If there is one thing that marketers crave but is beyond their control it is to be viewed favorably by the media, such as news reporters and bloggers. Consequently, for leading marketing organizations, maintaining a healthy relationship with the media is one of the most important goals of their public relations efforts. And as we note in our Public Relations tutorial, the reasons marketers often bend over backwards to please the media is that when members of a target market are exposed to a story written or broadcast by what they perceive as trusted media, they often believe what the news media says.  For the marketer who is the focus of the media's message, this can help establish a potentially high level of credibility for the company.

To get into the good graces of the media, some companies bend over backwards to make sure media members are exposed to the goods or services they are promoting. For instance, one way to expose reporters or bloggers to a firm's offerings is to invite them to a location where they can sample products, watch consumers consume the company's products, or, best of all, consume products themselves. Of course, as media members are exposed to the products, the marketer's PR person will hover and try to influence them by continually explaining how great their products are compared to competitors' products.

Unfortunately, there are instances when exposing the media to a company's products can prove to be a bad idea. For example, sometimes a member of the media will sample a food or beverage that was not at the level the marketer promoted resulting in a poor product review. Or a magazine's interview with a company executive does not go well leading the reporter to wonder about the executive's managerial skills. Or maybe a product just fails when a reporter is exposed to it. That is what appears to have happened to restaurant chain TGI Fridays. As discussed in this Time story, TGI Fridays is currently running a major television advertising campaign featuring a drone that flies mistletoe around the restaurant with the goal of hovering above loving couples. Unfortunately, when a media crew was invited to watch the drone in action, this flying machine malfunctioned and ended up cutting off the tip of a photographer's nose.

Obviously this is not good publicity and will likely be the butt of jokes on late-night shows. That cannot be good for T.G.I Fridays, so it will be worth watching whether they end up pulling their drone ad.

People who are generally unfamiliar with marketing often assume that this business function is only used for the purpose of selling products. While these folks may accept that marketing occurs in non-profit companies as well as in for-profits, they seem to think the key measure of success in marketing will always be based on how much revenue is generated. It is certainly understandable why people think this way especially given what they see during the holiday season. This time of the year customers are being inundated with advertisements for goods and services, and mailboxes around the world are being flooded with requests for charitable donations.

Yet, there is another strategy within marketing that is clearly not intended to be a revenue generator – Cause Marketing. As we note in our What is Marketing? tutorial, companies can use marketing technique to help present them as being socially responsible. One way to do this is by focusing marketing efforts on a particular social cause that is intended to help society. As we note, while taking this approach may not instantly result in a benefit to the company, over time being perceive as socially responsible can build a strong reputation among targeted customers. An example is how General Mills used Cause Marketing for its Green Giant brand.

For marketers considering a Cause Marketing strategy, this story from CRM Magazine is worth reading. It offers excellent suggestions for building an effective Cause Marketing campaign that includes: spending time finding the right cause; embracing social media and mobile apps; and the need to craft a compelling message. The story also provides several interesting statistics suggesting, that over the long-run, Cause Marketing is well worth the effort.

We are the first to admit that we probably do not direct enough attention in our posts to the marketing area related to physical distribution. Yet, while product distribution may not be as glamorous as advertising or product design, it is enormously important for two reasons. First, a company's distribution system represents a cost. While there are some situations where distribution can create revenue (e.g., shipping products for someone else), by and large storing and moving products costs money. Consequently, a well-run distribution system offers benefits to the firm's bottom line by keeping costs low. In fact, even small changes that save only a few cents per pound of product handled can yield substantial gains. Why? Because many companies move thousands of pounds of product each day. Thus, saving just a few cents per pound will eventually add up to a sizable financial gain.

Second, and probably easier for the non-distribution person to understand, efficiently managing product movement can lead to greater customer satisfaction from distribution partners, such as retailers, and from the end customer, such as consumers. For retailers, they can only sell what they have in stock, so they strive to eliminate stockouts (i.e., no product available) by handling products from manufacturers with reliable distribution systems. For consumers, and especially those purchasing online, the ability for a retailer to deliver the order quickly can lead to positive evaluations of their purchasing experience.

For firms seeking to build efficiency into product movement they often turn to technology. For instance, companies utilize routing software to guide their trucks to destinations along the quickest path possible. Another way is through automated warehouses where pallets filled with product are moved to storage racks or onto trucks using computer-controlled pallet jacks.

Yet, one part of distribution that has always been a labor intensive problem involves product fulfillment for small individual purchases, such as small orders placed online. Internet orders are generally filled by an employee who must walk around a warehouse locating the requested items. Of course, this can be quite time consuming. Now there is technology that addresses order picking. As explained in this National Public Radio story, Amazon is using specialized robots programmed to bring products to employees who fill the orders. According to the story, Amazon uses over 15,000 robots in its warehouses.

When this report of Amazon using robots in the warehouse is considered alongside their research into using drones to deliver orders, one has to wonder if many humans will be part of product distribution in the near future. While the story suggests jobs are actually increasing, the question of robots eventually replacing humans remains.

As we talk about in our Planning for the Product Life Cycle tutorial, the maturity stage of the PLC is a tough place to be. At this point in its life, a brand has seen the good times decline to the point where many in the company behind the product believe spending more to support it is not a good idea. Instead, they look to other strategies including trying to get rid of the problem by selling the product to another company that believes it has a better idea for resurrecting it. A second idea is to hold on to the brand but support it with very limited funding. Essentially the owner of the product lets the it fall to the PLC Decline Stage, where it has slim chance of recovering, though it may last there for some time and provide nice income thanks to purchases made by older, brand loyal customers.

However, for some products a third idea exists: try to grow the product again and extend the product life cycle. We note several strategies for extending a product's PLC but the success of these depends on many things, including whether the brand's management has figured out at the right time where the product is in the PLC and has not waited too long to try something new.

As discussed in this New York Times story, a cough drop brand by the name of Smith Brothers is trying to grow its business once again. The product has been around for many years, yet has been neglected by multiple owners. Now a somewhat none traditional owner, a New York hedge fund, is attempting to infuse new life into these cough drops. The story talks about the new owners' plans to improve sales of this product, including spending $2.5 million on advertising. Of course, whether this is too late remains to be seen.

In addition to talking about the Smith Brothers product, the story also lists a number of other once-famous brands that are also considered in the majority stage including once well-known names as Comet, Duncan Hines and Parkay.

Over the last ten years or so, many have predicted that the movie theater industry is heading for a major contraction. In fact, back in 2010, we noted that the movie industry was facing significant changes that not only affected theaters, but also impacted producers looking to gain distribution deals for their films.

When it comes to the reasons for the dire predictions for this industry, prognosticators often point to the evolution of such technologies as on-demand movies, stunningly large flat screen TVs and the ability to conveniently watch movies on tablet devices as being the principal contributors to the ultimate demise of theaters. These forecasters even go so far as to suggest movie theaters will fall victim to technology in the same way Blockbuster and other movie rental retailers suffered.

While it is still possible that in the future theaters will die out, right now theater operators are not sitting back waiting for their business to fail. Instead, they are fighting back with a number of new marketing strategies they believe will excite customers. As discussed in this story from Time, marketers for movie theaters have become quite creative in an effort to attract more moviegoers. Even though overall ticket sales have indeed declined (down by 4% compared to last year), this has only led theater marketers to be more creative. They have introduced a number of new approaches that include: a pricing deal that enables customers to watch the movie Interstellar as many times as they want; a product change where the layout of theaters includes more comfortable seating; a ticketing option that combines entry to a movie with certain food options; and more theaters adopting the dine-and-watch-a-movie format that has been made famous by the Movie Tavern.

It remains to be seen how these new marketing ideas will impact attendance at movies. But it is nice to see marketers are sending a message that they will not go down without a fight.