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.
This Guardian article, “‘Urinoir’ furore: Paris residents peeved at eco-friendly urinals” is a few months old but I thought it was still worth posting because it touches on several topics that we don’t come across every day. The gist of the article is that Paris has been struggling with a public urination problem and their solution has been met with a fair amount of controversy. The city of Paris has decided to introduce open-air public urinals in areas where they’ve had the most trouble. The hope is that this will incent men to use the urinal instead of the street when they need to relieve themselves. However, there has been a great deal of public backlash to the idea. Residents object to the urinals being placed close to historic buildings and some have even claimed they are discriminatory since they are only designed for men.
I thought this was interesting for a few reasons. First, it deals with a public relations issue from a public policy decision rather than a corporate entity. Students don’t often think about cities and states having to do marketing just as corporations do. Second, it brings up the issue of controversy and having to manage a controversial product roll-out. Finally, it’s an interesting solution to a problem but probably not the only possible solution. If you’re covering the product development process, this can be a great topic for discussion.
In Chapter 9 of Essentials of Marketing we talk about the new product development process. In the article “Facial gestures can move this AI-motorized wheelchair“, many elements of this process are covered when discussing a new motorized wheelchair that uses a 3D camera and artificial intelligence to recognize facial expressions and control the wheelchair based on those expressions. The new wheelchair is designed by Brazilian-based Hoobox Robotics in partnership with Intel. The article covers the target market for the new chair and also talks about some of the interesting findings discovered during user testing. It also talks about incentives to get customer feedback and an interesting pricing model (they’re planning on using subscription pricing rather than the traditional asset sale model). It’s a good reminder for students that even products that are highly technical require well managed marketing efforts if they want maximize their chance at success.
I’m a huge proponent of self-driving cars. While my in-laws find the concept of a computer driving us around terrifying, I find it liberating. After all, nearly all commercial aircraft are flown by computer (and in some cases they land and take off by computer as well). The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration found that an excess of 94% of all traffic accidents are primarily caused by human error. This topic in itself can lead to a rich class discussion.
Google, Apple, Uber, and other tech companies have led the charge in this space but traditional automobile manufacturers are starting to make progress with their roadmaps as well. This article talks about BMW’s current design concept for a self-driving electric car. What I particularly liked was the content talking about how they’re changing the design of the interior of the car since it no longer needs to be centered around a driver forced to look forward. Ask your students what the ideal self-driving car would look like on the inside. Does it look like the interior of a private plane or is it more utilitarian? Is it a portable living room with a large TV that can be watched by all occupants? As we move from human-driven to hybrid-driven and eventually to computer-only driven cars, what does that do to the product design? How does the adoption curve affect marketing strategies for this new category of cars?
Coca-Cola is looking at getting into the cannabis-infused drink business. You won’t be able to get high off the drink since it uses a non-psychoactive component (CBD) in marijuana. Nevertheless, the story is garnering a lot of media attention and Coca-Cola says the industry has significant potential. You can read more about the story here.
Ask your students to put together a marketing strategy for the new Coke drink. Who do they define as the target market? Why? Students often see themselves as the largest market segment for products that they like and this can be a good opportunity to push them to think more broadly. Beyond the target market, what would their marketing mix look like? How would they treat the cannabis component? Would they downplay it or make it front and center? Why? Would they have to implement new logistical processes or distribution channels? There are many different directions you could take this discussion.