Starbucks, Beta Testing and Food Options

April 03 2014

I was recently in Seattle, Washington, home of Starbucks. Seattle and environs is where they test all of their new concepts and expansion ideas.

They have been focused for quite some time on their efforts to expand into the world of tea with their Tevana Café and website, something I wrote about a while ago. They also purchased a San Francisco-based bakery called La Boulange. I have heard from interviewing Starbucks’ employees that La Boulange has turned out to be a big bust, so that as a result, the company is rethinking their baked good strategy yet again. My old client, Head Cookie Baker Jon Chazen from DoughRayMe, had told me that Starbucks used to purchase and sell day day-old baked goods back in the day, something that has never been denied outright by Starbucks spokespeople or employees. Additionally, they are also trying to grab some more market share in the evenings, trying to attract the younger, typical wine bar audience for a menu of small plates and a glass of wine.


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I heard on the news last year about a Seattle resident, a woman with two kids, who spent all of 2013 eating every meal at Starbucks. Interestingly enough, because she was eating in Seattle, where Starbucks has so many options, including Evolution Fresh juices and smoothies, she did not gain a pound!


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I’m waiting to see when Starbucks will end the beta testing stage and will begin the national rollout of Teavana and wider distribution of the Evolution line. I’ve thought for a long time that they have a huge missed opportunity in the food and baked goods realm, as their customers are actively seeking a one-stop solution for breakfast, lunch and a light meal early evening. Some folks want a decent savory option, and what about the gluten-free folks? C’mon, Starbucks, feed your starving customers in the rest of the world!

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Tyrells: Chips (or Crisps), Depending Upon Where You Live

March 14 2014

The other day I went to the grocery store in search of a delicious salty snack. A photo of a group of little old ladies caught my eye, and I knew I had found what I was looking for: Tyrrells English Chips (or Crisps for you Brits). The chips were absolutely delicious. In this case, the packaging was witty and effective in differentiating the product, and definitely pulled me in.


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The company was running a promotion that was featured on the bag that I decided to enter (more on that later), and after a quick google search, I found that they had two different websites, one for their US customers (tyrrellschips.com), and one for their UK consumers (tyrrellscrisps.co.uk). While the sites have the same look and feel, I could see a slight difference in the language, which makes sense given that the UK and the US are two countries separated by a common and similar language! The UK product offerings are far more extensive, offering a wider variety of flavors like Sunday Best Roast Chicken and Naked. The brand’s witty, playful voice comes across in the flavor naming and design, which is very effective (note that I bought the first time I encountered the chip = 100% success for the brand). Having a more extensive product line in the UK makes sense considering that Tyrells is well-known in Britain, and the UK is their main market.


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The US and UK sites do share a few promotions, such as a Facebook potato sack race game and caption contest, but the “big-ticket” promos differ vastly. In the US, you can enter to win a Cambridge Satchel. This style of bag has been very popular this past year in the fashion industry in the US (and still is). It is a slice of traditional English design that is still very much in vogue with the younger crowd. The bag design is a play between modern and vintage, and it works well with the Tyrrells brand voice and aesthetic.

The UK promo is quite different, and very quirky. You can win prizes like “A Monkey’s Uncle”, “A Pack of Lies” or “Inappropriate Trousers”—the actual prize being £25,000, but of course, if you’d prefer an awkward head massage, they’d be happy to oblige. The UK promo really emphasizes Tyrell’s humorous voice to a degree that a caption contest cannot capture, and as an established brand in the UK they can run an almost snarky promotion. This type of oddball promo might not fly yet America because their audience here does not know them well enough. I’m going to track them to see how they promote in the US in the future.

The takeaway? When marketing and communicating your brand in different markets, like Tyrrells, it’s likely that you will want to shade your marketing and communications to target and engage your specific audiences based on the culture and country. Your approach to marketing your brand is unlikely to be monolithic, whether you are selling a service, product, or company.

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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Market Trending: Kmart Raps Its Way to the Top

August 23 2013

Retailers go through cycles in which they gain and then lose market share. Of course, the reasons for these cycles are complex, ranging from everything to being out of touch with consumer tastes and trends, downturns in the economic cycles to making mistakes in repositioning their offerings and brand voice. Currently suffering mightily in public perception and market confidence is the Kmart franchise. In 2012 they shut down eighty-four stores, but they have been dealing with declining sales for the past six years.

Market trends have shown the business’ decline is mainly due toe loss of popularity among younger consumers. Feeling desperate to staunch their losses and bad PR, and In order to appeal to a hipper teen audience, Kmart is now trying to refine their brand image by teaming up with viral sensation Da Rich Kids, a group of young rappers all younger than age thirteen. Kmart asked the group to create a rap song about the discount store and thus “My Limo” was born.

    

                                                       Image via www.fastcocreate.com

My Limo has already received millions of views and is featured in the retailer’s latest television commercial. This new partnership may push Kmart back up the ranks and sway younger generations to shop at KMart, but the affiliation seems a bit out of left field. In addition, there have been a few reports of older customers being unhappy that the rap commercial portrays only African-American children promoting a brand that is known for low prices. However, the ads are too new to calculate exactly how big or small the effect has been so far with any of their target audiences.

Keep in mind that brands must be credible in order to cement consumer loyalty and maintain longevity in the marketplace. Kmart would need a family of products with legs that are in alignment with the spirit of My Life and that would continue to attract the same type of audience. A flash in the pan doesn’t work long term at retail, as it’s critical to maintain your brand voice in everything you do. Hence the consistent success of brands such as Burberry, Diesel, and Vans, who really know what they are doing in this regard.

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