Celebrating another Year

I have always loved being a 4th of July baby — guaranteed fireworks! But with each passing year, I’m more aware of our cultural obsession with aging. Anti-aging, literally speaking, is synonymous with dying. My dad used to say when asked about getting older, “It beats the alternative.” I reflect on this topic today, both as a marketer and as one being marketed to, on the cusp of turning another year older.

 

Fearing death is natural. So is not being thrilled with a gray hair or a new line around your eyes. What’s different now than in the past is the sheer volume of products and industries that are literally banking on our collective fear of getting old.

 

The billion-dollar Beauty industry leads the pack with its lotions and potions, tonics, serums, oils, ‘injectables,’ and scads of surgeries that all carry with them promises of looking younger and regaining what you have most certainly lost. Women’s magazines peddle exaggerated before-and-after makeovers, and several times a year, the infamous “Beauty at Any Age” issue — which I remember not so long ago stopped at the 40’s…. Vanity is one thing (and it’s healthy to have some), but the way we market and are marketed to with beauty products plays less on our vanity and much more on a fear of getting old and irrelevant.

 

The Health & Wellness world is cashing in, as well. Vitamins and elixirs, IVs, diets, smoothies, fasts, workout plans and machines and gadgets — all of it practically guarantees you will stay exactly as you are, right now, if you just sign on! Truly healthy lifestyles that include eating well and exercising regularly are the only real “fountains of youth,” and should be embraced for making us look and feel good and for protecting the quality of our lives. But even good health won’t make you a year younger on your next birthday.

 

The Fashion industry also capitalizes on the body shame and loathing that can accompany getting older, especially for women. There are garments that hold you in here, or make you look more round there. Designs and styles meant to make you look and feel more like your younger self … or your younger daughter.

 

So what? All of those things make people feel better, so what’s the problem? To me, the problem is that there needs to be some grace and sensibility to the whole aging game and it needs to be reflected in the products, promises, and marketing of the things geared to the aging public. And right now, not only is a lot of the messaging off-key, there isn’t a lot of it geared toward the 50+ market, in the first place. There is a real opportunity to reframe the offerings and messages to ones that empower this incredible 50+ demographic, which accounts for 50% of all consumer expenditures and spends $3.2 trillion annually! https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-bradbury/the-7-incredible-facts-about-boomers-spending_b_6815876.html

 

And along with better products and messages, we need to keep our own healthy perspective. I am lucky to have around me healthy, personal role models who bring grace to aging, starting with my beautiful mother, an octogenarian who takes incredible care of herself and is very young at heart. Same goes for my older friends, in their 60s and 70s, who are living exciting, healthy lives that honor growing older vs. disparaging it (you know who you are and thank you!).

 

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not giving up my gym membership, fancy eye creams, or vitamins. But I want to shift my focus away from what you lose as you age to what you gain — more wisdom, self-acceptance, and gratitude for what you have. I want products and services to appeal to the active, involved, healthy person I am and continue to be, and not to a 50-something relic who needs constant improvements!

 

Living past our youthful prime is a privilege. There must be a way to do it that isn’t full of fear and the rather ungrateful desire to anti-age.

It’s All In The Delivery

The ways we eat meals continuously evolve as our lifestyles, social dynamics and workloads change. The frozen TV dinner changed the landscape of meals in the 1950s, streamlining meal prep with readily portioned trays that could be popped in the oven for easy weeknight meals. Tupperware enabled make-ahead meal prep possible, as well as proper storage of leftovers for reheating later. The mainstream introduction of the microwave in the 1980s, lead to more adaptations of ready-to-eat meals (and of course, the HotPocket).

Take out and delivery used to only be synonymous with pizza and Chinese food; fast food was burgers and fries (itself an evolution from street food vendors and bar food). Now we have apps that will coordinate pick up and delivery from just about any restaurant you could possibly want, at the touch of your finger tips; we gleefully hunt down specialty food trucks or trek down to the food truck lot, serving as our modern day, anywhere food court. Our busy schedules may not even lend themselves for meals, which has lead to a rise in snacking, a whole different conversation but one that I wanted to at least acknowledge.

So, while all this should beg the question Does anyone really cook anymore? Quite a contrary movement has taken place. Instead, there is appreciation for the home-cooked meal. The traditional route still involves grocery shopping for items needed for recipes, cooking the recipes at home; the routine is broken up by inspiration found on recipe sites, blogs, Pinterest and those droolworthy videos popping up in your feed that make all cooking look easy. According to Joe Scartz, TPN’s Managing Director of Digital Commerce and Integration, “Grocers have seen the trend move toward simple prepared meals now for years and they have tried to fight back with white label brands and grab and go meals.”

Retailers are also offering up opportunities to streamline the traditional process through omni-channel retailing of buy online, pick up in store: Walmart grocery is available in limited areas; CVS is testing CVS Express for a rollout later in 2016; Harris Teeter Express Lane has been around for awhile, also offering home delivery; Ahold’s Peapod is a online grocery service delivering orders and providing them for pickup; Amazon Prime Pantry is gaining speed as well, just to name a few. Inspiration becoming a final product precipitates social sharing of successes or pride in fails.

Meal delivery services, for those who can afford it, offer an alternate route with the modern convenience of having everything you need boxed up for you, ready to assemble/cook, so you can post it to your social media, aka humble brag “I made this.” What was once relegated to weight loss programs like Jenny Craig, these meal services now embolden people to be their own top chefs in the kitchen, with recipes that range from updated American traditions to ethnic fusions with unusual ingredients, previously found only in restaurants. The types of services available seem to only be limited by an entrepreneur’s imagination: local farm-to-table services, gluten-free services, food allergy services, high-end, unique services, etc.

A natural fit for its brand, Weight Watchers has partnered with meal service Chef’d to provide points-approved options that work well with their diet plan. Blue Apron has taken the lead of the services, with a somewhat customize-able recipe offering and subscriptions with meals for 2 and larger families as well; their price range is roughly $60 to $140 per week, depending on the number of meals delivered. Blue Apron also offers wine solutions as well, to partner with the meals. The convenience takes away all guess work and is winning with folks who alternatively, ate out or brought home meals on a regular basis.

We’re seeing how retailers are adapting to our ever changing foodie landscape, what can brands do to adapt? “Brands should be doing more to partner with the home delivery meal services if they want to attract this type of consumer. That being said, while consumers “barely” have to go to the store, 97ish% of all of grocery shopping is still done in-stores of various formats. It’s one of the slower ecommerce categories to catch on but that is changing, slowly,” says Scartz. To that point, “Brands need to worry less about the fresh food meal delivery service and need to worry more about being shut out of impulse purchase as grocery ecommerce does grow. For example, once a consumer creates a list for Amazon.com, they are apt to reorder the same products. Same goes for Instacart or Peapod or whatever. Brands need to market and merchandise on those platforms with an eye toward subscription, especially as omni-channel retailing becomes more the norm.”

Your Own Personal Retail

Like so many people do this time of year, my husband and I decided to make a change and move. Specifically, we chose to uproot from a one-story house in the Dallas ‘burbs to a three-story townhouse downtown so that we could be closer to the things we enjoy doing, reduce our commutes and make a step towards becoming a one car family. All that being said, we needed to not only downsize but to use our move as a opportunity to clean house and get rid of all the extra stuff the two of us accumulated over the years. And so over the past few months, I’ve been on an adventure in personal retail and resale. With the perspective I have as retail marketer, I would fine tune my approaches, observe potential buyers of my wares and take note, and wonder where brands could authentically fit into this very organic, grassroots shopping arena. Here are a few of my takeaways after diving head first into the world of personal retail.

The Yard Sale

The yard sale is still a mainstay and key route to selling your extraneous stuff in a time crunch. Step 1: Organize and promote your sale. One can still go with a low-key approach of posting a few handmade posters at key intersections the morning of your lone yard sale because there are still people that shop for yard sales by driving around early Saturday mornings looking for said signs. However, in 2015, you can do better without a ton of effort. First off, there’s power in numbers. Multi-family yard sales are typically big draws. Propose a neighborhood yard sale day, or even take it further by partnering with another neighborhood. With just a few clicks on your neighborhood’s Facebook or NextDoor pages to rally the cleaning house spirit, you can exponentially drive traffic to your front door and boost your sales. A simple post on your personal social media can go a long way – in fact, you’ll be amazed at the responses you’ll get, the shares of your post and who of your friends is or knows a yard sale connoisseur. Post on Craig’s List, which has pretty much replaced the classified ads in local papers and it’s free. Post about it on the virtual yard sale groups (more on those later). And just think, if all your neighbors are doing this, too, that network will be spreading the word beyond your reach to their mom groups or their work friends, etc.

Yes, the day of your sale, you’ll still want to put out some kind of signage to direct people to your sale, but for the most part, the leg work is done and you just have to focus on Step 2: Close the sales. In my opinion, cash is still king, so it’s important to be able to make change. Staging your goods is important because only the rare yard saler is going to want to dig around in your stuff. In fact, plenty of shoppers will do the “slow roll” in their car to scope out what you’re selling without getting out of their car. Suggest bundles to make folks feel like they are getting a deal (and it also gets more of your stuff gone).

Even with all that, be prepared to see shopping behavior that you wouldn’t have expected. People will walk away from deals over a difference of 25 cents. I had a shopper spend no less than 20 minutes looking up reviews on Amazon for some of my items – showrooming is not uncommon with brick and mortar shopping these days, but at yard sales? Really? Really. I also had another shopper Facetime his wife for nearly 30 minutes over $2 storage containers, which he ultimately passed on. If I wasn’t in shopper marketing, I probably would have been guilty of an eyeroll or two, but it was all very fascinating to observe the trickle down effect of technology on even yard sale shopping behavior.

What’s in it for brands? Some retailers have already gotten in on the direct connection between yard sales and moving by selling yard sale signs on the same aisle as moving boxes. Organization brands, like Container store, could sponsor National Yard Sale Day (the second Saturday in August) with parking lot events or promote offers to help you stay organized once you’ve decluttered.

The Virtual Sale

There seems to be about a million different ways to sell stuff virtually. From EBay to Etsy to Craig’s List, you can sell your stuff, but much of that depends on knowing your target audience and understanding the medium. Etsy is really more about selling crafted and made products, not so much for selling your old high school calculator. EBay can do instant sales, but it’s still mainly about the auction and you will have to make time for shipping. Craig’s List can be very hit or miss in terms of the kinds of buyers you’ll attract, and I always approach it with caution to never meet anyone alone. These days, you have even more options and even more control over how to sell things online and via apps, but I’ll touch on the one that seems to be gaining the most traction in my opinion, the Facebook Sales groups.

I probably joined my first Facebook sales group a few years ago at the invitation of a friend. It essentially served as a virtual garage sale. You could post a picture of an item, the sales price and approximate location of where it could be picked up. Interested parties would comment and then through private message, work out the details to finalize the sale. Over the years though, it’s become a culture, complete with it’s own language, rules and trends. The dynamics of these groups evolved so much that Facebook even created a new post form specifically for groups to help streamline the essential details of a post and requiring those details before a post could be submitted.

Let’s talk about the lingo. Want and Next comments are enough to solidify your place in line. Porch Pick Up means I’ll leave it for you on my front step and you better leave the money for it under my doormat when you come to get it. PPU means pending pick up, which a seller will post to indicate that the sale is almost done but since sales fall through all the time don’t lose hope entirely. A seller can also comment Bump to send their post back to the top of the group’s news feed to ensure fresh eyes see it. X-posted means you’ve posted this item across several groups, so even if it looks like you are first in line for an item, someone in another group make actually be first. No holds means the seller isn’t hanging onto the item for anyone, it’s a first come, first serve to make the sale.

The trends are fascinating to me. Pinterest inspiration is a big one here. For example, in the last year or so on these groups, I’ve seen a spike in the sale of “project pieces,” specifically rehabbed wooden coffee tables, end tables, entryway tables, and consoles painted in bright pastels or bold colors. Most of the time, these sales are for the completed projects, but there are also plenty of the incomplete “I bought this with the intention of rehabbing it and either my time or my skill level prevented me from actually finishing” pieces. There are bloggers and youtube channels dedicated to teaching people how to bring old furniture back to life with chalk paint and glaze. In the past, people used to go to flea markets to find these project pieces, and now they don’t even have to leave the comfort of their homes if delivery of the piece is included. (Other current trends I’ve seen in these include wood pallet crafts and barnwood/farm tables).

What’s in it for brands? Furniture and craft brands should be looking into this underground network for insights and noting these trends (much like fashion designers seek inspiration from people on the street or dancing in clubs). For instance, I would love to see a long established furniture company like Bassett or Broyhill run a targeted FB promotion that asks shoppers to rehab one of their brand’s furniture pieces from the 60s or 70s for a chance to win a $10,000 living room makeover. It authentically ties into what this audience is already doing, establishes the heritage and quality of the brand, and is prime for social sharing.

The Resales

Consignment and second hand shops have been around for decades as yet another avenue for getting rid of your unwanted items. From clothes to books to furniture to sporting equipment, these days sellers can not only look to brick and mortar specialty consignment/resale stores but also to any number of apps to consign their wares from the convenience of their phone. For my purposes, I went the brick and mortar route for the luxury of immediacy.

Dallas-based national chain Half Price Books, while known for selling new and used books at a discount, is a great resource for getting cash for your old books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, videos and, dare I say, even laser discs. It’s a very familiar process for anyone that ever sold their study books back at student bookstore at the end of a semester. You bring your items in, a store clerk looks them up in their system while you wait in the store and you receive a cash offer for the total of your bounty. Demand and condition are the main factors for determining offer prices. Unless you are trying to sell something special, like a signed, limited first edition Harry Potter, they don’t break it down for you item by item – it’s a lump sum, take it or leave it. Don’t expect to make out like a bandit selling your books and CDs back, but something is better than nothing. Also keep in mind, what they don’t resale, Half Price Books will donate to nonprofits in support of literacy, so you can feel good about where your items are going. (Don’t have a Half Price Books near you, Amazon also has a trade-in program.)

Clothing consignment can be a bargain shoppers dream, but for someone looking to unload unwanted clothes, it can be a little confusing and nerve wracking. So many of these stores are locally-based and have their own guidelines for selecting what items they’ll take and the method for selling, which means every store is different. For my needs, I opted to give national consignment store Clothes Mentor a try. Here, you bring in your items, a store clerk accepts them for review and gives you an approximate time for your estimate to be completed, then you receive a text to let you know your estimate is ready, and upon return, they’ll walk you through what items they want and what they are willing to offer. Based on my experience (and from reviews I’ve read of others’ experiences), it’s completely hit or miss and not much rhyme or reason as to why they want some items over others or offer a certain price. Seasonality and condition can play a roll, but for the most part, they tell you it’s about your items not being the latest style. I was told this about a batch of clothes I brought in and yet one of the shirts they did buy from me, I kid you not, was 12 years old. It’s a roll of the dice, and again, something is better than nothing.

And then there is Good Will. An American mainstay in donated clothing, furniture, electronics, etc, Good Will makes these things accessible to people of all economic levels, but their stores and proceeds also go to support job creation and career education. Any true purge of belongings should involve several trips to your local Good Will, where you can get a receipt good for writing off your donations on your taxes. Win-Win for everyone.

What’s in it for brands? Clearly, specialized brands in the market of resale know their niche and understand their place in the resale market. But with all these burgeoning apps furthering simplifying the resale of not only the things you don’t want (like that sweater your mom gave you for Christmas without a gift receipt), but also of luxury and high ticket items that you may have used once and no longer have a need or space for them. It’s also important for brands to consider the benefits of trade-ins for credits over cash, which ensures the money essentially stays in there pocket but almost always guarantees a greater return as a shopper has to spend more than their credit to get the benefit of spending it all.

Image: Getty

Digital Advertising Predicted To Surpass TV

“Forrester Research today prognosticated that interactive spending will achieve a 12 percent compound annual growth rate and total $103 billion by 2019. The development is driven by huge gains for the search, display and social media niches, though mobile is truly spearheading the change. The Cambridge, Mass., researcher found mobile advertising will account for 66 percent of growth across interactive categories in the next half decade” as reported by AdWeek.

Not to be outdone, Magna Global claims that digital spending will outstrip TV spending as soon as 2017: “We are anticipating digital media to become the number one advertising category in 2017 when digital ad sales will reach $72 billion (38 percent market share) compared to TV sales of $70.5 billion,” the report said. Magna Global also estimated that U.S. ad spending will hit 167 billion this year, up 5.1 percent; this is a downgrade from the firm’s previous forecast of 6.1 percent. The firm attributes the downgrade to a slower U.S. economy, which caused advertisers to cut ad spending as well as “freeze” budgets, and lower-than-anticipated spending from political and Olympic advertising budgets.”

Regardless of when it happens, it’s pretty obvious that the writing on the wall for traditional media (especially print) is that they will eventually go the way of the billboard and newspaper ad; still hanging around but definitely taking a backseat to all things digital.  Phones, watches, glasses and other personal devices will be the advertisers dream target, with all content customizable to the end user.  In the meantime, advertisers are already using online outlets like YouTube and Hulu that aren’t limited to just 30 seconds to reach a younger demographic that has cut the TV cord:

Total Market – Good or Bad?

It’s just smart marketing. Would you spend 90% of your budget on effectively engaging with just 27% of the audience? Or would you spend 90% of your budget on connecting at a deeper level with 72% of your audience? That is what’s happening every day in marketing. In places like Los Angeles County, where 72% of the population is Hispanic, African American or Asian American, marketers are taking broad strokes and spending about 90% of their budget on strategies, creative and tactics that may work in the general market, but miss the deeper connections with the multicultural audience. But, you say, this is where “Total Market” comes into the picture.

 

“Total Market” is the newest strategy on how to effectively reach a multicultural target that has even a little bit of general market tendency (we can also call them “bicultural”). “Total Market” is also the four-letter word for traditional Multicultural agencies, because many think brands now have a rationale to let the general market agency lead the strategy and do most of the work while only checking off with multicultural.

 

So how did we get here? Is this the demise of the “Traditional” multicultural agency?

 

In the early years, multicultural agencies demanded to be heard. We speak a different language, they shouted, so we deserve some budget. Many times, brands responded by finding a “Hispanic guy” at their company to do their Hispanic marketing. Sad, but true. Translations abounded. The attitude became, Take what we do for general market and translate it. Done. We now do Hispanic marketing. But, wait, it’s not about the language. It’s about the cultural cues. As time passed, the argument became, It was not ok to just translate, but to transcreate. There are cultural cues and, no, you can’t find them on Mintel or Simmons; you need to have Hispanic or African American creative that reflects these cultural cues. The irony here is that as more money started to flow into Hispanic marketing agencies to address the “Not just Translate but Transcreate” approach, African American marketing budgets began to see a steady decline, since the perception was, with limited multicultural client budgets, there wasn’t a language barrier and we could reach African Americans with the General Market creative. It is ironic because if it were REALLY about the cultural cues, well, African American marketing budgets should have stayed healthy. But they didn’t, even when the African American population is just as strong as the Hispanic population and their cultural cues are just as unique and distinct. African American budgets have steadily declined. BUT, we now have “Total Market.” So we should be covered there as well, right?

 

So today, recognizing that the Multicultural audience doesn’t live in a vacuum, and Hispanic/African American media consumption habits may in fact expand beyond Univision and BET, the market has created a “Total Market” solution. That is to say, let’s work to create a singular approach that appeals to a broad spectrum and maximizes our limited budgets. Early on (meaning last year), Multicultural agencies balked, saying this is not the right approach and our distinct culture needs a distinct strategy. They balked because, on the client side, the Multicultural budgets were not being separated and General Market brand stewards were asked to see their targets as Total Market, not separately as Hispanic, African American, Asian American and General Market.

 

Most opponents of “Total Market” are not fighting for some sort of Multicultural righteousness, but for their budget. I understand. Multicultural budgets justify having a Multicultural agency. I’ve led one and fought that good fight. What those opponents fail to see is “Total Market” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s about smart marketing. What I mean is, when formulating a marketing strategy, the ethnicity and cultural upbringing is just another value in the planning process that needs to be accounted for when trying to connect with your target at the deeper level our clients are asking for from us. We all need to have a little multicultural marketer in us, much like we all need to have a little digital marketer in us. Yes, agencies have dedicated experts who can dig even deeper, but “Total Market” strategy, if done properly, should be led by the insights. If the insights dictate a multicultural-led approach, the work should follow suit. Agency evolution will eventually determine who actually does the work and effectively wins in the long run. However, it’s going to be the agencies who change with the times, and in these times, we have very real demographic shifts in our country that need to be addressed with our marketing in order for brands to be category leaders.

 

Brands are addressing this shift. Some of the top brands have taken the approach of having a multicultural strategist who then advises the brand managers, sometimes even leading the “general market” strategy, on how to make sure they are effectively reaching their multicultural target. Brands and agencies just need to be very aware of who they need to target and be prepared to lead with Multicultural cues in their overall strategy, when it makes the most sense. This doesn’t mean alienate the “general market,” and also allows the brand to connect at that deeper level with the larger audience.

 

One day, all marketers will have a little salsa in their blood, and Multicultural will need to be included in everything we do and, in many cases, leading the charge … Because it’s just smart marketing.

P&G Shifting to a Less is More Strategy

Earlier this month Proctor & Gamble (P&G) announced that it would be cutting more than half its brands, a drastic shift  in strategy for the world’s largest consumer-products company. In the past, the company obtained brand after brand, even within the same category to ensure a hefty percentage of shelf space and leverage for consumers’ dollars. But as the retail landscape is shifting, P&G, along with other CPG companies, are having to adjust their paradigms and their portfolios.

From the Wall Street Journal:

P&G didn’t say which brands it will sell or shut down, but it will be a sizable culling of products that bring in around $8 billion a year in revenue. The company owns scores of lesser-known brands including Era and Cheer laundry detergent, Clearblue pregnancy tests and Metamucil laxatives. Dozens could prove attractive to private-equity firms that specialize in orphaned brands or companies in countries like China or Brazil looking for a more global presence.

“I’m not interested in size at all,” Mr. Lafley said in an interview Friday. “I’m interested in whether we are the preferred choice of shoppers.” He said some larger brands may be culled if P&G decides it cannot do well in those segments, and pointed to the company’s recent sale of its pet-food brands, including Iams which had over $1 billion in sales.

So it’s no longer about amassing a chunk of brands, but about keeping and focusing on those brands that are the best fit for the company. Though P&G has not declared which brands it plans to sell, likely some of its smaller, less productive brands will be let go. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean smaller, niche brands are going to be out completely, as long as they are niche market leaders, like Dreft baby clothes detergent or Fixadent denture adhesive.

In looking at this shift in strategy by P&G, it’s crucial to keep consumers in mind at the core of this shift. These days companies must wage battle for consumers’ attention through what seems like a ever-evolving number of channels. There are thousands of TV channels now, satellite radio, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, with new ones popping up everyday, along with display and search advertising in addition to more traditional advertising, and that’s just a brief summation. While it’s ripe with opportunity to be able to reach consumers on so many levels, the only way to reap the rewards is if brands can break through to be seen and remembered. And when you have too many dogs in the fight for consumers’ attention, you don’t do any of your brands any favors by creating more competing “clutter.”

Additionally, think of the impact of technology has had on the state of retail given the physical store shelves are competing with virtual store shelves. On his blog Stratechery, technology strategist Ben Thompson addresses the P&G announcement within this context:

…Remember, dominating shelf space was a core part of their strategy, and while I’m no mathematician, I’m pretty sure dominating an infinite resource is a losing proposition. What matters now is dominating search… There are two big challenges when it comes to winning search:

  • Because search is initiated by the customer, you want that customer to not just recognize your brand (which is all that is necessary in a physical store), but to recall your brand (and enter it in the search box). This is a much stiffer challenge and makes the amount of time and money you need to spend on a brand that much greater
  • If prospective customers do not search for your brand name but instead search for a generic term like “laundry detergent” then you need to be at the top of the search results. And, the best way to be at the top is to be the best-seller. In other words, having lots of products in the same space can work against you because you are diluting your own sales and thus hurting your search results

The way to deal with both challenges is the same way you break through the noise: you put more focus on fewer brands.

I think Thompson hits the nail on the head, especially for such a large player like P&G in the CPG game. Time will tell if this move helps P&G’s bottom line and if the private equity firms expected to purchase the former P&G brands wind up with deals.

Photo credit: Getty

The greatest BRAND story ever told.

My fiancé and I just returned from a trip to Disneyland and had a blast exiting the “real world” and spending 4 days in the happiest place on Earth. It’s no secret that Walt Disney created one of the greatest brands in the world. He was a storyteller and to this day, the “story” is the foundation for everything Disney does. It was during this recent trip that I was reminded of many ways retailers could benefit from taking a page from the Disney “story” book.

One of my first takeaways was the absence of what I like to call “brand ugh” moments. Take for example the “cue”. Nothing kills human momentum like a line. At Disneyland the line is anything but a “wait” – it’s actually part of the ride. Once you enter the cue, unexpected reveals, interaction and environments set the stage for the ride to come. They don’t just herd you—they transport you. While waiting for Star Tours ride, you walk through what feels like a spaceport right out of a Star Wars movie. In the Monsters Inc. ride, you walk through the city streets of Monstropolis and experience and added layer of details not seen in the movies. The opportunity for retailers lies in taking a closer look at the shopper journey and identifying those “brand ugh” moments, and turning them into “brand a-ha” moments.

Monsters Inc. Ride takes you on a walk through streets of Monstropolis:

Monsters

My second takeaway was the idea of “being in character”. It’s the Disney golden rule. You expect characters like Minnie, with whom I had a private meet and greet with, to always be “in character”. But it was the real eople at the front gate, in the attractions and even the man sweeping the street that always delighted me. They deliver that one-to-one brand engagement that makes the overall experience so personal. They are “believers” in the experience they are helping to create. Putting my shopper hat back on, I realize how key the sales associates are to the shopper experience and that they too have to “believe”. Equipping employees with what they need to bring the brand to life and make more human connections should be on the top of every retailers to-do list

Meet and Greet with Minnie:

Minnie

For thousands of years, we have used stories as vessels for information. Long before writing, we passed along knowledge and experience in the form of storytelling. So it is in our DNA, we are all drawn to a great story. Disney, like all great brands, does more than tell stories, they tell stories people want to be a part of.

Author and images by Eric Ehrlich — VP Executive Creative Director, TPN

Kashi Shines at Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass

So I’ve just returned from vacationing at a Wanderlust festival in Aspen-Snowmass, CO – it’s a yoga/music multi-day event that’s filled with all kinds of outdoorsy activities, yoga classes, lectures, organic food and concerts. Wanderlust has become an international series of festivals and with that success comes the integration of partnerships. Gaiam, Garnier, Prana, So Delicious Dairy Free and Camelbak were some of the nationally-known partners, but I have to tell you, Kashi set the bar high and truly grabbed my attention. Even when I’m on vacation, I can’t help but get excited about brands championing on in ways that are fun, cool and most importantly, authentic. Authenticity is the name of the game when a brand is striving to directly interact with its target and that really shows on the experience-level at festivals and conferences; Kashi shined with a presence throughout the event and created an authentic, shareable experience in a sea of vendors for Wanderlust patrons. The yoga lifestyle and Kashi’s mission to create natural, healthy food go well together, so the partnership is an easy one. But Kashi’s execution through experience, along with its stance on food, create the authenticity needed to get buy-in from your target audience.

In the “Kula Market” (think lots of vendors set up in white open tents to sell yoga clothes, crystals and such) at Wanderlust, Kashi stood out from the bountiful rows of tents with its own circular wooden structure, where brand ambassadors would invite you in to take shelter from the sun or the rain, give you new products to try and take with you, encourage you to run around the edge of the structure to strum the tiny windchimes hung like a decorative border of music and also engage you with three activities beyond this haven. There was a Kashi mandala-making station where you could create art with Kashi cereal and grains. There was a chill-out station with chaise lounges, shade and snacks. The third station known as the cube, allowed you to play jungle-gym style on an apparatus manned by brand ambassadors and encouraged you to share pictures of your experience. Given that several of the yoga classes at this conference are geared toward acro-yoga, which is yoga with a heavy-dose of Cirque De Soleil, the cube was a big hit (even if you did have to sign a waiver to play on it). This Kashi-loving section of the “Kula Market” was certainly one to behold and impressive on its own, but that wasn’t all Kashi had up its brand experience sleeves.

Kashi_hut Kashi_lounge Kashi_MandalaKashi_cube

At Wanderlust, yoga classes were held all day in different sections of Snowmass village starting sometimes at 6 am and generally ending by 6 pm over the course of several days. Classes were approximately 90 minutes and could be intense exercises of stretching, rhythmic breathing, dancing, cardio, etc. Kashi so smartly strategically-placed brand ambassadors with milk and cereal bowls or granola bars at class entrances/exits to nourish participants. I observed those around me happily take the cereal bowls and snacks, with great appreciation to help quench the hunger pangs that had struck up during a rigorous class, and I wondered if they would remember this feeling of satisfaction the next time they go shopping for cereal and snacks. The brand experience was so seamless and seemed like a natural extension of the good-for-you experience you had just been through or were about to have. What better way to connect with your target audience (health-conscious, food-conscious people that have the income to afford pricier granola bars) than to feed them before/after one of their favorite activities and create a good memory. A few days later back home, I know I caught myself staring at the different Kashi bars in my local Kroger hoping to find those delicious Chocolate Chia Seed Granola bars that I’d had after a class (no luck, but I did buy 2 boxes of other Kashi bars that I hadn’t intended).

It was evident to me that Kashi had gone above and beyond a symbolic partnership of a brand throwing money at an event, which is what you so often see at festivals and conferences: a brand simply lending it’s name to a venue or putting its logo on an event item without any true connection to the people attending it, even though it’s those people the brand WANTS to connect with on a new level. Throwing money at a partnership is not enough to get your target’s attention in this day and age. But building an authentic connection with your target audience through purposeful partnerships and experiences will make that investment worth it. And Kashi did just that, did it well and I have no doubt will reap the rewards.

Photo Credits: Allison Emery and Halie @Ohh_indigo