Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Top Christmas Retail News

It's here; The Q4 for retail. Possibly the most watched economic quarter of the year second only to Q1 of the next year - which is only significant because it is the juggling period of markdowns, wage expenses and a huge drop in average basket sizes leaving the store due to Q4. Some of the most interesting news in 2007 Q4 retail.

Brookstone is leading the way in 3-D online shopping. New this year - consumers can shop a virtual Brookstone store. Just download the browser and shop away. Brookstone is the first retailer to generate that kind of a virtual shopping experience. The link to the 3-D store is on the bottom right of their homepage but here is the link

Office Max - Elf Yourself
You've seen it in your inbox and have probably already sent one to a friend. According to Office Max has produced the 8th highest traffic site on the internet. The viral site allows you to upload up to 4 faces into dancing elf bodies and send it to friends and family for a holiday greeting.

Does Green Sell?
Despite all the movement and advances that retailers and brands have made to be more or appear more "green" very few of them are touting it for the holidays. One retailer making a big push is upscale department store operator Barneys, which sent out a catalog emblazoned with the words, “Have a Green Holiday” with an oranic Tshirt going for $68. Wal-Mart, JCPenney, and Target all said that they have no plans to market green merchandise with NPD's Cohen claiming that the green thing has been a little overplayed and has no real hold for consumers. True?

Bye Tickle Me Elmo Hello Gaming Consoles
With no "must have" items driving sales for retailers this year many are promoting other products and the leading bread-winners are gaming related products. Mostly though, stores are increasingly turning to discounting of perennially popular electronics and toys to lure shoppers, analysts say, which means it's consumers who ultimately are benefiting from the lack of a blockbuster product this year. According to an article in the Detroit News "Not having a hot product has spurred the use of other attention-seeking tactics by retailers, said Mike Bernacchi, professor of marketing at University of Detroit Mercy. "Retailers don't like having nothing to fall back on," he said. "They're having to try to create and buzz where there wouldn't be some. It's become one promotion after another out of desperation."

Linux Going Mainstream Many of the hottest computing options this holiday are PC’s and laptops running open-source Linux. For years Linux has lived on the fringe that separates geekdom from the mainstream but now it is crossing the line into non-tech, non-geek homes. Why? The Almighty Dollar. Linux machines are cheaper and often more energy efficient than both Windows and Mac. The revolution started in, of all places – Wal-Mart – with the Everex TC2502 gPC going for $199 without a monitor. Will it work? Read the story in Linux News

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Windows Media Center

One thing Windows has going for it - Media Center. Really - if you haven't taken a look at what you can do with Media Center, no matter how anti-Microsoft you are, you really ought to check it out.

Cool Article by Julie Jacobsen
Media Center Users Get Free ITV and Slingbox Functionality
Microsoft adds free Internet content and remote access to recorded TV shows, music and other Media Center features.
If you already have a Media Center PC, it’s your lucky day, as Microsoft adds two features to the platform: Internet TV and Media Center’s own version of SlingBox called WebGuide.

Both services will be available free of charge to Media Center owners. “It’s a good example of how the Media Center platform keeps evolving,” says Scott Evans, group manager in the Entertainment and Devices eHome Division at Microsoft. “It adds value for people who bought Media Center.”

The new Internet TV feature—accessible through a tab on the Media Center home page next to “Recorded TV”—is supported by advertising. Internet-based content such as TV reruns and sporting events can be accessed just like any other show available through Media Center.

ITV should not be confused with Microsoft’s IPTV service, now called Mediaroom. Available through broadband providers, Mediaroom is an IP-based alternative to traditional cable and satellite content delivery. It is a non-PC solution that delivers programming guides, content and other services directly through the TV via a proprietary settop box.

The ITV offering, on the other hand, is a simply a way to push some IP-based content to Media Center PCs.

The other new feature, called WebGuide, is a third-party application that does what Slingbox does, and a whole lot more. Like Slingbox, it is a time-shifting, place-shifting TV viewing solution, but it also lets users schedule TV recordings, access music collections, and in short do pretty much everything you can do with a Media Center … via any Web browser, whether inside the home or from a hotel room halfway around the world.

A labor of love by founder Doug Berrett, Web Guide has been highly lauded in Media Center circles, and practically free at $18 for a download. Now it is actually free. Just download it onto your Media Center, and begin accessing it from anything that has a Web browser, from a PC to a cell phone.

In fact, WebGuide does a few things that Media Center alone doesn’t do. For example, you can set up an RSS feed for your recorded TV shows, and access them with one click from a Sidebar gadget on your PC desktop.

The service is just one more reason to dump Slingbox and TiVo for that matter. TiVo’s remote access service is slow and laborious. Web Guide is almost as fast as being there.

Berrett has now joined Microsoft full time.

Full article

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Re-invigorating the ebay experience

Today ebay launched an ebay that is designed to look more like a social networking site with more stickiness than the old school ebay. One of the central elements of this plan is called Neighborhoods where users can gather around a theme such as Shoe Heads or Battlestar Galactica to post photos, product reviews, tips and responses pulled from Ebay blogs, guides and reviews. The fresh look is the result of a broader strategy at Ebay prompted by a small blip on the rapid growth of Ebay late last year followed by a 6% decrease in postings in the second quarter of the year and a 25% decrease in listings by Ebay stores from last year. 2007 has been the year of enhanced websites, particularly retailers looking to add some viral elements to their site using social trends on the net - even Walmart added customer feedback and reviews on their site!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gamer designed car

According to a report in Reuters, Nissan is looking to video gamers to provide insight into car designs. In the wake of the massive Halo 3 marketing blitz such a concept doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. According to Francois Bancon, Nissan Exploratory and Advance Planning Dept., in an interview with Reuters said “We wanted to reproduce the way they play video games, a play station or computer with the same posture and the same relationship to their friends…” In this case Bancon is referring to the unique seating of the driver – in the middle. The battery powered car, called the Nissan 7210. T or Mixim, was derived from research done with kids 15 to 17 years of age from all over the world. Apparently the research suggested that this age group is uninterested in cars and consider it to be a relic of last century in their world of digital everything. Why all the hullabaloo over gaming? According to market research firm NPD sales of video games and gaming systems were up 46% in August from the same period last year. Top Seller? - Madden NFL '08 for Xbox 360 (897,000 units) Top game console? - Wii (404,000) Article here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What is it?

Ad-supported free, legal music downloads.


Music can’t be burnt to CD

Music files from are not compatible with iPod or Zune

ONLY compatible with Vista or Windows XP operating systems (not Apple)



Friday, September 21, 2007

WOW! Walmart in Marketing News!

Everyone has an opinion about Walmart. Rob Frankel says “"To shop at Wal-Mart is almost the same as admitting you are poor," he says."As soon as people can figure out a way not to shop at Wal-Mart, they do." Not a big fan. He had about as much to say regarding WalMart’s first marketing move since inking a deal with The Martin Agency in January of this year. For the first time in 19 years WalMart is changing it’s tagline. From the all-too-well-known “Always Low Prices” to “Save Money. Live Better”. Apparently the move is based on not-so new research from Global Insight that suggests that WalMart saves American families and average of $2,500 every year. (Sound familiar? yeah, we've been hearing that for a couple years now) The new tagline was accompanied by a website that shows up at the end of the new TV spots encouraging consumers to post their own story of savings as a WalMart shopper. The company also planted a “Savings Ticker” outside its headquarters to track how much money the retailer is saving American families.

This move follows a major addition to the company’s online store last month or so that allowed consumers to post feedback about products on the site. The company also launched a portfolio of financial service products that are quite obviously targeted to low-income shoppers. Is the company moving away from trying to look more upscale? The new tagline, in reality, isn’t much different than the previous one. During the 19 year lifespan of the previous tagline (which should have disappeared about 6 or 7 years ago, at least, to have more impact) WalMart stock split and hovered above $60. Now the company can’t get out of the low $40’s land with an ever-rotting image across the country. Will the new tagline help? Thoughts It is a price based tagline – that’s bad – Well, it also adds an element of lifestyle – and for that a user based (or democratized) defined lifestyle. So the consumer defines the lifestyle of a Walmart consumer and can get engaged through multiple online elements. That’s good. Is it dissonant with other WalMart communications? In conjunction with the new financial services, consumer feedback on the website and other rumblings from Arkansas – it seems relatively cohesive. That’s good. Unfortunately, it also looks like WalMart is struggling to really take advantage of the smarts of The Martin Agency. Save Money. Live Better isn’t a bad metamorphosis of Always Low Prices but I think the shackles of the low price marketing need to be removed. Move away from cheap and into value. Cheap is bad like Mattel and China – value is Costco or Targets “masstige” (prestige for the masses) apparel. Welcome to the era of value brands WalMart. Consumers expect more.

PS – The website – yeah, pretty low-budget looking. Let me know if you need some help- I have a buddy that that does websites and can add stuff to make it a little more viral like, oh, I don’t know, tagging. Yeah. More

PPS - Walmart announced a dramatically changed health care plan for its employees that received praise from even longstanding critics. Read it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Burger King Snack Chips

Taco Bell, TGI Fridays and now Burger King all have something in common – they sell branded products outside of their restaurants. Next month BK fans will be able to get their fix of BK snack chips across a multitude of channels. The venture will be spearheaded by The Inventure Group (the same group that handled TGI Friday’s branded snacks). The trans fat-free products will be available in a variety of sizes including the popular 100 calorie pack. The effort is designed to expand the brand recognition of Burger King with plans to expand globally after the initial US launch and will also tap into the 93% of consumers that research suggest snack at least once a day.
The proceeds from the new product will go back into the marketing fund in a move to assuage the fears of cannibalization from franchise owners. Burger King has expanded hours, introduced a breakfast value menu and opened hundreds of new stores in the past few years to emerge from a slump. This new product platform and expansion into different channels could help bolster efforts to get back on their feet.
Tell me more