Sears, Roebuck and Company was founded in 1892 and one of the most iconic retailers in US history filed for bankruptcy protection in October. The Sears catalog was a staple in many households during much of the 20th century. Unfortunately they never seemed to really move beyond the catalog. The retailer has been on a steady decline for over a decade and this analysis by Adthena suggests their inability to adapt played a strong role in their ultimate demise. It’s no surprise that Amazon has been taking market share away from brick-and-mortar retailers but the Adthena analysis clearly illustrates how poorly Sears competed in the digital marketing age. During the year leading up to Sears’ bankruptcy, Amazon and Walmart took 44% of paid clicks. Sears share was 0.7%. Also interesting, on the search terms that Sears were advertising on, Amazon had a 169% impression share (meaning shoppers were more likely to find Amazon when making searches on terms Sears were advertising on). In addition, Amazon had nearly 100% overlap on search terms used by Sears. The article goes on to share additional data points but all clearly show that Sears clearly missed the digital revolution. Rest in peace.
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.
Personal selling has always had the ability and advantage of tailoring a message for a specific customer. A downside of personal selling is the cost and time required to touch all members of a large market. On the other hand, mass selling gave us the opportunity to reach a broad audience in a cost-effective manner but we had to do so with a “one-size-fits-all” message. Marketing technology is increasingly becoming more sophisticated is helping to close the gap between personal selling and mass selling. Now we can easily personalize mass communications to address customers by name, present specific promotions based on what we know about that customer, automate follow-up, and more.
According to this article by Econsultancy (and the cartoon above provided by the Marketoonist), 37% of brands say their automation is not successful. Ask your students why that’s the case? Which companies do they feel do a particularly good or bad job? Can they come up with a list of best/worst practices?
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.
Nike recently made the controversial decision to use former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Collin Kaepernick as the focus of their most recent “Just do it” ad campaign. Many criticized Nike’s decision to use such a socially and politically divisive individual but the early results look like it was a gamble worth taking. According to this CNN article, Nike is getting the results they wanted with 170,000 Instagram followers and a Kaepernick Instagram post becoming the second-most liked post in Nike’s history (the first being a World Cup post). The Instagram post and commercial appear to resonate well with Nike’s core demographic of 18-34 year old consumers.
Not all gambles like this work out so successfully. Ask your students what made this a success? Watch the video (linked above) with the class and see if they pick up on what Nike did to keep the message positive and inspiring rather than polarizing.