Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Can Marketing Save Milk?

In Advertising, Marketing, politics, Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 8:02 am

I have a lot of sympathy for the current protests by farmers about the pressure on their bottom line. I’m sure it’s a horrible position to know that all your hard work – often built on years of knowledge and tradition – is essentially bankrupting you.

However, this is not a first.  This issue of supermarket price pressure has been rumbling on for years:

2004 – UK milk processors clash over prices
009 – Milk price cuts hit dairy farmers hard

Farmers aren’t very effusive people, and the National Farmers Union doesn’t seem to be a  protest organisation, so such protest really are a sign of desperation for these people. However, whilst raising public awareness may help a little, protest rarely wins out over economics. The public wants cheap milk. The supermarkets want to supply it. That won’t change.

But if protest won’t work, what will?

1. Refuse to supply

The obvious option would be to refuse to supply – en bloc.  I don’t know much about the logistics of importing milk, but it would seem difficult for all the UK’s fresh milk to come from abroad. Back in 2010 raw milk was only traded across the UK border from Ireland into Northern Ireland. It’s a hard option, and could be a long game, but sometimes a line has to be drawn.

The difficulty here, though, is the farmers’ own conservatism. As mentioned above, I don’t see the National Farmers Union as an effective Trade Union, in the traditional sense – at least, I haven’t heard from an NFU representative yet in the press (again, please comment and correct me if I am wrong – I presume they lobby behind the scenes in some way?). Without that power of unity, there’ll always be some bastard waiting to undercut the other.

So without that option, how can farmers solve the conundrum? Well, maybe marketing can help.

2. Move up the supply chain

The supermarkets may be taking all the public flack here, but as this graphic suggests (I have not researched the source data, but thanks to @OurCowMolly for the reference) the processors have a large part of the value chain, taking up some of that money the supermarket pays, which could go direct to farmers:

Milk production value chain

The Milk Production Value Chain

A standard tenet of marketing strategy is that is you are a manufacturer of a mature product, eventually your margin will disappear as your product becomes commoditised. When this happens, you either need to diversify (eg/ find something else to farm) or move up the value chain.

I cannot find a reference for this, but I was reading that in Sheffield milk processing was done cooperatively, with a fair price, until the processing plant was taken over by Wiseman, with resulting reduction in price paid to farmers (sources anyone?).

Economically, a bigger processing plant makes sense, as it can reduce overall costs of production. The problem is, however, exactly that mentioned above – you come onto the radar of the big boys.

However, from what I can find out, milk processing is not a particularly complicated process, and not reliant on the kind of advanced manufacturing processes that requires a large cost infrastructure. Machinery is easily available.

Perhaps farmers processing their own milk and supply directly to their local supermarkets is an option?  Sure, it will require change, investment, and negotiation, but cutting out the processors gives the potential to offer supermarkets an equal price, but with more money to the farmer?

Now, this is such an obvious solution, it must have been tried (and failed?) so I invite people to comment and let me know why this doesn’t work.

3. Build a brand

A bottle of Tesco body spray is about 99p. A bottle of Lynx is about £3. Both are smells in a can. The difference is brand value. It’s a hard and nebulous concept to understand and implement, but all you really need is a marketer, a budget, and a design agency (and a consistent taste – this bit may be the hardest bit. again, not enough knowledge to say.

This is already happening in the milk industry with Cravendale‘s irreverent adverts squarely aimed at generating demand through teenagers for a branded milk product. Cravendale is owned by Arla, one of the processors, and presumably helps them get more profit from supermarket distribution.

Competing against Cravendale’s budgets would be hard for farmers, but a ‘Fair Trade’ type brand may not.  This type of branding works similar to the ‘Intel Inside‘ style of marketing, where it can be carried by the users/distributors themselves to add value to their own products by guaranteeing the ‘fairness’ (in terms of price and condition) given to the producers.

This approach would seem ideal given the current scenario. Why is their a ‘Fair Trade’ icon for Kenyan coffee or Chilean wine, but not British milk?

Based on this graphic (again, thanks to  @OurCowMolly for the reference) Sainsbury’s, Waitrose et al would jump at the chance to get added social kudos for giving a decent price, and with supermarket wars as they are, if their ‘Fair Trade’ milk tempted consumers to pay a little more, the others would soon follow.

Milk prices

So what do you need to kick this kind of thing off. Well, will, really.

Maybe while today’s protests are going on, the farmers can discuss the minimum standards of production they are willing to commit to (eg/ adding some schtick in about treating cattle well will play well with liberals), come up with a logo, and start lobbying the public direct with the idea.

Supermarkets obviously don’t listen their supplier, but they do listen to their customers.  You’ve got the public’s attention – use it.


Did the Premier League die today?

In Advertising, sport, TV on February 4, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I’ve been chuntering to myself since the massive transfer inactivity of the last few summers, and the perilous financial state Liverpool and Manchester United found themselves in, that the Premier League era is over (RIP Premier League, 1993-2010).

The reason I had been pushing this is that whilst clubs outside of the Premiership have been drifting to, back from, and over the brink into administration all the way through the Premiership era, the Premiership had been pretty much unharmed.  But then not only did West Ham and Portsmouth tank with the credit crunch, shockingly, some of the football old guard got involved as well.

At the same time, the mega-money hoard that had been limited to Chelsea then began to spill out to Man City, for God’s sake, Blackburn.

The point is, the Premier League sustained 20 teams based on a cartel that benefited all 20, based on packaging a full season of high octane football and selling it exclusively to Sky in the UK, and to host broadcasters throughout Europe and beyond.

Whilst the mega-million brigade may have distorted the league a little, by allowing Man City to dominate transfers and bring in a new era of transfer fee hyper-inflation, the commercial package essentially stays the same. The idea that this outside money alone could break up the Premier League (into the much toutes European Super League) by created a massive and obvious gap between the haves and have nots would seem to be nonsense.  If a traditionally small and unfashionable club in the industrial North West, like Blackburn, can become gazillionaires, so can anyone.

However, today’s ruling over showing Premiership in pubs ( could threaten the whole house of cards.  Nearly all the Premiership clubs are afloat not because of gate receipts (Fulham anyone?) but because of the cash from the cartel. The spell which was binding the Wigans, Boltons and Evertons to the Premiership model has been broken.  The Premier League can no longer split it’s product into several smaller chunks and sell it throughout the world, or at least the EU.

There will be such a limited number of broadcasters that could pull this off (it will be Fox) that there will be no competition, and the broadcaster will be able to drive down what they pay for the package.   The same also goes for the other leagues, like La Liga and Serie A.  The big clubs without mega-finance (Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, the Milans, Barca etc..) could see a huge dip in income, but with the mega-finance teams looming and waiting to buy all the players they can no longer afford, what can they do?

How about reestablishing that good old cartel? All the top clubs, one geographical area, one broadcaster – the European Super League.

Is this pie in the sky? Not sure, but I for one can’t wait.  The sooner that lot take their ‘sports entertainment’ and take it elsewhere, the sooner the rest of us can restore the Football League, and get back to watching football the way we have for generations – in lovely, stinky decrepit stands full of pies, cynics, pain and failure.  THAT is what football is all about!

Co-op advert fail?

In Advertising, Marketing, Movies, TV on January 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Take a look at the adverts below that have been on TV recently in separate forms, and edited together for cinema advertising. You might recognise them, but try not to think of who the advert is for, instead try to listen to that voice inside you which is trying to tell you what the solution to their problems is:

What was your little voice saying?  Was it “shop often and little, shop often and little, shop often and little” or was it “Tesco home deilvery, Tesco home deilvery, Tesco home deilvery”.

I like Coop’s advertising and their attempts to position themselves differently to the big supermarkets, but I fear all these advert do is sell the concept of online shopping and home delivery, rather than nipping round the Coop.

I love the Coop near me, but they’re always giving me vouchers for £2 of every time I spend £20. This suggests they aren’t actually happy with you just nipping in for ‘often and little’ and would prefer you to have a more substantial shop.  By the way, I have literally never redeemed one of those vouchers.  That tells the whole story, really.

Misleading Movie Trailer update – Black Swan

In Advertising, Marketing, Movies, TV on January 27, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Quick post about Black Swan as I noticed today there is a new UK TV trailer out, clearly following the recent BAFTA and Oscar nominations, which is very different to the trailer that was out a few weeks back.

Can’t find them on YouTube, but the original UK TV trailer painted it like a psychological thriller/horror about split personalities, which I understand is pretty much the gist of the film.

This new trailer features much more brightly lit scenes, and features the dance much more heavily, clearly looking to position it nearer to Fame or Strictly Ballroom than Carrie or Blair Witch etc…

Has the film suddenly changed overnight? Doubt it – this is a film by the guy that made Requiem for a Dream, widely recognised as the most depressing film ever made. If a Glee fan goes by accident their head might explode.

Gillette ‘No More Blades’ ad – Sheffield special?

In Advertising, Marketing on January 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Driving down Attercliffe in Sheffield today I glanced a new billboard ad for Gillette razors, seemingly taking the mick out of their own propensity  to add more and more blades, and the slogan mentioned something about adding ‘no more blades’

I can’t find any reference to this specific ad online, although it does seem Gillette are pushing an ironic self-depricating campaign (’80_blade_razor’_spoof_ad)

The thing that struck me was the danger of using a ‘blades’ reference in Sheffield (Blades is the nickname of Sheffield United), and in a two club city at that.  It’s either a subtle regional version or, most likely, a national campaign which they’ve not realised might have regional problems. If the phrasing is as I thought as I drove by and glanced it, they may find problems selling whatever the new product is to half of the city.

If anyone else has seen this ad and can remember the exact wording please let me know.

However, I do like the acknowledgement that their product development had become stale and ridiculous – give me features that make sense, not just extra blades!  I never went past Mach 3 as I never saw the point.  Apparently, if humans had 3 legs, they would actually run slower – all razor manufacturers should take note.