Make Me Feel Something

A marketer’s job in today’s omnichannel environment is to make the consumer feel something.

A tough ask in most categories, but especially so in technology. When the new news is about being data ready for the future, it’s almost a given that the marketing effort will lead with data. But data isn’t really a thing that evokes emotion in the average human (tech nerds aside).

But this past weekend, Dell delivered  two new power-packed campaign spots in the Beat Again effort, masterfully telling us stories: the “night before” a heart transplant for a pre-teen girl, and the “welcome back” as she returns to school healthy after her heart transplant.

The key elements in the story show emotional engagements between heart surgeon and his child, between mother and father of the heart patient, and between mother and daughter. The data displays are not always central to the storyline, but helpful and in the case of the sushi menu, even entertaining. Edited many ways so the frequency of spots over five days of the WGC golf event didn’t get annoying, the whole package left me feeling hopeful, inspired and in awe of what future data can do for a patient, a family, a surgeon and a community of classmates. Real People. Real Emotions.

To weave a story that connects the emotions of hope, inspiration and awe to the Dell brand all in one weekend is something Dell marketers and its agency partners Young & Rubicam should be damn proud of.

A Tramp Stamp on the Tomato!

I can’t wait to see if there will be a “tramp stamp” on my store-bought tomatoes one day soon. Change is coming to the produce industry.  Tattoos may soon replace those annoying but helpful little stickers you find on most fruits and veggies. 

There’s a secret trick to deciphering number codes on produce stickers – those leading with the number 9 are organic food, and those that lead with 4 are just plain food, grown however the farmer chooses.  Remember this: nine is fine and four is a bore.

I wonder if the tattoos will be tiny and hard to see like the stickers are now or big and artistic like a full sleeve? I wonder if shoppers will find the tattoos offensive or perceive them to be dangerous to eat?

This trend is beginning in Europe. Can you guess which U. S. retailer will lead the way with tattooed produce? Flip a coin on Whole Foods or Walmart. Sustainability is key to them both, and that’s what’s behind the tattoo movement.

I like the idea of tattoos on produce. I look forward to the day that I will no longer have to stick the labels from the veggies all over my hand when I’m prepping the organic goodies for the juicer.

 

The Full Sleeve

 

 

Bye, Bye Kiwi

Kiwi, you’ve been replaced by a banana. A peel of a banana, no less!

I recently read (in the AARP magazine, OMG did I just admit that?) that you can use a banana peel (the inside part) to polish leather shoes. Smear it on and buff it out after one minute with a soft cloth. A weird smell, banana on leather, but not as toxic as a whiff of chemical-laden polish out of that metal container.

As a marketer of consumer brands I feel somewhat guilty when I find a sure-fire organic no-cost solution to a problem. In this case, it means I will stop buying shoe polish, at least in brown.

As a consumer it’s frankly odd to rub banana peels on your $200 boots. But my last date with Kiwi ended badly when the color of an expensive and favorite pair of Ralph Lauren loafers turned into a blotchy mess of brown awfulness.

My boots look amazing, so do the ten year old Paul Green loafers I still love after all these years.  Oh what one banana peel can do!

And guess what else? The banana itself was a tasty treat in my greek yogurt smoothie! Now all I need is a white fruit option for my golf shoes!

Get Working on Tomorrow. Today.

We better get working on tomorrow. Today.

With a wary eye on the future, it’s way past time to start thinking, seeing and acting differently. Businesses today are trying to change, but still unwilling to break out of deeply rooted operational habits like control, predictability, standardization and faster is better.

One of my inspirations for doing differently comes from a wonderful book titled Presence. 

Its primary benefit to me, apart from an introduction that is phenomenal, is the concept that there is an art to seeing. The idea is that if you can learn to see differently, the whole becomes more than the sum of its mechanical parts. New ways to think about solutions to challenges emerge from the belief that organizations are living systems that can be thought of as a moving whole. If we can see broadly and more holistically by practicing suspension of our existing bias and habits, we can experience the phenomenon of “letting come”.

For tomorrow to be better, we need to become more aware and attuned to what is emerging and organize around it.  Instead of trying to fit emerging ideas into our habitual constructs of today.

Human systems are changing fast. Enabling change to serve the whole without the constraints of our industrial heritage of parts is hugely challenging. The path forward requires different actions from each of us today.

I think the concept of “presence” is a wonderful way to approach the future with more confidence and hope.

 

 

I’m totally upside down!

Putting a camera in front of my face is one of my favorite ways to use my brain. For me, when I’m using my vision and perspective with the equipment, I’m also allowing my brain to do its own thing with whatever I’m working on for business.

The beauty is the dual outcome. I get photos that please me and ideas that please my clients.

What’s not to love about that?

Here’s a little treat of a photo on a clear fall day at Big Lake in Northern Michigan. I love this reflective world we live in!!

The world on the lake is wonderful when it’s upside down.

 

Crackin’ with McCracken

A few years back I sat in a conference hall enjoying this jitter-bug kind of of guy flit about the stage and roam up and down the aisles ranting about human culture and marketing.

I was riled up, excited by this McCracken guy, being a former student of both anthropology and marketing… and then of course I had to go back to work.  I’m lucky my work combines these disciplines nicely, working through various models for innovation and insight.

Today, I’m more excited than ever, reading Grant McCracken’s new book “Culturematic” because the main theme is about blowing up the models and provoking the world with experiments that probe the possible.

It’s easy to love this kind of a book. It’s hard to get paid to do the kind of work he’s recommending. But it’s 100% possible to invigorate your mind with this thinking.

I’m gonna get crackin’ on finishing this book and give my mind a nice big long rope to play with. This is business conversation worth joining.

 

 

The Maxxinista in Me

If you are female, you have it in your DNA. If you are male and have it too, shopping is never a drudgery. We, the shoppers, create our own fun and games in the stores, especially when we’re on adventure mission mode for a bargain.

Enter the Maxxinista. She reads the September issues. If  you have to ask, stop now and thanks for stopping by.

She seeks silhouettes, colors, fabrics. This is not about brands, it’s all about style, tempered by what you can get away with for dates, work, conferences, you know…the cleavage factor…a.k.a. how short IS that skirt.

In a lot of high end retail, the selection is curated and adapted from the runway collections. In TJ Maxx, it’s great knock offs and prizes galore. At half the price or less. Mastering the experience is part of the empowerment, right?

This retailer knows their shopper psyche, enhancing the experience with better merchandising, nicer dressing rooms with a limit of TEN garments, not 6, and don’t forget they have year-round layaway!

Only yesterday, which was Labor Day, I overhead a well-heeled woman in a very busy TJ’s store exclaiming delight at finding current Nordstrom dresses at half the price. She was beaming, I might add.

Those Ellen Tracy “Spartan Green” skinny jeans for $39.99?  Those Vince Camuto slim fit spot-on trendy blue ankle pants for $24.99? Searching and finding trendy Michael Kors key pieces that fit?

What’s not to love? Half off. What’s not to inspire more shopping?

Now stop and think about the 60% of the population that hasn’t had a raise effectively since Lyndon Johnson was President. Welcome to the largest shopper segment in America.

What’s your strategy to win her over?

 

 

 

Which comes first?

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The sale or the system? The process or the team?

I think the answer to all of these is a combination of effort and trust.

When the bird goes through the effort to lay the egg, she trusts in the opportunity for either a meal for someone else in the food chain, or the chance for a next generation.

When the smart person sells an idea that is great, they trust the organization that they represent will put in the required effort it takes to build the system to make it happen.

And when a process comes first, it works in theory, but sometimes its the sheer effort and trust (read KARMA) of a team can shine like a beacon to lead a client through new or muddy ground toward a big win.

And that is why some of us keep our heads high and our reputation on the line every day. Bring on the chickens and the eggs. We’re building a feast!

 

 

Is price the only answer to showrooming at retail? I think not.

If you touch retail in any manner in your profession, you’ve no doubt heard about “showrooming” – the practice of using a smartphone from a store aisle to check prices and potentially buy from another retailer or an online only retailer.

This practice isn’t going away, in fact I believe it will increase, causing a potential billion dollar problem for our nation’s retailers. Amazon is the most notable beneficiary of the dollars that leak out of both the retailer’s physical store and website.

This week, an article in the Wall Street Journal posed the thought that the only answer to this problem is price. The common belief is that retailers have to do whatever it takes to get their price points down to match Amazon. I SAY THIS IS CRAZY.  If price is the only rathole left for retailers to go down, I, for one, am going to call it a day and go work on a golf course driving the beverage cart. (my dream retirement job, in case you don’t know me that well).

Why do I feel this way? Because my years in the business of marketing strategy have taught me a few things about the almighty shopper, even those with the smartphone in their hands in the aisle.

First point. Price is important.There are a lot of shoppers who will flit from retailer to retailer for price. So let’s just give up now, right? WRONG.

There’s one solution on the table that makes sense in the digital world, and that is to use “near-field” communications to offer an in-aisle shopper a price-match to retain the sale in the store. “Offering people personalized prices through their mobile device may be the most effective way to beat showrooming,” said Anne Zybowski, director of retail insights for KantarRetail, a global consulting firm. But that practice has huge margin implications, for the likes of Walmart, Target and BestBuy, especially as showrooming behavior escalates.

BestBuy is on to a good old fashioned retail idea – incentivize the sales person to close the sale on the floor. Really.

If you are a student of human behavior, and I am, it’s clear that marketing should always intersect with anthropology. You’ll want to remember that for ages and ages, and still today, the number one influencer of purchase behavior is information from other people. Also known as word-of-mouth. Human influence. Yes, it can come from a smartphone in the aisle, in the form of ratings and reviews. The shoppers are absorbing content that influences their behavior from other humans. The smartphone is just the device to bring the content to them in a most convenient way! But really, it’s best from human to human.

REMEMBER THIS  – Over 70% of conversations that influence behavior take place face-to-face. Read this blog post from Keller Fay to see the details. Only 10% of it happens online.

REMEMBER THIS TOO – 75% of consumers say they will walk out of the store if they don’t have access to knowledgeable associates. And 80% of consumers say their shopping experience is improved when staff is eager to help. This comes from a whitepaper from Retail TouchPoints based on research conducted late in 2011.

AND THIS – 71% of retail executives say that shoppers want a meaningful experience with the sales associate as brand ambassador with strong product knowledge and the ability to up-sell and cross-sell for greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. This comes from a Deloitte Retail Survey in 2011.

Just consider those recent research results. I’ve been reading similar research for decades. So why is price the only solution to showrooming? It’s not.

Maybe if the retail show room actually was a showroom with people to “show shoppers” something, to perhaps participate in some face-to-face human influence, retailers might have a more powerful weapon against Amazon and other online only retailers. And they might just provide the kind of shopping experience shoppers crave. Fancy that.

Despite whatever is said about not being able to “afford” this human solution, I propose that it might just be worthy of a little more face-to-face discussion. I’d bring the chart below from Nielsen as Exhibit A.

Human conversation. Face to Face. A alternative solution to showrooming.

Thrilling!

I’ve spent many years in my career(s) being responsible for looking out the front window of the car, being responsible for having a view on what to think about next, and what to do about it. I’ve always called it the “So What, Do What” capability.

Now that I am an independent consultant, I find this to be the most valuable asset in my portfolio of services. Today’s pace of change is reminds me of a hot day in July a few years back, where I literally put the pedal to the metal and raced my little red BMW down the back road at 120+ mph. Windows open, wind in my face…..thrilling.

Scary? Sure, for the one second I thought about getting a ticket. But the thrill of the pace totally outweighs the fear. I’m not saying I’m going to race my car down that road again. But it sure is a thrill to be working in a space that feels so similar.