Posts tagged with "Marketing"

Greet (and eat) the ‘croiffle’ at one of Godiva’s 2,000 new cafes

April 18, 2019

For nearly 100 years, Godiva has made life sweeter and more pleasurable for chocoholics worldwide. But until April 17, the Belgian confectioner offered only its beloved premium-quality boxed chocolates, chocolate-covered strawberries, ice cream, and drip coffee at its 800 boutique stores across 105 nations.

Starting with a Manhattan location this week, Godiva has announced that it is rolling out 2,000 cafes through 2025, at which the company will offer a menu of fanciful food items, including the “croiffle”— a croissant and waffle hybrid that’s stuffed with fillings like cheese or chocolate and pressed on a waffle iron, The Chicago Tribune reports. Other items include an expanded list of coffees and a new collection of teas; as well as grab-and-go items such as sandwiches and yogurt parfaits. And of course chocolates.

The cafes mark Godiva’s first foray into prepared meals, the Tribune notes. It’s all part of an ambitious growth plan spearheaded by CEO Annie Young-Scrivner, who took over Godiva’s helm in 2017 after serving as a top executive at Starbucks. Her goal: to increase its revenue fivefold by 2025, the news outlet says.

The company, which is privately owned by Turkish Yildiz Holding, doesn’t report sales or profits—but according to reports, Godiva was about a $1 billion business in 2017. It expects 40% of its total sales to come from the cafes in the future.

“We really have a stronghold on formal gifting but we want to expand to everyday consumption,” Young-Scrivner said in a phone interview.

A few of the current boutiques will be converted into cafes, but Godiva is looking beyond malls and will also have stand-alone storefronts and airport locations.

Research contact: @GODIVA

Walmart rolls out robotic ‘smart assistants’ at its locations nationwide

April 10, 2019

Every hero needs a sidekick: Think of the selfless contributions of R2D2 of Star Wars fame, Optimus Prime of the Transformers superhero franchise, and Robot from Lost in Space.

And now, Walmart believes, the stockroom, janitorial, sales, and front-end associates at its discount stores could use a little robotic help, too. So, as of April 9, the largest U.S. retailer has announced that it will be putting automated helpers at its locations nationwide.

“Smart assistants”—which is what the retailer has dubbed its automated staff—“have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly,” Walmart said in a press release this week.

Indeed, Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time each associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks—such as cleaning floors or checking shelf inventory. This gives associates more of an opportunity to serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.

Throughout the year 2018, pilot tests of these technologies have been well-received. “But it’s not enough to have these cutting-edge systems in just a few locations,” the company says.” That’s why additional technologies are coming soon to stores across America.”

And, Walmart promises, “We’re going big.”

Among the new additions will be:

  • 300 additional shelf scanners, aka “Auto-S”: This technology scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy.
  • 1,200 FAST unloadersWorking with the shelf scanner, the FAST unloader automatically scans and sorts items unloaded from trucks, based on priority and department. This allows associates to move inventory from the back room to the sales floor more quickly.
  • 900 pickup towers: When a customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup, an associate loads the ordered item into a pickup tower. The customer then receives a notification via email that the item is available from the pickup tower; which works like a giant vending machine to retrieve and unload the purchase.

That’s a lot of extra help for associates—and the staff is enthusiastic. According to SVP of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. John Crecelius, “Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual.

“It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”

Research contact: @Walmart

Recipe cards go digital with a little help from CuratorCrowd

April 9, 2019

Does your family have its own set of cherished, hand-written recipe cards, passed down from generation to generation? Now, there’s another reason to value them dearly: Thanks to Nashville-based CuratorCrowd, they soon may be obsolete.

On April 8, CuratorCrowd, a division of American Hometown Media, launched its  Recipe Box Plugina traffic and engagement platform built specifically for food blogs and websites. The Recipe Box Plugin enables users to easily save and curate recipes and content from any participating site on the web directly to the cloud—becoming a central food-related repository that gets frequent return traffic.

Once saved to the Recipe Box, recipes are easily searchable and users can create collections (folders) to better manage and organize recipes. They can also easily filter recipes by source/website.

Prior to this week, the Recipe Box was not available to other sites on the web. American Hometown Media has its own  Just a Pinch Food Group—a select group of food-only bloggers.

However, now, other culinary sites can take advantage of what the box offers—nearly a decade of usage and proof of concept (over 2 million active recipe boxes and more than 24 million saved recipes from over 24,000 publishers).

“As the food technology/media vertical matures, users are looking for online tools to enhance and make their lives easier,” says Dan Hammond, CEO of American Hometown Media. “The Recipe Box Plugin does that while helping food influencers and publishers build their brands and user engagement. That sounds like a recipe for success.”

The technology to power the Recipe Box Plugin is free to online publishers, websites, and food bloggers, and can be easily installed in minutes, the company claims.

Over the next year AHM plans to roll out new products in the CuratorCrowd platform— including a food-specific trending content recipe exchange, a syndicated content engine, and Recipe Box TV, which will channel and monetize video content into popular streaming platforms to build brand awareness and revenue. Future enhancements anticipated for the Recipe Box include ecommerce and shoppable recipes, as those solutions mature.

Research contact: @JustAPinchCooks

Win an expense-paid RV road trip on historic Route 66

February 21, 2019

If you dream of escaping the everyday grind and hitting the open road, then RVshare may have just the deal for you.

The Akron, Ohio-based company, founded in 2012, claims to be the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer recreational vehicle rental marketplace—serving more than 60,000 RV owners nationwide, as well as thousands of rental customers.

Now, RVshare has announced that—through a sweepstakes—it is offering four people, along with their families or friends, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a road trip down Historic Route 66 in an RV

Established in 1926, Route 66 was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. The route, which for years was one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona; before ending in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California—covering a total of 2,448 miles.

 RVshaere is launching the sweepstakes to promote its “highly anticipated new offering”— one-way rentals, which will offer travelers more flexibility when planning an RV trip. One-way rentals will be available for booking this spring.

The company’s Historic Route 66 Road Trip Sweepstakes runs through March 20, and comes with a ten-day one-way, Class C RV rental to accommodate 5-7 people to drive from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, to Las Vegas.

The four winners selected can take their time enjoying iconic spots like the Carthage Drive-In Movie in Missouri, the Route 66 Museum in Oklahoma and Cadillac Ranch in Texas.

Winners will be able to pick up their RVs between April 22 and April 26, and they will have up to 21 nights to enjoy and return them. Each winner also will receive a check for $1,000 to cover travel expenses.

“RV travel is becoming increasingly popular among families and groups looking for an affordable and alternative way to travel,” said Jon Gray, CEO of RVshare. “We’re excited to offer this experience for renters to easily get on the road to explore bucket list destinations … on Route 66.”

To enter the sweepstakes visit RVshare.com. Eligible participants may only enter once.

Research contact: @RVshare

As McDonald’s loses EU trademark, Burger King slyly advertises, ‘Like a Big Mac, but actually big.’

February 13, 2019

After McDonald’s lost its trademark for the Big Mac in the European Union on January 15, Burger King in Sweden revamped its menu in a snarky hat tip to the rival fast-food chain. Imitation, it turns out, is also the sincerest form of trolling, The Washington Post reported on February 11.

The trademark was ceded to Irish entrepreneur Pat McDonagh, whose fast-food chain, Supermac’s, won the landmark legal battle against McDonald’s. The Galway-based firm persuaded the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to cancel McDonald’s’ use of the “Big Mac” trademark, opening the way for Supermac to expand across Britain and continental Europe.

It also left the way clear for Burger King—maker of the grilled Whopper—to have some fun with its global competitor.

In early February, the Post reports, Swedish outposts of Burger King featured menus with names grounded in Big Mac comparisons, including: “The Kind of Like a Big Mac, but Juicier and Tastier” and “The Big Mac-ish but Flame-Grilled Of Course.

Other options were even more derogatory, the DC-based news outlet said—among them: “The Burger Big Mac Wished It Was” and “The Anything But a Big Mac.”

“It’s too much fun for us to stay away,” said Iwo Zakowski, CEO of Burger King’s Swedish operation, according to report by The Guardian.

Burger King’s marketing campaign was created by Stockholm-based ad agency INGO. The agency released a video of customers awkwardly navigating the newly renamed menu to announce the campaign.

And as for Supermac’s, “We’re delighted,” McDonagh told The Guardian, adding, “It’s a unique victory when you take on the Golden Arches and win.”

In a statement provided to The Washington Post, McDonald’s said it plans to appeal the EUIPO decision.

“We are disappointed in the EUIPO’s decision and believe this decision did not take into account the substantial evidence submitted by McDonald’s proving use of our BIG MAC mark throughout Europe. We intend to appeal the decision and are confident it will be overturned by the EUIPO Board of Appeals,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding today’s decision, McDonald’s owns full and enforceable trademark rights for the mark ‘BIG MAC’ throughout Europe.”

Research contact: taylor.telford@washpost.com

Ashton Kusher-backed Calm app is valued at $1B

February 7, 2019

Calm.com—the San Francisco-based startup that claims to have become the number-one app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation since it began doing business in 2017—has been valued at $1 billion in a funding round led by TPG Growth, the company announced on February 6.

According to Bloomberg, Calm raised $88 million in the round, which included existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, as well as Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency.

The funding makes San Francisco-based Calm a major player in the wellness industry—or, as the company says, the World’s First Mental Health Unicorn. (It joins the ranks of 312 other U.S. startups that have been valued at $1 billion or more and are known as “unicorns.”)

The Calm website says that the app “helps users cope with some of the most important mental health issues of the modern age-including anxiety, stress, and insomnia.”  Among its popular features are:

  • The Daily Calm, a ten-minute meditation guided by the company’s Head of Mindfulness Tamara Levitt;
  • Sleep Stories, soothing bedtime tales for adults read by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Fry, and Leona Lewis;
  • MasterClass: A series of audio classes taught by mindfulness experts; and
  • Music: Exclusive music to help users focus, relax, and sleep.

Companies such as mindfulness app Headspace and meditation wearable maker Muse have also raised money from VCs, although at lower valuations, Bloomberg reports.

“Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century,” co-founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer Michael Acton Smith said in a statement. His co-founder and co-CEO, Alex Tew, added that the company would prioritize spending on international growth and creating new content.

The app has been downloaded more than 40 million times, it said in a statement, and it has more than one million paying subscribers.

Research contact: @calm

Gwyneth Paltrow signs with Netflix for Goop original content

February 5, 2019

Goop—the lifestyle and wellness juggernaut founded a decade ago by actress, fashionista, and social influencer Gwyneth Paltrow—is expanding its original content with a new docuseries on Netflix; an exclusive podcast partnership with Delta Airlines; and a slew of programming centered around beauty, food, and books, Variety reported exclusively on February 4.

But can you be populist and inspirational while touting $995 wireless headphones and $2,780 handbags? The new sponsors seem to think so.

Still untitled, Goop’s streaming series will hit Netflix next fall, comprising 30-minute episodes hosted by the site’s editors, chief content officer Elise Loehnen and Paltrow. The team will talk to experts, doctors, and researchers to examine issues relating to physical and spiritual wellness.

We were speaking to the platform question, and where our people are. They’re watching Netflix. Some of the more strategic, bigger stories we want to tell require a TV budget. Obviously, there’s no better partner in that,” Loehnen told Variety of the deal.

Loehnen’s content team of about 20 will work on shaping the series with Netflix, which she said seeks to dial up the aesthetics and quality of storytelling surrounding issues like mental, physical and sexual health — and address larger thematic questions the Goop audience has about leading optimal lives. It doesn’t hurt that Paltrow knows her way around a Hollywood set. The actress has appeared in over 40 films, including Avengers: Endgame, coming in April.

“Gwyneth is a highly visual, tactile person. The quality of everything that we produce is very important to her,” Loehnen said. “She’s always looking for white space. Whether it’s developing physical products or thinking of content. With this show, I think she’s only really interested in opportunities where we can uniquely be ourselves and do things potentially disruptive.”

Goop’s eponymous podcast also has signed an exclusive distribution deal with Delta Airlines. The podcast is hosted by Paltrow and Loehnen, and was one of the iTunes store’s most-downloaded in 2018. Beginning in February, eight episodes will stream on 600 Delta planes and push the show’s reach to over 18 million listeners, the company said. The inaugural batch will include a one-on-one conversation between Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey.

In addition to Netflix and Delta, Goop is developing standalone podcasts with in-house beauty expert Jean Godfrey-June (whom, Loehnen said, is the most popular staffer at the company’s Santa Monica offices), a food program hosted by an award-winning chef, and a Goop book club featuring author interviews and reviews.

In light of the digital content ramp-up, Goop will pause production on its quarterly print magazine and resume publication after the Netflix series hits.

Research contact: @MattDonnelly

MLB uniforms and footwear will feature the Nike Swoosh starting in 2020

January 28, 2019

Major League Baseball, Nike and Fanatics have announced a new ten-year global partnership that makes Nike the official uniform and footwear supplier of MLB starting in the 2020 season.

The new cooperation among the three organizations will provide Major League Baseball players with on-field uniforms developed by Nike’s team of designers and will provide fans with the widest assortment of MLB fan gear ever, manufactured and distributed by Fanatics.

Starting in 2020, on-field uniforms will feature the Nike Swoosh, along with base-layer, game-day outerwear and all training apparel for the 30 MLB clubs.

Fanatics has been granted broad consumer product licensing rights to manage the manufacturing and distribution of the Nike MLB Authentic Collection, as well as Nike and Fanatics fan gear, sold through the retail community, including MLBShop.com, MLB clubs and brick & mortar stores.

Enhancing both assortment and speed-to-market of MLB products, Fanatics will use its vertical commerce model to create and distribute a wide range of MLB fan apparel sold at retail, including jerseys, Postseason apparel, and hot market gear that captures the latest events happening on the field.

“Nike’s global brand and reputation as a leader in marketing and driving innovation makes them an ideal partner,” said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “In addition, Fanatics is a valuable partner [that] has proven to serve our fans with speed, agility and quality service. We’re very excited about the possibilities this unique arrangement provides us over the next decade.”

In addition, Nike will continue as an official MLB sponsor, supporting league initiatives, grassroots marketing and fan events. Nike, as part of the new agreement, will partner with all 30 MLB Clubs and promote its brand and products across MLB media assets including MLB Network, MLB.com, and MLB Social.

Nike currently has endorsement relationships with over 500 MLB and Minor League players including Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, George Springer, José Ramirez, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Javier Báez and Nolan Arenado to name a few.

“We’re thrilled to bring more innovation and creativity to Major League Baseball and the incredible athletes who play the game,” said Tom Peddie, VP/GM of Nike North America. “This is an exciting time for baseball, and we look forward to partnering with MLB to grow the sport both across America as well as around the globe”

“Given the continued rise in real-time demand by both fans and retailers, this three-way partnership will ensure MLB fans always have access to the products they crave regardless how, where or when they want to shop,” said Fanatics Founder and Executive Chairman Michael Rubin. “This progressive approach around joining forces between an elite performance brand and the innovative vertical capabilities of Fanatics continues to be the future model for licensed sports merchandise.”

Research contact: @MLB

As spending on consumer drug advertising skyrockets, experts advise ‘healthy skepticism’

January 24, 2019

If you spend any time watching television, you are bound to see “real people” who appear to be healthy and happy bicycling down the road, hugging a grandchild, walking on the beach, or working in the garden. They mention the consonant-heavy name of a pharmaceutical drug you could use. “Ask your doctor, “an announcer suggests, after spouting the product’s benefits—and speed-talking her way through a scary list of side effects.

And it’s not just one ad; it’s several per prime-time show: A recently televised sporting event, for example, featured one ad for a drug to help you fall asleep, followed by another to keep you awake, according to an editorial in JAMA  that was written by Howard Bauchner, M.D., and Phil B. Fontanarosa, M.D., (who are, respectively, the editor and executive editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association).

Indeed, according to a Dartmouth College study, over a 20-year period, from 1997 through 2016, drug marketing increased dramatically—from $17.7 billion to $29.9 billion; while regulation did not.

“Because the goal of medical marketing is to shape our perceptions of the benefits and harms of drugs, treatments, and even of diseases, themselves, it can have a very significant impact on healthcare and can even hamper efforts to control unsustainable healthcare spending,” says Dartmouth Institute Professor for Health Policy and Clinical Practice Steven Woloshin, MD, who co-authored the paper with his wife and longtime research partner, the late Professor Lisa Schwartz, MD. (Dr. Schwartz passed away in November 2018).

In their review of spending, Schwartz and Woloshin found that the most rapid increase was in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, which increased from $2.1 billion (11.9% of total spending) in 1997 to $9.6 billion (32% of total spending) in 2016. 

Over the same time period, the total amount consumers spent out-of-pocket on their prescription medication also skyrocketed to $328.6 billion from $116.5 billion (after industry rebates and discounts), the study found.

Why the explosion in drug ads over the past 20 years? The study notes that in 1997 the Food and Drug Administration began allowing drugs ads to mention side effects with voice-overs, instead of scrolling through a visual list on the screen, which takes more time. Shorter ads can allow for more ads, says Dr. Woloshin.

Another possible explanation is that at the same time that drug companies are spending more on drug ads directed at consumers, they’re also spending more marketing the new drugs to physicians, says Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D., an associate professor in the department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University who has studied drug advertising. That can increase “irrational prescribing and overuse of medication,” Dr. Fugh-Berman recently told Consumer Reports.

Perhaps the most important reason for the increase: “The ads work,” Woloshin says. “They increase patient requests and prescriptions for advertised drugs, even when there are lower-cost alternatives.”

Indeed, Consumer Reports notes, numerous studies suggest that drug ads increase healthcare costs by promoting higher-cost medications when lower-cost, older ones might work as well.

In recent years, the consumer-oriented news outlet reports, many TV drug ads have focused on expensive drugs used to treat relatively uncommon, and hard to treat, conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, rare cancers, and seizures, according to figures from Kantar Media for the year ending in October 2018.

What’s an inundated consumer to do? The magazine warns, those sorts of pricey meds may not be covered by your insurance, especially if you get insurance through your employer. A 2017 survey of employers by the Pharmacy Benefits Management Institute found that when it came to high-cost medications, most of the insurers required a person to try other medications first, required a person to obtain approval from the insurer for expensive medications before filling a prescription, or limited the amount of the drug a person could obtain. Fully 75% of employer plans simply did not cover certain drugs, including high-cost drugs, according to the survey.

There are alternatives, Consumer Reports advises: For complicated medical conditions, which may necessitate higher-cost medications, work with your physician and insurance plan to find covered treatments. Also check NeedyMeds for the drug you’re being prescribed to see what Patient Assistance Programs, manufacturer coupons, or other discounts might be available.

Research contact: steven.woloshin@dartmouth.edu

Netflix hikes prices on subscription plans

January 15, 2019

As the old saying goes, “You pays your money and you takes your choice”—and that’s certainly true for Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California-based streaming video service has just raised prices for all of its subscription plans—a move that will enable the company to continue its aggressive spending on content in the face of stepped-up competition from rivals, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Netflix will increase the price of its most popular plan by 18%—to $13 a month from $11. That plan allows users to stream from two screens at the same time. The most basic plan, which allows a single stream in standard definition, will go up one dollar, or 13%, to $9 a month.

“We change pricing from time to time as we continue investing in great entertainment and improving the overall Netflix experience for the benefit of our members,” a Netflix spokesperson told the Journal.

The new rates will go into effect immediately for new customers and be applied to the accounts of existing customers in the next few months, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Netflix last raised prices in October 2017, when the standard plan increased $1, to $11 a month; and the premium plan went up $2,  to $14.

The increase in monthly subscriber fees comes as Netflix continues to spend heavily to woo talent to its streaming service. Already, it has cut long-term deals costing hundreds of millions of dollars with powerful Hollywood producers—among them, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

Indeed, the Journal reports, industry analysts expect Netflix this year will spend $12 billion on licensing and creating content, more than double what it spent just two years ago.

Research contact: joe.flint@wsj.com