As reported by the Wall Street Journal this week, the board of Zales Corp fired it’s CEO and two other top executives over poor performance, particularly during the 2009 holiday season. One of the major issues, according to The Journal, was CEO Neal Goldberg’s decision to shift most of it’s broadcast advertising budget to internet marketing. This strategy clearly backfired as Zales’ prime competitors, heavy users of broadcast media, posted strong results.
Consumers are obviously using the web with increasing frequency as their source of entertainment and social connection. Marketers should take caution, however, before they assume that this shift in attention equates to a shift in digital marketing effectiveness.
For all its promise, the web has yet do demonstrate an ability to influence desire and intent to purchase. In fact, most web commerce is dependent on those triggers occurring before Google is searched, a banner is clicked, or a merchant’s site is opened.
The desire and brand choice that drives market share — online and offline — are still being created by effective terrestrial advertising. This is particularly true for emotion-driven purchases like diamond jewelry, as Zales can now sadly attest.
Bottom line: Make sure that you’ve built the desire for your brand with effective offline advertising before you expect consumers to look for it online.
Five days after my original post (below), the Commerce Department released its estimate of December retail and the report was much less rosy (down .3% or basically flat). This data counted ALL RETAIL, as opposed to the earlier report which was based on reports from larger mall stores and retail chains (i.e. well-known consumer brands). Both sets of data are probably correct, but it’s yet another mixed signal about the economy. Some sectors are slowly improving and others obviously not. If these conflicting reports say anything to us as marketers, it’s that well-known brands benefit first when consumers start spending again…
Data released today indicates that holiday retail sales grew a surprising 3% compared to last year. After the sting of unsold 2008 inventory and the massive discounting early in the year, retailers approached 2009 with conservative inventory levels and relatively low pre-holiday discounts. With retailers holding their price, the season started with what appeared to be a standoff. Neither side capitulated throughout November and early December. But, as one analyst noted, in late December ‘the consumer blinked.’ In a strong pre-Christmas week, retailers of all types received a surge of high-margin business from consumers who had avoided significant spending for over a year.
While our economy is still a long way from recovery, this data point is another signal that we might have turned the corner. Whether or not it means that a turnaround is certain, it is sure to get businesses thinking about their investment in growth again. No one will want to be the “last in” when it comes to competing again for lost revenue. If you’re in a category that is driven by replacement spending, you should be thinking particularly hard about this timing: the consumers who’ve delayed spending on maintenance, worn equipment, even things like dental visits, typically re-enter the market in a wave as consumer psychology improves. It typically takes several months of marketing, after a prolonged absence, to be considered for these purchases. Don’t be the last one in your competitive set to make this important decision…
All too often, our business cards are designed for utilitarian purposes: affordability and utilizing the artistic expertise that most small business owners have on-hand at the time. At the least, they help us distribute our contact information and at best, many show that we care enough about our work to invest in color printing and good paper stock. But ask yourself, does your card really say much about what makes your business special in that critical first impression?
Whether it’s time to replace your depleted stock or you want to improve the direct impact on business that clever identity/marketing can provide, consider investing in a winning first (and hopefully, lasting) impression with a great business card this year. These eleven examples are extremely clever and several are quite expensive. But they show different uses of design, layout, materials, and manipulation that strongly reinforce the business’ brand. The one thing that they all share, beyond the stuff that goes into the card, is that a great deal of thought has gone into what the card means and tells us about the business. Hopefully, one or more will provide inspiration to get you started on your own winning design!
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With recent advances in search technology, your customers’ experiences can now be instantly in the public domain and, in many cases, magnified by the size and nature of social networks. This adds to the existing risks posed by sites that offer un-moderated ‘ratings’ of local businesses – many of which you may not even know exist.
If you don’t already, its time to start taking steps to manage your brand’s reputation online – at the very least, to find out if there are any reputation-killers lurking in the dark recesses of the web. For most businesses, this can be as simple as a doing a couple of quick searches each month, or setting up an automated Google Alert to do the searching for you. Other businesses may need to dedicate more effort to this issue; particularly ones that are active in social media, have high staff turnover, face very aggressive competitors, or who’ve had problems with product quality or customer service.
In this, the first of two posts on Reputation Management, we’ll cover why you should be concerned and how you can take steps to monitor what’s said about you or your business online. In the second post, we’ll focus on how to use this information, including strategies for remedying bad situations. Read more »
iPhone App: RedLaser
I love technology, and you have to give the geeks credit: if there’s an inefficiency in the world, it won’t be long before one of them figures out a low-cost way to eliminate it with a web service or, most recently, a smart-phone app.
Take local retailing, for instance. Used to be that when a consumer shopped at a local retailer, he or she had to pay an outrageous premium – the mark-up that covers the retailer’s rent, insurance, healthcare costs and the high-cost domestic labor that provides assistance, know-how, and help with returns.
2009′s master-innovation elegantly frees the consumer from this burden. RedLaser, the $1.99 Apple iPhone App, uses high-tech imaging technology through the phone’s camera to read the UPC barcode that appears on most products. With a quick scan, RedLaser instantly enables the user to find that product for less (the lowest-cost provider is almost always an online store). Click a link, order the product, and (if you’re really savvy) type in an online coupon code for free shipping or an additional discount. Bingo – The same exact product with significant savings and almost no time or effort! Maybe as little as a few hours away with free shipping… Read more »
According to several recent studies, 75-90% of small businesses get no return on investments in web marketing via social networks. This, despite the fact that about 50% of small business owners spent over 100 hours last year engaged in social media marketing. In one recent survey conducted by BizLaunch, owners were asked a very general question: “What social media platforms have contributed to your sales?” The answers were pretty dismal:
- Facebook: 14%
- Linked-In: 7%
- Twitter: 5%
- Blogs: 4%
- YouTube: 1%
So what’s going on? Read more »