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Will It Be a Green Holiday Season for Retailers?

According to the most recent holiday survey done by the National Retail Federation, American consumers are planning on spending an average of just under $689 on holiday-related items, a slightly higher amount than the average from last holiday season. Because the recession is far from over, capturing this spending by retailers could make or break them for 2010. Suppliers are heavily invested in this capture as well, obviously because they depend on the retail outlets to move their products. According to the survey, almost 2/3 of American shoppers have said the economy will impact their spending. Some will spend less, some will shop for the best price, some will use coupons and some will surf the web to find the best bang for their buck. What this means to retailers is that they have to find a way to make their outlet the most attractive to consumers. According to the survey, customer service and merchandise quality are two very important factors to consumers. These are two ways that retailers don't have to be creative in order to supply what consumers want, they just need to be diligent and ensure their employees have a positive attitude toward their customers, make themselves available to assist consumers and do a good job of quality control and carry merchandise that has a strong track record of being a solid product. Surprisingly, the younger demographic (18-24) had the highest percentage of responders that said they will choose a store based on service. With that being the demographic that uses electronic media the most, a good, positive shopping experience with just one consumer could bring you dozens more. The flipside is also true. A bad experience could end up costing you hundreds, maybe more, in sales. Many consumers this season will be more focused on value and not just price. They will be looking more at the big picture. Paying more for longevity or for less hassle (like paying $100 for the fake Christmas tree vs. $75 for the real, but think of the ease of clean up after the holiday) is part of the value equation. Getting more satisfaction for your money, even if it means spending a little more, seems to be a trend many are following. One of the biggest trends from the study (although not a surprise) is that online shoppers have much deeper pockets this year.  According to the survey, people who are holiday shopping online will spend 24.6 percent more than the average adult.  This group starts shopping early and tends to make a lot of non-gift purchase for themselves.   This group is willing to pay more and is said that sales and discounts are not their main factor when shopping online. Regardless of the online phenomenon, many of us still enjoy the 'live'? experience of shopping in 'Brick and Mortar'? stores during the holiday season. As a holiday consumer, here are a few tips to keep our experience with you positive and ultimately green!! 1.) Offer quality and value at a reasonable price. 2.) Have top-notch customer service (who doesn't appreciate service with a smile?) 3.) Remember I use my smartphone, so the opportunities to drive me to retail are endless

The New Face of Guerrilla Marketing

Consumers have become increasingly aware of marketer's efforts to reach them. It's nothing new, though; the communications world has seen this happen with advertising ' the consumer's ability to switch the channel, or altogether tune out what's trying to be sold to them. In an effort to counteract these actions, marketers have stepped in with experiential marketing. With 12 plus years of leading the development and implementation of experiential programs, I'm always looking to execute my client's message and programs in a more innovative, more effective, always cost efficient way. As budgets have been slashed with the recent economic downturn, one tactic that often arises throughout our program development process is guerrilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing campaigns target consumers in unexpected locations and create a unique, engaging and thought-provoking concept to generate buzz. In 2010, I'm now realizing just how much the consumer has started to become aware of guerrilla marketing. I've learned that the guerrilla marketing that worked so effectively five years ago, no longer has the same effect. The guerrilla marketing of 2010 now needs to add another level of engagement that was not previously necessary ' the bottom line is that we need to be more innovative in our thinking. Technology is just one of the ways to take guerrilla marketing to the next step. Techniques such as interactive, digital interfaces are becoming a more popular form of execution. One new technology that AMP is exploring is the integration of digital TV screens on t-shirts and other non-traditional surfaces ' picture a brand ambassador roaming through a popular city park to promote a new video game by allowing consumers to play the game on the BA's shirt! Another new technology that caught my attention is flying logos. Take your brand's iconic logo, or current ad campaign, and translate it into a soap-like flying object'?¦ definitely an eye catcher! It's not just technology, though. It is out-of-the box thinking that is required to be successful in today's marketing programs. An unusual idea and element of surprise that are true to traditional guerrilla marketing now may include utilizing the social media trend with Facebook and Twitter or spontaneously showing movies on the sides of empty warehouses. Whatever the idea is, it needs to be, among many other things, just plain innovative. AMP is constantly creating that effective, lasting brand experience for consumers, and now more than ever we need to be creative about ways to reach these individuals. The marketing of today is not the marketing of yesterday; we know that better than anyone else.

What are Market Researchers Doing in Vegas?

I just spent the week in Las Vegas. I know'?¦you're probably expecting to hear a crazy story, but remember, 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,'? so I'm just going to share a few things I learned at The Market Research Event. (Maybe you can convince me to tell you about cocktail hour or the speaker who fell off the stage another time.) Over the course of three days, I listened to many inspirational speakers. Mega brands like Coca Cola, Toyota, and Procter & Gamble had interesting case studies to share, but my key takeaways came from a combination of sessions I attended. Here's some advice I collected for you marketing people: Inspire brands: We as market researchers often like to play it safe, but it's okay to take risks and go where no man has gone before! Consumer insights should never state the obvious ' brands want new perspectives. We should all work together to inspire change and not just follow it. Innovate by thinking through consumers' needs: Ideas and insights are usually very simple. For example, a few years ago, Coppertone was looking to come out with the next big thing in sun care. Consumers continuously complained that 'sunscreen is messy.'? So what happened? The brand took a look at insect repellants, hair care, and other skin care products and BAM! Consumers can now spray on their sunscreen without ever rubbing it in. Less is more. Brand logos don't always need to be present: Martin Lindstrom, author of 'Buyology'? blew my mind with his presentation about Neuromarketing. Brands are finding ways to stimulate consumer's minds without ever revealing who they are. Consumers can identify brands through scents, sounds, and other visual cues. Studies have proved that if you show images of rugged cowboys or even camels to cigarette smokers, the 'craving'? part of the brain gets stimulated and consumers don't even know it. Know your consumer AND your shopper: Dr Pepper Snapple Group pointed out that clients are often way too focused on the target consumer. Sure, the consumer is important, but he or she is not always the one shopping for our client's products. For example, take Mott's apple juice. Moms are the ones buying it, but their kids are the ones consuming it. When conducting research, it's important to know how Mott's can appeal to kids, but it's just as important to understand how to get mom's attention on store shelves. Test concepts and messages - overexposure to a brand does not necessarily drive purchase: If an offer is not compelling, multiple exposures to that message won't influence a call to action. It is extremely important to test messages with consumers before spending thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign. A good ad motivates consumers to do something the first time around. The next time you're drafting a survey, writing a creative brief, brainstorming, or figuring out how to market a product, keep these things in mind. To be the best, sometimes, we just need to stick to the basics.

Getting to Know Consumers

As part of the Consumer Insights team, I field a lot of very specific and sometimes obscure questions. Ranging from 'how many 18 year old college students that live on campus are interested in renting furniture?'? to 'how many moms between the ages of 28 to 35 read newspapers?'? to 'what are the hotspots for tween boys?'? Surprisingly, I usually have, or can dig up, the answers to most of these questions. Not surprisingly, those answers don't always get our clients what they are looking for. So I always strive to provide more. Most clients start off thinking that they need facts about a given consumer segment: demographic information: age, household income, education level, etc and quantifiable behaviors: favorite websites, discretionary spending, number of times they go out to eat, etc. While this type of information is very important, it does not provide the complete picture of who that consumer is and what will motivate them to buy products or services. Think about it, I am 5'7'?, a college graduate and I eat out about once a week. What does that tell you about me? It gives you some idea as to where to put messages, but there is little to go on to establish a relationship. As you know at AMP, our mission is to create brand experiences that become part of consumers' live experiences. We believe that in order to do that we really need to get to know consumers. To truly connect with consumers, as a brand, you need to understand what they think, feel, and believe. To get to that level of understanding the AMP Consumer Insights team leverages some creative and non-traditional research methodologies. For example, we recently did some work for a footwear company that was looking to launch a new line of shoes. We intercepted consumers on their turf (in this case skate parks) and held discussion groups in their homes. We even bought shoes off their feet. These methodologies combined to give us a view of how these consumers play, how they live and how they really use a product (sneakers in this case). It provided the color that was lacking from the black and white facts. Our client not only went on to use this information to develop a new product line but also used it to determine how to connect with those consumers, and ultimately how to launch that line. Consumer demographics and quantifiable behaviors are very important but they only tell half the story. We strive to tell the full story by integrating ourselves into consumers' lives. If you are having trouble with figuring out your consumer's story, let me know. We would love to tell you how we would go about learning more and adding color via a creative and effective research plan. I can be reached at amarsh@ampagency.com

Conversations with Consumers

Intercepts conducted by Kristin Schue and John Taubeneck Every month we hit the streets to talk to consumers. This month we interviewed 16 individuals between the ages of 22 to 49 years old. Sticking with this month's theme, we asked about how they are learning about new products, what product samples they have recently received and what influence that sample had on purchase intent, what is their favorite commercial and finally, we asked what exactly they were doing on YouTube. Here is what we heard. Word of mouth and internet tied as the best way people learn about new products and services, beating out television and magazine advertisements. 'I trust what my friends say about a product much more than an advertisement on TV.'? ' Karen, 49 Our respondents had received all types of product samples in the last six months, from DVDs to perfume, energy drinks, beauty products, pens and even free underwear! While all respondents admitted to using the free products, many said it wouldn't influence them to go out and buy the product on their own. 'I got a free energy drink because they were handed out on the street. It was disgusting and I would never buy it. Would I try another energy drink? If it was free, definitely!'? 'Tara, 42 When asked what the best commercial the consumers had seen lately, many respondent's response was 'The Heineken commercial with the beer closet for the guys and the shoe closet for the girls.'? 'I love beer commercials and this one was very creative.'? ' Ruchir, 24 Respondents use You Tube to watch funny videos that they heard about from friends. 'My friends always send me hilarious videos.'? ' Alex, 28

There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

Looking for a guaranteed way to get your product in consumers' hands? Give it away for free. In the wake of May's KFC grilled chicken riots, I've spent quite a bit of time pondering the tenet of 'free'? as a promotional strategy. Free has always been (and always will be) a strong tool to excite consumers, but in the wake of continued economic distress, we've seen a recent resurgence of 'give it away'? marketing. Coldplay has announced they'll give a free album to all concert attendees. FedEx recently offered free printing of resumes. Burt's Bees is giving away 25,000 lip balms to celebrate their 25th Burt Day. Friendly's is even giving away free ice cream. We're seeing free being met with great fanfare and consumer appeal, but does it lead to success? Understanding that success looks different to every brand based on their objectives, when free is executed well (read: strategically), it doesn't mean free of profit. It means free to succeed. Let's take a quick look at two examples from this year of how free was done right and done wrong ' Denny's and KFC. During the Super Bowl, Denny's promoted an offer giving away free Grand Slam breakfasts via a 30 second TV spot. In preparation for the rush, they extended store hours, overstocked on eggs, rallied the staff and ended up feeding roughly two million people. The hard cost: $5 million dollars on food. The amazing news: they broke even less than a month later thanks to day of drink sales and coupon redemptions, and more importantly, they cashed in on nearly $50 million in free advertising and mostly positive reviews! KFC had all the pieces in place to utilize free to create tremendous momentum for their grilled chicken launch: a new product offer, coupons for a free meal and, the ultimate kicker - an endorsement from Oprah. However, KFC underestimated the power of free. Not all their franchises honored their own coupons. Employees weren't trained to handle the demand. They ignored the risks associated with free and were ill-prepared for the response. After two days of lines, and a lack of legs and thighs, all they had to show was negative buzz and disgruntled clientele. So, what's the next big idea to harness free? How can we deliver trial and ROI, drive profitability and grow brands without the grilled chicken backlash?

Influences on Purchase Decisions

Understanding the impact of different marketing tactics is critical ' especially today. ROI is something that we talk about daily. However, determining exactly what that impact is, or defining ROI can be a bit of a grey area. For example, take a look at the following chart. We asked consumers how frequently different tactics impact their purchase decision. Over 80% stated that coupons and sampling influence their purchase decisions. These numbers are self-reported behaviors ' not actual behaviors. Put differently, these numbers do not correlate with industry benchmarks for things like coupon redemption rates, which ranged between 2.6% and 1.82% in 2007 according to CMS, a promotional logistics company. But isn't it important to know that consumers believe these tactics influence their purchase decisions? We think so, what do you think?

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