Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Want To Reach Moms? Consider This...

As the economic crisis continues, so does the hibernating. We are becoming more of a "hiber-nation" as families hunker down to weather the storm with more time spent at home and less out spending at malls and restaurants. (Movie sales are up but that's an annex of the hibernation cave that helps us to escape for a few hours).

With families spending more time together at home, they are slowing down, bonding differently and discovering joy in spending real time together. Moms are enjoying the experience of a stronger family unit. And, as head of domestic purchasing, Moms are finding strength and are taking pride in not buying.

As Americans, we have been weaned on consuming; it's part of our lifeblood. However, the gatekeeper badge of honor has shifted from "I got such a deal" to "I haven't bought anything new in weeks" or "I've switched from buying expensive shoes to a simple lipstick." American mothers are meeting the challenge and expressing the thought that, "this is hard but, ultimately, it's a good thing for my family -- we are pulling together, spending more time together. It's less about accumulating stuff. It feels more real."

There is a sea change afoot, and it is defined by a new set of consumer values. It's actually an old set of Puritanical values that is roaring back with renewed strength. You take stock of what you have, you take very good care of it and you make it last as long as possible. It's a sensibility that embraces the "It's not what you earn, it's what you don't spend" attitude. And when you do buy, you buy only what you know and trust, and you trust it deeply. The culture of responsibility that felt old-fashioned 18 months ago now feels stabile, secure and appealing today.

So what's a marketer to do? If you are in the business of selling things, how do you sell to Mom's new mindset?

New-fangled and novel will always capture a certain amount of attention, especially in categories such as electronics and beauty. But deep roots and time-tested can present key opportunities for great old American brands that frankly, felt 'fuddy-duddy' and past their prime in the 21st century. And, when they were in their prime, they marketed to the quintessential '50s housewife versus the modern, dimensional woman of today.

As Mom watches her family reconnect and recommit itself to spending real time together, great American brands have the opportunity to get real and tap their heritage. Marketers should not only mirror this value shift but truly embrace it. If done with ingenuity and authenticity, a brand's heritage story can become valid and compelling once again.

This new set of consumer values will be responsive to:
* Truth and transparency
* Virtue-based attributes
* Ethically minded culture
* Good foundations
* Good value -- not just a cheap or a good buy
* Local support -- community involvement

And finally, go back to the old recipes -- get back to your good old roots both in product and communications. Too much has been taken away from the winning formulas that made great American brands great in order to maximize profits. Products often don't taste or work as well as they originally did.

Stop making substitutions for the real, good ingredients and materials. Get rid of what's artificial. Moms want real, not a chemistry lab on their breakfast table. The litmus test is, if you can sell it to a New England farmer's wife, then you've got something.
(source: mediapost.com, Kyla Lange Hart, 3/18/09)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Financial Institutions Build Confidence With Advertising

Troubled financial institutions need to advertise more to have a chance of building consumer confidence.

According to a recent study by Nielsen IAG, 55% of TV consumers who have seen, on average, more advertising from financial institutions over the last six months have "complete confidence" in the health of those companies. On the flip side, only 18% of those consumers have confidence when they have seen less advertising on average.

Nielsen says that when financial companies go "out of sight," they can possibly go "out of business."

Last year, financial institutions--financial services and insurance companies--started pulling back on their ad spending. They ended the year down 13.4% versus 2007, spending $8.4 billion. When most of the troubling economic news started in the fourth quarter, financial companies cut even bigger pieces of their media spending--down 23.3% to $2.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 versus the same period in 2007.

On average, older consumers 55 plus with assets of over $100,000 generally have more confidence in financial institutions than younger consumers.

Consumer confidence is derived from financial institutions having the wherewithal to advertise themselves, as well as strong overall marketing efforts. For example, consumers said they would have increased confidence from seeing advertising via TV, regular mail, email and/or Internet offers.

But the biggest factor for consumers comes from non-paid marketing efforts--reading positive stories in the press about those institutions.
(source: mediapost.com)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Local Search Tools For Small Businesses

Search marketers have tools at their disposal to help raise the profile of small businesses and gain more insight into local markets.

Two of my favorite tools offer help with local directory listings; my other two favorites are Google programs that allow online marketers to overlay search data with location data and provide interesting insights into local search.

Universal Business Listing
This directory service saves you an enormous amount of time and effort by helping you distribute your business information to many local search platforms, directories, and portals across the Web.

Create an updatable profile on its Web site and it will periodically push the data out, not only to sites like Google Maps and Yahoo Local, but also to a myriad of other local and local/social Web sites and Internet yellow pages, such as Superpages, Insider Pages, YellowBot, Kudzu, Judy's Book, MerchantCircle, and the like. UBL will also deliver information about your business to 411 directories, navigation systems, like OnStar and TomTom, and Internet portals, such as AOL.

In addition, a listing with UBL quickly gets your data into the InfoUSA database, which is itself a trusted source of widely-shared business information. You get great coverage, while saving valuable time creating and updating profiles in all the local places you need to be.

While you can purchase very similar services at numerous places on the Web, Universal Business Listing charges only $30 per year, making it a real bargain for local brick-and-mortar enterprises.

This tool is a great time saver for local business owners. Simply enter a business name and ZIP code on the home page and the program will search for listings in four influential local business directories: Best of the Web Local, Yahoo Local, MSN Live Local, and Google Maps.

If you aren't listed, click on the links provided to go directly to the page on each of the sites where you can add details about your business. If your listings can benefit by enhancing them with reviews, photos, videos, or citations, GetListed will also tell you that. Advanced features include a dashboard for the convenient monitoring of two or more brick-and-mortar businesses, instructions on how to add photos to your listings, and articles to help you with marketing local enterprises on the Internet.

GetListed is intuitively easy to use and gives you a great deal of actionable information with the click of a mouse. The developers, David Mihm and Patrick Sexton, plan to continue adding features to this awesome new tool, so keep an eye out for future enhancements.

Google Trends
This very handy Google tool shows you trends in search and allows you to visually compare search trends for multiple terms. You can't see any solid numbers, but you can view charts that clearly display the "winner" in search volume for the keyword terms you're researching.

You can choose the month or year for which you wish to see data. The trend lines are tagged with instances of significant news events pertaining to your search terms to help explain spikes in interest.

This example shows that the term "bikes" is searched for three times more often than "bicycles."

It also shows the top 10 locations for those searches, according to what regions you ask to see. For this example, I chose the United States, so I was shown the relative search volume for the 10 states and 10 cities with the most searches for "bikes."
I then clicked on Colorado and was shown the 10 towns in Colorado where "bikes" is searched for most often.

From this data, you can see that a sports store in Durango can benefit by bidding on both "bike" and "bicycle" in its paid search campaigns, while one in Steamboat should stick to "bike."
No matter what stage of marketing you're in, from doing initial research to fine tuning a mature campaign, Google Trends can help you see search in ways you may not have yet imagined. Spend some time discovering its capabilities and it may become a standard weapon in your online marketing arsenal.

Google Insights for Search
This is another interesting, though somewhat complex Google tool that I�m certain you can glean thought-provoking information. Spend some time checking it out. For instance, it allows you to see Google Trends-type information according to locations and time frames and to compare the search trends in those locations and times to each other.

For example, if you're a tennis instructor in the D.C. metro area wondering where to concentrate your AdWords spend for the upcoming season, you could use Insights for Search to help with your marketing decision by asking the tool to show you the search trends for "tennis lessons" in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., during the timeframe of your choosing.
click to enlarge
(source: ClickZ, Mary Bowling, 3/12/09)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Discounting Damages Brands

The Dollars & Consumer Sense 2009 study, released today, finds that consumers often have a negative reaction when they see the price slashed for their favorite product or service.

In fact, 70 percent of respondents to the Yankelovich poll said such cuts probably mean the brand was overpriced in the first place. And, 62 percent said they assumed that the product was old and they were just trying to get rid of it.

"People are suspicious if you significantly discount your brand,” said J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich Monitor and executive vice chairman of The Futures Company. “If you make significant changes in your value proposition it can confuse them. You have to give them reasons to buy stuff as opposed to just lowering prices as a knee jerk reaction to the economy.”

Earlier this year Saks Fifth Avenue announced it was retreating from a discounting strategy after it lost nearly $100 million in Q4. CEO Stephen Sadove said the chain would add a mix of lower priced items instead. The assumption became "they are just overpriced all year long," said Smith.

Brands that do not discount achieve a positive halo among many consumers, per the study, which polled 1,0002 consumers in January. Sixty-four percent of those polled said they assume the product is either extremely popular or a good value if they maintain their price.

Earlier this month, Brand Keys announced similar findings among the 26,000 consumers it polled for its Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. Consumer expectations regarding brand value went up 20 percent. In other words, many aren’t looking for lower-priced brands rather they are looking buy products that they consider a good value.

A potentially more damning result of lower pricing is deflationary expectations, per Yankelovich. This means consumers are postponing purchases in anticipation of prices falling further. Up to 60 percent of those polled believed companies that cut prices would continue to do so. “People are sitting around waiting for more discounts. That’s a really bad thing," says Smith. "The deflationary cycle is very difficult to remedy once it takes hold."
(source: Brandweek, 3/11/09, Kenneth Hein)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Who's Buying Eyeglasses?

Not an overly enlightening post today, but one I found interesting. These are not overly large markets...and Cedar Rapids is #6????
Have a great day!

Who's Buying Eyeglasses?
Top 10 DMAs in which adults who spent more than $150 on eyeglasses in the past 12 months:
1 Ft. Smith/ Fayetteville/ Springdale/ Rodgers, Ark.
2 Waco/ Temple/ Bryan, Ala.
3 Huntsville/ Decatur (Florence), Ala.
4 Minneapolis/ St. Paul
5 Shreveport, La.
6 Cedar Rapids/ Waterloo/ Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa
7 Knoxville, Tenn.
8 Louisville, Ky.
9 Tri-Cities, Tenn./ Va.
10 Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), Ala.
Source: MRI's Market-by-Market study, www.mediamark.com

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Best Dealers Keep Customers After Warranties End

Even if you are not in the automotive industry, these are some good areas to take a look at for your business. For automotive service practices such as providing promt appointments, greeting the customer immediately on arrival, knowing the vehicle's service history and returning the auto clean (with my wife...you wash her car when you change the oil and you have a customer for life).

Not one of the above suggestions cost you a dime! Another point this article makes is that the experience the customer has with your Service Department greatly impacts whether the customer buys another car from the dealership!

Be creative in the ways you deliver your customer service, and make sure it is consistent throughout your entire organization. Have the mentality that every single person on your staff is in sales - in one way or another.

It's fairly easy for auto dealerships to keep service-department customers while their vehicles remain under warranty.

The hard part is retaining them as customers after the warranty expires and they're now paying for service and maintenance work. That's when many customers take their business elsewhere, such as independent repair shops.

But a study finds even though satisfaction with dealer service tends to decline as vehicles age -- particularly in the fourth and fifth years of ownership -- dealers that provide the highest levels of satisfaction during the warranty period retain a greater share of future business afterwards.

Dealership networks with superior service retain more than 80 percent of customer maintenance and repair dollars, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2009 Customer Service Index Study.

Conversely, retention rates are less than 60 percent for brands with lower-performing dealers.

There are two reasons service work has become particularly important for dealers and their parts-supplying auto makers.

One, during the current recession, customers are keeping their vehicles longer, increasing the likelihood of service visits.

Two, dealers facing an industry-wide vehicle sales slump are turning their attention to other areas of their business, particularly the back shop, for much-needed revenue.

"The significant decline in new-vehicle sales means that dealers are relying even more heavily on the service operations," says Jon Osborn, J.D. Power's research director. "In many cases, this income is keeping the dealerships open.

"Customers who say the dealer service they received was "unacceptable" report spending eight times as much at non-dealer service facilities, compared with customers who report receiving "truly exceptional" service from their dealer.

Consumers participating in the study report spending an average of $310 annually on oil changes, routine maintenance and repairs during the first five years of vehicle ownership.

In the latest study, the Lexus brand ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service, improving from fourth place last year.

Lexus achieves an overall CSI score of 835 on a 1,000-point scale and performs particularly well in four of the five measures. In order of importance those are: service quality, service initiation, service advisor and service facility. The fifth measure is vehicle pickup.

Rounding out the top five nameplates are Jaguar (810), BMW (808), Cadillac (806) and Acura (805).

At the bottom of the list are Volkswagen (725), Kia (724), Nissan (723), Mazda (716) and Suzuki (702).

Newport Lexus in Newport Beach, CA, is an example of a dealership with a service emphasis.

The $75 million, 3-year-old facility is a showplace but Greg Whetter, vice president of the dealership group that owns it, talks with particular enthusiasm about the service department.

There is a 7-lane service drive for speedy intake. Cars go up a ramp and to a work area with 77 bays and 103 lifts. The bays are pre-stocked with parts for the 18 most common service orders.

"We can get you in and out in minutes," Whetter says.

"The highest-performing brands differentiate themselves particularly in the service-quality and service-facility measures," Osborn says.

The study indicates that what happens in the back shop doesn't stay in the back shop -- it can affect whether a customer buys another car of that brand and from that dealer.

"Since dealer service is the last touch-point in the vehicle ownership cycle that auto manufacturers have with customers, providing superior levels of service can leave owners with a lasting favorable impression of the brand," says Osborn.

Practices the highest-ranked brands consistently perform include: providing prompt appointments; greeting the customer immediately on arrival; knowing the vehicle's service history; returning vehicles in a clean condition; and offering alternative transportation if customers leave their cars for service.

These courtesies may seem intuitive, but many dealers do not consistently provide them, Osborn says.The study is based on responses from 106,059 owners and lessees of '04 to '08 vehicles.
(Source: Ward's Dealer Business, 03/02/09)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Radio: Wave of the Future

You heard it here first: Radio is the wave of the future.

All the buzz in advertising is over Facebook, Twitter and social media. Yet Radio technology is burgeoning. The appointment audio of the podcast is catching on, and satellite Radio, HD Radio and streaming mobile Radio are all gaining interest and audience. So, too, is Internet Radio: according to research firm American Media Services, 38 percent of adults surveyed six months ago said they expected to listen to Radio on the Internet at some point in the future; more recently, the figure was 48 percent.

Listening to President Obama's inauguration speech again on YouTube recently got me thinking about stirring orations. Because I'm a Brit, naturally Winston Churchill's 1940 "Fight them on the Beaches" speech to the House of Commons came to mind. Even today, when I listen to it via a scratchy YouTube recording, I am struck by Radio's power as a storytelling medium. I can't help but wonder: In our visual age, have we lost the art of audio communication?

I've long been a believer in Radio.After nine years in this business (and 20-odd as an avid Radio listener), some of my favorite effective brand communication has come over the airwaves.

Radio still has a purpose, and a following. Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population tunes in once a day, and 94 percent of adults tune in every week. That's a cumulative audience of 283 million weekly listeners.

The good news in these tough economic times is that Radio is relatively cheap to create and produce. Moreover, its short and simple production times allow brands to be opportunistic and flexible in their media buys -- a noteworthy advantage over the more-than-four week production lead times of out-of-home, magazine and newsprint, and TV's eight-week minimum.

Most important, however, is that great Radio work can have a huge impact. Best-in-class examples: Bud Light's Real Men of Genius, or CDP's Hamlet cigars. A 2005 study by research firms Millward Brown and IRI found that Radio provided 49 percent better return-on-investment than TV. In recent years, numerous studies conducted by third parties prove that Radio is more personally relevant, more persuasive and just as emotionally engaging as TV. Some particularly thorough researchers have gone so far as to use facial electromyography to track emotional response!

Radio as a medium is tailor-made to the challenges of our multi-tasking, ADD age. Consumers might be working, driving or gaming, but they can still listen. Acceptance of Radio ads is higher than that of TV ads: 51 percent of the listeners queried by American Media Services claim they do not switch Radio channels when commercials come on. I recently worked on Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign. In qualitative groups, my colleagues and I were shocked at how many respondents recalled lines from the radio -- even more so than the TV.(Source: Caroline Krediet, Media Daily News, 02/18/09)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It Is Not What You Bill, But What You Collect That Counts

This article is a good reminder that the reality of business is not what you bill that really matters, but what you collect. Make sure that you make wise decisions on who to extend credit to, and cut people off before they become too extended. When it doubt, trust your gut. Jeff

A record $14.3 billion in business accounts nationwide was placed in collection in 2008, a 23.2 percent increase from $11.6 billion in 2007, according to the Commercial Collection Agency Association.

That’s up 6.2 percent from the previous record of $13.5 billion for the 12-month period ending September 2008, clear evidence of the worsening economy.

The number of accounts in collection rose to almost 9.2 million in 2008, from almost 8.9 million in 2007, a 2.1 percent increase for the year.

While the number of accounts and amounts continue to climb, the sour economy and increase bankruptcy filings are making it very difficult to recoup the money, collection firms say.

“(Association) members are negotiating a greater number of payment plans for the liquidation of delinquent debt as business debtors are facing a cash flow crunch,” association executive director Emil Hartleb said in a news release. Members expect more accounts and more difficultly making collections through the second quarter.

“Eighty percent of the members report receipts are down — and we’re in that group,” said Larry Cassidy, president of Northern California Collection Service Inc. in Sacramento. New listings are up but collections are down about 30 percent, he said.

Asked what business owners can do to improve collections, Hartleb suggested:
• Be prepared to negotiate longer payment plans with delinquent and slow-paying customers
• Keep payments on a weekly or biweekly basis so you are in more frequent contact with the delinquent customer and on top of the situation
• Get the payment plan in writing. Be sure that any agreement confirms the amount owed and that there are no offsets against the account to avoid any controversy should litigation become necessary, and
• If the customer defaults and won’t take steps or cannot take steps to resume payments, don’t delay review of the account for placement with a collection agency.

“The important thing is early intervention,” Cassidy said “Some businesses wait four, five, six or seven months. Nowadays, it you’re doing that, you’re not going to get paid.”
(source: Sacramento Business Journal, 3/2/09)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Men Changing, Advertisers Reacting and ESPN Benefiting

For years, advertisers that targeted women believing they played a "head of household" role and made the majority of purchasing decisions for the family. But ESPN's Ed Erhardt says that cause-and-effect relationship is changing.

Men are becoming more involved in making household spending choices--perhaps because of the economy--and that could increasingly open doors for ESPN with its male audience.

"Most of the research now shows it is a dual decision," says Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports customer sales and marketing. "A guy is very much involved in that, so I think there's a change in the male consumer--there's a change in the economy and we like our position based upon that going forward."

In ESPN's case, Erhardt says large packaged goods companies (Kraft and Johnson & Johnson, for example) along with travel advertisers and other traditional female-oriented marketers are shifting dollars in an attempt to reach men.

As a result, he says that's serving as a buffer as some marketers in the financial, retail and automotive categories trim spending in reaction to the economy. A top media buyer, GroupM's chief investment officer Rino Scanzoni, said last week to investors that ESPN is challenged--since 40% of its ad dollars come from those three sectors.

Erhardt says ESPN has "a positive and fruitful relationship" with GroupM, but referred to the 40% figure as "grossly overstated." The percentage of business from those categories is "significantly lower than that," he said, although he declined to provide any details.
Scanzoni did say those categories are broad, and within them, there are still areas of strength. Within the financial sector, for example, insurers such as Geico continue to be heavy spenders, and some banks that are now merging such as Wells Fargo and Wachovia are likely to launch branding campaigns.

Erhardt said the insurance category continues to grow at ESPN. Spending by quick-service restaurants (QSRs), which could be placed under the retail umbrella and have not been hurt as much by the economy, also remains solid.

Erhardt said that while spending by American automakers has been plunging--a problem for all media--ESPN is taking its share of dollars from the likes of Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai. In at least two cases, long-term deals signed before the recession are a help--Toyota with a "Monday Night Football" sponsorship, and Nissan's link with the Heisman Trophy and college football.

Still, even as ESPN may be finding bright spots within struggling categories and attracting some traditionally female-targeted dollars, its ad revenues have taken some lumps recently (in line with many other cable networks).

On a Feb. 3 call with investors, Tom Staggs, the CFO of parent Walt Disney, said sales at ESPN fell by high-single digit percentages in the October-December quarter, partly due to "softness in several categories, including consumer electronics and automotive." Staggs also said sales in the current January-March quarter are below the same period a year ago.

Erhardt declined to comment on whether that trend has continued over the past month, and how the performance in the current quarter will end up.

In addition to the economic climate, another headwind is that prime-time ratings in the 18-to-49 demo are flat this season by one measure, although performance varies by sport.

Coming back to the financial category, Erhardt said ESPN is not likely to suffer as much as some other broadcasters because it has very little golf coverage this year. Many financial advertisers, including investment firms, traditionally have used the sport as a venue to target upscale males. (ESPN/ABC will offer the first two rounds of the U.S. Open and the final two of the British Open.)

"We are not impacted by the financials the way that one might assume," Erhardt says.

ESPN does carry parts of all four tennis Grand Slams, which may attract an upscale audience, but Erhardt says those events are less susceptible to the financial category's difficulties.
Separately, Erhardt indicated that with advertisers demanding more accountability, ESPN offers high viewer engagement across multiple screens, providing "a differentiator in today's marketplace."
(source: mediapost.com)