The semi-professional blog of Albert Ciuksza Jr.

Category: Marketing Management (Page 2 of 2)

Marketing to Women #2 – The End of Men

Women comprise 51.4% of the U.S. population, but make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions. (MayoSeitz Media)

This was the statistic that got me started down this road. It got me asking questions: What of those decisions are made by women and what of those are influenced? Whose money is it? What is the final purchase result? And, to some extent, what are men buying in the 15% of instances that they’re making the decisions by themselves?

Some of those questions were answered in an article published yesterday in The Atlantic Monthly titled “The End of Men”. The thesis should scare men and women alike as there is a gender inequality 180 that could be as damaging as the chauvinist tendencies of most of history. PLEASE read the article — it is well-written, fascinating and disturbing.

Why is it the end of men? Ronald Ericsson, a now 74-year old biologist who devised a way to separate sperm to help people to select the gender of their children in the 70s, is quoted in the article as saying:

“Women live longer than men. They do better in this economy. More of ’em graduate from college. They go into space and do everything men do, and sometimes they do it a whole lot better. I mean, hell, get out of the way—these females are going to leave us males in the dust.”

The article goes on to explain how the world is changing to favor the skills/talents/demeanor of women. This is demonstrated by a few key facts/statistics:

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Marketing to Women #1: U by Kotex

It looks like confetti!

It looks like confetti!

I threatened you that tampons would be my first women’s marketing post. Might as well go big or go home, right? Why not tackle one of the things us men are most challenged in discussing on the first go ’round?

So, I’ve been particularly fascinated by U by Kotex since encountering it in the health and beauty section of Target. It was featured on an endcap (I’m particularly obsessed with the endcaps at Target, which often feature some amazing clearance items). The black box with the big ‘U’ and color contrast was a particular draw, having no clue on first sight as to what it was. I saw the Kotex brand, tilted my head, furrowed by brow and said “Really?” out loud, drawing the attention of a couple of women in the section (awkward). Since then, I’ve seen these boxes everywhere where feminine hygiene products are sold, as they’re being displayed in very prominent store placements. At this point, the guy-freaked-out-by-the-monthly-cycle-that-shall-not-be-named was bested by my marketing mind.

Wow, that's boring, even for me.

Wow, that's boring, even for me.

The next natural progression was to take a stroll down the feminine hygiene aisle, where I found some fascinating packaging (see above). There’s really nothing to distinguish a brand — category leader Tampax is at the top (I noticed that the logo had been changed since the one on the box used by my mom to store batteries in the closet as a kid — Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!), positioned next to the store brand that has a very similar scheme (the usual tactic when a company wants to sell their higher-margin private label and have it be compared to the market leader), with a bunch of indistinguishable pink and baby blue boxes. Playtex Sport stood out because the women on the box were depicted as having an absolute blast while on their period, contradicting the behavior of every one of my ex-girlfriends while in a similar state. Perhaps the most interesting was Kotex — not only was it on the bottom shelf (retail products and Tequila have a similar rule when it comes to placement on the shelving hierarchy), but it had a generic box design with red flowers. Not sure exactly what subliminal message the flower was supposed to send, but, even in my open-mindedness, I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about it. Kotex obviously figured out that, well, its brand sucked.

Speaking with a friend of mine about the subject, she said that she goes to the aisle, grabs a box of the tampons to which she’s been brand loyal since her first period, and vacates the premises as quickly as possible. “I HATED it when they changed the box on me, because it made me stay there longer than I wanted to”, she complained. So, maybe that was exactly the point in the package design and positioning — keep it simple for women bothered by the experience and help them get the hell out of there.

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My Name is Albert. I’m in Marketing and I Don’t Understand 60% of Consumers. Please Help.

I have no clue why<br />women care about shopping here

I have no clue why women care about shopping here

Hi. This is my first meeting at Marketers Anonymous. My name is Albert. I’ve done marketing for years in a variety of industries. I have done graphic design, marketing strategy and implementation, and have done both B2B and B2C. I’ve developed a web site for a matchmaker and have designed marketing collateral for the consumer market. I’ve done all of this without having the faintest clue about why women buy what they buy at the prices at which they buy. I need help and I’m here to say that I’m ready, willing and able to accept it.

I realized all of this after my Sephora post. I got some great feedback (mostly from women) who thought it was HILARIOUS that I was so freaked out/uncomfortable in that environment. I told a few guy friends about my experience and they responded words/phrases like, “brave”, “crazy” and “I can’t believe you’d actually go in there by way of anything but brute force”. It was also reinforced by a story that a friend told me — she LOVES Louis Vuitton and was SO excited to get a handwritten thank you note from her salesperson for buying a handbag. I couldn’t believe that a $3 card would help seal the deal on a $1,500 handbag.

Women make around 60% of the purchasing decisions and I have so little insight into how they see the world. How can any marketer feel comfortable building a strategy when 60% of the market is a mystery? I ask myself things like: Why do women focus so much on the color pink? Why are women willing to endure waxing certain areas that, to me, would be worse than death itself? Why are some women excited about buying designer shoes at a store like Marshall’s while others would rather pay full price for the exact same item at the branded store? Why will some women eat from the McDonald’s Extra Value Menu to be able to afford a $300 bottle of custom perfume from Barneys in New York?

As a part of my marketing class for my MBA, I’m required to write “learning journals”, which I’ve chosen to do as part of my blog. I’ve decided to use the rest of the class (through the end of July) to analyze women and the way companies successfully and unsuccessfully connect with them. My hope is that I come away from the project with a better understanding of what makes women tick (at least as consumers — in other contexts I’ve already conceded defeat).

So, ladies, I’d love to hear your suggestions for things that might come second nature to your decision-making but are completely invisible to us men. Guys, I’d love to hear about the types of things that confuse you/freak you out/make you glad to be a man. Any and all suggestions are welcome (for instance, one of my next posts is going to be about the logic behind the Kotex U line of feminine hygiene products and yes, I really am going there).

Leave a comment, shoot your suggestions to or DM or @reply me at Twitter@AlbertCiuksza. I’d love to hear from you!

(Update: Make that 85% — the percentage of purchases women influence [Thanks Too Busy to Shop!]. This is going to be one hell of an uphill climb for a clueless only child.)

How Quaker Steak and Lube Hypes the Triple Atomic Wing

Punishing heat on a wing

Punishing heat on a wing

Quaker Steak and Lube (Twitter @TheOfficialQSL), for those not from Pittsburgh, is a restaurant known far and wide for their amazingly awesome wings. With more than 21 sauces that range from the tasty (ranch) to the ridiculously hot (Atomic), they’ve earned their reputation as “Best Wings USA”. The restaurant has even been featured on Man vs. Food, where the host ate the Atomic wings in its Pittsburgh episode (see link here).

Most recently, Quaker Steak and Lube added the Triple Atomic wing to its menu, a sauce that is more than three times hotter than its regular Atomic sauce (hence the name). How is this determined? The Scoville scale, which is widely accepted as the scale by which peppers are judged. To provide some context, the Triple Atomic wing is at the same level (5,000,000 Scoville Heat Units) as law enforcement-grade pepper spray.

Pain in an egg carton

Agony in an egg carton

A cousin was visiting from Philly and expressed some interest in tackling the Triple Atomic wings. He’s had a painfully hot Man vs. Food find before and decided that he would regret not achieving a second. Not only was it interesting to watch him eat the chicken wings of pain, but it turned out to be a great lesson in experiential marketing. Here’s how:

The Waiver
When you first order ’em, the waitstaff gives instructions and tells you all of the things they have to (your arms can blister?) “as required by law”. I’m absolutely sure that they’re trained to believe that there is some legal risk in selling these wings without some warning. In addition, the person eating the wings is required to sign a waiver. Reading reviews of other restaurants with similarly hot wings (many of which also require patrons to sign a waiver) seemed to indicate that the waiver was simply a publicity stunt. I don’t know for sure, but my hunch is that it’s more for hype.

The Presentation
The six wings come in an egg carton presented by an employee dressed in a mock hazmat suit complete with a hood and blinking head lamp. Not only does it ratchet up the stress, it also alerts nearly everyone in the restaurant to the fact that you’re going to be giving ’em a shot. The waitstaff then runs down the dangers/suggestions once again. A few glasses of water come to your table, then you’re on your own.

Eating the Wings
Everyone seems to be staring and a few are cheering on. There’s a lot of eye-watering and sweating involved. My cousin gave a GREAT play-by-play. In short, they hurt really, really bad.

The Trophy
My uncle taught me that every achievement should come with a trophy and these wings are no different. Polishing off the six Triple Atomic wings (without getting up to go to the restroom or any other cheating) nets a nicely-designed black t-shirt and a special place on the Atomic Wall of Fame. As insignificant as it might seem, it seems to be a satisfying conclusion to a painful process.

So, why is this great marketing? Because it creates a story for all participants. For those daring enough to take on the gastronomic challenge, it’s an experience that is told and retold, which helps to build a ton of brand equity at no cost. This has a direct impact on the bottom line by way of both top-line revenue growth and marketing expenditures — our server mentioned unprompted that the owners spend very little on advertising and the restaurant is still full almost every night. It even got the place on a popular food show, which is essentially a free commercial for the restaurant. This is a great example of how customer experience, storytelling and myths can build strong brand equity at negligible cost compared to more traditional interruption marketing channels.

Boo Not Voting! Hooray Beer!

Voting They<br /> Can Believe In

Voting They Can Believe In

Research suggests that we vote not for an explicit effect on an election (most data suggests that larger-scale elections are minimally affected by an individual vote) but rather for an intrinsic reason (duty, a sense of having a “voice”, etc.).  Even in the wake of the last presidential election, where youth turnout was cited as one of the major reasons Barack Obama was elected, turnout amongst 18-to-24-year-olds didn’t exceed 18%, truly abysmal numbers.

Apparently, the U.S. isn’t alone. The Czech Republic seems to have a challenge with getting young people to vote (not true for the overall population, which is competitive with the U.S. in voter turnout in their last presidential election, hovering around 65%). Like their youthful counterparts in the U.S., young Czechs feel that the process isn’t worth their time. So, how to get the youth of the Czech Republic?

In a WSJ Article today, The Stanislav Bernard brewer (its owner is a former candidate) is offering free beer to young people who vote in the country’s upcoming election. Citing the “near-steady stream of domestic political infighting, corruption scandals and mudslinging” as reasons why the country’s youth don’t regularly vote, Mr. Bernard believes that their participation is critical to democracy. So, his offer is simple: classes at college preparatories that get at least 85% of students to sign a declaration to vote win a free keg, and the first 1,000 students to sign the declaration win a free case of beer.

A former (and potentially future) candidate hit for the cycle with this stunt — he’s getting massive world-wide publicity for his beer, he’s supporting a noble cause and he’s raising his profile amongst a potential future voting bloc. In a country that consumes a massive amount of beer (about 320 pints annually), this seems to be a surefire way to sell beer AND democracy. Who can’t drink to that?

Can Premium Save Print?

Post-Gazette's Hope

Post-Gazette's Hope

Since at least 1996, I have been reading news sources online, usually the New York Times for general news and the Post-Gazette for Pittsburgh-related news (especially for Pittsburgh sports coverage, which wasn’t easy to get in Texas). In a span of 14 years, I’ve spent countless hours reading content online (either through a standard browser or my Blackberry), giving only my passive attention to ads. In that time, I can likely count on two hands the number of times I’ve purchased a newspaper, usually because a friend was in it or there was a major event that warranted saving the print edition. The stats — 14 years and 10 papers. In other words, I’m exactly the example of why there are so many challenges in the newspaper industry.

Pittsburgh<br /> Baseball Club

As a member of the painfully masochistic group known as Pirates fans, I read the various articles about the team published in the Post-Gazette. I’m a particular fan of Dejan Kovacevic, the Penguins-turned-Pirates beat writer for the P-G, and I enjoyed his PBC Blog when it was hosted at the main site. I was also thankful that his blog remained membership-free even as other blogs and sports insights moved to the recently-launched PG+, a paid ($3.99/mo) site that has more in-depth coverage and interactive conversation than the main newspaper. However, I knew it was only a matter of time that his daily insights would be moved behind the firewall and I’d likely limit my reading to what information was freely available.

The announcement that the blog would be moved to PG+ was made in April and finalized in early May. In the process, something made me decide to give the paid site a shot, so I ponied up the $3.99 to test it out for the month. Not only have I read Dejan’s work, but the other blogs that run the gamut from sports to local politics as well. I’ve found value in it and will likely subscribe for the year ($2.99 if you pre-pay for 12 months).

From my experience, the so-called ‘freemium’ model seems to be working for the P-G. Why? Because there’s genuine value to the experience. While superficial sports coverage and local news can be had easily and for free, the type of in-depth information that their paid site provides is well-worth the $4/month. In addition, I’m beginning to feel a sense of responsibility to the newspaper industry — like public radio, I know that these media are needed in a strong, well-informed democratic society (an interesting article suggested anecdotal evidence that the decline of the newspaper industry is having some impact on campaigns). While I think as much information as possible should be free, I have come to terms with the fact that I need to contribute my share.

Like my earlier “buy me a beer” post, the $4 seems like a bargain for the type of information I get. So, will premium save print? Is there enough truly premium content out there for newspapers to get people to buy? At what point does the industry go the Detroit Free Press route and focus more on their online presence than their print edition? And, based upon the low tolerance for paid information online, what price makes it profitable enough for newspapers to give us the kind of important information we need?

Sephora is One Scary Place

Scarier than the boogeyman

Scarier than the boogeyman

I love the National Geographic Channel and its focus on wildlife. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to how different species choose mates and the lengths to which they will go, from the plumes of feathers on a peacock to the amount of light a firefly will use to attract the opposite sex. I’m even more fascinated by the sheer number of similarities between us humans and the animal kingdom.

On a recent trip to Ross Park Mall, a female friend dragged me into Sephora for a time she described as “quickly”, which made me realize that the she might not know the definition of the term. While initially nerve-wracking, I decided to make this my own personal National Geographic special, using the experience to analyze how products were packaged and displayed, how lower-end products compared to premium products and what design theories were used to appeal to women. While I started in an area with a bunch of boxes and bottles, I ended up in a section with various items that resembled miniature lawn equipment, much of which made me realize that I am much less likely to injure myself using a table saw than an eyelash curler (Really? An Eyelash Curler? That’s necessary why?).

The entire experience went from fascinating to traumatizing when I came upon a box with this grooming machine that included three different attachments. I looked at the first one, which looked much like the trimmer you’d find on the back of an electric razor — that’s not so bad. Next down was a tool that looked just like an electric razor with little holes to cut hair — that was just a mini Norelco razor. Finally, I got to this dangerous shark-toothed looking thing. I looked at it, tilted my head like a beagle hearing a harmonica for the first time, and tried to figure out what the hell an “epilator” was. Then it hit me. Completely by reaction, I hunched over a little bit and protected certain areas of my anatomy, subconsciously afraid that the damn thing would jump out of and attack my nether regions. I also made a very loud oomph/ouch sound, causing my friend and two sales associated to run over to make sure I was ok. They found me standing there, completely blown away that anyone would use such a disturbing device. While they were laughing, I was still in shock. I believe I’m now one of the first diagnosed cases of epilatorphobia.

The lesson learned, beyond the fact that I will never feel entirely safe being in the same room as that devil machine, is that men and women really do have completely different shopping experiences and expectations. There was a shocking amount of white used in graphic design, as well as pastels (compared to the blues/browns/darker neutrals found in men’s products). I also saw a loose correlation between product shape and price — the more unique and feminine the shape of the bottle, the higher premium on the product. Another observation involved typography — while men’s products usually feature bold/black fonts, most of the products in Sephora used type that was thin or ultra-thin. Finally, I realized the motivation women have to achieve beauty is beyond what I had ever expected before (I’m an only child with a decidedly non-girly mom who has usually dated women who could get ready in 20 minutes or less). The point? For this category of woman, appeal to the need to be beautiful, make the packaging as much of an experience as possible, market the product in a way that it feels luxurious and price it such that the product feels rare (now with “hydrokryptocyanide!”) rather than eerily similar to what is in a Suave bottle in Giant Eagle. While it is a very crowded market, there seems to be a niche for a multitude of similar products — invoke those feelings of beauty and exclusivity, and you’ll carve out a niche.

Hey Man, Just Buy Me a Beer

Like it? Buy me a beer!

Like it? Buy me a beer!

My Blackberry and I are usually inseparable, like a boy and his dog, though I’m not quite a boy and I don’t have to feed or clean up after my phone (training it is another story). For whatever reason, I’ve been losing it recently, leaving my BB Tour in places that were frustratingly difficult to remember. In a fit of frustration last night, I did a quick Google search and found, a website that rings your cell phone until you find it. It worked like a charm and I was quickly calmed (in case you were wondering, it was found behind a seat cushion on the couch).

When I returned to my computer , I saw the little message in the middle of the screen where the guy asked for a beer in return for building a useful tool. He didn’t want a donation or a hand out, just a little show of thanks that any beer-loving person would want. If I lost my phone in a bar and this guy found it, I’d absolutely buy him a beer right then and there. Why not now? A few clicks later, my beer was sent to him via PayPal.

I thought this was a fantastic way of getting people to voluntarily pay for a free service. I read a lot of different publications every day and rarely click on an ad link, so I know I’m not one of those valuable pair of eyeballs so often touted by websites that aim to be ad-supported. But what if my favorite author, blogger or sportswriter asked me to buy him or her a beer? Absolutely. That’s a reward (pricing structure) that makes sense to me, and I’d jump at the chance. In beer culture, there’s no greater compliment.

Chegg and the Art of the Freebie

Free Prize Inside!

Free Prize Inside!

If you’ve not heard of Chegg (you probably haven’t unless you’re in school), it is a pioneer in textbooks, enabling students to rent their books for a period of time, usually a semester, at a fraction of the cost of buying. They make the process ridiculously simple and shipping both ways is free. They even plant a tree in your name, allowing you to choose one of three locations. In my three semesters in grad school, I’ve gone to the Chegg site, found my books, entered in my credit card info, and had them two days later.

What separates Chegg? A slap bracelet and a beer coozie.

You see, my second shipment came with a slap bracelet, a fun little toy that took me back to middle school when we were buying them in all sorts of colors and prints until a few kids ruined the fun by injuring themselves, leading to bans in schools across the country. It was a great surprise and totally unexpected, something along the lines of getting a toy in the bottom of a Cap’n Crunch box. I thought it a great example of creating value for the customer inexpensively (large quantities are about $.50/each) by bringing a little fun to what would otherwise be considered a run-of-the-mill online purchase. And the beer coozie? That was in my summer term’s box o’ books.

What’s the result? I’ve told my fellow B-School friends about Chegg and I’ve given them a few shout-outs on Twitter. And now I’m writing about their great service and little surprises on my blog. At roughly $.50 an order, they’ve secured a customer (me) that will likely use their service for the rest of my graduate studies and earned a whole lot of word-of-mouth. Any marketing exec would love to have that kind of ROI.

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