Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

Lawmakers Left and Right Shake Hands to Eliminate a Surprisingly Sinister Bias

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Washington, D.C. – in an increasingly rare act of bilateral cooperation, legislation was recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives to remove long-standing institutional bias against left-handed people.

Sistine

Adam – the first Lefty

With broad support, House Resolution 23B, titled “Leave No One Left Behind”, was reportedly instigated by prominent left-handed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with behind-the-scenes lobbying from current U.S. Senator Rand Paul and former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe, both also left-handed.

RBG

While unable to comment due to conflict of interest issues, RBG discussed the subject at length in an appearance on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart in 2012: 

People identifying as other-handed are 11% of the population, and while some extremely accomplished people are or were left-handed — for example Barack Obama, Leonardo da Vinci, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Jimi Hendrix, and Keanu Reeves — most walk amongst us largely unseen, unacknowledged and disempowered, and face bias every single day.  

Many civilizations’ conventions have ancient roots – – personal hygiene with the left hand, eat with the right, those sorts of things.  This was a necessary approach when washing one’s hands was not as easy as it is now.

However, a remarkable amount of bias remains, from the design of commonplace household objects, to the more insidious prejudice in our very language – – ‘left-handed compliment’, ‘left behind’, ‘on the right side of history’, for example – – and extends even to institutional infrastructure such as driving on the right side of the road and handshakes only with the right. 

Those identifying as left-handed, as well as ambidextrous (who are usually referred to as ‘ambi’), and even so-called cross-dominants, have long had to deal with challenges that most people don’t even think about.  While we are thankfully past the age when left-handers were forced to unnaturally mold to the societal ‘norm’ of being right-handed, the world is presumably more enlightened, and I think before I leave the Court there will be legislation to right this wrong – – excuse me (laughter) – – I mean correct the situation”.

The sweeping House Resolution comprises a broad range of recommendations, including:

Left-handed mug

Proposed left-handed mug

  • Requirement that every manufacturer producing right-handed oriented products also produce versions designed for left-handed consumers, as well as ‘ambi’ versions. This would include things like scissors, video game controllers, computer keyboards, tools, musical instruments, weapons and coffee mugs.  Included also is a mandate that makers of ink pens use only smudge-proof ink.
  • English words that have evolved from the word ‘left’ in other languages to more negative connotations will not be permitted in U.S. government activity, and following a 5-year transition period, will be illegal in all U.S. educational systems – including textbooks.
    This includes words like sinister, gauche, as well as phrases such as ‘left-handed compliment’, and other words such as ‘southpaw’ that could be felt to be demeaning.
  • Included is a provision that in all domestic U.S. Government meetings, whether internal or with suppliers, at least 15% of handshakes would be left-handed.
Left-handed shake

Left-handed handshakes may present challenges for some

  • All professional sports teams would be required to include at least 15% of members identifying as ‘left-handed’ or ‘ambi’. Corporations would have the same requirement for composition of Boards of Directors.
  • A large-scale initiative would require retrofitting every mile of the U.S. Interstate Highway System and all state highways to accommodate those wishing to drive on either the right or left side of the road, with completion targeted by 2030. This would be accompanied by a requirement that all automobile manufacturers doing business in the United States must make available right-hand drive vehicles.  The rapidly evolving driverless car technology will be counted on to facilitate this transition.
4-way stop

Future 4-way stop – CAD rendition

The cost of these changes is estimated to total roughly $20 trillion over the next 10 years.  And while this is broadly acknowledged to be a significant strain on the already burdened U.S. economy, there has been unanimous support from U.S. lawmakers, on both the Right and Left, particularly those facing re-election.

light switches

As a sign of gathering momentum, popular culture has taken up the cause.  As one unnamed self-identified ambi celebrity commented: “God didn’t just make ‘on/off’ switches – she made a good number of dimmers as well.  Regardless of where one may identify along the spectrum of handedness, a civilized society should be ready to accommodate everyone, whatever the cost”.

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Does Your Marketing Have Holes You Can’t See?

You may have seen this interesting visual story recently as it made the rounds.

blog_raf_bullet_holes_0

It is a diagram of a World War II Royal Air Force plane showing where bullets had hit the plane.  The purpose was to direct where extra armor should be placed to protect other planes.  Makes sense, right?

Abraham-Wald-left-is-credited-for-saving-many-American-planes-and-pilots-based-on-his

As Mother Jones magazine puts it – ‘Obvious but wrong’.  Hungarian-born mathematician Abraham Wald explained that because all of the studied planes had returned, the study ignored those planes that were shot down – – and therefore where the true vulnerabilities were (the engines).

This is a pretty good metaphor for a classic error in marketing – focusing on the easily studied while ignoring what really needs attention.

streetlamp_v02-800x533

It’s like the guy looking for his keys under a lamppost rather than in the field where he lost them: “Yes, I did lose them over there, but the light’s better here”.

Studying only data at hand means you could be ignoring bigger opportunities that you can’t see.  For example:

  • Optimizing Instagram or Pinterest (or Google AdWords) can be of little use if your most valuable customers don’t go online that much
  • Segmenting your target based on demographics can be very ineffective if your target is attitudinally defined
  • Orienting marketing messaging to older buyers can be largely wasteful if the key influencers are their children
  • Paying attention to only those customers who Opt In in LeadGen may be ignoring higher potential customers who are too busy to be bothered and for whom email may not be the best approach
  • Spending a ton of money optimizing a trade show space may be less useful if only a small % of decision-makers still attend trade shows
  • etc.

Portrait of the artist as a shadow of his former self 1969-72 by Keith Arnatt 1930-2008

 

The solution is to make sure you truly understand your customer, their key attitudes, influences, preferences and pain points. 

Target customer

Only then can you put your reinforcement where it really counts – – and sometimes it’s the customers you can’t see.

The Perfect Storm, Part 2. Fixing “Pale, Stale and Male”

  • The mood at last week’s Miami Boat Show was sunny, like the weather.  Enthusiastic shoppers, lots of shiny new boats, and based on conversations with manufacturers, not enough new boats to meet demand.

Miami Show Crowd

However, as previously posted, some clouds on the horizon foreshadow the powerboat industry’s vulnerability in a way that will redefine the landscape over the next 10 years.

  • The core buyer base is aging. The 55-60 year old buyer base (let’s generalize and call them Boomers), are committed and usually repeat buyers.  And they look a lot alike  (in the words of one industry executive: “pale, stale and male”).
    But there aren’t enough younger first-time buyers (generalized as Millennials) to replace their unit or dollar sales.  Over the last 15+ years, the share of new boats sold to first-time buyers has dropped dramatically.
    It’s the same old dudes buying more boats.
  • Recession bites. The next recession, like the last one, will flood the market with used boats when owners sell, crushing new boat sales – – a sales circuit-breaker if enough Boomer owners exit the market permanently.  Remember, older buyers generally buy the more expensive boats.
Older fisherman

Typical core new boat buyer

This post tries to explain why there are not enough younger boat buyers, and offers some ideas of what can be done to prepare for the future.  While a bit longer than my typical post, there are lots of pictures, so please read on.

Boater_Age_NMMA

Source: NMMA

Following our Miami visit we circled back to get input from senior leaders representing manufacturers, dealers, Freedom Boat Club (the leader in this segment) and the NMMA, the leading trade association.

The upshot:  the core appeal of powerboating is not going anywhere, but the industry will need structural changes to address some fairly major challenges to sustain health (read: sales) over the long term.

And the current pace of innovation is not enough to drive the changes necessary.  Disruptive innovation is needed in everything from boat design, mode of power, sales/distribution channels to marketing.  This is not about reducing price or offering new colors or more horsepower.

Disruptors transform the way a basic demand is delivered.  Myopia has led to the downfall of many former market leaders.

  • Home Video: Blockbuster (VHS/DVD) yields to Netflix (streaming)
  • Personal photography: Kodak (film) yields to digital / smartphones
  • Books: Borders (bricks & mortar) yields to Amazon (online)

Based on appearances, the powerboat industry seems headed this direction – – focused on maximizing revenue with the current model (largely fiberglass gas-powered outboard boats sold through dealers).

There are signs that disruptors are at work — but there is a long way to go.

Buying Cycle - Boating

To explain where the industry has been and where it needs to go, we compared the buying process of legacy (Boomer) core buyers with considerations of potential Millennial buyers, in a 4-step process.

INTERESTEXPERIENCEPURCHASEHABIT

So what are some paths to long-term growth? 

Here are some ways the industry can take action (with some examples):

  • Before addressing new buyers, the industry must keep current owners around as long as possible.
    Slow down defections – – aggressively court current owners and build relationships through CRM, owner events and personal outreach – build loyalty and maybe get another purchase

To encourage Millennial first-time buyers:

INTEREST

  • Accelerate development of more agreeable, alternative power sources:
    • GM’s experimental marine division, Forward Marine, introduced a 100% battery-powered boat. With a max speed of 20mph and a range of 1 hour at that speed, it’s not ready for prime time yet, and won’t get you many dates, but this is the direction some of the industry will go.  Think Tesla.  Maybe a hybrid as well.
GM Boat

GM Forward Marine prototype

  • Indmar just introduced EcoBoost, the marine version of Ford’s EcoTec engine – gets the same horsepower and torque with 4 cylinders as a typical V-8. More environmentally friendly.

    EcoBoost

    Indmar EcoBoost

  • Torqeedo is an established German company offering quiet, efficient electric motors. Due to relatively low gas prices and a maximum of 100 hp, growth is slow but it is steady.  They’re getting traction.
Torqeedo

Torqeedo Deep Blue 80R

  • BlueGas Marine has developed economical natural gas power for boats. Traction is difficult for the above reasons as well as infrastructure (need the gas equivalent of charging stations), but the equation can change quickly if oil prices spike.

More aggressive marketing

  • Cross-market! Boating should not just be for insiders anymore!  Visibility must be increased by pursuing prospects with related affinities:  skiing, hiking, etc.  Not just a booth at the boat show.
  • Be more inclusive, diverse and experiential. Feature a range of age, ethnicity, interests.  Leverage social media to reach prospects beyond the familiar core demographics.

700-00039414

Wakesurf photo

 

  • Innovate beyond current offerings – materials, design, features
    • New boaters don’t have the burden of tradition and will likely be more open to unconventional but more functional approaches (after all, someone had to buy the first Prius)
    • RIBs – Rigid Inflatable Boats (Axopar, Technohull) offer more efficient performance using different hull design and materials. They are really cool, perform great, look different, and that’s ok.
Technohull

Technohull (top); AxoparAxopar

  • Powered catamarans look different but offer advantages of smooth ride and more space

EXPERIENCE

Leverage technology to reduce fear as a barrier to purchase

  • Self-docking boats will be available in 2020
  • On-board digital video tutorials can provide much more effective learning than paper manuals
  • Controls are shifting from analog to digital, to mimic/integrate with smartphones

 

 

OWNERSHIP

  • Offer more versatile/multi-use boats at attractive price points – not single purpose (e.g. fishing) but can handle a variety of activities on any given day (analog: SUVs), making purchase more acceptable
    • Sea-Doo introduced a jet ski that converts to a fishing craft – – and it starts at $15k

 

 

  • Yamaha’s 2018 Boat of the Year (the FSH 210) is an affordable, do-it-all boat that is an excellent choice for first-time boaters.
  • Don’t require purchase to participate
    • Freedom Boat Club is a franchisor with 178 locations, with a model based on eliminating some key barriers to purchase (includes lessons, takes care of maintenance and insurance). The goal – make participation frictionless.
    • Members pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to a variety of boats in a huge number of locations, rather than committing 6-figures for a single boat.

FBC logo

  • Other similar models such as peer-to-peer rental, fractional use, etc. will undoubtedly increase as there is less reliance on solely purchase
  • More fully integrate the internet in the shopping/buying process – as in the auto industry, reduce reliance on aggressive final-mile dealer salespeople.

HABIT

No surprises!

  • Full transparency in the sales process, specifically costs/ obligations of ownership
  • Continuous on-boarding/learning  from the dealer, not just 2 hours when the boat is picked up
  • Aggressively encourage new boater networking to share tips, experiences, and create peer communities
  • Mentoring programs linking experienced boaters with new boaters.  Older boaters would love to pass along insights; a no-judgment setting makes it a win-win.

Mentor

These are just a few things the industry can do to mitigate unavoidable changes.  It will take foresight, patience, and investment – – and may not pay off immediately.

lots-of-boaters.jpg

But an industry that proactively and creatively adapts to the needs of new boaters with great product and a great experience, will be much more successful than what we currently seem to have – – an industry that asks potential new buyers to adapt to the way things have been.

How Do You Reinvigorate a Mature, Cyclical (but still really fun) Industry? Part 1: The Challenge

This is a story about a great industry that was extremely hot…until it suddenly wasn’t.
It presents a unique challenge in how to navigate long-term growth in a world with changing values, attitudes and demographics – – in an unpredictable economic and political climate.

This is Part 1 of a two-part post.  Part 1 sets up the challenges to the boating industry.

In Part 2 we’ll discuss some things the industry is doing to meet these challenges, based on observations at the industry’s premier annual event, the Miami Boat Show – which begins on February 14, 2019.

Perfect Storm - Title

Powerboats are indisputably lots of fun, whether it’s to fish, ski, dive or just to cruise around.  It’s no surprise that about 140 million Americans participate in boating annually, and that in 2018 the industry generated an estimated $170 billion in annual economic activity (Source: NMMA).

Boating-NMMA

Source: NMMA

But as we’ll see, even with several years of growth, the powerboat industry is facing some real headwinds in countering demographic shifts and bracing for the inevitable next recession.

Please read on, and if you’d like, post your ideas on how you’d attack this challenge in the comments section.

———–

The Ultimate Discretionary Purchase

At the very far endpoint of the need-want continuum (aka 0% need, 100% want), beyond ice cream, puppies, personal Zambonis or large screen TVs, there are recreational boats.  Unless you make your living on the water, you don’t need a boat.

And with considerable entry costs leading to ongoing expenses (fuel, insurance, dock space, maintenance, accessories, etc.), this is an industry that is inextricably linked to economic ups and downs.

As a CNBC commentator put it: “Boating is perhaps the most cyclical consumer sector imaginable. Vessels are expensive to purchase, time consuming and completely discretionary.”
https://www.cnbc.com/2014/04/01/yachts-a-practical-investment-for-regular-investors.html

Boat Slip

Entry-level recreational boats can be very affordable, but prices can easily push six or even seven figures as size and complexity increase.  A relatively ‘entry-level’ 25-foot recreational boat can cost $200,000 or more.  A 40-footer can be well over $1 million. This is an industry that has historically tried to push the envelope during optimistic economic times.

Boat_Sales_NMMA

National Marine Manufacturers Association

But the seas are not always smooth.  Powerboating, in particular, is vulnerable to a perfect storm.

  1. Not counting the very wealthy, most people considering a major discretionary purchase will delay or just not buy in an unstable economy
  2. Like the tide drawing out, when economic uncertainty hits, many existing boat owners sell their boats, creating a large pool of relatively new and very affordable used inventory. Anyone still interested has ample reasons to buy used, which is crippling if you’re trying to make or sell new boats.
  3. The average age of boat owners is relatively advanced (currently around 55), meaning that a lot of purchasers (many of them Baby Boomers) from earlier growth years are permanently exiting the market. There are new, younger buyers, which is great, but currently not enough of them to sustain continued growth.
  4. In an economic downturn, related personal factors such as existing loans, lack of available credit and home sales come into play as people make decisions – and cutting boat expenses can be considered a less painful way to try to balance the family books.
  5. As powerboats generally use internal combustion engines, they can be subject to the political climate and resulting legislation. The ‘un-green’ optics of boating are a turn-off for a certain population segment, and ‘greater good’ legislation can create negative real consequences for marine (one example: ethanol is widely mandated but causes expensive damage in marine motors which are run more sporadically).
Boater_Age_NMMA

National Marine Manufacturers Association

This perfect storm was on full display in the few years leading up to 2010.

The Great Recession – all kinds of ugly

In the early 2000s, economic optimism drove strong unit growth, with about 375,000 new powerboats sold in 2006.  Dollar growth was even higher, as convenience features like stereos and refrigerators, the conversion from 2-stroke to cleaner/quieter 4-stroke motors, greater available horsepower and resulting higher prices all increased industry sales markedly.

And while there was some softness in 2007, when the stock market tanked in 2008, the industry nose-dived.  Annual sales dove to about 150,000 in 2010.  Even with several recent years of strong market growth, as of 2018 it has not fully recovered, with sales of new powerboats reaching 280,000 – – still below levels of a decade earlier.

Boat for sale

As one industry official put it in 2015: “We fell off a cliff about five years ago.  Homes were going into foreclosure, and people were making hard choices. On top of that, manufacturers didn’t build many boats in those years. But we lived through it.” https://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article8801072.html

Numerous manufacturers and dealers simply closed up shop.  One estimate had the boat manufacturer workforce reduced by 50-75% as a result of the recession.

In some ways, boating faces a long-term challenge.

  • Many current boaters will eventually age out of the market
  • New younger (and less affluent) boaters are interested in experiences but less interested in possessions — including single-family homes where possessions (like a boat in the driveway) can be stored. They are also influenced by ecological considerations.
  • A multitude of other factors complicates things: consumer confidence, rising student debt, an increasingly diverse population that may not have boating as a shared experience – – even concern about fuel price stability

Make no mistake, as of now the industry continues to grow, it is expected to grow further in 2019, and there are several bright spots of strong growth – – like the emerging wake sports segment, and personal watercraft (aka jet skis).

Malibu_SeaDoo

Brands pictured:  Malibu, SeaDoo

And the economy still appears strong, consumers appear to be confident, and the boating industry is continuing to extract growing revenue from ever more big, exotic and outrageous products (a 627 HP, $90k motor was introduced a few years ago, and immediately a 53-foot, $3 million luxury fishing boat was introduced deploying 4 of them – along with 50 neon-ringed speakers.  Rumor is that there will be a six-motor boat at this year’s show).  So making hay while the sun shines is definitely a current strategy – take advantage of consumer confidence and feelings of wealth.

53 Suenos

Pictured: HydraSports 53 Sueños

But the next recession is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and Boomers will continue to exit the market.

SO – WHAT CAN BE DONE TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE GROWTH IN THIS MARKET?

Maximize growth with current products?  Introduce game-changing products?  Hedge with counter-cyclical products?  Double down on technology?  Pivot to something else entirely?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

For Part 2, we’ll report back within a week, including some evidence of the current (greater luxury and features) and future (laying the groundwork for the next few decades).

See you at the show!

MIBS - 2019

Why Online Reviews Haven’t Totally Replaced Word of Mouth (yet)

First recorded word of mouth reco:

Caveman Danook: “Good rock”

Caveman Gok: “Need rock like Danook rock”

danook-larson

Direct, personal, effective.  The best type of recommendation.

Fast forward a few millennia – – millions of shopping decisions are routinely made based on star ratings or online reviews – from total strangers.

In other words, online reviews are often less credible sources than Caveman Gok had.

amazon5-star

While technology has provided lots of review resources (e.g. Yelp, Glassdoor, Amazon Stars), it has not yet figured out how to protect the integrity of these reviews – – thus making them not totally dependable.

And consumers are increasingly realizing this.

At the end of the day, a personal reco from someone you know may still be your best bet.

Consider these news stories from just the last few weeks:

Joanna Stern – WSJ
Is it Really Five Stars – How to Spot Fake Amazon 5-Star Reviews

I visited a Facebook group called “Amazon Reviews” and was promised a full refund on a $44 Amazon purchase of a pet fountain if I did the following on the mega-retailer’s site:
1.
Write a positive review. 2. Post my photos of the product. 3. Rate it five stars.
Not only is this ethically problematic, it is also against Amazon and Facebook user policies.”

There are 4 types of reviews mentioned in the article:
1. Legit reviews – you bought it, you review it, good or bad.
2. Vine reviews – incentivized reviews for prolific reviewers. Objectivity not guaranteed.
3. Incentivized reviews (like the pet fountain above). Objectivity clearly suspect.
4. Fake reviews – often from Asian click farms. Totally bogus – often products reviewed are not even remotely what is listed.
Not exactly encouraging.

——————-

Rolfe Winkler and Andrea Fuller – WSJ
How Companies Secretly Boost Their Glassdoor Ratings

To allegedly combat the bias for negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor, some companies are apparently gently encouraging (and in some cases providing incentives) for employees to leave positive reviews.

Last summer, employees of Guaranteed Rate Inc. posted a stream of negative reviews about the mortgage broker on Glassdoor, a company-ratings website.
“An American sweatshop,” read a one-star review in June. “Worst company I ever worked for,” read another in July. The company’s rating on Glassdoor, which is determined by employee feedback, fell to 2.6 stars out of 5.
– Concerned that negative reviews could hurt recruiting, Guaranteed Rate CEO Victor Ciardelli instructed his team to enlist employees likely to post positive reviews, said a person familiar with his instructions. In September and October these employees flooded Glassdoor with hundreds of five-star ratings. The company rating now sits at 4.1.”

———-

One study estimates that while 88% of consumers put their trust in online reviews, at least 20% of them are in reality fake (the reviews, not the consumers).

———-

As time goes on, consumers will judge online reviews with an increasing dose of skepticism, until AI figures out a way to effectively and convincingly screen out reviews that are just not legit.  It’s complicated (see example from the Boston Globe).

reviews-big

So what can a marketer do to encourage the most credible endorsements of their products —  enthusiastic, personal word of mouth recommendations?

chewy

Here are 3 examples, 2 of which involve reaching out and delighting the customer such that they take some sort of action that could influence others:

  • Chewy.com. Over the Holidays we received a mystery package that it turns out was sent by Chewy.com, and included an ink-on-canvas portrait of our dog, and a very enthusiastic hand-written card that said “Surprise!  We hope you and your furbaby enjoy the portrait.  Remember we’re open 24/7.  Call us anytime, we’d love to hear from you!”  So cool.
    –  Yes, this cost $, but they got it back in multiples from the number of people we told about it or who saw our social media posts.  (Not to mention the fact that we’re just a little more likely to continue buying from them ourselves.)yeti
  • YETI.  To become an object of their affection, we merely had to go to the trouble of registering online for a gift we received – – a thermo mug, not one of their over-the-top coolers.
    Shortly thereafter we received a thank you card with several YETI stickers, some of which of course will end up in a visible place, thereby providing a passive reinforcement of the brand to others.
  • Nextdoor.  A bit different from the ‘delight’ category is the true word-of-mouth category, represented by the neighborhood network Nextdoor, which is an avenue for sponsored ads in addition to personal recommendations.  The credibility factor is high.nextdoor
    There are lots of other ways to engender a personal relationship and loyalty well beyond what stars on a review can do.
  • Customer Support that has a personal touch and continuity – so the customer feels a connection with the help desk person (chat, email or phone)
  • Personalized customer outreach (email or snail mail) not asking for anything, just staying in touch and inviting the recipient to provide any feedback they may have.
  • (Making great products and backing them up doesn’t hurt, either).

Random acts of kindness may be seen as an incremental cost, but the personal connection can not only encourage current customers to be loyal, it can encourage them to tell others about their great experience.  And that’s the name of the game.

Just keep in mind: WWDD?

Don’t Overlook Podcasts!

I’ve been wasting valuable time listening to podcasts, and I bet your target audience has been, too.  Why not take advantage of this and reach out to them?

Last Podcast on the Left

In the ever-shifting world of digital advertising, podcasts – serialized audio shows – are a fast-growing medium worth considering:

  • Allows targeting by attitude / preference / affinity rather than simple demographics
  • Highly engaged (addicted) audience – self-selected by interest in the subject matter
  • Loyal audience – regularly tune in to serial episodes – facilitating multiple exposures
  • Multi-platform accessibility – web, mobile, etc. – because listeners need continuity
  • Personal reading of ads by host(s) – ideally live reads – are more authentic and compelling
  • Bite-sized – typically 15-60 minutes per episode

SerialFor example, I listen to Casefile, one of the many true crime podcasts.  The ads seem to fit the tenor of the podcast, and because they are read live in a conversational style by the host, they seem more genuine and less likely to be skipped.Casefile_A_True_Crime_Podcast

My behavior has changed because of this podcast – – I’m more likely to walk the dog (plus!) for some alone time with my podcast.  More likely to ignore family members, professional obligations, personal growth (minus!) by finding excuses to listen to my podcast.  Ultimately, though, I’m listening attentively to who murdered whom, and I pay more attention to the ads than I would in other settings.

According to iab research, podcast advertising spending is growing fast – – from $169 million in 2016, it almost doubled to $314 million in 2017, and is expected to double again to $659 million by 2020.  At some point it will level off, but for now it is an evolving advertising option in growth mode.

Planet Money

Podcasts can help you get smart (or distracted) on topics ranging from personal finance to true crime to trends in medicine to true crime to politics to true crime to business to true crime.  Not surprisingly, podcast audiences vary widely by subject matter.

Stitcher is one of several sites that rank listenership of podcasts, among other things. Most podcasts have well-defined audiences. Top-rated My Favorite Murder, for example, has female hosts and skews highly female, while its true-crime male-hosted counterpart Last Podcast on the Left, skews more male. Mostly because those guys can be pretty disgusting. https://www.stitcher.com/stitcher-list/all-podcasts-top-showsFreakonomicsMore interesting, podcast audiences also vary widely by geography.  Why Illinois prefers Felonious Florida and neighboring Indiana prefers Stuff You Should Know, may remain a mystery.

Podcast Ranking

At any rate, mark this as a medium that’s on the rise.  If you haven’t listened to a podcast, audit one from the Stitcher list.

MyFavoriteMurder

One caution – normal FCC language restrictions don’t apply.  So be careful – – some of these podcasts can get quite earthy.

An additional trigger warning: they can be addicting.  My 20-something daughters referred me to the aforementioned My Favorite Murder, hosted by two very talented female improvisational comedians, and which consists of 50% true crime and 50% random stuff that women apparently discuss among themselves and which should have zero appeal. (“ate 2 pints of Halo Top, stayed in my sweats all day, that’s ok, right?”,  etc.)

Rationally I shouldn’t be that interested.  But now I need my fix.

Which is great for the dog, and great for advertisers.

It’s Dunkin’. How You Like Us Now?

Change happens.  Brands must adapt.

Dunking a Toffee Coffee

As a company’s offerings evolve, a brand should keep up and not perpetuate a narrower or outdated image.

Thus:
Weight Watchers becomes WW (health)
Starbucks Coffee becomes Starbucks (more than coffee)
Apple Computer becomes Apple (obvious)
Kentucky Fried Chicken becomes KFC (downplay ‘fried’)
Boston Chicken becomes Boston Market (broader menu)
Jo-Ann Fabrics becomes Joann (whatever they are, not just fabrics, apparently)

In these cases, the ‘new’ names clarified the company’s position and formalized names already commonly used.

Quincy Dunkin' DonutsQuincy DD - external Quincy, MA Dunkin’ Donuts – 1950s

Dunkin’ Donuts started as a coffee and doughnut joint around 1950 in Massachusetts.  It was customary in those giddy post-war years to actually ‘sit on a stool’ at a ‘counter’, eat a doughnut served on a ‘plate’ and ‘dunk’ it in a heavy ‘ceramic mug’ of coffee from time to time.  Ah, those were innocent times with a cavalier attitude toward carbs.  You can’t really dunk while driving.  No one dunks.  It is a meaningless word.

From these humble beginnings it has now joined the name game and just announced a halving of its name to now just ‘Dunkin’’.

just call us dunkinThe reasons stated are to support their beverage-focused strategy, as well as to simplify the brand (they’ve already pared their menu 10%). Makes sense.

Dunkin’ hold-the-Donuts gets 60% of their sales from beverages, mostly coffee, but they want more.  Don’t worry, they will still sell their irresistible (or irresistable, depending on which website version you buy into) doughnuts.

Dunkin Irresistible.png

(In fact, Dunkin’ has been using largely the same menu for years, from time to time adding things like the healthier ‘DD Smart’ offerings, which will now likely have to be just ‘D-Smart’, which is a Turkish satellite TV company and no doubt trademarked.  These things do get complicated.  But we digress.)

The question is, is this a major step forward?  Is it worth the trouble and expense?  By itself, does Dunkin’ mean anything?  Is the value proposition really changed?

Considering that their locations, menu offerings, awesome circa-1973 logo font and color and pretty much everything else is staying the same*, it seems that this may be a very expensive PR play, nothing more.
*
apparently display fixtures will be undergoing a makeover.

Dunkin’ has long used ‘America Runs on Dunkin’’ as their tagline, and in their native New England, they apparently are fondly known as ‘Dunkin’’ or even ‘Dunkies’.

However, in the Midwest or Southeast I don’t recall ever referring to this chain as just ‘Dunkin’’ (or hearing anyone else do so).

It sounds a bit awkward and contrived, like when Radio Shack, in a last heaving gasp for survival, wanted to be known as ‘The Shack’. (it’s painfully true).

shack_promoSo, not sure that the name Dunkin’, by itself, is a game-changer.

Considering the vast franchisee-borne expense involved in re-outfitting 12,000+ international outlets, as well as rebranding pretty much every sign, coffee mug, drive-thru kiosk, menu, placemat, napkin, rest room signs and heaven only knows how many other things, you have to wonder how the calculations worked on this at some point being profit-positive.  (and this follows the relatively recent ‘Coffee & More’ signage).

Dunkin Coffee & More

And ultimately, profit is the point. 

It comes down to whether the absence of the word ‘Donuts’ will subconsciously, Jedi-style, draw new users in for non-doughnut beverage offerings as they drive past, or persuade current customers that it’s also ok to buy those other things on the menu.

Penetration vs buy rate, the primal existential growth question.

Dunkin traysIn the case of Weight Watchers, Boston Chicken and Jo-Ann Fabrics, a name change seems justified to align with a broader brand premise.  For Apple, Starbucks and KFC, arguably it formalizes what people already know, lets the CMO sleep at night knowing the brand is aligned, and is more of a check-the-box move.

Dunkin’ has tested this idea for more than a year so apparently the equation works.

I’m not so sure.