Sunday, February 25, 2018

Be Brave Enough To Capitalize On The Next Wave Of Change

This past month, I have had the opportunity to work with a few companies with some very cool new venture ideas. 

It’s funny… all of the teams are essentially regional brands – not large massive national corporate brands – instead brands that are visible in a number of states in categories that some might label as conventional and uninspiring.

What’s cool, is that the owners-CEOs all see through the standard mass markets and know that the marketplace is at a tipping point of change… and opportunity.

In the last blog, I highlighted some of the really stupid things that the ad agencies are doing… and in large part, actions coached on by the internal marketing teams.

A lot of brand categories today are on the downward slope of market maturity and brand saturation. 

One of the new ventures is a very cool way to bring to life brand alternatives in the supermarket and restaurant business. 

Talk about market saturation and maturity. Talk about a couple categories begging for innovation and alternative offerings!

What the fast food brands are doing today is driven by the mission call to “be everything for everybody” and “forget about the brand’s historic USP – unique selling proposition" – a term that solidifies the MBA-marketing mantra. 

Taco Bell is rolling out French fries.  Arby’s – Where’s The Meat – is rolling out fish sandwiches.  Pizza Hut is promoting a pizza that's actually a hamburger.

McDonald’s made the front page of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) with its mission to “become the next Chic-fil-A.”

I read the online edition of the WSJ every morning with my bagel and coffee.  

When I saw the headline about McDonald's, I thought… well maybe McDonald’s is going to start bringing meals to the table or maybe McDonald’s is going to close down on Sundays or maybe McDonald’s is going to become a moral guardian and hire just kids who have found Jesus.

When I went and read the article, I found out that I was completely off in my assumptions. 

The BGO – or Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious – is that McDonald’s is on a mission to overtake Chic-fil-A as the number one fast food restaurant offering chicken sandwiches. 

I am not making that up.

Market saturation and maturity goes way beyond fast food restaurants. 

You got Kroger’s trying to be Walmart and Target trying to be Kroger’s.

You’ve got hardware stores trying to be gift shops and home accessory stores trying to be hardware stores.

Big Lot’s trying to be Party City and PetSmart trying to be home entertainment.

Enough is enough… literally!

What tickled me about these new clients is that they are digging into market indicators that I also dig into and say, “wow!”

If you have checked out our TRENDCAST or attended one of the presentations, in 2018… and probably all the way through to at least the next 10 years… Millennials forming family, seeking to buy a house and sink down roots along with another surge of kids… is going to rattle the market. 

Frustration with Washington and the Press and the continued surge of the techies broadcasting how the computers and apps are smarter than the humans is rekindling a need for a sense of direction and control…. a sense of containment… a sense of locale. 

I am writing this post on a Sunday.  This afternoon I visited six area furniture and second-hand retail stores.  In some ways, I was not surprised that in many of the stores, I was close to the oldest customer among a large majority of Millennials.

In each store, I asked the Millennials about shopping and what they were buying for their homes.

Here’s a summary of what I scribbled down on a “composition tablet” I carry around with me…

* Nearly all the Millennials purchased the vast majority of their furniture and at least half of their home accessories like kitchenware and dinnerware, lighting, rugs and even some of the bed linens from flea markets and second-hand stores

* Many reference IKEA as the source of what they had in their homes and were now replacing

* At least half told me about people at the stores they got to know that they “consult with” as they move to enhance other rooms in the now owned homes

* While Pinterest was mentioned often, they also talked about finding ideas in magazines – I am not making this up!

* About half talked about watching HGTV and about a third talked about watching DIY-TV

When I asked the Millennials how they were getting familiar with their new neighborhood they mentioned PTAs, HOAs, places of worship and local pubs and restaurants.

When they mentioned pubs and restaurants, I asked them if they were brands they had grown up with or new brands.  Response was quick to qualify that these were “local,” “new,” and “indie” or “long-time” places “in the neighborhood.”

For one of the cool new ventures we are working with, I plotted out a statement that Nielsen tracks where panel participants can rate the statement on a 5 point agree or disagree spectrum.  The statement references a preference to shop more local brands vs. large national brands.

Not only was the index of “strongly agree” high among Millennial DINKs as well as Millennial family start-ups we label as “Millennial Nesters,” high indices of “strongly agree” also showed up among high income families and Baby Boomer “new” empty-nesters. 

My 4-year-old niece uses “faces” to rate items and ideas.  One of the faces has a big smile; another of the faces has a big frown. 

This past week, those trading on Wall Street gave Walmart a big frown face for their attempt to expand into online retail through the corporate acquisition of  As a result, Walmart experienced the biggest one-day drop in its stock value ever in its trading history.

When I watched TV with my niece and the Arby’s fish sandwich commercial aired, she gave drew a big frown face.

When I asked her what she thought about McDonald’s becoming the next Chic-fil-A she quickly asked if McDonald’s would still serve hamburgers. 

When I asked her if she wanted French fries from Taco Bell, she called me the crazy uncle.

I told Lyris (that’s her name) that someday she will be the CEO of a very successful entrepreneurial venture.  She responded back and asked if being a CEO meant that she would still be able to ride a bike.  I told her that those who get out from behind their desks and hang with those in the neighborhoods will be the winners. 

She said she loves it when we go and visit the neighbors and she gets a chance to have tea with them.

Trust me, there are days when I think about how nice having a standard set agenda might be.  I think about just how much money that the CEOs and corporate giants like Omnicom and Publicis rake in producing those idiot commercials – not that I have an opinion set!

But then I think about how much I get charged up leading the edge of change and I realize quickly why it is I get out of bed every morning and take on a new day.

If you read this and share common thoughts, call me at 404.245.9378 and let's craft the next wave of brand success!