Holiday Marketing: A Lesson Learned from McDonald's McRib.
In the fall of 2011, McDonald's brought the McRib sandwich back nationwide for the first time in 16 years. The McRib has become a cult hit with fast food diners. Despite McRib's limited availability of a few weeks, McDonald's posted a nearly 5% increase in sales in November 2011 presumably due to the return of the sandwich. McRib disappeared from McDonald's nationwide menus just as it did the year before, leaving McRib fans to nurse a yearlong craving for the novelty sandwich.
The Secret to the Success of McRib: Limited Availability.
What makes the McRib such a hit among its fans? I believe that the popularity of the McRib stems from its limited availability. It is only available in the fall. By limiting the release of the sandwich to only the fall, McDonalds has created demand that is seasonally based. We associate seasons with foods that we eat. For instance, I love eggnog. I feel excited when the weather turns cold because I know that soon eggnog returns to the shelves. Cranberries are another example of a food item that we eat mainly during the fall and winter. By keeping McRib a seasonal product, McDonalds lets its loyal McRib enthusiasts enjoy the thrill of rediscovering their beloved sandwich every year. Small business owners should take a lesson from McDonalds. Consider promoting a product or service that you only offer during limited times of the year. You may just create a loyal following of dedicated fans.
photo credit: Calgary Reviews - Some Rights Reserved http://www.flickr.com/photos/calgaryreviews/5901096115/
Operating Hours Sign Failure
I wanted to eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant that I have been to before. The restaurant serves its food buffet style. The food is good and so is the price; A perfect spot for a quick lunch. When I arrived at the restaurant, I was greeted by a sign on the door that said that the operating hours of the restaurant were 11am until 11pm, Monday through Friday. The time was 11:30am, clearly within their hours of operation. I was supervised to find that when I pulled on the door, the deadbolt was still locked. I looked in the tinted windows and thought at first that this restaurant had gone out of business. There was no activity to be seen. No people, no greeters - the lights were even off. Then some motion caught my eye. It was the golden lucky cat figure that the restaurant has in the waiting area. The lucky cat was waving its paw - someone had to have turned it on. Perhaps the owners of the restaurant had forgotten to open their doors or they had lost track of time. With my face pressed against the window, I scanned the interior for additional signs of life. The buffet steam tables sat in the back of the establishment and a you could note steam coming off of the heated water. There was steam, but no food. A couple standing nearby told me that they had been waiting since 11am for the anticipated opening. They had not seen anyone either. They should open soon, I thought, I sat down at an outside table under the front patio of the business. While I waited, I observed. More than a dozen potential patrons approached the restaurant in anticipation of the same quick lunch that we were hoping to eat. Each one of them did the same thing that I did: they tried the door, pointed to the sign where the operating hours were posted, and pressed their faces to the glass to see why there were incongruences between the sign and the locked door. They all saw the lucky cat just as I did. I was fascinated by the duplicate behavior and the disbelief the potential patrons had when they found the information on the door to be untrue. I decided to wait until noon to see if the place would actually get it together and open for lunch and to observe how people continued to act towards the sign on the door. Just before noon, a large family approached the door. Their behavior was identical to everyone else’s. To my surprise, a man dressed as a cook came to the door. Instead of opening the door, he made hand signals to the family that he needed more time before they were to open. The family pointed to the sign on the door in protest. They were annoyed that he would not let them in and soon left. At noon I left as planned. As I counted the people who tried to eat at this restaurant today, my count came to 15. Each of them including myself had expected to eat at the restaurant. All of us left disappointed. Those 15 people could be the profit margin for the day for that business. How many of them will post on their Facebook page a negative comment about this experience? How many will never return?
The Importance of Signs as Brand Promises
We as consumers are exposed to hundreds of signs every day. What is amazing is that we believe what we see on a sign. We take them literally at face value. We are so used to being directed that we rarely question if the information is correct. Signs are brands. A brand is a promise of an expected product or service. We all expected that the brand of this restaurant was that they were open at 11am. They were not. They lied. Their brand lied and broke the brand promise. Now the only brand promise we have is that their brand is unpredictable. Unpredictability in the marketplace does not fetch a premium price. It gets what is leftover, because that is what it deserves. No one should have to beg a business to take their money. A business should make it easy for customers to transact with them. If the business was having a problem that day, they needed to communicate that with their customers. A simple piece of paper that said "Sorry, we are opening at 12pm today" would have been sufficient. That would have preserved their brand with the 15 of us and kept their brand promise; even if we would have chosen to go elsewhere for lunch. A sign is a brand promise. Customers will hold you to your sign. It is your unwritten contract with them. Don’t break promises to your customers. This restaurant will need more than a lucky cat to help them survive if this is the way they keep their brand promise.
Photo: Steve Snodgrass, Creative Commons License, Some rights Reserved
The Small Business Google Search Nightmare.
One of my clients is a local handyman. He came in to talk with me about marketing his business more effectively. He was concerned because his clients weren’t finding his business online. I typed the search term “handyman las vegas” into Google. The Google search returned 2.2 million results! We don’t even have 2.2 Million people in Las Vegas. My client was also not pleased to see his closest 25 competitors fighting it out on the first page of Google’s search results. He asked me how it was possible for a small business to compete against so many similar businesses. Our conversation led to a discussion on Differentiation.
What is Differentiation? Be Different – Be Better
Differentiation is strategically deciding to make your business different from your competition, while at the same time making it better as well. Differentiation allows companies that sell similar products to justify pricing fluctuation between brands. For example, Texaco, Shell, Citgo, and Chevron all sell gasoline. They all charge differently for their product. Why? Because each product has been differentiated from the other. In Las Vegas, the most expensive gas comes from Chevron, then Texaco, Shell and finally Citgo. Citgo is sold exclusively at 7-11 convenience stores. One of the ways that Citgo is differentiated from Chevron is that you can buy a Slurpee and a BigBite hot dog while you are pumping gas. At Chevron, Texaco, and Shell you can’t. But you probably can purchase a car wash. Many Chevron, Texaco, and Shell stations are paired with car wash services. This is something that you will rarely see at a 7-11. You have to be able to set your business apart from your competition and then be better.
5 Tips on How to Be Better Than Your Competition
1. Make differentiation part of your overall marketing strategy
2. Know your customers and give them what they want and need
3. Don’t try to compete head-to-head with a rival. Find your niche instead
4. Add value in all areas of your business: Operations, Finance, and Marketing
5. Branding helps you remember your promise to your customer
Pepsi NEXT - The Newest Mid-Calorie Soda
Pepsi is making a big move into the "Mid-Cal" cola market with it's newest product called Pepsi NEXT. NEXT will hit the shelves March 26th and promises 60% less sugar with all the cola taste. Pepsi hopes to attract the lucrative market of people who have left traditional sodas for lower calorie enhanced waters, sports drinks and bottled teas. This product comes on the heels of many failed products in this segment including Pepsi's own Pepsi Edge, Pepsi XL, which had both been pulled from production by 2007. There is a renewed sense of hope since the launch of Dr Pepper Ten, Dr Pepper Snapple Group's 10 calorie soda last fall. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group is currently testing a line of 10 calorie sodas they hope to release to the general market. Both Pepsi and it's market dominating rival, Coca-Cola, have had market declines in recent years due to heightened public awareness to health risks related to the high-sugar content in soda. Pepsi, hoping to regain some traction in this market, is rumored that it will invest more than $600 million this year to market Pepsi NEXT.
Pepsi NEXT Commercial : Drink It to Believe It
Advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day produced a television commercial that features a young couple and their crawling toddler who is ready to stand and walk at any moment. The video-camera ready couple is prepared to immortalize the moment. The commercial shows the exited couple trying and praising the new drink. At the same time the baby, who feels neglected starts to perform tricks in the background to regain the parents attention. The parents are so enamored with the new product that the mother pulls out the video camera to document the wonderful new Pepsi product instead of the baby. The baby who is trying to get the parents attention progresses from standing to walking on it's hands to dancing and then ultimately playing a Fender Flying V guitar. The Pepsi NEXT loving parents miss the whole thing, but are satisfied with the amazing new drink they have discovered. In addition to the commercial, Pepsi NEXT will be promoted digitally via a Facebook campaign, and sampling efforts to get consumers to taste Pepsi NEXT will take place in more than 800 Walmart stores. The real question is: will Pepsi NEXT deliver the needed boost in sales that Pepsi needs in this segment? Only consumers will answer that question.
Notre Dame Tradition of Gold Helmets
Notre Dame is a university that is full of tradition. From the trumpeters playing the alma matter inside the Golden Dome of the administration building to the pre-game Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Notre Dame and the "Walk" across campus to the stadium, Notre Dame holds to its traditions and protects the brand and mystique that the university has come to represent. The traditional all gold football helmets have been a long standing brand of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, there is an old tradition where the Student Managers traditionally paint the helmets before each game. This tradition includes using paint mixed with gold dust from the original Golden Dome on the Notre Dame campus. This also produced a different look to the helmets each game. The University recently changed the design of their legendary football helmets.
Why Refresh the Brand of the Gold Helmets
Jack Swarbrick, Director of Athletics for Notre Dame University said "Symbolically, the helmets have always been intended to reflect the dome: the most graphic symbol of this University." When asked when was it determined that there was a change needed in the color of the football helmets, Swarbrick responded that his wife asked him during an opening game a couple of years ago, "When did we start wearing brown helmets". It caused Swarbrick to contemplate what Notre Dame was trying to achieve with the helmets. It always came back to the connection with the dome. Ryan Grooms, Notre Dame Football Equipment Manager, said "I have taken many walks around campus especially on game day, looking up at the dome and realizing that's what we deserve, thats what we should have. The dome is a true representation of Notre Dame. It's is our way of giving back to the university, making sure that we are a true representation of Notre Dame as well." (SEE FULL VIDEO HERE)
Preserving The Brand: The Process of Reinventing the Gold Helmets
Notre Dame started the process of reinventing the helmet last year. Hydro Graphics Inc., an Oregon based graphics firm worked for the past year to develop the helmets for Notre Dame. The printing process used to create the new helmets is called water transfer printing and Hydro Graphics Inc. has trademarked the process calling it HydroSkin®. Currently, HydroSkin® technology is the only system approved for use by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). You may have already semen some Hydro Graphics creations. Hydro Graphics was responsible for the helmets in use by the Rose Bowl Champion - Oregon Ducks as well as many other NCAA and Professional sports franchises. The team went through 12 iterations of the helmet until they got the one that they were happy with. One that adequately represented the dome. Hydro Graphics was able to incorporated the 24k gold dust from the dome into the final painting process of the helmets. This preserved the brand of the Gold helmets of the Fighting Irish.
I have always watched the Superbowl for the ads. Yes, the game is always good to watch, but the ads are spectacular in their own right. I have broken my nominations down by catagory for your review.
BEST USE OF ANIMALS - My 2 favorites in this catagory are: "Bridgestone - Carma" and "CareerBuilder - Parking Lot".
There is nothing better than a pleasant marketing surprise! While nursing a cold, I purchased a bag of my usual Halls Cough Drops. I noticed that they had re-designed their packaging as I hurriedly popped one in my mouth. I was about to throw the wrapper away when I discovered a pleasant surprise: “A Pep Talk in Every Drop”.
Halls, in a brilliant marketing move, has placed little “Pep Talk” messages on the wrapper. Mine included: “Bet on yourself”, “High-five yourself”, “Put a little strut in it”, “March forward”, and “Turn can-do into can-did”. The cost of this campaign must have been miniscule to Halls, since they are currently printing their logo on the wrapper anyway. By the way, the Halls logo is printed over a dozen times on the little wrapper – surrounding the “Pep Talk” messages.
This little wrapper which normally is quickly disposed of remained on my desk, I didn’t throw it away. And I have to admit, I felt a little better after reading the wrapper. It had the same emotional appeal as a fortune cookie with one exception: everyone who is using this product is feeling ill. Duh! That is why we use Halls – because we are sick and not feeling our best. Isn’t that when we all need a pep talk? Sure, there are days when we feel sick; both emotionally and physically. It is at those times when we reach for a Halls Cough Drop. Halls get it and gets us. What a perfect example of product positioning and understanding the mindset of your target market.
I researched this campaign and found out that it had been running throughout 2010. Apparently, I don’t get sick often enough. Below are video links to the TV ads for the campaign.
Thank you Halls for the “Pep Talk”
Target is back again this year with their brilliant ad campaign for Black Friday - Featuring the high strung and about to crack holiday loving shopper. This year her sister is not present. We get to enjoy her holiday neurosis all to ourselves. What is great about the creative in this campaign is the fact that we all know someone like her, and we all secretly want to like her in some way: devoted to our cause of choice. Hers just happens to be Black Friday. Target included a heavy social media component to their campaign which fetures video, text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook. If last year's campaign was any indicator of this year's success, it will do it job very well: Bring shoppers out in droves for holiday shopping during a bad economic time.
Marketing kudos to Target. I will be in line at 4am on November 26th.
Every service business has one major problem: You only earn money when you are performing your service. In a business that sells services, there is a limit on how many you can perform a day. Even when business is booming, you only have 24 hours in the day that you can work. Whether you are an interior designer, accountant, or window washer, you have the same problem.
THE SOLUTION: PRODUCTIZE YOUR SERVICE.
What does it mean to “productize” your service? It means to take some aspect of what you provide as a service company and put it into a tangible product. Take the knowledge and expertise in your field and create a product based on this knowledge. You can sell your product online 24 hours a day, without you as the service provider being there in person. Here are a few examples: The interior designer could create a DVD series that helps people to decorate their homes. The accountant could write a “how-to” book for small business owners that would teach them how to use financial accounting software. The window washer could create their own brand of window washing solution, formulated to work in our climate conditions. All of these solutions help to grow the brand of the service company. Brands demand more money in the marketplace. If your service business creates and grows its own brands, it will ultimately be worth more when you decide to sell it or merge it with another company.
As an expert service provider in your field, what kind of product could you come up with to promote your business? Productize your business today!
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