My students frequently tell me how important beer is in their lives. Yet despite their outward proclamation, their actual drinking habits have changed and the beer industry is facing some significant headwinds. Bloomberg talks about the industry’s challenges in their article “Pour One Out for the Fading American Beer Industry“. Despite a significant increase in craft beer consumption, overall beer consumption has declined for three straight years. The carbs and calories in beer are pushing consumers toward alternatives like wine and hard liquor. Changes in consumer preferences pushed Bud Light to create their 2019 Super Bowl commercial focusing on their competitors’ use of corn syrup in their beers (by the way, this is a great example of comparative advertising). The article talks about other influences such as the legalization of marijuana which may serve as another alternative to beer, especially to the college crowd.
Ben & Jerry’s is the latest company to join the movement to discontinue use of plastic straws. This follows similar decisions by Disney, Starbucks, Royal Caribbean, the city of Seattle, and more. Ben & Jerry’s reported that they currently use 30 million plastic spoons and 2.5 million plastic straws each year. Concern over social responsibility is a growing trend and a great marketing tool for attracting employees and loyal customers.
Interestingly, if you want to talk about market research and validating secondary data, there’s another angle you can take on this story. If you search the Internet to see how many straws are used by Americans each day one of the most frequent figures you’ll find is 500 million. That statistic is quoted by National Geographic, government agencies, news networks, and more. However, that statistic hasn’t been well authenticated. This New York Times article covers the history of that statistic. It originated in 2011 from a 9 year old boy named Milo Cress. According to the NYT article, more rigorous studies suggest the number of straws is likely between 170-390 million. It’s still a very large number but this helps illustrate the need to authenticate the actual source and validity of secondary data.
Facebook has suffered a number of self-inflicted wounds over the past year. So much so that my students joke that they must have a calendar full of bad decisions and we’re just waiting to see which one they decide to roll out each month. Impressively, Facebook recently announced that as of the end of February, users will be able to see how their information is used for ad targeting. They are referring to the update as Custom Audience Transparency. Once launched, users will be able to click on the top right corner of a Facebook ad and see which business uploaded that user’s information and highlight audience sharing that might have taken place. This article from Wired covers the new update in detail. According to Facebook, this update should help improve transparency for themselves and their advertisers.
What do your students think? In my experience, students are relatively unconcerned about privacy and marketing students understand it is being used to help target ads that might be more relevant to their audience. However, targeting was also used to help influence voters in advance of multiple US elections. Is that still okay? What about business implications? How will Facebook’s financials be affected by the change?
In a move to make their brand appear more authentic, American Eagle’s spring campaign will feature photos and videos from customers in their own environments rather than professional studio locations. The 10 “cast members” selected were discovered through their social media posts. You can read more about this campaign and the #AExME cast from American Eagle’s press release. This is the next step in their #AExME campaign that started in Fall 2018 with actual customers and a store associate in musical and creative environments. Gen Z expects their brands to be more socially conscious, depict more images of diversity, and support their own identities and personal values according to this Marketing Dive article.
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?