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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Older consumers more likely to use environmentally friendly products

U.S. Consumers over the age of 55 are the heaviest users of products that are environmentally friendly, according to research by ICOM Information and Communications. Women between the ages of 55 and 59 represent the age cell most likely to consume environmentally friendly products, followed by Men age 65 to 69. A review of the report was offered in a recent edition of Marketing VOX.

Another marketing publication, Media Post Marketing Daily, quoted Peter Meyers, ICOM's marketing VP, as suggesting that the reason older consumers might be more inclined to purchase “green” products “…is that they are spending more time in the store, looking at packaging and reading product claims. They know what they're buying."

So what happened to the idea that environmentalism was a youth movement? One possible explanation, Meyers says, is that, “Gen Y is simply becoming more cynical, and is more likely to not believe a marketer's claims.” He adds, “Of those who don't buy green, 50% say it's because these products are too expensive, while 17%--giving the next most common reason--say "I do not believe that they are that much better for the environment."

Implications: Are you catering to an older population that has the time to concern themselves with your Green offereings? Can you substantiate HOW your products, services, or company are good for the environment (or are you just issuing shallow claims that Gen Ys, among others, see right through)? In this economy, has price overtaken the planet, in terms of purchasing priorities?

Mike Anderson

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oldies but goodies

Remember Hydrox cookies? Kellogg’s is betting that a lot of people do… and they’re about to put some money on that bet by bringing these dunkers out for an encore.

Reserve Brands is doing the same with Eagle Snacks (once owned by Anheuser-Busch, and named for the eagle in the A-B logo).

You’ll be able to wash it all down with another famous reprise: Schlitz Beer.

In an age when branding has become a very expensive proposition, some companies are eager to revive existing brands that are not so much dead as they are “comatose.” Aging boomers are often the target, as these icons conjure images of happiness and youth.

Implications: Does your company have a brand that could be dusted off for future use? Or, if your competitor has such a famous name waiting in the wings, how would you defend against a revival? Are there attributes within your existing products which have roots in a more heritage name plate… and if so, how could you exploit that bygone fame?

Mike Anderson

We're not gonna take it

Recently, I was standing in the self-service check-out line of a major retail chain. I was not the only one thinking about how retail has changed over the past several years; a few other customers were reflecting on the topic, too… in a manner you might consider harsh.

“If they’re saving overhead by not having to pay cashiers, they should give us an extra discount for going through this line and doing all the work by ourselves,” said one customer. “Or, they could use the money they saved on cashiers to hire more people to help in other areas of the store,” added another.

Think about this. I was standing in line, waiting for a chance to trade my money for this company’s products and services… and the customers behind me start a miniature rebellion, just before the point of transaction. It got me thinking: What if your customers started talking with each other?

They are. And they’re doing it publicly. Speaking with several retail and service company clients over the past few months, I’ve noticed an emerging theme. Online communities, chat rooms and social networks have given people a place to start spouting off. Frustrations which once had no forum now have a seemingly endless list of web addresses where they can be vented, virtually. And the ease with which customers can offer criticism online has emboldened them: People seem more likely to voice their opinion… on-location.

Implications: Your company might not have more critics today than it did a few years ago… but the critics you do have are much better equipped to start a word-of-mouth campaign. If they cannot talk to you about their frustrations, don’t be surprised if they start talking to everyone else. Entire chat rooms and Facebook groups are dedicated people who are angry about something. And that frustration could begin spilling into your store or showroom.

Do you employ customer service reps (or other problem solvers) whose job is to correct any difficulty a customer has with your company, product or service? Would giving your clients greater (or more convenient access) to these resources help mitigate their frustration, and therefore minimize their viral effect? Do your company’s advertising and marketing materials clearly communicate WHY your company has made a change (i.e., “self-service checkouts help us keep our prices lower,” or, “self check-out means less time standing in line”). And remember that word-of-mouth can work both ways: You might want to create a way for your raving fans to join voices, if you haven’t done so already. (Feedback form at your web site? Facebook page? Online comment cards?)

Mike Anderson

Opting out

Recently, a columnist for the New York Times praised the convenience of “automatic withdrawl” payments for sums that are due on a regular basis, such as monthly car payments, insurance, etc. The writer was envisioning an end to the drudgery of sitting down to write out bills every month.

What happened next is telling: Enough readers provided counter-point commentary that the author ran a counter-point story (NY Times, August 28, 2008).

Issues which collude against the idea of “automatic payments” include errors from the bank, over-charges from various service providers, and the idea that ending or altering such a relationship can be very difficult. (Consumers know starting an automated payment plan is easier than ending one; these days, they’re more likely to think about an exit strategy before entering into such a plan.)

Implications: It’s easy to see why any purveyor of products or services might want to get customers into an automated relationship. It makes the business very “sticky,” and reduces costs related to customer service. But now that consumers are a bit more experienced with these types of transactions, it might be a little more difficult to sell them on the idea. A “What’s in it for me?” mentality is beginning to prevail; and if they don’t see a benefit to opting in (greater than the avoidance of check writing), you might find it more likely that they’ll be opting-out.

Mike Anderson