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Vince DiGirolamo

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OH YEAH, CARROTS, YEAH!

Brands are constantly trying to find ways to become, and remain relevant, to their target consumer. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the approach recently taken by 'A bunch of Carrot Farmers'? which is aimed at getting younger consumers to eat more carrots. In other words, they're trying to make carrots 'cool.'? Is this even possible? You be the judge. So what did these Carrot Farmers do? They've taken carrots and positioned them in the exact way that kids are used to seeing junk food products marketed to them. They produced an over-the-top ad about carrots, which involves a machine gun, an attractive female, an extreme stunt, and a pterodactyl. Now, if that isn't already cool enough, they've also launched a baby carrot website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter page. They even revamped the packaging for baby carrots, and have started stocking them in vending machines in various high schools across the country. Now all this is great and everything, but you're probably saying to yourself, 'Are kids really going out and buying carrots? Or, are they just going to think these farmers are trying too hard and call them lame??'? We recently conducted focus groups with males ages 13-21, and heard over and over again how they dislike it when a brand 'tries too hard'? or tried to be something it's not. However, when a brand is so completely ridiculous with their approach, they know it isn't meant to be serious and they actually like it. But what will kids think of this new look for carrots? If you ask me, I don't think anyone can see what this bunch of carrot farmers have done, and take it seriously. The approach is done in a way that is so wacky, that you can't not get that they're trying to be funny, all while taking a jab at the way some brands position their products. And as I just mentioned above, this resonates very well with today's younger consumers. Now, if the commercial was a group of teenagers hanging out at a park/mall, eating carrots, laughing, and having a grand old time ' then, it would clearly be trying too hard. Another thing to always keep in mind is that it's not enough to just make a cool ad or fancy website. In order to truly fit into your consumer's life, you have to be where they are. The fact alone that carrots are now being offered in vending machines at high schools makes them more readily available, and will help increase the amount of teens eating carrots. It's now something they can get on their own, instead of something that their mom buys for them ' which is so un-cool. It will be interesting if carrots remain a popular choice, or if teens will go back to the Doritos and cookies if/when the hype dies down. I know one thing is for sure ' I'm going to buy some carrots. They're so awesome. How do you think this is going to be received?

Everybody's Buying It!

Three goals that will be discussed at every annual board meeting and will consistently be objectives for marketing departments everywhere: 1) increase sales, 2) acquire new customers, and 3) establish brand loyalty. One method that aims at meeting those three goals, is something I like to call, 'social buying.'? To explain, sites such as Groupon and BuyWithMe, which continue to grow in popularity, are exactly what I'm talking about. If you are unfamiliar with how they work, it goes like this: Each day they put a ridiculously discounted offer on their website Each offer comes with a minimum number of people that need to 'purchase'? the deal If that number is reached, the 'Deal is on'? If that number is not reached, there is no deal (nobody gets charged for anything) Typically the offers are less often for a specific product, and more for a credit toward a local service or business in multiple markets across the country. As an avid user of both of these sites, I can attest that the deals are well worth it. A $25 gift certificate to the local bar/restaurant around the corner for $10, a paintball outing for half-price, a one-hour massage for more than half-off of what it would normally cost ' these are a few examples of the offers that I have purchased from these sites. It's that simple. The overall idea is, the offer will be enticing enough to get a bunch of consumers to purchase the deal and get them through the door (acquire new customers). Once there, the hope is two-fold. Hopefully, the consumer will spend more than the amount they have a credit for (increase sales). Lastly, the consumer will hopefully have such a positive experience, that they will tell everyone they know and continue to come back in the future (establish brand loyalty). Recently, Groupon took its daily offer to a whole new level. Instead of a local business, Groupon had an offer from a national store you may have heard of before ' Gap. Users who purchased this deal received a $50 in-store credit for only $25. The deal was purchased by 441,000 users, which if you do the math, comes out to over $11 million in sales. For Gap, this means that close to a half-million consumers are going to be heading into their stores, looking to spend at least $50. While not every Gap Groupon will be redeemed, it is anticipated that those customers who do use it, will spend more like to $75 to $100. And since Groupon states redemption rates are on average upward of 80%, that's a lot of cash money. Expect the concept of 'social buying'? to continue to grow in popularity, especially as more and more national brands start to get involved. In the past five months alone, Groupon's subscriber database has grown from 3 million to more than 15 million. But what's next for in this world of social buying? I think these sites should tie in a social media component that allows users to connect with other users to share in each other's fun. But, only time will tell'?¦

Stop Playing Games

As a consumer, I wonder how much leeway we should give to brands. There are brands we have been loyal to for years, but what if that brand starts changing things on us? Should we stick with them or find an alternative solution? About six months ago, my cable/internet bill increased in price by about $75 ' without notice. As you can imagine, this did not go over well with my roommate and me. So after calling and complaining, we were told that if we added five premium channels to our cable package, our monthly bill would go back down again. Yes, you read that correctly ' get more channels, pay less. Naturally, we did this. And for the past six months, we have been enjoying the luxury of having all these premium channels ' even though we didn't watch them that often. Then, this past week, we noticed our bill went up again! So, we complained again and this time they told us that if we got rid of those premium channels, BUT added a landline, our bill would go back down again. Yes, you read that correctly ' get a landline, pay less. Naturally, we did this. So now, we have an actual landline in our apartment. I'm not really sure if we will use it, but if it makes our bill cheaper, then sign us up. Granted our bill is still ridiculously high, but it's apparently as low as we can get it, for what we want. The craziest thing is that I have heard from several other people that they have had the same problems with this company ' and they are all as equally unhappy. As a marketer, I know how important brand loyalty is for a brand. I also know how important it is for brands to never forget that loyalty may not always be there. Consumers prefer brands that make their lives simple and easy. Too many headaches or high prices can drive them away quickly ' especially if they have to deal with the same problems over and over. So my question is, how long will they continue to do this? More importantly, how long will we put up with this? Driving up prices and making customers unhappy is not a very good approach to doing business if you ask me. Maybe we should just cancel our service all together and find another provider. Or maybe we just cancel our cable and start watching TV online. All I know is that if they continue to play these games and increase their prices, we won't be their customers much longer. What would you do if you were us? What would you do if you were this company and your consumers were unhappy with you?

Elusiveness Exclusiveness

The Millennial generation is an empowered generation that knows they are sought after by so many brands. They expect brands to treat them as more than just an opportunity to make money and look for that little 'something extra'? from a brand before they are willing to give it up ' their money that is. One way in which brands have been successful at breaking down this barrier, is by feeding Millennials' need for exclusivity. There are two ways in particular that I've seen this effectively done: limiting purchasing time and offering personalized customization. Here's a quick look into both of these approaches: Limited Time Only Brands continue to deploy pop-up stores in and around hot spots in major cities. The here-today-gone-tomorrow effect created by a pop-up store urges consumers to act now if they don't want to miss out on the experience. A recent example of how a brand effectively deployed a pop-up store is the Puma City experience. Another limited time only approach that continues to grow in popularity is the deal-a-day feature on websites. Whiskeymilitia.com and Woot.com are model examples of ways in which brands can provide a sense of exclusivity to its consumers. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these sites ' they essentially provide users with a specific item, at a discounted price, for a limited time only (some daily, some hourly ' it varies). If they don't get to it while it's there, the chance has passed them by. Slowly but surely, more and more brands are adopting this feature to their own sites ' a recent example being UrbanOutfitters.com. Personalized Customization There's nothing worse than showing up to work or to a party, and seeing someone wearing the same thing at you. To help consumers prevent this from happening, more and more brands are beginning to open up their product lines for personalized customization. The sneaker industry is a great example of where brands are allowing consumers to put their own twist on their products. Footwear giants such as Nike, Reebok, and Adidas all have features on their websites that allow consumers to personalize their sneakers. While the style of shoe is provided, consumers are in total control of everything else from materials to colors. These are just two examples of how brands are satisfying Millennials' appetite for exclusivity. Two very different approaches, but the same idea. What are some other approaches you've seen lately?

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