An important trait possessed by many smart marketers is the desire to stay informed on what is happening in their market and in other markets they may not currently serve. They know that continually gathering information may open their minds to new ideas to help grow their business. While we generally equate information gathering to doing “marketing research,” many times great ideas do not come from engaging in heavy-duty marketing research methods, such as surveys and experiments. Rather, fairly simple information gathering efforts, such as being a daily reader of newspapers and industry websites, using Twitter to follow key business leaders and knowledge experts, and attending industry meetings and conferences, can yield beneficial ideas.

Whether ideas come via traditional marketing research or through simpler methods, marketers must decide whether or not an idea genuinely offers potential. For instance, as we noted in 2014, such decisions may rise in terms of markets that hold real long-term value compared to those that are only fads.

The real vs. fad issue is once again something to be considered in this Boston Globe story. It discusses the growing market for adult coloring books, which appears to be driven by the idea that coloring books offer therapeutic benefits, such a relieving stress. If it is a real market, then there could be a number of possible marketing opportunities if adult coloring books do indeed take off. For instance, writing instrument manufacturers may create new lines of adult-specific coloring pencils, pens and crayons. Picture frame makers may offer special frames for hanging designs. Event marketers may see opportunities for presenting how-to events and teaching sessions. But if this is just a fad, then marketers, who take the leap and offer new products for this market, may find they are jumping into a deep ditch.

Whether real or a fad, it is important to appreciate that successful marketers take risks. So, if they decide to target the adult coloring book market, marketers should feel confident they have gathered as much information as they can.

new search featuresWe are happy to announce that two new search features have been added to KnowThis.com. The first feature, called Search the Marketing Stories Archive, allows site visitors to search our vast and growing collection of over 4,500 Marketing Stories dating back to 2004. For each story, the archive contains the title, source and link to the original story (note: not all links may still be active). In most cases, the information also contains a brief annotation connecting a story to a marketing topic.

The second feature, called Search the Marketing Blog Archive, allows site visitors to search our Marketing Blog posts. These posts, which exam marketing issues in deeper detail, date back to 2009.

Both search features allow for Boolean searches. Additionally, results are presented in reverse date order, with the most recent additions to an archive appearing first.

We believe both search options will prove quite useful for market researchers, educators, students, journalists and others looking for past marketing information.

Our overall site search, handled by Google, remains for searching other areas of KnowThis.com, such as our Principles of Marketing Tutorials.

Lawsuit Over Olive Oil LabelingAs we noted in a 2013 post that looked at labels found on eggs, it is pretty safe to say, what appears on a product label is not something that takes up a large portion of a marketers' valuable time. In fact, when it comes packaging decisions, marketers are often  more concerned with the shape, functionality and other design elements of the container, rather than the words and images appearing on the box, bottle or other items used to hold a product. Yet, not focusing enough attention on labeling can come back to haunt a company. For instance, back in 2014 we looked at how an issue of a misleading product label made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another example of what may be a misleading labeling issue can be found in this story from Fortune. It reports on lawsuits claiming the labels on top selling olive oil brands mislead customers in two ways. First, the lawsuit claims the labels state the olive oil is “Imported from Italy.”  However, while the bottles are packaged in Italy, the actual olive oil is sourced from other countries. Second, the lawsuits claim the olive oil contained in the jars is not of the extra virgin variety as listed on the label. Rather it contains a lower-grade product.

The companies being sued have so far responded by dismissing the allegations. For instance, they appear to argue that “Imported from Italy” only means the product has to be shipped from Italy. The plaintiffs in this case believe this violates the Country of Origin Labeling requirements that was included in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

While it will likely take some time for these cases to be resolved, the issues raised are certainly ones that should encourage some marketers to spend a little more time reviewing their labels.

In our blogs posts, we have repeatedly stressed the importance marketing research plays in an organization’s overall strategy. Our marketing tutorials are even more direct in our emphasis on research as we have mentioned it as being the “foundation of marketing” in several tutorials. While conducting research is a critical component of successful marketing, as we note in the Marketing Research tutorial, the results of research should not be used alone in making decisions because these can rarely be considered 100% accurate.

But what research will do is suggest to marketers a direction they may want to investigate. For instance, broad research may uncover an evolving customer trend. Awareness of this trend may then signal that more narrow research is required to see if there is a new customer need that may be emerging or an old need that may be changing. If there is something emerging or changing, then the marketer may consider addressing these, such as designing new products for the new needs, adjusting current products to changing needs, promoting products in new ways, and many others. But even with this, research still needs to be done to make sure any new ideas are truly viable.

An example of a new marketing idea that has been developed based on what may be an evolving trend can be seen in this Fortune story. It discusses how McDonald's is testing new packaging to appeal to more customers who ride their bikes to place orders in the drive-up order lane. The new package allows customers to peddle away with the package hanging from the handlebar. While the article, and accompanied video, talk about this idea being tested in several countries outside the U.S., it likely will not be too long before it shows up in America. Most likely, it will be within urban areas, where the use of bicycles for regular transportation (as opposed to recreational use) is more prevalent.

At some point in the life of a business, they face tough marketing choices if they want to grow. For some businesses, it is deciding whether to spend big money to grow their distribution network, such as building new warehouses and hiring more employees so they can expand beyond the geographic areas they currently serve. In other cases, the decision is whether to commit to a sizeable promotional campaign, such as the production and placement of expensive advertisements, in an attempt to stand out from competitors. Or maybe, a marketer is considering whether to launch a new product that is very different than what present customers are accustom to seeing.

While these decisions are challenging, possibly the most difficult marketing decision is the one where the marketer decides to shift direction and appeal to an entirely different target market. Unlike spending money on enhancing distribution, creating new ads or developing new products, retargeting a business requires changing all marketing decisions. This is an enormous undertaking and few companies ever get to the point of making such a decision. For those that do decide to target an entirely different market, they often do so by creating new brands while retaining their existing brand. For example, as we noted last week, Whole Foods is targeting a somewhat lower income consumer by creating a new retail model.

But shifting the whole business in a new direction, using the same brand name, is a bold move. An example of a company that decided to change strategies and target a different market can be seen in this Washington Post story. It discusses how home furnishings retailer, Restoration Hardware, made the decision to redirect their marketing away from the middle-income customer they previously served and, instead, repositioned the company to target high-income customers. This move, made during the economic downturn that started in 2008, has not only saved the company, it has catapulted them to record profits. In fact, Restoration Hardware believes so much in this marketing strategy, they are now planning to establish a newly branded retail chain targeting the same customers but with different products.

Now some may wonder whether this strategy can be sustained whenever the next recession comes. Well, if history has told us anything about retailing during a recession, it is this: the retailers that suffer most during an economic downturn are those not perceived as being low cost but also are not viewed as offering high-quality products. Instead, they are stuck in the middle. If this holds true the next time the economy dips, then Restoration Hardware’s repositioning strategy is likely to have been a good decision.