Macy’s declines in market share and revenue because department stores are holding onto a model of the market that no longer meets the needs of shoppers. Competition is everywhere and shoppers have more choices than ever. All too often, these choices seem better than the traditional department store model.(Read a market study of the retail market here)
Many of the brands that stores like Macy’s rely on for magnetism (attracting shoppers into the store) have recognized that the worm has turned and are pulling their brands form the retailers. Like Coach, for example. Even Michael Kors has decided not to play the game anymore and has asked retailers to stop couponing and discounting their products.
Macy’s declines can be predicted by looking at the world of magazines
I think you can see a corollary to Macy’s declines in the periodical market back in the late 60s. All businesses naturally seek economies and the broad-based and horizontal magazines like Look and Life found it increasingly difficult to attract advertising dollars. Advertisers learned that it was more effective to spend their dollars in vertical publications that mined the exact consumer they hoped to influence.
The magazine world learned a lesson in focus and these once heralded magazines folded up and went away. Meanwhile, there was a rise in vertical publication advertising because, if you wanted to sell bird seed, it was smarter to buy a small add in Bird Lover magazine then spend for greater subscription numbers in Life magazine.
Today’s world is about focus.
It was all about focus. It still is.
Today’s shopper is accustomed to laser-like focus. Some retailers even specialize in clothing of a particular color or style. Others specialize in a demographic segment or price point. At the end of the day, shoppers are placing a premium on their time. Wondering through a department store to locate only what you are looking for seems like a fool’s errand.
Times are different and the desire for greater focus will remain for quite some time… until a broad nostalgia for the experience of bygone times surfaces. Macy’s declines and Belks’ failures can’t wait that long. My suggestion is to split off the departments as separate brands and run them independently. It’s how you retain value for your shareholders but asks for great pain from the traditional department stores in the transition.
Those retailers won’t do it. They will stick their heads in the sand and maybe invite a new branding initiative. (Like Belks did. It got a new logo with no new meaning and no new customers from the effort.) That initiative will be confusing and without new and improved brand meaning.
Macy’s declines in importance. Tip of the iceberg. was last modified: October 25th, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
A few days ago, KFC announced that it would sell a brief run of Extra Crispy Sunscreen that works like regular sunscreen with the added benefit of smelling like extra crispy fried chicken.
At first, this just seems like a mindless marketing tactic to build on the current campaign starring George Hamilton. I knew it was a thinly veiled attempt to generate social media activity and get some play in publications. I passed it off as sophomoric and lacking any real ability to gain any sort of preference.
It reads like most other releases on promotional gimmicks, carefully weaving in the details of the gimmick with how it is supposed to relate to the brand. However, as I read the last paragraph, I was dumbfounded. It is a quote from Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer of KFC US. It reads:
“While I’d love to tell you our customers have been asking for this, they haven’t,” Hochman added. “In fact, I’m pretty confident nobody ever asked for this. It’s just some crazy idea we dreamed up.”
Extra Crispy Sunscreen doesn’t help the brand.
I have been a very outspoken critic of how Yum brands have lacked much considered thought in its brands. I’ve been hard on the company because it’s my job to find issues with brands and develop a strategy to fix them.
But now it appears I haven’t been too hard on them at all. Yum and KFC have no idea where they are going from a strategic direction as evidenced by the statement, “…It’s just some crazy idea we dreamed up.”
Make no mistake, out of the box thinking is how I operate, but that thinking has to be tied to an overarching strategy. KFC’s foray into skin protection has no strategy – and the quote proves they know it.
There is nothing about Extra Crispy Sunscreen that ties people to the brand meaning of KFC. Sure it may tie them to the nostalgia of the brand, it does not make consumers more loyal or apt to try KFC for a meal. It generated some buzz, but it’s buzz about the sunscreen, not KFC’s brand.
If I were an investor, I would be worried about what was going on in that C-suite. In quick service, activity without accomplishment is costly, especially for brands that are already struggling.
Extra Crispy Sunscreen does what for KFC? was last modified: August 25th, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
Today’s marketing messages take on many forms – better, safer, longer lasting, friendlier or cheaper. Or it can take on the form of more as in more value or the most legroom in economy class or even as best as in the best in class customer service.
It is remarkable at just how many brands still rely on these kinds of marketing messages that are simply not believable to sell their wares.
Most people today have a bank account that you access online. To hear banks say it, they have better online banking or the best mobile app. All of them claim some form of best but how does a consumer know that’s true? It’s difficult to compare one versus the other because banks typically don’t allow you to use their services until you are an account holder. So given that, coupled with the fact that all banks claim to have better online services, are any of the statements true? How do prospective consumers know, particularly if they are happy with their current online banking? (The definition of a switching trigger is switching for something you don’t already have.)
For the most part, online banking is now just part of banking – everyone has it and everyone does it pretty well. Pretty well is used here rather than great because, in banking, pretty well is enough as the hassle to switch banks is so high. And research clearly shows that a customer has to be basically beyond their wit’s end end to even consider switching.
This is the problem with most of marketing messages, not just with banks, but with the vast majority of brands. When brands claim to be better, the most, the best or whatever, the only time that can possibly be meaningful to a prospect is at the exact point of failure of the current brand. If these statements were so powerful than the best, measured by science, would always win and logic would dictate that there would be only one or two brands per category.
But we all know that is not the case.
As consumers decide which products and services to buy, they use any number of criteria to make their decision. Cost vs value figured into it, but even that is different for each individual. Marketers claim that they can measure this, but in truth this mix is as fluid as the ocean, ebbing and flowing with the tide. Much like today’s marketing messages, these marketers are simply measuring something that isn’t really there.
This is the rub of all of this, truth. Saying better, best and the like can actually be measured and, if truth actually mattered, it could be proven.
Something more powerful than truth in marketing messages
But there is something much more powerful than truth – belief. You see, beliefs do not have to be true to be powerful. They just have to be believed. Every war that has ever been waged in the world was based on a belief – religious, economic, social, you name it. Belief is something that people are willing to die and kill for. That’s how powerful belief is.
But most marketers forget, overlook or simply ignore the power of belief. They stop short and only look to satisfy simple wants and needs that are constantly in flux. While belief isn’t completely unwavering, it is much more cemented into the fabric of what make individuals individuals. At their core, beliefs guide us in almost every decision we make.
There are many different kinds of beliefs beyond those above that have been used as an excuse to wage war. Clearly that is the most extreme of examples. But there are beliefs that power our actions. Do you believe that time is your most valuable resource? Or do you believe that if you are not keeping up you are falling behind? Those are the kinds of beliefs that marketers must align their brand with.
If you believe that time is your most valuable resource, think about the decisions you make in your life and how they are a reflection of this belief. Are you constantly on the lookout for ways to save time or do things faster? Do you use products or services that help you achieve that? The answer is certainly yes.
The trick here is in identifying which belief or beliefs apply to your target audience, made up of your customers and, more importantly, those that do not currently use you. Then, you articulate that belief into a single emotionally intensive statement. This can never be about the brand itself. It is about those the brand wishes to influence.
Aligning your brand with a belief gives your brand gravitas and tells consumers who it is for and who it is not for, giving consumers a reason and true choice and why they should care about it in the first place. It makes being better even less important because the brand becomes about them. Consumers choose brands that they believe are a reflection of who they are, not brands who say best, friendly, cheap and the rest of the non-effective marketing messages.
The fallacy of today’s marketing messages was last modified: August 11th, 2016 by Corbin
Pharmaceutical marketing strategy focuses on the mundane
Pharmaceutical marketing is faced with two issues: Its players must report the potential side effects of their drugs when promoting their uses and a increasingly prominent part of the market is generics, with most patents running out after 20 years.
Those are only a handful of the issues facing Big Pharma today. But pharmaceutical marketing strategy industry-wide is exacerbating the problems.
The companies address those hurdles by running expected and non-differentiating advertising. They take on the generics by creating made up names that they believe will set them apart and give them a unique URL.
Let’s take these issues one by one. We’ll finish with what changes should be employed in pharmaceutical marketing strategy so its marketing becomes different and more effective.
The side effects question
We’ve all seen the ads. People are living a healthy and fulfilled life while they are walking, running, gardening, being with friends and family in them. Meanwhile, a voiceover explains some scary side effects: Nausea, paralysis, shortness of breath, even death.
Pharmaceutical marketing strategy aims for the patient to provide the pull through for doctors prescribing those drugs. But those regulated messages prevent much of that from happening.
The regulatory rule reads that you must state the side effects if you state the benefits. That causes a dilemma for pharmaceuticals because they can’t avoid it. Therefore, they plop that verbal footnote in the middle of the ad so they can tell the good stuff at the beginning and the end. They are praying viewers forget about the side effects.
However, they would be more effective if the ads projected more interesting visuals than just the living my life images.
Some try different things. In an ad for Toujeo, a diabetes drug, a woman walks through a white-paper world that reflects her journal and her feelings.
Animation is the go-to tactic for many pharmaceuticals, often to uneven effect. The Toujeo spot is more visually interesting than most (thus slightly overcoming the side effects problem) while others are just stupid.
Internet circles have been alive over Movantik ads with a woman walking around carrying a suitcase of poop. Of course, that suitcase is supposed to represent constipation. But it visualizes something else.
The unintended hilarity does not mask the verbal footnote of side effects. It actually increases the awareness of it. The voiceover says: “Movantik may cause an increase in stomach pain or abdominal pain, or diarrhea and vomiting.” The dialogue narrates the images of the female character walking through a park with her suitcase of waste and an opioid capsule.
Showcasing a boring lifestyle imagery only places more focus on the side effects because the imagery is so expected and dull.
Even though the recent spots for Entresto sport a nice effect of its cast singing, “Tomorrow,” the spot looks like everything else.
Interesting visuals do not completely pull companies over the hump. But can’t pharmaceuticals be more imaginative? And provide imagery that is more meaningful?
To tackle generics, pharmaceutical marketing strategy focuses on blockbuster products. Pharmaceuticals have a limited window to capture an audience before generics and other competitors take hold. So they go big.
So each spends around $5 billion (billion, not million) on advertising, focusing on the blockbuster drugs that will capture large amounts of attention. It’s not a bad strategy. But it’s akin to movie studios depending entirely on blockbusters rather than the middle ground where most movie classics are produced.
Pharmaceuticals are so dependent on the blockbuster nature of their drugs that they figure the drug alone will sell the ad. They believe they don’t have to change the same imagery and tone. It’s like they are all feel playing from the same playbook.
In fact, they may be. Like many other industries, pharmaceuticals hire ad agencies long experience in creating drug commercials. That is, they believe experience is the key to producing good pharmaceutical advertising, not groundbreaking strategy.
That kind of thinking leads to ruts, much like what the automobile industry has been experiencing for years. The ads themselves are not creating preference. In fact, unless you are paying close attention, it’s difficult to separate one pharmaceutical ad from another.
The incestuous nature of using the same ad agencies over and over again creates this situation. If an ad stands out, it’s usually because the people in it – generally, not actors – have a particular quality that makes them seem human rather than stock figures.
If pharmaceuticals are determined to create preference in light of the cheaper costs of generics, then they need to do better.
Pharmaceutical marketing strategy has simply gotten lazy. Companies hire the same agencies, trot out similar advertising and rarely create long-term preference either for the parent brands or the individual products.
Creating preference means looking past the status quo to create advertising that is truly different and better.
Parent brands also need to create their own preference because creating preference for each individual product is expensive. (Hence, the $5 billion advertising bill.)
It would be much more efficient if the parent brands of Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and others were the generators of preference. Doctors and patient could more easily navigate all the offerings.
If, for example, Pfizer’s brand was focused on being less harmful than any other, that brand promise would filter to its products. So, Eliquis, a drug to reduce the risk of stroke, would be known as a less harmful way to treat that risk. Eliquis by Pfizer would mean something and give direction to its advertising that goes beyond the boring clichés of today’s marketing. (Such as an old guy pretending to play guitar.)
Pharmaceutical marketing strategy must address the advertising rut as few, if any, are creating anything that works. To make their dollars count, those companies should be looking toward brand. It’s cheaper, more effective and is the directional power all of them need.
Pharmaceutical Marketing Strategy was last modified: August 11th, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
The medical device category is highly competitive and complicated for sure, but growing market share is a difficult task. It’s easier but by no means a given when you have a proprietary disruptive technology. I hate to use the terminology of disruptive technology because it is part of the ethos of a category that pretends even the most minute innovation is disruptive.
It is quite possible that the medical device category is the most self-deceived category of goods in the world. The medical device marketing of manufacturers pretend that those companies have product superiority and back up the claim by depositing a tome of obscure and dense clinical studies along with trial results on the desk of the prospect.
Clinical studies and their results are important support points for product usage. They are. But they have almost no effect on switching a loyal user of your competitor’s products unless the technology is a true groundbreaker. With the time lag between R&D and a completed clinical trial, are your shareholders willing to wait that long for a substantive movement in market share? There is a different and more effective path to stealing share.
What is going on in medical device marketing?
First, we must look at the current medical device marketing practices. For the most part, they are not marketing at all. They are simply sales support. There are almost no meaningful messages that are different and better from the competitors. Everyone looks and sounds the same, and uses the same sterile language that passes through the fine sieve of the legal department.
Often, the copy in medical device marketing ends up being written by the legal team and lacks any direct claims of efficacy and little comparative examples. It ends up sounding like an insurance contract. Couple all this with the mandatory page of footnotes, source material and legal disclaimer, and you can begin to see the problem: No one will read it.
Inside of your own halls, executives whisper about the power of the sales representatives. In many ways, based upon current practices, sales reps are your most valuable resource. They are more important than your brand.
For this reason, it’s not unusual to see a rep change jobs and take many loyal customers with them. The brand serves the sales rep and not the other way around. This is a recipe for disaster. If, at the end of the day, loyalty is based upon the power of a personal relationship then your greatest asset is a mercurial value. One that has the tail wagging the dog. This is not how it should be nor is it how it has to be.
Think about this. You began as a manufacturing company. You make things. Your heritage goes back to engineers and many of your top executives are still cut from the same cloth as the founders. These founders were visionary people. They were the Steve Jobs of their category and an earlier generation. But they differed from Jobs because they were not natural marketers. They were inventors. Tinkerers. Creators. They believed that if you build a better mousetrap… well, you know the story. Steve on the other hand represented both camps. He had a visionary’s creative drive but he also understood the emotional connections needed to sell.
Your founders would have considered themselves successful simply because they invented the better mousetrap. Jobs considered it a failure until he had market dominance. Even your brand’s early successes are misleading. The category was less crowded and it was easier to differentiate products. Today? In most instances, you can hardly slide a piece of paper between competitive products. Differences are simply hard to see and much of today’s medical device marketing reflects that.
What’s wrong with engineering?
What happens in companies top-heavy with engineering types? They become companies like yours. They believe that purchase decisions (and the procurement of medical devices) are rational choices.
They believe that decisions are evidence based and that the hospital administrators and the clinicians are most swayed by clinical data and clinical studies. They don’t understand that ALL purchase decisions (and I mean all) have their roots in emotional cues. It gets complicated because, after an emotional decision is made, decision makers rationalize their choices. They backfill and support their emotional connection with rational data.
But that is not how they chose. That rationale happens only after the choice.
If you want proof, think about this. If purchase decisions were rational then the best product (based upon evidence) would always be the market leader. Look around your category. How true is rationality as a predictor of success? The real question to ask is why do human beings prefer the things they prefer? The answer is a simple yet subversive one.
How to be persuasive in medical devices
Human beings look for order and consistency in their lives. We all strive to eliminate conflicts that exist between what we believe to be true about ourselves and the actions we take.
We seek this equilibrium and avoid these internal emotional conflicts. Persuasion finds its roots in this belief about self. All things being equal, we prefer to buy and use products and brands that reinforce our own self-concept.
The emotional choice wins even in a B2B business such as medical devices. The few who do have give an emotional reason for choice are almost always the market leader. (That is, if the emotional choice is important.) It might be time to evaluate where you and your products stand in preference, and adjust your medical device marketing.
Even your founder would have taken all the necessary steps to steal market share.
Medical device marketing and branding was last modified: July 26th, 2016 by Tom Dougherty
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