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Electric Bikes Take Off

The pandemic created a great deal of pain and turmoil for people as they worried about health and jobs. And, people made a lot of adjustments in their daily lives during, and now after, the pandemic. There have been supply chain disruptions in all industries, making it hard to get inventory to the customer.

Despite all the strain, one of the positive impacts in the past two years has been the uptick in sales of electric-bikes. In 2021, more than 880,000 e-bikes were sold, far surpassing the units sold of electric cars and trucks (at 608,000). Industry experts predict that more than one million e-bikes will be sold in the U.S. in 2022.

And why not. E-bikes are easy to use and greatly increase the speed of regular bike trips. No more huffing and puffing up a hill, only to arrive sweaty at a destination. And instead of driving, the e-cargo bikes can make the trip and haul groceries as well as the kids. Finally, let’s not forget about rising gas prices! (The more expensive gas gets, the better my e-bike looks.)

Many new e-bike firms are taking to the road by selling only online. However, buying online has one big flaw – the inability to touch and test the product before buying. There are plenty of testimonials and videos, but nothing beats actually experiencing an e-bike.

One solution from Belgian e-bike company Cowboy, is to take the bikes to the prospective customer. In ten cities in the U.S., prospects can request Cowboy ‘ambassadors’ to bring the bikes to them for a trial ride. A similar approach is being used by Rad Power Bikes. In addition to several stores, pop-up events and test rides bring the e-bikes to more places. Pedego e-bikes uses a different model and has more than 200 distributors where riders can try the e-bikes before they buy.

Ready to ride?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Have they ridden electric bikes? Where and how?
  2. View Cowboy bikes: https://us.cowboy.com/
  3. View Rad Power bikes: https://www.radpowerbikes.com/
  4. View Pedego bikes: https://pedegoelectricbikes.com/
  5. In order to be successful, companies must be able to physically get a product into the hands of the customers. Discuss how a distribution channel works.
  6. For Internet-based e-bike companies, what distribution channels are used now?
  7. How can the channel be expanded? What approach could be used?
  8. Divide students into teams. Have each team draw a flow chart for the distribution of the product.

Sources:  Boudway, I. (18 April 2022). E-bike online startup lets you ride before you buy.  Bloomberg News.; Hurford, M. (27 April 2022). New research shows that e-bikes are outpacing electric car sales in the U.S. Bicycling.com.

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“Stranger Things” Branding

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has become something of a cultural phenomenon. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the mid-80s, it echoes the trends and styles of small town America. It’s also a marketing phenom with dozens of product placements and tie-ins.

You can order a Domino’s pizza on the Stranger Things Dominos app extension. Or maybe you would rather eat Eggos, or 3D Doritos out of a Stranger Things-themed bag. Get dressed to go out wearing Nike and Adidas shoes. Drive a Cadillac or Chevrolet. And eat at Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Season 4 continues the marketing momentum. The marketing tie-ins for 100 brands of cars, drinks, food, and more equaled more than $15 million in advertising value. It’s not just the time on the screen that brands value. Billions of media impressions also deliver billions of dollars in media value for featured products.

Netflix claims that none of the brands and products are paid-for placements – they are part of the story and fit into the 1980s lifestyle. Some brands – such as Nike, Levi’s, and Coca-Cola – also re-released throwback products in conjunction with the show to maintain their authenticity.

And let’s not forget about the official Stranger Things official store (open for a limited time only)!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What have they observed in their purchases? Are the sizes or prices the same?
  2. View video about product placement on Netflix: https://youtu.be/UIKs0SCTxA4
  3. Outside classroom activity: Watch an episode or two of Stranger Things and list all the product placements.
  4. Show website for Concave brand tracking: https://concavebt.com/
  5. There are several good videos here on brand tracking and product placement.
  6. What is the difference between product placement and advertising?
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a product placement strategy for a product of their choosing.
  8. Finally, check out the store: https://strangerthings-store.com/

Sources:  How Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ brand partnerships can turn its fortunes upside down. (27 April 2022). Fast Company.

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“Shrinkflation” Takes Hold in Product Sizing

The small things matter. Small in this case meaning the quantity in a package. In case you haven’t noticed lately, prices are going up and contents are going down.

If you’re not sure about this, consider the new sizes of common household products such as toothpaste and toilet paper. Example: A Crest toothpaste once contained 4.1 ounces of teeth-whitening product, but now contains 3.8 ounces. Gatorade was 32-ounces, but not it is down to 28 ounces. And (in case you are counting sheets) a roll of Cottonelle toilet paper has shrunk to 312 sheets, compared to its former count of 340 sheets.

Meal portions at restaurants have also been impacted. At Subway restaurants, the chicken wraps and sandwiches have less meat now. Domino’s Pizza reduced the order size of boneless wings to 8 pieces from the usual 10 pieces. Burger King is also downsizing its nugget meals from 10 to 8 pieces. What is going on?

At first glance none of this seems too alarming, but this movement is called “shrinkflation” and tends to not retreat once implemented. Shrinkflation is when manufacturers cut down on the product size or volume in a package, rather than raising the price on the customary size. This happens during times of increasing raw materials and supply chain cost increases. It’s not illegal, but it does seem a little sneaky. And, once the new sizes and prices have been accepted, new standards are in place for consumers and their wallets.

Are your foods shrinking?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What have they observed in their purchases? Are the sizes or prices the same?
  2. Show video about shrinkflation: https://youtu.be/q13_06F4_HI
  3. Discuss why manufacturers are making these changes. What are the reasons?
  4. How is shrinkflation accounted for in pricing?
  5. Discuss various pricing models: demand-oriented, cost-oriented, profit-oriented, and competition-oriented.
  6. Which pricing model is being used with shrinkflation?
  7. Offer an outside assignment for teams of students. Have them visit a local store and examine products that illustrate shrinkflation.

Sources:  Patton, L. (12 May 2022). Fewer nuggets, smaller salads: Shr9inkflation hits U.S. Restaurant Diners. Bloomberg.; Skores, A. (16 May 2022). Inflation up, product size down. Dallas Morning News.; other news sources.

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