Marketing Majorly Missing the Mark(et)

I have been pretty disappointed with commercials lately. There are the really bad (downright offensive) which I'll get too, but I chose the word disappointed for this post because I'm focusing on brands I believe in that are going off the rails. My qualifications for this post are being a consumer and a woman between the ages of 18-49 who planned my wedding on theknot.com, drinks Skinnygirl, subscribes to Goop, got my Hunter Rain Boots on Gilt.com, watches Downton Abbey, writes at Starbucks, uses BB cream, and eats kale and has a soft spot for chocolate (meaning, I embody the target audience).

Some brands just aren't articulating their worth. Take Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is $80 a year but even unemployed, I believe it's worth it. First, it's free two-day shipping. (Someone's birthday coming up too soon, get a present to them in 2 days without exorbitant shipping...have a party coming up, get something you need in 2 days). Second, there is often Prime (meaning reduced) pricing on many products. Third, Amazon is stepping it's game up to compete with I-Tunes and Netflix. Downton Abbey episodes are $2.99 a pop on Itunes and free to watch in Amazon Instant Video if you're a Prime member. Also they've loaded the songs from every CD I've bought on Amazon (from gifts for others back to boy-band CDs in 1999) into an I-tunes-ish library where I can listen to them. And watch your back Netflix, included in Prime are a growing list TV shows and movies to watch in Amazon Instant Video. But Amazon needs to sell this harder so people don't "cancel whenever the free trial is up."

I have faith in Amazon that they'll get the word out. They've already demonstrated their savvy by using competition to make their product stronger.  If Amazon is using competition to step their game up, Sephora, in contrast, is getting lost. Sephora keeps pushing these damn sample bags and boxes as the special item with purchase (because of Birchbox). I'm guessing Sephora is thinking samples are trendy and they want to get on board. It's a mistake, if a woman interested in cosmetics wants to sample curated products she's not going to spend her money at Sephora for a one-time perk- she's going to subscribe the Birchbox. And this distraction is keeping Sephora from pushing minis- their old stand-by for promo with purchase. Those mini scents and lip glosses and mascaras (not to be confused with samples, which come with an online purchase anyway and aren't worth throwing in your clutch) were like a mini present to yourself if you bought something online from Sephora. You could tie them in a ribbon on a present and it looked thoughtful not throwaway. If anything, maybe Sephora could look into partnering with Birchbox and doing a Sephora product of the month or a Sephora line or an additional Sephora Valentine's Day and Christmas box - but don't compete with the originators if you're not improving on the idea - or else you turn yourself into a follower instead of a leader.

At least Sephora is lost in the Market. Crate & Barrel is just plain lost. I renamed

the commercial they ran around Christmas

"look how pretty our font is." I wanted to ring my hands (around the neck of their marketing execs!) - commercial after commercial that didn't show their products! Or their reasonable pricing? Just their font! And their Ampersand! Who thought that was a good idea? I have sat around a group of women talking about how over-priced Bed, Bath and Beyond is ("that's why they always send those 20% off coupons, because everything is 20% over-priced!"), and yet these women registered at BB&B. People are mistakenly aligning Crate & Barrel with Pottery Barn (which is significantly more expensive). Crate & Barrel needs to do two things: 1. Recruit the bridal registry industry much harder. Their under $10 and $25 gift categories are wonderful and they should be pushing that brides can add items anyone on their guest list can afford and they'd love to have the items in their homes. (I'd love to see a Crate & Barrel ad like a Houzz app, with a room with price tags all over it- so people see how attractive and affordable the items are). 2. Position themselves with Target.

Target's new "everyday collection" ads

are brilliant, and Target has brilliantly positioned itself as chic Wal-Mart, when in fact, it's way more expensive than Wal-Mart. C&B needs to focus more on style, affordability and function and less on font and ampersands.

Let's moved from lost to so lost it's unknowingly offensive. Don't worry, advertisers of America, I'm here to educate you. I had an assignment in my freshman writing seminar (Race and Gender in African-American literature) to analyze a print ad for subliminal racial and gender stereotyping and messaging. I got the only A (I also got the Tommy Hilfiger ad). Across America, ad execs are probably thinking they're doing an excellent job of reaching out minorities by casting minorities in their commercials and (here's where the screw-up comes) "speaking their language". I studied code switching and language diglossia and yes, it's true that a group of people may speak differently  around those like themselves than in a mixed group, but by advertisers employing this sort of language, joking, even music in a mixed setting, they're suggesting minorities speak this way all the time (which invalidates the very principles of code switching). Rather than saying, "we get you" it says, "You don't speak like white people. You are different. and we made special exceptions for the language of the people who look like you in our commercial." This misguided attempt at welcoming is fundamentally exclusionary. I'm looking at you, Applebees, your waitress shouldn't walk over to the table with the black family and say "they go old school to decide," which is as racist as

your "I can dig it!" commercial

. And as my husband yells at

this International Delight commercial

every time (not a brand I buy, but important to include in this entry), "Because the bouncer can't talk like a person all commercial!"

I'd be off to grab a latte (if it hadn't snowed two and half feet yesterday), and won't hold against Starbucks that it's blonde roast commercials, in trying to reach customers who have historically hated their coffee, have no value add for the long standing supporters such as myself. If I was going by awesomeness of commercial alone, I'd grab a glass of

Skinnygirl

- well, there was a blizzard and we aren't going anywhere.