Amazon’s Customer Strategy

When Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13,7 billion, pundits and punters alike weighed in on what drove the acquisition: technology, distribution or as a shareholder value play.  I don’t know enough about the business to tell you which of these opinions–or others–comes closest to Amazon’s actual logic.

However, I’d like to speculate on a much simpler organizing thought: enveloping mass-affluent consumers.

Yes, this lot.  Again.

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Marketing’s New C-Word

There’s a word out there that begins with the letter C that simply has no place in modern society.  You’ve used it.  I’ve used it.  We tend to use it as an epithet, unfairly.  Marketers use it all the time and we, as a group, should stop.  Right now.

That c-word is, of course, “crazy.”

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How to Scumbag, by Lands’ End

Compliance with the law–or even your own promises–leaves plenty of room for bad behavior.  Lands’ End, formerly owned by Sears and, as such, noted weasel Eddie S. Lampert, demonstrates how not to treat new customers in a master class.

I couldn’t find any free stock images of douchebags

A timeline:

Wednesday, 24 May: Lands’ End sends me a postcard with an offer I couldn’t refuse, 50% off my entire order if I texted them my email address.  So I did, and promptly got back an email offer for 40% any single item, which is not the same thing at all as 50% off my entire order.  Nevertheless, I called them on the phone and they honored the coupon after the obligatory intercession of a manager.  To his credit, the manager also gave me free shipping even though my order came up about $3 short of of the $50 threshold.

Thursday, 25 May: I get a marketing email with the offer of 50% off all swimsuits and 30% off everything else.  I immediately downsub to one email per month.

Friday, 26 May: I get a shipping confirmation…and another version of the 50% off swim/30% off everything else email.  Also, another email with an offer for 40% off home products.

Saturday, 27 May: Two more emails, the swim offer and a new, 40% off pants offer.  Also note that although I have elected men’s clothes as a preference, every single email to me has featured women’s products.

Sunday, 28 May: the 50% off swim offer.  Again.

Monday, 29 May:  Yup, same offer.

So, after asking them to send me one email per month, I got six emails in the space of four days.  Legally, they’re probably in the clear to fusillade me like this because a) CAN-SPAM  dictates a 10-day response for opt-outs and b) strictly speaking, I haven’t opted out.

Nevertheless, let’s look at what they did here:

  1. Honor the offer they mailed to me only after I had to speak to a manager
  2. Did not immediately respond to my request for fewer emails
  3. Failed to honor my preferences for men’s clothes (I know, cis-gendered men can’t exactly claim too much agony here, but still)

Not bad for the first five days of customership!

More Lessons from the Stripe Life

A while ago, I shared some things about marketing that I’ve learned refereeing my kids’ soccer matches.  I wanted to add one more: how and why to spread the work across multiple channels and campaigns.

Soccer pitch with referee running routes; also candidate for a really cool flag

See that big orange S-shape in the middle of the pitch?  That’s roughly the route that the center referee (CR)–the boss on the pitch–runs during a match.  Those red and blue lines that each follow half the sides of the pitch?  That’s where the assistant referees (ARs, formerly known as linesmen) run.  This setup gives the officials reverse angles of play on either end of the pitch.

Last weekend, I worked as an AR with a CR who simply ran along one side of the field, the same one I was on.  Thus, during any play on my end of the pitch, the CR and I had either the same view or, worse, she blocked mine.

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Autonomous cars are coming. Are marketers ready?

Every passing day brings new stories about advancement in the realm of self-driving vehicles.  Just this weekend, Ford announced that it had appointed the head of its autonomous vehicle unit to the CEO post (Automotive News, subscription required).  Now that a pillar of the auto industry has made a major step to prying our fingers off the steering wheel, how should marketers respond?

Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

As always, remember your Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Don’t Panic!

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How to Prevent an Advertising Disaster

We’ve had a good run of ad disasters lately, haven’t we?  Nivea inadvertently flirted with white supremacy and Pepsi trivialized a century or so of nonviolent protest with the aid of a Kardashian.  Last week McDonalds UK tried to sell Filets-O-Fish (Filet-O-Fishes?) on the backs of dead dads.

After picking up their jaws, the first question most right-thinking people ask is “who the hell let this happen?”  As most ad agency vets can attest, ideas often snowball before anyone can put a stop to them.  Usually, these snowballs simply hit the side of a barn; they tend to result in campaigns or ads that made sense to a small group of people in a conference room but not in the real world.  A career-minded sort (not judging) gains nothing by voicing qualms about them.

However, when an idea has the potential to become explosively damaging, everyone has the responsibility to stand up and strongly advise restraint.  As an example, let me share the time I helped prevent an agency from re-fighting WWII.

One would think this would be hard to forget

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Book Review: Written in Stone

At first glance, a book on geology should have no resonance with marketing communications whatsoever.  Other than the outsize role that pressure plays in both fields, very little links them.  And yet I found a simple truth in Written in Stone that speaks to me and should also speak to anyone whose job entails understanding consumer behavior.

These rocks are 440 million years old and were formed in the era of the 15% commission

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More Clear-Headed Thinking by the French

This weekend’s election in France suggests that the French electorate may have a firmer grasp on sanity than those in the UK & US.  A recent article in Automotive News, however, suggests that they have a firm grasp of marketing fundamentals as well.  Like a latter-day Alexis de Toqueville, it might have taken the French to reveal something about America that we Yanks didn’t know ourselves: how to sell pickup trucks.

Lafayette, we are here, y’all

Nissan, which is owned by Renault plans to launch its heavily revised pickup truck one region of the country at a time:

The automaker is focusing its marketing and distribution efforts for the Titan on just four U.S. cities — Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.
“We’ve concentrated on only those markets at first,” said Christian Meunier, Nissan North America’s senior vice president of sales & marketing and operations. “And once we’re satisfied that we’re where we want to be in those markets, we will then move to our second phase.”

You could argue with kicking off in the Mecca and Medina of pickup trucks, Dallas and Houston; it might have made sense to build up to these key markets rather than to start in them.  However, give the French some credit for taking on the most notoriously loyal vehicle segment in a strategically sound manner.

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Marketing Lessons from Referee Dad

As some of you know, I spend my weekends yelling at children, some of whom are my own, while pointing excitedly and wearing polyester.

Don’t laugh.  I will red card you into the stone age.

I think I’ve learned a few things as a youth soccer referee that translate nicely into marketing strategy.

Everyone has the potential to be great

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Post Cold-War Retail

Every retail client I ever had doubled as a spy.

Wow.  Look at all those SKUs

That is, they all spent time mystery-shopping competitors to see what they had and how they did things.  My Sam’s Club clients, for instance, might have spent more time in Costco’s warehouses than their own with the result that their warehouses started to look like Costco’s.

For decades, a cold war-like situation held sway with retailers keeping tabs on each other and reacting quickly.  More recently, I’d argue that online retail, particularly that other Seattle-based retailer, has effectively ended the cold war and made it harder for bricks-and-mortar retailers to know what’s going on.

Witness the example of fidget cubes.  Where they came from and how they got there speak volumes to the new status quo in retail.

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