The Internet of Things (IOT), which we cover in one of our What’s Next? boxes (see Chapter 8) offers some promising consumer benefits. IOT connects devices (your sprinkler system, coffee pot, thermostat, and more) to the Internet. From there, the devices get smart — so for example, your sprinkler system sees there is a 90% chance of rain today and so it doesn’t water the lawn for the next three days. Yet there are tradeoffs as consumers lose privacy. This short (less than 3 minute) Bloomberg video can be assigned to students or shown in class to stimulate discussion. It might work well with Chapter 8 as you discuss Product or in Chapters 7 or 19 where we dig more deeply into privacy.
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?
This 5 minute news video covers some very interesting pricing strategies employed by Target. Using location awareness, Target will change prices within their app making products more expensive when you walk into the store. The video includes an interview with a University of Minnesota marketing professor who provides his hypothesis for why Target might be using this variable pricing model.
Beyond showing a more sophisticated pricing strategy, this is an opportunity for an ethical discussion with students as well. Is it okay for Target to behave in this manner? When you load the Target app it asks if it can track your location so it can keep track of your favorite store and help you navigate the store. Should they have to disclose that they may change product prices based on your location as well? If they did so, would that make it okay?
Our society continues to become increasingly polarized and we see that polarization spill over into marketing campaigns as well. One recent example is Gillette’s campaign, We Believe. The commercial calls out bullying and harassment, challenging men to rise above the stereotype of toxic masculinity. According to this MarketingDive article, the campaign was met with 1.1 million social media and news mentions within the first 24 hours of the ad’s launch which represented a 215% increase in brand mentions compared to the previous 24 hour period. As you would expect, not all of the mentions were positive but overall consumer impressions were very positive (79.6% of survey respondents saying they liked the ad) and the majority of respondents thought the ad was very memorable.
This can be used in a discussion about different forms of advertising (this seems to fit the institutional advertising definition best), it could be discussed in context of evaluating the social environment, and possibly even an ethical discussion – could campaigns like this be viewed as disingenuous or backfire on the company?
Welcome back, I hope everyone had a restful and relaxing holiday with friends and family! When I saw this Marketoonist cartoon I thought it was very topical for the start of a new semester. Marketing should be all about informing and enabling consumers but there’s always the risk (and temptation) to push ethical boundaries. As we welcome a new batch of students, talk with them about where those boundaries lie. Is it intrusive if consumers give permission to track information? What if they didn’t opt-in but instead you utilize an opt-out strategy? Are we doing a disservice to customers if we don’t utilize available tools and technology to optimize our messages?