Monday, November 26, 2007

Is Yours Here? Dell's Holiday "Wish"

So...does celebrity advertising really work? And will virtual "begging for money" get you to your end goal? Better yet, if you have a celebrity do the begging for you, will you fare better than just asking yourself? Dell is hoping for success with this concept with their recently launched holiday campaign called “Wish.” The Wish campaign includes print ads, videos, a series of television commercials directing customers to and a temporary Dell store in New York’s Times Square.

While watching football games over the holiday weekend, I saw the Dell T.V. commercial starring Burt Reynolds several times. But the commercial itself didn't get me to go check out the website. Actually, after seeing it, I was kind of confused. I knew there was a website, but I didn't understand its purpose. All I got out of the commercial was "see some stars sell stuff...get a soft sell from Brooke Burke." And since the celebs weren't intriguing to me, I wasn't curious enough to check it out. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention to the commercial (after all, studies have shown people in my generation tend to avoid ads). It wasn't until my boyfriend (who was researching a new computer online) checked out the YoursIsHere site that I knew what the commercial was trying to get me to do - to have a celebrity ask your family/friends to make a donation to your Dell fund.

Today I visited the website to check it out and learned the steps to the whole "celebrity seller" process:

  • First, you select the Dell product you want to get (notebook, desktop computer, personal electronics (like digital cameras or portable navigation systems)).
  • Next you select the celebrity (Chuck Liddell (ultimate fighting champion), Burt Reynolds, Brooke Burke, Vivica Fox, Ice-T, Estelle Harris (a.k.a. George Cosanza’s mother on Seinfield)) you want to make a sales pitch on your behalf.
  • Then you set up a virtual piggy bank via PayPal (but only if you’re over 18).
  • Finally, you can post a "fundraising widget" tracking your piggy bank's progress to MySpace or Facebook, and send e-mail links with the celebrity sales pitch video to your family and friends.

See below for an example of the Dell Fund Tracker that you can add to Facebook or MySpace:

Here are some of my thoughts about the website/campaign/concept:
  • Regarding Dell's overall campaign, I'm unsure how successful it will be due to a few misalignments between the internet tendencies of requesting parties and donors. I would assume this website would appeal most to teens thru mid-late 20-somethings who use social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. If we eliminate the under 18 age group (you have to be 18+ to have a PayPal account), we could figure most of the parents and relatives of these individuals are at least 40 years of age, and many probably older. Pew Internet and Life Project estimates only 59% of ages 30-49 have internet access, 40% of those 50-64, and 15% of 65+. So I doubt grandma will be contributing to your fund unless someone helps her out.
  • The widget concept for tracking donation progress keeps up with the latest trends. After all, widgets are hot...even Newsweek declared 2007 the "Year of the Widget." So, sure some people might find it cool to share the progress they are making in getting your new laptop, camera, etc. However, if your relatives are the ones you are asking to contribute, chances are they aren’t checking MySpace –or- Facebook to see how close you are to your goal. And I'm not sure I'd want to share with my friends how close I was to getting a new computer or a camera...or let everyone on MySpace/Facebook know about my finances. But that's just me.
  • Although I think the campaign execution could be improved, the concept itself is innovative. The fundraising concept is interactive, and offers some personalization (i.e. you can select one of six celebs). It does lend itself to being slightly co-creative with the customer (as in the customer is creating their own, unique Dell experience). Although it’d probably be even cooler if you could really personalize it (think Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” for inspiration). Better yet, Dell could have enabled users to send completely customized messages to their potential donors. For example, users could upload their own video sales-pitch (via YouTube) or upload a photo to go along with a personalized note. After all, I would think mom or grandpa would rather hear the request from you than from someone they don't know (especially a B/C list celebrity). Even your sister/brother/boyfriend/girlfriend would probably rather hear from you.
  • The part of the site I think is brilliant is the ability to set up a virtual "piggy bank" via PayPal. Dell is on to something with this and I think other retailers (and PayPal) should start thinking about making this a standard customer offering. Why? It might help reduce consumer waste due to unused/lost/unwanted gift cards and encourage consumers to buy bigger ticket items. TowerGroup estimated $8 Billion was lost last year due to expired/lost/forgotten-about gift cards and Consumer Reports said 27% of card recipients have not used at least one card they have received. The virtual piggy bank not only allows people to get something they really want for Christmas (or potentially some other occassion), but it puts all of the cash into one place with the recipient to use towards their desired purpose. I could see tons of uses for this PayPal feature. For example, it could simplify high school graduations - the graduate wouldn't have checks to deposit and could transfer the money directly from PayPal into their bank account. And think of how it could change weddings - instead of having a wedding registry, a bride and groom could post some photos of things they're planning to buy (or a list) and have a place for people to make a monetary gift ilo sending gift cards or bulky boxed items. Of course, you might have some issues with grandma trying to use it, but with technology there are always learning curves.

So, based on all of this, my feedback to Dell is: tweak the execution to allow for more personalization; offer the feature year-round (because once the trend catches on I think it'll become a norm); lose the cheesy, B/C list celebrities unless you want consumers to think of Dell as B/C list too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Method Home - Making Product Shelves More Appealing

I have to admit, shopping for household cleaners isn't one of the most exciting experiences a consumer will have. Visiting any discount retailer or grocery store, consumers will find the household cleaning goods category is littered with endless options, un-original products, boring packaging, and harsh chemical contents. Since there are so many products available and a high level of competition, brands struggle to differentiate themselves from competitors. And surprisingly, the industry and its products haven’t changed much since the 1950’s. The small changes brands have relied on to set themselves apart include different scents, lower price points and unique characteristics that enhance cleaning power (orange oil, oxygen bubbles, etc.). Unfortunately these changes don’t prevent retailer shelves from being cluttered and boring and products from appearing to be all the same. Customers wanting to purchase a household cleaner may tend just to grab the cheapest or most colorful product to avoid sorting through the disorder. They are probably thinking “the bottles look the same, so the products must be equivalent.”

But in the late '90's the household cleaning products category began to see some evolution. Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, realizing the stagnancy of the category, decided to create their own brand of cleaning products in 1999. Their brand – method - emerged as a clean and fresh alternative to regular household cleaners. Method attempted to change customer’s perceptions by having unique, stylish packaging, smelling pleasant, and being environmentally friendly. Looking at a shelf containing method products versus the competition, the consumer’s eye is instantly drawn to the freshly designed containers. The company’s strategy for disruptive packaging appears to be working since customers are snatching up their products and method was recently listed as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. And I am a big fan.


So how does method communicate it's brand image? Method’s key tag line is “people against dirty.” In other words, the brand wants customers to believe the current chemicals they use in their homes, might get rid of bacteria and dust, but leave behind toxic chemical residues. One of method’s print ads even reads “does my home have chemical dependency?” In this ad, a common spray bottle (i.e. common household cleanser) is cleverly shown in a brown paper bag with the top folded over like a bottle of booze. Comparing this image to the unsoiled, transparent method bottle makes the customer wonder how many toxins co currently reside in their home.

Method’s product packaging meets brand expectations through portraying an image of clean simplicity. Each Karim Rashid-styled bottle is organically shaped, completely transparent, contains bright fluids and has a simple label with crisp fonts. The rounded, slowly tapering curves of every bottle introduce a human element to the unfriendly designs of products past. Additionally, method’s color palette for each of its products complements its various scent offerings like pink grapefruit, almond, cucumber, lavender, and eucalyptus mint. Due to their packaging, method products convey thoughts of purity, safety, and freshness. The brand’s form language is consistent, and is carried across to their many products - laundry, specialty surface, dish, all-purpose, and hand and body. Although method’s products can be found in many of the same places as “ordinary” household cleaners (Target, Office Depot, CVS, Lowes, etc.), they are displayed on an entirely different shelf than their stagnant and conventional competitors. This display strategy further helps method stand out from the clutter.

So method's packaging strategy and brand image are "clearly" a how else could they innovate their packaging or product line-up? Regarding unique packaging, method’s overall strategy is effective and pleasing to the eye. However, they have not yet taken on the challenge of redesigning the sprayer/ nozzle head to further set themselves apart. My recommendation would be to carry their clean, minimalist theme on to the sprayer. An inspiration for this design could be the type of sprayer you would typically find at a modern kitchen sink. The shorter, more compact nose on the sprayer, slender neck, and reverse positioning of the pumping mechanism further drives the point that method products are uniquely different. Regarding product line-up, they are definitely headed in the right direction. They've moved from solely home cleaning products to skin care products as well as moving into Glade/Febreeze territory with their scented sprays, candles, oils, etc. They've also changed the packaging on their refills to become pouches that use "83% less plastic than a rigid PET bottle...(and) take less energy to produce." Way to go method. I have to ask those of you reading this blog...are you converts? Are you "methodic" about your cleaning habits yet?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Crocs - What's Next?

The Crocs Story:
In 2002, Scott Seamans discovered an oddly shaped clog developed for use in day spas. The shoe had been created by the Canadian company Foam Creations (a company Crocs, Inc. now owns). Although the product design was unusual and had attracted his attention, Seamans was most interested in its material composition. The shoes were made out of a waterproof, lightweight, and bacteria/fungus resistant resin, PCCR (now called “Croslite”).

Thinking the clogs would make good boating shoes (holes allowed for air flow and water drainage), Seamans added a strap to the back, and took them on a trip to the Caribbean. While there, he presented the shoes to two friends (one a former hardware sales exec, the other a former Quiznos exec). After talking about the strange clogs, and believing there was a marke for themt, the three friends decided to start a company together. They branded the shoe “Crocs” due to its odd shape and took product samples to boating shows to introduce them to the public. People were at first hesitant to embrace the clogs because they thought they were ugly. However, once they tried a pair on and wore them around, people became converts and Crocs was an instant hit.

Communicating the Brand Image
The Crocs brand communicates images of child-like fun, and quirky, fashion rebellion. Most of its shoe models could be considered whimsical and toy-like, boasting bright colors and a cartoonish appearance, with blown-up looking rounded toes. The design of the brand’s most popular models, clogs called “Beach” and “Cayman,” are amorphous in shape, often called ugly, and made fun of by most who have never worn a pair. The shoe design is so distinct it causes instant polarization amongst consumers. Consumers either love or hate the shoes. Those who love them believe if you’re brave enough to wear them in public, you must be cool. Those who hate them, however, have created websites like “,” YouTube videos lighting the shoes on fire, and t-shirts showing Crocs clogs being attacked by scissors.

Crocs are made for comfort and the company claims the shoes have the coziness of flip flops but with arch support and toe protection. Various design cues reflect these claims, from the soft, pliable, light-weight material that loosely molds to feet when warm, to the puffed-marshmallow-like curves of the shoes’ styling. The products’ no-frills designs (simple styling, solid colors, smooth surfaces) go along with company claims of Crocs being easy to maintain, non-marking, slip resistant, and dishwasher safe.

The brand goals for Crocs are for its products to be all-purpose and appeal to an extremely wide market, from babies to grandmothers. To help make its product appeal to the masses, Crocs offers varying levels of customization. Besides offering over 20 models and a variety of colors, the brand has licensing deals with Disney, NASCAR, and colleges, and people can adorn their shoes with “Jibbitz,” snap-in, button-like charms. Additionally, the high-tech material and animal referencing “Croc” name suggest eco-consciousness.

When Crocs were introduced, they were sold in small shoe stores. However, their popularity helped move them to national distribution with Nordstrom and Dillard’s. The shoes are generally easy to locate, but are still primarily sold at specialty garden, gift and sporting goods stores (Hallmark, Dick’s Sporting Goods), and upscale shoe and department stores. They can also be purchased direct from Crocs (online). In-store displays of the shoes generally show them hanging from a rack (no box, within reach of customer hands), which further enforces the brand claim of accessibility. The Crocs’ distribution strategy is not unusual, although their price point is distinct and further enforces the brand desire to be a shoe for all people. Many shoe makers will push the base selling price of trendy shoes upwards. Crocs, however, wants their product to be accessible to many people, so the base price point for their shoes is $30.

So...What's Next?
Knowing that the market for trendy shoes might be short-lived, Crocs has branched out into other products like t-shirts, hats, socks, and bags. Unfortunately these offerings don’t reflect or use the proprietary “Croslite” material upon which the Crocs’ brand has been build. Instead of growing these products, I think Crocs should expand their “gear” line-up (which currently only consists of knee pads and garden kneelers). Croslite’s sanitary properties (bacteria/fungus resistant), and the brand’s use of bright colors, provides Crocs with the opportunity to move into many other “gear” related products like shin guards, mouth guards, beach toys, baby items (teethers, bath toys, pacifiers) and even dog toys.
Current Gear offered by Crocs:
Potential Products Crocs could market:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

I'm sure some of you have already heard about this...since this product made an appearance at the automobile industry's SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturer's Assoc. ) show -and- was announced back in January. But billboards have been popping up in the Detroit-area over the past few months, and I seriously thought they were a joke when I first saw them - ads for lavender-scented tires by Kumho ( And if you don't particularly love lavender, apparently the company is offering neroli (orange) and jasmine scents as well. Scented tires...who knew?

Although scented tires aren't the first thing I think of when I dream about upgrades to my car, I did have some curiousity about the product. My first thought was "is the scent good for the environment?" Then I had a humorous image of a person kneeling down in the parking lot taking a big whiff of the wheels of the car next to them (This behavior definitely does not seem like a trend that would catch on). And unless you're spending a lot of time in your garage - outside your car - who's going to care what your car's tires smell like? I mean, you aren't exactly driving with your windows (or convertible top) down, wind in the hair, hoping for a lavender-scented breeze, all the time. Especially not in Michigan where the warm weather season is short-lived. Of course, I'm not quite sure this is how the tires understanding is the scent is released when rubber comes off your tire. So do you only smell it when you slam on your brakes in a hard stop? My guess is most women won't be doing burnouts to fill their car with a lavender smell...

As proof these tires are actually available in stores, my friend Stacy just had her tires replaced and reported they had these in a glass case at a Bell Tire store. At $120-$140 a tire...a person could spend $500 pops outfitting their car. With that said...and knowing that women motorists tend to prefer cargo room and convenience to car gadgets (see studies like the one recently released by, I wonder how they're selling. Does this tire company think women (who they're targeting the product at) are idiots? As a woman, I personally feel like the compay is insulting my intelligence. Do they take me for a dizzy blonde whose only wants in a car are for it to be pretty and purple and smell like lavender (are we picturing Sugar Plum Fairies flying around in this dream too?)?

So although I give Kumho props for disruptive innovation, I wonder if they were thinking of (or sniffing) too many laundry detergent/fabric softeners when they came up with this. I mean, I could see a potential market for lavender-scented rubber floor mats. The technology definitely has the potential to be cool or desirable...just in another product form. So I guess the lesson learned here is make sure you have a clear understanding of your target customer before putting something out there on the market and heavily advertising it. Because right now, scented tires sound like a push versus pull strategy to me.
In case you wonder what Kumho's press release said, see below. And if anyone has a copy of their scented-tire market research report...I'd love to see it.
Press Release
KUMHO Introduces World's First "Aroma Tire" For Select Passenger Vehicles
U.S. market will carry limited inventory of orange, lavender and jasmine scents

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. — KUMHO Tire USA, announces the introduction of the world’s first fragrance automotive tire, the ECSTA DX. The project is the “fruition” of more than a year’s worth of research and development to deliver an alluring aroma tire that replaces the normal “black rubber” smell with heat-resistant oils in the scent of lavender, and in later versions, neroli (orange) or jasmine. Visitors to can find the nearest dealer and will ship them for installation.

According to Rick Brennan, Brand Director for KUMHO, the company is selling the DX aroma tire to help build brand awareness and highlight KUMHO’s tire technology expertise in the highly competitive automotive marketplace. The tire is targeted at female consumers who drive such sedans as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Subaru Outback, Chrysler Sebring and Ford Taurus.

In addition to a unique aroma, the ECSTA DX is engineered to deliver low noise levels and ride characteristics on par with the leading tire brands. Ride comfort is maintained throughout the life of the tire through the use of tread elements designed to provide uniform linear stiffness. Optimized pitch sequence and variable pitch lengths help minimize noise, while a straight center rib provides high-speed stability.

The DX features four wide grooves that help evacuate water, while a silica compound improves all-weather performance and wet traction. High tensile steel belts and a jointless nylon cap ply also help improve noise, ride comfort and durability, while an undertread reduces unwanted heat buildup for consistent performance.

The ECSTA DX Aroma tire will be sold through starting in the first quarter of 2007 in three sizes: 205/60R16 (MSRP $119), 215/60R16 (MSRP $125) and 235/60R16 (MSRP $138). The tires can be delivered and affixed to passenger vehicles at a KUMHO tire dealer.


Established in 1960, KUMHO TIRE CO., INC., of Seoul, South Korea, had 2005 sales of $2.2 billion. KUMHO manufactures and distributes a complete line of tires for passenger cars, light trucks and heavy-duty trucks. KUMHO has manufacturing facilities in Korea and China and operates technical centers in Birmingham, England, and Akron, Ohio. For more information, visit the KUMHO TIRE USA Web site at