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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is Wal-Mart facing new walls?

Former colleague and current friend Lucy Rice sent me an article earlier this week; a story she noted from the Wall Street Journal about the earnings report from Wal-Mart. Virtually every business publication or news program ran a story about the company this week, recognizing that is still a dominant player, but pointing-out that same store sales are looking a little weak.

The WSJ story had a bit more analysis, though, including this poignant quote: The basic Wal-Mart customer didn't leave Wal-Mart. What happened is that Wal-Mart left the customer.” That remark can from former Wal-Mart executive Jimmy Wright. See the full Wall Street Journal story by clicking here.

Implications: I can think of no company that is exempt from the importance of knowing who its most important customers (the heavy user of the product or service you sell), and the benefits those customers hope to satisfy when making their purchase decision. That is not something a company does once, and “that’s that.” Core customers can change, over time, and the benefits which drive their decision process can change, too. (Particularly true in extreme times, like the recent recession.)

Perhaps Wal-Mart strength has become its weakness. According to accounts I’ve heard or read, they wield considerable pressure over manufacturers who would sell product in their stores. That has led some companies to abandon the retailer, and pursue, instead, exclusive distribution through smaller retail channels. The variety Wal-Mart offered, as a result, might be somewhat different today than it was a few years ago.

In another account of the Wal-Mart situation, Lee Peterson, a vice president at WD Partners, an Ohio brand-consulting firm, made this statement in a story from MSN Money: "For the first time in a long time, quality has a chance to gain on price."

As the recovery continues to gain momentum, I have a hunch Mr. Peterson is right. What do you think?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Many are re-writing (or even erasing) criminal records

Last night, a story on KMSP (Fox 9) here in the Twin Cities caught my attention. It had to do with an emerging trend… where people are going to court to expunge their criminal records. Having a record, they argue, is creating a vicious circle, whereby they cannot get a job, a loan, or a place to live. So they’re doing what they can to erase DUIs, misdemeanors, or other crimes. Click below to see the story for yourself, or visit KMSP’s website by clicking here.

Many Minnesotans Sealing Criminal Records:

Implications: I have an opinion on this matter, but thankfully, I get to keep it to myself... and focus only on the consumer trend within this story. In an ever competitive job market, candidates are going to exploit every advantage, and erase every disadvantage they can. This story illustrated, for me, both the competitive nature of today’s workplace.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Consumers are trying to research online before going in-store

Today’s Research Brief suggests that only 3% of consumers have an extreme loyalty toward their brands… which allows one to infer that 97% will consider other options. Perhaps that is why, as the story suggests, consumers are so intent on doing research before making a purchase.

And while the web is a favored source of that research, nearly a third of consumers (30%) say they cannot find meaningful information at the store or product sites they visit.

Click here to see the Research Brief for yourself.

Implications: Does your website provide the kind of marketing you want… or the kind you consumers want? (Of course, this is a question for your consumers, not you.)

The next time I design a customer feedback survey, I’m thinking about two more questions I should ask.

“What could [company] do to make your shopping research easier, and therefore your purchase experience more pleasant?”

“Please visit our website before answering this question: What could we add to (or delete from) the [company website] to make your shopping research easier, and therefore, your purchase experience more pleasant?”

Obviously, this is a survey that would be very easy to administer from your website, almost anytime, so you could gain this intelligence beginning now.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Upgrades, coming soon to your driveway?

Today’s Automotive Industry News led me to this story from the Detroit Free Press: Consumers have begun to rely on technology so heavily that manufacturers are looking for ways to make the cars they build easy to “upgrade.” Click here to read the story.

Implications: Just two or three years ago, who could have foreseen the explosive growth in smartphone or i-Pad adoption? In just a few short years, we’ve gone from having a GPS stuck to the windshield to expecting one built-in to the dash… complete with Internet access.

I personally own a 2007 vehicle with only 30,000 miles on it; like new, except for its lack of in-dash technology. When I fact that situation in the future, the idea of updating the technology without trading-in the vehicle is very appealing to me.

By the way, when I visited a Jacksonville restaurant with colleagues last month, the wine list was not a list. It was an app, ready to explore on the i-Pad the server handed to us (instead of menus).

How could your company/customers benefit… from a little “upgrade” in thinking?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

UPDATE: Oil-fueled inflation

Another story about the possibility was published yesterday in the New York Times. (Click here to link.)

Implications: To repeat a thought that we’ve repeatedly expressed here, it would prudent to make sure your marketing message explains the value of your product or service, not just the price.

While low price can be an important tactic for some marketers, the position could be diluted if lots of companies are shoved into price increases by forces of inflation, such as the cost of energy or other commodities.

Further, while price often finds its way onto the consumer’s list of benefits sought, it is seldom the most important thing on the list. Think quality, ownership experience, service after the sale. If you’re not sure what your consumers want most when purchasing your product or service… ask. A little primary research can go a long way.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

UPDATE: More news/insight on inflation

Yesterday, I offered some thoughts on the looming possibility of inflation [see “Pent-up demand for price increases,” 2/15/11]. Today, some supporting articles caught my eye. First, Marketing Daily cites the same NY Times story we shared, but adds additional observations and sources on the matter (click here to see that story).

There was another clip on the topic on today’s Good Morning America (ABC News), which I’ll share here as soon as the video link is available.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Older adults don't fear dying... as much as living

I was working with a group of marketing consultants in Greenville, SC yesterday, on a project called Consumer DNA. When we got to the topic of retirement, I asserted that Baby Boomers are arriving at that age when they wake-up in a cold sweat, realizing how much catching-up they have to do on their retirement savings. Their greatest fear is not, “Oh, no, what if I die!?,” I explained, but rather, “Oh, no, what if I live!?” (beyond their retirement nest egg).

As if to add an exclamation point to our conversation, this morning’s USA Today features one of those classic snapshot boxes right on the front page, featuring research from Allianz. In their survey of 3,257 adults age 44 – 75, only 39% said they fear dying, and 61% fear outliving their money.

Implications: If you work in financial services or investments, what frame of mind is your consumer in, post-recession? A lot of the folks I speak with are thinking less about full-fledged “retirement” (meaning, “quitting work completely”), and have shifted their mindset to semi-retirement (having a job or hobby that pays, even a little bit, to supplement their post-career income).

For some, it’s less about how they will achieve retirement… and more about how they will manage it, perhaps using a part-time job or other income source to supplement their IRA’s, 401k’s, pension, social security, and other financial resources. For these types of people, financial planning may be less about "the ideal strategy," but rather, the realization that they just need to get started.

How is this advance planning affecting current spending behavior? Does your product or service help Boomer customers manage for the future? Are you presenting it that way? Can you help them get started?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pent-up demand... for inflation?

Just when the economy seems to be finding its’ footing, there is another threat on the consumer’s horizon: The possibility of inflation. This is an issue I’ve written about extensively on this site (click here for the list), as the risk of inflation seems to go hand-in-hand with most economic recoveries. That’s because supplies dwindle during recession, and purchasing often picks-up before manufacturing has a chance to meet that demand.

This time, though, the increased demand is coming from all over the globe. Fast-growing economies in China and elsewhere are creating new affluence… and increasing demand from a whole new group of global consumers. Read details about these and other inflationary issues in a story found in today’s New York Times (click to link).

Implications: For companies who cut prices as a survival strategy through the recession, it is more important than ever to focus on value. By value, I don’t mean the “deal” you offer. I mean this fundamental question: How does your product, service or company add value to the consumer’s life?

Quality? An amazing purchase experience? Service after the sale? A lenient return policy? The more ways a customer values the products and services you offer, the more likely you’ll be able to take the focus off price… which is good when prices are likely to increase due to commodity costs.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Generational connectivity

My thanks to colleague and digital trend-hunter Kim Peek, who shared this story from today’s Research Brief. Based on Pew Research, it suggests that when it comes to mobile computing, older consumers place their emphasis on computing, and younger consumers seem to lean toward mobility as their priority.

To see the piece, click here.

Implications: How do your consumers define “convenience?” Is it the ability to research a purchase from home, using a robust, graphically-intense website? Or do they prefer a fast, lean site that is optimized for mobile? OR… do they expect both?

It’s no longer enough to have a website your company can be excited about. It’s about exciting the customer… wherever they may be.

Remember, too, that your consumer's preferences are likely to change--even year-to-year or month-to-month--as new devices, apps and smart phone / mobile capabilities are introduced to the market.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Book sellers turn a page (should other retailers take heed?)

An old axiom suggests, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That proverb has never been more true as now, in the age of electronic books. In a story from last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical Co. offered this assertion: I think that there will be a 50% reduction in bricks-and-mortar shelf space for books within five years, and 90% within 10 years." Shatzkin went on to say, bluntly, "Book stores are going away."

To read the full WSJ story, click here.

Implications: The further we go into the age of i-Pads, Kindles and Nooks, the less likely it will be that books have covers that we might judge them by. They may not even have stores from which we can buy them… at least, not in the numbers we enjoy now. They are more likely to have free chapters one can download as a PDF, few books.

Could the same thing happen to clothing or hardware stores? At first thought, one might say, “No.” After all, books are a form of information, and all information is moving toward electronic production and online distribution, right? That's what happened to book stores, right?

It might be more accurate to say that, "We all sell information," in one way or another.

I was recently frustrated by the process of shopping for a coat at a local clothing store. So irritating was the in-store experience that I gave up, went home, and ordered a similar garment online. The first retailer had mistakenly assumed that what they offered was apparel… but what they were really providing was information, in the form of their inventory (the coat) and an experience (the chance to try-on and compare several garments, look in the mirror, etc.) The inventory and experience were forms of information that would have helped me make a decision. (Translation: A purchase.)

Sadly, the frustrating shopping visit rendered their advantage—inventory and my shopping experience—irrelevant. Instead of a couple of local stores, this retailer was now forced to compete with thousands of online alternatives… and they lost.

In atmosphere, salesmanship and service, this retailer had the chance to give me a free chapter (try it one, see how it looked in the mirror, ask my wife her opinion, etc.) Instead, though, they were content to have me judge the clothing by its appearance.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The power of social networking (and grass roots research)

Sometimes, the best business lessons come from outside your own industry category. Indeed, sometimes they come from outside the business world, completely.

Last summer, the Washington Post revealed a story—two years in the making—that explored the vast intelligence resources of the U.S. government. The project, referred to as Top Secret America, was in many ways a scathing indictment of the bureaucracy that the intelligence community had become, in terms of size, cost, and multi-agency redundancy. But politics aside, there was—to me—at least one very important implication within the report: Our intelligence services had placed too much emphasis on gathering information from and about foreign governments, and not effort had been place in gathering intelligence at the grass-roots level.

I have been reminded about this issue as the recent events in Egypt have unfolded. Many world leaders—even recently—saw Egypt as perhaps the most stable of Arab governments in the Middle East. But inspired by the grass-roots uprising in Tunisia which started on December 17, 2010 and ended, essentially, on January 21, 2011, the Egyptian uprising was even more swift. Although unrest may have been long-held, it could be argued that the wide-spread, active revolution in Egypt began on January 25th, and effectively succeeded last Friday (February 11th) with President Hosni Mubarek’s departure from Cairo.

Here’s the point: Who saw all of this coming, as recently as a month ago? Not many.

That’s what happens when you pay attention to “reliable sources,” instead of people.

Implications: If you were only paying attention to world leaders or other traditional reconnaissance resources, you couldn’t have predicted the way the past thirty days would play out. The primary influences of this event were not walking in the halls of a foreign capitol or talking in the privacy of a presidential palace; they were walking the streets in and around Tahrir Square… and sharing their thoughts in blogs and on Facebook.

Are you paying too much attention to the “leadership” of your industry (trade magazines, industry veterans, and other experts)? These can be important sources, but neither as accurate nor as important as boots-on-the-ground observation and communication with consumers.

What if you could put all of your customers in a room, tell them to ‘Talk amongst yourselves,” and then listen-in!? You can, if you monitor sites like PoliPulse, TweetStats, and Google Trends… or other search- and social-monitoring resoures.

You would know an advantage that even some of the biggest governments… er, companies… have ignored or overlooked.

For more insight as to the timeline of recent Middle East events, see this synopsis from MSN News (click to link). For more about how social networking was a weapon in these events in Egypt, see this story from today’s New York Times (click to link).

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Resistant, but not immune

When it comes to real estate, the trauma that lies in the rear-view mirror for some cities maybe coming soon for others, according a story in today’s New York Times. Of course, this matters to many business categories, not just builders, developers or realtors. If you sell furniture, home improvements, maintenance services—or any big-ticket items that has relied on home equity as collateral used in a purchase—this issue matters deeply to you. Click here to read the story.

Implications: If you’re in one of the markets which has yet to reach bottom in the real estate market, how could you better prepare for the road ahead? One idea might be to study those who have gone first.

If you’re in a city like Atlanta, Minneapolis or Seattle, could you connect with a similar company located in Miami, Phoenix or Los Angeles to see how they survived the worst of the real estate meltdown?

There could be no better strategy than tuning-in to your customers (and prospects), understanding how their priorities might shift, and knowing the true benefits sought when the product or service you sell is being purchased.

This NY Times article reminds us that there has not been just one single, unifying, “Great Recession”… but thousands upon thousands of individual ones.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Is it time to treat smaller spenders like they're a bigger priority?

Today’s newsletter from Phil Lempert (the supermarket guru) suggests that families may be carrying less household inventory—in terms of groceries—than they used to. If it persists, this trend could lead to more frequent trips to the grocery store (or other food supplier) and less money spent on each trip. Click here to read the story.

Implications: If a supermarket offers a loyalty program which benefits only big-ticket spenders, they could be missing the boat. Some of the customers who frequent a store and make only small, incremental purchases could, in fact, represent the bigger overall source of revenue for the store.

Even if you’re not a grocer… are you seeing shifts in the way people buy, stock, store, or use the product or service you sell? Is the person with the fullest cart necessarily your biggest customer… or just the most conspicuous?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Financial infidelity

Today’s Media Post Marketing Daily provides an interesting look at something we have long referred to as as financial infidelity… that is, concealing expenditures from a spouse or significant other, either through silent spending or providing outright misinformation. Click here to read the story.

Implications: The story suggests that Gen Y members are more notorious about financial infidelity than their elders… but I wonder if that has something to do with the extreme economic circumstances that have impacted this group at a younger point in their lives.

In our on-location Elm Street Economics workshops, I have explained what the behavior of financial infidelity might look like… and that sometimes, it might even involve a form of money laundering at the household level. For example, someone indulges in the purchase of an expensive golf club at the pro shop, but doesn’t mention it to their spouse. Further, the golfer pays for the club partly in cash, partly with a household check card, and perhaps partly with a charge card. Any of the three amounts are less likely to be noticed by the spouse… so the big-ticket purchase is less conspicuous.

Do you sell a big-ticket item that might be purchased on the down-low? How could you make the purchase easier to accomplish “in bits and pieces” (do you offer a layaway program that would help move the purchase to the “up and up”)? How could you help a customer “out” their purchase intention, by helping them sell their spouse on why this purchase is a great idea? (In other words, it’s not enough for you to make the sale… how can you help your customer make the sale to their spouse/significant other?)

Indulgent purchases that had seemed “out of the question” during the great recession may be more acceptable, now that the recovery is underway. But that doesn’t mean that conspicuous consumption is back. You may still have customers who think an extravagant or indulgent purchase should be done carefully and with discretion. How can you help that become accomplished… or unnecessary?

[Note: For a counter trend to financial infidelity, see the preceding story, which follows immediately below.]

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

New attitudes toward generosity and gifting

My wife recently encouraged me to buy an expensive D-SLR camera, to replace one that I had irreparably damaged on a kayak trip last fall. I agreed, under the condition that she might go easy on my birthday and Christmas gifts this year (the camera would do the job).

Not long after that, I encouraged my wife to purchase a painting that she fell in love with while we were on vacation. She consented, under the condition that the trip and the painting would be considered her holiday present.

I thought that our behavior might be unique, but within an article in Saturday’s New York Times I found evidence that we might simply be part of a growing trend… where gifting has moved toward giving someone permission to spend on a themselves, to fulfill an expensive hobby or passion. It was a fascinating story, and you can read it by clicking here.

Implications: The great recession taught us to avoid waste. The trend that his hinted at by this story takes the pressure—and the risk of potential waste—off of those who toil and stew about what the perfect gift might be for someone they love. Instead of trying to be mind-readers—knowing what the absolute perfect give might be—we are becoming facilitators… encouraging our spouse or significant other to fulfill a dream or desire (and not feel guilty about it).

Is your product or service too complex for someone to give as a gift? (Julie may have been intimidated to know what kind of lens capability, speed, storage and connectivity I would look for in a camera… and I don’t have a clue when it comes to choosing a painting or any other decorative decision.) Perhaps the solution is not to market your product or service as a gift that someone gives, but as a dream to be encouraged.

In this scenario, I can imagine a whole new range of things (aspirations) that begin to compete for the gift dollar. Travel? Higher education? Anything which, purchased for oneself, might feel selfish… but when purchased with the encouragement of a loved one, could be the most generous gift of all.

PS: It’s Valentine’s Day. Still need a great, last-minute gift idea?

[Note: For a counter trend to this posting, see the story that follows—Financial Infidelity—immediately above.]

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The often-overlooked asset of social media: Input

A great story in today’s Marketing Daily explains how the people behind the Pepsi Refresh campaign aren’t just focused on what they’re saying. They’re also tuned-in to what social media lets them hear.

Click here to read the story.

Implications: Digital assets, when properly used, can help companies shift from a one-way communication strategy (where the company advertises to the consumer), to a two-way strategy (whereby the consumer can talk back). The remarks shared by consumers could be explicit (responding to surveys, etc.), and some of their input could be implicit (the remarks they offer in the comment section of a social page). But either way… you have more tools than ever before to tune-in to your customers and prospects.

But the analysis of social media participants is more than that. Social media has the power to turn an advertising monologue into a marketing dialogue. (Ask yourself: Would you rather listen to a lecture, or participate in a conversation?)

The Pepsi Refresh folks are using social media not just to reach out to consumers, but to research them. Are you (or should you be) doing the same?

Could you benefit from knowing how people feel about your company, your products, your services… or the feelings people have about your entire industry category?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Information overload remains a source of stress

Even compared to a few years ago, our access to information is greater. We’ve had websites and expanded cable for a long, long time. But of late, we have access to ever-smarter smart phones, i-Pads, e-readers and apps. Is your life better for all of it, or simply more cluttered? Do you have more time today, compared to a few years ago... or less?

The topic rises in my consciousness because of a newsletter I received yesterday from McKinsey (in my email), a story in the New York Times (which came through an app on my Droid), and an invitation to a time management seminar that heard about (from a friend on LinkedIn).

Implications: After reading the McKinsey and NY Times resources above, one might ask, “Am I making good use of my customer’s time? Is the velocity of their transaction sufficient to make them appreciate my service, or speak poorly about it? When I invite them to visit the company website or Facebook page, are they being incentivized with something that rewards their investment of time?

Is the content of my marketing full of the things I am proud of… or have I narrowed the message to focus on what matters most to my prospect? The time they will devote to consideration is finite; am I using those precious seconds of awareness in an optimal way?

The race to the sale does not always go to the lowest price, nor even the highest quality. Among time-starved consumers, the race sometimes goes simply to the provider who is faster.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

For your Boomer customers, getting old is getting old

Some things about getting older are fun… like having grandkids. But other aspects of it are not so fun: Like having to watch my sodium intake, or having to squint—even with bifocals—when looking at some restaurant menus, store signs or product labels.

A recent story in the New York Times pointed to the idea of age empathy as a business opportunity. Click here to read the article.

Implications: Perhaps wearing a high-tech suit to illustrate the effects of old age—as suggested by MIT in this story—is going too extreme. But what a great idea: Walking through your company, lobby or dealership while wearing the shoes of an older customer. Or, try using your product (if arthritis-ridden hands can even open it) or service through the hands of someone 55+, 65+, or older. Or, review the purchase experience in your place of business—especially where younger employees are involved—and see how folks are treated through the eyes of an older customer.

If you sell to an older audience… these kinds of experiences might teach you how to sell even more.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Brand Keys study: Good enough is not good enough

Media Post is publishing a series of stories this week which reveal insights into the annual Brand Keys study of customer satisfaction (how to earn it, and which companies have done it). It’s a worthwhile piece of research, and you can see the initial story by clicking here.

Implications: I’m pleased to see a couple of my favorite brands on the top ten list (Nikon and Apple). And I’m eager to be able to review these insights as they are rolled-out, to see what kinds of behaviors others might adapt… to delight their customers and grow their business.
A few “delight” words I’m thinking about right now, based on what I’ve read so far:

Design, intuitive… Apple.

Teaching, enabling… Nikon.

Responsive, realistic… Hyundai.

You cannot copy what Apple, Nikon or Hyundai does (nor would you want to). But you can notice why they’re a hit with customers, and ask how you might bring these attributes to your customers in your own, unique way.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Social media or traditional advertising?

Last week, there was a story from Marketing Daily—citing research from ForeSee Results—suggesting that social media doesn’t work as well email, search, or traditional advertising in driving people to a company’s website. I only bring it up because I noticed that it was one of the most-read stories of the week, according to the story rankings offered by MD. I find that a bit scary. To find out why, read the story by clicking on this link, and then join me back here to finish this conversation.

Implications: I’m not going to come to the defense of social media, here. Rather, I’m going to indict the way too many companies are using it. I walked into a fast-food restaurant last week, and there were all kinds of signs asking me to “Friend” the place. First of all, you don’t “friend” anymore, you “Like.” Second of all, why should I? What’s in it for me, other than the chance to be spammed on Facebook with your special of the day? I don’t want to eat at your restaurant every day, and I don’t want to hear from you constantly via Facebook anymore than I want to receive your emails at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The folks who came up with the Pepsi Refresh campaign will tell you social media works just fine, thank you. Not because of what they did with social media, alone. But because of the way they have woven their social media, website and traditional advertising together in a logical, effective way: Motivate through traditional media and social, and then activate through social and website.

To me, the MD story and the ForeSee Results simply reinforce the idea that an integrated approach is better than using all of your resources as if they were pawns in different chess games.

How many different campaigns are you running? Is there one campaign for your legacy media, another for your website, and something different still for your social media efforts? Certainly, each of these weapons could represent a different tactic… but are they supporting a unified strategy for your company?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

User-generated content carries the Super Bowl for PepsiCo

Several of the PepsiCo ads that aired during the Super Bowl were not produced by some high-flying agency on Madison Avenue, but rather, by fans of the product. The company sponsored a “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, inviting consumers to create ads promoting their Dorito’s and Pepsi Max brands. Today’s Marketing Daily has an interesting review of the process and outcome, which you can review by clicking here.

UPDATE: Also in today's Marketing Daily, a story about how Infiniti is inviting their customers to "do the talking." See that story by clicking here.

Implications: If you asked them, would your customers stand-up and speak-out on your behalf? While the PepsiCo effort was rather extravagant with million-dollar prizes, many companies inspire their customers to speak favorably about them on a regular basis. First by delivering a product and/or service that stands out as “delightful” and earns high satisfaction markets… but also by facilitating the conversation.

Do you have a process designed to surprise and delight the customer?

Do you have a process for inviting them to share their favorable remarks, by mail, email, Facebook or other means? The best spokesperson for your company maybe the person who last bought from you!

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The meaning of loyalty has changed

An interesting story in today’s Marketing Daily suggests that consumers aged 25-49 interpret loyalty differently than their parents did. Gen X and Gen Y are more likely to be loyal to attributes than a product, service or company. And they’re using contemporary research tools (computers, smartphones) to do their homework. To see this article, based on an AMP Agency study, click here.

Implications: In your local market research, perhaps you should focus less on taking market share from competitors, and more on the attributes that led to that market share. Another reminder that the purchase decision is fueled by the benefits a consumer seeks when owning/using the product or service.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

UPDATE: Super Bowl ad commentary

Here's a ranking from that invites consumers to give select ads a thumbs-up or thumbs-down... and then offers a look at the responses based on gender and general age. Click here to see it. (And thanks Ashley Testa from CMG Jacksonville!)

Click here to see coverage by Marketing Daily.

Click here to see results from USA Today Ad Meter... and click here to see USA Today reader opinions via Twitter.


Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Was the advertising worthy of a Super Bowl?

Like many who work in the marketing field, I was watching the game more for the advertising than for the final score. At the same time, I was monitoring the social sphere for comments of Super Bowl ad fans. Today, an endless barrage of traditional and Internet media pundits are offering their review of the event, and the sponsors who paid for it.

You’ll find insights at these links… to the New York Times story, coverage from the Washington Post, and access to the ads, courtesy of Advertising Age.

Implications: I’ll save my personal opinions for other publications… but invite you to reflect on the creative used in last night’s broadcast using these criteria…

Even if the message did not appeal to you, ask whether the ad would appeal to its intended target consumer. In hindsight, can you guess who the target audience was for each message?

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether a commercial received wide commentary or wins awards. The question is whether the brand will enjoy increased sales of the product or service it advocates. ( had a wonderful ad in the Super Bowl in 2000, just before it went out of business… as documented here by Wikipedia. Their Super Bowl ad didn't kill them, but it didn't save them, either.) Only history will tell us whether last night's ads were effective, in terms of sales or other business objectives.

We live in an age where traditional advertising can be augmented by an immediate online relationship, by moving consumers to visit a website, Facebook page or similar destination. Did companies creatively and effectively gain that engagement? What could your business do to engage consumers via smartphone or laptop? Are you doing it?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Disney reaches out to kids... on arrival

An interesting story in today’s New York Times cites the company’s maternity-ward marketing efforts in suggesting it’s never too soon to approach a new prospect. Click here to see the story.

Implications: Disney knows moms will greatly influence the formative years of their children. Why not build an alliance with that influence… before channel selection and favorite characters are decided by the infant?

Ironically, in their teenage years, it will be these kids who are more likely to influence the purchase behaviors of their moms! (Mobile phones, video games, places visited, etc.)

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Employment: No bad news is good news.

Today’s Washington Post carries a story about a decline in the unemployment rate, which is very good news. The economy only added 36,000 jobs, but analysts had feared work… including an actual jump in the jobless rate. See this Associated Press video for more information.

Implications: If you own or manage a business, you know that few things elevate consumer confidence and spending activity like a gainfully employed customer base.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

Could you be dropping the ball?

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, there was a story about the fierce competition of the Super Bowl. Not in the field, but in your local sports bar.

Click here to see the story.

Implications: If you sell furniture, have you ever thought of the local sports bar as your competition? If you’re a pub, have you ever considered a high-end home electronics store to be your arch enemy?

In a world where more and more homeowners are turning their houses into entertainment centers—for more than just a few of their closest friends—your competition might not be wearing the uniform you expect.

Where would you like to see people enjoy the Super Bowl, entertain friends, or relax after a long day or a hard week? Are you positioning yourself wisely... and considering all of the alternatives to your product offering?

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.