• Feeding The Machine

    Junk Food Junkies who like to exercise a lot rejoice! A recent university study conducted by an academic researcher at the University of Montana who also happens to be a triathlete, revealed what he hypothecized, which is that eating fast food is just as healthy as eating a sports bar after a difficult workout.  The study found that muscle recovery and performance "were not different when comparing products created specifically for sport recovery and traditional fast food", which as we all know is loaded with deliciously "repairative" compounds.

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    Ok. So the computer tells me that "repairative" isn't a word, but the point of this whole thing is that makers of sport drinks and sport supplements, who often exaggerate the efficacy of their products, particularly in their ability to help the user's body recover after exercise. Obviously this study needs to be duplicated by another researcher to prove that it's findings are reliable, but perhaps the FDA will take note and double down on efforts to weed out the bad actors on the nutritional supplement category. It's buyer beware on those store shelves. And as for the study, it was neatly summed up by Brent Ruby, the study's architect, when he said of the results that what a body needs is not very complex. "You asked me to work. I've done my job. Put some stuff back in the tank dude." So if yo believe that the study is valid, and if you've earned it through strenuous exercise, you can have that Big Mac instead of that chalky energy bar, guilt free. Honest!

  • In-Store Impulse

    Some behaviors just don't happen much when people do things online, but do happen frequently when people do them in person. When it comes to shopping, one of the things that people do better in person than they do online is engage in the all-important practice of impulse buying.

    "All important" to marketers that is, since so many of us have victimized ourselves repeatedly by purchasing items that we did not intend to purchase, many of them quite frivolous. I myself almost purchased a A guide to communicating successfully with a Wookie" book replete with outstanding illustrations, sound bites (Chewbacca voice-over), as well as bits of advice on how to interact with a Wookie. Twenty bucks for this important stuff in case you were wondering and were it not for my frugal spouse, I would be a proud owner of something that I probably would only enjoy for about 20 minutes. I couldn't help myself, since the floor display was in the middle of the aisle and the signage very clever and engaging. This is why I don't shop much. Largely impulsive "self-shopping" is so important to retailers, especially in the world of holiday marketing.

    Image result for wookiee book bed bath and beyond

    Overall, only 17% of spending over the holidays will come from online purchases (versus roughly 10% over the entire year), so brick-and-mortar retailers must be prepared to merchandise within the store, using signage, displays, mobile app tie-ins, coupons, and myriad other point-of-purchase tactics to get consumers to buy. Consumers say that they do 46% of their "shopping', as opposed to "buying", online and 70% of shoppers say that they use their mobile devices inside of stores to do so. So while lots of purchases aren't necessarily done online, much of  the consumer behavior in the process prior to making the decision is done online. So, that's good news to companies not named "Amazon", but it certainly puts pressure on these brick-and mortar retailers to engage consumers in new and meaningful ways while they spend precious time in their stores.

  • NBA's Development League Gains Momentum

    Fifteen years into its history, the D-League is hitting its stride. Tired of using NCAA Division One Basketball programs and elite high schools as the sole feeders for their teams, league marketers at the turn of the century decided to give a minor league format a whirl since such formats, often located in small markets, have historically been very successful as training grounds for other major leagues. And taking some of the pressure off of college programs and the student-athletes they serve wouldn't be a bad thing for society either.

    Enter the NBADL, which begins this season sporting 19 NBA-affiliated minor league teams, up from 18 last year after adding suburban Toronto's "Raptors 905" franchise in the off-season. Since there are 30 teams in the NBA, that leaves lots of room for expansion, but it seems that this is already happening very rapidly. The Charlotte Hornets have bought into a Greensboro, NC franchise, and the Brooklyn Nets have recently announced that they too will be adding a team that will play in its own Barclay's Center. The Brooklyn-area market is easily large enough and demographically friendly enough to accommodate some off-night professional basketball. It also looks like the Bulls will have a team in suburban Chicagoland for all of the suburban Chicagoans. And there are certainly lots and lots of those. Right now,10 teams are owned outright by NBA franchises while the other nine run the operations for independently-owned teams. A healthy business model to be sure.

    League President Malcolm Turner has boasted that the coveted "30 for 30" goal for the league (that every NBA team have a farm club) is just around the corner, and this may not be far from the truth. Almost certainly this will affect the quality of the highest level Division One college product as players eschew distracting classes and opt instead for the minors. But that isn't the NBA's concern, and it actually may make professors tired of disinterested athletes who leave after two years rather happy. of course, this system works very well for NHL hockey, MLS soccer and MLB  baseball, but NFL football has nothing resembling a farm system, relying instead on the major universities for training a sthe NBA as traditionally done. Soon the NFL will be alone in having no farm system, so how long will it be before some well-heeled entrepreneur (or the league itself) decides to develop one? Meanwhile, the value of an NBADL franchise continues to rise, but it is still at a very reasonable $6 million. At this torrid growth rate, and with a cap on the number of teams the league will need makes the product more scarce and, if the fans keep showing up, the league should be full inside of 10 years. And by the way, NBADL players do wear advertisements on their jerseys like professional soccer around the world, so how long will it be before all of the leagues have some sort of brand-jersey sponsorship? In sports marketing, the revenue opportunities are simply too numerous to ignore!

  • Trade Secrets At Joe's

    For a major brand that had humble beginnings as a small chain of southern California convenience stores called Pronto Markets and decided to alter its store formats so as not to have to compete with 7-11, Trader Joe's has become a very successful retailer. It was founded in 1958 and somehow managed to stay independent during the era of retailer acquisitions that occurred in the natural/organic/specialty sector during the 90's and 2000's.. Since then, Trader Joe's has been consistently ranked at the top of the various Best Supermarkets lists in many categories, and has a loyal, word-of-mouth-spreading fan base. What's the secret?

    Aside from the usual marketing jargon about great value, excellent service, a robust product mix, and a mathematical understanding of the market, when one looks deeper at Joe's it is really the store's private label brands that set it apart from other retailers. While some chains have many tens of thousands of products Joe's carries around 5,000 items, the vast majority of which are branded with a high margin Trader Joe's label. The retailer does carry other items, since variety is not only the spice of life but also a necessity in today's retail marketing environment, and unlike other most stores that also have private label lines, Joe's feature's several brands with homey names such as "Trader Ming's", "Trader Joseph's", "Pilgrim Joe's", Joe's Diner" etc. that give the customer an increased impression that there is more variety than there truly is. The brands are all arranged by line under these clever names that also leverage the overall brand by using the words "Trader" and "Joe" in various combinations. Genius. The retailer maintains very high standards for the kinds of products it sells (the natural and organic variety), so this certainly helps keep customers loyal, and at almost 500 stores and an ever-expanding U.S. consumer market for natural and organic products, it looks like there is no stopping this awe-inspiring company.

  • Yahoo's Superhighway To Nowhere

    First mover advantages are wonderful, at least for the first movers. These companies that are early in exploiting market opportunities can establish both channel leadership as well craft an approach to the marketing mix that competitors might have trouble duplicating.  But first mover advantages erode very quickly, as technology creatively destroys products and even entire industries on a continuous basis. Sometimes, however, it's not the technology that destroys a brand's advantages, but a lack of ability to anticipate other changes in the external business environment and making the necessary internal strategy adjustments that such potential threats require. Apparently, Yahoo is one such brand.

    Despite hiring Marissa Mayer, a former Google hotshot (who was in her early thirties) three years ago, Yahoo has failed to turn things around and continues lose market share to competitors like Google and Facebook. And its stake in the Chinese internet company Alibaba, which currently represents much of its value, will soon be gone, as the company will soon be spun off into a completely separate entity altogether. So where exactly does this leave Yahoo? The company has already expanded into what it considered to be weak areas such as mobile advertising and social media and attempted to make its products a bit nicer, but results have been less than encouraging. The fact is that Google and Facebook are rising and Yahoo is not, with the most likely result being that the former leader becomes a shattered remnant of its former self. It is well on its way to this fate, so unless someone (probably not Ms. Mayer) does something soon, this future will be a reality for Yahoo.

  • Trying To Flix The Problem

    Media content producers such as Walt Disney, CBS, Viacom, 20th Century Fox, and Time Warner are experiencing a bit of a dilemma when it comes to licensing content. And the problem is starting to get too big to ignore. When these traditional players license content to upstarts such as Amazon and Netflix, it hurts the ratings that the traditional TV format needs to attract the advertising dollars that pay for the content. This "cannibalization" has thus far been of the planned variety since eyeballs are migrating online in record numbers, but making it easier for pay subscribers to quit pay TV is hurting the existing, yet dying, industry model. What to do?

    Indeed change is already in full swing, so there is little anyone can do about it. The dollars will continue to migrate online and ultimately much of the same content will be available via both traditional and emerging formats as well. you can be certain of that. The challenge for marketers comes in navigating the sea of change, and traditional player Time Warner is already considering purchasing a stake in Hulu to compete with the likes of Netflix. Certainly Netflix and Amazon are producing some content of their own (or rather more likely outsourcing most of it), but not enough to compete with the Goliaths of Content Production. But more content through more sources is ultimately good for the consumer, so this activity will continue until a new industry order emerges  from the ashes of what was. Until then, it will be an incessant challenge for everyone involved.

  • NHL Craves More Excitement

    Perhaps no major sport in America tweaks its "core product" more than the National Hockey League. For a sport that is already pretty exciting, it seems that league officials are nonetheless obsessed with trying to make it even more scintillating. Several changes that were made a few years ago have resulted in more scoring, and the games are also faster with only five minutes allocated for overtime in the modern era rather than a full 20 minute period. All is good in the hockey world, but the league wants to make it even better. What's the NHL doing?

    Instead of making more changes to the regular games, league marketers have decided to alter the all-star game, which used to feature one conference versus the other, as is tradition in most sports. Starting in this coming January's all-star contest in Nashville, a warm weather hockey bastion, the NHL will play a 3-on-3 all-star tournament with players representing each of the four divisions who will play three 20-minute games in a "final four-like" format. Clearly the league wants to highlight the incredible skill and speed inherent in a 3-on-3 match. These guys can really skate and pass, and this is likely to be a very exciting alternative to that which fans have become accustomed.

    Alas, the trail of non-traditionalism has been blazed previously. In a departure from the norm, several years ago Major League Soccer decided to change its traditional format and instead field a single team from the entire league and play a selected European powerhouse for its all-star game, which has been a very nice change considering the global appeal of the sport as well as the relative inferiority of the American league compared with several of the older and more respected overseas leagues. marketers always worry that changing the core product can be too difficult for the more traditional fans to accept, but if the changes ultimately result in a more entertaining product, then they will be assimilated. And it seems that the all-star game is a great place to experiment, what with the NBA testing ads on jerseys, this year. Change is in the wind. Lets' see what the fans think.

  • Bud Light Wants More NFL Action

    The announcement that Bud Light has extended its NFL sponsorship, which expires in 2017, for another six years should come as no surprise. Valued at $1.4 billion, the deal ensures that Bud Light maintains all-important distribution rights in the stadiums across the country (1 out of 5 beers consumed are Bud Light) as well as a myriad of other benefits, including being the "presenting sponsor" for Thursday Night Football. We all are aware that there is quite a bit of sponsorship out there in the wide world of sports, but does it really work for most brands?

    Not always. Marketing through sport is certainly a hit or miss proposition, but the NFL is the most watched sport here in the U.S. And the best way to measure whether or not a sport sponsorship is working is to measure awareness among attendees of the events. As such, market researchers compare the awareness levels of avid fans as well as casual fans every year so that useful comparisons can be made. Generally speaking, ratings below 30% awareness are considered to reflect a poorly performing sponsorship. The latest data from Sports Business Journal show that awareness of Bud Light as a sponsor of the NFL is over 40% among both avid and casual fans, which is a very impressive showing. Compare that with avid fan awareness of General Motors and Marriott as sponsors, which is at 16.5% and 17.5% respectively. Clearly these marketers should reconsider how they are spending their marketing dollars, and Bud Light should continue to be engaged. Research shows that less than 50% of major sport sponsorships are "working" by those standards. So to maximize potential, a sports sponsorship should not stand by itself, but rather should be "leveraged" by the sponsor through additional marketing efforts to not only reinforce the sponsorship in the minds of consumers, but also to combat "ambush marketing" efforts by competitors who wish to confuse the consumer into thinking that they are the sponsor. Clearly the brand is doing a great job of leveraging, and it's marketing efforts are paying off. It will be interesting to see what the next six years will do for the partnership, as well as whether or not Bud Light will renew once again..

  • E-Cigarette Sales Vaporize

    Probably much safer for the user and certainly much safer for those exposed to the vapor, electronic cigarettes have become an excellent substitute product for those wishing to wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes as well as for those who want to switch from combustion to vaporization as a means of delivering the desired nicotine (a less messy proposition). But sales are beginning to slow and are doing so in a rather abrupt manner. What gives?

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    One of the issues is certainly a level of saturation in a declining market. Smokers number less than 20% of the adult population here in the U.S., and that number has been falling for decades. Cigarette manufacturers report only a .5% decline thus far this year, however, so even the smoking rate decline has slowed. nevertheless, sales of these devices have been in the triple digits each year for the past five years. But most of those who want e cigarettes now have them, and since they are a durable good, there is no need for a particular consumer to keep buying more of them. But cartridge sales have also fallen, so market saturation cannot be a significant factor.

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    The bottom line is that not only have "vape" companies failed to convince many users to switch, the ones that have switched have expressed dissatisfaction with product quality and inventory problems as well as have been deterred by new laws and rising safety concerns. Revenue growth in the category is expected to be about half of what it was last year, so if this continues for another year, the product category will officially be mature in my book. A rather abridged first half of the product life cycle to be sure. Yet these products will not go away any time soon if ever, since nicotine is highly addictive and a niche market can survive for a long time, but it is unlikely that these products will be the uber-substitute for cigarettes that marketers were looking for.

  • The Slow Growth of E-Commerce

    With all of the hubbub surrounding All Things Internet, it is surprising to learn that after 20 crazy years, online purchases still account for only 7.2% of total retail sales. That should surprise almost everyone, although this is not to say that the category isn't growing. It most certainly is, as growth has been around 14% annually since 2012. So why are e-tailers taking such a small part of the retail pie if the growth rate is so robust?

    Therein lies the trouble with statistics. Growth rates alone don't tell the whole story, as it's easy to achieve high growth percentages when you are starting with a small number. Thus since e-commerce's share of the retail market is less than 10%, a growth rate of 14% is not as impressive as it would be if the sector was much, much larger. Another factor in play is the fact that the non-Internet retail sector (the other 92.8% of the pie) is also growing every year, although as we might expect not as fast as the Internet (partly due to its vast size), so the pie gets larger every year. Thus, it's important for an analyst to know not only the growth rate, but also the total revenue that the sector generates. Having both pieces of data helps a marketer better understand opportunities and threats in the external marketing environment.

    So, the Internet as the world's virtual store has been a bit oversold over the years. Predictions for how quickly it would dominate sales that were made while the medium was young, were all wildly incorrect. Internet advertising, however is another story. Recent reports indicate that the revenue generated from online ads will surpass TV this year instead of in 2017, as was earlier predicted. So the advertising world is being turned on its head, while non-Internet retail formats (although certainly challenged by the slow move to Internet shopping in certain categories of goods) are alive and well. For the most part, at least for now, the vast majority of people prefer non-Internet shopping for the vast majority of the goods they buy. Reality is often very revealing!

  • Nightmare on Fantasy Island

    Just like in that 1980's show which featured a white-suited Ricardo Montalban (Mr. Rourke) and his much shorter sidekick Herve Villechaize (Tattoo) playing hosts on a weird sort of fantasy island, something really cool that started off so well then abruptly takes a dramatic turn for the worse. The daily fantasy sports market, as an example, has boomed over the last couple of years, and fan interest in playing is so high that competitors Fan Duel and Draft Kings spent about $200 million on TV advertising during the first four weeks of the NFL season. That's big bucks. 

    The problem is that the activity may very well constitute gambling, which is heavily restricted in the United States. Congress is looking at the issue, and in the meantime the New York State Attorney General's office has sued to halt what it considers illegal gambling by Fan Duel and Draft Kings. In response, Fan Duel has agreed temporarily suspend entry for paid players who live in New York. What a mess this has become. It really does look like it's gambling, although there is a lot of skill associated with playing fantasy sports. Yet, there is also skill involved in playing blackjack and poker. The court will decide, and this will likely set precedent for the rest of the country, which could be good news or a nightmare for everyone in this fledgling industry depending on the outcome.

    Online sports betting is legal in Canada, where a company named Bodog is the Big Dog, but in the U.S. only the State of Nevada enjoys a monopoly on this regulated activity. None of this includes horse race betting for some unknown reason, which is allowed in most states. As suspicious as this monopoly situation is, the federal government nonetheless has refused to allow states to decide whether or not they want to allow sports betting. Casinos, horse racing and state-sponsored lotteries are OK in most states. Sports betting? Not so much. Indeed there seems to be no rhyme or reason to these rules. Either gambling is legal or it isn't, and the black market for this illegal activity is very large as a result of high demand and lax enforcement. So rather than shut down a booming industry and remove a product that so many people enjoy, perhaps it's time to open sports betting up to the masses and enjoy the subsequent tax revenues that such an economic activity would generate. A multi-billion dollar industry would sprout up over night, supported by advertising, a relatively recession-proof  industry that would generate substantial economic growth. Of course, there are a lot of addicted gamblers out there, but with so many options (like casinos, horse racing and lottery tickets) already available to these afflicted individuals, it makes little sense to arbitrarily outlaw sports betting in the age of the Internet.

    Unfortunately, the court in New York won't be deciding on this important issue, but rather whether or not daily fantasy play constitutes gambling, which it almost certainly does. Perhaps the larger, more important issue will be addressed soon. Time will tell.

  • Vader v. Brown

    Star Wars, one of the most successful movie franchises ever, has already generated a huge amount of buzz in anticipation of the release of the next movie installment in a few weeks. Such sequels, also known as "tent poles", almost always represent guaranteed revenue for the producers, since consumers assume less risk in seeing a sequel versus an original screenplay. You kind of know what you are going to get, and this helps explain why there are so many sequels out there. But Star Wars is somewhat unique, not in the publicity it's generating, but in its' ability to sell merchandise. Simply put, no one does it better.

    The movie's release is timed around the holidays. Why not summer? Toys, of course. The merchandise is almost as important as the movie itself when it comes to blockbusters such as these, since toys and other merchandise can be sold long after the movie has left the theaters. And retailers have been stocking up for the holidays in anticipation of high demand for robotic Yoda's, high tech light sabers, and a bunch of other cool Star Wars-licensed products. This is good news for retailers, and for all those involved with the Star Wars franchise, but bad news for other movie-toy tie-ins like Peanuts. Yes, the movie is doing very well in the theaters, but Charlie Brown and company have lowered sales expectations by $24 million as Peanuts franchise marketers have realized that they have probably over-estimated merchandise sales. This almost surely means that, since the goods have already been ordered and delivered, many of these Peanuts-branded items will be heavily discounted by retailers so that shelves can be cleared for the new year. So, wait a bit longer before buying that Snoopy doll. It will almost certainly be a lot cheaper by the second week of December. Blame Peanuts marketers for having the audacity to go head to head with Darth Vader. Blame consumers for being so crazy about everything Star Wars. Blame yet another disturbance in The Force. Any which way, consumers only have so much to spend over the holidays, so they must pick and choose. The bottom line is that there may not be room in the budget for both Charlie Brown and Darth Vader. Which toy would you rather have?

  • NBA To Test Uniform Ads

    With the proliferation of soccer in America, an increasing number of us have become used to the idea that brand names can not only appear prominently on jerseys, but can actually be the only logo on the jersey aside from the coat of arms. Even in over-commercialized America, this seems a bit extreme. But if it works for soccer so well, why are the other major leagues ignoring such an obvious revenue stream? Why don't we see this in every league?

    Well, just wait. Until now the only reason we haven't seen these logos is a fear of fan backlash. Once that fear is gone, then watch out! No ground will be sacred. It is instructive to remember that up until 1972, there were no venue naming rights deals. Stadiums and arenas were just named after an important person or some other variable, and that was it. Now, venue naming deals number into the hundreds of millions. Just look at all the in-game advertising that has proliferated over the past 10 years or so! History can teach us so much about the future if we would only strive to learn from it. So, with this in mind, why should this revenue juggernaut stop at the facility? Why is the uniform still off-limits?

    Indeed the NBA will be the first major league to "test" ads on jerseys, and will do so for the all-star games in both 2016 and 2017. The logos will most likely be smaller than the ones we've become accustomed to in the world of professional soccer, and barring a major backlash, this experiment could result in a paradigm shift much like the one we experienced with regard to sports venues. Of course, we have all become used to the ubiquitous Nike swoosh and other apparel logos, yet these are apparel licensing deals, and not venue naming rights sponsorship deals. But are these two types of contractual arrangements really that much different from each other? If the logos are small enough, isn't it likely that fans will get used to the idea very quickly? But if marketers go overboard, we could see quite the backlash. It's certainly hard to imagine that these savvy marketers will leave this money on the table for very much longer. Changes in the world of major spectator sports are slow to come, but come they do especially when large amounts of money are involved. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for the next NBA all-star game to see what league marketers have decided to do and assess the public's reaction. Ultimately leagues do not want to upset their core fan base, and rule changes of any kind are often met with skepticism. As far as changes are concerned, this one could be a doozy. Let's see what happens.

  • Online Holiday Sales To Electrify

    An analysis of over one trillion visits to retailer websites recently revealed that only two categories of goods, electronics and gift cards, account for more than three-quarters of total revenue over the holiday season. And that is an interesting finding indeed. Even more interesting than the fact that gift cards are actually considered a category of goods, is that this pattern of behavior is pretty much ever present throughout the year. What does this mean for marketers?

    The findings certainly explain why some categories of goods (such as jewelry and home furnishings) just don't do well online, while others do very well. In fact, with regard to the world of electronics, retailers who do not yet have robust online business models are suffering. And since most consumers will visit a brick-and-mortar store before making an online electronics purchase, a practice called "showrooming", retailers like Best Buy struggle to compete with the likes of Amazon and other internet-focused businesses. You see, these businesses don't have to incur the facilities and marketing costs that brick-and-mortar stores do, and so they are able to offer lower prices. So walking around a Best Buy or Wal-Mart to shop for a product and then purchasing it later online at Amazon is not an uncommon practice. And it turns out that the purchase ultimately comes down to two important consumer buying criteria, convenience and price, both of which lend themselves to online buying. Online revenue estimates peg the all-important Black Friday weekend period between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday at $7.2 billion in sales this year, with Thanksgiving Day as the fastest-growing online shopping day (18% over last year). Expect to find the biggest bargains in the highly competitive electronics category, and happy hunting!

  • A New Bundle At Wendy's

    The brand overtook Burger King for second place in the fast food burger wars several years ago, but since then it has struggled to find a value menu offering to rival the dollar menu at McDonald's. Indeed the Dollar Menu has long been the gold standard for making money by doing larger volumes of lower margin items, and now Wendy's has finally come up with one of its own.

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    Introducing the 4 for $4 meal deal which includes a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, fries and a drink, and constitutes what marketers call a delicious "bundle". What is interesting here is that this strategic move represents a shift away from the a la carte model, as Wendy's marketers have cited a consumer shift away from traditional value offerings and towards bundled meals between four and six bucks. Well, we shall see about all of that, but early results have been encouraging. So far so good for Wendy's. 

  • Teen Media Use Through the Roof

    Nine hours per day. That's how much media today's average teenager is consuming. Nine hours a day is more than half of what would commonly be considered to be "waking hours", and so one could safely say that our over-connectivity to our devices is officially through the roof. How are these media-immersed, 13-18 year-olds spending this valuable time?

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    You might be surprised to learn that, despite the proliferation of the internet, teens spend the majority of their time listening to music and watching television. In that way, not much has changed from the preferences of previous groups of teenagers, but now that online video, social media, and mobile games have become so ubiquitous, the share of time spent on these activities has become simply staggering. Perhaps most disconcerting is the number of teenagers who prefer to multi-task while doing homework. Most research shows that under 10% of us are truly effective at doing two things at once (the rest of us are diminished in our ability to perform both tasks), so it is unclear what long-term societal effects this might have. We also know that social media use has been linked to depression and a number of other disorders. One thing that is certain, however, is that  marketers are very interested in knowing where to reach consumers. Marketing to children (especially the younger ones), although controversial, is commonplace. And marketers are sure to want to reach them wherever they are spending their copious free time. 

  • English Appeal

    An increasing number of soccer fans are tuning in now that English Premier League games are more widely available through most cable and satellite formats. NBC, through its $950 million deal with the world's top league, has caught a wave of viewership as the U.S. audience grows. Why is this an important development?

    The media environment for spectator sports has become highly fragmented over the past several years, and so it's difficult for any sport property to show signs of significant long-term growth. But EPL viewership has increased 19% over last year to a still modest average of 563,000 viewers per game across all of the channels that show the games. The matches begin in the morning and end in the early afternoon, which is not exactly prime time, yet it is a necessary time slot for an audience that wants to watch things in real time. If we can wake up to watch the Olympics, surely we can get up a little early to see Arsenal play Chelsea.That so many viewers are willing to do that is impressive indeed.

    By comparison, the far less popular (but also growing) top level U.S. league, MLS, averages about 225,000 viewers on Fox and ESPN, and almost all of these games are shown during more favorable hours. This says as much about the American soccer fan's current lack of appetite for lower quality MLS soccer as much as it does its increasing appetite for the high quality English variety. Indeed audience size is up 150% since NBC took over the reins from Fox and ESPN, and don't forget about the streaming internet video audience, which is also growing, especially among the internet-only "cord cutter" crowd. There is no reason to think that this pace won't continue since there are plenty of Americans that desire the high quality soccer the Premier League is known for, and NBC should be congratulated for its excellent marketing decision.

  • Comcast Challenges Industry Model

    In a bid to enhance revenues and shake things up in an industry that seems to change daily, Comcast has announced that it will begin charging heavy data users for using heavy amounts of data. That's heavy stuff indeed. Why? Most home internet service providers offer unlimited data, and an increasing number of consumers are "cutting the cord" and eschewing expensive, over-bundled cable packages for the internet. And since companies like Comcast haven't yet figured out the magical formula for balancing TV and Internet, this is a threat to these providers.

    Competitors will surely be watching how things work out with Comcast's new strategy, and many will follow suit if all goes according to plan for the huge cable concern. Marketers need only observe the transformation of airline service pricing as well as how consumers pay for their mobile service and hardware for clues as to how this strategy might be received in the marketplace. For now, it's all in a state of flux, but ultimately the consumer (in a collective sense) will decide if this or any other changes are to be sustainable. If the industry does follow Comcast's lead, widespread customer dissatisfaction could result in a major consumer backlash as well as one or more players re-altering their business models to accommodate the shift in consumer attitudes. And indeed this is the sort of positive influence on business that fostering a competitive marketing environment is supposed to deliver. Consumers should get what they want. Meanwhile, Comcast will either affect change on the way the industry offers its products, or the strategy will fall flat on its face. Time will tell.

  • Growing Pains At Chipotle

    Chipotle is a very relevant brand. And the media seems to really like the company, since the Associated Press basically buried the story about recent e-coli infections being linked to the chain. The first was on page 14 of the newspaper, so you can be forgiven for missing the story, but the issue has since blown up to involve multiple locations. So they are loved by consumers and, for the most part, appreciated by the media. What could go wrong?

    The brand has always been positioned as a sort of outlaw, producing fresh, ethically-made fast food while competitors mired themselves in outdated business models. The 20+ year-old brand has always been hip, but a bevvy of competitors, with varying degrees of success, have emulated this "premium fast food" model. As a result, Chipotle's sales growth has slid into single-digits, still healthy by any standards, but slowing nonetheless. On top of that,  a host of activist groups have been busy in efforts to publicly disparage the company's socially responsible claims, so that certainly doesn't help matters. 

    The bottom line is that consumers now have lots of choices if they want healthier food on-the-go, so it's unrealistic to think that Chipotle can maintain its excellent growth rate with its current marketing model. But what if that model changed? What would you change? How can a marketer make adjustments that lead to increased growth without diluting the brand equity it has earned over the years? It can't just start selling burgers. This is the sort of thing that keeps marketers up at night, and you can be certain that the decision-makers at Chipotle are presently studying their options, even while they sleep.