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Wal-Mart Isn’t Always First March 2, 2007

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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The NY Times has an interesting story on how Wal-Mart is (re-)thinking about its biggest customer segments.

    There are “brand aspirationals” (people with low incomes who are obsessed with names like KitchenAid), “price-sensitive affluents” (wealthier shoppers who love deals), and “value-price shoppers” (who like low prices and cannot afford much more).

Back in 2001, we did some similar analysis. Our Brand Bonders are pretty much the same as Wal-Mart’s aspirationals, and we both found value shoppers (we called them bargain hunters). We didn’t really find any price-sensitive affluents. But we were looking for combinations of brand attitudes and price sensitivity that affected on- and off-line behavior. We looked at income and spending as characteristics of the groups, but not as the defining characteristics.

Anyway, anybody interested in this kind of segmentation and analysis should give us a call.

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Le Mail Hot February 8, 2007

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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Gotta disagree with some former colleagues. The only thing odd about calling the new, soon to be stage n beta (beta means never having to say you’re Google) Hotmail “Hotmail” is that it took Microsoft a year to make the decision. “Windows Live Mail” means nothing. Hotmail means 200 million plus users worldwide. It’s a huge brand in Europe. People don’t like to change their e-mail address, and, if you ask them to, they just might go elsewhere.

Yeah, “Hotmail” has a bit of baggage as a product that’s, um, a little long in the tooth. But the new implementation is as slick as anyone’s Webmail offering (as good as those of Yahoo, .mac, and AOL, which are currently the best). Way slicker than Gmail. It shouldn’t be hard to dispel any dated brand karma. Will Hotmail be cool again? Eh, maybe.

If new users want a better shot at their own name, or a favorite vanity address, they can opt for Live. I have no doubt that Microsoft will spend whatever it takes to make “Live” mean something, someday, but this is the right thing to do for Hotmail.

Why the Sunday Times Is Not a Pop-Culture Must-Read, Part XXVII July 30, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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Please, somebody, after you read this monstrously silly 7,000 word piece in the Times Sunday Magazine, explain to me why the story’s subjects are “brands” rather than boutiques?

    The answer he came up with is worth paying attention to because it speaks to a significant but little-noted development in contemporary culture. Young people have always found fresh ways to rebel, express individuality or form subculture communities through cultural expression: new art, new music, new literature, new films, new forms of leisure or even whole new media forms. A-Ron’s preferred form of expression, however, is none of those things. When he talks about his chosen medium, which he calls aNYthing, it sounds as if he’s talking about an artists’ collective, indie film production company, a zine or a punk band. But in fact, aNYthing is a brand. A-Ron puts his brand on T-shirts and hats and other items, which he sells in his own store, among other places. He sees it as fundamentally of a piece with the projects and creations of his anti-mainstream heroes.

A-Ron, btw, appears to be a total — I better type “jerk” rather than the obvious. And Our Reporter has it both ways, allowing A-Ron’s own cred-killing (or is it?) petard hoisting. Uhhhh, I guess that passes for irony, Beavis, but it sure makes you wonder why we were fooled into sticking with the article to the end:

    “My whole thing now is if you don’t sell out, you sell out on yourself,” he went on to announce. If he could get the money, the resources, he could go bigger, with more creative projects, reaching more people — and he wouldn’t worry about being called a sellout. He raised his eyebrows for emphasis: “I was cool before this thing happened. It didn’t make me cool.” It’s a line of thought that many cultural rebels come around to, sooner or later. “We’re here,” he told me, “to do business.”

Playing the Best Brand Game July 13, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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We were playing the Harris Interactive best brand game at Jup NYC this afternoon. With a criterion like “best,” it’s tough to zero in on your favorite brands. I tend to be a Brand Loyalist (see ancient history Jup research). I find what I like; I stick to it; I’d buy other products under the same brand; I’m willing to pay a little extra. Classic grumpy old man.

“Best” is tough, so let’s force the issue, and say “best” means “I’d buy multiple products/categories from the same brand, even at a premium.” There are a bunch of bands, directors, and authors that would make me try anything they did, but that’s just one product type. I have some faves in booze and beer, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust a Lagavulin shortbread.

I was trying hard to think of a media brand, but I just couldn’t. No record labels or publishers are completely reliable. Nor should they be; hits are tough — the “publishers” oughtta take risks. No TV network, except maybe Nick or PBS. On second thought, since Antiques Roadshow, maybe not. There are only two comic book brands that matter, and I like ’em both, so forget that. So no media “best brands” for me.

So if I were to pick my three “best” brands, I’d have to say:

– Gillette
– Apple
– and a toss-up between Kraft and Brooks Brothers, with Amazon in the running

How boring am I?

You saw Joe’s picks earlier. Apparently, Emily goes for J.Crew (didn’t catch her other choices). Andrew favors Sony, Apple, and Banana Republic. Vikram says Amex (come on, that’s one product — you don’t use their travel services do you?), eBay, and BMW. Nobody said Google or Yahoo. Yet.

Too-Easy Target June 27, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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Editors-in-chief who confuse logarithm with algorithm ought to be extra-cautious when commenting on digital marketing.

    So, alas, advertisers are once more discovering there are no silver bullets. One thing that’s always been true, though, is that good advertising is created by people working together to understand the elusive consumer, and all the fancy logarithms in the world won’t change that equation.

Texting Hipster Millennials Use Crest June 27, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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According to ClickZ, Procter & Gamble’s Crest is adding text messaging to its program. Crest has often been an early adpoter of digital marketing techniques. You can post the results of your Irresistibility IQ test on your MySpace page. But do you leave your cell phone on during a date? Cool kids will be sure to leave it in silent mode. But be sure to bring it along — it’s so lame to write down somebody’s number on paper.

I’m less impressed by the P&G spokesperson confusing Gen Y with 18-34 year olds. (That’s some serious old-school thinking confusion.) Yeah, this cohort branding thing is an inexact science. And former colleague Gary Stein seems to be almost as puzzled as I am by Magid Associates’ finding that GenYers — or is it Millennials? — soak up 20 hours of media in seven hours. That sounds like more multitasking than is humanly possible to me. Or ADD.

Market Research: Are Cars Offices or Escapes? January 4, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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I’m not sure how to interpret the juxtaposition of these two stories in the Journal today. In one, Organic learns how to better understand its clients’ customers by inventing them out of whole cloth. At the same time, Volkswagen sends a team on a year-and-a-half road trip to discover the real Amuhrica. The insights are…uh…astounding.

    After discussing how Jenny shops, they decided she looks around in stores but buys products online, which is helping marketing staff figure out where they can reach Jenny. She also cares 75% about style and admires women such as actress Natalie Portman…

Remember, this is an imaginary person.

    Organic staff debated whether Roberto would order from Dominoes or Pizza Hut and whether he would order in or go out for pizza.

    “One of the writers said, ‘I don’t like to think of Roberto that way,'” Ms. Stieber says of Roberto ordering from a chain. “And he was right. Roberto is very loyal to his area and very local so he wouldn’t order from Dominoes.”

Can’t wait to see how that affects the Dodge Caliber campaign.

    For Jenny, because of her busy life and hectic career, two important themes emerged: her need for sanctuary and her “metrospirituality,” a sort of stylish, kind-to-the-earth search for deeper meaning that has become a popular theme with marketers. As a result, to make Jenny’s room, the Organic team wanted to make it an escape for her.

Mind you, I like Organic. They do good work, based on a thoughtful methodology. But if they’d talked to real customers, apparently, they’d have found out that cars are not escapes, but offices.

    While Germans prize a car’s driving capability and frown on eating while driving, the Moonraker team found Americans think of their cars like a second home or office…The Germans in the group never knew Americans use their cars as portable buffets tables and partymobiles, a discovery that could factor into future vehicles, such as a minivan.

    …One exhausting exercise was dubbed the “Walk of Pain” — a three-day walk from Long Beach to Hollywood to observe parking lots and street parking, a requirement for each Moonraker team member. Mr. Berger said it helped him realize that in the U.S. market there is a need for a wide variety of vehicles: from small cars to pickups to convertibles.

Amazing. Who knew?

Sadly, it seems they still don’t get the whole cupholder thing in Wolfsburg.

Tween Cool: Report from the Field June 19, 2005

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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My tween niece, who lives in the New South:

– Now has a pair of hot-pink Chucks – she once teased me for my sneakers, but Nike has made them mainstream cool. Sigh.

– She wants an iPod with a screen – her Shuffle’s cool, (she only has 40 songs), but she wants that screen for navigation.

– She still wants a cell phone, but she wants IM more. This is the kid who forgot her password so no longer emails. But IM, that’s a different story: “Everybody has IM; do you want me to be a geek?” She knew what TTYL stands for. So far, my sister won’t let her. I’m working on her.

Kaffeeklatsching June 4, 2005

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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As a former San Franciscan, I always knew Peet’s was better than You Know Who.

    Peet’s continues to thrive by attracting consumers like Jenna Phillips, a Berkeley clothing designer who says she is “a total Peet’s devotee.”

    The coffee is “stronger than Starbucks’s,” she said, “and it’s not part of an evil empire.”

    Peet’s retail stores, in a more subtle dig at Starbucks, reflect what it considers an all-American style. Rather than call its different cup sizes “grande” and “venti,” for example, it displays simply “small,” “medium” and “large” on its in-store menu.

What the Teens Want, Part XXXVII May 28, 2005

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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Of course, the iPod is the star of this silly, if entertaining NY Times story on teens, gadgets, and style. Aside from the Roper poll, which lines up with Jupiter’s surveys (see for instance mobile and media/Internet and games and music), some of the “market research” in the story seems a bit stretched: “Pretty much everybody has a cellphone, and iPods, probably one out of three people,” said Greg Becker, 15, of Owings Mills, Md.

The Times harrumphs:

    Now the same pestering is reaching a fever pitch among teenagers, who crave an ever-expanding collection of high-tech items they can’t possibly afford…It is a vortex of contemporary social currents: teenagers’ longing outstrips their ability to satisfy it and collides with most parents’ hope to teach restraint and fiscal responsibility.

Contemporary social currents? I guess if “contemporary” means “same as it’s been for the last 125 years.”

And what’s up with quoting a market research teen “employee” as a user, not as a researcher, and running her picture, again, as a user?

    Jen Lang, 17, a high school senior from Erial, N.J., who also works at Buzz Marketing, said: “I used to make fun of my friend. He had a Nokia phone that was so four years ago.”

Disclaimer: my tween niece has an iPod Shuffle, only partly subsidized by parents, but no cellphone. Yet. She wants one pretty desperately.