Online Marketing Tips by Marketing Malta

A bird’s eye view of online marketing

The Internet is brimming with precious information about online marketing. Sometimes seeing a distilled version helps.  These online marketing tips are not meant as the be-all and end-all but a starting point in the right direction.  More tips will be added to this post in due course.

Online Marketing Tips: Content Marketing
Online Marketing Tips: Content Marketing
Online Marketing Tips:  Why is the Marketing Mix still valid?
Online Marketing Tips: Why is the Marketing Mix still valid?
Online Marketing Tips: The 6 Is - Digitial Media Differences
Online Marketing Tips: The 6 Is – Digitial Media Differences

The 6 Is – Digitial Media Differences – that marketers need to keep in mind when designing effective digital marketing strategies. It is not just a matter Interactivity but one needs to factor the amount of customer Intelligence that can be reaped through the interactive aspect. Digital Media allows marketers to achieve one-to-one or Individualisation and online services can be provided Independent of Location. All this has to be done in a context of Integration of outbound and inbound-based communication while keeping in mind possible Industry Restructuring through disintermediation and reintermediation.

Online Marketing Tips: Issues to factor when setting prices online
Online Marketing Tips: Issues to factor when setting prices online

Pricing is already a laborious decision and when it’s pricing for online sales, there’s so much more to consider. From pricing strategies and payment options to other aspects like keeping in mind that if you are providing different prices in different countries this will be transparent and there is a good chance that your customers will soon discover your discrimination tactics….Also the wide knowledge of prices puts competitive pressure on the prices themselves, hence leading to possibly lower prices…..

 

Online Marketing Tips: How to plan a great product landing page that generates sales
Online Marketing Tips: How to plan a great product landing page that generates sales

If you are selling a product online make sure that you have effective landing pages. Apart from wowing the client with compelling pictures or videos, the page needs to present the product clearly both in terms of text and pictures. Extra links to more detailed information, instructions are important. Ensure that you are actually providing the online purchase facility along with more helpful aspects like links to contact, telephone numbers and possibly even online chat. Include testimonials or product reviews if you have that luxury. And make it shareable on different social media platforms.

Prince George Alexandar Louis

The Marketing Force of a Newborn who is also a Prince

His title is Prince of Cambridge and doesn’t’ need a surname. But with a title like that who does?

There is no doubt that anything which is related to royalty is also a great opportunity to spin some money by a lot of businesses.  If that news is related to babies, then that money is bound to multiply further. It is no secret that today’s mummies spend a lot of time online and always research baby-related purchases in depth.  In this case, one will have to add that once endorsed by royalty, any item (from diapers to baby booties) will shine with the magic ‘fit for the Prince’.

Once the great wait was over, the birth was officially heralded in the most traditional of manners – a written document posted outside Buckingham palace. After all Royalty is also very much akin to protocol.  His birth announcement was trumpeted across the media sites and the social networking sites like wildfire.  The first news was that the royal babe was a boy, then came more details like his birth time and weight.

On his first day, his Christian name not yet known, many stores were already sporting competitions, discounts and deals as a celebration to honour the birth of the Prince. While the merchandising circus dished out souvenirs in all shapes and formats, cake decorators mulled on who will bake the christening cake and biscuit-makers baked all sorts of fancy-decorated cookies . Sites where women and mothers congregate, like Dailycandy (www.dailycandy.com) were brimming with info about London’s smartest baby shops and services. From the most prestigious preschool, to nursery decor and monogrammed linen, first haircuts, baby spa, and posh play dates, it seemed that nothing has been left out and everything was being laid out for Kate.  But behind this, one can be certain that businesses are not only marking the birth of a Prince but hoping to unleash an ‘economic baby boom’.

DailyCandy site featured a  series of  premium London-based services and products - fit for a Prince
DailyCandy site featured a series of premium London-based services and products – fit for a Prince
Top: Next Newborn Clothing Bottom: Royalty Set Toy by  Early Learning Centre
Top: Next Newborn Clothing
Bottom: Royalty Set Toy by Early Learning Centre

Right on the baby’s first day, the Early Learning Centre launched its new toy, a set of toy dolls in the Happyland range, named ‘Royal Baby Set’, representing the Royal Family.   Other stores like Mothercare had discounts. Next too highlighted its line of baby wear with the writing ‘Born in 2013′ and likewise Tesco marketed its British Royalty-themed clothes for babies.  Once again, one of the themes chosen by price-savvy Tesco is  ‘Born in 2013′.

Mothercare UK offers and celebrations featured on FB and on the site
Mothercare UK offers and celebrations featured on FB and on the site

On the second day, when his name was revealed,  we had all kind of reviews about the Royal Family’s first appearance. Stores like NewLook reviewed Kate’s and William’s outfits and suggested items from their store to replicate the casual but elegant look that the new parents sported.  Mothercare UK Facebook  page covered the choice of baby car seat, Britax, a car seat that is available through Mothercare.  Yes, the forecasts for some stores and brands which Kate and Will will favour surely have a rosy outlook!

Endorsement by a Prince - Top: Mothercare FB posts about the Britax car seat used by Will and Kate; Bottom Left:  Tesco features a clothing range with royalty theme; Bottom Right: NewLook review on Kate's and Will's matching pale blue outfits with suggestions from NewLook's own range
Endorsement by a Prince
Top: Mothercare FB posts about the Britax car seat used by Will and Kate;
Bottom Left: Tesco features a clothing range with royalty theme;
Bottom Right: NewLook review on Kate’s and Will’s matching pale blue outfits with suggestions from NewLook’s own range

Once all the forecasts die down, we will have the real story unfold.  There is no doubt that in today’s connected world, the minute the baby is wheeled out wearing an outfit or in a carriage, that will be the biggest advert.

One can only imagine the queue of all baby-stuff suppliers at  Kensington Palace all hoping to woe mummy Kate, who will then choose to pick their products or services. From a marketing’s perspective, right now, Kate’s most valuable title is the ‘mummy title’. After all she will choosing products and services and with every of her decision she will be making a big endorsement.

Honestly I cannot  imagine a bigger endorsement –  after all the choice will be fit for a real Prince !!

Royalty Biscuits available through John Lewis Stores and Biscuiteers to celebrate the birth of a Prince
Royalty Biscuits available through John Lewis Stores and Biscuiteers to celebrate the birth of a Prince

Of Product Payment Process

So much we take for granted that when something is amiss it’s like a slap in the face!

Recently I was out shopping for a couple of gifts. At one particular store, the display was so well laid out that it felt like an Aladdin’s cave glittering with trinkets and ‘nice-to-have’ items. The salesmen oozed charm and knew a lot about the products they sell. They presented themselves well, in casual but sleek outfits and perfectly coiffed hair, spoke clearly and in a good pitch, kept eye contact and moved to help me like there was no other care in the world. I was even offered espresso (or maybe water) and I had been in the shop for less than 5 minutes. I did find what I was looking for and  once wrapped in exquisite packages, there was nothing left to be desired!

There was one crux – they did not accept credit or debit card!!

Imagine my surprise, when I heard “either cash or cheque”!

That was such a blow. I did not have a cheque book so I needed to walk back to the car, drive to an ATM and return back to the shop and once again find parking space – no mean feat in traffic-clogged Malta at 11.30 in the morning. Such a waste of time and energy!

I have always believed that the process or processes (including product payment process) surrounding and facilitating the acquisition of a product should be planned out in a way which are easy to understand and implement. They also need to be as user-friendly as possible. This might be coming from my background of system analysis and business-process-reengineering but having efficient and customer-centric services and processes is also a fundamental issue in marketing. I thus wonder why people who have clearly thought out about so many details and layers of their product offering leave out something like ‘payment via card’!  In today’s world, where convenience is key, I have taken payment by card as part of the basic product.

Espresso?!!! I’d rather be allowed to pay by credit card.

Would you like Payment by Card or an Espresso?
In today’s world, we are delighted when we are engaged in exceptional service encounters. What feeling is solicited when we find that expectations like ‘payment by card’ are not available? Would you still enjoy the espresso?

From Cars to Planes

In our house, we have just about everything that is Disney Cars or Cars 2.  From the DVDs to the books, to jeans and running shoes, vests, socks, stationery, bags, lunch totes, umbrellas and swimming trunks, the stuff piles up and this list excludes the car toys themselves!  In the toy department, the collection includes so many different types of toys, the most prominent  of which  are  the several Lighting McQueen toys of various sizes and functionality. Without doubt the most loved is the die-cast model of Lighting McQueen.  Mr McQueen goes everywhere with my son and in fact we have run through several replacements (which invariably happen every time he’s lost).

Frequently when I go past my son watching Cars for the umpteenth time, I have often wondered, how soon it will be before Disney unleash planes. …..Well that time is now, or rather, Planes by Disney Pixar will be out in summer 2013.

Planes, new release by Disney Pixar scheduled for summer 2013
Planes, new release by Disney Pixar scheduled for Summer 2013

Cars have lighted up the imagination of kids in a big way and the fact that the concept is easily portrayed in a toy is really a super bonus. Kids simply whiz off straight from the movie into a real game of cars.   The story itself, with all the different car characters from Mack to McQueen, Sally, Doc, Francesco, Mater and The King along with the hundred other different cars just meant that the flow of merchandise could be substantial. In fact, aside from the success of the movies themselves,  Disney has enjoyed the success of Cars as a major boys franchise for Disney Consumer Products.  In fact Disney itself describes Cars as an “unstoppable force delivering on boys’ classic play patterns and fueling imaginations with new products and content that extend the storyline from film to books and into the home with a lifestyle merchandise” [Disney, https://www.disneyconsumerproducts.com/Home/display.jsp?contentId=dcp_home_ourfranchises_disney_cars_us; 5.6.2013].

So next in line, Disney Pixar touts Planes, a spin-off from Cars with the same kind of characters, but which too has great merchandising potential.   Planes will whizz off from the same kind of artwork and branding of Cars, so in terms of marketing, one can consider this spin-off as a brand extension of the product life cycle of Cars. With its distinctive bright red insignia, even little kids will understand that Planes and Cars go together! It can also be seen as a way to keep the interest in Cars on higher ground.   With Planes, the enthusiasm for Cars will be revved up too. The selling of merchandise will undoubtedly soar to new heights!

Personally I’m not a big Cars fan. However  when I toiled on a three-tier race-track cake with full 3-D model cars made of sugar paste (to scale) for my son’s 4th birthday, I was secretly happy that this was Disney Cars and not planes…. the flying dimension of planes and cakes cannot be as easily interpreted in 3D cake decorating!

Come next year, I’ll have to see what tricks and sugar engineering will be needed to fly off planes from cakes…..

 

Disney Cars Cake
Disney Cars Cake

Thoughts on Multi-level Marketing

Is multi-level marketing a no-man’s land?

I love marketing.  Truth be told there are aspects and concepts of marketing that are I enjoy more than others.

In particular I love the product life cycle concept and how it unfolds in the market for practically every product and service (check out several past blog posts about product life cycle).

Similarly I enjoy investigating the various levels that a product can have from the core level which is the fundamental and oldest version of the product offering to the other layers that were augmented to the product over time to differentiate and add quality and value.

However there is one particular topic which I particularly bar. It is none other than the multilevel marketing.   Wikipedia defines multilevel marketing as:

“strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of the other salespeople that they recruit. This recruited sales force is referred to as the participant’s “downline”, and can provide multiple levels of compensation.” [Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-level_marketing, 4.6.2013]

In so far there is nothing really wrong, and when stated like that it feels like referral marketing which is something that has been around since the start of civilisation. It is technically very similar to word-of-mouth, with one big difference – The person making the referral (making the suggestion or praising a product) has a vested interest because every new sale will generate him/her some money!

In fact Wikipedia goes on to add that multi-level marketing can include pyramid selling.  This is where it brings forth a barrage of issues and also lights up the alert on scams (and yes years ago I did make the mistake of not realising that an offer was actually a pyramid scheme!).  Amongst the issues associated:

–       Are sales people of multi-level marketing visible as sales force or do they pose as friends, experts , colleagues and just part of community with no vested interest when in fact they do? If this is the case, then  this is exploitation of human relationships.

–       Should referrals by people who are really salespeople be called referrals or should the suggestion be presented simply as a sales pitch?

–       These sales people themselves are lured into engaging in multi-level marketing operation with the promise of easy-money-making opportunity. There is doubt about how much money can be made and how much of it is legitimate and how much is the result of contorted operations.

–       From an economic and mathematical viewpoint, multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes do not make sense. One cannot sell a product to everyone (each market is limited) and there is the risk of ending up having more sales people on the ground than there are customers!

–      Who controls multi-level marketing stances from the pinnacle of the pyramid and how?

–       The main thrust of multi-level marketing is definitely not grounded on what the customer wants but it is built on greed!

The Internet is rife with articles for and against (mostly against) multi-level marketing.  It is very vague which is the terrain on which honest multi-level marketers tread and where the foggy marshland of rogue multi-level marketers starts.

To me it has always felt like no man’s land. If you are out to sell something that is essentially good and honest there is no need for clever deceptions or undercover operations!

Multi Level Marketing - Is it a scheme?
Multi Level Marketing – Is it a pyramid scheme in disguise?

Great Idea Poor Execution

I woke up today to a multitude of ‘potatoish’ statutes on Facebook. At first I ignored them but within a minute I had stumbled on the source – a video presenting and promoting the Maltese Derby Potato.

The idea is excellent – after all the Maltese potatoes are indeed one of the best in the world and can chin up to any rival product but in my opinion, the execution of the video leaves much to be desired.

The video has a ‘potentially’ good story-line, kicking off with a typical introduction to Malta but the first problems soon emerge:

– The script is not so well researched. Even though the potato is a very important crop, one cannot really state “No tradition is more closely associated with the island than the traditional potato harvest”.

– Several of the assertions that the young farmer states are somehow grammatically incorrect, and at times seem to be the result of an effort of a ‘poor’ translation from Maltese. At times the accompanying text at the bottom of the screen does not match his words. There are also some glaring typos and mistakes.

I found no problem with the authenticity of this young farmer’s English accent. After all, one can say, it is the accent of young man whose work has so far exposed him more to the toils of a field than to words. His passion and dedication for his work and the potato crop seem genuine and is admirable.

However I strongly believe that the director behind this production should have pruned the words in a way that ‘less is more’. Some statements should have been completely omitted, statements like “you can taste the sea, church, sun…” The sack-full of English language mistakes even in the transcription at the bottom of the video could have been avoided!

As at the point of writing, the video attracted only ‘Likes’, on YouTube. This is a clear indication that it went down well with the audience who saw it, but at the same time, some of the comments I read on Facebook like “ I have a dream….it’s a potato” come across more like mockery than praise.

Personally I concur with the young farmer that he has a dream. In that dream, the Maltese potato as a successful Maltese export is taken to new heights! It is a dream to which he has a right to aspire! And if he can dream it, he has youth in his favour to fully achieve it!!

Not the same can be said for the director of the video!

Derby Potato Promo
Derby Potato Promo

potatoevid2

 

Can the packaging unbrand?

In the beginning I presume packaging was there for protecting and handling the product bought. It was not about the brand, the name or the reputation of the trader. In today’s day and age, packaging is not just about protection and it does not only have a lot of branding work to do, but in some cases it feels like it’s actually part of the product!

Some time ago I accompanied a friend on a shopping trip. My friend, one who still insists that she needs to touch and try the dress before buying it, bought a dress from what can be defined as an exclusive boutique. One might ask what makes a boutique exclusive but suffice to say that at this boutique the clients are told how many of the same dress model were actually imported and sometimes they might even happen to inform the client on which dates/occasions the other clients will be wearing the same dress!

I was therefor stupefied when the shop owner literally folded a short dress in 4 (not in 2) and placed it in a common unbranded brown bag the size of a copybook!  I was gobsmacked that the so-called exclusive dress came without the hanger, without a proper protective plastic bag and to top it up it was literally folded and ditched in such a commonplace bag. One could argue that it was an emergency bag (maybe they had run out of stock of branded bags) but whatever the case it just felt one way – CHEAP!

I felt that we had just bought a dress from a common market stall as opposed to from an exclusive boutique. One might ask, what is the big deal? The big deal is that the bag downgraded the product and as opposed to feeling satisfied with my friend’s purchase, I literally felt the ‘cognitive dissonance’, i.e. that nagging feeling that somehow makes you feel that you made the wrong decision with the purchase.

During the same period I bought a dress from a well known online British retailer. The dress arrived in a box, neatly folded in 2, in a sealed plastic bag with hanger. The cardboard box bore the insignia of the store. The box was well branded and there was no mistake about the quality. As soon as I saw the box with the branding regalia I could not help but make a direct comparison of the two episodes and once again I felt that something was amiss. I also realised that my judgement of this exclusive boutique had depreciated its mark by several notches in my consumer mind!

So back to my question, “Can the packaging unbrand?”. Nowadays I believe it seriously can!

Trademark Issues

As much as I love the Lindt Easter Bunny, I cannot but agree with the European Court where, it has just been declared that Lindt do not have a right to a trademark of the famous  chocolate Easter bunny wrapped in gold foil with a pleated red ribbon and bell around its neck.

The controversy surrounding the Lindt Easter Bunny has been going on for a couple of years and the European Court ‘s decision is based on the conclusion that there is nothing “particularly distinctive” with the product itself.The concept of trademark distinctiveness is a very core issue in laws concerning trademarks.  A trademark can only be given to a product that is distinct from other products. Another way of stating this is that products with trademarks are not generic products!

By far I am no expert in the directives of the EU, nor an expert is assessing the distinctiveness of a product in a legal framework, but from the mere perspective of a casual observer and consumer,  the combination of the elements that  make-up the Lindt Easter bunny, I do not think that the product is such an  original that merits a ‘trademark’.
The bunny, although cute and a firm favourite, is not so fanciful to be classified as unique and original!
Read the full story at BBC.co.uk


 

Brand Value

If we had to get a glimpse of where the world is going by having a look at the world’s most valuable brands, we have a clear indication: more and more technology.

In fact it is not just a matter of where the world is going but where the world actually stands.

Apple is the most valuable of brands for the second consecutive year, followed by IBM and Google.   All 3 are technology stalwarts and in the top 10 one can also find Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and China Mobile. This means 7 out of the top 10 global brands are technology related. The other 3 top 10 global brands are McDonalds, Coca Cola and Marlboro.

Read more about this topic and brand ranking at Marketingweek.co.uk.

Wheeling on products onto foreign markets

For the Western world, the pushchair is just another product that few stop to question. Once a woman has a baby, it is one of the first things that is bought and it becomes added to the paraphernalia of accessories that are carried around.

The pushchair as a product and its market is a highly evolved one in the Western world. Starting out with the basic functionality as a ‘mobile chair’ for transporting little kids around, adding on safety and ergonomic aspects, today’s pushchairs boast a variety of features like toys for engaging kids and adult-friendly features like space for shopping bags, easy to open and being light to carry. Naturally nowadays there are  different types of wheels and structures to cater for different types of needs of the user. Some are standard pushchairs, others are meant to be use while jogging, others are meant to be used in rough terrain while others are simply meant for zooming around on pavements.   And then to top all this we have the element of fashion spicing up the picture with colours, patterns, branded names and cartoon characters. The customer buying a pushchair is faced with so many models and styles that many parents feel that they have to research the topic well before embarking on the selection of a new pushchair.

While this pushchair as a product is a success in the Western world, importing it into Africa can be described as difficult. I recently read an article where the author describes precisely that the pushchair as a product was not suitable and could not be adapted to the culture.

Mothers in Nairobi found the pushchair business an ‘abhorrent fad’ and looked at the gadget as a ‘cagey’ sort of thing for their babies. Sustaining this argument, African pediatricians even looked down on the product as they believed it could cause problems in the ‘mother-and-child relationship’.     In Africa mothers carry their babies on their backs and this age-old tradition is literally on the opposite end of  reasoning as to why pushchairs are bought.

The article (although a bit dated, written in 2004) states that upon opening the shop, they sold only 1 pushchair in 2 months and it was sold to a visiting U.N. worker.   In this light, one can describe this venture of selling pushchairs in Nairobi as a non-starter. This is because the product itself, in its very core functionality, is something that culturally is literally against the culture and thus will take long to become accepted.

All marketing books and gurus speak about the difficulties of entering a foreign market. This small post illustrates that before embarking on interesting foreign business opportunities, one needs to look at the product very closely because one can have a myopic view of one’s own products and fail to see if they fit the market.

Some products may take too long to be wheeled on and become mainstream enough for a good business venture.

Read the full article about the pushchair business in Africa here:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=%2Fc%2Fa%2F2004%2F05%2F20%2FMNG6Q6O4LI1.DTL