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You Can Like Whatever You Like

I'm thinking about purchasing my mom an e-reader for Christmas. From what I've heard, the Nook and the Kindle are the top two choices. They're both small, handy devices, have cute names, and I assume will let her download more books and newspaper articles than she'll ever read. Evidently I don't know that much about these products, so I decided to do some online research. I'm not alone, 58 percent of my fellow adult American consumers research products they are considering purchasing online. I consider myself a master googler, so it's no problem locating favorable reviews for both the Kindle and the Nook. In an effort to evaluate the gadgets, I make a list of considerations: price point, content availability, and accessories. It's easy to find reviews that favor one over the other, and evaluate the two based on everything from content to ease of grip (one has a rubber back the other is metal). Many of these articles include recommendations of various lengths; from a thumbs up, to a detailed 5-page analysis. This online community of consumers and fellow prospective purchasers has been growing steadily since the dawn of the Internet. In 2010, 24 percent of Americans posted a review online, and 70 percent of Americans trusted the reviews their fellow consumers had penned. Seventy percent is a lot of trust, especially when you consider the countless ways someone can review your brand. Websites based solely on consumer reviews have gained popularity in recent years; take Yelp, and Angie's List. Yelp recently received its 11 millionth review, and Angie's list boasts over 600,000 subscribers. There is even Consumersearch, which compiles reviews about everything from diet pills to cat food.  And don't forget Facebook with over 500 million active users posting links to their walls and statuses. When a brand's popularity can be gauged by its "likes" on Facebook, how can a company ensure that it receives a favorable review? From the brands we use to the sports we play offline, what we publicly 'like'? online defines us.  For now, one of the easiest ways to gain a favorable 'review'? online is to get a consumer to 'like'? your product or brand. And in the words of T.I. you can like whatever you like (on Facebook at least). This brings me back to the decision at hand; Kindle or Nook? A couple of reviews would be great!

Flash Mobs take Consumers by Surprise

For those of you who aren't familiar, a 'flash mob'? is when a large group of people assemble in a public place, seemingly going about their normal, everyday business, until all of a sudden, the group breaks into a performance of some sort. In the fashion capital of the world, New York City, the AMP team executed flash mob fashion shows recently for two retail store grand openings last week. What better way to capture consumers' attention than to catch them by surprise with a free fashion show in the middle of the day'?¦ right on the sidewalk? Imagine walking through the city, only to encounter a sudden blast of music, an emcee setting the scene for a fashion show, and a crew of paparazzi snapping shots of beautiful models as they begin to strut their stuff down the 'catwalk'?. This assembly only occurs for a short period of time, but long enough to leave a lasting impression in the minds of those passing by who stop to find out what all the ruckus is about. As soon as the show is complete, the gang disperses back into the crowds, blending in with tourists and city folk until the next flash mob commences. We showcased the hottest Fall fashions throughout the city, as our ten models walked an improv runway. Consumers who experienced the flash mobs walked away with excitement, as they had a firsthand visual of what they could look like after shopping at the store, and many walked away with the intentions of going right to the grand opening to see for themselves! Flash Mobs are definitely a fun addition to the world of experiential marketing! In fact the new hit series, GLEE, was featured in a Seattle flash mob recently. In a populated walking mall, the sounds of the Glee cast singing Don't Stop Believin' (one of my favorites from Journey!), Gold Digger and more filled the air. All of a sudden, dancers broke out of the crowd to perform. 'Gleeks'? from all over the country flew in to be a part of the giant event, proving that flash mobs are truly entertaining and engaging. Here in our own city of Boston, a flash mob appeared for the lunch crowds at City Place, promoting the ArtsEmerson production of Fraulein Maria in September. The Gwen Stefani hit, Wind It Up, pulsed through the speakers and lunch-goers found themselves lost in a sea of dancers. Flash mobs are certainly shocking consumers and are becoming a popular tool for experiential marketers to utilize for promotions. Want to learn more? Send us an email!

Sweet Deal

Recently, Facebook announced the addition of a deals service to its Facebook Places. Similar to Four Square, after 'checking- in'? via their mobile device, consumers are able to view a variety of deals being offered in their area. After selecting the offer desired, redemption is as easy as showing the screen of your cell-phone to the cashier. With over 200 million consumers accessing Facebook via their cell phone, this application seems like a no-brainer for businesses struggling with how to drive consumers into their stores. Facebook Deals are very easy to create and companies have control over the duration and quantity of the deals being offered. Currently, there are four different types of deals for brands to work with: 1.       Individual ' standard purchase incentive for new or existing customers. 2.       Friends ' builds exposure by offering discounts to a larger group who must 'check-in'? together. 3.       Loyalty ' customers access deals by checking in multiple times. 4.       Charity ' brand donates dollars for every 'check-in'?, thereby giving back to the community. Most importantly, Facebook Deals are convenient. While businesses can only run one of these Deals at a time, the duration and quantity settings provide the opportunity to test different types of Deals throughout the year to see which works best. Consumers do not have to worry about printing anything or forgetting their coupon at home. And retailers can have a special offer in the market after only a few clicks of the mouse, immediately driving traffic into their locations. With Black Friday fast approaching, it will be interesting to see how retailers (especially mom-and-pop establishments) take advantage of this latest addition to Facebook Places in an effort to increase their holiday traffic.

Am I a Greedy Consumer?

Retailers have very effectively trained me when and how to shop and I sometimes wonder whether I will I ever pay full-price again. I live very close to the Natick Collection and go there often. I shop like I'm a woman on a mission ' when I'm at the mall, I know when to go and where to go to get the best deals and savings . You've seen it and probably have been trained, too ' every store has their discount on display in their window and their e-marketing teams are working overtime. When I logged into my Yahoo account yesterday, I counted 20+ emails from retailers begging for my business that day. Subject lines included: '30% off all Outerwear ,'? 'Take 20% off a single item ' 1 Day Only!,'? and 'Whitney, Only two Days Left! 20% OFF Ends Tomorrow!'? By keeping an eagle-eye on my email box, scouring sale racks, and faithfully perusing off-price department stores, I walk away with clothes and labels that I've spotted on celebrities in some of my favorite magazines. I honestly don't remember the last time that I bought something full-price. I know that my expectation for buying quality goods at discounted prices has been a gradual development ' the economy (of course), greater financial responsibility with a growing family, and maturity were probably all nails in the full-price retail coffin in my life. I wonder if this will ever change. Will there be a day that I comfortably and confidently walk out of the mall with a big, glossy, luxury department store shopping bag full of full-price stuff? Is that ten years down the road? Twenty years? Ever? For a believer in the power of building a strong, aspirational brand, I struggle with what retailers and brands will need to do to stop the cycle and train us to be full-price shoppers again? How will they deliver value that is as meaningful to consumers as 'dollars off'?? Convenience? Service? Quality? But what if we've been trained to expect it all?

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