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Providing Shoppers With Brand-Specific Recommendations Differentiates Big Box Electronics Retailers From Mass Merchant Stores During the Big Screen TV

J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Providing Shoppers With Brand-Specific Recommendations Differentiates Big Box Electronics Retailers From Mass Merchant Stores During the Big Screen TV Shopping Proce

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., March 12 /PRNewswire/

-- Shoppers who visit big box retailers for big screen televisions (sets with screens measuring 40 inches or larger) are more likely to receive recommendations of specific TV brands than
are shoppers at mass merchandise stores, according to the J.D. Power and
Associates and Market Force Information Television Retailer Insights(SM) report.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050527/LAF028LOGO-a)

The report, produced jointly by J.D. Power and Associates and Market Force
Information, compiles the findings of more than 8,000 anonymous mystery
shoppers who shopped at more than 4,500 electronics retailers during 2008. The
mystery shopping research investigates salespersons' product knowledge and the
types of recommendations they make to customers.
The report finds that salespersons at big box retailers (such as Best Buy and
HH Gregg) tend to provide brand-specific recommendations to big screen TV
shoppers much more often than do salespeople at mass merchandisers (such as
Walmart and Target). A wide majority of salespersons in big box retail stores
will recommend a specific TV brand, with an average of 86 percent of
salespeople providing recommendations for LCD-type sets and 77 percent
providing brand recommendations for plasma TVs. However, even when shoppers
specifically request brand recommendations, a high percentage of salespersons
at mass merchant stores fail to provide any type of brand-specific
recommendation to shoppers. Among salespersons at mass merchandise stores, 51
percent declined to recommend a specific brand of plasma TV and 22 percent
declined to provide a brand recommendation for an LCD set.
Among salespersons who provide shoppers with brand recommendations for LCD
televisions, 37 percent recommend Samsung, while 30 percent recommend Sony.
Among salespersons who provide brand recommendations for plasma TVs, 36 percent
recommend Panasonic sets.
"Manufacturers and retailers can both benefit from increasing employee
training to make their salespersons more knowledgeable about the features and
benefits of each brand, which, in turn, will make sales staff better able to
address the needs and questions of shoppers--ultimately leading to a more
satisfying shopping experience," said Lawrence Wu, senior director of the
technology practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "The fact that many
salespersons fail to provide any brand recommendations to big screen TV
shoppers represents an opportunity for manufacturers to increase their brand recognition."
The report also finds that recommendations of plasma display sets by
salespersons increased considerably between the first and fourth quarters of
2008. During the first three months of 2008, approximately 17 percent of
salespersons recommended plasma big screen televisions to shoppers. This
increased to 26 percent between October and December 2008.
"During the past year, there has been a considerable increase in the
frequency of salespeople articulating key advantages of plasma TVs, including
smooth motion of fast-moving objects, better color and deeper blacks,"
said Wu.
The report finds that sales staff at big box retailers are far more likely to
inform big screen television shoppers of services the store offers--such as
delivery and installation--as well as other competitive advantages. For
example, nearly 60 percent of salespersons at big box retailers mention that
the store offers television installation services. In contrast, 45 percent of
television salespersons at mass merchants do not mention to shoppers any extra
services or advantages of making a purchase at their store.
The top five reasons for purchasing a big screen TV at a big box store, as
mentioned by salespersons, are installation services, financing, special sale
pricing, price matching and delivery. Although salespersons at mass merchants
mention advantages of purchasing at their stores infrequently, when advantages
are mentioned they tend to center around low prices, flexible return policies
and low sales pressure.
"Although low prices are important to shoppers, the importance of good
customer service cannot be overlooked, particularly in the current economic
environment," said Karl Maier, chief executive officer of Market Force.
"While mass merchant chains often have a reputation for having the lowest
prices, shoppers who are looking to receive the greatest value for their money
may turn to big box retailers, where they can also receive delivery,
installation and financing services as well as price-matching guarantees."

About Market Force Information
Market Force Information Inc. is the leading global customer experience
information and insights company for multi-location businesses including major
retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions,
entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods companies. With more than 120
years of combined industry experience, Market Force Information has pioneered
the industry with a suite of customer experience information solutions - from
300,000 field associates, to real customer surveys, to proprietary decision
support tools - that provides a holistic view of the customer's on-site
experience and identifies the actions required at the store level to increase
customer loyalty and improve financial performance. For more information,
please visit: http://www.marketforce.com/.

About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a
global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors
including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, Web
intelligence and customer satisfaction. The company's quality and satisfaction
measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For
more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance,
health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit
JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The
McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies
Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global
information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial
services, education and business information markets through leading brands
such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and
J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40
countries. Sales in 2008 were $6.4 billion. Additional information is available
at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.

Media Relations Contacts:
John Tews; J.D. Power and Associates; Troy, Mich.; (248) 312-4119; media.relations@jdpa.com
Rushton McGarr; Market Force Information; Boulder, Colo., (303) 402-6916; press@marketforce.com

Just Noticeable Difference

Just Noticeable Difference (jnd) is a scientific term that describes the minimal amount of change in a stimulus it takes to be perceived. For example, how much louder does a sound have to get or how much heavier does an object have to be for you to notice the difference? But it may also be a good way to thinkabout the dynamic between audiences and brands. Psychologists have suggested that as much as 95 percent of human behavior is controlled by the unconscious mind; we are creatures of habit that learn quickly to tune out what we don’t need. So, in a sea of marketing sameness, audiences tend to ignore the familiar and pay attention only to what they notice as different. Just being wildly different for the sake of standing out, however, can sometimes be confusing for audiences. Often it’s a brand’s Just Noticeable Differences that audiences connect with most.

In today’s hyper-competitive world, standing out can often seem daunting. It’s important for brands to recognize the value of its Just Noticeable Differences when aiming to change audience perceptions. It’s a delicate balance between these improvements not getting noticed at all and being conspicuously uncharacteristic of the brand. The featured cases illustrate how minor change can challenge the status quo, increase recognition and successfully evolve and differentiate the brand.

iPod Headphones
The ultimate example of Just Noticeable Difference might be the iPod’s white headphones. Using white headphones to launch Apple’s mp3 player wasn’t merely disruptive for a category with commonly black headphones, it was also ownable as the iPod’s signature color. Further, the distinctive color publicly identified the consumer’s brand preference – a fact previously hidden in the consumer’s pocket–creating a tribe-like community and encouraging a wider audience to join the digital music revolution.

Target RX Packaging
Target revamped the conventional amber prescription bottle and replaced it with clear containers. The new pill bottles, dubbed ClearRX, were paired with six color-coded rings to help family members identify their drugs. These minor changes successfully marry function with intelligent design making it noticeably more user-friendly and safer (nearly 60 percent of prescription drugs are taken improperly as result of unclear labeling). Target’s prescription drug sales increased 14 percent in the first year after ClearRX’s launch.

BP “Beyond Petroleum”
To shake off its image of a traditional oil company and as part of its effort to be perceived as an energy provider committed to the environment and solar power, BP decided to move away from its inter-state shield to a Helios symbol in form of a green and yellow sunflower. Syncing the launch of the new logo with introducing a new corporate slogan “Beyond Petroleum” provided not only a meaningful definition of the company name but proved to be the Just Noticeable Difference for audiences to perceive BP as a company with bigger ideas for the future.

Is email messing with your productivity?

Did You Know ?

Direct Marketing as a Branding Tool

Every now and then I see an article in DMNews that challenges conventional marketing values. Such an article was co-authored in the February 23rd 2009 issue by Daniel Morel, CEO of Wunderman and John Gerzema, Chief Insights Officer, Young & Rubicam.
What drew me into the article was its title:
"Branding and response are the same."
Well now, for many marketers -- in particular brand marketers -- those are fighting words.
The article compares the economic meltdown with another crisis.

"We discovered the value that brands bring to a company's total business value are exaggerated. The financial markets attach more value to brands' worth when compared to the consumers who buy the brands ascribe."

They go on to name it the "brand bubble" that is twice the ascribed value of the entire sub prime mortgage market.

Their impressive research data show that "85% of brands are stagnant or eroding in brand differentiation." And of Interbrands top 100 valuable brands from 2004 through 2007, 45% are declining in consumer perceptions.

The most interesting part of this article was how the authors combined the two different disciplines of branding and direct marketing into a single strategy.

As marketers, many of us bought into the AIDA model of awareness, interest, desire and then action. So branding pushed the demand and direct marketing harvested the desire branding developed into a purchase action.

The authors contend that this linear model no longer works.
In other words, AIDA now occurs during the direct marketing messaging because consumers now act immediately to brand/direct response messages. "Direct response no longer exists at the end of the tunnel."

Direct marketing actually creates the messaging and imagery that contribute to the brand as it always has. Only now, the Internet has given direct response new influence in the marketing community. The Internet and it's live interactivity gave direct response its ultimate medium.

Now most marketing activities are driven by CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) and response.

In a very real sense, strong direct marketing programs have created the advertiser's reputation and product sell simultaneously from the beginning. But few in those early days were willing to ascribe that kind of mission to direct marketers.

Besides, branding is much bigger than brand advertising or direct marketing.
It is the culmination of the advertisers complete interaction with customers including customer service, phone answering systems, product quality, product warranties, market reputation and finally consistent positioning messages.

Direct marketing reveals much more about a company's true operating procedures and customer friendliness than a brand campaign.

Direct marketing includes offers, warranty information, shipping costs, refund policies, attitudes in the inbound and outbound telemarketing calls, email communications and so forth. All of these actions build or weaken brands. So direct marketing strategies go far beyond pure messaging.

Direct marketing interweaves with the advertiser's delivery of the brand on the ground where all of the action is.

In this new Internet world, companies like Zappos "created an Internet juggernaut with a call center and great product diversity that was at the heart of the brand." Several other examples are enumerated in the article.

The bottom line: direct marketing not only represents a potent branding tool, but it moves product all in a single integrated marketing strategy.

How important do you see direct marketing as a player in the brand arena? Does this article go too far?

creative vehicle designs

Creative toilets signage


Fitness First’s Weighty Advertising Campaign

and simple advertising campaign by Dutch agency N=5 for Fitness First. (Though you have to wonder - how much reality is too much reality?)

Origami In the Pursuit of Perfection


To tell the story of Japanese sports brand ASICS, Nordpol + Hamburg created this beautiful stop-motion movie showcasing the origami models of Mabona Origami.

British Car, American Camper, and Scandinavian Furniture Meet in Italy

Mini in partnership with Airsteam Inc. have created a one-off Mini Cooper S Clubman coupled with a trailer designed by Copenhagen based furniture brand Republic of Fritz Hansen. It will be displayed at the next Salone del Mobile show in Milan.

Airstream Inc. and MINI have teamed with a one-off MINI Cooper S Clubman and Airstream creation designed by Republic of Fritz Hansen.

The concept will be presented for the first time at the INTERNI DESIGN ENERGIES exhibition in the courtyards of Università degli Studi di Milano during the upcoming world-renowned Salone del Mobile show in Milan.
The exhibition will be open each day from Tuesday 21 to Thursday 30 April from 10:00 a.m. until midnight.

Republic of Fritz Hansen, the Copenhagen based premium furniture brand known for its minimalist and functional design, has spared no details when it came to designing the interior of the MINI Cooper S Clubman and Airstream trailer.

Drawing inspiration from the outdoor lifestyle of surfing, the Airstream interior will feature, amongst others, new interpretations of Arne Jacobsen’s Egg and Swan Chair and a table set up with four unique Series Seven chairs, allowing plenty of room for guests.
Sleek wood panelling will top it off giving it the ultimate “modern surfer” look.
“Here at Republic of Fritz Hansen we are thrilled with the collaboration and really look forward to introducing this unique and eye catching concept,” says Jacob Holm, President and CEO at Republic of Fritz Hansen.

The MINI Cooper S Clubman will also reflect the same adventurous personality and style with clean lines, bold colours such as lightning green and all the interior gadgets you can expect to find in a MINI plus more.
The MINI Cooper SClubman will be predominately jet black with black “wetsuit” neoprene accents along with green trim. The 22ft silver Airstream trailer will also enjoy the same exterior details as the MINI but will have an interior designed for beach goers with features such as a waterproof interior and a sun bathing bed.
“Partnering with MINI was a given,” said Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream, Inc. “As one of the oldest manufacturers of recreational vehicles in the U.S. and MINI’s longstanding history producing unmistakable sport cars, we knew that we would make a dynamite team,” said Wheeler.
“It has always been important for us to implement new products and ideas in unconventional ways. The concept MINI and Airstream, designed by Republic of Fritz Hansen, presents a surprisingly different way of using a MINI and an Airstream with a design, which consciously transcends into the world of the surfer. At the same time, we have achieved a successful co-operation with two international cult brands which authentically embodies the MINI attitude to life” said, Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, Head of MINI Brand Communication.

7 Skills for a Post-Pandemic Marketer

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