Walmart: Friend or Foe?

Since the day I started business school, one of the biggest lessons was about WalMart. They are a brilliant company, there is no denying that. They are the largest retailer in the world; and they use that power well. WalMart has created an ecosystem of their suppliers and retailers, working together to serve their mission however they see fit. There is no way that a business person cannot commend them for this.

But consumers always seem to have such strong opinions when they see that big, yellow smiley face. I know a lot of people that love WalMart, in every sense of the word. I’ve never been to a WalMart, but only because I’ve never lived in a place where one was near. (I hear they have great deals on socks.) My point is, a lot of the people I know who won’t go anywhere else for a six pack of socks are women. Or minorities. Or anyone else that WalMart has reportedly hired screwed over its’ lifetime.

There is a flip side to that love – consumers also get angry when they hear the WalMart name. Documentaries have been made about how awful the organization really is. (I did have to watch that documentary in one of my business classes, after discussing the business’ brilliance.) These people protest, deny ever stepping foot in one of the chain stores, and criticize others for shopping there.

But do consumers actually care how “bad” WalMart is?

Women sue the company for massive amounts of money, and then the lawsuit is suddenly dropped. I know plenty of women that will still shop at WalMart. The same can be said for children caught in WalMart sweat shops – how many parents bring their kids into the stores because the clothes are cheap? It is understandable logic – as long as that same parent doesn’t preach about child labor laws.

I’m just wondering if all of this news REALLY affects the WalMart name. Consumers have hated them for years – and continually shopped there. Obviously business is booming for them. No problems on the home front.

Do they just have the most incredible PR team known to man? Or do consumers only pretend to care about corporate policy, and then turn their heads when socks are on sale for 3 for the price of 1?


Pop-Up to Gain Our Loyalty?

Organizations seem to be infinitely struggling with gaining consumers’ emotional loyalty and attachment. Since day one of business school, professors preach that consumers “love” brands. You are generally loyal to products such as deodorant, coffee, gum, and other convenience items. Consumers find a brand that works for them, and fits into their lifestyle, and they stick to it. There are usually no further purchase decisions made. In this battle of gaining trust and brand loyalty, companies seem to be doing absolutely everything in their power to gain the attention of current and potential customers. One of these widely accepted, brilliant (or not so brilliant) ideas was to run pop-up ads.

In the beginning stages of the Internet, pop-up ads were absolutely everywhere. You would close your browser window and have ten ads that had popped “under” your screen. Why companies thought that consumers would take the time to look at these ads after they exited their window, I never figured out. Most pop-ups seemed to disappear over time; moving to banner ads, and advertising on the background of entire webpages instead of disturbing the reader’s experience. But recently, pop-ups have begun to re-pop-up. Some ads are even disguised as banner ads; they are positioned at the top of the screen, but take so long to load that you get redirected to them if you scroll down too quickly. This is most noticeable on websites that provide news, when the user is involved in reading a story, and is disrupted suddenly by an ad that seems impossible to exit out of.

How does this relate to brand loyalty? I have never once known anyone to be browsing the Internet and say “Oh good, a pop-up ad! I LOVE getting interrupted to learn about the new flavor of Mountain Dew coming out next month!” Chances are, if I’m at the grocery store that night, and a pop-up ad for Mountain Dew appeared on my screen that day, I will not buy Mountain Dew. Firms generally believe that ads like this put their brand at top of mind; which is a great thing for them. And for some consumers, this little trick works. All they remember is that earlier in the day, they saw Mountain Dew; so they purchase it. However, for consumers like me, that consciously think about what brands are doing to gain my attention, it puts it at top of mind for negative reasons.

Making these ads difficult to close out of is not helping the companies’ case either. We have already been completely interrupted by your lack of creativity by using a pop-up ad; please at least have the courtesy to make it a simple task to exit out. This is not making me like your brand, enjoy your advertisement, or want to buy whatever it is you are selling. It actually does the opposite. I have a negative brand image every time I make a purchase decision in your category.

However, companies must be creating these ads for a reason. They clearly work on some level, and do make us think of their brand more often than not. As I said before, the consumer that simply remembers seeing the brand pop up on their screen while making a purchase decision is certainly more likely to choose that product. The fact that I mentioned Mountain Dew in my post is nothing but helpful to the Pepsi brand. These ads did wonders for consumers that were experiencing the Internet for the first time, and probably do still work on older generations.

I do not think that people in Generation Y appreciate pop-up ads at all. I certainly don’t think we have considered them useful. Gen Y has a reputation of not trusting organizations; they have to fight the hardest to gain our attention and loyalty, because we would rather support the little man than buy into Pepsi. Most people in our generation firmly believe that corporations get too many tax breaks, make too much money, and don’t give enough back. So I say that the corporations give us at least the respect to drop the pop-up act; we deserve better. We deserve more creativity, more time, and something that actually will increase my brand loyalty.

The New Caffeine

It is pretty clear that as a society, we have turned to medication to make our lives better. What started as simply taking Tylenol for headaches has become a medical phenomenon; people take prescription medications for absolutely every ailment that hits them. Makes you wonder how people ever got along without these magical pills. Businesses are thriving on the use of medication. Pharma companies are the richest out there, and people flock to their solutions that are poured onto us daily through advertisements.

I have heard a lot about the new pill that is supposed to take the place of caffeine for shift workers. Nuvigil, which is made by Cephalon costs about six times the cost of a Starbucks “grande” coffee – per pill. We have all heard of caffeine pills before, and it sounds like this is essentially what this drug is. However, it hasn’t been proven to be more effective than coffee alone. It also happens to have a plethora of side effects that could be fatal. Cephalon has been targeting this new drug to shift workers, and spending a lot of money on advertising. Shift workers are perfect for this product because they are usually unsure about the time of their work schedule, and if it is in the middle of the night, their mind may not be performing at top speed.

Seems like a perfect advertising mechanism – they certainly know who their target market is. The problem I have, is will these workers take the time to research the med before jumping to conclusions and taking this addictive, dangerous pill instead of having their regular cup of joe?

Is society ready for a “miracle” caffeine pill?


Losing Faith?

Fortune (magazine)

Image via Wikipedia

I read a lot of business news during the day – what corporation is doing what, who is succeeding, who is failing, what the newest innovation will be – after a while, all of the stories begin to run together. So, I took a new approach, and searched on WordPress for blogs about business. I thought it would be refreshing to hear what real people had to say about business today, rather than what CNN, Fortune, Time, (which are essentially all the same), or even Business Week and AdAge are talking about.

But I didn’t complete this search; my beloved WordPress website that lets me so freely analyze business news I come across, seems to hate business. The first sentence I read? “Business: it’s almost a dirty word these days.” And then the summary went on to talk about how people are steadily losing faith in CEOs, corporations, organizations, and firms, with the looming economy and unemployment rising. I know that most people have no faith in big business anymore – they are blaming corporations for the economic state we are in today. This is something that I can completely understand.

But it still makes me a little sad to know that society thinks business is failing them. I understand that businesses have their faults, as we all do; but I still find them intriguing and exciting to learn about. Hopefully, one day I will become a part of business, and be part of the change for the better; to restore humanity’s faith in what essentially runs this country.

Is everyone giving up on big business? If you aren’t seeing a six figure income each year, do you blame society? What’s going to happen when we all lose our trust, and stop responding to advertisements and messages that cost so much money and are essentially keeping these big firms alive?

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Yoplait ads might as well be in Greek

Yoplait has released a new type of yogurt – Greek. They have jumped on the bandwagon of offering high protein yogurt to their customers. Too little too late? I think that brands like Chobani have pretty much claimed the Greek yogurt market, and Yoplait Greek just seems mis-guided.

Their new advertisements don’t make any sense. A tall man jumping out of a vending machine to tell women to eat Greek yogurt? Doesn’t seem like that’s really hitting their target market — which is the women that he is trying to educate. Yoplait probably should have just gone with ads similar to ones they have released in the past. This would have created a consistent brand message, one that has obviously been extremely successful in the past.

Greek yogurt is certainly a new, growing trend – women all over love to know that it is both ‘delicious and nutritious.’ We’ll see how Yoplait does – it will be interesting to see how the advertisements are received, and how their Greek yogurt sales do. They certainly are joining this bandwagon a little late in the game. However, I do like their packaging a lot more than the current Chobani containers.


Electric Luxury

Rolls-Royce recently released an electric vehicle.

Admittedly, it is a nice looking car. I love the design.  They did a good job of keeping the classic Rolls look, with an updated twist. And then added in some new green technology.

However, I just do not think that releasing an EV makes much branding sense. Someone that can afford a Rolls in this economy probably isn’t all that worried about the gas prices that seem to be rising with no chance of halting; that are on the back of all of our minds every time we get behind the wheel. Rolls-Royce has always been featured as a luxury car, one that only the wealthiest people own. So why would their target market be concerned about gas prices? They certainly haven’t been concerned about the environment in the past; these cars are not exactly MPG friendly.

Is Rolls-Royce barking up the wrong tree here? This could be a lot of money going into R&D and market research, and I don’t see them coming out on top. I’m thinking they should leave the EVs to Toyota, Ford, and others that have already seemingly mastered this process. 


News of the World

Well, yet another newspaper is in ethical hot water (see my earlier post about The Village Voice & Ashton Kutcher).

Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World has sparked an outrage among the British public; and rightfully so. The newspaper is accused of hacking into a missing girl’s voicemail, after many allegations of doing the same to celebrities. All in the name of getting the latest scoop – I can understand that this is the business they are in, but when it is intentionally interfering with a police investigation, giving the little girl’s family false hope, and simply ignoring personal rights, there is nothing here that I can agree with.

I wonder how many advertisers are going to pull their ads from this newspaper after the verdict; if Murdoch’s empire does not suffer any harm, and are found not guilty, will the public’s outrage be enough to still pull critical ad money out? If companies do or do not take their advertisements out, will it hurt or help their public image? Obviously, having ad space in a major newspaper is important – but is it still important at the expense of ethics?

There are many major companies that advertise currently with News of the World – Ford is among one of those. They have stated they are waiting for the verdict to be announced before they decide to pull their ads or not. Which sends the clear message; if the courts do not find Murdoch guilty, then Ford will almost definitely stay with the newspaper. This makes some sort of sense, but I wonder if the people’s anger will go away even if the mogul is not found guilty – an example of this most recently not working is the Casey Anthony trial (while I understand Murdoch’s crimes are not of the same magnitude).

Will citizens care at all about companies’ advertising positions? This may not be even crossing their mind at this point.



I was reading my daily dose of Fast Company online and came across a story titled “Inside Intel and Toshiba’s Social Film”. I was immediately intrigued to see if this film would be anything like the incredibly successful BMW short films that promoted their cars not too long ago (which, as I read on, the article spoke about as well.)

I found it very interesting that a product such as Intel, which has done such a great job advertising their “inside” technology, would take this route; it seems that short films featured on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook target a younger age group than would really care about what it means to have an Intel chip inside your computer. The demographic they are going after is generally more focused on the looks of their computer; and in making an “artsy” short film, it is even more obvious to me that they are going after a wildly successful competitor that features fruit on their products – and tends to capture a younger, more creative audience.

I will be very interested to see if these short films are popular, if I hear any buzz about them among people in my age group, and to see what Intel and Toshiba’s sales do after the launch of the series. It is important that they are directly involving their audience to have a say in the film’s outcome; this will certainly connect with the age group that they are looking for. Millenials tend to appreciate having a say in what an organization decides to do; we are clearly more qualified to make advertising decisions than the 45 year old man in a plush corner office.

Fast Company article:


Generational Marketing

Some recent opportunities coming my way have had me thinking more and more about marketing to different generations, and how marketers need to closely examine their consumer before running advertisements aimed at them.

As I have said before, I am interested in social marketing, and believe that if I am working for a company that has a greater cause in mind, I will be more motivated and excited about the mission. I took a job career predictor test, and my results were “idealistic and charitable.” This test said that I am deeply influenced by my emotions and have a gift for empathizing with and seeing good in others that is lost to their counterparts. It also told me that I evaluate situations in “human terms.” I know these career tests are usually pretty much a joke – but that one kind of hit the nail on the head.

I was reading an article about marketing to generations and how companies need to stop neglecting the older population; even baby boomers seem to be getting left in the dust. These people may have grown up in different times than my generation, the millenials, but they still actively use the Internet and watch television. There are clearly some changes in advertising when marketing to different generations, but I think that’s the key – there are changes. Not to just forget the old and let the new in.

There is a large, virtually untapped market that may just appreciate a little honesty in their advertisements, rather than gimmicks and funny sayings. 


Judge a Beer By Its Cover

Walking in the aisles of the grocery store, the packaging of the food stands out to me – it is something that I notice and pay attention to. The store layout is also a detail that I acknowledge, and I appreciate shelves that are stocked nicely for the consumer. The beer aisle is an especially interesting one to focus on – in the local Fred Meyer, this aisle is also complete with chips and dip to supply all your parties. I do find this very clever; but the other day, I began noticing all of the packaging that beer companies offer their customers.

Miller Lite offers screw caps and the vortex bottle, Coors Light has mountains that turn blue when it’s cold, and Bud Light introduced writable bottles. I did a little more research, and found that these beer companies call these new bottles and cans “innovations.” Thinking about this a little more, I think they may be better classified as gimmicks. Some of them, such as the Coors Light mountains, have certainly helped with sales volume, so these new ideas obviously have a positive effect on consumers.

The thing that I respect most about these gimmicks is that they generally go along with their company’s current brand identity. Miller Lite has the best example of this, because their new vortex is supposed to increase the taste experience. Miller has always branded themselves on being better tasting than their counterparts, and this complies well with that brand message.