Dec 10

One Millennial’s challenge to today’s marketers

Peppercomm intern extraordinaire, Madeline Skahill, takes aim at marketers with a direct challenge: figure out how to attract her generation’s attention in your advertising, or suffer the consequences. Read on for her fascinating take…

aaaaaThere are a multitude of descriptions attributed to Millennials that, in most cases, only apply to a handful. However, there is one characteristic in particular that very few millennials have a hard time arguing against—being digitally obsessed.

Recently, I read a Forbes’ article that focused on the best ways to advertise to millennials. It was about making our shopping process as fast and easy as possible. Why? Because if our digital device can do it, our time spent in an actual store should not be taken for granted. The chance of us walking around with a sales assistant and simultaneously looking at the product on our mobile devices is high and the chance of us using our mobile devices to get a product if the service is not being done fast enough is equally as high.

We live in the moment and a fast moment it is. There is no time to waste if our digital devices can get the job done. While Millennials all vary in the common characteristics they share, growing up in the digital world has led us to a common ground of a short attention span.  For instance, Millennials take a majority of the credit for making Google, more than just a corporation.  Becoming a verb in 2006, “to google” meant you wanted to know the answer within seconds and had a multitude of resources at your fingertips. In this digital world, Millennials are not finding the answers; the answers are simply coming to us.

Therefore, there isn’t a better time than right now for corporations’ marketing strategies to become completely digital-centric and change the way consumers think and buy. Advertisements need to be fast, conspicuous, as well as creatively strategize the fastest way to give Millennials the answers they want. And this can be done through the digital devices that never leave our hands.

Whether it is through social media platforms, news sources, or daily apps, ads that are managed by the scroll of our fingertips will obtain more of our attention than a 30-second television ad in which our short attention span will ignore.The television has become more of a soundboard than a visual form of our entertainment, as many of us are guilty of constantly scrolling through our phones while we claim we are watching TV. Unlike the television, we control the information we want to receive on our digital devices, therefore, a creative, memorable ad on a digital device is more than likely to find our attention rather than on a monotonous cycle of commercials. Our short attention span may be a nuisance at times; however, our short attention span should be catered to in order for a company to be marketable by the current wave of consumers, Millennials.

On that note: show us what you got, marketing gurus.

Dec 09

The one constant in a sea of change

calsssvinIt recently struck me that, amidst all of the seismic changes affecting my industry, one thing has remained constant: PR’s love affair with surveys.

We used surveys when I joined Hill & Knowlton in 1493 (note: John W. Hill was a personal publicist for Christopher Columbus, and conducted the very first survey in the New World. Some 78 percent of Native-Americans said the arrival of Europeans would have no impact on the future).

Two surveys just washed up on my personal shores this past week. Neither told me anything new. Both reinforced the obvious. But, both will undoubtedly generate ink (which is why this antediluvian tactic survives flourishes despite the flummox caused by social media).

The first survey was conducted by The Link Agency, and found that women hold the purse strings in most households! Indeed, Link’s CEO, Tracy LeRoux, says: “It’s wise for businesses to realize just how influential the woman of the house can be in making any purchases.” This constitutes news? I think even Adam knew that Eve called the shots in the bible’s first family.

And, get this, The Link Agency also suggests marketers use social media to reach moms with kids under 18 since 90 percent of moms with kids under 18, drum roll please, use social media!

But, wait, there’s more breaking news from another new survey. This one found that companies can build brand loyalty by sending simple birthday greetings to customers. Wow.

That stat rocked my world. I now need to re-think every strategic recommendation I’ve ever given to clients: “In addition to the program elements we just discussed, please don’t forget to wish your customers a happy birthday!”

The Fulcrum survey says 87 percent of consumers report increased brand loyalty for a company that sends a note saying, ‘Happy birthday, big fella!’ To which, I respond, big deal.

Birthday greetings WILL NOT impact customer consideration one iota. Just because the Brooks Brothers database has a prompt to send me a note on June 29th, it does NOT mean I’ll choose them when I make my next purchase.

But, hey, that’s not Fulcrum’s problem. They just conducted the survey. And the survey will generate publicity for Fulcrum.

And, so it goes. The survey is like PR’s North Star. It’s a constant in a sea of change. No matter how banal the findings, surveys WILL generate buzz. And, that’s the name of that tune.

So, before I sign-off for today, how about one more survey? I’d like to invite YOU to nominate the dumbest survey of 2013. I guarantee you’ll receive publicity. Let me know.

Dec 06

Makin’ Bacon

J&D'sBaconBabyFormulaIf  you’re struggling to find the perfect holiday gift for the oafish, overweight or offensive man in your life, worry not. I have the answer: Power Bacon deodorant.

Yes, Virginia, someone actually makes underarm deodorant that smells just like bacon. The guys who make it, Justin and Dave, say it’s aimed at “…friends, acquaintances, beautiful strangers, dogs, bears, swamp alligators, lions and even pigs. It’s like an aphrodisiac for your armpits.” I’d say it’s more like an atom bomb for your armpits.

Could you imagine wearing this stuff on a first date or a job interview?

But, wait, if bacon-flavored deodorant isn’t your cup of bacon-flavored tea, Justin and Dave also produce:
– bacon lip balm
– baconnaise
– bacon lip balm (and, wouldn’t that make for a memorable first kiss?).

Justin and Dave began their business by inventing bacon salt which, they proudly boast, “…makes everything taste like bacon.” I can’t wait to sprinkle it on my Dover Sole.

The bacon guys remind me of the Heart Attack Grill owner in Arizona. They both revel in the brutally gross, offensive and unhealthy stuff they make.

But, and this is a big but (not butt), they’re direct and honest in their messaging. There’s no ersatz, feel-good subterfuge one finds with McDonald’s, Coke or other obesity-enablers who trumpet their good works and wrap themselves in the American flag.

Nope. The bacon guys are pushing gross products, and make no bacon-flavored bones about it. I respect that. It repels me. But, I respect it nonetheless.

America needs fewer Janus-faced marketers such as Mickey D. and more authentic ones like the bacon boys.

If the people in our lives want to shovel down a Triple-Bypass Cheeseburger or sprinkle bacon salt on their French Fries, I say let them enable their own personal destruction.

Oh, and a quick, final note to Justin and Dave: when will you have bacon-flavored climbing harnesses? I couldn’t imagine anything more satisfying than reaching the summit of a 15,000-ft peak and sucking in the heady aroma of bacon.

Dec 04

NewWow is a HotMess

Repman's Podmates

Repman’s Podmates

Imagine arriving at your office, picking up your personal effects, setting them up at your desk, and then clearing off the items and returning them on your way out. Now, imagine doing that every single day.

Siemens, the big German multinational, is making employees do just that. They’ve redesigned their offices in the wake of a major, global downsizing, and are trumpeting what they call NewWow (an acronym for New Way of Working). I call it HotMess.

I’ve seen variations of NewWow (or, hoteling, which is what it really is) in action at several large client organizations. It’s brutal. No one has an assigned work space. And, at the end of each, and every day, they pick up their belongings and wait until the following morning to find out where they’ll next be sitting. They’ve told me their productivity and morale suffer as a result.

Siemens disagrees. Their management believes such a nomadic lifestyle encourages more collaboration and worker productivity. I say it merely makes a large, impersonal workplace even more isolating.

One of the few ways in which employees CAN express their individuality and personality is by decorating (or, tricking out, their work stations). Some are very cool. Some are quite conservative. But, each enables the individual to express his, or her, world view.

I’ve taken that POV to the next level at Peppercomm. I’ve ‘adopted’ a pod located directly outside my office.

Our pod is very tight. We constantly engage in idle banter, share stories and end up dissing the most senior podmate (that would be me).

We also plan pod outings (or poutings, as I call them). And, we have a really good time every day. I’d even say we have our very own esprit d ‘corps.

If Peppercomm were to adopt the Siemens approach, I’d have four different employees sitting outside my office every 24 hours. There’d be no chance to get to know them, or chill with them.

I also think overall morale would suffer if we asked employees to bring in fewer personal effects, scoop them up each and every day, place them in a bag at the reception area and then find a new workstation on which to set them up the following day.

NewWow is bogus, and dead wrong for the Millennial mindset in particular. I believe younger workers revel in expressing their individuality. Take away their personal work stations, and I think you take away their passion as well.

And a tip o’ Repman’s kepi to Greg Schmalz for suggesting this post.

Dec 03

Black Friday’s Branding Problem

Today’s guest post is by WalekPeppercommer Dmitriy Ioselevich.

Black Friday has turned into a true American holiday—a day when the savings-hungry masses unleash tPresentation1heir appetites on the country’s major retailers in pursuit of the best deals. It’s a once-a-year opportunity for cash-strapped consumers to finally spend their hard-earned dollars, except that the whole thing is really a sham.

According to The Wall Street Journal, retailers purposely mark up their merchandise prior to Black Friday so that they can yield higher profit margins. That cashmere sweater you got for $20 at a 60% discount off the $50 suggested retail price? Its true retail price is closer to $25.

Sadly, almost every major retailer does this.

“We must and will compete to win,” said Myron Ullman, Chief Executive Officer of struggling retailer J.C. Penney Co. in a transparent attempt to win over shareholders. “That means initially marking up our goods to sufficient levels to protect our margins when the discount or sale is applied.” (Cue the shifty eyed dog).

There is a concept in economics called elasticity, which is essentially the change in consumer demand as a result of a change in a good’s price. A big-screen TV is considered an elastic good because consumer demand falls as the price of a particular TV rises. An inelastic good, on the other hand, is a good that consumers will buy regardless of the price, such as water or electricity.

I bring this up because the vast majority of the products sold this past holiday weekend were highly elastic goods. The problem with this is that retailers are engaged in a constant fight to undercut each other by offering the “best deal,” leaving producers of pricier and higher-quality goods stuck with excess inventory. But there is a far better way to sell a product than through discounting tricks—branding.

Take for example Apple, owner of the most powerful brand in the world. Apple doesn’t need to discount their products because they know that people will line up out the door ready to pay whatever price it takes to get the latest device. This is the Holy Grail of the retail world—an inelastic good.

Apple may have mastered the process, but other companies need to do more to build customer equity in their brands. They need to listen to what their customers want and communicate to buyers what their products represent. A smartphone is more than just an electronic device- it’s access to information. A TV is more than just something you hang on your wall- it’s an entertainment experience.  A dress or business suit is more than just something you wear- it’s a representation of who you are.

Branding has the power to turn average elastic goods into exclusive inelastic ideas.

Many companies rely on Black Friday sales to get their balance sheets out of the red, but what if they didn’t have to? What if instead of deceiving consumers with promises of huge discounts, these companies simply focused on quality control and brand management?

It’s an idea that might just be good enough to sell.