One topic we regularly discuss in our postings is how marketers often are confronted with difficult decisions. For instance, a few weeks ago we looked at how market conditions forced Restoration Hardware to make the hard choice to re-position their brand in a way that targets an entirely different market. And last October, we discussed how Target made the tough decision to alter its overall marketing strategy to appeal to changing customer demographics.

Another difficult situation that may require tough decisions be made occurs when companies are faced with determining if a popular trend within their target market is something they need to pursue. What makes these decisions hard is trying to estimate whether customers will continue to react favorably over the long run to the emerging trend. For instance, over the last few years we have experienced many fads that created excitement only to run out of steam. While in hindsight it is pretty easy to see why the interest in these fads has now diminished, for the marketer the tough decision is whether or not to take advantage of opportunities long before it is evident what will eventually happen. Even more, if a trend is not a fad but something that will create a real market, being late to the market may present problems if others have built strong positions.

We now have another example of a trending idea that will have some marketers asking the “is-it-a-fad-or-is-it-for-real” question. As discussed in this Fortune story, a craft brewer in Illinois, Small Town Brewery, is generating interest with a new type of beverage – Root Beer. Of course, the emphasis on this product is the beer, as it is an alcoholic beverage and not a carbonated soft drink. What is interesting is this product now ranks within the top 30 of all craft beers in the U.S.  As the story notes, other brewers are jumping in with their own Root Beer, including Boston Beer, maker of the Sam Adams brand.

Even if alcoholic Root Beer is more than a fad, it likely will be perceived as a seasonal beverage and not something with consistent year-round sales. But then again, it could tap into an unrecognized need and find a niche market in the same way Mike’s Hard Lemonade has done. Certainly something to watch and, for those of legal drinking age, something to taste!

When deciding where to direct promotional funds for Internet marketing, marketers often focus on options that will offer a clear view of the return it will provide on their investment. For instance, when it comes to online advertising, a popular metric for estimating success is the percentage of clicks for each time an advertisement is presented to site visitors. Additionally, marketers will also consider whether a potential advertising placement is on a website that is of interest to their target market. For example, a company that manufactures rock-climbing equipment is likely not spending money to advertise on a food magazine website.

Another factor marketers may consider is the perceived reputation of the Internet site where an ad may run and whether it matches what the marketer believes is appropriate to its organizational values. If it does not, the marketer may not consider advertising on the site even if the target market provides high traffic to the outlet.

A good example of an Internet site, whose reputation may be causing advertisers to turn away, can be seen in this Los Angeles Times story. It reports on how companies seem to be avoiding advertising on Reddit, a popular website that may best be classified as a social interaction website. The site, which some ranking services list as one of the top 50 global websites, is struggling to attract advertisers. The big reason is the reputation that surrounds Reddit. Over that last few years, Reddit has been impacted by a number of controversial issues.

Given their business model, which gives the impression that nearly anyone can create an interest area, the site appears to be at the mercy of their users, which may not be such a good model for generating advertiser revenue.

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.