Tag Archives: Research

Has Apple Gone Too Far In Their Packaging?

As we know, Apple has established itself as the preeminent purveyors of great technology design.  They have that strong history of not only making great hardware and operating systems, they make them actually look great. It’s no coincidence that their competitors have borrowed from some of those designs.  While some have gotten close on product design, none have really matched the beauty of their actual packaging. Half the fun of opening a new apple product is the unraveling of the packaging as if it were a beautifully intricate flower. The design always served the product, until now. With the opening of the Apple Store in Santa Monica, CA, they might have tipped their hat and gone too far in packaging their product to be beautiful at first sight – but it fails to place the product in the best light.


When the store opened in December, you could already get a glimpse of the inherent issues.  In a video capture of the opening by YouTube personality, iJustine, they mention the heat and the noise near the end of the video.

Apple places a strong emphasis on marketing and innovation in everything they do, but this direction in store design did too much innovation while adversely affecting the product.  When you enter the store, it is especially beautiful at night, but still loud due to the flat walls and glass ceilings – it is a veritable noise chamber. When you visit during the day, it has that same loudness but the glare and heat are almost unbearable.

Now, months in, the issues are very clear. If you are trying to check out the products, you can’t see a lot because of that glare, and if you are waiting for the Genius Bar or getting individual instruction, the loudness and heat make you not want to stick around.  One woman even brought a box for her one-on-one to place around her product as she was well aware of the issues.

While this is not the first Apple store with a glass ceiling – there has been one in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a number of years – it seems they did not really take everything into consideration and aimed for looks more than substance. Perhaps the bigger Santa Monica store concerns were never an issue in Manhattan due to more limited direct sunlight and extended cooler weather. It’s a shame that they didn’t take into consideration that there is more heat and sunlight in the beach city of Santa Monica.


I hate seeing Apple miss and I hope this is just a hiccup and not more indicative of what’s to come. If they continue to make decision based more on looks than substance, we will all lose out.

Tesco’s American Invasion Was DOA

UK grocery company, Tesco, has decided to pull out of their American Invasion and take a $1.8 Billion write-off (with the favorable UK exchange rate – only 1.2 Billion Pounds – it still doesn’t soften the blow of the astounding loss.) Tiffany Hsu’s LA Times article points to Tesco’s misunderstanding of what the public wants and the dire consequences of trying to compete with the Wal-Marts, Costcos, Trader Joes and the like. If Tesco believed those were their competition, their analysis was very off – regardless of recession or not. Tesco saw themselves as something they were not – and in America, it’s foolish to think that customers will save bad branding by finding the hidden gems behind whatever facade is presented. Any way you slice it, its unfortunate that Tesco’s invasion of the American market was dead on arrival.

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

It had a lot more to do with branding, design and store locations than what Americans do or do not want. Admittedly, my exposure is limited to their locations in the Los Angeles market, but it quickly became very clear how Fresh & Easy was positioned counter-intuitively and ineffectively.

The first store I visited was a huge space on heavily trafficked tourist destination Hollywood Boulevard. It was large, dark and depressing. Another location was also in midtown on a heavily trafficked car artery with no abundance of parking spaces. And the last one I was in a week ago was probably the best model of what they should have been doing all along – a small, bright and colorful store in a heavy pedestrian area near USC.

Beyond their questionable locations and early dreary decor, they should have positioned themselves as the perfect last minute spot to pick up quality prepared meals and sundry items on the way to work or on the way home for dinner. They couldn’t/shouldn’t have felt they could compete with the established big markets.

The article compares them to a Wal-Mart, but Tesco should have positioned Fresh & Healthy as more akin to a refined and healthier 7-11 – like their own Tesco Metros back in the UK. That healthy option would have been the right aspirational touch – especially in Southern California.

Fresh & Easy might have worked if they had stronger positioning. It seems they were even unclear on who they were meant to be. Because of that, their marketing never worked. It’s a shame, because if you look at their location near USC, they could have focused on smaller spaces in higher foot-traffic (or more easily accessible) areas to create something akin to the Marks & Spencer Simply Food product in the UK. Another similarity to M&S in the USC location was the automated tellers that allowed staff to be focused around the store to help out in ways you certainly don’t see in a 7-11.

The promise of getting in and out of a market in five minutes with inexpensive essentials and healthy prepared meals would have been something that might have made it a success.

Short of that, its another example of a move that a company should have never ventured in the first place. Or, its an example of a good thing that never had the required clarity and forethought to drive success. Fresh & Easy is Dead. Long Live Fresh & Easy.

NBC News’ Confusing Destruction of Demographics

I’ve been quite bullish on the need to move away from straight demographics in marketing and media from some time.  And I haven’t been alone.  We see in research that a person’s age or sex isn’t always the best marker of what the consumer is interested in.  Even some products that historically might have been limited to a demo or sex are seeing a bit of change.  One example of that is where we are seeing more stay-at-home fathers who are responsible for buying the diapers – and they’re not into the same programming that a mother might be into.  I understand that the example is nowhere close to becoming a norm, but it illustrates the point. What concerns me more than the slow move to affinity marketing from demographic marketing is the opportunity for publishers to bring bogus solutions to market that only make the transition messier. The latest affront can be found in a MediaPost exclusive with NBC News Digital’s confusing move towards a “Persona” structure that seems even worse than straight demographics.

Before getting into the details of NBC’s move, its important to point out that the shift from affinity to demographic sales from a publisher prospective might not be such an easy thing.  Even if a publisher perfectly hits a demographic segment, we know that not everyone in that segment is interested in all things exactly the same.  As data and algorithms are refined, there will be ways to define the buckets and deliver to them more easily.  But, at this time, the easier way to target may well be through smart social media targeting. And traditional publishers shouldn’t be too far behind – unless they go in the wrong direction.

Which brings us to NBC News.  Their direction is confounding.  Instead of breaking down their affinity into what their users are specifically are interested in, they are effectively playing off of how much their users are interested in. Instead of Demographics, they want to move to Persona.  That’s great if they want to hit those who are more interested in more granular buckets like political, entertainment, sports, local and more.  But they are basing their four buckets on how much news they read.  From the description, they don’t glean much about the individuals based on these segments ranging from avid digital news readers to spotty or traditional news consumers:

  • “Always On:” Consumers who are constantly connected to news feeds across  multiple devices throughout their waking day.
  • “Reporters:” A slightly smaller segment of “digital natives” who grew up  consuming news via online and mobile media, and who have manifested the behaviors of news disseminators, taking pride in their ability to break  important news to their friends via their own social media postings.
  • “Skimmers:” Consumers who are not passionately connected to news.
  • “Veterans:” Consumers who primarily rely on traditional media as a trusted  source for news.

NBC News Digital will be focusing on the first two Personas, but as a media buyer, I really don’t have an idea about what any of those groups are interested in.  I understand that the “Reporters” might be most likely to share news information with friends, but does that mean that they care about what branding comes along with it? Do the CPMs I pay mean more when it reaches “Always On” readers more because there is the assumption that there are more impressions? Or is it worth less because those readers may be much more adept at tuning out the ads those who are not always checking online for the latest news?

Perhaps the solution for the latter issue is based on sponsorship opportunities.  But, such an engagement is even more challenging in the news environment due to the accepted separation of editorial and advertising.

I couldn’t find much more information about the program – other than MediaPost’s piece on it, so I don’t know what NBC is looking to do. Sadly, it looks like NBC may have garnered a headline, but ended up diminishing its proposition because there wasn’t enough within the article or supporting it.  With the input the group has from research teams and other organizations, I’m hopeful that there is more sense to this than can currently be seen. Otherwise, it is just another in a long line of curious announcements that miss the especially engaging aspects of digital media and flattens them almost to incomprehension.

At the speed in which we are moving forward and the challenges of selling in concepts and practices to clients and management in that same expedited time, we collectively need to be thinking more clearly about the products and measurements we introduce. Decision makers are too quick to pass judgement that it still causes many to shake their head when half-baked or confusing concepts are presented to the marketplace. The true shift from media planning for demographics to affinity needs to happen – and can happen – but we can’t be placing obstacles in our own path.


Off-Color Spots Find A Home On The Internet

More brands and agencies are finding that the opportunity to generate video views cheaply online are only part of the equation.  The online video platform is allowing marketers the opportunity to present some targeted creative that might have otherwise been considered out of bounds and accesses a new audience.  A case in point is Ragu’s new campaign “A Long Day Of Childhood” for their pasta sauce products.

Courtesy of Ragu Facebook Page

They launched a series of online videos with their strongest one.  Each of them deal with the trials and tribulations of being a child, but the first one about a boy entering the parent’s bedroom is quite funny. It’s subject matter could be a common one in the home, but could only be expressed on the internet.

The drop in views found in the subsequent videos show how the creative execution drops off from that first one, but it is clear that we are no longer left to waiting for that TV special showcasing international ads in order to get our fill of funny and risque spots.

On another note, Ragu was smart to do a social program that asked users to submit their own recollections of childhood “hardships.”  They even do a nice job of creatively representing some selected user submissions, but they did all of this on their main Facebook page – which seems to be working off of different campaigns all at once.  It is confusing and probably stunts the social activity tied to user-submitted memories.  It is interesting that longdayofchildhood.com is available – yet Ragu didn’t use it.  I don’t know what Ragu’s url and social strategy is, but they could have (or should have) used that to drive traffic and more fully frame this campaign.  Even the images they created (like the skunk one above) could have had the vanity url placed on it to enable it to be posted many places and drive back into Ragu’s site.  At this point, if someone were to see that image outside of the Ragu/Long Day framework, they would have no idea what its all about.

Ragu’s strategy is not a bad one – the spots are cute with one being really funny and their usage on Facebook is OK.  But, it allowed for many holes to be realized in the campaign. You’ve got to wonder what kind of opportunities might have been missed by not providing the fullest platform to tie all of the pieces together under a clear and concise umbrella.

All in, this campaign is an example of something that is fun inexpensive to pull off.  I would imagine the entire campaign was done for much less than it would have cost to produce one broadcast commercial.  With it, they were able to reach a specific audience in a way that brought the brand to mind for an audience AND they were able to do some quantitative research at a nominal cost.

Hotels Working Hard To Connect The Dots on Young Loyalty

USA Today filed a report on hotels and their “new” quest to engage teens and pre-teens with programming and other benefits to build early hotel loyalty. The quest is all fine and good, but USAT assumes that the marketing is specific to the teens, when the real recipient is the parent.  When you look at the samples of activities, they didn’t really make sense as marketing tools to kids – but they might make sense to draw their parents to their properties.  The biggest issue is that it seems the hotel operators might not have their finger on the pulse of what their teen and pre-teen prospective consumers would even be drawn to. It’s good to look for ways to build brand loyalty – especially with young consumers – but you can’t build that loyalty with confusion about who you need to connect with.

The article recounts a few of the offerings that have recently been launched by some hotel chains. What the article doesn’t do is cover how these features are marketed. If there is no specific marketing strategy for these offerings, then too much is left to chance – making the offerings less effective. But, let’s just say that the offerings were marketed through specific media or even as part of their CRM or email communications. You still have to question who (and when) the target is for some of these offerings:

  • At select Omni Hotel locations, a “Teen Connection” program has been launched where the teen-aged guests can communicate with a Teen Concierge through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or text. Besides the obvious question of “why don’t you just go downstairs and speak face-to-face with someone?”,  I question how much business (or loyalty) will be generated for something so specific. If, as a teen, I had connectivity – which should be paramount – I would be communicating with friends not rushing to communicate with a stranger about things I would need permission from parents in order to actually do it. Since the marketing would be toward parents, would parents want their kids to be asking for reccos through social?  Maybe they would feel more comfortable that it is from a more substantial (i.e. hotel) source, but again, why not go down to the lobby to ask someone? Which leads to the bigger concern about the Teen Concierge idea.  As a parent, do I want an 18 year-old to be a concierge telling my son or daughter to go see a rock show at the Beacon or skateboard through Central Park when I am visiting New York City? David Strebel, the teen concierge at Omni Berkshire in Manhattan gave those examples of what he would offer. While those suggestions are borderline fine options for  teens who know the city well, as a parent, I’m not so happy about the argument that is probably going to happen when I tell my kid they can’t do what the cool guy at Teen Concierge got them to set their mind on.
  • Hyatt has rolled out their “For Kids by Kids” menu and it seems like it makes the parents happy due to its healthier options.  But, the concept of “by” is an interesting one as it seems the menu was only “approved by a group of young taste-testers.” To be upset about the lack of offerings like  “curried shrimp lettuce wraps” on a kids menu could just as easily be appeased by hotels in offering child-sized portions (and costs) of the regular menu items. But, again, there is confusion as teens are not the sweet spot for children’s menus.  Most children’s menus are targeted at 12 (at the high-end) and under with many targeting even younger. Maybe another solution is to rethink some menu options entirely to more strongly relate to their target audience. Maybe the rethinking leads to a couple of items on the menu that are healthy, but are more of a “grazing” type of offering – where young adults can lay around and idly eat healthy foods like crudite, crackers and tuna or chicken salad, etc.
  • Some real head scratchers are Sofitel’s French Language TV station, Tivi5MONDE, for children under 13 and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes teen massage and facials. What’s the audience size for kids under 13 who want to watch something in French and are teens really that interested in spa treatments as a progenitor or loyalty? The Ritz offering might make perfect sense due to its overall demographic, but the loyalty they have going has very little to do with how kids are treated.  In fact, there are many who stay at such hotels that would prefer there were not pre-teens or teens running around…

We’re not even dealing with Tyson’s Corner Marriott’s belief that American Girl packages with free viewings of American Girl’s McKenna Shoots for the Stars are perfect for pre-teens and teens.  American Girls’ target is considerably younger than that demo.

It could all come down to how the writer, Nancy Trejos, framed the story as attempts to target and draw in those demos. It seems that the examples either over think the target or don’t really address them.  One commenter on the article succinctly stated that “the best way to keep teen guests content – offer free wi-fi.”

Obviously, the best way to provide loyalty is to offer great experiences without being too gimmicky. As the adults are usually (hopefully) the ones making the decisions, the effect the offspring have is based on their content and how much they enjoyed things.  So, there are probably inexpensive ways to convey to parents that there are great offerings for the kids to allow for sampling and, based on good experiences, many happy returns.

The low-hanging fruit is for hotels that are heavily used for business travelers.  By way of CRM programs and booking confirmation emails, they can easily include a little blurb inviting those business travellers to bring their families along. They can work on programs that make travel for children, pre-teens and teens more comfortable.  And, there are things that can provide a sense of security and comfort for the parents.  Maybe its just having a late-afternoon kids and teens “only” reception in a part of the hotel restaurant where healthy choice foods and fun activities are provided at no extra charge.  Maybe its in the form of borrowable MP3 players that have music that conveys the spirit of the city they are visiting.  Obviously, there are so many more options – all with different degrees of difficulty.

The thing is, a lot of what was listed seemed like it was from some ideal story of teens who visit the Waldorf-Astoria and take it over. While it might seem exciting to talk about QR codes and healthy choice education in order to get press coverage, the results are what matter and the ones shown just don’t seem to do the trick.

If you want to target a certain demo, you’ve got to know who they are, what they want and then deliver on that.  But that’s not all… You’ve also got to be clear in how you’re going to communicate it.  You’ve got to make sure you’re communicating clearly to the people who really matter.  In this case, is the kids that the initial communication needs to happen with?  No.  It’s the decision makers – who happen to be the parents. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much the parent’s love an idea of something, f the child doesn’t like it, there will be problems.  The challenge is in connecting the dots – or at least leaving the right breadcrumbs to draw target demos to your product and generate loyalty.