Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What does the customer want?

Wawa my local convenience store just took a turn for the worse. The gasoline is still as cheap as the competition, the milk is still there in the cooler and the very important (to my caffeine addiction) coffee is still hot and fresh. In the world where price, product, and location are paramount the departure of Pete the coffee guy brought home the loss we have suffered in a work were the people at our local businesses are faceless and basically interchangeable.

Pete, a retired machinist, worked four mornings a week at the Wawa from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. with the sole job of making coffee and caring for the supplies. Over the past two years or so Pete and I have talked and developed into friends. I looked forward to hearing a friendly, "Hey, howya doing?" while poring my coffee or Pete replacing that pot of coffee in my hand with a fresh one. The guy knew my favorite flavor and would stop lean over the counter to have a brief conversation. Talking to Pete was the bright spot in my morning commute.

This points out a change in our fast pace world where we are all a slave to price and convenience. I include myself in that group although, I might make some excuses that I'm not too much in that group. Is yearning for a sense of community enough?

My late uncle had a great relationship with a service station years ago. Even when the owner moved out of Martinsburg, WV to a location by I-81 five miles away he would go there for gas and service. The pay off for my uncle was a reliable and attentive mechanic while the owner got a very loyal customer. When I buy gas here in 2006 the conversation is rather one sided with me cursing the machine wanting me to swipe the credit card a second time.

Two parting shots/thoughts---
I never cursed at or about Pete.
Time to do some cyber Christmas shopping now to get the free shipping.

Not Easy to be Green

Wikipedia has a list of grocery store failures. It is a rather short list of products but it does have a few really bad ideas. You wander sometimes what they were thinking with this stuff. My favorite has to be the Heinz colored ketchup. Did anyone ask for this? This has to be a case where not one in the organization had the guts to point out that the emperor is naked! What would happen to the employee at a meeting that would have pointed out the obvious problem with trying to sell green ketchup?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hold the Cliche'

It is difficult to discuss the James Bond franchise without falling into the trap of going for the cliches associated with the movies. Fast Company magazine has an article online about the new Casino Royale movie which sadly did not use the Herb Albert music form the dreadful 1967 (IMDB page) version featuring David Nivens, Peter Sellers, and a very young Woody Allen (trailer). I frankly have never been able to sit through the movie and over the years have only seen bit here and there but enough to see that it is overall a trainwreck.

As powerful as the Bond brand is today it was in the 1960's a cultural phenomena. How big? The movies led to television show such as: Get Smart, I Spy, The Man form Uncle, The Girl from Uncle, and Secret Squirrel (cartoon). The Matt Helm movies with Dean Martins where a rip off of the Bond movies but out of context from the 1960's it is difficult to evaluate their position in the market. The other spin offs were toys like the Topper Toys Secret Sam Attache case which I think I got for Christmas in 1967. The National Brewing Co. even got into the act with 007 Special Blends (beer) that needed more time in the legal department.

Bond like other brands evolved over the years changing with the times. Perhaps the biggest challenge was the end of the Cold War which provided context the original Ian Fleming books and the movies. The movie is like a relaunch of the brand and a worldwide $215 million (as of 11/28/06) had been successful.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Looking Like Yourself

Just like those people close to us the labels on our favorite products don't seem to change. There are radical changes, see Diet Pepsi but the norm is evolution that unless as shown below is only noticible with a side by side comparison. This can went out of date in 1998.

The Jello pudding package was taken from my mother's cupboard about 15 years ago. Even then is was dated, given the lack of a UPC code a mid to late 1970's is a reasonable guess. As for the Swanson broth the cookbook scanned is from the mid-1980's. Notice that natural is the emphais today where clear seemed to be more important before.

The older package (left) is marked 3 for 95 cents.

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One of the basic lessons from management is that people resist change in the workplace. Consumers too don't like change so the marketers best bet is to make any revisions modest.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sunbolt/The Slammer

In the follwing two YouTube videos I shed light on these two forgotten products. In looking around the Internet I found the following PR firm that is proud to be associated with Sunbolt.


The Slammer

The fuzziness of the videos makes me better lokking than the original.

Tropicana Sparklers--Podcast (Coming Soon)

Background information

How would you look if you'd spent most of the past 15 years in a box.

Solving the Non-Problem

In the early 1980's there was a problem with the air freshers that Americans were buying....The water in them was falling like rain and we cannot have that!

The solution was Renuzit Fresh 'n Dry in an impressive and serious black can. The advertisements even had a woman demonstrating this terrible problem by grabbing her husbands' glasses and freshening them without leaving wet. I have worn glasses for 35 years and have never needed to deodorize them. The product retailed for about $1.39 to $1.59 but never took off even after a $1 off coupon. Later in an attempt to save the line Renuzit cut the price to about $1.19 in line with the water based products and moved to a less serious set of pastel colors.

PCI a public relations firm tells how they helped promoted the product

Renuzit isn't the only one to strike out in the air freshener business the stores have been littered with the likes of:

Magic Mushroom--a liquid filled mushroom shaped product that was hot for a couple of years.

Pretty As A Picture--Decorative sweet smelling stained glass (plastic)

Renuzit Shell--like magic mushroom but shaped like a sea shell

Finally I do not recall the name but Airwick had a product that you put in the vacuum cleaner bag to freshen while you clean.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Alchemy in the shower

Ammonium lauryl sulfate
Got any around the house?

You can buy a 55 gallon drum from the

Behind water this is one of the major active ingredients in shampoo (as well as other house cleaners). So why does your local store have shelf upon shelf of different varieties? Consumers buy the fantasy of the shampoo with fruit, plant oils, even beer. And you just have to wash your hair. There is whole regiment of chemicals the will make your hair look just like the models on TV. Look at the hair on this women in the Proctor and Gamble coupon the hair looks better than real yet the fantasy is message. You are sold on the idea that your hair can look like this by using ________.

My supervisor when I was first in the food broker business had a saying about selling the sizzle not the steak. His point was to sell to the emotions the senses because the brain if given the chance can see through the show. We are all to some degree vulnerable to giving in and letting our emotions make decisions and it is not necessarily bad but be aware of the marketer.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Natural Dog Food

Years ago I sold Recipe dog food, it was owned by Campbell's Soup at the time, and we were told to push the burger and cheese flavor in the summer and turkey in November because people like to feed the dog what they are eating. I honestly thought that this was a gimmick and that a 3 for $1 sold more product. Now that I own a dog I can see the idea as being plausible.

Purina with the same logic therefore created "natural" dog food because the pet's diet is closely linked to the owners or so the theory goes. The only reason that the package was purchased is that there was a high value coupon associated with the product is in my house at introduction to create awareness and trial. My dog gets premium dry dog food as a supplement to the home made mixture that happens to be on the stove now.

The use of a canister for this is interesting as the traditional dry pet food containers are a box for smaller and a bag for larger sizes. While the canister allows for air tight storage the choice, most likely has to do with promoting a premium image.

Excuse men now I need finish my dog food cooking.
Chopped spinach----check
Tomato puree----check

Saturday, October 21, 2006

How Culture Changes

The culture is constantly changing and standards of acceptable behavior are only reflections upon the society. In the early 1960's middle America would have been shocked by the discussion of sex on television. The Playtex Living bra of the 1960's featured a modest model with the bra over a body suit and Barbara Eden's navel could not be visible in I Dream Of Jeannie. It was forbidden to say pregnant on television (I Love Lucy for example) let alone the sexual banter common in many prime time shows today.

Before you feel superior these were perfectly acceptable in the past:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3 (Note the laugh track and applause)

Interestingly enough we Americans of the 21st century would be equally disturbed by some of the content form the early 60's. Cigarette ads were not only permitted on television but cartoon superstars the likes of Fred Flinstone and his pal Barney Rubble were the pitchmen for Winston cigarettes. Imagine if you would that Homer Simpson and Apo at the Quickie Mart discussing the virtues of Winstons. That is just as shocking to our sensibilities as having June Cleaver showing cleavage and discussing Wards bedroom shortcomings with Eddie Haskell.

These are extreme examples of the culture changing overtime and say more about the larger society than specifically about marketing but demonstrates that how we sell a product of the environment.

The important question here is; who would be better in the Victoria's Secret cartoon ad Betty Rubble or Marge Simpson?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another Bonus Pack

Another Bonus Pack
Fructis Shampoo

Like the Arm & Hammer Detergent, Fructise is giving product away. However the differences are important to note. The no-brainer is simply that they are attempting to sell more product but instead of merely being an attempt to get the short term extra sales but to build trial for the new 2 in 1 variety by banding on a travel size. This move is more expensive as you need to marry the two packages together and then shrink wrap the duo but, given that fatter margins in shampoo and the objective of getting the consumer to add yet another bottle in the shower.

Looking at the collection of shampoo in my shower I counted three different shampoos and two more bottles of conditioner. In the hall closet are a replacement bottle, a Suave dandruff shampoo that is in the on deck, and a bottle of Clairol that my college age son might want (or not). Is there really that much of a difference? Does my wife think that her hair will look like the model on TV? I will admit to anxiety about danduff flakes.

And for the travel size will I look better with Fructis 2 in 1 than with the complimentary sample in even the cheap hotels?

As the grocery shopper in my household this was one of the rare triple play of being on sale, having a coupon and a bonus pack--how could I resist.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Packaging Part 1

"Arm & Hammer Detergent Bonus Pack"

Packaging of a product can play many roles within marketing even taking center stage in the promotional department. One of the cheaper items in the products you buy is the actual content inside the bottle, box, or bag therefore the giving away of 20% more free is a rather inexpensive way to grab the consumers attention. The consumer looking at the wall of detergent jugs has a multitude of choices and you need a gimmick (or better gimmicks) to grab the shopper attention.

A closer examination of the jug (future link) shows a marvel of marketing. Okay marvel may be a bit too much, but this is kind of interesting none the same.

  1. Look at the cap it serves as a handy measuring and dipensing tool while communicating to the consumer the added feature of containing the color safe bleach formula. Looking at this Wisk container (future link)and note the use of the white cap on the color safe bleach formula or this A&H Detergent with a blue cap for the added feature of fabric softener.

  2. Now notice the use of the Arm & Hammer brand line visuals especally the familar symbol and the color.

  3. The package also claims "Powerfully Clean Naturally Fresh," which begs the question, "Does anyone actually read this?" This could be for the new user but speaking from experince long time users may very well never look at this text.

  4. Finally there is the information about added feature of color safer bleach which confirms the information communicated by the cap.

The industry has mostly settled on some standard sizes
Other Detergent Company Links