February 7, 2012 The Futures Five: Five signals of change shaping the future of the marketplace The big (ad) game: Super Bowl Sunday comes early This week, Ken Wheaton of AdAge chastised the advertising industry for releasing advertisements before the event, arguing that agencies reduced the suspense for the year’s most entertaining content. The takeaway: While the entertainment value of the Super Bowl ad lineup is always up for water-cooler and social-media debate on the Monday after the big game, the argument against pre-released advertisements assumes that anticipation and surprise is the key to Super Bowl ad success these days, as opposed to encouraging sharing and building support. By reimagining the expected, and perhaps antiquated, mode of distribution for creative advertising, this year marketers made it possible for consumers to “pre-game” ad content, facilitating a greater number of conversations about the brand, before, during, and after the game. To stay current and competitive, brands will need to re-look at their “sacred cows” assumptions and challenge the status quo. Cultured transportation: The Chinatown bus While Bolt and MegaBus flaunt cheap fares and excellent amenities, the similarly priced, albeit decrepit, Chinatown bus has maintained popularity. This week, The Atlantic argues that the real competitive advantage of the Chinatown bus is that it brings a rich and thrilling cultural experience to everyday travel. The takeaway: The Chinatown bus service delivers on the need for cheap transportation and the desire for cultural immersion, illustrating a powerful opportunity to satisfy consumers’ “Thirst for Color,” an important theme of this year’s US Yankelovich MONITOR story. It just goes to show that fun, sensory, and powerfully authentic experiences can deliver value well beyond the price of a ticket.
Brave new blueprint: Why JC Penney’s risk is right on target In celebration of its 110th Anniversary, legendary department store JC Penney took a risk by introducing a major new retail strategy last week. Along with simplified pricing, the retailer will be bringing a fresh look and new services to its stores, including the end of couponing and a clean, boutique-style layout. The takeaway: Everyone gets old, and brands are no exception. But as a smart copywriter on behalf of JC Penney wrote, “We’re fine with growing old. We’re not fine with growing stale.” JC Penney’s risky overhaul strategy echoes a crucial challenge that consumers themselves face: getting out of the ruts they’ve been stuck in, and pushing forward with a new experimental approach. Businesses that publicly acknowledge the shortcomings holding them back and have the guts to change course when necessary reflect a mentality that consumers are likely to recognize and appreciate. As retired US Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki warned, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”Inspiration in action: Why Pinterest matters Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that lets users collect, organize and share what inspires them via topical online pin-boards. Its growth and ability to drive significant amounts of traffic to retailers’ websites has garnered a great deal of attention. The takeaway: Although Pinterest is still a toddler in social media, its prospective resonance with consumers and suppliers cannot be ignored. Driving more traffic to retailer websites than Google+, Pinterest is poised to become an important player in the ongoing turf war between retailers and brands as they vie for consumer contact and engagement. Retailers and brand owners alike should be on the lookout for an engaging yet unobtrusive means of tapping into what makes Pinterest so powerful. Whoever gets there first will have a powerful mechanism for igniting those moments of genuine consumer passion and inspiration into commercial opportunity via online retail and social commerce.Mobile tech disruption: Preparing for the inevitable Uber, a mobile application that allows city dwellers to book on-demand black car service, launched in Washington, DC last week, with high user ratings. Threatened by the new service, the DC taxi commissioner declared the technology to be “illegal.” Whether Uber is actually illegal remains to be seen, but it offers an interesting look at how new mobile technology disrupts well-established categories by delivering a better consumer experience.