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Below are a selection of articles that have been published in the previous years in Dealerscope Magazine, a Consumer Electronics Trade Publication under NAPCO.  Please visit http://www.dealerscope.com for a full search of articles and releases.

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Building Your Brand While Creating New Relationships With a Younger Demographic – NOVEMBER 2008

As many of you already know, marketing today has turned into a real-life jigsaw puzzle.  With the state of the current economy, many companies have to substantially decrease the amount of money available for advertising.  What some people don’t realize, effective marketing can be more inexpensive than one might think.  The key to good advertising without spending much money is connecting with a profitable demographic, also known as the Gen-Y’s, Echo Boomers, Kids of the Baby Boomers, etc., in their own environment.  I am here to discuss how to do that.

My name is Courtney Manlove; I’m a 21-year-old Montana native studying Marketing, and Business Ethics and Legal Studies at the University of Denver.  I am a third generation of Vann’s Inc., a progressive multi-channel retailer of upscale consumer electronics and major appliances. My grandfather, Pete Vann, founded the company in 1961.  My father, George Manlove became president and CEO in 1994 and implemented major changes in the strategic direction, marketing, and the overall operation of the company.  Last spring, the senior management team of Vann’s asked me to originate a project that integrates social networking and shopping with younger consumers.  Thus, the development of schvee.com began.  I saw this as a huge opportunity to not only give people my age something they are really looking for, but also to be able to explore the new sphere of the virtual world.

I attended e-Tail Washington D.C. in August of 2007, where I realized there are a handful of CE industry leaders who don’t know the first thing about getting the attention of a younger consumer successfully.   It’s very important to know how to do so, or else you will end up wasting much-needed marketing funds.  That’s where I come in; so please, listen to what I have to say because my demographic has an ENORMOUS buying power, and it is very important to stay connected with us during this economic rollercoaster.  I am here to help your company drastically improve, or change the way you market, sell to, and interact with individuals of my generation (approx. ages 15-24.) In the last to years, I have done research on such people; and I have just about figured out who they are, what they like, how they spend their (or their parents’) money, and what they want to see from advertisers.  If you are under the ages of 20-23ish, and still possibly living off your parents’ dollar, you are begging them for nothing less than the new iPod, car stereo, dorm room theater system, or any other electronic or appliance “necessity.”

In my columns, I will discuss different aspects of marketing to younger demographics from research I’ve done on my own, learned in my studies at the University of Denver, or just being involved with such activity daily.  I continue with an explanation of schvee.com.  Not only do I think schvee.com holds a great deal of future success, but I also see it as an outlet for all CE industry companies to become involved and have direct interaction with my generation.  Many people probably think I’m crazy for wanting to even attempt to create another social network, but I can assure you schvee.com will be different and is very exciting.   For those of you who don’t know, social networking and its many forms, is the new must-have communication tool for consumers and businesses.  If you don’t even know what a social network is, please do your research, or email me because I would be happy to drag you out of the archaic days.  Social networking has become so prevalent in younger peoples’ lives that they’re starting to login on their phones when they can’t get to a computer.  We all know that every teen and 20-something almost certainly has they’re phone attached to them.  Companies need to be involved in that lifestyle.

Younger consumers want to be where their friends are, around people they trust, and where they can express themselves freely and explore new opportunity.  Schvee.com has a wholesome opportunity to connect with existing and potential consumers.  Please know now, schvee.com is NOT only for Vanns.com to use as an outlet, it is for anyone who can see its value and would like to jump on board with what so many companies are trying to accomplish.  It is probably one of the most powerful channels a marketer can deploy for customer retention, word of mouth, and customer insight.  Think of it as a twist to your product and brand development.  You can build your success by launching your profile into the community with the backing of your most enthusiastic customers and staying engaged as the community begins to grow.  However, you need to remember that the control is in the hands of your consumers at this point, so their needs have to come first.  Also, work on building their trust, and become a very active part of their life.  I have additionally included some websites that are worth looking at to get more information on social networking and marketing to younger consumers.

Yes, We WOULD Like Your Help…Thank You – JANUARY 2008

With the holidays finally coming to a close, returns and exchanges are about to begin.  Among these “shoppers,” are the big-spending Gen Y’ers who are exchanging their iPod Classic for the 32GB Touch, or the 23-inch flat screen for the 32-inch. These individuals want to extend the gift they received to the bigger and better version, and it is up to your sales teams to facilitate this process.  Most returns or exchanges will happen in the physical retail stores by younger consumers because it is important to us to see demonstrations of the product we are trading for.  In these situations, the term, “a little respect can go a long way” holds more truth than one could ever imagine.  If your company has the ability to operate with high value and integrity when dealing with customers, you will be highly successful.

Choosing customers to help should not have to be a choice at all; in fact, it should be based on availability.  Let’s create a hypothetical situation.  You are an employee of a consumer electronics store and a 20-something year-old walks in to the showroom wearing “skater” clothing and walks straight to the home theater section.  Right behind him enters an Armani clad, middle-aged man who just parked his Ferrari out front.  If you chose to help the middle-aged gentleman first, you could be very wrong.  A common pet peeve of younger consumers’ is the lack of respect they receive from sale associates when they’re shopping.  It could be the watchful eye from an associate thinking the young “hooligan” is going to steal something, or whether it’s the preconceived notion that young people don’t have any intention on buying a new home theater system, car stereo, or an expensive washer and dryer, is a very common occurrence.  No matter how you classify the operation of your company, you should always treat it as a service company when on the sales floor.  The service industry is successful because their number one goal is focusing on the clients’ wants and needs.  Shoppers of younger generations are choosing to shop online and in low-staffed, big box stores to avoid such sales people.

At this point you may be setting up secret shoppers as you read this, but don’t worry because I will explain how to train your staff to avoid any such negative situation.  It’s important to have your employees realize that equality is essential among customers and not just throughout the office.  During your training, come up with role-play situations where different “profiles” of young consumers walk in to your store with different situations.  An important thing to remember is, NEVER begin your sales process thinking the customer is there to buy anything.  It is your job, as an associate, to first build a relationship with your customer before any sort of selling begins.  Getting to know your customer first is a very successful technique in any situation. This allows the customer to be comfortable with you as an associate and is made aware that their specific wants and needs are very important to you.

There are important characteristics about young consumers that your sales team should be aware of when serving them in their shopping process.  The first thing to remember is, most young consumers have done extensive research on the product they want, along with its comparisons before they even decide on the store they want to shop at.  Also, being in this particular generation, young consumers are very technologically competent and would like the terminology jargon to be left to a minimum.  If we don’t know the difference between 1080p and 1080i, we will definitely ask.  The easiest way to close a sale with a young consumer is to connect with that person and discuss the product in a way that it fits in to their everyday life.  Ask questions like, “Do you live in a house or an apartment?” or, “What type of music do you like to listen to” or, “Are you going to be playing any video games on this T.V.?”  These questions allow you to understand the customer’s wants and needs while demonstrating to this person that you are going to try exceptionally hard to get them exactly what they’re looking for, and more.

After the sale is closed, customer retention management can be a complicated puzzle in the Marketing and IT departments.  Most would think that young consumers want to know about deals and discounts through text messaging, or Facebooking, but more than likely don’t.  There are certain technical outlets that we use, but like to keep most of those private.  It may seem old school, but a lot of us still like to get deals and discounts in the mail.  After the sale, simply ask the customer, “You know, we like to send coupons and special deals to our best customers. Would you like us to send those to your email, or through the mail?”  More than likely, you’re going to get one or the other as an answer along with a repeat customer.

I hope this gave you and your company some helpful tips.  I think it is important to connect with young consumers in your retail stores before tackling the virtual world.  So remember, the next time a young consumer walks into your store, don’t ignore them because they could be your very best customers.  Also, positive customer interaction will bring positive word-of-mouth and viral marketing.  Nothing will promote your business faster than happy customers talking about you and your business with all of their friends and online communities.

Why Some Social Networks Don’t Work for Marketing in the CE Industry, and How to Make It Work -FEBRUARY 2009

In the last year, I have noticed a change in the ability to market to young consumers through online social platforms such as Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube, but I have also discovered some very new and exciting ways of reaching potential customers in order to draw more business to your company.  Companies need to be innovative with their marketing strategies, especially because the current economy is bringing much smaller marketing budgets.  Most people will tell you that you need to create an entire new brand that is focused towards younger buyers, but it is much more simple than that.

The reason most online consumers are becoming non-responsive to advertising on social networking sites is, in a way, they feel overwhelmed by many ads, or they feel the ads aren’t in sync with their wants and needs. Myspace especially seems to be overrun by pop-ups, flashing banner ads, and the infamous, “Congratulations, you’ve just been selected to win a free iPod.” Many young consumers feel as though CE advertisers are trying to market their products to the adults through them subliminally, and though it is a good tactic, it may not be the best one to choose in order to connect with a new, profitable market.

Gen-Yers want to feel important; they want their opinions to be heard and trusted. Myspace and Facebook are successful because they are virtual worlds where consumers can be in control of an environment that’s comfortable to them.  But again, they are starting to ignore regular advertising and are expecting businesses to change their marketing tactics to meet their lifestyle desires. It may sound strange, but businesses need to market without advertising in order to reach this new desirable target market directly. This target audience wants to be involved in what you are experiencing during the building of your brand and marketing strategies.  Try creating a brand environment in a public space focused around both social networking and consumer electronics, like Schvee.com, and start involving current, and potential consumers by asking them to take part in activities such as new product ideas, marketing campaigns, product reviews, internships, etc.  Your options are endless when it comes to a social network marketing.

Teens and twenty-something’s are looking for the next Myspace or Facebook that hasn’t been overrun by advertisements and useless widgets (applications created by outside developers that can be useful, or sometimes annoying.) On Schvee, your company can create a “store” profile page and add loyal customers as friends to start writing content, which can be anything from reviews, thoughts on marketing campaigns, and input or ideas for future brand development. This will take your brand awareness to a whole new level. You want your advertising to be interactive and entertaining in order to turn your marketing into a brand itself.  You’ll be successful if you can create an intangible, yet very real marketing strategy that has youths raging about the campaign.  Think of marketing through online social networking as word-of-mouth on steroids.  If I talk to one friend who talks to two more people, and those two people talk to a few of their friends; the discussion of your company continues to grow exponentially. If a consumer relates positive emotions with your brand, they are more likely to become loyal to it.  The reason this virtual tactic can be so successful is because online activities can connect young consumers to your brand through a fun learning process for both you and the consumer. Realize this is an environment where young people meet, mingle, socialize and form lifestyle decisions, but also a place where they decide what and where they will buy after reading peer reviews and conducting research.

All of this can seem very intimidating to some, but in fact, it is probably one of the easiest marketing strategies to execute.  To begin, just figure out which products you most want to push to this generation and the images you would like to associate with them. Next, do a simple Google or Twitter search for keywords relating to your company and the products you’ve chosen. This search will bring up consumers who have been blogging about, writing reviews, and buying your products.  Be aware that even the most negative find could be the most useful. Take every bit of information you’ve collected and really take the time to analyze it. If you have a lot of unhappy consumers, take this as an opportunity to show young consumers you are genuinely concerned about their wants and needs. If they see this type of response from your company, they will be very impressed. Not only will you have a very loyal customer, you’ll have a whole new bunch of followers that heard about you from their friends.

As you can see, marketing to the generations of new and profitable shoppers isn’t impossible; it will just take some time and commitment to be able to reach them successfully.  The next time you sit down for a marketing plan meeting, find individuals who will read into the demands of these consumers in order beginning a whole new relationship with your customers.

The Mind of a Young Consumer Understanding Who, Why, and even How…- MARCH 2009

 A young consumer can best be described as someone between the ages of 13 and 24, whose generation can also be referred to as Gen-Y, the Echo Boomers, Kids of the Baby Boomers, etc.  We are a generation of opinion and choices, we want to be heard and be seen…and this is where you can take your business to a whole new level.  Even though the economy is tough, your marketing campaign doesn’t need to be.

-Create an internal group within your company who are your consumers

This is probably the most important of all the steps in creating a campaign with younger generations.  You need to establish a group of people within your company who are like, think like, and what to be like the desired marketing segment.  These people will solely be responsible for market research, focus groups, street teams, and so on.  In times of employment downsizing, look to your local college or university and offer this position as an internship.  Even if you aren’t able to pay a wage, college students are in dire need of internship credit in order to complete their graduation requirements.   The group you come up with needs to be as diverse as possible; different genders, lifestyles, and even ethnicities.  This will benefit you because it will bring different psycho-graphical types that will broaden your marketing capabilities.

Engage with these consumers to find out what exactly it is that they want

It is VERY important to install a constant interest from us to your brand. Make your products be the “it” items.  This will not only bring loyal customers, it will bring all of their friends.  The number one way to become engaged is to engulf your brand into the social media scene, and I cannot stress this enough.  It is important to know that consumers don’t only use these portals to just make friends; they are on there to do research and fulfill their everyday wants and needs as well.  If you really want to engage younger demographics, you have to delve into their lifestyles and become an important part of their everyday life.  Most of you would probably argue that you already are a party of their life because electronics are so widely used by them, but your products aren’t going to promote themselves.

-Create a brand image that you become their “atmosphere”

Creating your marketing campaign can be extremely difficult if you don’t cater to all personality types.  Most may call us the multi-tasking generation, but I like to describe us as the multi-personality, multi-interest, multi-life generation.  It’s really easy to notice all of these different personality types simply by walking through your local mall.  It used to be that there would be certain department stores that would be “the place” to go.  But now, you have every store ranging from Hot Topic, to Abercrombie and Fitch.  It is the same concept when creating a social marketing campaign.  If you establish a stable online “relationship” with a young consumer, they will feel comfortable enough to come back and visit you.  Along with this, you need to establish your core values with them.   In an online environment, it is very important to establish what is, and what is not acceptable.  This doesn’t mean telling them exactly what they can and can’t do, but it will save you from having to do damage control in the long run.

Don’t be a part of the “clutter”

It seems that you can’t go ANYWHERE without being bombarded with advertisements.  That is why social media has a huge potential to be so incredibly successful.  It’s advertising without even realizing it.  Think about Twitter.  Twitter is all about status updates, what it is that everyone you know is doing.  There are companies who discuss their products in a way consumers don’t even realize it’s advertising.  Think about if you were standing in the middle of Times Square in New York.  What is it that you would see? Duh, Advertisements that have been plastered onto every bit of space available.  Granted, advertising has become such a huge part of our societal lifestyle that some may not even notice the clutter, however, that’s not where you want to be if you are trying to reposition your brand in the minds of young consumers.  Your brand has to become something that we crave at the end of the day.

-Do the impossible and create a new culture

For generations, marketers have tried to find ways to successfully change a culture without having to resort to celebrity endorsements.  Young people LOVE events, and event holders are always looking for any kind of sponsorship.  What better way than to be able to put your name all over the most talked event of the year.  Some examples would be, the winter and summer X-Games, Warped Tour, film festivals, motocross events, fashion week, pro-cause events, college sports finals, along with many others.  We are a very impressionistic generation, so we are more likely to go to a brand that we have seen over and over again at the same places we are, both on and off the web.

-Create an element of surprise

This is the easiest and most fun to do, however, it needs to be done very carefully.  Think about Apple as an example.  They create a hype about new products and keep it so exclusive until only days before they release that particular product.  It creates free marketing for them because everyone is talking about their brand, and brings people to their store over and over to see if the “new product” has been released yet.  I’m not suggesting that you create a surprise element by not disclosing new product releases, but you need to do something different than what you are doing now.  Many of you have great strategies, but difference brings the shock and excitement you want from this generation.

-Eliminate your risk of marketing failure by connecting with consumers on a daily basis

Risk is the main fear all marketers have throughout almost every type of new campaign they begin.  In this situation, risk is defined as the amount of money, time, and effort you put into a campaign and running the risk of having no response from the desired segment.  In order to avoid this, connect with young consumers in their social media realms on a daily basis to get their feedback on your advertisements.  This establishes an element of trust from them for your brand.  It is very easy to build this connection with us because we so badly want to have brands in our lives that we trust.

Marketing to this generation can be very stressful because their opinions and attitudes change daily, but the best advice I can give you is to have fun with these campaigns.  If your company shows that you are able to have fun while promoting your brand, this segment will take note of that and want to be involved with your process.

Let Consumers Do the Merchandising for You – MAY 2009

 Over the last several years, retailers and manufacturers have been placing an increased importance and emphasis on in-store marketing and merchandising.   Consumers who fall within Generation Y and the Millenials are going to be brand innovators and early adopters, helping you with this process.  This is good news for CE companies who sell everyday lifestyle products.  For those who may not be as widely popular, such as Sony or Samsung, it is very important to remember that any brand can become “hot” overnight among these generations.  If you are a company who is struggling to grab the attention of young consumers, just realize that repositioning will be your best bet.  Also, realize that it is not good enough just to have an online store because anyone can do that. To remain competitive today, you must create satisfying experiences every time customers visit your site by build their assurance, strengthen connections, and drive revenues.  Most business owners would like to focus all their energy on daily business operations and serving existing client demands. It’s critical to your success, however, to focus on gaining new business from current and potential customers in order to grow and sustain your company.

Many people believe that new media merchandising involves expensive marketing campaigns that involve at least half a million dollars and overtime man-hours, but it can be quite the opposite.  Last month I explained ways to integrate a social networking campaign and many of you have wondered how to extend that tool to best fit your needs.  Throughout this article, I will talk about one of the most important features when creating a social marketing and merchandising campaign, media.  Generation Y, the largest group of kids since the baby boomers, are much more media inclined which means that they have been more influenced by advertising than previous generations. The media should continue to be used as a source of advertising to young consumers because product consumption by this group is a huge benefit to the economy.  The most successful way to increase your sales from these shoppers is to change your merchandising strategy.  The online shopping experience has to reflect that of a successful physical retail setting.

Remember that a successful retail store design caters to these shoppers by featuring areas for young people to hang out. The spaces need to be created to display high energy, with lots of fast-moving visual aspects, flashy graphics, bright colors, and interactive activities. The element of offering more than just merchandise is extremely important.  Each customer has specialized objectives, strategies, schedules, programs and market and store conditions, the ability to create account-specific market plans is crucial. Ideally, marketing plans are supported by category and consumer insights, brand information, and promotion analyses that speak to the customer’s situation and sales goals.  With all of the talk around social media, consumer generated content, viral videos, online advertising and interactive media; it becomes difficult to understand that you need to support the process of selling online.  Therefore, the use of media advertising to influence the young consumer and vise-versa should continue because the outcome has resulted in a substantial benefit to not only the market but, companies alike.  Media advertising to young consumers is a good thing because it can benefit the individual consumer, a mass group, companies and the economy.   The best way to utilize the media outlets is to come up with a way that integrates involvement of you company and the consumer.  For example, on your website and your Facebook page, hold a contest that asks users to upload a video showing them and their friends using your product in some creative way.  Consumers will believe that you are providing them a deal or discount that not only meets their needs, but also provides them with innovative and exclusive products in the space.  Defining your value as a company to the consumer is critical in this process to the long-term success of your business.

CE companies need to be ready to implement online merchandising strategies to remain competitive.  Especially in this economy, it is important to cater to your future shoppers because they are the ones who will have the disposable income once we climb out of this recession. Don’t spend all your time and money coming up with ways to rearrange store-fronts and displays, focus your attention and efforts to your online ventures and let the physical store reap the benefits.

Get Ready, Get Set….SELL -AUGUST 2009

I would like to focus this month’s article on a very crucial season for CE industry participants…back to school.  This is one of the biggest shopping seasons of the year, so you don’t want to miss out on it.  Even if you’re not selling school supplies or clothing, there are a lot of ways you can attract these shoppers to your products and services.  There’s only one way to cut through all the clutter of traditional back-to-school marketing and give your brand a true competitive advantage.  With the number of shoppers who take their business online, the boom is not only in the physical store, but online as well.  While there are many ages are available to focus on, there are two that stick out the most in my mind; high school, and most importantly, college-aged kids.  Even though the economy is in turmoil, back-to school spending for younger college kids is on the rise.

When I began my college career with freshman orientation at the University of Denver, my mother and I sent out on a mission to create a dorm-room electronics sanctuary.  This included, a television, iPod dock, and laptop with computer speakers, calculators, computer software, and accessories galore.  When we went out to complete the electronics staple into our room, we found severely under stocked and picked over inventory…everywhere.  What I’m trying to get at is, retailers NEED to make sure they have enough inventory to feed the mass amounts of college-kids who are buying smaller flat-screen television, mp3 player docks, laptops, gadget accessories, software, and cases for gadgets and toys.  Even though some of you may be reading this and thinking I’m crazy to have an extra inventory liability, you have to trust me.  We could not find a 23ish” flat screen television at Best Buy, Circuit City, Ultimate Electronics, Target…anywhere.  They were completely out and already backordering everything.  This was only the third week of August, before the upper classmen had even moved back for the summer.

Stocking up on certain items isn’t the only important factor in pushing back-to-school sales.  Your marketing needs to perform in a way that you create the back-to-school frame of mind in the desired consumer.  There are many keys to implementing a successful in-store marketing program. This is particularly true with consumer electronics due to the complexity of technology and consistent need for consumer education. The first thing to do is to do a search among the different social networks, shopping review sites, and your competition to see what younger consumers are saying about back-to-school type products that you carry.  This will help you determine what products you should place the larger focus on.  If you’re not getting the traffic in your store you desire before all the kids go back to school, offer a last minute promotion. (i.e. Buy a laptop and get an iPod dock for free.)  Only do this is your margin will allow it.  Think about Apple giving away an iPod touch when a Macbook is purchased.

The last technique I would like to discuss is how to merchandise your store and e-tail to accommodate these back-to-school shoppers.  You need to create ways to minimize the stress of going back to school for both the student and the parent.  If you’re going to focus on the physical retail store, set up the featured products in a way that creates a buzz.  A significant aspect to marketing consumer electronics at retail is the ability for the consumer to interact with the product and/or marketing message. It is important for the consumer to be able to “play” with the product to reassure them of value, quality, and features. Once the consumer begins to investigate the product, they may begin to educate themselves.  Open exciting programs on the computers that young people like.  Music and video creation, photo editing, and The Sims, are just some examples.  Even offer to upload music on to an mp3 player with free digital downloads if they buy a laptop and mp3 player.  Do it right in the store so that creates more excitement to “buy now.”  Your store will officially become a recession destination.

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One thought on “Published Articles

  1. You really make it appear really easy along with your presentation
    but I find this matter to be really one thing which I feel I might never understand.

    It kind of feels too complex and very wide for me.

    I am taking a look ahead for your subsequent put up, I’ll try to
    get the grasp of it!

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