The Pinterest Black Friday Reveal

As we enter the initial push for the holidays (just as we’re coming down from our Halloween sugar high), retailers are getting shoppers geared up for Black Friday even earlier this year thanks to Pinterest. Home Improvement retailer Lowes is teasing its Black Friday deals in October on a dedicated Black Friday board with silhouettes of the items that’ll be on special (See here). You don’t have to wait until Black Friday to find out what they are either. Shoppers can visit the board on November 4 for their big reveal (though as of Oct 31, some of the items were already being revealed), which gives them over 3 weeks to plan their shopping trips without waiting on circulars or emails (Lowes begins its Black Friday online Thanksgiving morning at 4am). Lowes is quite active on Pinterest, particularly targeting its inspired, DYI female shopper, and has over 3.5 million followers. This approach is already garnering buzz among the shopping and Black Friday deal websites.

Macy’s is another retailer teasing its Black Friday Deals on Pinterest (See here). Though not as secretive as Lowe’s approach, it’s more of a sneak preview of fun sales to come.

For most shoppers, Black Friday is all about the hunt and scoring some amazing deals. Websites like and may not be mind blowing in terms of design, but they certainly garner traction with those shoppers wanting to be in the know about the sales as soon as possible. And as if there were any doubt, there is a Black Friday app, so cleverly called Black Friday App, that will let a user browse leaked and confirmed sales across major retailers as well as start a personal countdown clock to the big day. Yet with all this technology, retailers will still produce sales circulars because they know that for some shoppers, it’s not just about the sales and the hustle and bustle of the crowds, it’s about tradition. It’s about gathering around the circulars after an amazingly delicious Thanksgiving dinner to plan your route (or plan of attack) with your family/favorite shopper buddies to get the most out of your Black Friday.

So get ready–Black Friday is less than a month away!

Photo: Pinterest



Meet the Manfluencers

Results from a new survey by Midan Marketing showed that 47% of U.S. men now do most of the grocery shopping and cooking in their homes. Midan Marketing explains this number by looking at the impacts of the recession, which left many men underemployed or unemployed. After the recession, called the “mancession” because more men were affected than women, men started to find new roles in the household.

Midan Marketing dubbed this group of men “manfluencers” to draw focus to their new weight in household purchasing decisions.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Anne Marie Chaker highlights how savvy marketers such as Kraft and General Mills are making changes to target Men. Think larger portions and darker color schemes.

With men doing almost half of grocery shopping now, more brands are going to need to take note.

Innovation sometimes means adding a more human touch

CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts, was just hired by Apple to lead retail. She will be their first female SVP.  About time!

She’s the second high-fashion CEO to join Apple in the last 3 months.
Former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve was hired by Apple in July to work on “special projects.”  (iWatch, anyone?)  Some have wondered where Apple is headed next- mass market, or luxury.  These new hires seem to indicate a desire for Apple to push further to become a true luxury, lifestyle, fashion brand.

This might mean “wearable computing” is coming soon.
Ad Age thinks so. Will we soon be clamoring to own Apple’s first “iWatch”?  If Deneve and Ahrendts have input I’m sure it will at least be fashionable!

She’s tasked with leading retail.
In the press release announcing her hire she said she looks forward to ‘”working with the global teams to further enrich the consumer experience on and offline.”  There is room for improvement among Apple’s physical store performance — sales at Apple stores actually fell in the three months ended June 30 compared with the prior year for the first time since 2009 (according to the Wall Street Journal — they cited Apple financial disclosures).  Burberry’s brand had been (arguably) diluted when Ahrendts took the helm in 2006.  She turned it around.  She re-emphasized the brand heritage, while expanding into new markets- no easy task.  Remarkably, 14% of Burberry’s income now comes from 69 stores in China all while downplaying the over-done signature plaid pattern.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says she “shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience.”  The Apple physical stores are a true showpiece for the brand.  How can the stores do a better job of converting the sale?  Burberry implemented concierge employees across their physical stores to better service their best customers.  Can we expect the same from Apple in the future?

Apple could have selected someone proficient in high-tech, innovative commerce.  But they didn’t.  They chose someone with a track record of growth and expansion, increased sales in a high-touch, concierge-style store environment.  Sure, the online store needs to blend with the physical one.  But instead of going high tech, perhaps Apple wants to go high touch?  She can help restore the Apple of the past — help them get back to their “think different” roots.  She successfully brought the heritage of the Burberry brand back from the dead.  I think she can do the same for Apple.

Critics have argued that Steve Jobs left a void from which Apple cannot recover.  Ahrendts was able to breathe new life into Burberry by getting back to their core. The Burberry concierge leads you though the shopping experience.  Sure, they might use iPads to check inventory and facilitate transactions, but it’s a person who guides you through.

In general, stores are becoming less reliant on people to assist shoppers.  More and more stores are implementing self-service kiosks, checkouts, etc.  Machines are replacing people in the physical retail environment.  That sure doesn’t make shoppers feel very special…

It’s clear that Ahrendts sees the value in brand ambassadors and concierge employees — let’s bring more of those to the physical Apple store environments.  Don’t abandon the cool technology I’ve come to know and love — add more human, personal touch to it.  Make me feel special.  After all, isn’t that what luxury is all about?

The Recipe for “Reimagining”

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Yuji Ramen Test Kitchen at the Bowery Whole Foods in New York City.  What I got was not only an incredible meal, but also a lesson in creativity.

A little background.  Yuji Ramen was founded in the Spring of 2012 as a pop-up restaurant in the back of a bar in Brooklyn. However, Chef Yuji Haraguchi’s set out to mark this as the beginning of a full fledged dive into reimagining ramen.  With a new permanent home at the Whole Foods Bowery, Yuji Ramen serves up its sought-after mazemen ramen but also gives adventurous diners a chance to try Chef Yuji wildest creations in a 7-course tasting menu (source:

There was one dish in particular that just stunned me – how could someone come up with something so inventive and delicious?  In this dish, Chef Yuji wanted to find a way to use all the left over mussel shells he had from making his broth and incorporate their flavor into his dish.  He started with a gas torch (naturally…) and charred the shells until they sizzled and popped.

yuji ramen

But what came next was the real show.  Chef Yuji takes the charred mussel shells and ads them, along with his house-made broth, to a french press.  Now the diner is part of the act, pressing and breaking the now brittle shells and incorporating the rich flavor into the broth.  The result, is a one-of-a-kind experience.  The video below highlights the whole process but cannot do it justice – if you can, you just simply need to try it.

How did he think of such an innovative way to create and deliver the flavors of this dish?  After the meal, I had a chance to talk with Chef Yuji and I asked him about this dish in particular.  That’s when I learned a new way to “reimagine”.

Chef Yuji started out by saying that when he grew up in Japan, he didn’t like eating ramen.  In fact, when people asked “what would you like to eat?”, his response was “anything but ramen.”  When Starbucks came to Japan in the mid to late 90’s, chef Yuji took a job as a barista.  Here he learned the basic recipe for coffee, but also ramen, hot water + quality ingredients = great flavor.  He also practiced ways of extracting the most flavor from the beans – french presses for example.  So when he wanted to setup a restaurant in New York City and decided to reimagine ramen and the way we eat it, the link from french press to ramen was so clear.  It was just a logical thing for him to do.  And there was my lesson.

To the average diner, the link between coffee and ramen might be unclear.  But Chef Yuji made the connection and the result was the reimagining of a classic dish.  At TPN, our goal is to reimagine retail.  We seek the same reaction from our clients and, more importantly, our shoppers.  It’s why hiring a diverse group of individuals with diverse backgrounds is critical to our continued success.  It is the practical application of Frans Johansson’s best selling book on creating ground breaking ideas, The Medici Effect.  Diverse backgrounds and different point of views help us all see problems differently and lead towards inspired solutions.

Bon appétit!


Men outpace women … in mobile purchases

According to a report from SeeWhy, 22.2 percent of men have made a purchase on their smartphone compared to 18.2 percent of women. Men tend to be more research intensive, and read reviews, but then make a purchase when they are satisfied with the price point they find. This shopping behavior is supported nicely with a mobile device.

To read more:

Takeaway: Another interesting data point is that 43 percent more females looked for promo codes and gift vouchers. This ties into gender generalizations that women are more price conscious than men, who may care more about reviews. Marketers should mind this when crafting mobile strategies.