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Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Can You Keep A Secret?

In advertising, Branding, Brands, communications, Consumers, market research, marketing, research, strategy, trends on January 22, 2008 at 11:53 am

Secrets Fly

Originally uploaded by BidWiya

Much has been said and written about transparent marketing. In a world where you can no longer hide behind your website because there are a million blogs telling customers the truth, what do you do? Most people suggest that you be honest. That you refocus on customer service and satisfaction. That you remember that “a happy customer tells a few people about their experience but an unhappy one tells anyone they can find.” That you put all the information out there for your customers. And these are all wise suggestions, but what’s missing is a celebration of “positive secrets.”

We all want to know the secret, don’t we? How many of us can remain indifferent after a friend says that they have a secret but they can’t tell? It drives you crazy. You want to know. It’s okay– it’s human nature.

In a world where every piece of information is available, secrets are important to keeping customers engaged and involved with the brand. What is the brand story that you can roll out to customers? How will you tell it? Can you work to create a more interesting backstory? Are there parts of your product experience that can be discovered?

In-N-Out has done an incredible job of this on the West Coast through everything from the John 3:14 printed on the bottom inside of their cups to the secret menu and language only available online. While the plan probably needs an upgrade at this point, there’s something to be said for a company that can keep its secrets.

The Death of the Retail Brand

In advertising, Branding, Brands, communications, market research, marketing, research, strategy, trends on January 16, 2008 at 12:23 pm

December retail figures are out and it is a reminder of the dismal state of retail brands. Gap, Inc. -6%, Kohl’s -11.4% Macy’s -8%, Target – 5%, etc. There are a few bright spots but even then, they aren’t very bright, perhaps it is the florescent lights.

Adage online points to how taglines aren’t working as hard as they should be and clearly differentiating the stores. And they have a point, but the point that I take away is that Adage has never been to a retail store! The fact that taglines are interchangable is not nearly as important as the fact that the stores themselves are interchangeable. They are all the same. Sure some have slightly different merchandise, Target did a nice job with their design positioning but they also just lost superstar designer Issac Mizrahi to Liz Claiborne.

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Is 2008 the Year of the Tear?

In communications, research, trends on January 16, 2008 at 9:30 am

Originally uploaded by Daniel Greene

America seems to be going soft all of a sudden. We started with the
carefully crafted YouTube clip in late 2007 of FanBoy sobbing over
Brittney and her heartbreaking situation. That was a nice way to end
2007; it’s always better to cry at the end of things to help you move
on. I thought that was it, a little isolated tear-shedding and we could
move on.

Not a chance. 2008 kicked off with Hillary Clinton getting misty-eyed upon the electronic screen, a not-so-subtle display of humanity that some
credit for helping her win in NH. And then, even more shockingly,
Terrell Owens of the Dallas Cowboys gets choked up during an interview
as he defends Tony Romo against the inevitable onslaught of the media.
T.O., really? Mr. Brash, Mr. Bling, Mr. Historically, I’d be more likely
to blame my quarterback, my coach, my jockstrap manufacturer… suddenly
having an emotional breakdown in his quarterback’s defense?

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The Real Reason China Mobile Said No to the IPhone

In Brands, communications, Consumers, market research, marketing, research, strategy on January 14, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Engadet and others reported today that China Mobile backed out of negotiations to carry the iPhone.

“after saying the “iPhone model was not suitable for China” back in November, a spokesperson for China Mobile now says they’ve “terminated” discussions with Apple to bring the iPhone to China. China’s largest carrier gave no reasons for the decision though the fee sharing agreement is likely a contributing factor.”

But I would point back to the initial statement ” [the] iPhone model was not suitable for China” as the true reason the negotiations broke down.

I was in China in mid-2007 doing research on the mobile phone category and specifically looking at convergence devices. While the market there is filled with convergence devices, more respondents were carrying around multiple gadgets that they saw as best in class vs. relying on one device. Music players that were the size of a matchbox w/ readable song names (take that shuffle), Video players that were almost viewable by someone under 30 and nifty little phones.

The quote I most remember came in response to a prototype I was showing, “it’s too big to be my music player and too small to be a good video player.” I imagine that this consumer sentiment is what caused tepid negotiations between China Mobile and Apple. Except add in, it’s too big to be a phone.

In addition, consider that according to Business Week, “cell-phone replacement cycles in China that run 6 to 12 months faster than those of Europe or North America” which would presumably make long-term contracts less appealing. And, that Apple as a brand doesn’t possess nearly the cache in China that it does in the United States or even Europe. Again from Business Week, “the Mac platform only has 0.2% of total PC unit shipments, according to IDC,… Mac sales never took off there, in part due to perceptions that they’re too costly compared to Windows machine.”

At the end of the day, Apple needs China more than China Mobile needs Apple.

Brand Extension: SPAM

In Branding, Brands, communications, Consumers, innovation, market research, marketing, research, trends on January 9, 2008 at 11:47 am

Isn’t It Ironic?

Originally uploaded by Aiko Heiwa

Specifically designed to hit the market segment of people who love the great taste of SPAM but care about their health. I bet the five people who fit that description will flock to this “crazy tasty” treat.

On a slightly more serious note, Hormel what are you thinking? The SPAM brand is not a bastion of health benefits and my guess is that SPAM Lite still isn’t very good for you. Instead of going along with the trend take a note from Hungry Man and forget about the health claims and embrace the essence of your brand. There must be some brand extensions that make more sense there like pre-packaged dinners?

Brand Strategy: Mirror Brands vs. Beacon Brands

In advertising, Brands, communications, Consumers, market research, marketing, research, strategy, trends on January 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

one tree

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

Sometimes marketers get confused about what their brand is vs. what their audience would like it to be. While the latter philosophy is logical to the point of wanting to please customers, it can be problematic since customers rarely give two bits about the state of your marketshare, your margins, what your brand is capable of, or the general health of your business.

Thinking that brands should mirror the lives or desires of their audience, marketers often enlist the use of focus groups, IDIs, ideations, expert panels, surveys and the like to try to figure out what the market wants. The basic problem with this is that customers inevitably want brands to be “faster, stronger, more reliable, cheaper, easier to use” etc., and they’re often short-sighted on how they want your brand to serve them. And why shouldn’t they be? Do they want your brand to enter into a new category? Maybe, but not if they have a brand there that they already trust. Do they want your brand to retool? Maybe, but not if they already like it. If used as input and inspiration, this type of research can be invaluable in opening up lines of thought and creating possibilities. But if used to find actual answers, you’ll likely end up with a very bland brand with all of the edges buffed off since the majority of the audience will find this acceptable. It’s the law of averages.

The real question should be: how can you use the market and insights to achieve your business and brand objectives? How can you create a Beacon brand that represents your audience’s unspoken aspirations and drives them to you? How can you use your competitive advantage to create a marketplace advantage?

The advantage of Beacon brands is that they take a stand. They connect deeply to your audience in a way that is differentiating and unique. By comparison, as the name implies, Mirror brands simply look to mirror the audience. They can succeed, but the task is much more difficult since Mirror brands only reflect what is on the surface and not the deeper, underlying values of an audience. They can also be more easily replicated by everyone else in the market.

10 things I learned while doing research in the developing world

In market research, research, travel on January 2, 2008 at 4:19 pm

_DSC7957 copy
Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

A brief list:
1. Hire a fixer asap. You don’t know the country and you likely don’t know how and when you can travel to places safely.
2. Utilize your breast pocket for all important papers. It will look less like you are searching for your gun.
3. If you are going to need to bribe a militia member for passage, have small bills available. It is difficult to get change from militants.
4. Ask first. Ask before you look around, before you take a picture, before you take out a video camera, before you pee in their field.
5. As a general rule militia members don’t like their pictures taken nor do they want to be photographed at military checkpoints. Not 100% sure on this one but I got that sense.
6. If you have food allergies or are a vegetarian, have translations in the local language on a piece of paper. Pantomime is a universal language but sometimes not well understood.
7. Take some medications with you because when you’re doubled over with stomach cramps it can be hard to make it to a pharmacy.
8. Be careful of being taken for an NGO worker. If people see you as a greenback you’re less likely to get a balanced story of the bad and the good.
9. If you’re going to take pictures, bring a Polaroid camera. If nothing else, you can send the fixer off with it to distract the hordes of children who want their pictures taken.
10. Be Safe!

Trends in Facebook Applications

In research, social networking, trends on November 23, 2007 at 11:16 am

Facebook Applications Trends Report #1

from nomansblog

“Last Friday I stumbled upon this fantastic facebook analytics site – Adonomics (previously Appaholic), which provides figures on all 8648 facebook applications. It’s similar to what you can view on facebook (i.e. most popular, % of daily activity) but with additional data such as estimate of the net value of each application as well as new and returning users.

The data immediately felt like a goldmine and prompted my curiosity to dig into the chart and to carry out a systematic analysis of the 100 most popular applications – those that have at least 1million users – in an attempt to get a better grasp on favoured activities that take place in this global playground. In a sense it is similar to my Youtube trends reports, only here instead of analysing what people are watching, I want to take a a look at what people are doing.”