For the Love of Cereal?

Cereal is a mainstay of the American diet. Since the introduction of cereal in the 20th century, which evolved from oatmeal and granola, we’ve been enjoying this simple, ready-to-eat meal around our breakfast tables…. and in the evening, as a quick, it’s just me and I don’t want to clean dishes, dinner solution… and as an afternoon snack… and as a late night I’ve got the munchies but I don’t want to go out hunger fix.

Although considered a basic breakfast staple, cereal has made its way into the American lifestyle as a popular, anytime meal. There are even restaurants purely dedicated to cereal, like R U Cereal in Albuquerque and Cereality Cereal Bar and Cafe at Terminal C in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. People love cereal.

General Mills is embracing cereal lovers everywhere with its website and social media campaign, Hello, Cereal. Its Facebook group alone has 313,000 followers and is growing.

According to a recent article in the New York Times:

The Facebook group is part of a broader online effort by General Mills that includes a Web site, and accounts on social networking sites like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. While representatives of the company tend to post about popular General Mills brands like Cheerios and Lucky Charms, the company occasionally takes the counterintuitive approach of highlighting rival cereals.
On Facebook, for example, Hello, Cereal Lovers featured a recipe suggested by a user made with Post Honey Bunches of Oats, while on Twitter it reposted a recipe made with Post Fruity Pebbles and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
Carla Vernón, marketing director for General Mills cereal, said taking a “brand agnostic” approach was suited to social media.“It is a new framework to consider now that we’re in great conversations with the people that buy and enjoy our products,” Ms. Vernón said. “It’s important for us to be authentic and recognize what they want to share and hear about.”
The first Twitter message was sent in December and the first post to Facebook was made in January, but Ms. Vernón said that the effort had thus far been “piloting and learning” and that “it’s really truly in launch phase right now.”

So by embracing cereal as a whole and being inclusive of all brands (though it does primarily promote its products) has General Mills elevated the conversation about cereal? Through this platform, GM promotes cereal as more than just a breakfast solution and embraced consumers using cereal for multiple usage occasions and different functions. From coatings for chicken to ice cream toppings to crafted jewelry, cereal is versatile, going beyond the bowl and milk.

What can other brands take away from this campaign? Is it enough to embrace the consumers that already love your product or category, in order to get them to buy more? Or does this type of campaign need to incorporate more elements to also drive conversion, to up sales in general? Should your campaign be inclusive of competitors, if consumers are helping to drive the content and conversation? It’ll be interesting to see where this campaign is after a year and how other brands may employ something similar or better.

APPtitude: Candy Crush Saga

Background

Candy Crush Saga is an addictively simple game that challenges players to match three or more pieces of candy in a row.  That’s it…well except for the seemingly never-ending number of levels (as of now, there are 385).  Further, the game has integrated pay-to-play technology that allows users to make in-app purchases to continue playing or buy booster candies.

Candy Crush by the Numbers

  • It is the number one app on Facebook with 45.2 million active players
  • On mobile phones (iOS and Android), Candy Crush is the number three most downloaded app
  • The game is played more than 600 million times on mobile devices each day

Why does this matter?

Many mobile apps hit a popularity peak, and struggle to sustain that popularity.  Candy Crush, on the other hand, has steadily been increasing in popularity since it’s launch in April 2012, and shows no sign of slowing down.

What does this mean for brands?

Candy Crush’s simplicity, pay-to-play features and expansive number of levels, means players can’t – and won’t – stop crushing candy.  The game’s mix of digital ingredients and subsequent popularity demonstrate the impact of keeping consumers engaged in an ever-changing digital world.

 

Feature photo credit: itunes.apple.com

Stop Shopping and Start Hunting

Online shopping just reached a whole new level — thehunt.com is a new website consisting of a community that ‘thrives on helping each other find the items they’re looking for’. All you need is to post a photo with a few details, and a group of hunters adds links to where you can buy it, it’s that simple.

If this website didn’t sound good enough already, Tyra Banks and her new company, Fierce Capital LLC, have already invested in the website. Although the website is still starting up, it’s already become a huge hit. Your intuitions were right; this is going to be the next big thing in shopping.

Concerning her investment in the online shopping site, the supermodel said, “What I love about The Hunt is that women help other women find their perfect outfit [head-to-toe]. I am excited to be part of this new approach to collective retail and styling.” This is the first investment for Fierce Capital.

For all of you online shoppers, this is pure gold. I was skeptical at first, but I ended up spending a good chunk of my time merely browsing other peoples’ dream wardrobe, not daring to start my own hunt. Not only are most of the items well priced, some finds even offer different links to different prices and stores. And even though I am not normally an avid online shopper, thehunt.com just might change my mind.

 

Retail Technology Takes Consumer Tracking To The Next Level

As the variables impacting shopper behavior continue to increase and diversify, retailers want to know more and more about their shoppers to keep them shopping and coming back for more. Online, retailer and e-commerce websites can track and get to know shoppers through a plethora of tactics (i.e. bread crumbs, click-throughs, mouse hovers, shopping carts, favorites, cookies and social media, just to name a few). In-store, loyalty programs have been around for years that enable retailers to collect data about shoppers’ habits. Many shoppers have caught on, connecting the ads they see online to their search habits or the catalina coupon printed at the register for brand X because they bought brand Y the week before.

Theories behind shopper behavior have been driving retailer research and exploration for years. Technology is now enabling the testing and observation of such theories in store on a whole new level. Today, retailers are experimenting with various technology in-store in an effort get more well-rounded snapshots of their shoppers and to bring those tactics for data collection on par with the depth of data that can be reaped online.

The New York Times recently covered this subject with an overview of an experimental tracking system at Nordstrom, which tracked customer movements via the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. Nordstrom posted a sign alerting customers of the experiment and ultimately ended the experiment in May 2013, in part because of the complaints.

“Way over the line,” one consumer posted to Facebook in response to a local news story about Nordstrom’s efforts at some of its stores. Nordstrom says the counts were made anonymous. Technology specialists, though, say the tracking is worrisome.
“The idea that you’re being stalked in a store is, I think, a bit creepy, as opposed to, it’s only a cookie — they don’t really know who I am,” said Robert Plant, a computer information systems professor at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, noting that consumers can rarely control or have access to this data.
Some consumers wonder how the information is used.
“The creepy thing isn’t the privacy violation, it’s how much they can infer,” said Bradley Voytek, a neuroscientist who had stopped in at Philz Coffee in Berkeley, Calif. Philz uses technology from Euclid Analytics, of Palo Alto, Calif., the company that worked on the Nordstrom experiment, to measure the signals between a smartphone and a Wi-Fi antenna to count how many people walk by a store and how many enter.
Still, physical retailers argue that they are doing nothing more than what is routinely done online.
“Brick-and-mortar stores have been disadvantaged compared with online retailers, which get people’s digital crumbs,” said Guido Jouret, the head of Cisco’s emerging technologies group, which supplies tracking cameras to stores. Why, Mr. Jouret asked, should physical stores not “be able to tell if someone who didn’t buy was put off by prices, or was just coming in from the cold?” The companies that provide this technology offer a wide range of services.

The article goes on to discuss several companies that are on the leading edge of these new technologies. RetailNext, one such company, uses multiple layers of technology, such as video footage to study shopper navigation and differentiate individuals, smart phone WiFi pings to pinpoint where a shopper is in the store, and mobile device identification codes to identify repeat shoppers and their frequency of shopping. RetailNext can help retailers collect this data to ultimately impact the design of their stores, such as display placement in relation to the shopper path recorded.

Just last week, an European outdoor advertising firm kicked off ads using face detection technology, OptimEyes. This technology promises to enable advertisers to know the number of people seeing their ads and the kinds of people specifically, identifying them by gender and approximate age. According to Todd Wasserman at Mashable:

Amscreen, which has a network of more than 6,000 screens in Europe in gas stations and convenience stores, is using the technology to let advertisers see the results of their ad spends. Such ROI data is common for online ads, but has proved elusive for more traditional forms of advertising, like outdoor and TV… The company isn’t alone in looking to Minority Report-like face detection as a solution for advertising ROI. Last year, Microsoft filed a patent for Kinect that would let advertisers know how many people were using the product at any given time. A company called EyeSee manufactures mannequins for retail stores that use face detection to let retailers assess their traffic.

This area of technology will continue to develop and further push the line. How shoppers will react or adapt to these tactics as they become more main stream remains to be seen. Take into consideration that there are several factors at play here. Some technology gathers data purely through observation, some gather data through submission (think app downloads and email sign ups) and others gather data building off other technology (like smartphones). With that said, some shoppers are participating in the data collection voluntarily, perhaps in hope of a coupon or special sale, while others feel a heated aversion to such tactics and consider any range of these techniques a violation of privacy.

However, I can’t help but wonder if that as generations of shoppers shift and as millennials, who are so accustomed to sharing everything about themselves, grow older, this aversion will become less and less. Until then, as the boundaries of privacy become blurrier and the avenues for retail continue to blossom into more areas of daily life, retailers will have to walk a fine line of learning all they can about their shoppers through technology while not alienating them by trying to learn too much.

Nordstrom Explores Pinterest In-Store

Most brands and retailers these days utilize the image-cataloging social network Pinterest to drive awareness and engagement. Department store, Nordstrom, is taking cues from Pinterest in a trial initiative.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek:

In March, the department store chain started marking its “most-pinned” products from Pinterest with little “P” logos at two stores near its Seattle headquarters. Now Nordstrom has expanded the initiative to 13 of its 248 locations in a trial that will end just before the company’s big anniversary sale later this month. The Pinterest push marks the latest play by the 112-year-old brand to leverage tech startups for in-store sales.

Not only is Nordstrom marking these products to raise their visibility, it’s also using the items followers pin to manage inventory levels. Sales associates can cross-reference most-pinned products with those in stock at their location, thanks to an internal company app. Geography also plays into the picture, meaning inventory levels can be adjusted and shifted among stores to better match the popular pins in their areas.

Though the results of this experiment are still to be determined, Nordstrom is already taking the next step to fold Pinterest into its toolkit with the addition of Pinspiration pages to its website, highlighting the top pinned products.

So what can other retailers or brands take away from this? Pinterest is more than pinning your products on boards, hosting a giveaway or attracting followers. It can be another level of engagement. Given that Pinterest is aspirational and inspirational, highlighting a product in your store or in your brand’s arsenal in the real world also illustrates that it is achievable. One’s Pinterest fantasy dress or dessert doesn’t have to remain a figment of the imagination, instead a shopper can take it home with her. Expand this to other social media. Nordstrom could use Instagram shots in-store (maybe a scrolling ipad display?) to highlight customer purchases and product love. Think woman’s feet in cute sandals on a boardwalk, with a caption like “Love my new sandals! Perfect for vacation! #Nordstrom #Summershoes.”

It’ll be interesting to see how other retailers/brands will try to work in the engagement of social media by bringing it off the computer/mobile and into reality. These tactics are easily scalable for retailers/brands of all sizes and budgets, but the social media of choice also has to be a good fit for the product and consumer for it to work.

Photo credit to Swirl Marketing

British Invasion: AllSaints Spitalfields

The ultra-trendy clothing store, AllSaints Spitalfields, has been making waves away from its home base of London. Opening its first American store in Los Angeles in 2010, the clothing store now has 30 US locations without much help from either advertising or a strict following of seasonal catwalk-driven trends. But how?

Three words: unique brand experience. As soon as shoppers walk into an AllSaints store, they’re instantly thrown into a sea of black, beige and grey, with vintage Singer sewing machines and ram skulls lining the walls. The brand experience radiates from the walls. At first glance, the clothing seems distressed, untailored, and even lopsided. But up close, the rocker-chic clothing is beautifully hand-beaded, stitched and tailored. It’s edgy, it’s unique, but most importantly, its rock-inspired formula has been a key trend in fashion for the past decade.

AllSaints prides itself on it’s low-key marketing; rather than displaying itself on billboards and in magazines, the clothing company is all about word-of-mouth approval. The brand hosts underground music gigs in its hometown, London, called AllMusic. This exclusive lifestyle around the clothing brand makes it that much more desirable to customers.

Don’t let the vintage sewing machines fool you into thinking AllSaints is anything but state of the art. iPads and Digital interactive screens allow you to show their e-commerce site (which also bleeds the AllSaints brand) directly from the store.

Before you get too interested in the brand, beware of the prices. A jacket will cost you something north of $500. The high prices but youthful look caters to a wide range of shoppers anywhere between ages 14 and 50. Although their methods are unconventional, they’re working, at least for now; whether AllSaints will continue with such success for much longer is a mystery of its own.

This place is a fashionista’s playground. As soon as I walked into the AllSaints store, I was blown away by the layout and clothing. I already knew about the sky-high prices and was worried how the employees would treat a college student who clearly wasn’t there to buy a $300 plain black dress. However, I was treated quite well. Rather than looking down upon me like most stores in their price range might, an employee greeted me, explained their seasonal sale, and then allowed me to gawk at the incredible articles without a single sneer or eye roll. Well played, AllSaints; you not only captured my paycheck, but my heart.

Introducing “APPtitude”

As of June 2013, there were 900,000 apps available in the iTunes app store. So how is it possible to know which apps can help drive marketing efforts and which are a waste of time?

The answer: “APPtitude” — a new feature by TPN’s Millennial Minute that will highlight the latest and greatest apps, app news and how each can tie into retail marketing efforts.

This week’s featured (and inaugural) app: Instagram.

Background

Instagram launched in 2011 as the iPhone version of a classic Polaroid camera. Most of you probably downloaded it. Or, your kids did. Facebook recently bought the app and last week it launched a new feature that allows users to take short, 15-second videos, in addition to photos.

Why does this matter?

Earlier this year, Twitter launched Vine, the first app of its kind that allowed users to upload six-second videos. As a user of Vine, I’m not overly impressed. It lacks features to create videos truly worth sharing.

Instagram’s new video feature is essentially the same concept, but has quickly blown Vine out of the water. Here’s why:

  1. Instagram already has an established user base — people understand the app, how to use it and what kind of content works best. The video feature falls quite naturally into the structure of the originally photo-only app, making the video easy to use.
  2. Vine users weren’t quite sure what to do when the app first launched. Stop-motion movies are a lot of work, and for only a six-second video … worth the time investment? I’m still on the fence… On the other hand, the quality and beauty of seasoned Instagram users’ photos translates into their Instagram videos. This gives direction to all users and remains within the user-established Instagram style standards.
  3. Instagram includes features that Vine users have been asking for since its launch.  The most notable: the ability to take front-facing video for — of course — video selfies.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands have just started to discover ways to connect with their audiences through Vine, but Instagram provides an already-established user base, cutting out a huge portion of the work required when connecting to audiences through social media.

Further, Instagram already established itself as a lifestyle-focused app, giving brands the ability to connect with audiences on a very unique level. The addition of video will simply extend the ways in which brands build meaningful social relationships.

 

Feature photo credit: www.digitaltrends.com