Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blog 6: Vans in my Head and Vans on my Feet... [Shoes: Part 1]

This is the perfect time for me to discuss my love of shoes. I think they are the perfect way to express a person's individuality without shoving it down the throats of those walking by with such things as brightly colored shirts with obnoxious slogans written on them. You only live once? Yeah, well you only die once too so I think I'll take my chances not being a screw up, but I digress. Getting back on track, I have a deep love of skate shoes. I think they look great, are very comfortable, and represent the very open and supportive community that is the skateboarding world. For example, I am a terrible skateboarder and can't do any tricks but am encouraged by my friends who have been doing it for years, but I digress again. Now I'll try to bring in the meat and potatoes of this post.
"All that meat and no potatoes, just ain't right
like green tomatoes" - Fats Waller
After the actual board, the most important piece of equipment are the shoes that you wear. The basic requirement is that they be flat-soled and flexible. Like much of the items available in our everyday capitalist American lives, we have control over which brand of shoes we can have. This is the reason why there is a whole world of skate shoe manufacturers offering many different takes on the basic construction needs of a skateboarding shoe. Some of the more famous brands include: DC, Etnies, Adio, Converse, and my personal favorite, Vans.
"Vans in my head and Vans on my feet..."
- The Suicide Machines

This is where the marketing concepts come in. Chapter 6 of our textbook is titled "Creating Value for Target Customers." Now why would I choose to spend way more money than I should on several pairs of skate shoes when I could buy one really cheap pair at a department store? This is due to Vans approach to the idea of Market Segmentation which is the process of dividing a market into smaller segments of buyers with distinct needs, characteristics, or behaviors that might require separate marketing strategies or mixes. Within this there is the concept of Market Targeting which is deciding what segments are most attractive to enter. There are also variables that go along with Market Segmentation. These variables are geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral. So where does Vans stand on these ideas?

Vans clearly targeted the skate shoe market as its segment. The company makes use of all of the variables but I believe it mainly focuses on the psychographic aspect. The psychographic variable deals with social class, lifestyle, and personality. The lifestyle it goes for is the free-spirited skateboarder. The personality it goes for (well, basically what I see as my personality) is the independent person who likes a stylish shoe that says something about who they are. 

Through targeting these segments Vans hopes to differentiate itself from its competitors and create value and gain loyalty from its customers. The competitive aspect will be explored in the future of this blog so for now I leave with one of my favorite punk bands ever: The Suicide Machines-The Vans Song 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Blog 5: Lost In The Supermarket

Punk is something I have always been able to get behind. It started out simply as a type of music that got my blood pumping and made me want to move. Though it still does this to me, it has also become a way of thinking that I embrace. It is important to note that Punk does not have a single definition and that this makes it a very broad term. Punk to me is doing what you want to do despite what everyone tells you. It is near complete liberation for me. However, there are detractors of Punk. Some see it as a self-destructive, ignorant, and juvenile. I specifically cite many of the more classically trained  musicians I have encountered speaking ill of it and writing off punk rockers as terrible, sloppy musicians which could not be further from the truth for most, though there are exceptions. You may now be asking yourself  "What does this have to do with marketing?" Well I will tell you, but first there needs to be a history lesson!

Some would say this isn't strictly Punk, but this is
the perfect Punk record in my book.
When Punk initially took form in the mid-70's it was widely mistrusted. It was considered a big threat to the social structure of the UK during Margaret Thatcher's time as prime minister. As unruly and strange as it seemed, Punk gained a following and had increasing influence in the world. However, as quickly as Punk gained popularity it was overtaken by new forms of music like Disco and what many refer to as Hair Metal (not hating on Hair Metal, Van Halen rocks.) It survived the 80's and in the 90's it resurfaced stronger than ever thanks to bands like Green Day and Rancid. By the mid-2000's it was the most popular form of rock around (Blink-182! Fall Out Boy! Taking Back Sunday!) Nowadays it is not as popular as it was 10 years ago but is still alive and well. Now that there is a rough timeline of Punk let us see its relation to marketing.

In the marketing world there exists the idea of Consumer Buyer Behavior. This is the buying behavior of final consumers - individuals and households that buy goods and services for personal consumption. This is affected by cultural, social, personal, psychological factors. The buyer takes all of these into account before deciding what product or service he will use. The part that I want to talk about is known as the adoption process, which is the mental process through which an individual passes from first hearing about an innovation to final adoption. The five stages of this process are as follows:
  1. Awareness-The consumer becomes aware of the new product but lacks information about it
  2. Interest-The consumer seeks information about the new product
  3. Evaluation-The consumer considers whether trying the new product makes sense
  4. Trial-The consumer tries the new product on a small scale to improve his or her estimate of its value
  5. Adoption-The consumer decides to make full and regular use of the new product
Punk was initially a new style of music that had very little information known about it at its inception. This was the awareness step for many young music listeners. The interest stage came when these people began going to Punk shows and getting Punk records. Some kids were turned off by the intensity of Punk and would no longer seek information while others embraced it with many starting their own groups. This is the way the evaluation step was completed. The trial step was undertaken when those groups that formed decided whether or not they would continue to play as strict Punk bands or expand their sound to include other influences like Reggae (as The Clash did). The adoption process as complete with the fifth step when these new groups decided to fully dedicate their lives to the music and lifestyle of Punk. 

Punk is not supposed to be about commercialism and business so this post is a little sacrilegious of me but the points still stand. Also, Punk is now a part of the buying process for some consumers as it is a cultural factor in the decision process. Punk is in so much of the world around us and I am happy to have been able to share some of my views on it. I now leave with this track from The Clash where the title of this post comes from.

(Definitions taken from the Textbook for our class)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blog 4: Ultra Feast

Well it's almost midnight on a Saturday night. So what is it that I can write about that has to do with marketing? I'm sure I'll find a way to relate. Let's start with a little background on my night.

For several weeks now my roommate Dylan and I have been planning what was to be known as "Ultra Feast." The basic idea of this event was to gather friends and food together for a night of good times and good food. Among the fare available this night was quesadillas, chili, and peanut butter brownies. We also had several different choices of beverages to partake of. Over the course of several hours nearly all of the food was devoured. Overall, the night was a great success. So what does this all have to do with marketing? 

In Chapter 4 of our marketing textbook the topic of market research is approached. The whole purpose of this chapter is to emphasize how important it is to find out what it is the customer wants in a product or service. This can be accomplished by observing consumers first hand, by taking surveys, by interviewing focus groups, and a variety of other methods. In order to decide what it is our guest wanted tonight we had to conduct our own form of marketing research. 

We needed to conduct somewhat of a survey in order to decide what cuisine we had for Ultra Feast. Some questions are as follow:
  1. Are there any peanut allergies?
  2. Who here is vegan or vegetarian?
  3. Does everyone like the food available?
  4. What type of drink should we provide?
Once we decided what food we would provide we further narrowed down how we would carry out Ultra Feast in the future by using a sort of rough focus group. By asking our guests we determined that peanut butter brownies and a wide variety of soda pop are a must for future events and that nachos should be made in a smaller quantity. We also realized that there is a shortage of bowls in our suite. This means that to provide the best service to our guests we should invest in more bowls.However, the most important lesson we learned is that Ultra Feast is a fun way to spend time with friends.

Marketers need to embrace these methods to survive. The textbook uses Domino's Pizza's turnaround campaign as an example. Ultra Feast can work the same way. Next time we will use better ingredients to make our meal or provide an even wider variety of soda pop. Ultra Feast will survive and other venture in the future will make use of marketing research.

I hope that was enough of a relation to marketing for this post. Have a great week!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Blog 3: Sports are Hard

What It Sounds Like To Me

Let us first begin with this: Sports are hard. I have never been the biggest fan of organized, televised athletics. As the son of both a gym teacher and a music teacher, I had the choice of dedicating my life to one or the other. I went with music. However, I have always been exposed to the world of athletics. The most present of all sports related subjects in my life is the Superbowl. Not only is this a major day for the NFL, but it is a major day for advertisers and marketers. Many a time I have heard of people watching the game simply to see the many ads that bombard the scheduled commercial time slots. This year is no different. As a marketing student and a marketing blogger I cannot help but see what is going into these ads.

First, we'll do a little timeline. Prior to the start of the game my roommates and I we're witness to a slew of strongly patriotic ads. There seems to be a recurring "America is Awesome" theme here. By the second quarter of the game we have already seen several celebrity  drenched commercials (shout out to Arnold Schwarzenegger) and at least two sentimental car ads, not to mention U2 and their continuing campaign to rid the world of injustices and disease. Coke wants us to know that America is beautiful. VW wants us to know that German Engineers are apparently angels who sprout rainbows out of their nether regions. Its not even the second half and I have to ask: What is happening to this world?

Nearly every commercial is absolutely ridiculous. There is a similar formula for a majority of these:

  1. Put a normal person in a odd situation
  2. Add a celebrity
  3. Add a dash of indie rock/dubstep
  4. Mix Well and Serve

I think this speaks to the increasing homogenization of American culture. Everything is being boiled down into a sure fire formula of similarity. As a self described creative person, I am very against this. The arts should be rebellious and unique, including televised arts like Superbowl commercials. As soon as you flood the marketplace with too much of one same it diminishes the quality. This ties into the Consuming Kids documentary. As long as advertisers bombard the same images and ideas, people will buy into them, sometimes just to get rid of the aggravation of being bombarded. Now that I've gotten my issues with the less savory aspects of modern marketing, let us apply the 4 P's to one of the commercials.

Here we are:

Product: Good Ole' Fashion Budweiser. It pulls at your patriotic heart strings and shows that you can be anything to anyone with their help. It is so very beneficial and attractive to the customer!

Place: Small town America. Everyone knows everyone and everyone knows your local Mom and Pop liquor store can provide you with the beer that brings people together. As always, the Clydesdale pulled wagon can bring it to you.

Price: In the rural U.S. you can easily afford this product. The price is low but the quality speaks for itself, so choose Budweiser over anything else!

Promotion: The American armed forces supports its troops with Budweiser! Do you love America? Then you would love Bud! It is America! As far as style goes, this aims straight for the heart and hopes to catch its customers there.

The target market is clearly the working American patriot. It is for the old idea that the American community is strong and supports its troops.

There you have it. My Superbowl blog post. It is a mixture of rants against conformity and analysis of the process that marketers are conforming. I can only hope that a return to individuality in marketing media can occur so that not only will the company represent itself, but represent itself with integrity in a unique fashion. We'll just have to wait another year to see. I leave with this: What will they think of next?