Thursday, May 31, 2007

Walmart's Brand Positioning Report Leaked

The NYTimes has published a branding report on Walmart which was prepared by their agency GSD&M. There's going to be a lot of chatter about this online the gist of it is that the Brand Reputation may be failing or at least the "Pride" in the brand needs reinventing.

See Brand Autopsy for further comments on this (

Report available here -

New research highlights the presence of Strategic Consumers

A new piece of research from Gérard P. Cachon and Robert Swinney at Warton ( suggests that there may be three types of shoppers which retailers need to consider when setting stock levels and retail strategy. To quote:

“Some shoppers just can't help themselves and buy mostly on impulse without regard to price. Others are die-hard bargain hunters, who only open their wallets for a discount.

“Then there are the strategic consumers, who are willing to buy full-price sometimes, but at other times they will wait for a bargain. According to new Wharton research, it's these customers that retailers need to focus on in order to reap the full benefits of lean retail inventory management and variable pricing”

If this article is correct then the current model of release at top price, take the profits then discount towards the end of a products lifespan is not going to last. The research looks at retailers like Zara and airlines such as Southwest and highlights their policies which commit customers to an early purchase rather than waiting for discounting to take place.

For marketing analysts, there is an interesting suggestion here. Whilst most segmentation is behavioural is terms of how consumers actually use products or interact with them, retailer segmentation is typically behavioural. The question now is can you use store card data to identify the strategic customers and can you bring forward their purchases? Any ideas if this has been done anywhere and what it actually meant in practice?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today was a great one for the people over at - CBS purchased them and I signed up! There's even a widget connected to my blog now (click to enjoy some music "like" that produced by Blur).

It's an amazing service which shows just how far the web has come in the past 10 years. I remember signing up to a similar service seven years ago when Napster was still the real thing! However all sorts of issues meant that the previous service failed (no way to make money and not enough bandwidth).

In a way, i get more than myspace. By that I mean that I can see a way where it can become both a social AND a commercial success. I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More great advertising from ...Microsoft?

In recent months, I've noticed that Microsoft have been coming up with some great commercials - Office 2007 was one example.

Now there's a new one aimed at people like me - online advertisers. I thought you'd enjoy this one.

However - one question - does anyone have any ideas how Microsoft is going to solve the gap between consumers and advertisers through technology? My concern is that the commercial highlights the natural gap between any database marketer and real consumers. There's no substiute for actually listening and seeing how consumers actually interact with a product.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"You can't trust early adopters"

So says James McQuivey from Forrester who was commenting on the slow (read no) growth in iTunes video downloads as reported here -

Early adopters have apparently skewed the forecasts for PAID online video downloads. Many analysts assumed that once the rest of us "got" it, we'd behave in the same manner as the early adopters did. However we didn't and it’s now looking like iTunes isn’t going to be the killer investment Apple and their media owner backers had hoped for.

What does this mean from marketing analysts? How does it make a difference to how we think about marketing? Well it shouldn’t change backward looking analysis too much in practice. However the focus has to shift for many organisations to start answering questions like “how do we shift this in the future?” It really brings home a point which was made to me over and over again by former colleagues – namely you have to add judgement to historical analysis in order to create a more reliable model for forecasting. In the past, I’ve been involved in a number of workshops which seek to qualify historical models with beliefs about how the future may differ from the past – Delphi style has been common. These workshops are a great way to test new hypotheses about the future and one key topic must encompass the question of “how might our consumers differ in the future?”

As many of you will be aware, my company is about to launch modelQED – a backward looking modelling tool which creates marketing mix models in record time. One of the key benefits of this tool is that it will cut down on the amount of time spend on backward looking analysis enabling organisations to spend much more time looking forward and understanding how the future will differ from the past. For me this is a winning combination – reduce historical analysis time (and increase the quality of the analysis) + systematically review how the future will differ from the past.

I hope that this powerful combination will prove irresistible to many organisations!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The psychology of advertising.

The process by which advertising actually "works" on people is certainly open to debate and I'm not at all familiar with the psychology of what actually goes on in the heads of consumers. As a researcher, one of the key characteristics one needs is the ability to put yourself in the mind of the consumer and imagine how they may react to a commercial.

Nigel Hollis over at Milward Brown should know more than most about this and he's written a very interesting post on the subject here ( which is well worth a read if you have time. He suggests that "the concept of an ad exposure (serves) as a mental rehearsal of a brand encounter " which i think i get. See what you think.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Being busy

I've been very lazy with the blog recently so apologies. We've been really busy getting ready for the official launch of modelQED - our new marketing mix analysis package. Watch this space for more details next wee!

In the meantime, for those interested in online analytics, can I draw your attention to Ron Shelvin's recent post:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is media research media neutral?

In this weeks edition of Marketing, Raymond Snoddy draws attention to the latest research from the Newspaper Marketing Agency which reaches following five conclusions:

  1. TV plus newspapers drives 5 times the increase in bonding versus TV alone
  2. Newspapers create a more powerful emotional response than TV
  3. Creative pre-testing of newspaper advertising doubles performance
  4. Newspaper advertising drives sales and web traffic
  5. Multiple executions are significantly more effective than single ads


There are two key things that bother me about this research - firstly the agency runs the exercise has a vested interest. Secondly that the methodology employed for much of the research analyses soft metrics rather than more meaningful sales or revenue based metrics.

Whilst some of the research has been conducted by a highly respected scientist called Dr Lawrence Farwell and his company Brainwave Science, i’m sure that even he will agree that the conclusions drawn from the research may be a slight “stretch” based on the research techniques actually employed.

Let’s look at these points one by one:

TV plus newspapers drives 5 times the increase in bonding versus TV alone – I’m not exactly sure what “bonding” is but we’re told that it’s strongly correlated with sales. I’d love to know what this level of correlation was and whether there was still a strong relationship between changes in bonding and changes in sales performance. The report fails to tell us what the impact was on other measures in the Millward Brown’s Brand Dynamics Pyramid.

Newspapers create a more powerful emotional response than TV – for me this is the most interesting finding from the study. I’m unsure of the monetary value to advertisers of an emotional response but there’s hardly any reason for not wanting advertising to generate an emotional response. This plus associated research will certainly help advertisers thing carefully about the type of messages they run in press

Creative pre-testing of newspaper advertising doubles performance – well it was unlikely to reduce performance so the increase isn’t surprising. What the study being referenced appears to have researched is not performance in terms of ROI but rather advertising recognition. These are very different beasts and this needs to be considered when reading the results. Furthermore, the study appears to be anecdotal rather than scientific – by this i mean that in 2005 they measured awareness measures across 13 campaigns with only limited pre-testing then in 2006 all campaigns were fully evaluated before being published – however only 6 campaigns were released. To me this suggests that the poorly performing types of campaigns were dropped and potentially more funding was spent per campaign in 2006. Without knowing the details of the report the conclusion that pre-testing helps make campaigns twice as effective is very difficult to justify.

Newspaper advertising drives sales and web traffic – and if they didn’t there wouldn’t be much of a newspaper industry to speak of would there? If anyone doubted this finding then I’d question their sanity. However this analysis differs from much of the other analysis in that it doesn’t compare results with the other media. Not sure why? As for the web traffic, there’s lots of data to show that consumers of Newspapers are exactly the demographic groups which are hard to reach through other media such as TV. Mixed media wins the day when you want to raise awareness and press hits some demographics exceptionally well.

Multiple executions are significantly more effective than single ads – again this is great advice on how to run a campaign. Newspapers are inherently a medium where coverage is limited but frequency is high. Running the same execution over and over limits the opportunity to continue to inform – it’s a case of being sensible and understanding the medium.

I guess these comments appear to suggest that I’ve either a) got something against the Newspaper industry or b) i’m a sceptic about the value of such “groundbreaking” research. Neither are really the case. The problem in this case is the body which is conducting the research lacks the credibility to say “our media channel is better than yours”. When Coke say that independent research shows people prefer Coke over Pepsi (or vice versa from what i hear) then most people roll their eyes and question whether they would have published a conflicting result. In the case of this NPA research, I question whether it’s over promoting a great medium as part of some internal industry politics of Newspapers vs. TV vs. Online vs. ....etc. and really wonder what the overall benefit is to marketers. There is a ton of media research out there which is objective and well researched (IPA touchpoints?) and i’d suggest people with a real interest in understanding the relevant benefits of one channel over another take great care when looking at channel specific reports.