- Published: December 10, 2013
As we discuss in our What is Marketing? tutorial, success in marketing almost always requires marketers offer customers something that they genuinely want. What is really wanted may be related to any of the Marketing Mix decisions. That is, maybe customers want certain features in a product (i.e., product decision), or maybe they want a more affordable product (i.e., pricing decision), or a special deal that will persuade them to make a purchase (i.e., promotion decision), or they want to be able to receive the product faster (i.e., distribution decision),or maybe they need help learning how to use a product (i.e., support services decision). As these examples suggest, the features offered in a product are not the only factors that affect how customers decide on what to buy.
Yet, while a customer's purchase decision is impacted by many other issues, the features and overall product design are often the most critical. That is what is so compelling about with this Washington Post story. In particular, the story discusses how the design of several children’s products, that include video displays, are being criticized. What is so interesting about this story is that the criticism is not coming from the marketers’ main customer, parents, but from a non-profit child advocacy group, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). The group is concerned that exposing young children to digital screens is, in effect, shifting childcare away from parents and to a digital device. The advocacy group is pushing companies selling such devices to remove these from the market. The companies targeted by CCFC include Fisher Price, who offers a bouncy chair with an iPad attached, and CTA Digital, who markets a potty that includes a tablet computer.
The reaction to these types of products has led to many negative reviews on retailer websites, including Amazon, though the comments are likely not from product purchasers but from CCFC supporters. Of course, this leads to another marketing issue regarding the effectiveness of website comments, but we will save that for another post.
- Published: December 9, 2013
Beverage marketers selling diet drinks have been under attack for a long time. More than 10 years ago, diet drinks were challenged by medical researchers, who suggested the artificial sweeteners contained in these drinks may be harmful. At that time, researcher’s concerns had minimal impact on beverage manufacturers and, consequently, no impact on overall sales. Today, though, this may be changing.
As described in this UPI story, medical researchers’ attack on diet products, along with media coverage of the issue, may finally be affecting what customers purchase. While the story notes that overall sales in the soda category are down, sales of diet sodas are dropping at a much higher rate.
It is quite possible, that after many years of being exposed to warnings in the media and from their own doctor, consumers are becoming more concerned with what they drink. It will be interesting to see if this has implications beyond the soda industry and begins to impact other food and beverage products that also contain artificial ingredients.
- Published: December 5, 2013
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when television was in its infancy, it was common for actors to appear in advertisements during the show in which they starred. Often this occurred with the actor pitching a product while outfitted in wardrobe and makeup in the same way they appeared on a show. The practice of having actors promote a brand was a carryover from the golden days of radio, where program sponsors (i.e., advertisers) demanded actors participate in ads in order to fund a program.
By the 1970s, the practice of actors supporting sponsors faded, as advertisers moved away from funding of a specific television show and, instead, opted to purchase shorter spots, such as 60 second ads, across multiple TV programs.
Now, according to this New York Times story, cast member promotion of products is returning. The story reports on cast member promotions for ABC and NBC owned programs. As was the strategy in the 1950s and 1960s, it seems the ads will appear within the actor’s show. Brands using this strategy include Target, Dodge and Jeep.
- Published: December 4, 2013
The line between what is real, objective online content and what is made up to promote a company is becoming blurry. The examples that are the most difficult to distinguish are so-called sponsored content (also called native advertising), where a website intentionally publishes content that presents an advertising partner in a favorable light. What makes this a controversial issue is not that the content has been paid for by the advertiser but that website visitors may not be able to easily identify who is responsible for the content.
The Federal Trade Commission is taking a dim view of native advertising. As discussed in this New York Times story, the issue is not so much with this advertising form but with the methods that are used to present the content. Specifically, the FTC is concerned with whether the sponsor of the content (i.e., the advertiser) is clearly being identified. For instance, the story discusses one popular technology website where authors of the site’s regular content also write some of the sponsored content and whether this may lead some visitors to believe it is part of the website’s editorially scrutinized material.
Yet this issue is not all one sided. In this story, websites offer their take on this practice, and for some, their views may seem quite reasonable. Whether you believe native advertising is a good or bad practice, the arguments put forth by both sides makes for a good read.
- Published: December 3, 2013
In our What is Marketing? tutorial, we indicate that the environment in which most companies compete requires marketers possess the ability to be creative. While the example we use in the tutorial relates to creativity for developing new products, this marketing decision is by no means the only one that may frequently require new thinking. In fact, most people would say the most creative part of marketing occurs with promotional decisions, such as developing a new advertising campaign.
Yet, while we say marketers must be creative, it should be clear that the level of creativity may differ from one industry to another. For instance, while technology marketers must fight off competition by constantly coming up with new ideas across their entire marketing mix (e.g. new products, new advertising, new pricing programs), marketers in less dynamic industries, such as those in many business-to-business markets (e.g., manufacturer of nuts and bolts), may be more limited to where new ideas are needed.
Additionally, it is essential to understand that being creative is often risky business. Why should a marketer push the creativity pedal when their company is already the market leader? Why not just cruise along with what has been working?
This leads to this story from Millward Brown. It offers a number of examples of the fate of companies that chose to be creatively different. The focus here is on creativity in advertising. Ad examples from the U.S. include Dos Equis Most Interesting Man and Kmart’s Ship My Pants. Also, several global ads are also discussed.
Of course, not all attempts at creative advertising are successful. The story points out key issues marketers should contemplate when considering an advertising strategy that clearly breaks from current industry norms. Also, since this story is from a research company, there are several useful stats presented.