Category Archives: Uncategorised

Even Behemoths expected to try

CNN reports that Amazon will soon discontinue plastic pillows used to pack items for shipping.

No surprise.

The surprise is the lag-time for ‘Zon to get around to doing it.

eg Kimberly-Clark was using Paper Pillows for freight cushioning almost 4 decades ago. And yes, they were costlier than plastic- but it was the right thing to do.

Imagine what a firm as big & profitable as Amazon might achieve by investing to create net new eco-responsible solutions, rather than wait for its supply chain to create & prove solutions, then wait decades more for the public pressure to win out vs the economic savings of plastic.

Amazon doesn’t let me ‘group together’ or ‘bulk up’ my item orders before checkout; imo giving consumers that choice, so they can reduce the delivery carbon footprint, should be e-tail ‘price of entry’.

It’s sad that ‘Zon doesn’t get more public backlash for a lack of effort to protect the planet. But BE-4* you ask why the firm doesn’t try harder to be responsible, a firm’s #ethics start at the top– and this firm’s owner, instead of investing in solutions for this planet, spends billions on methane-belching rocket voyages that extend his pollution footprint beyond our own planet.

Eco-fees an ethic/legal sore spot

An update via CBC on Dollarama’s eco-fee class action lawsuit- imo a troubled topic- retailers must make margin but also try to send worthy ‘eco signals’ – perhaps in future more retailers will try to reduce the need to fight such lawsuits by more explicitly showing/explaining any specific eco-fees? via emails, websites, store signage?

Maybe it’s just me – but imo charging an eco fee on batteries & other discardable electronics/ hazardous waste is a defensible approach if one is upfront about it & where the fee$ are donated/spent.

‘Shrinkflation’ is nothing new

there’s a lot of press now about ‘short-sizing’ or ‘pack count reductions’ or ‘shrinkflation’- as BBC’s Alexis Benveniste indicated in this thoughtful piece.

Just an FYI for marketers- this is nothing new!

Pack size reductions were common in the 1970’s, again in late 80’s & mid90’s during bouts of inflation. Low inflation usually discourages such practises, but even in noninflationary times, sometimes brands’ costs increase (with product improvements, etc), yet they face a ‘sensitive’ price point eg 99 cents or $1.99 etc. The first Fast Moving Consumer Good in a competitive category brand to jump to $1.09 or $2.09 will meet huge at-shelf purchase hesitation; some of their users will give a competitive brand a try, etc, etc. Ergo– they may reduce the contents …and hold the price.

Do consumers notice? Sometimes.

Is it legal? Usually – although certain categories are regulated so that consumers may compare items head to head. Jam used to be all 250ml or 500ml sizes- shrinking to 225ml would invite regulator fury. Facial tissue used to be 100 or 200 tissues/box; White Swan tissues launched a 150 count in Canada & their product was forced off the shelf (years later, the legislation changed; the same brands who had cried “Foul!” at White Sewan, gleefully cut their 200 count boxes, to a now-legal 150 sheets).

Well so what’s the harm?

For 1 thing, per Social Media ‘outings’, an unannounced count reduction seems ….sleazy & underhanded?

And….it’s a logistical nightmare. Ever play dominoes? This is dominoes. Change the pack count, and…

the product description changes, so the UPC often must change.

if shelf dimensions change, then every Planogram system changes, corrugate shippers dimensions are altered, production line case packers are reconfigured (sometimes means ordering ‘change parts’ & taking the line down to install them).

if the unit WEIGHT changes, corrugate declarations change (OSHA!), pallet layer configurations may change (40×48!), pallet counts & case weights change, pallet weights & truck shipping logistics change,..

So the next time you Marketing gurus go for a seemingly-easy “Let’s just cut back contents per unit”, be aware you set in motion many, many consequences; the Graphics, Purchasing, Manufacturing, Logistics/Shipping teams won’t salute your genius. The Customer Service / Customer Relations ppl who must field the complaints won’t salute your genius. The Key Account Sales pro’s that now have to justify/rationalize/sell this change to retailers won’t salute your genius.

So.. be sure you have looked thoroughly at all reasonable alternatives first.

Great Interview Advice

There are fine courses, seminars & staffers dedicated to helping college students shine in the (admittedly intimidating, often frustrating) recruiting process, but this article deals with a question that’s thoroughly predictable. Kudos to Emily Durham at Canadian Business! Love the advice to use a 2-part reply (a summary/ overview, then the detail); I’d hope you would do so while closely monitoring the interviewer’s non-verbal cues (ie body language).

Wise candidates will PRACTISE their answer to this question & include relevant, compelling ‘success metrics’ in the follow up part of a reply ie not “…while at Acme Co., I improved sales”, but “…while at Acme Co., I improved sales +21% over a 2 year period”).

Videos to pay it forward (+a request to help pls)

I’ve set ‘public’ 20 videos (2 to 7 minutes long) on Applied Marketing Research & various insight-generating & analysis topics for aspiring marketing, advertising & business pro’s. Hope they help.

Do comment if you see anything to correct, add to, give an example of, etc; appreciate your help to better ‘pay it forward’.

The videos may help as you write a Brief, start Secondary Research, wonder what it means to create an Avatar, ponder whether to do Qual research instead of Quant, are trying to figure out how to design a Survey or write a Research Objective, are asked to gauge Market Potential, etc.

And if you do like them, click the ole ‘thumbs up’. Thanks much

Causes done right ( CSR, EDI, whatever)

These are days of social visibility; members of the pubic ‘out’ a firm for a breach of public trust, or a lapse in standards. Any ‘outing’ goes global across multiple #SoMe platforms in an instant so it’s vital to do some good‘ to let your organization invoke the “SQUIRREL!!!” tactic- redirect negativity by pointing to the good you’re doing. Think of it as a ‘counterbalance’.

Wait – you say your org has done nothing good to balance the negativity? Absolutely no Corporate Social Responsibility activity ( #CSR )? Oops! You had your chance to select a high-fit cause & support it prominently- it could be CSR or EDI (used to stand for ‘Electronic Data Interchange’; now more commonly is short for ‘Equity Diversity & Inclusion’). For example, here’s a full page Saturday Star ad for Joe Carter’s annual charity classic – think of the upsides to a sponsor:

an uncontroversial, universal, sympathetic cause (children’s well being)

an untainted Toronto sports living icon

a chance to make connections via the best networking game ever- golf

see your brand/org linked to the cause on multiple social/media platforms

If you’re too late to support this cause, find another & get some “SQUIRREL” distraction insurance for the next, inevitable time some consumer group or activist throws eggs at you.

Science- Blinded Me

Thomas Dolby (yep- THAT ‘Dolby’) a tech-respecting pro issued a song a generation ago that captures the mindset of most of the public, news viewers, Social Media participants: ‘She Blinded Me With Science”

imo no other song so perfectly captures the skeptical POV of most journalists (few have a science background) & most ‘Influencers’ that Science is to be mistrusted & isn’t worth covering. They know the public are wowed by OPTICS- bytes, pics, Data ‘Visualizations” (often fraudulent) are what sells.

That accounts for ‘Virtue by Association’ efforts; orgs aiming to ‘look’ ethical may try to ‘leverage’ feel-good trends & slipstream’em. Sometimes they’re ‘outed’ (a green-named cleaner that isn’t ‘green’ or a global brand trying to ‘hijack’ the #BLM protest movement…. to sell soda). Sadly, the ‘Optics Of The Moment’ obsession can do more harm than good. Brands that misfire when trying to do the right thing may be ripped apart for trying but not nailing it. Trying badly is MUCH MORE costly than DOING NOTHING eg H&M improved their multicultural casting -a worthy aim- yet a lack of multicultural experiential savvy earned them rage (H&M ‘cute monkey’ kids shirt). Competitors, many of whom were way behind on multicultural casting, got a free pass!

In theory cellphones, active e-communities & instant global messaging could make companies/brands more transparent & accountable. In reality? People prefer bytes & pics to science & reading. They dislike complex info (science, data,..). Ethical ‘performance’ is a battle of speedy Optics tactics. The playbook: slipstream, divert, distract, make promises (that no one will follow up on when society moves onto the next ‘It-concern of the moment’).

Eg responsible scientists (unlike most Social Media Influencers & many reporters), seldom just label one approach Angelic & another Evil. A scientifically thorough, responsible way to evaluate 2 options’ total ecological impact is to compare them via a ‘Life Cycle Analysis’ which involves objectively measuring the resource drain, land & water pollution, nonrenewable /energy resources ‘cradle to grave’ of each option, incl. sourcing of component materials, transport to manufacturing & market, production, distribution, eventual disposal, etc. An objectively completed Life Cycle evaluation of cloth vs disposable diapers in 1990’s showed disposables were less ecologically burdensome than cloth, yet the story was too ‘sciency’ for the media to cover, or the public to read/comprehend.

I’d not be surprised if no Life Cycle review has been done for hybrid vs gas powered autos eg measuring (cradle to grave) the full environmental cost’ to mine & extract Rare Earth elements for batteries, review how the electricity is generated & how much energy is wasted eg lost in transmission or battery drain via cold weather, how to disassemble the batteries & neutralize their toxic corrosive materials, etc.

Optics are what sell & for the moment- Hybrids are GREEN! 😊. Governments & the public are falling over themselves to invest in them, force us to convert to them, lure their companies here, get taxpayer subsidies for the auto buyers & battery plants & auto assembly facilities & infrastructure builders …

Dare we even ask if a Life Cycle study exists? Nope, that’d draw immediate furor. A career-killing socially ostracizing move like that would certainly show we’re not remotely ‘Woke’ enough.

“Textbook correct” isn’t always… correct

Having written a textbook, I know there will be topics where authors are uninformed or suffer misconceptions (I sidestepped that by not covering topics I’m clueless about; so my Research Textbook doesn’t cover Cluster Analysis, or Least Squares methods in detail). Sadly, many textbooks are supposed to be ‘fully comprehensive’ so authors invariably write about subjects in which they lack knowledge &/or restate ‘pure’ (academic/theory) ideals. I get a laugh out of “It’s in the textbook, so it must be true” – Textbooks are much more reliable than wikipedia or marketing91, but fyi here are some ‘not so finer moments’ in my college’s textbooks.

One publisher of an Intro Marketing text used the wrong formulae for Markup* and Margin – then ignored my SIX YEARS of requests to fix it (*I also told them to remove ‘Markup’ altogether, since no retailer has used ‘Markup’ for.. oh… 30 years???… they ignored that request too)

A publisher recently showed a book excerpt where Quant ‘insights’ were taken from Focus Groups eg “14 out of 15 attendees agreed that…” -an error that wouldn’t have happened if the author had professional experience. Research Practice 101: you NEVER interpret numbers from Qual projects- duh!

Some Marketing Textbooks show a ‘Price/Quality’ or ‘Value/Quality’ Positioning Map (Perceptual Map). Free Tip: never show such a ‘tool’ in a Marketing meeting except to generate comic relief. Choosing vague generic axis labels for a Map will nullify its usefulness altogether. Laughably Bad.

A ‘lil chestnut’ pops up in textbooks wrt SWOT’s (a review of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats, part of Situation Analysis for a Marketing Plan); “We’ll convert that Weakness into a Strength”. Really. Ohhhhh… kay. Blurt out a naive, idealistic comment like that in a Marketing meeting & you lose all credibility. [Tip: First you must shore up a Weakness –that alone is typ. a multi-year effort, often ending in failure. Worse yet, if it’s a Weakness for you, you’re prob already far behind your competitors on that factor. Tip: Just set your sights on getting the dam shored up; you can build the Hoover some other day].

This lil jewel in a textbook: “Good marketers add value to their products/services by nudging ppl up the Maslow needs hierarchy” ??? Alarm companies, dental strips, bottled water, global tire brands… have been doing it wrong all this time? Wow! They better get some ‘Good’ marketers! The author is right; I can’t wait to give up safety & go buy my car some self-actualizing tires!

Errors happen- that’s life. I’d happily support publishers that ACT after being told of errors, but this rarely happens. I bet Publisher Reps fear telling Dr I. Vohr E. Tawherr that their tome is imperfect; I doubt any of my feedback got through to the blissfully unaware authors.

This blog is sure to get me ‘free feedback’ from idealistic authors; go ahead. Maybe it’ll generate a discussion & you can tell me you know of a 5th generation family run shoe repair shop still using MarkUp. That’d be good for me to know- and help correct my ignorance. No, wait! Better yet, I’ll convert my Weakness ie ignorance of such businesses, into a Best-In-Industry expertise, a Strength!

New Product that is making a racket

It’s loud & has an awkwardly infantile name.

But it’s cheap to start, EZ to learn & sociable.

It’s… Pickleball

Check out which supplier firms are winning & which retailers, too. And keep in mind the Product Life Cycle; as a category matures, it explodes into +tightly targeted niches ergo the inevitability of Pro Pickleball, Seniors Pickleball, Family Pickleball, Tourist Pickleball, Pickleball sports lottery games, Pickleball lessons, Pickleball media deals & even e-Pickleball games (so sad to admit they prob already exist!)

I’d encourage Strategy or New Product Launch students to monitor its evolution, how major sponsors, gear suppliers & event/ promotion firms inevitably move in & drive out (or buy out) some pioneers who were so vital to advancing the sport to where it’s at.

There a lesson here about keeping your head down, not shining too bright, lest you draw the attention of powerful usurpers.

Choose your ‘trinkets’ well

my last post urged grads to consider careers in B2B Sales/Marketing; if that intrigues you, pay respect also to suppliers of ‘leave-behind premiums’ ie ‘momentums’ or even (ughhhh!!!) ‘Trash & Trinkets’- promotion tools firms use to leave an impression at/after in-person events eg trade shows. On Dec 1-2, Seneca College partnered w Sheraton Hotel, Queen Street, Toronto to host the 2022 Ontario Collegiate Marketing Competition (OCMC). Thanks to a convenient venue & the perseverance (& contact list!) of event guru Nancy Bodi, a record number of Pay It Forward minded sponsors opened their wallets and sent talented (B2B) staff.

Thanks to this sponsors! And thanks for showing students the role of ‘Premiums’. B2B Marketing makes a science of Trade Shows- choosing which to attend, how to participate (manage a booth or just attend), what else to sponsor (speaker, meal, mix & mingle, etc), who to send (from your staff), booth design, sales materials (biz cards, promotion sheets,,…) and … choosing the ‘Premiums’. There are so many possibilities- & always a (risky) chance to separate one’s brand from the crowd with a novel item. But also: concerns about lead time, safety, durability of construction, how easily it ‘takes’ a logo (in the brand’s pantone!), cost/unit- & much more. The items say something about your brand, & its impression of the attendees’ importance, so consider well!

The OCMC gave most student attendees their 1st taste of a Trade Show- how booth exhibitors demo a brand, start a conversation, use easy casual banter (ice breakers!). They’re professional!

Students: Want to Be in B2B? watch & learn!

And note the Show ‘Premiums’- what’s hot? (it tends to change each year-(I recall when Flash Drives & Sticky Notes were the hot Premium choice); it takes skill to stay atop such a lively field. Most big brands hire a specialist to help them choose & then oversee design, QA, inventory /delivery, packaging, etc. Think it’s ‘Trash & Trinkets’? Nope. It’s your brand’s leave-behind impression. This year:

Metal water bottles are hot- they take a logo well & ooze politically correct ‘sustainability’, but come at a high cost/unit and they’re bulky for the exhibitor to lug around a show, replenish inventory, etc.

Mittens (imo a bright choice to separate sponsor McGraw, albeit very limited seasonally);

Privacy/peeper Camera covers for phones/laptops -they’ll get lots of impressions (one each time you open your laptop!) but QA must be rigorous (awkward brand impression, if durability or adhesion is iffy);

Poppers or PopUps for phones

Socks! (yep, Socks!)

Stress relievers- often it’s stress squeeze balls; at this show it was an X’s and O’s fidget device

Business Card holders and Pens- (traditional choices)

An unusual choice at this show -STICKERS! lil fun character stick-ons to engage students in a chat, presumably to ensure they don’t think working for a tech firm (Salesforce) needs to be dry /boring.

Not at This Show (but hot elsewhere): RFID wallets, card sleeves, key holders.

Consider: if YOU were to choose a premium for an upcoming show- what would you choose? Would it say the right things about your brand immediately?.. after some use? Would it separate your brand? …carry the logo well? … arrive on time?… be affordable? … be easy to lug about the show & keep at the booth? Think about it: choosing a Premiums is not a ‘light’ decision at all. We do learn to #Respect the ‘Premium’ suppliers, designers -even if some still refer to their industry as ‘Trash & Trinkets’