charging, innovating, making, marketing, praising, promoting, selling

Owning the Impossible: Winners all round as Nike brings The MAG Back From The Future

Nike_Mag_shoetwenty two years in the waiting, The MAG is Back From The Future

it took about thirty seconds.  thirty seconds from receiving this IM from Alex S… to fall utterly in love.

“i could see you in those”

the link was to this:

“Back To The Future Nike Air Mags Are Real And Glorious” was Gizmodo’s Geek Out’s take on today’s news.  I couldn’t agree more

the world was awake, and had been alerted to the existence of The MAG, brought Back From The Future by Nike.  as a post on Nike’s site explains:

“The NIKE MAG is no longer the “greatest shoe never made.” The mythical shoe that originally captured the imagination of audiences in Back to the Future II is being released – and they’re here to help create a future without Parkinson’s disease … 1,500 pairs of the 2011 NIKE MAG will be auctioned on eBay with all net proceeds going directly to The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Each day for the duration of the ten-day auction, one hundred and fifty pairs of the 2011 NIKE MAG shoes will be made available …”

as sneaks go it’s a stunning piece of work and – with the exception of power laces – is as fine a replica of Marty’s originals that you’ll find:

then and now – Marty’s original 2015 sneaks and the ones revealed today

it arrived with this beautiful teaser clip:

a clip which isn’t alone … a gamut of content and AV collateral has been released to support the arrival of the 1,500 pairs, and not a corner has been cut – Doc Brown himself is on board:

the distribution model is designed to extract maximum value from the shoes.  by selling on Ebay, Nike ensure that – with such a strictly limited supply (there’s one pair for every 4.5 million people on the planet) – it doesn’t just find those individuals with the money to invest in these puppies, but engages those individuals in what is sure to be a fierce bidding war, with each other, to own their slice of the impossible.

everyone wins.

those of us who have been waiting since 1989 for “the greatest shoe never made” to arrive finally get to see it.  a lucky few will even get to own it.  the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research will get a shedload of money to fight Parkinson’s (even if the average selling price is a conservative $5,000, the MAGs will generate over $7.5m in revenue).

Ebay get a burst of activity on their platform, part of which will no doubt fulfill the hugely valuable role of getting inactive registered users to engage with the site.  and as for Nike … money can’t buy publicity, the adoration of sneaker fans everywhere, and a global bidding war to get a hold of their product…

winners all round – The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Ebay and Nike

as marketing efforts go, its textbook best practice:

  • innovate and invest in creating products that have currency and will be in high demand
  • strictly limit supply
  • fewer bigger better partnerships to deliver and deploy the initiative
  • invest in credibility (Christopher Lloyd is in the ad for goodness sake)
  • sacrifice profits in favour of positive PR and goodwill
  • don’t buy media when you can earn it
  • invest in sharable high quality content
  • rigorously control timing to maximise interest and dominate news and conversation
  • product out, not advertising in

the awesomeness of these shoes is outdone only by the awesomeness of the marketing machine that has announced them to the world.  what happens over the next ten days remains to be seen, but for now its all eyes on Ebay – where, only 4 1/2 hours into day one’s auction, bids for every pair of size 9s are sitting at between $3,500 and $4,000.



good luck.


commenting, distributing, marketing, opinionating, promoting, retailing

Coles and Woolies’ Death Star moment: the beginnings of the brand rebellion in Australia’s Supermarket Store Wars

Tarkin and LeiaThe more you tighten your grip, Woolies and Coles, the more brands will slip through your fingers

my return from a rather long winter blogging break has been greeted with the glad tidings that some brands have finally chosen to take a stand against the big two Australian supermarkets.  Adnews reports today that Glenn Cooper, boss of Coopers Brewery has described Coles and Woolies as being the "killers of Aussie brands".  Cooper went further:

“Blatantly, Coles and Woolworths are not brand builders, they are brand destroyers … it’s harsh, but they are not about building brands, they are just about turning over quickly.”

SMH only last week reported that this is an opinion recently echoed by no less than Heinz' chief financial officer and executive vice-president Arthur Winkleblack.  in a briefing to US analysts on the company's first-quarter earnings, Winkleblack specifically name-checked the Australian supermarket sector and blamed them for an erosion of its margins.  sentiments echoed by Heinz' chairman and chief executive Bill Johnson:

''There is no doubt that in terms of retail environment, the Australian market is the worst market, and ultimately the people that will pay the price over there are the consumers because products will ultimately be devalued to address the price points that customers are asking us to address … So the consumer is going to ultimately be the big loser in Australia.'' 

the supermarket's argument is manifold and includes the rationale that this is all in consumers' interest – a Coles spokesman, in response to Winkleblack's comments, stated that "We agree with Heinz's comments that companies need to be competitive to ensure the best outcomes for customers."

but consumers don't benefit from Supermarket competition.  the concensus of an April opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald was that consumers – if they see any benefit at all – see it only in the short term.  Academic Angela Paladino commented that:

"Price wars squeeze out marginal players and change the composition of the market. Here fewer competitors seek to enter an unattractive market that is dependent on low price for success, and smaller competitors exit the market as a result of the inability to make a profit. Others may be taken over, for example the 2009 acquisition of Macro Foods by Woolworths. This has a long-term impact on consumer choice, with shoppers left in a market comprised of fewer players with greater power."

Nick Stance, Chief Executive of Choice agreed:

"The market shares of Coles and Woolworths allow them to negotiate hard with their supply chain. In fact many suppliers report they have little choice but to accept terms offered even if that makes their business barely viable … Sometimes the benefit of lower costs is passed on to the consumer through promotions, but promotions are temporary and do not in themselves create sustainable competition … The ''price war'' is a phoney conflict, not least because the big players usually match each others' prices."

there are only two winners in Coles and Woolies' Store Wars; and that's Coles and Woolies.  brands have and continue to exist at the mercy of these distribution Death Stars.  now Coopers and Heinz have come out of the supermarket closet.  it's just two brands.  but that's two more brands than a few months ago.

Coopers and Heinz's coming out is important.  brands standing up to Coles and Woolies is important, because the dominance of Coles and Woolies is hurting brands … not least in expectations of media investment…

I've sat in more meetings that I care to recall where there have been two invisible seats at the table.  in discussions where the spectre of supermarket's expectations for media investment loom large over marketers, marketers dependent on these two Death Stars for significant – and often increasing – distrutions volumes.

it's a sweeping generalisation to say that Australian brands are too dependent on the broadcast interruption model (of which TV spot advertising is the main solution) for their marketing needs.  never-the-less its a generalisation that I believe is true.  a reliance on this 20th Century marketing model isn't just down to the pressures and expectations of Coles and Woolies on media spends, but they sure as hell play a very significant part: too many brands over-invest in broadcast interruption because its what supermarkets want and expect to see on those brands' media schedules.  supermarkets' expectations are holding back brands' media innovation potential.

but the effect and influence isn't limited to consequences above-the-line (a term which I hate but I'll run with anyway).  prices are down.  great.  but its not the supermarkets funding this price decrease – it's brands.  manufacturers are paying for prices to be down with their below-the-line (ditto) budgets.  and because prices are down for good manufacturers will be paying for them to be down … for good.

The Order of Coopers – owned and earned media curating a community for the brand

what is phenomenal in this context are the levels of innovation that do get out of markets and agencies' doors and into the world.  despite the vast majority of bought media investment being diverted to an outdated (and actually never that well proven model), Coopers – for example – have built a hugely utilised online site and community.  they are investing in owned and earned media that are building a community with direct links to their brand and business that side-steps the supermarkets' Death Stars.

brands, it would seem, are starting to have had enough.  the Supermarket's weaponary have become simply too powerful to ignore.  to paraphrase Senator Organa, 'the more you tighten your grip Coles and Woolies, the more brands will slip through your fingers'.

the rebellion, I very much hope, has begun.

full disclosure: I work as a media strategist for several brands that have distribution through Coles and Woolworths in Australia.  the above comments reflect my, and my opinions alone.  the advice and recommendations I make to brands take these – as well as other – opinions and considerations into account.

promoting, social media-ising, social networking

Facebook’s betrayal: why Westfield’s $10,000 promotion may come back to bite the hand it so fleetingly fed

with the dust settling on Westfield's controversial Facebook application and the weekend drawing nigh, it's perhaps time to reflect – once again – on the trials, perils and pitfalls of brands rushing in to enter the social media spaces that angels fear to tread.

to recap.  last weekend saw Westfield launch a promotion on Facebook which offered a place in a $10,000 prize draw to anyone who updated their Facebook status using the Westfield Gift Card Application.  controversy and criticism soon grew however.

rumors that the promo was a hoax, suggestions that opened your Book to spam and viruses, difficult to find T&Cs and the cluttering of many a newsfeed led to the creation of dozens of anti groups and finally yesterday to the shutting down of the promotion.  three observations…

one, mission accomplished.  if the brief was to get into and make some noise in the space owned by people rather than on-to-many media then its a job well done and M&C Saatchi and Ikon Communications should be congratulated.  we can only assume that the brief was such – any requirement to build brand credibility or improve perceptions of Westfield couldn't, or certainly shouldn't, have resulted in such a maverick solution.  which brings me to…

two, it does appear to be the most invasive of promotions.  the application essentially allows Westfield to spam peoples' Facebook friends with auto status updates saying, "All I want for Christmas is a Westfield gift card".  more than a couple of them in my news feed would have taken me to the brink.  not that it bothered University student Kristy Bell.  the Courier Mail reports that she didn't think twice about adding the application…  "I don't care that it can pull details from your profile – pretty much all Facebook applications can" she said.  a point well made Kristy, but most pretty much all applications on Facebook do so to add utility (that mantra again) to your online / social / life experience.

three, and most importantly.  digi strategist Tom Kelshaw posted that the competition appears to be breaking Facebook's rather strict terms and conditions, which state that:

4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.

but in a statement earlier this week Westfield claimed that "its Christmas Gift Card promotion on Facebook is a registered promotion. Westfield worked closely with Facebook to develop the competition and Westfield has legal advice that the promotion does not breach the Spam Act."

if this statement is to be believed, Facebook actively participated in the development of an invasive and controversial application that contravened its own terms and conditions.  this is important for a whole load of reasons, not least because it undermines trust in Facebook – the media brand around which many of us choose to organise social activities, communicate with friends and share things that interest, intrigue or amuse us.

Westfield, M&C Saatchi and Ikon Communications can walk away from this with a short term hit and learnings for next time.  but a few more of these and Facebook may find its not brands but users that are walking away from the social network that sold them out for a quick buck from a brand that thought that an invasive land grab into people's personal media space was the smart let alone the right thing to do.

IPA|ED:final - existing customers, promoting, selling

Looking after your own: how Starbucks is fighting the recession by rewarding its existing customers

so Mediation was in Islington at the weekend and popped into the local Starbucks.  whereupon I was asked if I wanted to sign-up for a Starbucks Card.  "no", I kindly replied, "I'm fine thanks."  …not wanting – frankly – to be spending money with a brand before I even had any of the product in my hand.

"but we're doing a special limited offer", countered the chap behind the counter.  "oh yeah", says I (see how they do it) – "what kind of offer?".  "free shots for life when you sign up for a card", said the chap casually.  just like that.  "free shots. for life", I said.  "yup yup, sign up to a Starbucks card and you get free shots and flavours for the rest of your life".

now I plan on living a good while yet.  I also plan on continuing to enjoy my venti skinny lattes with a shot of sugar-free vanilla syrup.

I left the store with a Starbucks card.

turns out that it's part of a trial by the coffee chain, limited (for the moment) to two stores in Islington.  the email I got upon registering was pretty standard, but the response from the care centre when I called up was a great deal more revealing…  they confirmed that I would indeed receive up to five free shots or flavours per drink from those outlets for 'the foreseeable future', whenever I used my card to pay for the drink.

why?  because, and this is a direct paraphrase from the Bucks, the brand is looking to what it can do – given the current economic climate – for its existing customers.

anyone who knows Mediation knows I'm pretty passionate about brands looking after their existing customers.  something which I think is more rather than less true in a recessionary climate.  taking care of your own, giving reasons for your existing customers to keep being your existing customers, is more important than ever before.

Starbucks would seem to agree.  so if you like your sugar-free vanilla syrup as much as I do I suggest that you get yourself to a Starbucks in Islington sharpish.


Balancing for free and monetisation: how No Doubt are giving their music away for free, as long as you pay for it

alongside reports that 2008 box office grosses from the live music industry surpassed total sales of recorded music for the first time in decades, comes news from trendcentral describing how No Doubt are giving away their back catalogue away free with every purchase of a $42.50 full price ticket.

as I observed in a previous post, its a move that would make Trent Reznor proud; understand what – with an eye to the digital world – you need to give away for free and what – with an eye to the bottom line – you can realistically charge for.  the crucial step that No Doubt's effort has made has been to inextricably link these two elements together.

as budgets become tighter, all businesses and brands will have to ask themselves what they have to deliver on each of the above?  what are you giving away for free and what are you monetising?  marketing efforts are essentially given away for free, in exchange for consumer time and attention, which when you think about it is a fairly loose link…

if free elements (marketing) were more directly linked to revenue generating elements (sales of products or services), brands would be considerably more able to justify investment in said marketing efforts…  Walkers are doing this with 'do us a flavour'; help us create a new flavour crisp (for free) by buying our range of flavours (with your hard earned money).  so are Orange; have a cinema ticket on us (for free) by being an Orange customer (you'll need to pay for that).

may be a useful thought-experiment when developing marketing and campaign efforts for your brands.

branding, promoting

Red Cups have arrived: how Starbucks attach themselves to winter festivities

'White is out for the season' according to Starbucks who today roll-out their red cups across the land.  in store promotions as well as press campaign have been reminding us all that Gingerbread lattes et al will once again be available from today and for the duration of the season.

I don't want to like this, but you really can't help but admire the simple communication which not only taps into the very physical markers of darker nights and colder mornings, but also the emotional anticipation of the festive season to come.

as far as Chrimbo commerciality goes its right up there with Coca-Cola's trucks and the now (very quickly established) M&S effort.  and quite right too…  brands – whether you like it or not – are part of the Chrimbo spirit.  some brands are as emotionally connected to Christmas celebrations as the products they sell are to the physicality of it all.

it may just be a red cup, but the emotive place it comes from means much more.  it's a signal, a kick start, an announcement that holidays truly are coming…

engaging, promoting, social networking

When promotions go bad: what brands can learn from Leading Hotels of the World’s response to a PR nightmare

Leading_hotels in a post back in April Mediation commented on Hoxton Hotel's £1 room sale, observing that the success of the promotion created very much a double-edged sword; with fulfillment issues due to massive demand causing a negative CRM fallout.

Hoxton Hotel no doubt sympathises with The Leading Hotels of the World group, who this week were forced to completely abandon a promotion when massive demand for what was a very attractive offer – $500 rooms going for $19.28 (the price of a room the year of their founding 80 years ago) – became massively oversubscribed.

this is a genuine disaster for the brand, but the situation has been significantly mitigated by the group's response to the situation…

one, take ownership.

the above statement has been posted on their website and emailed to those who applied for the offer.  Ted Teng, President and CEO of the organisation commented that "Although our original back-up plan provided a viable solution for
the 150,000 people who were registered, it was met with some confusion
over submission procedures and timing … We are sincerely committed to restoring your faith in our brand and do not want to risk disappointing you again".

two, engage in the debate.

the brand quickly engaged themselves in online conversations about the promotion. in a forum on the flyertalk website.  Marshall Calder, SVP of Marketing at The Leading Hotels responded to posts by explaining the situation and what was being done to rectify it.  the response of contributors to the forum is telling…

SanDiego1k comments "I think this is a sound decision. It is very classy of you to make the hard decision, then return to advise us. Thank you"Irish Lad adds "I think that makes a lot of sense in the circumstances. I appreciate
this must have been a difficult day for the management at LHW … good luck with the rest of the
promotion and thanks for posting today."

three, communicate that you're working towards a solution.

Calder adds, "since we do not wish to disappoint anyone again, we shall re-tool the
$19.28 promotion and communicate the details to all registrants within
the next week."

if it was consumer communications on the internet that caused the problem, then it's corporate communications on the internet that will go a very long way towards fixing it.  there's a lesson for all brands in Leading Hotel's response to the situation… brands can't remain detached from consumer conversations, especially when those conversations are generating negative WOM about a brand.  in fact quite the opposite is true: the response of Leading Hotels may generate from a potentially disastrous situation more goodwill than their promotion could have ever hoped for.

thanks to Hanson for the heads up on what's going down in the hotel world…