Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Pier One: A Case Study in Misguided Marketing

Michele Miller, publisher of the WonderBranding blog, recently posted an excellent analysis of Pier One's marketing.

1. Stop with the celebrity spokespeople. Until Joe Regalbuto came along and broke the celebrity barrier with DirecTV, you couldn't catch an actor hawking anything -- now it's commonplace. Sure, the first ad or two with Kirstie Alley might have been cute, but they quickly became annoying. Being cute and creative in advertising might win you awards, but if it ain't selling the goods, it ain't worth the celluloid it's filmed on. Thom Filicia from Queer Eye? A little more credible but not worth it.

2. Start focusing on your products and their resonance with your customer's lifestyle rather than going "creative." See Number 1.

3. Take care of your current customers. I have been shopping at Pier 1 since the early days, when they sold those cool Eastern Indian gauze blouses and funky beaded stationery boxes. I still shop there regularly, and have yet to receive any kind of mailing (either postal or email) giving me a "heads up" on special sales, preferred buyer discounts, etc. Today, Pier 1 has monster competition in the form of Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, which are doing an awesome job of building customer evangelists -- without television advertising. Pier 1 would do itself a favor by rolling some of that ad money into a customer appreciation campaign.

4. Find a campaign and stick with it. Whatever you come up with, make sure it speaks to the customer about what matters to the customer, in the language of the customer. This is one of the most challenging ways to build market share... it's a long-term investment and requires marketing professionals who have strong sea legs.

Pier 1 has a great store. Hopefully, they'll get back on track before the competition sinks their ship.

Michele's analysis falls right in line with the process we use at Maple Creative, called the Brand Charter Process. Her commentary speaks to the Pier One Brand Essence, as well as its Brand Promotion. Its advertising message fails to communicate anything about the unique selling proposition (USP) that Pier One brings to the customer. In short, Pier One has lost the focus on its primary audience core--women shoppers ... plus it has violated the cardinal rule of consistency.

Great analysis, Michele! I agree completely.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Inside the Mind of a Two-Year Old

My daughter's favorite bedtime story of late is "The Three Little Pigs." We've read the story and recited the story (without the book) dozens of times. It's now to the point where she can tell me the story!

This morning, without prompting, she asked the following question as the breakfast dishes were being washed and put away:

"Daddy, is our house made of straw or bricks?"

Just plain hilarious!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Echo Boomers

The CBS News show 60 Minutes ran a great feature on Echo Boomers recently.

We use psychographic analysis and cohort marketing strategies quite extensively in our work at Maple Creative. So I was very interested in this story.

The moniker is derived from the fact that this group is the genetic offspring and demographic echo of their parents, the baby boomers. In the not-too-distant future Echo Boomers will be become the next dominant generation of Americans.

The "echo boomer" group is defined as those people born between the years 1982 and 1995. This definition conflicts somewhat with the traditional cohort groupings. Here's the cohort lineup that we use presently, listed by their birth year ranges:

Millenials: 1977 to 1986
Generation X: 1967 to 1976
Trailing-Edge Baby Boomers: 1957 to 1966
Leading-Edge Baby Boomers: 1947 to 1956
Post-War: 1937 to 1946

So, if you look at the "Millenials" (which have also been called "Generation Y" or "N-Gen") there is a bit of an overlap with the Echo Boomer range for the period 1982 to 1986.

Echo boomers are a reflection of the sweeping changes in American life over the past 20 years. They are the first to grow up with computers at home, in a 500-channel TV universe. They are multi-taskers with cell phones, music downloads, and Instant Messaging on the Internet. They are totally plugged- in citizens of a worldwide community.

And it's no wonder they feel that way. From when they were toddlers, they have been belted into car seats, and driven off to some form of organized group activity. After graduating from "Gymboree" and "Mommy and Me," they have been shuttled to play dates and soccer practice, with barely a day off, by parents who've felt their kids needed structure, and a sense of mission.

Dr. Mel Levine, a professor at the University of North Carolina, is one of the best-known pediatricians in the country. He says it's had as much to do with shaping this generation as technology.

"They have been heavily programmed. The kids who have had soccer Monday, Kung Fu Tuesday, religious classes Wednesday, clarinet lessons Thursday. Whose whole lives have really been based on what some adult tells them to do," says Levine.

"This is a generation that has long aimed to please. They've wanted to please their parents, their friends, their teachers, their college admissions officers."

It's a generation in which rules seem to have replaced rebellion, convention is winning out over individualism, and values are very traditional.

Echo Boomers are much different than their self-absorbed, egocentric baby boomer parents. Experts believe that they are more like their grandparents, the great World War II generation - more interested in building things up than tearing them down.

And you can already see some results. Violent crime among teenagers is down 60 to 70 percent. The use of tobacco and alcohol are at all-time lows. So is teen pregnancy. Five out of 10 echo boomers say they trust the government, and virtually all of them trust mom and dad. (Wow! Now there's a big shift, no?)

Through sheer numbers, they're beginning to change society. They have affected school construction, college enrollments, product development, and media content.

They are the most sophisticated generation ever when it comes to media. They create their own Web sites, make their own CDs and DVDs, and are cynical of packaged messages. They take their cues from each other. A well-placed product on one of their pop idols, like Paris Hilton or Ashton Kutcher, can launch a brand of $40 T-shirts and trucker hats. But they also shop at vintage clothing shops.

Because of their non-traditional media habits, traditional mass-media marketing tactics tend to flop with the Echo Boomers. Marketers have had success using buzz or publicity strategies to fuel successful word-of-mouth campaigns. (Remember the Echo Boomers want to fit it and go along ... not stand out.) Product placement strategies, which get a product or brand logo onto the person of an Echo Boomer celebrity icon, seem to be effective also. (They look to see what Ashton Kutcher or Jessica Simpson is wearing, doing and shopping.)

Full story here.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Coke - C2

I just saw a TV spot for Coca-Cola's new drink "C2." It's their new low-carb cola. I'm old enough to remember the launch and demise of "New Coke" in the early 1980s, and I have to say that "C2" made me think of "New Coke."

My first reaction was: Uh-oh ... here we go, again.
"C2" left me gasping for O2 (oxygen).

The TV commercial that I saw did not do a very good job of telling me what the product was, or what benefits I might derive by drinking "C2." The spot seemed more about mood and music ... Pretty people moving to enticing music ... shot of the "C2" logo and container overlaid throughout.

I have not seen the product on store shelves yet, nor have I tasted it. Still, I will be watching and waiting with baited breath for "C2" to crash and burn. That's just me being candid about what I felt.

Bravo to Coca-Cola Corp. for innovation, though. And bravo too for making a move to exploit and capture the low-carb craze within the soft drink industry.