INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES

Take me out to the marketing game

Retailers can steal great ideas from ball fields

BY David Orgel

America’s summer sport, baseball, has collided with fall’s chill. Football is now top-of-mind.

However, there’s one baseball story worth recapping, at least for retailers. It was easy to miss. This wasn’t about box scores, but marketing. Sports teams tend to market very well, and there are retail lessons to be learned from this year’s baseball season.

First let me emphasize that retailers are also strong marketers. They are creative and good at adapting ideas from other retailers. But therein lies a possible limitation. If some retailers only borrow ideas from other retailers, they are missing out. Retailers vying to differentiate in this hyper-competitive environment might benefit from taking marketing ideas from a different field — the baseball field.

Major League Baseball teams presented great marketing in 2018, but for really big league ideas, keep an eye on the minor leagues. One New Jersey minor league team called the Somerset Patriots regularly hits it out of the park with an outstanding range of special events and other efforts. It’s on my radar because the team is local to my area. I’d call its approach marketing on steroids. (Wait, did I really use steroids in a baseball reference?)

The Patriots are part of the Atlantic League, an independent minor league begun in 1998. The team advanced to its sixth straight postseason this year under the current manager, fueled by winning performances by numerous players. But just as important was the team’s superb marketing performance, which helped it lead the league in 2018 attendance.

Marketing was driven by a range of strategies, including robust social media, a mobile app with access to a rewards program, and outstanding special events. The events were crowd pleasers, whether or not fans cared about a baseball game. Here’s an events sampler, and consider how these might translate to retail:

  • Superhero Day plus Ballpark ComiCon
  • ‘Augtober’fest
  • SpongeBob Squarepants appearance
  • Senior Wednesday
  • Fireworks and Fortnite (gaming on the concourse)
  • Giveaways from T-shirts to backpacks
  • Run the bases
  • Meet and greet with a New York Giants football legend
  • Bark In The Park bring your dog, with a pre-game Pooch Parade
  • XPogo Stunt Team high-flying performances between innings

OK — maybe retailers won’t conduct a pooch parade up front store aisles. However, given the range of events, there’s opportunity for retailers to steal more than just home plate. How would these translate to retail? Senior Wednesday (or Thursday or Friday) could focus on retail health solutions for the older set. Superhero Day could be a terrific Halloween event. Fortnite and gaming themes are smart ways to get on the radar of the youngest consumers. Augtoberfest is a standout idea for summer parties.

The Patriots also often introduce multiple events and promotions for a single game. These appeal simultaneously to different audiences so there’s something for everyone.

Marc Russinoff, the Patriots’ vice president of public relations, explained to me that fans pulled in by one promotion are often pleased to encounter other opportunities, “whether it’s food options, another special event, or impulse buys.”

This is a one-stop-shop approach (sounds familiar?) Plus, marketing and events underscore the team’s role as a community player, which of course is also a big retailer strategy.

Can retailers get excited about reaching out of the box for ideas in this way? Absolutely. I checked with Coborn’s, a highly innovative Midwest independent grocer, and a winner of the prestigious National Grocers Association Creative Choice Marketing Award. The retailer’s vice president of Marketing, Dennis Host, said sharing can go both ways: retailers can get ideas from sports teams, and sports teams from retailers. He should know. Coborn’s has a front-row seat as a partner for events by local sports teams.

Whether translating ideas from sports or some other sector, a few bold retail marketing moves can produce differentiation and boost customer loyalty.  When that happens, as they say, it’s a new ball game.


David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He currently is the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s column, click here.

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C.CIELEWICH says:
Oct-24-2018 09:00 am

Digital content and retail clicks are forcing brick and mortar and any sports/entertainment to improve their in-game/in-store experience for the consumer. Guerilla marketing/promotional ideas are certainly at a premium right now.

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APhA looks to alleviate increasing pressures of the profession

BY Michael Hogue

When my wife and I graduated from pharmacy school and were licensed in 1996, we entered into practice full of hopes and dreams of a bright future. We were eager to put to use those advanced patient care skills our alma mater had well prepared us to use. And put them to use we did.

Following residency, we moved to Alabama to become partners in an independent pharmacy practice, where we were the first pharmacists in the state to begin immunizing our patients. We started a diabetes self-management service and collaborated on drug therapy management with one of our local physicians. We were professionally engaged and actively involved, and both of us were relatively satisfied that we were using the skills we were trained to use, though we still had the challenges of compensation for our services. However, I’m hearing reports from recent graduates that paint a different postgraduation experience picture we had in 1996.

What I’m hearing from these recent graduates, as well as from seasoned pharmacists, is:

  • Public and private payers are looking to pay the lowest price for prescription drugs;
  • The community pharmacy business model no longer supports sufficient staffing, leaving little time for patient care, and in some cases jeopardizing patient safety;
  • Pharmacists, now largely employed by a corporate entity rather than through private practice, feel they have little control over their practice environment and professional judgment;
  • The number of pharmacists in many markets is leading to fear among some of losing their jobs or experiencing lower wages if they do not meet productivity metrics as more technical tasks are delegated to technicians;
  • Full-time employment is sometimes hard to come by as a pharmacist; and
  • Young pharmacists have tremendous personal debt from college.

Frankly, it seems many folks want to stick their head in the sand about these current realities. To do so is a failure to the profession. Hear me clearly: I’m extremely hopeful about the future of pharmacy and have some ideas of how we will get there, but first we have to help lift up our colleagues and move through a difficult period.  

The American Pharmacists Association is the leading advocate for the profession of pharmacy. Nearly every pharmacist in America has been a member of APhA at some point, either as a student or as a pharmacist. As the current speaker of APhA’s House of Delegates and president-elect of the organization, it is important to me that pharmacists and student pharmacists know that APhA is committed to addressing these practical challenges.

The nearly 400-member APhA House of Delegates in March 2018 adopted a policy on the pharmacist workplace environment and patient safety. The policies serve not only as guiding statements and principles for the profession, but are frequently referenced when key policy and legal decisions are at play. In addition to this policy, the APhA board of trustees has incorporated pharmacist well-being initiatives as core to our strategic plan. Among other efforts, we are building tangible resources to assist individual pharmacists with practice challenges, professional satisfaction, recognition and personal well-being.

Additionally, APhA is working with other professional organizations and employers to seek legislative changes at the state and national levels that will result in recognition of pharmacists as providers of care. Coupled with changes that remove unnecessary barriers to the use of technologies and technicians, this will lead to new opportunities for the patient care we are capable of providing, allowing the business model to shift.

There is a hopeful, brighter future ahead — if we fight for it. Let’s join together and ensure that patients continue to have access to the outstanding patient care of pharmacists.


Michael Hogue is president-elect of the American Pharmacists Association, as well as the speaker of the APhA House of Delegates.

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Media buys or jingles: What wins antacid sales?

BY TS Kelly, Alphonso

Antacids have an outsized influence in media and advertising. “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz,” “Rolaids spells relief” and “Tum tum tum tum tuuuum!” are three of the most memorable taglines of all time, and they all hail from heartburn remedies. The sector is so near and dear to our hearts that a 1960s antacid tablet case is even stored at the Smithsonian.

In spite of this influence on our minds and our stomachs, antacid manufacturers as a category spend much less on advertising than the country’s biggest advertisers, which spend $1 billion or more annually to keep their brands top-of-mind.

Click to enlarge

So how do antacids steal so much mindshare? Perhaps it’s in their strategic advertising buys. While the largest marketers spend over $5 million on SuperBowl ads, most of the biggest-spending antacid brands are spending a significant portion of their TV budget on cable, leaning into repetition and niche targeting.

According to Alphonso data, Nexium — 2017’s leading antacid tablet brand in U.S. sales — spent $1.6 million on the four broadcast channels (CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox) in September and nearly as much across many cable networks during that time period. Prilosec OTC, Nexium’s biggest challenger, spent $1.75 million on TV in September, with 63%, or $1.1 million, going to the cable networks. And, yes “Tum, tum, tum, tums” too! (Can you hear the Dragnet theme?) Tums spent $1.4 million on TV ad space, of that approximately 57%, or $800,000, was spent on cable. Alka-Seltzer spent over $1 million in September, with just 36% of that spend going to broadcast.

Zantac, on the other hand, shook this trend and spent largely on broadcast. Out of $1.25 million spent on TV in September, 67% went to broadcast, or $838,000, out of a total TV spend of $1.25 million. I’ll be keeping my eye out for its 2018 sales figures to see if it worked.

This all leads to my ultimate question: how influential is strategic, targeted TV media buying versus catchy jingles or slogans when It comes to mindshare in the antacid category? The answer: Likely very influential. While consumers might not be able to recite Nexium’s current slogan (it’s: “Imagine 24 hours without heartburn”), Nexium is the heartburn remedy brand they remember when they’re walking down the OTC aisle.


TS Kelly of AlphonsoTS Kelly is senior vice president of research for Alphonso, a TV data company that provides real-time TV campaign analytics, one-to-one TV ad retargeting, and closed-loop attribution for brands and agencies. In his role at Alphonso, Kelly deep dives into television data and insights, giving clients guidance on how to optimize their TV spend.

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