Thursday, 27 September 2012

Will Apple’s iOS 6 Passbook App be the New Digital Wallet?

I enjoy traveling light. If I could have things my way, I would leave the house with just my wallet, phone and keys. Now Apple has created an app to bring their product users one step closer to the freedom of leaving the house with only their iPhone (or iPad) and keys… I could not be more thrilled.

Apple’s new iOS 6 Passbook App is an Apple users’ dream in terms of de-cluttering their lives. It seems that an increasing number of stores have their own loyalty and rewards cards. If you’re not selective, in a number of weeks you can easily end up with at least 10-20 loyalty or reward cards. Not only does that make your wallet as thick as a brick, but it complicates life with the hassle of tracking points earned with each loyalty program. Who has the time to do that these days? The Passbook App is Apple’s solution to the chaos, offering simplicity to many of our already hectic lifestyles. Passbook will have the ability to store loyalty and reward card details.

Passbook not only seems to be leaning down the track of removing the bulk of your wallet, by eliminating all those loyalty and reward cards, but it will have the ability for you to rethink buying that extra ink refill for your printer. Movie tickets, concert tickets, sporting event tickets, and even boarding passes can be accessed through Passbook, completely eliminating the need to print and carry around paper copies. Since Passbook will be time and location sensitive, it will have the ability to display boarding pass information as you approach the airport on your way to your flight.

Apple’s Passbook App is not perfect. It was not designed to replace cash, credit card or bank cards as a payment option. Google Wallet has offered a similar product with the primary aim of completely eliminating your wallet, but Google Wallet has not done well in Australia due to lack of use.

Apple’s Passbook App will also have the ability to get customers into the door as well as increasing their number of purchases by offering relevant discounts as customers are in the vicinity of the stores. This key feature can be a powerful marketing tool, strongly resonating with the younger tech savvy generation. This builds the participating store’s brand awareness and most importantly improves the customer’s experience by offering value.

Apple’s Passbook App can be used to a marketer’s advantage. How will you incorporate Apple’s Passbook App into your business strategy?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Building a successful personal brand: Barack Obama

Say the name “Barack Obama” to almost anyone, anywhere in the world and immediately, there is a picture of an imposing orator standing before the US flag. Obama has a personal brand that he and his staff carefully manage, trying to ensure that his identify is clearly differentiated from his opponents and is associated with the values for which he stands. Political figures like Obama know the power of building and maintaining their personal brand and so they invest hugely in trying to manage their most valuable asset.

In marketing, we tend to think largely about strategies and tactics we can employ to acquire and build relationships with chosen customers. However, we can use these same approaches to developing our own personal brand – and that is exactly what President Obama does so successfully. He has created a brand identity that is emotionally appealing, associated with integrity, fairness and a desire to fulfill the American Dream.

Although many people think of personal branding in terms of image building and personal selling, the concept can address a much broader range of personal marketing strategies. The key is to effectively identify and influence how others perceive you and how they position you relative to others. Personal branding involves implementing a positioning strategy that manages the perceptions of how others perceive you when they hear your name.

In today’s digital age, having a carefully managed personal brand has become even more important. Social media has made personal branding a complex management task. The immediate impact globally that positive or negative comments can have on a personal brand requires constant vigilance, monitoring and maintenance of all channels. Take for example the power of social media during the 2008 US presidential elections. Obama had over 2.3 million supporters on Facebook alone, while McCain had only 620,000. On You Tube there were almost 1800 Obama related videos with over 114,000 subscribers, while McCain had only 329 videos with 28,000 subscribers. Obama was taking his message to many more people and entering into a personal conversation with them so he could explain his views and respond immediately to challengers. It was clear at an early stage who would win the election, long before the polls closed. No doubt, Obama has a well-defined social media strategy in place as he goes towards the next election in November 2012.

In the current competitive climate of the US presidential election, Obama has played his trump card to revitalize his flagging personal brand. During the recent Democratic Convention, one of the most powerful images was not of the President making fiery speeches, but of his wife, Michelle Obama, addressing the delegates with passion, sincerity and humility that rekindled many of the brand values the President has struggled to maintain. The association of the two brands is a clever tactic to revitalize Barack’s personal brand and reconfirm to the world his values.

Building a personal brand is not just a task for celebrities. All of us have a brand, what we stand for and a promise that may be attractive and appealing to others. Few of us manage our brand strategically, working out a careful plan of how we would like others to perceive us, what are our aspirations, and what we are associated with. Do you manage your personal brand and if so, what do you think are the most important ways of building your personal brand?

Pennie Frow

Associate Professor and Program Director of the Master of Marketing Program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Advertise your flaws!

Another intensive weekend unit has begun and it looks like we are in for a treat with Kate Charlton as our Integrated Marketing Communications lecturer. Her enthusiasm for the subject is almost contagious!

In class this weekend we discussed the process of creating media campaigns. Kate’s experience working for large advertising firms such as Saatchi Design and RedBox Digital (to name a couple) lead to many interesting stories about the process of creating a media campaign.

During the planning stages of a media campaign, disconnects can easily happen if the client is not honest and open with the advertising firm they are working with. These can and lead to expensive unsuccessful marketing.

Conversely, we discussed successful advertising campaigns that were the result of open communication between all parties. When customers can be honest about their weaknesses, and can let the advertising company design and deliver an advertising campaign based on their interpretation of the situation at hand, great things can happen.

A perfect example of this can be seen with the one star hotel, backpackers’ hotel, The Hans Brinker, in Amsterdam. Before the owners of the The Hans Brinker Hotel met with KesselsKramer, an advertising agency, the hotel was struggling to get a sufficient number of ‘heads on beds’. The owners didn’t have the funding nor the desire to upgrade the facilities of their hotel, so instead, they invested in the marketing of their hotel.

KesselsKramer devised an absolutely brilliant advertising campaign that promoted The Hans Brinker Hotel as “the best of the worst hotels”. At the time, the market was dominated by 3 star hotels which were too expensive for backpackers and didn’t necessarily meet their needs of cheap accommodation. The ads that KesselsKramer devised brilliantly embraced The Hans Brinker’s one star status and glorified itself in an uncluttered market space which eventually lead to outstanding results!

Currently, The Hans Brinker web site brags of what a disappointment the hotel has been for travellers, that the comfort guest should expect is at a low, and that occasionally the plumbing works. For those looking to backpack overseas, these qualities makes this hotel stand out, essentially adding to the customer experience. If you have had the ‘opportunity’ to stay at the Hans Brinker hotel, you truly have earned life long bragging rights for your experience.

Have you ever had the opportunity to promote a product based on what could be considered undesirable traits?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Billabong – Where Marketing Really Does Matter

When Launa Inman took over as CEO of Billabong in May 2012, she knew she had a huge challenge ahead of her to turn around the company. Launa recently announced a $275.6 million loss at Billabong, which means she has a daunting task of turning around the fortunes of the company. However, her previous experience at Target and Officeworks, along with her passion for marketing is likely to stand her in good stead. 

Billabong is an iconic Australian brand, closely associated with surf, sun and fun – all great ingredients for an Aussie marketing success. But along the way, Billabong lost its  direction – especially in terms of its customer strategy, knowing who are its loyal customers and exactly what they want in terms of athletic products.

The previous CEO of Billabong, Derek O’Neill, made a fatal mistake that is common in companies faced with a financial crisis. He cut the marketing budget and pulled back from investing in the Billabong brand. Instead of seeing the company recover from flagging sales, O’Neill steered the company down a path of further self destruction. The company closed numerous stores and sold off inventory at reduced prices, but did little to develop its presence in key markets. Then, a major American customer, PacSun, began manufacturing its own house brand, providing strong competition to Billabong and further reducing sales in the US.

Marketing lies at the heart of Launa Inman’s turnaround strategy. Interestingly, the Billabong brand has high awareness globally, but until now, this asset has not translated into sales. For example, in Australia, brand awareness is 86% of the population, yet only 46% have actually bought the Billabong label. Globally, this difference is similar and Inman recognizes the high brand awareness means there is a huge opportunity for the Billabong brand.  

Despite the strength of the brand, Billabong struggles to differentiate itself in the marketplace from some of its competitors, including its rival Quicksilver. For both brands, their core customers are sports enthusiasts. Yet neither brand has established a strong identity of its own. One of Inman’s first tasks will be to set out a strategy that positions the Billabong brand in an uncluttered space within the sportswear market.  

Billabong customers are passionate about the surf, snowboarding or skating. However, there is a significant customer segment who share in Billabong’s brand values of a healthy and active lifestyle, but do not actually participate in sports. This group offers huge potential for Billabong, but the company must work hard to make the brand more attractive. This is true, especially within its retail spaces. The cluttered merchandising in Billabong stores needs to change to reflect the brand image of  new and exciting lifestyles. Inman has set out plans to tackle the retail experience and adopt a fresher, contemporary look.

Tracking if Inman’s strategy changes the fortunes of Billabong will make an interesting marketing study. If you were in Launa Inman’s role as CEO of Billabong, what would you do to turn around the company?

Pennie Frow
Associate Professor and Program Director of the Master of Marketing Program at the University of Sydney

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Book Review: Outlook: Australian Entertainment and Media 2012-2016

In an evening hosted by the Masters of Marketing Discipline at the University of Sydney, Megan Brownlow, Executive Director and Editor at PwC presented an interesting recently released report: Outlook: Australian Entertainment and Media 2012-2016 at the PwC head office in Sydney. Megan was one of three panelists to present at The Changing Media Marketplace night which attracted over 70 attendees from industry and academia.

Topics that Megan discussed included:
  • Entertainment and Media growth rates: Australia’s growth rate is 4.1%, which is about a third higher than that of Japan, but much lower than other Asia Pacific countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, China, India, and Pakistan.

  • Internet advertising spend in Australia had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% in 2011. The 2011 CAGR for advertising spend in consumer magazines and newspapers showed a negative growth and is projected to drop further in the following five years.

  • IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) provides a clear cost and convenience advantage over free to air television. Many Australian households already have the hardware to support this media format. Appealing content offerings will be paramount to securing new customers in the coming years.
PwC generously donated a copy of the highly sought after Outlook: Australian Entertainment and Media book as a lucky door prize. For more information about Outlook: Australian Entertainment and Media 2012-2016, 11th edition go to

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The War on Privacy!

With the explosion of social media activity, the rise of on line retailing, and real time bidding to reach the ever-increasing online audience, the spotlight is well and truly focussed on privacy. More than ever, this is a hot topic in the daily media and in the legislators’ agenda. This is a fertile field for shock headlines and fierce political debate, with prominent commercial players such as Facebook and Google often in the firing line for alleged transgressions of the right to privacy. This is now a worldwide, borderless phenomenon.

Some privacy researchers are suggesting that privacy comes at a price, turning on the trade off between the consumer’s desire to share personal details in exchange for the benefits and convenience of the new styles of communication and consumption. In the backwash, the line between professional marketing research and the unqualified exploitation of “big data” laden with consumers’ details is becoming increasingly blurred.

No longer is the collection, processing, analysis and reporting of data the exclusive domain of the market and social researcher. Indeed, the advent of freely accessible on-line surveys, now being aggressively marketed well beyond the sphere of the professional market and social research community takes the established forms of our research into a new realm. In this context, users’ adherence to quality standards and best practice is not necessarily the case. This poses a dilemma for the professional market and social research community by raising the possibility that its hard won image for the protection of respondents’ privacy, an integral feature of quality assured research, is under threat.

To underline the difference between a professional versus an unregulated approach, most market and social research organisations in Australia now choose to operate within the regulatory framework of the Market and Social Research Privacy Principles and Code under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988. The Australian Privacy Commissioner is the adjudicator of this code. This sends the strongest possible signal to research respondents about the industry’s intent to protect their privacy. Have you felt your privacy has been violated through the use of social media, or as a result of a marketing activity?

Terry Beed
Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School