Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Service of Who Influences You Now?

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Photo: emojis.wiki

When Pete Wells, The New York Times’ restaurant critic, recently gave legendary Brooklyn steakhouse Peter Luger zero stars, down from two, his review–Peter Luger Used to Sizzle. Now it Sputters–which knocked the stuffing out of the place, drew plenty of attention on local media.

Peter Luger steak Photo: pinterest.com

I’ve not heard of similar impact if a social media venue gave a thumbs down to a product or service. Yet companies believe in their significance to move goods and are paying plenty to get a thumbs up from people they’ve identified as social media influencers to rave to followers on Instagram, Facebook and the like.

According to Suzanne Kapner and Sharon Terlep in their Wall Street Journal article: “What began as friends and family sharing their favorite products has become a lucrative advertising industry of celebrity endorsers, influencers and meme creators. Such paid endorsements, known as sponsored content, are the online equivalent of a 30-second TV spot. Big-name stars can command $100,000 or more for a single YouTube video or Instagram photo.”

As so often happens, greed among some has weakened the value of what had become a good thing for the influencers. [The jury is still out as to whether such endorsements actually sell product and with some manufacturers the bloom is already off the rose.]

Photo: ipsy.com

The reporters wrote in “Advertisers Sour on Online Influencers,” that “a whiff of deceit now taints the influencer marketplace. Influencers have strained ties with advertisers by inflating the number of their followers, sometimes buying fake ones by the thousands. They also have damaged their credibility with real-life followers by promoting products they don’t use.”

The long Journal article gives examples, excuses and alternatives–some advertisers are now using their customers instead of celebrities to endorse products instead–but the paragraph above hits the crux of the flaws in the concept whereby consumers lost trust in influencer claims.  In addition, advertisers can’t track or confirm the success of a YouTube video or Instagram endorsement.

In fact Ipsy, the beauty products company that launched the trend eight years ago is “Now the brand leading the way again, this time by pulling back” from endorsements by influencers.

Click farm. Photo: core77.com

Nevertheless Kapner and Terlep reported that the influencer industry is still lucrative: Global estimates range from $4.1 to $8.2 billion/year in 2019 versus $500 million four years ago. Influencers have made 50 percent more each year in the last two. “Prices per Instagram post range from $200 for an influencer with as few as 10,000 followers to more than $500,000 for celebrities with millions of followers, according to Mediakix.”

One flaw: So-called influencers can easily bolster their follower numbers by hiring “click farms” that “employ people to inflate on-line traffic.” For $49 and $39 you can buy 1,000 YouTube and Facebook followers respectively and that number costs $16 on Instagram, one pundit estimated.

Do traditional reviews influence whether you’ll try a restaurant, product or buy tickets to a movie or Broadway show? Do you check out Yelp or websites that report what customers or patients think of establishments or doctors like ZocDoc? If a celebrity you admire says he/she likes a product on social media or anywhere else, do you give it a try?

Photo: cosmeticsbusiness.com

Service of Marketers Ruling the Roost: When Hip Overrides Clarity

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Photo: eyecatch.co

When service or communications are poor, customers must wonder whether an operation is being run for them, the owners or the staff.

It may be none of the above.

Frequently the marketers run the show. Many are enamored of technology, to heck with whether or not the hip, new effect does the trick. It’s more important to appear to be cutting edge. Take revolving digital screens that move so quickly that customers can’t read and/or absorb the information fast enough. This isn’t a good choice for a fast food restaurant–or for anything else if the fast-moving screen features more than a few words with an image.

Hot & Spicy McChicken Photo: McDonalds.fandom.com

Britton O’Daly wrote “Wait, Where Did That Burger Go? Diners Struggle With Fast-Moving Digital Menus,” in The Wall Street Journal. In one example a customer was frustrated because he didn’t catch the name of a new chicken dish at McDonald’s so instead of waiting for the screen to return–he feared holding up the line–he ordered a burger. I wonder why he felt he couldn’t ask for “one of those new chicken dishes?”

That customer may have been intimidated by marketers who are also in love with the cutesy names they give their products. To be considered “in,” there’s pressure to use them. I break out in a rash when forced to order coffee at Starbucks [I admit you rarely see me in there]. If I want a small coffee with skim that is how I will order it. You can keep your Grande, Venti and Trenta. Phooey.

Photo: pinterest.com

Back to the original subject. O’Daly wrote: “Digital billboards are now everywhere, and companies love them. The only problem: people have a hard time reading them.”

This harkens back to an amazing looking logo in an unreadable font that also irks me. What’s the point?

Why is the public intimidated into ordering food or drink using the names a company gives it? Why does management put aside common sense and allow marketers to incorporate the latest widget or gadget to communicate with the public even if the vehicle doesn’t do the job? And why does a marketing department, or its advisors, lead its clients down so many primrose paths?

Photo: eater.com

Service of Billboards in the Right Places

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Photo: neogaf.com

I first heard about a ban on billboards when driving through Vermont decades ago. According to vnrc.org, “Vermont was the first of four states, along with Maine, Hawaii and Alaska to ban billboards. In their place, Vermont uses travel information signs along state highway corridors to guide residents and visitors to destinations that are located off those highways. Typically these smaller, standard format signs are clustered together to further reduce their visual effect. Businesses with frontage on state roads and highways may install signs that conform to local sign regulations.”

Now New York City is fighting digital billboards on barges on Hudson and East Rivers. According to Katie Honan in The Wall Street Journal, “Zoning regulations prohibit advertising on waterways throughout most of the city, including along residential and commercial zones and in view of highways and bridges, according to city officials.”

Photo: billboardinsider.com

She reported “‘Our waterways aren’t Times Square,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement. ‘These floating eyesores have no place on them.'”

A Ballyhoo Media boat “carries 20-foot-tall and 60-foot-long TV screens displaying digital ads. It usually begins its routes on the Hudson River in Midtown, then heads south around Battery Park, continuing north up the East River to Roosevelt Island. The ads are visible to motorists driving on two waterfront roadways in Manhattan, the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway.”

If the judge favors the plaintiffs, each violation would be subject to a $25,000 a day fine. Two councilmen want the fee to be $100,000/day and are introducing a bill according to Honan.

What do you think about billboards: Should municipalities be even more particular about where they go? Do you find the information on them useful or distracting when you drive? Do you object to seeing floating billboards on New York City’s waterways?

Photo: timesquarenyc.org

Service of Two Marketing Home Runs & a Third That Strikes Out

Monday, December 10th, 2018

I am gleeful when I see a clever marketing campaign and am almost offended when what I thought was a smart organization falls short.

Here are two good ones and one not so.

Poster Perfect

I enjoyed a witty set of advertising posters on the Lexington Avenue express subway produced by Seamless, a food ordering and delivery service that’s part of the GrubHub family. It reminded readers that it knows its neighbors and what they most like to eat.

The campaign, written in a New York-y voice is eye-catching, and a mini relief for passengers in uncomfortable circumstances, inspiring them to smile.

Some of the headlines were:

  • “The Most Potassium-Rich Neighborhood –Murray Hill– based on the number of banana orders. No one’s cramping here”
  • “The Loudest Neighborhood–Park Slope Brooklyn –based on the number of chip orders. Your neighbors can actually hear you crunching”
  • “The Neighborhood in Most Need of a Vacation–Dyker Heights Brooklyn– based on the number of tropical smoothies ordered. Just take one already.

Subway Smiles

Another subway campaign hit the spot. Coca-Cola: Happiness starts with a smile – YouTube was produced by a Belgian agency. An actor looking at something on his tablet on a crowded train begins to laugh and his giggles are contagious. The tagline is “Happiness starts with a smile.” Towards the end of the ride people wearing red tee-shirts with the Coke logo hand passengers cans of soda and a postcard with the theme.

The Long and the Short of It

Photo: politico.com

The second Obama Foundation Summit produced a lame campaign as far as its outreach to me is concerned. It came via email. The subject line “I want to hear your story Jeanne.” The theme: “Common Hope Uncommon Stories.”

Janelle Monáe, who signed the email, wrote: “No matter how different each of our tales are, we must do what we can to help each other achieve the extraordinary. When someone shares their story, we see the world through their eyes. That’s why I’m reaching out today. I want to hear your tale. Tell me your story in 10 words or less: How do you work towards a better future?”

I can be succinct but 10 words on a serious subject doth not a serious request make–even for an elevator pitch. Think that was a typo? Its impact on me: I stopped reading well before the bright red DONATE link at the bottom. I can think of some snarky 10 word retorts, such as “Get rid of the president,” though I’m not sure that they reflect me and my story. How many personal stories “work towards a better future?” Am I being persnickety and too literal? Have I lost my sense of humor?

Have you seen any clever ad campaigns on public transportation—trains, busses, subways? Was the Obama Foundation’s communication a fundraiser for the hip and therefore way over my head?

Photo: usatoday.com

Service of a Once Iconic Brand That’s Lost Its Sex Appeal

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Photo: pinterest.com

A childhood neighbor used to tell me “You have to suffer to be beautiful.” In the day she was right. Women slept on giant rollers while now dryers whip hair styles into shape in minutes and fashions are also more relaxed. We’d never have dreamed of wearing sneakers or flip flops for any reason other than for gym class or to walk on the beach. Now both are the uniform of many in towns, cities and airports.

Christian Louboutin Baila spike flat. Photo: pinterest.com

With obvious exceptions—facelifts for example which I’m told are very painful and make deep dents in pocketbooks too–comfort over vanity seems to have won in many of the best places. “Why Smart, Chic Women Are Abandoning High Heels [Forever],” wrote Chloe Malle recently in The Wall Street Journal.

Victoria’s Secret’s drooping bra business is the main reason L Brands’ stock is down 41 percent this year according to Elizabeth Winkler in the same paper. Bras represent 35 percent of their sales she reported. Customers are looking to the competition for “comfort and ease, not airbrushed fantasy,” she wrote. “In July, Victoria’s Secret’s semiannual sale was so weak the retailer was forced to extend it by two weeks and offer steeper discounts, leading analysts to declare the brand broken.

Sports bra. Photo senitathletics.com

“Instead of $60 padded bras that sell male fantasies, women are opting for cheaper undergarments that prioritize their own comfort. Victoria’s Secret has tried to adapt with the times, ending its catalog, doubling down on sports bras and even releasing a collection of ‘bralettes’—bras without underwire and padding.”

Competition features different body types in its ads as compared to the Victoria’s Secret “traditional sex-infused marketing,” they wrote.

I wonder if the new team will adjust this image. The Christmas direct mail piece that landed in mailboxes this week [photos right and below left] featured the old Victoria’s Secret image and none of the sports bras and bralettes they claimed to have adopted. Clearly designed to inspire men to buy gifts and enjoy, it nevertheless ignored the reasons for the downturn in sales.

Victoria’s Secret’s November 2018 direct mail piece

In a subsequent article in The Journal, Khadeeja Safdar and Maria Armental reported on additional moves the brand is taking to regain its momentum from adding a Tory Burch veteran/former president to run the lingerie division to halving its dividend.

Are you surprised that Victoria’s Secret was knocked off its pedestal in part by the drive for comfort? Do you shun uncomfortable clothes and shoes? Are you surprised by the trends for fashion conscious women identified by Journal reporters regarding flats over stilettos and less challenging underwear? Do you miss the formal days of yore?

Photo: channelweb.co.uk

Service of Say What? Inadvertent Impressions Businesses Make

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Photo: gofindtheothers.com

It’s not hard to find businesses that mean well but do their customers or themselves little good with their marketing efforts.

The Grass is Greener….

I couldn’t stop the car last weekend to snap a shot of a scruffy looking property with a small sign on the remarkably unkempt grass that promoted a lawn care business. Made me sad for the business.

Divorce Auction Style

A postcard advertising a “Divorce Liquidation Auction” would have done well to omit the words “Have Fun.” “Fun” didn’t go with the headline that indicated that two people had to sell their belongings due to an unfortunate situation. On the reverse side of the card we read that the couple had been married 20 years and had travelled a lot. I know: I’m thin-skinned, but when I saw the card I envisioned vultures circling a carcass looking for spoils. Not fun.

Warning: Read But Don’t Look

Our 2018 Malibu flashed a warning on the dashboard screen. I took my eyes off the road to see that it said “Taking your eyes off the road too long or too often could cause a crash resulting in injury or death to you or others. Focus your attention on driving.” Struck me funny.

I have driven the car since May, and find that the over-sensitive screen is a dangerous distraction as well. I barely touch it and something changes—like my favorite radio stations. I end up with links to three of the same instead of the selection I’d originally made.

I’ve given up using the address book transferred to the car from my mobile phone. As I scroll through the names with my finger touching the screen as gently as possible, I must press too hard because I mistakenly call two to three people before tapping the person/number I want to call.

I’m also fearful that General Motors and probably the world now have all the phone numbers of everyone I know or knew.

Head-Scratcher

Actor Sofia Vergara plays Gloria Pritchett on the TV sitcom “Modern Family” on ABC and also stars in Head & Shoulders shampoo commercials with her son Manolo and other family members. I like that she gets Proctor & Gamble to include her relatives but the twist in the current commercial is mean. Vergara exclaims how soft Manolo’s hair is, runs to wash hers and then shoves herself on to his chair and takes over. A mom that steals a scene from her kid: Not funny and gives the wrong impression. And I don’t think Vergara is a nasty person.

What marketing slipups or miscommunications have you noticed lately?

Sofia Vergara and son Manolo

Service of a Rotten Apple: Disregard that Customers Line Up For

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Photo: LinkedIn

My service hackles first stood up when a Long Island friend’s iPhone no longer took a charge one Friday. The first appointment she could get at the local Apple service store was the following Wednesday. How can anyone wait that long for the repair of such an essential device as a phone? She was leaving for Europe that Sunday. Did Apple expect her to buy a new phone? She bought no phone and depended on her husband’s.

Entrance at Apple in Grand Central on a glacial, nasty winter day

Keep reading as I am beginning to see an unsavory marketing pattern here. And while a profitable company like Apple, with millions of happy investors, is expected to push consumers to the limit, and it gleefully does, I don’t understand why millions of customers accept paying top dollar while being given so many run-arounds and wasting so very much time to get service. Do most have assistants to do the waiting for them?

So when my iPhone 6 abruptly began running out of a full charge after I’d sent only a few emails and texts—a first—my heart sank. I blamed myself. I dreaded having to change phones.

A few days later I learned that many iPhone owners reported similar phone behavior. Like them, I’d made the mistake of upgrading to a new version of IOS with one click, which seemed to accelerate the demise of what was left of the battery.

By explanation, after the fact and once a grumble began, Apple shared some technical mumbo-jumbo about how batteries work and why what they’d done was supposed to slow the batteries to help their longevity. The real purpose, thought the customers of the older phones badly affected by the so-called upgrade, was to scare us into buying new devices or batteries.

Line to make an appointment wound around a table.

Public outrage leading to bad PR and some class action lawsuits later, Apple apologized and long story short, offered to replace older batteries with a new one at a discount–$29 plus tax instead of $79.

Those who sued in NYC, according to theverge.com, felt bamboozled into buying new phones and were angry.

I wasn’t cheered by the so-called “largesse” of the $50 discount. When there’s a recall on my car, I pay $0 for the fix. I make an appointment, sit in a comfortable waiting room, take off my coat, sip a cup of coffee and I’m soon done. I’m in relative control of my time.

Turns out the battery replacement procedure was worse than the feeling of manipulation and an expense I was forced into. It involved four trips to Grand Central where the iPhone repair operation nearest my office is located.

  • On Day 1, I had to make an appointment. I had two choices: on another day OR I could expect an email within the next two hours and I’d have 10-15 minutes to get back to the store. The latter option made sense only if I worked at Grand Central. I don’t. And who has the time to hang around a place for two hours?
  • My appointment fell on the day of the snowstorm. I arrived early figuring I’d slip into a cancellation—everyone told me not to go out in the storm. I’m greeted with, “we’re closing in 15 minutes.” Seems they let “everyone know,” but they didn’t contact me. “Wait at that table.”  I do. I wait and wait. Nobody came to give my phone a diagnostic test that was a required part of the process. I was rescued by an Apple newbie who felt sorry for me—he was helping someone else at the table. Nobody else ever came. I had another choice to make: A) Leave my phone overnight or B) Drop it off the next morning. I chose option B.
  • I thought I’d be in and out but no, I waited 20 minutes for someone to take my phone. “Come back after 12:15,” he said. I did. The wait for my phone this visit was the time to look through the Business & Finance Section of The Wall Street Journal.

I have to give it to the Apple employees I encountered. All but two were gracious and tried to do their jobs. My grievances are not with them.

New Yorkers are used to lines and crowds because there are so many of us but we’re also impatient. Does Apple spray the place with a soporific? Nobody seemed upset. Could I be the only one who feels this way? Hundreds of people were testing the phones in one area; others buying parts in another. Don’t these people have other places to go? How does this company get away with it? Do folks get the same runaround with Samsung, LG and Sony?

 

Prospective customers at Apple in Grand Central on a frigid winter day.

Service of Marketing That Misses the Mark

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Photo: 123rf.com

I love clever marketing ideas. This one was a puzzle and, as my friend Jim would say, “Amateur night at the Dixie Theater,” or my dad, “comme cheveux sur soupe” [like hair on soup i.e. out of place/irrelevant].

A clean cut young man rushed toward me on Third Avenue between 40th and 39th Streets holding out a brown thing wrapped in cellophane [photo left, below]. He didn’t say a word so I took it to be an intro sample for the unidentified object and kept walking. It didn’t look appealing.

A few steps later, a nice looking young woman reached out with the same brown object and I asked her, “What is it?” She replied that it was a pretzel wrapped in chocolate. [It also has some white marshmallow bits on top.] Now curious, I took it and the postcard that came with it [photo below, center].

Next I noticed, parked on the sidewalk, a cart similar to the ones that street food vendors use [photo right, taken later through a bus window]. This one wasn’t where such vendors usually park, at curbside, but well into a very wide sidewalk. It had the pretzel concoctions in the window and was decorated with images of a building like the ones on the postcard; copy from the card and a giant sign “House39.” There was someone inside but nobody around it or even noticing it.

This crew was promoting a new rental building around the corner and down the street. According to the postcard, rentals ranged from studio to three bedrooms starting at $3,910/month. The card lists amenities including a rooftop pool, hot tubs, yoga studio, children’s playroom and more. The postcard doesn’t say if the rent covers use of these features.

So what was wrong with the promotion?

  • The youngsters hired to pass out the treats didn’t mention anything about a new apartment down the street.
  • Pretzels or sweet treats have no connection, clever or otherwise, with apartment sales.
  • People walking down Third Avenue are random and just because they are in the neighborhood during the day they are not necessarily the demographic for apartments with rents that start at almost $4,000 for one room.
  • The beneficiaries of the idea were the cart rental and pretzel companies; the kids who made a day’s wage on a nice summer day; the postcard graphic designer and printer and the marketing company that was paid to create and implement the idea. I doubt that the building saw a viable visitor as a result.

Photo: mponstage.com

The real estate developer, if fixated on doing something on the street, might have skipped the cart and had young people in a striking tee-shirt passing out key rings with the apartment’s address and copy that touted “find the key to happiness in your new apartment.” Or given the name of the structure, “House39,” they might have placed 39 self-stick, removable footsteps between Third Avenue and the front door with—if it’s not too obscure and vintage–references to the iconic spy film, “39 Steps.” A key ring to echo the “39 Steps” theme would suggest that readers “take the mystery out of where your next, best apartment will be.”

Can you find the connection–that passed me by–between the cart, the sweets and luxury apartment rentals? Have you noticed cockamamie, half-baked marketing ideas that people pay good money for and that make you scratch your head?

 

Service of Marketing that Hits a Sour Note: Details and the Devil

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

New Yorker circ photo

I bought some items online during an after Christmas sale and almost three weeks later got a notice from the store that one of the items wasn’t available. OK. That happens. “LET US MAKE IT UP TO YOU,” came a proposal for a “gift”–$10 off a $100 purchase. This hit a sour note: It sounded like “heads they win; tails I lose.” Otherwise I like the store.

The next two examples are courtesy of the circulation departments of a magazine and newspaper considered top of the line in their categories. I subscribe to and admire both. However, they appear to be trying to save money by selecting under par fulfillment and promotion partners at just the time they need to excel.

  • The magazine has been nagging me to renew my subscription months early and if I do, I’ll get a free subscription as a gift. [Always suspicious, I envision losing the months I’ve already paid for, between now and the end of the original subscription, and I don’t want to waste time untangling this potential glitch.] Fine writing and elegance are just two of the magazine’s selling points and the subscription is costly. That’s why I didn’t expect to see a typo in the first word of the third line [“your”] printed on a piece of cheap scrap paper enclosed in their correspondence seeking my business. [See photo above.]
  • The newspaper didn’t deliver its weekend and Monday issues last week. I called customer service on Tuesday making clear that we didn’t want the credit, we wanted the newspapers. The operator [from a far-off land] said he understood. On Wednesday we received a second copy of the Tuesday issue. I called back and was told they would have to mail us the weekend and Monday copies and that this would take from seven to 10 days. I had already spent far too much time on this mistake and snapped “fine, do that,” and hung up. Still waiting.
  • All this reminds me of a restaurant we went to in the Berkshires years ago that served remarkable food in an enchanting setting with a terrible hostess who ran the room like a general during a military operation readiness inspection {ORI}. The tension her approach achieved added a false note to an otherwise pleasant experience. We learned later that her husband was the chef. Nevertheless, she ruined the evening.

Do you have other examples of an irritating detail that conflicted with the otherwise high quality of a product or service?

$10 off $100 turned

Service of Interpretation: Cartier, the One Percent vs. Everyone Else

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Cartier window January 2017 turned

Funny how one image can cause two people to come to such different conclusions.

I was walking by Cartier’s windows on a recent Sunday and after I’d passed by I backed up to take the photo [above] because something was so clearly missing: Jewelry.

I showed the shot to my husband Homer Byington and said “How sad. Look where we’ve come. The jeweler can’t display a thing in its windows on a Sunday when it’s closed for fear that someone will steal rings, necklaces and pins. Imagine the rent paid yet the store can’t take advantage of this marketing tool to showcase its wares.”

Homer replied “I think Cartier didn’t display its jewelry to signify to the one percent how valuable and expensive their pieces are—far too precious and priceless for a window display. The store isn’t interested in whether the 99 percent can see what it can’t afford to buy anyway.”

What do you think? In addition, should a brand with this stature think of a clever way to decorate its windows for the times it doesn’t show product for whatever reason?

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