This week, I noticed something scary happening (and yes, Halloween is already over). Retail stores have exploded with wrapping paper, bows and garlands. Radio ads proclaim “Outdoor light sale, get a jump on your decorating!” And two days ago, one of my social media acquaintances proudly boasted that their Christmas presents were bought, wrapped and already placed underneath the decorated Christmas tree.
It was November 4th.
For those that are bothered by this, it’s easy enough to ignore the premature festivity. But there is one aspect that is harder to tune out, and you can bet it will be starting soon, if it hasn’t already.
The Christmas music.
Some love it. Some hate it. Marketing wisdom tells us that it puts shoppers in the “right frame of mind”, and encourages them to buy more. It’s hard to argue with this business strategy and its bottom-line results (see last year’s post Deck the Malls for an overview).
For this reason, I’ve been waiting for someone to take Christmas music to the next level. Now that the holiday season officially runs from November to January, the next logical step is to write a new carol that reflects our modern reality. The “61 days of Christmas” seems like an appropriate title. By my calculations, it would take several days of continuous play to reach the end, and it could be placed on an endless loop in retail stores. And think of the possibilities for product advertising! “On the 49th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a Windows 8 Surface Tablet!” It could be changed up every year to reflect the hottest products.
Then, to my relief, I came across a news article that dissuaded my fears of a 24/7-carol-o-thon. This week, Shoppers Drug Mart found itself in hot water after pumping out the Christmas tunes on November 1st. Customers complained that the pharmacy giant had overstepped the unwritten rule of “No Christmas before Remembrance Day” and the soundtrack was yanked “until further notice”. I skimmed through the 100+ comments on the article and the consensus was overwhelming: “No Christmas before December 1st please”.
Will retailers hear the message? Or will it be lost in the chorus of “fa la la la la-s” and register “cha-chings”?
Do you think the Christmas hype starts too early? Or should retailers use every sales tool at their disposal?
I have writer’s block, and I’ve had it for a few months now. I spend at least an hour a day staring at the keyboard, waiting for words to flow. Instead, they’re stuck behind a stress-induced wall in my brain and they can’t make their way onto the page. It usually takes a while, but I eventually come up with enough words to string together to make a coherent though. Caffeine helps this process.
For most people, feeling creatively barren isn’t a big deal in their job. Even I have to admit that while this debilitating condition has affected my blogging, for the most part I’m able to continue on with my 9-5 life as per normal. But then again, my job also tends to be about data and numbers and it doesn’t require a lot of imagination or artistry. If I was in a sales position, I’d have a much bigger problem.
Most people don’t pair creativity with salesmanship, but the two really do go hand-in-hand. Being a salesperson is more than selling a product. You have to be better, smarter, and faster about selling that product than the guy in the store next door that is selling the same product. What is going to make me pick your pitch over his? It’s not because of your tie or because I like your smile. It’s because you’ve said or done something to draw my attention to you. You’ve made yourself stand out in such a way that I can see you and nothing else.
For a lot of salespeople, creativity can be a problem. They didn’t sign up for their jobs because they had great ideas and needed an outlet for them. Most salespeople are involved in an industry that they have some sort of knowledge in and therefore they can speak intelligently about a product. And don’t misunderstand – that is a very valuable tool. But unless your company is the only one on the planet that sells that product, chances are high that you’re going to have some competition in the marketplace. Knowledge of the product won’t be enough to sell it – you’re going to have to come up with an unique approach to the sale.
So if you’re not a naturally creative person, what can you do to spark that side of your brain into waking up? There are tons of great suggestions to be found online for getting you and your sales force into an inspired state of mind. Beyond that, though, you need to have the creative mentality in place in your organization. Encourage your sales reps get together to brainstorm and communicate and think outside-the-box. The one of the biggest mistakes that most companies make is that they pit their sales reps against each other in a competition to see who can get the most sales/commission. And that will usually work….to a point. If you want to build a long-lasting relationship with a customer, the foundation needs to be stronger than a load of nonsense that was served up out of desperation because your sales agent had a power bill coming due. It needs to be about being memorable. I have to see something in you and your product that makes me keep coming back. I’ve got my own power bill to pay, so scamming me and making me regret the transaction probably isn’t going to accomplish much over the long run. But if you can put some thought and imagination and resourcefulness into an approach that is going to make me want to come back to you over and over again, then everyone will benefit from that burst of originality.
Do you see a need for creativity in sales? As a salesperson, what creative methods do you use?
I’m a very methodical (and slow) shopper. This is especially true for big-ticket or important items. Before I make such a purchase, I spend hours researching various products. When I have made my shortlist of suitable options, I read every available online review to check for potential shortcomings. Finally, I head in-store to evaluate the possibilities in person. Finally, I make my purchase and head home…
…where I re-research the product again.
It sounds a little nutty…but chances are you’ve probably done this too.
According to a recent article by the Marketing Science Institute, my behaviour is a classic example of the well-documented “post-purchase bias”. The bias was first discovered by Ehrlich et al. in a 1957 study. They found that new car buyers read more advertisements for the car they had just purchased than for the cars that they had considered, but not purchased. This effect has been reproduced many times and is considered to be one of the most robust findings in consumer behaviour.
Why do we do this? By re-affirming the reasons for our initial purchase, we defend the wisdom of our acquisition and are able to allay the dreaded “buyer’s remorse”.
More recently, researchers have discovered that we also distort product information to reinforce our decision after a sale. When presented with such information, we ignore the bad and inflate the good. More importantly, because this interpretation is self-driven, we are more likely to believe in these positive evaluations.
This has big implications for business. Traditionally, we think of marketing as something that occurs before the sale. However, this study suggests that marketing is just as important after the sale has already occurred.
The MSI article outlines four implications for business:
1) Managers should always find ways to follow through after a recent purchase. Good customer service practices aside – when customers are given more information about a product, they positively interpret this information to create a stronger brand preference.
2) This follow-up should take place as soon as possible after the initial purchase, while the customer still feels strongly about the product.
3) After the initial purchase, we are likely to hear from some customers again – some products may be returned, others may require repair, or the customer may need additional instructions. Every encounter offers businesses the chance to strengthen the customer’s product preference.
4) The best kind of marketing is free-marketing – specifically when customers talk to friends about their experiences. The more post-purchase follow-up, the more loyal the customer, and the more likely they are to offer positive feedback regarding the product. Most importantly, because they are passionate about the product, this feedback is inherently more believable.
Remember: Your work as a retailer doesn’t end when the customer reaches the cash register – it has only just begun.
Do you research products you’ve already purchased? How does your business market itself to existing customers?
“If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that?”
This was the question posted to Target statistician Andrew Pole, as recounted in the New York Times article “How companies learn your secrets”. New parents have always been a boon for “one-stop” retailers like Target, as this life-change offers a small opportunity to alter engrained buying habits. “Coming in for diapers? Might as well pick up some supper too.” The competition for new parents’ attention is so fierce that Target wanted to get a jump on their competition and begin their marketing efforts before baby was even born.
And Pole delivered. He analyzed women’s purchase history and identified 25 products (pre-natal vitamins, maternity wear, etc.) that when considered together, generated a “pregnancy prediction score”. This allowed him to estimate who was a mommy-to-be, and approximately when she was due. Target then created custom “mommy-themed” flyers and coupons, disguised as regular flyers, and sent them specifically to these women, who were unaware of their data-gleaned origins.
And Target is not the only retailer doing this. As the article explains, “Almost every major retailer, from grocery chains to investment banks to the U.S. Postal Service, has a “predictive analytics” department devoted to understanding not just consumers’ shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them.”
Does this story give you pause? Or does the prospect of a tailored-deal excite you? Either way, just wait. Those predictive analytics departments are about to get a whole lot more in-your-face thanks to mobile wallets.
The internet has been awash with talk of mobile wallets. (For the uninitiated, Jen’s post ‘The Next Step’ provides a great introduction). People are quick to talk about their convenience, the “coolness” of the technology, their lighter pockets. But less often do they mention the real reason for their existence; marketing.
A few weeks ago, I read an article that explained how RBC is poised to be the first Canadian bank to offer mobile wallets, possibly as a soon as October. Interestingly, this article also spoke at great length of the marketing advantages of the technology.
Retailers will now be able to collect purchase-data more easily than ever before, tailoring promotions to specific consumers. Combine this with your smartphone’s location-aware technology and retailers can now text you their latest flyer when you are near their store. Or alert you of their lunch special.
There are obvious advantages for both merchants and consumers alike, and it might be nice to walk into your favourite store and be provided with a list of on-sale items, or a coupon. We won’t know how this latest evolution of analytics will play out, but one thing’s for sure – we’ll all be watching. Oh, and so will they.
Do you think predictive analytics improve the retailer/customer dynamic? Or, are they an invasion of privacy?
In the next few years, augmented reality (AR) is poised to take over retail. For the uninitiated, AR uses computer-generated sensory input to alter your perception of the world in real-time. Already we are seeing its potential being harnessed in all areas of retail, including in-store, online, and through advertising.
In-store Customer Experience
Retailers have introduced AR in-store in an attempt to improve the customer experience.
Starbucks Holiday Cups
In 2011, Starbucks introduced their entertainment-focused “Holiday Cups” campaign. After downloading an app, customers could use their smart phone to make their coffee cups come alive.
AR’s in-store usefulness goes beyond entertainment. Intel has developed an AR digital display, which has interesting implications for retailers. Installed at the store entrance, the 7ft transparent display shows customers a digital floorplan and recommends products after assessing their gender. Product location is superimposed on the screen, and products can be placed on hold and brought to the cash register for payment. The aim of the technology is to help customers shop more quickly and easily.
Traditionally, the problem with online shopping has been that you can’t truly get a sense of a product from a 2 dimensional image. With AR, customers are now able to hold products in their hand, and try them on virtually.
Tesco online shopping
Tesco has already made AR a large part of their online-shopping experience. Customers select a product online, and then print a copy of the AR marker. Holding the marker to their webcam, it is transformed into a 3d model of the product. As the customer turns the marker, the 3d image rotates on screen as well. In the video below, a customer views a TV, and is able to see the ports on the back of the unit as she turns the AR marker.
Holition’s AR is as luxurious as the products it promotes. Designed for high-end products, their AR experience allows customers to virtually “try on” jewelry and watches. Holition is also working on expanding their AR so that customers can smell, hear, and feel products.
Bodymetrics Virtual dressing room
Unsurprisingly, 50% of garments bought online are returned. But what if you knew how those jeans would fit before you place your order? Bodymetrics’ Virtual dressing room uses your in-home motion capture device (such as the X-Box Kinect) to assess your body shape and virtually project clothes onto your digital frame. If you like what you see, your purchase can be completed right through your console.
AR is also finding its place in advertising.
GoldRun has already launched several successful AR advertising campaigns. One of their most interesting campaigns was when they created a virtual shoe store for Airwalk. AR markers were secretly hidden in public places in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles. Customers used their smartphones to locate the markers, and were able to view limited edition versions of Airwalk classic shoes. They could then place an order from their phone for the shoe that they found.
In my twenty-some years in marketing I’ve considered one thing more than any other; brand. What is it?
The simple answer? It is a logo or company name that you see daily, sometimes even hourly.
And that, my friends, is the wrong answer.
It is true that a well-designed logo will instigate immediate emotion. Navy blue is power. Grey is wisdom and competence. Times New Roman is obedient. Arial implies modern thinking. Straight lines are racy. Rounded lines are more personal. It all means something. A good logo can help set up the emotion that you want attached to your brand.
But a logo is not a brand.
A company name is not a brand.
Those items are simple visual symbols of a brand. Think of a logo as a thumbnail icon on your desktop. Upon seeing it, you know what the program does. You know whether or not you like that program. You know if it’s useful to you. It’s instantly recognizable because this icon stares at you every day. It reminds you of your experience (and that of others) with that product.
But you didn’t base your feelings on the icon. Yes, you recalled the program based on the icon, but you based your feelings about that image around the utility that it opens.
A brand is much more than a name or a logo. It is the emotion that a customer feels when thinking about your product.
A good brand isn’t one that has the benefit of the most clever bus station billboards, the most psychologically beneficial colour choices, the greatest frequency of radio commercials. A good brand is the one that enjoys a positive reaction because it is supported by an emotion; an emotion that ultimately comes from a good product.
Mercedes Benz has never won an award because of a really cool, easy to recall name. They’ve never been the recipient of prizes because of their revolutionary logo; a steering wheel. And yet it has become an epic symbol of quality.
If next week a group of bright entrepreneurs launched a new retail store that sold pneumatic heel exfoliators, they would – in most cases – come up with a snazzy name. They would hire a graphic artist who delivers a brilliant logo. They would hire an ad agency that pastes that brilliant company name above brilliant copy, on every wall of every podiatry clinic in the city. They would send out creative, edgy postcards to members of walking clubs. They would join and continually post on the website “peoplewhoneedheelexfoliation.com”.
Life will be wonderful.
They have created a brand.
No, they haven’t. They have created a symbol of a brand. If that store doesn’t engage in good customer service, and their heel exfoliators don’t work, customers will forever associate those brilliantly thought-out attributes with poor quality and lousy service.
The good news? They have now created a brand. A really, really bad one.
As it relates to retail, there is a very clear lesson to be learned. If you are selling products from a company that is well-branded, you have the invaluable benefit of your customer base already having an emotion attached to that product. But if you rely solely on that product’s name, the expensive advertising, a cool slogan, and some hip colours… you’re in deep trouble.
Your suppliers have spent millions. Sometimes billions in establishing a “brand”. They have invested in and entrusted to you with something that holds remarkable value.
If your desktop icon (even though it’s a widely recognized icon) opens a program that doesn’t work, that crashes your computer, that freezes continually… are you going to continue using it because you see it daily or even hourly?
Facing this, some companies would hire a creative phenom to change the logo.
And that, my friends, is the wrong answer.