Global Marketing

Samples. Samples. Samples.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” but when it comes to samples have you heard the way to a man’s wallet is through his stomach?  In store samples are a weakness to many, especially when it comes to food. I know I can never say no. Whether it’s the cheese in those plastic displays at Whole Foods or the multiple sample stations at Costco or the fresh made food at Trader Joe’s.

Anyone who has a Costco membership knows that they are famous for their poor mans sample lunch, that what I call it anyway, don’t judge. With the amount of samples you get it’s the perfect free mini lunch! Of course it is a marketing gimmick to get you to try and hopefully buy the latest and greatest! Which I am always suckered into. Over the years my family has shopped there, we have tried samples that are now household favorites.  If the sample wasn’t offered I don’t think I would have necessarily bought it.  I love it because you get to try things you may have never thought of buying and I guess that is what makes it so successful.

However, I look at those passing out the samples; Are they really trying to sell that product? Do they make eye contact with you, or is it just a rehearsed line? A few companies sampling actually have a rep from that company, most other samples are passed out by senior citizens. I think these people handing out the samples can be indispensable to companies. They can see who’s trying it, the faces they make, do they love it, hate it, indifferent, put it in their cart, bring family members over to try it, does it go in the trash, or do they come back for seconds, or even thirds. Talk about invaluable market research!

Trader Joe’s  strategy is a bit different they take a few products from their shelves and create a meal. If it’s good, I usually end up purchasing all the ingredients!

My favorite though has to be the Nespresso counter at Bloomingdales. If you are not familiar with Nespresso, they make high end espresso machines. But the genius behind Nespresso is their various blends of  coffee that come in pods that only work in the Nespresso machine. Well the espresso is amazing!! And once you try it (for free at the counter), the only way you can get more is if you buy a sleeve (10 for $12) and of course the $200-$800 espresso machine. They even sample their coffee at Target to push their lower end machines!

Samples and freebies are tried and true  marketing ploys, yes they may be costly but companies are capitalizing on consumers impulse buys and let me tell you, it works.

What are your experiences with samples?


Global Marketing

Corporate Targeting or Bullying?

A few years ago, my daughter’s elementary school started the “Bully Free” campaign.bully-free1 All students received a purple shirt with the school mascot and the phrase “Bully Free Starts With Me!” worn by students and staff alike, every Friday to show support for the school as well as the campaign. Assembly’s or class assignments focused on what bullying is, the effects of bullying and how to prevent or stop bullying. The district even revised its harassment and hate crimes policy to include bullying, with a first offense punishment of a three to five day suspension from school and depending on offense, possible expulsion or police involvement.

I’m sure many of us were picked on or bullied growing up; teased for our clothes, height, hair, athletic ability or body shape. And I’m sure many of us heard the same things from our parents, like “ignore them…turn the other cheek” or “sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you.” After the increase in school shootings and teen suicides due to bullying, society is making a greater effort to stop such behavior and promote positive actions.

So how does one explain the behavior and corporate image of Abercrombie & Fitch? Niche marketing strategy or consumer bullying?

Most retail stores will have a specific target or clientele they are marketing to. Oakley has found its niche, marketing to the “active lifestyle” perfect for anyone, any age, who enjoys athletic activities.   Forever 21 and Old Navy are considered affordable fashion, marketing current styles and trends for the whole family. Hot Topic, known for being more edgy and catering to those who prefer an alternative lifestyle full of loud rock/metal music, cosplay and Si-Fi fun entertainment, still has something for everyone…even if it’s only for Halloween. Abercrombie & Fitch however, has a different target in mind, as stated by former CEO Mike Jeffries:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.” ~Jeffries (Salon 2006)


The hiring policy of A&F has also been under scrutiny several times for allegations of age, religious or body stature bias. Jefferies was quoted by Business Insider saying “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Many companies may have policies regarding visible tattoos, piercings and natural hair color or style (things all employees are required to adhering to), the policies for A&F are quite different. The four cabin attendants working on the corporate jet for instance (all male models or actors), must follow a 47-page manual that outlines the exact expectations while on duty, like “spraying A&F #41 cologne on their uniforms at regular intervals through the shift” or “only being allowed to say ‘no problem’ when responding to any request…specifying that “sure” or “just a minute” were not acceptable or permitted. It took a class action lawsuit to force diversification within the company and a change to many of its policies and procedures.

In November 2013, A&F reported seven straight quarters of losses and declines in store sales. When Mike Jeffries resigned as Chairman of the Board and CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch last December, the company’s share price rose 6%…I guess he’s no longer “cool” enough to be part of the A&F brand.

Global Marketing

How are we doing? Let us know about your experience!

It seems like everywhere I go, any interaction I have, whether on my receipt or in person, I am always asked to take a survey. Please take this quick 5 minute survey and get 15% off your next purchase. Please fill out this survey for a chance to win a $1,500 gift card. Complete a short online survey and be entered in a monthly sweepstakes and the list goes on.

If you’ve never filled one of these out let me save you the trouble… The surveys typically ask you to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 your experience regarding environment, displays, accessibility of items, products you look for, check out experience, the degree in which you feel appreciated, service, quality of products, price, whether you would return again, how frequently you visit, why were you visiting the store, how old you are, your income etc. One survey I took had over 50 questions! It doesn’t stop at retail stores either. I open a new website; I am prompted to take a survey. I click the “X” and I am annoyed I can’t just visit a website without being probed for my opinion. Marketers want to know our opinions, expectations, feelings and habits… all the time!

Those maybe the typical ones but last month I got one in the mail that really took the cake. It came from a local Police Department.

“Dear Motorist: According to our records on ____ at ___ you were contacted by a member of the Police Department’s Traffic Safety Bureau…. Please reflect back and check a box next to the word which best describes your feelings concerning your recent contact. (Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Fail)

The reason for the “contact” was that I got pulled over for speeding. Guilty as charged but I was expecting the actual ticket in the mail not some feel good survey. (For the record, I rarely speed- this is my first citation in 8 years.) My favorite part of the letter was “The fact that you received a citation or warning should not reflect your rating of the officer’s performance.”  Really?  I was curious as to who even fills these out?  I wonder if this was spurred in light of all the negative police press in the media (Ferguson), or maybe this is something that agencies have been doing all along. It makes sense that they want to know how their officers are acting when they are on the job but is this really the way they check on their officers. Maybe they are looking to see the overall satisfaction of those that drive through their town. Maybe they are looking at way to brand themselves as the “Friendliest Police Department in America”.  Is my experience really going to change the way officers will behave in the future? What if my experience was bad?

Companies like Survey Monkey, Gallup, and Foresee (just to name a few) help business make these surveys.  Everyone has an opinion and marketers want to know. I’ll admit I’ve filled out these surveys in hopes of maybe winning a gift card but haven’t won anything yet. Recently I filled one out for Sprouts and since I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my visit they asked if someone could contact me to speak further about the experience. I complied. Let’s see if they will contact me. I don’t know if I’m going to fill out the police survey; the officer was not personable at all, and very robotic. I think I’ve had enough contact with them. Thank you for reading my blog and if you wouldn’t mind, could you take a moment and fill out a survey?


Global Marketing

Friends, Family, Disney Fans Everywhere…Lend Me Your EARS!

A trip to Disneyland, be it a long planned vacation or (if you’re like me) a weekly visit, is always an opportunity to embrace the Disney spirit.  A big part of the Disney branding plan is merchandising!  Shops and kiosks can be found along Main Street, on the Boardwalk or in any of magical lands, displaying T-shirts, jackets, scarves, costumes, trading pins and of course the most popular, Mouse Ears!

The original mouse ears (developed by Roy Williams) were first seen on the Mousketeer cast in the 1950’s hit television show, The Mickey Mouse Club.  The traditional black felt hat with two large ears on top can still be found in every Disney store and on several patrons throughout the parks and resorts.  Over the years, mouse ears have adopted new styles and updated looks to match popular themes, current movies, TV shows or attractions the Disney Company is wanting to promote.  The ear options have also been adapted from Mickey Mouse to include other beloved characters, both classic (Mini, Goofy, Donald, etc.) and new (Stich, Mader, Olaf, etc.)

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While young children (3 to 12) are praised and encouraged to dress like their favorite prince, princess or pirate; teens and adults are forbidden from doing so unless attending a sanctioned event such as the “Not So Scary Halloween Party” or “Hero’s versus Villains’ Day.”  Mouse ears however, can be worn by anyone and at any time.  Many die-hard fans express their love for the Mouse by making their own ears.  Several tutorials can be found online, to make your own “mouse ears” either through crafting or creative hair styles.

Blog 1 - pic 2In 2013, Disney launched the Show Your Ears Sweepstakes, with a grand prize of a vacation for 4 to a Disneyland resort and the 5 runners up receiving a $100 shopping spree at the Disney store.  Participants were required to submit a photo of themselves (no more than 1 a day) wearing (purchased or homemade) Mickey or Mini shaped mouse ears…a creative way to increase the sale and reinforce the popularity of the mouse ears!

Disney marketers have also expanded mouse ears to include special occasions, birthdays, holidays or park anniversaries (such as the upcoming Diamond Celebration) and milestone life moments like graduations or marriage.  Marketing the ears as a limited edition or for a limited time, makes them collectable and generally increases the demand.

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Do you have a pair of mouse ears?

Global Marketing

Sustainable Marketing


I recently purchased a pair of Timberland Pro work boots for one of our warehouse employees. As I grabbed the box, I noticed a sticker on the side that took me by surprise; it looked like a Nutrition Fact label. Upon further investigation, I realized that it was a carbon footprint! It listed the climate impact, chemicals used, and the resource consumption of the company. Along with this, the amount of trees planted (over one million since 2009). This is the way Timberland is marketing their sustainable methodology to their customers.

Sustainability continues to be a growing movement, and rightfully so. Sustainability is based on the principle that everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. It is important that companies take the responsibility of ensuring we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment now and for future generations. Companies need to rethink and re-brand themselves to be conscious of improving their manufacturing processes to be more efficient in this regard. I find it commendable that companies are taking the responsibility for the overall health of our planet.

The bottom of the box gave more information. CAN A SHOEBOX CHANGE THE WORLD? it asks. Maybe not the box itself, but they are hoping that the message it sends could make a difference.  Timberland wants to be purposeful and show their customer that they are working to use alternative energy sources, are consuming fewer resources, and are thinking about how their manufacturing process affects the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the communities we live in. It’s great to see how companies like Timberland are using something as simple as a shoe box as a marketing tool. They are counting on the consumer to feel good about their purchase and that they are doing the right thing by supporting Timberland.

Have you seen other companies promote their sustainability methods in a creative way?

I look forward to reading your comments below.