WHAT’S BUZZIN’?: It’s not exactly a secret that marketing buzz can work wonders on fickle, savvy teens and young adults. And it’s not going away anytime soon. Indeed, word-of-mouth is likely to become the most persuasive form of marketing to all American consumers, projected Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG Worldwide and co-author of “Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand” (Wiley: $27.95). The engines driving buzz’s effectiveness, she said, are gaining momentum: the media’s transformation from mass channels to fragmented ones, like cable TV and Web sites, as well as the rising profitability of targeting individuals instead of a mass audience. Individual appeals to people’s growing desire to stand out from the crowd help marketers cultivate loyalty among existing customers and are also a more cost-efficient endeavor than developing new ones.

“Fashion is incredibly buzzable,” Salzman offered. “Kate Spade has been magnificent at managing buzz to create a prestige image. Celebrity buzz has created Seven Jeans. What happened with F.C.U.K. was genius,” she maintained. “French Connection was disposable, high street fashion till they put up the F.C.U.K. posters in the U.S..”

Departing from conventional wisdom, Salzman — much like “Tipping Point” author Malcolm Gladwell — believes it’s not trendsetters, or alpha consumers, who spread pop culture phenomena. Rather, it’s the busy, social consumer bees who play that role as they thrive on exchanging information with their peers. Alphas, in contrast, tend to shop alone. — V.S.

The parade of products that have spawned TV shows and movies is being joined by a new player — this one from the world of apparel. A “Boys Are Smelly” TV cartoon will air in prime time, beginning next August, based on the Todd character portrayed in the Clearwater, Fla.-based, David & Goliath brand of T-shirts, pajamas, accessories, books and toys. It’s a collection targeting 10- to 28-year-olds with a sensibility that blends humor with an attitude far removed from that of impeccably groomed metrosexuals. The apparel serves up messages that suggest a confection of new wave, neo-feminist candy Valentine phrases: “Chicks Rule,” “Boy Watch,” and “Boys Are Smelly.”New York-based King Features will produce the “Boys Are Smelly” TV show, in conjunction with David & Goliath, which has two stores in Orlando, Fla., at the Universal Studios amusement park, and one in Hollywood. Thirteen new stores are planned for 2004. Industry sources project sales of the three-year-old apparel company, which includes a wholesale business, will reach $50 million this year. — Georgia Lee

It would seem like an easy decision to put a celebrity on the cover of a magazine like Lucky that’s devoted to fashion shopping. But according to Lucky editor in chief Kim France, the decision to do so took “a lot of thinking.” Her populist vision meant offering something she believes most fashion titles do not: a straightforward, reader-friendly guide to shopping for stylish fashion sans celebrity-drenched covers. Although items from Bergdorf’s as well as Wal-Mart have made their way into Lucky’s pages, founding editor France was dead set against featuring the famous on the cover.

Near to the magazine’s first anniversary this January, France changed her mind. Mandy Moore graced the August cover and Mila Kunis will be featured front and center of the October issue. “I started thinking about how a magazine on a newsstand has a half-second to catch someone’s eye and how a celebrity can draw someone in,” France recalled. “I thought about the advantage that can give one magazine over another,” she continued. “And I remembered how people said my grandfather was very successful in business, but could have been even more successful if he’d been open to other people’s ideas. I didn’t want to limit Lucky by being too narrow.” — V.S.

Marketers whose eyes glaze over upon the utterance of the words business ethics might want to reconsider. After all, reasoned author-executive coach Phyllis Davis, if enough consumers or stores lose faith in various brands, “there could be a domino effect that hurts our economy.”

“Ethics is an ideal to work towards; we all have feet of clay,” observed Davis, author of “E2: Using The Power of Ethics and Etiquette in American Business” (Entrepreneur Press, $24.95). “We’re at an all-time low in rooting out business problems that have been going on for a long time. With executives increasingly willing to run out the door, because they’ve gotten theirs — whether or not it benefits customers or shareholders — corporate [misbehavior] has become the norm,” Davis said in a phone interview from her office in Beverly Hills, where she’s president of Executive Mentoring and Coaching Inc.One source of the problem, Davis noted, are the lingering effects of the dot-com bubble, one that increased the speed at which people are willing to take business risks. Davis’ low tech solution? An old school brown bag lunch. “People need to sit together and talk about what works, what doesn’t, and where things are breaking down in their companies,” she advised. “People need to go back and hold themselves accountable.” — V.S.

Paul Bryan has joined San Antonio, Tex.-based Garcia 360 as a communications manager in charge of Hispanic marketing for Simon Properties Group, Dial Corp. and the Coca-Cola Co. In his new post, Bryan will direct Hispanic marketing for all Simon shopping malls in the Southwest, including a Spanish-language ad campaign set to begin this autumn. He also will work with Simon properties that want to facilitate Hispanic marketing efforts within their malls. For Dial, Bryan will lead an integrated effort that includes TV and radio spots and special events to market Dial’s bar soap and body wash products. Bryan joins Garcia 360 from Bromley Communications, a multicultural marketing agency also in San Antonio, where he managed several Procter & Gamble brands, and provided planning and research for apparel, automotive, travel and financial services brands. — V.S.

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