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22 posts from December 2005

Knopf Wins with Marketing Humility

051221 Marketing is such a hard job, and publishing is such a brutally competitive business, it's nice to see the hard work, patience and willingness to learn at Alfred A. Knopf, where they faced many challenges with the new Christ the Lord book by Anne Rice, who first earned success writing about sexy vampires. I'd like to give them recognition for taking a chance with something different and being patient with the people who don't like it.

WSJ: After the Vampire: Knopf Learns to Sell A New Anne Rice by Jeffrey A. Tachtenberg (subscription required)

But the book is enjoying a good run on best-seller lists, and some of the credit goes to efforts by Knopf that date back almost a year. Knopf's marketers not only had to prepare readers for Ms. Rice's about-face, but they also had to wade into the complexities of publishing a book that imagines the early years of Christ's life. In addition, they had to find their way in religious publishing, which has its own infrastructure....

To help get the buzz going, the publisher gave away 4,000 advance copies -- with a letter from Ms. Rice -- to traditional retailers, distributors and bloggers. But Knopf also focused on blogs, newsletters, and radio and TV stations aimed at a Christian audience....

But not everyone wanted Knopf's business. The Rev. Harry Grile, publisher of Liguori Publications, declined to run an ad ... "I don't accept ads for products with which I'm uncomfortable."

Another Captive Audience Rescued by MasterCard

051220aThe Wall St. Journal has a long and interesting article about whether or not airlines will allow advertisers to promote their products in the cabin. It's been happening off and on for a long time, but many airlines are worried that it could hurt their brand image. However, in some cases it may be a powerful opportunity for someone to rescue the airline's customers.

WSJ: Advertisers Find A Captive Audience: Travelers on Planes by Brian Steinberg and Melanie Trottman (subscription required)

MasterCard International is providing complimentary snacks, movie headphones and puzzles and games aboard nearly 600 flights of AMR Corp.'s American Airlines during the holiday-travel season. The expectation is that more than 85,000 travelers will benefit from this largesse, which is publicized onboard by the flight attendants. Given the state of flying coach these days, MasterCard ought to come off like Santa Claus.

Fox: first buy an audience, then make a product

051220_1 Here's an innovative approach. Having trouble reaching the youth market? Well, first you could buy their eyeballs, for instance MySpace, but don't stop there. Instead of advertising your existing products to them, why not develop an entirely new product line for your new captive audience? Highly clever and highly risky at the same time!

Fox Film Entertainment is establishing a new film studio focused on the youth market, both teenagers and young adults. (The business and logo is owned by News Corp., as are the Fox television and film businesses.)

NY Times: Fox Film Unit to Focus on Youth by Sharon Waxman

James N. Gianopulos, co-chairman of Fox, said the division was as much about marketing as anything else. "It's less about the nature of the film than the nature of the marketing," he said. "Youth culture is not as influenced by big mainstream TV advertising as it is by pop culture. In a highly fragmented media market, it makes a lot of sense to speak in the voice of specific target audiences."

Fox Interactive Media recently acquired Intermix Media, which operates, an online community that now has tens of millions of young users, for $580 million. Mr. Rice said the new division would tap into that community of users.

Connections Persist on the Internet

051219_1 I had heard about House Concerts and Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles, but until I read this article, I had not stopped to think about how extraordinary they are. By making archives, events and registration available on the internet, communities are formed among people who may never have found each other before. It's not just the fact we can search and find connections to our most esoteric and temporary interests, it's the fact that those connecting points are usually maintained over a long period of time, waiting for us to discover them. Truly miraculous.

NY Times: Home Is Where the Fans Are by Will Hermes (via Cool News of the Day)

Professional musicians performing in home settings is not that unusual; is one source of listings for such events. But it's rare for musicians to open their own homes to the public. (One notable exception is the composer La Monte Young, who lives and performs in a TriBeCa building in New York City known as the Dream House.)

But just as the Internet is changing how recorded music is sold, it is changing the way live music is presented. An enthusiastic posting on a well-trafficked blog can dispatch a crowd to a gig by a little-known group in a matter of hours. In this case, a select group of fans can be summoned to a semiprivate show by world-class musicians that neighbors down the road are barely aware of.

Getting Closer to Full Price

051214aAccording to this NY Times article, internet entrepreneurs did a lot of damage to the online market for luxury goods during the boom, especially by assuming everyone wants luxury for less. Now that business people who really know that market are starting online stores, they are developing truly innovative ways to market luxury full price.

Please pay close attention to the idea of distributing a printed book to web site customers. Actually, selling the customers a book designed to be a companion to the web site. This idea is VERY interesting!

NY Times: Point, Click and Strut by Cathy Horyn

Last year, however, a little-known company in England called turned a profit selling things like $1,500 Chloe bags and $2,000 Marc Jacobs dresses. Started in 2000 by Natalie Massenet, a former fashion editor, with $1.3 million, had sales in the first half of this year of $16 million, an increase of 71 percent over the same period a year ago. ...

A minor criticism of the site is that the design may not be as inspiring as it could be, ....

In the meantime they have come out with something incredibly compelling: a black notebook, bound like a Moleskine, that combines editorial point of view (key looks, Top 10 lists) with a catalog of all the clothes and accessories Net-a-Porter has ordered for next spring.

"I flipped over it," Rose Marie Bravo, the chief executive of Burberry, said. "It perfectly encapsulates the season." Designed to serve as an interface with the site, the Notes, as the $45 book is called, has the double surprise of feeling like an old-fashioned diary in your hand.

Peer to Peer Advertising

0512 We've had consumer-generated advertising for awhile, but now the marketers are starting to use the process of working with consumers to develop better marketing campaigns. Ban deodorant ran ads in Teen People and Cosmo Girl asking girls between the age of 12 and 20 to help them create ads by submitting images and suggestions of how to apply the tag line. From 4,000 entries, 9 images will be selected to appear in a print ad to run in US Weekly in March 2006. - Marketers' New Idea: Get the Consumer To Design the Ads by Suzanne Vranica (subscription required).

Consumer-product companies followed a simple formula: "you explained the benefit and explained the product and they would buy it," he adds. "Now it's about getting her to feel like she is involved. No more one-way messaging." The ads created by young consumers will carry each creator's first name, last initial, and home town. They'll also have a slightly homegrown feel, because Ban plans only to tweak the language and do minor retouching.

A similar effort is behind ads for the videogame Sims 2, from Electronic Arts Inc. EA decided to play on videogamers' liking for making short films based on scenes from games. These amateur movies are known in the gaming world as Machinimas. EA brought 15 gamers to its Redwood City, Calif., headquarters to make the films, which became the basis of TV, online and print ads that began appearing in October.

"I pay more attention to ads that are created by people who actually love a product rather than some ad the company creates,'' says Jennifer Clark, a 34-year-old gamer from San Jose Calif., who crafted one of EA's ads.

Safeway Elbows its Way into the Middle

051213 As marketers try to keep up with evolving customer tastes, one of the most dangerous things they can do is accept the categories set up by their competitors. Who says there's no middle market for groceries?

Inside Bay Area: Safeway turns to 'lifestyle centers' by Matthew Bunk (via Extra Texture)

Safeway Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Burd, who in several recent skirmishes with labor unions earned a reputation for not backing down, decided to push back against well-positioned competitors. He plans to dominate the middle ground of the grocery battlefield and chip away at either side.

After experimenting with a few different concepts in key U.S. markets, Safeway shifted its persona upward and began a multibillion dollar quest to convert its stores to lifestyle centers, equipped with larger delis, an expanded selection of perishable foods, organic products integrated with the non-organic, softer lighting and a larger wine selection.

The entire atmosphere of thenew store tilts to an upscale taste, down to more elegant signs numbering the aisles to a non-skid tile floor in the produce section that looks like planks of woods.