Walk a mile in someone else’s Patagonia clothes

I recently learned of a cool environmental initiative by clothing manufacturer Patagonia.

The outdoor apparel maker encourages its customers to sell their old clothing on eBay under the Common Threads Initiative. Those who agree to the “pledge” and list their clothing on eBay will have the item advertised on Patagonia.com’s used clothing section.

It makes good business sense for Patagonia to encourage its customers to sell their old clothing to make way for new purchases. It could also be argued, however, that helping people buy used clothing at a lower price could take some sales from the company. Whichever view you would take, however, it’s hard to deny that anything helping to reuse old clothing is a good initiative for the environment.


Finding the right bookshelf for the Nook

What will the Nook’s future be?

Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-readers face fierce competition from the Kindle and iPad. B&N has tripled its advertising since 2009, adding to the huge development costs of the Nook, The Wall Street Journal reports. B&N’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) have fallen to $163 million in the year ending April 2011 from $281 million the previous year.

One of the leaders of a minority shareholder firm recently said competing with Amazon and Apple is a “big-boy game” and that B&N may need partners to play that game. B&N, meanwhile, said it is seeking partners for overseas ventures.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bookseller could possibly either sell a minority stake in the Nook line, setting up a separate management team, or sell the Nook brand outright.

I believe it would be short-sighted to sell the Nook brand outright. Barnes & Noble could very effectively use its brick and mortar stores – the ones that survive in the years ahead – to promote the Nook e-reader and its accessories. Bookstore customers are good candidates to buy e-readers. And Barnes & Noble and Nook can be co-promoted together if the corporation continues to own both brands. You lose that cohesiveness if Nook gets sold; even if a tech behemoth like Microsoft or Google buys the Nook, the new owner has lost that connection to a traditional bookstore and its customers.

Listen to your shoes and take a step in the right direction

Choosing the right footwear may seem like a minor thing. But it can make a big difference in how you perform at work.

You may ask how footwear relates to marketing or business management.

It’s simple. If your feet hurt, you’re going to be distracted, irritable and plenty of other unpleasant adjectives.

I have a part-time job that requires me to stand — and to do much walking. I thought I had two nice pairs of dressy work shoes. But after a month on the job, my feet “told” me I was delusional. Your body often “knows” things even when your conscious mind doesn’t. And my feet “knew” I had bad shoes.

After I started “listening” to my feet, I researched appropriate shoes and the places to buy them at a reasonable price. I bought a pair of Bostonian and a pair of Rockport shoes. I wore the Bostonians yesterday, and I could immediately tell the difference. Whereas I had been coming home from work with extremely sore feet, cramped legs and worse, yesterday my feet were slightly sore but began to feel better once I sat down. Yesterday’s work shift was much more pleasant, and I feel I was more productive. I was able to concentrate on the job, and not my sore feet.

This morning I wore my old tennis shoes, and my feet “told” me they weren’t as good as the Bostonians. I quickly changed footwear, and right now I’m wearing the Rockports. I’m feeling more creative than I have in a while (hence, I’ve broken my writer’s block and am writing this blog). Think of the implications for management and marketing. It’s amazing how changing a pair of shoes can change one’s work productivity.


Barbie and Ken – the couple that accessorizes together, stays together

It’s official – Barbie and Ken are back together!

(Cue: Falling balloons and champagne corks popping).

I had no idea America’s favorite plastic couple had previously split. But this report on CNN/Money says the pair went their separate ways in 2004. Maybe I was too caught up in life back then to have caught the news. Or maybe Ken and Barbie’s PR firm worked diligently to keep the news under wrap then.

All kidding aside, this “announcement” today, on Valentine’s Day, is a brilliant move by Mattel. Barbie Inc. has been battling Bratz dolls for some time, and Barbie had been on the decline until recently. So, while this announcement is a gimmick, it also could build great buzz for the brand. Certainly, a couple that has had a rocky relationship reflects reality more readily than a picture-perfect relationship like Barbie and Ken previously had.

As the saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity.” That’s not always true, but in this case, it works.

By the way: Happy birthday to Jason’s Marketing Primer! I launched this blog one year ago today. I plan for 2011 to be an even more prolific year than 2010!

Starfish-style challenges

What do you do when you’ve always charged for delivering a service or product and some Web site comes along and offers something much like it for free?

That’s been the question plaguing the music recording, news and software companies for some time.

I recently came across a book published in 2006 that takes a fascinating look at this phenomenon: “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations,” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The authors take a look at movements/organizations that defy the traditional leadership model of “Who’s in charge?” Sometimes, no one is in charge. The Aztecs had Montezuma and a capital city, and were easily wiped out by the Spanish who killed the leader. The Apache had no centralized leader and no capital, and thus were better equipped to fight off attacks by armies from developed nations who looked for traditional targets to strike. But the book’s authors say that also describes the recording music industry’s attempts to fight off Napster: They effectively killed that one Web site, but their efforts antagonized people and spawned lots of imitators.

The authors write that Craigslist provided an unexpected challenge to the newspaper industry. Why pay for a newspaper classified when you can advertise a product for free all over the world? Likewise, why subscribe to a newspaper when you can read it for free online?

Newspapers learned to combine ad sales for print and online editions, as well as partnering with sites like CareerBuilder. After many newspapers dropped their attempts to subscriptions for stories, some organizations are taking a second look. My newspaper, The Daily Post-Athenian, already has returned to the online subscription model.

Platforms like the Kindle and the iPad hold out some hope of helping newspapers get digital media users accustomed to paying for content (the Wall Street Journal costs only $14.99 a month on the Kindle, and slightly more on the iPad).

‘Healthy’ marketing opportunities

A bicycle tour wound its way into Athens today (Sept. 14), providing city businesses a chance to show themselves off to potential future tourists.

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee, or BRAT, is an annual tour organized by the Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Cumberland Trail Conference. A portion of proceeds benefit The Cumberland Trail Conference, a non-profit organization that promotes the Cumberland Trail State Park. The tour is staged along one of six basic routes each year to showcase different rural regions of the state.

The 175 cyclists in this year’s tour came not only from the Volunteer State but from surrounding states and even as far away as Michigan. They made camp tonight at a city park and were setting off the next day for Fort Loudon.

But before they settled in for the evening, all 175 cyclists and their support staff of 20 dined in nearby restaurants. To the best of my knowledge, no local business offered special deals to the cyclists. But they could have picked up future business by doing so.

Events like this present great opportunities for a community to market itself to potential future tourists. Scan the local news for events that draw visitors to your community and decide how you can use the event to market your business. In the case of a bicycle tour, you could hand out water bottles labeled with your logo. If you own a retail business, hand out special discount cards at such happenings that offer free shipping. The possibilities are endless by creating good will with people who like to travel.

The brilliance of pink rope

My girlfriend’s car was rear-ended the other day. She and the other driver were alright, fortunately. But, her car’s bumper was twisted out of place, which prevents the trunk from closing.

We went to Lowe’s Home Improvement to buy rope so I could tie down the trunk until the insurance companies work things out and send her car to the body shop. While I knew, intellectually, that home improvement stores had taken a number of steps some time back to market to female consumers, this visit was my first personal experience with the phenomenon. Lowe’s and its competitors began offering workshops for women-only as well as retooling their inventories to include such items as tools with extra cushioning on the grips.

Not to mention carrying rope in more colors than just white or brown. I was about to walk off with the white rope when my girlfriend grabbed the pink product. I take my hat off to the manufacturer of the bright pink product for taking advantage of product differentiation so successfully.

Lowe’s has also become a master at planning product placement to move more inventory, according to BaselineMag.com. The “planograms,” or data-driven shelf plans, influence where is item is placed on shelves. The plan is created through the use of analytical software to determine which products make the most profit and what location gets the best results.  Major suppliers have access to Lowe’s store layouts. Baseline cites a retail expert who credits planograms with helping Lowe’s target women through attention to atmosphere and aesthetics.

It’s working so far with my girlfriend. …

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