Archive for marketing

Truth in advertising – no longer optional!

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 29, 2013 by marketingheart

I’d like to share a paper I’ve written about the centrality of authenticity to marketers in the era of transparency. If you see your favourite business launching a big branding campaign, sell your shares! Here’s why:

For a more hilarious, cynical and NSFW view of where truth in advertising just might lead, enjoy this:



Woah….an adman puts ethics ahead of self interest?

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2013 by marketingheart

When the big cheeses of the ad business get together to share their thoughts about a topic, whether the format be a conference or in the press, we’re talking new business. You get your name out there, you show how smart you are, you say some stuff that might resonate with a prospective client.

So it was that last year a bunch of well-fed geniuses and snake charmers were brought together by ad industry fanzine B&T to compare the marketing efforts of Australia’s supermarket duopoly players, Coles and Woolies.

Standing in judgement are six of adland’s “most illustrious creatives, brand experts and strategists”

  • Naked Communications founding partner Adam Ferrier
  • Co-founder of CumminsRoss, Sean Cummins
  • former ECD of BMF (and founder of TheDylanAgency), Dylan Taylor
  • Ex-FutureBrand MD Erminio Putignano
  • MD of McCann Melbourne, Simon Burrett
  • Managing partner at BMF, Stephen McArdle

Disappointingly if there were disagreeements or even punches thrown, the article didn’t mention it. Instead, what stopped me in my tracks was Sean Cummins’ response to the topic of Home Brands:

Cummins refused to attribute scores to either supermarket in this category on principle. “I am professionally and personally opposed to private label offerings. I find it a blight on manufacturers and brand builders everywhere that the IP and category knowledge is piggy-backed by supermarket chains,” he says. “Our market is too small to kill Brands in favour of generics.”

Did you get that? Cummins has principles … and he’s not afraid to use them. Even in front of his competitors. Even if it means he probably won’t get asked to pitch for any retail business where Home Brands are offered. I thought that was incredibly refreshing.  But wait, there’s more. He went on:

“It’s about jobs, it is about primary industry it is about maintaining standards. Naïve and moral I may be, but I hate this tension. It is not healthy.”

For what it’s worth Sean, I could not agree with you more. (That’s right Coles, you can leave me off the list, too!). And if I ever go client-side, I’ll call you in as a reward for what you’ve done.

And then I’ll explain patiently that having morals is not in fact a sign of naivety. It’s a sign of maturity and responsibility. Oh well, close enough is good enough!

By the way, our enlightened judges scored the supermarkets a draw. Maybe that’s not so surprising if the following earth-shattering customer insights from the head marketers of each supermarket formed the basis of their agencies’ briefs:

“Our customers want good honest food which is fresh, available and affordable”, says Mr marketing director of Coles. “We want our customers to trust us to deliver best quality food and the best value every time they visit one of our stores,” said Ms GM marketing at Woolworths.

Lucky they have ad agencies who come up with different  executions, otherwise nobody would have had anything to say at all!

PS this is the first blog I’ve ever started with a “Woah” and I promise it’ll be the last.

Consumer kids; sponges and spikes

Posted in business, Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , , , on May 2, 2013 by marketingheart

The past 30 years or so have seen an explosion of consumerism in the West with all that entails, good and bad. As it spills into new markets, the world has changed because of it,  physically, politically and sociologically.

Whilst economic activity has lifted millions out of poverty, there have been great costs. I personally think it’s valid to characterise the era in some respects as one of profits vs people. There have been victories on both sides but overall, profits have won. Look at wealth distribution as evidence of this – in the West, it’s never been greater (see video at end of this post).

A symptomatic front line in the profits vs people battle is online user-generated review sites, once touted to be the consumer’s best friend, now shown to have been infiltrated by corporate interests. The potential for the internet to truly democratise consumption by ensuring price transparency and giving consumers free voice has not – unsurprisingly – been embraced by business.

When I look at brands gathering hundreds of thousands of Facebook Friends, I wonder about gen XY and Z’s  mindlessly enthusiastic, utterly uncritical and apparently bottomless appetite for sponging up marketing. Tons of research shows how ‘marketing savvy’ kids are, but the amazing thing is that doesn’t stop them for one second. The idealism of Rock n Roll has been replaced by the rampant greed of hip-hop. “Get Rich or Die Tryin” sang rapper 50 Cent. And he nearly did – die tryin’ that is (he was shot nine times in 2000).

But not everybody is so complicit. Whatever you might say about its focus and effectiveness, the Occupy movement gave temporary voice to deep unrest. And if you look around, you will see lots of kids thinking a little more deeply about marketing, spiking and popping dishonesty and manipulation when they detect it. And sharing. Here’s an example I’d like to celebrate.

My personal conviction is that marketers carry enormous responsibilities, maybe more than politicians. People need to keep both kinds of bastards honest  for similar reasons.  Both have voting constituents (in the case of businesses it’s consumers exercising buying decisions) who need to be wary of being spoonfed the corporate line, and there needs to be as much informed debate around business as politics. Unfortunately that is simply not the case, so it’s good to see kids like this getting wise to the ways of the world.

Perhaps the new cry should be “Unhitch … or Die Buyin'”.

Green Conviction meets Market Opportunism?

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by marketingheart

There’s a growing acceptance of the marketing potency of going green…isn’t there?  Chris Grannell consulting director at strategy agency Ellis Foster McVeigh posted a very interesting comment to an earlier post of mine about the conflicts and potentially synergies of Conviction Greens (believers) vs Commercial Greens (marketing opportunists). Chris said that since “both groups seek uptake of their ideas – market penetration in other words” the two are sufficiently aligned to just get on with it and commit to increased emphasis on green marketing across the board.

However, reports from the recent US National Retailers Federation convention reported that at a series of Sustainability Sessions  the prevailing view was that there was insufficient  consumer push to provide strong rationale for going green. (Confirming this, my own research has turned up little in the way of solid evidence quantitatively linking green values to market success; perhaps others can point me in the right direction?).

Speaking at one session, Kevin Hagen, director of social responsibility at REI, the outdoors chain, gave his reasons why businesses need to address sustainable practice and look at green products. One is activist pressure – an army of bloggers is watching business behaviour and sites like brandkarma facilitate the sharing of consumer views, both positive and negative. Second, growing government interest in where products are sourced and and what they’re made of. Third, consumers responding to green products. Chris put it slightly differently: “there are four main areas through which commercial value can be created by green: These are (1) reputation (2) cost-reduction (3) diversification into new products and (4) ex-ante advantage – in other words, getting ahead of the market and reaping the benefits later”.

Both variants seem to agree that green is bigger than ‘stick a daisy on the label’ product positioning, however even that can present enormous challenges. In the US,  sustainability indexes (aka green supply chain rating systems) are becoming more common. One being developed by the outdoor recreation industry, the Eco Index,  with more than 100 companies on board, is designed to measure the environmental footprint of apparel, footwear and gear which will  eventually be used for customer-facing information, like the Energy Star rating on appliances. Four years into development, however, the Index isn’t ready.  Eco Index brands can’t decide on how to publish it. After all, rating the sustainability of a shirt is very different from judging the green qualities of a sneaker. Walmart has been working on its similarly minded sustainability index for the past year, but so far the company hasn’t produced any eco-labels either. The difficulty of securing sufficient input information about the supply chain should not be underestimated. As Hagen said,  “Our supply chain is great at getting us product. It’s really terrible at giving us information.”

But he insists sustainability doesn’t have to be consumer-driven. ” Consumers will love (our efforts). But they don’t need to be the reason why we’re doing it”.

This hints at a growing acceptance that corporations need to do the right thing purely out of a sense of responsibility to the planet. As Greg Wittbecker  , a Director of Alcoa (reportedly) said “[we] must work together for common sustainability goals that transcend individual commercial objectives and we must approach this with a sense of urgency”.

Could there one day be a perfect storm where Conviction meets Market Opportunity?

An awkward marriage of convenience struggles to consumate

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by marketingheart

Chris Grannell consulting director at strategy agency Ellis Foster McVeigh recently visited the lions’ den. He posted an excellent thought piece on Mumbrella, which under the guidance of its (English) founder, has become probably Australia’s leading site for the advertising and media industries.

Chris put pen to paper to remind us that market-based Green thinking can assist achieve penetration and profitability – in other words that capitalism and Greenies/ Green values can be perfectly compatible if somewhat mis-matched bedfellows. I’ve blogged a little on this before.

Chris characterises two groups, Conviction Greenies who see marketers as working entirely at cross purposes with them, and (potential) Market-based Greenies who see a dollar in leveraging green values and the support they receive from consumers. He talks about the opportunity for partnership between the two in order to grasp new market opportunities. As Chris says “We can all think of examples from mature categories – from electricity retail to automotive to cosmetics – where firms have created premium products from ‘green’ or renewable associations.”.

Whether the market-based group are in fact Greenies or opportunistic capitalists and whether it matters is worth teasing out. Clearly Chris is a pragmatist, pointing out the self-evident truth that the support of corporations for sustainability needs to be harnessed through their wallets, profit being the only effective incentive to become more responsible.  The double bottom line is what it’s referred to, and certainly there are some great examples of it around.

Clearly the partnership has to work both ways and as Chris says, together both parties can to do a better job. Things get a little steamy as Chris writes “Marketing and sustainability are edging closer. Marketing is beginning to eye some of sustainability’s serious assets – not to mention some of the friends she seems to be acquiring. And sustainability is beginning to find marketing’s understanding of consumers more than a little attractive.”

Chris says the Green movement needs to use better marketing ie use the system we’re all stuck with, like it or not, to change the system. I agree with Chris that the green movement needs to address its own marketing to more effectively get its message across.  In fact I  blogged some time ago about attending a corporate social responsibility forum where the convening organisation was unable to articulate their proposition to the extent that they couldn’t tell me where sustainability sat vis a vis corporate social responsibility.

Nonetheless, without wishing to appear naive, I do find Chris’ little piece of matchmaking a tad disturbing; a marriage-of-convenience between the formerly-idealistic Greenie who abandoned her virtuous notion of saving the planet ‘for the sake of our children’ and instead settled for the cynical corporate puppeteer who’s gaining entree thanks to his blushing green trophy wife into into a profitable new milieu full of unrealised consumption…albeit of sustainable products! Of course I’m misrepresenting Chris here, but my point is that perhaps its precisely this discomfort (and indeed naivety) that prevents the greenies from hopping into the sack with marketers. Similarly the corporates take a lot of persuading that they wouldn’t get their rocks off far easier and more cheaply with less virtuous strategies….cheap goods, high volumes and quick profits are more familiar and undemanding seductresses. (Seth Godin provides just such persuasion here: “Just because it is going to take longer than it should doesn’t mean we should walk away. There are big opportunities here, for all of us. It’s going to take some time, but it’s worth it”.)

I think there’s most surely a place for idealism in all this, yes even within corporate strategy, if only because its the best vehicle to deliver authenticity which surely must be at the heart of any green marketing campaign. In fact, I think idealism is a necessity in green marketing. And that’s what will make the wedding night a potential disaster.

Here’s an example of this slightly uncomfortable partnership. Apart from the fact that stylishly it draws way too much on the worst excesses of action movies, I was left feeling this was simply a branding exercise for an energy corporation rather than a genuine piece of education. Perhaps it was the wasteful budget but it lacked that authenticity, the genuine earnestness that marketers find so hard to capture, if indeed they try at all. (thanks again Green Guerilla for the link).

On a lighter note, here’s another example of what happens when the marketers are let off the leash….

Then again, look what happens when Greenies try to do their messaging without marketers. The contrast is pretty stark!

Ever the pragmatist, Chris elsewhere has posted three (he says they are the only three) market-based strategies to sustainability: respond to the market, change the market, or camouflage the product. And of course as a consultant he can help companies choose which is right for them. Another example of the double bottom line at work! Well done Chris.

7 ways smart retailers can benefit from digital media technology in a downturn

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2010 by marketingheart

It was refreshing to read this advice by McKinsey’s, “Retailers should bear in mind that the least effective thing to do during a downturn is to simply ‘hunker down’ and ‘weather the storm.’” (The McKinsey Quarterly, September 2008).

Taking decisive action to improve store performance is surely even more a necessity in times of turmoil. Whilst many retailers’ first reaction is simply to cut spending, periods during which consumers are actively reviewing their purchasing behaviours provide opportunities for savvy retailers to influence new decisions they’re making about what to buy and when.

This is the time not to run for cover but to identify investments that can deliver business improvements by retaining customers, acquiring customers or maximizing basket size. If cost reduction can be achieved in addition to these aims, even better.

With so much amazing technology now at our disposal, it’s an almost universal truth that there is always a better way to do things, so technology-based efficiencies is a fruitful place to look for performance-enhancing investments, specifically technology that’s been proven ROI effective for other retailers….in other words find out what works and then apply it.

The example of this I’ll look at is in-store digital shopper media; offering the magic combination of increasing revenue and reducing operating expenses, this is a classic case of a new technology maturing to the point where it becomes indispensable. This suite of solutions has the potential to transform your marketing activities at point of sale and improvements in content management and distribution technology, as well as reductions in hardware costs make the case for digital signage more compelling daily.

Yes, there are capital requirements in deploying a digital signage network but the upsides are many: let’s have a look at seven bebefits which hit home the hardest in these hard times:

1. Increasing basket size. There’s mountains of data now which shows the effectiveness of in-store signage. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, after all think of the billions that have been spent on point-of-sale material over the last century…well this is just better PoS with the added benefit that customers like it and respond to it. In a Nielsen survey of 1,000 shoppers, amongst those who had digital signage at retail, 42% said they would rather shop at a store with video displays, 68% of respondents said in-store messages would sway their purchasing decisions and 77% said it was a useful way to learn about products. Another report by Arbitron Research found that of those shoppers who have seen in-store TV, almost 30% made an unplanned purchase as a result. The latest aggregated retail industry data indicates an average sales uplift of 10% on promoted products with a resulting 2.4% increase in revenue. Major deployments have recorded average sales increases as high as 25% across advertised products (eg Sainsbury’s Convenience Stores, UK).

2. Maximizing average transaction. Retailers, now more than ever, are seeking ways to up-sell and cross-sell using targeted messaging in-store. Especially in retail environments where customers are less likely to engage a sales-person, in-store digital media provides a dynamic way to highlight product stories, pairings and accessories.

3. More efficient PoS at reduced cost. It seems crazy in this age to be cutting down trees, shipping the paper around the world, printing toxic inks onto it, road freighting it to all the stores, hoping the staff displays it correctly, then hoping they remove it at the appropriate time, paying them for their time to do both and finally throwing it in the bin! The potential for cost savings and increases in efficiency over traditional point-of-sale marketing materials is clear. Digital provides real-time control of in-store marketing on a site-by-site or hour-by-hour basis if required. It allows retailers to react to market conditions, changing campaigns on a dime without waiting for printed material to be produced and delivered or worrying about store compliance. It makes localised offers, information and pricing easy.

4. Improved yield from major media campaigns. So you spent millions getting into people’s homes via TVCs, online banners and video… only to have them arrive at the store with – and this is well established through research – no purchase preferences in mind! In order to maximize your marketing spend it’s critical that you support it in-store, and what better way to drive those dynamic video-based media campaigns right through to point-of-purchase than by using…a dynamic video-based medium. No, you shouldn’t simply play yourt TVC in store, but you should most certainly repurpose the same key images and concepts to re-inforce them and drive them home…to the cash register.

5. Communicating value propositions. With customers looking to save money without sacrificing quality, many retailers have developed a compelling value story. They’re communicating the attributes of private label products or reinforcing value messaging and are seeking to measure the effectiveness of their in-store messaging in real time to ensure the message is resonating with the right customers. Intersecting these messages with the shopping process of course is the most important way to tell the story. Similarly digital in-store media is great way to communicate the benefit of loyalty programs right where it counts – where the shoppers are.

6. Increasing ROI from ‘soft’ marketing initiatives. Sponsorships, Corporate Social Responsibility programs, community support initiatives – these are all great to strengthen the bond with customers but in times when few can afford to promote such initiatives in the broader media, how do customers get to hear about them? A few might read up on your website, but how relevant is that at the cash register? In-store digital media provides an engaging platform to convey this sort of information especially where dwell time is longer.

7. Revenue from 3rd parties. It’s said that WalMart has the USA’s 4th biggest TV audience through its digital signage network! And if you want to reach all those millions of eyees, you’re going to pay for the privilege – up to US$250,000 per week. Prior to installing their network, what was WalMart’s yield in the asset that is it’s customer base? Zero. Most retailers have an unrealized asset in their customer numbers. Even if you prefer not to open up your environment to third party messages of questionable relevance to your own offering, you may still be prepared to display messaging by the brands you carry, and to maintain relevance to your own brand the medium could be used for joint promotions.

Now is the time for retailers to act. Hardware costs are down and compelling leasing options make monthly expenses a small fraction of incremental revenue generated, guaranteeing a measurable ROI. For as little as a few hundred dollars per store per month, retailers can deploy in-store digital media to more effectively engage with customers at the point of decision and take decisive action to combat the challenges of decreasing footfall and more frugal consumers.

Look out for my next paper Measure Twice, Cut Once – a structured approach to getting started in digital signage
instore tv

Chris Arnold – a marketer with ethics…really!

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , , on April 16, 2010 by marketingheart

I really really value what Chris Arnold has to say. He’s just absolutely not riding the hype on any issues, he’s what marketers all proclaim themselves to be – a clear and original thinker.

Here’s what he has to say about social media….(Social media guru warning: you won’t like this!)