The Swiffer Effect: Walmart & Procter Butt Heads

“Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, and P&G, the world’s biggest consumer-goods company, are increasingly butting heads as both try to wring more revenue out of their slow-growing businesses, The Wall Street Journal reports … A battle last year over the popular Swiffer mop suggests the tensions aren’t likely to abate soon. P&G’s consumer research revealed that existing packages weren’t large enough to prompt repeat purchases, and so it upped the number of wipes in a pack, improved the handle and increased the price … Around the same time, Wal-Mart introduced a less expensive store brand, irking P&G.”

“To settle the matter, P&G had to offer a temporary discount on the company’s Swiffer products. Not only did P&G employees worry about lost sales, they believed the store-brand refills were of a lower quality and would stop first-time Swiffer users from sticking with the habit. ‘They sell crappy private label, so you buy Swiffer with a crappy refill,’ said one of the people familiar with the product changes. ‘And then you don’t buy again’.” A Walmart spokesman said: “Our Great Value products provide a quality alternative for customers looking to save money.”

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The Future of Grocery: Yoga & Bike Repair

The Wall Street Journal: Shoppers looking to pick up milk and eggs may have other reasons to spend time at their local supermarket: yoga classes or a spa treatment, perhaps. Under growing pressure from discounters and online rivals, supermarkets are trying to transform themselves into places where customers might want to hang out rather than just grabbing groceries and heading home.”

“In Phoenix, a Fry’s Food Stores, part of a chain owned by Kroger Co., features a culinary school and a lounge with leather couches perched next to a wine bar. A Kroger store in Hilton Head Island, S.C., offers a cigar section to complement its wine cellar that stocks $600 bottles. Whole Foods Market Inc. has a putting green outside its Augusta, Ga., location and a spa offering peppermint foot scrubs and facial waxing in a Boston store. Elsewhere, it has bike-repair stations. A ShopRite store here in Hanover Township, near New York, runs a fitness studio with yoga, barre and Zumba classes and has a cosmetologist on weekends.”

“Most of these enhanced stores appear to be located in affluent suburbs and city neighborhoods—places where shoppers are more inclined to order groceries from e-commerce sites or meals from services such as Blue Apron … Some concepts have fizzled. The Fry’s in Phoenix made its debut in 2010 with a car wash but discontinued that after it didn’t catch on, a Kroger’s spokesman said. The cooking classes, by contrast, have doubled in size since the school opened, and the store offers at least a dozen sessions a week, he said.”

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Big ‘G’ Archive: Brand Past as Prologue

The New York Times: “By 1980, General Mills had accumulated so much brand memorabilia that the company established an archive … The archive, which is closed to the public, houses thousands of artifacts in about 3,000 square feet of temperature- and humidity-controlled space.”

“Among the photos, packaging and promotional items are an early rendering of the character Betty Crocker, who was created in 1921 to answer consumers’ baking questions… some of the first clay animation models of Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy; and a box of Cheerioats, the original name of Cheerios … Many artifacts illustrate how marketing and advertising have evolved. Wheaties made its debut as Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes in 1922, only to be renamed two years later in a companywide contest.”

“Through its sponsorship of radio programs like the ‘Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air’ … General Mills introduced its products from coast to coast … General Mills later sponsored cartoons, notably ‘Rocky and His Friends’ and ‘The Bullwinkle Show’ from 1959 to 1964.” Mary Zalla of Landor comments: “You and I watch TV, and every 15 minutes we’re assaulted with commercials … Do you ever associate those brands with the show you’re watching? You don’t … Before, those brands were so closely tied with the TV shows and the talent surrounding them that it gave those brands an incredible start.”

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De-Branding: A Shift From Products to Places

Fast Company: “It’s misleading to use a totally different set of qualities—good stories—to sell a product that has intrinsically nothing to do with these qualities. Hiring a top filmmaker won’t improve the quality of your energy drink … You could even say that the better the stories, the more dishonest the companies are being.”

“Here’s where debranding comes into play … the focus will shift … from branded products to branded places: stores and their owners who select and sell the products they like … Back to the traditional shopkeeper responsible for measuring bulk food and acting as an advocate for his products. Back to the real Dr. Browns, Uncle Bens, and Aunt Jemimas. Instead of brands, real people and real tones of voice will become the interface between consumers and products again.”

“And it is totally in line with today’s networked society … increasingly in the Internet age, consumers are comfortable with the idea that everything is interconnected. So what distinguishes brands is less important than what brings things and people together—whether your iPhone can talk to your Prius, for instance, or whether you can read articles from disparate sources in one place, like on Facebook. The brand that screams the loudest no longer commands the most attention; the one that offers something genuinely useful does.”

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The Netflix ‘Binge Scale’: Savor or Devour?

The Guardian: “Netflix said customers who chose to watch an entire TV season finished it on average in just one week, watching a little over two hours a day. It said viewers typically binged on thrillers such as Breaking Bad and The Killing, but were more likely to take their time over the more political narratives of House of Cards or Homeland.”

“According to something Netflix calls the ‘binge scale,’ ranging from ‘savor’ at one end to ‘devour’ at the other, its original drama Narcos, about the rise to power of Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, was the platform’s slowest-burning hit in the UK, with viewers ‘savoring’ it over six days.”

“Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company would use the findings to make ‘subtle improvements in helping people choose what kind of programmes they want to watch, depending on what mood they’re in’.”

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Minor-League Question: Rumble Ponies or Stud Muffins?

“There is higher-quality baseball elsewhere, so the minor-league experience is just as much about the silly antics … as it is about the game,” reports The Wall Street Journal. So it was all in good fun when the new owners of the Binghamton Mets, the Mets’ upstate Double-A affiliate, announced earlier this year that they would be rebranding the team, complete with a new name. They even gave local fans in this small city about 150 miles northwest of Manhattan some potential names to vote on.”

“What could possibly go wrong? … When it’s all said and done, Binghamton will be home to either the Bullheads, the Gobblers, the Rocking Horses, the Rumble Ponies, the Stud Muffins or the Timber Jockeys … The B-Mets hired a brand marketing firm, Brandiose, to help with the renaming project … They said the name options were culled from more than 1,500 fan suggestions that referred to something unique about the city. A Bullhead, for example, is a local catfish, while Gobblers “honors the outdoorsman lifestyle and turkeys who call Binghamton home.”

Owner John Hughes says: “The rebrand will have short-term repercussions, but what we’re looking for is establishing a long-term connection with fans … For the first time in a long time, Binghamton baseball is relevant.” Mets star David Wright says “if he were in Double-A he might have been happy about any name change simply because it would mean getting new uniforms to replace the old, ratty ones often found in the minors.”

Mets left-fielder Michael Conforto, who played for the B-Mets last season comments: “Maybe now I think it’s funny because I’m not there.”

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Treasure Hunt: The Joy is in the Journey

The Wall Street Journal: “The internet isn’t just a way to speed up the shopping experience; it is a tool to draw it out. Consumers enjoy the anticipation of a big-ticket item, in contrast to the quick fix that comes from an impulse purchase at an inexpensive, of-the-moment fashion chain … The result of all this due diligence: Shoppers are feeling much more satisfied with their purchases.”

“Stylitics, a fashion technology and analytics company, partnered with market research firm NPD Group to look at this behavior. Handbags are a natural fit for this thoughtful approach, as women seek to combine fashion with function. The study found roughly four in 10 women ages 18 to 34 said they started thinking about their most recent handbag purchase more than a month in advance. Six in 10 said browsing online stores was a major influencer in their handbag shopping.”

“Once shoppers go through the drawn-out process and make up their minds, they are happier. Handbag return rates at luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter are among the lowest across the site.”

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Quote of the Day: Tim Berners-Lee

“Ad revenue is the only model for too many people on the web now. People assume today’s consumer has to make a deal with a marketing machine to get stuff for ‘free,’ even if they’re horrified by what happens with their data. Imagine a world where paying for things was easy on both sides.” ~ Tim Berners-Lee, creator of The World Wide Web, quoted in The New York Times.

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