August 22, 2012

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Confusion Beats Showrooming The bedding industry has the best hedge against showrooming. They respond to consumers visiting and inspecting the merchandise in a store and then comparatively shopping in real time via smartphone by making it all but impossible to make head-to-head product or price comparisons. Bedding retailers and their national brand partners simply refuse to standardize models. They consistently confuse consumers while virtually eliminating showrooming. This isn’t a new tactic. It’s as old as retailing itself. It’s a stocking strategy supported by Sealy Simmons, Serta and their competitors to create faux exclusives for high value or high volume retailers. It trades off consumer annoyance for peace within the distribution system. But, as evidenced by the weak financial performance of the mattress majors, this inefficient product system comes at a cost. Beds are an infrequent considered purchase. Most last 10 years or so. The most popular sizes are Full or Queen and consumers expect to pay between $500-899 for a good enough set. You can buy beds in stores, online and by phone from a wide range of retailers or through Amazon and eBay. Given the dimensions and weight, long distance shipping is possible but rarely worth it. Mattresses and box springs are an assembled, rather than manufactured, product. There are only a handful of coil, foam and ticking makers in the US. Everyone buys the principle components from the same set of manufacturers. Models are distinguished by coil count, foam density and quantity and the color and composition of ticking. It’s a finite number of variables. Competitive and brand differentiation beyond these factors is hard to create. The major brands have strong name recognition but they are generally perceived to be the same. And while the product naming and features hierarchies in bedding feel deceptive and drive consumers crazy, it prevents showrooming and gives each retailer a much better chance to close the sale. It’s a last ditch effort to control the price, the process and the margins by retailers who are unafraid to confound their every-so-often customers.
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Jerry Lewis: The Original Social Media Marketer Labor Day will never be the same without Jerry Lewis, not only because of his comedic legacy but because he was an original social media marketer. Consider these four legacy lessons. Create Own-able, Original Content. The schmaltz, the cheesiness, the kids in wheel chairs, the has-been performers singing long-forgotten big-band songs, the B rolls of guys in white coats holding test tubes, the drum rolls and the tote boards, the ghost of Ed McMahon, the lame local anchors and the tear-wrenching appeals all signal Labor Day and MDA. Jerry consistently used original content to claim significant year-round mind space and to drive a singular and differentiated brand message. There are thousands of charities and celebrity do-gooders, but there’s only one Jerry Lewis and his kids. Make a Personal Connection. We all genuinely know Jerry. He’s been a part of our lives since the 1950s. There was a great national catharsis each year as the telethon kicks off that focuses on Jerry. It’s about his humanity, his health and his connection to all of us. But even before he created a Facebook page or a Twitter account Jerry was engaging us by leveraging his comedy antics and by singing those signature songs – “Smile”, “What the World Needs Now” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Jerry understood, maybe better than anyone that people buy people. Emotion, humor, shtick, flattery and frank talk were the tools of his trade; the tools that resonate with social media audiences. Persistent Positioning. Jerry and MDA staked out a position and delivered on it. Together they raised more than two billion dollars to fight muscular diseases. MDA owns Labor Day. There was nothing better and nothing more reliable and nothing more comforting than watching Jerry, on the Love Network. The predictable and familiar parade of firefighters, convenience store owners, letter carriers, realtors, oil companies, Harley Davidson executives and other random sponsors presenting those over-sized checks was a unique customer experience. Jerry understood that brands must plant a flag and stick to it. Marketing fads come and go but audiences rally to the familiar. Network Your Networks. Jerry and MDA put together an incredibly potent series of partnerships and alliances that consistently delivered results. The lesson is -- connect the dots. Use your networks and all your brand assets to extend your reach.frequency and engagement with your customer base. Don’t be bashful about mashing things together or cross-pollinating ideas among your allies. So this Labor Day remember Jerry, whose 44 year run taught us how to connect with audiences and optimize social networks. Happy Labor Day.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

The Typepad Team

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