Trade not boycotts helps poor people and the environment

There is far more trade between countries today than ever before.  And it has allowed countries that were terribly poor, with awful rates of childhood mortality, to transform themselves.

If you haven’t seen this superb video by Professor Hans Rosling then please do.  It shows the amazing progress that has been made.

This progress is often forgotten by people who instead give gloomy summations of the world today.  And worse, some of these people blame globalisation.  Trade is even presented as evil, forcing peasants to leave their (cold wet) rice farm to work in ugly city factories (better paid, warm, with healthcare, career prospects).  Somehow it’s thought that these dumb peasants don’t know what is good for them and their children – they are portrayed as victims of globalisation.

The statistics in Hans Rosling’s video help dispel this dystopian (patronising) fantasy.

I hope that facts like this help people to realise that trade gives people in poor countries a positive future.

If all the rich people in rich countries had agreed not to buy any goods from factories in Asia until they met our environmental and labour standards then Japan would be a poor backward country today. Child mortality in Asia would be atrocious, as it was only 50 years ago.  We must never forget this.


Conflicts in the marketing system

I do sometimes hear an ad agency people say “we don’t care about creative awards, we are totally dedicated to each client’s business objectives”, especially when in front of clients.  It makes me wonder whether they are lying (that’s bad), or that they are deluding themselves (which may even be worse), or if they are admitting that they simply aren’t good enough to win creative awards (and that’s not good either).

I think it is important to be grown-up, honest and up-front about conflicts of interest.e.g. Martin Sorrell wants to sell marketers stuff, his empire (like his competitors) will sell whatever marketers will buy that he can deliver profitably.  This matters far more to the agency than whether or not it is the best way to build their clients’ brands.

Creatives want to win awards.  And if this doesn’t sell a single extra of your product they aren’t really worried.

Media agencies want to do what they know, what’s easy, and they have to honour sell media they have committed to buy.

Market research agencies want to sell standardised products, ideally that use automated data collection and analysis, or low-level people.  They can’t make big profits from stuff that requires in-depth analysis by expensive people.  They do far more R&D into reducing data collection costs than into better research.

Retailers want to win share from other retailers.  They don’t care if this means selling another box of your product or not.

So partners yes.  But there are conflicts in the system.  This is fine, so long as everyone understands the conflicts then they can be managed – it’s possible for everyone to win.  But pretending these don’t exist is dangerous.

Professor Byron Sharp

July 2014.

Apple could charge a lot more – but should they?

Most of the things we own are OK, but a few special few are works of great craftsmanship, things of beauty. They give us pleasure in the same way that some houses, some architecture, is beautiful to look at. It’s something about being human that just looking at a building can be pleasurable yet we aren’t benefiting in any way from its function, we don’t own it, and may never even step inside it.

Beautifully crafted things usually cost more, which is understandable. In fact they often cost a great deal more – we have to pay a lot for small increases in quality, especially at the top end.

So luxury watches, handbags, wines (even business schools) cost an awful lot more even though functionally they may be rather similar to much cheaper alternatives. Luxury watches still cost tens of thousands of dollars more than throwaway watches that now are just as accurate at timekeeping.

Apple, under the guidance of chief designer Sir Jonathan Ives, makes beautifully crafted products. No tablet comes close to the build quality and sleek lines of the iPad Air, and the new Mac Pro looks like something developed using futuristic superior alien technology.

If these products came out from a company in the LMVH empire they would be priced many times higher. So why doesn’t Apple charge more? Even just a little bit more would do little to dampen demand and would add dramatically to profits. So why not?

Firstly, because Apple is in the technology business, where product features are very important and where it’s difficult to gain much of a technological advantage, certainly not one that lasts for any time. In handbags it’s taken for granted that they can all hold stuff, so design (both looks and build) matter enormously. In technology, basic functional factors like speed and screen size really matter, and Apple will never be far ahead of competitors.

Secondly, because Apple wants to build penetration and scale. They want lots of customers for their beautiful products who will then buy music, movies, books and apps from Apple – and of course future products. Getting an Apple product into someone’s pocket or bag gives Apple a medium through which to build mental availability for other Apple products. This is the same reason Amazon massively subsidies their Kindle price.

Thirdly, because Steve Jobs hated price premiums. He always wanted a lower price. Not a discount – he understood the need for profits to fund new product development and marketing, but as low a price as possible to still be profitable. He wanted his products to change the world, which meant getting them into as many hands as possible. Like Jonathan Ives he wanted people to see his art.

Anyone can have a price premium, it isn’t necessarily a sign of strength or good strategy.

So there are arguments in both directions, Apple should lower its prices and more aggressively chase share (closer to the Amazon Kindle strategy), or Apple should increase its prices and reap enormous profits. I guess from their perspective that means their prices are where they should be.

Out-take for marketers: a price premium might be nice for profits today but it holds back reach and scale, and that increases the riskiness of future profits.

PS A related interesting question is whether they should launch a cheap, minimal feature smartphone to bring kids and ‘light users’ into their fold? But they already sell the iPod touch and still have the iPhone 4S on the market so maybe this simply wouldn’t do much for them?

Does iPhone enjoy greater loyalty than Samsung Galaxy?

This is a short summary of an earlier more extensive analysis of this issue.

In short, no the iPhone doesn’t enjoy unexpected (magical) loyalty.

Essentially iPhone looks as if it has more loyalty than Android smartphones because we aren’t comparing apples with apples (pardon the pun). There are three reasons for iPhone’s higher loyalty than all android phones.

1) iPhone only plays in the premium end of the smartphone market, an area where users do use apps, and hence tend to be a bit more loyal because their purchases lock them into the platform.
2) People tend to trade up in smartphones, not down, so the premium end of the market has a bit higher loyalty than the lower end.
3) In this premium end of the market Apple is the market share leader, so in accordance with the Double Jeopardy law it gets higher loyalty.

So yes Apple has higher loyalty than all other smartphones, but its loyalty advantage over other premium smartphones (like Galaxy) is largely Double Jeopardy in action.

PS The “lock in” effect of iTunes and App Store is less than might be expected because buyers of premium smartphones are already so loyal.

Is advertising on Facebook better than TV?

This morning I received this interesting question in the mail:

Cadbury’s Social Media Manager claims a 7% sales increase in single Creme Egg sales over Easter after shifting from TV to Facebook (paid for and community management). Knowing that Facebook Fans are heavier buyers, do you know how they achieved such sales success?

My immediate reaction is that this is like medical stories of someone eating something [snake oil, placebo, vitamin C....whatever] and then feeling healthier. If it’s an outcome like cancer going into remission then it might feature on Oprah, but no sane medical practitioner will give the incident any credence because it’s an uncontrolled experiment, just one time, and with a single patient. I recall one claim of someone receiving an electric shock after a snake bite and being ‘cured’. When the story was investigated it was found that the man only thought he might have been bitten by a snake, all studies afterwards showed that electric shocks do NOT cure snake bite poisoning.

The story here looks very similar. Cadbury took a bit of their Creme Egg advertising money out of TV and put it into Facebook, after two years of dud campaigns (20% sales drop in 2011 and a further 19% in 2012) they posted a small improvement (up 7% from this now reduced sales level). So that’s one brand, in an uncontrolled experiment, in a market where there are a million other things going on that affect sales. Personally I’d be much more likely to put the effect down to the new creative than to Facebook.

Over the years I’ve seen many studies that claim that taking a bit of money out of one (large) medium and putting it into another (smaller medium) produces great results. These ‘research studies’ are usually paid for by that smaller medium. John Philip Jones used to explain them by saying that the first dollars you spend in any media are the most effective, so if you reduce your TV budget slightly you are taking out the least effective dollars, so spending them to another medium has a good chance of being effective. Maybe. It makes particular sense for a seasonal campaign like Cadbury Creme Eggs where you can quickly end up buying a lot of (less effective) frequency, hitting the same people on much the same evening, on TV. But just as likely explanation is that the result is a fluke, an untrustworthy piece of evidence.

And, of course, we don’t know what might have been achieved if they had just scheduled their TV better. Most advertisers do a terrible job, blowing money hitting people multiple times in single evenings. They could easily increase the effectiveness of their TV spend.

I couldn’t help but notice this line in the article:

As a result, this ‘Smell like a Crème Egg’ post was one of a number of posts that was promoted using news feed ads. It reached a natural audience of 188,000, but paid media helped it to reach 1.45m people.

Certainly this fits with the research in Karen’s new book ‘Viral Marketing:the science of sharing’. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and nothing drives social media exposure like paid-for advertising in big media like TV, radio and print.

As Cadbury put it “Facebook doesn’t just have to be a deep engagement platform for an audience it can be something that broadcasts an engaging marketing message en masse.” For a fee of course.

Finally it’s hard to trust the ROI research mentioned in the article. Comparing purchase intent among groups who recall exposure in different media is fraught with bias. People who recall both TV and Facebook exposures tend to be far heavier users of the brand so have higher purchase intentions (with or without the advertising).

In short, claims that one medium is more sales effective than another are simplistic. For the simple minded. And a single study shows nothing.

PS The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute is an independent research institute of the University of South Australia. We are financially supported by Mondelez (Cadbury) and a number of its competitors, but we stay very independent, free to critique.

Are iPhone owners more loyal than Android owners? a marketing scientist takes a look

Several studies have recently reported that US iPhone owners are more loyal than owners of Android-based smart phones.  These have been widely reported in the press.  The coverage on blogs and in the press is of patchy quality, with no reference to known patterns of loyalty.

So I thought I had better take a look.

I found this study (reported here) based on 2-purchase (switching) data, and this one based on purely intentions.  It’s slightly concerning that neither of the market research firms involved are well known.  But it is heartening that different methods are saying the same thing.

The general gist of the news coverage is “research shows….Apple wins more of its sales from Android than Android wins from Apple”.  And this set off alarm bells for me, because it’s a common mistake to see asymmetric switching and assume that one brand has less loyalty.

If you don’t know about the Duplication of Purchase law then it is very easy to make this mistake. That is, to see that Brand A shares a greater percentage of its customers with Brand B, than B does with it, and to conclude that A must be declining, has a weakness, and so on – when the real story is simply that B has much larger share than A.  For much more on this see chapter 6 “Who Do You Really Compete With”.  Otherwise explain quickly now.

Imagine if Android had 90% share and iPhone 10% in a total market of 100 customers.  And that this market was perfectly stable, neither brand moving in share.  Say each period they each lost 2 customers to each other, leaving them both with the same share (lose 2, win 2).  For iPhone this would mean they lose and win 20% of their customers from Android.  For Android it would mean only 2% lost/won.  So we could write a story that said “iPhone wins 20% of its customers from Android, while Android wins only one tenth of that much from iPhone”.  Which is exactly the sort of story that was run (e.g. Forbes).  We could also write a story that said “iPhone loses 20% of its customers to Android, whereas it loses only 2% of its customers to iPhone”.

To try to understand the potentially confusing percentages that the studies report I looked up the market shares of iPhone and Android.  There are two sorts of share commonly reported, and often mixed up.  There is the share of the installed base (i.e. users of each) and then there are share of recent sales (i.e. in the last month or year).  Fortunately for us currently these two sorts of market share are fairly similar in the US – iPhone has about 40% share and Android 50%, with the rest going to Blackberry and Windows.

So Android is 20% (10 percentage points) larger than IPhone.  That means that Apple should get a greater percentage of its sales from Android, than Android does from Apple.

And that’s what happens, 20% of iPhone’s new customers came from Android, whereas only 7% of Android’s new customers came from iPhone.  This was reported as a huge win for Apple.  Also look at the chart, Android wins much more of its new sales (which are slightly bigger than Apple’s remember) from people buying their first smartphone.  Now percentages add up to 100, so if it has a greater % coming from “basic” and “first” then all its other percentages are likely to be lower.  Put simply this data doesn’t tell us if Apple has greater loyalty, or if people tend to upgrade from Android to iPhone.

iOS wins more of its sales from Android, but that’s because Android is bigger and it wins more of customers buying their 1st smartphone

We have to look at different data.  Fortunately I found this table on a website reporting on the same study.  This gives retention data.

iPhone (iOS) retained 78% of its customers when they bought a new phone, while Android only retained 67%.  Interestingly this behaviour isn’t far off what other people report they intend to do on their next purchase.  Now this is very significant because of the Double Jeopardy law we’d expect Android to be the loyalty leader not iPhone, simply because it has larger share.  So something is interesting about Apple, let’s examine further…

Both brands are winning customers who upgrade from basic mobile phones to smartphones roughly in line with their respective shares – and this is where most new customers come from.  Apple is doing a much better job at winning Blackberry users when they switch – in fact both Android and Apple are doing better at winning Blackberry customers than Blackberry is.

iPhone retained 78% of its customers, Android 67%

Now when we see deviations from laws like Double Jeopardy the causes are usually structural factors in the market place, and that’s the explanation here too.  iPhones compete at the top end of the smartphone market, they are on average smarter (and more expensive) smart phones.  I don’t want to get into a debate about the merits of particular models, all I’m pointing out is that Apple has yet to release a cheaper, low-end model.  Whereas there are plenty of low end Android models and they are clearly successful, particularly in giving Android that  large advantage in winning people who are upgrading from a basic phone (50% cf 39%) – if you can get a new smartphone for the same price or cheaper as your old basic phone, that’s an attractive upgrade.

When a smartphone buyer buys a new phone they practically never go back to a basic phone.  Mostly they stay with the operating system they currently have, but not all: 27% of Android owners moved to iPhone, whereas only 14% of iPhone users moved to Android.  That makes sense if we consider that many switches are driven by a desire to upgrade to better features and iPhone has a larger share than Android at the top end of the market.

So are iPhone customers much more loyal, or is this really a function that iPhone has larger share at the top end of the market?  To tell we’d really have to compare the switching between the iPhone and Android models like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 or HTC One.  I expect the figures would align much more closely with the Duplication of Purchase law, yes iPhone would look strongest but that’s because it has the higher market share.

In summary, it looks to me that Apple is doing extremely well at winning market share, it’s not “buying” false smartphone share selling cheap phones to people not seeking smartphone features (apps and internet).  When people do want these features it’s a much bigger brand than overall “smartphone market share” figures suggest – and that’s what drives these loyalty figures.  This is supported by internet browsing figures that show iOS with a substantially higher share of web traffic than Android.

Likewise, Samsung is doing very well too as the standout Android brand.  Everyone else is struggling for share but then this is a very large and growing market, even small brands (which will have lower loyalty) may still be able to prosper.  But Android needs to not only sell smartphones but also get people to use them as smartphones – and/or to win greater share amongst people who really do use their smartphone.

Should Android marketers worry about Apple launching a low(er)-cost iPhone?  Absolutely.

Should Apple worry that Android is recruiting more of the new consumers entering the category, who will largely then stick with Android?  Absolutely.

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The rise and rise of retail chains and brands

I was telling a colleague about Hema, a dutch chain of stores that sell everyday staples, “everything from a needle to an anchor” my grandfather would say.  Well they don’t sell anchors but they do sell needles and all sorts of other useful things you need, regularly, for round the house.  And everything is their own brand.

It started me wondering about the rise of manufacturer-retailers or retailer-manufacturers, and single brand stores.  So I wandered around the shops and took note of which were multi-brand stores, like (most) supermarkets and department stores, and which were single brand chains.  It’s fascinating how the world looks different when you look at it systematically, out of “everyday mode”.  I expected to find lots of retailers who stocked multiple brands but they are a tiny minority – and look to be disappearing.  My list is at the end of this post, I could have gone on walking and made it five times as long but you can see most stores are singe brand.

Indeed I’m sitting in an Apple store writing this post.  An LA-based computer manufacturer that once had no stores, now it operates this store here in France and quite a few more like it around the globe.  When I was a student at university I remember quite a few case studies of manufacturers that had tried to get into retail to ensure distribution (e.g. brewers who bought pubs) and how it had often back-fired; manufacturing and retailing are different businesses was the lesson.  Well it seems that management has improved and many firms can do it (see list below), and many retailers find that they can have a central office buying (and branding and marketing) and that makes life more simple than having to stock their stores by choosing stock from many sellers.  The retail staff can just concentrate on retailing, whereas a purely retail store has to buy and sell.  This is perhaps why we see chains replacing owner-operated stores, even (sadly) in restaurants (though thankfully not in France).

There are a few exceptions like shoe stores, opticians, and cosmetic stores but even here there are single brand stores (e.g. L’Occitane, Julique), where the manufacturer (or designer or at least buyer) is also the retailer.  Department stores, supermarkets and wine stores are among the last, it seems, where the norm is for them to stock themselves with many brands from competing manufacturers – though even here they usually have their own private label brand along with the others.

So what does this mean for marketing?  In some ways it’s an indictment on the quality (and quantity) of marketing by manufacturers.  They were poor at building their brands, and retailers found that their retail presence was as good at building mental availability as the (little bit) of advertising that the manufacturers were doing.  Of course, it also shows that some manufacturers worked out how to be retailers, and very good retailers.  So it’s also an indictment on retailers who operated largely as shelf stockers, renting space to competing brands.

Will dedicated manufacturer-marketers and retailer-marketers survive?  Meaning stores that stock multiple brands?  I think we have the answer, the future is largely already here.  Yes there will be a few, a few dept stores, supermarkets, and some specialist stores.  But the majority will be single brand chain stores, where one head office designs and/or buys/manufactures its own brand’s product range which it sells through its own stores.

OK, what if you own your own shop, stocking manufacturer brands?  Hmm, the tide seems to be flowing against you.  I can’t think of any new chains that have emerged along these lines.

OK what if you are a manufacturer brand marketer without your own retail channel?  Again it looks like the tide of history is not flowing your way.  But can a company like Unilever operate its own stores?  It’s an interesting question; L’Oreal already owns The Body Shop.  Procter & Gamble and others have their “toe in the water” with their own online stores but that’s a long way from having a Hema type store stocked entirely by P&G.

Will we see wine stores dedicated to a single company? We already see some stores that stock many brands that are in effect commissioned by them, they own or control the marketing of these brands.  But might we see a large luxury wine brand like Penfolds open its own stores.  Nespresso did it – if only to use stores as a way of showcasing/advertising the brand.

Hmmm, predicting the future is difficult, but while 10 years ago the idea of manufacturers who depended on many different retailers, like Apple and Levi, opening their own stores and surviving seemed unlikely. And it has happenned.

PS Retail marketing scientist Herb Sorensen points out that “own brand stores” are a strike back by manufacturers at “private label”.


List single brand retail chains I made walking around Bordeaux:


Oliver Grant
JB Martin
Eden Park
Hugo Boss
Father. & son
Alain Figaret
Louis Vuitton
Florence Kooijman
Pain de sucre
Eric Bompard
Olivers & co (olive oil !!)
Rosa Bagh
Alienor chocolatier
and so on…..

Exceptions I noted:

Galleries Lafayette
Bijoutiers but only some
Cosmetics but only some
Manfield – shoes
Outdoor and sports clothing
Wine shops