6 Reasons Your Advertising Isn’t Working

6 Reasons Your Advertising Isn’t Working

Did you launch a new campaign that’s not performing as well as you expected? Is your advertising getting lost in the clutter, or is your sales department blaming the advertising for not producing enough qualified leads? Here are 6 reasons your advertising may not be breaking through the clutter, engaging customers effectively, or producing the kind of results you desired.

       1.Your strategy is off target

Great advertising is advertising that works for the business and the brand. It brings the business strategy to life and fulfills the brand promise. To win, marketers must first start with understanding the customer. The more you know about your customer, the more effective your strategy will be. The intent is not simply to effectively position your product or service, build category ownership, or communicate a unique selling proposition in a creative way, but to change behavior and elicit action. Getting a new customer to switch banks. Getting a new customer to taste your new crackers. Getting a new customer to choose one plumber over another. It’s not just about developing the right marketing and creative strategy, but deploying the right media strategy, too. What good is serving up the right message to the wrong audience? Invest your money where people invest their attention. Today’s customer journey is an iterative, complex, integrated mix of touch points. Traditional channels with its emphasis on paid media must be integrated with earned and owned media. Marketers must explore new, multi-channel, multi-touch channels and use attribution tools to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. Because in the end, creating irresistible campaigns that convert is both art and science. It all starts with a sound marketing strategy. For example, Macy’s new marketing strategy to win over new younger shoppers while also appealing to longtime loyal shoppers is a sound strategy that has the potential of helping the struggling retailer turn things around.

  1. The messaging is wrong.

Everyone knows Geico. We all talk about how creative and funny their commercials are. What’s more, Geico is always changing the creative to keep the campaign fresh. But in terms of messaging, there is one constant: “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.” It’s the perfect example of a winning message, one that’s clear, concise, and has a call to action. (Kudos to Ken Marcus and Sean Riley for constantly creating great work.) But all too often, the clarity of advertising messages get lost. They’re too abstract, too complex, too cluttered, too creative for creative sake. Look at the simplicity of Apple’s ads. Clean, concise, simple creative ideas, grounded in the brand promise. It’s also an example on how messaging doesn’t just refer to the copy points in your ad. Your visual messaging can also be off-target, like a recent newspaper ad for Long Island Eye Surgical Care selling Laser Cataract Surgery. The stock photo shows 8 children shot from above with circled fingers playfully covering their eyes. Off strategy? Indeed. How many 6 year olds do you know that need cataract surgery.

  1. The call to action is missing. Or lost within the clutter.

How often do you see an ad with no URL, no store locations, and no clear call to action? I see a half dozen ads like these every day! Take an ad for OTO Health Hearing Centers on Long Island with no URL listed and more clutter than a supermarket ad. Or an ad for Livingston Foot Care Specialists on Long Island with no call to action, no brand promise, just photos and names of the doctors. Come on folks. How many customers can engage with an ad that features a laundry list of doctors names and photos? Where’s the message? The emotion? Where’s the reason why I should change my behavior and consider your medical practice or hospital over someone else?

  1. Too much reliance on data and tech. Not enough on insight.

All too often, marketers overwhelm creative people with data. The result? Less clarity in the advertising. Jon Brody, CEO and co-founder of Ladder, a growth marketing agency, says “The problem is that people have too much data and are making fewer good decisions because they’re so data-driven. You need to be ROI-driven,” he says.

Effective marketing is about optimization. And according to Bill Pardo at Microsoft, we should use data as information, not as insight. “Put another way, it’s not about the ingredients, it’s about the cook. Ingredients alone don’t make a meal (at least, not a good one). And even great recipes don’t come without a lot of experimentation and failed attempts by the people who create them.” This is especially true for those of us in the creative advertising field. So if your ads aren’t working, perhaps you relied too heavily on data and not enough on insight.

  1. You failed to humanize your brand.

If you’re not getting the results you expected from your advertising, perhaps you should consider humanizing your brand. Emotions are what drive your target audience to purchase. In fact, findings from a 2015 Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study of 100 ads across 25 brands in the consumer goods market revealed that ads with the best emotional response generated a 23% lift in sales, meaning that emotional marketing is not merely effective as an engagement vehicle but also as a true business driver. Many behavioral scientists believe that the primary decision drivers are mainly emotional. And as we age, emotions drive us even more in our purchase decisions.

Those that succeed in humanizing their brands include Ikea, who’s current ad for college furniture and dorm room gear features a crying mom next to her selfie-taking daughter with the headline: “An empty nest shouldn’t empty your wallet.” Or the current Farmer’s Insurance campaign, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two,” featuring unique human experiences that were covered by Farmer’s. Or an ad from the “Away” campaign for Go RVing that shows a bulldog resting comfortably with family inside an RV with the headline: “Away is where you never have to leave anyone behind.”

  1. You didn’t have buy-in from the top.

Steve Jobs met every other week for in-depth sessions with Lee Clow, the creative leader of his advertising agency. The reason is simple. The vision for the brand and advertising comes from the top. No ifs, ands or buts.

Yes, there are CMO’s and Marketing Directors who can articulate the owner’s or CEO’s vision. Or get close to it. But many campaigns fail because the top dog didn’t have his/her skin in the game. That kind of clarity of vision can’t be interpreted by others or assumed. To win, the vision must be owned and driven from the top and both client and ad agency must share the inspiration, welcome real discussions, disagree and agree, and above all, put the good of the work first.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13th largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami



Having created my share of TV spots using hit songs including Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” for Office Depot, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” (AKA “Everything’s gonna be all right”) for Sandals Resorts, James Brown’s “I Feel Good” for Mattress Firm, Pure Prairie League’s “Let me love you tonight” for Field of Flowers, Chubby Checker’s “Twist” for Mayors Jewelers , and ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” for S&K Mens Stores, I’ve learned a few things along the way that I’d like to share about the right and wrong way to use songs in TV spots and videos, many of which you’ll be seeing during the Super Bowl.

The four main tenets. Target audience. Message. Feeling. Execution.

There are four main tenets for effectively using songs in TV spots. Firstly, the song must appeal to the target audience you’re intending to reach. It makes no sense to use Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” for the launch of a new Xbox game. Secondly, the song must be true to the product’s messaging and brand promise. Using a Bob Marley song for resorts in the Caribbean makes more sense than using it for the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. Thirdly, the song must convey an impactful and positive emotion connection to the brand and the creative concept. And lastly, the song must be executed in a way that doesn’t detract from the creative or messaging, but adds volumes to it.

Doing it the right way.

A great example of a song well-selected and well-executed is the new 2017 Super Bowl spot for Mercedes-Benz featuring their AMG GT Roadster. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the agency enlisted the services of The Coen Brothers to direct it and the legendary Peter Fonda to star in it. The concept? As a group of bikers at a roadside bar are playing pool and drinking, “Born to be Wild” from Steppenwolf is playing on the jukebox, another member of the biker gang walks into the place to inform everyone that their motorcycles have been blocked in. Music stops and we then see Peter Fonda crazy enough to park his gorgeous Mercedes AMG convertible in front of their choppers. As Fonda gets back in his car and heads down the road in his convertible and the song kicks in again, the positive emotion is down right infectious. It all works together seamlessly. Great song choice and smart strategy appealing to the uber-successful guy with plenty of money in the bank and the ego to want to feel like Easy Rider in his convertible GT Roadster. Who wouldn’t? And when you’re an advertiser like Mercedes with deep pockets and a great agency to create a spot with the best directors, great talent, great cinematographers, a great script, and great song, it makes me smile from ear to ear! I give it an A+.

Another good example of a spot currently airing is HomeGoods’ charming TV spot “No Place Like Your Home” that uses Dan Croll’s song “Home” to set the perfect mood and create the right emotion. The “home” lyrics fit the retailer’s brand promise exquisitely, and the tone and feeling of the song hits all the right emotional chords, complemented by visuals that convey how HomeGoods is part of the fabric of family and home. I’m sure Ashley Furniture is hoping they came up with the idea first. I give it an A+.

Similarly, Chili’s new TV spot “Chilin’ Since ’75” that uses Foghat’s “Slow Ride” is a great song choice for a restaurant looking to revisit its 60’s roots as a one store burger joint that started at a time when mustaches and flannel shirts were in, burgers were big, and beer was everywhere—all shot with a constantly moving, grainy, 8mm-style camera with lens flares for an authentic feel. Yet the agency was smart enough to use beautiful 35mm food shots to make today’s burgers look fabulous. Love the short voiceover copy (beautifully written) that gives the power chords of the song plenty of time to establish and breathing room in the spot to set the mood and make the emotion that much more compelling. Great feeling throughout. The music and song choice captures the vibe of the 60’s, and the spot is well executed by everyone involved—from talent, styling and cinematography, to editing. I give it an A+.

Lastly is Walgreen’s current “Seize the Day” spot featuring two female seniors purchasing a ton of suntan lotions for their visit to a Nude Beach. While the client paid a pretty penny to purchase the publishing rights and needle drop to the Beach Boys’ song “California Girls,” it’s an excellent example of the right way to use music, even without the well known lyrics. I love that they start the spot with the recognizable organ melody which sets the mood right from the start. Then they choose the perfect female voiceover talent to compliment the song and mixed the two tracks perfectly together. Too many spots today don’t do that properly. We never have to hear the “California Girls” lyrics to get the feeling that these two seniors are reliving their youth with the help of Walgreen’s. Kudos to the agency creative team. I give it an A.

Using the right songs for the wrong reasons.

An example of what not to do with a hit song is Weight Watchers’ most recent TV spot with Oprah Winfrey, “Never Feel Deprived,” that uses Ben Rector’s hit song “Brand New.” Unfortunately, this great song is improperly used in this spot because (1) unlike Walgreens where we don’t have to hear the lyrics to feel the emotion of the song, this concept fails on two accounts. It would have made sense to hear the “Brand New” lyrics and the “oh oh oh oh oh oh” of the song since that’s how you feel when you lose weight, and (2) the music is mixed so poorly against the voiceover that you can hardly hear it the song at all, and consequently the spot does not benefit from any added emotion. The song is virtually unrecognizable for its key melody and so poorly executed it’s hardly worth the expense. Why use a great song with a great melody if no one can hear it! I give it an F.

Other bad choices include Ford’s new Super Bowl spot with Nina Simone’s song “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” It misses the mark by leaps and bounds. While the ad shows some vehicles that are available for sale today, the spot is far from a sales pitch. It is more of a corporate branding play designed to set the company up as a mobility company of the future. Unfortunately, the song is a disconnect, the editing and mix are disturbing and disjointed, and sound is so retro it detracts from Ford’s intended futuristic message. While Ford is trying to shift its brand story to include mobility solutions for the future, it should have instructed the agency to look a little harder for the right song and the right execution. This could be one of the worst Super Bowl spots in years! I give it an F.

At least Kia’s Soul spot using the song “Applause” by Lady Gaga and featuring the iconic hamsters working out, getting their hair done, and arriving on the red carpet opening night after exiting the hatchback, this high-energy song is as fun and quirky as the hamsters and the car itself. Getting the applause and looking cool when arriving in a Kia Soul is a great takeaway for the brand. But again, the “Totally Transformed” theme for the car could have been just as well executed, and the message just as effectively delivered, without the borrowed interest and the million + dollars for Gaga and her song. But then, Kia’s got the bucks! I give it a B.

Wrong song, wrong message?

In 2007, Cadbury’s video used Phil Collin’s song “In the Air Tonight” featuring a gorilla playing drums and appearing in 95% of the spot. Terrible concept, terrible waste of a great song, stupid agency to spend the client’s money so wastefully. If someone can please tell me what this song or the gorilla playing drums has to do with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate’s key message “A glass and a half full of joy”, I’ll buy you a box of M&Ms. Now if they used a cow playing drums, okay, maybe. I give it an F.

Wendy’s will make its Super Bowl debut with a TV spot that satirizes its competitors’ use of frozen beef patties scored to Foreigner’s 1977 hit song “Cold as Ice.” And while the spot clearly conveys the message that Wendy’s fresh burgers are not cold as ice like its competitors, the spot spends too much time showing the non-palate-pleasing frozen patties and not enough time on the great Wendy’s burger. So even with Foreigner song piped throughout the chill factory, we’re not left with a good feeling about Wendy’s or their fresh beef. In fact, the song is so strong, it may be working against the fresh message Wendy’s is trying to convey. I give it a C.

What about Not-So-Well-Known Songs?

Surely, one of the reasons to use music in a TV spot is to convey an emotion, or a good feeling, or to create an audio canvas for your message, or be an integral part of the brand promise. Yet, it’s not always necessary to pay killer dollars for a song to achieve that objective. Point in case, when Kia’s TV spot reached back into the archives and pulled out “Beep Beep Beep” by Bobby Day to add some spunk to a commercial about parking in a too-tight spot and convey that the car “fits like a glove”, it was more about the feeling of the song, regardless that “Beep Beep Beep” didn’t cost a lot of money and never charted or became as big a song as Day’s 1958 hit, “Rockin’ Robin” (which would be a great song for Red Robin to use for a “rockin’” new burger recipe or a rockin’ choice of condiments on its French Fries!).

Another example of a not-so-well-known song, but a perfect fit for a TV spot, is the Tropicana’s Farmstand spot. Using Passion Pit’s song “Carried Away,” we see this guy restocking the Tropicana shelves in the juice section, getting “carried away” with his job. It’s hard as a viewer not to similarly get excited about the juice after seeing this colorful and happy commercial. The spot was perfectly mixed, had minimal voiceover copy, great acting and choreography, and top-notch cinematography for the juice pours. A+

But perhaps the best spot (and one of my favorite) to be featured on the Super Bowl without a hit song is Mr. Clean’s new TV spot. While Sarah is having a fantasy daydream with a new sexy Mr. Clean, we hear an original track that sounds like a 90s boy band playing in the background, then signed off by the recognizable Mr. Clean melody notes from 40 years ago. Great touch. My hat’s off to the agency and client for resisting the temptation of buying a big 90’s boy band hit, or a Barry White song, by recreating the style of that genre instead and saving the client big bucks. It works beautifully to convey the mood, allowing the viewer to focus on Sarah and Mr. Clean’s provocative dance moves as he brings a shine to the shower, the floor, and kitchen. All integrating beautifully with the ad’s slogan You Gotta Love A Man Who Cleans.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising, the 13th largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, ranked 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami. 


Are Bud Light suds better than Tide suds?

Are Bud Light suds better than Tide suds?

Once again, Bud Light has brought back its team specific cans for the 2016-2017 NFL season, partnering with 27 of the 32 NFL teams.

This year, the cans have a better design and are completely team-focused, which Budweiser says makes these cans “really cool” because they really are directed towards diehard fans. For example, the Arizona Cardinals can is complete with the message, “The perfect beer for protecting the next”. Buffalo Bills’ fans can enjoy their beer with the message, “The perfect beer for shoveling your way to the stadium at least once a year”. And of course the message on Oakland Raiders’ cans? “The perfect beer for uniting a nation. Raider Nation.”

To Budweiser’s way of thinking, last year’s NFL cans were met with such a tremendous amount of consumer engagement (read, not consumer sales) that the decision to do it again was a “no-brainer.”

Two big brands partnering as one.

Imagine the enormous cost for putting together this kind of promotion with the NFL.

Budweiser has to pay the NFL for the rights to be “the official beer of the NFL.” Then each team gets compensated for the use of their logo and licensing. Then the brewery needs to produce not one, but 27 different cans. The cost for the graphics, the retooling of the assembly line, and last but not least, the tremendous cost and logistical nightmare to distribute these 27 different cans to there respective markets and pay for the slotting fees required at retail.

Now add to that the costs for promoting the new cans and Budweiser has added hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental marketing costs to a brand that has had declining sales for years. But then, Budweiser is big and powerful. The NFL brand is big and powerful. Two mega-brands coming together to breathe new life into Bud Light, with big plans to roll out a 360-degree campaign to support the team cans, including local content, TV, digital, social, experiential, point of connection, and outdoor. Wow, that’s big!

Still, you have to ask yourself, how long can Budweiser keep snorting the same promotional cocaine (packaging gimmicks) for the sake of “engagement” when what’s desperately needed is sustainable sales performance? Not one season. Not one month. Not one year. Sustainable, year after year.

The company reasons that with the team cans they can celebrate the teams and Bud Light in a very iconic way that matters most to consumers and fans. As they say, “the can feels like a team jersey that you can drink out of.” (Unfortunately, to a growing number of beer drinkers who think Bud Light tastes like a jersey, I hardly think they’ll sacrifice their imports, micro-brews or craft beers for an NFL can. Do you?)

So what’s wrong with this picture?

From an engagement standpoint that lasts the length of the football season, nothing. But for a brand as big ($2 billion in sales) and as struggling as Bud Light, with so much at stake in its fight against encroaching imports, craft beers and micro-brews, and other domestic light beers, “brief engagements” may not be enough. Because while the NFL cans bring a big national brand to the local level and puts its arms around diehard football fans in love with their hometown teams, does it really elevate the Bud Light brand story in new and meaningful ways that can create sustainable sales increases? Does it connect with the tens of millions more beer drinkers who are not diehard football fans and are teaming up with Samuel Adams, Blue Moon, Coors Light, Miller Light, craft beers and micro-brews instead?

Integration or fragmentation?

Bud Light seems to be offering so many different messages in their advertising and promotional efforts these days that you need a score card to keep up.

Yet very little seems to be working in terms of sales increases. Budweiser’s revenue in the fourth quarter of 2015 fell another 10% to $10.72 billion. The company expects the Bud Light “Raise One to Right Now” mock political campaign TV commercials starring Schumer and Rogen to bring Bud Light “a refreshed visual brand identity,” but the jury is still out. Oddly, the company is having its strongest U.S. sales growth of mid-single digits from Above Premium brands, which includes its craft beer brands. It’s the old saying, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Packaging and promotion.

In 2015, Bud Light introduced retro-looking cans in response to the booming craft beer industry. Then, the following year, they switched to NFL cans, only to repeat that in 2016-2017 to gain more borrowed interest from fans, and all the while, promoting a steady diet of “Join the Bud Light Party” ads featuring political satire and “equal pay for women” videos with celebrities Rogen and Schumer.  Fragmented messaging? Or a brand in search of anything that will boost sales? Yes, all of the above!

That’s not to say I’m against the use of packaging to promote brand equity and boost sales. On the contrary. Wheaties has been successfully using celebrity sports stars and athletes on their boxes for decades to sell more cereal. But that kind of packaging promotion is part of Wheaties’ brand story, “Fuel for Champions.” Perhaps Bud Light should take a page from Wheaties’ playbook and re-brand themselves as “The Beer of Champions.”

Bud Light suds vs. Tide suds.

When Tide launched a TV spot featuring Simone Biles during the Olympics, they didn’t succumb to the typical celebrity endorsement-style of “look who’s in our commercial” advertising as did 99% of the companies leveraging Olympic athletes. They didn’t put her picture on every tub of Tide or build engagement with diehard laundry fans everywhere. They actually had a marketing concept. Namely, the power of a small Tide pod unleashes a lot of cleaning power, just like a small gymnast like Simone unleashes a lot of power to win Gold medals in Rio. Imagine that, a true brand concept tied to the packaging, to the celebrity, and to the advertising message. Well done, Tide!

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising, the 13th largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, ranked 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami. http://www.stuartdornfield.com


The Sports Authority bankruptcy: Lack of customer centricity failed them.

Stephen Sondheim once said, “having just the vision’s no solution; everything depends on execution.”

No truer words have ever been said for retailing, because execution is what separates the good from the great merchants.

I remember vividly responding to a Sports Authority newspaper ad that offered a $25 Gift Card for any purchase of $100 or more. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to learn after my purchase that the gift card was only valid for one specific week, so it was not about rewarding the customer, it was about deceiving the customer, making the customer feel like a pawn in Sports Authority’s grand scheme to limit redemption rates by inconveniencing and undervaluing them.

For all their “smoke and mirrors” about the customer, Sports Authority is NOT “All Things, Sporting Good” as their lackluster slogan and advertising tried to depict. The retailer never evolved into a business that was customer-centric. Whether it’s searching desperately for someone in the store to grab a ladder to find your athletic shoes in the size you needed, to understaffing and over merchandising their congested-aisle stores, the shopping experience at Sports Authority was never pleasurable nor shopper friendly. It was a self-help model that was so frustrating and devoid of customer service that it drove customers to shop online with Sports Authority’s competitors.

It became clear to me and other customers that Sports Authority put profits before customers. And I suspect that their recent announcement of bankruptcy is payback time for all the customers they’ve frustrated, ignored and undervalued all these years.

Lackluster execution is like no execution at all.

Lackluster training programs for staff and high employee turnover rates was a cancer within the SA organization that was never cured. Sports Authority lacked a C-level executive in a customer centric role, lacked integrated business functions across channels and integrated customer-facing tools, lacked a sustainable marketing and advertising campaign that differentiated them in the marketplace, lacked an effective omni-channel marketing strategy and put profits before a pleasurable shopping experience.

Sports Authority clearly misunderstood who their customer is, what he/she wants, and how he/she behaves at all times.

In a new industry study by The O Alliance on how omni-channel marketing must be a customer-centric model, they report that to achieve true customer centricity, retailers must be dedicated to connecting a shopper’s activities online, in store, on social media and via mobile apps to create a universal customer profile.

The study featured five strategies used by retail “leaders” to achieve customer centricity, starting with the need to track a customer’s behavior across channels.

The other strategies included:

Measure success of cross-channel marketing: The study revealed that while 70% of the industry uses cross-channel promotions (i.e. email campaigns to drive in-store purchases), 48% of all retailers still lack the ability to measure the success of these very campaigns. It noted that customer-centric “leaders “ are implementing tools that provide a strategic view into each campaign, allowing them to gauge effectiveness, attribute credit to the proper promotion or channel, and leverage that insight to drive future marketing decisions.

Centralize data solutions. Many retailers still lack the proper integration solutions to effectively manage a cross-channel shopping experience, with 37% of companies not combining e-commerce and in-store transaction data in a central database, and only 9% currently link social media activity to their customer data files. “Leaders,” however, are adopting flexible, cloud-based solutions that allow them to easily access all product and customer information in one centralized place.

Structure a customer-centric organization. While most companies recognize the importance of integrating business functions across channels, it’s the aggressive “leaders” that are actually implementing this change, with 97% reporting they have integrated at least one team to date.

In addition, these retailers are taking steps to address the talent and leadership issues demanded by these changes, with 43% stating that they either have, or plan to have, a C-level executive in a customer centric role.

Brick ‘n mortar and e-commerce.

If you think Sports Authority’s impending bankruptcy and Sears recent announcement to accelerate the closing of as many as 50 of their stores is caused by the growing significance of e-commerce, you’d be missing the whole picture. Sears has struggled for years with weakening sales, unable to keep up with merchants like Home Depot, and general merchants like Wal-Mart, or everything, as is the case with Amazon.com. All that is true. But it is equally true that many e-commerce merchants are opening brick ‘n mortar stores to be more competitive.

E-commerce retailers like Warby Parker, Bonobos, and Amazon Books have opened stores because they recognize that physical locations help consumers discover their brands. In other words, open a store, let people touch and feel and try on your products, and then convert them to e-commerce.

Hopefully they won’t make the same mistakes as Sports Authority by not integrating their brick ‘n mortar with their digital channel.

Focus more on the customer.
Ex-Apple head John Sculley says the main task of marketing today is to provide the “best customer experience.” I couldn’t agree more.
Companies don’t have to spend as much on ads, says Sculley, because marketing has moved from emphasizing the product to emphasizing what the customer wants. “Emphasize the customer experience, including the price point, and, if you do these things right, customers will tell other customers,” says Sculley. “Marketers have to constantly look at what’s the best customer experience, what will differentiate. ”
In the final analysis, optimizing the customer experience with a customer-centric strategy is the single most important goal for retailers. And the ones who get it right won’t have to close stores, won’t have to shrink profits, won’t have to go into bankruptcy.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter who has worked with more than 200 clients in b2c and b2b industries across digital and traditional channels including retailers such as Office Depot, Men’s Wearhouse, Mattress Firm, ShopKo, Vitamin Shoppe, Value City, Petsmarts, Michaels, Thomasville, and over two dozen more. www.stuartdornfield.com

Do restaurants risk losing adults while reaching for kids?

Do restaurants risk losing adults while reaching for kids?  

Casual dining restaurants, in an attempt to get more families to dine out, are scrambling to counter a tendency by budget-pinched parents to leave their children at home when they go out to eat. Case in point, The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro added kids’ menus. And while P.F. Chang had previously offered some kids’ items that servers would suggest to parents, the chain felt that not having an actual children’s menu made parents feel like their kids weren’t welcome.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way suggesting that restaurants who cater to families shouldn’t continue to make kids and their parents feel more welcome, especially at a time when casual-dining is losing more and more market share to fast-casual chains like Chipotle and Panera. Nor am I suggesting that there aren’t plenty of family restaurants that already do a great job of that.

My question is this: How much does a restaurant risk losing its core audience of adults who seek an adult-first dining experience if the restaurant erodes its brand experience by pandering to families with kids?

Personally, I do not want to drink and dine next to tables filled with albeit screaming kids. When my wife and I, and our friends, are looking for a relaxing and “adult-first” dining experience at restaurants like P. F. Chang’s, Cheesecake, Season’s 52 or any of a number of “better” casual restaurants serving liquor and wine, I don’t expect to see kids running around tables, or hear babies crying.

I recognize that P.F. Chang’s and other restaurants’ sales declines due to fewer customers is a concern. But perhaps they should look at other ways to increase their profitability other than eroding the brand experience for their core adult customers.

Imagine Starbuck’s offering a kid’s menu and installing a video game arcade in their coffee shops to increase parent/kid visits and incremental sales. Not.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a study by market research firm Mintel International Group found that parents are “looking for healthier alternatives to the standard kids’ fare of chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.” I applaud that. But the answer is not to turn adult-oriented restaurants into kid-friendly restaurants because they already offer healthier meals, but rather, to encourage parents to challenge family restaurants to offer healthier menu items for kids.

Seriously Mr. Restaurant CEO, if the average size of a group dining out with kids pushes the bill up by an average of $8, is it worth $8 to lose adult customers who don’t want to dine with babies and kids and who customarily spend $12 on a glass of wine? Short-sighted thinking? You bet.

When profits drive a brand to change who and what they are and the brand experience changes with it, that’s when the CMO or the CEO needs to say “wait a minute…this is not who we are.“

According to Mintel, “restaurants don’t want the reason for people not coming to be because they don’t offer kid-friendly food.” Well I submit, how about adults not coming because you’ve changed your focus to a kid-friendly dining experience!
While I can understand Denny’s Chief Executive Nelson Marchioli’s saying “people with kids are uncertain of the economy, so they don’t need any discouragement from the industry from dining out,” I also think adults without kids don’t need any discouragement either.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13TH largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami.

“Free-from” dominates product marketing.

Why is “free-from” creating a seismic shift in product marketing?

I was in the shower the other day and looking at my bottle of Kiehl’s Amino Acid Shampoo. Right there, under the product name, was a bold line saying “Silicone-Free, Paraben-Free.” It got me to thinking, the new “free-from” trend– removing ingredients rather than adding them—is the biggest shift in product innovation since “new and improved” made its debut. “Free-from “ products have been growing exponentially across industries, from food and beverage to detergents, restaurants and beauty products for years now… and it’s not about to stop.
Remove the additives and preservatives and you’ve got a new product launch.
The data shows the move by manufacturers to produce foods with so-called clean labels, driven by consumer demands for products with natural rather than chemical or synthetic additives, are perceived to be safer and healthier.
According to data from Mintel, the second most popular claim on new European products since 2008 has been “organic,” accounting for almost 25% of product claims. And in the U.S. more than half the population is purchasing “free-from” products.
• free from GMOs
• free from antibiotics
• free from additives
• free from pesticides
• free from artificial ingredients
• free from nuts
• free from dairy
• free from lactose
• free from eggs
• free from wheat
• free from gluten
• free from phosphates
• free from BSP
• free from paraben
• free from silicone
• free from caffeine
• free from high fructose corn syrup
• free from sodium
• free from fragrances
• free from iodine
• free from chemicals
• free from PVCs
• free from dioxin
• free from PCBs
• free from alcohol
• free from aspirin

…we see these claims on product labels and advertisements everywhere.

More than half of the population is buying “free-from” products.

No doubt, this growing trend among the ‘worried well’ to view certain ingredients as harmful or even toxic has seen a seismic, some say historical, rise in the sale of “free- from” products.

Celebrity endorsements from the likes of Victoria Beckham, Miley Cyrus and Jessica Alba have helped fuel the trend, even among people who have no food allergies or intolerance. The “free-from” sector appears to be cashing in on a belief that these products are in some ways better than normal food and products, even for people who are perfectly fit and healthy.

The “free-from” market is one of the biggest success stories in the supermarket industry as they continue to make shelf room for hundreds of new “free-from” products every year.

And while far more consumers buy into “free-from” than have been diagnosed with a food-related condition, a new report from Mintel says there is much more to this sector’s success than its association with food allergies or Hollywood A-listers.

There are gluten-free beers on sale for the first time and more people shopping for gluten-free breakfast cereals is treble in three years. Point in fact, Cheerios just launched a multi-million dollar campaign touting that all 8 varieties of their cereal are now “gluten-free.”
New research shows the power AND the confusion with “free-from” claims.
The question is, do “free-from” claims convince people that they need to avoid the missing ingredients? To find out, researchers showed 256 adults two pairs of cracker labels. One pair showed crackers with or without a “gluten-free” claim. The second pair showed crackers with or without a “MUI-free” claim. There is no food constituent called MUI. The researchers made it up. But when asked which of each pair was healthier, 26 percent picked the “gluten-free” crackers and 22 percent picked the “MUI-free” crackers. Most (65 percent) said there was no difference (11 percent said the conventional crackers were healthier).
The danger of course is assuming that “free-from” claims are healthier or better for you. Yet the research noted above (albeit a limited sampling size) suggests the power of “free-from” claims nonetheless.

Beauty products and fabrics have grabbed onto “toxic-free” bandwagon.

Did you know that our skin absorbs 60% of any topical product we use and more than 10,000 ingredients are allowed for use in our personal care items? Shocking? Indeed.

Many of these ingredients are hazardous to our health but they are used in everything from makeup to facial moisturizer, shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, deodorant, and nail polish remover. I was amazed to read that the average woman wears nearly 515 chemicals a day and will eat nearly 4 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, so you can well understand why so many woman are looking for lead-free and chemical-free lipstick.

The “toxic-free” trend in the personal care industry is growing as fast as the food industry. Take yourself to your nearest Fresh Market or Whole Foods to see aisles and aisles of “toxin-free” products. However, many consumer groups caution that even though a product claims to be organic or natural, or just because it’s being sold in a healthy store, does NOT mean that it is truly toxin-free. Yet many are. Everyday products free from harmful metals and chemicals. Chemicals like parabens that are added to personal care products to keep bacteria and mold from growing in the packaging. These additives are considered endocrine disruptors, which can lead to hormone-related cancers in adults and early onset of puberty in girls.

Certain fabrics too are laced with toxic chemicals. Vinyl shower curtains, for instance, are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can release chemical fumes that linger in your home for months and can impact your health.

Consumer pressure is spawning many new “free-from” initiatives.

A coalition of consumer, health and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union and dozens of other groups, are claiming that the restaurant industry is not doing enough to reduce the use of antibiotics in meat production despite consumer demand and major public health concerns.
The “free-from antibiotics” movement has put pressure on the entire industry to get more aggressive in reducing the use of antibiotics in meat and poultry. And since nearly half of the money Americans devote to food is spent on meals outside the home, these “free-from” groups claim that large restaurant chains have substantial influence over the meat we eat and how it is produced, and therefore, have a responsibility to embrace the “free-from” movement.
Just last week, more than 100 health, consumer and environmental groups sent a letter to restaurant chain CEOs, urging them to take more aggressive action to require suppliers to cut back or eliminate antibiotic use. In fact, a new report examined the antibiotics policies at 25 large restaurant chains, and gave all but five of them what the groups consider failing grades. The report said the use of human antibiotics in animal farming has been linked to antibiotic resistance, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that 2 million Americans get antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 die every year.
According to the report, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread received the highest marks as the only two large chains that publicly affirm that most of their meat and poultry is “free-from antibiotics.” Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s Corp. and Dunkin’ Donuts also received passing grades for committing to eliminate the use of certain meats produced with antibiotics.
What about BPA-free claims for plastics, food containers, and water supply lines?

BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that is used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.

BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. They may also be used in other consumer goods.

Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites also may contain BPA.

Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.

However, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned BPA from baby bottles and such, they maintain that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. This assessment is based on review of hundreds of studies.

The FDA is continuing its review of BPA, including supporting ongoing research. In the meantime, marketers have jumped on the “free-from” bandwagon and have continued to label their products “BPA-free.” products have come to market. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA. Some consumers have reduced or eliminated their use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin. But while I see very few food and beverage manufacturers touting BPA-free cans, many have moved to packaging their products in glass containers.

One of the biggest areas of concern is the millions of people who continue to microwave polycarbonate plastics or put them in the dishwasher, since The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says that the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.

Target Corp. has expanded the list of chemicals it wants suppliers to take out of their products.

The list includes almost 600 substances on Health Canada’s roster of prohibited cosmetic ingredients, such as coal tars and bisphenol A. It also adds triclosan, an antibacterial ingredient that is under review in hand soaps and sanitizers by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was banned from products in Target’s home state last year.

According to a recent article in Bloomberg Business, Target made the changes earlier this year without publicizing them, but a Washington-based advocacy group called Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families plans to spotlight the list this week. Though Target isn’t prohibiting the ingredients outright, the move gives consumer-products companies fresh incentives to identify and eliminate controversial substances. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has a similar program for manufacturers, including a list of substances that the retailer doesn’t post publicly.

For suppliers, complying with Target’s program is a way to get more exposure, according to Bloomberg’s article. In exchange for cooperating, the retailer may be inclined to help promote their products or give them more shelf space.

What’s next in the “free-from” front?

Fortunately, and unfortunately, the “free-from” movement may just be beginning. Look for new products in the coming years such as nasal sprays, shampoos and antiperspirant deodorants free from mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum and cadmium. Fish free from PCB’s. Chlorinated cleaners free from dioxins. Baby lotions and cosmetics free from parabens, and hair spray, mousse, room sprays, and perfumes free from phthalates. Household cleaners, furniture polishes, air fresheners, hair relaxers, adhesives, foams, plastics, toiletries, aftershave lotions free from VOC’s. Cosmetics and nail polish free from toluene. And all sorts of personal care products free from synthetic fragrances linked to hormone disruption. Joy to the world!

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13TH largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami. http://www.stuartdornfield.com

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?


According to a new study from Babson College, 14% of Americans were involved with starting or running a new businesses last year, the highest level in 16 years!
The report found that around 1 in 7 American adults ran a company that was less than three-and-a-half years old, with most of them running companies less than three months old.
The study also revealed that the fear of business failure dropped last year, and the percentage of people planning to start a new company remained high. What’s more, Americans were more likely to follow through on their entrepreneurial ambitions than people from other countries.
Having the intent to start a new business is one thing. Having the skills to translate that into successful action is everything.
When I started my ad agency at the age of 30, a few years after the ice-age, I had two partners. Bob was a VP-Account Service (12 years my senior) and Sheldon was Senior Art Director (6 years my senior). I met them both at a leading Miami agency where we all worked together. When Bob left the agency to become a Marketing Director at two leading radio stations, I missed him terribly. I missed his skills and talents and his ability to convince the agency principal right from wrong. So I approached him 6 months later and asked if he wanted to open an agency together. Bob had owned businesses in lumbering and marketing before, but more than anything, he had a gift with clients. And he demonstrated a unique passion for supporting a Creative Director’s (my) work. I also needed an art director, so I asked Sheldon to join us as we struck out on our own, renting a cheap warehouse west of the airport next door to a fish wholesaler on one side and an insect spraying company on the other. Humble beginnings indeed.
I don’t think we were in business more than two or three months when I realized that Sheldon was not keeping time sheets of his projects, nor requiring our other art director to do the same. We explained to him that accurate billing in the art studio was our profit center and asked him to understand that he’s leaving thousands of dollars on the table. Several times he assured us that he would, but eventually, I had to take over the responsibility and prove to him that he was losing the agency $20,000 a month by not being on top of things. Sheldon had no real answer other than to say to Bob and I to “buy him out.” Which we did and ended up growing the agency without him into the 3rd largest marketing firm in South Florida.
You see, Sheldon was not an entrepreneur. He was a worker bee. And while the Babson College study is insightful, it certainly misrepresents the true reality that starting or running a business is not the same as being successful at it.
Sheldon refused, or probably more accurately, was incapable of taking ownership of a company that he was 1/3 partner in. He could not transition from being an employee to being an entrepreneur. It was not in his DNA. It’s uncanny that in the Babson study, most of the 1 in 7 American adults running companies had been running them less than three months. That was exactly the timeframe when Bob and I realized that Sheldon was not cut out to be an entrepreneur.
For many newbie entrepreneurs, the rubber meets the road when they have to rent a location or register their business.
The Babson report mentions that only a small fraction of the new companies in the study were venture capital-fueled startups. Most of the young companies were more traditional —a man starting his own farm, or a hotelier opening a bed-and-breakfast. They point out that some new companies being formed today are born out of economic necessity, rather than seizing a new opportunity.
When we started our agency in 1982, we had $3,000 between us. And when I gave my $1,000 check to the phone company as a deposit, I was required to give them a title. So I called myself President. Simple enough. Back then, just after the dinosaurs roamed the earth, you didn’t need venture capital to fund a startup. You could use your bar mitzvah money. Or what was left of it.
Unlike a lot of people who get weeded out at the critical stage where they must register their businesses with the State, or rent a suitable space, we were not phased in the slightest. In fact, the space that we rented had a box in the lobby, left by the previous owner, containing large wood letters that spelled out their name on the outside marquise, GOLD COAST PLUMBING. That box of letters represented one of the most important and early tests for an entrepreneur, picking a name for the business.

Now, considering that my last name was Dornfield, Bob’s last name was Utsman, and Sheldon’s last name was Brodsky, we quickly realized that an agency named Dornfield, Utsman, Brodsky, or something similar, wouldn’t even make for a good-sounding law firm, let alone a creative ad agency. It didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, if you know what I mean. Not to mention the difficulty in deciding who’s name would go first, second and third?
So being a true entrepreneur, I said, “well, we already have GOLD COAST in wood letters in the box, all we need to do now is buy more letters to spell ADVERTISING. The team agreed, after all, we were entrepreneurs, and making split second decisions is the sign of genius.
Research shows that superior performance in your current role doesn’t automatically guarantee success at the next level.
The mistake I made was thinking that because Sheldon was a great art director and production artist, he could leverage those skills into a position of leadership, or ownership for that matter. In reality, fewer than 30% of high-performing employees have the skills, ambition and personality for moving into senior management or ownership roles.
Bob and I found out the hard way that outstanding performance doesn’t ensure success at the next level, but lack of it does guarantee failure.
So before you decide to invest in your employee’s development as a high-potential leader, or take someone from employee to partner, be sure that they are truly ready for — and capable of — the challenge.
According to Jennifer Miller, these are a few of the elements that signal potential:
Comfort with new situations. Think of past situations in which your team member was placed into chaotic or ambiguous situations. How did he or she handle it? True high-potential employees thrive on being tossed into the figurative “deep end” of a situation and finding a way to swim triumphantly to the surface. Your team member is ready if she thrives on the uncertain and sees it as “fun” to tackle new challenges. If your star player is more comfortable deepening the skills he already has, then he’s most likely a “high performer.”
A track record of learning. A hallmark of high-potential employees is the ability to learn from any situation they encounter. How does your superstar employee handle mistakes? If he recovered quickly and didn’t repeat the error, he’s on the right track. How did she cope with a sudden change in direction? If she came up with a creative solution, and loved doing so, she’s a good candidate. People who are ready to take on bigger responsibilities are those who learn quickly and roll with the punches.

They aspire to it. One element that’s often overlooked: Does the employee in question want to move up? Some high-potential leaders meet all other criteria except for this very important final hurdle — the desire to reach for the next level of responsibility. I recently spoke with a high-performing middle manager whose team leader is ready to promote him. The problem is, he’s not 100% sure he wants the promotion.
And he’s not alone: nearly 50% of high-potential employees say they don’t sufficiently desire a promotion, according to a survey by the Corporate Leadership Council.
In short, not all of your star employees are cut out to move into a more senior leadership or ownership role. High performers help the company achieve their goals today. High potentials will help the company achieve their goals in the future. Don’t set your current stars up for failure if they lack any of the attributes necessary for future success. Instead, find other ways to capitalize on their talents. Not everyone’s cut out for senior leadership or ownership.
Why are women underrepresented in the entrepreneurial quest?
According to the Babson report, only 11 percent of women were involved with new companies, compared to about 17 percent of men. Although nearly as many women see entrepreneurship opportunities as men, only 46 percent of women see themselves as capable of taking those chances, compared to 61 percent of men. Women have a higher fear of failure.
Fear of failure is not an option for an entrepreneur, as we so aptly demonstrated when it came time to hire a bookkeeper and a receptionist. Our only fear was cash flow. So we did what every entrepreneur must do in situations like that. We found two of best and most affordable candidates in the city, our wives.
My wife, Karyn, had no fear of failure. Never had, never will. And Bob’s wife, Maureen, was a take charge individual as well. In fact, both of them could have been successful entrepreneurs in their own right, but chose other paths for their careers.
How take charge must you be? Well, if I or anyone else in our new ad agency didn’t pick up their phone quickly enough, or ignored my wife’s page over the intercom, she came running down the hall at breakneck speed screaming “there’s a call for you on line 2.”
Whether it was my wife’s fear that we might miss a potential client, or simply that she expected people to be as timely and responsive as she was, I don’t know for sure. But she took her job, and I might say, ownership, very seriously. Certainly more seriously than Sheldon.

Are you the kind of person that can be a successful entrepreneur?
The Babson survey found that entrepreneurship in America takes many different forms. They pointed out that 45 percent of young companies last year were started by two or more people. Those companies planned to hire more people than single-founder startups.
Surprisingly, older adults also started companies, with 11 percent of U.S. adults between 55 and 64 owning a new business, the highest percentage among 29 advanced economies included in the study!
Changes and advancement in technology have made this a great time for Boomers to start a business in a growing economy. Need a website? No problem. Companies like Wix and SquareSpace eliminate the need for costly development and design. Canva for unique graphics, HootSuite to manage social media accounts, Quickbooks for your finances and LegalZoom for legal needs are web-based tools that can make setting up and running a business easier than ever.
So it’s never too early, and fortunately, never too late to become an entrepreneur. After 22 years of owning an ad agency, then working as Sr.VP-Creative Director at a large $1.5 billion Omincom agency for two years, I too joined the ranks of those 55 to 64 entrepreneurs. I left the 9 to 9 grind of the agency world and became a freelance Creative Director and Copywriter. No rent to pay. No payroll to meet. No staff medical insurance and rising annual premiums to worry about. Best of all, no wives running down the hallway.
STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13TH largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami. http://www.stuartdornfield.com

The Perils of Re-Inventing Your Brand


When former Sears and Walgreens finance executive Atul Kavthekar reported he was joining LivingSocial as CFO to help execute the e-commerce company’s ongoing re-invention strategy, I began to think of how many other brands also need re-invention.
While LivingSocial has sought to pivot away from its origins as a daily deals site and become more of an e-commerce platform positioned as, “the local marketplace to buy and share the best things to do in your city and beyond,” the appointment of Kavthekar suggests health care related products could also play a greater role in LivingSocial’s value proposition going forward given his background at Sears and Walgreens.
Certainly brands like Radio Shack, TGI Fridays, Best Buy, Farmer’s Insurance, Netflix, Cadillac, McDonald’s and others have engaged in a re-invention strategy by pivoting in varying degrees over the past 5 years. Coke and Pepsi (see below) have also joined the ranks of re-invention given the American consumers’ thumbs down to sugary soft drinks and soda in general.
The shift in consumer mind-sets, especially among younger consumers, is causing much of the re-invention today.

Millennials — the 20- and 30-something consumers whom marketers covet —are demonstrating through their wallets that they would rather spend their hard-won cash on out-of-town vacations, fitness club and gym memberships, meals with friends, and of course, their smart phones.
Analysts say there is a wider shift afoot in the mind of the American consumer, spurred by the popularity of a growing body of scientific studies that appear to show that experiences, not objects, bring the most happiness. The internet is bursting with the “Buy Experiences, Not Things” type of stories that are causing sleepless nights for many retail executives in particular.
The age-old ‘pile it high and watch it fly’ mentality at department stores no longer works. The shift in consumer mind-sets, especially among younger consumers, is causing a re-invention in stores like Macy’s and Kohl’s. And as both chains continue to report flat or declining sales amid missed profit forecasts, they continue to look for ways to pivot.
Fact is, re-invention strategies are being discussed in boardrooms and by CMOs throughout corporate America today to boost market share, sales and profits. And in some cases, merely to survive.
Change is not an option as new CEO’s are brought on to re-invent and re-energize.
Since Target brought on Brian Cornell a year ago, the company’s first outsider CEO, he has restructured and refocused on digital and earnings growth, closed its money-losing Canadian operation of approximately 133 stores, layed off about a fifth of its Twin Cities headquarters staff, and ditched the company’s previous goal to reach $100 billion in sales in 2017.
Cornell is hoping to build momentum by focusing on increasing online sales, building smaller stores, revamping Target’s grocery department, and integrating operations to help fuel Target’s transformation. Re-invention indeed.
PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi is working to recalibrate, if not re-invent, the company’s approach to innovation and strategy – from using design to rethinking the customer experience and taking real risks, quickly. According to reports, she is unafraid to confront executives who resist change, telling everyone that if they don’t change, she’ll be happy to attend their retirement parties.

Tough-talking Nooyi thinks re-invention requires not only a change in culture, but in design. As such, she visits a market every week to see what Pepsi looks like on the shelves. In doing so, she realized that the shelves just seemed more and more cluttered, so she has led a movement within Pepsi to rethink its innovation process and design experiences for consumers—from conception to what’s on the shelf. Now her teams are pushing design through the entire system, from product creation, to packaging and labeling, to how a product looks on the shelf, to how consumers interact with it. And if the rising stock price is any indication, it appears that her re-invention strategy is working.
Some companies have even put fancy names on their re-invention strategies. Kohl’s, for instance, calls theirs the “Greatness Agenda,” a turnaround effort unveiled last year that focuses on developing a loyalty program and expanding the merchandise mix with more national brands. Unfortunately this re-invention strategy has been slow to show results.
The perils of re-inventing a brand are many, but first and foremost, a company must re-invent its product.

Many years ago, my marketing firm became the first agency of record for Levitz Furniture. At one time, Levitz Furniture was a successful nationwide chain that helped create the “furniture warehouse” genre decades before Costco created the grocery warehouse concept. At its inception, customers would walk through the warehouse first to create a “wow” factor before arriving at the showroom. And because the item was already in stock, customers could strap a sofa to their flatbed and drive home with it that day. Or get delivery the next day. Yet after being in business for nearly 100 years, Levitz ended up liquidating in bankruptcy in early 2008. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In 2000, our agency was charged with re-inventing the brand’s marketing and advertising. The re-invention, if you can call it that, was to refresh an old brand with old stores, and an old warehouse model that had become obsolete. And yet, still bootstrapped with a large percentage of these “dinosaur” stores, the client’s initiatives were relegated to introducing Natuzzi leather furniture, a popular new furniture brand at the time; next-day delivery on in-stock merchandise; and a choice of over 100 fabrics on sofas, etc. Our task was to put a new coat of paint on their advertising, beginning with a refreshed logo, updated jingle and slogan, new in-store signage and a new broadcast advertising campaign. The client handled the print advertising in-house.

After our new campaign launched, we were pleased to hear that for the first time, Levitz reported a reversal of their negative double-digit same-store sales. We achieved the first quarter of nearly positive comps in many years. A swing of +5% to +18%, depending on store market.

For newer stores (where smaller footprint locations had no adjoining warehouse like the older stores) in growing markets like Las Vegas, the results of this new advertising were even more positive and sustainable. But that was a small part of the company’s overall sales.

Often, re-invention needs a total mix of fixes.

For a chain that was handcuffed with outdated “warehouse-style” stores that had lost any meaning to consumers, especially since other furniture retailers like Rooms To Go were promising entire “room packages” with “next day delivery,” Levitz needed to do more to truly re-invent themselves. Moreover, Levitz’s under performing legacy real estate in low economic areas was financially draining, and an anemic merchandise mix with little styling and stiff competition didn’t help matters. It appeared that the small inroads our new advertising was making would not be enough to pull Levitz out of deep hole they had dug for themselves over the past two decades.

As a “hail mary”, Levitz (a public company) did what a lot of companies like Radio Shack and others do when they find themselves on the edge of extinction. They brought in a high-salaried, stock-optioned executive from a big chain (Sears) to serve as their new President. He brought with him (as is usually the case) a new Merchandising VP and VP-Marketing Director with equally robust salaries and stock options.

Funny how history often repeats itself. In 2012, JCPenney hired new CEO Ron Johnson, a former chief at Apple, to re-invent the company. Johnson undertook a risky transformation with regard to its “shops” concept and promotional strategy that almost finished JCPenney. It all began when an activist shareholder group allowed then-CEO Ron Johnson and his management team to enact a “bet the farm” strategy, undertaking a complete makeover of JCPenney without trying it out on a limited basis first. He eliminated couponing, sales, and disregarded the wants and desires of JCP’s core customers by moving to an everyday low price strategy. Fortunately, the company saw the error in its ways and brought back JCPenney’s prior CEO Mike Ullman III who acknowledged that Johnson’s strategy was poorly executed and that significant changes needed to be made quickly to stem the operational declines and cash burn.

But I digress.

Just prior to the arrival of Levitz’s new management team, we were tasked with developing an entirely new advertising campaign that could reposition Levitz in a new light. But new management wasn’t sure if our newest campaign, yet to launch, was the right approach. So they agreed to do some focus group research with both existing customers and prospects to see if our new marketing campaign achieved the “re-invention” in the minds of consumers that they were hoping.

The new Marketing VP’s notion for re-invention was to add the name “Homestore” to Levitz, since in Chicago the few Levitz “Homestore” locations there were doing good business compared to the rest of the country. He wanted to test that name in the focus groups. We felt that if the goal was to re-invent the brand, it needed more than an additional name. It needed a top-to-bottom re-invention of the merchandise, the stores, the displays, the sales staff, the advertising…everything. Our campaign, we argued, was only one small component of the re-invention mix. However, since he was dead set on using the new name to re-invent the brand, we suggested testing it with 4 other names in the focus groups. He agreed.

Fortunately for the agency, the focus groups loved the new advertising campaign we presented and it appeared to achieve the “re-invention” promise the client had hoped to achieve. However, the focus groups ranked “Homestore” last on the list of names. The researcher thought we had gotten some very good feedback from the focus groups and gave us kudos for a well-received ad campaign.

Next day, we got a call from the VP-Marketing who disagreed with the research, thought it was flawed, and instructed us to insert “Homestore” into all the print ads and broadcast going forward. We argued our case by pointing to the research and lost our plea to reconsider his decision.

Within 90 days, the account was moved to another ad agency, and within
5 years, Levitz liquidated in bankruptcy.

Too little, too late.

Was it just the “Homestore” decision that put the final nail in Levitz’s
coffin? Not by a long shot. The perils of re-inventing a brand are many, but first and foremost, a company must re-invent its product.

Levitz had only scratched the surface of re-invention by bringing on new management, a few new product lines, adding walls to the showroom furniture displays, and asking us for a new advertising campaign. What they truly needed to do was bite the bullet and close its underperforming “warehouse style” stores located in mostly low-income neighborhoods where demographics had changed; test in a few markets a merchandise revamp comprising 75% of its inventory with more contemporary and exciting styles; test new marketing initiatives in 2-3 markets to determine which one performed the best; revamp its sales team and sales practices in those markets; create a new and unique in-store customer experience; and bring in new management with turnaround experience and the vision to re-invent the brand, not merely collect six-figure salaries and stock options for the duration of the chain’s existence.

Then maybe Levitz had a chance of not just surviving, but thriving. Then again, maybe not.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13TH largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami.

Marketers must be aware of inflection points.

A recent report, “Casual Dining: How Brands Can Pivot from Irrelevance to Growth,” written by Tom Lutz, Dylan Bolden, Keith Melker and Mary Martin, sees the CDR (casual dining restaurant) segment as being at an historical inflection point, with older brands that have not maintained their differentiation fading (i.e. TGI Friday’s, Red Lobster, Olive Garden) and newer players rising to take their places (i.e. Chipotle, Panera Bread).

According to the report, casual concepts have been hit by a number of marketplace shifts, including the health & wellness trend’s emphasis on fresh, high-quality, hormone-free ingredients embraced by chains like Chipotle (to which CDRs are slowly responding); the growth of breakfast, which most CDRs do not offer; time-constrained lifestyles that benefit faster service models; and CDRs’ inefficiency in converting first-time guests to repeat customers (a 6.5% conversion rate, compared with 15% for quick-service and 18% for fast casual).

And while 23% of CDR visits come from Millennials, the report says that age group chooses quick-service restaurants or fast-casuals more often.

Are there inflection points in your industry?

It’s important for all marketers to look for inflection points within their industry, and at society at large. With the speed of technology, communication and business today, it’s easy for a company, even an industry, to lose connection with the key drivers of consumer choice, and more importantly, be willing to shift directions if an inflection point is observed.

Changes in people’s eating habits and a desire for more organic foods, lower consumption of sugar and soft drinks, market shifts away from big box retailers, new social media channels, streaming of music and video, and the umpteen new technologies and trends—from big data, mobility, cyber security, identity theft, cloud, and social business—are driving innovation and creating inflection points across virtually every industry sector, impacting the next phases of technology, consumerism and lifestyle shifts.

From office supplies to fashion, inflection points are affecting commerce in virtually every industry.

Certainly Office Depot and Staples have witnessed inflection points that have dramatically impacted their business. The advent of big online players like Amazon have made brick ‘n mortar retailers in the office products category, and big box chains in general) lose their once dominant connection with consumers. Like the CDR category, office products, electronics, jewelry, footwear and department stores, retailers have been hit by a number of marketplace shifts, least of which is the time-constrained lifestyles that benefit the ease and cost-efficiency of online purchasing. And while their online businesses have benefited, Office Depot and Staples have seen dramatic declines in in-store traffic over the past 5-10 years. Like the canary in the mine, all big box retailers are in danger and must reinvent themselves to survive.

Major categories in the brick n mortar channel such as tailored menswear have seen dramatic inflection points put enormous strains on their businesses. 240-store chain S&K Menswear is one of countless retail brands that have declared bankruptcy over the past 5 years, and fingers-crossed mergers such as Men’s Wearhouse and Joseph Banks may be the last flicker on the candle as men, especially Millennials and those in their 30’s and 40’s, are in industries that no longer require suits, or telecommute in their t-shirts at home.

Today, grocery chains that don’t embrace the seismic shift to healthier foods, organic produce, and hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats and poultry will find themselves rapidly losing market share to those that do. Target seems to be getting it. They recently announced they are prioritizing fresh foods over packaged goods. That means canned soup, cornflakes, boxed macaroni and cheese and other processed foods will get less optimal shelf space in a move designed to reflect the changing tastes of Americans looking for healthier options.

Coke and Pepsi have already reacted to this growing health & wellness inflection point by introducing or purchasing beverage brands with less sugar, less artificial ingredients, less chemicals, all the while, watching sales of their flagship Pepsi and Coke brands (including diet brands) shrink year after year.

Are we experiencing an inflection point in the way we view aging?

Fashion house Saint Laurent debuted an eye-catching ad featuring 71-year-old Joni Mitchell. Not to be outdone, Kate Spade and jewelry designer Alexis Bittar rolled out campaigns featuring 93-year-old style legend Iris Apfel. A short time later, L’Oréal announced that it had signed 65-year-old ’60s icon Twiggy as its latest brand ambassador, joining 69-year-old Helen Mirren.

These are only the latest members of a sorority of seniors being tapped by major fashion and beauty brands responding to a new inflection point about aging. These notoriously youth-obsessed brands are finally accepting—even embracing—women of a certain age.

That’s especially true of the luxury space with studies indicating that wealthier and older consumers are more likely than the young to pay more for quality goods. An important inflection point for luxury brands—from high-end automobiles, jewelry and timepieces, to luxury resorts and vacations.

Boomers are creating a huge inflection point for many marketers.
Baby Boomers control 70% of all disposable income in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. The group—defined by the U.S. Census as those born between 1946 and 1964—are 76 million strong nationwide and their influence on health care, technology, travel and e-commerce is growing rapidly.

Inflection points are numerous:

•People over 60 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in the world. In 2000, the 60-plus population globally was 600 million; by 2010, it had swelled to 800 million, and by 2050 it is expected to hit 2 billion.

•Technology is completely within their grasp, with 83% of the group conducting online research before making major offline purchases.

•When it comes to leisure purchases, 70% plan to take an overnight vacation in the next 12 months and 49% of Boomers plan to spend between $1,000 and $5,000 for their vacations in 2015.

•Overall, 55% of consumer packaged goods sales are made by Boomers. The demographic’s loyalty is worth earning, as 55% remain loyal to brands they like.

•Baby Boomers are expected to live longer than any previous generation, and they remain proactive when it comes to their health.

Many have written off Boomers in favor of younger generations, but as U.S. News’ research suggests, Boomers have only just begun to transform practically every industry in the country. A big inflection point, indeed!

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years of experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13th largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami.

Where’s all the innovation?

I pulled into my neighborhood gas station, the same one I’ve been using for more than 2 years now, and slipped my credit card into the slot as I always do. As usual, I was asked to answer the same question about my zip code, whether I wanted a receipt, car wash, etc. Then it dawned on me, why doesn’t the gas station have software integrated into their system that recognizes me as a repeat customer? It should greet me by name, not ask for my zip code and know that I never get a car wash. That way I can save precious time at the pump and my customer experience would be that much more delightful.

Certainly there have been some great and notable innovations in the past decade including but not limited to the Web, electronic medical records, smart phones, drones, apps, biotechnology identifying DNA proteins and stem-cell therapies to treat disease, etc. And there are new and exciting innovations soon to launch. Like a microwave oven that accepts voice-over recipes, a washing machine that takes commands from a smartphone app and the NEST, a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat that connects your air conditioner to a smartphone.

But what about the “everyday” innovations from the merchants we do business with all the time. The dry cleaner, the diner, the grocery store, the movie theater, the car wash and gas stations. Where’s the innovations there?

Let’s be more like Ritz Carlton.

If you’ve ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton, you can’t help but admire their customer experience philosophy and brilliant execution, “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” When a guest arrives by car to the hotel, the valet asks for a name. While the guest is walking into the hotel, the valet is using his communication device to notify the front desk that Mr. Dornfield in the navy blue blazer is arriving. And when I approach the front desk, I’m greeted by name, a refreshing and welcomed “tactic” that never fails to impress.
Yes, my local dry cleaner has my phone number in his computer which tells him how I like on my shirts starched and my pants pressed. This is a nice bonus and helps to speed up the transaction. They even have an Express Pouch program that lets customers drop off a bag of laundry into a 24-hour locked bin and retrieve the finished pieces anytime of day or night. But what about other retailers, restaurants, hospitals and the like? Where are their innovations?

Innovating the dressing room.

Neiman Marcus, one of a growing number of retailers who understands the power of the fitting room, has unveiled the Memory Mirror in its Walnut Creek, Calif., store. The Memory Mirror is located outside the fitting room — but still has an impact on what occurs inside. A shopper tries on an outfit in the fitting room, stands in front of the mirror and creates a video. When she tries on the next outfit or two, she can see herself in the varying looks side by side. She also can send out the video for that all-important social experience: feedback from her friends.

The technology also allows for efficiency. Like the story of a mother whose daughter was shopping for bridal-related clothing. They spent all their spare time coordinating trips to retailers to find the right looks. When the daughter tried on outfits and sent her mother images from the Memory Mirror, the shopping process became a lot easier for both as they no longer needed to coordinate schedules for joint shopping.

Innovating the supermarket.

Imagine a keg-equipped “beer bike” riding around the grocery store transporting beer to shoppers wheeling shopping carts equipped with cup holders to store their beer glasses. A brewmaster even peruses the store to select new ingredients for his next recipe.

Welcome to Whole Foods Market’s new Houston store, home to the Whole Foods Brewing Co., the retailer’s first-of-its-kind in-store microbrewery.
Even Amazon is innovating with drive-thru groceries. According to a recent report in the “Silicon Valley Business Journal,” Amazon.com is trying to bring a drive-through grocery store to Sunnyvale. Users would select groceries online, then pick them up at the brick-and-mortar location at 777 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road.

With all the marketing talk today about gaining market share, increasing share of wallet, and the like, I challenge merchants to innovate more. They might find that creating a unique selling proposition through innovation leads to a faster path of building brand equity and growing sales.