Monthly Archives: October 2016

Negative Campaigning

It’s that time of the year when it seems that the vast majority of the ads we see are for some politician. I don’t know anyone who isn’t quite tired of all of the political noise by election day and I suspect that has a lot to do with the content of the ads themselves as much as it has to do with the length of the campaign. There is a lesson for all of us who do marketing contained in our politics (OK, given the number of posts in which I draw learnings from politics, maybe more than “a” lesson). To understand it, let’s pretend we’re a candidate.

You have one opportunity every 2-4 years to sell your product. If you don’t close the sale by a date certain, your window to make the sale disappears for years. No pressure, right? Given that, would you spend the time badmouthing your competitors? I sure wouldn’t. I’d focus like a laser beam on my customers’ needs and how I was going to meet them. I’d be as specific as possible and explain all the facts I could compile about the customer’s situation and deliver a well-reasoned solution that solves their problem(s).

Compare that with what we’ll see in watching any evening’s worth of political ads. The consumer – the electorate – is hardly found in any of them. Instead, we hear about criminals, liars, or worse. The tone is generally negative but often veers into the threatening. “Facts” are things seemingly found on the internet (where we know everything is true). Have studies shown that we treat our politics differently from our products as we make purchase decisions? This is from Scientific American:

A comprehensive literature analysis published in 2007 in the Journal of Politics examined the effects of political ads. The authors reported that negative ads tended to be more memorable than positive ones but that they did not affect voter choice. People were no less likely to turn out to the polls or to decide against voting for a candidate who was attacked in an ad.

The lesson is pretty obvious in my mind. Saying negative things about a competitor doesn’t work to influence a sale although it does stick in the consumer’s mind. It’s funny how we prohibit the kind of unsubstantiated mudslinging we routinely see from campaigns in every form of comparative product advertising but politics. I think that if we are to be the world’s model for democracy we should do at least as good a job in marketing our leaders to “buyers” as we do in selling soap and cars, don’t you?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud, What's Going On

Why Supermarkets Aren’t So Super

This Foodie Friday is all about shopping. After all, with the weekend upon us who isn’t going to head to the market to purchase small things such as snacks and refreshments or larger things such as meats and produce for a late season cookout? I got to thinking about how we all do our shopping and how it differs from how our parents or grandparents did theirs and what those differences have meant to the industry. As it turns out, it may have something of relevance to you no matter what your business sector as well.

Supermarkets were less common many years ago. There was a local butcher, a fish monger, maybe a dairy store, a bakery, a vegetable stand or two, and a general store that was mostly about canned goods but often has some of the items found in the other places as well. In some bigger cities, those purveyors were aggregated under one roof, as in the Arthur Avenue Market in the Bronx, which is still in existence today. Each piece of the market was an independent operation and although shopping had been made more convenient by not having to travel from place to place, the personal experience remained. Each vendor was there to listen, to suggest, and to serve.

Fast forward to today. According to a study by Ipsos Marketing, shoppers who shop at only one grocery store are in the minority, as only a quarter of the population shop at one grocery store. 45% of grocery shoppers shop at two or three grocery stores and the remaining 30% shop at four or more stores for groceries. In theory, this is backward, since today’s stores have all of the goods that used to be spread out among many retailers.

As it turns out, not all stores are equally “susceptible” to this multi-store phenomenon. There appear to be some retailers that are more likely to be the only store that a consumer shops at for groceries, and obviously the key is to figure out why some stores are better at fulfilling all of a shoppers’ needs than others will help retailers compete better. We can put aside geography for a second since it’s equally obvious that if there aren’t any other shopping options nearby that would change a shopper’s behavior. I’d suggest it’s service as well as the quality of the product.

Club stores and deep discount stores had almost no loyalty nor any exclusivity even though they contain many of the same food items at better prices. What’s faded from the markets of old has been the personal attention given to each customer. Meat is mostly pre-cut and pre-wrapped. We can’t usually see the whole fish from which a filet is cut. Moreover, it’s hard to expand our eating vocabulary without someone who knows our usual shopping habits making suggestions of new things based on our past preferences.

Maybe by spending more on service a store can cut a competitor out of the three or four store mix. I know how thin margins are in the grocery business but I also beleive, given that the lowest rung and last stop in consumers shopping are the club or discount stores, that better service can negate slightly higher prices. Maybe that’s true in your business too. Maybe?

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Filed under Consulting, food, Thinking Aloud

Can You Pass The Dylan Test?

I wasn’t going to post anything today, but with Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature (yay!), I couldn’t let the day pass without putting up this post again. Whether you love Dylan’s music or hate it (although many people love the music and hate his voice), you can’t deny Dylan’s importance in music history. Here is why and what he just might mean to your business.

Yesterday marked an anniversary that I could not let pass without comment.  On March 19, 1962, 50 years ago yesterday, Bob Dylan released his first album, or LP (to signify a long-playing record rather than a single) as they were called at the time.

Bob Dylan performing in Rotterdam, June 23 1978

Bob Dylan performing in Rotterdam, June 23 1978 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This piece from Rolling Stone does a nice job of summing up the album and how it got made.  I’m a long-time fan of the man and his music and while I can’t say I love everything he’s ever done, it’s all really interesting and in many cases, his music went beyond popular culture to become transformative (start with “Blowin’ In The Wind“) for an entire generation and country.  I’ve heard so many people dismiss his music and yet when I give them the Dylan Test, they can’t deny his impact.  What, you ask, is the Dylan Test?  Something I think we should apply to way more stuff than Bob’s music – any business could benefit.  Let me explain.

The Dylan test is simple:  I know my grandchildren will hear the music of Bob Dylan.  They may not like it, they might not ever buy it, but they’ll hear it and they’ll know who the guy was that recorded it.  Not because I’m going to ram it down their throats:  I’d make the same statement about my great-grandchildren.  It’s because Dylan’s music is that important, just like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Springsteen and The Beatles.  And that’s the test.  Can you make that same statement about whatever music you believe to be “great?”  That ought to be our business objective.  To pass the Dylan Test.

I wrote in this piece a while back that we ought to be creating things that are built to last.  While the tools are temporary – Dylan’s first disc was pressed in vinyl – the content and the core of the business endures, or we should hope it will.  So ask yourself the Dylan Test question as you’re contemplating investing your time, effort, and money on a project.  While very few things pass, it’s not a bad standard to keep in mind.

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Filed under Music, Thinking Aloud, What's Going On