Social media, reviving already used campaigns and economic implications, drove the top ten marketing stories this past year in the travel, beer, financial services and pet industries.
The top story focused on a study from the Beverage Information Group that showed consumers are gravitating to the wine and spirits industries with their new product offerings such as flavored vodkas, category-crossing whiskey liqueurs, sweet reds and high-end blends. Contributing factors to the loss include high unemployment rates among core consumers and a still struggling economy.
Despite continued economic woes, small businesses found some salvation with social media, according to a Citibank survey in March. As small business owners are moving online, and relying more heavily on their company Web site, online channels represent an emerging opportunity to help grow their businesses. In fact, many small businesses planned to use digital and social media tools in the coming year, which proved to be true.
GEICO Corp. wasn’t troubled by the economy and upped its ad spending as a result. The company topped all property and casualty writers in terms of advertising dollars spent in 2011, according to SNL Financial. The direct insurer spent just under $1 billion in 2011 on TV, radio, billboards and Internet banners across the country.
In the faltering economy, the importance of customer service has reached new highs, overtaking even price as a purchase determinant, according to a J.D. Power report. Many businesses cut costs and turned to automation technologies to handle customer needs, which had the effect of raising the importance of people in the service experience.
The report, "Beyond Satisfaction: J.D. Power 2012 Customer Service Champions--Brands That Deliver Service Excellence to Maximize Business Results," also identifies 50 brands as J.D. Power 2012 Customer Service Champions, based on customer feedback attesting to their service excellence.
Another company using social media to its full advantage in 2012 was American Express, whose cardmembers can now sync their cards with Twitter and when they tweet using special hashtags, savings offers are loaded directly into their cards. When cardmembers use their synced card for qualifying purchases online or in-store at participating merchants, the savings are automatically delivered via a statement credit within days.
It might be time for GEICO to retire the gecko and the caveman. And Progressive may want to put the perky Flo out to pasture as well. Both brands were on a long-term downtrend in consumer perception since fall 2010 in the U.S., while State Farm and Allstate have eclipsed those brands riding on their own quirky campaigns, according to research released in March by YouGov BrandIndex, the daily consumer perception research service of brands.
Another segment which seemed to defy the economy was pet supplies. Despite the tepid economy, U.S. retail sales of non-food pet supplies totaled $11.1 billion in 2011, up 2% over 2010, according to a Packaged Facts report. From a high of 5% in 2007, annual sales gains slowed during the economic recession of 2008-2009 and its aftermath, but still continued to make gains.
DelMonte was banking on pet owners’ historic love of their pets in reviving a campaign. The Meow Mix Jingle returned to the airwaves in March for the first time since 1996 to launch the brand’s Tender Centers cat food. In a survey conducted by Kelton Research, 50% of respondents recall most -- if not all -- of the lyrics to the catchy tune. In addition, 81% of respondents claimed to have heard the Meow Mix Jingle in the last 18 months -- when in reality, the classic version of the jingle stopped airing in 1996, 16 years ago.
Meanwhile a beer company also decided to stick with the tried and true. Corona Extra evolved its “Find your beach” tagline that the brand has been using since 2010. Two TV spots and out-of-home advertising aim to strengthen the connection between the physical beach and the beach “state of mind.” Corona Extra’s 2012 out-of-home advertising depicts beaches in unexpected places -- in a city bar, on an urban rooftop or on a snowy mountaintop.
Emirates launched a campaign in April aimed at evolving the airline from a travel brand to a global lifestyle brand. With the tagline “Hello Tomorrow,” the creative seeks to paint the Dubai-based airline as an “enabler of global connectivity and meaningful experiences,” according to the company. “Emirates is not just offering a way to connect people from point A to point B, but is the catalyst to connect people’s hopes, dreams and aspirations,” said Sir Maurice Flanagan, vice chairman of Emirates Airline & Group, in a release. “Emirates is connecting people and cultures creating relevant and meaningful experiences that are shaping the world,” he added.