Retail Marketing

    Sears Spanish Inquisition



    “All Spanish all the time” is the business strategy I have recommended to Sears in this blog a number of times. Once again, quarterly earnings are out for the Sears Holding Company (owner of Kmart) showing it is hemorrhaging money. You can’t continue to lose a billion plus a year and stay a viable business (listening Blackberry?).

    Think about the country. Think about the state of retailing…with more and more sales conducted online and delivered via the mail and package carriers. Where does this leave Sears? And all retailers, for that matter.  In need of bold moves. All Spanish speaking today, is a first-mover strategy. And frankly a no-brainer. If it doesn’t happen in 2014 it will happen at some point. If not Sears or Kmart, someone. The purchasing power of Spanish speaking Americans is too great. The growth rate of this segment of the pop. too great. 

    Sure stores will have to close. But the idea is solid. The market is solid and the move will have unexpected positive impact not only on the expense side of the ledge, but also the growth side…with new opportunities for other services hitting this massive part of the economy.

    Edward S. Lampert, CEO, pull that Band Aid off right now. I smell a Fortune (cover) in it for you. Peace.   

    One Mis-Direction


    Office Depot, according to Stuart Elliott the ad writer for The New York Times, will be conducting an anti-bullying, back to school campaign this summer, using a boy band called One Design (or some such, JKJK). The grab-all idea is: “Live. Love. More” — as in “Live kind. Love everyone. Move together against bullying.” I’m not into 3 word taglines or ideas and the ones that require 8 more words to explain are even more perplaxing but I do love causes. Unfortunately, using causes as a way to break through with your advertising is a fairly common mistake.  They are easy to talk about, easy to surround with quotes, advocates and a powerful narrative. Often though, they are off the brand plan and only slightly tethered to sales — if at all. Plus they are kind of transparent.

    That said, bullying is bad so let’s hope this campaign works. The creative idea is a montage too far. It’s almost ad-silly. The idea would be best boiled down to “Live Kind.”  I don’t think Lance would mind (not Lance Stephenson).  You see, if you “live kind,” then you probably try to love all and shun bullying. Live kind is memorable. Familiar, yet unique. It’s also a baby step, not the whole enchilada.  

    This campaign is more for parents then kids, I get it. And like aroma therapy, it may provide a nice glow for the brand.  Were I the brand manager, however, I’d do this through the PR group and use my ad dollars to de-position Wal-Mart, Office Max and Amazon.  With a kick-ass, 360 retail effort – trotting out some mobile and twitch point planning tricks. Peace.  

    iPad Clothes.


    Over the holiday season, 1 in 6 people who bought computing devices around the world bought Apple tablets.  In retail, the “attachment rate” is the rate at which people attach or bundle an additional product with the main purchase.  If you are a company that manufactures tablet carrying cases, you want your case attached to tablets.  And the notion of one case per tablet is silly.  

    Were I in leadership position at a tablet case manufacturer, I’d spend some serious time designing for the youth market and start with college kids.  I’m not talking about putting stickers on iPad cases, I’m thinking much more function and fashion forward. What do college woman want in their cases? Science kids. Business nerds? Rastas, swimmers and lax players? iPad cases need not be the same form sold in different colors, they should be as diverse as the user community.

    If you believe tablets are here to stay, then R&D is how you will become a leader in tablet cases.  Create visual designs and functional cases at price points that are affordable and fun.  Think tee-shirt collection. Clothes for your iPad. Some one – probably a college kid – needs to step up.  This is going to be a hot market. Peace! 

    Brand Plan for Today.


    Brand planners love the future. Almost as much as they love the past.  Google is introducing some type of campaign or game or something today at South By whereby it’s mashing up some old school ads form the 60s with new school media.  I’m sure it is going to be lovely and may even sell a little Coke, Alka-Seltzer and few Volvos — participating brands.  Hopefully, the effort will sell some Google thingies.

    Planners — and I’m one of them — love the future.  Do things that have never been done. Build new categories. Break new use-case ground.  Design ideas that are future-proof.  Plan “beyond the dashboard” as I like to call it.

    But what’s wrong with today?  Today is not sexy for most. Today is boring.  Or is it?  Retailers and those focused on retail marketing are all about today.  And they are so amped it’s scary. Zimmerman Advertising is a retail advertising specialist and they’re not too famous, but they could be.  They are all about the now and have had long-term success. Cash registers are their mana.

    The past is gone.  The future never arrives (Remember being a kid in bed on Christmas Eve?  That was some existential shizz, no?)  “Now” is what’s up.  Sell more now.  Today.  Plan for today. Peace!


    Sears Big Opportunity


    I’m no demographer but it doesn’t take a numbers nerd to know that a growing and sizeable portion of America is populated by Hispanics and Latinos.  Name a national retail store brand that caters to this group?  In NY we have independent bodegas, but that’s about it.  Among the retailers that index high for the Hispanic and Latino communities, the one I think should attempt to corner the market is Sears. 

    The company is talking about selling off its most profitable stores to generate cash but the bold move – the future-forward move – would be to go “all Spanish all the time.”  Find the high density markets, tailor the skews, hire the right sales associates, alter the layout and colors.  Celebrate Spanish culture in a store retrenchment that will not only save the company but make it thrive. The Sear Roebuck Catalog was a cornerstone of America marketing. Sears can create another transformational marketing moment by following our changing demographics. Be bold, be brave… as they might say at David & Goliath.

    Peace (in Syria)!

    The price/convenience trade-off.


    I’m a man. Here’s how I shop: I go to a store, walk around, talk to a salesperson, maybe another shopper and I buy.  If the store doesn’t have what I want, I either go home or visit another store.  More often than not, it’s a one store and buy experience.  Price is important, but usually only when comparing choices in the store.  Convenience.

    As technology wends its way more and more into the shopping process and the best price on a skew (product number) is only a click away, (#bestpricesamsungTV) many of the shopping choices we make will be made for us. And price variation will be minimized.

    There will be Amazon for eshoppers and for those who want instant gratification there will be SuperRetailStoreCo or something.  Variability will be minimized in marketing. All that will be left, variability-wise, will be the brands. But marketers who spend too much on branding, will have reduced margins and will likely fall off.  Will it be a brand new marketing world in 2050?  Oh yeah. Should be exciting. Peace!

    T-Mobile Advertising is Working.


    Right now, T-Mobile’s advertising is the best in the category.  The way it integrates print, TV and web is beautiful, the art direction is constant, and spokesperson Carly Foulkes has been managed brilliantly.  Never tarted up, always positive, always girl next door, Ms, Foulkes and agency Publicis Seattle are building a place in our brains for this price shopper 4G mobile brand.

    As ubiquitous as this advertising is, it’s not Geico annoying.  Not AT&T message meandering or Verizon techno mappish. It’s a clean, retail brand imprint and it’s beginning to work.

    Creative advertising dudes (less so dudettes) will snark at this comment saying the work is as creative as chipped nail polish, but from a brand management point of view, in a muddled market, this work is moving phones.  And T-Mobile doesn’t even have an iPhone.    

    Imagine if T-Mobile changed its spokesperson every couple of ads.  Or tried to compete with Verizon by employed a lot of red in its color palette. Or rather than hammer home price it showed all the cool phone innovations (okay, they do a bit of that on TV).

    If the AT&T purchase goes through next year, don’t be surprised to see BBDO morph the campaign Ms. Foulkes way.  They won’t cut over using the Magenta color the way they did using Cingular orange, but they know enough to keep the price work clean. Or we might just see Publicis hold the retail business and cede network and inno to BBDO.

    T-Mobile has organized its brand and kept to the plan. That’s why its numbers are creeping up! Peace.

    A Tale of Two Cities.


    Demand generation is the key to marketing.  Say what you will about branding, design, user experience, promotion, engagement, flah, flah, flah..if you can consistently create demand for your product or service, you’ve done your job.

    Target created demand for its new Missoni line of low-cost clothing and other things (patio furniture, vases, etc.),getting it right from the get-go.  The products were superb, the promotional mix perfect, the price come hither, but the place – the web – was a disaster.  Like during a presale, the Target website went down faster than a Sears radial. Target generated demand but not only didn’t deliver online, they pissed off lots of loyal customers.  They also took a number of first-time Luddite customers and taught them the web is no place for commerce. Black eyes all around. (Nice move letting Amazon hosting services go 3 weeks before sales day.)

    In Anaheim, CA yesterday at the Microsoft Build Conference Windows 8 was unveiled during a live and web broadcasted demo. It is a game-changing new operating system. (The product should be called “Tiles” not Windows because it slides and shimmies across the screen but that’s a story for a different post.) It will have mad impact on sales when released but the demo was only 90% there. As is the case with live demos and Microsoft products in “pre-release,” there were a couple of moments of machine freeze.  With 12 back-up machines for quick cut-overs (good boy scouts) there were no real long pauses.  That said, the demo would have better had there been no hiccups at all.

    The two cities referred to in the headline are marketing (demand creation) and technology (delivery).  It’s a rarity when marketing hits on all cylinders, but when it does, the tech has to be ready. Tis a far, far greater thing I do… Peace! 

    Innovation is not a label.


    J.C. Penny has hired Ron Johnson, Apple’s head of retail, as its new CEO. The goal is to capture some or Apple’s retail magic in s bottle and pour it on the top floor of J.C. Penny stores and hope it dribbles down the escalators to the main floor. Past the jewelry counters, bread mixers, faux leather jackets and J.C. Penny house brand jeans. Don’t get me wrong, I am an optimist by nature.  Brand planning is all about positivity and change.  Even heavy Domino’s Pizza type lifting, but this one feels like it will need Microsoft money to accomplish.

    Michael Dell who also practiced his marketing ju-ju in Plano, TX, but has had a hard time of late, would agree.  A J.C. Penny retail makeover is quite a challenge. The articles about Mr. Johnson’s hire talk about innovation…but innovation is not a word that can be slapped on a product label. Apple’s innovation began in R&D, in the labs, in the culture and resulted in some fine-ass products.  Penny’s innovation can’t come from pricing, or salespeople, or the merchandise sets – it has to come from something much deeper.  I suspect Mr. Johnson, as excited and smart as he is, may be the wrong tool for this job.  I hope he proves me wrong, because it would be exciting to watch.

    A while ago I suggested Sears reposition and become El Sears, catering to the Spanish and Latin communities. (They didn’t listen. Give them 7 years.) J.C. Penny needs to focus on innovation it has a stomach for…and its consumers have a stomach for.  This move may actually be “the idea to have an idea,” but not the idea itself.  RIP Dick Kerr. Peace!

    Facial Recognition is Buggin’.



    I watch a bit of TV and one of the technologies that pops up from time to time is facial recognition.  A digital recorder scans the face of an unsuspecting villain comparing facial features to a database  generating a “hit” which ties the person to an abundance of data.    

    Does the technology sound expensive?  Sure. Is it?  Probably not.   

    As mobile and GPS technologies become more common and applied commercially – always in an opt-in fashion, of course – do you think facial recognition apps are far behind?  Let’s say they start out as a security thing, confirming that your credit or debit card is really yours.  Not so bad. But how about if you walk into a store and are recognized as a big spender by the software, and an special customer care alert goes out to the sales dept?  Smart from the store’s viewpoint.  If a NYer who spends $10,000 a year at Macy’s visits a branch in Chicago, wouldn’t the store want a heads up before check out?

    It sounds intrusive, yes. But let’s face it.  We’re bugging ourselves in lots of ways. EasyPass records where our cars have driven. ATM’s track us. Credit card transactions track us. Traffic cams record our car license plates. Soon our smart phones will know more about us than we do.  (Mr. Poppe, you are listing to port.)

    I for one, think facial recognition will provide neat commercial possibilities. Time will tell. Peace!