Posts by Katie Fitzgerald - New York

Case Study: Red Cross Portugal selling ‘hope’ for the holidays

In our AnxietyIndex Quarterly report on hope-fueled vs. fear-fueled brands “What Hope-Fueled Markets Can Teach Brands,” we urged brands to return to the core value of hope. More brands are doing this in the emerging markets of Brazil, India and China than in developed markets, which tend to be more fear-fueled than hope-fueled. Marketers from Coca-Cola in Spain to Havaianas in Brazil have sold hope as a way to overcome adversity and fend off anxiety.

Before Christmas last year, as consumers tightened their wallets, the Red Cross in Portugal decided to sell hope in a literal way. In a popular mall in Lisbon, it opened a store where little cards promoting “hope” were clipped onto hangers and stocked on shelves, just as normal goods would be; the cards sold for 10 euros apiece. “Hope” was positioned as a gift alternative for the holidays, a product that people can’t hold in their hands but can feel emotionally. Shoppers could get the satisfaction that comes with both a mall transaction and the act of giving.

It was a success—hundreds of people attended the opening night, and in its first day the store achieved a place in the mall’s top 10 for sales. The Red Cross extended the stores’ hours as well as its closing date. And the store not only helped raise immediate funds but boosted awareness for the Red Cross.

Where its messaging could have played on the guilt of previously generous patrons, the Red Cross spoke in a voice of optimism. A hope-fueled approach can only benefit nonprofits and regular marketers alike as another challenging holiday season approaches.

‘Bitches on a Budget': Money-saving tips for big spenders

picture-7This recession has created a lot of guilt around spending money on things we may want but don’t necessarily need. In her upcoming book Bitches on a Budget, Rosalyn Hoffman, a former fashion buyer and marketing executive, argues that living on a budget need not mean abandoning the fabulous life. “Living well is one trend that will never go out of style, and it doesn’t take oodles of moola to make it happen,” reads promotional copy. Targeting affluent women who now find themselves on a budget, the book (due out Dec. 29) and its accompanying blog offers tips ranging from where to find the most affordable organic honey to a homemade solution for getting stains out of carpet. One tip recommends Shop It to Me, a service that regularly searches the Web for sales on items that match a user’s size and preferred brands.

Bitches on a Budget illustrates how the habits of affluent shoppers are shifting as they figure out how to align their new budgets with their old ways. These consumers are coming up with creative ways to get around budget barriers in maintaining aspects of their pre-recession lifestyles. Brands that represent the luxury lifestyle that consumers miss must work to maintain their status as “worth saving up for,” giving affluent shoppers reason to save on other items in order to make room for an ultimate-goal purchase.

A cheap ‘on the go’ Starbucks product—from the brand that stands for relaxing with premium coffee

IMG_0595There are two things about Starbuck’s first instant coffee product, Via—meant as a quick grab for people on the go—that don’t make sense to me. For one, Starbucks has suffered in the recession, with McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts challenging the chain with their cheaper coffee. Starbucks’ proposition is that customers pay more for better quality. While Via is an attempt to provide a value alternative to Starbucks’ regular options, cheap is not a value it should associate with its brand, regardless of the economy (a packet of Via, which yields one cup, costs less than a dollar).

Plus, while Via is sold in Starbucks cafes across the U.S. and Canada—as well as at Target, Costco and outdoor-gear shop REI—it doesn’t seem to belong there. Starbucks outlets are designed to be comfortable spaces where customers can relax; the brand aims to be one that people spend time with. But Via’s core idea is “on the go” (“via” means “road” in Italian), making it a sore thumb in the stores.

Interestingly, Starbucks’ site includes a Twitter feed that shows what people are saying about Via—not all of which is good (“The aroma in the cup reminds me of church coffee. That’s not a good memory”). Taste it for yourself at Starbucks locations now through Oct. 5 and get a free tall (brewed) coffee on your next visit; let us know what you think.

Photo credit: lookitsfitz

Tweeting incentives to get customers into stores

Smart brands are gaining followers on Twitter by offering real-time discounts or giveaways to get customers into their stores. Borders, the bookstore chain, is offering free or discounted books at certain locations. Baja Fresh, the Mexican fast food food chain owned by Wendy’s International, offers freebies or discounts during lunch hours to customers who show the Tweeted offer at the register.


This kind of promotion is smart for a couple of reasons. Establishing consistent rapport with consumers during a downturn helps a brand remain top-of-mind when the economy improves. And for chain retailers, which are often seen as having no real connection to the communities where their stores are located, a promotion like this evokes a sense of local familiarity. The tactic is also extremely measurable—return on investment is easily calculated based on the number of Twitter followers a brand has and the number of people who follow through on the giveaway.

Plus, this is a great way to participate in the online conversation, the constant stream of social media chatter that brands need to join. Our most recent trendletter, “The Now Web,” explores how brands can leverage the Web’s shift to real-time communication. 

A documentary gives voice to struggling Americans

Austin and Brian Chu were tired of hearing statistics about Americans losing their jobs and homes from politicians and reporters. The brothers, ages 26 and 23, decided to make the hard numbers more human by traveling across 50 states to interview Americans heavily affected by the recession. They talked to single mothers, seniors, Amish people, house squatters, students and others who have shown leadership in their communities but whose stories had slipped under the

The resulting documentary, The Recess Ends, premieres Sept. 30 in San Francisco. The Chus will also preview the film in several cities before then.

One of their brand-related findings was the sizable shift in opinions they heard about Wal-Mart. While some consumers had once demonized the superstore as a killer of mom and pop shops, many now said they’d grown to be grateful for Wal-Mart, seeing it as a haven for the budget-strapped.

The Financial Times targets advertisers with novel use of billboards

200913576_1The Financial Times just won a gold CLIO Billboard Award for what is a great example of recessionary advertising. To encourage marketers to advertise in the paper, the FT used empty billboard spaces in the U.K. to question the wisdom of cutting marketing budgets in hard times. Stickers in the right-hand corners of the billboards posed questions such as “What’s the first mistake businesses make?”—alluding to studies showing that businesses that increase ad spend during recessions are the ones that do best afterward.

As we discussed last fall in our “Marketing in a Recession” white paper, maintaining share of mind during a recession costs much less than rebuilding it after a period of marketing inactivity. Marketers need to regard advertising in a recession as an investment rather than an expense.

The FT’s novel use of this outdoor medium—billboards empty because of the recession—tied in perfectly with a very apt message.

Photo credit: CLIO Awards