Holiday Retail Fallout pt. 1:”Spirit” vs. “Present”

29 12 2008

Looks like the ghost of Christmas Present is just that, a ghost.  

MediaPost ran an interesting article about the most popular search keywords this holiday.  Last year, the #1 search was “Christmas present,” with “Christmas shopping” coming in at #4.  This year, the top search was for “Santa letter,” followed by “Christmas wish list,” and “Christmas spirit.”  The words “present” and “shopping” didn’t even make it into this year’s top 10. Where did they go?  

Somewhere along the line, the more genteel word “gift” has replaced “present” and “spirit” has become something you search for.  

Marketers take note.  As San Francisco-based Kontera surmised (they provided the analysis for this report), we are faced with more thoughtful consumers now.  And if they’re more thoughtful in their spending, you can bet that they are seeking value and meaning in their purchases.  

It’s time to adjust those marketing messages for ’09.


TechCrunch Draws a Line in the Sand

19 12 2008

My friend Craig forwarded me this tasty little nugget.  It’s from Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch.  Boy is he PO’ed.  And for good reason.  

The gist of his vitriol:

We will honor [breaking news] embargoes from trusted companies and PR firms who give us the news exclusively, so we know there won’t be any mistakes. There are also a handful – maybe three – people who we trust enough to continue to work with them on general embargoes (if you are a PR person and wondering if you’re on that list, you’re not). But for the vast majority of news we get in our inboxes, we’re just going to fire it off to our readers ad hoc whenever we please.

The race for attention in the tech start-up world is full of desperation.  It reminds me of my days in the film industry.  Actually, it’s more akin to a room full of kids raising their hands shouting “Me! Me! Me!”

We marketers are going to have to think good and hard about how we develop campaigns that bring us the attention and recognition our products and services deserve.  [notice that bit there in italics]  We have to work hard to CREATE DISCOVERY for people like Arrington without cramming press releases down their throats.

Now, while I have your attention, I’d like to tell you about my newest client, SmartTouch…

Can You Swallow a $4 Cup o’ Joe in This Economy?

12 11 2008

Take a look at this.  Specifically, check out the net income.

Earnings charts

It’s a good thing that Starbucks added a high-margin, low-cost, basic menu item like oatmeal because their premium coffee drinks are going to take a hit.  Starbucks should reexamine its basic drip coffee business, how they can make it more attractive to loyal customers who might have to downsize their coffee habits but don’t want to do without the experience.  First stop – look at the variety of drip coffees available and the “condiments” with which to accessorize said drip coffees.  They’ve got the basics down but they’ve got to make those condiment stations not look so ghetto and ratty.  Starbucks, you’ve got to make drip coffee fun.


28 10 2008

There was a great quote in the most recent issue of Creativity Magazine from Virgin America’s VP of Marketing Porter Gale.  Regarding Richard Branson:  “He’s a consumer champion and he comes in and changes industries.  He’s trying to banish mediocrity.  That philosophy really filters throughout our organization.”

Mediocre marketing bugs me and it’s easy to spot.  It’s laziness with a bad font.  Sure signs of mediocrity include:

  • clip art – especially photos of busy-looking people (usually white with a token minority thrown in) dressed in suits and engaged in conversation in completely unnatural ways
  • Arial, Helvetica and Times
  • “About Us” web pages that don’t tell you a thing
  • overuse of the words “belief,” “core” and “values”
  • almost anything that is put out by the three major wireless carriers, excepting AT&T’s sidekick involvement with the iPhone

Any other culprits you want to call out?

Marketing Nostalgia

22 10 2008

For those of us who love to wallow in tradition around the holidays (which is not easy here in San Diego), this retail season will be a breath of fresh air.  As American’s recoil economically, retailers will be courting them by appealing to their nostalgic sides.  The first sign:  Toys”R”Us is bringing back it’s old “I’m a Toys “R”Us Kid” jingle.  Full story here.  


I know it’s sick, but I might actually slow down my DVR ad-skipping if I see this one come on.  

Stay tuned for more reports that back up my prophecy.  Hooray for nostalgia.  Marketers–I’m all yours.

Seeing is Believing

21 10 2008

I discovered the work of Common Craft while doing research for a client.  My client needed a demo for the Health 2.0 conference and it was suggested I check out the demo video Common Craft made for Twitter.

Their tagline is “video sharing in plain English” and their claim is “our product is explanation.”  Simple and well said.  And they deliver.  Sachi and Lee LeFever, the principles of Common Craft, tell stories with paper cut-outs.  Like these:

How Common Craft works

How Common Craft works

And they tell them really well.  This is a return to old-school, educational storytelling (remember those “Our Mr. Sun” movies in science class?) with a focus on visual creativity.  I love it.  They proved that demos don’t have to be boring.  Only problem is, now the bar’s been set really high.

Silver-Lining Marketing

16 09 2008

Due to my impending high school reunion, I recently reconnected with an old friend.  We’ve known each other since elementary school.    Buried in a box under the stairs are the pen pal letters to prove it.   In catching up, I learned that he had heart surgery at a very young age (12) which somehow none of us seemed to know.  This experience apparently inspired his current career in cardiac research.

There is something very appealing about this simple cause and effect story.  There is also something very moving about a challenge that is morphed into a triumph.  

In light of the turbulence in our economy, in the financial sector and in our politics I would like to see advertising and marketing with that same appeal.  Rather than frighten me with tales of what’s wrong (and how I, the consumer, need your product or service or else…) why don’t you inspire me with what can be made right. When I refer to the fear-based advertising and marketing, I am thinking of recent ads I’ve seen for insurance, healthcare, financial services and our presidential candidates.  When I refer to inspiring, I am thinking of Target and Wal-Mart, who are working very hard to remind us that beauty, fun and everyday small luxuries don’t have to be mutually exclusive of value and savings.

So, to all of you advertisers and marketers out there:  Show me a realistic silver-lining.  Because, quite simply, if you can provide me with reasoned hope, I will gravitate toward you.