November, 2012

Budweiser Doubles Down On Ineffective Marketing Strategies

Maybe it'll work better this time.

When you’ve lived through a quarter-century of constant losses, you take your victories wherever you can. Even the smallest ones become big deals, no matter how much they end up costing you.

As we reported here back in September, Budweiser beer, owned by AB InBev, has had more than its share of market share losses.

For example, flagship brand Budweiser, with an 8.4% share of market last year (and second to Coors Light), is but a shadow of its former, more-than-25% share, self.

This year, they employed two marketing strategies to regain “millennial drinkers who have increasingly switched to spirits brands, especially for nighttime drinking occasions,” according to Advertising Age.

One of these strategies was heavy investment in hip-hop concerts and celebrity spokesman Jay-Z, culminating in a Labor Day weekend “Made in America” hip-hop festival in Philadelphia.

Another was to kinda sorta get into the craft beer business, with Project 12 – sample packs of three pseudo-craft beers brewed by Budweiser’s regional brewmasters. These beers were generally darker in color, one-fifth higher in alcohol content (6% alcohol by volume [ABV] vs. 5% for regular Budweiser), and pricier.

Now, AB InBev is doubling down on them. Read more →

Best Buy Inadvertently Opens Its Website To Competitors

Once the camel's nose is in the tent, the rest of the camel follows.

Perhaps no major retailer has been a scrappier competitor this Black Friday weekend than Best Buy.

According to a November 24 Wall Street Journal report (available to subscribers only), they’ve been monitoring competitors’ sale prices on products they sell around the clock, then instantly undercutting them with e-mailed, social media and website offers.

But while they’ve been hawkishly fighting competition at the front door, they left the back door unguarded – all due to a desire for extra revenue and a quirk in the way that Google online advertising works.

One brand’s bug is another brand’s feature

The strength of Ads by Google is that it places ads on pages which contain the advertisers’ chosen keywords.

The weakness is that the algorithm can’t determine the context those keywords appear in – unless the website owner specifically blocks them.

Best Buy didn’t. Neither do many other websites.

While blocks Ads by Google for US Weekly or Life & Style, other websites without direct competitors don’t bother.

This is why, for example, previous articles being highly critical of, for example, Chevrolet Volt advertising appeared on with Google ads for…Chevy Volt. Or why, during the election campaign, Obama ads appeared on right-wing websites next to posts trashing him.

But when Best Buy decided to to open its website to Ads by Google, they didn’t bother to block competitors. They should have. Read more →

Consumer Reports Warns Against Online Tracking, Then Does It Themselves

Both in print and online, Consumer Reports says it’s “the most trusted source for product buying advice and ratings.”

But when it comes to their own marketing, there’s a big reason to distrust them.

Just days ago, an email to members from president Jim Guest warned that:

Someone is following you around. At least, online they are.

When you go online, you unwittingly give companies lots of information about yourself based on the sites you visit, the searches you run, the movies you watch and more.

But in the kind of disingenuousness they condemn in marketers, there’s one little thing the Consumer Reports email somehow neglected to mention: They do big-time unwitting tracking themselves. Read more →

Papa John’s Is The Latest Advertiser To Be Sued For Excess Spamming

Last week, Papa John’s made headlines when CEO John Schnatter announced that to offset Obamacare’s rising health insurance costs the company would be reducing workers’ hours to part-time status and passing on costs to customers in the form of 11 to 14% higher pricing.

Yesterday, the pizza company made headlines again, after U.S. District Court judge John C. Coughenour certified a $250 million class action suit against them for excessive text-message spamming.

Working through third-party text blaster OnTime4U, Papa John’s sent some 500,000 text messages in early 2010 to consumers who hadn’t consented to receive them. Doing that violates the 1991 federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act [TCPA].

The lawsuit also names OnTime4U and  five Papa John’s franchisee owners in different states: Rain City Pizza, Rose City Pizza, Seattle PJ Pizza, PJ Sound Pizza, and Papa Washington.

“16 calls in a row, in the middle of the night”

The texts themselves were innocuous enough, offering deals for pizza. The problem was the quantity and the timing. Some customers complained they got 15 or 16 texts in a row, sometimes in the middle of the night, plaintiffs’ attorney Donald Heyrich said. Read more →

Apple Has Its Failures, Too

With $156.508 billion in revenues and $588.540 billion in capitalization as of September 29, Apple, Inc. was America’s biggest corporation. Bigger in capital than Exxon Mobil. Bigger in revenue than Government Motors, General Electric or Berkshire Hathaway.

Obviously, you don’t get that big unless you’re very, very good at what you do.

But being very good doesn’t mean being perfect.

Apple has had its share of failures, too – some resulting from bad decisions, some from corporate or personal ego.

  • Quick Take Camera, 1994-1997 – With 640 x 480 pixel photos at 0.3 megapixel resolution, this camera was forefront technology back in the Geocities era, and Apple could’ve made a fortune with it. Its only problem was non-technological. It was an initiative from John Sculley, Steve Jobs’s successor and predecessor as Apple CEO, and when Jobs returned to run the company, it was one of 11 Sculley product lines he killed in the name of “streamlining.”
  • iPod Socks, November, 2004-September, 2007 – These were knitted cases for iPods, which have always been durable enough to Read more →

New Ad For Bikram Hot Yoga Richmond

Full page in Style Weekly‘s Richmond 360 annual directory.

Richmond Landmark Stars In Misleading Romney Web Ad

When Mitt Romney visited Richmond landmark Bill’s Barbecue, going out of business after 82 years, he may not have gotten a pulled pork sandwich. But he did get an earful from Rhoda Elliott, a member of the Richardson family that’s owned Bill’s Barbecue since it opened in 1930.

“Six years ago we started seeing a little ripple in things, and then five years ago it rippled a little more,” she told him,

and then it really hit, and from there things just got rougher and rougher – the taxes, federal regulations. The food regulations themselves cost each independent restaurant thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to comply with, so that was another outlay. The health care, even just the way it was, was out of sight. But the new health care that they were gonna bring in would have put, I would say, 90 percent of mom and pops out of business, which is really all we are. We’re just a small family-owned business.

A new, two-minute web ad released yesterday, pratically wrote itself.

The problem is, when something sounds too good (or too bad) to be true, it usually is.

By either neglecting or choosing to neglect that fact of life, the Romney ad team either let themselves be misled or chose to mislead voters. Read more →

Is Tide’s Newest Commercial Subtly Dissing Obama?

According to conservative blogger Jim Hoft, Procter & Gamble’s latest 30-second Tide commercial, released  “in time for the election…might as well have been a Romney ad.”

As the world’s largest packaged-goods company, with a huge customer base, P&G has historically been apolitical. But desperate times call for desperate measures. “You know things are bad when even soap companies are bashing your jobs record,” he posts.

Is he right? Is P&G subtly taking sides? Or did a subtle anti-Obama message somehow slip through the notoriously tight Procter & Gamble blandness filter?

Why this campaign?

If death and taxes are the only sure things in life, a consumer blog posted, then Procter & Gamble’s dominance in the laundry category is a close third. Tide remained the most popular brand in the U.S. last year, accounting for four of the top 20 brands. It leads in both powder and liquids and has a 35% share of the overall market.”

Obviously, Tide wouldn’t maintain that sales leadership over the years if its brand managers didn’t have a pretty good understanding of what’s on their target audience’s hearts and minds. Read more →

Hurricane Sandy Brings Out The Best (and Worst) In Advertisers

The Waffle House Index directs FEMA efforts.

Natural disasters bring out the best and worst in people. Hurricane Sandy was no exception, and neither were advertisers.

Their responses to Hurricane Sandy range all the way from being unofficial first responders to crass, tasteless, exploitative social media promotions.

The Good

A good many national brands not only came forward with generous relief after the storm; some were way ahead of the curve.

“Retailers have come to regard themselves as a sort of unofficial Red Cross, and this storm was no exception,” Marketing Daily reports. “[R]etailers didn’t even wait for the winds to die down before offering help. ”

For example:

  • Walmart – offered behind-the-scenes help to state relief agencies.
  • Sears – shipped portable generators and battery flashlights to East Coast locations.
  • Home Depot – prepositioned truckloads of generators, chainsaws, tarps, batteries, pumps, shop vacs, cleaning supplies and other recovery needs just outside the storm zone, ready to roll wherever needed as soon as safely possible. Read more →