Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kraft iFood Assistant - doing what CPG brands used to do.

Kraft are impressive.

Packaged goods brands were created at a time when the products were dramatically changing peoples' lives. We're talking about the difference between making soap from fat versus taking it out of the box. The impact that these products and new innovations and line extensions has diminished over time. Now, when Tide launches a portable stain remover it may be convenient but it is hardly driving the liberation that kitchen appliances and related products drove last century.

CPG brands are left on an innovation treadmill - making little impact on the lives of consumers. It is actually retailers who can now have the most dramatic impact.

One exception is sustainability. Here CPG brands can obviously make significant impact.

The other is as a kind of service provider. Digital technology facilitates this. For years now packaged goods have talked about providing "meal solutions" or supporting new mothers with questions on nutrition etc.

Kraft's iFood Assistant - the iphone application is a great example of such a role. Here Kraft provides a service way beyond the products they sell - and way beyond the retailers they serve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's Different in Toronto

Boxing Day Sales Up! doesn't really fit with the U.S. inspired media narrative. But that's what we get from Toronto Sun: Boxing Day sales hit high note

It's all fairly anecdotal but it's there.

Apart from better confidence Toronto (and other Canadian urban centres) may benefit from cultural diversity and the fact that so many residents are born overseas. Again an anecdote - but what's the point of writing a blog if you cannot expand anecdotes into profound truths - but my hairdresser is headed back to her native Iran with in her words, "half of Zellers in her bag".

Attitudes to consumerism may differ among Toronto's foreign born residents. I have posted before about the declining enthusiasm for consumerism among Canadian general population. But what about the roughly 5% of the Toronto population who arrived from China over the last 20 years? I doubt they are sick of consumerism. Many are just getting a taste for it.

Note to self to dig up Environics data on attitudes to consumption by ethnicity. Let's see...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Digital Shopping

I have been meaning to post on the impact of digital technology on shopping but it is too overwhelming and hard to seperate the reality from the hype.

So let's start with Pogue-o-Matic.

I love this virtual version of the person that you cannot find in the store. Actually most of us tech challenged folks have a real life equivalent. For me, I would ask my brother in law if I was buying any audio visual equipment valued over $100. This fella saves me the call. And I can switch him off when I'm done.

I lost my impulse to buy

Yeah, Leah McLaren said it in the Globe and Mail: How I lost my will to shop.

And she nicely sums up the theories of behavioural economists.

The more they want us to the less we want to. Hey, we used to like that crap until you priced it like it was crap.

Look for many people talking about this in 2009. Maybe shopping is not a natural human state...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wal-Mart Pulls out of PRISM - Updated 30th Jan

I have veered away from the nitty gritty of shopper marketing research on this blog but this is significant news from Shopper Marketing magazine:

P.R.I.S.M. to Roll Out Without Walmart

Shopper Marketing magazine has learned that Walmart, an active member of the P.R.I.S.M. (Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric) industry consortium during both the pilot and scaling phases of the project, will not participate in the launch of the national syndicated data service next year.

According to Nielsen, "Walmart was pleased with the insights they gleaned but has opted out of the syndicated service, consistent with their internal data sharing policies."

This really undermines the credibility of this initiative. Wal-Mart clearly are not keen on their valuable in store space being monetized and lumped in with everyone elses. Somehow, however, I find it hard to shed tears for Nielsen.


More here

A few interesting points:

"It was interesting at first," he said. "But when you poke at it a little more, it gets a little less interesting."

Pretty faint praise. I guess there is a lot of modelling of the data that makes it suspect.

And this:

For its part, Walmart is incorporating its own service to measure shopper-marketing return on investment -- DS-IQ -- into the rollout of its Smart Network, a next-generation in-store TV network to be operated by Thomson's Premier Retail Networks in 2,700 stores on 27,000 screens by early 2010.

Wal-Mart is not a team player.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Rituals for Uncertain Times

I have been looking back at Environics Social Values data during the 1990's when consumer confidence was low to try and see any patterns to predict how consumers behave in economic hard times.

One thing that was noticeable was how an enthusiasm for spontaneity dipped. I guess it makes sense that people are not looking for surprises. They are looking for certainty. And ritual is one means of achieving that.

That is why this Target ad is so good. It not only communicates how Target is planning to help consumers and how hard times may be opportunity to discover something else it talks about creating new rituals.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What is P&G up to?

Two curious pieces of news on P&G:

The first concerns their venture into direct online selling via the website

Then this from the UK. They have just bought a small stake in Ocado - British online grocer.

The press release on the Ocado purchase makes it clear that they are looking for intelligence on online shopping habits. Fair enough. But why? I assume they are exploring alternative channels. Perhaps ones where they can engage consumers directly. Perhaps ones where they don't have to compete with private label brands from the very retailers they rely on to sell their own.

One other interesting but not directly related news is opening of Tide dry cleaners in the US.

I guess you cannot blame P&G for getting restless with modern retail and seeking ways to go directly to the consumer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not a very good book

I was excited when I saw this book. It has a clever name, a cool cover and a very interesting premise - the application of Neuroscience to purchase behaviour.

It is rather disappointing. If you are looking for anything definitive on the value of Neuroscience to research this does not provide it.

The book promised "a historic meeting between science and marketing" and numerous references are made to the fact that a "three year seven-million dollar neuromarketing study" was conducted. But it doesn't look like they got a lot of value for money.

Some of the insights are interesting. Peoples' brains respond similarly when they see logos of well known brands and religious icons. Is that really enough to justify a chapter drawing conclusions that brand consumption is like a religious activity because it involves similar traits such as ritual behaviour?

There are some interesting things on subliminal messaging but as far as I can see you could get the same insights from survey research.

Having said that, there is a neat piece on the discrepancy between survey responses in how likely people are to watch certain TV shows and how much their brain says they are engaged in the show. I think this is the kind of thing where neuroscience can ad value: Entertainment and communication. But its value is limited when looking at complex emotional attachments to brands etc. because it simply doesn't give us enough information on what is happening in the brain. Yet. May do in the future.

Unless he's holding back on the findings, if Martin Lindstrom believes they are as groundbreaking as he says, he is easily impressed. He certainly seems impressed with himself.