Target “Misses” It’s Online Projections. And We Care…why?


Saw this story on RetailWire titled “Does Target have a problem online?” (click here).

The gist is that analysts are worried about Target because they exceeded the national average of 15% online growth. But their online growth at 20% was less than the 30% that had been projected. (Same thing happened at WalMart.)

And we care…exactly why?

The theory of “omnichannel” is that the consumer doesn’t care about our silos. So why should we be reporting and analyzing numbers based on those same silos?
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Kickstarter Mythology Needs Some Retail Reality


Kickstarter mythology has outgrown reality.

(But let me be very clear. I’m NOT talking about Kickstarter art, music, and movie projects. It was designed for these and they seem to be running pretty well overall.)

I’m talking about Kickstarter campaigns that raise money by Directly Selling new Products that have never been built – and taking orders for lots of them. In the computer business we used to call this selling vaporware and investing in businesses dedicated to vaporware led to the dotcom crash. Segway and Google Glass were both massive vaporware disasters.

Now, by selling vaporware with Kickstarter, we’re seeing amazing train wrecks among the most highly successful money raising campaigns. These train wrecks are all made possible by the mythologies that drive Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites. (Incidentally, a comment below points out this is a far more dramatic version of the direct mail practice of “dry testing”. There is already FTC guidance on dry testing.)

The Mythology of Kickstarter for Inventors. Inventor mythology starts with a belief that it’s enough to come up with a good idea and some money to build it. And Kickstarter appears to “unshackle” inventors so this can happen.
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The Emotional Impact of Facts

Facts used in advertising leave behind emotion.

I ran across this thought provoking idea in the Jaques Ellul book “Propaganda” (published in 1965, I read this book in the 1980’s and recently decided it was worth a re-read). 20130114-191437.jpg

Rational and Irrational Communication. Ellul considers the difference between information and propaganda and the tendency to believe that “information addresses reason and experience … where propaganda addresses feelings and passion”. He concludes: “It’s not that simple.”
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Don’t Test Whispers

Key to marketing success is a disciplined approach to testing ideas and action. After all, marketing writing and consulting is filled with tremendously attractive and detailed theories about action “X” causing result “Y”. Yet all these theories were developed based on specific experiences under specific circumstances. So there’s no guarantee that taking them and applying them in your world will create the same result.

So we should test, test test. And yet…testing experience shows that far more things are tested than are found to conclusively help or hurt. Why? One quite common testing error is to “test whispers” – small changes that simply can’t have a large enough impact to drive measurable change.

I once watched Rubbermaid test whispers in focus groups where a series of 5 statements of brand differentiation were evaluated. But rather than vary the statements with ideas that were truly significant to consumers, the statements traded off tiny wording changes. (I found it ironically enjoyable to watch the focus group participants quite frankly explain that all the statements said the same thing.) Read more of this post

The Brand Building Power of Product Advertising

Funny how names are. A specific type of advertising was labeled “brand advertising”. So the myth developed that in order to build brand, you need to use brand advertising.

Except, it isn’t true. And with billions of dollars of revenue on the line, it’s time advertisers got smarter. Because here’s the real brand truth:

1. All types of advertising build brand.

2. The type which is most effective changes – depending on your company, brand, consumer, profit structure and product or service situation.

3. Quite often a mix of types is most effective – a mix which may or may not include “brand advertising”.

The Brand Building Power of Product Advertising Given this truth, it’s sad that one particularly powerful tool is also one of the least understood by agencies & the ad biz — advertising which uses the product to build brand. Read more of this post

Kobalt Tools Becomes a 2012 “Brand to Watch” (An Atomic Client)

Landor Associates has just published their top 10 “Breakaway Brands” for 2012 and the list isn’t too surprising. Facebook leads off followed by Keurig, Skype, Amazon, Vizio, Samsung, YouTube, Netflix, the US Marine Corps, and Apple. (This study is published in Forbes each year. Link here.)

It gets more interesting in the “Brands to Watch” list. Leading the three “Brands to Watch” is Atomic client Kobalt Tools (followed by Foster Farms and Symantec/Norton).
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Store Brand? Manufacturer Brand? The Real Issue is Telling Consumers Something Meaningful.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about store brands competing with manufacturer brands – mostly talking about how store brands are thriving. This is to be expected – both due to retail evolution and the recession. But I don’t think we have to consider the brand preference a zero-sum game — reality is far more interesting.

Both types of brand play important roles for the consumer. And the consumer market is so robust there’s plenty of room for all types of brands – if they deliver something meaningful to consumers.

What’s missing in the current discussion, though, is any coherent discussion of the reality that it takes outstanding communication to make both types of brands thrive. Read more of this post