Monthly Archives: August 2012

Tie Rental Eases Knotty Problems

Rental companies have always been popular with consumers. After all, renting is usually cheaper than buying, and options can be tried without risk and a large financial commitment. We rent cars, movies, books, music, tools, trucks, and more. But what about more personal items – such as men’s clothes? Not so much – at least until now.

A new company named Tie Society is taking clothing rental into a new direction; it offers a subscription service for renting men’s ties. For a monthly fee, men can join the club, select ties, rent, wear, return, and repeat – changing their look as easily as they change a movie. It offers instant access to top designers’ men’s furnishing, but without the hefty price tag.

The monthly subscription prices range from $10.95/month for one tie, up to $49.95/month for a selection of 10 different ties. With a broad collection of styles, patterns, materials, and color, there is sure to be a tie or two that appeals to any discriminating shopper. And it’s an automatic system – when one tie is returned, the next one on the list is sent automatically. With a hand-picked collection guided by fashion stylists, the client is sure to find something unique to wear.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Start by having students list all the rental businesses that they can think of (movies, books, etc.)
  2. Next, have students list all the items that they would like to see available as a rental. (Did anyone choose ties?)
  3. Have students view the Tie Society Web site:
  4. What are the pros and cons for this company?
  5. What are the challenges for this company?
  6. Have students design a promotional plan for the company.
  7. Have students design a new rental business for a product of their choice.

Source:  Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/31/12

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Social Media Helps Market Researchers


Marketers have traditionally used research methods such as focus groups, observation, trend analysis, and competitive research to help develop and gauge customer response to new products. But that was before social media. Today, a new research methodology using social media is helping companies understand consumer preferences and develop new products. Case in point: Frito-Lay is using Facebook to interact with its customers to suggest new flavors. The company’s “Do us a flavor” app on Facebook encourages customers to suggest and vote on new flavor combinations.

Frito-Lay isn’t the only company using this method. Other companies, such as Wal-Mart, have also been using social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare as an marketing research forum. Wal-Mart used social media networks to determine whether to stock lollipop-shaped cake makers, Estee Lauder asked its social media users to vote on lipstick shades to bring back to market, and Samuel Adams got its fans involved to create a crowd-sourced beer.

Marketers benefit from the direct interaction with customers. Customers get a voice, a vote, and show their preferences directly and immediately with companies.

Another benefit for companies is that social media users trend to younger ages; these are people who might not previously have been vocal in their likes and dislikes. Companies might not have even realized they had disenfranchised consumers until sagging sales made it too late for action. Now, by involving customers early, companies get the benefit of the crowds viewpoints early, long before potentially losing market share.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Divide students into groups. Have each group search social media sites to uncover companies using sites for market research.
  2. Companies to examine on Facebook and Twitter: Wal-Mart, Frito-Lay, Samuel Adams, and Kohls.
  3. How are these companies using social media such as Facebook and Twitter for research?
  4. What other companies and products might benefit from this approach? Why?
  5. What are the pros of using social media for market research?
  6. What are the negative aspects?
  7. In groups, have students design a market research project that could be conducted using a company’s Facebook app.

Source:  New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, other news sources, 7/31/12

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Olympic Athletes and Social Media

Social media is here to stay. And, to paraphrase tag line from a heavily-advertised financial services company, social media is “everywhere you want to be” – even at the Olympic Games. With more than 10,500 athletes (most of whom are younger than the IOC leaders) from 204 countries, there is a lot of social networking communication going on at the Games, and around the world.

In order to promote and protect the official sponsors of the London Olympics, the International Olympic Organization prohibits athletes from appearing in advertising shortly before and during the Olympic Games. The IOC’s ‘Rule 40’ also prohibits the use of social media for promoting non-Olympic sponsors. However,  Rule 40 does not apply to athletes who have endorsement deals with the official sponsors (such as Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, etc.). If the lucky athlete has an official Games sponsor, then they can promote the company freely in their tweets and Facebook updates. For everyone else, the ban is in place. The IOC has gone as far as requiring athletes who have posted about non-sponsors to delete the postings.

Athletes and reporters have been speaking out against Rule 40, arguing that the rule benefits the investors of the Olympics, but does not protect or benefit the athletes who are competing. Athletes have argued that during the highly viewed Olympics – which is one of the few viewing opportunities for the non-mainstream sports – the ban reduces the athlete’s value to their sponsors, making it difficult to thank and promote the companies that have helped the athletes in their Olympic journey.

To help make the point about the ways in which Rule 40 impose limitations on the athletes, they started a campaign to get the rule rescinded at #WeDemandChange. One athlete competing in the 100-meter hurdles, Dawn Harper, has gone so far as to tweet photos with “Rule 40” tape applied over the brand names on her hairdryer, and her own mouth. For the U.S. athletes who rely heavily on sponsorships, the rule has limited their opportunity to gain needed funding.


Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

1.      Divide students into groups and have them discuss the pros and cons for the IOC’s Rule 40.
2.      Why did the IOC implement this rule?
3.      What are implications for the athletes and their sponsors?
4.      Have students research how the athletes are supporting or opposing this rule on Twitter.
5.      What have the posts been at #WeDemandChange?
6.      In groups, have students develop an alternative to Rule 40. Is there a middle ground that protects both the Olympic Games and the athletes?

Source:  Ad Age Digital, 7/31/12

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