Tag Archives: Macy’s

Brands and Ramifications of Earth Day’s Collateral Damage

Earth Day has always been a peculiar holiday when it comes to marketing and promotional ties that are made to a day reminding us to honor the planet. Even though the tie to honoring nature was clearly evident in the film AVATAR, I still had a concern when we were promoting it for release on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  I totally appreciated the strong message in the film and how it related to the holiday – I just wondered how people would react to the additional physical needs required for releasing on Earth Day (it fell on a Thursday rather than the traditional Tuesday release day and the amount of packaging manufactured was huge for the highest selling BD/DVD of all time.)  Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much of a backlash as I thought.  There was barely any. So, for all of the hubbub about Earth Day and the interests of brands in promoting their products in the spirit of the day, there is quite a bit of collateral damage.

Heading into Earth Day this Sunday, there are a number of companies tying themselves to the holiday – with Target being among the largest.  They are giving away 1.5 Million re-usable bags on Sunday and promoting a bunch of their ecologically sound products.  Other companies are doing their own twist on the theme with Disney Stores allowing guests to trade in 5 disposable shopping bags for a themed re-usable one, Origins is offering the opportunity to trade in existing skin care product for one of two Earth-friendly products at Macy’s stores, and Pottery Barn Kids providing sunflower seed packets.

The value and awareness that is brought by large retailers and brands doing their own bit to celebrate the day are great and definitely needed.  Perhaps it could become the exception when a company is NOT doing something in support of the day. Partnerships with eco-organizations are the easiest ways to both make a statement and increase awareness.  There are definitely a large amount of non-profits that fit the bill.

The bizarre thing is what I refer to when mentioning Collateral Damage – the ill effect that some programs have on the environment.  While Target is doing their huge program and increasing awareness by fostering a strong partnership with Recyclebank, an organization that is working towards a world without waste by rewarding people for taking everyday green actions – like recycling and reducing water use – Target has created a huge opportunity for waste.  Don’t get me wrong.  They are doing something for the better good and they are not new to the game – they have been giving $.05 discounts to consumers who use their own bags since November of 2009.

Their true good has been made murky by the fact that they have created 1.5 MILLION bags – objects that would not have existed otherwise – and brought them into the marketplace.  The message is strong about helping the ecology, but what about the message of all the materials that went into that manufacturing?  Additionally, their promotion of savings on numerous eco-friendly products requires consumers to print out coupons on pieces of paper.  Couldn’t they just say that all those items are on sale on Sunday – no coupon/waste required?

Ultimately, it’s a challenge.  How do products that require manufacturing of some sort ever even themselves against any real or perceived destruction of the ecology?  I’m not saying that brands and retailers should throw up their hands and say its no use. It’s just the opposite.  They should be looking deeper into how they can make a statement – whether through packaging, year-long practices and the simple things like having items be on sale without requiring paper to be wasted in order to redeem the savings.

To some extent, we will always be playing a zero-sum game with the idea of consumption and preservation.  Perhaps we will get to the point where we are actually preserving and recycling at a greater rate than what we are wasting.  It is baby steps and we can only hope to keep the damage to a minimum – especially as we celebrate Earth Day.

Too Much Santa Can Cause Shoppers To Become Scrooges

Alas!  I am not a scrooge! Research shows that I am not alone in my aversion to the overly celebratory holiday sentiments in stores – or even homes.  This year, the holiday season music and decorations started appearing in some stores before Thanksgiving.  And it is not just a bunch of Bah Humbug that justifies that this might not always be the best retail tactic. Nancy Pucinelli – associate fellow at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford – presented the study that overly celebratory stores and areas can actually cause people to buy less.

The real learnings stem from the idea of moderation and effectively smart “positioning” of the holiday within the larger retail environment.  Sometimes, the sugar is poured on too heavily and when that is mixed with the overly jolly staff, it is as nerve-wracking as stepping out of your car on an auto-dealer’s lot and bracing yourself for the onslaught of salespeople.  With tasteful selections of music and placement of decorations, the stress levels can be kept to a minimum by allowing people to effectively opt-out of the celebratory conventions if they would like to.

Pucinelli’s report has been carried by a number of outlets including The Telegraph, Business Week, and even Garden Center Magazine, over the past week with the most succinct capture of the findings presented in Q&A form on MediaPost.

To me, what it really comes down to is authenticity.  This doesn’t just have to do with the winter holiday season.  We are seeing the turn-off phenomenon throughout the year as retailers and brands work so hard to try to tie the nearest holiday bow around their offerings. With so many items tied unsuccessfully to Valentine’s Day, I actually embrace the holiday less and there are increasingly more holidays added to the list that retailers feel they should connect with.  One of the most nauseating instances was just recently when I saw an ad for beauty products tied to Veteran’s Day.  And authenticity surely doesn’t only relate to the holidays.

As humans, we have an innate ability to smell out when things are not authentic. As early as grade school, the kid who pretends to be something he is not is often kept at a distance. As adults, we sense when a brand is taking a wrong step because they present themselves in a light that is not true to their product – and we shy away from purchasing it. The same can be said for retail and the holidays. Puccinelli even singles out the US retailer, Macy’s, as an example of a company that handles the holidays well – and it’s not just because they effectively kick off the Christmas season in the States by ending their long-sponsored Thanksgiving Day Parade with Santa on his sleigh. Even with that core tie to the holiday, they provide the opportunity for shoppers to embrace the holiday without hammering them over the head if they don’t want.

With the seemingly ever-growing winter holiday season the hope is that many will take the learnings to heart and be authentic and smarter with the celebration.  The last thing we want as the global economy goes through its gyrations is yet another excuse for people to consume less.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go hang my holiday decorations…