Monday, July 16, 2018

SMART Goals Ahead

As you long time readers know I've been combining my personal blog with my homework assignments for the past couple of years. Well anytime there is a blog post assignment. It lets me keep a record of where I am now at this point and time in my work and in my personal life, which lets me know how far I have left to travel on this journey.

This assignment if for Integrated Marketing, which so far has been a pretty interesting class even though it's only week three. I'm to describe SMART goals which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Then write about what role they have in marketing campaigns.

Then in another prompt I'm to write about the difference between goals, strategies, and tactics.

Well let me begin by explaining the difference between goals, strategies, and tactics. The goal is what you get up in the morning for. It's the prize at the end of the rainbow, the surprise in the bottom of the cereal box. How do you get to this goal?

Through a strategy! A strategy is a road map to the goal. You'll have to eat all the cereal to get to the plastic diving submarine that's powered by baking soda. If it's a huge box you'll need a tactic to get through the road map faster! This is where tactics come into play, it's how you get over the obstacles in order to implement your strategy to get to your goal!

So in this example you'll open your box of Lucky Charms to get to the submarine (goal) then you've got the problem of going through all the cereal because Mom won't let you have the toy until all the cereal is gone (strategy). So you've got an obstacle to overcome (tactic) and recruit your little brother to eat as much cereal as he can while you eat the rest! BOOM! Goal, Strategy, and Tactics accomplished and now you've got the baking soda powered submarine in your hands and ready for bath time!

You can map out your strategy a bit more by using the SMART acronym to help you out!
If your strategy specific? Yes! You need the toy!
Is your strategy measurable? Yes! You seen a known quantity of cereal to be consumed before getting to your toy!
Is your strategy attainable? Absolutely! You can practically see the little green submarine wrapped in clear plastic!
Is your strategy realistic? Sure is! You could cheat and reach into the box and get it but Mom is watching soooo, you got to play it straight!
Is your strategy timely? Yes! The box isn't the Grand Canyon! It's a cereal box and in a few short mornings your goal will be accomplished!

My next prompt is to explain how marketing tactics align with strategies! This is actually pretty easy if you think about it! So say you've got a client and that wants a thousand new clients knocking on their door in a year. They are a new business and have no client base at all.

They call you up and explain what they are after. You device a strategy of gaining your new client a thousand new clients! You do a SWOT, you find out what they are selling and who would benefit from what they are selling, in short you find the target audience that your client is after. Once you determine that audience you devise your tactics!

So perhaps your target demographic is aged eighteen to thirty nine, male and female. So you know people of this age group are pretty tech savvy and feel like an organic social media campaign is the way to go but you don't want to put all your eggs in that basket completely. This is where you also think about radio ads to reach your audience for example. Just to make give your client added value you also start a Facebook ad buy! You are confident in the next year these tactics will fulfill the strategy and accomplish the goal of gaining your client a thousand new clients!

What is also very important about all three of these advertising channels is that they are measurable using key performance indicators or KPI for short. KPI is likes on Facebook, or as you sift through the click through numbers on your ad buy, you can tell exactly how many people are seeing the new ads and who is clicking and how much time they are spending on your client's site.

This is just one form of a myriad of indicators such as subscribers on YouTube, Follows on Twitter, impressions, click through rates, ratings from radio advertisements, and a hundred more measurable indicators to tell exactly how you are reaching your audience. This is important as you might not be gaining any traction from one channel and can save money there by taking those resources to another channel that's got more promising indicators!

This is how tactics align with a strategy in marketing!

A few years ago I was hired by a local marketing firm to film some short videos with a couple of hosts and start a channel on YouTube for consumption. We did quite a few videos together around town to promote various things. After a few months I started watching the viewing numbers and they just weren't there. This was the YouTube of maybe ten years ago so it was a bit more primitive than it is today but I also knew the videos would soon be coming to an end because the KPI just wasn't favorable anymore. In today's more modern YouTube we could have done a lot of different things and gotten a lot of subs and views but it was a lot of fun for a while!

Well my friends this should complete the assignment and look for another blog post coming this week as my other course, Consumer Behavior requires one as well! So stay tuned! Same BluChannel, Same BluTime, by the Same Blugill!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Under Armour's Marketing Armor

My long time friends and readers that have joined me on my quest that began in 2015 to earn my bachelor's degree have noticed that from time to time I post updates in my blog. These updates are usually assignments or random musings when the need strikes to me extrapolate some random thought into typed words such as my last post, "The Beauty in Mediocrity."

This post will be assignment related and deals with the sports apparel company Under Armour and their woman focused "I Will What I Want" campaign from 2014. Following on the heels of an Adidas campaign that marketed to females "Unite All Originals" that failed to register much of a blip in sales, Under Armour decided to try to market their products to women which accounted for less than 25% of their total sales.

Both campaigns were social media focused with YouTube being the main method of delivery. Under Armour focused on an unusual athlete, Misty Copeland, a ballerina. She reads a rejection letter from a top school while the camera focuses on a powerful performance on stage that would put my middle aged and formerly athletic body in traction for a month. The ad was an instant success with four million views in the first week.

By contrast the Adidas ad was loud, unfocused, and frenetic. There were more men in the commercial than women which was counter to their intent to market to females. Compared to the peacefully scored piano piece that contrasted with the rejection letter and powerful physical performance it was easy to see what Adidas failed to garner sales. They might as well have set their marketing budget on fire and at least they could have roasted hot dogs with it.

Under Armour stayed on target with their intentions to market towards females. Every piece of their ad set meshed with every part. Their message was clear while Adidas' message was muddled at best. Their segmentation focused on athletic females that might not be perceived as athletic. More along the lines of the everyday female athlete that might go to the gym a few days per week.

When you market to a segment, you've got to actually keep them in mind and not throw frenetic images on a wall and see what sticks. How did Adidas believe such a campaign to move the sales needle after a very muddy message? I wanted to shut it off after the first thirty seconds but did my due diligence and stuck it out until the end and came away thinking "WHAT WAS THAT?!"

Segmentation marketing is around us on a daily basis. Web searches create patterns in what you look for, ad sets are matched to your searches, you see products that are then marketed towards your segment. If I search for concealed carry holsters for example, I'll start to see different brands pop up on the sides where the ads are on websites I visit. That means someone created an ad set that was looking for your segment of the population with your interests and has a product they want you to see and purchase.

The rubric asks me to identify a marketing segment I've noticed and how I would market towards that segment. This is very easy! Free to play games has got to be one of the most easily identifiable segment in today's world! You can't get away from ads for Candy Crush, Boom Beach, Viking Kingdom of the Lost World of Titans or whatever such bland titles they come up with next. The reality is these games are everywhere.

It's brilliant actually, they know everyone and their dog has a mobile device. They know you will be looking at it constantly. They also know for Millennials being bored for more than two seconds is like death to them. However give someone constant affirmation in the form of a game, pleasant sounds, and constant rewards and they have you hooked. Micro transactions will eat into your budget quickly but these aren't mentioned much in the marketing design.

The marketing for such a game writes itself. Segment the Millennials born between 1994 and 2004, both male and female. Appeal to your segment with your product as THE boredom killer. Post game play videos on Instagram and YouTube where the focus isn't on the screen but the happiness of the player's face that is playing the game to create curiosity. The game play would never be shown in an ad as they are typically the same game in different skins with the same mechanics but focus on what the player is feeling and not what they are doing. That's how I'd create an a segmentation strategy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Beauty in Mediocrity

One of my favorite quotes is, "No one in the world gets what they want, and that is beautiful." I first read it in Ready Player One but I believe it's attributed to another author.
I'm more of a destination guy than a journey guy. I've always wanted to get to the next thing as I discussed in my last post. The next level, the next payday, the next milestone.

 I'm also an advocate of Americana. The American Dream, the great American novel, small town living where people aren't anonymous but recognize each other and form circles of friends. They form extended families apart from the family they were born to but also keep sacred the family they were born to.

When I was a kid I wanted my own place. A place where I could do what I pleased. A man and his castle with a truck where I could go where I pleased when he pleased. I never realized being an adult was such a pain though. Life kicks you around, grinds you down, takes your dreams and laughs at them and eventually you strive for the simple things and are happy about it.

You work. You look forward to the next three day weekend, Friday is a little easier, Monday or Tuesday a little tougher and Thursday is trash day. Some days you have nothing to look forward to. You have nothing to excite you and some days you forget the last time you were passionate about something, anything. That's the daily grind most of us live through while possibly looking forward towards a well planned vacation someday, a brief respite before going back to the grind.

John Cougar Mellencamp sang in arguably one of his top three songs in his career, Jack and Diane, "Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone." Mellencamp seemed to tap into the feelings of middle America. Fly over country, exclusive of the coasts and where most Americans live their lives. 

Finding a passion for something is essential, necessary, vital to living. Myself I've been passionate about many things but they fade over time and I move onto something else to occupy my time and build upon my experiences. Sometimes I love watching street cooking videos, stir fry being my favorite, and learn to replicate those recipes. Sometimes I hear about a brand of scotch that's got a new offering and try to find a bottle. Maybe someday I'll be interested in wood working and build a wood shop, I don't know but the possibility is there and that's exciting.

Yes, sometimes you find beauty in being average, living an average life and filling it with experiences that can be least for a little while.

Consumer Me

In my new course, Consumer Behavior a blog post assignment is required. As you will remember this has been part of my college experience and I chose long ago to integrate my long time personal blog into these assignments.

In this assignment we are exploring me as a consumer and I must answer these following prompts:
  • What type of consumer are you? 
    I'm an impulse consumer. For example, I pretty much cook for myself now and go to the grocery store two to three times a week to buy something to cook, depending on my mood. Maybe one day it's a casserole, the next red beans and rice, grilling on the weekend. It all depends on what my current impulses are. 

  • What influences your buying decisions, and how? 
    Easy, hunger and comfort are my biggest influences when purchasing something. I've been blue collar my entire working career and I feel I've worked pretty hard to get where I'm at in life and if I want to eat something such as rib-eye steak, I'll go get a really good one. If I'm wanting to see a certain movie to pass the time after the evening's homework is completed after work, then I'll buy it or maybe subscribe to a streaming channel that has it. Again impulse decisions that are influenced by two driving forces. 

  • Which stage actually leads to your purchasing decisions? 
    Hunger or relaxation. When I'm out of something I'll go buy to refill it. I subscribe to a pet food service that sends regular shipments of foods that my pets enjoy so that is planned but saves me the time in the grocery store. Not to mention that I might go to buy more pet food and they might be out of that specific brand or flavor which would mean I'd have to go to another store to find what they like. It's very convenient to just have it delivered on a regular basis.

  • When making a buying decision, how are you influenced by marketing research and marketing design? 
    Most of the times I'm not easily influenced by marketing. I tend to read about a major purchase product before purchasing which I realize flies in the face of my earlier stated impulse consumer behavior. I tend to read reviews, watch unboxing videos, or consumer views on an expensive product before purchasing. None of that is generally part of the company's marketing plan as most reviewers are uncompensated.

  • Do you experience any post-purchase behavior? 
    Not so much although I'm not a big believer in recycling I have started saving my empty beer cans. I consume, move on and usually discard the packaging. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Does Being Mature Start?

Tonight I’m feeling some age. It’s always made me wonder why I always wanted to be older when I was young. I couldn’t wait to be a year older. I wanted the next milestone, the next grade, the driver’s license, the graduation, the drinking age.

When I was in elementary I wanted to be in high school, when I was in high school I wanted to be in my own and supporting myself. Now I want the next phase, whatever that may be. A new slate, a new  career, a new X.

Meanwhile, in my thoughts I feel I’m always about twenty eight. I still game while talking comics with friends and maybe trying to gather another D&D group one day. I binge watch cartoons as a reward for finishing my week’s worth of homework each module, that makes me feel like I’m 8.

Once in a while life creeps up and tells me I’m older than I believe I am. My knees tell me I can’t bend that low anymore. The age in my eyes tells me maturity is only a state of mind while thinking maybe today that unexpected event happens and everything changes. One day it will.

The experienced part of me wonders how my carefully planned next four years will disappoint me and give me yet another spectacular failure seasoned with regrets. Twenty six years. June 15, 2018 is my twenty sixth year at my job which leaves me four years to go before I’m eligible for my pension. I’ve been counting this down since 2000 when we got the pension at work rather than an employer 401k contribution.

There’s so much to do and so little time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lays Baked Sweet Potato Chips A.K.A My Marketing Research Class

Over the course of the past six weeks we have been working on a fictional product from a preselected list major companies. We were given the assignment to create this product and research it using various methods taught to us during the class.

The major company I chose was PepsiCo and the fictional product I came up with was Lays Baked Sweet Potato Chips! This is a growth area as I found out in my research, sweet potato recipes are becoming more common place rather than reserved for the Thanksgiving table in pie form.

Sweet potatoes are rich in many vitamins and minerals and a far healthier choice than the more common russet or golden varieties. Baking them rather than frying them in fat is an additional boost to the health conscious among the population is just an added bonus and would preserve many of the healthier benefits by not submerging them in vats of grease.

The trends I have found tend to make this more of a growth product. There are a couple of smaller potato chip companies that have made this in the traditional fried of kettle form but baked has been missed out on. Add to that no major company has a line of sweet potato chips, not Ruffles, not Pringle's, not Guy's. No one, which leaves a rather large market to be tapped by a national company.

My marketing strategy was to focus group the chips in their baked, fried, and kettle cooked formats and adding flavors such as BBQ, Ranch, etc. with the main flavor being plain and baked which is the idea. Testing to see how the various tweaks on the baked chip would work compared to the one variety that is the real idea.

Focus groups would be used in the southern states first where sweet potatoes are more common and harvested such as the Carolinas. Regional testing is essential as tastes and flavors change from state to state and region to region. Lays Baked Sweet Potato chips might fail in California but thrive in Florida, regional testing would help determine the size of the market.

Smaller markets would be chosen such as quick shops and maybe a chain of grocery stores and sales would be measured until a big enough sampling size could be determined as accurate. The sampling size would be one of the more easier of the products I've read about as it would be anyone that has eaten or would eat a potato chip! That's pretty much everyone in the United States.

This proposed marketing strategy aligns perfectly with any legal or ethical concerns, there are no sweat shops to be concerned about, there are no import tariffs as sweet potatoes are heavily grown in North Carolina. The only concern would be for a fair price to the farms that produced the sweet potato which a buyer on the scale of Lays is used to negotiating prices and contracts for delivery.

I have not encountered many limitations for the idea of marketing proposal of this product. On the contrary, it's been one of the more enjoyable classes I've had as I work towards my degree! Way better than Business Systems and Design which left me with a rather poor teacher. That was the worst experience I've had since I started back to school in 2015! This is the complete opposite of that experience! This class has been faced paced and enjoyable! I've found myself at work thinking about how I would market this product if I really were in charge of such a thing at PepsiCo and what I would do to ensure a successful marketing strategy!

Monday, January 08, 2018

I'm Digging The Blog Assignments!

Well here we are again! I've got another assignment in my quest to earn my bachelor's degree in marketing that requires a blog post! This is the kind of assignment I can handle, if only every course had a similar requirement.
Alas, my current course is Marketing Research or MKT 337 in technical academia slang. My goal is to chose a Fortune 500 company from an approved list and create a product idea for launch.

Well friends I have chosen PepsiCo. Those of you who know me know that I used to be a Coke man until I suffered just north of 20 kidney stones over fifteen years and since then I've drank around a gallon of water each day to stave off such nonsense. The past year however I have become an avid ice tea drinker and rarely touch any kind of pop anymore.

PepsiCo is a strong company with worldwide brand recognition. They own Lays potato chips which is important because my product will be Lays Baked Sweet Potato Chips to capitalize on this health crazed country in which we reside.

The Lays brand has been known in the last several years to have fans vote on unusual potato chip flavors such as Southern Biscuits and Gravy, Sriracha, Wasabi, and many more. They are limited edition chips and never added to the permanent product line. I have not seen a chip made by Lays out of sweet potatoes, let alone in the baked variety. I believe it would be a natural combination of sweet and savory in chip form and would fit hand in glove with how Lays has been market testing fan voted flavors to push the envelope in snack design. They've become known for adventurous flavors and this should be no different.

With the healthy main ingredient of sweet potatoes over the traditional russet and baked rather than deep fat fried, Lays Baked Sweet Potato Chips would appeal to the health conscious consumer that tends to work out rather than become couch potatoes. A large segment of the population is obsessed with healthy eating decisions but I'm sure like anyone, they crave a good chip from time to time! I can see potential value in a healthy chip!

To research this product I would look at surveys and focus group testing variations of sweet potato varieties, and see how they perform. This would be a fun endeavor indeed!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hooked on Hallmark

Since October 27 I've been watching a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies. This is one crazy world, fast paced, angry, sometimes brutal. This world can be cold and uncaring, kicking you to the curb faster than you can get up and dust yourself off.

Hallmark hit on something, I'm not sure when the Countdown To Christmas began with the marathon of Christmas movies, a mix of premiers for the year and movies from previous years, but it's amazing.
I think of it as a lighthouse in a hurricane when the world feels like it's falling apart. Yes the story lines are simple and all formulaic but popular tropes are popular for a reason. Yes there are maybe 50 actors that reappear in all of the movies. Yes they all have happy endings. Yes they all make you feel good and most importantly they all give you an escape from the world for a bit.

Someone is grumpy at the start and happy by the time the credits roll, simple as that and you're missing out if you can't find a little joy in something simple like that.

Contentment has been a theme in my life lately. What is it to me, what will bring me a sense of peace and quiet in my head, and what steps do I take to feel contentment? You'll recall I'm working on my bachelor's degree and have been since 2015. Well I'd like to report I've got seven terms left! To break it down a little bit there are six terms in my school year so I'll finish in the first term of 2019!

After that my next goal will be to get my thirty years in at work, after that I'll be pension eligible! That will happen in June 2022. I'll have a steady and guaranteed income for the rest of my life and then I'll have a lot of options open to me! My mortgage will be paid off, most of my bills will be done and over with in fact! I'll truly be very free in a very real sense of the word!

So what do you do when you've got that kind of freedom open to you?

I don't know yet. I've been kicking around some ideas. I'd like to find contentment for sure but what is that exactly? How do you know? Is it long lasting or fleeting? I've been very content many times in my life thus far and sometimes it lasted for a long time but then it would end and would be followed by intense times of loneliness and loss. I'm somewhat content right now, just extremely busy with work and school but now I can see the very bright light at the end of the tunnel.

I'll have plenty of time after graduation to find out what I'm going to do with myself. We'll see what that looks like then but I'm excited for the future! I'm hoping for a Hallmark happy ending!

Merry Christmas!