Successful consumer luxury brands hold a unique position in marketing. As high-end specialty products, luxury brands are often viewed by consumers as offering benefits that are several levels above mass-market brands. These brands obtain this position not only because of the qualities of the product itself but through other marketing elements, such as unique promotions and premium pricing. As we note in our Product Decision tutorial, specialty products also follow an exclusive product distribution strategy. Of course, one reason distribution is exclusive is because the number of potential customers is quite small compared to products targeted to a wider market. But another reason distribution is limited is that many buyers of luxury products need personalized attention when considering a purchase. For example, luxury car dealers, such as Maserati, have very few outlets but the ones they do have are staffed by salespeople, who are experienced in dealing with high-end customers.

While there may not be many people who will purchase a car online, other product categories that are easily purchased over the Internet, such as jewelry, clothing and fashion accessories, also are lacking in luxury sellers. Some luxury brands choose not to sell online because they are concerned a product, which built a reputation for being unique and exclusive, will lose this perception given the openness of the Internet. Additionally, some marketers of luxury products believe it is necessary to build close personal relationships with customers, something that is much easier to do face-to-face than through social media or online chat.

But with consumers now becoming much more comfortable shopping online, the days of limiting sales of luxury products to in-person purchasing may be coming to an end. As discussed in this Washington Post story, a leading marketing research group, McKinsey & Co., has released a report that takes aim at luxury brands’ reluctance to sell online. They suggest the target market for these brands is becoming more accepting of online purchasing of expensive products. Additionally, they say luxury brands need to become more aggressive in promoting their products online as today’s customers are much more interested in learning about products by spending time on their computer or mobile device, rather than through personal contact with salespeople.

Almost every e-commerce website, from sites run by local mom-and-pop retailers to those of massive online sellers, offers some amount of search functionality. Providing customers with an easy way to locate information among all the products an online retailer sells has become a necessity. In fact, having a strong search feature is so expected that customers may perceive a website without a useful search option as being difficult to navigate and overall unfriendly to shoppers.

Fortunately, thanks to Google and other technology visionaries, the evolution of search, particularly in terms of speed and accuracy, makes it an indispensable website feature no matter how a customer searches. For instance, one customer looking for Hawaiian shirts may search by entering just a single word in a search box (e.g., Hawaiian) and then enjoys spend time browsing a large number of results. Another customer may take a more narrow approach by entering multiple terms (e.g., Hawaiian shirt men’s medium coconut) hoping to save browsing time by narrowing the search results compared to using a single word. While a third customer may get even more specific and look for results that match a specific phrase (e.g., “all silk Hawaiian shirts”). In all cases, the results are often what customers would expect to see.

But what happens if what the customer is entering is the name of a product the website does not carry? For example, let’s say they enter the trademarked product name, Brand X Hawaiian Shirt, in the search box. What should the online retailer display for the results of this search? Well, on some websites, especially those with a search feature that is not considered top-of-the-line technology, the results may say something like: No results for your search for Brand X Hawaiian Shirt.  However, more sophisticated search tools may return links to products it carries that are similar to Brand X Hawaiian Shirt, including possibly showing competitors’ products. This type of result would appear to meet customers’ needs, particularly if they aren’t familiar with other Hawaiian shirt brands. They can just enter a name they know in the search box to see who else sells Hawaiian shirts. In fact, who wouldn’t like a search feature to offer this type of result? Well, the makers of Brand X Hawaiian Shirt may not.

As noted in this Fortune story, high-end watchmaker Multi Time Machine has received the support of a U.S. court claiming the search results of one of the world’s biggest of e-commerce site, Amazon, violated their trademark. They claim Amazon displayed competitors’ products when someone typed the trademarked name into the Amazon search engine and people who then made a purchase did so without knowing it is not a product Multi Time Machine manufactures. This argument would seem to be a little different than, say, a customer walking into a jewelry store and asking for a certain watch brand only to have the salesperson say: “We don’t carry that brand, but we do have similar watches.”

This case has been going on for several years so don’t expect this to be the final word on the matter. However, if future decisions continue to go Multi Time Machine’s way, it could have a significant impact on how search engines display results.

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 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, such as our Principles of Marketing Tutorials.