The Mall — Revisited

A short time ago I wrote a post that talked about the evolution of event marketing venues and the impact that alternative venues have had on the mainstay event venue of the last several decades, the American mall.

Well, the New York Times has an insightful article that also takes a good, long look at the evolving way consumers frequent the mall. It’s part microscope into the consumer’s mind, part reality check for the status of the mall in the consumer shopping hierarchy, and part hope for marketers.

The hope lies in the opportunity that the challenging economy (recession, if you will) presents for marketers. As the article notes:

We are reliably informed that whatever part of the economic crisis can’t be pinned on Wall Street — or on mortgage-related financial insanity — can be pinned on consumers who overspent. But personal consumption amounts to some 70 percent of the American economy. So if we don’t spend, we don’t recover. Fiscal health isn’t possible until money is again sloshing into cash registers, including those at this mall and every other retailer.

In other words, shopping was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, economists report, we really need to learn how to save, which suggests that we will need to quit shopping again.

What that means is that old cliche — that true market leaders keep marketing through the downtimes so that they emerge stronger than ever when good times come back — is true. Times may be tough, but if you have customers — more importantly, if you want more customers in the future — you can’t go dark right now. Improve and fine-tune your brand and value proposition, ratchet up your customer service, look deeply at your ROI and spend on what works, get up-to-speed with SEO and Google and other channels you’re currently not in, focus your message on key benefits most important to your customers — just make sure you have a message out there. Be consistent, be seen, be reliable and flexible and accomodating to your customers.

Because good times will charge ahead again at some point, and if you stay strong now you’ll be even stronger then.

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Further Update on Targeting AdWords to Mobile Devices

Just a brief mention that Search Insider has an insightful post on the benefits of AdWords targeting to mobile devices. It elucidates some of the differences between iPhone and G1 and underscores the main points that a) the number of mobile devices is only going to grow; and b) it includes other devices, now and future, beyond the pillars we typically think of (iPhone, G1, Storm). Enjoy.

Google Continues to Connect Marketers with Customers

A terrible economy is a great time to make life easier for marketers.

Enter Google yet again. On Monday the giant announced an option that lets AdWords users target ads to mobile devices with full-HTML browsers like the iPhone and G1.

You can even target campaigns specificially to mobile device owners. And not only is Google investing time on the front end to customize results pages for the iPhone, they’re also providing broken-out performance reporting on the back end so you can take a good, long look at ROI for your mobile ads. That’s a good thing, given that impactful statistics are yet to surface on how users interact with AdWords results on mobile devices. Although one study says upward of 50 percent of iPhone users conduct searches on their devices.

There’s some Web debate over the mobile ads driving users to desktop landing pages, instead of mobile-optimized ones. And there is valid concern over that. At the same time, enabling non-mobile-savvy marketers to charge ahead into mobile search — without becoming savvy at mobile optimization of landing pages overnight — is a good thing, especially in this economy when all businesses are dying for customers. Not to mention channel-specific reporting, so evaluating ROI on mobile search is easy to do.

Where’s the Marketing Bailout?

Ok, time for a rather random post, compared to some of the marketing how-to commentary you read in this blog. But here it goes anyway.

In a daydream-type moment today, I couldn’t help but wonder that given all the coverage, debate, angst and fuss given to the government bailout of the financial industry (including Citi and now possibly automakers, too), what if there was a bailout fund for bad marketing campaigns?

Yes, that’s right. A huge fund of public money to help marketers in need. Ok, that may be too much of a folly for some to comprehend. So instead, what if the money came from an insanely-wealthy, smart businessman who just decided to give bad marketing a second chance? Say, a Mark Cuban or Richard Branson. Think of all the marketers and campaigns this bailout fund could help breathe new life into. Here’s a few famous ones:

  • New Coke would get a fresh start, rejecting market feedback since the first launch in a second attempt at reinventing this soft drink. How about a crazy new campaign with new packaging (using a completely different color pallette than the traditional suite of Coke products), a new tagline (maybe “New Generation, Another Try“), and a grassroots online marketing effort backed by advergame sponsorship (official drink of all the felons in Grand Theft Auto V)?
  • In an attempt to market its way out of the potential Big Three Bailout, Ford relaunches the 2009 Edsel X Series. It’s a hybrid, practical vehicle targeted to families via mobile events at Wal-Marts in 50 major metros. Ford also partners with H&R Block to provide mobile tax-completion services in branded Edsels, associating the vehicle with financial prudence.
  • Instead of trying to capture adult tastes with a 610-calorie burger, McDonald’s repackages the Arch Deluxe brand as the Deluxe Arch Salad. It incorporates the same elements at the original burger, yet slightly healthier — fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce; low-calorie cheese; bacon bits; and low-cal croutons. It’s marketed as part of a value meal with yogurt, an energy bar and a non-bottled water. Marketing includes coupons distributed via gyms and health clubs, in-store events with athletes and celebrities, and grassroots sponsorship of sporting events and fairs.
  • Can you think of other products that would qualify for funds? I sure could (hell, I’d love to see my Cingular brand come back, but that’s not bad marketing just a bad decision…did I mention I hate AT&T?).

    Not to bring up a sore subject, but can you think of your own campaigns that would qualify? If so, then go take a good, long look and fix them right now.

    The Evolution of Event Marketing Venues

    The explosion of event marketing, mobile tours and other mega-events may be partially responsible for the death of the American mall as a top-tier marketing venue.

    If you take a good, long look, certainly there are other factors, as the article describes — the economy, the growth of the low-cost retailer, a trend towards more manageable and balanced personal consumption (especially in the face of recession), and the emergence of the green and now “dark green” demographics. The economics of the mall are struggling to adapt to the new retail landscape, for sure. And when consumers aren’t showing up like they used to, that makes for a difficult marketing venue no matter what.

    However, marketers now bring impactful events out to the consumer, instead of vice versa. A stand-alone retail store used to be a pariah when compared to the multi-store power of the mall. Now, you may show up at that stand-alone retail outlet and find an event that beats the essence and excitement of a mall. And most stand-alone stores nowadays provide some kind of retailtainment atmosphere to keep the traffic coming. Outside of the retail venue, you may show up in a variety of places and find the same impactful events — sporting events, transportation hubs in major metro areas, high-traffic city blocks, local fairs and more.

    The mall used to be such a strong venue for events because the masses were there. And surely they’re still there to a certain degree, and so are events. Yet marketers started delivering great events outside of that venue, and it worked. And now that consumers don’t rely on the mall as much, they expect to find the experience and engagement with brands in those other venues. And marketers know those other places deliver the demographics and volume. So it’s a good match. And we haven’t even discussed the online channel, which dovetails with the live event experience on multiple levels to keep the engagement lasting.

    Surely, the mall will rebound and find ways to remain relevant in some fashion. Or, as the article above hints, with low-fashion or thrift-fashion. And when it does, event marketers will surely charge ahead and be there too.

    More Reasons to Hone Your SEM Skills

    Take a good, long look at David Carr’s article in New York Times about the continued decline of traditional media companies.

    Companies from the Christian Science Monitor to the Los Angeles Times to the Tribune Company are hemmorrhaging people, dollars and advertisers. Of course, the reason is the shift of both consumers and ad dollars online.

    The paradox of all these announcements is that newspapers and magazines do not have an audience problem — newspaper Web sites are a vital source of news, and growing — but they do have a consumer problem.
    Stop and think about where you are reading this column. If you are one of the million or so people who are reading it in a newspaper that landed on your doorstop or that you picked up at the corner, you are in the minority. This same information is available to many more millions on this paper’s Web site, in RSS feeds, on hand-held devices, linked and summarized all over the Web.

    This article, from an old media bastion like New York Times (itself losing staff due to declines), should be the only cue you need to hone up on whatever traditional online tactics, Web 2.0 technologies, mobile targeting capabilities, new Google products, and social media strategies you aren’t comfortable with right now. The shift is only growing stronger, as you know, yet when these slow-movers really focus on the online space the pace of consumer shift will pickup rapidly.

    Will you be ahead of the game? Then now is the time to move.

    Techno Babble

    This post is related to marketing in the sense that there are alot of technology options brewing right now that focus on the mobile space. So this post from Mashable highlights a technology start-up that focuses on mobile delivery of rich media content.

    Translation = savvy, shiny new content delivery means relevant, targeted new advertising options

    If you’re considering moving your brand message into the mobile space, stay aware of the latest options and technology coming down the pike (or here now) so you can package your message with the right companies, content, widgets, (don’t forget iPhone and, coming soon, Android apps) and other gadgets.