It’s the start of a new semester and the newest freshman at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA is Pepsi’s new Snackbot. Developed in partnership with Robby Technologies, these self-driving robots will make snacks and beverages available to college students (and presumably staff!). Pepsi envisions this new channel of distribution as a way of capitalizing on changes in student dining as packed schedules push students to quick, on-the-go options. You can read more about this new project in Pepsi’s press release.
When traveling over the holidays my wife and I were surprised (and, frankly, irritated) by the number of animals traveling in the passenger cabin of our plane. This topic has been in the news a fair amount over the past year as people tried to bring squirrels, peacocks, and other animals on board under the guise of emotional support. Popeye’s has launched a seasonal marketing campaign capitalizing on the recent press. Their “Emotional Support Chicken” was available to passengers going through the Philadelphia airport. You can read more about the campaign in this Forbes article.
United Airlines revealed the newest addition to their fleet – the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. While it’s not the largest passenger plane (the 747-400 holds 416 passengers versus 318 on the 787-10) it is the largest Dreamliner in Boeing’s product line and United is expanding consumer seating choices with the new plane. Consumers are used to the standard economy, business, and first class cabins. Years ago United added their “Economy Plus” seating which provides slightly more legroom for their frequent fliers or those willing to pay extra. Now United has added a fifth class titled “Premium Plus”. They have also upgraded their business class seats to a new “Polaris” design that includes a large entertainment display and lie-flat seats. As a side note, United is trying to build a sub-brand around Polaris with themed amenities, Polaris airport lounges, and premium service. You can read more about the new plane in this USA Today article.
Offering more seat choices to customers and upgrading amenities on the plane shows how much United is investing in trying to provide a differentiated customer experience in a highly commoditized market. You might consider having a discussion about the target market for this new plane, how United could determine if adding a fifth class of seats is a good or bad idea (remember they take up more space than a standard economy seat), and whether the experience actually affects purchase behavior or if that will be driven entirely on price.
Every generation presents new marketing challenges. As consumers flock to online shopping, CoverGirl decided to open their first brick-and-mortar location in Times Square, NY. You can read about the new store and it’s planned opening (Black Friday) in this article. The new store is designed around providing “an experiential beauty playroom”. The new store will be utilizing Google’s artificial intelligence platform, DialogFlow, to power a virtual greeter (Olivia) and augmented reality stations to help shoppers visualize the different options. Of course they will utilize personal sales representatives as well to assist in any areas not covered by their new technological assets.
Will this be a good move for CoverGirl? Should any of their current retail partners feel threatened by CoverGirl’s forward integration?
Americans are crazy about Halloween and that works out great for costume companies, candy manufacturers, decoration providers, and of course the retailers that carry those goods. In fact, according to this report from the National Retail Foundation, Halloween represents a ~$9B sales opportunity. $2.6B of that is spent on candy (if you want to give your students an interesting exercise, have them try to calculate/forecast how many individual pieces of candy that represents).
With that much money on the line you can bet candy companies give the event special attention. The Mars Wrigley company even created a job position specifically for the event – Chief Halloween Officer. The current Chief Halloween Officer, Victor Mehren, was recently interviewed regarding the role and it’s unique challenges and opportunities. Students often appreciate the creativity delivered in commercials but they don’t often think about everything that goes on behind the scenes. In the interview, Mehren talks about Halloween’s rise in popularity outside North America, he talks about the planning timeline for Halloween (it starts roughly 6 months before the event!), and he talks about challenges from consumer trends toward more health-conscious consumption. He also talks about some of the marketing campaigns put together including a link to the first new M&M commercial in 11 years. It’s a great interview with many different topics that could fit a good post-Halloween discussion.