Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Procter and Gamble: Stealing Marketshare Thru Coupons

As a frugal shopper who's always looking to save money when buying groceries, toiletries, and, well, pretty much anything, I've learned to take notice of when there are good deals going around. And lately I've noticed that Procter & Gamble is loading up on the discounts in recent weeks.

For example, I shop at BJ's Wholesale Club because I like the fact that I can get certain items in large quantities at reasonable prices. Things like cereal, which I eat every day and run thru rather quickly. All in all, it's a good place to go to refill the cupboards once a month or so, since things are cheaper in bulk.

To add to it, BJ's has its own circulars with exclusive coupons on a wide variety of products. Procter & Gamble always has coupons in the circularas, such as $2 off a package of 10 boxes of Puffs tissues, or $3 off Tide laundry detergent. But lately they've been laying the deals on heavy. My guess is that they're trying to build up on market share while the economy is in a dive and consumers are being pinched.

Some examples I've seen from their coupons include:
-Buy one package of 30 rolls of toilet paper, and get a package of four tubes of toothpaste for free... a $7.59 value.
-Buy a large bottle of Tide laundry detergent, get a large bottle of Joy dish detergent for free.
-Buy Bounty paper towels, get Zest soap for free...
Etc., etc.

As you can see, these are pretty substantial offers that they're pumping out, and they all tend to be $7-8 values. I suppose that they're big enough and can handle these discounts for the short term with the goal of trying to scare off other competitors. Seems like a reasonable marketing strategy since consumers are always looking for good deals, and it gets their products in people's homes to try out, even if they've never used them before. When the economy improves, my hunch is that they'll gradually go back to advertising their normal coupons.

But hey, when the economy improves, I think we'll all be much happier to go back to any sort of normalcy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cats and Money

I recently opened my end-of-year 401(k) statement that was mailed to me. I looked at it, and, like most individuals in recent months, felt my heart stop momentarily. Yes, it's an ugly scene for investors out there; open statements with caution.

So as is customary, I set it aside on my desk to file it away for future reference.

Today, I went to pick it up to file it and noticed that my cat also had reviewed this 401(k) update. I could tell because there was a gigantic, mushy hairball on it. I promptly filed that in the circular bin, which is what I should have done in the first place. Perhaps we don't give cats enough credit for their investing skills...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Branding Geniusness by Chicago... The Band...

Heard the classic song "25 or 6 to 4" by Chicago on the radio today. Realized just how subtle yet effective a job the band did to market themselves...

Consider how the word Chicago is used in many different contexts, but primarily referring to the city.

Now think about Chicago, the band.

You immediately conjure up the word Chicago, but in that classic script that just oozes 70s rock. Maybe you even hear a horn section playing in your head. Pretty amazing, isn't it? That's the power of branding, folks.

My bet is that the script was just an afterthought, not a blatant attempt to distinguish the musical group from the city. But whatever the case, it worked. And after all, does anybody really care how it got that way? Or for that matter, does anybody really know what time it is?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Decline in Driving: Decline in Other Problems Too?

As you've probably heard, Americans have been driving less in the past year or so, in large part due to the high gas prices in 2008, the recession, demographic factors, and so on.

Some follow up questions to this behavioral change is... have road problems declined as well? Are fewer people getting in accidents? Are moving violations dropping? Are incidents of road rage diminishing?

If the answer is yes to most or all of these questions (and granted, it may take a while to determine the answers), it makes me wonder if there will eventually be a fundamental change in driving patterns in the coming years.

As the saying goes, the most dangerous person thing most people will do in any given day is get in the car and go somewhere. Yet we collectively take this risk every day without even putting much thought into it. Perhaps some people will start to realize the inherent downsides of driving, and change their behaviors to drive as little as possible.

But judging how much people love their cars, I'm guessing this won't pan out for a looooong long time...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Spare Button Dilemma

I vaguely remember a Jerry Seinfeld bit, where he talks about the buttons that come in little packets when you buy a new shirt or pants. His point was-- does anybody really keep all of these spare buttons?

Over the holidays, I got some new clothes, and one of the pairs of pants came with a little packet of spare buttons. Seinfeld is right-- what am I supposed to do with these buttons? Store them in a little filing cabinet with a description of the pants they belong to? Unlikely.

The real question to me here is... why can't we make clothing where the buttons just stay on permanently? Seems to me like there's got to be a better way to keep buttons on a piece of cloth than by using a tiny piece of twine to keep it attached. Or at least find a way to secure that piece of string on better. Whoever can invent a method to help permanently attach buttons to their pieces of cloth will surely revolutionize the button industry.

Are you that revolutionary person that us clothing wearers so desperately need?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hungry for an Answer

I just had the honor and privilege to see one of those commercials advertising dirt cheap artwork for sale produced by the ever-enticing "starving artist" community.

This is perhaps the lowest form of American consumerism ever.

Everybody knows that these "paintings" are done on an assembly line and cost next nothing to make. They're not originals, nor are there any artists even remotely near the painting at the time of production, starving or not. And everybody knows that these paintings look like crap (the proof is right there on the commercial). I'm no art snob, but these framed monsterpieces entice no emotions or mental interest like a true work of are would.

Yet somehow the people selling these things are making money... or if they aren't they sure don't mind wasting it.

So I just have to throw it out there to the world: why in the name of Vincent van Gogh would anybody buy these pathetic things?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Sometimes the things that people do are just so incomprehensible and reprehensible and other words that end with -ible, that you just have to wipe your face with your hands and hope that it's just a bad dream.

The title of the article from the TCPalm newspaper pretty much says it all, but the story of what happened pretty much will make you lose all hope for humanity. There's just so much wrong with this on so many levels, not to mention the grammar in the headline, that I don't even know where to begin. So I won't. Read and be the judge for yourself:

Police: Suspicious wife who demands to smell husband's genitals beaten

So, ummmmmm, yeah, that's all I got...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Prediction: Barring Any Change, Facebook Will Fossilize

Over the past few months, I admit, I've become a frequent user of Facebook. It's a fun, useful site that enables you to easily connect with friends and get an occasional glimpse into their lives, while also letting others into your world, one chunk at a time.

I never really got into MySpace because I felt there was just too much going on and it was more designed for kids to use or it was too corporate or something. Facebook is a lot cleaner and more straightforward. And it seems like others agree with me because I don't know anybody who uses MySpace anymore.

But interestingly, the same benefits that Facebook has over MySpace may actually become Facebook's downfall.

For starters, when I think of Facebook now, even though I still do use it, I can't help but often think about the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza's wife becomes friends with George's friends Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer. In other words-- "worlds collided."

The easy accessibility of Facebook means that your network of "friends" can grow, perhaps not in an exponential manner, but certainly to an unmanageable level. What happens is that you start off becoming friends with the people you are closest to in your real life. And then a friend of a friend wants to be your friend. And then a kid you knew in middle school who you hardly talked to wants to friend you. And then your parents start an account and want to see what's going on in your life. And then your co-workers. And then people you don't even know, who just want to rack up more friends than other people. And then all of a sudden you have 500 people on your friends list, and anything you post becomes virtually public knowledge.

So what does this all mean? It means you either have to be a person who really has nothing to hide in life and doesn't mind sharing everyday experiences with the world. Or, in reflection of Shakespeare's famous line-- "All the world's a stage... and one man in his time plays many parts." Meaning: different people know you in different ways... can you truly be "one person" to everybody when they can see everything that you post?

This makes you think... do I REALLY want to post that photo of me passed out at the party?" Or, similarly, "what if my friend posts a photo of me passed out at the party, and my boss sees it?" To quote another famous writer, "Big Brother is watching you," is what it can feel like when using Facebook, as any reader of George Orwell's "1984" can attest.

So here you have a personal limitation in what you can say-- though of course you have the other choice of denying a friend request so somebody does not get let into your world, which makes it look like you really do have something to hide. Ultimately, you have to make a lot of decisions about what you write, unless you really have nothing to lose by posting it, whether in your mind or in reality. After a while, I think people will tire of having to make these types of decisions.

The other issue at hand is that of advertising on the site. Big Brother is indeed watching you on Facebook... even if it is Big Brother of the Marketing World. I think nothing says this more than when you go to sign up for an application and you get this message:

"Allowing (name of application) access will let it pull your profile information, photos, your friends' info, and other content that it requires to work. Allow or Canel"

Ok, if that doesn't make you wonder about things, then I don't know what does.

So then, let's say you agree to allow access to this application, and let's say that you take part in a game application. Well, the game, being free, is advertising supported, so you're getting hammered with ads everytime you play the game. Oy!

To top it off, each Facebook user will have different pay per click ads hovering on screen anywhere within Facebook, and each ad is tailored to things that you have a tendency to like. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it tracks the sites you go to and homes in on hitting you up with ads for similar sites. On one hand, yes, this is good marketing (reach out only to the people who are inclined to like your product, rather than wasting money on people who are less inclined), but on the other hand, it feels, well, a little creepy.

As a Facebook user, I'm not sure how long I will be able to put up with these downfalls of the site. It's possible I will just overlook them and enjoy the site's functionality. Or, I, along with others, may just ditch the site altogether like has happened with MySpace, due to getting burned out by the constant ads, or the milktoast conversation that ensues due to not wanting to give away too much info about myself to my world of "friends."

Now let me go search around on Facebook and see what kind of shenanigans my boss is up to...