Author Archive

Self-Segmentation

April 22, 2009

Michael Fassnacht wrote a strong piece for AdAge about the rise of self-segmentation in marketing.  His premise points to three cultural shifts that mitigate the impact of traditional consumer segmentation.  Paramount among these are that consumers are moving between segments.  And if consumers are dynamic, moving ever more easily between segments, the onus is on the brand to make itself accessible at all of the relevant possible points of discovery.  As Michael puts it:

It’s not surprising that two of the most successful product and retail companies, Apple and Amazon, are not masters of consumer segmentation but experts in building relevant products that consumers choose. Their marketing communication is segment-based but does not depend on pursuing an ever-increasing level of micro-segment-specific relevance. They are far more focused on building and communicating relevance relationships than in micro-segmenting consumers by any kind of attributes.

The rise of social networks has allowed for even greater fluidity among customer segments in both expression and discovery.  On Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I connect to different groups with different interest (multiple forms of self-expression) and in those environments I am exposed to new conversations (which leads to discovery).  Through My Family connection on Facebook, I am now exposed to my Aunt Nancy’s ardent evangelism for Harley thanks to her new motorcycle.

The article provides 4 tips for encouraging consumer self-segmentation [excerpted here]:

  1. Build correlation clusters between purchased products and services, and serve them up as recommendations (Amazon, Apple’s Genius feature).
  2. Offer networking opportunity based on self-acclaimed interests (Facebook, LinkedIn).
  3. Design and provide content or a deal-alert function that automatically informs consumers about something new or interesting in the “opted-in” interest domain of a consumer (Google Alert, Orbitz Fare Alert).
  4. Enable sharing of consumer-generated content or feedback in the context of your brand (BlueCross’ “Power of the Human Voice” campaign).

The lesson here: in addition to consumer segmentation, marketing departments are going to have to work extra hard to make their brands more discoverable and accessible to consumers.  Consumers’ interests are ever-changing, they have infinite choice and now they have a say in your brand.

– Forrest Wright

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The Real Green Economy

April 14, 2009

Last week, MediaPost ran an article about the double-digit increase in the home gardening sector.  This is a bright spot, but not altogether unexpected given the seismic cultural shifts toward self-sufficiency, consumer basics, and spending more time at home.

What is interesting is how quickly companies are jumping on this bandwagon.  Last night, Home Depot ran a primetime, network ad that featured all of the ways in which Home Depot can help you with your gardening.  Hedgeclippers, lawnmowers, fertilizer and, of course, vegetable plants.  What struck me was how much airtime the $3.49 container of tomato plants got.  It’s obviously not their big ticket item but it does reposition Home Depot to be in the consideration set for home gardeners.

campbell-0414bjpg

This morning, MediaPost ran an article on Campbell’s Soup.  Campbell’s is running a promotion called “Help Grow Your Own Soup” (HGYOS), with the goal of growing one billion tomatoes.  They’re doing this by making their tomato seeds available to the public through a code-redemption promotion.  They are also raising money for agricultural education and helping create five community gardens.

This is a well-planned reinforcement of Campbell’s persona as a downhome brand, one that’s nourishing and good for families.  It also squarely re-establishes itself as an essential pantry basic so parents will keep stocking their pantries with Campbell’s, even when making those tough grocery budget decisions.  Nice work staying relevant, Campbell’s.

If these initiative work as I am expecting, be on the lookout for more Green marketing initiatives around home gardening.  I’m sure Target, K-Mart and food manufacturers will continue this trend throughout the spring.

Don’t touch that Dial!

February 25, 2009

by forrestsloan

Why recap what’s perfectly stated?

“LiveScience.com reports that a new study shows that people who touch an item at a store are more likely to not only buy an item, but pay more for it.”

For more details, check out this article.

On Target

February 25, 2009

by forrestsloan

The Target commercials “Brand New Day” are spot-on when it comes to understanding the new houshold economics.

They get that every purchase is now a serious economic decision so the benefits have to be front and center.  This goes for everything, no matter how basic.  Nowadays, a $9.99 DVD purchase and a $2.99 box of microwave popcorn are a much easier sell when framed as a “night at the movies” because you’re providing consumers with a lower-cost alternative to something they already are doing or might want to do.

Ad Age ran a nice piece today titled “Can Moms Save Us from the Recession?.”  It details some of the psychology behind household purchase decisions as made by today’s Mom.  Link to it here.   The parallels between these findings and the new Target ads are pretty obvious.  Nice work, Target.

Holiday Retail Fallout Part 1: “Spirit” vs. “Present”

February 25, 2009

by forrestsloan

Looks like the ghost of Christmas Present is just that, a ghost.

MediaPost ran an interesting article about the most popular search keywords this holiday.  Last year, the #1 search was “Christmas present,” with “Christmas shopping” coming in at #4.  This year, the top search was for “Santa letter,” followed by “Christmas wish list,” and “Christmas spirit.”  The words “present” and “shopping” didn’t even make it into this year’s top 10. Where did they go?

Somewhere along the line, the more genteel word “gift” has replaced “present” and “spirit” has become something you search for.

Marketers take note.  As San Francisco-based Kontera surmised (they provided the analysis for this report), we are faced with more thoughtful consumers now.  And if they’re more thoughtful in their spending, you can bet that they are seeking value and meaning in their purchases.

It’s time to adjust those marketing messages for ’09.

Presidential Brand Personalities

October 25, 2008

Advertising Age ran an interesting, albeit light, article about Obama vs. McCain as brand personalities.  I suspect that the survey itself is deeply flawed (if they provided the brands under consideration, they de facto shrank the consideration set and prejudiced the answers) but it’s still a good illustration of the brand personality concept.

How do you see Barack Obama?

HP as a Jump-Start for Start-ups

September 24, 2008

For the last year, Hewlett-Packard has been fleshing out its brand with its “What do you have to say?” campaign. So far it has positioned HP’s hardware as tools for self-expression. Competitively, this encroaches on Apple’s position in the personal computer space and elicits comparisons. Not a bad move to be the PC option in the same consideration set as Apple. But I’m not sold yet. I’d like to see what the ROI was on those gorgeous Gwen Stefani ads. Read the rest of this entry »

TechCrunch50 – Differentiation in the DemoPit

September 13, 2008
Natalie Terashima o.b.o. FiveSprockets)

TC50 DemoPit (photo credit: Natalie Terashima o.b.o. FiveSprockets)

They billed it as the Sundance of tech conferences and they didn’t disappoint.  At least twice during TechCrunch50, I thought to myself, “Wow.  I just witnessed history being made.” (That distinction goes toSwype and tonchidot which, I swear, was straight out of Minority Report.)

But for those tech companies that weren’t showcased on stage like the chosen 50 and instead had to pay to exhibit, it was a much bigger challenge getting their voices heard.  Read the rest of this entry »

Microsoft’s new brand character is…a middle-aged guy from the 90’s?

August 22, 2008

Yesterday, Microsoft announced a $300 million dollar Windows advertising campaign intended to boost the brand perception of its beleaguered Vista operating system.  This is surely counterprogramming to Apple’s highly successful Mac vs. PC ads which feature John Hodgman as the frumpy, stuffy, middle-aged personification of PC (i.e. Microsoft and Windows).

Their new brand ambassador in this campaign?  Jerry Seinfeld.  Read the rest of this entry »

What’s in a Name?

August 21, 2008

Recently, I was helping a friend try to figure out a name for a mobile software start—up. The field’s so crowded with ventures now that it’s not easy to pick a name that hasn’t already been taken. And it’s even harder to avoid names that are too techy, too cutesy, too clunky or just too, well, plain. The only thing we were certain of was not taking a regular word and starting it with the letter “i.”

After umpteen passes with random imagination we decided to take a different approach. Rather than just brainstorm names, we would first identify the qualities we thought would constitute a good name so we had something against which to judge our ideas. Here’s what we came up with:

FLEXIBLE — A word with multiple meanings and interpretations. Better yet — a word that can be used as a verb or a noun. Not only does this open up more possibilities for your marketing communications, it gives your design team a lot more options. At one point we had gone down the road of fly—fishing imagery (tangential, yes, but we still think it’s cool) and words like “fly,” “lure,” and “catch” all fit this bill.

EVOCATIVE — You want a name that conjures up interesting imagery. Imagery that will be powerful in telling your story and conveying your brand image. Words attached to common metaphors (like “window,” “door,” “sky”) are also more apt to translate internationally. But beware: you also want to conjure up the right imagery. One name that we came up with was quickly squashed by the graphic designer because the first thing it made her think of was the creature in Alien. Not so friendly. Google got this one right with the name of their new mobile platform, Android, even if it is a bit scary. Flickr got it right too. And Richard Branson really got it right with Virgin.

WE LIKE TO SAY IT — Maybe it’s hard to quantify this, but we all know it when we hear it. There are onomatopoeic words like “sizzle.” Words with hard sounds like “hatch” and “jot.” And just plain goofy words that are fun to say like “Google,” “Zoho” and “Twitter.”

AVAILABLE DOMAIN & DEFENSIBLE — a minor detail (heh)

We never did come up with a name. I think the lawyers are duking it out over a bunch of second string ideas. Turned out the one we liked most were too polarizing. But, we still think these are useful guidelines for those of you undertaking the Sisyphean task of naming your start—up. Good luck.

Mom was right. Listen before you speak.

July 27, 2008

I came across the following post on Ad Age, Digital Next:

“Old habits die hard. While consumers are out there spending countless hours on social networks, file sharing applications, chat, community sites, buying stuff, selling stuff and using multiple devices, some of us tradigital old fogies are still reaching for our beloved toolbox of the past in the hopes of getting their attention…Little did we know that the real action happens in the comments. Have we thought about talking back to people or are we really just interested in telling our stories?”

I think this is a great question to ask — and one that should be taken a step further. Why are companies so much more interested in talking, rather than listening?

Read the rest of this entry »

A New Chapter for Apple?

May 21, 2008

The Apple brand is going to have to start telling a new story soon.

In the 1980s, Apple launched their “1984” ad. They were not just introducing the new Mac brand with this campaign, but also a new product category — the personal computer. Apple portrayed their product launch as something groundbreaking, revolutionary and — at least metaphorically — heroic. The words: “…why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” The pictures: a female athlete hurls a sledgehammer and destroys the image of Big Brother. In filmmaking, this storyline falls under the superhero genre. Someone or something comes along to overcome incredible odds and save us. That’s what Apple promised and that’s what Apple did.

Read the rest of this entry »