Friday, November 28, 2014

House & Home? Grab The Dramamine.

Okay, where’s the motion sickness pills.

I need a handful.

Readers of this blog-logue know that I get a lot of my press perspectives from the Wall Street Journal and the cable news nets.

On this Black Friday shopping day, the WSJ posts an article complete with graphs and charts titled, “New-Home Sales Still Sluggish.”

Ahhhh… just last week the WSJ and the cable news nets talked about how much the housing market is coming back.

And then a full month ago, the story was about how new home sales are not moving as fast as predicted.

EXPERIENCE works in the House and Home category. A lot. That’s coupled with my personal passion for home décor and style.

Earlier this month, the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce had a nice get-together at MODA Floors & Interiors new store location in Brookhaven. 

MODA is a past client of mine that I worked with in retail expansion and development.

Today’s WSJ article cites stats that show this calendar year might not even be as good as last year in new home sales.  Even home real estates sales are stagnant.

Just over a year ago, one of my House and Home clients that invested a lot of money in my crafting a target marketing model for their corporate brand and both U.S. and Canadian retailers, elected to follow the lead of a Washington firm that lives and dies by new home sales.

The Washington firm are the experts according to the client. They are the ones that have the "inside track" on builder and contract housing sales. 

There had been a good share of turnover on the corporate marketing team.

The new comers had risen through the ranks and a good number came in out of the sales field.

God love the sales people. If they perceive that the model ain’t broke – or in need of a major overhaul -- they see no need to fix it.

See no evil… Hear no evil… speak no evil.

I will never forget this Washington financial modeling guy standing up at the podium and presenting a “refined” way of defining market groups that “would much better capitalize on the forecasted housing growth return.”

Course the corporate marketing team newcomers loved what they guy said.

Sales would come back.  He would lead them down the pathway to harvest the payout.

Shoot… all that hype that EXPERIENCE talked about in terms of “Blue Sky Working Families” and “Millennial Home Cocooners albeit Rental Cocooners” was just false.

And the need to re-adapt the full scope of marketing from inventory packaging to website content to in-store customer bonding to sales dialogue re-crafting were all for naught.

All that money and time and beta tests and in-depth customer modeling was for naught. 

The Washington experts were not involved.  And in just three short weeks, they had built the model needed to capitalize on the great housing revival the firm was predicting. 

Did EXPERIENCE not understand that the housing market – particularly new home sales – was going to hit the 2014 ground running.

The client even waved copies of the WSJ with articles saying that their number churning was right on track.

While much of the programming on HGTV is actually staged, I am the first to say that HGTV understands House and Home a bunch more than statisticians and financial geeks in DC and Wall Street.  There is more programming today about remodeling and renovation than new home building and design. 

As I have stated in this blog-logue and the annual Trendcast Reports, the MILLENNIALS ARE HERE.

Today’s WSJ article states that the Millennials are leaving their parent’s home and going through the rental stage.  The authors of the article then state that as soon as the Millennials lease for a couple of years, then the housing market will take off running.

Yeah… right.

In some ways, the factors that drove the rapid growth of the U.S. housing market… the post-WWII manufacturing boom, the surge of young families – Mom, Dad, Two Kids, Cat and Dog, the expansion of automotive and interstates, the image change of home mortgage debt vs. home pay-offs, the shift from the rustbelt to the sunbelt… have not only run their course, but are much more likely to replaced with new change dynamics than repeat. 

I am not a strong supporter of Global Warming.  And as far as Climate Change is concerned… I am the first to observe that yes, the climate does change… and change… and change…

The Millennials are no longer affecting the market… they are driving it.

The House and Home market is not going away.  There will still be a need for flooring, lighting, plumbing, gardening supplies and home furnishings in the future.

BUT… the market model will not be the same.  The past… is long past.

The rental market demands a different perspective.  Home remodeling will stream versus be start-to-finish like seen on the staged HGTV shows.  Flexibility in terms of room purpose and use will expand.  Millennials never knew much of a non-tech world, but they do crave it. And square footage will be less important -- no pun intended!

Many, many of my clients ranging from financial to healthcare to house & home to consumer package goods to travel-tourism-lodging are discovering that Millennials are not just a fluke.

Each year I issue the annual Trendcast Report that cites the top ten market drivers that will affect brands in the next year.

In the next few weeks, I will issue the 2015 Trendcast Report.  BUT… unlike past reports, the 2015 report will be dedicated 100% to the Millennials and the depth of how they are driving the marketplace and its impact in 2015.

Brands that embrace the Millennial change will win. Brands that cling to the past will soon discover that the mirages will not survive.  

And individuals who read the press about the housing marketplace need to take a Dramamine.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

McDonalds, Spooks and Scary Freaks

I am writing this blog on Hallow’s Eve.

This is the night of spooks and scary freaks.  I told a friend of mine that its always a fun evening … but for those of us working with many business firms today… there’s many of spooks and scary freaks we encounter every day on the job!


Looking back across the last year, I quickly have to say that in 2014, I’ve encountered a bunch.

Some attempting to wear the sign of “Advisory Services”… others “Ad Agency”… others “Brand Strategy Group” … funny how so many attempt to assist and guide businesses when, in reality, all they do is mix up concoctions that bubble and release steam!

Enough about the alchemists.

My drive in writing an article that was posted in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about McDonald’s.

Don’t know how many of the readers out there visit McDonald’s regularly.  I get breakfast at McDonald’s at least 2-3 times a week.  Hard to pass up a nice breakfast of two sausage McMuffins and coffee for less than $2.50 for the full meal.

As much as the food is good and cheap, the process of giving an order and getting the “fast food” fast is something that has bugged many this year.

I remember going into a McDonald’s and seeing food prepared sitting in bins that the person at the register could turn-around, place in a bag and hand over to a customer in less than a minute.

McDonald’s pioneered fast food.  But today, McDonald’s – and others that today wear the label “quick service” are finding that they are in trouble.

The last couple of months, I got out from behind my desk and actually went and talked to people on-the-streets about their thoughts and perceptions about fast food restaurants.

What they shared is reinforced directly by the Wall Street Journal article.

#1 – Fast Food is no longer fast.  Whether it’s a process flow issue, a technical communications issue, a mix of drive-through vs. text-in vs. person-at-the-counter order coordination issue… the service is not only not fast, its way too slow!

#2 – Corporate procedures and processes have created a blockade between the restaurant and customers.  There’s no local restaurant personality.  Comments and questions are channeled to corporate.  People no longer talk to people.  People have been replaced by corporate procedures, the Internet and mobile phones.

#3 – Product innovation at some of the fast food restaurants – and McDonald’s can take center stage in this act – has stalled.  Same-old-same-old is now just simply old.  Now I am the first to say that too many Quick Service Restaurant brands take a simple menu and make it complex as well as take a core focused deliverable and dilute it quickly… but lack of innovation is very problematic.

#4 – The Millennials are no longer in their teens.  As they have grown up and now coupling, their tastes have changed.  There are few exceptions with brands ranging from McDonald’s to Burger Kings to Taco Bell to Chic-fil-A that have arrived in the “here and now.”

The McDonald’s USA President, Mike Andres is quoted in the Wall Street Journal article a number of times.

President Mike would get a “C” grade if his commentary was actually an essay test.  He’s right about one set of commentary and wrong about a second set of commentary.

He’s right that the McDonald’s current regional structure needs some serious revamping. 

He cites directly how currently, McDonald’s groups the South with the Northeast as one region labeled the East. 

While much of the population of Atlanta is now comprised by folks not born in Atlanta, not sure if it’s the water that changes the taste buds, but “sausage gravy biscuits” that score well in Atlanta really struggle up in Rochester, Philly and Boston.

There’s a reason why Millennials champion “local indies” and “farm-to-table” dining options, and run from the BIG corporate chains. 

President Mike gets that one right.

However, Mike goes on to then talk about how McDonald’s needs to become more sophisticated in its digital technology to allow customers to order from their smart phone apps. 

First, not sure that too many folks resist getting fast food because they cannot go on their iPhone and place an order. 

Panera made a big to do about how it was doing away with some of its onsite people at the register and shifting over to mobile phone ordering.  The stores added a set of what appear to be IKEA-link book-cubicles where individuals placing orders through their smart phones can walk in and pick up their orders. 

While I cannot lay claim to what I see as full market research assessment, but when I visit Panera store sites around meal times, I have yet to see the cubicles filled with much of anything.

President Mike want to check out how many high-tech Millennials actually dine at McDonald’s... how many folks actually want to spend the time placing an order on a smart phone versus simply walking in and getting an order... how much time is wasted in taking an order and coordinating the time of arrival and just how hot is burger and fries ordered... for starters!

I remember back in my college days that the press featured a Laundromat that was also serving beer on tap and how that idea was going to forever change the way the 20-somethings would do laundry in the future.

Fast Food and smart phone apps might share the idea of “fast” in common, but not too sure that combining the two together is that smart of an idea.

If President Mike would send me an airline ticket plus some nice warm clothes, I would be happy to fly up to greater Chicago-land and show him how the Millennials are quickly moving out of the fun days of apps and into the realistic days of working 24/7 to have a place they call their home. 

In the annual Trendcasts that EXPERIENCE issues each year in advance of January 1st, we’ve highlighted the impact of the Millennials a bunch. 

Fact is simple.  They are no longer news.  They are here. 

Earlier today, I grabbed a bagel and coffee at an indie café in Athens, Georgia. 

While Atlanta lays claim to being the state capitol of Georgia, Athens lays claim to being the capitol of the Socialist Republic of Georgia.  Many of the twenty-something individuals that comprise Athens are not big fans of big brands and BIG Business.

When I complimented the owner of the bagel shop on just how good the bagel was, he quickly thanked me and then added, “we’re not in the business of selling corporate crap.”

As I preach from the pulpit a lot and if President Mike called me I would tell him… Get out from behind the desk, laptop and corporate meeting calendar and get out and have some good conversation with the people who you are attempting to build a bond.

There’s simply too many spooks and scary freaks that sit behind those desks!