Our world online

The internet is an invention that has changed the way we live nearly 180 degrees from what we used to know. It has changed the way we get news, interact with others, perform daily tasks, and even how we learn. Without the internet, the society that we have formed around it would literally not be possible. The dependency on this invention is beyond comprehension, and consumers arguably use this creation more than most other things that we use in our daily lives.

The capabilities that the internet gives us are of the sky’s limits. All the way from the most high priority doings, such as launching a missile from a remote location, down to turning off the living room lights when you’re 100 miles away and you realize your mistake, the internet controls our lives. The days of dial-up capabilities are almost a speck in our rear view mirrors. I remember when I was a child how slow the internet used to be, but at the same time how incredible it was and how much of a technological innovation that I was taking part in. The dialing noises still ring in my head that the computer used to make as it connected to AOL, and now cell phones are light years faster than that. It is my belief that the world wide web is one of the most widely spread mass addiction that nearly everyone takes part in, and that goes unnoticed. The list of things that would not be possible without the internet is ridiculous: video conferences, international calling, the way our government carries out every day, for God’s sake what would we do without EMAIL?! I can’t even imagine the nightmare it would be if the internet somehow came to a crashing end never to be recovered. Our lives as we know it would be nothing short of in shambles.

Our dependency as consumers on the invisible creation, that is the internet, is almost pitiful. However, as pitiful as it seems, there is no way we could live our lives without it. Even if we were to remove it from our personal lives we’re still effected by it in operations where it goes unseen, such as video surveillance, telephones, and in our work places. It makes me wonder, what could be the next big thing that will change our lives forever? What will be the next thing that we cannot live without?

Tobacco Today

The tobacco industry is one of the largest producers of products that are consumed and bought on a daily basis. From cigarettes and cigars, to hookah, and smokeless tobacco, people are hooked better than that 2 foot bass that you caught when you were fishing last week. But the nicotine isn’t the only thing that keeps people coming back to the gas stations to buy their fix, the packaging plays a large roll.

Marketers spend a lot of time producing new looks and arrangements to keep people entertained. Not only is subliminal advertising often used with tobacco products, but the attraction appeal is readily utilized. This is shown quite perfectly by the new look of Skoal’s tins as well as Grizzly products. Skoal was the first one off the starting line with producing a new look for their junkie’s. People can get pretty tired of the same looking tin day in and day out, so Skoal set out to spice things up. Same great flavor, but just a new spin on things. Their main competitor, Grizzly, wasn’t far behind in revamping their round piece of plastic into a metal covered contemporary creation.

These two companies have utilized one of the oldest tricks in the book by just putting a new look to themselves. Their product carries enough of the weight by getting their patron’s baited and craving, but the new look simply keeps them entertained. The main thing that this accomplishes is that it keeps their consumer from moving to one of the other competitors. Whether that is something that we realize or not, it plays a large roll on some conscious level. A lot of companies could take a lesson out of this. Got an old product? People losing interest? Spice things up a bit! A new look could turn a few heads!

Spring Break, College Style

College spring break brings a whole new meaning to the week off of school. In high school it’s a week for family trips to Florida, or sight seeing trips planned well in advance. Once you enter into the college years however, Mom and Dad are rarely ever in the picture for the ideal break that most every college student likes to enjoy. Companies have formed around college spring break, and work year round planning events and even hospitality for the college student with pennies in their pockets. Panama City Beach in Florida virtually transforms in the month of March into its own college town, and its year round residents find themselves being the minority. Miles down the beach of college students soaking up the sun, and “soaking” up a few beverages, and a nightlife that is unlike any other for those who survived the days festivities.

Student City is a company that works around the clock year round to provide college students with a cheap getaway without a dull moment. Free concerts, deals for local clubs, a places to stay, and many more amenities are provided in many hot spot locations, all for bargain prices. Companies such as this one make it extremely easy for the college consumer to plan last minute trips, and plan them with ease. Student City has a deal with a local condominium complex in Panama City Beach that allows for them to rent out nearly every unit in the building to students, and it mutates to a large dormitory essentially. This allows for PCB to become nearly a default location for many students. For sake of example, from my fraternity alone we had near 55 members travel down to take part in this week long party.

The month of March is incredible for local businesses in spring break hot-spots. The condo that I rented out for me and 11 of my other brothers overlooked over the ginormous complex known as Wal-Mart. Literally from around 9 in the morning when the town comes alive, until well after dark, the parking lot is nothing short of a bee hive buzzing with cars and walkers. Lines for amusement rides such as “The Sling-Shot” are hours long, and lines to get into clubs are nearly identical.

In short, spring break is a perfect example of what consumer behavior is capable of, not only in Panama but all around the world. Companies form simply to make the college consumers happy, and the traditions alive. It’s the behaviors that we take part in today that allow us to still relate to Kenny Chesney when he sings about HIS spring breaks down in Panama, back in 89′.

The wonderful WORLD of Wal-Mart

So here it is, that go to topic that relates in every way, shape, and form to consumer behavior. The mecca of the retail industry ladies and gentlemen, Wal-Mart Inc.. To nearly everyone’s knowledge, Wal-Mart is a perfectly lubricated machine that functions at peak efficiency around the clock, to provide everyone and everything the services that they need at the lowest possible prices. I’m not just talking your every day items, I’m literally saying EVERYTHING YOU NEED. When I was in Wal-Mart last week I had my first, what I like to call, Wal-Mart experience. In one visit to their West Lafayette location out on 52, I achieved getting a haircut, shopping for my regular every day items as well as a few grocery items, all while my perky little Mazda 3 got its oil replaced and tires rotated. The fact that I can say that I did all of that in one location is nothing short of awesome. Wal-Mart has taken every aspect and need of the average consumers life, and put it all under one roof so you don’t have any need to go to one of their competitors. Salon’s, eye doctors, mechanics, tax agents, subway, the grocery store, the pharmacy, the florist, and many more accommodations are all part of what makes up the most magnificent company known to man.

Wal-Mart does something that I have always said I will do if I own a personal business in the future. When you pay a certain price for an item, as soon as you make a dollar more than what you bought it for, you’ve made a profit. What a lot of companies fail to do is set prices reasonable enough to entice their buyers, and keep them coming back for more. Wal-Mart takes advantage of this by realizing that some profit, even if it’s only a dollar, is better than no profit. And an obvious advantage of that is that people will come back to you for the lowest prices rather than spend $20 more down the street for nearly the same item. That dollar is essentially an investment you are making to buy those customers loyalty. When you do this on literally every single one of a consumers everyday items, and put it all under a massive convention center size roof, you have a perfect equation for success. Sam Walton is an entrepreneurial icon that will be hard to ever match by anyone.

I personally don’t believe that any corporation will ever be able to match the success of Wal-Mart, or become any sort of threat in their rear view mirrors. Their direct competitors such as K-Mart or Target operate on the same concept of providing every day items for low prices, but they don’t do it nearly on the scale that Wal-Mart does. Wal-Mart did an unbelievable job of realizing opportunities for expansion by providing additional services under their service based roof, not only for their own personal benefit, but to benefit their customers and make shopping at their store the most convenient pit stop one could ever make. Even if you can find a hair cut for a better price, or an eye doctor for a lower co-pay with your insurance, people will use their services for the basic idea of convenience. Why drive 15 minutes out of your way to get your nails done when you can do it as you’re leaving the store from getting your prescription filled? What an incredible company.

The ever changing gas prices

Gas prices is a topic of conversation that always irritates me on some level. Never are the prices good enough for the people who roll up to the pump. I remember back in 2008 when the average price for gas in America was around $4.10 for a gallon. With today’s prices being on the higher side of $2, I’d say things are looking pretty fair. But never do you hear a consumer say that. Bitching and moaning all the way till E, car owners are never satisfied. Even when prices raise merely 5 cents the complaining continues with no recognition to the fact that that’s only going to total to about 50 cents more each time you fill up. You’d think with that attitude that vending machines would be long gone because no one want’s to drop 2 quarters into the slot for a little caffein fix.

With petroleum being virtually a necessity to our lives, we don’t have a choice but to pay the prices that gas stations put up on their colorful signs. People will literally spend thousands more on hybrid cars not because they want to “go green”, but because they want to save a few bucks at the pump, when in the end the numbers may be hard pressed to equate. The absent mindedness of the average consumer is astounding. How do people not realize that it really will show little to no change on their monthly bank statements when the prices rise literally pennies? You would also think that the complaining would be minimal due to the inevitability that you eventually will be running on fumes, but at the end of the day, you still have to drive to work in the morning.

Despite all the moaning and groaning at the pump, indirect companies have found ways to capitalize on the sympathy that fuel consumers loath for. Giant Eagle, a well known grocery store, formed a gas station company named Get-Go. When you shop at Giant Eagle, for every $50 you spend at their stores, you can get 10 cents off per gallon at their Get-Go pumps. This is brilliant because it brings you to shop at their stores, then on your way home fill up the mini-van at their pumps. As I previously stated, automakers produce cars that provide better fuel economy so that you buy a new car to satisfy your discomforts when you’re sticking the male fuel pump into the female tank receptor. Many more examples are not hard to provide, but I’ll spare you the repetition, you get the point.

Gas is something that we will always need. Unless everything motorized starts being produced to operate off of our bodily waste, you will still have to pay something to have many of life’s luxuries. People fail to realize that electricity even comes at a price. So to all the whiners out there, please save me the sob story. You truly will not find your pity here or with the people on the west coast, as we have cars to fill up as well. Everything comes at a price. If you’re truly that upset with the gas station attendant that uses the long pole to put up a 6 over the 5, a thing called a bike was invented centuries ago, and the only thing you have to expense after that purchase is your energy.

XBox Live

The marketing that goes behind the products that we consume today is beyond our every day knowledge. The time lines in which certain products are released, sequels to existing items, and the information that is leaked prior are all examples of the incredibly thought out process that leads to the success of the latest creations. The item that brought all of this to my attention was the latest release of the extra download to xbox 360’s game, Modern Warfare 2. This add on was titled the Stimulus Package. With this purchase you received 4 new levels to play on xbox live, in which you compete against other players from all around the world. Modern Warfare 2 is currently the highest selling of all xbox 360 games released to date. The Stimulus Package is a genius motive to grab new users, as well as entertain the current users and keep them coming back for more.

We see this type of strategy used quite frequently with consumer products. Often it is in the movies with sequels, or even with existing products such as the iPhone coming out with newer editions. In theory, its absolutely genius. When a company takes one of their already existing products, and simply ads on to it, they achieve three things. The first is that they save money by not having to put in research and development to a new product. The second and third reasons are what was stated previously, it grabs new users into the new and addicting trends, and it keeps the current users hooked on the line. With the example of the iPhone, the creators almost too perfectly “left out” traditional cell phone items such as video recording and picture messaging. What this did is it brought the original addicted iPhone users back to the store so that they could have these much desired features. Xbox did this with the Stimulus Package.

If you have ever played Modern Warfare 2, you likely know the level of addiction that the game is capable of achieving with its users. After hours-on-end of play, the game never loses its attraction. Appropriately named the Stimulus Package, the recent ad on does just that. It stimulates the users so that they don’t get bored with the game that is nearly impossible to get bored with. Priced at around $15 dollars for the download, Microsoft opened up a flood gate that is going to nothing but make them profits. Two of the four “new” levels, are from the previous Modern Warfare, so those two were at literally no cost to them. The time and development put into the creations of the two new levels is surely to be compensated by the profits the download will bring in. Microsoft has set themselves in the perfect direction for this product. They bought themselves more time to create a third Modern Warfare, and are doing nothing but rolling around and giggling like little children in their pile of money that the creators raked up.

Bravo, to Microsoft. They have succeeded in becoming a true example of what consumer behavior really is, and they have forecasted it, controlled it, and used it and abused it to their unbelievable benefit.

Five Guys

I’ve never been so intrigued by a burger place than I was when I walked into Five Guys earlier today. The place is like a bee hive of employee’s, all scurrying around with their individual tasks that all seem so important. The atmosphere is one of a kind, and the whole establishment screams of its success. Nearly every other inch of each wall is proclaiming one of the accomplishments that “Five Guys” has obtained, and every side of the “que’s” are lined with their trusty Idaho Potato’s. Every table was occupied, and everyone seemed content. What can go into a burger place that really makes a difference, I mean, what makes this place better than McDonald’s? Can you really ever turn down the dollar menu? Five Guys has it figured out, and by observations, they have it pinned to a T.

Time, and time again, it has been proven that you CANNOT go wrong by focusing on your customer and giving them what THEY want. Five Guys has a step in the right direction in that department by giving their customers the choices in a list of what they can have on their burgers. I just looked it up on their webpage, in fact, and there is over 250,000 combinations that you could create from the never ending list of burger add-ons. Want a hand full of peanuts while you’re waiting in line? Go for it! And while you’re at it, no need to worry about the clean up, just throw your empty shells on the floor, there will be someone to buzz around and clean up after you! Pure genius! No one actually TRULY enjoys cleaning up after themselves, when there is someone that is willing to do it for you. There is even a subconscious fun factor to being able to be deviant and throw your empty shells on the ground, you feel a bit “naughty” for doing it. Anything to make the customer happy.

The atmosphere is created by an assortment of variables. The extremely well lit establishment drew my attention to the white and red color scheme, almost reminding me of the old diner’s you saw in the 50’s, or for us young folk, Johnny Rockets. Another thing that makes their customers SO happy is the abundance of food. You’ll never get shorted at Five Guys. When you order some of their famous Idaho Potato French Fries, its delivered to you in a styrofoam cup filled to the top, then placed in a paper bag with a few more fistfuls thrown in on top, just to ensure you have enough! Another clever thing about this is, you don’t feel bombarded by marketing when you leave the place. If you notice, there isn’t one “Five Guys” label on any of their stuff. They give you your food in a modest paper bag, and your burger in tin foil, and your fries in a cup. They don’t need to remind you of their name, their food speaks for itself, they know you’ll return. This is not to mention that all of that comes from a kitchen that you get to watch while your food is being made. Literally, you order, you pay, you watch your food be made until it is delivered into your hands. Perfection.

After reading up on it more, I have come to realize Five Guys secret behind all of this customer satisfaction. They utilize the business concept of a secret shopper. Their employee’s get rewarded for good service to their customers. This is made known to them very well, so they actually work hard to please customers and give them what they want, so that they can be rewarded. There are no losers! A happy employee makes a customer happy. Another act of ingeniousness on their part.

I believe Five Guys has it all figured out. They have defined their product, and focus on perfecting it. They know their customers, and they know what it takes to make their customers happy. What do you get from that equation? A restaurant that is sure to succeed.

Subliminal Miss Vickie’s

After a lot of discussion and examples, I have become very familiar with the advertising technique of subliminal advertising. My attention was drawn to this method by my Consumer Behavior professor Dr. Richard Feinberg recently. Since then I have found myself periodically examining packaging, and different forms of media for these acts of advertising genius. With this new realization, I stumbled upon a now obvious case of subliminal advertising.

When I was eating lunch the other day, I went to grab a bag of chips. Among the choices presented to me I chose the popular Miss Vickie’s Sea Salt & Vinegar chips shortly after glancing at the box of opportunities. While sitting down to enjoy my meal, a part of me began to wonder if there was a subconscious reason that I chose this product over the others. So I began to examine the packaging, when then it seemed so obvious. Across the upper portion of the bag is a depiction of something that closely resembles a woman’s blouse, even including a subtle bow cleverly placed at the center to draw attention. To drive the message home more clearly, the brand name is sized and oriented almost too perfectly so that the “V” of Miss Vickie’s is interestingly placed, to my best assumption, to illustrate the cleavage of a woman’s breast. An additional aspect to this work of subliminal persuasion, is the clever slogan more towards the lower portion of the bag, stating “All Natural”. This seems all too obvious for it to be a coincidence on Miss Vickie’s part.

Is it possible that I chose this bag of seemingly innocent chips over the others, not because of the great taste and quality of the product, but rather because I was subconsciously appealed to its sexual implications?

Brand’s and companies that utilize subliminal promotion have an upper hand on their competitors that forgo it. The human intellect is programmed from birth to be attracted to the notion of sex and everything that it entails. I can reasonably believe that if a survey were to be taken of consumers, that the majority of Miss Vickie’s customers tend to be of the male gender. This is not only due to the manifest of the woman’s anatomy, but also on account of the brand name being a woman’s name.

Subliminal advertising and marketing is near ingenious, and most definitely affects the decisions of its targets. If used properly, this method of persuasion can prove to be undeniably effective.

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Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s is a novelty to the food industry that has changed the typical college students expectations of a delivery service forever. Their slogan for “Freaky Fast Delivery” is followed through nearly every time, and has created a brand name for the company that is very trustworthy and ┬ábelievable by nearly all of their customers. It is reasonable for a customer to be disappointed in Jimmy John’s service if a delivery takes longer than 15 minutes. I once had them tell me they’d be there in 4 minutes; just long enough for me to gather my money, and walk down to the door only to see them waiting there, sandwich in hand.

I recently viewed a commercial for Jimmy John’s where a man was in an accident and was turned over and trapped in his car. Having ordered Jimmy John’s, their trustworthy delivery man showed up to the car window, man still trapped in side, and the employee delivers the clever line of, “Sorry I took so long, I got caught up behind an ambulance”. This tag line creates humor for the viewer by playing on the notion that emergency services are always quick to respond and be at your service, but Jimmy John’s is faster. For the consumer, this instills the expectation of having quick service no matter the situation. This ad is very effective because it reinforces the company’s value’s, and also uses classical conditioning to attract their customers. With their reliable delivery, you can expect to order and have the food there within a few minutes; just as the well known example of ringing a bell every time you’re about to feed a dog dinner does. The dog becomes so conditioned to the sound of the bell that whenever it rings their mouths begin to salivate because of the expectation of being fed.

Jimmy John’s is also associated with good customer service because of their broad menu choices and cheap prices. Their brand is very well trusted and it actually sets the bar for all of the other sandwich companies and delivery services. You’ll notice that many of Jimmy John’s locations are small, and this because they focus on delivery due to the fact that it takes you longer, and is more costly (because of time and expenses) for the customers to actually take the time to drive there and purchase something themselves, when they can just have it brought to them at their convenience. Even when you call their location, you are often quickly prompted with your name, address, and your typical order before you even have the chance to speak. More often than not, one can call, and have their order placed and on its way in less than a minute. Now thats customer service!

Jimmy John’s has this consumer sold, and I believe if they continue operating the way they have they will continue to strengthen their customer base, and thrive in the food delivery industry.

Apple iPad

I am no market analyst, a consumer behavior expert, or a huge technology buff, but I do have an opinion on Apple’s new product named the iPad. After watching the video’s on the Apple website, I have become very skeptical of this new introduction to Apple’s fine line of consumer products. The iPad simply seams unnecessary, and an impractical addition to the products that Apple already has to offer.

The reason I find it unnecessary is due to what the iPad does. Apple set out with a goal to create something that bridged the gap between their superior iPhone, and their variety of laptop and desktop computers. The iPad is set up to be useful in web browsing, as well as an increased picture and video experience, and can be for a wide range of eBooks that can be purchased in the iTunes store. And yes, of course you can purchase and listen to music, and even read your emails; would Apple really create something in which you couldn’t do those things? What I believe Apple has failed to realize is how few in their target market will find a need for this technological innovation that they have created. From an image standpoint, the iPad looks exactly like the iPhone, just bigger! It even appears to have the same user interface, just in a more spread out appearance. And just like the iPhone and iTouch you can still change the orientation from landscape to portrait simply by rotating it. It is said to start its pricing at around $499 dollars. It will be available for sale beginning in late March, followed by the 3G capable models some time in April. Mind you that if you decide to go with the 3G model you will find yourself paying a pricey monthly payment to AT&T for the service. Now who is it that will likely be purchasing this long awaited iPad? I find it hard to believe that the avid PC users will be purchasing this because they will find themselves being frustrated with an interface which they are not familiar with, so this leaves us with Apple’s large customer base to purchase the new product. I believe that this market will agree with me in finding it impractical for many reasons.

Strikingly Similar..

If the customer is someone that already owns a MacBook, or an iMac (Apple’s response to the desktop PC), they are likely very satisfied with the consumer friendly masterpieces. They do nearly everything that one could think of, and they do it with ease and perfection. Apple prides themselves on that, especially with their Pro line-up. I find it hard to believe that someone would turn in the use of their full keyboard, the ability to run and use programs, and the endless list of tasks that their computers accomplish, for the new clunkier version of the iPhone. For those who already have an iPhone, why would they buy a bigger version of it? Sure, it has a few more bells and whistles, but it still uses the same app store, you can still read eBooks, and you can still view photo’s and search the web and send emails right at your finger tips. Forget that you have that all in your mobile phone. Also with the iPad 3G, they can expect to tack on another ridiculous monthly fee to their already costly AT&T bill that they receive 12 times a year. In short, I believe Apple is trying to bridge a crater for their consumers that is likely easy for them to jump over.

With the iPad and Apple’s marketing scheme, one could also argue that Apple is knocking themselves in the process. They say that this new product is superior in its web browsing capabilities and with its video viewing. These are things that Apple has worked so long with to make perfect with their computers and their iPhone and iTouch! And if it is in fact superior on the iPad, why are they holding out on putting it on their computers so as to better satisfy their consumers in that market? Apple is stepping on their own feet in this area! Like I said, even though I am no market expert or consumer behavior analyst, I believe they will find this product to be one of their first major failures.

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