Top 6 marketing articles from the last two weeks (3/7-3/21)

March 22, 2010

It has been a little while since I compiled my list of marketing articles and posts that I have found to be particularly insightful. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read several articles that I really enjoyed, and I thought I would highlight these, just in case you might have missed them (after all, a lot of people are on spring break these days).  I hope you find a few of these useful or interesting.  Enjoy!

CMOs, Go Beyond a PR Plan to Prepare for an Inevitable Product Crisis (Ad Age).  There have obviously been quite a few branding crises these days — between spokespeople losing their respect and credibility to massive product failures and recalls.  This article provides a great reminder of the plan that every brand leader should have in place before a crisis strikes.  The plan should not just have a well-planned PR component, but it must consider and address every touch point that the brand has with its target customers.  The article raises quite a few issues that might not be top of mind in the heat of the moment, but that are absolutely critical to the crisis management process.

Real-Time Brand Management:  Lessons from Virgin America’s Hellish Flight (Harvard Business Review). Continuing from the theme of the first article, this blog post presents a good miniature case study of how Virgin America quickly managed a perception crisis last week.  While this article does not necessarily highlight the plan that Virgin America had in place to mitigate the crisis, it does illustrate some additional things that brands can do routinely before a crisis occurs so that when it does, the brand can be managed in “real time”.

Wal*Mart, Target, Best Buy Named Most Valuable (Retail) Brands (Brandweek).  While the list of the most valuable retail brands is fairly interesting in itself, this article provides some good commentary regarding the strategies that helped brands grow and the strategies that undermined the value of brands.  One unsuccessful strategy mentioned is the “flight to price” strategy.  The analysis of the strategies is applicable to all types of consumer brands — not just retail brands.

Opinion:  Customer Service is Key Strategy (Brandweek).  Joseph Jaffe, the author of this editorial, writes, “During increasingly confusing, cluttered and complex times, what is it that really separates — or differentiates — one company, product, service or brand from another?”  He answers his own question that customer service or “servicing the customer” is the key differentiator for brands and should be the focal point for the marketing department.

How to Write a Mission Statement that Doesn’t Suck (Fast Company).  The author Dan Heath provides an entertaining yet very accurate assessment of how the mission statement development process can fail.  For anyone who has ever participated in developing a mission statement, this article is worth reading just for its humor and insight, if nothing else.  If you are currently developing or revamping your mission statement, this article provides great inspiration for what you should focus on, and what you should avoid.

Shopping Aisles at Cutting Edge of Consumer Research and Tech (Ad Age).  This article provides some interesting examples of what consumer packaged goods companies are doing to study their consumers during the act of shopping for products (from making the shopping list at home to purchasing in the store).  The emphasis on and investment in shopper marketing in the last few years has grown substantially among CPGs and retailers, and it is fascinating to understand some of the insights that have been uncovered.  If you are in the process of considering investing in or building a shopper marketing research program, this article worth reviewing.

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The opportunities for marketing in a downturn

May 4, 2009

Last week, I read the post on BrandFreak.com about how a downturn can be an exciting time for ‘run of the mill’ brands.  I absolutely have to agree.  A little while ago, I worked on the SpaghettiOs brand at Campbell Soup, and at the time, I would have loved to have been able to market that brand during a downturn in the economy.  Don’t get me wrong, marketing any kind of brand during a downturn is scary and challenging, but it also changes your consumer’s mindset.  A product that hasn’t changed for 50 years, but that consistently provides a relevant benefit at a very affordable price point suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting and desirable to consumers — as long as you remind them of how you fit into their lives and meet their current needs. 

To take the BrandFreak post a step further, I would argue that it is also an exciting time to be managing a ‘premium’ brand or one that might be considered more than ‘run of the mill’.  Undoubtedly, brand managers of this type of brand are feeling a little uncomfortable right now, but there is an opportunity to continue to develop your brand in this tough time — as long as you are making sure that your emphasis is on the value that you are providing your consumers.

My message to both types of brand managers is this:  this is an exciting time to be marketing your brand because it will encourage you to help your consumers change the way they might have traditionally viewed you.  You have the opportunity to successfully market your brand in this economic climate, if you demonstrate your value and relevancy to your consumer.

For ‘Run of the Mill’ Brands

How are you using this downturn to your advantage? 

  • Are you reminding your consumers about how useful and relevant you are? 
  • Are you finding cost-effective ways to communicate with your consumers to let them know that you provide an important benefit at excellent value? 
  • Are you tapping into consumers’ natural gravitation toward nostalgia, comfort, and reassurance to help drive your brand?
  • Are you helping them discover new uses for your product or service that they might not have considered before?

If you aren’t doing these things, you might be leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.  Think about how you can take advantage of the shifting needs of your consumer so that you are more meaningful.

For ‘Premium’ Brands

How are you demonstrating that you are ‘worth paying more for’?

  • Are you highlighting all of the value that you have to offer?  (For instance, Starbucks for a long time only highlighted its superior coffee and didn’t talk much about all of the other important value that it provided such as community involvement, better environmental and social practices, etc.  Now it has decided to start talking about these things to help highlight all of the value it provides)
  • Are you demonstrating a commitment to your consumers to help them get all of the value that they can from your product or service?
  • Are you identifying ways that you can add more value to your product or service, without increasing the cost to the consumer?
  • Are you considering removing benefits or attributes of your product or service that consumers might consider less important so that you can lower the cost (or at least not increase the cost) to your consumer?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but these would be some things to consider doing to help elevate the perceived value that you provide to your consumers.

At the end of the day . . .

I won’t pretend that marketing during a downturn is easy for any kind of brand.  However, if you adapt your marketing to this economic climate, it should make your brand that much stronger coming out of the downturn.  Making sure that your consumer is clear on the value that you provide is never a bad idea — and it is an especially good idea to focus on it during a downturn.


Can Kraft go even further beyond the bagel?

April 6, 2009

I read Brandweek’s article “Kraft goes beyond the bagel” this morning and was very impressed by Kraft’s work to make cream cheese relevant beyond the morning day-part.  I found this article particularly intriguing, because as  30-something female morning cream cheese consumer, I had already noticed the new advertisements that show Philadelphia cream cheese as afternoon snack as opposed to a morning bagel topping, and thought “Well that is a good idea.  I’ll keep that in mind for a tasty snack.”   I guess I was a little slow to actually think about Kraft’s new strategy to increase product usage when I saw the new commercials.

Putting that aside, the Brandweek article made me think about a way that Kraft could further increase usage, and enter into additional adjacent categories.  What if Kraft decided to go beyond spreads and condiments with cream cheese, and actually start to position itself against other “cracker” toppings — such as fine cheeses, meats, tapenades, etc?  Now would be the time to give it a try — everyone is looking to save a few pennies here or there.  So instead of spending $5 or more on third of a pound of Blue Stilton cheese, people might seriously consider purchasing some Philadelphia Cream cheese that is priced much lower, and using it as a base for a “like homemade” premium cracker topping.  All Kraft would have to do would be to show this “premium occasion” usage, and then provide some easy recipes to transform the cream cheese from a “snack” topping, to a more premium appetizer topping. 

I am sure that this isn’t a new idea to the folks at Kraft, and I admit that the premium appetizer occasion probably doesn’t drive a whole lot more frequency.  However, it just strikes me that it would be an easy way to further extend the usages of the product, with a relatively small investment (adding one more product/situation shot into a commercial and then updating a recipe on package or on the website).   And as I said above, now is the perfect time to do it.  People would be very receptive to the message, and since it is predicted that people might not go back to their previous spending habits once the economy recovers, this could get cream cheese in the hands of many, and then it might stay part of their routine for many years to come.