Thursday, January 23, 2020

The most unkindest cut of all.

If you live in the wonderful beachside city of Ormond Beach, Florida, you already know the news and have had conversations about it, shaken your head and maybe taken to social media to show support for the over 65 employees that greeted us each week (for some of us, each day).
This is literally an almost Shakespearean tale of the rise and fall of a new brand - new to us, new to our town - and the different stages of the fabled "purchase funnel" many of us travelled through at light speed. From Awareness to Loyalty, rarely has brand adoption come so quickly. Only to be taken away so abruptly and unceremoniously.
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This is also the rarest of tales, because everything - the Press, Advertising, Media Marketing and Communications - were all executed like a 101 compendium of "this is how you roll out a store, brand, company and philosophy." And we literally ate it up. And it tasted good. Even the vegan wonton wrappers. 
In May, a wonderful new-to-us little grocery store opened where one had vacated the premises 10 years earlier. It was a fun place to see and be seen, but not in the "society" way - rather in the "neighborly" way. We could walk around with coffee, kombucha, beer or wine. We could get our children free fruit for the trip. We could listen to live music and buy freshly grilled ribs or handmade ramen. And the bacon. Don't ever forget the bacon.
It worked here, and obviously didn't work everywhere, because otherwise its parent company would've decided not to cut and run. But sometimes things just work in a place because it's the right time, the right message, the right market - the Venn diagram equivalent of retail lightening. And this was it. And then it wasn't.
Across demographics - and this is not scientific, but it's consumer behaviorism-y enough that anecdotally it will make sense - there was not a person that you could talk to that either a)wasn't excited about the new store b)shopped there regularly or c)was curious, stopped in and thought it was good for specialty things. "C)" Is obviously why it didn't pass muster with the parent brand any longer. And I am talking about everyone from all-in organic-loving Boulder-y (its home base) types to Alex P. Keaton-y meat and potatoes wholesomeness. That's like brand "Nirvana" (which incidentally they also played among other GenX favorites).
This case study in brand and retail launch lasted from May through basically this past Tuesday (January 21) - with closing slated for mid-February. But it was perfect while it lasted, and everyone in town hopes there will be a silver lining. And there will be because this is a special place.
Just as this community hoped for a Trader Joe's, Publix Greenwise, Whole Foods, Fresh Market or some other, maybe independent, local boutique grocer for the decade the property had been vacated - maybe these folks will now see that something in this special and unique community can thrive and become a part of the whole. Because it can, and it was awesome and great while it lasted. And we can't wait to see what's next.

Monday, January 13, 2020

You Better, You Bet (and why 2nd Better is actually Best)

Alas, there is one place on this Earth where #1 isn't actually the end-all-be-all. Where it's better to be Robin than Batman. Where it's ideal to be Donald Duck or Burger King. This is the wonderful and mysterious land of #GoogleAds.
Over these many years of handling #GoogleAdWords (now #GoogleAds) for clients both great and small, the number one question (and hard to quell desire) is to appear first, which would be anyone's first and most obvious instinct.
This is contrary and much to the frustration of agencies and media partners everywhere. Because when you are trying to be 1.5 or 2 or 3, and your client expects 1, you've fallen short. Even though you are budgeting more efficiently and effectively than the next nearest competitor, many see this as not good enough.
But this is exactly where you want to be.
When you pay to be #1, you pay to be #1. But you don't receive nearly the consistent results of a number 1.5, 2 or 3. On average, you are paying a premium in disproportion to your ROAI (return on advertising investment). In other words, you are paying for the Super Size, when you really only need the medium. Medium is better because it's all that's needed. Yes, we all WANT the most fries, but alas, we do not need the most fries.
What matters more is how consistently our ads are viewed and present among the competition. It's also about a metric traditionally reserved for display -- awareness.
Frankly, I'd rather my clients achieve the #1 SOV (share of voice), #1 ROAI, or the best conversion rate or the lowest cost per conversion. That's the ultimate goal and the ultimate aim.
Spending the most is one way to get there.
Spending the smartest is the best way to get there.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"Lots of space in this mall."​ - Elwood Blues

Again today, another unsurprising announcement about two legacy retailers and brands on the slow road to demise. According to Business Insider, Pier One "announced Monday in an earnings report that it plans to close up to 450 of its 942 stores ...." And "Macy's is closing at least 15 stores in early 2020."
If you are anything like me, a product of 1980's America, you had a penchant for all things mall-related. Or, you may have been a parent of that child. In either case, you were likely as taken with the kick-off of consumerism (and Orange Julius) as we know it. When a brand was a brand and that was enough.
Also, if you are anything like me, you have lately walked or driven by the storefronts or parking lots of these stores and their ilk and perhaps wondered to yourself, "How on earth are these stores still in business?"
Which in fact begs another question, "Why on earth are all of these stores going out of business?" That question is half nostalgic at best, and too late in coming at worst.
The questions maybe should have been, "What is happening to our brands?" "Do brands matter anymore?" "And if they do, why?"
Obviously, these questions are complicated, complex and wrought with missed earnings forecasts, not to mention changing consumer demographics, motivations and priorities. There's no one answer, but like any paradigm shift, the current situation has been in the works for decades - even before the perceived move from brick and mortar to the fickle and empowering world of online retail.
The world has been evolving from the retailer-driven "Come and Get It" mentality to the consumer-driven "I think I'll just look that up online and buy it right now so I can get it for the party tomorrow night" standard. And, maybe because of guilt and conscience, there is also a fair and worthy mix of a new resurgence of shopping and dining locally and supporting the new Mom and Pops - that have replaced the ones we were all complicit in shuttering over the last two decades.
There are still cult brands, and I think (or would like to think) there will always be. But my personal list of favorite brands has diminished much over the last several years. I used to be a diehard J. Crew, Anthropology, Banana Republic, Gap, Polo, etc., fan. Now, not only are some of these brands holding what seems like weekly liquidation sales, some are on the brink of bankruptcy. Each store, including their ill-conceived "Outlet Stores," has been, in recent years, an overabundant wasteland of cheaply made reproductions of their previous "staples." These brands don't mean now what they did years ago. Why? Largesse and a "too big to fail" mentality?

Personally, and I do mean this personally as a consumer - I vote with my dollars. I strayed. I strayed when J. Crew started their "Collection" of items $500 and more. I strayed when the Gap got too big for their khaki britches and started charging me $79 for a sweater and jeans. Or when Banana was all, "here's a cheap pattern that everyone will remember. It's $219 today. It will be $39 in XS in two weeks, though."

Could they have survived? I mean, Old Navy is leaving the Gap. This break-up is to me bigger than Ross and Rachel (they were on a break).
Did the brands sell themselves short? Or think themselves too big? Did we? Or both. Did we want too much choice? Well, we've got it. Now what do we do with it? How do we become loyal to brands when the very thing that means is changing under our feet (or our smart phones)?
What will happen to our favorite brands in 2020? What new brands will emerge from the ashes? I can't wait to see how existing legacy brands evolve and change, or if they can and will. I also can't wait to see which companies find their way to the top and how they do it. I can't wait to see the ads and the branding and the media and the messaging and the targeting.
But, as a Gen X poster-child, I will be enjoying my Starbucks, Diet Coke, Chick-fil-A, and Trader Joe's and Target runs and supporting local heroes while all of this continues to shake out ....

The Ghosts of Disney Present ....

Every year, like clockwork, at the beginning of the holiday season, I can count on one thing. Bing Crosby. Disney. Ichabod Crane. Even Washi...