I see your Dash Button and raise you a kiosk

Walmart recently announced a test in some Texas markets that suggest a new hedge against Amazon: in-store kiosks.

…the retailer is testing a new program that would allow customers to immediately place an online order for an item that isn’t in stock…

…Walmart CFO Brett Briggs unveiled the tests during an investor conference Wednesday, describing the system as an “endless aisle-type concept.”

Walmart being Walmart, this otherwise straightforward pilot could take on any number of overtones.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to wonder if the kiosk represents an initiative to reduce labor costs.  As a former contractor who worked on the Sam’s Club business, I can attest to their emphasis, which I think you could fairly call an obsession, on reducing costs of any kind.

However, I think the kiosk has another goal: countering Amazon’s Dash Button. Continue reading

Strategy in the Era of Brute Force Marketing

Will marketing strategists become the horse grooms of the 21st century?

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Nice work if you can get it

Grooming horses probably seemed like a nice job in the 19th century.  After all, you got plenty of exercise and got to work with animals.  What’s not to like?

Well, in a word, Buicks.

Just as one form of technology destroyed the jobs of hundreds of thousands of horse grooms, another may lay waste to the jobs of thousands of marketing and advertising strategists.  As more and more digital marketing tools adopt optimization features, some of the core functions of the marketing strategist may begin to seem redundant.  However, I think that smart strategists will regard these tools not the way that John Henry regarded the steam drill but rather the way the first taxicab driver regarded a Model T.  That is, technology doesn’t take jobs away; rather, it makes them bigger.

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Pre-Emptive Cringing

How soon before advertisers worm their way into Goals in Google Calendar?

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Pardon us, but do you have any oats?

If you didn’t read the announcement, Google has added a feature to its popular calendar that makes it easier for users find time to reach specific goals.  You want to work on your Spanish twice a week?  Tell GCal and it’ll schedule two sessions each work para aprender Español.

Given that Google earns a tad of 90% of its income from advertising (PDF), you must excuse me for cringing in advance.

Step 1: Advertisers start buying keywords in your Calendar

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How to Make Patriotism a Good Business Strategy

With our Presidential campaign in full swing, Americans could easily begin to feel a bit leery of anyone waving the flag too hard, and rightly so.

However, it doesn’t take much for a marketer to do something patriotic, appropriate and (probably) profitable.  Here’s an example:

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This is what you see when your kids watch Nickelodeon 16 hours per day

In the current jargon, CloudPets are connected stuffed animals.  As in, the toys have a wifi-enabled memory chip in them that allows a parent to record a brief message for his or her child on a cellphone and then have the child listen via the inbuilt speaker.  The DRTV spot shows a parent on a business trip recording a good night message on his phone that the child (happily, obviously) receives at home.

Notice the circled offer in the image above: free shipping for active-duty military.

Regular shipping and handling costs the buyer $6.99, which represents mostly profit for the seller.  The manufacturer can well afford to give away the cost for the relatively few military families who will take up the offer.  Saving seven bucks on a moderately-priced toy does not–and cannot–fully compensate the families of our armed services members, but it still represents a nice gesture.  It gives non-military families a sense that CloudPets has good priorities.  I couldn’t say that the offer drives incremental sales (perhaps they’ve tested it), but a little goodwill goes a long way.

At the same time, CloudPets deserves kudos for making the offer without making a huge deal about it.  They offer this simple, patriotic gesture without acting as if they had raised the flag on Iwo Jima.

Nicely done.

Schroedinger’s Cart

As a blogger, I try to cover a lot of ground in marketing and marketing data.  My posts range from how-tos to POVs to the occasional bit of humor.  And then everyone once in a while, I like to go completely “out there” and tackle a marketing issue with a decidedly off-kilter approach.  This will be one of those times.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how people shop, both in-store and online, and it’s given me some potential insight into how marketers might be able to develop more appealing experiences for customers.

Behold, Schroedinger’s Cart:

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No cats were harmed in the creation of this extremely arduous pun

Physics Nobel Laureate Erwin Schroedinger (or Schrödinger, if you must have the umlaut) famously posited a thought experiment about a cat in a box.  Schroedinger asked the reader to imagine that a a random event inside the box would release a poison gas and kill the cat but that the outside observer would have no idea whether that random event occurred.  He famously asserted that the cat was both alive and dead until the observer opens the box.

This is ridiculous, of course.  Except this thought experiment perfectly describes how we often shop.

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From my warm, caffeinated hands!

So I nearly tried to punch the Financial Times.

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Back off, bird.  I will cut you.

While conducting secondary research for a new project, I found a useful article on the site.  Before I could read the piece, the site served up a one-question survey: had I tried to cut down on my coffee consumption in the past year?

OK, I realize that FT probably wanted to a) recruit visitors for an awareness survey or b) simply build a profile on their visitors.  But first goddam thing in the morning, they want to ask me whether I’m thinking of giving up coffee?

[SHAKES FIST EPICALLY]

Maybe this is the flip side to “taboo data,” the idea that some data are too sensitive to use.  Maybe some are too sensitive–or obnoxious–to ask.

Does B&H Photo Really Hate My Wife?

Short answer: no, of course not.  However, they could have used a little human common sense rather than rely on responsive design alone to make their emails more relevant.

Let’s back up.  As an avid, if not talented, photographer, I subscribe to emails from Adorama and B&H Photo, two large photo retailers based in New York with a well-earned reputation for value, service and selection.  Really, you CANNOT find a better place to buy cameras and assorted equipment than those two.

Yesterday, I received this email from B&H:

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They remembered Mother’s Day with a large graphic pointing to their Mother’s Day sale items.  How nice.

HOWEVER…

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Metaball: Can Baseball Data Help Market Baseball?

Michael Lewis’s 2004 book Moneyball documented a revolution in how baseball teams evaluate players.  More than a decade after the book, all Major League teams use statistics like WAR, Fielding Independent Pitching and Range Factor per Game.  Now, Major League Baseball wants fans to get in on the act with Statcast,  Using both radar and special cameras, Statcast gives incredibly detailed information on nearly every movement on the field.

 

Not pictured: Explanation of how a Major League infielder flubs a cutoff throw

I’ve written extensively on how sports and data combine to make sports themselves more marketable.  So I thought I’d discuss what impact Statcast might have on baseball’s challenged popularity in the US.

In, short, I think that the data won’t hurt, but they might not help.

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Behind the Numbers: Google “near me” up 34x

Here’s an eye-popping stat: since 2011, Google searches including the phrase “near me” have increased 34 times.  Not 34 percent, but 34 times.   I read this figure as a nail in the coffin of distinct and discrete mobile and local strategies.  Put another way, your brand has a mobile and a local strategy whether you’ve planned it or not.  Brands need to prepare for the inevitable “gotta have it now” factor across channels.

Some other tasty stats from the article:

  • 50% of people who conduct a local search on their phone visit a store that day
  • Roughly a third of those searchers buy that day as well
  • About half of people searching for a restaurant do so within 30 minutes of going out

Searches differ by day and time of day as well:

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I wonder, do people search for liquor stores before or after hotels on a Saturday night?

 

 

 

What does this mean for marketers?

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Marketing Winners and Losers at the NY International Auto Show (Part 2)

The marketing spectacle known as the New York International Auto Show had more to chew on than one man’s rant about station wagons.

For this installment, I’d like to focus on one exhibit with its hits and misses.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present Camp Jeep.

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For the past 11 years (give or take), Jeep has given consumers the opportunity to experience their vehicles’ capabilities in a first-hand manner.  They chauffeur participants over an obstacle course that shows how well the Jeeps can attack slopes, uneven ground and other things that 95% of drivers will never encounter.  All cynicism aside, the exhibit really impresses upon participants the astounding performance of the fabled brand.

Even within this impressive showcase, some aspects stand out: 2 good and one not-so-good

The upshot

  • Good: data collection from participants before and after
  • Good: keeping the troops happy
  • Not-so-good: the world’s most pointless cell phone charging station

Collecting data for fun and profit

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