When marketers talk about tracking customer activity it almost always is discussed within the context of an Internet marketing environment. For instance, tracking how a customer arrived at a website (e.g., via a search engine), what pages were viewed on a website, or even what other websites a customer viewed prior to arriving at another website. But tracking is not limited to activities taking place online; it also happens offline. For instance, retail stores track customers by matching purchases to the use of loyalty and membership cards; cable television networks track customers' viewing habits through set top boxes; and package delivery companies track product movement using scan codes and follow their vehicles using GPS.

While these offline examples are interesting, Disney's new MyMagic+ technology, now being tested in its theme parks, seems to raise offline tracking to a higher level. According to this Businessweek story, Disney has invested $1 billion for technology that tracks customer activity. The key component for capturing data is wearable wrist bands, branded as MagicBands, that customers flash when entering the park, making purchases and even opening their hotel room door.

In addition to collecting data on when customers arrive, what part of the park they visit and how long they stay, Disney's tracking technology is also used to improve customer service. For instance, the story explains how a food server can locate a customer and deliver their food even though the customer ordered a meal from a kiosk and found their own table. It also explains how this technology can be used for other purposes, such as adjusting staffing depending on the anticipated crowd at an attraction.

While all this is very intriguing, it is important to note the story also raises potential ethical issues. For some, the constant tracking, particularly if a GPS element is used, reeks of Big Brother control. This has led to backlash, including some people taking Disney to task on discussion forums and social media.

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Today we posted a story from Forbes discussing the results of a study that looked at budgeting issues within leading marketing organizations. While the Forbes story is insightful, it is more interesting to look at the source behind the data reported in this story. The research results come from CMO Survey, which is a collaboration between three major organizations: industry group The American Marketing Association, consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and the business school at Duke University. As stated in their mission, the CMO Survey intends to “to collect and disseminate the opinions of top marketers in order to predict the future of markets, track marketing excellence, and improve the value of marketing in firms and society.”

Since its founding in 2008, the CMO Survey has provided excellent information with the best being its twice yearly survey of marketing professionals. The most recent report, which was released in February, goes well beyond the information discussed in the Forbes story. Based on results obtained from over 400 respondents, this report looks at several other issues including: what top marketing executives think about the economy; the type of marketing strategies they are pursuing; spending on social media; marketing’s role in their organization; the use of marketing analytics; and much more.

This is terrific research, and whether you are a business professional, student, marketing instructor, or just someone that is intrigued by the field, this research is worth a look.

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In our last blog post, we took a look at a number of struggling products in the beer industry.  We made the not so outrageous prediction that some of these beers “likely will not be available in the next few years.”  In other words, these beers are heading to the marketing boneyard.  There they will join thousands of other products whose product life cycle has come to an end.

Inside the boneyard, there rests two types of products. One group entered the boneyard having aged well.  They lived a satisfying and successful life that brought their marketer considerable wealth.  Their entry into the boneyard was largely the result of their customers getting old and younger customers seeking different benefits.

The other group in the boneyard are products that were once envisioned by their marketer as having a potentially long life.  Unfortunately, these products never met expectations thanks in large part to poor marketing decisions, defective design or thousands of other reasons.  And standing tall over this group are these 10 failures presented in this 24/7 Wall St. story.  The failed products discussed represent some of the classic marketing mistakes including New Coke, Edsel and Apple’s Newton.  The story provides a brief explanation of each failure, which in some cases resulted in losses in the billions of dollars.

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College students frequently visit KnowThis.com searching for information to be used in marketing assignments. One issue that is regularly assigned in a college-level marketing strategy course is to undertake research that explores different aspects of the product life cycle (PLC). In particular, a typical assignment presented to students is to locate information on specific products and how these fit within the PLC.

Back in September 2013 we looked at this issue when we posted about the PLC and the craft beer market. We now have another example, and this too deals with the beer market. (The fact both blog postings deal with the beer industry is a coincidence, though we are sure many college students find this to be a fascinating market.) While this story from USA Today is a few months old (our fault we missed it earlier!), the data presented is quite interesting.

The report examines nine beers that have experienced a sharp drop in sales over a five year period. The data is presented in terms of the percentage of sales decline between 2007 and 2012. Many of the beers listed are familiar brands including Budweiser, Miller Genuine Draft and Old Milwaukee. In terms of their placement within the PLC, some of these beers are likely sitting in the Maturity stage and may still have growth left if the beer's manufacturer can devise a strategy to extend the PLC. Other beers, however, are almost certainly in the Decline stage, and likely will not be available in the next few years.

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Comparative advertising, where one company pits its product against a product offered by another company, is likely one of the oldest forms of advertising.  Typically, with this method, the advertising company touts the benefits its product offers compared to a key competitor.  Many times these ads make no attempt to conceal the identity of the targeted competitor, often using a side-by-side comparison.  One of the most famous are the old Pepsi Challenge commercials that take on Coke, with a more recent examples being price comparison ads by Wal-Mart and Progressive Insurance.  

But other times, the comparison is subtle with an advertisement not specifically mentioning the competitor by name.  Instead, the promotion utilizes clearly identifiable elements, such as the advertiser comparing its product to the “leading brand” or showing the competitor’s package but without displaying the product’s name.  For example, the current advertising campaign run by DirecTV takes aim at cable companies without mentioning names.  Because these promotions are not directed at specific competitors, the impact may be somewhat lessened as the target audience may not easily understand the comparison.  However, by not mentioning the competitor by name, there is also less chance the competitor will respond with their own comparative ad.

Today we see another example of a comparative promotion that does not mention the competitor by name.  According to this New York Times story, the promotion, in the form of a YouTube video, is from Netflix, and it takes a jab at Amazon which, as we previously posted, is testing the use of drones for order delivery.  Of course, if you were not aware of Amazon’s plans this video may just seem funny but not actually convey the message that is intended.

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