Promotions won’t make millennials loyal

The holy grail of brands and advertisers is reaching millennials, that misunderstood demographic that represents the future of every brand. This is the group everyone from retailers to TV networks is trying to reach in order to gain lifetime brand loyalty.

With college students returning to school this month, retailers are trotting out specials to attract that young generation. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy allow students to sign up for a kind of wedding registry so family can contribute. Amazon is offering college students six-month free trials of its Prime membership and DirecTV allows students to access its NFL Sunday Ticket coverage without a satellite subscription.

Millennials
Promotions won’t make millennials brand loyal.

I give those brands credit for at least thinking tactically. Industry experts estimate that the average family spends about $900 getting a child back to college, so the pot is big once you consider how many college students there are.

In addition, I’ve always maintained that brands should find opportunity at the point of a life event. So few do, thinking that cost and convenience will do the trick without considering when consumers are most likely to buy.

Sure, brands promote products seasonally. However, when retailers talk to consumers in a language that speaks to the current situation of the consumer, they have placed themselves within the consumer’s decision tree.

Millennials respond to brand meaning

But if those brands believe they are making life-long consumers this way, they are delusional. That is, they are delusional if they don’t have a brand that speaks directly to millennials at an emotional level. Life-long preference is not built on promotions. It’s built on the consumer’s self-identification within that brand.

Of the retailers mentioned above, I’d say only Amazon has a brand with appeal. The three retailers mentioned – Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Best Buy – are struggling to hold onto market share so any promotional fix will only be temporary. (DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket is a different animal. The brand carrying the meaning is the NFL.)

So, I give a nice pat on the back to those retailers for thinking about a life moment for potential consumers. To reach them earlier in the decision tree, where true preference lies, you need a brand millennials want to spend their lives with.

Facebook Advertising. P&G Failure.

Facebook AdvertisingI just read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about P&G (the largest advertiser on the globe) and its experience placing Facebook advertising in front of a highly targeted audience.

It seems that Proctor and Gamble had very limited success with the venture so far. It seems counterintuitive that it would not work as expected. Consider this:

P&G Facebook Advertising

The P&G brand Pampers is able to target new moms and pregnant women on Facebook. The very audience it NEEDS to excite to purchase. Feels like a no brainer. But P&G found the resulting sales less than exciting. As a result, while not giving up on Facebook, P&G is going to increase its TV advertising next year.

What is missing in Facebook advertising?

In other words, Proctor discovered that broad based rather than strictly targeted ads work better. What it is not grasping fully is WHY.

For most of the marketing world, P&G wrote the book on branding. In fact, it doesn’t really understand brand very well. What it invented and took to the level of a science is brand management. The entire marketing focus is on brand teams and the tight relationship between the brand managers and the product.

The reason the Facebook initiative is not working all that well is because the types of advertising that marketers create on Facebook turn out to be product ads and not brand advertising. The snippets are akin to billboards. They focus on efficacy and pricing, not on branding.

I say this because contrary to what P&G has made into its culture, branding is not about the product or HOW it works. Branding is about WHY it matters to the target audience.

Jif Facebook AdvertisingBranding works

The greatest brands in the world are, at their core, a reflection of the customer they need to influence. The greatest promise that Pampers can make is not how dry the baby is when you use Pampers (after all, every disposable diaper keeps the baby dry). It is about WHO the mom IS when she uses Pampers. How a Pampers mom is different and better than those that use a different brand.

Think of Jif peanut butter. Sure it promises that it tastes more like fresh peanuts but the brand promise that choosey mothers choose Jif is the driver of preference. That’s the sort of brand message I am speaking of.

To make Facebook advertising work for marketers, they need to have a MORE emotional message than they do in virtually every other medium. Facebook users have the attention span of a gnat and you must grab them in the gut to get them to invest in a message more intrusive than a billboard or coupon.pampers Facebook Advertising

If the medium is the message, then P&G must be better at selling the brand and not the product. It’s a brave new world of marketing and traditional advertising is becoming less effective. Advertisers struggle to become more effective and targeting sounds like the answer. It is.

But it requires a rethinking of what branding IS. The halls of P&G must stop harping on the agencies in the Proctor tent with the uniform call of “where is the demo” to an up-to-date demand of “where is the prospect’s emotional needs?”

Retailer Troubles. Who will survive?

Retailer problems seem to mount and grow

Retailer. Just like Macy's
The problems at Macy’s are systematic of the retail space.

All (or almost all) brick and mortar retailers are in trouble. Macy’s is just one of the bigger retailer examples. Sports Authority, JC Penney and Sears would make the list. And even Walmart is closing some locations to better position the bottom line.

What’s really wrong with the retail industry? Are the troubles in which retailers find themselves due to online competition? Is the category of department stores doomed?

It all depends on if the retailers start to learn from their failures and change. Based upon past performance in adaptation to change, success in the category is highly unlikely. Retailers are the last to embrace change and the most stubborn in adapting to newer market conditions. Most of this is due to a lack of vision by leadership and a tenacious gripping on the model in which they have invested.

Macy’s leads the pack…in headlining the troubles

The trouble with these retailers (Macy’s closed close to 40 stores in 2015 and it looks like the blood-letting will continue in 2016) is not the rise in online retail sales. It is the inability to understand the WHY behind consumer changes. Online retail is NOT the problem. It is a symptom of the problem. Department stores like Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s, and Kmart are simply failing the needs and expectations of the mercurial consumer.

The prescription for this malady is to regroup under the wing of so-called industry experts. In other words, they look for answers in the same old places.

What it’s like to be a retailer?

It reminds me of a story I heard years ago. It goes something like this… A man and his wife leave a bar in the evening. As they head up the sidewalk, they pass by an alley and the gentleman notices that there appears to be a man crawling on all fours in the alley. He pauses for a moment, asks his wife to wait for a moment and he heads down the alley to see what the problem is and if he can help.

Reflection of a retailerAs he approaches the frantic crawling man he notices the strong smell of alcohol. Despite this, he asks the poor fellow if he can help with anything? The drunk man tells our hero that he has lost his wallet and is trying desperately to find it. So the gentleman agrees to help him and begins a careful search of the wallet in the alley. After 10 minutes or so, neither have any luck finding the wallet. Exasperated, the helpful gentleman asks, “Are you sure you lost it here?”

“Oh no,” says the drunk, “I lost it down there…”  and he points to the far end of the alley.

“Why on earth are you looking here then,” the man asks.

“Simple” he says. “There is no light down there.”

If Macy’s wants to survive as a dominant retailer, let alone win, they need to look outside the category for answers. But, they all seem to always look where the light is.

Facebook as news. Where will it stop?

Do we now view Facebook as news? Is it a news source?

After a live, 10-minute video of a police officer shooting a black man (Philando Castile) in Minnesota was posted on Facebook, there is a great deal of chatter about Facebook’s role in news and its responsibility because it seemed it was a media outlet posting NEWS. Facebook as NEWS has become a topic of discussion.

Philander Castille and Facebook as newsI want to say right from the start that this blog post will not touch on the footage or the event. Neither will it speak to the shooting of police officers in Dallas. This blog is about Facebook as a news organization.

Should Facebook post live videos of events? Does it have any responsibility of content? To my thinking, Facebook is schizophrenic on this subject. It censors copyrighted material. You can’t post a video on Facebook of your children at a playground if you have placed a sound bed in the background of a popular song.

Facebook wont publish it. I can’t post a photograph on my Facebook feed with text in it (like a sign that says STOP for example) because Facebook has a policy of not boosting a post with an image that contains a certain percentage of words in it. Nudity is not allowed.

Where is this going?

Facebook as news
Nick Berg

But you can post a live video of a young man bleeding to death. The images are abhorrent. No one argues with that. But where does it stop?

If Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a live video of his beheading Nick Berg, do you think Facebook would allow it? Not on your life.

If it did, the uproar from society would unfathomable. It seems to me that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Think abut this. Would nudity be OK on Facebook as long as it was a live video of a rape? Where does our voyeurism end?

Facebook is a part of our lives to be sure. But Facebook as news should not be.

Are we to blame for Facebook as NEWS?

Why has this happened? Why is it that for many, social media has become their news source?

Facebook as news and Fox NewsI know a good deal about branding. I know that a need in a target market creates demand. I know that meeting that need is a predictor of success. I know that we get what we deserve as often as we get what we need.

The real issue here is a turning away from real news and substituting it with pop-culture drivel. Broadcast news is just entertainment masquerading as news. The public gets affinity news broadcasting (broadcast news that sells an agenda and bias) because it does not want news.

It wants agreement with our own ignorance (from the root of IGNORE). In our hearts we know that what we see on Fox and CNN is not news. Its bent entertainment. Facebook as News. Cronkite never dreamed of it

When CBS decided that its news bureau needed to be a profit center rather than a public service, more than just personality died when Walter Cronkite passed away. We lost NEWS.

Think about the demise of the newspaper. Subscriptions are in decline. Reporters are being let go and readership is running for cover.

There is responsibility in live postings

Facebook as news and Marshall McLuen
Marshall McLuen

To my thinking, I am upset that Facebook posts crap like this. There is no editorial ownership, as there once was with CBS. Facebook thinks it is doing a public service by showing our lives in its raw experiential form. I think we have enough reality TV, thank you very much. I don’t need to see everything in its raw form.

I need that as much as I need the bizarre talking heads on Fox News spinning everything they report. I’m hungry for knowledge, not to witness the wost of humanity. Will Facebook spend time and money making sure that similar videos are edited for agendas? When will we be finished as a modern society of Peeping Tom’s?

I think the killing in Minneapolis would have been real news without the Facebook post. The news was not the shooting. The news was that it was “captured live on Facebook. Marshall McLuhan was right. The medium IS the message. Too bad. Too bad.

Honey Nut Cheerios Healthy Hearts

Honey Nut Cheerios hits a home run

Honey Nut CheeriosHoney Nut Cheerios is one of General Mill’s flagship brands. The cereal market is in a death spiral (read our in-depth market study on the cereal and breakfast category here) as tastes and consumer patterns change. Breakfast cereal used to be the staple food at breakfast tables across the globe but times have changed.

Honey Nut CheeriosThe venerable brands of my youth (Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Post Raisin Bran, Wheaties and even Cheerios) are hard at work trying to expand the market.

Time was all of the advertising dollars was directed at kids. Even Wheaties (the breakfast of champions) was targeted at getting kids to prefer the cereal over other choices. Today, more and more brands are simply trying to expand the traditional audience by including adults in the advertising too. Most to little effect.

The reason for the failure is that brand permission does not come by simply featuring the target audience in the communication. You need to have the target audience say to themselves, “I want to be that.”

Enter Honey Nut Cheerios

The Cheerios parent brand has been talking heart healthy for many years now. There seems to be no dissenting voices in science that there are REAL benefits to oats (oat bran in particular) in the health and vitality of the human heart. But the message of heart healthy has done very little to expand the category and, while one of the more successful rebrands in the cereal market, Cheerios has continued to disappoint despite outperforming many others in the category.

But the Healthy Hearts Stay Young campaign may be a real game changer.

The commercial has the mandatory adult and child but the similarity ends here. The spots are an exuberant and charming combination of energy and brand without the usual feature of focusing only on the product. The spots are mesmerizing and are so well produced that you find yourself stopping on the commercial when channel surfing. The main spot is THAT good. The supporting spots are less powerful because it is the adult in the main commercial that is most appealing.

Stop the other branded slop.

General Mills Logo Honey Nut CheeriosThis campaign truly builds brand preference. I want to be THAT and I’m sure I am not alone. The precocious child is overshadowed by the talented adult and it is her movement and agility that holds sway in the spot. I simply can’t take my eyes off her and even see the little girl as a distraction. Despite the lack of traditional brand identification, I remembered this commercial as being all about Honey Nut Cheerios. It worked.

Scrap the silly honey bee, General Mills. He (or she) may be cute but the commercials are all about YOU and the natural ingredients. You took the bold step of making your prospects feel that they want to be part of the club and we don’t need any rational reasons why your honey came from bees. To my knowledge, all honey comes from bees.

A few words on Kellogg’s