Marketing to Babies

Chobani Packaging Image Non-Greek “Greek yogurt” peddler Chobani is, according to Advertising Age, gearing up to push their hyper-packaged melted ice cream-ish goop onto babies and toddlers.

The cause is the usual one — the system, a.k.a. corporate capitalist normalcy.

The beginning point is the refusal to countenance price-cutting:

Greek has enjoyed a price premium over regular yogurt, but that has started to erode as competition increases. Mr. McGuinness [Chobani's chief marketing and brand officer] pledged that Chobani would not go below a dollar per cup, saying Chobani is an “aspirational” brand.

Quite so. Despite the absolute centrality of “natural prices” in Adam Smith’s classic (though not uncritical) attempt to justify capitalism, actual capitalists, as Smith knew but failed to think through, despise price competition:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

If you know your history, you know that, as soon as they were big and strong enough, major investors convinced legislatures to allow them to grow their firms to sizes and scopes that made co-respective pricing (a.k.a. inflation) the new norm. Why would Chobani give up that privilege at this late, market-totalitarian date?

From there, it’s a matter of solving and re-solving the usual business problem, competition via mushrooming, metastasizing marketing efforts within stagnant, mature markets:

The launch [of Chobani Tots] comes as the once-skyrocketing Greek yogurt category begins to show signs of maturity. Slowing growth rates have sparked a market share battle among Chobani, Yoplait, Dannon and other brands. As a result, market leader Chobani can no longer rely on overall category growth to fuel sales and must fight harder to win customers.

“It’s harder in the Greek yogurt category to lead than it used to be,” Mr. McGuinness said during his presentation. Still, the marketer sees opportunity because Greek yogurt’s U.S. household penetration is still just 37%.

The human effects include the usual expansion of marketing efforts to condition humans who cannot yet talk or think:

Chobani wants babies to go Greek. The yogurt maker, which helped pioneer Greek yogurt in the U.S., will target tykes with a new product called Chobani Tots. It’s slated to hit stores in January.

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The Face of Metastasis

Shane Snow Meet Shane Snow, the founder of Contently, which pimps writers out to corporate capitalists like American Express, Coke, GE, Google, Walmart, and General Motors. The service sold is “content marketing,” meaning fake journalism designed to sell more corporate products and otherwise advance the aims of big business marketing campaigns.

Ad Age reports that such efforts are a major boom industry. The various overclass flagships “are expected to spend nearly $2 billion on sponsored content in 2014.”

Mr. Snow does his pimping by “licensing software to brands to help them manage content-marketing projects and connecting these companies with freelance writers, for which it takes a 15% fee.”

As actual journalism dies via strangulation and systemic neglect, here’s how the action looks at Contently:

There is a range of writers and prices from which brands can choose. There are, for instance, best-selling authors and Pulitzer Prize nominees, youngsters fresh out of journalism school and a number of others who work for major publications but freelance on the side. Contently’s stable includes about 50,000 writers, according to Mr. Snow.

“It’s like a supermarket for writers,” said Tomas Kellner, managing editor at GE Reports, GE’s content-marketing site. “People like me, who need to scale up their operations, can get access to writers for a specific project.”

Market totalitarianism.

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Shamelessness on Stilts

She’s a major corporate-news hit now:

Notice the multiple dishonesties on display in this little routine.

1. Engineers “are one of the fastest growing jobs.”  Balderdash.  Not only is the single kind of engineering work on this list hardly a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-build-stuff variety, but it will employ a mere 25,400 individuals by 2020.  That will be something like 1/700th of one percent of the projected labor force then.  Yes, what a promising field!

2. If Ms. Engineer became an engineer — let’s not quibble over actual facts here — then how did that happen, given that she was into typical gendered toys and didn’t know what engineering even was until she was a senior in high school?

3. Does every GoldiBlox toy come with an admission and scholarship to Stanford University?

4. Look again at the kid playing with the actual toy.  How long do you think that will last?

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If You Must Shop…

…turn off your phone.

Helpful story in The New York Times today about the progress of corporate capitalist behavioral tracking. Lowlights:

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

RetailNext, based in San Jose, Calif., adds data from shoppers’ smartphones to deduce even more specific patterns. If a shopper’s phone is set to look for Wi-Fi networks, a store that offers Wi-Fi can pinpoint where the shopper is in the store, within a 10-foot radius, even if the shopper does not connect to the network, said Tim Callan, RetailNext’s chief marketing officer.

The store can also recognize returning shoppers, because mobile devices send unique identification codes when they search for networks. That means stores can now tell how repeat customers behave and the average time between visits.

RetailNext also uses data to map customers’ paths; perhaps the shopper is 70 percent likely to go right immediately, or 14 percent likely to linger at a display.

Cameras have become so sophisticated, with sharper lenses and data-processing, that companies can analyze what shoppers are looking at, and even what their mood is.

For example, Realeyes, based in London, which analyzes facial cues for responses to online ads, monitors shoppers’ so-called happiness levels in stores and their reactions at the register. Synqera, a start-up in St. Petersburg, Russia, is selling software for checkout devices or computers that tailors marketing messages to a customer’s gender, age and mood, measured by facial recognition.

Of course, this being the NYT, they have to conclude the report by dismissing its meaning. Hence, they end by quoting an über-odious mommy-marketer:

“I would just love it if a coupon pops up on my phone,” said Linda Vertlieb, 30, a blogger in Philadelphia, who said that she was not aware of the tracking methods, but that the idea did not bother her. Stores are “trying to sell, so that makes sense,” she said.

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Total Content

cluster Q: In how many ways can corporate marketing campaigns take the stupidest, hoariest memes and fold them back upon themselves, all in the name of increased material waste (and profit)?

A: Read this, and weep.

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A Small Crisis

corps To extend our recent theme of the need for robot brains, it seems the corporate marketing race has recently been outpacing its top management’s skill set. Hence, at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, they are launching a new “CMO Program,” with “CMO” being Chief Marketing Officer.

The core problem, it seems, is that the mountains of surveillance data being gathered from the internet and toothbrushes are growing faster than our Dear Leaders’ capacities to turn it into shareholders returns.

Here is the explanation from Gregory Carpenter “the James Farley/Booz Allen Hamilton Professor of Marketing Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management and Faculty Director of the Kellogg Markets and Customers Initiative (KMCI), and Academic Director of the [new] Kellogg CMO program”:

[M]any executives have long viewed marketing as more art than science….Companies across industries are struggling to extract value from rapidly evolving technologies such as data analytics and social media, and CMOs will increasingly drive these efforts….[which] have created more dynamic and potentially more profitable opportunities for companies that can infuse marketing into every facet of the enterprise.

While tactics will come and go, the more significant challenge will be organizational. Companies will have to make a massive investment to find, attract, integrate, retain and develop key talent such as data scientists and social media specialists. To be effective, CMOs will also have to gain a better understanding of analytics, social media monitoring and the organizational challenges they pose.

These objectives will require CMOs to expand beyond their traditional responsibilities. Yet many marketing executives lack the range of skills and knowledge to excel in this changing environment. One of the primary obstacles for potential CMOs is that so much of the knowledge they must acquire to be successful lies beyond their formal marketing organization. With little time to learn on the job, the most successful candidates will focus on professional development in the years preceding their ascendancy. Leadership training programs have long been offered to aspiring executives, but CMO candidates must actively seek out mentoring opportunities in increasingly critical areas such as technology and data analytics.

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