The Need for Innovation at Retail

I feel that innovative marketing at retail, specifically grocery stores, is currently lacking. Studies have shown that shopper marketing, done properly, can be a very effective driver of brand awareness and product purchase – more than mass and digital media. A recent trip to a Vancouver, BC grocery store revealed both good and bad examples of shopper marketing.

The good: When purchasing deli meats, a Hellman’s mayonnaise coupon was placed on the package. Right beside the deli was a well-placed, visible rack of Hellman’s mayonnaise.  Two complementary products, and a coupon presented in a unique manner  – well done. I had never seen that before, it caught my attention; a “purple cow” in Seth Godin lingo.

The bad: The same grocery store, for the last year, has been playing a short promotional video for a particular brand of meats near the frozen sausages section. I shop there every week, and I don’t think I ever recall anyone stopping to watch the video. It is not engaging, there is no incentive to watch. Who really cares, and who has the time? What a waste.

How can brands be more innovative at retail? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Add value by promoting quick, easy to access digital recipes on packaging.  A simple link to a website, or perhaps Facebook group, will suffice. Enable consumers to easily share the recipes with their friends, perhaps using the Facebook “like” feature.
  2. Consider a cause-related incentive to purchase. People care about brands that truly strive to make a difference, through genuine relationships and partnerships with charities. TOMS donates a new pair of shoes to a child in need, for each pair purchased. How about donating a portion of proceeds for each sale to a relevant charity?
  3. Ensure that your packaging is innovative.  Employ functionality wherever possible, making it easy to store. Also make sure that your design truly stands out, without adding to the messaging clutter found in grocery stores.

Farmville Creator Teams Up With 7-Eleven

Farmville, the popular real-time simulation game in which players manage virtual farms on Facebook, has made it to the offline world. Zynga, the company behind the game, has launched a promotion with 7-Eleven that includes two of their other virtual world games, Mafia Wars and YoVille.

Through the innovative campaign, which started June 1 and will last for six weeks, consumers can purchase select goods from 7-Eleven that will include product codes for redemption of a new, limited edition virtual good in each game. The campaign is being supported by in-store signage, as I discovered at the 7-Eleven on W 6th in Vancouver, as well as branding on Slurpee and Big Gulp cups.

7-Eleven is also launching an advertising campaign encompassing radio, print, online and outdoor to build awareness of the initiative.

Through this campaign, it seems that 7-Eleven is targeting a younger audience. It will be interesting to see if gamers are loyal and enticed enough to purchase from 7-Eleven as a result. Given the popularity of Farmville, I suspect that many of them will be.

Robbie’s Home on Howe – Experiential Marketing and Social Media

Experiential marketing enables customers to engage and interact with brands, products and services, allowing for personal experiences that aid purchasing decisions. Max Lenderman, Director of OuterActive at agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, mentioned in his best-selling book “Brand New World” that experiential marketing is often used in India, a country in which few families own TVs, and that it is poised to become more prominent on a global basis over the coming years. I agree.

Recently, at an event hosted by the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, furniture retailer Urban Barn, in conjunction with ad agency and design firm Spring Advertising, PR firm Elevator Communications, and retail consultancy DIG360 presented details of an innovative experiential marketing and social media initiative.

Faced with the prospect of a significant drop in sales at their Howe St location during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, due to street closures and excessive Olympic crowds, they transformed their retail store into an interactive experience. The store became a fully functioning home, inhabited 24/7, by Robbie, the store manager. People had an opportunity to walk through and experience “Robbie’s Home on Howe”, while also enjoying Olympic events on several TVs that were set up.

To support the initiative, a microsite was created, and advertising was placed on the store front as well as inside. Awareness was in part generated via social media, notably via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. At the end of each day, Robbie recorded a video diary.


The initiative was also promoted at Urban Barn’s 38 stores across Canada.

Urban Barn did not set a specific sales objective to measure ROI. I believe doing so would have been quite difficult, particularly given the unique nature and circumstance. However, qualitatively speaking, it does seem that “Robbie’s Home on Howe” was an effective brand building exercise. Urban Barn tracked over 2000 people going through on a daily basis, and even had to hire a bouncer to control crowds. The store became a destination.

“We set out to attach Urban Barn’s name to something memorable and unexpected and without a doubt this was achieved,” states Brianna Doolittle, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Urban Barn. “Over the course of 17 days we were able to touch thousands of people with an experience that will stick with them, and we feel confident that next time they need some furniture or accessories for their home they will think of Urban Barn.”

Urban Barn’s effort also received significant PR coverage, both locally and nationally through mainstream press, as well as through social media.

I believe we are truly at new frontier in marketing and advertising, and it is great to see companies like Urban Barn that are willing to take a risk and experiment. Urban Barn has remained active with the connections created with customers through social media, and they are currently working with their partner agencies on follow-up strategies.

I look forward to seeing what they do next!

Advertising and Perceived Value

This TED Talk is a must-watch for anyone in marketing and advertising. Rory Sutherland presents a very insightful, and somewhat humorous, take on advertising and the perceived value we associate with brands. Sixteen minutes well spent.

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A Golden Idea!

Kudos to Rethink Communications and Science World for a refreshingly creative and innovative outdoor execution.

Today, they unveiled a gold-covered billboard by the entrance to Granville Island on West 4th Avenue. The billboard uses two ounces of gold, pounded to cover 200 square feet, and is part of the advertising strategy for Science World’s summer exhibit, Treasure!

The billboard, which cost about $11,000 to build, is being watched by a security guard and will only be up for a couple of days before being put on display at Science World. It has generated strong PR through media coverage and mentions on social media.

Bucky’s Buzz #4 – Some Marketing Concepts are Losing Relevancy

Marketing thoughts and insights to help you stay ahead of the game.

Imagine if …

Men were not portrayed as being naive in TV commercials, as they are in so many (sorry, Fountain Tire).

Cheap advertising gimmicks and jingles, and cheesy copy altogether, became relics of an advertising era gone by.

Volume was not raised for commercials, because they’re all compelling and relevant enough to gain our attention anyways.

People stopped fussing about “logo size” in print ads, realizing that logos don’t always need to be increased by 10%.

Celebrities were chosen to endorse brands on the basis of who they are and what they stand for, and not just their star power alone.

More companies introduced campaigns that, as part of driving business, also focussed on giving back to the greater good. Way to go, Pepsi Refresh Project.

Companies like Zappos, Starbucks and Lululemon, building brands and communities that engage, using methods once deemed “non-traditional”, were the norm rather than the exception.

To Brand or Not to Brand?

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend whose company, a business to business distributor of industrial products, is considering creating a brand for an already existing non-branded product line. Needless to say, there are many factors that need to be evaluated when deciding whether creating a brand is a worthwhile endeavor. I would like to share a few of them here, with respect to branding a non-branded business to business product line.

Revenue Potential

First and foremost, will the move from a non-branded product line to a branded product line have generate opportunities to increase revenue? Revenue can be enhanced by increasing the product price, leveraging the brand to increase the market share, or a combination of both. Realistically, it may be difficult to increase the product price, particularly if the market segment is very price competitive. Further, existing customers, used to paying lower prices, may be sensitive to an increase.

It seems that the greatest potential to increase revenue is by leveraging the brand to expand the customer base and overall market share. Can the creation of a brand, supported by a significant investment in marketing, open doors to new customers and possibly new markets?  If a price increase is necessary to cover increased marketing costs, will new customer acquisition offset any loss of customers due to a price increase? Should a dual non-branded and branded product strategy be considered, perhaps augmenting the branded product with premium services to build value?

Competitive Landscape

What does the competitive landscape look like? Are there many competitors, with well-established brands? How are those brands positioned, and what key and valuable points of difference would your brand have? If your brand will be competing against a number of others that are firmly established, it may be difficult to gain a foothold. However, if your competitors are also unbranded, and do little or no marketing, then there may be an opportunity to attain a leadership position by being the first to launch a brand.

Should an opening exist to create a brand, then the potential reaction of your competitors must also be considered. How easy would it be for them to launch a brand? How assailable would your brand be? Do they have the resources to match or out-power you? Your ability to carve out a unique, own-able and profitable position in the market is key.

Resources and Commitment

Creating and building a brand takes resources and commitment. Are you willing and able to allocate sufficient resources, including talent and budget to build and execute a proper marketing strategy? Do you have full support and buy-in from senior management as well as the sales team, those who are on the frontline?

These are just a few considerations that come to mind. Do you have others you would like to add? I would love to receive your thoughts and feedback.

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Timely Outdoor Advertising by BMO

I often find that outdoor advertising is lacking. Lacking in elements that engage passersby in delivering a message that will drive brand awareness or impact sales. Some companies are now turning to digital billboards, which I believe are conundrum from a safety standpoint; I would much rather that drivers keep their eyes on the road.

That said, this Bank of Montreal billboard ad, located near my house, caught my attention today. I think the billboard is beautiful in its simplicity, and the timing is great given the recent rise in mortgage rates. Kudos to BMO and their agency on a smart media buy.

Personally, I think it would have been great if they went a step further, by including a call to action to visit a mini website that answers some of the many questions current and future homeowners likely have.

Marketing in a Sales-Driven Culture

I have been working as a Marketing Manager at my current company, Texcan, for a couple of years now. When I took on the role, I knew from the onset that it would be an interesting challenge. Texcan, a distributor of cable and wire for various industrial markets, is a sales-driven organization. Marketing, although deemed important, was not exactly at the forefront when I started.

Personally, I viewed the role as a great opportunity to make an impact, while taking the lead in creating and growing a more strategic marketing mindset in the organization. Although there is plenty of work to do, much has changed during my tenure. Senior management and sales see marketing as a critical function and asset in driving growth, both through new customer acquisition and incremental sales amongst current customers. Further, marketing now has a more prominent role to play in corporate planning.

How was this achieved? Here are a few simple steps that I took.

Build Trust and Relationships

It goes without saying that relationships are such a cornerstone in business. From the outset, I made an effort to build personal relationships with the sales team. I listened to them, to gain an understanding of their unique sales challenges. Making an effort to attend become involved with sales meetings, and in general just make myself accessible, has made a difference.

Educate Colleagues

A strong component of my role at Texcan is to educate staff on the value of marketing, and provide a vision for what is possible. I consider myself to have a strong grounding in marketing fundamentals, I suppose the classic 4P’s we all learn. However, I also spend at least an hour each day educating myself on the latest in business and marketing innovations. Through communication with sales and senior management, some great ideas have been generated.

Be Proactive

Change can be hard, often times it’s much easier to stick to the status quo. Armed with insights gained from challenges faced by our sales team, I was assertive in providing strategic recommendations to senior management. I outlined challenges faced by our sales team, as well as opportunities, with corresponding strategies to execute and intended results. No, not all of my recommendations were approved, but some were. More importantly, however, by providing valuable insights I have gained management’s ear.

Demonstrate Results

Wherever and whenever possible, I communicate results of our marketing programs to senior management. For example, last year we re-launched our website in conjunction with a focus on search engine optimization. Our Google ranking, corresponding website traffic, and qualified leads from our contact form have all increased significantly. Senior management has gained confidence that our marketing initiatives generate strong returns, and as result funding has increased.

Have Patience

Change doesn’t happen overnight! It’s been a process at Texcan, and change is still ongoing. However, it’s been neat to see the transformation that has already occurred.