Pinterest Marketing And Analytics: The Ways Businesses Benefit

Social media marketing is one of the hottest methods for business marketing due to the ability to communicate and engage with consumers in a non-interruptive, authentic, and personalized way. As social media channels integrate new features for marketing, more and more businesses are finding new and unique ways to reach and engage their customers. Analytics built into social media platforms are also giving marketers new insights on customers, allowing marketers to create highly targeted and effective ads. One of the platforms that many businesses are turning to as a prime channel for marketing is Pinterest.

Armed with tools like like buyable pins, rich pins, and comprehensive Pinterest analytics, Pinterest has become one of the most favorable marketing platforms for businesses, especially e-commerce and retail. Pinterest allows its user to find and save content they believe to be valuable, for a later date. In saving this content, whether it is an article or product they would like to purchase, it creates a link leading back to the original product or website, at the very least. This link then grows as more people pin, spreading the reach of a business organically. There are a number of different types of pins that can be utilized, such as rich pins, buyable pins, or sponsored pins, each containing special types of attributes, such as a detailed description for rich pins, a convenient in app buy button for buyable pins, and increased visibility to appear in suggested pins with paid sponsored pins (Pinterest, 2017). Pins tend to have a longer shelf life than other social channels, meaning it provides greater reach than other social media sources due to its backlinking nature. Additionally, according to  a recent study compiled by the massive small and medium business e-commerce platform Shopify, Pinterest is one of the best channels to use because of all social media channels, it has one of the highest average order values of $58.95, and it drives a significant amount of traffic to sites (Winter, 2017). All in all, businesses tend to see increased conversion rates through Pinterest, when utilized effectively.

One of the great things about Pinterest is that it has a built in analytics tool. Pinterest analytics gives business owners insights on “what Pins people like, what they save from your website”and allow businesses to “learn more about what your customers really want” (Pinterest, 2017). With Pinterest analytics, one can see which pins, or content, out-performs and resonates compared to others. This helps give insights on what to promote more heavily or what types of content you may want to post more of. You can also see how customers are engaging and interacting with your pins and website. Businesses can view which pins are driving the most traffic, and how much. It can even show valuable demographic data to marketers. With all of this data, highly targeted marketing campaigns can be devised, which are more personalized to potential and existing customers. Marketing campaigns can also be designed to maximize revenue or drive traffic based on different segment analytics and pin stats.

 

References

Pinterest (2017). Retrieved from https://business.pinterest.com/

Winter, D (2017). Make Your Pins Count: 7 Ways to Drive Sales and Traffic with Pinterest. Retrieved from https://www.shopify.com/blog/14866757-make-your-pins-count-7-ways-to-drive-sales-and-traffic-with-pinterest

 

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The Role of Pinterest Marketing

Pinterest is essentially a visual search engine. Yet, it is also a social media site where users interact with brands and other pinners. Users can search for specific terms, and relevant image results will pull up, which can then be repinned to a user’s board. Ana Gotter from Hootsuite’s Adespresso Pinterest Marketing article (2017) asserts that Pinterest’s primary focus is “to save content that you find valuable for later.” Many pinners use Pinterest for curating inspiration boards, as well as finding and saving products and articles for later purchase/viewing, whether it’s for home décor, fashion, wedding planning, food recipes, or even marketing tips. With its various marketing features and functionalities, Pinterest plays a major role in content marketing strategy, as well as organic SEO and company branding efforts.

Marketing Products, Blogs, and other Articles

Marketing occurs in a few different ways on Pinterest. This social media platform is heavily used to market products and content, like a fashion blog post. To market products and content, Pinterest offers Rich pins. This is a free Pinterest add-on, which, when enabled, allows you to create pins that fall under a specific template: product, recipe, article, or app (Pinterest, 2017). Using these pin formats allows for a more detailed pin description that results in an easier user experience and helps make leads informed. In my personal feeds, I see a lot of marketing utilizing rich pins, especially for recipes and blog post articles. Similar to rich pins, businesses also employ Promoted Pins to market products and other content, which are essentially sponsored pins that appear in pinners’ pin feeds. Pinterest also has the ability to create buyable pins. For example if an e-commerce store uses Shopify, there is an integrated feature which allows you to create buyable pins directly to Pinterest as you upload new products to your website. I work for an online women’s clothing boutique that utilizes Shopify and this integrated feature, and it is convenient and helps drive website traffic and sales. While more and more businesses are trying out sponsored pins, much of the success in Pinterest marketing lies in SEO.

Marketing to Increase Organic Search Results

Another marketing tactic seen on Pinterest is SEO optimized pins, with a goal of increasing organic search results and building website backlinks.  The shelf life of pins is much greater than that of most other social media platforms, like Facebook, whose posts might be seen by a small number of followers for a few hours, making it an ideal and easy tool for increasing website and product SEO (On Marketing, 2015). A pin is available virtually forever, and many people will take the time to search through and find “the perfect pin.” The beauty of Pinterest is that it helps businesses increase organic search ranks because Pinterest creates a number of backlinks to websites based on SEO optimized pin descriptions and/ or products, indicating popularity and relevance to Google. For me, Pinterest has become my go to search engine. If I want to find the latest fall fashion trends, or a very specific style of home décor to buy, I just have to search for it, and I get a slew of visual results. The pin descriptions are often very specific, which I like because I feel I can usually find what I am looking for.

Branding & Content

Pinterest is also great to all for increasing brand awareness and content marketing strategy. Businesses often create boards that aren’t necessarily related to their specific product or service, but perhaps relate to a lifestyle that the brand seeks to immerse its customers in, or values that the company holds, or even just useful information. They can run contests to create pin boards, or have customers pin to their own boards to engage and interact with users. Target is a prime example of a brand that utilizes Pinterest for branding and content marketing very well. I love all things Target, and half of the time, don’t even realize I am repining their pins. They cleverly utilized lifestyle photos for their own products, which they then pin to a specific board, each with its own theme, such as a dedication to the new modern rustic home Magnolia Hearth and Hand line or a back to college inspiration board (Pinterest, 2017). They know how pinners search and organize, and are able to effectively market their product through engaging content and build brand awareness.

There are a number of ways that Pinterest is used by businesses for marketing. We see marketing designed to sell products, to drive website traffic, to enhance SEO, to  build brand awareness, and to engage with customers. Stay in the know with Pinterest as it unveils new marketing features

 

References

Gotter, A. (2017). Adespresso: A Step by Step Guide to Pinterest Marketing. Retrieved from https://adespresso.com/blog/step-step-guide-pinterest-marketing/

 

On Marketing (2015). Five Ways Pinterest Is Beating Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2015/02/04/five-ways-pinterest-is-beating-facebook/#2f7aa2bb1781

 

Pinterest (2017). Retrieved from http://www.business.pinterest.com

Instagram: Taking the World by Storm, One Double Tap at a Time

Instagram is the newest addition to the social media world. Introduced in 2010, the social media platform is one of the fastest growing social media platforms with 700 million monthly active users (Hubspot, 2017). This makes Instagram a great platform for marketing. Instagram was later purchased by Facebook in 2012 (Shontell, 2013). Since then, the media channel has been implementing a number of new features, especially those targeted at businesses looking to advertise.

Paid Advertising on Instagram

Currently, Instagram supports paid advertisements in-feed. These can either be created through Facebook ad manager, the Instagram ad creator in app, or by boosting an existing post. These ads feature either a single photo or video, or a carousal gallery with up to 10 photos or videos.  Sponsored content is labeled discreetly as such, and each post features a call to action bar which typically links back to a webpage, unless the goal of the ad is to drive traffic to a profile page.

The other major ad feature that Instagram recently rolled out was their Instagram story ads. Video is becoming increasingly more popular, with an 80% increase in time spent watching Instagram videos (Instagram, 2017). This feature allows them to be competitive with social media giant Snapchat. This Adweek article states that for established Instagram influencers and businesses, the stories feature “opens up opportunities to deepen connections with their audience.”  This feature allows businesses and influencers to create product links, run polls, and engage users in a non-interruptive way.

Instagram Marketing

While not a tool embedded within the Instagram app, influencer and affiliate marketing is wildly popular on Instagram. Brands can pay or trade something of value, such as clothing, to “influencers,” or people with a large following on Instagram, in exchange for their product/website/brand being promoted. This is a science of its own, but works effectively because the majority of the users on Instagram are millennials, who thrive off of word-of-mouth feedback on products and established brand credibility.

Businesses can also display one website link on their profile pages to drive traffic to a specific landing page. Many e-commerce businesses have opted to create landing pages with shoppable Instagram feeds, so consumers can “shop” the pictures a company has posted. Instagram is currently testing a “shoppable feed” feature, which during the testing phase, has been limited to large brands like Kate Spade (Instagram, 2017). This allows businesses to tag products directly in their instagram feed, so as consumers are scrolling, they can click on the shopping bag link, view the tagged products, and click to purchase.

There is also a save to collection feature which allows users to save posts to come back and view later, greatly extending the shelf life of content posts longer than most other social media sites, save for Pinterest.

Instagram Marketing in Action

The ability to run highly targeted ads this way provides businesses with a means of non-interruptive, highly engaging advertising. I think even in comparison to Facebook, Instagram’s ads are very similar to everything else in your feed, and thus, less noticeable as an ad, which makes users more likely to favorite the content. With features like a shoppable feed soon to be available, and the rise of Instagram story marketing, there are a number of creative ways to market your products and increase your brand awareness through the platform.

I use Instagram as a means of inspiration for things like lifestyle, fashion, goals, and for my own posts/business posts. I also create content and ads on Instagram with my job as a marketer every day.  I love to connect with new and innovative brands through Instagram. . I respond to the marketing tactics and strategies that brands use on Instagram because I am a very visual person, so I think it is a great platform to connect with people, and it is so simplistic and non-interruptive, you practically don’t realize you are being marketed to. I can click on stories if I’d like, though I don’t typically. I can scroll past any ads in my feed I don’t like, although I usually do like them. I really love the shoppable feed feature, and have had my interest in companies like Lulus.com due to this feature. I have also purchased from businesses after finding them on Instagram and being inspired by their feeds. For example, last year I bought a MVMT watch for my husband for Christmas after seeing a sponsored post by the company. They were smaller then, which just goes to show their marketing has paid off. It was an ad the featured a picturesque landscape, in the mountains, with an arm reaching forwards, sporting their watch, with a hashtag, jointhemvmt. Captivating, really. But that’s Instagram for you.

 

References

Adweek. (26 Aug 2016). The Impact of Instagram Stories on Influencer Marketing. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/digital/francis-trapp-brandnew-io-guest-post-instagram-stories/

Collins, A. (2017). Instagram Marketing: How to Create Captivating Visuals, Grow Your Following, and Drive Engagement. Retrieved from https://www.hubspot.com/instagram-marketing

Instagram. (2017). Retrieved from https://business.instagram.com/

Shontell, A. (9 May 2013). How Instagram Co-Founder Kevin Systrom Spent His Year After The $1 Billion Facebook Acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/its-been-1-year-since-facebook-bought-instagram-for-1-billion-heres-how-co-founder-kevin-systrom-spent-it-2013-5

 

Evaluation: The Key to Successful Marketing Campaigns

Mark Ex

[Image via alabamaacn.org]

Evaluation is an importance aspect of marketing campaigns. It allows one to look back on the performance of a marketing campaign and measure the outcomes of said campaign against the original objectives. This allows marketers to see what worked well and what needs to be modified in the future to better achieve their objectives.

Three broad methods for marketing evaluation are message evaluations, online evaluations, and respondent behavior evaluations.

Marketing experts Kenneth Clow and Donald Baack (2014) assert that message evaluation “examine[s] the message and the physical design of the advertisement, coupon, or direct marketing piece.” In message evaluation, marketers look at the underlying message that an ad should have displayed and determine if the design elements, or in some cases, the actor or voice actor, effectively communicated the message. Cognitive components evoked by the ad, such as emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response, are examined to see if it aligns with the ad objectives. Some examples of message evaluation include advertising tracking and copytesting (Clow and Baack, 2014). Message evaluation works best for traditional print marketing, and gives insights on consumer feelings. However, this method is limited because much of the information must be populated via surveys or interviews, rather than having instant access to data collections, and it does not always tell marketers why a particular ad is ineffective.

In contrast, methods like online evaluation and respondent behavior evaluation are beneficial because they offer instant, real-time statistics related to ads and consumer actions. Online advertising and marketing campaigns are examined by means of statistical metrics, such as click-throughs, dwell time, and dwell rate (Clow and Baack, 2014). This data is can easily be compared to other data and is often considered to be very accurate in measuring the quality of internet activities. Access to this type of data shows companies at what point the customer left their sales funnel, and indicates areas which need improvement. Respondent behavior evaluations are similar, in that they are considered to be more accurate. Respondent behavior evaluations “address visible customer actions,” such as “store visits, inquiries, or actual purchases” (Clow and Baack, 2014). Such data is tracked by measuring things like website hit counts or the number of coupons redeemed or even actual sales. This method is highly relied on by businesses. It focuses less on what customers think and feel, and more on the actual results of an ad.

Any good marketer will employ a combination of both behavioral evaluations and emotional/cognitive evaluations in order to gauge promotional performance. Doing so will lead to meeting marketing objectives and effective campaigns that result in sales.

References

Clow, K. and Baack, D. (2014). Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications. 6th Edition. [Pearson Online] Retrieved from https://view.ebookplus.pearsoncmg.com/ebook/

Re-branding to Grow Business: e.l.f.

E.l.f. is a brand that aims to tackle the competitive cosmetics market by offering affordably priced, premium makeup. They are one of the first to offer premium quality makeup at shockingly low prices, and came to be popular through the power of social media and micro-influencers. While certain marketing and brand tactics may have worked for E.l.f. as a startup, a company must change as they grow in order to be successful. One of the ways to do so includes rebranding.

The company is still performing well, but there are a few ways that they could rebrand and experience growth. One of the means of doing so could be, instead of a “creative and expressive” brand positioning, the company could position themselves as “trusted by professionals.” In addition to this, trusted by professionals, they can push being a sustainable makeup choice. E.l.f. can offer limited edition professional makeup artist lines, with their same affordable pricing, and cultivate partnership with larger influencers in the makeup industry—like famous YouTube makeup gurus. The company already demonstrates corporate social responsibility by not testing on animals, and they have developed a natural “minerals” line of product. They can make a move to be more conscientious of what is going into their products and have these influencers endorse the sustainability of the company. Cosmetics brand Pennellifaro (2017) asserts that sustainability and environmental /social awareness will be the number things driving consumer purchases in makeup for the 2017-2018 year. This would make advertising and positioning their product as natural and environmentally/socially aware something that would help them attract more consumers and solidify a position with the larger grandmothers of cosmetics like L’Oreal or Maybelline.

In terms of marketing, well-known influencers will play a role in promoting the product as such. While the company has said that people relate well to smaller influencers and that micro-influencers have more social reach, the company has already amassed a loyal fan base (Tode, 2017). The company utilized micro-influencers to be relatable, attract attention, and form a foundation for success. The company has been wildly successful by relying on this method as a means of word of mouth marketing and social media marketing. However, just because micro-influencers worked for them as a startup, it doesn’t mean it will work for them now. The company has grown so much since inception and accumulated a large following. Now, E.l.f. is at a crossroads where it needs to branch out and reposition their brand image as “sustainable,” in addition to being premium quality and affordable, because they now have the followers to vouch for them. Doing so would help give the company credibility as a quality brand—not just a cheap brand—as well as a socially responsible company. If something is cheap, especially makeup, people tend to shy away from it because they question the value. It’s probably bad quality, is what one would assume. Likewise, if product is full of harsh ingredients or sourced from undesirable places, millennial consumers—the ones who are purchasing due to CSR—will shy away from purchasing because that company does not reflect their own values or care about making the world a better place (which is the mantra of the millennials). By generating professional reviews and endorsements, the makeup community and millennials seeking quality product for low prices would be more inclined to purchase, and have a piece of mind in doing so. Millennials look for opinions any time they purchase, which is why the company utilized micro-influencers in the first place. Should the company utilize influencers that are more powerful, they will be able to grow their sales and market segments even more. Right now, they attract lower class and portions of the middle class segment, but with professional endorsement, they could grow to attract even upper class citizens, which is a market they have yet to conquer.

 

References

Pennellifaro. (20 Feb 2017). The 5 top trends for the cosmetic market 2017-2018. Retrieved from https://www.pennellifaro.com/en-ww/the-5-top-trends-for-the-cosmetic-market-2017-2018.aspx

Tode, C. (13 Mar 2017). How E.L.F. Cosmetics builds community and drives results with micro-influencers. Retrieved from http://www.marketingdive.com/news/elf-cosmetics-building-community-micro-influencers-social-media/437915/

Corporate Social Responsibility: Target

target

[Image via coporate.target.com]

To demonstrate corporate social responsibility means corporations actively assess and “take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social well-being” (Investopedia, 2017). Corporate social responsibility is a practice that has taken business by storm. Many say that it has become imperative for companies to adopt ethical, socially aware, and environmentally aware business practices. Why? Simply put, consumer behavior has changed. The population of consumers is rapidly aging, and the newest majority group of consumers—the millennials—value companies whose ideals align with their own. These values are drastically different than the generations before them, and emphasize social awareness. While many companies adopt CSR practices for the sole purpose of gaining loyal followers of millennial customers, there are some brands that strive to embody corporate social responsibility as a joint effort to help their business and help the communities around it. Target is an example of such a corporation.

Target is a company that has long been associated with corporate social responsibility. The company has received a number of awards for their efforts in CSR, most recently including being named one of the World’s Most Admired Companies, an Energy Star Partner of the Year, and one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies (Target, 2017). Built off of an overwhelming sense of community, giving, and service, Target takes pride in creating a positive employee environment, impacting communities around them, and being a cultural and social leader worldwide.  Target demonstrates corporate social responsibility by cultivating wellness and education, emphasizing diversity and inclusivity, committing to environmentally sustainable operational practices, and being involved in community services.

There’s a long list of examples I could give as to why this company conducts business in a socially responsible way, but I will stick to just a few. This corporation realizes the importance of being healthy, especially in a world that suffers from obesity and various health issues that come from leading unhealthy lifestyles. Target emphasizes healthy living, from the organic foods and exercise merchandise they carry to their involvement in funding healthy lunches for impoverished areas and bicycling commuting programs. Also an advocate for education—something too often put on the back burner in local and national government expenditures—Target has donated a number of their earnings towards schools each year. Most recently, they raised $5 billion worth of supplies, food, field trips, books, and money for schools around the United States (Target, 2017). This fundraiser is not their only service to the community. They have a number of volunteer opportunities for associates to get involved in locally and nationally.

At the core of Target is its team. Target is very selective in the individuals that they hire—not because they are discriminative, but because they hire individuals with the ideals that their company has: a sense of community, inclusiveness, and service to others. Target has frequently been named one of the best places to work, and encourages diversity amongst its staff. Equality is also a topic of importance to Target. The company was notoriously known for having gender neutral, well, most things. From bathrooms to toy aisles, Target is not shy about supporting LGBT rights and trying to make everyone feel included, even when they received backlash for their decisions. They do not waver in their stances and apologize for having their own opinions, even if some customers frown upon it. When it comes to marketing, Target makes an effort to be inclusive as well. Target has run quite a few campaigns that targeted Hispanic culture and families, so they would feel comfortable shopping with the retailer as well. While this could be interpreted as a means of getting more business, one could argue it stands to say they welcome immigrants during a time when some may not feel so welcome.

It is evident that Target is ethical and strives to be aware of the issues that exist in modern society. In terms of operational CSR, Target aims to be a green retailer. In their words, the company is “committed to achieving milestones in our business by creating efficient buildings and spaces, using resources responsibly, eliminating waste and minimizing our carbon footprint” (Target, 2017). For example, they have adopted solar panels to power over half of all of their stores and conserved water by simply changing fixturing systems. Target sets percentage goals from each area they want to lower, like emissions from refrigerator systems, and at the end of each year, the company releases their carbon footprint data so the public can see they are actively achieving or working on their goals.

Some will question whether or not these steps Target has taken—especially to reduce their carbon footprint—are for the profit or because they genuinely support such initiatives. One thing that continues to stand out when it comes to Target is their transparency with everything they do. The company has its set of values and says it will upkeep to those standards, and more often than not, they do. Target is known for being socially conscious and acting in ways that support the environment, not because they want more customers, though this is certainly linked to the success of their business, but because they support something they believe in. That is the allure that is Target. The brand is very authentic and firm in their beliefs.

That’s not to say that Target has never had its share of bad media, or instances that could have been handled better. In November of 2013, Target faced a large scale hacking which resulted in more than 40 million customers’ sensitive data being stolen (Riley et al., 2014). Though the hacking was not Target’s fault, the negligence that occurred while dealing with the situation made consumers question Target’s ethics, which is a portion of corporate social responsibility. Consumers feel that it is up to a corporation to protect sensitive customer information, such as addresses, account numbers, and credit or debit card information. By having effective systems in place and responding appropriately to bad situations, a business is demonstrating responsibility in the safety of their customers and demonstrating their ethics. When suspicion of the hacking arose around Black Friday, Target’s security system was alerted; however, the security team ignored the warning (Riley et al., 2014). It was not until the U.S. Department of Justice notified the retailer about the breach in mid-December that the company investigated and uncovered their system had indeed been hacked. Many view this event as negligence on Target’s part—had they reported and looked into the threat, then the hacking probably could have been avoided. Consumers were also unhappy the amount of time it took Target to notify them of a possible breach of personal information. To them, it was not ethical because Target knew of the incident and the alert, but said and did nothing about it.

There can be lots of speculation over what did or did not happen, but what counts is what Target did afterwards. The company agreed to pay millions in compensatory damages, refund customers, offered them discounts to shop with, issued an apology, and they began requiring all card purchases to be chip authorized. They also took other preventative measures that amped up their security team and operations. Despite this hiccup, Target has still managed to be a top performing company and continue to prove that they demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

 

References

Investopedia (2017). Corporate Social Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corp-social-responsibility.asp

Riley, M., Elgin, B., Lawrence, D., and Matlack, C. (17 Mar 2014). Missed Alarms and 40 Million Stolen Credit Card Numbers: How Target Blew It. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-13/target-missed-warnings-in-epic-hack-of-credit-card-data

Target (2017). Corporate Responsibility. Retrieved from https://corporate.target.com/corporate-responsibility

Top Dog Branding Strategies

apple-microsoftApple versus Microsoft. Creativity versus productivity. Exclusivity versus inclusivity. Tech giants Microsoft and Apple have had a longstanding “battle of the brands.” The two companies have been wildly successful within the tech industry, dominating in sales performance and brand superiority. Each placed within the top five of the world’s most valuable brands list curated by Forbes (2017). Constant debates over who is the top dog surround the industry leaders, and for a very long time, it seemed like the title belonged to Microsoft. However, on Forbes list, Apple placed first and Microsoft placed third. Apple’s sales reflect their superiority over Microsoft as well.

So, what has given Apple the edge over Microsoft? Their success can be summed up in two words: brand strategy. Apple’s brand is very clear. The company is centered around the ideals of innovation, quality, and customer experience. Apple communicates these ideals through emotional appeals.  All of Apple’s marketing tactics and focuses evoke certain emotions from consumers. Apple curated their brand so that they became associated with being a “status symbol” and thus attract a number of loyal customers who desire that status symbol (White, 2017). Apple feeds on this consumer behavior by effectively positions their brand as being premium. They price their products higher and focus on product quality for all product lines to meet the consumer expectations of premium. Apple’s products scream “exclusivity” and focus on specific lifestyles, like those with higher income and lavish taste. Perhaps by purchasing Apple products, consumers feel accepted and good about their social status. Apple has also positioned itself as the industry-standard for creatives (White, 2017). Their products support innovators, artists, and are made to perform to the expectations of these consumers and optimizing customer experience. Apple products may then evoke feelings of joy, productivity, creativity, amusement, and other positive feelings.

In contrast, Microsoft seems to value productivity and diversity.  However, Microsoft’s brand strategy is more ambiguous and is not as easy for consumers to relate to, especially emotionally. According to tech consultant Tim Bajarin (2014), “Microsoft centralizes its strategy around its belief that everyone needs tools for a wide range of productivity tasks regardless of who they are.” Microsoft has built their brand on the basis of everyone has the need to be productive, and created products that support productivity, such as two-in-one laptop/tablets. They emphasize inclusivity and are more moderately priced in comparison to Apple. Consequently, their pricing strategy sometimes causes consumers to view their products and brand as inferior, or of lesser quality. Microsoft also pursues “everyone.” Their market is not narrow enough, and thus many of Microsoft’s marketing campaigns appear generalized, bland, and for lack of better words, all over the place. Despite this stigma, Microsoft’s products and brand are still well-known for being reliable and productive.

Microsoft fails to appeal to the consumer, the consumer experience, and attract brand loyalists. In order for Microsoft to step up and surpass Apple, it is necessary for Microsoft to appeal to consumer emotions—perhaps they may want to play on the emotional value that their product brings. If they want to emphasize productivity, they can emphasize what being productive allows people to do: experience a full, free life. Microsoft gives consumers the chance to enjoy little joys, like spending time with family after a hard day at work. When it comes to addressing the consumer experience, Microsoft can focus on the aesthetics of their products and brand. They could benefit from a rebranding venture, which would allow the company to be seen as more modern and “productive” with sleeker, simplistic design. Finally, Microsoft can attract brand loyalists by practicing consistency. People do not like companies that have difficulty defining themselves and appear “wishy-washy.” By centralizing their ideals and narrowing down their target market, Microsoft can practice consistency and attract loyal followers. A company that is confident in itself and its abilities will naturally attract followers.

In my experience, I believe that consumers are more attracted to the Apple brand—simply for the status that comes with being an Apple customer. To be an Apple brand loyalist is to be a member of an accepted, prestigious group. Apple means guaranteed quality and style. However, I think different types of people are attracted to each brand. I personally value living within my means and choosing reliability over social status. I think that is why I tend to prefer Microsoft. I think with the proper marketing and brand strategy, Microsoft has the potential to revive itself and once again, become the top dog.

 

References

Bajarin, T. (4 Aug 2014). The Real Difference Between Microsoft and Apple. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461763,00.asp

Forbes (2017). The World’s Most Valuable Brands. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/powerful-brands/list/

White, S. (11 Apr 2017). Microsoft vs. Apple: Strategies change but the battle continues. Retreived from http://www.cio.com/article/3188853/it-industry/microsoft-vs-apple-strategies-change-but-the-battle-continues.html

Market Segmentation Strategies

Under Amour: A Case Study

The University of Virginia conducted a case study on Under Amour. This case study focuses on the risk Under Amour took by identifying a market segment within the sportswear industry that under-performed and creating a campaign that spoke volumes to that segment, resulting in a competitive market segment advantage and increased company sales. In the article, Under Amour identified the active female market segment as one that needed to be conquered, after their rival, Adidas, failed to reach the market segment with their “Unite All Originals” campaign (University of Virgina, 2016). Under Amour saw the untapped potential and launched its own campaign. Titled “I Will What I Want,” the campaign focused on empowering women and celebrating those who choose to defy the negative external pressures placed on them. This attempt to appeal the substantially smaller market of women is considered niche segmentation. Social media was at the core of Under Armour’s segmentation strategies, as well as celebrity endorsements (University of Virginia, 2016). Under Armour chose unlikely “athletes” like ballerina Misty Copeland and supermodel Gisele Bundchen to star in their ads, which were created for TV, print, and web. These strategies proved to be effective, stirring viral engagement via social media.

Key Points to Remember When Implementing Segmentation Strategies

Having read the Under Armour article, there are a few key points that stick out when it comes to implementing segmentation strategies. The first is brand association. Brand is everything, and customers or potential buyers need a reason to remember your brand. Give them one! Secondly, consider the risks of brand ambassadors. While for some companies, like Under Amour, celebrity endorsers worked out great, there is always the possibility that an ambassador might make a mistake, and this could negatively impact your brand because the two are “associated.” Always be prepared and have plans to overcome adversity. The third important thing to remember when implementing segmentation strategies is to consider your audience. Under Armour chose to use social media as the heart of its campaign; they understood that this was the most effective means of reaching their intended female audience, which allowed for viral conversations via the web. What else should you do with segmentation strategies? Draw attention. Word-of-mouth and viral marketing play a large role in spreading brand awareness, and work well in today’s increasingly connected world (University of Virginia, 2016). If you can get people talking about your product or service through your segmentation strategies, your campaign will be golden. The Final Tip: storytelling and emotions. People like to connect with brands and advertisements that trigger an emotional reaction. They like to see a story behind a brand or product. This strategy makes it easier to relate one’s personal life to the brand and creates interest. Brand loyalty will follow. Follow these tips, and you will be effectively using segmentation strategies.

New Market Segments and Segmentation Strategies

There are always new market segments on the rise. Self-driving cars were always thought to be a reality only in dreams. However, many companies like Google’s Waymo have taken matters into their own hands and begun pursuing the market segment of the self-driving car owner. For Waymo, this market segment is the elderly and disabled, and those in need of mobility. This is a fascinating, brand new market and thus, new market segments are forming. In order to reach this market segment, companies like Waymo may utilize emotional appeal in their ads, focusing on the freedom that mobility brings to individuals. An effective segmentation strategy that Waymo might benefit from is using real-life testimonials of those in need of mobility, focusing on what the Waymo self-driving car has done for them: gave them their freedom back. This would be Waymo effectively utilizing story-telling, emotional appeals, and reinforcing a positive brand image. There is sure to be a lot of talk around self-driving cars as it is, but if you add in effective advertising and segmentation strategies, their ads would have the potential to go viral.

 

References

University of Virginia. (27 Jul 2016). Under Amour’s Willful Digital Moves. VA: Darden Business of Publishing. Retrieved from https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cbmp/content/64495275

Consumer Who? Buying Behavior and Decision Making

consumer_behavior

As consumers, we have a lot of power. We have the ability to shape the world through our consumer behavior, or  “consumer activities associated with the purchase, use, and disposal of goods and services, including the consumer’s emotional, mental, and behavioral responses that precede, determine, or follow these activities” (Kardes, 2015). It is imperative for companies to understand consumer behavior in order to: identify and meet customer needs with product and services, better inform their customers and aid in decision-making, and keep customers satisfied. Thus, identifying types of consumers, consumer activities, and consumer responses play an integral part in the marketing/sale process, as well as our everyday lives.

Types of Consumers

There are many different “types” of consumers. Depending on how you look at it, there are a number of different ways to decide what type of consumer you are—this could mean consumer personality or buying behaviors. Here is my take: I identify as a conscientious shopper and a brand loyalist. I love to shop for deals! Sales and discounts catch my eye, though I still tend to shop for well-known, well-trusted brands over generic brands. For me, the type of item that I am purchasing will depend on whether or not I am willing to spend a little more money for a non-generic brand. But, once I find a “decently priced” item whose brand I feel I can trust, I will become a repeat customer. I hate change (there are too many prospective products to have to decide from!), so I stick to what I know—unless the deal is really good. Then, I may be tempted to experiment, which will typically lead to new brand loyalty.

How Buying Decisions are Influenced

When it comes to making a decision on purchasing, there are many different factors which influence our decisions. Researcher Dr. Frank Kardes (2015) deduces that purchasing decisions are influenced by “emotional, mental, and behavioral responses to goods and their marketing.” These influencers often depend on the item being purchased and when it is being purchased. I find that my buying decisions are heavily influenced by the type of purchase I am making and how I feel at the time of purchase. For example, the larger the purchase, the more time and effort I will put into researching because of the risk associated with making the purchase. I need to make sure I am making the right purchase and might feel anxious about making the decision. Like many people, I need to be able to envision myself making using the item if I made the purchase. I also consider factors like price, or if an item fits my lifestyle. I would even say I am influenced by social aspects as well. Everyone wants to be accepted in the eyes of others, so naturally, we try to make decisions based off of what others might think. Even if I really like a particular product, reading bad reviews might sway me from purchasing it because of the public perception that the product is no good.

Stages to Purchasing Decisions

So, we know that different types of consumers exist, and we know that different factors influence purchasing decisions. But what are the stages to purchasing decisions? University of Delaware marketing professor Alex Brown explains that the six stages of purchasing decisions consist of: problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, purchase, and post-purchase evaluation. Typically, the stage the leads up to purchasing decisions is evaluation of alternatives, which is characterized establishing criteria for evaluation. For example, if I am trying to decide to buy a specific product, I would frame what exactly it is I am seeking in a product—maybe specific features, certain pricing, packaging, etc., and then, I would weigh my different choices. This helps uncover what is most likely to fit my needs. At this point, I still have not made my decision.

The Influence of Marketing Research and Marketing Design on Purchasing Decisions

When making a buying decision, marketing research and marketing design influence people like you and I through product features like packaging and product design. They can even trigger need recognition through marketing campaigns. Consumers also are given a plethora of information from marketing that allows them to make decisions. Each aspect of a product and its marketing plan have been carefully crafted to have optimal appeal to consumers. Marketers are able to influence consumer decisions by conducting research, which allows them to “identify the criteria consumers use to evaluate brand superiority, provide information that resonates with the consumers decision, foster accurate consumer expectations through honest advertising, and present relevant contrast between the current and future choice scenarios” (DeVault, 2016). Then, coordinating marketing campaigns can be designed. Every time I have filled out a company survey while shopping, I know it is aimed at researching my buying behaviors so improvements can be made to better appeal to me specifically. For example, I work in retail as a manager, and in my department, the private label brands we carry are constantly rebranding. The packaging and merchandise appeals to certain market segments, but as styles and trends change, so does the merchandise we carry and the appearance of packaging for specific brands. The brands geared towards younger consumers, like myself, are the ones I see rebranding most often, and also the ones I see selling the best. I would even be inclined to buy them because the brands “keep up with market trends.”

Post-purchase behavior

Last, but not least, is post-purchase behavior. Everyone experiences dissatisfaction or satisfaction after purchasing a product. I would like to think that, most of the time, I am satisfied with my purchases. There have been the occasional bad purchase decision—the toilet paper that feels like sandpaper, the self-tanner that turns people orange—each of which results in negative post-purchase behavior. However, these behaviors help us as consumers to make future purchasing decisions, and in some cases, help companies to improve their products that left us feeling so dissatisfied in the first place!

 

References

Brown, A. (n.d.) Chapter Six Notes. Retrieved from https://www1.udel.edu/alex/chapt6.html

DeVault, G. (15 Sep 2016). How Market Research Influences Consumer Decisions. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/how-market-research-influences-consumer-decisions-2296693

Kardes, F. (2015). Consumer Behavior, 2nd Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781305161689/

Apple and the iCar

apple-car

[Image via Chinatopix]

Primarily a product oriented company, Apple typically develops innovative, sophisticated products that they think people will want, pushing market research and the consumer voice to the backseat. There has been much debate over the years about Apple’s market research tactics (or lack thereof) due to late CEO Steve Job’s noticeable distaste for it and the VP’s statements on Apple’s market research usage being atypical. An interview with The Wall Street Journal revealed that Apple does some research, in the form of surveys and user analytics (Vascellaro, 2012). However, that is the extent of their research efforts.

Market research is imperative to the success of any product launch, and Apple’s recent endeavors indicate the need for market research and development of new products to help revive business. Apple needs an innovative product that will create opportunity for the company—specifically competitive advantage in an emerging market segment. So where does this opportunity lie for Apple? Here’s a hint: it starts with “smart” and ends with “cars.” For years, industries have been transitioning to the tech side. Automobiles are just starting to make the transition. The next big thing is electric, eco-friendly smart cars, so why not have one of the leading tech companies create one, and include all the great quality and features Apple is known for?

There have been talks of Apple initiating this project, but nothing is yet confirmed by the company, leaving many to wonder if and when there will be an Apple Car. Launching smart-cars would be smart on Apple’s part because it entails setting foot into a market which is anticipated to grow substantially in the next few years.  Baird, an investment bank conducted a survey on what respondents would like to see Apple develop, to which 21.6% said they want an Apple car (Seitz, 2017). There is certainly market potential, and this would be a brand booster for Apple because it displays social corporate responsibility. The product would be a modern, mid-size vehicle that utilizes software for parking, navigating, safety aids, blind-spot detection, and assisted/self-driving modes. The so aptly named iCar, would feature a premium sound system, integrated IOS, Bluetooth compatibility, and other signature “Apple” components. Apple could acquire an already existing motor vehicle company like Tesla for manufacturing, and focus on spearheading design and software for the car.

To even entertain the idea of launching the iCar, there absolutely needs to be market research, which will take place throughout product development. The first step to the marketing research process is “to define research objectives” (Babin, 2016). Given Apple’s lack of experience with the automobile industry, and the unidentified target market for smart cars, the research objectives for Apple should be defining the opportunity and concept testing. In defining the opportunity, Apple will set out to narrow down the target market and determine the profitability of the endeavor. Blank explains that “concept testing exposes potential customers to a new product idea to judge the acceptance and feasibility of the concept” (Babin, 2016). Concept testing allows for Apple to pitch concepts for the iCar product and gauge the market responses (this might be useful for developing other products if the iCar does not pan out). Since there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to Apple’s iCar, Apple’s research model will be largely exploratory. Because the smart-car market is not large and there is limited data available, research would mainly be primary. Concept testing could be done via Apple primary research surveys, which could be given to existing customers, as well as consumers who have purchased a smart-car, and some who are neither. Apple can gather additional primary data by creating a prototype based on survey input and industry trends to forecast sales and determine the profitability of the venture. Finally, Apple can utilize some secondary research on the general car market to determine existing and discoverable consumer behavior, wants, and needs when it comes to cars, like safety.

Market research will help Apple define this opportunity. The smart-car market has a lot of potential, especially if it involves the company that basically created every modern day piece of technology. The essential knowledge of building a smart-car already exists, but Apple can take those concepts and make them better, as they have done with many things in the past.

 

 

References

Babin, B. J. (2016). Essentials of Marketing Research, 6th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781305688094/

Kosoff, M. (14 Feb 2017). Could Apple be the First Trillion Dollar Tech Company. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/could-apple-be-the-first-trillion-dollar-tech-company

Seitz, P. (10 Feb 2017). Apple Car Tops Consumer Wish List For iPhone Maker.  Retrieved from http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-car-tops-consumer-wish-list-for-iphone-maker/

Vascellaro, J. (26 Jul 2012). Turns Out Apple Conducts Market Research After All. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/07/26/turns-out-apple-conducts-market-research-after-all/