Thursday, February 28, 2008

In-game Advertising

In-game advertising or (IGA) has been a recent phenomenon as video gaming has grown at an unprecedented rate in the last decade. With strong video game sales, companies are looking at video games as a new venue to advertise. According to Massive Incorporated In-game advertising was $56 million in 2005 and is expected to grow up to $2 billion in 2010. Companies look to target both and casual and hardcore video gamers that might not be an avid television or movie viewer. A benefit for companies to have In-game advertising is that most of the time the advertisement is not an annoyance like a television or radio commercial. Therefore, video gamers will have a slightly more positive reaction to the brand. Another benefit, is that companies are able to target a young audience to be loyal to their brand. For example if you are playing a racing game and choose a fast, chances are you would build a connection with the brand of the car that wouldn't have existed with the video game. Examples of In-game advertising are car brands in racing games and shoe brands in sports games.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Honk for Vern Fonk

This new Vern Fonk Auto Insurance ad is brilliant! Although I would never buy insurance from Vern Fonk, he has found a great way to single out his potential customers. Most are irresponsible first time auto owners, DUI drivers not able to acquire auto insurance, and people who are not willing to research for better insurance. While other insurance companies relate to serious situations, for example (Allstate) "are you in good hands", emphasizing the risk and potential harm that they can protect you from if you are insured with them. Although in contrast Vern Fonk is dancing on cars, has women dancing on cars, and a crazy cowboy shouting "Shapoopi". Not exactly what I would consider a good insurance company, but this branding for Vern Fonk seems to work for his specific audience.

Bus Ads

Here are some fun bus ads I found on the website, Check out the site for more ads!

New NBA branding campaign

This ad is for the new campaign the NBA is launching to increase awareness of league their new slogan is "where amazing happens"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Starbucks Sizing

I’d really like to know why they don’t just have small, medium, large, extra large. That would make everyone’s life much easier. I personally don’t go to Starbucks because I hate all things coffee with a passion and am unwilling to pay their prices for anything else. But I still get amusement from hearing people talk about their Starbucks experience. But if I could get a 64oz hot chocolate for two to three bucks I'd be there every day.

Trader Joe's Recipe for Success

In one of our past classes we had discussed about what sets Trader Joe’s apart from other stores such as Whole Foods, Safeway or Albertsons. This article talks about Trader Joe’s strategy and how it is able to survive keeping the same concept for the past 41 years. Their basic concept is “Delivering unique products at reasonable price.”

I myself love going to Trader Joe’s because of the variety of options available there. There are all kind of healthy, organic and diet stuff as well as amazing Swiss chocolates available which I cannot get anywhere else at the same price.

Japanese McDonald's Ads

Here are two different Japanese McDonald's ads, both with the same background music, style & theme, but one with a female and one with a male. In class, we've had discussions about sexual advertisements, but what really differentiates a sexual advertisement from a not-so-sexual advertisement? For example, in both of these McDonald's ads, the main focus is not the burger, but mostly the man and the woman (models), wearing the Ronald McDonald outfit and the red and yellow (McDonald's theme colors). One could argue that although these ads are not extremely sexual, they do have a hint of sexual advertising going on. It just goes to show that pretty much any product nowadays can be (in even the slightest bit) sexually advertised. Even a burger!

What Every MBA Student in the World Needs to Know.

Does Web Buzz Move Cars?

Here's the bottom line from the article-

Positive online buzz doesn't necessarily translate to vehicle sales, Mr. Dean said. But, he added, "if [online consumer] sentiment is low, you're not going to generate sales."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Now's not the time to trim marketing budgets

This news story confronts those managers who view marketing budgets as discretionary income that should be cut during lean economic cycles. The author points out that using marketing budgets in more creative ways with an eye to efficiency can increase the audience for a product.

Facebook experiences drop in audience!

The social network Facebook has suffered its first dip in audience figures since July 2006, according to data from Nielsen Online. The 5% drop, from 8.9m UK unique visitors in December to 8.5%m in January, follows 17 successive monthly increases in Facebook's UK audience.

However, Facebook's UK audience is still 712% higher than it was a year ago and up 9% on the last quarter. Its nearest rival network, MySpace, had the second highest amount of unique UK visitors, 5.0m, in January, down 9% year-on-year.

Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst, Nielson Online, says: "Just as one swallow doesn't make a summer, so one month of falling audiences doesn't spell the decline of Facebook or social networking."

Teenage social networking site Bebo, which was third in audience terms, also registered the third highest growth in UK, up 53% year-on-year to 4.1m. Piczo, a social network also aimed at teenagers, registered the second highest growth in UK audience, a 56% year-on-year rise, to 500,000.

In my opinion, a facebook "addict", I believe the marketing from the Facebook team has been poor. Originally people solely went on facebook to communicate and share photos with one another! It was fun and easy! Nowadays, that process is disrupted by pointless applications which affect the simpleness of previous communication on the site. Facebook has allowed people to do almost anything they want with their page. It is so easy to access other people's information now too, that parents no longer deem their children safe whilst on this website. Facebook isnt the only site with this problem. The safety of social-networking is always going to be argues so will Facebook risk losing more of their audience to please the parents?

Nike launches green basketball shoe!

Sportswear giant Nike has joined forces with basketball star Steve Nash to launch what it claims is the first basketball shoe made from manufacturing waste.

The Nike Trash Talk, modelled on the Nike Zoom BB II Low, uses waste leather and synthetic materials from the factory floor, as well as environmentally preferred rubber which reduces toxics.

The show meets Nike's Considered design standards for sustainable product innovation and, said the company, was inspired by Nash's passion for environmental awareness.

Nash, guard for the Phoenix Suns, said: "Any opportunity to promote the environment and preserve our planet is a step in the right direction. I'm very excited to be one of the first athletes to wear the Nike Trash Talk."

Nike footwear designer Kasey Jarvis said he was looking for a "here and now" solution to footwear waste in creating the design. The shoes will be sold in various colours at the House of Hoops by Footlocker retail outlets.

A great way to promote the care for our environment. Using a worldwide brand name that everyone knows! Will it create more awareness? Is it positive marketing for Nike? I think so, definately.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Creative Advertising

Over the weekend, I looked at different types of advertising done around the world. My favorite one was this image. This image was an ad by Mini Cooper - it was placed at Zurich, Switzerland train station. It gives the consumers / public the idea and perception that the mini cooper is indeed a small car but it has a fair amount of space.

Bissell's MVP promo

In order to establish a better rapport with the consumers, Bissell, the vacuum cleaner company, is promoting a Most Valuable Pet photo contest. People can visit Bissell’s web-site and access the contest page through it. There, the viewers can submit their cat’s and dog’s pictures once a week, and the public gets to vote on their favorite one. The winner at the end of the week gets a vacuum, and the grand prize winner gets a photo shoot to be on the next year’s vacuums and their packaging.

I think that this promo is great for Bissell’s business, because people have to navigate through the site and some may even look at the wide inventory of the vacuums. Furthermore, because the vacuum company has a specific line to remove pet hair off the furniture, it’s a great opportunity to show its customers that Bissell “cares” about pets and their owners, and also to show their appreciation by giving away prizes every week, and one grand prize in May.
Bissell also has the promotion phase down, because once the pet owner submits their pet’s picture, then they will probably spend time telling everyone around them to go and vote on for their Sparky or Fluffy. This generates free publicity for the vacuum company via word-of-mouth.

Overall, this is a brilliant idea from the marketers at Bissell.

Friday, February 22, 2008

BRIC and Innovations: Some Ironies

A few days ago, I wrote a short piece on the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China -- and retail trends.

More on the retail issue later.

In this note, I want to go briefly into BRICs as sources of innovation.

In its March 2008 issue, the magazine Fast Company profiled what it considers the 50 most innovative companies in the world.

The usual suspects - Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Nike -- are in the top 10.

The surprising thing is the appearance of China's Alibaba at No. 9. Only two other BRIC companies appear on the list: India's Tata Group at No. 47 and China's Baidu at No. 50. B (Brazil) and R (Russia) of the BRICs have not yet made an appearance on this list. Non-US companies, other than the ones from China and India just mentioned, are from Malaysia (AirAsia), England (Arup), Germany (BMW), South Korea (LG and Samsung), Japan (Nintendo and Toyota), and Finland (Nokia).

One thing is clear -- all the economic bad news, deficits, and unfunded entitlements notwithstanding -- as far as Fast Company is concerned, USA remains the red hot crucible of innovation.

I want to turn to the three BRIC companies in this top-50 innovators list: Alibaba (China), Tata Group (India) and Baidu (China).

Ironies abound in the appearance of these three in the list. India is seen as the second mecca of IT outside of USA, yet it is two IT companies from China that have made the list. For all its IT outsourcing prowess, India has not produced the level and scale of innovation in IT that China has. Perhaps the free-market nature of India is partly the reason. As soon as innovative IT firms from India hit the radar screen, many get snapped up by acquiring firms in USA or elsewhere.

But there is more to it than that. In the same issue of Fast Company, Professor Richard Florida of University of Toronto writes that the world is NOT flat (a counter to the phrase popularized by Thomas Friedman of New York Times). Innovation and creativity clusters are very spiky -- stalagmites rising at specific geographic centers above the flat, humdrum surfaces of everyday non-creativity. London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the global geographic spikes of creativity, according to Richard Florida. He further says that places like Detroit, Nagoya and Bangalore are on ruinous treadmills -- running harder to keep pace with innovations happening in Spike Cities. Bangalore, of course, is India's IT city, with 50% more software people working than in California's Silicon Valley. But, if Florida is right, these hordes of IT folks in Bangalore are running in place merely to maintain reasonable share of farmed out IT work. They are not innovating at rates that would make Bangalore a Spike City.

Further ironies in the BRIC innovator list: the only Indian company in the list, Tata Group, is well over a 100 years old. It gets a mention on the list because in recent years it has become very global and fairly innovative -- making trucks in Korea, steel in Europe, and doing software work globally. Tata is surprisingly at both extremes of the automobile market: it is likely to gain control of luxury makes Jaguar/Land Rover (that Ford is spinning off) and it announced in 2008 the Nano, the world's cheapest car at $2500, designed to move millions of customers from 2-wheelers to first-time car buyers.

The Indian company that made the list is over a century old mechanical technology firm, and the two Chinese companies on the list are from-the-scratch IT startups.

Go figure!

Nik Dholakia
University of Rhode Island

Starbucks is slashing 600 jobs- about a third in Seattle.

Many of you may find this post on another blog about Starbucks' layoffs interesting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Starbucks "skinny"

Starbucks is offering a new "skinny latte," a name that has induced some controversy over its specific target toward women.

In Starbucks' defense, "skinny" is a term used in many, many products currently on the market. For instance, the ice cream brand, Skinny Cow..... or how about Slim Fast? This is a widely accepted method for marketing so-called weight-loss products in the US.

The real issues at hand are as such:
*Starbucks claims it is using the term only to promote a healthier lifestyle because its new beverage is made using nonfat milk and sugar-free syrups, which makes it lower in calories and fat. Starbucks spokeswoman, Alisa Martinez, claims the new coffee beverages "focus on the idea of taking better care of oneself."
**Problem --> Dietary requirements have continuously fluctuated. New studies are presented all the time advocating the reduction in consumption of a certain food/ingredient, often followed by some other study refuting that same finding....

From an ethical standpoint, "sugar-free" should not be able to be marketed with better nutrition or a more healthful lifestyle in any way because the effects the artificial ingredients used to produce the products have on our bodies are either known to be adverse or are under scrutiny.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Learning through Advertising

My wife mentioned a commercial she recently saw for Multi-Grain Cherrios and I was able to finally view it. Advertising plays on the ‘perceived’ traits of men and women. Do these types of commercials provide a learning experience for the perception of others or is it truly just advertising? Will this sell more cereal?

I could not find the commercial online or within YouTube, so here’s a brief descriptions:

The commercial begins with the shot of a lady eating a bowl of the cereal. Her husband enters the room, looks at the box, and proceeds to ask questions. His first question is “Are you on a diet?” She has no reason to reply verbally and only gives him “the look”. From this he determines that he’s asked the wrong question and tries to stop from digging the hole that he now finds himself in by reflecting that the box states, “this cereal is low in calories” which is another bad move. As the commercial proceeds he gets deeper and deeper into the hole, by the wife just proceeding to give him ‘the look’ with each iteration out of his mouth. Finally the commercial ends with her asking what else the box says. He holds the box up and says “Shut-up, Steve”. The next shot is her smiling and continuing to consumer her cereal.

What does this commercial say about how husband’s perceive their wives eating healthier? To my wife, it clearly indicates that just because women are eating healthy they must be dieting. To me, it teaches me to keep my mouth shut until all the facts are readily available.

Registration pages – An introduction to the company

When entering a website for the first time, what does it say about that company when you are required to ‘opt-out’ of any promotional offers/advertisements?

First and foremost, it speaks volumes to the fact that this particular company is highly likely to pass along or sell you personal information to their sponsors. In today’s electronic era, no one needs to be inundated with more information.

Next, it seems to give the initial impression that they believe consumers aren’t going to pay attention to their website, thereby allowing them to deceive you into receiving these unsolicited advertisements. There are hundreds of websites for companies that don’t take this advantage. Why? Obviously, the companies that allow the consumer to choose to ‘opt-in’ for these advertisements and special offers is confident enough in their webpage and product since they allow the consumer to make a choice. A great man, President John F. Kennedy, stated the four fundamentals of consumer rights, one being the right to choose. The assumption of acceptance is borderline criminal. These companies are taking away this given right by presuming what the consumer wishes to receive once the transaction with the company is completed. Once you are sucked into the realm of receiving these unsolicited advertisements, most of these companies choose to make the ‘opt-out’ policy difficult, if not impossible, to find.

Is there a code of ethics that should be applied to all websites where this offer is given?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I know I'm a little late since Valentines day was a couple days ago, but here's an m&m's Valentines day ad that I found very clever and interesting. The ad promotes a website that allows customers to have custom printed m&ms shipped to them. The "My m&m's" order is not only limited to Valentines day either; it can be personalized with any message (and be used as a gift.)

I think this is a great idea. The fact that you can now even personalize m&m's is crazy but awesome. Consumers who don't usually buy m&m's may be drawn to this and begin to order the "My m&m's" as gifts. Also, it's something new and creative and will draw the attention of many consumers.

Check it out:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hi-Def Uncertainty

Blu-ray has been in the news this past month with the announcement that Warner Brothers would begin full fledged support of Blu-ray and slow phase out HD-DVD production throughout the year. Many analysts have seen this as a definitive blow, giving Blu-ray the clear lead over HD-DVD in the High Definition format war. Both Universal Studios and Paramount, however, have also announced that they have no future plans to release movies on the Blu-ray format, sticking exclusively with HD-DVD. Unfortunately for the consumer who can either pick a format and hope it wins the format war, there still isn’t a clear choice of either side as to which player to buy.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has announced two significant changes to the Blu-ray format since its release mid-2006. The first Blu-ray players and discs are known as Profile 1.0 which did not require any of the additional hardware necessary for a player to take advantage of the many special features found on most movie discs. The second generation of Blu-ray discs and players, called Profile 1.1 or “Bonus View” profile, were introduced November 2007. The new players are required to have more powerful hardware to take full advantage of the advanced menus and features found in Profile 1.1 Blu-ray discs; there is no guarantee that any of the Profile 1.1 discs will work on original Profile 1.0 players. The Blu-ray Disc Association also announced Profile 2.0 or “BD-Live” format which will bring more features to the players and discs. None of the Profile 1.0 and few of the Profile 1.1 players will be capable of playing Profile 2.0 discs when they are released this coming October. When commenting on the thousands of people who eagerly bought the first Blu-ray players only to learn that they would not play the latest or future movie releases the BDA representatives merely said, “[These people] knew what they were getting into.”

On the HD-DVD side there is the issue of the new 51GB disc. This disc was designed to nullify the capacity advantage of Blu-ray’s 50GB disc. Unlike the newer Blu-ray formats, the 51GB disc has been delayed on multiple occasions as it is constantly being refined in order to work with all existing HD-DVD players sold since its January 2006 debut. No mainstream studios have announced use of the new, larger disc until it is certified as fully compatible by the DVD Forum (the international consortium of studios and technology manufacturers who negotiated and agreed upon the original DVD format and it’s official successor, HD-DVD).

With these facts I don’t see myself purchasing any stand-alone high-definition player in the coming year. With the chance that HD-DVD may lose the format war I don’t want to risk spending $120 on a player that may not have any new content being published in a few years. On the other hand there’s no way I’ll spend $400 on a Blu-ray player today as I already know that I won’t be able to play new movies on it once “BD-Live” discs become the standard later this year.


HD-DVD wiki
Blu-ray wiki

Facebook Backlash Against Required Application Invitations

On Zen and Computing - tech support website for everyday people - has an interesting article on the issue of forced application invitations which Facebook addons use as a marketing ploy to spread their userbase. I've been subjected to a few of them myself and find it to be somewhat frustrating.

"The Facebook group Official Facebook Petition: To ban the inviting of friends on Applications describes itself as:

We the members whom have joined this group hereby request that:

1. No application ask or require us to invite our facebook friends to anything for any reason.
2. The ability and privacy to block ALL application requests.

The group has arisen in response to the preferred marketing method of many Facebook Applications. These mini-programs bait members with custom graphics, games, and survey results, but withhold the rewards at the last step of their process until the member invites a certain number of their friends to also try out the application.

Many Facebook members have been inundated with daily invitations to install new applications - some attempt to climb out from the mountain of requests, while others ignore them completely. This Facebook group requests a third approach: cut the problem off at the source by banning all Facebook Applications from requiring members to invite their friends.

What do you think of Facebook Applications forcefully enlisting their audience for their own marketing purposes? If you use Facebook, how do you deal with the incoming waves of application invitations?"

Original Article: Facebook Backlash Against Required Application Invitations.

A Woman's Body and Our Views on What is BEAUTIFUL

I was thinking about how we as women have a lot of pressure on us to be thin. I am not the skinniest girl in the world and I feel that the only way that everyone in life will accept me would be to drop ten pounds. It is really disappointing to me that every commercial I see and every television show shows me a paper-thin airbrushed model as the main focus. No one looks like that in real life! So why do we put ourselves through the torture of dieting and agony of self doubt, when no one is really that skinny? The reason why, is we are programmed to think that way. The media has told us all our life that to be beautiful and accepted we must be stick thin and model perfect. Why have we let the entertainment industry take over our lives? Why can't we decide for ourselves what is beautiful? I just wanted to mention the company Dove who makes soap. Their ad campaigns are so great because they show women of all shapes and sizes. They show scars, pregnancy, fat...but to me it is more beautiful than a skinny model. Also the other commercial I posted is of the makeover of a woman and how her entire image can be changed by make up, a new hair style, and some changes on the computer. Nothing we see on TV and in the magazines are real anymore. So why do we still believe what they are saying to us? Dove provides what they call the Dove Real Beauty Workshops for Girls, where they teach girls how to be confident with themselves and how to not believe in the idea that skinny is not the only beautiful. I love this idea because it is starting to fight against this horrible idea that has been planted in each and every one of our heads. Hopefully some day soon, this idea will spread to everyone and we will be a much happier, much healthier society.

Marketing #1

Gabcast! Marketing #1

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kentucky Fried Cruelty

In class on 2/12/08 we were shown a video made by PETA on the cruelty of the chickens that Kentucky Fried Chicken uses. I found these videos to be somewhat disturbing. I understand that Peta was trying to get the point across that animal cruelty is wrong... and maybe that chickens should be treated the same way as humans, but I found the way that Peta went about these videos was a little much. I really thought it was pretty gross that they showed the ranchers brutally beating the "chicken" (a man in a chicken costume) and also how they showed the chicken being shocked to death by a TV into the bath tub, and lastly they show Col. Sanders giving the chickens, that are harshly caged, needles full of drugs. Overall, I guess Peta got what they wanted from these videos, which was shock value. I just wish the videos didn't have to be so weird they give me the creeps. Maybe Peta decided to play the videos off this way because our society is so into the gruesome, gory, type of movies and TV shows. Maybe Peta felt this was the only way that they could get people involved with animal rights... by making the animals seem like humans, and putting the animals in a human like situation.
Here is the web page if anyone wants to check it out:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mineral water-No longer Green.

Bottled water has been one of the bellwether categories of the “well being” trend which hit the mainstream perhaps 7-8 years back. The “well being” trend was largely seen to be supportive of and in harmony with the “green” trends ( eg organic food- perceived healthier for the individual and more environmental friendly ) .Who would have thought that the “green” wave will soon lash at the shores of “well being ” .

Isn’t it ironic that a product so linked with purity, nature and healthy living is being targeted by the environmental lobbyists. Still bottled water has been one of the fastest growing consumer goods categories over the past 7-8 years , aided by the “well-being” trend , suspicion of tap water quality , strong branding and mass distribution driven by entry of big players like Coke and Pepsi . According to the green party , bottled water now outsells Coke in London . Is this tidal wave in danger of being engulfed by a Tsunami ?

Sample some recent headlines:
San Francisco bans purchase of bottled water by city and county governments “, “Green Party launched a campaign asking Londoners to request tap water in restaurants and pubs” .
The first signs of activism started in Netherlands in 2005 in the form of a brand called NEAU ( translates as NO WATER ) which offered consumers NEAU branded bottles which were empty and could be filled with tap water . Read more about it here .

Meanwhile , water marketers are steaming ahead with new offerings within the bottled water category (fruit flavored water, vitamin enhanced water, mineral water for men , super-premium spring water ) and I can see them continuing to take share of throat from other beverages ( most notably colas and other sugary drinks) .

It is perhaps worthwhile to look at the issues at stake here . Read the SF mayor’s side of the story here and the Bottled water association response here.
I am still mulling which side of the fence I am on .The key issue at stake here is perhaps the Environmental impact /cost of bottled water i.e the incremental energy expended in bottle production , transportation , distribution and recycling ( Note that 93% of bottled water is sold in recyclable plastic , according to an industry website and thus the issue is not of recyclability ) , when one can get almost the same quality ( increasingly in most developed countries) from tap water.

What are your thoughts ? . Is this green terrorism ? Are govt officials playing to the gallery ? Is the industry being unfairly singled out ? Or Is it time the bottled water marketeers stepped back to reconsider and re-orient?

Kings vs the Clown

I prefer a BK Whopper to a Big Mac anyday. It is simply a superior product, far more tasty and succulent than McDonalds’ comparable offering. McDonalds has far greater global reach and BK can never catch up (what a shame). But BK is doing well. Business results in the core US market have been strong with 16 consecutive quarters of growth.

The core target audience for the two brands has always been a bit different with BK attracting less children and more adults . With McDonald’s getting distracted with offering discount gourmet coffee, I see more burger lovers talking to the King rather than Ronald the clown. BK’s marketing has also been sharp over the last 2-3 years (to be expected from a challenger brand) with,, product (Whopper) creation/placement in “The Apprentice” and more recently the whopperfreakout. Thankfully in Hong Kong ( where I live), the BK franchisee seems to be quite strong as they are located at all the right places, e.g the airport , the tourist hotspot-Peak. Long live the King !

Diet coke plus: Addiction goes Healthy

Can’t give up the habit of 5 a day Diet Coke. Reduce your guilt by having Diet Coke plus, infused with Vitamins (or antioxidants). Add goodness to addiction. This sounds similar to McDonald’s attempt to go healthy with grilled sandwiches and salads. Make the heavy user feel good or less guilty about the habit , drive more consumption amongst occasional drinkers and pull back lapsed users who had health concerns about soda. Haven’t tasted it yet but if it tastes like Diet Coke (which is what the reviews say), it should add some fizz to the sales. The packaging is distinctive, but they miss the trick on pricing again (refer previous post- Strong Brands, Timid pricing). As an aside, contrast the prominence given to the parent brand on the packaging of “Diet Coke Plus” to “Jazz by Diet Pepsi”. Is this Pepsi’s attempt to get hardened Coke loyalists into its fold by downplaying the Pepsi logo on the pack? Maybe they have research which says a large number of Coke users don’t even look at anything branded Pepsi.

Hail Hilton, Whither Marriott

Over the last 2 years, I have stayed in a Hilton property in 6 different locations. I like the Hilton experience. They do the basics very well. Simple, Efficient, Modern, Consistent. The whole feel is chic, modern and functional without being cold and minimalistic (unlike some London boutique hotels where you struggle to find the electrical switch for everything). Their frequent stayers program is also one of the best and truly drives loyalty. On the other hand, Marriott has been disappointing. I stayed in a fairly pricey suite in the JW at Hong Kong for a week and it was like I was back in the 80s. It had a CRT TV with a big fat behind, the furniture and décor was frumpy, layout was unimaginative and service was generally poor (starting from the check-in). And all this in their flagship property in Hong Kong, a city known for its mall chic and efficient service. This was not a one-off. My experience as a long term resident at the Marriott residencies at Beijing was also fairly ordinary. In sharp contrast, the year long stay at the Hilton residencies in Colombo was a pleasure. Instead of starting a boutique chain with Ian Schrager Marriott would be well advised to fix their core product. All sizzle, no sausage !!

Time vs Newsweek

Its full fat Newsweek vs Diet Time. I am referring to the print edition. Till about 6 months back, Time was my preferred read and occasionally I used to glance at a Newsweek. Now the tables have turned. In my view, the new TIME is a disaster. In an attempt to spiff up the look they have sacrificed content. Articles are shorter and lack real depth and analysis. There is not much to read beyond 1-2 stories. On the other hand Newsweek, which has always been physically weightier (due to more pages) has upped the ante. There are frequent specials on topical issues (e.g Reviving America, China’s ascendancy) which go beyond one single lead story. The issue on “Reviving America” even had the Iranian President chipping in (Imagine that!). It seems the TIME team are targeting the younger reader who perhaps doesn’t have the attention span to read a long article. Well, they are alienating their core reader base. The damage is done. I have switched my subscription.

SONY's comeback continues

It is good to be vindicated. A few months back I wrote about SONY starting to get its act together. Still not completely out of the woods, but the news keeps improving. They now have real traction in the LCD TV business with BRAVIA.

Latest from US,
“Sony continues to eat up market share in the global LCD marketplace. According to new data released by DisplaySearch, the brand’s BRAVIA range dominated sales in North America, during the fourth quarter of 2007, jumping from 9.7 per cent, to 12.8 per cent. Samsung run Sony a close second, while Vizio came in third, ahead of Sharp. Panasonic maintained its position as the leading plasma brand in the same quarter, with a 38.5 per cent market share”.

To me, BRAVIA is more of a branding and communication success (akin to perhaps VAIO and TRINITRON) unlike WALKMAN and PLAYSTATION which not only had great branding but were real innovations. The BRAVIA campaign is going from strength to strength. Strategically, the idea of focusing single-mindedly on a core category benefit (colour) is great and the executions…well they keep getting better. The competition has been caught napping. Panasonic’s VIERA range and Sharp’s AQUOS don’t even have a dedicated website i.e exist within the company website. Bravia on the other hand has a great website.

The other good news for SONY has been the triumph of Blue-ray over HD- DVD. Also the brand selling line “” is excellent, aptly capturing SONY’s leadership position and heritage

BRIC and Beyond - New Retail Playgrounds

The center of gravity of global retailing is shifting.

In the 19th century, the great emporiums of European metropolises held the world in thrall. The grand stores of London and Paris set the theme for retail innovation and sophistication.

In the 20th century, America reinvented retailing -- from Miracle on 34th Street to McDonald's golden arches. Americanization continued breakneck into the early years of the 21st century, with a Starbucks at nearly every street corner, at least in the advanced nations.

In the 21st century, the economic center of gravity is shifting to the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China. And following the four BRIC countries are the BRIC+11 identified by Goldman Sachs ( And, like aircraft lining up at a busy airport for takeoff, there are even more nations pulling up behind the BRIC+11 to the lift-off airstrip.

These newbie nations on the global economic scene, however, are generally not known for their retailing innovations. For the next few years, the Old World Retailers of Europe and the New World Retailers of the United States are likely to have intense competitive face-offs, trying to establish beachheads in BRIC+11, and to expand their networks in these brand new markets.

Culturally, however, the BRIC+11 are different from Old Europe and New World America.

They will -- they already are beginning to -- usher in some retail formats and methods that are new and not seen in US or EU.

We need to keep examining retail trends globally, with a special focus on BRIC+11, and on the "aircrafts" [nations] lined up behind these 15 countries.

Look for new "birds" in the retail skies.

Enjoy the flight!

Nik Dholakia
University of Rhode Island

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interesting Advertising for Windows home server

This was a very effective adverstising campaign. Linked directly from MSNBC.COM I was originally pulled into this news report:

It took me a second to figure out it was a spoof news report. Also this link for the same product is very well done:

They all link back to this page:

Writing an advertisment as a news report is not an original idea, but I have not seen this done without a clear acknowledgement before hand that it was an advertisement.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Marketing Scams

Building on the Valentine’s post made by UWHottie, I wanted to bring up the fact that no holiday is safe from the advertising and marketing world today. It is very hard to miss all of the different ads to buy numerous piles of junk, right around Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, etc. It is pretty sad that we have taken the religion and the meaning out of every holiday. Holidays like Christmas and Easter were meant for us to praise Jesus and all of the things he did for us. They were not, on the other hand, made for card, flower, chocolate, and toy companies to reap in all the benefits. It really breaks my heart that our society is so materialistic that we cannot see the real meaning of the holidays anymore. We can only see what is shown to us on television or in the Sunday morning ads. I hope that someday soon we would be able to look past all of the gifts.

I don't know about you, but I am never satisfied with the materialistic aspects of the holidays. I wish we could all just be happy recognizing the true meaning of the holiday, and learn that people and family are more important than the gifts we receive. Only then can we really enjoy these holidays.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An interesting marketing duo; Rolex at the Opera?

New Marketing Platform Announced by ROLEX and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

In an interesting move, Rolex teams up with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, in a marketing campaign set to begin in 2009.

"The partnership specifically includes worldwide televisionvisibility before and after the broadcasts of the most well-known televised classical music concerts, the New Year's Concert and the SchÃnbrunn Concert..."

As we talk about target markets, I find it interesting that such a luxurious watch company would choose to advertise to such a small population (seeing as how the opera isn't the most popular venue) but is considered a very presitious, upper class event. I'd venture to guess that 90% + of the people you will find at an opera or orchestra concert fall in the upper, upper class. An event that brings expensive suits, jewelry, and limosines, is sure to have an extremely high population of people that can afford $5000+ watches. They certainly aren't advertising at NBA or MLB games, where you're more likely to find the general public.

At the prices these watches go for, they can only be afforded by a small population, and since this is a tough group to track down, it is very smart for them to advertise at events such as a classical music concert. Here you are likely to find a very high percentage of your target market in one spot, not to mention in a place where they are looking their best, in their most expensive outfits, and are sure to think that a Rolex would make a nice addition to their outfit. I believe Rolex will be able to capture a huge portion of their target market in one place by doing this. An unlikely pair, but brilliant idea.

NOT every girl loves ROSES

As the third busiest holiday nears, I'm sure many people (especially men) are beginning to think about the roses they are "expected" to buy for their women.
With prices only increasing each year, roses are no longer as affordable as they once were. To make it more painful to your wallet, the prices for roses are ridiculously high during this holiday due to the declining dollar around the world. Despite this overpriced marketing technique for just this one holiday every year, the demand for such a flower remains high.

"Red roses have been so inbred in American society as the symbol of love for Valentine's Day that no matter what the pricing structure is, we still continue to sell as many red roses as we can" (Brian Vetter, president of the Arizona State Florists Association as quoted in the Arizona Republic).

"189 million stems of roses are sold in the U.S. on Valentine's Day and 1.2 billion throughout the year" ('s_Day)

The truth is, there are so many beautiful flowers in the world. Roses are so common and so overrated, and especially overpriced!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Superbowl, One of Marketer's favorite days

We all know that besides the game, people look forward to watching the Superbowl because of all of the new comercials that will be televised, at least thats how I feel. This is the one big day that marketers have to show off their products to the world, seeing as how the Superbowl is the #1 watched program in the country. I figure, since company's pay so much to advertise their products, these comercials better be good (funny, entertaining, etc.). Most of them were, for example the beer comercials (bud light & budweiser). It seems like every year these two beer company's compete against each other for the #1 spot. In watching these comercials, I believe that the money that these company's spent to promote their beer, was well spent. They were creative and grabbed the attention of consumer's, and anyone who has tried their product (beer), knows that they can trust these two company's and that they hold great value in their product (3 C framework). This is important for a company to have if they want to be successful, which these two are. However, as we talked about promotion in class, sometimes advertising does not always work. From a personal stand point, I thought that some of the comercials for some of the products that company's were trying to promote, were kind of dumb. For example, the comercial about the new Yukon Hybrid from GMC. Nobody new what the comercial was about until the end when they showed a picture of the Yukon. Or some of the CareerBuilder comercials; I thought that some of these comercials were a little weird as well. Im kind of curious to see what you guys thought of the comercials as well, so hopefully some of you will post some comments as well.

EBay to ban negative seller views

It seems eBay is planning to change the rules of the plans to ban sellers from leaving negative comments about buyers...but how would that affect trust and transparency, which eBay rely on? Would you still bid on eBay, if you knew that seller’s rating did not reflect the real one? Do you think eBay’s plan is acceptable when more openness and transparency are required in the online world? Or Should eBay re-consider its decision?...

Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 17:20 GMT

Online auction site eBay has said it plans to overhaul its feedback system and will ban sellers from leaving negative comments about buyers.

EBay said problems were occurring, and slowing down trade, when buyers left negative comments about sellers who then retaliated with their own views.

From May, those selling on eBay will not be able to leave unfavourable or neutral messages about buyers.

The move, which will affect users worldwide, has angered many sellers.

Sellers say it will leave them unprotected.

Critics of the changes argue that by taking away a seller's right to complain about a problem buyer they will have very little recourse for action when a sale goes wrong.

And they complain that by still allowing buyers to leave dissenting comments about sellers, eBay has skewed the whole trading process.

When both sides have equal access and rights to leave negative comments about each other it is a well balanced trading process, they say. However, eBay counters that problem buyers can still be dealt with.

"If a buyer doesn't pay, the seller can easily contact eBay, we will review any complaint and maybe remove the buyer," a spokesman said.

The changes aim to "improve the overall customer experience", eBay said.

It added that many buyers would not leave negative comments for fear that sellers would retaliate.

As a result, buyers and sellers may not get a fair picture of what is actually happening between trading parties.

It maintains that the majority of transactions go "swimmingly".

EBay says that only a minority of sellers leave negative feedback for buyers.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Valentine's Day, Another of the Marketers' Favorite Holiday

With the most romantic day of the year creeping up next Thursday, I am sure that a lot of guys who have a significant other are feeling the pressure. As with all of the big holidays, we are seeing, and hearing, an increased amount of jewelry commercials both on TV and on the radio from Zales, Kay, Shane Co, etc. The companies deploy ingenious plans, which drop little hints through the commercials in order to plant ideas in men's heads.

However, it is our society that feeds the fire for all of the jewelry ads. Every holiday is now NOT about being with the loved ones and family, but about RECEIVING gifts. And the more expensive they are the better, even if the giver has to go in-debt with the credit card company or borrow money from friends in order to make a loved one happy.

When I see the jewelry commercials, they make me sick. Sure they are showing the most glamorous and flashy diamond pendants, rings, earrings, but unless you are willing to spend over $800, you won’t get the size and prestige that they advertise on TV.

Remember guys: ~ Diamonds are NOT necessarily a girl’s best friend~ Don’t fall for the marketing ploy and be a smart consumer, which includes price shopping if you do decide to get some “bling”.

*I am hoping that some of you will respond to this post and comment on whether or not the jewelry ads and marketing techniques have any effect on your purchasing behavior*

Unethical Marketing

There have been many movies coming out lately with comic book themes like Spiderman, Transformers, etc. that are being marketed to little kids, but the movies themselves are PG-13. My nephew is 6 years old and LOVES Spiderman but has never seen any of the movies. He is constantly being targeted with Spiderman marketing, toys, costumes, games, books, (yes he wears Spiderman pajamas) and wants to see the movies, but my sister knows that they are too violent for him.

It is very unethical for companies to market these movies to such a young audience. Here is an excerpt from the article from the link:

"Between May 2006 and June 2007, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) publicly cited seven instances of PG-13 movies being advertised during children’s television programming. In 2007, Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer featured licensed toys for children as young as four.

In 2005, the PG-13 blockbuster Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith featured toys for young children as well as a Burger King toy giveaway and several other food promotions that clearly appealed to preschool children, despite George Lucas’ public statements that the film’s violence and dark themes were inappropriate for children under six."

Marketing In Games and Social Networks

We are now in the next phase of marketing: the transition into the digital realm. Experimentations with ads in video games and social networking sites are being done. But with the ease made available by the very nature of the digital scene, ads run rampant and perhaps are creating an oversaturated environment.

"The [supposed] solution to everything at the moment in the digital space is adsupported," Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive of Sony, told the Financial Times. "While advertisers are happy to talk that up, there is a limit to the amount of money available."

They also suggest that people are more then willing to accept the intrusion caused by ads if the content they receive is free.

Advertisers cited research showing that consumers found mobile, video game and social network advertising intrusive, but many were willing to put up with it in exchange for free content.

I'm not all that sure about that. With websites and social networks that can work - to an extent - but with gaming? I know a lot of people who are rather frustrated with that. The presentation and form of their advertisement needs to readjust itself to better appeal to the new market that they are finding themselves in.

What do you think about ads in video games or on websites in general?

Source: Financial Times
Via: Kotaku

Sunday, February 3, 2008

An amazing new projector!

This is a very interesting new product.

Another application for this product would be to use it to display advertisements in all sorts of areas that do not currently have them. Perhaps one of the most understated values of this device is that it requires no focus. This means that it can be displayed on items of unequal height or at uneven distances such as objects that are at an angle or moving objects.

Consequently this device could be used to display advertisements on the sides of passing cars in a tunnel, on the side of a bus, or might simply be used to create full 30 fps video advertisements on ordinary billboards.

The lower power requirements and likely reasonable cost of this device are additional factors that will likely contribute to creative adoption of it into non-traditional environments. Admittedly 10 ANSI lumens will be very limiting. The projector I am currently using to write this post is over 600 lumens and it is washed out easily with too much ambient light. However as an exciting new technology this is definitly something to keep an eye on.

Friday, February 1, 2008

What makes an Effective Ad?

With the Superbowl just coming around the corner, not only are people excited about the Giants vs. The Patriots, but also what are going to be the big commercials of 2008? The commercials of the Superbowl have become almost as popular as the game itself. With adds costing millions of dollars the question is what makes an effective add. This is an older Superbowl add (WAZZUP) by Budweiser that was so popular it became an integrated part of our society. The question is why? Is it because of the humor, is it because Budweiser is so delicious, or is it brilliant targeting and segmenting on the behalf of the marketing team at Budweiser?

Super Bowl Ads

Companies are posting their ads before the Super Bowl this Sunday to get their money's worth. Here's an excerpt from this article from The Seattle Times:

Advertisers are jostling for attention for their spots like never before, posting them online in advance of Sunday's kickoff, unveiling them at news conferences, screening them at cocktail parties and releasing behind-the-scenes videos about the ads' production.

"For that amount of money, they want to get more bang out of it," said Neil Burns, professor of advertising at the University of Texas in Austin

Click here to read the whole article.

UK Seatbelt Commercials.

These are really graphic ads that are currently being used in the UK to promote the use of seatbelts.

Here are some specific links to videos- 1, 2.

Warning- the first ad is especially graphic.

Why Microsoft Yahoo is not a Good Idea.

Some of you may have noticed the big news that Microsoft is trying to acquire Yahoo. Here is the Seattle Times story on this. I recently posted a comment on a NYTimes blog on this-

Microsoft has truly made an audacious bid in the online advertising space by approaching Yahoo. However, it is not clear if such a merger is a good idea.

Consider the following.

Google has a tremendous headstart in the online search and advertising business. Microsoft’s performance has been mediocre from the beginning. At this point, they are stuck in a no-win brand fight between MSN and Live. The best case scenario that they currently face is the success of and the demise of MSN.

Even while admitting that Yahoo has had problems in the last few months, the company has been ahead of Microsoft. By accepting Microsoft’s bid, Yahoo threatens to undermine everything that it has ever built. Moreover, the organizational cultures are so dramatically different, the resulting giant will spend months before it can truly compete.

Microsoft has forgotten how to innovate. That is the bigger issue. They cannot always buy their way out of problems. If they really want to fight in the online advertising space, they need to create a better search engine and advertising solution.

Microsoft-Yahoo will be a marriage of a mediocre search engine with a decent one. That is no way to beat a great search engine!

The argument that scale can drive down advertising prices is not a good one as well. Why? Advertising prices are determined by a bidding process among advertisers and by keyword demand. Simply having more media does not solve anything.

Steve Ballmer is clearly trying to save his legacy with this move. In the process, he might sink the company by creating an extraordinary large organization with few synergies. Paradoxically, in the end, the winner might be Google!