“You are what you eat”

Suppose a consumer who is allergic to dairy products is shopping for a non-dairy yogurt.  After browsing through a variety of brands, she sees the product “O’Soy," with a product label claim identifying the product as “organic soy yogurt.” Is it safe for the food allergic consumer to rely on this information, purchase and then consume this product?

            This is a serious question faced by many food allergic consumers today and the answer is not as simple as one would presume.  The “O’Soy” brand name appears to indicate this is a soy based yogurt.  In addition to the brand name itself, a prominent product label claim in large bold font on the front label, identifies the product as "Organic Soy Yogurt." A recent research study has suggested that food consumers are influenced by and base their purchase decisions  on the name of the food product (Irmak, Vallen, & Rosen Robinson, 2011).  Additionally, prior research has substantiated the notion that food allergic consumers utilize package information and product claims to evaluate if a product contains an allergenic substance (Voordouw et al., 2012). 

            If the above food allergic consumer assesses allergen risk in a similar fashion, this is but one example of how a food allergic consumer may unknowingly consume an allergenic substance, since an inspection of the back label of the “O’Soy” yogurt states that the product does in fact "contains milk."  This potential mistake, relying on the package information found on the front of the yogurt container's label, could be life threatening to a food allergic consumer allergic to dairy products.   Further investigation revealed an online disclosure, found on the "O'Soy" website that states  "O’Soy is lactose free and that those who are only lactose intolerant, and not allergic to milk, can safely enjoy O’Soy" (Stony Field Farm, 2011).   In 2014, Stonyfield Farms modified the ingredients and cultures used in O'Soy yogurt in order to eliminate dairy in the yogurt.

            As the previous example illustrates, more understanding and research is needed on this issue, since confusing and often conflicting product ingredient information appears on food product labeling. Domestically and internationally, food allergies have become exceedingly prevalent in children, adolescents and adults (American Academy of Allergy, 2011). Both the United States and various European governments recognize the importance of clear and complete ingredient communications of known allergens to allergic consumers and have instituted various labeling and allergen disclosure laws such as the United States’ Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and legislation improvements like those found in the EU's Food Information for Consumers Regulation (Agency, 2014; Services, 2006). 

            Regardless of legislative mandates, manufacturers should institute clear labeling if the product(s) place consumers at risk for harm. Yet, despite the ethical benefits and legislative mandates designed to assist the food allergic consumer, food allergy labeling still remains unclear and there is no clear consensus on the best manner to convey allergen information to the food allergic stakeholder, and as noted in the prior example, there have been examples of conflicting (incongruent) allergen information communicated to the allergic consumer via the product information and packaging material. 

            This domain of food allergic consumers, current labeling issues and their decision making processes is an under-researched and newly emerging issue that needs to be addressed so as to provide a safer and more consumer friendly food shopping experience for allergic consumers and stakeholders of food allergic individuals.
Do you agree?  Have you had any experiences similar to the example shared above?  What are your thoughts to improve the labeling on food?

*This blog is based on a doctoral dissertation by Roger Wortman entitled ‘Impact of Product Label Claims.' His committee consists of Dr. Suri Weisfeld-Spolter (chair), Dr. John Stanton (reader), Dr. Cindy Ruppel (methodologist) and Dr. Herb Brotspies (4th member).

Image Source: Speech Buddies, Inc., 2017

Sara Weisfeld-Spolter, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Weisfeld-Spolter can be reached at sw887@nova.edu

How to drive your business with marketing instrument panels*

The late Ed Koch, a recent New York City mayor, always asked, “How am I doing?” Marketers — as well as government leaders — need to know if their “customers” are happy.

Perhaps you head the marketing operations for your company and want to get a better handle on customer metrics. You heard about the idea of a marketing dashboard at a recent trade association meeting and think that may solve your problem. How should you proceed? What should be on your dashboard? 

Progressing beyond a single item to monitor the effectiveness of business performance, leading organizations often use a set of key metrics called marketing dashboards to understand their key performance indicators.

Just as an automobile dashboard captures critical driving information such as speed, distance, fuel levels, vehicle and engine temperature, navigation and so on, a marketing dashboard summarizes pertinent information on branding, channels, customer contact, promotion, sales performance, service profitability, the Web, and customer value. 

Consider the benefits

Some specific benefits of using dashboards include the following: business intelligence, trend tracking, measuring efficiencies or inefficiencies, real-time updates, visuals (charts, graphs, maps and tables), customized reporting of performance and aligning goals and strategies with results. Major downside considerations include the cost, time and the talent needed to administer marketing dashboards.

The main value of the dashboard framework is that it consists of a multitude of practical information that is current, accessible and easy-to-understand. Dashboards can be designed for top C-level executives as well as the managers working in the trenches.

The accompanying figure illustrates an example of an executive marketing dashboard. This dashboard features the following metrics: sales levels and growth targets, the decision-makers, exceptions, key accounts (including revenues), the marketing pipeline (status of marketing activities throughout the buying cycle), and tracks leads and dollars generated over an annual period. 

Decide what to measure

What should you measure? The spectrum of opinion varies widely from a single metric such as the Net Promoter Score to 50 or more performance indicators. Just as we don’t want to be overwhelmed with our automotive dashboard, keeping the marketing dashboard simple helps measure what matters and aligns with business objectives. That said, here’s a good starting point to consider in choosing five to ten key performance indicators that may include the following:

  • Financial measures: revenues, contribution margins, turnover ratios, profitability
  • Competitive measures: market share, advertising/promotional budget, image map
  • Consumer behavior: market penetration, customer loyalty, new customers
  • Consumer intermediate measures: brand recognition, customer satisfaction, purchase intention
  • Direct customer measures: distribution level, intermediary profits, service quality
  • Innovativeness measures: new products launched and the percentage of annual revenue from these new products
  • Customer value measures: process metrics, customer retention rates, customer lifetime value, RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) 

Realize that doing business today requires a new level of accountability for performance. Superior customer value means knowing customers’ behaviors and buying patterns.

Metrics are an important part of the strategic marketing process to understand: (1) How successful the organization is now; (2) What it needs to accomplish to become even more successful in the years ahead.

Smart marketing managers will embrace this challenge and use metrics as a planning tool to improve business strategies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Image Source: www.fishformetrics.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                         *Reprinted from Smart Business, September 3, 2013.

Art Weinstein, Ph.D., is a Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of “Superior Customer Value: Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers.” He may be reached at art@nova.edu or (954) 262-5097. For more information, visit his website at www.artweinstein.com.

Positioning is Best Viewed as a Request, Not a Verb

Positioning has long been described as an action that a company does, but this is a flawed premise as it presumes that an organization can fully control the position it holds.

Before elaborating on this inherent defect, I’ll offer a basic definition of a position from a marketer’s perspective. A position held by a company or brand is the place it holds in the minds of its target customers. Essentially, a position is whatever adjectives are used by customers or potential customers to describe the product, company or brand.

The mistake in stating that we, as marketers, position our brands lies in failing to appreciate that customers ultimately come to their own conclusions. If a position is a mental association held by the customer, a degree of success or failure will always be outside of our control – especially when the concept is considered on an individual basis. John Smith has one opinion or association with a product but Janet Jones has another. The seller is not able to guarantee reconciliation between their opinions or even guarantee that either person’s views are exactly what is desired by the company.

A better way to approach positioning is to pay heed to the proposition part of the term “value proposition.” Note that this simple phrase acknowledges that companies are proposing a way of offering something of worth. They are not dictating that value will be realized. It’s a suggestion or, better yet, a request for acknowledgment from the marketplace. The company would not make this proposition if it did not believe it to be true, but that does not mean others will feel that the value exists.

Companies do not position themselves, their products or their brands. They merely ask for a position. This request will either be granted or denied by their customers.

This is not to suggest that companies are weak in this process. Their influence in creating an effective and desired position is tremendous as the likelihood of success in requesting a position is amplified by consistency in communications and actions.

Looking at one of the most cited examples of successful brand positions, we know that Wal-Mart might tout its everyday low pricing strategy in its advertisements, but the discount retailer would not be successful in its request for this position if it did not follow through with consistently lower prices. The fact that it might not be the lowest price on every item in the store is inconsequential when it is true often enough for its loyal customers to believe that they’re saving money. Other potentially less obvious ways by which the retailer reinforces its positioning request are through layouts, store design, color schemes, etc. All visible cues tell its customers that this is a no-frills experience, thereby enabling them to save money.

Another common example of a successful brand is Apple, a company which is most commonly associated with innovation.  Nonetheless, simply saying that the company is innovative or telling customers to “think different” is not enough to guarantee the loyal following of Apple enthusiasts. Instead, the company seeks to make its request through regular product launches and seemingly customer friendly advances in technology. If we reflect on the introduction of Apple stores and their layouts, there is little room for suggesting the company was anything less than innovative when it came to its retail format. Like with the previous example, there are clearly limits to this company’s success in truly being innovative. Even its most loyal customers will acknowledge that one phone or another lacks in being much of a breakthrough compared to its predecessor model. Nonetheless, this suggests that a tipping point exists for customers to be willing to accept a request for a position if the request is made consistently.

Both of these examples are brands with strong contingencies of loyalists as well as their many critics. The existence of critics only reinforces the concept of positioning is a request and not a verb. The question becomes whether those critics would ever consider becoming customers. If not, the success of these and others companies’ requests is best measured by the acceptance of their target markets and not by the marketplace at large.  

While it might sound like grammatical semantics, appreciating that positioning is not a verb, and therefore not an action that a company controls, underscores an appreciation for your customers. In the world of positioning, there are two verbs at play: the company requests and the customer grants – at least if all goes according to plan.

Lewis Greenberg, M.B.A., P.C.M., is an Adjunct Professor in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, and a Marketing Manager at Marcum LLP. He can be reached at lewis.greenberg@marcumllp.com

Business to Business Marketing: A Different Way to Look at Market Segmentation

Market segmentation is a fundamental concept in identifying profitable business opportunities.  Market segmentation divides markets into subsets of consumers or businesses who share a similar set of needs and wants, evaluating the subset segments, and then implementing strategies to target high value segments. 

Segmentation is widely used in consumer marketing. This becomes very obvious walking down the aisles of your local supermarket seeing product form segmentation such as liquid laundry detergent or powder, special shaving products for African American men, or easy to prepare food products targeted to the working parent.

In sharp contrast is business to business (B2B) where recent research shows limited use of market segmentation and where it is used, little value is received. It may be that segmenting business markets is more complex than consumer markets because business to business marketing is much more than a simplistic approach of finding customers who may be interested in your product.

Historically, B2B was viewed as the segmentation between the seller and buyer using a variety of segmentation bases including demographics, sometimes called firmographics, operating variables, purchasing approaches, situational factors, and buyers’ personal characteristics.  Simply, whoever bought from you was the focus of the segmentation analysis.

Today, B2B marketers recognize there are situations where the company buying your product is not the ultimate user or consumer. So, segmentation is more than just B2B. At times it is B2B2B or even B2B2C (consumer), thus segmentation requires a different approach.

B2B

B2B in its simplest form is when a business sells its products to another business who uses the product themselves.  For example, B2B is selling commercial dishwashers directly to restaurants.  The restaurant market may be segmented by large restaurants or hotels depending on segmentation criteria.  Based on analysis, the commercial dishwasher company decides to focus sales on restaurants with seating capacity of at least 150 people. 

This is not to be confused where a business sells products to business intermediaries who resell the product. When Coca Cola sells soft drinks to Wal-Mart, Coca Cola segments the market on the basis of consumer use of soft drinks and uses the B2B intermediary as a channel of distribution. However, Coca Cola may also segment the carbonated drink market by outlet type, food stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, small grocery stores, convenience stores, and other outlet types.

B2B2B and B2B2C

But what happens when a business sells its product to a business customer and that customer incorporates the product into its own product for resale to either another business or to consumers? Does the segmentation method change? Do they look at segmentation differently?  Do they attempt to segment the market on the basis of their customer or do they also look at the business segments of their customers?

B2B2B

Several examples can help clarify this. XYZ Company manufactures electric motors. Electric motors have widespread application for use in other companies’ products. They are used as components in elevators, escalators, water pumps, oil industry pumps, even electric motors for aircraft.  XYZ segments the market not on the customer purchasing their product as a component first, but rather on the application of XYZ’s capabilities. They develop segmentation criteria for different industries using pumps taking into consideration their own capabilities and strategy.  Once they determine that the market for elevator motors and aircraft electric motors are growing but oil industry pumps and water pumps are not, they then focus on segmenting the suppliers to these industries.  In essence, the demand for their products is derived from the demand of their customers’ products.

B2B2C

This is also evident in the high technology industry. Chip makers sell to Apple, Lenovo, Compaq, HP, Samsung, and Dell, for use in consumer products such as cell phones, computers, and tablets and now smart televisions. Consumer behavior drives demand for these products.  So, a chip maker must understand their customer’s customer. A chip maker will also sell chips to companies for application for cloud computing such as Dropbox, Amazon, and HP Enterprises.  The sales for the cloud businesses of Dropbox, Amazon, and HP Enterprises are driven in part by consumer demand for cloud storage or cloud applications. Companies in the B2B2C business must develop segmentation skills in the consumer market such as psychographic and behavioral bases for segmentation. Thus, additional segmentation skills are required beyond the B2B segmentation skills for B2B2C companies.

In a recent report to analysts, Intel revealed they are reducing investment spending in software, personal computers, and phones and tablets while investing more in data centers with cloud computing, retail solutions, transportation and automotive, smart homes and buildings, and industrial and energy. These are consumer driven segments. They will then focus on companies who are strong in the growth segments they identified. 

Qualcomm similarly looks at the end user of their customers in deciding product developments, sales, and marketing priorities. They have identified segments where consumers drive demand including technology for the automotive market, smart homes, mobile computing, and wearables.  

Segmenting business markets is no longer is just looking at your company’s customers or potential customers. With the recognition of B2B2B and B2B2C, segmentation is now focusing on the market segments served by the customers to drive investments in product development, sales, and marketing effort.  

Herbert Brotspies, D.B.A., is a Part-Time Participating Faculty in Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at brotspie@nova.edu

Experiential Retailing: Can it Help Offline Stores?

The growth of online shopping has led many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to create and emphasize unique in-store shopping activities and experiences as a way to compete with online retailers. This is known as experiential retailing, and the idea behind this trend is that the one thing online retailers can’t offer is the in-store experience. Therefore, if offline stores can develop truly interesting, entertaining, and/or one-of-a-kind shopping activities/experiences, that would be one way to effectively compete.

There are a number of examples of companies engaging in experiential retailing. For instance, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World superstores feature a number of attractions that make each store a unique destination, such as indoor waterfalls, gigantic aquariums, archery ranges, and ponds with fish native to the store’s area. In addition, the stores hold a number of demonstrations and workshops that teach customers a variety of skills related to outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, and water safety. Another outdoor recreation company, REI offers climbing walls at some of its stores, for patrons to try out and practice their rock climbing skills. In addition, Dick’s Sporting Goods offers a golf simulator for shoppers to try out any of their golf clubs on a number of virtual holes before purchasing them. On the simulator, the customer hits an actual golf ball and then a large projection screen shows the flight of the ball through the air, as well as where it lands. In addition to displaying this, the simulator also provides a number of useful metrics, such as ball distance, speed, launch angle, and spin, to further help customers decide if the club they’re using is the right one for them. 

Sporting goods and outdoor oriented stores aren’t the only ones engaging in experiential retailing. Many other brick-and-mortar retailers are starting to use technology to create a personalized shopping experience for customers. For example, many companies such as Target offer mobile apps that allow shoppers to see if an item is available at a particular store, and if so tell them the exact location of that item within that store. In addition, other retailers including Timberland, are beginning to employ the use of augmented reality systems in their offline stores, to allow customers to virtually try on clothing and accessories, as well as instantly mix and match various combinations of shirts, pants, shoes, etc. www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TZmQPdhpak.  Neiman Marcus has also developed the “Memory Mirror” shopping assistant, which allows shoppers trying on various items to view them on a large video screen from any angle, as well as instantly change an items color, or see the way different outfits look in side-by-side comparisons: www.youtube.com/watch?v=B97k394jetk

Since many of these retailers’ items can be purchased online, companies are hoping that by offering these extra experiences, it will encourage consumers to go and shop at their physical stores. Obviously online shopping is here to stay and will most likely continue to keep growing well into the future. However, experiential retailing does show promise in helping offline retailers to still have a relevant place in consumers’ shopping habits.

What do you think of experiential retailing? Do you think it’s a viable technique for allowing offline stores to better compete with online shopping? Are there any other examples of experiential retailing that you’ve recently seen in action? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image source: Tim Nichols (2014) – “Experiential Marketing on The High Street” (ExactDrive™).

John Gironda, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. His teaching and research interests include digital and social media marketing, consumer behavior, marketing strategy, advertising, personal selling, and sales management. He can be reached at: jgironda@nova.edu

Embrace Marketing Innovation and Value-Creation for 2017 New Year!

Welcome back to the Huizenga College and New Year 2017!

Let us be thankful that we made it as we get ready for another swift-moving year.

What’s ahead of us, financial events, more uncertainties, or will it be a year of plenty and joy? 2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac, and it seems related to any of these. In fact, while our New Year began on January 1, 2017, the Chinese New Year will begin on January 28, 2017 as the 4147th Chinese year. Whatever the case, it is a New Year and we have already won a great fortune by being present despite going through what has been regarded as a very tough year, 2016. The year 2016 saw several grand changes that both individuals and organizations must remain mindful of as they plan their 2017 New Year Resolution to make personal changes and changes for their customers. In 2016 we lost several celebrities and more closer to us, loved ones. We also witnessed a shocking presidential campaign, and the consequential election with one of America’s most recognized businessman being elected to the Office of President of the United States – and this one is still probably holding people’s minds and hearts back in 2016!

Let us rebrand and reposition ourselves, our products, services, and organizations to move forward!

Strategic marketing embraces focusing on challenges and opportunities to align a product, service, or attributes thereof with mission and vision in a changing, dynamic, and complex environment. In order to respond appropriately to the changing demands of today’s markets, organizations must often reposition, rebrand, and augment services and products (McFarlane, 2016). So must individuals, as life, like the ever changing and ever evolving marketing environment, is an experiment in failures and successes! We must learn from our failures and re-strategize to go forward!

There will be even more significant changes ahead of us as individuals and organizations in 2017, especially with the “eccentricities” and ego of the President-elect and his Cabinet of millionaires and billionaires. Position yourself to weather these changes that will have political, social, and most importantly for individuals and businesses – certain economic consequences! Perhaps this is a good time to count your pennies and your dollars, check your client-customer base, rethink your marketing efforts, your product, your service, and the actual value you are creating and offering to customers, your competitive frame of reference, your competitive position, and how you are going to sustain throughout 2017!

If you are a business struggling with declining customer base, sales, and/or revenues, it is no doubt a marketing problem more than any other issue! There could be several reasons for this:

·         Customers are probably not convinced that you are offering better value, product, or service than your competitors.

·         Customers probably feel that the benefits your brand, product, or service confers do not equal costs, or are less than costs – check your prices, your value-packages, service-and-marketing mix, and brand equity!

·         You are probably lacking innovation and it is wearing at your brand’s value and your image needs a facelift – invest more in public relations (PR), social media marketing, and co-create value with customers and business partners.

·         Seek to better understand the current and emerging industry and broader market and business environments and gauge your marketing communications strategically and appropriately.

·         Conduct a brand strength test using surveys or other means – check to see what your customers are thinking, figure out your net promoter score (NPS), and marketing measures that really matter.

·         Stop fooling yourself and destroying your business model to be something you are not, but rather focus on your core competences and know your resources, and most importantly, your capabilities. These are important in building and sustaining competitive advantage.

·         Finally, value your people asset – see your employees and customers as your most valuable assets (Kotler & Keller, 2016), and do what it takes to meet and exceed their expectations, and most importantly, realize that political play has its limits, and will not do for your business what great marketing and innovation can! Striving to be like your competitor is not innovation, it is imitation and may not work for you! Therefore, seek new marketing, value-creating, and value-adding opportunities – and practice niche marketing!

As McFarlane (2016) advises, be an Early Progressive rather than a Late Progressive, and most importantly, stop remaining a Clueless about your personal, and marketing and business realities.

 “Early Progressives” had already thought about 2017’s New Year Resolution from about the middle of 2016, and probably evaluated and reevaluated self and environment, and a host of other key success factors (KSFs) many times over. If you are a “Late Progressive” you are still probably dealing with the traumas of 2016 – personal and business losses, decline in customer base, revenues, income, opportunities – but guess what? You still have time to evaluate and develop a resolution for success in 2017! Whatever the case, avoid being a “Clueless” and realize that it is now 2017, and you and your business have entered a tougher market and business environment. It is therefore time to drop the uncertainties and suppress those Type C tendencies (“C” for “Clueless”) – procrastination, fair of planning and facing change, passive leadership, political play, and wishful marketing, and start to engage real action and efforts to make 2017 a great year to remember!

The Huizenga College and the Marketing Faculty wish you a healthy and prosperous 2017!

References

Kotler, P., & Keller, L. (2016). A Framework for Marketing Management, 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

McFarlane, D.A. (2016). A New Year’s Resolution: Rebrand and Reposition Yourself! HCBE Marketing Blog: Real-World Marketing Ideas and Strategies, January 1, 2016. Retrieved from https://secure.business.nova.edu/marketing-blog/index.cfm/2016/1/1/A-New-Years-Resolution-Rebrand-and-Reposition-Yourself

Donovan A. McFarlane, M.B.A., M.I.B, Ed.D., is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at donovan@nova.edu

Are Hotels Pushing Responsibility Towards Consumers?

The question that arises is: How many of us go to hotels and think about taking less showers or reusing their towels? I guess very few. We as consumers enjoy free services and tend to overuse them.

Nowadays, many hotels are promoting themselves as being green or “environmentally conscious hotels.” When visiting hotels, guests see signs such as “save the planet” or “reuse your towel”, advices for taking “shorter showers”, and “we refill shampoo bottles” and assume that the hotel is eco-friendly. The question that arises is “Are these signs perceived as credible by customers?”

Indeed, these practices are “Greenwashing practices” and may be perceived by consumers as self-serving.

Hotels have been trying to make consumers responsible for their cost savings. We often see signs indicating that the consumer has to worry about the environment and make all the effort to save energy while the hotel does not even provide customers with a recycling bin. These practices have made customers skeptical towards the eco-friendly strategies. Even the environmentally-friendly conscious guest is not willing to pay premium prices if he/she feels that the hotel is not making any effort to be environmentally responsible. It is the hotel’s responsibility to implement environmental practices and then get consumers involved in the process.

Becoming Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified can be one of the best ways to be perceived as a credible entity. Hotels can revisit their lightings and invest in Led bulbs or showerheads that can control the flow of water, and use solar panels mainly in places such as Florida and California. These methods will help hotels lower their costs, their taxes, as well as their maintenance costs. By implementing these practices, hotels will be perceived as credible and socially responsible.

Selima Ben Mrad, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at sbenmrad@nova.edu

Black Friday – Shopping Tips to Keep You Sane and Save Money!

Companies and customers have long been up in arms about Black Friday! With a tough economy where companies are looking to increase sales and revenues, and where financially strapped customers are looking for the best deals, this Black Friday is full of expectations and hope on both sides. Furthermore, the recent election has not made customers any more relaxed about the economy than they did in the immediate post-recessionary period of 2008, and deal hunting and bargains can certainly go a long way to saving for an uncertain economic and financial future under a soon-to-be new government administration.

Just type in “Black Friday” in Google or another search engine and you will get an idea of the advertising frenzy, deals, and promotions. In fact, from mid-to-early October, Yahoo’s Associated Press and other online news companies and forums had topics similar to the following: “… Black Friday Deals Leaked!” and dozens of others giving customers and prospects a sneak peek at leaked Black Friday deals. We all know by now that many of these so-called “leaked” ads and deals represent just another marketing and advertising tactic to get the buzz going! This is certainly needed to make this Black Friday a knockout one. Hopefully the number crunching will tell the bottom line story after this one-day-a-year frenzy has passed!

Black Friday is not just a super-shopping day that millions of Americans look forward to, but something that many save and plan for. As early as the end of October companies started building their marketing themes and ads around Black Friday, and dozens of articles across websites started offering Black Friday shopping tips on what to buy, where to go for bargains, including Black Friday do’s and don’ts. For example, Courtney Jespersen, a staff writer from Nerdwallet.com, in her article “What to Buy, and Skip, on Black Friday 2016” written on October 21, 2016, advises customers to buy previous models of products in order to experience real savings, especially on Apple products, since “Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart discount Apple products each year on Black Friday, and previous-generation models usually see the most dramatic deals” (Jespersen, 2016, p. 1). Additionally, she also advises shoppers to skip toys on Black Friday, perhaps waiting for the Christmas deals on toys from Kmart, Wal-Mart and Big Lots, and other companies – and in this same light, to also skip Christmas decorations, waiting till December 26 (Jespersen, 2016). Some consumers might find her advice on Christmas decoration a bit purposeless, but after all, you can save them for next Christmas. Jespersen (2016) also advises customers to skip winter clothing, bedding, and mail-in rebates, and instead, buy the major staple of Black Friday – electronics such as TV, tablets, smartphones, and other similar items including home appliances, video gaming bundles including CDs and DVDs. This is good advice!

Before you start getting too excited about Black Friday shopping, here are a few tips that will be useful in helping you remain a responsible, conscious, and rational, wise shopper:

·         Check your finances! It is important to check whether or not you have disposable income to spend this Black Friday. If you simply don’t have it, don’t spend it. You still do not have to feel left out either. Spend the day or weekend doing something great – watch a movie, spend time with a loved one or loved ones, cook yourself a great meal, or something that makes you happy. Hopefully, it is not an expensive and regretful spending spree that gets your ticker going!

·         Take it easy on your plastic and cash as we currently don’t know where interest rates and the economy will go! You will have to pay back every dime you spend on your credit cards plus interests and the interests upon interests! Ellen Cannon, another staff writer from Nerdwallet.com, in her November 1, 2016 article “Best Credit Cards for Black Friday and the Holidays, 2016” reminds us to shop smart with our credit cards and to consider the savings in using store cards, whole-sale club card brands, or regular credit cards as you shop.

·         Think and make a list of things you need rather than things you simply want. Many consumers shop on impulse, totally forgetting about their real needs. Impulse buying can cause post-purchase regret (Kotler & Keller, 2016) to become the highlight of your Black Friday shopping. Therefore, check your inventory of possessions before you decide to shop.

·         Consider the days and weeks after Black Friday, and the upcoming Christmas opportunities for getting bargains. After all, this is not your last chance of the year to get some deals, and good shoppers after all, know how to deal hunt even when it is not a special day of the year. So, if you do not have the currency to get that new appliance or whatever it is this Black Friday, just thank God to be alive!

·         Remember, you work very hard for your money, and deserve the best in customer value – highest level of service, top quality, and good prices – and businesses that treat you as their key asset and believe that the customer is king or honored guest (Weinstein, 2012). Therefore, expect great service as you exercise your buying decisions.

·         Finally, be safe and watch your environment when you go shopping at the malls and plazas. Scan your environment as you enter parking lots and malls, lock your vehicle, do not leave your purchase visible for opportunistic predators, and keep your purses, wallets, and credit cards safe!

References

Cannon, E. (2016). Best Credit Cards for Black Friday and the Holidays, 2016. Nerdwallet.com, November 1, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/best-credit-cards-black-friday-holidays/?trk_app=nw_cc_black_friday&trk_destination=top1&trk_format=article

Jespersen, C. (2016). What to Buy, and Skip, on Black Friday 2016. Nerdwallet.com, October 21, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/shopping/black-friday-2016-what-to-buy-skip/

Kotler, P., & Keller, K.L. (2016). A Framework for Marketing Management, 6th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Weinstein, A. (2012). Superior Customer Value: Strategies for winning and Retaining Customers, Third Edition. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

Donovan A. McFarlane, M.B.A., M.I.B., Ed.D., is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at donovan@nova.edu

Study Shows 10 Ways Humor Lifts Social Content

As social content explodes beyond the attention capacity of us all, it’s no surprise that entertaining content has taken center stage. Humor, in particular, accounts for a vast majority of social videos reaching over 50,000 views. But many brands are still cautious about using comic devices to attract their target audiences.

Fearing a tarnished image to serious business, offended audiences, or simply a joke gone flat, many opt for inspirational content as an alternative to rousing emotions. But a large scale study (http://bit.ly/1dg5yex) of commercials parked on YouTube found a pattern of tasteful comic devices that works well in generating views and engagement.

The following is a countdown of ten types of humor that align well with three theories of humor. In general, we tend to laugh when we:

  1. See something out of sorts (incongruence)
  2. Enjoy others’ misfortunes (disparagement)
  3. Release ourselves from inhibitions or childlike innocence (arousal-safety)

 #10 Awkwardness

Why we laugh at awkward moments has much to do with the pleasure derived from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Rooted in the Theory of Superiority, this disparaging form of humor leads to a feeling of sudden glory when we displace our own histories of embarrassing moments onto others. Among the types of humor that capitalize on awkwardness are remorseful regrets, uncomfortable settings, exercising humility and revealed secrets.

One way to enjoy others’ misfortunes is through the depiction of embarrassing situations where victims are left speechless. By displacing own recollection of these embarrassments onto others, we are in effect saying: “I am glad this did not happen to me.” Arguably, this laughter increases the more a victim is caught off guard or left with an unsolvable quandary.

 #9 Sentimental Humor

Sentimental Humor taps into our emotions through an arousal-safety mechanism. For example, in the first stage or arousal-safety, emotions are aroused with sentimentality, empathy or some form of negative anxiety. As the story-line develops, we then see this heightened arousal state as safe, cute or inconsequential. This shift from high arousal to relief is what creates laughter.

A way to imagine this type of humor is to consider how we laugh. Comic wit, for example, is normally expressed as “Ah Hah.” Laughter from disparaging humor (e.g., putdowns) is normally expressed as “Ha, Ha.” Sentimental humor would be expressed as “Ahhh.” This could happen when we witness someone escaping danger as well as when we experience a child doing something cute.

Among the types of humor that capitalize on this arousal-safety mechanism are those involving false alarms, melodrama or child innocence. Another successful way to get laughter from sentimental humor is through the relief of fear and anxiety.

 #8 Malicious Joy

Malicious joy, or schadenfreude, refers to the pleasure we derive from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Also rooted in the Theory of Superiority, this feeling of sudden glory can occur when we witness bungled behaviors, unanticipated spoilers, unfortunate happenstances, deserved repercussions or the acts of cretins.

Many videos of this type are based on characters that are prone to accidents or saying the wrong thing. Another successful way to get laughter from malicious joy is through the portrayal of spoilers. This cause of laughter taps more into our emotional senses where a feeling of superiority is felt over those whose peace or excitement is snatched away.

 #7 Social Order Deviancy

The most engaging form of humor in viral videos involves social order deviance or those behaviors that challenge society rules and expectations.  Many of us love watching others unleash their innate desire to break the law, enter forbidden territory or simply act out our inhibitions. Most of the viral videos featuring this form of humor involve society irreverence, taboos, offensive behaviors or unleashed mania.

Several viral YouTube videos are based on high society satires, rule breaking and undermining authority. Common to all is the release of tension we experience by unloading on someone’s statutes. Witness how this works when we outwit the censorship imposed by honorable judges, pious clergymen or smug professors.

 #6 Unruliness

Unruliness refers to outrageous behavior. Consider how Snicker’s Mr. T, Nike’s Clay Matthews, and Reebock’s “Terry Tate Office Linebacker” videos reached millions of views as these icons disrupt peaceful settings.

The Relief Theory contends that laughter is created when we release tension or nervous energy such as when we unleash our suppressed desires. Consequently, we love watching others act out uncontrollably or violate some social order. In effect, we are likely enjoying the observation of others acting out our own inhibitions through hysteria, impulsive outbursts, displaced irritation or exercising improprieties.

A popular technique for entertaining audiences with humor is to show people unleashing their anxiety through uncontrollable screaming and yelling. Another common way to release suppressed desires is to display scenes of wishful naughtiness.

 #5 Irony

Irony much like that of any perceptual discord, is characterized by a contrast, between expectations and reality. It makes us laugh by showing the opposite or undesired intentions of someone’s actions. Mentally, we are saying to ourselves: “…I did not see that coming…”

An unusual pairing of well-known characters or scenes, for example, make us laugh at the imagined conflict. Other examples of visual irony include the casting of humans as animals or cyborgs as humans. We often laugh over situational irony in which actions have an effect that is contrary to what was expected. This often happens in the case of a coincidental backlash, where the odds of such an unexpected scene spoiler are infinitely low.

 #4 Surprise Twist 

Surprise twist causes us to laugh as we witness or experience a change in course. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us through a distracting segue. Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “…Where did this come from?”

This surprise twist can be realized in the form of visual anomalies (e.g., sudden appearances, changes or revelations) or conceptual incongruities (e.g., storyline twists or unexpected responses). In each case, we detect a mismatch with what we expect to occur next. Research suggests that we laugh when our minds anticipate a certain outcome, only to be tricked at the end with a wrong or uneventful answer.

 #3 Perceptual Discords

Perceptual Discords come in at number three on the list.  Like exaggeration, discords represent a form of comic wit. But instead of showing extremes, they show us something out of touch. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us by contrasting what we see with what is routinely expected.  Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “Did I see that correctly?”

This perceptual discord can be realized in the form of visual anomalies like impersonations, eccentric behaviors or bizarre substitutions. In each case, we detect a mismatch with common perceptions. Some of the top viral videos show unconventional routines or unusual settings surrounding the highlighted activity. In other cases, the viral videos make us laugh when we imagine a human depiction of abstract concepts or literal interpretation of idioms.

 #2 Putdown Mockery 

Mockery comes in at number 2 on our list. This technique capitalizes on our emotional reaction to watching others experience a well-deserved putdown. Stemming from the Theory of Superiority, we often experience sudden glory when dethroning others or elevating ourselves at the expense of others’ peculiarities. Of the viral videos featuring putdowns, most include mocked peculiarities, lofty conquests, society satires or stereotyping.

One technique used in putdowns taps into our desire to dethrone the self-righteous, the popular, the pretentious and the hyper-masculine.  Some of the top viral videos show scenes of humbled haughtiness featuring those we despise or compete against.

 #1: Exaggeration

Hyperbole, is the number one attention getter among all humor techniques used in viral YouTube videos. Dating back centuries as a comic device, it suggests that laughter results from seeing things out of sorts.

Many brands and small companies have capitalized on the visual side of exaggeration. Seeing the visual anomaly, our brains often ask: “can that really be true?” Some of the most popular comic devices used in this form of wit include the display of supernatural performances, motion distortion, exaggerated body reactions and incredible allure.

So have we left anything out? What type of humor do you feel most comfortable using for your audience?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu

“Business” is not a dirty word!

From time to time some business students proudly announce their decision of following more “important”, “impactful” or “rewarding” areas, such as non-profit. Sometimes, the word “business” sounds as an inferior career choice, undignified in front of more “noble” causes, such as working for PETA or WWF. However, business is without a doubt a good guy in the fight against the evil forces. Businesses are key players in an economy and deal with the allocation of resources around the world, in a world where we suffer from scarcity. They also create jobs and incomes, promote economic development and, due to the global economy, contribute to increasing the standard of living for everyone. Last, but not least, businesses donate money and support numerous social causes, from global warming to microloans in underdeveloped countries. Just look at the example of the Gates Foundation created by Bill Gates.

The second “dirty” word that can be heard in business classes is advertising. Besides the sometimes hilarious ads that entertain everybody, most consumers, including business students, consider advertising the manipulatory member of the business family. It is true that consumers, regulators and academics have called in time for better efforts to improve the image and practices of advertising. However, less known are its benefits. Advertising feeds us information on a daily basis, it provides us necessary pieces of knowledge that help us make decisions. It also helps keep businesses in check and, many times, it acts as the market regulator, as comparative ads will surely underline the errors and weaknesses of competitors. Advertising stimulates competition, innovation and new product development, and many times it promotes freedom of communication. Nevertheless, it creates jobs and keeps the economy developing. After all, a well-developed economy is desirable for governments and non-profits.

Could we benefit from the presence of more ethical individuals in business? Absolutely, nothing could be truer. However, we cannot dismiss business as bad for society just because of a few “wolves from Wall Street”, just as we cannot belittle all non-profits just because some of them have been proven scams. Honest business and advertising are some of the best causes where you can be involved. Giving someone a job is a great cause.

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at mpetresc@nova.edu

More Entries