No Messing Around: Girl Power at the Toy Store

January 30 2014

with contributor anniegee

Goldie Blox is a toy brand that is assertively staking their claim to "disrupt the pink aisle" by providing young girls the resources and visual language to engage in the early stages of engineering, which is typically boys’ turf. While many of the stores selling the product are smaller boutique toy stores, Goldie Blox has also infiltrated the system at large. Both Toys R Us and Target sell the toys either online or in store, indicating that the mainstream market for little girls is looking for the brand of girl power that Goldie Blox delivers.


Their motto – “Toys for Future Innovators” – differentiates this brand from the majority of toys targeted to young girls. It's been awhile since we've seen astronaut or doctor Barbie, and even in the old days, professional Barbie seemed more like a costume than a call to a professional identity. The Goldie Blox packaging is "cute", and features Goldie with her big sparkling eyes, but the visuals aren't as saturated in pink glitter, butterflies, and rainbows as typical girls’ toys. Ditto the colors and typography, which are fun and engaging without going overboard. And they know how to use the digital space wisely. Last year, Goldie Blox put out an ad spot that went totally viral. The video showcases three young girls who are totally bored with the frills of their current girly toys. Inspired, they use everything from a pink feather boa to a spinning Barbie to build a multi-layered "Princess Machine" inspired by the Rube Goldberg Machine beloved by who? Boys and men! Take that, guys!


Debbie Sterling, Goldie Blox CEO (and real life mechanical engineer) has definitely seized a market opportunity. Growing up in a small town, Sterling didn’t even realize that engineering was something that existed, let alone something she could do. Since getting her degree, she realized that if she didn’t know her options, lots of other little girls didn’t know theirs, either. Consequently, her brand has been lauded as a feminist brand but also criticized for the same reasons. This is one reason I always say that when you approach brand analysis, you need to come at it from a neutral perspective, and see in a pure way what the brand has to tell you. This is the basis of being a good brand analyst.

No matter what your politics, the whole world should be presented to young girls, so that playtime encourages them to become strong, thinking young women. You can be a princess, dress up, wear pink, and still be an engineer. Goldie Blox encourages girls to be  multi-faceted people; both "girly" and smart. As Sterling said, "We believe that femininity is strong and girls will build the future — literally." Is everything perfect? Have we finally reached the pinnacle of gender equality? Has Goldie Blox totally revolutionized the toy industry? Of course not. However, the conversation has started; moves are being made, and that’s just as important. And from a branding perspective, it’s always good to be first out of the gate in claiming a new space. Education is always required; think of Apple in the early days. And look where they are now!

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Down Home in New York: Fishs Eddy, and the Retail Experience

January 23 2014

Many may view kitchenware shopping as a boring chore, but Fishs Eddy makes the experience totally fun and enjoyable. Honestly, it’s less like shopping, and more like the easiest treasure hunt you’ve ever done. Fishs Eddy is fully stocked with one-of-a-kind vintage and vintage-inspired pieces. They have literally everything you need, and plenty of things you never knew you needed so much. The merchandising and display reinforce the sense of personal fun, yet its true power is in being tied to our memories of a solid America that many of us have only experienced through books, movies, and the things we buy and the homes we create. So the brand is about a personal, universal, and romantic view of America, much like an uber brand like Ralph Lauren, or even a mall brand like Anthropologie.


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Fishs Eddy is a consistent and well-managed brand that has been around since 1986, one that has weathered many trends in home décor and entertaining. Shoppers respond to their casual vibe and country flea market "general store" environment, where hand-painted signage and wooden crates spill over with sturdy china bowls and plates. Even with their rustic aesthetic, the designs still feel relevant and on trend — a perfect example is their recent collaboration with minimalist, stylized wildlife illustrator Charley Harper. The pieces he designed with Fishs Eddy are crisp and modern, yet their retro, mid-century feel fits in perfectly with the brand’s thrifty, eclectic atmosphere and products. I can just as easily imagine a 50’s southern housewife shopping here, as well as a hip, young New Yorker. The shoppers around me were saying that it’s simply impossible to leave without purchasing at least one tiny cup.


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The takeaway: Know your brand, and manage it well. Know your market, and hit your market with consistent brand touch points. Have a think on that, and then we can meet for some apple pie and coffee, served on Fishs Eddy’s dishware. Later!

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Brand Loyalty & Starbucks

January 16 2014

As we have discussed before, Starbucks is a company which has managed its brand exceptionally well, and has built formidable brand loyalty. Attendees to my talks know that I always encourage them to be good brand analysts, and to approach any brand from a neutral perspective, so that you can understand what they stand for without judgment clouding your assessment. On to Starbucks, but in this case, with a judgment.

A few weeks ago I was at a hotel where the snack and breakfast bar was a Starbucks concession manned by hotel staff in hotel uniforms who jumped between serving at the Starbucks counter and functioning as hotel staff, even washing the floors in front of us while the coffee was brewing. Although the products were the same as at any other Starbucks, the service was not. The staff kept guests waiting while they dealt with hotel business at another counter or placed the behind the counter garbage can unappealingly in full view. Product knowledge was not good, and the effort to make a cup of tea took at least ten minutes per customer, so that a long line snaked through the hotel lobby. This was not the service we have come to expect from Starbucks.


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So what happens when one encounters a brand touch point, like a mismanaged hotel concession, and has a bad experience? I was disappointed, but I still had my breakfast there each day I was at the hotel, and the repeated bad experience will not prevent me from going to Starbucks in the future. Ultimately, the product they served was the same, but the wrapping (that is, the service) was not. People tend to be forgiving of a brand like Starbucks because the product is predictable, and the brand has worldwide brand loyalists. From a financial perspective, extending the Starbucks brand into hotels, which they have been doing for years, does have clear benefits. They have increased market penetration, brand awareness, and increased sales.

So in this instance, Starbucks has increased profitability, presumably at low cost, without damaging brand loyalty.

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Thank you to the folks at PPA!

January 15 2014

Thank you so much to all the wonderful staff, volunteers, and attendees of the Professional Photographers of America's annual ImagingUSA for making the event a great success! Beth had an amazing turnout, with a terrifically engaged and smart audience.

We hope to see you all again next year!

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It’s Nutty: Almond Milk’s Increasing Market Expansion

January 09 2014

Buying milk is not as easy as it used to be! Gone are the days when we would buy an important part of the daily staple very inexpensively as retailers used it to tempt buyers into their shops. Now we are assailed by choices of many different types of milk from coconut to soy. Is there anything in it?

A recent addition to the plethora of milk replacers or substitutes is almond milk. Unflavored almond milk has no animal fats, no soy, no lactose and is low in calories but many prefer the flavored versions which have sugars, gums and other additives. Silk almond milk has set itself against dairy milks as evident from the Silk almond milk carton, which affirmatively declares that "Dairy Milk is getting jealous!" This is an interesting marketing move, as by doing so, they are also taking market share from their own line of soy milks.


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So does almond milk sell well? Undoubtedly. In 2011 almond milk sales increased 79% and in 2013 sales surpassed those of soy milk! And how about pricing? In equivalent sizes, almond milk retails for 25% or more than dairy milk, so customers must be drawn by something other than price. Almond milk is touted as being better for your health, as there are concerns about the estrogen in soy, it appeals to consumers with lactose intolerance, and there is also a move within the natural and alternative community away from cow's milk. Consumers also want to know what they are drinking or giving their children contains no growth hormones or GMOs, which is a claim that Almond Milk fulfills and puts front and center.

All this begs the question of whether dairy milk will retaliate and, if so, how. The move towards alternative milks has been going on for years, and will only continue to pick up speed. It's part of the larger consumer trend towards having more control and knowledge about what they are eating, as well as the abiding Boomer interest in longevity. It has certainly been documented in countless surveys that Boomers seem to see death as an option, not an inevitability, and that they believe that good eating and heart health will help them live forever. Almond milk fits the anti-aging profile -- hence it's popularity with a large sector of the population.

Will the dairy industry be able to assure consumers that they are still the best choice for their health? Have they become too accustomed to US Government subsidies so that they have lost their competitive spirit? Only time will tell.

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PPA's Annual ImagingUSA

January 09 2014

Beth will be speaking at the Professional Photographers of America’s annual ImagingUSA this year in Phoenix, AZ. She is honored and excited to be the first person to invited to bring formal branding and brand strategy for photographers to PPA attendees.

Her seminar will take place on Sunday, January 12th from 5pm to 6:15pm. She will be available to speak for an hour before and after her presentation, and also available Sunday and Monday all day to answers questions and to talk about her on-one-on work with creatives.

Click here for more info and click here to register.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


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