Monday, November 30, 2009

Starbucks Rings in the Holidays With Big Social-Media Push

Will Partner With Pandora, Connect With Fans on Facebook, Flickr

CHICAGO ( -- Get ready for Starbucks Holiday 2.0. The brand is going big in social media this year, having learned that its consumers want to participate in a variety of ways. So Starbucks is pulling back from its Thanksgiving TV buys of the past two years to focus on where its customers already spend time online and drive them into stores.

Starbucks' branded playlist on the Pandora site is designed to lure consumers into the store get a 'Love' CD with purchase.
Starbucks' branded playlist on the Pandora site is designed to lure consumers into the store get a 'Love' CD with purchase.
Starbucks is spreading the love around, advertising on websites from to Meebo; partnering with Pandora to offer branded holiday playlists; and encouraging participation in social and owned media to get consumers in the holiday spirit. The chain is continuing its partnership with Red, launched last Thanksgiving, by offering a free "All You Need Is Love" CD, with tracks from U2, John Legend and the Dave Matthews Band, when consumers spend $15. Additionally, Starbucks will give $1 to fight AIDS in Africa. There are also a variety of holiday-themed "Red" products for which Starbucks will also make the $1 donation with a customer purchase. This represents a stepped-up version of last year's offer, which was a five-cent donation made when consumers bought a holiday beverage such as a peppermint mocha.

"It's like we've taken the version 1.0 of last year and now we're really doing it at scale and going to a lot more places where our customers already are," said Chris Bruzzo, VP-brand, content and online at Starbucks. "People are saying this is going to be a big year for social media and we're a microcosm of that. Whereas last year it was a curiosity, this year it's a core part of the program."
Multiple touchpoints
Mr. Bruzzo said the brand has learned that different people want to connect in different ways, so Starbucks is offering a variety of touchpoints. "Of our 5 million [fans] on Facebook, not everyone is going to want the same thing," he said. For instance, last year Starbucks encouraged consumers to stop in, buy a holiday beverage, take pictures of themselves inside Project Red's logo parentheses, and upload their pictures to a Red holiday microsite. To make it easier, this year Starbucks is hosting a Flickr page where consumers can upload pictures of themselves with their holiday paraphernalia. They can also do so on Facebook, where fans can also send their friends red Starbucks cups. Mr. Bruzzo said the Starbucks shutterbugs are among the chain's biggest fans, valuable evangelists for the brand who educate friends and family about what's new at the chain.

For music lovers, Starbucks is partnering with Pandora in the hope that consumers will be thinking about Starbucks while listening to music, and perhaps will be more likely to pop by for a gingerbread latte. Mr. Bruzzo said the branded playlist on the music site is designed to get consumers into the store to spend $15 and get the "Love" CD. "We get the appeal of do good, feel good," he said. The Starbucks' integration includes Pandora's iPhone app, and Starbucks is paying Pandora for ad placement. BBDO, PHD and Blast Radius worked on the campaign.

Starbucks has also found a faster and easier way for consumers to get involved, even if they're not yet comfortable in social media. "There are some ways that take a lot of energy but make [consumers feel] vulnerable and scared, and only the hardcore people online will go through such incredible content submissions," Mr. Bruzzo said. For these less-comfortable folks, Starbucks created the "love drawing," at StarbucksLoveProject, for visitors to create a digital drawing using different paints and colors. For each of the first million drawings, Starbucks is donating 5 cents to Red.

"We're already up to a couple thousand on the site with people just coming in," Mr. Bruzzo said of the site's first day. "It takes a minute and it's a fun, engaging activity." 

Coca-Cola Lays Out Its Vision for the Future at 2010 Meeting

Plans to Connect With Consumers Via Operational Marketing and Social Media, Focus on Multicultural Efforts

ATLANTA ( -- Amid some 200 analysts, investors and media last week, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent made a confession.

"There was a period when our company did lose its way," he said. "We were too internally focused and not focused enough on the changes taking place with our consumers and customers. In essence, we were too busy looking at the dashboard and were not sufficiently paying attention to the world outside of our windshield."

While Coca-Cola remains the dominant beverage company in the world, and controls nearly 51% of the global carbonated soft-drink business compared to Pepsi's 22%, according to Beverage Digest figures, it had, perhaps, been too focused on soft drinks at a time when other beverage categories were on the rise, said Bill Pecoriello, CEO at ConsumerEdge Research. "They were too inward thinking and missed a lot of trends that were happening," he said. "There was a shift away from certain beverages and needs being filled by alternative beverages."

Certainly, soft drinks remain a key focus for the company, but now it has also established dairy beverages as a global platform, with brands such as Vio and Minute Maid Pulpy Super Milky, and has set juice as its top priority after sparkling beverages. It's also put more emphasis on innovation, with its venturing and emerging brands group, of which brands such as Zico, Honest Tea and Illy are a part.

Globally, Coca-Cola says it leads in sparkling, juice and juice drinks, ready-to-drink coffee, tea and active lifestyle, or enhanced waters. It is No. 2 in sports drinks and No. 3 in packaged water, which includes plain bottled water and bulk water, categories where there is stiff competition from the likes of Gatorade and Nestle Waters.

John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, also points out that between 2000 and 2004, when former CEO Neville Isdell arrived, the company struggled with management changes and simply wasn't functioning well. "Today, in my view, Coke is really back to functioning at a high level again," he said. "Relations with bottlers are good. There's good morale inside the company. They're recruiting good people and not losing people anymore. They're really now focusing on the business and the brands."
Future priorities
Indeed, the marketer now seems to have its priorities straight. At its 2020Vision meeting last week with analysts and journalists, Coca-Cola laid out goals within the areas of profit, people, portfolio, partners, planet and productivity. Key priorities include doubling system revenue to $200 billion in 2020 from $95 billion last year. And Coke plans to more than double the numbers of servings of its products -- water, soft-drinks, juices and the like -- consumed per day to more than 3 billion.

Coke pulled out all the stops at the meeting, its first such confab since 1998. There was a dinner designed by Linton Hopkins, named one of 2009's best new chefs by Food & Wine, using Coca-Cola as a key ingredient; a sampling of Coca-Cola's foreign beverages; and tastings from its Freestyle fountain, which boasts more than 100 beverage varieties. But underlying the discussion of new products, pricing, targeting, marketing and media approaches was a common theme: putting the consumer front and center.

From a marketing perspective, Mr. Kent said the company will focus on working across many geographies, cultures and channels, targeting the right consumers in a fragmented media environment and innovating. "People are demanding more and more for their time and attention. People need to be constantly entertained now, [it's an] ADD economy," said Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer. "We're changing fundamentally from being TV commercial producers to content developers. ... We're leading a new and unique approach ... from purely mass marketing to one-on-one marketing."

To that end, marketing executives highlighted plans to be relevant locally while scaling globally. Those plans ranged from eliminating agency duplication to creating a single World Cup campaign to introducing new, global packaging for its juice brands. Efforts to better connect with key consumers, including teens, moms and multicultural consumers, were also detailed. And the marketing team touted its focus on experimenting with new media, such as digital billboards, social media and in-store advertising, while affirming its intent to continue creating high-profile TV campaigns.

Those plans, laid out by the company's top marketers, were well-received by analysts, who recognize that better segmenting media and scaling campaigns globally will eventually boost the bottom line. "Investors want to see how they're going to [achieve the growth they've projected]," Mr. Pecoriello said. "Marketing efficiency is one of the contributors to that. Marketing dollars are such a big part of their cost structure that leveraging marketing dollars is key to their profit growth."
Global scale, local solutions
Scaling globally while being locally relevant was a recurrent theme, highlighted by both Mr. Tripodi and Wendy Clark, senior VP-integrated marketing. They cited it as a reason for eliminating duplication from its agency roster and focus, to some degree, on agencies that can produce global content. Ms. Clark said the company's roster of creative shops has now been cut to 46 agencies from 82, and there are plans to trim further to about 35 shops. Ms. Clark said that the company previously trimmed its media-agency roster and will soon begin paring back its digital, design and promotion agencies.

"Our ambition wasn't to get to a set number. Our ambition was to get to a more effective place for our company," Ms. Clark said. "What we have is an ambition to scale and eliminate duplication where it makes sense and then have local support and agencies where they make sense. Where we need more customized or localized solutions, that will be in place."

Executives also touted an estimated savings of $45 million on the FIFA World Cup 2010 marketing effort. For the FIFA World Cup 2006, Coca-Cola had two campaigns, as well as a number of local executions. In 2010, a single campaign will be used by more than 100 markets. "Do the math between those two approaches, and you very quickly get to a very conservative estimate of $45 million in cost avoidance," Ms. Clark said. "Creating effective marketing at a local level in the absence of global scale can lead to huge inefficiencies."

Ms. Clark said that the money being saved through the company's productivity efforts are being reinvested in the business, if not specifically marketing.

Improving connections with consumers was a refrain of all of the marketers at the event. Mr. Tripodi touted "operational marketing," of which in-store marketing is an example, as essential to making a connection. "Our view on consumer connection now has to include not only earned media and PR but all the way into the store and shelf," said Ms. Clark. "One hundred forty million people watch the top 10 TV shows in the U.S. And there are 140 million people that go into Walmart stores each week. Is Walmart a media channel? Yes. You have to include in-store activation in your connections thinking to create value for them and build brands." (One place where valuation seems to be at issue is Costco; AP reported last week that the chain had dropped Coca-Cola products over a pricing dispute. 

"We don't comment on ongoing negotiations," said a Coke spokeswoman, adding, "Costco is an important customer and our system team is working hard to resolve this situation. We are committed to working with our customers.")
Meanwhile, Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer of Coca-Cola North America, highlighted packages as one way Coke is better connecting with teens and moms. Coke's new 99-cent, 16-ounce bottle was a logical introduction, she said. 
After all, teens have $158 billion of disposable income annually and they're spending a lot of that on 99-cent downloads. And for moms, there's the 90 calorie mini-can hitting markets in the first quarter. "She's busy and needs that 90 calories of energy," Ms. Bayne said.
Multicultural plans
But the most significant changes appear to be in the multicultural space, which Ms. Bayne said will be a core focus for the company in the U.S. by 2020. Already, multicultural consumers account for 33% of all of Coca-Cola's U.S. volume, and given the population growth occurring in this country, by 2020, those consumers will make up 40% of U.S. volume.

"Our multicultural plans are now 12-month plans. It is no longer Hispanic heritage month followed by Cinco de Mayo," Ms. Bayne said. "We have a deep connection through the World Cup with Hispanic males and through the novelas with Hispanic females."

The company is also embracing a 12-month strategy for African-American consumers. "We're really focusing on moms. Moms lead the decisions in this segment of the population, even more than others, so we're really focusing on her," Ms. Bayne said. "Also, [we're] celebrating the historically black colleges and universities, Black History Month and connecting over music."

The brand is also recognizing the power of consumer-generated content and social media. "Among Coca-Cola's most powerful differentiators are the stories only our brand can tell," said Ms. Clark. "But we're not the only ones that can tell our story. Much of our content comes from our consumers. It's the phenomenon of social media. Consumers remind us daily that Coca-Cola is actually their brand, not our brand." To that end, the company is launching Expedition 206, an ambitious global social-media push.

While it's not entirely clear what the return on the program will be, Adam Brown, director-digital communications and social media, said the company will be monitoring fan participation and online share of voice, as well as increases in friends or followers. "One of the great things about digital and social-media programs is the ability to measure just about everything. This is critical for us to demonstrate ROI on an exciting and, in a way, experimental project like this," he said. "I also think content sharing is a critical metric to watch. ... That third-party credibility is magic."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coca-Cola Juices Get Ready for a New Look

Package Redesign Aims to Unify Brands, Put Focus on the Fruit

ATLANTA ( -- In the wake of this year's Tropicana re-branding disaster, Coca-Cola is planning a refresh of its own.

The first round of redesigned packaging will be rolled out with Minute Maid in the U.S. beginning this month.
The first round of redesigned packaging will be rolled out with Minute Maid in the U.S. beginning this month.
The company is introducing a new packaging design for its mainstream global juice businesses, which include the Minute Maid, Del Valle, Andina and Cappy brands. When the rollout is complete, the new packaging will cover half of the juice portfolio's volume.

Juice has been identified as the No. 1 priority for the company after sparkling beverages, said Guy Wollaert, general manager-global juice center at Coca-Cola. To that end, the company is looking to unify its myriad juice brands with common logos, visual identities, packaging graphics and, eventually, communications. The first round of redesigned packaging will be rolled out with Minute Maid in the U.S. beginning this month. Additional packaging will be rolled out globally throughout next year. New products will be gradually worked into existing marketing campaigns and will first appear in marketing materials before the end of this year in the U.S.

"In juice we have a family of brands strong in respective geographies but varying widely in their visual identities, product architecture, communication and package graphics," said Mr. Wollaert. "This will build brand equity, and drive marketing productivity in juices through global effectiveness and efficiency without losing the local connections that some of our juice brand names have generated over the years."

The new design, created by Duffy Partners, Minneapolis, and CMA Design, Houston, in partnership with Coca-Cola's in-house design team, features a stack of fruit, with a slice of the fruit balanced on top. It is meant to bring consumers closer to the fruit, the tree and the grove, as well as improve the products' shelf appeal at the point of sale. "We stress-tested this, and it's flexible enough to stretch across a variety of fruits, the whole range of packaging and across the different brands and product platforms that fit under those mainstream brands," Mr. Wollaert said.
No impact from Tropicana
Was Coca-Cola given any pause by the experience of key competitor Tropicana, which less than a year ago unveiled a new package designed by Peter Arnell that was met with confusion and criticism from consumers? "We certainly didn't know what [Tropicana] was doing. We saw it when everyone else did," said Brian Kelley, president, general manager-still beverages at Coke. "The competitive actions they took didn't really impact us. We had to make sure we maintained the equity while modernizing it and maintaining the appeal and that's what we did."

Venkatesh Kini, VP-marketing of the global juice center, said the company has been testing package designs with consumers for nearly two years, identifying those key equity items it shouldn't change. It is also taking a measured approach in markets where the changes are more significant. On the Del Valle brand, for example, there will be an intermediary design to transition from a red background to a white background featuring fruit.

"Based on the research we've done, we're quite confident we're on target," Mr. Wollaert said. "It's been amazing, the consistency in the brand equity cues."

Ultimately, Tropicana pulled its repackaging, having failed to anticipate how swiftly consumers would react to changes made to the beloved Tropicana straw-in-orange design. Sales of the Tropicana Pure Premium line plummeted 20% between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, costing the brand tens of millions of dollars.

Minute Maid was a key beneficiary of that debacle. Varieties within the brand posted double-digit unit sales increases between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, the period that Tropicana's new design was on shelves, before it announced plans to revert to the original.

"Importantly the Minute Maid logo is clear; it is what links the brand to its terrific heritage. We didn't stray far from that," Mr. Kelley said. "Unlike what our competitor did, this is all about improving and moving forward. We certainly weren't running away from anything." 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Behind Coca-Cola's Biggest Social-Media Push Yet

How Expedition 206's Global Search for Happiness Came Together

ATLANTA ( -- Coca-Cola is gearing up for its largest social-media project ever, one that will test its own internal flexibility and force a number of its global markets into the digital and social-media space.

Expedition 206
Expedition 206 will send three 20-somethings to 206 countries and territories where Coca-Cola is sold in 2010. The trio sets off on their 275,000-mile tour from Madrid on Jan. 1, stocked with laptops, video cameras, smartphones and plenty of other gadgetry, in order to document for the masses their search for happiness.

Their journey will be tracked at, as well as through Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and on Twitter @x206. Fans following the expedition will also be able to weigh in on what the trio should do and who they should see at each destination.

Triggering internal collaboration
The company will track media impressions, Facebook and Twitter followers, as well as page views, said Clyde Tuggle, senior VP-global public affairs and communications, to determine how the program is resonating externally. But, already, the program has had its internal successes, namely triggering new collaboration between the communications, public relations and marketing teams. 

The idea for the program was born in the communications and public relations department, though the marketing team quickly got involved.

"The challenge that we put to the communications team was to think about the social and digital media space as a new venue for driving good public relations for the company," Mr. Tuggle said. "[The team], which has typically worked in the space of print media and broadcast media was suddenly challenged to go into this new media space and come up with an idea to expand our brand."

Mr. Tuggle said a number of global markets are being forced to develop their social and digital media strategies as a result of the program. While the communications team will be handling logistical details in each market and spearheading the communication across the social and digital media space, the marketing team will be using the "happiness ambassadors" to help promote events taking place next year; ambassadors will attend the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, World Expo 2010 in Shanghai and even customer-focused events, like the 20th anniversary of McDonald's in Russia.

Logistical, regional challenges
At a lunch in Atlanta this week, Coca-Cola explained some of the logistical challenges involved in the program. The trio will have contacts in each market to aid with technology and language issues. Adam Brown, communications director-digital, admitted there will be certain countries where digital communication will be more difficult, because of a lack of infrastructure. In India, for example, where wireless internet signals are harder to come by, the ambassadors may just send Twitter updates from their phones, as opposed to posting videos.

A number of contingency plans have also been created. For example, if a member of the team were to get sick or require some down time, they have the option of jumping ahead of the group by a week to recoup. A number of people both within Coca-Cola and Ignition, which has handled the Olympic torch relays for Coca-Cola, are assigned to help solve any unforeseen issues that may arise.

Dealing with the unknown
Still there are unknowns. It's not clear whether the ambassadors are registered as journalists in countries sensitive to reporting within their borders, like China. And by posting videos, photos and first-hand accounts during their travels, the ambassadors could certainly be considered reporters, in some ways.

The ambassadors will be given a per diem and will need to budget throughout their travels. But it hasn't been determined whether the ambassadors will be allowed to accept freebies from tourism boards, chambers of commerce or other brands. So far, the company has been keeping other brands out of the mix, choosing not to partner with an airline or hotel chain. Mr. Tuggle compared the involvement of additional brands as akin to a Christmas tree with too many ornaments. Executives declined to comment on exactly how much money the ambassadors will have to spend per day.

Not having all the answers is just fine by Mr. Tuggle, however. "It's a muscle to be flexed and toned at Coca-Cola," he said. "[Traditionally], we're not prepared to invest unless we know it's going to deliver." In the case of Expedition 206, there's not yet any clear sense of how the program will deliver or what brand awareness it will generate. "There's something seductive about that," Mr. Tuggle added.

Though, clearly, the success of the program isn't being left completely to chance. One of the biggest challenges of any social media program is actually getting consumers to care, which is why Coke chose three ambassadors who are already social media connoisseurs with fan bases. Coca-Cola reached out to the likes of Lonely Planet, as well as its own agencies, including Ignition, an experiential marketing firm, and its digital agency in China, asking for recommendations. From there it received about 60 candidates that it then narrowed down to 18 individuals who were brought to Atlanta for interviews. Nine candidates, three groups of three, were ultimately tasked with promoting themselves to consumers, who determined the winners in an online vote. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Disney to Debut First Branded-Entertainment Program Online

Clorox-Sponsored 'The Possibility Shop' Diverges From Cable Network's Reticence Toward Integrations

LOS ANGELES ( -- Even the most ad-averse media properties are finding ways to make exceptions for brands to get in on the entertainment. But how can they accommodate marketers without sacrificing their own identities? Sometimes it might have to do with the medium.

As TV networks continue to blur the lines between content and commerce to help cash-strapped shows get made, a few sanctuaries from brand integrations and product placements still exist. Chief among them is the Disney Channel, the kids and family cable network that restricts sponsor messages to the occasional "brought to you by" billboard for tent-pole programs such as "High School Musical," or a pro-social message to promote a cause. The channel has restricted traditional commercial messaging since its inception because of its target audience of young children.

But slightly different rules apply on the web, where this week Disney Online will debut its first branded-entertainment program, "The Possibility Shop," a web video series at produced with the Jim Henson Co. and exclusively sponsored by Clorox. The series was customized in part to promote Clorox brands, including Clorox disinfecting wipes, toilet-bowl cleaners and the new Clorox 2 laundry pre-treater, but the episodes will not feature any use of the products themselves. Instead, each episode will be accompanied by a Clorox-branded vignette showcasing how each brand can help clean up the home, a common task among the characters in "The Possibility Shop."

Brad Davis, Disney Online's VP-advertising sales, said Disney sites have gotten more flexible in partnering with advertisers in recent months. A partnership with Walmart called "Rock Out Your Zone" made its debut in June on and promoted Walmart's teen-targeted furniture line, Your Zone.

"Everything we've created before that has been Disney-driven. Now we've flipped that model where in our case we're creating the product with the advertiser's needs in mind and with the [online] guest's benefit," Mr. Davis said.
Targeting moms
Like most package-goods companies, Clorox is looking to connect with consumers in digital media, where they're spending more of their time.

"The world is changing, and people are viewing all sorts of content in multiple places, whether it's still on-air or online or on their phones, etc.," said Ellen Liu, director of media for Clorox. "So I think there's a lot of growth to be had in terms of digital syndication."

For "The Possibility Shop," the intended audience is moms, but Ms. Liu said she expects they will view the webisodes with their kids. Parent-child co-viewing has most often been thought of as a traditional TV phenomenon, but Ms. Liu believes it could be a growing factor for online content as well.

"It's been my experience there is some co-viewing going on," Ms. Liu said. "That's been my personal experience as the mom of a 6-year-old and 4-year-old. ... From a consumer-targeting perspective, we're starting to see this a little more. And I think this is probably an interesting opportunity to see if that really does happen."

Products such as toilet-bowl cleaners may seem like a stretch for integration with Muppets, but Ms. Liu said that the "absolute goal is for it to be seamless and organic. I think personally there's a lot of bad integration out there."
Clorox will put some magazine advertising support behind "The Possibility Shop," but the webisodes will primarily be distributed through Disney's online properties. The Disney Online group reached an aggregate 31 million unique users in October, according to ComScore, making it the top group of family sites on the web.

Clorox's digital-media shop, OMD Digital, worked with Zeno, Los Angeles, a unit of Matter Branded Entertainment, to help develop the partnership with Disney. 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Zynga: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

When Mark Pincus looked around the internet in early 2007, he noticed something was largely missing: fun.

"It was all utility," he recalled. "It was Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, even Facebook was a social utility." It was also about the time that Facebook opened up its platform to outside developers,and that led Mr. Pincus to build his social-gaming company, Zynga.

Its popular games -- "Mafia Wars," "Texas Hold 'Em," "Farmville" and "YoVille" -- have helped the company quietly become a big player in the expanding social-media space, with a daily user base of 50 million, per, and one of the early examples of a real, major revenue driver in a space still struggling to prove it can be a big business. (Annual revenue estimates vary between $100 million and $250 million by industry watchers, and we may soon find out the real number if the company goes public as some are suggesting.) It's worth watching for its virtual economy, driven by users purchasing points and virtual goods for games. The other half of the business is generated by ads and partner offers; players can fill out a survey or buy services from Zynga partners for more points.

Zynga came under fire for several less-than-reputable offers showing up in its games. Techcrunch surfaced video from last spring of Mr. Pincus recounting Zynga's early quest for financial independence to a crowd of developers. "I did every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues," he said -- and the CEO spent early November backpedaling in an effort to save Zynga's reputation. In the end, he decided to remove offers from Zynga.

"My mission is to build Zynga into a sustainable consumer service with enduring value to our users," he said in a blog post. "We will continue to do whatever it takes to earn our users' trust and respect for the long-term."

For Zynga, user experience and trust is everything, as its players are its best marketers: The game play taps into the network effect of social media: People invite their Facebook and MySpace friends to play games, and, in turn, invite more in.

Its next move? "Smartphones," Mr. Pincus said. "They're the next frontier in social gaming." 

Zipcar: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Tony Pettinato
How has Zipcar boosted its membership more than 40% in the last year? By not really focusing on the whole car thing.

"Our vision is to build a global lifestyle brand," said Zipcar Chairman and CEO Scott Griffith. "Its not about cars, it's about urban life. We're creating a lifestyle brand that happens to have a lot of cars."

But since the car-sharing service is in 12 cities in North America plus London, media campaigns can't really reach the brand's target audience: urbanites within 10-minute walking distance of its cars.

"Even with today's highly targeted web, it's hard to target at that hyper-local level," Mr. Griffith said, adding the brand has marketing teams in each city that report back to Zipcar's Cambridge, Mass., headquarters. "So, our street teams do it block by block, zip code by zip code."

That initial strategy was put in place nearly five years ago and has since evolved to include some local web ads, transit advertising, PR and car fleets that are tailored to local Zipsters -- what the brand calls its members. In Seattle and Portland, Zipcar has cars equipped with bike and ski racks, as well as passes to get Zipsters into local parks for free. On the less-outdoorsy coast, that city-specific customization looks like transponders in the toll-ridden city of Boston.

On the street, Zipcar aims to exhibit the need for car-sharing in potential customers' neighborhoods. In Washington D.C., street teams planted a couch on one busy sidewalk with the sign "You need a Zipcar for this." The brand has also entered into partnerships with local businesses such as dry cleaners and coffee shops.

This year the brand also launched its second Low-Car Diet, one of its few all-market efforts, where it asked urban residents in all its 13 cities to give up their cars and blog about it. Zipcar partnered with a bike company to give away a free bike to one dieter per city, had fitness experts at related events and created a content partnership with Everyday Health. Surveyed dieters reported spending 67% less on vehicle costs compared to previous months with their own cars. Plus, nearly half of them said they lost weight.

Tapping Zipcar customers to evangelize the environmental, health and cost benefits of car sharing, and aligning itself with those warm, fuzzy qualities, has paid off for the brand. The company reports 30% of new members come to the brand because of existing Zipsters.

All that adds up to 325,000 members at third quarter, and that's just the beginning. This year, Zipcar issued a study of 75 global cities that estimates a potential global car-sharing market of more than 37 million members and annual revenue exceeding $10 billion.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Zico: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Coconut water is a category that has seen major growth in the last year, with expected wholesale sales of $35 million this year, up from $20 million a year ago, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. And Zico, which was introduced by Mark Rampolla in 2004, is emerging as one of its leading brands. Sales have doubled each of the last few years, and Mr. Rampolla expects they'll continue to double for at least the next few years. It's no wonder then that the category has attracted the attention of major marketers such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The former led a group of investors taking a less than 20% stake in Zico to the tune of $15 million this fall.

"Our objective in this business is pretty simple. We believe coconut water is a healthier, better product that needs to get out to the world. We want to see that scale globally," said Mr. Rampolla. "[The investment] means we get the resources we need to keep growing."

At this point, Coca-Cola has offered market and consumer insights, as well as research that is proving helpful, Mr. Rampolla said. There are no immediate plans to distribute through Coca-Cola's network, but Zico is getting advice on various channels and partners as it enters new markets, Mr. Rampolla said. Zico, which is made from green coconuts and positioned as a natural sports drink, can be found at Whole Foods, as well as gyms, yoga studios, college campuses and natural-food retailers in markets including New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. In the coming year there are plans to expand into new markets, including San Francisco, Colorado and Texas.

Still, Mr. Rampolla says the brand's strategy, which has worked exceedingly well so far, will remain intact as it expands. When Zico first enters a new market, it heads straight for hot-yoga studios, where it has had success in cultivating a crop of brand evangelists. It also does sampling and events, and recently it plastered ads on NYC pedicabs. The brand works with public relations firm Sandy Hillman Communications, Baltimore, and Suite 850, New York. Jesse Itzler, principal at Suite 850 and founder of Marquis Jet is an investor.

"It's a very guerilla marketing approach," Mr. Rampolla said. "We will start to take that up a notch, in select markets. But we still don't have traditional advertising today. That will come a few years down the road."

Pepto Bismol: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Pepto Bismol
Private label has been the clear winner in most over-the-counter drug categories, gaining 1.5 share points across all channels in the past year, more than in any other segment of package goods, according to Information Resources Inc.

One exception has been Procter & Gamble Co.'s 108-year-old brand Pepto-Bismol, which added 0.7 share points in its original stomach-remedy liquid category and 2.5 share points in stomach remedy tablets in the 52 weeks ended Sept. 6, according to IRI data. That comes despite a roughly 60% price premium for Pepto over private label.

Nathan Fox, brand manager on Pepto, believes a new ad campaign launched shortly after he took over the brand last year has been one key to the successful defense. The "Coverage" campaign has produced the best scores on copy tests since P&G acquired the brand 28 years ago, including the "Singing the Praises" Pepto campaign it replaced.

That campaign, which featured a dance to illustrate the five gastric distress conditions Pepto treats, certainly captured imaginations, particularly on schoolyards and YouTube, as people acted it out.

As endearing as the dance was, it was wearing thin. "'Singing the Praises' had been on the air for over five years, and over time our copy quality had been deteriorating a little bit," Mr. Fox said. "We saw it as a sign the campaign itself was wearing out."

The new "Coverage" campaign, which features a headset-wearing, pink-vested "Pepto Guy" fielding calls and offering humorous advice to gastro-intestinally challenged callers, does a better job of covering the growing range of products in the Pepto lineup, including a recently launched Insta-Cool product, Mr. Fox said.

"We wanted a more emotional approach," Mr. Fox said, "something that said using Pepto is almost like a good insurance policy."

The most recent ads focus squarely on Pepto as a cost-effective alternative because it works against a wide array of problems. Mr. Fox believes that message, along with steady product innovation, can keep the brand ahead of private labels.

Mr. Fox, 33, started his five-year career at P&G in the recently divested prescription-drug business, working on newer drugs such as Actonel and Enablex as well as upstream product development and acquisitions. The former engineer for Marathon Oil went back to get an M.B.A. at University of North Carolina because he was interested in marketing, and he saw P&G and the drug business as the places he most wanted to ply his new trade.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Old El Paso: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Old El Paso
Tony Pettinato
Old El Paso Taco Kits are a great fit for the down economy. The boxes of shells, beans and seasonings are easily transformed into an affordable meal for four. But that wasn't what was standing in the brand's way. It was Mom.

"What we found in our research is tacos are the ultimate winner meal, everybody loves them," said General Mills marketing director Peter McDonald. "But the frequency of tacos compared to those other meals people love, like pizza or spaghetti -- that will get the family around the table, Mom doesn't hear complaints and people chat about their day -- is less than four times a year." That's compared to about 17 times a year for pizza and spaghetti.

"We said OK, we can just grow this business if we started telling people about it," Mr. McDonald said. "They just need to remember. The economy certainly has given us a tailwind because people are eating at home more. They want more meals that the family will love and [we needed] to get into their routine." The goal was to recreate "taco night" as a regular family dinner event.

So the brand went back to the airwaves, with spots from creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi New York, for the first time in five years. And sales have surged as a result, up 9% in the most recent quarter alone. The taco kits in themselves present a win-win for marketer and consumer. General Mills can bundle its products for a bigger sale, and mothers doing the shopping don't have to comb the store for all of the ingredients.

Mr. McDonald said that Old El Paso has also looked for ways to underscore the fun and social aspect of taco night, with a dedicated microsite,, offering games, prizes and coupons. Some of the games include telling what you did that day in "a sports announcer voice," listing ten vegetables that aren't green, and acting like a dinosaur for 10 seconds.

This kind of work is a piece of why Mr. McDonald isn't concerned about taco-night slippage when the economy recovers. While consumers are dining out less to cut back on spending, "they're looking to make the most of that time together," he said. "Taco night is a time when families connect."

Off!: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Insect repellents aren't the sort of things that usually generate tons of excitement, but SC Johnson's Off! Clip-On fan has been a decided exception.
Upon their launch this spring, the clip-on fans exceeded SCJ's expectations by 400%, according to people familiar with the matter. A wet, mosquito-infested summer in much of the U.S. helped, but so did a smart proposition and marketing plan.

A 30-second TV ad , from DraftFCB, Chicago, delivered the highest score to date from Ace Metrix, which measures customer engagement and sales effectiveness.
By July, demand had outstripped supply sufficiently enough that Amazon was charging $12.89 for a starter kit and $8.49 for refills, both well above the suggested retail prices of $8.99 and $3.99, respectively. The clip-on product generated $11.8 million in sales in less than five months ended Oct. 4, according to Information Resources Inc. data, which doesn't include considerable sales from Walmart, club or hardware and home-improvement stores.

"The idea for Off! Clip-On originated with consumers," said Drew Franklin, director of pest control for SCJ, in an e-mail statement. "We just listened to them."
Specifically, SCJ's consumer research indicated a substantial need, particularly among women, for an odorless product that would provide effective protection with no skin application. It took a bit of courage to launch a new product by dissing the old one that built the brand. The Clip-On ad starts with the rhetorical question: "What's worse ... mosquitoes or mosquito-repellent sprays?" The data suggests some declines in Off!'s other mosquito products, but those were more than offset by the Clip-On.

TV advertising may have been effective, but SCJ went after the new market with a widely varied, integrated plan that also included PR, shopper marketing and promotions. A PR campaign by Edelman focused on women and mommy bloggers that were put off by applying chemicals to their skin to fend off bugs.

Monday, November 23, 2009

MTN Dew: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

MTN DewIt's no secret that the carbonated soft-drink category has been reeling, from the economy and from increased competition from other beverage categories and consumers' shifting preferences. But that hasn't slowed down Mtn Dew, which had volume growth of 1% in the first half, as the overall category declined by 2.7%, according to Beverage Digest.

"It's rooted in the fact that Mtn Dew has always remained true to itself," said Frank Cooper, chief marketing officer-sparkling beverages. "Rewind 10 or 15 years and the spin was always that it was a great niche brand. And as a niche brand, people never thought it would have an impact on the broader portfolio or on the CSD space. ... Niche ideas are now the primary drivers of culture today."

Although PepsiCo is a mass-marketing machine and Mtn Dew is the country's fourth-largest soft-drink brand, it continues to speak directly to its core consumers. Case in point, the brand is currently in the process of opening up an agency review (to consumers) for its three new Dewmocracy products. 

Agencies, film companies and individuals are submitting their marketing ideas, and consumers will ultimately select the agencies that produce the spots. The brand has also been focused on its Green Label platform, which involves music, art and entertainment and promotes emerging artists.

"The best way to grow Mtn Dew was not to speak to a broader set of consumers but to speak authentically to the people that love Mtn Dew," said Mr. Cooper.

Mtn Dew is well past having an awareness problem, even among older consumers. The brand has been attracting boomers and Generation X with Throwback and Diet Dew, Mr. Cooper said. Throwback, a limited-edition version of Mtn Dew sweetened with natural sugar and sporting a retro design, proved so popular that it's coming back for another run. Diet Dew, meanwhile, has enjoyed four consecutive years of growth, as regular Dew consumers have traded to diet.

'The Lost Symbol': an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

'The Lost Symbol'
Get readers the internet over to decode clues and puzzles surrounding the latest from Dan Brown since "The Da Vinci Code," but meanwhile, lock up the first run of the novel so tightly that no one but Matt Lauer can get their hands on an advance copy.

That was the formula for stirring up mass intrigue around the release of "The Lost Symbol" this fall and, eventually, for selling 3.5 million copies a mere five weeks after launch.

With 81 million copies of Mr. Brown's first smash hit "The Da Vinci Code" sold worldwide and two films starring Tom Hanks based on his books, it's fair to say that "The Lost Symbol" was a highly anticipated release, especially since it's four years late. The task for publishing house Knopf Doubleday was to remind readers why they loved Dan Brown when they first read him in 2003.

"Part of the strategy was a big online push and to reacquaint readers with the fun of Dan Brown," said Suzanne Herz, the publicist and director of marketing for the title.

To push the publisher's first print of 5 million copies -- a record for parent Random House -- Doubleday tapped New York-based interactive agency Special Ops Media to recreate Dan Brown's world of codes and mysteries in a multi-property puzzle and decoder game online.

Not among the select few allowed to read the book, Special Ops had to build the world of trivia and puzzle games with only Mr. Brown's previous books for reference. Riddles, word games and symbol-decoding tasks were released on Twitter, Facebook and "Lost Symbol's" website, and they were also pushed to booksellers' web properties. Barnes & Noble and Borders posted puzzles on their own sites and drove readers to answer them on Dan Brown's Facebook page. This effort relied heavily on social-media platforms and earned Mr. Brown more than 100,000 friends on Facebook and almost 5,000 followers on Twitter.

"When 'The Da Vinci Code' came out, Facebook and Twitter were not part of the landscape," Ms. Herz said. "So this time, we had brand new avenues."

While readers were scrambling to piece together clues about the upcoming release, Doubleday fed hype about how highly guarded "Lost Symbol" copies were up until launch. Weeks before, Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos posted a note on the e-tailer's homepage about "Lost Symbol," what he called "one of the most anticipated publishing events of all time."

"We've agreed to keep our stockpile under 24-hour guard in its own chain-link enclosure, with two locks requiring two separate people for entry," Mr. Bezos wrote.

The "Today Show's" Matt Lauer was given an advance copy, and for one week Mr. Lauer reported from locations in the book. Ms. Herz speculates that the NBC package, which also included Mr. Lauer interviewing Mr. Brown one month after launch, was probably the most airtime a novel has ever received on TV.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In-Store Marketing Beats Traditional Ads

Oct 20, 2009

In-store marketing is more effective than traditional ads, according to “The Elements Report” released today (Tuesday). Nearly a third (32 percent) of the 999 shoppers polled online in March said that in-store marketing is "very effective." Only 27 percent said the same about ads living outside of the store.

The report, which is part three of the “Gone in 2.3 Seconds: Capturing Shoppers with Effective In-Store Triggers Series,” found that the shopping experience is crucial for marketers. Sixty-nine percent of those polled called the in-store experience a “make or break” scenario. While 65 percent of shoppers are making lists, brand decisions are still being made at the store, according to 60 percent of respondents.

End-aisle displays are the most engaging according to 70 percent of those polled, followed by merchandising displays (62 percent), and department signage (58 percent). Ceiling banners and overhead mobiles have the least impact.

Shelf strips (55 percent) and shelf blades (50 percent) have become more important, especially among the Gen X and Gen Y crowds, who feel the more information the better, per the report. Overall, women and Gen Y consumers were most influenced by in-store marketing efforts.

“Understanding high potential shopper strike zones has become increasingly critical given the intensified battle for consumer loyalty and share of mind in-store,” said D’Anna Hawthorne, strategy director at Miller Zell, a retail consultancy. The report was conducted by the National Research Network on Miller Zell’s behalf.

While price is always a driving factor, so is messaging about product quality. Nearly half (46 percent) of those polled would like to see more in-store product comparisons, 43 percent would like more details, and 42 percent would like more product quality information.

Among all of the retail channels, consumers at drug stores were most influenced by in-store signage. According to the report, this was likely due to the fact that purchasing medication and first aid items is a more complex process.

Jordan Brand: an America's Hottest Brands Case Study

Jordan Brand
Tony Pettinato
To hear Jordan Brand President Keith Houlemard tell it, the Nike unit he runs is just like a small family business. After all, it's contained in one building amid Nike's sprawling, Beaverton, Ore., campus, and the guy whose name is on the door is still around the place all the time.
"It definitely has a family feel," he said.

Well, for a mom-and-pop operation, Jordan has amassed a pretty imposing scale. Since making the decision to drop Nike's trademark Swoosh from its sneakers during the 1990s, the brand has gone on to dominate the high end of the basketball market, with a scale in the U.S. footwear market eclipsed only by its parent.

Jordan is now bigger than Nike's merged rivals, Adidas and Reebok, combined, despite a selective distribution strategy that deliberately makes the shoes hard to find.

"Jordan has established itself as the premiere designer brand in athletic footwear," said veteran footwear analyst Matt Powell, who estimates that the brand is available in only about 10% of locations that carry Nikes. "This is the top-end, conspicuous-consumption brand."

Of course, most brands described that way are seeing sales declines now –like the U.S. footwear market in general—but Jordan has defied that gravity with double-digit gains this year.
How has the brand achieved that? Mr. Powell credits a pricing strategy that's kept the shoes even with other teen status symbols such as iPods.

Also vital is Nike's typically inspired marketing machine, which has, through the "Become Legendary" campaign, managed to simultaneously bask in Mr. Jordan's stardom while centering its efforts on contemporary stars like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, who recently dumped Nike sibling Converse to enlist with Jordan. The basketball-centric brand has also aligned with elite athletes in other sports, such as Derek Jeter and Roy Jones Jr., which Mr. Houlemard said added a sense of prestige, as well as a sense of independence from the larger Nike brand.

Many of Jordan's top efforts have come online, like a buzz-heavy microsite for a fictitious motivational speaker named Leroy Smith, who took the high-school team roster spot that famously eluded Mr. Jordan, motivating him to become a superstar. That effort coincided with the buildup to Mr. Jordan's induction into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame this summer.

Other efforts riff off Mr. Jordan's wealth and lifestyle: A photo of "Team Jordan" on the brand's website eschews customary action shots for a group picture of the endorser roster in business attire, with Mr. Jordan posing, chairman-like, at the picture's center.