At UPS Analytics Optimize Logistics Operations

Posted by Joe Cannon

This video from SAS describes how UPS embraces analytics to optimize delivery performance. The video offers a way to demonstrate how analytics can lower a firm’s costs and improve performance. The video could be used when you cover analytics or distribution.

Should I lower the reading level of this post?

Posted by Joe Cannon


It turns out that a website’s reading level (typically measured by school grade level) may be related to visitor behavior. This post, “Why Are Some Words Better for Your Marketing?” (Orbit Media Studios, March 2015) cites an earlier NNG study which found lowering the reading level of a pharmaceutical website from 12th grade to 8th grade increased the % of visitors who completed a task. Further, the study divided visitors into lower- and higher-literacy groups (based on education level) and found that even more highly educated visitors appeared to prefer a lower reading level site.

Does that mean the (presumably) highly educated college instructors that this site targets want me to lower the reading level? Hmmm… What do you think? The article also makes recommendations on formatting that help visitors…


This post goes on to explain how online content needs to be formatted to attract today’s article “scanners”, including:

  • Headers and subheaders
  • Bullets and italics
  • Short paragraphs
  • Internal links

The study found that formatting mattered more than word choice.

Applications for Instructors and Practitioners of Marketing

My audience here is mostly college level instructors of marketing. Should I be writing at a lower level? Formatting more?

Back to the usefulness of the article for marketing instructors. The article offers some useful insights for important “owned media” including websites and blog posts. These are important and influential communication vehicles for most brands and most probably need to be written at a lower level and formatted to make them easier to skim.

Amazon Dash Makes Sure Customers Don’t Run Out…

Posted by Joe Cannon

Is Amazon’s Dash brilliant or a future failure? What I love about Amazon is they keep on trying new ideas. Some of these ideas fail (think Amazon Fire Phone) while others soar (Amazon Prime). This company is not afraid to fail and  that is one reason why it succeeds.

An interesting discussion could follow from the timing of the introduction — the day before April Fool’s made some question whether Amazon Dash was for real. This article at AdWeek suggests that the timing was a stroke of genius. Do you agree? Either way it is a fun new Amazon feature to discuss when you cover online retail or public relations. We have also posted this at Learn the 4 Ps

Future of Retail? Rebecca Minkoff Stores Integrate Technology to the Buying Experience

Posted by Joe Cannon

This Fast Company video shows how Rebecca Minkoff (designer of luxury handbags, accessories, footwear and apparel) uses technology at a prototype of one of her specialty retail stores. The video offers an example to show when you cover the future of retailing in class.

To foster active learning, you might ask students why retailers are investing in new technologies like these. You could also ask students to imagine other technology applications for retail stores. I find it helpful to have them work in pairs or small groups on these questions for 3-5 minutes before soliciting ideas from individuals. I often have them write out their ideas and hand them in for “credit” and to encourage staying on task.

Gourmet Ramen Restaurants Are Hot

Posted by Joe Cannon

3042623-inline-i-4-how-japanese-marketing-secrets-sparked-the-american-ramen-revolutionThis article, “How Japanese Marketing Secrets Sparked The American Ramen Revolution” (Fast Company, February 23, 2015) describes how ramen has become the latest hot cuisine. And more interesting to those of us teaching marketing, the article highlights the role of marketing in this fad. This might be a fun example to discuss when you cover Product — new product development or fads (is it a fad or here for the long haul?). We have also posted this at Learn the 4 Ps

Keurig’s Efforts to Lock-In Customers Backfire

Posted by Joe Cannon

keurig-2-0-k550-brewing-system_5000052036The razor/blade business model has powered many profitable companies — from Gillette to Kodak to HP — all have taken little to no profit on equipment but made healthy profits on the blades (literally or film, or printer cartridges in the cases of Kodak and HP).

Keurig’s single-cup coffee brewing system has become very popular. Keurig makes money selling machines, its own Green Mountain Coffee, and licensing fees from other coffee sellers who use its K-Cups. Patents recently expired on K-Cup technology — so many competitors are offering the coffee without paying license fees to Keurig. So the new coffee makers with DRM (digital rights management) technology was designed to keep Keurig’s profits flowing. Unfortunately, customers are not happy. In this Verge article, “Keurig’s attempt to ‘DRM’ its coffee cups totally backfired” (February 5, 2015) you can read more about Keurig’s blunder. Of course it is not clear that, as disastrous as this may be, Keurig had other choices if it was seeking to maximize profits. For now though, profits are down and customer outrage is high.

The article might be used when you talk about patent protection. It also raises interesting ethical questions. It might also develop an interesting discussion around business models and strategy. For example, will complaints about Keurig’s DRM eventually fade away? Is it profitable enough of a strategy to weather the complaints?

Caterpillar Uses Viral Video in “Built for It” Campaign

Posted by Joe Cannon

Many of the most creative campaigns are for consumer brands — so I really enjoy seeing a B2B brand do something creative. Caterpillar (the high quality, premium priced tractor and heavy equipment maker) has been running a campaign for about a year now: “When you choose Cat®, you get what you pay for — durable and reliable equipment, and long-lasting relationships. Discover what we’re built for…” They have released a series of five (so far) clever videos that demonstrate their products in action. The videos are great two minute stories. Any one of the videos could be used to motivate topics as diverse as B2B, product quality, premium pricing, promotion — even international. One of my favorites is this play on the old game of Jenga but using 27 blocks that weight 600 pounds each:

We have also posted this at Learn the 4 Ps.

Is this ad misleading? The FTC decided it was…

Posted by Joe Cannon

Where does the FTC draw the line on misleading advertising. We have a recent example that you can show in class. Often such ads are pulled, but Nissan’s misleading ad is still available:

You might ask your students what might make this ad misleading. It turns out at least two factors contributed to the FTC’s decision. First, the truck couldn’t actually perform as shown in the ad. Minor issue right? Cables hidden in the sand actually pull the dune buggy up the dune. Second, camera angles were played with to make the dune steeper that it really was. While Nissan claimed the video was meant to portray a “fantasy scenario” — the FTC also felt that making it look like a YouTube video was also misleading. The ad does include a small disclaimer “Fictionalization. Do not attempt” which runs in small type in the first three seconds of the ad. This article, “FTC Says ‘No Way’ to Nissan Frontier – Pushing Dune Buggy Ad” (Adweek, January 23, 2014) notes that advertising agencies should know better and can be held liable. See more at the FTC’s website. We have also posted this at Learn the 4 Ps

This video might be shown and discussed when you cover legal or ethical issues in advertising.

Creative Campaign Helps Financial Services Company Gain Awareness

Posted by Joe Cannon

Willis-Resilience1We don’t usually think about insurance and reinsurance markets — but risk management is an important behind the scenes, B2B business. Seeking to increase brand awareness, the Willis Group out of London, got into sponsorship . The resulting “Willis Resilience Expedition” (article at B2B Marketing, December 23, 2014) shows that careful planning can generate significant publicity. While this case study provides some details about the campaign and the media results, it is unclear what it cost. Consequently it is not possible to know the efficiency of the approach — but the impressions generated appear to be pretty significant.

This is a nice example of publicity in a non-traditional B2B market.

Tom Peters – Still Full of Insights After All These Years

Posted by Joe Cannon

I read Tom Peters now classic In Search of Excellence shortly after I graduated from undergrad and started working in sales for Eastman Kodak. The book had a profound effect on me. I also remember that I used to show a Tom Peters video in class — one where he passionately walked around a stage sweating like a boxer in a ring. Tom is a bit older these days, but he is still a wise man. While much of this McKinsey Quarterly article (“Tom Peters on leading the 21st century organization ” September 2014) explains his views on leadership, there are also parts relevant to marketing. There is some discussion of strategy implementation.  In chapter 8 we have a box highlighting the value of design — which Peters discusses here. And what he also talks about is the importance of “living” like your brand.