For those that have a serious fear of running out of toilet paper, Charmin has some really big news. The company launched a new roll of toilet paper that is 12 inches in diameter and weighs about 2 pounds. It’s so large it needs it’s own free-standing dispenser (though you can buy wall-mounted units or get them as part of a starter pack directly from Charmin). Another interesting twist is that the company is selling the new roll via monthly subscription. The largest “Multi-user” roll is $9.99 when purchased individually or $7.99 when purchased via subscription. Customers can choose the frequency of delivery when they sign up for the subscription. You can read more about the new product in this article.
Budweiser has a history of creative and amusing Super Bowl ads but this year’s ad which centered on their competitor’s use of corn syrup has definitely been the most controversial ad of the year and one that continues to garner headlines. By the way, the ad is a great example of the comparative class of competitive advertisements. The ad sparked a Twitter war between MillerCoors and AB InBev and the latest development is a lawsuit filed by MillerCoors against AB InBev.
You might ask how MillerCoors can sue if they do in fact use corn syrup in their brewing process (which they do). MillerCoors conducted focus groups and through those groups they determined that most consumers don’t know the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup which are two different products. They claim the Bud Light ad deliberately confuses and frightens consumers into thinking the unhealthy high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient in Miller and Coors products. In reality the corn syrup is used in the brewing process but during fermentation it is broken down by yeast and leaves no corn syrup in the final product. It’s also worth noting that Anheuser-Busch uses corn syrup themselves in some of their other products but they don’t use it when brewing Bud Light (which uses rice instead). You can read more about the lawsuit and MillerCoors’ claims in this NY times article.
The lawsuit and continued objections from MillerCoors suggests Bud Light’s campaign was (and is) effective but it also brings up an interesting marketing ethics question. Is Bud Light’s commercial ethical? If their statement is factual should they be allowed to advertise that point of differentiation? Should they consider the fact that consumers would likely misinterpret the message or is that not their problem?
Marketers have a challenging job. We have to develop goods and services and then communicate the benefits and awareness of those products to a diverse customer base. We use tools like segmentation and target marketing to help narrow our focus but ultimately we have to wrestle with the fact that no two customers are identical and if we segment too much we run into diminishing marginal returns. This is also a challenge when conducting research to learn about the needs and motivations of potential customers. The use of personas is a common way of trying to personify our target segments but challenges and pitfalls still exist. This Marketoonist cartoon and the associated article talks about the author’s experience working with a client who was drowning in customer data and unsure how to use that data effectively. The persona creation process ultimately gave them the clarity they needed. The article includes some additional great persona cartoons as well.
Marketing strategies universally need to incorporate mechanisms to attract, upsell, and retain customers. Some companies focus more on one aspect than another but they’re all there somewhere. Loyalty programs are one of the mechanisms used to help with both upselling and retention and this Marketing Dive article takes a close look at some of the changes taking place with retail loyalty programs. Interestingly the article talks about conflicting strategies. Some stores are moving more toward inclusivity and trying to let as many customers join as possible. Others go the opposite direction. Amazon increased the price of Prime membership, Wayfair implemented a $29.99/year fee for their loyalty program, and Lululemon is testing a program that would cost $128/year. The article also talks about how services can impact loyalty as well. For instance, offering same-day delivery increases loyalty for 61% of shoppers. A significant benefit of loyalty programs is detailed information about the customer and their browsing/shopping history. Stores are using that information to try to foster a stronger emotional connection and thereby increase loyalty even further. The article is full of content that could be used for a great in-depth discussion with students debating the merits and drawbacks of different strategies.
Using people, particularly celebrities, to promote products and services is a very effective way of gaining attention and credibility with an audience. The risk is that people are unpredictable and when a spokesperson does or says something that conflicts with your brand’s values and message that can create problems. Just ask Subway about Jared Fogle. Unfortunately challenges like this aren’t infrequent and one company dealing with such challenges is Papa John’s. The national pizza maker utilized it’s founder, John Schattner, as the face of the company in advertisements and even their logo. That worked fine until Schattner was caught making racist comments. Since then the company has had a very public parting of ways with Schattner and is trying to establish a new identity. This Yahoo Finance article talks about the latest developments in their strategy and it appears they are looking at using sports stars and YouTube influencers in future promotions. The company has experienced an 8.1% decline in North American sales in part due to Pizza Hut taking over their former partnership with the NFL after Schattner’s comments. Time will tell if their new strategy will be able to effectively reposition the brand.