BOBS: Skechers’ Blatant Rip-Off of TOMS

This past weekend I saw a TV commercial about BOBS by Skechers, a shoe that almost looks like a slipper yet comes in a variety of cool colours and patterns. But what is really interesting about this is that they will give one pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe that is sold! Does this sound a little familiar – ’cause it should.

Ever heard of a little brand called TOMS? TOMS has steadily risen in popularity since it’s launch a few years ago and it seems to be growing at a steady pace. Their main claim to fame was the One-to-One model which means that for every pair of TOMS sold, the company would give one pair of shoes to children in need. Soon TOMS became the model company and consumers started to really take notice. Apparently Skechers did too – maybe a little too much.

Exhibit A: Take a look at the two shoes side by side.

TOMS vs BOBS

Now I’m no genius, but it seems to me that Skecher’s may have copied TOMS.

Ok so what’s the marketing side of this?

Well, one could argue that Skechers is being a smart second mover into the market and could capitalize on TOMS’ mistakes. But that can easily be dismissed by TOMS’ huge market share and brand equity. As a first mover, TOMS’ advantages are far too great for Skecher’s to be truly competitive.  One could also argue that Skechers is trying to use this as a CSR initiative because they truly want to help, but I’m skeptical of that too. From what I know about TOMS, their owner created this idea after a trip abroad and seeing so many children without shoes. That’s a genuine business built off of a need that was identified.

I’ve tried to do some digging on BOBS but I have yet to read a similar story about a Skechers’ exec going abroad and witnessing the need first-hand. Maybe I’m wrong and a Skechers’ exec actually did that, but for now I don’t think that ever happened. After reading another blog about this topic, I found out that BOBS or Skechers doesn’t actually give away any shoes – they make a donation to a charity called Soles4Souls.

I think that the true intent behind BOBS by Skechers is profit. They noticed a trend in the market driven by one company, TOMS. Instead of trying to find a creative way to compete and earn some of the market, they took the lazy route and did EXACTLY THE SAME THING. This is truly a rip-off of the TOMS brand and a very sad attempt to earn more revenue by a major corporation. Skechers is a huge company and they have millions of dollars to work with, yet they stole a philanthropic idea from a relatively small company. Skechers couldn’t even come up with a different design or a more unique name! Shame on Skechers!

Personally, I would expect to find something like this from the Chinese fakes as  you commonly see with Apple products or high end goods. It’s not uncommon to see a knock-off with a similar sounding name and almost identical product in Asia. I have no idea how the people at Skechers think this is a good idea. In my opinion this is brand suicide!

I would think that consumers these days are able to tell the difference between good intentions (TOMS) and someone riding on the coat tails of good intentions (BOBS).  Maybe Skechers made BOBS so similar on purpose to confuse consumers and get them to mistakenly buy BOBS. Hopefully consumers are savvy enough to realize what Skechers is doing here and they will revolt. This is truly one of those “are you kidding me?” moments.

Ok, that’s my little rant on this topic. What do you guys think? Am I looking at this the wrong way?

-AK

The truth behind Apple’s new marketing

Hello again… I realize it’s been many months since I last posted but I’ve been busy on the job hunt and doing co-op work terms.

I haven’t been motivated to write anything lately but after seeing a flurry of Apple’s new TV ads, the wheels started turning in my head. For years and years, the focus of Apple’s marketing has been on the product and how it is superior to anything out there. The most famous of these were of course the Mac vs PC ads. Here’s a video that has some of those famous ads.

However recently I’ve noticed a very distinct change in Apple’s approach. They are no longer being that cocky, in-your-face brand that they used to be. Now they are trying to rebrand themselves as a local brand by having “Designed by Apple in California” in every single ad. They’re even carrying this California brand into their products by breaking from tradition and naming their new OSX “Mavericks” instead of a cat species. Sure this is a direct response to their main competitor, Samsung, not being American. But it is also a response to their Asian operations and the mass criticism they’ve received over the sweatshop controversy. It also attempts to dampen the fact that Apple outsources their labour to Asia, while Apple’s home country of America suffers through a massive unemployment crisis.

But it even goes beyond that.

Instead of focusing on their “superior” products, Apple’s new ads are now focusing on the experience that their products give the user.

Take a look

The Truth

The real reason why Apple has shifted it’s marketing strategy: Their products are no longer superior. Apple’s innovation has slowed over the last few years, largely in part to the death of Steve Jobs, and competitors like Samsung and Microsoft have caught up. Samsung has released some really cool products lately and their innovative technology is giving them increased market share. Look for a huge increase in integration among their product lines in the near future (another edge over Apple).

Apple knows this and that’s why they can’t do ads like they used to. So, how do you try to increase sales with products that aren’t blowing anyone away anymore? Through emotion and affect.

It’s known that a piece of marketing that elicits an emotional response from a consumer will improve brand perception and eventually get an increase in sales. Playing on the emotions of the consumer is one of the most effective forms of marketing because it establishes a connection between the brand and consumer that feels authentic. For the most part that’s true – but in the case of Apple, its just a tactic to try and make up for their lack of innovation. In a society that is increasingly tech-crazy and informed, I’m not sure how long this tactic will work with consumers.

For years Apple was saying “Look at what I can do, Look at what I can do! Its amazing right? Way better than anyone else!”

Now their dialogue has shifted to “It doesn’t matter that we aren’t the most innovative anymore, our products make you feel good right?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an Apple lover. I’ve got a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 4s and numerous iPods. But as a marketing student, I couldn’t let this one go. I think what they’re doing is smart since the majority of people won’t think too deeply about it, but it’s easy for a marketer to identify how and why they’re switching things up.

In summary: Apple can’t keep up with Samsung. So they have to rebrand their products to a “local” brand and change their advertisements to focus on experience rather than technology.

-AK

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Wisdom makes Facebook a Marketer’s Secret Weapon

In marketing, the end goal is to ultimately get your products to the correct customers. But identifying your target customers and choosing the correct communication channels has never been an easy task. However, the digital age has created an opportunity for companies to leverage existing information to the marketer’s advantage.

In my e-Marketing class, a representative from MicroStrategy came to talk to us about their Wisdom Facebook App. For a marketer this software is like amazing secret weapon that can change the game, but for regular consumers this may seem a little scary. The Wisdom app scans every page on Facebook for available information and provides comprehensive data to market researchers. The software is able to interpret your page likes, biography, geographical and career information into useful information to marketers that will enable them to have more successful campaigns. The information can be filtered by location, gender, age, education and other psychographics to provide the user with the most accurate picture of their target consumers. Another great thing about the software is that they display the information in a very appealing way and its makes  data interesting to look at.

 

From the demographic information gathered by the software, the user is able to identify popular trends among the target audience based on the other Facebook pages that they like. Art, Books, Companies, Games, Entertainment, Sports, Music, People and Television are among the different categories which marketers can extract information from. Using this technology, marketers will be able to identify who their customers are and what their other interests are. Not only does it measure the pages that Facebook users like, it also measures their affinity toward that page as well which offers marketers much more value than basic likes. Affinity is measured by the amount of interaction that the Facebook user has with that specific page.This can be used to help marketers choose the appropriate media outlets to use and how best to communicate to their customers. For example if it is identified that Coke customers enjoy watching Family Guy on television and are avid hockey fans, it may effect the strategy of Cokes marketing team. Another great aspect of this technology is that you have the ability to view information for two different companies at the same time. So that means Coke’s marketing team can see when Pepsi will be reaching out to their customers, and that can provide an opportunity for Coke to run their advertisements as well.

Heres a demo video of Wisdom Pro, its a little long but its easy enough to skip through

Many people were wondering why Facebook is so valuable. I mean, after all its just a bunch of people on the internet. But thats exactly why it valuable, especially if there is software like Wisdom out there. It allows marketers to obtain instant information about any consumers of an industry, when usually it would take much more time and effort. Facebook users constantly put more information about themselves and their interests on their page, and Wisdom is finally making that information useful. It’s a marketers dream tool that makes their lives so much easier. Now there more information available to help their campaigns be more effective and targeted towards a more specific audience.

As a consumer this may seem really, really creepy. Anyone who pays for the app will have access to the information on your Facebook page right? Well its not as bad as it seems. Wisdom and their customers only have access to your information if you agree to grant them permission or if one of your friends does by liking the app. Also, if you have very relaxed security settings then your information can be accessed easily. So if you dont want people you dont know look at your page, its time to change those settings! But in the end, this is really for everyone’s benefit. Marketers will be able to do their job more efficiently, while consumers will be able to get the products they want and be communicated to in the most effective way. This not the first technology of its kind, in fact it may be among hundreds of software offering the same idea. However this is a great example of how Facebook can be leveraged by a secret weapon available to marketers and is something to look for in the future.

-AK

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What’s the big deal with Blogs?

When thinking about the topic for the next blog post, I pretty much drew a blank. After spending an hour or so trying to find something to write about, I came up empty. Then I thought to myself, why do we blog anyways? Whats the big deal? Then the lightbulb turned on in my head. Voila! That’s what I should blog about.

So here I am now, writing a blog post about blogs. Its amazing how you discover something productive when you least expect it.

Ok so back to those two initial questions I asked myself. Why do people write blogs in the first place? Why is it such a big deal, or more importantly, is it a big deal? After doing more thinking about this topic I came to a few conclusions.

Why do people blog?

1. To speak their minds.

Many people create blogs so they have a place to freely express themselves. Unlike Facebook or Twitter or any other social media outlet, blogging can be anonymous and completely non-judgemental. Anyone can easily create a blog and start writing. But its also just as easy for your blog to go unnoticed. And thats the beauty of it. You can be free to write whatever you want without the inhibitions of peer pressure or how your social networks will react. There are no guidelines or expectations in blogs, You determine your content. In the end, a blog is an insignificant speck in the online universe. It just depends on if someone finds it, and wants to read it.

2. To share expertise and insights

There are endless blogs created by experts (whether endorsed or not) sharing their opinions and insights about a particular industry. This is the same in sports, business, the arts, politics, etc. The bloggers take to the online forums to spread their knowledge to their readers, that is if they have any. More often then not, these bloggers are actually valuable and do have useful information to pass on. Whether it be a review, a reinterpretation, a quick thought or opinion, most of the time the expert blogs have a big effect on their loyal readers. As more people look to the internet to gather information, blogs are becoming an increased resource for consumers. And the experts are taking note.

So what?

1. They add value

Expanding on my last point about experts, blogs can add value. In the case of an expert in an industry, large amounts of information can be shared and gained through blogs. Instead of writing books or constantly appearing on television, many experts invest their time and knowledge into blogs. Also, the speed at which blogs can be written offers a great tool for the experts to share their expertise about current events and popular topics as they arrive. Furthermore, I also mentioned earlier that an increasing amount of people look to the internet to gather information. Blogs are a gold mine for information, especially if they are written by a reputable author or expert in an industry. If someone is looking for the latest trends in technology they can always rely on Blog X, or if someone wants to know a review for a movie, look for the blog of a reliable movie critic. Blogs can be written by anyone, but it just depends on if people really want to read what you have to say. And if you’re a so-called expert or someone with something valuable to say, Blogs are a valuable weapon in your arsenal.

2. They create discussion

Once someone writes a blog and assuming people care what they have to say, chances are people will talk about it. It is very common for bloggers to cite each other and build on, or oppose what the original author had to say. This is a very valuable attribute about blogs. This is hardly revolutionary in the world of opinions, but the speed and the reach that is available through blogs is new. Anyone has the ability to read a blog and form a well versed critique or endorsement of a particular topic. Healthy discussions can arise out of a single blog post, and its a great way to view other opinions. In many cases the responses to the original blog are very valuable, and are a useful tool for business. It’s very easy to see the sentiment among users in the online world and how different people perceive a particular topic/item. Businesses are aware of this and many invest resources into monitoring blogs and the responses that follow. Its not uncommon for businesses to comment on a blog these days.

In conclusion, Blogs are a medium for people to express their thoughts, opinions, knowledge and insights to the cyber world. Although there are many blogs that are essentially useless, there are also many blogs that add value to our lives and are instrumental in the decisions that people make or opinions that people form. Blogs have the power to reach out to businesses and sway perceptions. In the end, Blogs are a big deal and they should be taken seriously. Whether they are about the latest trends in business or an opinion about an advertisement, someone is bound to read it and one seemingly insignificant blog post may turn out to be something huge.

-AK

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What does the iPad Mini Mean to Marketers?

Ok so whats the big deal with the iPad Mini? It’s just a smaller version of the lastest iPad, theres nothing else radically different about it right? Well the answer is both yes and no. For the average person the iPad hasn’t changed other than the size. But for marketers thats what makes the new iPad Mini so much better.

The big selling point for the last few generations of iPads was it’s small size and ease of portability. However, most users rarely took their iPads away from a stationary spot such as their living rooms or their business. The reason for this is because the size of the iPads were simply too big to be taken “on-the-go.” They were awkward and needed two hands to be used which made it’s portability questionable. No one wants to be seen with walking around with a huge iPad in their hands. So Apple recently came out with the new iPad Mini to make it easier to take your iPad with you wherever you go.

Why does this matter to marketers you ask? Well like I said before, the old iPads were barely taken “on-the-go” with their users. Although it was supposed to change the way marketers interacted with their audience, it was really just another medium to supply the same old marketing messages. However, the iPad Mini will change this. Now that more users will take their iPads around with them, marketers will be able to harness mobile marketing. The iPad Minis offer marketers a truly mobile platform to present their brand to users. Now marketers can be interactive and offer advertisements based on the locations of the user. It provides a better touchpoint that marketers can use to influence the consumer’s decision journey. I know this is hardly revolutionary since this is already happening with smart phones, but the bigger screens and better technology in the iPad Minis provide a much better medium to advertisers. They wont need to shrink their ads or messages down to a size that fits a smartphone. The size of the iPad Mini gives advertisers the perfect sized canvas to paint a picture of their brand.

The more mobile capable iPad Mini will be beneficial for users too. It will allow them to be spontaneous and act on an ad that just popped up on their screen, targeted to their exact location. Or it can disrupt the user’s original purchasing decision and get them to change instantly after seeing an advertisement. Who knows, maybe this will get users to try new things in their city that they never had before.

The big selling point of the iPad Mini to marketers is that its going to allow you to do exactly what the other iPad was supposed to do: reach customers while they are active and on-the-go.

-AK

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American Apparel’s Marketing Disaster

This week has been tough on the Eastern coast of North America. Hurricane Sandy has slammed the Eastern seaboard with extreme weather causing unprecedented flooding and billions of dollars in damage. It has also claimed the lives of many people, and the numbers are rising. It has been a tragic situation and has captivated the world. This is something that has serious implications and should not be taken lightly. But that’s exactly what one company did.

American Apparel took advantage of the disaster and used it as a promotional tool. Over the weekend they sent out an email to their members featuring the “Sandy Sale”, a promotion that gave customers 20% off everything in the next 36 hours.

They specifically targeted the states highlighted in red, which by no coincidence were the same states being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Needless to say, this promotion is highly distasteful and does not respect the gravity of the situation. They took advantage of a serious situation and tried to turn it into a business opportunity. But this isn’ t the first time something like this has happened. Kenneth Cole did something similar during the Arab Spring. Immediately massive amounts of people took to social media to express their feelings about American Apparel’s move. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over so well with people and they expressed their distaste towards the brand, some even stating they will boycott American Apparel from now on.

This is a prime example of communications gone wrong, and its had a very negative impact on the brand. The twitterverse has been alive with people ranting over the horrible ads. Relating this back to my previous blogs, I think American Apparel should be worried about the impact that this will have. But the thing is, they probably aren’t. They’ve had trouble in the past with their racy advertisements and their marketing tactics are always “toeing the line” of decency. I know they always want to make an impact with their marketing, but this is too far. They definitely need to change their corporate policies and shake up their marketing department.

As this social storm rages on, it will only get bigger and more people will begin having a negative sentiment towards the brand. Furthermore, American Apparel has not done any triage at all. They haven’t released a statement defending or apologizing for their actions. Big mistake. I thnk that if theyi had  come out and said something by now, people may have been more forgiving. But now I think that opportunity has passed and their brand will suffer. This time American Apparel went too far and it may be something they may not be able to recover from.

-AK

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BodyForm understands Social Media’s Importance

Over the last week or so, BodyForm has been generating a lot of buzz online. For those who have been living under a rock lately BodyForm, a British feminine hygiene company, responded to a post on their Facebook page from an individual named Richard. Here is what he wrote:

As a guy, I found this to be pretty funny and ridiculous since he was calling BodyForm out. We all know that females are an adventure during “their time”… but not in a good way. However, BodyForm’s response was even better.

BodyForm did a great job monitoring online, its clear that the “get it” when it comes to Social Media. My last few blog posts have talked about the importance of monitoring and allocating resources to Social Media for customer service. This is exactly what I was talking about. Although it may not have been a crucial customer complaint, they did a great job becoming aware of the post and recognizing the opportunity to respond. They used humour to take a cheeky “customer” complaint and turn it into a PR gem. As a result, this video has spread across the internet and now a lot more people know who BodyForm is. BodyForm clearly had a triage system set up, and it worked.

However, I am skeptical of a few things. First, is this real or just a PR stunt? For all we know, Richard could be a fake account created by an employee of BodyForm. Second, why bother responding to Richard’s post. He isn’t the target market of BodyForm and would never use their products, so what was the point of this? Sure it created lots of buzz but is it really effective at reaching out to women. BodyForm’s response seemed like it was targeted to men and attempted to educate them. I don’t see the connection between this and increasing BodyForm’s sales among women. Lastly, from what I am aware of, this is quite a radical change in BodyForm’s past advertisement or communication strategies. Now BodyForm can’t undo this and they have to keep it up. They can’t go back to their old, boring and more mainstream ads. BodyForm will now have to alter their communications strategy to be coherent. Look for more interesting BodyForm advertisements on the horizon.

-AK

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Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

As I was perusing Brian Solis’ Blog, I came across an interesting article regarding the investments that businesses allocate towards social media and customer service.

It isn’t a secret that Social Media is becoming a major part of business and an increasingly important tool to interact with your consumers. A recent study found that 71% of businesses reported using Social Media for customer service, and 87.5% of them experienced positive impacts. Obviously this is good. However, as consumers get more connected, the businesses are lagging behind in keeping up with the trend. Companies are not making the appropriate investments in social media to align with the expectations of their customers.

A whopping 77.6% of businesses invested less than $50,000 in social media customer service. Although everyone realizes the importance of social media to their business, they aren’t doing anything about it. Only 7% devote over $250,000 to their social media customer service strategies.

And the lack of investment is really reflected in the amount of customer service issues handled through social media. 41% of businesses handle under 5% of their customer service issues on social media. This just doesn’t make sense. As more consumers take to social media to express their feelings and experiences, shouldn’t businesses devote more resources to social media as well? As I mentioned in a previous blog post, consumers are more influenced by what their peers say online. If companies are more active and responsive to what is happening in the cyber world , it can change the way consumers perceive the brand and influence sales.

Furthermore, just putting more time and money into social media isn’t enough. There needs to be a process or a plan for employees to follow when interacting through social media. If there is a well defined action plan and more autonomy given to employees, it will allow the company to increase response times while providing a consistent and coherent message to its online community.

-AK

Using Hashtags for Awareness

What is a hashtag? A useless part of Twitter, a tool for categorization, or something that no one really understands but just follows suit? Well DDB New York is taking a well known hashtag on Twitter and turning it into an awareness campaign.

#FirstWorldPains or #FirstWorldProblems are ironic hashtags which people use to describe trivial burdens suffered by those in the first world. People use these hashtags in humour because first world problems, such as having too many food choices or only having water to drink, aren’t really problems at all. Ridiculous as it is, it has become one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter. Yet, from what I understand, the irony isn’t lost on those who use it. Most people are fully aware that these problems are outlandish and that’s what makes it so funny. The problem is, nothing is being done about real problems.

DDB New York has teamed up with Water is Life to create a campaign aimed at raising awareness for clean water around the world. The campaign are a series of videos where impoverished Haitians recite ridiculous #FirstWorldProblems tweets and at the end a sentence reading “#FirstWorldProblems are not problems. Donate to help bring clean water to those in need” is shown on the screen. There is also a video where a Haitian responds to a #FirstWorldProblems tweet sent out by somebody.

Take a look for yourself

I think this is a brilliant move. It takes something that has become so familiar in many people’s lives and shines a new light on it. Many people use the hashtag all the time yet they forget the purpose behind the hashtag. This campaign totally changes that.

What I really love is how DDB New York monitored social media and listened to to what consumers were saying. They realized a trend and spun it in a totally different direction. It shows how diverse of a tool Social Media is to marketers. It can be used, negatively or positively, as part of the feedback loop, can be used as a search for information or opinions, and as shown here, it can be used to generate ideas and identify trends in the market. I think this is a very smart campaign and I think it will become very, very successful.

-AK

Listen Up!

In today’s society, the traditional marketing funnels and channels have gone out the window. Throughout the past decade, the rise of social media has changed the way that consumers gain and share information about brands, products, and experiences. McKinsey’s new interpretation of the traditional marketing funnel illustrates a cyclical and more current consumer purchase decision journey.

Social media has an impact on all six of those decision stages, however it is the Advocate stage that should be monitored closely. Consumers can become both positive and negative advocates of your brand, and through social media, that message can spread like wildfire. One person’s opinion can be seen by their numerous friends or followers, which can then be shared among even more people, creating a ripple effect across the digital universe. Savvy consumers increasingly rely on social media to gain information about a subject because it is more truthful and unfiltered than going to a brand’s website where the message can be skewed and altered to benefit the brand. Therefore, when someone posts about your brand on a social media website it can have profound effects on all stages of the customer decision journey. One bad review can take your brand out of a consumer’s consideration set, and can prevent a sale from being made.

As Brian Solis explains, this is why it is so important to listen to your consumers and to have a strategy for responding to them.

He notes that younger consumers are posting their initial gut reactions to Twitter or Facebook before even searching for solutions for their problems. This is problematic and he uses this point to support his call for brands to monitor online conversations about their brand and create a “triage” protocol.

If a dissatisfied consumer posts a negative comment about your brand on social media, a good monitoring system will be able to put the fire out before it gets out of hand and spreads. A successful “triage” system will be able to possibly get the dissatisfied individual to reconsider their opinions of the brand and try purchasing again, and prevent any further damage to the brand. More importantly, even if the problem cannot be entirely fixed, at least the consumer knows that the brand is listening and cares about them. A good example of a Social Media triage system was created by the Altimeter Group and can be found here.

Although very important, implementing a monitoring system isn’t all about PR. Monitoring can be used to gain further insights about consumers and the way they interact with your brand, identify trends, and ensure that the intended marketing messages are effective at reaching their goals.

Successful brands will need to implement some sort of social media monitoring system to remain competitive and to prevent any detrimental PR effects. After all, no one wants to be United Airlines…who breaks guitars.

– AK

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