Category Archives: Consumer Trends
As marketers, it’s important to keep our fingers on the pulse of emerging trends.
The advertising agency J. Walter Thompson — now branding itself as the marketing communications agency, “JWT” — tracks and analyzes global consumer trends. For the past seven years, they’ve been compiling an annual forecast of trends that makes for fascinating reading. Here is a quick overview
JWT Intelligence publishes a blog that has many other insights and trend reports, including this on food trends:
- “10 trends that will shape consumer mind-set and behaviour in 2013″ (joannaparktonks.wordpress.com)
- Ten Trends for 2013 from JWT Intelligence [Slideshare] (endaguinan.com)
- The Top 10 Trends For Marketers, According To JWT (fastcocreate.com)
That’s why I was mildly surprised when I walked into the Falls Church brand of Bank of America to cash a check. The lobby has been recently updated with some new furniture. So far, so good.
But they put up holiday decorations that looked like they were put up by someone who just hates the holidays.
When I see something like that in a retail or public space, as a customer, I think: they did not even try. And when I think they don’t try, I feel disrespected, because I feel they don’t care. That’s true about any business, but especially for banks, where there is so much competition.
This is what I saw — the teller front counters were festooned with cheap, wrinkly bows and mismatched, tattered tinsel. When I say “tattered,” I mean some parts of the garland had no foil on at all and it was just some limp looking string, randomly taped up with no regard to appearance. There were some plastic candy canes that had foil stripes, only the foil strips were hanging off and just dangling there. It looked just awful.
I mean, would it have killed them to grab some poinsettias from Safeway? They’re like 3 for $10. And sprang for some nice bows or tinsel? I’m not saying businesses should decorate for Christmas or the holidays, or spend a small fortune if they choose to do so. But if you manage a business — especially one that has had as bad a year as Bank of America has had — and you choose to put up public seasonal decorations, you should put some effort into it, or at least not put up decorations that are in trash-can condition. And they should be tasteful, as Christmas is a tradition that is close to people’s hearts.
The decorations were so depressing, I quietly mentioned to the teller that she might want to tell her manager that a customer found them distasteful, and that they might want to invest $5 in some new ones, because it was not a good look for the bank. She seemed to agree with me, and said she would mention it. That’s when I thought: gee whiz! It must be dejecting even to work there.
Now contrast this to my bank, Virginia Commerce Bank, also in Falls Church. I love my bank branch. When I go into my bank, I am greeted warmly, there is music playing, and there are decorations for the season. There’s coffee or water, and sometimes treats. They are also usually participating in some community activity, which shows what good corporate citizens they are. For example, recently they had a Pack and Play on display in the lobby full of boxes of diapers that they were collecting and were going to donate to charity.
The fact is: Virginia Commerce Bank tries to make a connection with its customers. Bank of America doesn’t, or not nearly as much. Is it surprising that people are leaving big banks for credit unions and community banks?
If you have a brick and mortar or storefront business, the appearance of your business is a sign of the degree of respect you have for your customers and prospective customers. As someone who celebrates Christmas, I would not be rushing into this branch to open an account. My advice to businesses today is don’t let a small and inexpensive detail derail the hard work you are doing in other areas of your business. Sometimes the small and noticeable details can make or break you.
- Bank of America last in customer satisfaction survey (boston.com)
Hindsight is 20/20 but the truth is — we marketers do learn from other’s mistakes. This isn’t schadenfreude. I’m not into that. This is: read and learn, Grasshopper. Do this, not that.
What We’re NOT Going to Do On Twitter in 2012…
Twitter has been around since 2006. You would think, in 4-1/2 years, professional communicators would learn how (and how not) to use it. You would think that, but you would be wrong.
Advertising Age did a cracker-jack job of collecting the past year’s biggest social media blunders. No surprise, all of them erupted on Twitter. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it one hundred times. Twitter is great. Yes. Check in. Keep tabs on your reporter buddies. Respond to complaints. But don’t let it take over your marketing communications.
Take some of that energy and put it into blogging. Blogging is much more thought-intensive, it has more longevity, and it’s a lot less likely to land your company in the soup — because, frankly, it’s just not as easy as Twitter.
People and companies who tweeted and regretted later in 2011 included Representative Weiner, New Media Strategies, Kenneth Cole, Gilbert Gottfried, GoDaddy, Netflix, and Ashton Kutcher, among others. These were devastating blows to their personal and corporate brands, all from a tweet!
No More Bloopers on YouTube in 2012
YouTube has been around since 2005. You might recall a few months ago when I conducted an analysis of the YouTube usage of 100 top PR and advertising firms (links below), and I did not like what I found. Overwhelmingly, agencies are not taking full advantage of YouTube — from not having a presence at all to uploading truly bizarre and off-brand, poorly produced videos.
It is time — well past time — to take the 3rd most visited site on the Internet seriously. YouTube will soon be on all of our televisions. It’s already on a lot of sets. Have you got $500,000 to produce a 30 second commercial for distribution on national television? No? Well, this might be a good time to start investing some resources into your brand presence on YouTube.
Just Because It’s An “App” Doesn’t Make It Amazing
I think in 2011 we learned that not every app is going to sing like Angry Birds. They may have entertainment value, but what matters in marketing is the relationship between app usage and conversions — which isn’t always strong. This turned out to be true for QR codes and to a lesser extent for Groupon and Foursquare.
Merry Marketing: 10 Irresistible, Fabulous, and Unique Licensed Items to Put Under the Christmas Tree
You know, it’s a triumph of marketing when people are so enchanted with your company or product that you can make them pay for the privilege of advertising your brand for you. What a coup!
Licensed Products Are Big Business
Licensed merchandise comprises a global market worth $187 billion (License Magazine, 2010). Disney products alone bring in $27 billion in retail sales. Even nonprofit organizations are licensing products – of course you are familiar with licensed items from Sesame Street and National Geographic, but did you know The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a furniture collection sold at Lowe’s? And the ASPCA licenses pet care accessories sold at Wal-Mart and other stores.
10 Licensed Items for Your Christmas List
Just for fun, since we are all about marketing here at Fletcher Prince, I thought I would share 10 frankly promotional items that would make great Christmas presents.
1. Pan Am Bag
Are you a fan of the new television show, Pan Am? Some brands never truly die, and evidently there are plenty of Pan Am enthusiasts around. Travelers on Pan Am received bags like these. The flight attendants carried them, so did JFK and The Beatles. Did you ever want one of your own? The Pan Am store offers several new versions and sizes of these bags($45 and up) so you can walk around with a little marketing history.
2. Harry Potter Time Turner & Sticker Kit
Harry Potter fans define the category of rabid. The latest release, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” this summer was the third highest grossing movie in history, according to Forbes. There is a terrific amount of Harry Potter merchandise. But I’m partial to this reasonably priced Time Turner gift set that includes a necklace that is a fair replica of the one Hermione Granger wears in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” If only it were really magic, right? But it would still make a great stocking stuffer. It’s $8.95 from Barnes and Noble.
Old Spice has given us one of the most celebrated advertising campaigns in recent memory, and they also offer several t-shirts for sale that are cooler to wear than Old Spice itself. You’re not going to catch me dabbing on Old Spice anytime soon, but I am asking Santa Claus for this “Ahoy” t-shirt ($15).
4. Coca Cola Christmas Ornaments
One of the most enduring brands, Coca Cola produces scads of logo-emblazoned merchandise. But I bet you thought you’d never see a Coca Cola Christmas tree. Yep. This one was spotted at The Golden Goose in Occoquan, Virginia. You can buy the themed ornaments for your Coca Cola swigging buddies there, or online from the Coca Cola Store.
5. OPI Muppets Nail Polish
So the new Muppets movie is a big hit this fall. Guess what? OPI has a Muppets collection of nail polish. I know! I mean, that’s the beauty of licensed merchandise. It doesn’t have to make sense — it just has to be enchanting. If you have a friend or relative who lives for the mani-pedi AND has a cuteness weakness, maybe tuck one of the 12 Muppets-inspired OPI nail polish shades, like “Warm and Fozzie” or “Animal-istic” into her stocking this Christmas.
Are you into Barbie? Still? The brand has endured for more than 50 years. This past Thanksgiving, my mom was sporting this chic white, pink, and black silk scarf. I was surprised when she told me it was actually a Barbie item, featuring retro designs by Robert Brest. It’s a steal at $24.95. There are many other items your girly-girl Mom will love for Christmas on the Barbie site for grown up Barbie fans, BarbieCollector.com
7. Revenge Infinity Box
Do you watch the ABC television series “Revenge”? Well, then, you know all the secrets Amanda/Emily keeps in the infinity box her dad gave her? Would you like your own secret box? Surely this box is one of the more unique licensed items out there. $24.99 on ABC.com. Just don’t plot any revenge with it, because that wouldn’t be Christmas-y.
8. Ford “Mustang” Necklace and “Seat” Belt
Believe it or not, Ford is the best selling car brand in the United States. Personally, I think if you love someone who drives a Ford, the nicest thing you can give him or her for Christmas is a Honda
But for those die-hard Ford fans out there who want to visibly proclaim their love for the brand, there is The Ford Collection of licensed merchandise. This sterling silver Mustang pendant ($25) is subtle and innocuous enough.
But this Mustang “seatbelt” belt ($29) is a real conversation starter. Or stopper. Depending.
I just have the feeling that Andy Warhol, who measured his fame in newspaper column inches, would love the fact that there are now keychains ($3.55 each) featuring his iconic art. Not to mention Christmas cards, puzzles, calendars, coloring books, magnets, mousepads, watches, and even night lights. The ultimate stocking stuffer for the hipster in your life who yearns to be famous for fifteen minutes. All available online from the official Warhol Store.
10. Victoria’s Secret NFL Collection Lingerie and Lounge Wear
You know, the Super Bowl is not too long off, and these offerings from Victoria’s Secret give a whole new meaning to the term “Fantasy Football.” Available for all 32 of your favorite NFL teams (Go Raiders!) in panties, sleep wear, and lounge wear, online from Victoria’s Secret.
What mattered to the world in 2010? It’s easy to identify — just look at the online memes that developed on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google search.
(A meme, you might recall, is defined as a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. An Internet meme has a viral quality; it spreads quickly across platforms. Think pop culture.)
What we talked about on Facebook in 2010….
1. HMU (it means: “hit me up,” which means “call me” or “contact me”)
2. World Cup
4. iPad and iPhone 4
6. Justin Bieber
7. Games on Facebook (I find this one surprising)
8. Mineros/Miners (refers, of course, to the trapped Chilean miners)
What we tweeted in 2010….
1. Gulf oil spill
2. FIFA World Cup
4. Haiti earthquake
5. Vuvuzela (the noise-making instruments used at the 2010 World Cup)
6. Apple iPad
7. Google Android
8. Justin Bieber
9. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
10. Pulpo Paul (the octopus that successfully picked the winning team in each game of the World Cup finals)
What we wanted to watch on YouTube in 2010….
35 hours of new video are uploaded every minute on YouTube. The most-searched for terms on YouTube during the year show what was on our minds in 2010.
- January – Haiti
- February – luge (Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old Georgian luger, died in a crash on a training run at the Vancouver winter Olympics).
- March – “Eclipse” trailer (movie trailer)
- April – iPad
- May – Eminem “Not Afraid” (music video)
- June – Shakira “Waka Waka” (music video about the World Cup)
- July – double rainbow (a random video that went viral after it was mentioned by Jimmy Kimmel and spun off a number of parodies and songs)
- August – bed intruder (a news clip of a brother’s protest — Antoine Dodson — about his sister’s attack that went viral and also spun off a number of parodies and songs)
- September – halo reach (an X360 game)
- October – whip my hair (music video with Willow Smith)
- November – firework (music video with Katy Perry)
What did we search for on Google?
The fastest rising search terms on Google were
I have been thinking a lot about the economy, my own business, and what works and doesn’t work in a recession.
As I try to find the answers, I’ve been pondering the ways the recession has changed the way people spend their money, and how marketers can incorporate those changes in their key messages and design.
One very big trend I have noticed is that people are increasingly choosing locally produced services and products (sometimes referred to localism), and are even starting to choose small businesses over large ones.
Yesterday, I mused about the new frugality as a consumer trend, and its impact on marketing.
The depressing economy can be a bleak landscape for marketers (and okay, just about everybody). No matter how bad things get, however, Americans will still want to spend money. It just may be less, and for different things. Status and luxury items are not in — or they will always be in for a certain consumer, but not for the general public. In fact, in ritzy areas like Palm Beach, the struggling wealthy are quietly disposing of their accoutrements in high-end consignment shops.
But the consumer trend associated with “craft” is successful in this economy. Anything that appears whimsically or uniquely handcrafted — whether it’s jewelry, fashion, wrapping paper, home accessories, bedding, beer, wine, cheese, cupcakes, or dog biscuits — is finding a market now.
With a little creativity, marketers can capitalize on the popularity of this trend by associating their products or services with the attributes of craft.
As I mentioned yesterday, the thrift store “discovery” chic is becoming irresistible to certain consumers, particularly young and affluent consumers (Anthropologie targets customers who have a family income exceeding $200,000). Affluent consumers still love style but in this economy, eschew ostentation. So, you’ll find paint-by-number items, crochet, knits, quilts, patchwork, and quirky ceramics, such as this $128 cookie jar owl from Anthropologie. And every retailer is selling new jeans that are faded and shredded. Dolce & Gabbana offers this pair for men for $400. Pair distressed jeans with mismatched knits and retro accessories, and you have a “recession” look that is really in. A little ridiculous, perhaps? But that appears to be what consumers want!
Anything vintage or retro works, with fad items featuring birds, owls, lace, prints, wallpaper, and florals. Mismatched patterns in fashion and tableware are hot. It’s pretty, feminine, and fun, perhaps even sentimental or folkloric, but not really kitsch, eccentric or tongue-in-check. No one is going for the laugh in these times of sobriety. These are quality items with an endearing appeal for people who, if they have to stay home and reflect, want to be in surroundings that uplift and excite them. Mixed in with the retro/thrift chic look are textiles that have been perceived as inexpensive but beautiful, such as fabrics from India and the Middle East. All of the looks have an individual, hand-crafted or assembled feel.
There is also — in the handmade appeal — the sense of limited or unique. During an economic downturn, I’ve noticed that the sense of the individual and tolerance for differences seems to increase. When the economy is good, conformity returns, and we all dress the same. But in a recession, everything is in fashion. Any hemline goes. Of course, there are trends, but it seems to me that people embrace different and unique, and they aren’t afraid to stand out, because they have much less to lose (and spend). That’s one reason why I believe we’re seeing quirky and fun car designs right now, like the Ford Flex that looks like a California 60s vintage station wagon. Businesses and consumers are more willing to take risks, perhaps, and this is what results.
Applying the craft aesthetic to marketing and design
I believe it’s important to recognize that the craft aesthetic doesn’t just reflect our tightening belts but also our feelings of insecurity. I think a return to things that are handmade (which infers competence) or appear older (which imbues nostalgia and comfort) seem somehow more honest or trustworthy; the products give people a reassuring sense of stability and security in uncertain times.
Consumers are also turning to small businesses instead of large ones, whether they’re selecting a beer with dinner, or a bank. In a recent survey, 83% of consumers said they would choose a small, local, independent business over a larger chain.
Buying objects that are purely decorative (but also affordable) also give people a sense of power over their economic circumstances. When almost every purchasing decision has to be weighed for its practicality, it can be be almost exhiliarating to visit Etsy and purchase a vintage papier mache tray for $20.
Marketing messages and key words that play on this desire for security and comfort and the appeal of craft include terms like handmade, handcrafted, human hand, artisan, and vintage resonate to cost-conscious but style-oriented consumers. Vintage, but perhaps not antique. The connotation with vintage is affordable.
A designer or branding professional could apply the craft aesthetic to marketing other types of products, too, just by picking up on the underlying value messages, or, in design, borrowing the soft palettes of retro pastels, burnished metals, burlap and homemade paper textures, stamp-effect fonts, and adding elements of whimsy or friendliness to copy and slogans.
In a woeful economy, graphics and production mistakes are sometimes overlooked, forgiven, or even intended, if the underlying message is value or craft.
Just as messy hair, retro accessories, and ripped jeans are “in”, a designer who wanted to acquire trust (or sales) might elect to make a design for an advertisement or even a website look a little less than perfect, retro, or handcrafted, rather than polished, contemporary and sleek, if the brand supported that.
In an odd extension of this homey aesthetic, people tend to trust online video (for example) that appears to have amateur production values, to the point where some expert video producers intentionally make their videos appear less well-produced than they are.
Any marketer could take the spirit of the craft aesthetic by emphasizing the value and unique attributes of his or her brand.
I’m still working through these ideas. Feel free to leave your own contributions in the comments. Tomorrow, I’ll be thinking about the consumer trend of “localism.”
Every year, I check out Pantone’s Color of the Year. The selection always has a fascinating socio-cultural analysis attached to it. At Fletcher Prince, we often consider the color of the year when we design marketing materials and web sites, because we know many people will naturally be drawn to the hue.
This year, the Pantone Color of the Year is PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, “an inviting, luminous hue that transports us to an exciting, tropical paradise while offering a sense of protection and healing in stressful times.”
I can relate to the need for escape! Turquoise has always been one of my favorite colors. I wear a tourmaline ring in this color. With both warm and cool undertones, Turquoise pairs well other with colors in the spectrum, including warm and cool neutrals, which you’ll see in many design looks, such in this wrapping paper from the Container Store.
Combining the serene qualities of blue and the invigorating aspects of green, Turquoise evokes thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of wellbeing.
“In many cultures, Turquoise occupies a very special position in the world of color,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “It is believed to be a protective talisman, a color of deep compassion and healing, and a color of faith and truth, inspired by water and sky. Through years of color word-association studies, we also find that Turquoise represents an escape to many – taking them to a tropical paradise that is pleasant and inviting, even if only a fantasy.”
In clothing and jewelry, Turquoise is universally flattering. Look for Turquoise as an accent color in jewelry, purses, shoes, bridesmaids dresses, and even nail polish for women, and ties, shirts and sportswear for men.