Fujifilm is finding a way forward with high-tech cameras dressed up in old-school style, reports Eric Pfanner in The New York Times (11/20/13). Known as the ‘X’ series, the "cameras fit into a category called mirrorless, which has been a relative bright spot for the industry" – which actually means the category "declined only 13 percent in volume and five percent in value from January through September." But Fujifilm "says it has sold more than 700,000 X-series cameras since the first model, the X100 was introduced in 2011."
The cameras are known as mirrorless because they "do away with the internal mirror, that in reflex cameras, allow the user to compose through the lens while the shutter is closed. With mirrorless cameras, the photographer composes with the LCD screen or a separate viewfinder." These cameras are "considerably more expensive than point-and-shoot devices" but they are also "smaller and lighter" than reflex cameras. This appeals to some professionals, but also to hobbyists who wouldn’t "be satisfied with a smartphone."
The camera’s "retro aesthetics, reminiscent of cameras from 60 or 70 years ago," (image) is also key to its success. It has a "boxy, rectangular" shape … “Instead of an array of buttons and software menus … the X series uses simple dials." Such cues are intended to "give the cameras a certain gravitas, so professionals would give them a try." "Because of our heritage in film, picture quality was important, but picture quality is difficult to explain, so we needed something else," says Fujifilm’s Hiroshi Kawahara. Former film rival Kodak, meanwhile "recently emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings."
December 2, 2013 1 Comment
The new rules of loyalty reside within the brand experience itself. By Beth Ann Kaminkow. Dare we admit that we are in the era of fickle? Ours is a time when experimentation, novelty, surprise and change have a stronger hold on many consumers than tried-and-true familiarity and commitment. This is not just occurring between brands and consumers. The decline in loyalty spans our most important relationships: jobs, communities, significant others. We prefer the benefits that come from freedom, choice, options and instant-gratification more than we do loyalty.
Perhaps somewhat to blame is that we’ve stopped delivering on the benefits of loyalty — "we" being individuals, companies, corporations, brands, and retailers. Maybe loyalty has lost its meaning over the years, too. Then there is the added complexity that my definition of loyalty is most likely different than yours. This presents a huge challenge (and opportunity) for creating and exchanging loyalty. continue …
December 2, 2013 Comments
A former food desert in Chester PA is now an oasis thanks to an innovative not-for-profit supermarket, reports Francis X. Clines in The New York Times (11/24/13). Until last September, it had been twelve years since the last supermarket closed in Chester, making it "one of about 6,500 ‘food desert tracts,’" as documented by the US Department of Agriculture. This meant that the 35,000 "residents of this hardscrabble riverfront city … lacked easy access to healthy affordable groceries." To shop for food, they had to travel to another city.
Now they have a supermarket of their own – Fare & Square – a nonprofit store that’s the result of seven years of effort by "Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, a hunger relief organization well known to the poor and needy on the streets of Philadelphia, 15 miles northeast." Bill envisioned a "Phoenix story" for Chester, "in the form of a market rooted in community pride and healthy, low-priced food." The store is membership based — although membership is free and entitles shoppers to "store credit equal to 7 percent of what they spend, to be used for future purchases."
So far, "more than half the population of Chester, where unemployment is about 13 percent, has already signed up in this credit system. There is a services counter for customers to learn about their eligibility and apply for federal food assistance and Social Security programs." The store’s "staff of 45" was hired locally. Fare & Square, housed in a space formerly occupied by a for-profit supermarket, is funded "with the help of private foundations and corporate donors." While its survival as a nonprofit supermarket is uncertain, store manager Paul Messina remains resolute. "It’s a mission," he says. "I’m blessed to be part of this."
November 27, 2013 Comments
Digital tools are picking up the pace among otherwise analog farmer’s markets, reports Jenna Wortham in The New York Times (11/14/13). Leading the trend is "a new online service, Good Eggs … a website and delivery service that lets you order food from local farmers and artisanal food makers … Shoppers can go on the site and browse through dozens of virtual stands, searching by the type of item … or by farm" and "each order is fulfilled and assembled on-demand." Jenna found that an order placed on a Wednesday was delivered by the following Friday.
The Good Eggs experience differs from that of so-called Community Supported Agricultural programs, or CSAs, which "let people pay up front for a season’s worth of local produce to be delivered or picked up once a week." CSAs "tend to work with one or two farms, so you may find yourself with unwanted produce." Good Eggs, which currently operates in Brooklyn, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, instead "offers a large array of products from a variety of farms," on-demand. Its website also engages in sophisticated merchandising, displaying "luscious photos" of its featured items.
Similar services, at least in New York, include Urban Organic and Next Door Organics, as well as Quinciple, which specializes "in artisanal food delivery. Start-ups like Farmigo are building software systems that any local farm can use to offer online ordering. Farmingo says it is working with 300 farms in more than 20 states across the country." Amazon is getting into the act with AmazonFresh, which is mostly about groceries, but does work with local merchants. FreshDirect’s service, meanwhile, "is more closely modeled after a sprawling upscale food market, versus the small-town farmer’s market."
November 27, 2013 Comments
A new generation of designers is turning the concept of brand logos inside out, reports Jon Caramanica in The New York Times (11/21/13). "It’s all a critique," says Peggy Noland, whose patterns consist of mash-ups of multiple brand logos, rendered in "puff paint, giving them a childlike, naïve air." "I’m taking the idea of being marketed to on its head," she says. In a similar vein, Wil Fry, "who works with gray-scale prints made from scanned labels from 20 or so high-end designers," characterizes his designs as "a satire."
Heron Preston‘s "signature long-sleeve T-shirt" has a total of 17 logos on it, including M&Ms, Trix, Google, Remington, and Home Depot on the back, with Nascar, upside-down, on front. The net effect is that of "anti-promotion." (image) For each of these designers, the "logo becomes the canvas, whether it’s their placement on a garment, the juxtaposition of several of them together or a rendering with an unconventional treatment. In all cases, the logo becomes a graphic element that can be mined for its familiarity, but is at least in part stripped of its corporate purpose."
This twisted "rise in logos is in part a response to the mass anonymity of the American Apparel-Uniqlo age, and taking a longer view, a rejection of the anti-capitalist, grunge, no-logo 1990s. But that same era also saw the rise of hip-hop and streetwear as a consumer force, and as style influences that imprinted deeply on many of these young designers." Ironically, Peggy Noland found her T-Shirts knocked off and being sold for about a tenth of her price. Undaunted, she bought up a bunch of them and sold them at her boutique. "I loved it," she says. "It was so meta."
November 26, 2013 Comments
A "faded look" that took root in hair salons "has begun to permeate clothing, home design, floral arrangements, and even wedding cakes," reports Meghan Gourley in The New York Times (11/7/13). Known to hair colorists the ombré look, it involves "hair that transitions from dark roots to light ends." According to some stylists, it is popular because of "its minimal upkeep." "It looks like ’90s grunge in the Courtney Love days," says colorist Justin Jensen, who sports the look himself.
Stella McCartney has now gone ombré on skinny jeans that "gently fade from dark to light." (image) Michelle Obama actually wore an ombré style dress on election night back in 2008. (image) Roger Federer’s "Nike gear at the 2013 United States Open" was ombré, too. "The Better Homes & Gardens website has a how-to video guide to napkin and tablerunner ombré dyeing.(video) Target sells ombré shower curtains and lampshades."
Oma Blaise Ford of Better Homes & Gardens explains: "It’s such a relatively simple pattern structure, and it’s color-based which makes it perennially attractive in both home and fashion." She adds that one of her "favorite ombré interpretations is in flower or foliage arrangements." Lauri Ditunno of Cake Alchemy says demand for ombré wedding cakes is also up. Apparently, "couples want the motif because it’s a way to incorporate their colors and avoid harsh contrasts."
November 26, 2013 Comments
The predicted "shift in consumer attention from hits to also-rans never really materialized," writes Jeremy Philips in a Wall Street Journal review of Blockbusters by Anita Elberse (11/19/13). "On the contrary, hits have become ‘hittier’ than ever." While it’s true that the "democratizing of content production and distribution has let to a fragmenting of attention … even in aggregate" this does not take "share from the big-budget hits that dominate consumer attention." In fact, this so-called "blockbuster effect is bigger than ever."
The concept applies not only to movies, but also to "sports, videogames, radio, television, book publishing" as well as to hotels, restaurants and consumer electronics. It is particularly pronounced with movies: "At Warner Bros … the top 10 percent of films produced from 2007 to 2011 accounted for a third of costs and more than 40 percent of revenues." Of course, this is why studios increasingly focus on ‘franchises’ – sequels and prequels and multipart story arcs – because films based on well-known characters have a dramatically higher chance of success."
The growth market, then, is for "’superstars’ who can create value even when working with unexceptional material" – and that could be an actor or "the franchise itself." Technology, "which has indeed driven down the cost of creating, finding and distribution content … has paradoxically increased the relative importance of hits." It amplifies the "’winner take all dynamic,’ giving everyone in the world access to the most popular content – creating a virtuous cycle for winners, since consumers like to consume the content that others like."
November 25, 2013 Comments
The growing processing power of smartphones is giving birth to Big Data’s "little brother," reports Quentin Hardy in The New York Times (11/11/13). Known as "hyperdata," it resembles Big Data in that it finds "novel patterns and relationships among different kinds of information." Among the leaders in "hyperdata" is a company called Premise, which "created a smartphone application that is now used by 700 people in 25 countries … these people, mostly college students and homemakers, photograph food and goods in public markets" for further analysis.
Based on "photos of prices and the placement of everyday items like piles of tomatoes and bottles of shampoo and matching to other data, Premise is building a real-time inflation index to sell to companies and Wall Street traders, who are hungry for insightful data." "It’s a useful global inflation monitor, a way of looking at food security, or a way a manufacturer can judge what kind of shelf space he is getting," says Premise founder David Soloff, who says he hopes to have "3,000 or 4,000 people doing this" within the next five years.
Premise pays its photographers "8 to 10 cents a picture," and "also gathers time and location information from the phones, plus a few other notes like whether the market was crowded. The real insight comes from knowing how to mix it all together, quickly." Another hyperdata service, ClearStory Data, combines "data on the fly from different sources … data on movie ticket sales, for example, might be mixed with information on weather, even Twitter messages, and presented as a shifting bar chart or a map, depending on what the customer is trying to figure out."
November 25, 2013 Comments
The magic of numbers is in their potential to create relationships. By Margaret Lewis. Retail loyalty programs have come a long way since S&H Green Stamps were introduced in 1896. For the supermarkets that used them to drive customer loyalty — and the millions of consumers who collected stamps and pasted them into collection books week after week — the essence of being rewarded for how much you spend at a particular retailer has remained the same. The age of Big Data has vastly changed the landscape for the retailer and consumer alike, however. Today, through the magic of targeting and the inspiration of insights that creatively focus marketing efforts on the right people at the right time in the right environment, we have the power to drive brand conversion and purchase as never before.
That all retail loyalty-programs are not created equal should come as no surprise. That’s partially because not every shopper shops every retail environment the same way, and partially because not every retailer places the same level of emphasis on data to guide its marketing efforts … yet. What’s critical is knowing what moves shoppers at Walgreens (points) is vastly different from what matters to CVS shoppers (discounts/dollars off). What drives Kroger shoppers to keep coming back (targeted direct and email offers) is different from the incentives that keep Target shoppers using their private label REDcard to charge purchases. Walmart doesn’t even have a loyalty card but is doing quite well on the loyalty front without one. This proves that every retailer, every shopper and every loyalty-program experience must be unique by the very nature of what it is designed to do: keep you coming back for more. Let’s take a deeper look. continue …
November 25, 2013 Comments
Hub Live: Kate Spade CMO Mary Beech on e-commerce as the ultimate brand expression.
November 22, 2013 1 Comment