Friday, April 28, 2017

That's what Mattel gets for ignoring the 80/20 rule.

In first quarter 2017, Hasbro's revenue exceeded Mattel's for the first time in 17 years. (2017)  Mattel's worldwide sales fell 15%; gross profit fell by 28% versus year ago.  Sales for Barbie fell 12%.  (Bond, 2017)

I wish I could say that I was surprised. 

Back in the fall of 2015, Mattel created a new campaign for Barbie with a heavy empowerment angle that was very well received by my students.  You can read their comments here...

In 2016, Mattel introduced a variety of Barbie dolls with different body shapes and things seemed to be headed in the right direction.  But in January 2017 they announced that they were beginning a new campaign targeting Dads.  Oh. Oh. 

The Pareto Principle, usually referred to as the 80/20 rule tells us that for any brand, 20% of the users account for 80% of the sales.  We target these heavy users in marketing because the easiest sale to get is to get someone who is already using the brand to use it more. Next comes converting users of competitive brands.  Their audience profile tends to be the same as current heavy users.  And, if you finally do get to new users, they too will tend to be similar to current users.

Targeting people outside of the 20% only makes sense if you can identify a niche segment that has a higher level of interest in the brand and can be efficiently reached through media, because even if you can win them over, they are likely to spend less money than the heavy users.

Unfortunately I could see no evidence in the creative that ran for the campaign that the company had any compelling insights into the behavior and feelings of Dads that warranted a change in target.  Rather, I was concerned that the commercial was a step back in terms of female empowerment and was unrealistic and therefore unrelatable.  You can check it out here...

So what to do now?  I'd start by checking out this video for Moschino Barbie.  They are definitely on to something.  The doll is currently selling for $325 on eBay.

(2017, April 24)  Hasbro heads for the loo and business booms.  Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

Bond, J. (2017, April 22)  Toy Maker Mattel Sales Slump in 1Q 2017, and it's the Same Old Story.  retrieved April 27, 2017, from

Friday, April 21, 2017

Programmatic: Garbage in, garbage out.

If you are under 50 you may not have heard that saying before.  But it was a common phrase in the early 80's when computers were first used to select print media.  After we would do a computer run, we would adjust the results by hand to incorporate data that the computer didn't.  At that time it meant adding Southern Living and Sunset to our media plans to compensate for the fact that shelter books under delivered in the south and west.  Had we not made those changes, our plans would have been garbage.

Fast forward 35 years and we seem to have forgotten that lesson. 

In 2016, 51% of digital display advertising was bought by computers.  Growth of 31% is estimated for 2017.  And programmatic buying is spreading to tv, radio, and digital out-of-home. (Elkin, 2016)

But what happens without the human touch?  You end up on the Sleeping Giants boycott list because you are advertising on Breitbart.  Surprise!  Consumers may have not noticed your display ad before, but they are now, and not in a good way.

Similarly, I remember when advertisers were reluctant to go on YouTube because of the exploding Mentos videos.  And yet they are now advertising on racist content and terrorist sites. 

At what point did cheap tonnage come back into fashion?  Given the 80/20 rule, i.e., 20% of buyers account for 80% of sales, it doesn't make sense. 

So I was not surprised when JPMorgan Chase & Company admitted after pulling their ads from YouTube last month and reducing their presence from 400,000 websites to 5,000 that their impressions didn't change.  More importantly I would bet that more targeted reach will increase their effectiveness.  Is it any wonder that they are now planning to reduce the number to 1,000 "human-checked" channels?  (Noto, 2017)

Maybe it's time for you to get human again too.

Elkin, T. (2016, November 28)  Programmatic To Grow 31% In 2017, Ahead Of All Other Channels.  retrieved April 21, 2017, from,

Noto, A. (2017, March 30)  Chase pulls YouTube ads, sees little change in impressions.  Retrieved April 21. 2017, from

Friday, April 14, 2017

Going to Home Depot with John and Zack was an eye opener.

I'm addicted to Tiny House shows.  As someone local put it - tiny - ha, you should see New York City apartments. 

So, I am always on the hunt for new ideas.  And, I would kill to have a carpenter as talented and creative as Zack Giffin.  Tables that are stored in the ceiling, trundle beds, grilling stations, he does it all.  So you can imagine my surprise when he and John headed off to Home Depot in the middle of a show.

And then I found out that Home Depot does semi-custom cabinetry.  I didn't know that.  More importantly I am intrigued.  And since I am thinking about updating some cabinets in my apartment the timing couldn't be better.

So even if it felt a bit Truman Show, I would vote this the best product placement I have seen so far.  Kudos to DIY and Home Depot.  Who knows?  I may actually buy something!  Unless of course Zack has some time to spare...

Friday, April 7, 2017

L.L.Bean wrapped my NY Times today.

They also sent me a catalog this week.  Unfortunately for them, when I found out last fall that my money was being used to make illegal campaign contributions to Donald Trump I was incensed.  So much so that I returned $400 in merchandise with a note telling them that after years of being a steady customer I would never buy anything from them ever again.

Did they think I was kidding?  Do they think this will change the way that I feel?  It won't.

I wonder where they distributed the wrap.  Was it just my neighborhood on the Upper East Side?  Or was it all of Manhattan?  Or the entire city?  My guess is that they have lots of former customers in the city.  My question is why they would waste any resources on them at this point.  I certainly wouldn't.  You can't change the way that people feel.

But with flat sales the past two years, after five years of growth, they certainly need to do something. (AP, 2017).  Might I suggest a campaign in red states?

Associated Press. (2017, March 18)  L.L. Bean Weathers Boycott, OKs bonuses.  Retrieved April 7, 2017, from