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Did Toys “R” Us deserve its fate?

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If you strip away the nostalgia associated with a company like Toys “R” Us, its demise becomes inevitable in hindsight. Behind the overwhelming charm of toy shopping lies a harsh truth: retailers like Toys “R” Us have failed because they simply couldn’t keep up. The most successful modern retailers are continually evolving to meet customer needs and expectations as they arise. Call it survival of the fittest – or the fastest –, but today, it takes a capacity to constantly adapt to make it in the retail industry.

It’s not just Toys “R” Us. We’ve seen the same trend occur with retailers like Radio Shack and Sears. What do these brands have in common, besides their once-frequent cameos in strip malls across America? To begin, their stores were cramped, lacked aesthetic design, and were difficult to navigate. On top of that, they lacked the forward-thinking mindset to implement technologies that focused on improving the customer experience and back end systems early on.

With more, easier, and cheaper options available for buying toys than ever before, Toys “R” Us had one outstanding quality that kept customers hooked: the experience. The experience of walking through a toy store with your kids and the joy of the anticipation of play, coupled with the nostalgia of remembering when you were a kid at the toy store with your parents.

Instead of preserving the magic of the experiences customers treasured, Toys “R” Us let their stores grow stale and disappointing. This became evident to me last Christmas when I walked into a Toys “R” Us in Vancouver to shop for my niece. The store associates were either impossible to find or unapproachable and the inventory selection was significantly weaker than on Amazon. When I did find something, I was told there was no stock left (after the associate spent 15 minutes in the back looking for the item). Finally, as I reluctantly checked out, I wanted to use my sister-in-law's phone number so she could collect the points. But of course, the system didn't allow that. This experience told me all I needed to know.

Had Toys “R” Us truly been focused on engaging customers in the brand, they could have implemented personalization, both in-store and online, through artificial intelligence, and loyalty programs offering suggestions and discounts. Toys “R” Us deserved to die because it was holding the retail industry in place, not moving it forward.

Giants like Amazon and Walmart have been using technology to provide their customers with the exact shopping experience they want, converting each person who visits their physical and online stores from passive shopper to an active consumer of their brands. They’re not hiding their use of these tools, either – Jeff Bezos references machine learning and AI more than 10 times in the 2016 Amazon annual report. That’s because, in 2018, it’s essential to Amazon’s business model. The ease and efficiency of finding and buying what you want is what keeps Amazon’s customers coming back.

Amazon also handles its investments drastically differently than old-school retailers by taking significant bets (think investments like Alexa and Whole Foods). Amazon can do this because of its ability to put cash flow into big-bet investments, which allows the company to see greater returns and to continue to invest in innovations that make the shopping experience more fluid and enjoyable.

Part of Toys “R” Us’s demise has to do with poor financial management, which allowed a heavy sum of cash flow to go towards private equity and paying debts. This left little room for investment in consumer-driven technologies. Funds that should have gone into automation and AI facilitating consumer engagement were instead pulled away. Most recently, Congress blamed Private Equity firms for this mismanagement, stating the possibility that this was a purposeful move to ensure leveraged buyouts. And as “Such buyouts harm communities, while investment managers walk away with significant gains,” according to Congress, this possibility has been even more hyped as an issue.

So what can today’s retailers learn from the mistakes of a defeated toy dynasty? Most importantly, never expect customers to act the same way twice. Trends and markets will constantly change the way consumers behave. With technologies to predict and adapt to these changes, adoption of new modes of learning is no longer just beneficial – it’s essential. When it comes to dated retail practices, there are times when not even a mascot as charming as Geoffrey the Giraffe has the power to save a company.

Kerry Liu is the chief executive of Rubikloud

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Content Marketing

Pinterest opens API to give brands more insights on influencer campaigns

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  • Pinterest is expanding its Marketing Partners program to include third-party influencer marketing platforms, starting with eight third-party solutions.

  • The selected influencer platforms will gain access to Pinterest’s content marketing API to see performance data around influencer campaigns.

  • Marketers will be able to identify and connect with influencers that best represent their brands, as well as track performance metrics for influencer marketing campaigns.

Pinterest is launching a new segment for its Marketing Partners program with the addition of eight influencer marketing platforms: Open Influence, HYPR, Klear, AspireIQ, Mavrck, IZEA, Influence.co and Obvious.ly. This latest expansion into influencer marketing will make it possible for brands to find and connect with influencers on Pinterest who can help build brand exposure and reach.

“Starting today, we’re opening our content marketing API to third-party influencer marketing platforms to help brands and influencers collaborate more effectively and create exciting new things on Pinterest,” wrote Aaron Ru, a member of Pinterest’s business and corporate development team.

Pinterest’s influencer marketing platform partners will be able to connect brands to influencers and offer their clients performance metrics around influencer marketing campaigns, delivering insight into monthly views, impressions, click-throughs and saves.

Lyle Stevens, co-founder and CEO of influencer platform Mavrck, says the Pinterest partnership will prove to be invaluable for brands to understand how content creators drive engagement on the app.

“Real-time analytics about Pin engagements — including views, close-ups, and click-throughs — will help us to better understand Pinners’ abilities to drive customer behaviors for brands. We’ll also be able to view, via the Mavrck platform, how interactions with a piece of creator-generated content have affected downstream behaviors such as views, likes, and eventually purchases,” says Stevens.

AspireIQ CEO Eric Lam also released a statement on his company’s new partnership with Pinterest.

“It’s never been harder for brands to capture consumers’ attention, making it even more important for brands to connect with consumers using the right message, at the right time, through the right channel,” said Lam. “We’re extremely excited about partnering with Pinterest as it provides our brands with yet another channel to engage with customers in a more meaningful and personalized way.”

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US Creative Work of the Week: Lee Jeans combats manspreading and kimono trapping

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Lee Jeans puts the mobility of its denim on full display in its 'Don’t just move. Move your Lee.' Campaign, created by Austin-based agency of record, GSD&M.

The campaign includes three TV spots that speak to modern consumers, with hip, young subjects in everyday, topical (and sometimes impractical) situations.

In one, a woman on the subway combats a guy who is clearly encroaching onto her seat by ‘manspreading.’ She one-ups him by hoisting her jean-clad leg over his so he gets the point. Another finds a woman who has her kimono caught in a taxi door chasing the cab down the street to get her garment free. A third finds a dog walker leaping and flipping acrobatically to untangle many leashes.

The campaign is meant to remind customers that Lee is the perfect jean for everyday movements for all demographics – equate with the new messaging that Lee Jeans are not only stylish, but freedom-inducing products that helps consumers move forward, accomplish, and progress.

For its confident swagger and pointed sales objective, The Drum’s readers voted the campaign the US Creative Work of the Week.

See the campaign by clicking on the Creative Works box below.

To vote for next week’s US Creative Work of the Week, visit our latest US Creative Works here. To keep up to date with all the advertising, design and creative projects from around the globe, visit our Creative Works homepage.

: 'Lee Jeans – Don’t just move. Move your Lee.'

Agency:
Client:
Date: September 2018

Popular denim brand Lee Jeans has launched a new campaign, 'Don’t just move. Move your Lee.' Created by Austin-based AOR, GSD&M, the campaign includes three TV spots that speak to the modern consumer, with hip, young subjects in everyday, topical (and sometimes impractical) situations, in which acrobatic feats are made possible thanks to the movement and comfort of their Lee jeans. From tackling 'manspreading' as a female subway rider, to dashing after a kimono trapped in a taxi door, Lee Jeans were made to move with purpose, while also providing effortless style and confidence to help you be you.
The campaign is meant to remind customers that Lee is the perfect jean for everyday movements for all demographics – equate with the new messaging that Lee Jeans are not only stylish, but freedom-inducing products that helps consumers move forward, accomplish, and progress.
The campaign will run nationally on broadcast through October, and will be accompanied with paid and organic social content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

Credits:

Client: Lee Jeans
Agency: GSD&M
Creative Directors: Maria D’Amato, Jeffrey Butterworth
Writer: Addie Williams
Art Director: Hannah Dobbs
Producer: Alison Wagner
Account: Shawn Mackoff, Lauren Paver, Jane Conyngham
Social Media: Bailey Brown, Jessica Lee
Media: Evan Walker
Project Management: Christie Shepard

Tags: United States

Video of Spread | Lee Jeans Commercial

Video of Strut | Lee Jeans Commercial

Video of Stroll | Lee Jeans Commercial

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5 ways to leverage real third-party purchase intent

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A combination of genius and incredible access to capital has enabled Amazon to become a retail operation truly inconceivable just a decade or so ago.

Untethered from the constraints of physical location, Amazon has made it possible for many of us to rarely visit a retail operation for more than a tank of gas or a cup of coffee. And by consolidating a larger and larger percentage of our shopping and consumption behaviors, there’s less and less that Amazon doesn’t know about us or that they couldn’t easily figure out if they wanted to.

While we can certainly argue about whether the end game is to everyone’s benefit as a society, B2C marketers know that, in the near term, it behooves them to accept reality and try to play along in Amazon’s game.

As I think about lining up catalog operations, department stores, big-box retailers, suburban malls and Amazon along an evolutionary timeline, it’s the similarities that jump out at me more than the differences. It’s the strength of each concept taken singly and together that B2B sellers should all try to take advantage of.

1. Go where the buyers go

In B2B, you don’t need to dive into the many years of academic research to decide where to place your storefront, you know you’ve got to be on the web.

But being open for inbound business alone simply isn’t enough. Retailers use data about pedestrian and car traffic patterns to site their next store. B2C brands know they have to be on Amazon.

Every B2B seller owes it to themselves to find out where buyer traffic already congregates. You need to know where your total available market (TAM) goes when it’s in a buyer’s journey, and you need to be there, too.

Surf on Google’s gravity. While it’s not yet Amazon for B2B, for us, Google exerts much the same sort of “internet gravity” on our buyers. When a buyer begins their journey, they go to Google and ramp up search behaviors, which is why you can and should use SEO and paid search to be prominent on Google.

At the same time, however, you should also study who is consistently ranking high in and around relevant topics and see if there’s a way for you to do the same. Look for high-ranking third-party properties that will let you add your content and offerings. Then build your campaigns to link and bend their audience back to you.

Make sure to advertise to buyers instead of surfers. Although there’s plenty of browsing that happens on Amazon, and advertisers there may well be able to stimulate impulse buys, B2B buying behaviors are very different, as are the outlets that support them.

In B2B, we all spend plenty of time on the web reading about things that matter to us without ever demonstrating what could be recognized as real purchase intent. It would be easy to spend your entire advertising budget targeting demographics or on sites that have no contextual relevance to what someone in a buyer’s journey is actually looking for. Make sure the outlets you narrow your investigation to can show how their content supports the buying research efforts of the people you need to add to your funnel.

2. Bring the buyers to you

I think we can all agree we still aren’t where we need to be with advertising retargeting. When I’m shopping on Amazon, I’m definitely not in the market for my next piece of martech stackware.

Context continues to be a stumbling block for many B2B advertisers. But thinking about exactly what you’re trying to accomplish goes a long way toward landing on better a strategy. To drive maximum ROI, you need to raise consideration for your solution among the companies that are in a deal cycle.

On Amazon, you’d want to promote your offering whenever someone was shopping for products like yours. Real third-party purchase intent can put you in exactly the context you need to bring buyers to your store. By advertising in and around editorial content designed to support purchase decisions, it becomes natural for your desired audience to pay attention to your message and click through to your website.

3. Know what real buyers want

Once you’ve narrowed your advertising focus down to the optimum number of outlets, you need to access a significant volume of real buyers in your specific market category. Then you’ll need to make sure to get everything necessary to convert those people into prospects. This can be harder than it sounds.

Even though a lot of advertising suppliers can now help target specific companies somewhat accurately, outside of activity within your own program, very few of them can tell you very much about what’s working with your audience and what isn’t.

This is exactly the kind of information Amazon withheld from sellers until recently. Here’s another area where the best third-party purchase intent provider can help out. They should be able to show not only your own effectiveness but also what else is attracting your target audience’s attention, be it editorial or promotional material.

To improve your own performance, you’ll want to study this closely and modify your material as necessary to address what buyers are actually looking for.

4. See what real buying groups do

Even though we understand how buying groups actually behave, too many organizations are still relying on a kind of jury-rigged approach to pursuing demand inside of accounts.

First, they find accounts they think might be active. If they get any clicks on ads or inbound web traffic, they then assign sales development reps (SDRs) to call down a list of all the potential folks at the account with titles similar to those who held the most authority in their previous sales.

The problem is that they can’t be sure the account is viable, and they have no way of knowing where in the account the behavior is actually coming from. This approach leads to far too much tele-spend and far too little contribution to the pipeline.

Real third-party intent is much more than an old-school lead gen mechanism. Instead, a quality provider should be able to show exactly who is exhibiting purchase behaviors right down to their role and function, their name, and even their contact and consent information.

5. Engage buyers for yourself

Once you’ve located an active buying team with the right information in hand, real purchase intent data puts you in a much better position to drive efficiency by knowing which accounts and buying centers to target.

Likewise, because you can see both who’s interested and what they’re interested in, you’re able to be much more effective with your own outreach. Whether you choose to deploy targeted marketing to nurture these buying groups or address them more aggressively with people-based tactics, you are no longer guessing who exactly to go after and how to open the conversation.

Real purchase intent gives you Amazon-like insight into exactly who is looking for exactly what. What’s more, because this is now data we’re talking about instead of advertising, these buyers are available to you directly, to engage via your own systems and processes.

Not quite Amazon yet, but something you certainly should take advantage of

While each of us is free to evaluate at what point Amazon’s incredible convenience has gone a step too far, the impact of real purchase intent data on those companies that are taking advantage of it is really no longer up for debate.

As we head toward 2019, if you’re looking for a way to accelerate positive change in your demand generation performance and you haven’t investigated the purchase intent resources available in your market, there’s no better time to start than right now.

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