have I harnessed it with word of mouth programs? This shift in consumer behavior provides a great opportunity for marketers to be smarter about their investments by giving the consumer the information he or she needs to make a purchase decision, at the right place and at the right time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Extending the Brand Experience: Prius Flower Power

Extending the brand experience outside of traditional retail spaces can be a great way for brands to build brand awareness and reinforce key messages. Toyota has done a great job of doing just that with its solar flower campaign supporting the 3rd generation Prius.

Toyota is planting a number of 18 foot tall Shasta Daisies in major U.S. urban centres that function as benches where up to ten people can sit, relax, recharge their laptop and get free WiFi.

Powered by the sun, the giant flowers sport solar panels behind the petals and inside the stem, generating electricity to outlets mounted in the attached plastic benches.

The flower-power theme builds off their beautifully animated feel-good tv spot that epitomizes their positioning of “Harmony between Man, Nature, and Machine" Linking the flower idea to a functional benefit on board the 3rd generation Prius, the solar panels operate a ventilation system that helps cool the car. The solar panel runs an electric fan that draws outside air in, once the car’s interior temperature reaches (and exceeds) 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

A great brand building campaign that has already generated lots of press in New York and Boston, you can visit the flowers at the following cities:

• Chicago – Navy Pier – August 8 - August 22, 2009
• Seattle – Westlake Park – August 29 - September 7, 2009
• San Francisco – Yerba Buena Gardens – September 12 - September 27, 2009
• Los Angeles – The Americana – October 3 - October 18, 2009

You can also visit Prius on Facebook. Well done Toyota!