Category Archives: Technology

The Changing American Family

Source: General Mills/Betty Crocker
Source: General Mills/Betty Crocker

Marketing research today has become a lot about story telling.  In today’s technology driven environment, telling a story often means being very visual.  A good example of this is The Families Project by Betty Crocker/General Mills.

This report is all about the changing profile of the american family.  If this was a regular report, you might have glanced over it, maybe taking in a few details and moved on.  Betty Crocker went a step further.  They provided the data in a way that was easy to absorb.  This type of digital story telling is a becoming more common in marketing research.

Source: Betty Crocker/General Mills
Source: Betty Crocker/General Mills

Sure – adding pictures, doing a video, developing a microsite – those things take time.  But that effort is well worth it when you are trying to force change within an organization or sell an idea.  Based on my experience in CPG, this was done to drive change.  It was done to show senior managers that marketing the same way they have always done may not work.  The american family is changing, and so must the way we market to them.

Chris Lovett


What I Learned This Week, 9.7.12

This one is late, late, late!  But I am still posting.  Still learning.  So here are a few items I learned this week.

1. Others Share My Views on Groupon: I knew I was not alone.  I also saw daily deals as a trend, and not a platform.  Companies have goals of growing profitable, returning, and loyal customers.  While Daily Deals drive trial, they do very little to meet the long term objectives of many companies.  My friend here agrees.

2. Responsive Web Design is Coming: Responsive Web design is much more than optimizing a site for a mobile device – responsive design optimizes web pages by how you are viewing it, on a tablet, a smartphone, even the size of your browser window.  Responsive web design is coming – and it’s a truly customer friendly feature.  Learn more about responsive web design here

3. Coke is Selling Convenience: Coke is getting ready to launch Dasani Drops.  I find this fascinating because of the price concept here.  These drops are probably 4 oz at most, and sell for $4.00 each, a huge premium from the $1.89 cost of a 20 oz. drink.  My guess is they cost less to make too.

True – Coke is not the first player here – but I find it innovative and amazing that a category can be reinvented, often selling convenience over an actual product (Flavor in your purse).  Other companies have been in this space for years (think cereal bars) – but it seems soft drink companies are finally catching up, and will profit from your water even if its not theirs.

Chris Lovett


The Future of Self-Service Banking

The ATM experience has for the most part gone unchanged since the first ATMs were introduced in the 1970’s and rolled out widely in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  While the technology inside the machines has changed as technology has improved, the experience around using the ATM has largely gone unchanged.  You wait in line behind other people, there is a lack of privacy, and you often feel rushed in completing your transaction.

IDEO, a firm centered around human design, took a look at the automated banking experience with the Spanish Bank BBVA.  The goal was to make the experience more personal, and humanized.  One thing IDEO does really well is observe current human behavior, and recommend a new way of doing things to improve the process.  Looking at current ATM customers, IDEO developed a new prototype ATM based on what they learned.

The design is centered around  core concepts:

Privacy: The ATMs have been rotated, to provide the customer with more privacy as the line for the ATM is to the side of the customer, vs directly behind them.

Simplicity: One slot for cash and receipts helps eliminate confusion.  I am guessing the checks would go in here as well.  The system also uses touch screen technology, which ties into the design elements of todays smartphone’s and tablets, so customers would feel comfortable about using the system.

Personalization: The system recognizes the user, and allows them to choose from their most common ATM transactions.  It also visually shows them on one screen the most relevent information (Accounts, balances, etc).

Tangibility: All of the transactions are visualized – with the transition of virtual and reality being very seamless.  This transition, in my opinion, would make a customer very comfortable when banking at a machine, as they could almost feel the transaction happening in real-time.

Delight: All of this combined could help create a very humanized approach to automated banking – maybe even a little entertaining.

Overall – I like the concept.  I agree it would work best in an inside environment, and may require much more of an investment for walk up ATMs outside of a branch.  Overall though, I would feel more comfortable with this type of banking experience, especially when making deposits or more complex banking transactions.

Fast Company also profiled a bank of the future in Brazil, with innovative features like the ATMs listed above and touchscreen surface tables.  It looks like the future is today.

What do you think?

Chris Lovett

Fall Internship: The Resumator

Class: a good Fall Internship at a Technology Start Up: The Resumator.

The Resumator is a quirky, Pittsburgh-based software company that is reinventing the way employers hire. Featured on TechCrunch, Mashable and CNET, we empower growing businesses with recruiting tools they°ve never had, but have always needed. Our 1000+ customers include some of the fastest growing businesses and hottest startups in the world like Pinterest, Klout, Instagram, and HootSuite. We ’re looking for a Marketing Intern to contribute to digital marketing, branded content, market research, media relations, and event planning efforts.

This role is a paid part-time position. Must be able to work at least 20 hours a week. This is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable business and marketing skills before you graduate. MARKETING INTERNSHIP Responsibilities Learn and utilize Google Analytics, website testing, and CRM software Compile reports on the effectiveness of lead generation and marketing campaigns Research and recommend new advertising and partner opportunities Conduct market research and competitive analysis Write marketing copy for website and sales collateral Assist with marketing projects for print production, email campaigns, and events Qualifications College student majoring in Business, Marketing, or Communications (Juniors preferred) Prior marketing experience a plus Well spoken and engaging Self starter with the ability to learn quickly Proficient with Microsoft Excel Can take direction well and work independently for periods of time Ability to derive sound conclusions from raw data Ability to work minimum of 20 hours per week Bonus Points Experience working in a startup Entrepreneurial aspirations Perks include occasional free lunches, snacks and Xbox gaming system.

Bring in your favorite movies to have as background noise, or tell us what video games you like to play and we°ll get them. We even have free parking! Join one of the fastest growing startups in the Pittsburgh region!

Apply Here:

Chris Lovett

Innovative Company: Birchbox

I think one trait of successful marketing pro’s is they are alway’s on the lookout for innovative ideas, inside or outside of their industry.  When I worked in retail, I would shop a different competitor’s store each week.  My theory is simple – you don’t know what you don’t know.  I think good ideas can be generated from any industry, and it is important to look outside of our current ones at times to generate the best ideas.

So let’s take a look at Birchbox.  Birchbox is a startup launched in 2010 by two business women who went to Harvard.  The premise of Birchbox is to send members a box of the latest samples of beauty items like perfume, nail polish, makeup, and other items for a fee of $10 per month.  Subscribers get to try the latest in beauty products, to see what they like, without having to commit to a large size, and something they may not like.  In 2012, the last time Birchbox released sales numbers, they had over 100,000 subscribers.  That number alone would generate about 12 Million in annual revenue.  So successful, that they recently launched a mens line up.  Although, because they have a very engaged audience, those companies that are placing samples in the boxes are probably paying to get their samples to their audiences as well.  Overall, it’s a really cool concept, and I actually joined the waiting list for a Christmas gift for my wife.  What makes Birchbox a success, and worth looking at for inspiration?

Loyalty: Their subscribers are extremely loyal, and in turn use word of mouth marketing to get their friends and family to sign up for the service.  And these woman talk about it – a lot.   Getting their Birchbox is like an event each month, and Birchbox is armed with thousands of fans who use social media to talk about what is in their Birchbox.

They sell surprises: Imagine an ordinary business telling you you would get a box of something, for $10 a month.  They would not tell you want you get – you just pay – and you get something each month.  That’s basically what Birchbox does – they handpick samples, and part of the excitement for women is getting that brown box each month, and discovering what is inside.  It is a business model that would most likely fail in most industries, but Birchbox has figured out a way to sell surprises – with customers really having no idea of what is in it for them.  I have talked to friends, and they say the excitement they feel when they see a Birchbox in their work mailbox is almost like euphoria, with a few describing it as a special treat they earn each month.

They are grounded in social media: Birchbox is highly engaged in social media, from Facebook (180K fans) to Twitter (50K follows), and engages on Pinterest and YouTube as well.  As a company helping women discover fashion and beauty trends, they are highly engaged and enthused with their following, engaging in conversations and providing tips and not just sales pitches.  It is refreshing, and a reason the company has done so well.  Sometimes being on social media is not just about getting the most fans, but building an army of advocates that sell your brand for you.

It’s customized: Subscribers fill out a questionnaire when they sign up, detailing out preferences and skin type.  So each subscriber gets a unique package that feels like it is just for them.  It seems like part of the excitement – knowing you are getting something that was created just for you.

e-commerce is built in from the ground up: The samples link to a full e-commerce site, where subscribers can buy full size versions of the products they like most.  It is a great way for the companies that give samples to reach a highly engaged audience, with easy access to their products.  And they can be sure there will be satisfaction as they have already tried it.

More background on Birchbox below.

So – tell me – have you tried Birchbox?  What do you love about it?


Thoughts on Brand Segmentation and Data

There used to be a simple way for a company to target different segments, and that was to create a brand that was customized to the preferences of each segment.  I think a great example of this is Gap, Inc. three core brands developed specifically for their customer segments:

Gap: This is the core brand, and targets the widest variety of segments for Gap.  The other two brands were developed to help reach other segments that Gap could not reach in one store.  So they created a few other brands.

Banana Republic: This brand is targeted to the young urban professional.  Probably without kids, and most likely very healthy, because I never met a pair of BR pants I could fit into.  The price point is higher, but the designs are much sharper.  The target here is clearly a more affluent customer.

Old Navy: This brand is clearly targeted to folks with a lower income, due to their lower price points.  It is also family friendly, with more kid choices.  This brand has thrived in the recessionary environment, giving Gap a secure revenue source even in difficult times.

Gap also has a few other brands with specific targets, Piperlime, a brand focused on style and trend, and Atheta, a brand focused on the active crowd, sort of a Lululemon competitor.  

Developing multiple brands to target specific segments is an expensive proposition for most.  It requires separate stores, separate brands, and separate advertising budgets.  While it can be done successfully, it probably won’t be cheap.  And a lot of companies are doing this, and doing it well.

Another approach is leveraging your internal data to market to customers on a 1:1 level, without redefining the brand experience overall.  It requires a robust CRM system to identify targets, and a delivery system to reach those targets at a personal level, through direct marketing or in store experience.

A recent article in the New York Times showed how retailers like Safeway and Kroger are using their customer data to target customers to the point of different customers paying a different price, based on their segment and past shopping behavior.  The article explains how one customer could pay one price for the same product another customer pays a higher price for, all in effort to get them to buy more or “build the basket.”

Retailers have been recieving robust data for years, but have been slow to use it to their advantage.  Kroger, one of the few grocery retailers reporting positive STS sales, reports in the article that customized direct mail coupons, with a redemption rate of up to 70% (The article notes this is a high result.  I would like to report – this is a HUGE UNHEARD OF RESULT) is directly driving higher sales and more loyal customers.

I agree with this approach, and think there is a huge upside opportunity when a brand presents offers that speak directly to their target market.  A key approach is building a program that is automated, leveraging data to deploy customized offers targeted to various segments through direct mail, email, and even inside the store.  Capturing data is easy.  Using data to create a customized, ongoing marketing program that drives sales, repeat visits, and higher transactions is the hard part – but worthwhile if you can do it.

Data.  It’s what’s for dinner, if you can find it, leverage it, and deploy it.

Chris Lovett

Using Social Media for Marketing Research

I came across this Frito Lay page this weekend, where they are asking fans to create the next Lay’s chip flavor via a social contest on Facebook.  Pretty innovative idea if you ask me.  Will it work?  Time will tell.  Companies today are getting closer and closer to their customers,  and I see this as an exciting evolution in Marketing Research.  Companies are now getting almost immediate customer feedback and immediate results on consumers tests.  What once took months is now available in days.

In product development before social media, managers would have looked at trend reports (secondary data for my BGMT 311 class), focus groups (qualitative study again for BGMT 311), and other research before launching a new flavor.  New flavors are still risky, even with all of the research done, with the failure rate estimated by some experts on new flavors or extensions at 50%.  While the chosen Lay chip may also fail, the amount of spending will probably be far less than the older traditional methods.

New products and flavors are risky.  There is a lot of research done up front, and then a lot of marketing support is needed at launch to create awareness and demand.  With Frito Lay using social media to help pick their next flavor, what they are really doing is developing a “Virtual Test Market” – running the ideas past thousands of consumers before they make a large investment on product formulation, package design, etc.  I expect to see a lot more of this as social media use continues to grow.

Another great example of a company leveraging social media is Walmart.  Using their new internal social team they brought in, @walmartlabs, they monitor social trends around the clock.  When they discovered a very large amount of people talking about cake pops on Twiiter and other social media outlets, they informed their merchandisers to get them into their stores on a test basis.  The results were so successful, they plan on bringing them back in the future.  

The example above with cake pops is a great example of using social secondary data to one’s advantage – because Walmart was able to react to a market trend almost immediately.  If they would have waited, they may have missed out on the trend and an opportunity for incremental sales.  In the past, this trend would have been reported, at earliest, a quarter after it was established, and it may have just been too late.  Just like technology, food trends are becoming lighting fast (are gourmet marshmallows even a thing anymore?)

I am not a fan of Walmart – but they seem to be really leading the way when it comes to leveraging social marketing research into their overall business model.  Their “Get It On the Shelf” campaign generated over 4,000 product ideas and a million votes.  Walmart announced the first products from this initiative featured recently here.

I have to figure out how to get pies trending on twitter – I have been waiting for that trend for years.


Redefining the In-Store Brand Experience

I came across this video of a new concept Audi showroom in London developed by Razorfish.  Truly, truly ground breaking innovative retail design that redefines in store experience.

This is pretty ground breaking stuff.  I am all for innovation, but for some reason, when it comes to cars, I still need to kick the tires and ask them to open up the hood, even though I have no clue what I am looking at.

Would you buy a car with a brand experience like this?





Changing of the Guard

I am really excited about Yahoo! appointing Marissa Mayer as the new CEO.  It is exciting that they chose a woman, a geek, and had enough of an open mind to make this move while she is pregnant.  Sadly, most companies would not have given her a shot, but Yahoo! did, and I am very excited about what Marissa represents for not only Yahoo!, but for all of us Gen X and Y’ers – ready to come out from the shadow of the boomers.

So why am I excited?  Marissa represents the changing of the guard in corporate America.  She is young, stylish, and a geek.  She is tech savvy.  She is going to struggle through parenthood.  She is just like us.  That is why I am so excited – Marissa is just like all of us! (With a few more dollars in her bank account, of course).  I bet she sleeps with her iPad and smartphone – just like we do!

We have three core generations in the US.  Boomers, who have led companies for years, Gen X, a smaller generation stuck in the middle, and Gen Y or millennial, just as large as the Baby Boomers.  Even though Gen X and Y far exceed boomers in population, boomers still lead the US in influence, income, and corporate America leadership roles.  Most Fortune 500 companies are led by boomers – often who do not use the company’s product or service, and can be out of touch with the struggles of growing a career, being a new parent, and paying off student loans.  Generation X and Y are parents.  They are educated.  And they are ready to be leaders.

I wish Marissa the best of luck.  She has her work cut out for her for sure – but overall this change took a lot of courage, and I hope Yahoo! is rewarded for that vision.