Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kmart’s BIG-GAS Savings…

Just in time for Memorial Day Weekend Travel, Kmart promotes its “Big Gas” savings in a big ass way:

 “Honey, this solves your BIG-GAS problem!”

It’s play on words, part 2!
RAWR! Kmart flexes its marketing might!
Following the viral success of their Ship My Pants spot, Kmart’s second 30-second spot of double-entendres is brilliant.

But is it as funny as their original?

Absolutely. This second serving of slapstick lewd-ity is everything movie sequels hope to be.

Kmart continues to count on comedic delivery to unveil new shopper benefits.

Their new approach is smart (“Kmart smart,” but for real this time).

With the bulk of US consumers aligned either team-Walmart or team-Target, Kmart has fallen on deaf ears for years.

We may not have listened to Kmart on its own merit, but we’ll always listen to a joke. And what’s coming out of Kmart’s mouth is more than just sass – it’s store benefits we might actually be interested in.

$0.30 off at the pump and I don’t even have to go into the store!? That’s a baby step I’m willing to take.

And see? I was so busy chuckling at all the “big gas-es,” I didn’t even notice I was being marketed to.

Precisely what Kmart was hoping for.

Third time’s a charm? Maybe some “sofa king” is next? Bring it. :) 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Abercrombie & Fitch; Good Marketing, Bad PR

Actually, they’re pretty bad at marketing too… (But more on that later)

So everyone is up in arms over Abercrombie’s stance on sizing – particularly as it pertains to girls.
(In case you’ve been living under a rock – CEO Mike Jeffries recently came under fire for statements made long ago about not manufacturing clothes in larger sizes for women). Read More. 

Is Abercrombie doing anything wrong?

Fundamentally speaking, no. (I said FUNDAMENTALLY)

Good Marketers know you have to stand for something. You can’t be all things to all people and still expect to build an iconic brand. Targeting is what sets you apart from the rest – a fact that holds especially true when it comes to fashion.

And branding isn’t just about whom to attract; it’s also about whom to repel.

Just ask Mike “the Situation”
(he was asked to stop wearing A&F apparel on MTV’s The Jersey Shore out of fear that the association worked against the A&F lifestyle).

So Abercrombie only wants the cool kids...

Just walk by an A&F store. You’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to know it already.  
Ear-pulsing club beats and dim lighting. Larger than life posters of scantily clad, physically fit twenty-somethings. The choking aroma of signature fragrance. 

Shit’s intimidating! (Coming from a former uncool kid)

And who’s cool? All else held equal, it’s the most attractive kid with access to the most money (I.e., loaded parents).

Price has been an effective (and acceptable) form of exclusion for years.

Businesses in every industry imaginable have used price as a bar of access against less affluent consumers. No one ever takes offense.

But weight gets personal.

You just don’t talk about it. And for Abercrombie, maybe it’s that it seems to only apply to girls, which provides an added sting of chauvinism.

What we have here is a perfectly rational business choice communicated in a callous, way too transparent manner – add too crowd sourcing and voice amplification via social media.

What we have is a case for better PR.

When it comes to the human body, we possess unfair, illogical aspirations. It’s a reality made possible by years of an escalating notion that sex sells in advertising and Photoshop.

Abercrombie built a name for itself around the chase of physical perfection – and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a solid business model.

Mike Jeffries just should have been more diplomatic in his explanation.

And maybe we’d respect the brand’s stance more if it was even a fraction the “cool” it was more than a decade ago.

Pt. 2 - A brand in need of friends…
(I promised we’d get back to the Marketing part)

When I was home in February, I walked out of A&F with a pair of jeans for $9.00. Rewind 15 years and you’d see me out front of the same store BEGGING my mom to buy me the last $48.00 tee left in my size.
It took 17 consecutive months of declining same-store sales before Jeffries decided to establish a sales discount model.

At the turn of the Millennium you’d have been lucky to find a 10% mark down at the end of the season. Now, it’s reductions on top of redlines and cash rewards if you come back a week later.

Sales have slumped.

While the brand continues to expand internationally, kids here at home have moved on. Why?

A&F wants the cool kids, but the cool kids want something else.

They want to be new and now and cutting edge.

When it comes to fashion, cool kids buy on trend and Abercrombie is not trend.

It’s a lifestyle.

New colors, cuts and prints. With kids, the faster they change the better.

During its mid- to late-nineties heyday, A&F’s “lifestyle” look felt like a trend because it was fresh and new.

But year after year of the same blue-gray plaids and spaghetti strap tanks, popped polo collars, tattered denim, and year-round flip flops, and kids stopped paying attention.

A&F set out to be the next Ralph Lauren; an iconic look all its own. But with a primary target of impatient, self-righteous teens, it was never going to work.

The notion (and cache) of timelessness is lost on the young.

Teens don’t want to look the same year after year and they certainly don’t want to dress like their parents.

So never mind the controversy over size and resulting consumer “boycotts” that, thanks to social media, are shared with a false impression of a unified front.

Before long we’ll no doubt move on to hazing and rebuking a different brand for whom we used to admire.

No, it’s the refusal to evolve the A&F “lifestyle” that will sink this ship.
(Under the current business model, I give it no more than 5 years).

Friday, May 3, 2013

New (Old) JCPenney’s First Ad

It's been just four weeks since Ron Johnson clocked out as CEO of JCP; his promise to breathe new life into a retailer poised to celebrate its centennial + 10 fell short of a frantic board's expectations.

A Call for Change

Time has a way of marching forward, doesn’t it? Yesterday’s retail stroller riders are now pushing strollers of their own down the aisles – and no one wants to shop where mom and dad shop.

For far too many years JCPenney, (along with Sears and, to a lesser extent, Macy's), allowed themselves to age less than gracefully; falling out of vogue with what is now a new class of consumers.

But then JCP (Johnson) decided to make a bold move. JCP found the fountain of youth.
Suddenly, you were squinting at bright, energetic colors. You were energized by delightful, active imagery set in motion against a background of happy ditties you couldn’t get out of your head. In case you missed the year that was:

That felt good, didn’t it?

As a twenty-something retail aficionado I can tell you the new ads grabbed my attention. After a few they even moved JCP back to the shortlist for my patronage. But it takes a while to warm up to someone; to break old habits and start anew. And while my peers and I were not yet sold, a handful of outspoken (aka crotchety) legacy (aka geezer) JCP loyalists were sold on hating the new.

And sales took a tumble…

A (Re)Call for Change

Panicked to stop the bleeding, the JCP board brought back the very same leadership Johnson was meant to replace. And with the new (old) regime (back) at the helm, we received this 30-second commerci-apology.

A half minute sermon of “you make mistakes / you learn from them” with swirling images of every color and creed in the human spectrum (but none that might be confused as homosexual, dare JCP make the same mistake twice).

And my god. That somber, sullen tone.

You’d’ve thought somebody died. Is JCP apologizing for their involvement in the Gulf Coast disaster? Seriously – the ad feels better suited for some pharmaceutical company that’s trying to stand back up after a massive product recall that claimed dozens of lives.

The ad reeks of desperation. It’s diplomacy in the ultimate extreme; pandering to a waning, whiney base that’s standing with one foot already in the grave.

But worst of all, it’s devoid of all the personality the previous regime had worked back in.

You know, the foundation upon which JCP would begin to attract a new generation of store loyalists? Their key to fending off total obsolescence?

While old JCP meant nothing to me, I can appreciate it’s resonance with our parents and our parents’ parents. So why not strike a balance between retaining loyalists and charming new recruits?

Instead of a monochromatic, holistic lecture on personal growth, why not use the 30 seconds to:

Highlight SPECIFIC changes you intend to recall? 
“You missed your coupons, so we’re bringing them back in a big way.”

Reaffirm shoppers of the good you aim to keep?
(Because it wasn’t all bad)
“We’ll continue to build out fashion-forward store-within-a-store concepts for brands like Betsy Johnson and Sephora.”

You didn’t have to ditch the new colors, music, and logo just to get a heartfelt message across.

Have two audiences.

This ad only speaks to one and it’s not me.

And, to quote the title of your ad, It’s No Secret – us millennials will be all you have left before too long.