Random thoughts

Sears Canada names Unitas as new AOR | Has the world gone barking mad

Sears Canada names Unitas as new AOR | Marketing Magazine.

Nobody, really, had ever heard of Unitas Reputation Management/Services/Communication/Agency (their online SEA doesn’t seem to include focus), except presumably the wise men at Sears. But it’s nice and it’s a start-up and their “context” is, of course, brilliant (who would have thought of trying to get enthusiasm for the clients among “all the people who influence their success – customers, employees, allies* and investors?) Of course, it’s entirely possible that searching for these search experts will lead to another Unitas Communication Reputation Management agency, altogether, but that’s probably an intentional oversight.

Try to guess which Unitas is the Unitas Sears are hooking up with. It’s hard to believe that these guys did not Google the name to see how many other companies by the name of Unitas co-opted the “Reputation Management” discipline (from its original PR application and it’s down market cousin, “Online Reputation Management”).

Actually, there can be no doubt that Unitas Communication (US) Unitas Reputation (Canada — see, I got it finally, communication versus reputation, not confusing at all) are excellent at managing reputation and creating enthusiasm (although, to be honest, again, I thoroughly doubt the Canadian version has any clue how to change the culture of an organization as culturally entrenched as Sears, but, hey, it’s worth a try).

But, whatever happened to retail marketing! What makes great retailers great? It starts with unique, relevant merchandise. Ask the Sears hardware and automotive merchandisers. If you don’t sell it, they won’t buy it, no-matter how enthusiastic you or anybody else is. Then, it’s useful to be where the customer is, location, both real and virtual. Then, it’s important to tell the potential customers that you have the stuff they want (and stuff they don’t want — remember surprise and delight) where they want to buy it. this is an old-fashioned idea, called advertising (call it whatever you want, but it’s advertising and without it you’re fxcked). Then, you need to manage the relative value proposition: is the sticker price they pay right taking into account the quality of the merchandise, the satisfaction (may I say it, enjoyment) of the experience, the after-sales promise and all of this relative to the competition.

Brand is the degree to whether this entire experience is positively imbeded as an expectation — if it is, you will be heard and believed, if not, you will be ignored or, worse, disbelieved, disdained and dismissed. Enthusiastically, probably.

Internal branding — not a new idea at all — is critical at all phases, because of the importance of the experience. But so is advertising, brand and tactical. Or, perhaps none of them — take Costco as an example, they do neither and they’re not doing too badly.

My point? It’s just plain weird for a retailer whose business is falling through the floor (or not — Sears business falls and rises like a yo-yo) to hire an agency that prides itself on the po-mo fad of “reputation” management, and to do this over the phone without benefit of a review!!

I might agree with the man from Sears that they can’t advertise their way out of the hole (or not-hole). But they can’t reputationise themselves out of it either. A real review, based on a real brief resulting from deep and honest soul-searching, among the leading experts in retail turnaround (and, if they aren’t in Canada, then wherever they are) would have been the right thing to do: right by the people who work for them who (in addition to being enthusiastic) want to be employed; right by the shareholders who have some legitimate concerns that they are expressing in radical ways (and if this is about a LBO, then they are even more in the wrong direction — think “fill the till”); right by the communities they are in (that can really do without losing more jobs and stores); right by the country (we really don’t need to see another brand bite the dust); and, of course, right by their customers (who, let’s face facts, in the end don’t give a damn because they can always get exactly the same stuff elsewhere — except maybe with less enthusiasm).

In honour of the time-honoured tradition of go and see what the people who are winning are doing, Sears might wander over to The Bay and see what they’re doing. I doubt Bonnie Brooks or Richard Baker (Lord and Taylor and HBC) will be turning over their marketing communications and consumer strategy to a “reputation agency” on the basis of a phone call. But then, perhaps the enthusiasm for success at the management level is such that they are fixated with getting it right the first time.

One other point of free advice: if this is about Target, then forget about high-minded meaningless “reputation management” crap and get back to basics with a new, exciting and revolutionary twist. Ask yourself: how many people who have been to Target start off by saying “I was in a store that was so amazing, you have to go there, it has incredibly enthusiastic people” [actually, if anything, the Target people are its weak point]. The answer is NONE, ZIP, NADA. But how many people say: “I was in Target and they had the most incredible selection of exactly what I was looking for. And the prices were really great. And then I saw this outfit, wow, I was amazed, didn’t think they had it. And have you seen their ads.”

*By the way, what’s with this “Allies” silliness in the “context”?

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Luxury Marketing: How to Sell Ham at $500/kg ($225/lb). Twenty Seven Times More Expensive than Loblaws

Easy. The same way you would any other grocery product: list three or four functional benefits and put it on sale.

So, here’s a sign from Pusateri’s in Yorkville. Notice that the ham promises that it is rich in Proteans  (oops, sorry, Proteins), Calcium, Phospherous, Iron and Vitamins B1 and B12.  Considering that Loblaws was offering (March 27 flyer) San Daniele prosciutto silver, deli sliced for  $1.79/100g or $17.90/kg, the Pusetteri’s ham should contain around 27 times as much Protein, iron, calcium, vitamins, etc. Or no rational person would pay the equivalent of $50 per gram for something that cannot be snorted no matter how hard and fast you chopped it.

But, of course, no rational person would pay this, so Pusateris has DISCOUNTED the stuff. For a limited time (presumably limited to this life-time) you can buy the ham not for $500/kg, but for $440/kg a savings of $60/kg.

Pusateris Super Discount on Prosciuto

Managed to fight the crowds to get a clear shot of this in-store merchandising device. Note that there is no mention of better taste, cleaner pigs, or any unrational reason to pay a premium of 2700% for prosciutto.

Who says the stupid rich aren’t suckers for a good deal. But, as any retailer knows, they should have included this in the weekly flyer.

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Behavioral Economics, , , , , , , ,

Surely We’ve Figured Social Media Out by Now

I have just returned from a really serious, important Branding Roundtable. The smartest branders (or, as the English roundtablers called them, Marketeers) discussed hospitality marketing in the most serious, sometimes academic terms (it was, after all, hosted at Cornell University, by the Center for Hospitality Research). We learned many things, and we taught many things. All in all, time very well spent.

But, this is the second year in a row I have attended this, and I have attended myriad similar conferences and round tables and symposia in this and other categories, in the US< Canada and  other countries, over the past four years. maybe five. And there is one constant. One conversation that has not changed in content, tone, volume, intensity, or anything. And that is: Social Media and “we know this is changing the world, but we don’t understand it and how to do it.” Every time, every where, we hear the same mantra: we don’t understand Social Media but it is very important and we need to understand it. A subtext: we need to use it more, but not like everybody else is using it. we need to be “strategic” (unlike everybody else). And yet, when asked what being strategic means, we hear , “we don’t understand it yet….”

Okay. I get it. But I don’t.

"According to a research done by AAL, there are a billion social media experts on the internet. Do you know what do they do on a daily basis? After “interviewing” more than 20 (actually none) experts, this is what I found out."
This comes from a brilliant blog by Aaron Lee -- click on the image to link to her post.

We do understand it. Many companies are strategic. Many companies do utilize the various SM options tactically to generate sales. Many companies think of Twitter as a wonderful way of finding our what people are thinking about them; spreading news, etc.

So, let’s all make a deal: we will never say the following words in our out loud voice: “we don’t understand social media.” Let’s also make a pact to stop saying that everybody else is not using Social Media strategically. If we think this, then we’re not paying attention to what other companies are doing!

On another, but similar point, we can now stop patronizing youth. We say — and I am referring to “marketeers” — that we need to get a a handle on “young people” who have grown up completely digitally and live completely differently from anything we have experienced. And we need to listen to them about their “new world,” etc. Yes, people growing up these days used technology forma younger age than people growing up before them. But, and they will be the first to agree (I know, I personally called every young person and asked them) that this digital difference does not define them. They do not spend all their waking moments doing incomprehensible “digitalism’ on Facebook and

Twitter. They do “digitalistic” things, like texting, when they are with friends or in class. But, they also talk to friends in person, go to movies, watch TV, read books (okay, okay, they do it on ipads, except they don’t really if you look at the penetration of digital readers compared to the total number of people who read). They laugh, cry and wonder about the world around them. they have no greater comprehension of the qwerty keyboard than anybody else; and their thumbs are still roughly the same size as anybody else’s in spite of texting on tiny keyboards. They don’t really expect everything to happen instantly, even if some things, like texting somebody, can indeed happen quickly. They shop. They buy stuff that makes them happy and they buy stuff that they hate and that they think is crap and return it to the store. They listen to their friends’ advice on what to buy and then make their own decisions. They are exposed to advertising and remember clever tag lines and jingles (yes, jingles!).  They also smoke, drink and do drugs, which is about as analog as you can get!

Mostly, they are tired of being patronized by a generation of marketeers that has too much time on its collective hands!

One final plea: please don’t turn “today’s patronized youth” into a sociological/marketing insight.

There…now you know. And if you are seriously interested in who does this right, look at stores like Canadian Tire or their sister brand Sport Check.

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Do they do it because they’re stupid or because they enjoy confusing people

Trying to get from the parking at the Eaton Centre to anywhere you might want to shop is almost impossible. Here’s how it works:

After parking, in the foyer outside the elevator, a bright, helpful design-forward sign guides you to where you might want to go:

Helpfully, at the elevators they have a smart, designer sign telling you where to go for what. To get to Canadian Tire, I will press “Retail”. Cool

Hello! What’s this? The elevator buttons? No “Retail”! No relationship to the helpful sign at all. Help. How do I get to Canadian Tire?

Oh, wait. They have this "map the elevator buttons" guide right next tot he elevator buttons. What a relief. But, wait, still no Canadian Tire. What to do?

The real message is that the architects and designers know the problem, they see the mistake they made, but they’re too lazy or too cheap to make it right. Besides which, once a shopper has gone to the trouble of parking they’re not going to turn back just because they have trouble finding out where the store is. So who cares!

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, , ,

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