Posts Tagged ‘Coupland’
Monday, April 11th, 2011
A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek takes a closer look at Acosta, a sales and marketing firm that works for such clients as Kellogg and Proctor and Gamble. These companies pay Acosta to negotiate with retailers on issues like display and promotion. With 1,000 clients, Acosta’s revenue totaled $1 billion last year. Smeal’s Jennifer Chang Coupland, clinical associate professor of marketing and Paiste Fellow in Teaching and Learning, weighs in on the use of third-party marketing firms from a consumer standpoint.
It makes sense that food companies strategically invest in third party marketing firms to persuade stores to stock shelves with their products. A lot of research has shown that shelf space matters. Having more facings (e.g., a 4×4 block of Eggo packaging rather than 2×1) gives consumers more chance of seeing your product. Basic information processing theory shows that repetition also helps grab attention and enhance long-term memory of products.
Consumers also rely functionally and psychologically on location in making purchase decisions. The most profitable shelf space is just below eye-level, which for the average American grocery shopper (usually a woman) is somewhere below the 5’5” range. Why? Shoppers tend to look slightly downward. This is partly due to everyday social convention. We don’t stare straight at people, unless we have a reason to, so we tend to gaze slightly down. We also tend to go on “auto-pilot” in the store, thinking in our own bubble about the task at hand while negotiating other people, carts, displays, etc. almost on reflex. We also look down for functional reasons—to check the shopping list, put items into the cart or talk with a child seated in the cart.
Food companies want their brands in the vantage point of the consumer. If a shopper doesn’t see the Eggo waffles in the first place, they certainly won’t be bought on impulse, if at all. Thus, competition for the right shelf space is hotly contested and therefore worth the extra investment.
Friday, February 26th, 2010
Over the past year, we have discussed everything from the housing industry to Starbucks coffee, thanks to insights from our expert faculty at Smeal. Thank you for your support and readership. We look forward to the year ahead and hope we continue facilitating discussion and producing content of interest to you.
Below is a recap of some of our most viewed posts, addressing several key issues that made the past year a challenging one for business.
Several car companies took a hard hit as the economy tanked and stock prices dropped, forcing them to close plants, layoff workers, and turn to the government for support. In early June, President Obama announced that General Motors filed for bankruptcy and gave Washington a 60 percent stake in the company. Smeal’s Terrence Guay provided a detailed analysis of GM’s history, highlighting the many places they went wrong, in his post, “What Happened to GM?”
The housing industry is slowly on its way to recovery after a volatile year. An unstable mortgage market and a suffering real estate market brought about decreased lending and mortgage defaults. In September, Smeal’s Brent Ambrose addressed the transformation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in his post, “Breaking Up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” In addition, Smeal’s Austin Jaffe outlined ten principles to help navigate the new real estate economy in his October post.
With the Obama administration came the appointment of various czars. One that made headlines was Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar, proving that executive compensation was a hot topic in 2009 and Smeal’s Don Hambrick, Ed Ketz, and Tim Pollock had much to say about it. In May, Hambrick noted that an increase in CEO’s stock offerings could potentially lead to more risk-taking by the CEO. In his study, he suggests a better way to compensate CEOs. In addition, Ketz recommends giving shareholders more influence over corporate boards in his July post. Pollock goes as far as to say that it is going to take a cultural shift, not a pay czar, to rein in executive compensation.
Retailers had to adjust their strategies given the decrease in consumer confidence and lack of spending. In July, handbag retailer Coach, Inc. aimed to lower prices, while maintaining its luxury image. Smeal’s Lisa Bolton offered various strategies for marketers to position their luxury brands in a weakening economy. Starbucks went through the same dilemma as they adjusted pricing to portray the image of being both an affordable and premium brand. Smeal’s Jennifer Chang Coupland thought this might be a rather risky approach and outlined the reasons why in her August post.
Tags: Ambrose, Coach, Coupland, Executive Compensation, GM, Guay, Hambrick, Housing, Jaffe, Ketz, L. Bolton, Management, Marketing, Pay Czar, Pollock, Real Estate, Smeal, Starbucks
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Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses an effort by Campbell Soup Co. to get consumers to buy more soup. Their iconic labels will now feature bigger, steamier bowls. And say goodbye to the spoon. “For two years, Campbell researchers studied microscopic changes in skin moisture, heart rate and other biometrics to see how consumers react to everything from pictures of bowls of soup to logo design,” says Ilan Brat, author of the article. This is all part of a new “neuromarketing” approach by Campbell’s to better understand their customer’s wants and needs.
Smeal’s Jennifer Chang Coupland takes an in-depth look at the Campbell’s brand and addresses why she thinks Campbell’s is remaining loyal to the branding of their three biggest sellers.
When Campbell’s tells consumers that “Soup is Good Food,” the company is not just selling a functional product (delicious, warm, “good” to eat). Campbell’s recognizes that it is marketing an intangible feeling like comfort, nostalgia, simplicity, or a hug. Traditionally, marketers use various techniques to gauge consumer emotions—some of them are purely psychological. For example, my colleague Jerry Olson’s work on the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Task (ZMET), Sidney Levy’s work on the thematic apperception test (TAT), and some of my research and others’ on other projective techniques attempt to find out what consumers “really” think about brands under the surface. What does Campbell’s mean besides something we ingest into our bodies? Metaphorically, what kind of person is Campbell’s? Man or woman, old or young, tall or short, fat or thin? Campbell’s was literally represented as chubby children years ago—wholesome, happy, inviting, and healthy.
Now the chubby children (viewed as lethargic today) are gone and replaced with visions of modern day “healthy” and “wholesome”—active, thinner people, and warm soup bowls with steam to invite and delight. The neuro research points to an important finding that the image on the label and the grouping of cans makes a huge difference in how people perceive the Campbell’s brand. Spoons are somehow too static and functional, perhaps reminiscent of the faux food when shopping for kitchen tables at Wolf’s. The fact that the Campbell’s cans all blend together on the grocery shelf is an equally important finding and consistent with my own research published in The Journal of Consumer Research on brand invisibility and camouflage. Brands often exist in “schools”, much like fish that lose their identifying marks when they swim together. The problem with the schooling of Campbell’s cans, however, is that they cease to stand out and either overwhelm or underwhelm the consumer as a result.
It does make sense that the three Campbell’s biggest sellers are retaining their old packaging. Campbell’s is a nostalgic brand whether you ask grandma, Andy Warhol (through his art), or the average consumer. To erase that nostalgia would be a mistake. Coca-Cola replaced its swirly, fancy lettering in the 1980s with a modern times new roman-looking “New Coke” that contributed to a huge backlash against the brand. Brands based on feelings of nostalgia, particularly American nostalgia, have a hard time moving beyond those emotions.
Friday, January 29th, 2010
In Domino’s Pizza’s new ad campaign, the company is doing something rather unusual in the world of marketing: admitting that its core product stinks. Video ads feature company managers reading customer comments about their pizzas, with glowing reviews like, “Worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had,” “The sauce tastes like ketchup,” and “Totally void of flavor.”
The marketing message is this: Domino’s Pizza hears you, and we’ve completely revamped our pizza. The company has changed nearly all of the key pizza components—crust, sauce, and cheese—to produce a new and improved Domino’s Pizza.
For Smeal’s Jennifer Chang Coupland, the campaign initially reminded her of the colossal failure of New Coke in the 1980s, but, she says, changes in attitudes, culture, and technology might be working in Domino’s favor:
When I first saw the Domino’s ads, I thought to myself, “Oh no! It’s New Coke all over again.” What we learned in the Coke case is that competing brands don’t necessarily have to compete on the same attributes. In the early 1980s, when Pepsi started the Pepsi Challenge, it was all about taste—and Coke was worried, so they gave in and changed the recipe, along with their marketing messages, packaging, and the entire brand. What they later realized, however, is that people associated Coke not with taste, but with Americana, tradition, and nostalgia—and all of that was lost with New Coke. Coke and Pepsi both had their differentiators—Pepsi on taste and Coke on tradition.
We don’t see this in the Pizza industry. There are no strong differentiators between Domino’s and Pizza Hut, for example. So, what Domino’s is trying to do here is stand out from the crowd based on something as basic and functional as taste.
Another difference compared to the Coke case is the cultural shift since the 1980s. The ’80s were materialistic and arguably more superficial, and now our culture is more about being true to oneself and others—and that’s exactly what Domino’s is doing when it admits its past mistakes. This honest message goes over well nowadays. And so does the self-deprecating humor and the documentary/reality-TV style presented in its commercials and viral ads.
The third factor in favor of Domino’s is technology. The company’s humorous ads are showing up on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. People are sharing them and talking about Domino’s Pizza more and more. Pop culture commentators—like Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert—are talking about Domino’s and clips from these programs are furthering the impact of the ad campaign.
While it’s risky for any company to come out and say that they have failed—and to post a live Twitter feed on their Web site with both positive and negative comments about their product—there are marketing, cultural, and technological principles in play in this case that just might make this move successful.
Monday, August 31st, 2009
Starbucks is rolling out a new beverage pricing strategy, raising the prices of its frappuccinos and other specialty drinks by as much as 30 cents while lowering the prices of cappuccinos, lattes, and brewed coffee drinks by 5 to 15 cents. The move is the result of the company trying maintain its image as a premium brand while also keeping price-sensitive customers from switching to less expensive caffeinated alternatives.
Smeal’s Jennifer Chang Coupland says playing both the role of a premium brand and that of an affordable brand could be difficult for Starbucks to pull off:
In some respects, Starbucks’ new strategy makes sense in this day and age of tighter wallets, savvy consumers, and stiff competition. Price basic drinks lower so people can afford them. Price specialty drinks higher to signal luxury. From a marketing perspective, however, the approach is risky. It goes against the basic marketing adage that “you can’t be all things to all people.” Why try to appeal to everyone—high income, low income, specialty drinkers, and regular everyday drinkers?
The risk lies in the fact that Starbucks is not just selling consumers a commodity (i.e., coffee), it is selling a brand. When consumers walk into a Starbucks establishment, they buy a gourmet experience, an “I-deserve-it” break in one’s day. In fact, the gourmet-ness of Starbucks has become so identifiable that McDonald’s spoofed the arrogance of the (presumably) Starbucks coffee house experience in a commercial last year. And Dunkin’ Donuts now sells T-shirts that say, “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”
Do Starbucks consumers mind? All things being equal, probably not. It’s a part of the brand identity, a hierarchical perk of buying Starbucks. It makes the coffee taste—and feel—better. Therefore, Starbucks’ response to lower prices (and also introduce an instant coffee line in grocery stores) departs from its foundational brand identity, its gourmet appeal. Is the brand now for everyone? Or is the company trying to say, “We understand these are hard times for you, our loyal customer”? On the other hand, increasing prices for specialty goods creates an odd hierarchy among its own consumers, which could be problematic.
With all that said, there is a way this two-pronged approach could work. A smart strategy is to focus not on user segmentation, but on usage segmentation—that the same consumer might buy the basic Starbucks on a daily basis but specialty drinks for those days when one needs/deserves more. Will it work? Crafty marketing communications, consumer sentiment, and time will tell.