Archive for August, 2012

Billabong Losses: Lessons for Retail

Billabong has today made an announcement like none ever before in its history: a loss.  The downturn in the retail sector in Australia has claimed its most formerly-profitable scalp, proving that even the giants of this sector are not immune to the seed change that has taken place in retail.

What is taking place is nothing less than a revolutionary change in the way that Australians purchase their goods and services.  I listened to Billabong CEO Launa Inman this morning discussing a whole new model for the way that her company approaches new product development.

She has decided to hive off lesser internal brands, and to consolidate the key product offering and focus on what makes and has made Billabong unique, plus when designing new lines that they make a small number and test them before pushing them worldwide through the business.  This makes a lot of sense.

She also spoke about being true to the Billabong brand, which was described so pithily this morning by another analyst as being embodied in the idea that having a ‘board’ makes your life better – be it a surfboard, a skateboard or a snowboard, that’s what Billabong was/is all about.

There is a key insight here in the power of simplicity.  Know what your market edge is, and stay true to your belief in your uniqueness.  In chasing profits, many businesses lose direction when they diversify, when in fact what they need to do is narrow in on what makes them different/better than the others, and then make it even more different/better than before.

The honeymoon for Australian consumers with Billabong is not over.  Far from it.  Cutting their overheads and zeroing in on what it is that they do best, better than any other lifestyle and leisure retail brand, is the path back to profit.  Because when you buy a Billabong shirt, you are buying part of a dream that is wrapped in sun-drenched days, surfer cool and ‘carving it up’ on whichever board you choose.  That is an intangible brand value that has been somewhat lost, but not irretrievably so.

For retailers who are pondering in alarm about the future, the multiplicity and variety of retail point of sale options is an opportunity as well as a threat, and despite the flood of poorly-made cheap imports and knockoffs, a powerful brand still has impact at the till.  With Summer only weeks away, it will be interesting to see if Australian consumers rediscover their love for Billabong, now that it has transformed from ‘local son done good’ to ‘little Aussie battler.’

Yours in PR

Newism: Building the Latest Trends into Your Content

What is NEWISM?  The lure and the appeal of what is new is… well… nothing new.  As humans we are drawn to stock in retail spaces that are in pristine condition and we all breathe in hard our new car smell, but at a more strategic level, in our current short-attention span world, the drive to embrace the ‘new’ has never been so powerful.

According to a new report by, NEWism, the latest ‘ism’, is: “is creative destruction, hyper-competition, globalism, consumerism on steroids and a celebration of innovation, all in one.”  They argue that for B2C brands it means capturing and holding consumers’ attention, and although the attention span of consumers is shorter than ever, this creates opportunities for short, sharp bursts of innovation that can pay off.  Big.

Within NEWism itself, there are several observable trends, including: creative/destruction; FSTR (faster); experience cramming; status stream; trysumers and To Have is to (H)old.  Let’s look at these one at a time…


Given more flexible market structures, new products, services and experiences on a daily, if not hourly basis, in every B2C industry, creating a plethora of opportunities for consumers.  If proof were needed of this trend in action, note that the World Intellectual Property Organisation has observed that 2 million patents were applied for in 2010, up from 1.4 million in 2000.


Everything is getting faster and FSTR, if you will.  The delivery of ease and speed as a market edge has never been stronger – witness the success of Instagram (10 million users in under a year) or Draw Something (35 million users in just 6 weeks!).  The downside is that products can go from ‘hot’ to ‘not’ at just as quickly.


The desire to tell interesting STATUS STORIES is further fuelling consumers’ never-ending lust for new experiences, especially acute in a world where so much of identity is expressed online.  Just by posting about the latest trend on social media, from a trusted referrer or source, is enough to create sufficient curiosity to drive increased traffic for a new concept/product/service.


As everything is increasingly transient, keeping one’s finger firmly on the pulse of the endless global torrent of new products and services, showing one’s connectedness and being in the know, will be an ever-richer source of social status (especially for SOCIAL-LITE consumers).  Something can never be too ‘new’, apparently and knowledge of the new is increasingly valuable and is the currency of our age.


Our new consumer environment is increasingly transparent, with everything now reviewed and rated the moment it’s created, meaning the risk for consumers of trying out something new is approaching zero.  Trysumers are modern-day market testers, working in real time, enabling consumers to experience the ‘new’ with less commitment, and at lower cost.


New consumers are embracing the trend of devolving themselves of ‘stuff’.  These days consumers rent and/or share everything (from cars to clothes to electronics), get perpetual upgrades and are always a click away from the ‘next’.  Using brand buy-backs, exchange schemes, online platforms and mobile marketplaces, it is smart to offer convenient options for consumers keen to ‘trade in to trade up’ to the new.

Paradoxically, while new has never been so hot in consumer trends, there has been a simultaneous push towards the glorification of all things retro – hence more products than ever are packaged in tins, and the resurgence of such brands as Vita-Mix, KitchenAid and the market appeal of all things ‘vintage’. Even the ‘old’ manufactured to be ‘new-ish’ looking.

So how do we make sense of this lust for both the new and the old simultaneously?  While innovation is valued more than ever, balance this with the idea that ‘heritage’ brands, known to deliver constant, trusted quality and provenance potentially have market appeal that eclipses what is right ‘now’.  In a strange way, the lust for the new also reinforces the power of the tried and true.

So what’s the take-away here?  If brands can harness the drive to innovate and share, and wrap it in the trusted values of the past, there is a winning formula here for increased market penetration across a broad range of industries.

Yours in PR

How Experiential Marketing Is Changing the Marketplace

Experiential Marketing.. what’s that all about?  Like many new phenomena it has been with us for a long time, but only now has been given a catchy two-word concept name that explains it.  Ever been to a coffee roasting house and breathed in the aroma, taken time to sample different beans and then walked away beaming with your latest purchase, only to then tell everyone you meet how amazing it was?  That was experiential marketing.

Technically speaking, according to Danielle Barclay of TRO Australia, when defining ‘experiential’,  it must clearly deliver meaningful benefits for consumers; it must be one-to-one personal interaction between the brand and consumer; it must be authentic; it must engage people in a meaningful way; it must empower a consumer to become a brand evangelist; and it must use innovation to reach the consumers in innovative ways.

The concept of providing an ‘experience’ at point of sale is not new but it is definitely amongst the hottest trends affecting how B2C retailers and service providers influence their audiences.

Many years ago the Red Balloon trend began where rather than buying an object or a tangible gift, consumers bought something less tangible – an ‘experience’, like white water rafting or a gondola ride.

This same concept has been broadened to the shopfront, where (as pictured above) consumers are invited inside the world and the vision of the provider, and given a sensory glimpse inside how their world can be transformed through the purchase of something… a 3D TV, a new apartment.. whatever it might be.  According to industry pundits, these experiences can also extend into ‘virtual experiences’, as demonstrated by the chap in the bubble as pictured at the top of this entry.

From the retailer’s side certainly there is some investment and outlay involved here, to ‘create’ the ‘experience’ that you want the consumer to try.  But this new way of selling is a natural extension of test driving a new car, or sitting on a couch in a new display home.  It gives you a tantalising vision of how this retail experience will change your life in some positive way.

Ultimately what the providers of an experiential marketing concept are trying to achieve is to recruit passive sales reps from among their new clients.  Once you have bought whatever it is, no doubt within minutes you might be Tweeting about it, put up a photo on Facebook and become their newest and least paid sales rep.  Clever!

Cynicism aside, the recruiters of ‘early adopters’ is not new, and is something that innovative companies like Apple have been doing for years.  If keeping up with the Joneses is important to you, then you will want whatever the latest trend is, or at least give up your free time to go and ‘experience it’ for yourself.

I wonder how you might incorporate an ‘experience’ into your next sales pitch?

Yours in PR



Howzat! Publicity Queen’s Blog Scores Double Century

Good morning and welcome to the 200th blog entry of the Publicity Queen blog!  Although I am not overly sentimental, I thought this milestone was worth celebrating, and it prompted to me to ponder about blogging and its future.

At this opportune moment I thought I would reflect on the previous 200 entries, sharing my personal highlights with you all, which in a neat way also mark some major achievements for Publicity Queen and my dream team who have helped me along the way.

As many of you know I’m an early adopter-uptaker of technology, and right from the start my blog was noted as one of Australia’s pioneering marketing blogs.  It’s hard to imagine now a time when we weren’t all blogging, but like any new innovation there were many who questioned the longevity of this new communication medium.  Although Twitter and other message delivery systems have emerged, blogging isn’t going anywhere, as evidenced by the proliferation of authors writing in this medium, including those among you who have made it PAY (ka-CHING!).

You may well ask, why do I still blog? Is it valuable? Is it worthwhile? Overwhelmingly I must tell you yes, yes and YES!  The more I know of business and building relationships in a professional sense, the greatest power and influence we generate is by making personal connections and sharing insights.  As my daughter reminds me “sharing is caring”.  Quite.

For me this blog is like a corporate photo album where I have chronicled all the highlights over the years, and when you’re busy, it’s easy to lose track of all that has been achieved so far.

This blog has also marked major achievements in our work including the many front covers (more than 20 now!), signing new clients, hiring new Queens, and the opportunities I have had to meet and learn from my ‘uber gurus’.  Few will forget (in particular, moi!) meeting George Clooney last year as well as Martha Stewart and many other business luminaries who have visited Australia over the years.

I have shared insights and revelations of my own based on my experiences of which business technologies work best in which environments, how best to promote our clients, and the lighter side of the PR game.

I encourage you all to delve into our blog archive and retrieve your favourite ‘lightbulb’ moment from all of those I have shared over the years, and I look forward to continuing this conversation with you into the future.

Yours in PR

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