Most everyone has heard that the U.S. has a weight problem. But, it’s more than just a health care problem, it’s also a big issue for retailers. Cult Marketing just wrapped up a customer study for Tweens Brands (Justice and Limited too stores, girls 7-14) and this issue popped up to the forefront of the strategic discussions.

Let’s recap the latest statistics on the U.S. weight trends. According to a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg study released in July, 2007, in just 8 years (2015), 75% of adults and 24% of kids will be overweight – with a significant number of those being obese. Women 20-34 are the fastest growing members of the overweight club.

How does this impact retailers? As we know, many retailers, clothing designers and the fashion industry in general has eschewed the beefy customer. The fact is clothes look a hell of a lot better on skinny celebrities or models than they do on the average overweight customer. Many retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret limit their sizing because they do not want to ruin their brand image. They only want good-looking thin people wearing their stuff. But, where is the “Tipping-the-scale-point?”

Maybe these “thin” retailers have it right. Maybe we need to hold the ideal figure up there as a target to shoot for. Why give up the fight? A&F shows teens and twenty-somethings who are healthy and active. What’s wrong with that? It is aspirational. It certainly is part of a brand strategy.

Or maybe it’s not smart retailing, and they are missing out on a ton of sales while not being socially responsible and sensitive. Brands like Oprah and Chicos have made a bunch of money being inclusive and supportive. Kellogg’s, McDonald’s and others are changing their entire strategies due to the obesity pressures.

So, what are your brand values as it relates to the weight issues? Interesting topic to debate within your retail world.

Let the schmoozing begin!

The drop in TV upfront spending is another sure sign that the traditional mass model is in trouble.

Return on Investment: the ratio of money gained or lost on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. Pretty easy to measure in a controlled financial environment. Impossible – and potentially dangerous – to measure in a marketing environment.
The long-standing quote from Wanamaker – “I know that half of my marketing is wasted, I just don’t know which half” – is really a brilliant insight.

Issue #1: The core of the problem is that numerous variables that impact the marketing success of an organization cannot be directly measured. Therefore, if you develop a marketing plan based on the concept of ROI, it forces you to focus on measurable tactics like direct response, couponing, and sales promotions. In the meantime, key factors that most strongly influence the brand are ignored. For instance, how do you measure word-of-mouth and buzz, associate behaviors, consumer-generated marketing initiatives, PR, store or product design, product quality, location, cultural differences, innovation, and customer service? In the new age of consumerism, the ROI approach is the wrong approach.

Issue #2: Advertising agencies and most marketing departments don’t really get involved with all this stuff anyway. Agencies can’t make any money on most of this stuff. Marketing departments are too “siloed” to look at the big picture. They get involved with how to spend (waste) money on expensive initiatives like TV advertising. A recent visit to a prestigious European car maker was typical. The head of customer and loyalty marketing has no influence over the service department. Yet, after purchase, the service department is the main point of contact for the car customer. Is this crazy or what??

Solution: Call Cult Marketing and we’ll explain how our approach breaks down the corporate silos and helps you understand and create a holistic brand experience that enhances the entire customer brand experience.

First there was the Blair Witch project. Then Napolean Dynamite. Now Borat.

The one thing they all have in common is a non-traditional marketing approach. All three have created a significant amount of buzz and hype.

Pontiac announced recently that they were launching a car only via the internet. No TV, print or anything else. Pretty big news if you’re an ad agency. Every day you can read about the changing landscape of marketing. TV ad viewership is way down, media is fragmenting, new media channels are popping up, advertising clutter is at an all-time high, experiential marketing departments have formed, there is buzz and guerilla marketing, direct, etc.

What’s a company to do?

In regards to his forthcoming book, Pat Fallon made the statement, “The future of advertising,” Mr. Fallon said, “is to become experts on how media is consumed, and by whom.”

Sounds like a good idea, but it demonstrates the limited perspective we’ve come to expect from ad agencies. They still only think about the world in terms of media because that is how they get paid. The real marketing story of the next decade will revolve around the individual consumer experience. Factors like customer service, associate behaviors, the retail experience, packaging, customer intimacy, PR, internal branding, and other non-mass factors will be the hot topics of discussion.

The issues around the non-mass marketing variables are numerous. One biggie is the marketing organizations within companies. Departments are too siloed, usually by function. The CRM person has a budget and an agenda, and so does the web person, the advertising/media group, product development and training departments.

Customers, on the other hand, see a company holistically. Every facet of the operations is in play. So who is responsible for pulling all of it together?

The CEO has to have a role in the entire customer experience. Companies that have done it well include Abercrombie & Fitch, where Michael Jeffries controls virtually every aspect of the brand personally. Even their corporate campus is a living testament to the brand lifestyle. The reason the CEO must be involved is that no one else has the clout to drive it through the organization. Too many chiefs in most companies. So, if you’re a marketing guy, now’s the time to get the big boss involved.