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The Technology Is Now Available, but Should Your Business Use It?

Business EthicsWe are currently witnessing advancements in technology that are improving the way that we understand the human race and the world that we live in.

This new technology brings with it ethical dilemmas that we need to grapple with.

Specifically, we need to decide where the line should be drawn to distinguish what is ethical and what is not ethical.

For example, although one company’s use of neuromarketing was very successful, it pushed the boundaries of business ethics. The way another business might use biometric feedback could possibly cross the line into unethical behavior.

Keep in mind, these examples are taken from the business world. However, ethics need to be considered in all areas life.

Business Ethics Defined

There are many definitions of business ethics.

In fact, entire business/philosophy classes are offered to help people understand this subject.

For the sake of this post, ethical behavior is defined as making sure that the business is doing what it thinks is the right thing and, more importantly, not doing harm to the business, its employees, its customers, or anyone else in the world. (This would exclude, of course, taking customers away from the competition. This would harm the other business, but that’s just business.)

It is important to keep in mind that what the business thinks is ethical and what the rest of the world thinks is ethical might not always be the same thing. That is why public discussion and complete transparency are highly suggested and often required.

It is also important to point out that if customers think something is unethical, then doing it could actually decrease sales and, thus, harm the business.

Frito-Lay Pushes the Ethical Boundaries and Wins Big

For many years, companies have been using various market research techniques (e.g., surveys, focus groups, etc.) to gather insights as to what customers want and why in an effort to create better products or services and better marketing campaigns to sell those products or services.

Beginning in the 1990s companies started to employ neuropsychology techniques to their market research in an effort to find out what their customers really want, sometimes even if they don’t know it.

According to Wikipedia, Dutch marketing professor Ale Smidts introduced the term “neuromarketing” in 2002 to describe this “emerging disciplinary field in marketing.”

As a Fast Company article written in 2011 points out, many companies are using these techniques to help increase sales.

Frito-Lay is one of these companies.

According to the article, “In 2008, Frito-Lay hired NeuroFocus to look into Cheetos, the junk-food staple. After scanning the brains of a carefully chosen group of consumers, the NeuroFocus team discovered that the icky coating triggers an unusually powerful response in the brain: a sense of giddy subversion that consumers enjoy over the messiness of the product. In other words, the sticky stuff is what makes those snacks such a sticky brand.”

According to a Gizmodo article, Frito-Lay did not stop there.

“Frito-Lay tested out a commercial that emphasized this subversive glee that Cheetos dust apparently gave people,” the author of the article writes. “The commercial shows a woman (played by the indelible Felicia Day) who pranks another woman in a laundromat by putting Cheetos in her white clothes, as Chester the Cheeto [sic] eggs her bad behavior on.”

“Focus groups hated it, saying it was mean-spirited,” the Gizmoto article continues. “But NeuroFocus revealed that people who watched it had EEG results that showed positive feedback. Just like most people don’t admit or even know that they like getting artificial cheese dust all over the place when they eat Cheetos, people didn’t want to admit that they liked a commercial about an asshole who flouts social norms. But the ad tapped into the pop neuroscience that linked Cheetos with deviant thrills.”

This commercial and the advertising campaign it was a part of were so effective that according to the Fast Company article, “NeuroFocus earned a Grand Ogilvy award for advertising research, given out by the Advertising Research Foundation, for ‘demonstrating the most successful use of research in the creation of superior advertising that achieves a critical business objective.’”

Ethical Concerns with Collecting Biometric Feedback on Shopping Carts

According to SIS International Research, “Biometrics is an emerging research field of neuromarketing market research. This form of marketing relies on various biometric technologies and applications to help understand a participant’s cognitive and emotional responses toward certain stimuli. The stimuli can be anything ranging from TV ads to online advertisements.”

The company’s website states that biometric market research uses fMRI, EEG, observational analytics, heart rate monitoring, and facial coding.

We already know how an EEG can be used to create better advertising campaigns.

If other ways of gathering biometric feedback are half as effective, many more companies will start to use these market research techniques in the future.

It is therefore not surprising that Walmart filed for a patent that would allow the retailer to collect biometric feedback on shopping cart handles.

People are already tracking a lot of this information on their fitbits and other smartwatches.

If that data could be accessed in real time and combined with location data, a lot of experiments could be conducted without the person even knowing it. (Note: As far as I know, Walmart has not announced that it would use the technology this way. However, it would be possible.)

While articles talking about this Walmart patent downplay the privacy issues, there certainly are a few.

Although we might make some real gains in knowledge, we need to ask ourselves whether the tradeoff in privacy is worth it.

In the End, Either Customers or the Legal System Will to Draw the Line

In the first example, NeuroFocus used willing participants to gathered biometric data that allowed Frito-Lay and its advertising agency to create an ad campaign that was effective even when focus group respondents said that they hated it.

If companies start to collect physiological responses to different stimuli, whether it be ads, physical retail environments, or anything else without customers knowing it pushes the ethical boundaries even further. Maybe too far.

To determine where to draw the line, the business community should create ethical standards and follow them.

If they don’t, laws will need to be created.

Either way, it is important that people have discussions about what it going on so that we can ask ourselves whether or not what can be done should be done.

Photo credit: Pamela Carls on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license – CC BY 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Cashless Stores: Ahead of Their Time or Just Bad for Business?

The end of cash?For years now, many experts have predicted the demise of cash.

Those who make these predictions are encouraged when companies like Apple report increased usage of proximity mobile payments. In fact, Apple’s Q4 2018 earnings report and conference call reported:  “Triple transaction volume year-over-year for Apply Pay.”

But even with more consumers adopting alternative ways to purchase items, it appears that cash isn’t going away anytime soon.

In fact, this is something that Jeff Hasen, one the pioneers in mobile marketing, often points out on Twitter.

Cashless Comment Jeff Hasen

A recent article on CNBC supports Hasen’s argument.

“Cash remains the most frequent method of payment in the U.S., representing roughly 31 percent of consumer transactions, more than electronic, credit, debit or checks,” the author of the article writes.

According to the same article, “Use of cash by U.S. households is consistent across most income levels, around 25 percent, and goes way up at the lowest incomes.”

That said, this is not stopping some stores from trying to follow Amazon’s lead and eliminate cash as a payment option.

I think that it’s good that stores are trying different things to see what works.

However, as you might have expected, stores that try to go cashless are often met with some resistance.

Amazon Is Leading the Way

The headline of a recent Bloomberg article says it all, “Amazon Will Consider Opening Up to 3,000 Cashierless Stores by 2021.”

If you are not familiar with the AmazonGo cashierless store concept, the basic idea is that shoppers enter the store with a smartphone app downloaded to their phone, they scan their phones as they enter the store, they shop and leave with the items that they want to purchase without having to stop at a cash register.

As the Bloomberg article points out, “Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take and bills them automatically, eliminating checkout lines.”

In this scenario, cash is not an option.

While not going all the way to cashierless stores, other merchants are experimenting with the idea of eliminating cash in order to cut costs.

The Cost of Accepting Cash

While accepting cash as a payment option has been the norm for many years, accepting cash actually costs more than some of the other common payment options.

A USA Today article highlights some of the expenses involved in processing cash transactions, as reported in an IHL report.

According to the article, “Besides the time spent counting bills and making change, they include ensuring registers have enough change, running cash to the bank, bank fees, armored cars, employee theft and robberies, the report says.”

“All told, such hassles cost retailers an average of 9.1 percent of sales, ranging from 4.7 percent at grocery stores to 15.5 percent at restaurants and bars, IHL says. That compares to the 2 to 3 percent transaction fees credit-card companies charge merchants,” the USA Today article reports.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that some stores are looking to eliminate cash.

But this has its downside.

Going Cashless Shuts Poor People Out

This is the main point of a recent article published on The New York Times website.

According to the author, Ginia Bellafante, there are several arguments against going cashless.

“The strongest objection relates to the ways in which rejecting physical currency plays out as a bias toward the poor; advancing segregation in retail environments,” writes Bellafante.

“According to government data, close to 7 percent of American households have no one in them with a checking or savings account, while an additional 19 percent are considered “underbanked,” meaning that they rely on products or services outside the conventional financial system,” the author continues. “These include money orders and payday and pawnshop loans. The majority of people who fall into these categories are nonwhite.”

Laws Are Being Written to Prevent Cashless Brick-and-Mortar Stores

When the article on The New York Times website was published, many people wondered if it was even legal to go cashless.

As Jarrod Frates points out on Twitter, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise.”

Cashless Comment Frates

Given this fact, it is not so surprising that lawmakers in New Jersey and New York City are trying pass bills to prevent stores from going cashless.

As an article on The Motley Fool website points out, New Jersey politicians are trying to prevent cashless stores because not accepting cash can prevent certain groups of people from making a purchase. This is the same argument that was made in The New York Times article mentioned earlier.

According to The Motley Fool article, Massachusetts is currently the only state that requires brick-and-mortar stores to accept cash.

Is Cashless Bad for the Brand?

While it’s estimated that only 31 percent of consumer transactions are cash, not offering cash as an option can create hassles beyond the bad PR it is getting for creating barriers for the unbanked.

Finding out that they can’t use cash until it is time to pay can be a source of frustration for some customers.

Even customers who rarely use cash can find it frustrating when they are asked to use a credit card to pay for a last-minute addition such as mayonnaise or another condiment at restaurants or even small items at a retail store.

Cashless Complaint 1

Cashless Complaint 2

Final Thoughts

Given that customers can and often do vent their frustration publicly on social media, going cashless might be more trouble than it’s worth.

With this in mind, it is fairly easy to see why Jeff Hasen often reinforces the fact that cash isn’t going anywhere, at least in the near future.

It is also not surprising that some merchants that tried to go cashless have decided to change their minds.

Cash is Back Spero

However, as the author of the post on The Motley Fool website points out, while going cashless might not the best way to go now, stores will never know whether it is a good idea to go cashless in the future if they aren’t even allowed to try.

It does seem like there might be some easy workarounds that stores or restaurants could offer if they do want to go cashless at the checkout line. The most obvious would be making an ATM or vending machine available to customers that would give them the option of buying prepaid debit cards.

This would give customers access to the store, while still encouraging them to pay via other payment options.

I’m not sure if this would satisfy lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York City, or any other place that makes going cashless illegal.

If you know the answer to that legal question or if you have any other comments or suggestions, please feel free to comment below.

Photo credit: Nic McPhee on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Social Media Props: The H-E-B Limited Edition Selena Shopping Bag (Case Study)

HEB store“Fans of the late “Queen of Tejano” Selena Quintanilla caused the website of Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B to crash after they released a limited-edition reusable shopping bag honoring the singer,” writes Thatiana Diaz in a March 9th post on people.com.

H-E-B clearly hit a homerun when it teamed up with the Selena Foundation to sell a limited quantity of special-edition shopping bags that honored the late singer Selena Quintanilla.

However, the real story goes beyond the fact that people waited in line to buy the bags or that the bags sold out so fast.

The real win was all the earned media coverage that the brand received when fans of the singer posted photos of the bags online and the press covered the story after the bags sold out so quickly and caused the H-E-B website to crash in the process.

The Selena Bags Generated a Great Deal of Earned Media

In addition to the article on people.com, the story was covered on today.com, popsugar.com, retailwire.com, and on local news affiliates’ websites around the country.

This definitely helped put the brand front and center, making it visible to a lot of potential customers.

And, as most marketers know, the best thing a brand can get is a positive mention of the brand from a customer on social media, as friends and family are the best influencers out there.

So, when fans went online in droves to post photos of the bags, as well as photos of the lines of people waiting to receive their bags, the retailer scored… big time!

To see what people posted, search for #SelenayHEB or #Selenabag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Here are just some of the posts that I found on Instagram and Twitter:

 

Yayyyy! Thank you so much Mr. Q !!💜💜 #queenofcumbia #selenayheb @heb

A post shared by Isabel Marie💗 (@isabelmarieofficial) on

Got some! #heb #selena #queenofcumbia #anythingforselenas #selenayheb

A post shared by Monica Velasquez (@lemon78644) on

Im so excited I was able to grab a couple of these!! #SelenayHEB

A post shared by Gabrielle Nichole (@gabbyrielles) on

Anything for Selenas. #SelenayHEB A post shared by Lisa Letchworth (@512panthacat) on

QUEEN OF CUMBIA!!!! #heb #selenayheb #vivaselena A post shared by Cristina Davila (@cristybexar) on

ME SIENTO MUY… EXCITED!! WE GOT OURS!!!💓💓💓 #SelenayHEB A post shared by Bek🏋🏽🐾🍕🌮🧀 (@yourstrulybek) on

 

The Limited Edition Selena Bag as a Social Media Prop

This isn’t the first time that I have written about shopping bags as a way to get a store mentioned in user-generated posts in social media.

In fact, it was about two years ago that I wrote a post explaining how to use visually appealing luxury shopping bags as photo props to get included in the posts when customers upload photos of their in-store purchases after a long day of shopping.

In this case, though, the shopping bag was not only used to carry home the products purchased, it was the product.

A product that was the star of a lot of photos posted online shortly after the bags went on sale.

The Upside of “Sold Out”

Because the sale of the bag helped the Selena Foundation while honoring the beloved singer, I think H-E-B did almost everything right.

I say H-E-B did almost everything right, because the website did go down and they did run out of bags on the first day. Clearly there was more demand than the store anticipated.

But then again, maybe the fact that they ran out so fast was also a good thing, because the limited quantity of the bags increased their perceived value. If you don’t believe me, just look what they are selling for on eBay! (Many have sold for over $50 per bag, with one selling on March 7, 2018 for $169!)

And, if the website hadn’t crashed, would the press have covered it? Who knows? Therefore, that might be a good thing, as well.

Final Thoughts

As I have said before, offering customers a trendy shopping bag is a great way for retailers to get included in the post-purchase photos that customers upload to social networking sites after a long day of shopping.

As highlighted in this post, H-E-B offered a limited edition reusable shopping bag that honored a beloved singer and benefited the Selena Foundation. In this case, the bag was the product.

A product that a lot of customers wanted, as demonstrated by the long lines and the many posts on social networking sites from customers bragging that they got the bag or complaining that they weren’t able to purchase one.

Either way, the reusable shopping bag honoring Selena Quintanilla generated a lot of earned media for the store. And, that is a good thing.

On that note, I want to end the post with a YouTube video from a customer who just missed out on getting the bag. He was gracious even though he waited in line only to leave empty handed… twice! (He waited in line in the store and couldn’t get a bag online before the website crashed.) Hopefully, he will still be able to purchase the bag online on eBay.

Photo credit: Todd Morris on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Video credit: Aaron Sanchez on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Many Success Stories Actually Are Great Stories

Photo credit: Tom Ipri on Flickr.Throughout history, there have been many products that didn’t survive the Darwinian test.

But, those that have survived have helped launch careers and built companies.

Many of these companies have an interesting story to tell.

For example, did you know that some of the most beloved breakfast cereals can trace their history to the Battle Creek Sanitarium or that a housewife and mother of a seven-month-old child convinced her husband to launch one of the most successful baby food brands in the world? How about the fact that an unusually large order for milkshake-mixers led to the later success of one of the world’s most popular fast food restaurants or that the founder of one of America’s favorite fried chicken restaurants was really a colonel?

These and other stories are documented in the book,Symbols of America: A Lavish Celebration of America’s Best Loved Trademarks and the Products They Symbolize, Their History, Folklore, and Enduring Mystique,” by Hal Morgan.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Road to Wellville

In the 1890’s, Battle Creek was the headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was from their belief in vegetarianism and healthful eating that led to the inventions of some of world’s favorite breakfast cereals.

During this time, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, one of the Adventists’ staunchest supporters of healthful eating habits, ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

According to Morgan’s book, “Kellogg’s patients at the sanitarium lived on a diet of nuts and grains, often prepared from recipes created in the hospital’s experimental kitchen. Dr. Kellogg’s early food innovations included meat and butter substitutes such as Protose, Nuttose, and Nuttolene, as well as foods that have better stood the test of time, like granola, first made at the sanitarium in 1877. Patients were not allowed to drink tea or coffee, but received instead the home-brewed Caramel Coffee, made from bran, molasses, and burnt bread crusts.”

While Dr. Kellogg was more interested in promoting healthful eating, it was his brother, W.K. Kellogg, who saw the potential for a new business venture in the foods that were being made at the sanitarium. In particular, he focused on the flaked cereal that they had invented in 1894.

At first, the brothers started selling the cereal as Sanitas corn flakes to patients who had left the sanitarium and wanted to continue the healthy diet prescribed by Dr. Kellogg.

However, in 1903, W.K. Kellogg set out on his own to promote the cereal to a broader market. In the process, he changed the name to Kellogg’s toasted corn flakes and added malt, sugar and salt to improve the flavor—something his brother had opposed as unhealthy.

In 1906 W.K. Kellogg officially opened the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. Its name was later changed to The Kellogg Company and the rest is history.

On a side note, after his second nervous breakdown, C.W. Post found himself under the care of Dr. Kellogg at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. It was there that he was inspired to start his own breakfast cereal company, the Postum Cereal Company, now known as Post Holdings. Some of his early products included Postum Cereal beverage and, the better known, Grape Nuts cereal.

In 1993, T.C. Boyle wrote a novel, titled “The Road to Wellville,” that was later adapted into a movie in 1994.

The novel is a historical fictionalization of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s work at the Battlecreek Sanitarium.

The Birth of Gerber

Morgan’s book also explains the origins of the Gerber Products Company.

According to Morgan, “It took a mother to come up with the idea for commercially processed baby food—a mother with connections at the Fremont Canning Company, of Fremont, Michigan. Dorothy Gerber was straining peas for her seven-month-old daughter, Sally, one Sunday afternoon in 1927 when she asked her husband why the job couldn’t be done at his canning plant. “To press the point,” she recalled, “I dumped a whole container of peas into a strainer and bowl, placed them in Dan’s lap, and asked him to see how he’d like to do that three times a day, seven days a week.” The following day Dan dutifully asked his father if the baby’s vegetables couldn’t be strained at the cannery. Their tests proved it could be done, and by the fall of 1928 the first Gerber strained baby foods were on the market—carrots, peas, prunes, spinach, and vegetable soup.”

Conclusion

It is important to remember that even the largest brands in the world started out as fledgling companies founded on a hope and a dream.

As shown in the accounts of the origins of Kellogg’s and Post cereals, as well as the Gerber Products Company, many success stories are interesting stories. (Hint: This can be used in your content marketing efforts.)

As for the other two companies that I alluded to earlier, I’m sure that you guessed that I was referring to the McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chains. Their stories might be good topics for future posts.

However, if you don’t want to wait, you might want to pick up a copy of the book. It was published in 1987, but you can still purchase it on Amazon.com. You might also be able to find a copy at your local library.

It’s an interesting read; I’d recommend that you check it out.

Photo credit: Tom Ipri on Flickr.

Note: This post was originally published on HubPages in October of 2012. I removed it from HubPages in November of 2016.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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A Few Ways to Use Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Other AR Games to Promote Your Business

Photo credit: Eduardo Woo on Flickr.By now, you have probably heard about the new location-based augmented reality (AR) game from Niantic.

According to USA Today, “The mobile game Pokémon Go topped 15 million downloads on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, according to estimates from research firm SensorTower.”

“Pokémon Go is also among the most heavily used apps on a daily basis since its launch,” the article continues. “According to iOS usage data from Monday, users spent an average of 33 minutes a day playing the game. By comparison, the average iOS user spent 22 minutes on Facebook and 18 minutes on Snapchat.”

The article also points out that according to data from SurveyMonkey, as of July 11, Pokémon Go has 21 million daily active users in the United States alone.

As the game expands to other countries, the numbers of Pokémon Go players should continue to skyrocket.

With this in mind, businesses might be looking for ways to cash-in on the Pokémon Go craze.

For those businesses, here are a few suggestions.

Take Advantage of the Increased Foot Traffic

As several business news sites have pointed out, Pokémon Go is a location-based game that will drive potential customers to local businesses.

As a Forbes article suggests, business owners should check out the game to see if their business doubles as a Pokémon gym or Pokéstop.

If so, it could create a Pokémon-inspired drink or dish or offer discounts to customers who are playing Pokémon Go.

Knowing this, some businesses might be wondering how they can be included in the game.

At this time, it appears that a business can’t request to become a Pokéstop or Pokémon gym.

This is because they are currently being created based on data collected from Niantic’s other popular augmented reality game, Ingress. (Note: A Wall Street Journal article mentioned that the idea of a business paying to become a Pokéstop or Pokémon gym to increase foot traffic will be an option in the future.)

Those of you who are familiar with Ingress know that many of the portals used to in the game are actually places submitted by users and approved by Niantic. In order to be approved, the places needed to fit a specific set of criteria. In particular, Niantic was looking for locations with a cool story, places with a historical significance or educational value, cool pieces of art or architecture, hidden gems or hyper-local spots of interest to the community, public libraries, and public places of worship.

As Derek Walter points out in a post on Greenbot.com, you can use the Ingress Intel Map to help locate Ingress portals, Pokéstops, and Pokémon gyms.

If your business is lucky enough to have a Pokéstop nearby, you can help get increased foot traffic by purchasing an in-game item call a “Lure Module”. This will help attract Pokémon to the Pokéstop. And, where there are Pokémon, the Pokémon Trainers (i.e., potential customers) will inevitably go.

A recent Bloomberg article pointed out that L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in Queens was one of the first businesses to give it a try.

“Food and drink sales spiked by about 30 percent compared with a typical weekend, according to pizzeria manager Sean Benedetti,” the article reports. “It was part luck—the game chooses which public locations to imbue with special significance in its virtual world—but there was also savvy strategy. Benedetti, 29, spent about $10 on “Lure Modules,” an in-game purchase that attracts Pokémon to a specified location. Players soon picked up on the fact that L’inizio’s was well worth visiting. “People are coming out of the woodwork because of this game,” he said.”

The Bloomberg article also points out that while the quest to find Pokémon might increase foot traffic, it doesn’t always translate into increased sales.

However, I would guess that the locations that haven’t seen an increase in sales might benefit by offering a special or discount to entice people to become paying customers.

Take Part in Game-Related Events

Ingress currently has a series of free events that allow players to gather and compete with other local and visiting players.

While I am not sure if it is possible to become an official sponsor of these events, if your business is located near one, it would be a smart idea to offer discounts to players who would need to refuel along the way.

There hasn’t been any mention of similar Pokémon Go events. However, given the immediate popularity of the game I would be willing to bet that there will be some in the near future.

Become Part of the Game

Actually becoming part of the game is a possibility.

Anyone who has played Ingress is familiar with the sponsored items that enhance in-game play.

These include the AXA Shield (sponsored by AXA—the French multinational insurance firm,) the SoftBank Ultra Link (sponsored by SoftBank Group Corp.,) the MUFG Capsule (sponsored by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group,) and the Lawson Power Cube (sponsored by Lawson, Inc.)

While experts are already warning that adding too much advertising could ruin the in-game experience in Pokémon Go, sponsorships and other in-game advertising are a possibility. However, sponsorships are probably going to cost more than many businesses have in their budget, particularly if Pokémon Go continues to grow in popularity.

Either way, businesses should probably keep an eye open for sponsorships and other in-game advertising opportunities.

Final Thoughts

I definitely see the possibilities that are created by Pokémon Go, particularly because of its appeal to a wide range of people.

The suggestions that I included in this post are just some of the things that businesses can do to leverage the interest that people have shown in Pokémon Go.

If the game has staying power, it will not only be good news for Niantic and The Pokémon Company, but it will also be good news for companies that plan to release other AR games in the future.

Furthermore, it will also be another way for business owners to use mobile phones to get new and existing customers to visit their businesses.

That’s a win-win-win.

Now, I need to go find me some Pokémon.

Photo credit: Eduardo Woo on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Product Packaging—Valuable Real Estate in a Mobile World

The package that a product is sold in is valuable.

In fact, sometimes it can actually be the reason why a customer chooses one product over another.

Malcolm Gladwell highlighted this in his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.”

In the book, Gladwell talked about Louis Cheskin’s work with package design, which on more than one occasion led to dramatic increases in sales.

Paco Underhill also addressed package design in his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping–Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond.”

And, if you look, a quick search on Google could uncover a lot of advice from designers that you might find useful.

But, what I find interesting are some of the things that brands are currently trying that not only can influence sales, but can also provide value to customers, encourage sharing on social media, and can be an additional source of revenue.

Here is a list of a few examples that I have found recently, each of which encourage customers to use their smartphones in one way or another and ultimately help get customers talking about the brand online.

While the examples listed do not include packaging found on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar retail store, the lessons learned could easily be applied there as well.

 

A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Amazon Minions Boxes

When a customer purchases an item from Amazon.com, everyone who sees the product get delivered knows where they bought it. With its arrow that looks like a smile, the Amazon.com logo is easily recognized.

However, when Amazon.com sold the space on their boxes to advertise Minions, it created a lot of positive buzz for the brand and the movie.

Aside from the novelty factor (this was the first time that non-Amazon ads appeared on the boxes,) they also encouraged customers to take a photo of themselves holding the box and post it on social media sites using the hashtag #MinionsBoxes for a chance to win a $1,000 Amazon gift card.

Therefore, they not only generated some extra revenue by selling the space on their boxes, they shared in the spotlight when customers posted their photos on social media.

And, a lot of people posted these photos.

You can still search the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for examples.

Zappos #ImNotaBox Campaign

As an article on Adweek.com points out, “Zappos wants you to think outside the box. Beginning with the box itself.”

“On June 1, the online retailer will begin shipping some shoes in a very cool new box (designed in-house) that features a collection of template designs printed on the inside—encouraging the recipients to fold, cut and otherwise reuse the box into item [sic] like a smartphone holder, a children’s shoe sizer, a geometric planter and a 3-D llama,” the article continues.

Similar to the Amazon.com box, Zappos is encouraging customers to share the creative things that they do with the box on social media.

The boxes haven’t started shipping yet, but there is little doubt that they will get some people talking about the brand online.

For additional information, go to www.imnotabox.com.

McDonald’s Turned a Happy Meal Into a VR Headset

In March, McDonald’s Sweden launched a promotion that they dubbed “Happy Goggles.”

According to Adweek, McDonald’s Sweden created 3,500 Happy Meal boxes that could be turned into virtual-reality viewers. These special Happy Meal boxes were available in 14 restaurants over the weekends of March 5 and March 12.

“The push is tied to the Swedish “Sportlov” recreational holiday, during which many families go skiing,” states the Adweek article. “With this in mind, McD’s created a ski-themed VR game, “Slope Stars,” for use with the oggles [sic] (though they work just as well with any mobile VR experience). The game can also be played in a less immersive fashion without them.”

As the Adweek article also points out, it is similar to Google Cardboard.

This is just one mobile marketing campaign that McDonald’s has recently tested.

They also recently tested a placemat made from a special paper that works with a smartphone and an app that allows customers to create music while dining at McDonald’s restaurants.

They called this special placemat the “McTrax.”

Alas, this campaign was only available in the Netherlands. Last month.

It appears that McDonald’s lets its European customers try all the cool things first.

Final Thoughts

As a result of Louis Cheskin’s work, we know that package design can have a huge impact on sales.

We also know that smartphones are a huge part of your customers’ lives.

Therefore, it makes sense that brands encourage customers to engage with the brand in various creative ways using the packaging that their products are sold and shipped in.

As with everything that we do in the marketing world, it is important to test and monitor the effects that these creative package designs have on sales. Because, as pointed out, the packaging can influence sales in both positive and negative ways.

That said, if you don’t try new things, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity to create buzz around the brand that can impact your bottom line in immeasurable ways.

Photo credit: @chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Local Inventory Ads: A Key Ingredient for Mobile Marketing Success (Case Study)

Photo credit: RubyGoes on Flickr.In the short term, having the ability to confidently tell a customer that you have the exact product in stock at a nearby brick-and-mortar store directly within a mobile ad or even on your website is going to give retailers a huge competitive advantage. However, before you know it, this level of information is going to become table stakes.

While there are a lot of obstacles that retailers need to overcome to provide accurate inventory data for their brick-and-mortar stores, it is important that they start to work through this problem.

As a case study mentioned in an article on the think with Google blog proves, this type of information will help drive traffic into stores.

And, I believe there will be many more case studies like this in the not so distant future.

Local Inventory Ads Drive Shoppers into Stores

The case study mentioned earlier shows that local inventory ads can be very effective.

As the original article on the think with Google blog states, “With over 1,200 physical stores across the country, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores has embraced Google local inventory ads (LIAs) to bring nearby customers on mobile devices into stores. The results: a 16% higher click-through rate and a 122% higher store visit rate compared with online PLAs.”

The article also points out that Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores local inventory ads yielded return on ad spend (ROAS) higher than other offline marketing.

In fact, in the article David Buckley, CMO of Sears Hometown and Outlets stores, states, “When we compared our most recent performance of local inventory ads with offline media typically used to drive store sales, such as a recent broadcast television campaign, local inventory ads returned in-store sales at more than 5X the rate of TV advertising for each dollar spent.”

Buckley is also quoted as saying, “We’ve been closely monitoring the performance of local inventory ads and our most recent analysis points to more than $8 of in-store sales for each dollar invested.”

Not bad.

Giving Customers the Information They Need

“If people are searching for a product on their phones, there is nothing more targeted than serving that item with a picture, description, and price while letting the customers know exactly how far they are located from the product,” Buckley adds.

In my opinion, I think that he is understating the significance of being able to give customers the knowledge that the product that they are looking for will be found at a specific brick-and-mortar store.

In fact, I think that the knowledge that the item will be in stock could be more important than price in some cases. As the adage goes, “time is money.”

The importance of letting customers know that an item is available at a nearby store is confirmed by a finding in a report, titled “Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping: Research Debunks Common Myths October 2014.”

According to the report, “Search results are a powerful way to drive consumers to stores. Providing local information, such as item availability at a nearby store or local store hours, fills in information gaps that are keeping consumers away from stores.”

In fact, the report goes on to point out that, “1 in 4 consumers who avoid stores do so because of limited awareness of nearby stores or the risk of items not being available.”

While the report is now over a year old, it has a lot of insights that retailers could find useful.

Final Thoughts

The more information that a retailer can give customers before they make the trip to the brick-and-mortar store, the better.

As the case study on the think with Google blog points out, providing item availability information to customers who are near a particular brick-and-mortar store helps increase the effectiveness of a mobile ad.

Keep in mind that it is important to make sure that the information that retailers provide to customers is accurate, because if a customer is told that the item will be available only to find out that it is sold out when they get to the store could potentially damage the credibility and trust that the customer has in the store.

While there are obstacles that retailers need to overcome to be able to provide accurate inventory data to customers online, it is something that they should be working on.

I think that being able to provide this type of information to customers could be more important than even the think with Google article leads the reader to be believe.

And, it is only going to be more important as time goes on.

Photo credit: RubyGoes on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Sometimes It’s What a Brand Doesn’t Do That Loses the Sale

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.In almost every instance where a business is trying to sell a product or service, it takes multiple positive interactions before a prospect becomes a paying customer.

The average number of positive interactions, or touches at various touchpoints, required typically varies by the type of product or service being sold.

Furthermore, while multiple positive interactions with a brand can lead to a sale, the reality is that negative interactions can also prevent a sale from taking place.

Sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that causes a prospect to choose the competitor’s product or service.

There are some things that can be done to combat this problem. However, it does require some effort.

To illustrate this point, I am once again going to use my recent smartphone purchase as an example.

The Incumbents: Motorola and Verizon Wireless

I have been a loyal Verizon Wireless customer since I moved to Louisiana back in 2006.

When I moved there, I asked some of the local residents what provider they recommended since U.S. Cellular wasn’t an option in the area, at least at that time.

Nearly everyone who I talked to suggested Verizon Wireless, because they felt that Verizon Wireless had done the best job getting service restored after hurricane’s Katrina and Rita.

I took the advice of the residents of Louisiana and 10 years and two states later, I am still a customer.

As for the device, I think that all the cellular phones that I have owned up until this year were Motorola phones. (Some of my earliest cellular phones might have been made by Nokia, but I am not sure.)

Something that I am absolutely sure of is that the phone that I purchased when I move to Louisiana was a Motorola, as were my first two smartphones. And, my satisfaction with the brand was extremely high.

That was, until Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, announced that they plan to phase out Motorola and only offer the Moto phones.

The Choice: Motorola Droid Turbo 2 or Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

I was now faced with the option of getting one last Motorola phone or make the inevitable switch to Samsung.

During my initial visit to the Verizon Wireless store, the salespeople who I talked to spoke highly of both phones, but seemed to slightly favor the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Needless to say, I left the store that day still undecided.

So, I did what many people do and asked for advice on Twitter.

As you can see, the only response that I received was from the Sprint Forward Twitter account.

They recommended the Samsung Galaxy S7.

I then got a promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless offering a free Samsung Gear VR headset with a purchase of a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. (At the time, Best Buy was offering a similar promotion.) (Note: I think that this was the promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless. If it wasn’t, it was very similar.)

That was it, I was almost certain that I would make the switch to Samsung.

I only needed to check out some product reviews from CNET and a few other sources. All of which confirmed that Samsung was the best option available at the time.

The Choice: Sprint or Verizon Wireless

Given my past experience with Verizon Wireless, it was going to take more than a contact on Twitter to get me to switch to Sprint.

That said, if my past experiences with Verizon Wireless hadn’t been so positive, I might have switched to Sprint or even went to Best Buy to purchase the smartphone.

And, Sprint definitely has my attention if for some reason I need to change wireless carriers in the future.

But, Verizon Wireless did offer a good data plan, had a great offer, and has provided excellent customer service—so I remained a customer.

Final Thoughts

Had Motorola reached out on Twitter or if someone would have recommended it, I might have purchased the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if for no other reason than to get one last Motorola phone. But, nobody did.

And, Motorola already made the decision to phase out the brand that I was loyal to, so it made my decision to switch that much easier.

In this case, the brand lost a loyal customer because of what they did (plan to phase out Motorola phones), what they didn’t do (reach out on social media or anywhere else at right time), and what other people did (recommend the competition.)

In contrast, while Verizon Wireless didn’t reach out this time, they at least did use a promoted tweet to get my attention on Twitter and create awareness of a great offer. And, to their credit, they did reach out to me a few years ago when I wrote a post about how access to high speed wireless data can have an effect on a brand’s mobile marketing campaigns.

But, in reality, it was the fact that they have always provided great customer service in the past that kept me a customer. That, and the fact that their data plans are competitive with the other carriers.

What this example shows is that in the same transaction, one brand kept a loyal customer by providing competitive pricing combined with great customer service, while another lost my business because of what they did, what they didn’t do, and what other people did.

As pointed out, sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that can have a negative effect on a sale.

With a little foresight, there are things that brands can do to combat this problem and bring in new customers and retain existing ones.

However, it does require some effort.

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Macy’s “Pick to the Last Unit” Program Is Great News for Mobile Marketing

Photo credit: advencap on Flickr.Earlier this month, Tyco Retail Solutions announced that its TrueVUE RFID Inventory Visibility platform is being used to power Macy’s “Pick to the Last Unit” (P2LU) program for omni-channel fulfillment of customer purchases. While this is great news for Macy’s, the brands it sells, and its customers, it might be even better news for the future of mobile marketing.

By utilizing item-level RFID technology, Macy’s is now confident enough to say that an item is available in its inventory, and is thus able to list the last item of a stock-keeping unit (SKU) for sale online.

This is not only going to allow the retailer to sell more products online, it should save them time and money by making it easier for employees to find the products customers request in the brick-and-mortar store.

It is also bringing us one step closer to the future of mobile marketing.

For example, if more retailers start to use this type of technology, it could allow them to efficiently and effectively offer the buy online, pick up in-store option to customers via the mobile web or a proprietary smartphone app. (For some retailers, the buy online, pick up in-store option would now be feasible. For others, the turn-around time could be significantly decreased.)

Having the ability to confidently let customers know that a particular item is available at a particular location also opens up many additional marketing opportunities for the retailer and the brands it sells.

What Exactly Is Macy’s P2LU?

According to the article on the Tyco Retail Solutions website, “As a customer-centric retailer, Macy’s omni-channel strategies are focused on providing a smart combination of iconic brands and assortments for customers to shop anywhere, anytime, and anyhow they choose. The retailer realized that brick-and-mortar stores could be their greatest asset for single unit orders, essentially functioning as robust and flexible “warehouses” to utilize the full assortment of owned inventory. With item-level RFID, Macy’s can focus on product assortment and service while using existing inventory to address fulfillment demands. Changes to inventory management supporting this omni-channel strategy have enabled Macy’s to reduce $1 billion of inventory from its stores.”

“Furthering that effort, Macy’s launched its unique P2LU program for omni-channel fulfillment,” the article continues. “P2LU attempts to ensure that the last unit of an item in any store is made available for sale and easily located for order fulfillment. Typically, retailers don’t expose the last item of a SKU to online purchasing because they don’t have enough confidence in their inventory accuracy or ability to find the item to make every unit available for customer orders.”

This point is really important to the future of mobile marketing.

As the article explains, “Macy’s now has confidence to fulfill customer demand even if only one of an item is left in stock.”

For additional details, you might want to check out an article written by Claire Swedberg that was posted on the RFID Journal website. It has additional insight as to how Macy’s P2LU program will help the retailer improve its bottom line.

Photo credit: Judit Klein on Flickr.What Item-Level RFID Can Do for Marketers

Being able to tell a customer that an item is available for purchase at a particular brick-and-mortar store is huge.

As already mentioned, it gives the retailer the ability to secure additional online orders by giving customers the option to buy online, even when there is only one item left in the retailer’s inventory.

Retailers would also be able to tell customers if a specific item is available for purchase at a specific location by making the inventory searchable on the retailer’s website.

A few retailers have been doing this already.

In his 2011 book, “The Third Screen: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile,” Chuck Martin points out that Steve Madden’s website has given customers the ability to check for item availability in its brick-and-mortar stores by geolocation for a few years now. (Note: From the information in the book, it is unclear whether or not Steve Madden is using item-level RFID to accomplish this. Given the fact that the retailer primarily sells shoes, some other process might be in place.)

However, other retailers couldn’t offer this option because it just wasn’t economically or logistically feasible. Item-level RFID technology has the ability to change that.

It could also help secure additional sales as more customers shop via their mobile devices.

Offering customers the option to search the mobile web or use a smartphone app to find a particular product in a nearby brick-and-mortar store can possibly be the deciding factor in making a sale.

Being able to target digital advertising to customers based on their need and location and then being able to tell them that the item that they are looking for is actually available for purchase at a nearby store is a potential game-changer.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Final Thoughts

As time goes on, innovative marketers will find additional ways to incorporate the ability to check for particular items in a brick-and-mortar store’s inventory in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet.

And, all this is made possible by using item-level RFID technology.

The fact that a major retailer like Macy’s is testing this technology is paving the way for other retailers in the future.

As the cost of this type of technology continues to decrease, other retailers will no doubt follow Macy’s lead.

As mentioned earlier, while this is great news for the retailer, the brands it sells, and its customers, it might be even better news for the future of mobile marketing.

Photo credits: advencap and Judit Klein on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Reward Customers for Good Behavior to Generate Positive Word of Mouth

Photo credit: leyla.a on Flickr.The world would be a better place if we all treated each other a little nicer.

Maybe if good manners were assigned a monetary value, more people would be on their best behavior.

This is exactly what a few restaurants and coffee shops have done.

In the process, they have received positive coverage from bloggers and other online media outlets.

In the age of where news stories can be found on search engines for years and people can spread the message via social media and online review sites, this kind of coverage can definitely make a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Here is a list of some of restaurants and coffee shops that I have heard about lately that have used this tactic to get people talking about their businesses.

Rewarding Parents When Their Kids Are on Their Best Behavior

Back in 2013, a Washington eatery got mentioned on TODAY.com for giving Laura King and her family a $4 discount on their bill to cover a bowl of ice cream that the owners gave the family because their children were so well behaved.

As the article points out, “Rob Scott — who owns Sogno di Vino, the restaurant King visited — said he routinely offers complimentary desserts to customers with well-mannered children, but this was the first time he had actually typed the discount on the receipt.”

“An image of the receipt quickly went viral after one of King’s friends posted it online,” the article continues.

While not all the mentions that the restaurant received were positive, the discount got people to talk about the restaurant on social media sites, which led to some great coverage in the national news media. Furthermore, articles about the post still show up on a Google search engine results page (SERP) over two years after the post went viral.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

As an article on The Huffington Post points out, several restaurants have tried to encourage better dining etiquette by offering a discount to customers when they put their smartphones away while they are at the dinner table.

Other restaurants have even gone so far as to ban the use of cell phones in their restaurants all together. As the Huffington Post article mentions, this policy has sometimes been met with outrage.

Whether people agree with this type of policy or not, it has generated some attention. Furthermore, it has gotten people to talk about whether or not cell phones should be used as much as they are at the dinner table.

Photo credit: Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

On the other hand, it also needs to be noted that this policy does prevent customers from taking photos of their food and sharing them on social media sites.

This, too, can be a great way to get people talking about the restaurant and possibly get them to visit the establishment in the future.

Hummus Diplomacy

In October of this year, NPR featured a story about an Israeli restaurant in Kfar Vitkin, north of Tel Aviv, that is giving a 50 percent discount to Jews and Arabs who eat together.

As reported in the NPR article, a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated, “Are you afraid of Arabs? Are you afraid of Jews? By us there are no Arabs, but also no Jews. We have human beings! And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel!”

According to NPR, “His post was shared more than 1,900 times, and news of the deal has made headlines around the world.”

At the time the article was written, the offer had only been redeemed by 10 tables. However, business has increased by 20 percent. The article mentions that a substantial part of the boost was from local and foreign journalists.

Please and Good Morning Saves You Money

Offering customers a discount for good manners can also generate good will and positive mentions online.

For example, a small coffee shop in Australia has a sign in front of the shop that says that the coffee is $5. If you say “please,” the coffee is $4.50 and it’s only $4 if you say, “Good morning, a coffee please.”

According to an article on the Daily Mail, the owners of the coffee shop don’t enforce the policy. However, they said it brings a smile to many of their customers’ faces and many customers go out of their way to be courteous.

Even if it isn’t enforced, the sign has created enough attention to be covered by online media outlets.

It is interesting to note that this idea was copied, with similar results, by a French café.

Free Meal to the Lonely on Thanksgiving

Okay, this one isn’t really about getting customers to change their actions.

In fact, it is actually the restaurant that is going out of its way to be courteous to its customers.

The buzz started when a customer posted a photo of a sign that was hung on the door of George’s Senate Coney Island Restaurant in Michigan that stated that anyone who would be home alone on Thanksgiving could come to the restaurant and get a free meal on November 26, 2015.

Not only did the story go viral on social media, it was covered by many of the traditional media outlets, as well.

And, while the restaurant will probably be giving out more meals than it originally planned, the free publicity that it received is priceless.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of this post, the world would be a better place if people chose to be nicer to each other.

Businesses often have an opportunity to remind customers of this.

As shown in this post, incentivizing good behavior is not always met with open arms. In fact, sometimes, it is met with outrage.

However, when done correctly, little things that remind us that we need to coexist peacefully and show respect for others can get people talking about the business online. Sometimes, this will lead to further coverage in more traditional media outlets.

Furthermore, social sharing is only part of story. When customers search for information about the restaurant on Google or any of the other search engines, a positive story like this is likely to appear on a SERP well into the future. That might be enough to get potential customers to visit the restaurant long after the deal ends.

And, if nothing else, the business might start a conversation that can make the world a better place.

Photo credits: leyla.a and Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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