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Posts Tagged ‘adventures in retail’

Chinese Marketers Create the Best Fake Holidays


Single…and loving it!

Here in the U.S., lots of people get upset as Black Friday campaigns grow bigger and start earlier each year.

But when it comes to fake holidays that double as marketing campaigns, the Chinese retail industry has us beat—and it’s not even close.

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J.C. Penney to America: ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me. (Now Please Come Back.)’

Old-school retailer J.C. Penney faces several big challenges moving forward—but executing social media strategy isn’t one of them.

The company fired CEO/former Apple man Ron Johnson in April after a big sales dive and followed his exit with an all-media campaign designed to address the backlash over controversial changes adopted during his tenure. It all started with this apologetic TV spot:

JCP continued the campaign by turning its social media forums into customer service complaint lines, promoting the #jcpListens tag and asking for feedback on Facebook and Twitter in order to absorb frustrated shoppers’ many suggestions on how to improve the business.

The chain didn’t just ask for ideas; it got specific.

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PR Fail: Anthropologie’s Super-Racist Candlestick

Oh wow. We absolutely can’t believe the folks at Anthropologie didn’t see this backlash coming. Seriously, just look at this damn thing:










We almost want to congratulate the company: it’s pretty hard to offend two huge groups of potential customers with a single item while calling it “whimsical” and pricing it at 400 bucks.

Anthropologie apparently removed the offending stick from its site after thousands of Twitter messages and emails decried it as the racist knicknack that it so obviously is.

…and here’s the inevitable response from the retailer’s PR director:

“An independent artisan makes these one-of-a-kind candlesticks from vintage ceramics. Unfortunately two that we received included extremely inappropriate figurines, and we have removed them from our website. We sincerely regret the offense we have caused.”

Yeah OK, but we know how retail works–somebody approved this thing for sale, entered it into the system, wrote a copy block describing it, etc. The question barely needs to be asked: WHY?!?

Cyber Monday: A Masterpiece of Marketing Hokum?

After watching a few of the hair-pulling, face-punching retail mayhem clips now making their way around the web, we’re amazed to say that we made it through the first wave of the holiday sales season intact.

Hey, don’t relax yet– it’s only just begun.

Every semi-sentient being in our solar system knows that today is “Cyber Monday”, when swarms of online shoppers hungry for deals can make or break retailers looking to boost their year-end revenue totals. Last week we gave you a very brief history of “Black Friday”, a phenomenon several decades in the making that ultimately required the collaborative efforts of America’s political and retail classes. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, is nothing but a marketing scheme—and many would call it a brilliant one.

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A Brief and Terrible History of Black Friday

Black Friday We know, we know–we too plan to jump out of the nearest window if we have to hear the phrase “Black Friday” one more time. But as we scrolled through our news feed this morning we grew curious: what is the history of this horrible retail plague that empowers stores to sell lots of stuff by driving people up the wall with anxiety? And how did it come to haunt us so?

According to various trivia sites, the earliest roots of this sociological nightmare may lie with the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, held on the Friday after Turkey Day in 1924. Wait, you mean the shameless commercialization of the holiday season began with…a shameless commercialization of the holiday season? Color us shocked!

Retailers weren’t satisfied with these blatant promotional extravaganzas. Why? Well, once upon a time, Thanksgiving always fell on the final Thursday of the month. That Thursday sometimes occurred during the fifth week of November, leaving stores with fewer days to promote their Christmas sales.

So what did they do? They corralled their lobbyists, who convinced then-President Franklin Roosevelt to move the official date up one week. The change was more controversial than you might expect; citizens protested, and the United States essentially celebrated two Thanksgivings until Congress passed a law right after what must have been a very frustrating Christmas in 1941, officially changing the date to the fourth Thursday in November.

By the time the 60′s rolled around, Black Friday had already turned into something approaching the freakout we know today, but the name doesn’t refer to that dark holiday cloud that arrives each year to herald impending doom.

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Nordstrom Takes a Stand Against Holiday Madness (Again)

Nordstrom We love it! Hooray! Well done, Nordstrom!

While most retailers scramble to start the holiday shopping season ASAP, the department giant recently announced that it will NOT adorn its stores with holiday decorations until after Thanksgiving. It’s a Christmas miracle! For most of the public, the act of decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving feels wrong on so many levels. Let’s break them down:

1. The public loves Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the one true national holiday that allows Americans of all races, creeds and beliefs to sit down together and celebrate being a family among a nation of families. Thanksgiving is everything that’s right about America, and companies that interrupt Thanksgiving in order to sell another sweater should be ashamed of themselves.

2. The public is tired. We’re weary. It’s not just post-election fatigue: From the eternally depressed economy to the popularity of reality television, we feel we’ve sold out–and these holiday decorations are just another reminder.

3. Please, stop the greed. Just because we hate greed does not mean we hate capitalism: A lemonade stand is capitalism; cutting down the lemon tree to build a better lemonade stand is greed.

4. It’s just tacky. And we don’t mean quirky Christmas sweater tacky–we mean insulting tacky.

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‘Hitler’ a Hit with Hindu Hipsters

Yes, you read that right: A novelty t-shirt shop in the Indian province of Ahmedabad dared to give itself the most infamous name in the world and lived to tell the tale—for a couple of weeks, at least. (Design nerds should note the assertive serif font and the must-be-ironic swastika over the “i”.)

You might ask yourself some variety of “what the hell were they thinking” when considering this most ridiculous of PR moves, and the big question is: was it an intentional provocation? Did the shop’s owners knowingly court controversy in the interest of selling more hip tees bearing the likenesses of Superman and Ghandi (love that pairing, BTW)?

The store’s owner initially pled ignorance regarding the name’s historical significance, and his “aw shucks” innocence was more believable in India than in almost any other country: The swastika was originally a Hindi symbol, and the practice of naming things “Hitler” is apparently “not uncommon” on the Indian subcontinent (though this is news to us). At any rate, the owner claimed that he bestowed the title in honor of his partner’s father, who earned the nickname “Hitler” after portraying the world’s most murderous dictator in a college play. End of story? Uh, no.

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