Thursday, 29 August 2013

Coca-Cola departs from Classic Coke Red to a greener look

I’ve learnt a lot during my studies in the Master of Marketing. Actually, I think that may be an understatement. I walk around now constantly bewildered by my environment, analysing packaging, advertising, reading into the most minute aspects of the world. This is because since undertaking my masters, I have understood that is someone at the end of the chain, making a decision for every minute element of most things.

Along with this, I have gained a lot of respect for the Coca-Cola Company. I’ve written about them before. And despite my status as a ‘lapsed’ customer (I kicked my Diet Coke habit a few years ago), I still pay attention to their products. This is why I am deeply intrigued by their recent new product, Life. Launched into the Argentinian summer, Coca-Cola Life is positioned as a low-cal alternative that is sweetened naturally. Featuring a mix of sugar and stevia, Life has 108 calories and is an offering that sits between Original and Diet offerings. Along with this, the bottle version of Life also boasts the company's award-winning PlantBottle, which is made from petroleum-based materials and up to 30% plant-based materials. Ever the image of a socially responsible global giant, the company hopes to be able to have a 100% plant-based bottle eventually in their line.

Not only is it a risky move, migrating away from the adored and iconic red colour (I recall the New Coke disaster, or when they made their can silver for Christmas), Coke has entered into an uncertain position in the market. Although previously Coke and Pepsi have dipped their toes into the waters of the ‘mid-calorie’ offering, Pepsi currently is swimming with their Pepsi Next offering. Pepsi Next was examined by most of the students of the Master of Marketing in our Evaluate Market Performance class, taught by Geoff Fripp, Industry Specialist Lecturer in Marketing. Although Next, used to be partially sweetened with artificial sweeteners, they have announced that as of June they have changed the formula to only use natural ingredients. This makes the two offerings very, very similar. Perhaps the change of ingredients from Pepsi was in response to Life entering the marketplace.

As with most things, I like to speculate the performance of the new products as they go head to head in the ‘mid-calorie’ market using all the tools I’ve taken away from the course thus far. However, in this instance, I think I might let my thoughts distill a bit longer, unwilling to make the wrong call. I will say however, that I believe this mid-calorie direction is the way carbonated drinks will be headed for the future. I wouldn’t mind my life being a little bit greener!

Would a totally naturally flavoured Coke motivate you to purchase?

Hongi Luo 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Be a part of our Marketing community at Open day on the 31th of August! If not now, when?

Whether you are preparing for the forthcoming Master of Marketing application session, or are scurrying off to find out more about which marketing course you want to apply for, or even if you have already accepted a position – The University of Sydney Open Day on 31th of August 2013 is a definitely must do for this weekend. Even though there is lots of pertinent information you can gain from the University of Sydney website or our social media, take up the chance to really soak up the atmosphere at Open Day.

By attending Open Day and really getting into the University environment you actually can learn much more about what you can expect from the Marketing course. As for me, Open Day was a great chance to get my numerous questions answered by Marketing teachers and current students. For sure, it’s certainly worth your time to casually chat with marketing community members and get their perception on what the Marketing Discipline at The University of Sydney is all about, and how it can benefit you.

I clearly remember the last year Open Day when I made my decision to be a Master of Marketing student. There was a lot of hustle and bustle at the event, with study seekers all eager to fulfill their questions. It may sound too instructive, but it helps to have done some research before the event. From my experience, it really helped me to formulate the exact points I wanted to discuss. Making the decision to go back to study can be a hard one, so Open Day is a great opportunity to understand how to make the transition.

For this year you will meet with Associate Professor Pennie Frow, Program Director of the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School and many other representatives from the Marketing Discipline.

You can find us at the PostGraduate Expo. And of course, if you have any questions about Marketing Discipline, or just how we, as students, have found the course, please do not hesitate to ask a question.

Find out more on our marketing website.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Belonging to great communities like The University of Sydney, Hilti and Google

For me, one of the great advantages of being a Master of Marketing student at the University of Sydney is the feeling of belonging to a society of truly talented and proactive people. This doesn’t only relate to our tribal affiliations, but also includes additional challenges and projects that our student community takes part in.

An example of this is the 2013 Google Online Marketing Challenge. Six Master of Marketing students: Rita, Yuriko, Yilian, Lillias, Sally and I decided to enter the Google AdWords competition. We were lucky to work with Hilti through this campaign. Many thanks to the team, our faculty supporters and most importantly our marketing partners at Hilti.

I’ve asked our team leader, Sally to explain the key features of this campaign on behalf of our team:

What was your motivation for participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge 2013?
I’d previously used AdWords as part of marketing campaigns; however I had never actively planned and executed campaigns myself. The choice was based on a desire to learn more about how AdWords works at a granular level, and to experience guiding a client through the process.

What was the most valuable take-away from your AdWords campaign?
Our team was focused on reaching professional Tradesmen in the construction industry. The product we were promoting was a range of high-end cordless drills, the keywords in this category cross into the DIY consumer market; therefore target market messaging was particularly important as we were talking to tradies not DIY consumers.

Analytics help to adjust for QualityScore, which improved our ad position so that’s an important factor and helps to reduce budget not impact.

What was the most difficult part of competition?
Initially, coordinating team member diaries was a challenge, so when face-to-face chats weren’t possible we used group functions in a social networking site to collaborate and the cloud to update our plans and to stay on track.

What was the most exciting moment apart from the results?
Looking at the number of Impressions and CTR was really exciting. We all got a buzz out of watching Google go to work. It was extremely easy to monitor and measure the performance and I found that really exciting and valuable.

Your team included members from different cultures, countries and professional backgrounds, what is your advice to people management?
Recognise that everyone has a different perspective, listen and adjust to ensure you can make the most out of this. It's also important to ensure each person understands what they need to deliver, when and how that contributes to the project.

Getting through this AdWords competition wasn’t only about handling digital stuff, concurrently we picked up a lot about the market Hilti operates on. Nicole and Christina, Hilti marketing managers actively supported and navigated us through such challenge.

I’ve asked Nicole as a Hilti spokesman to answer a few questions regarding Adwords campaign:

What was the company’s motivation to take part in the Google AdWords Competition with Master of Marketing students?
Hilti currently partners with a number of universities on various projects, so we are always open to take part in these types of activities, especially if they relate to our current business objectives. The Google AdWords project is something we were particularly interested in being involved with, as Hilti has had fairly limited exposure to this form of digital marketing in the past. We were eager to see how the students would approach the campaign, and what learnings and recommendations we could take away for our future digital marketing activities.

What are the most interesting or even surprising aspects that you uncovered through that campaign?
While not surprising, the Google AdWords campaign reinforced the importance of creating a unique message and value proposition that was still aligned to our premium brand and personality. In a highly competitive and price sensitive cordless power tool market, the team needed to be creative in coming up with a cut-through message, that would generate the best possible results. Also interesting for us was the much higher percentage of impressions and clicks from tablet users, as opposed to desktop users and even mobile phone users.

Was it useful experience for Hilti in terms of its overall digital marketing strategy?
Definitely. The student team delivered a well prepared and executed campaign, along with recommendations that we can consider as part of our future digital strategy. The focus that was placed on message development, which was adapted accordingly through the duration of the campaign, can be used to inform future campaigns.

In summary it was a good experience that the team has learned a lot from. We’re still waiting to hear the results for this year’s challenge, so fingers crossed!

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The science behind shopping

Did you know that emotion and value are handled by the same part of the brain? According to research from Duke University, this is the reason why we impulsively buy things that perhaps we don’t really need or want.

As marketers, we know already know some aspects of this. In many of our Master of Marketing classes we talk about the Perceived Value of products. This may or may not match up to the real, functional value of products – but value is in the eye of the beholder. How much value you perceive will affect your happiness, satisfaction and how much you are willing to pay.

Although shopping is definitely a trait passed down from our hunter-gatherer days, researchers are continually trying to understand better the science behind shopping. In an article by the Sydney Morning Herald, the link between emotion and decision-making in shopping explains why we go after those impulse purchases. Using brain-scanning technology, researchers are able to see that while we make both long-term and short-term decisions, impulse purchases are motivated by the temptation to satisfy immediate benefits because our brains put more emphasis on the present than the future.

I know we’ve all probably gone through it. I definitely have. Instead of thinking, “those shoes are too expensive, and I really can’t afford them” my emotional my emotional brain kicks in with “those shoes are BEAUTIFUL and they will go with everything in my wardrobe, and they are worth so much more than the money!” My emotional value for the shoes skyrockets, and impulsively, I buy the shoes.

Shops know about our behaviour, and clever marketers use this information to encourage us to buy and spend more. Here’s one trick shops use from learning about our brain’s behaviour:

Shop Right: did you know that most people walk to the right when they enter a store? This is because the majority of the population is right handed. This means shops use this opportunity to guide customers through a shopping journey where you will see the brighter displays, more expensive shinier items that will pull on your emotional value system.

You can read more on the science behind shopping.

Thanks to Associate Professor Marylouise Caldwell for the blog idea!

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Alexander Wang causes a stir with his free-for-all

In fashion it’s all about exclusivity. So when you get invited to a “One-time-Only” Special event, you line up for five hours in the hot New York humidity, and you go! Especially if it’s held by Alexander Wang.

Last month, the darling of high fashion caused a stir when an undisclosed event turned out to be a free giveaway of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of clothing. While first hand accounts told of the mayhem that followed, as devotees of fashion were welcomed by a video of Alexander himself explaining “Take as much as you physically can, because there are no shopping bags, no shopping carts” and that everything was free. Screams, catfights, destruction – thank goodness no one was trampled.

However… the saga continues! What was just a cool publicity stunt, maybe clearing out some static inventory, has now been released online for all to see.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING can be a display of brand loyalty better than this video.

 The designer said in a statement, “I love reaching out directly to our audience; to have a dialog that provokes and at the same time has a sense of wit and irony.” And maybe he’s got the formula to co-creation right? “ This project was viral and street at the same time, which allowed us not only to communicate with our audience through different avenues, but to activate them. I liked the idea of creating a destination that’s unknown, mysterious, and fun, where people can connect.”

Not only has Wang engaged with customers on a personal level – at least those who lived to tell the tale of the free-for-all – he’s also using this opportunity to engage on a different platform with customers around the world, YouTube. Although currently only 40 videos deep, the designer has been making more and more of these candid, odd, weird and funny videos. Although your mums and dads haven’t heard, it’s making a stir with the right crowd.

 In our digital age, it’s easy just to tick the boxes of social media. Facebook, check. Twitter, check. But to engage, REALLY engage with a platform and create content that adds value for your customer is extremely difficult. I know I sound like one of those mad fans in the video, but Alexander, you’ve got my seal of approval.

Hongi Luo 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

“Ethical behaviour by corporations is justified only if it leads to greater profits.”

There is one topic I have been procrastinating for a while to write about - whether employing provocative content in marketing communications or campaigns is justified by sales, or is it just not worth it to compromise our legal and moral obligations. I wanted to put off having such a discussion, even when the latest Rolling Stone issue putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s - “Boston bomber” photo on its cover. It got me really mad, but I am still not sure where I stand in this ethical dilemma.

However, identifying and collecting such ethical marketing issues has now become a part of my coursework in our Regulatory Environment and Ethics class, there is no further excuse to postpone the discussion.

Yes, as marketers we are pretty clear that sometimes even backlash created by marketing activities seems much better in comparison with absolute lack of consumers’ interest. So, there is no surprise why in today’s highly connected world such marketing tactics has become even more acceptable. On Twitter for example, as one UK marketing agency reveals, controversial content is a main driver of a successful social media marketing campaign. In a bid to stand out, and thus to capture greater customer attention, many firms are progressively testing how far they can go with controversial or even offensive content.

While for some companies this strategy may bring valuable marketing outcomes, Rolling Stone recent case instead has showed how it also could be pulled in a Boycott Rolling Stone campaign. Once its controversial cover appeared on the Rolling Stone's website, it immediately became a wide spread buzz topic across all social media. Not surprisingly, that nearly all the comments were highly negative. Here is one comment written by a very tolerant respondent: “CONGRATULATIONS, ROLLING STONE. YOU SOLD YOUR SOUL FOR SALES” .

With this Rolling Stone case I am pretty clear where I am. However, according to AdWeek, Boycott Rolling Stone hasn’t affected the magazine’s sales in any way, I would like to argue that even from a marketing perspective not all publicity is a good publicity. Growing sales cannot be a simple justification for being offensive. For me, the main risk of breaking the moral line is not whether an offensive campaign gains or losses in sales, but whether I, as a marketer, act in an ethically reasonable fashion.

It is definitely an endless discussion when it comes to where to draw the line for provocative marketing campaigns. Is this statement: “Ethical behaviour by corporations is justified only if it leads to greater profits” true? Luckily, we get a great chance at gaining a broader view on that through our Regulatory Environment and Ethics class this semester in Master of Marketing program at The University of Sydney Business School.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Virgin Mobile’s Content Marketing is LOL on Buzzfeed

It’s no secret that the webpage you just stumbled upon, littered with funny cats and embarrassing photos, is a really a sponsored advertisement. If you don’t notice the back slash hidden in the URL (in this case /virginmobilelive) you’ll probably notice that instead of some staff writer, trawling the Internet for pictures of dogs eating birthday cake, it’s the avatar belonging to a leading mobile service provider.

Buzzfeed’s viral success is due to their magic formula of understanding the Internet, and providing the type of content that people will share. Companies like Virgin pay about $100,000 a month in order to obtain a joint venture with the platform and publisher. That's money very cleverly spent, considering Buzzfeed claim they have found the secret to virality. In a recent interview with New York Magazine Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO, speaks about how they’ve found the “secret formula” to “viral optimisation.” A part of this process is monitoring the performance of posts, promoting ones that do well, and ruthlessly dropping ones that do not perform. That’s why you may have noticed the same few titles and pictures floating around – they get to stay because they attract more people to the site.

Whether or not this formula works, companies are eager to jump on the content bandwagon. Creating new, original content that will gain traction is difficult. It’s an art form. So why not use something that’s already working?

I can’t decide whether Virgin’s collaboration with Buzzfeed is innovative or not. It definitely works though. There is no doubt that people around the world are sharing “11 Things No One Wants To See You Instagram” and “27 Cats That Just Can’t Handle It” but the relationship to how this activity is selling product will be a secret kept by the companies – a difficult ROI to work out. There are other marketing elements however, like making impressions and generating a personality for your brand. Perhaps these intangible elements are even more important in a digital age where people are trying to affirm their own individual identities through the content they consume and share.

Regardless, Buzzfeed’s traffic has doubled within the last 6 months. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as a leading platform to communicate with the masses. Perhaps we should take a leaf from Virgin Mobile and embrace collaborative content creation for better, more LOL exposure on the internet.

Hongi Luo 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School