Thursday, February 25, 2010

Update Your Status and Your Fashion: Facebook's Breakthrough Shopping Platform


I've started to write this post from 39,000 feet up.  Thanks to WiFi available on a lot of commercial airlines these days, I can while away the time it takes to get back to Chicago by sharing some thoughts with you, checking email and chatting.  Technology is gobsmacking to say the least...  and, also, an excellent baby sitter for those of us who can't sleep on planes.

This tech whiz bangery makes it seems apropos, then, to talk to you about a nifty little thing I read about Nine West's Facebook page courtesy of a Loyalty360 press release I read early Wednesday morning.  Starting today, Nine West has deployed a Facebook component of Fluid Social, a social shopping platform, and is essentially a strong Nine West shopping experience for its Facebook fans.  Its trademarked name is Fluid Fan Shop and the Nine West flavor closely follows its sister brand Rachel Roy's three day pop up Facebook store that was earlier this month.  The Rachel Roy exclusive Facebook product sold out within six hours!  In the first 24 hours of the store, the Rachel Roy page got 1.5 new Facebook fans per minute with a total fan increase of 35%.  Not too shabby, eh?

Now that I have your attention, I'd suggest skipping over to the Nine West Facebook page, becoming a fan and then immersing yourself in the Lookbook tab.  It's pretty darn cool because you can envelope yourself in a shoe and accessory extravaganza without ever leaving Facebook.  It's a Nine West branded love fest and it is all about you as the user: you drive what you look at, how many times you look at it, "like" an item, "share" an item, add items to your shopping cart and even watch behind the scenes video of the photo shoot (and then share that puppy, too).  As you know, other fan pages are entertaining (we talked about A1 and the M&Ms page is a personal favorite) but this takes the basic question-answer relationship with the fan and makes it more organic.  The icing on the cake is Facebook fans get a 15% discount on the products through February 28.

We can all figure out the underlying intent for this herculean shopping effort.  It truly is a magical way to engender passion for the brand because the cool factor has gone all the way up to 11 (wink wink Spinal Tap fans).  When brand passion fires are stoked, the transactions are soon to follow.  Fluid's CEO, Andy Lloyd, said it best, "Few retailers are delivering premium Facebook shopping that not only rewards fans but pulls them into a deeper relationship with the brand...  Slapping a store on Facebook doesn't deliver -- Fan Shop enables immersive brand experiences that fully integrate shopping as well as the shopper's wider social network."

You know, I read something else today which is kind of an interesting counterpoint to all of this.  A February 22 article in Ad Age by Jonathan Salem Baskin poses this question: What if Giving Up Your Brand Really Means Giving Up?  Essentially, it's all well and good that we've spent oodles of marketing dollars on "social" platforms and that we are allowing our customers/prospects drive the conversation about our brands and products.  This is particularly critical as he reminds us to look at Edelman's Trust Barometer which shows us that only 19% view social networking sites (like Facebook) as valuable sources of information (read more here).  

What does this mean?  we cannot excuse ourselves from presenting our brands and products in ways that are credible, meaningful and valuable.  In other words, recognizing the customer perceived or stated need and very clearly showing how we solve for that.  After we deliver that basic requirement, only then is it okay for us to tell customers to "talk amongst yourselves" and share experiences.  We always own the message regardless of the channel.  We can't just phone it in because we're all on Twitter, Facebook, Squidoo, etc.

Back to Rachel Roy and Nine West...  I absolutely believe that Rachel Roy got a bump (numbers don't lie) and that the same will happen for Nine West in its Lookbook and store.  The Nine West Facebook execution is exquisite and there is a tie in to the Nine West site.  I wonder about a few things though:
  • How much of the bump in fan base and transactions were simply due to "Wow" factor for people who just love technology?  
  • If so, are Facebook shopping platform technology "early adopters" Nine West's only target?
  • Other than it being cool and the 15% discount, does it matter that I can buy shoes and purses on Facebook?  
  • How much of this "Wow" will stick after this type of pop up store becomes the norm?
  • Does "Wow" translate to customers becoming intelligent brand advocates or ambassadors to others?
  • How do we sell our message creditably so that our communicated core brand identity resonates with customers as they talk to one another about us?
  • Thinking ahead, will regular people like me see Fashion Week shows "as they happen" on Facebook or other outlets?
  • Related, can QVC/HSN/Insert shopping channel here start streaming video on Facebook so we can buy as we're changing our status updates?
  • And there are oodles of others...
Truth be told: I'd be a liar if I said I didn't find that pop up shop really interesting.  I wonder how other fan pages can find ways to engage people in similar ways.  Emeril Lagasse always wanted "smell-o-vision" on his shows - maybe it's not far off for my beloved M&Ms!

Let me know if you manage to visit the Nine West Facebook page and put in your thoughts in the comments section if you've the time!


Parissa Behnia

P.S.  I love this movie... here's the "11" clip:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sears: The Next Retail Dodo Bird


I'd like to thank ALL of you for the excellent feedback and the great conversation about my BMW post from last week.  Truly a good learning experience!  As you were prepping for your weekend, Sears made announcement late Friday about its Craftsman brand which it, and Chairman Eddie Lampert, hoped you wouldn't notice.  It was one of seemingly innocuous but rather ominous announcements last week:
  1. 13 KMart stores and 8 Sears stores will be closing their doors this year; and
  2. The DieHard brand was licensed to Schumacher Electric Corporation which will allow Schumacher to sell battery chargers among other items to retailers in the US and beyond; and
  3. The Craftsman brand of products will be sold at Ace Hardware stores, first tools in a limited number of stores and then the entire line (lawnmowers, etc.) across the Ace store family; and
  4. Sears Auto Centers will now be a franchisee business.
The reason why I'm writing about this is that I have a bit of a lapsed affinity to Sears, first as a shopper but then later as a business partner.  Many Gen Xers like myself remember the obligatory weekly or bi monthly trip to Sears: Dad would go straight to hardware while Mom would take us kids over to the apparel.  Of course we'd go to Sears for whatever we needed because that was a) part of the new immigrant experience and the place new immigrants got their first "charge" accounts and b) what everyone else did, too.  If we were lucky/well behaved, the trip to Sears included a stop at the candy section for some gummy fish or chocolate covered malted milk balls.  Many other people can remember the Christmas catalog and also how they purchased their Craftsman home kit via mail order.

It's been many years since Sears has been at the top of its game.  Kohl's and the big box stores have overthrown the monarch because customer needs have changed and, frankly, Sears dropped the ball long ago.  Hubris was maybe its first crime along with a smidge of "Emperor's New Clothes" but for a time, there was an appetite to fight however fainthearted and however poorly executed.  Sears purchased Lands' End for a mighty sum, created a Lands' End store within a store and also purchased the Structure brand from Limited.  It tested new concepts (Grand and Essentials) after it accepted a "merger" (but really a takeover) with KMart, also ailing, as a strength in numbers play against Costco/Target/WalMart.  Speaking of the merger, it retained the Sears name in the parent corporation because its brand equity was greater than KMart.  Sadly, none of these activities have helped.  A post mortem as to why would fill a bunch of other posts.

Mother Sears' (my affectionate term) proprietary brands like Craftsman and DieHard (Kenmore and Toughskins) were reasons customers were happy to make a trip to Sears just like customers select WalMart's Great Value, Costco's Kirkland/Kirkland Signature and Target's Mossimo, etc.  The brands were part of the allure and draw into the store and they fed Mother Sears' brand equity.  You could step in wanting to buy Craftsman but may step out with a tool and something else.  Sears was the only place you could purchase those items which made a stop there de rigeur on the weekends.

In other words, Sears was as ubiquitous as Costco, Target and WalMart now and, like those stores, was part of the fabric of everyday life: the ultimate one stop shopping destination for the growing American family.  It wasn't due to lack of choice: one certainly could have shopped at other stores: Ward's (now defunct), Penney's, etc.  It was the #1 choice because Sears represented value for dollars spent and customer service.  Customers felt smart when they shopped at Sears and, sometimes more importantly, they felt secure.  There was comfort in knowing that Sears would answer questions or accept a return no matter how old the original purchase was.  I can't begin to tell you how many times I heard in focus groups about someone buying a Craftsman tool second hand and then going straight to Sears to exchange it for a new one.  Rather unethical but oddly, it engendered loyalty and many repeat shopping trips for Craftsman, Kenmore and other Sears branded products.  Sears had the ultimate of halo effects.

All of these recent moves remind me of Dylan Thomas' famous poem that begged us to not "go gentle into that good night" from high school English.  The worst fears of many have been confirmed: that Sears is going gently into that good night.  There is now no good reason to shop at Sears because its brands which made it a shopping destination have been diluted.  It has told WalMart and Target that they have won.  There is now no hope of me cross shopping (hardlines to softlines and vice versa) because I can go to Ace for a Craftsman hammer instead.  Kenmore is likely next of its other brands to be monetized in as many ways as possible because the brick and mortar essence of Mother Sears is a lost cause.  It's conceivable that leases will no longer be renewed resulting in more store closures and when commercial real estate turns around, owned properties may be sold to the highest bidder.

Sears' likely extinction is the reality of capitalism (and a nasty recession) but Sears only has itself to blame.  It "is what it is" but it doesn't stop it from being rather bittersweet especially for those of us whose backs were clothed and whose houses were built thanks to Mother Sears.

Send me your thoughts...


Parissa Behnia

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Law Firm's Dive in the Tech Pool


I have met a lot of great people lately.  One person in particular, a Director of Marketing at a major Chicago law firm, gave me some wonderful insights into the legal marketing industry and suggested I check out the Law Firm Marketing Portal to learn more.  Awesome advice because I stumbled across an article that leads me to this important question:

Q: What do a very prominent DC based law firm and Yelp! have in common?
A: They both have iPhone apps.

Some might shrug at this bit of news given the number of iPhone Apps to be had but I would reconsider.  As you probably know, law firms and lawyers tend to be more risk averse so being any kind of first mover (especially in what is a cost center for law firms) is pretty significant.  Arnold & Porter is first of its peers in the AmLaw 100 list to publish an iPhone app as a news and analysis outlet for its Consumer Protection and Advertising practice group.  The app essentially makes content from the practice's blog available on or offline with ability to save favorites and share news via Facebook and Twitter.

The article outlined the underlying reasons for creating the app which drove my desire to share this with you: 

  1. The firm wanted to reach out to clients and readers in ways that would be more meaningful and convenient to them.
  2. Given the nature of the practice, the firm wanted to mirror what many of their clients are already doing.
  3. The firm wanted to further understand phones as a platform for communication and interaction beyond the traditional phone call.

The desire to speak to clients and readers and share information with them on their terms is what caught my eye because it speaks to the desire to be flexible and nimble in what is an ever changing economic and technological environment.  Today's hot gadget is tomorrow's Commodore 64 so it pays for everyone to stay on their toes even traditionally risk averse law firms.  This move shows that ignoring these seismic shifts in how information is shared and the manner it which it is shared is at your peril.  

The other neat thing is that it speaks to the desire to have meaningful conversations and interactions thereby reducing psychological distance between the firm and its clients.  The tone of the posts (based on a cursory review) are informational but never professorial.  It's clearly borne of the sense of duty the firm has towards its clients.  When made available on the app, it gives the impression that the firm wants the client to have this information at the ready if necessary.  It wants to help.

Also, it promotes conversations and interactions between the app's users and their outer circles when they share or comment on blog posts and articles.  If you recall, I discussed the importance of user communities in my A1 and Kraft Foodservice post and just today, I joined an interesting Lithum webinar which showed how well run user communities and Word of Mouth by advocates/influencers can deliver positive ROI to a business (the white paper can be found here).  I don't think it's over extrapolating to say that Arnold & Porter may see some incremental business because of its new app.

This is clearly outside of the comfort zone of many law firms which makes me wonder what other things that we as marketers could be doing to push the envelope further regardless of our line of business.  Is our limit actually our limit?  When was the last time we asked our customers how they wanted to receive information from us?  How do we stay one step ahead of our customers so that we provide them with what they were just about to request?  What are creative ways in which we can engage our customers so that they talk about us to others without "leading the witness" (pardon the law pun)?

I know I said it previously... but truly hats off to Arnold & Porter for this app.  It's going to be interesting to see how other law firms adapt to this first move.  If you know of any firms who are "out there" with how they communicate with their clients, please do let me know.  I would love to hear about it.

Until Next Time,

Parissa Behnia

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BMW = Joy

My friends, 

That beloved Bavarian brand is no longer the "Ultimate Driving Machine" in its advertising.  It's okay - I couldn't believe it either until it was confirmed for me by an article by Alex Kellogg in the February 13 edition of the Wall Street Journal.  This new campaign launched this past weekend in the US attempts to make a more emotional connection with the (hopefully) future BMW owner using "Joy" as the universal and unifying emotion.

If you recall, BMW advertising (TV, print or otherwise) never showed anything but the car usually in motion hugging tight curves, how it conquers snow and the like.  You never even saw the driver because that distracted from the form and functionality of the vehicle.  Now, BMW is embracing the human aspect of car ownership and why it is that one might choose to buy BMW over another brand beyond form and function.  It's multi textural, it's contextual, it's intellectual, it's sensual, emotional...

Why?  it's about bringing a little more humanity, warmth and personality to the brand and the customer experience.  In these days of "value for money" and watching how we spend as opposed to the heyday of the last decade, it's become more critical for luxury brand BMW to demonstrate that the dollar value of the intangible "Joy" delivered is exponentially greater than the actual sales price of the car itself.  Even the BMW site has joined the fun.  When you take a stroll there, you see some of the new commercials and you learn that "Joy" is the following: timeless, freedom, innovation, aesthetic and moving.  In other words, it's multiple choice and all of the answers are right.  Buying a BMW is "worth" it.

In one of the print ads, it reflects the safety concerns of a new mother.  In one of the commercials, you see an man clearly enjoying the ride in his convertible.  In yet another commercial, "Joy" is defined as being part of the greater BMW community.  The point is that "Joy" is manifested in many ways.  Why don't I just show you, you ask?  Glad to...  see below!

Here, "Joy" is defined as whatever personal attribute the driver thinks most important -- thereby justifying the very large loan, check, wad of cash, etc., it takes to get into one of those.  Bluntly put: it's a way to relieve the guilt of buying the car when maybe you could go one step down brandwise, take the bus or whatever the alternative is to spending over $40K for a 3 Series and way more than that the further up you go in the BMW food tree.  Before anyone suggests I might be a touch judgmental, I drank the BMW flavored beverage a few years ago and spent many hours justifying what was a ridiculous amount of money for one car.  But I don't regret it.  

Why?  It.  Is.  The.  Ultimate.  Driving.  Machine.  The BMW engineers spend so much time on all of the little details which is why BMW is BMW.  Even if I only go to the supermarket and not to the speedway, my day to day experience is excellent because of those details.  I don't feel "Joy" so much as I say "Awesome!"  

And so, I have a few issues with this new campaign.  It seems a bit sacrilegious.  I do get the warm, fun vibe and I do like that the campaign shows every type of driver but I don't think this is a match...  this isn't the "I've got a feeling!" Toyota campaign of the 1980s.  Stuffy is stuffy (yuck!) but this isn't quite right either.  Is a guy jumping off the roof of a house into a convertible going to give the design team the credit they deserve?  Will another woman buy a BMW because other owners sound like fun people especially after a few drinks?  I'm not certain. 

Also, I can't help but recall our Sales and Marketing chats (here and here).  How much have the salespeople in the dealerships been immersed in the "Joy" marketing generally?  What tools have they been given to communicate how the engineering details mean "Joy" to the driver?  Have they been instructed to change how they sell to the customer and how they are compensated if they sell "Joy" during the process?  Has the sales process changed from open to close?  Do salespeople believe in the message - so much so that they are already using it?  Were they privy to the campaign message in development so they could give feedback?  Did anyone observe customers during the sales process to see what resonated most with them to translate into "Joy"?  I am certain you can think of a bunch of other (and better) questions.

Of course, these are early days yet and I'm sure the brand marketing team will find ways to incorporate the timeless, freedom, innovation, aesthetic and moving elements that we discussed above.  I'm very curious to see how BMW will expand this campaign beyond traditional media and their site especially since this is such a huge departure from how they sold the brand previously. 

What's your take on this?  These ads have been on pretty heavily during the Olympic coverage so I'm sure you've seen them at least once.  Send me a note and let me know your thoughts!


Parissa Behnia

p.s.  If you've an extra few minutes, here's the extended version of what you saw above.  It's funny. :).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A1's Epic Battle Against Ketchup


I hope you've recovered from all of the storms: rain in LA, snow in the Midwest and the "snowmageddon" my East Coast friends have experienced.  I was going to step outside for a bit this morning but when I heard 5 degrees with windchill, I thought better of it and started poking around Facebook.  

Great move because I looked at (for a 2nd and 3rd time) a funny 30 second cartoon on the Kraft Foodservice Facebook page that I want to talk about.  And because you're smart, you're right to guess that the Facebook page is an accompaniment to their site.  Oh my gosh - so many things struck me about the video and the Facebook page and yet there is so little time.  Where do I start?  Here are some thoughts:

Who's David and Who's Goliath:
If you are glued to Food TV like I am, you'll pick up on the cartoon's reference to Iron Chef America: the music, the voice, the "do or die" epic battle, among other things.  If your eyeballs are elsewhere entertained, you'll be very amused at how it's an animated version of 300 or similar complete with ketchup bottle decapitations, tomato cannonballs and burger patty shields.  Very creative.

Striking and humorous images aside, this really makes me wonder about the combatants.  We have a National Brand A1 fighting no name (allegedly bland) ketchup.  In my last post, you'll recall we chatted about Private Label's encroachment into additional grocery categories.  You'll also remember the data point that PL condiment consumption is over 26% and growing. A1 is positioned as the hero (or the Robin Hood of toppings) even though it has the cache of Kraft and is a National Brand.  It is literally under siege in real life let alone in the cartoon.

I'm going to play armchair brand psychologist for a moment and say that this cartoon is more than just about the taste of A1 versus ketchup.  I think it also speaks to the realization that Private Label is here to stay regardless of economic climate, that A1 is hungry enough (pardon the pun) to fight back and that customers do deserve to understand the competitive differentiators between the products to make educated shopping choices.

Bravo to the A1 brand managers for not resting on laurels!  Brand managers may not always win but they should at least be willing to put up the fight.

Yin and Yang 
We've all either read or experienced first hand how customer communities increase brand influence and how companies are setting up these user communities as a complement to their sites.  One really good practical example is Best Buy.  It now has a user forum for information exchanges so newbies like me can have their tech mysteries decoded for them.  Even though it's a user saving the day, the halo effect is Best Buy’s with measurable impact to revenues.  Another example is e.l.f., a company that relies on their users and community to generate and maintain buzz.  You can read more about them and Ted Rubin, CMO, here.  

So what's the yin and yang?  I love the blend of formal and informal.  The Kraft Foodservice site is friendly and functional but formal because it's only a one way conversation.  There's great content but no way for the customer, or in this case chefs, to interact.  The intent of the Facebook page is to have meaningful and sometimes whimsical dialogue with the customer but also to encourage and learn from the customer to customer dialogue similar to what Best Buy has done.  

The page is new; there are 531 fans so the dialogue hasn't extended between fans as much but it will over time.  I think the remedy will be the continued posting of content like that so people will open up more even if to say "How funny!"  The other benefit to posting video or other striking content is the viral nature of the medium (the videos of David the rapping flight attendant have been seen thousands of times).  If they want buzz, interest and followers, they should continue making a splash.  The other remedy might be that they consider have a user community on the Foodservice site (like this) and use Facebook as a third touchpoint.  There may be one on the site but I couldn't find it.  If not, perhaps it’s in process.

What’s your take on the cartoon or what I’ve brought to the table today?  Send me your Two Cents.


Parissa Behnia

p.s. To learn more about customer communities and best practices, I would go to the Lithium Technologies site and their blog.  They are the ones who hooked Best Buy up.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Private Label is Getting Spicy!

Folks, it's official.  Nothing is sacred... especially where Private Label (PL) is concerned.  

All you have to do is google "Private Label" and you'll likely see a number of articles that point to share erosion in National Brands thanks to the advent of PL.  There will also be a rehash of what you already know: that this erosion is due to both the economy but also due to the better quality and selection of PL offerings overall.  Gone are the days of the tasteless cookies; now, you can find good quality PL sopressata in your favorite grocery store.

I have some first hand experience with this not only as a consumer but also in my time working for a food manufacturer based in Chicago.  There is consumer demand for fresh, well made and tasty PL meals with quality ingredients that can be purchased for a good price.  The freezer case does not have to be your only alternative to cooking at home!  Yay!

If this is something we know and it's no longer novel, why am I talking about it?  Well, my friends, it's because of food bags and fenugreek.


In the past week, there have been some interesting news items about WalMart.  One reporting the streamlining of its food storage bag offerings to just its own Great Value brand and Ziploc brand from SC Johnson.  The other is that WalMart is testing PL spices to compete with and / or replace McCormick (McC) brand spices in its stores (initially picked up here).  There was an article in the Wall Street Journal (by John Jannarone dated February 6, 2010) but you have to be a subscriber to read it.  If you can find it, it's worth the effort.  I'll let you know when I'm referring to it (if not directly quoting) using WSJ.

Frankly, I can't get excited about food storage but the spice story is intriguing in a couple of ways:

  • Attitudes.  We talked about how buying PL is becoming more commonplace.  Many like me don't think anything of buying PL dairy, flour, canned good products when it comes to staples so price becomes the #1 factor in decision making.  There isn't enough measurable difference in taste or quality that will make someone like this price inelastic.  We're not 100% PL buyers but we're not afraid of it either.  If you're skeptical, the WSJ points to PL condiment sconsumption at over 26%!
    • Implication: Retailers can test pushing the envelope more and more with consumers.  WalMart has the reach and might to measure our resistance to PL spices (beyond salt and pepper) let alone other items.
  • Economics.  According to WSJ, 11% of McC revenues are from WalMart.  Yikes!  Even if the test were successful and WalMart carried PL spices in only some of its stores, the margin impacts to McC are obvious.  While it is true that McC produces PL spices (as per WSJ), those items are at lower prices and consequently are lower margin.  
    • Implication: The squeeze may not put McC out of business but it would be painful nonetheless.  As WalMart and other retailers continue to expand into PL, this will squeeze many other players in CPG and FMCG.  One also wonders what this does to share price, etc.
This makes me wonder the impact on how National Brands invest in new product development and if fear will take an overt and covert role in business planning.  It's conceivable that business plans will have to up the ante to pass the P&L "sniff test" to rollout brand or line extensions.  The net effect being that marketers will have to work harder to differentiate themselves on the shelves to avoid all products eventually becoming watered down and / or a commodity.  

Certainly some things to think about!  To be Pollyana for a second, one potential result in this shift towards PL is that all companies take the time and care to develop products that are better, tastier and high quality and that once the economy rebounds we'll see better selection overall across PL and National Brands.  A girl can certainly hope.

What are your thoughts?  Please send them my way!


Parissa Behnia

P.S.  This post reminds me of Wall-E.  If you've not seen this movie, you might want to check it out!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surprise and Delight (?)

Good Morning!

This might be the first time in recent memory where I enjoyed the game more than the ads.  Of course, the exceptions are the Snickers ad with Betty White and Abe Vigoda and the McDonald's spot with Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Larry Bird.  I'm sure you've read a million articles (over)analyzing every spot already...

So for something completely different (paraphrasing Monty Python), I'd like to talk about some mail I got from Neiman Marcus, the luxury store based in the U.S.  I've scanned it for you (see below).  Feel free to click on it to see a larger version but remember to hit your "Back" button on your browser to return to this page.  

When I was in co-brand / private label card marketing, one of the items that floated to the top of market research was the "Surprise and Delight" concept.  Customers wanted to feel that they were valued in completely unexpected ways.  In exchange for their loyalty, they wanted recognition and special treatment "just because" (not only around the holidays) much like two friends will occasionally show their appreciation for each other at random times (e.g., "I've got lunch!").  

As consumers, many marketers can understand and empathize with this "Surprise and Delight" want.  As business people, marketers also know the positive impact to results if this is executed well -- which brings me back to my Neiman Marcus mail.  I was surprised when I saw it.  I'd not stepped into one of their stores in eons so I opened it.  Thank goodness I did because it gave me something to blog about!

I was given a $50 gift card texturized to feel like an expensive purse.  The top of the piece announces a gift card that is "just for me" and I'm invited to use it with their compliments.  The next 1.5 lines say that with spring in "full swing" it is the perfect time to shop for denim, shoes, etc.  I'm also urged to hurry in before the gift card expires.  There are a few carriage returns and then a huge Neiman Marcus logo midway through the page which looks to be a larger font size than the "just for you" copy.  That's it.  


Why am I ungrateful?  Well, I'm not per se.  It's certainly quite generous and I might very well use it but I don't have a burning desire to race there.  My issue is that while they met the letter of the law, they've missed its spirit.  They didn't say "Dear Parissa" (let alone valued customer) which doesn't align with the "just for you" messaging.  I also didn't rate more than 1.5 lines of copy on a 8.5in x 11in paper (very anti "green").  And, I live in Chicago.  We're to get snow tonight so spring isn't in "full swing" for me yet (though a girl can dream).  Lastly, the most prominent and memorable items on this page are the Neiman Marcus logo and the branded texturized gift card.  

The result: I don't feel special or different or valued.  I don't feel like if I shop there, it matters.  To be fair, I know they want for better and Neiman Marcus aims to deliver specialized treatment.  I've pasted some verbiage from their website:

"For over a century, The Neiman Marcus Group has stayed focused on serving the unique needs of the luxury market. Today, that commitment is stronger than ever. We have stayed true to the principles of our founders – to be recognized as the premier luxury retailer dedicated to providing our customers with distinctive merchandise and superior service." 

The key word in this blurb is "recognized" which is something that they have failed to do in this instance.  See, the purpose of "Surprise and Delight" is appreciation conveyed through differentiated treatment and acknowledgement of the customer as an individual; every element of how this is executed is supposed to reflect that and the business/brand/product/service is to be secondary.  Of course, we know that it's operationally difficult to customize 100% but it's an aspiration.  Along with this, customers want to be wooed continuously.  They want to feel like they matter and that the business/brand/product/service wouldn't survive without them.  

Neiman Marcus just didn't do this in this instance.  The intentions of the piece are good but where it fails is in making the Neiman Marcus brand central to the message of the piece as opposed to the customer.  It reminds me of a one liner, "But enough about me...  What do you think about me?"

What do you think?  Please send me your thoughts in addition to your continued comments to my posts on LinkedIn.  Have a great day!


Parissa Behnia