Quoted – What’s for dinner? – Natural Food Merchandiser

This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NYC. Famous...
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Faced with layoffs, lower wages and a loss of confidence in the economy, cash-strapped consumers are forgoing restaurant trips, grabbing the wok and cooking at home. Restaurant visits slid 1.5 percent in the three months ending in February versus a year ago, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm NPD Group. That followed a 0.8 percent quarterly dip in late 2008, the first such drop since 2003. Consumers may be leaving those pricey restaurant tabs behind, but they don’t want to scrimp on enjoyment as they aim to create restaurant-worthy experiences in their own dining rooms.

“You want to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to get everything, bring it home and prepare it,” says Scott Testa, marketing professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.


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Friendly Spam Mail Fire

So I received an email from a friend the other day. No harm in me opening that, right? Wrong!!! Marketing and advertising firms won’t have to bother spamming its consumer targets anymore – they’re getting the consumer’s friends to do it for them. Ok, I must admit when I opened the email from my friend Tory I was expecting to see a message from her. Oh yeah, it was a message from her and it read: I thought you might like this email service called SailitToMe its great. In the body of the email was the sign up information for this service that allows its potential consumers to pick out all of his or her favorite designers and products of interest. The sign up also allows the target to choose how many days a week their mailbox will be getting hit by the service. So the email, camouflaged as a message from my friend was also a direct marketing ploy.

I probably should have deleted the email but I am interested in direct marketing, so I took the bait. I signed up for the program and here I am 4 weeks later waiting for the service to annoy me as most invasive direct marketing ploys tend to do. Well my patience paid off and this week, I noticed several “non-designer” items that “popped” into my weekly “sale” email. My first reaction was….ok, now the service is no longer a service. See, I had viewed it as a service and not advertising until the “service” shoved some things in my email that I don’t recall asking to view. I knew it was advertising all along, I didn’t regard it as such because it was so convenient. SailItToMe combines your wishlist into one convenient email so that you don’t have to view several different websites for sale items.

I may not purchase anything via the special discounts from my SailItToMe account. Does it matter? Probably not. Why? Because the service has probably built a nice little customer relations management database filled with wonderful demographic information to sell like names and addresses, preferences, lifestyle and family status.

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You Are Watching Captivate TV

LONG BEACH, CA - JULY 16:  A USA Today newspap...
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“You are watching Captivate tv.” – Sound familiar? Been on an elevator lately? If so then more than likely you are one of the millions of people ambushed by the unique advertising of Captivate TV. Captivate TV is a brand of information service hitting the airwaves on little tv monitors in….the elevator of all places. As a unique form of guerilla marketing Captivate TV hits its target where and when he/she least expects it in a most unexpected form. Yes, while the elevator rider can catch up on sports scores, the weather, crime statistics, world news, popular court cases; he is also exposed to many ads! With Price Waterhouse reporting in Bloomberg on June 16, 2009 that ad revenue for radio and media are on the decline and given the latest statistics on dwindling newspaper ad revenue and dwindling newspaper sales, it is obvious that firms with the money to pay advertising dollars are looking for new and innovative ways to capture the attention of its audience. Why not take a chance on tvs on an elevator? Face it, people aren’t buying as many newspapers but everyone at one time or another has to ride an elevator.

What makes Captivate TV such a perfect advertising tool is that it lives up to its name. The rider is captivated, well mostly because the rider is captive. Where else can you go on an elevator in between floors? Is it too invasive? Of course not – the great component of this form of advertising is that the target (that would be the rider) doesn’t feel coerced. Obviously, people like choice – telemarketers who no longer have a job can confirm that a marketing campaign that pushes too hard can be a fatal mistake. There’s no sound so no one is forced to listen to annoying, intrusive ads. One actually chooses on his or her own free will to look at the monitor. What a psychologically genius innovation! Why? The monitor seems to serve as a source of relief. People are compelled to look at it and to read every word on the screen because the alternative is the uncomfortable awkward silence of an elevator filled with strangers. Captivate TV makes the “straightforward elevator glare” unnecessary.*

What ultimately makes Captivate TV a top-notch marketing tool is its ability to deceptively serve as a portal to vital information while slipping its viewer a mickey in the form of the newest movie trailer or a picture of the greatest cigar to smoke while golfing. It’s true, the elevator is no longer just transportation from one floor to another, it is now a source of everything one needs to know all in a concise neat package without the editorial bias generally attached to a newspaper or radio piece. Ever want to know the time, the weather, the highlights of Beyonce’s latest concert and the down-low on Taking of Pelham 123 or even the day’s stock market recap? Just find an elevator, the weather is on the lower left and the ads show up on the upper right – everything else is in between…bon appetite.

*100 Elevator riders polled at the Wanamaker Building, (Center City Philadelphia) and 100% of those polled habitually relied on the monitors daily

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“Self”….Low-end Ads High-end Appeal

The 1933 King Kong movie poster and the March ...
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What makes a high-end magazine…the ads? I don’t think so. In Marketing Class I found out that Self magazine was considered a high end magazine. I have to say I was stunned. I took a look at some of the ads and I couldn’t position that magazine anywhere near a magazine like Vogue or even Elle. Most of the actual ads in Self are for everyday products that you can buy in the local pharmacy like Covergirl and Revlon. This certainly didn’t shriek “high-end” to me.

Then I took a closer look. Once you actually read Self you will see that the classification of high-end pertains to Self’s position as an opinion leader and not to the class of ads. You see, Self’s writer’s often lay out their opinions on everything from healthcare to hygiene to clothing and food. All of these opinions point to one thing: endorsement. The thumbs up in Self lend a far greater “pull” to the reader than actual ads. If I were an advertiser, I sure would want my hotdog to make the healthy cut in the top 10 healthy foods article. So I’ve discovered that product placement in Self is actually less expensive and more effective. I could see companies tripping all over themselves sending in samples to be included in the next edition.

Sure there are low-end ads for Walmart. Unfortunately, most of the products endorsed in the articles more than likely won’t be found at a Walmart. For instance, April’s article titled “Look Younger By Your Next Birthday” is boasting $50 facial scrub by Estee Lauder and $42 Peptides to fight wrinkles not to mention High Resolution megamoisturizers that cost $75. I found that I could be “sweet and sassy” in a jacket from Tibi for $395 – basically because Self says so and it did so on the page facing a full page ad for ACT Total Care. Basic advertisers such as Walmart, Welch’s and other national brands foot the bill for magazines like Self through advertising but it is the opinion leader articles that fulfill the desire for high-end products for the readers.

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Pay for performance? Good idea, or not…

The Economist
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I just read a piece in The Economist about a movement to pay advertising agencies for value, not hours, and how this trend is catching on. Currently, the American Association of Advertising Agencies estimates that about 10 percent of compensation agreements are value-based, according to this article. (Not sure that figure supports the suggestion that this is a trend that is “taking off”…)

Anyway, my initial reaction in reading this was: “Well, why not? Why should agencies just be paid for being “creative,” and racking up what can be enormous fees? – (I know, I’ve worked with them.) They should have some “skin in the game,” right? And, in fact, while some agencies are obviously concerned about this movement, others apparently (or so they say) welcome the shift.

But, after that initial reaction, I had another thought and had to scold myself (debating with yourself can be lonely, but also instructive if you’re willing to keep an open mind!) for taking a narrow view of marketing that I typically coach my clients away from.

“It’s not just about the advertising, dummy!,” I told myself.

“What if the product is crummy – or nobody wants it – or nobody can afford it right now?”

“What if the product is unavailable in my community – or hard to find – or in scarce supply?”

“What if the product can’t stand up against the competition?”

What if..so many “what ifs,” many of them not related *at all* to the advertising campaign.

On the positive side, such an arrangement could elevate the role of the agency and its representatives to a more strategic one, providing the opportunity to coach and counsel the client on not just “creative” aspects of marketing, but on the other “3 P’s” (product, price and place) as well.

That presupposes, of course, that the client is willing to listen. But, agencies are “free agents” and, if they don’t feel the product/service they’re being asked to sell is worth risking their time/budget on, they can seek other clients.

On the down side… Hmmm. Not sure there’s such a significant downside. But, I’m sure I’ll disagree with myself later.

(Linda Pophal is CEO/owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, a firm that helps clients use strategy to address their communication challenges.)

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