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Don't Research Your Brand!
Television Is Not Dead
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May 2013

Cropped 2011 head shotThe Merry Month 


I'm finally putting away my wool jackets! The trees are blooming! Could it be?


May has been called "the merry month" because at last we can take a walk without bundling up; and the flowers all start to bloom. But it also means cleaning out the garage or shed; going through your closets to see what still fits from last year (grimace!); and allergies. Somewhat less than "merry!"


My thanks to Carol Simas, of Pinpoint Sage--my guru of published information--for sending me information on media usage, below!

Don't Research Your Brand!

What happens when you assume          


The former CEO of J.C.Penney recently found out what happens when you assume you know what your customers want, and how much change they can tolerate; when you assume you can replicate what you did for another brand; and what happens when you try to engineer a rebranding from afar. That's why Ron Johnson is the former CEO of J.C.Penney.

Brian Tuttle, of Time Magazine, pointed out five things that Johnson did wrong that led to his "spectacular" failure at JCP. They all stem from an acute sense of hubris which he "earned" by being spectacularly successful with Apple's retail operation and Target Stores. What Johnson failed to realize is that Apple Stores were developed to sell Apple products to Apple customers. They knew who their customers were, and were making it easier to get products into their hands. J.C. Penney is a completely different business model. Talk about apples and oranges (no pun intended---alright, maybe a little).
  • Pricing Strategy: JCP is known for discounting on a regular basis. Its shoppers like feeling that they've gotten a bargain, even if the discount is based on a "suggested retail price," also known as "bust-out retail." Sales promotions are what bring people into the stores. Johnson decided to switch to an "every day low price" and no sales.
    • Johnson assumed he knew what JCP customers wanted, even though Apple's customer base couldn't be more different from JCP's, and their loyalty was based on a single brand in a single category, rather than on a variety of brands and products.
    • A fairly simple survey of JCP customers or a few focus groups would have disabused him of this misguided notion.
    • Sales dipped by $4.5 billion during Johnson's tenure; worse, they had a significant amount of cash that is essentially gone now.
  • Testing Change and New Ideas:  When Johnson was asked why he didn't know his customers would not like his changes he replied that he never asked. Duh!  We call that "a blinding flash of the obvious." Put another way, stupidity is excusable--people are just born that way--ignorance is not. Johnson further replied that "we didn't test at Apple." Don't you just love it when people harp on "that's the way we did things at my last company?" Did he sleep through the "Why not all companies are the same" lecture in his MBA program? 
  • Alienating Core Customers: This is the worst-case scenario resulting from Johnson's tunnel vision. By trying to rebrand and, in fact, reinvent JCP, the message received by the store's customers was, "This is not a store for you anymore." Open veins. Bleed to death.
    • The obvious way to avoid this is to survey one's customers to find out how they feel about changing the whole environment in the stores, as well as the pricing strategy.
  • Overambitious Rebranding Scheme: Johnson sought to make JCP a "destination" and an "experience;" a place where people could "hang out," as well as shop. That's the kind of turn-around that--even if it COULD be successful--would have to be done iteratively. Change can be wrenching, especially for a brand as old (read: reliable) as J.C.Penny. 
    • Sometimes, we test new concepts in that manner. We start with a very basic description and then add "bells and whistles" to see the step-by-step reactions.
    • Change this radical is usually introduced gradually.
  • Inferred Disdain For The Brand: By attempting to completely revolutionize the brand, Johnson conveyed the idea that he didn't think much of it, to begin with. What is worse, he directed these changes from California, though the company is based in Texas. This was all done from an ivory tower, with little, if any input from the customers, employees, or even his own eyes and ears. Not only is this off-putting to customers, it is demoralizing for employees.
I have often likened research to driving at night in the country with headlights. It helps you see what's ahead of you, what's coming up on either side of you, and what's just around the bend. If you attempt to go without lights, think of the dangers lurking in your path. What is worse, if you firmly believe you don't NEED lights, you can be a danger to yourself, to those who depend on you, and others on the road.
Television Is Not Dead

But Mobile Has Caught On  


A new study has found that television is as popular as computers for entertainment and getting informa-tion. The Media Use Benchmark 2013 study, published by the Temkin Group, which culled data from 10,000 consumers, found that people watch TV an average of 3.9 hours per day, while they go online for personal use 3.8 hours a day, on average. People spend a little more than half as much time listening to the radio--2.1 hours per day. Reading a book offline, reading news online, and accessing the Internet via mobile devices are also equal in usage, at 1.4 hours per day (each).


These rates did not change more than one-tenth of an hour since 2012, except for the use of mobile for apps and internet access, and reading news online, both of which jumped two-tenths of an hour from 1.2 hours a day to 1.4 hours.


Penetration figures show similar patterns--that is, the percentage of people who engage in these media consumption activities. Nearly everyone watches TV and logs onto the internet daily (94% and 96%, respectively). Almost as many listen to the radio (85%) and three out of four read the news online every day (75%).  Just over half use mobile devices for apps and internet access daily (52%).


Not surprisingly, when the report breaks down this usage by age, TV watching is most prominent among those 65-74 (an average of 4.2 hours per day), while 18-24 year-olds watch 3.6 hours of TV daily. Mobile media usage is heaviest among people under 35; in fact, the Gen Y and Millennial cohorts use more media of all kinds than any other age grouping. Even so, eight percent of the oldest group (75+) access mobile media on a daily basis.


Mobile media and digital information are so prominent among younger consumers that Turn, Inc. has just issued a Global Digital Audience Report that describes a highly sought audience, "The Digital Elite." They are affluent, urban white collar professionals aged 21-34, and they travel a lot. More than four out of five are Americans, and they have diverse media tastes. Their media habits allow them to see 24 times as many ads as other groups, leading to a much higher cost-per-impression than for other groups. Display ads and online video ads are the most common formats, though mobile ads remain the best buy.


Keep in mind that age is a moving target. The data from these two reports represent a snap shot in time; next year, they may show something different. In fact, we have witnessed major changes in technology uses among older Americans over the past 20 years. If you visit a senior citizen community today, you will notice several internet stations in the club house, in spite of the fact that nearly every household in the community has at least one computer. All of the residents have cell phones--some are very simple, and allow them to hear from grandchildren and children if they are not at home. But many of these folks have smart phones and check their investments on mobile apps.


Think about the Baby Boomers, who are now entering retirement years. Not only have these people needed to become computer-savvy in order to remain relevant in their jobs, but the whole zeitgeist of this generation is about trying new things, staying young and "hip," and getting the latest information. Baby Boomers also tend to shop online more than younger people, and they spend more when they do.


Media buying is as much an art as a science, hence the importance of these studies; but don't count out older groups just yet. Check the latest usage figures for your product and keep in mind that television is still an important media outlet for all ages, but particularly for those over 55. More to the point, as time goes on, and people age INTO older cohorts, they will carry with them the habit of using mobile devices for everything.

Upcoming Events
May 15th, 11:30am-1:30pm


In order to achieve success, one must effectively communicate with colleagues (internal) and clients or customers (external). Carol Schiro Greenwald has returned to IABC/LI to tell us "A Dozen Ways To Deepen Business Relationships."  For more information and to register, go to the web siteor you can sign up at and pay at the door.
May 17th, 8am to 5pm
New York American Marketing Association is hosting "2013 NYAMA Marketing Solutions Summit: Achieving Improved Performance and Results." This all-day program features speakers from Gen One Ventures, IBM, Boston's Children's Hospital, Sprint, BASF, APCO World, Florida Blue and Prudential Financial. For more information and registration, click here.
June 23-26, 2013 
There is still time to register for IABC's World Conference in New York City! This amazing opportunity to meet business communicators from all over the world will be held at the New York Hilton. Click here to learn more about it, and to register. 

This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman