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The Best Marketing Stories of the Week, Feb. 10-14

Marketing News Staff

weekly roundup image, orange background

This week, we eyed Oscars viewership, Peapod ending its service in the Midwest, Rihanna’s lingerie line controversy and the return of the catalog

Oscars Viewership Takes Steep Dive

Sunday’s Oscars telecast made history by awarding Best Picture to an international film (“Parasite”) for the first time, but its other landmark achievement wasn’t as positive. Fewer people tuned in for the live show than ever before—23.6 million watched, which is three million less than the previous record in 2018 and down 20% from last year. Speculation abound, and some are quick to point the finger at the ceremony’s lack of host, or the fact that the Super Bowl and the State of the Union, both also live events, happened quite recently. But the problem might lie with the number of commercials aired during the three-and-a-half-hour telecast, totaling 40 minutes—an eternity in today’s streaming age. Next year’s ceremony will air later in February, and no word yet on how the program will handle its commercials.

Read more: The New York Times

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Peapod Ends Grocery Delivery in the Midwest

Though the online grocery market reached $26 billion in 2018 and is expected to hit $100 billion by 2025, Peapod is exiting the industry in the Midwest, leaving roughly 50,000 customers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana without service. The move, which will result in the loss of more than 500 jobs, was made to shift focus toward in-store pick-up as well as delivery—a move that Walmart advertised itself during this year’s Super Bowl. The Midwest also proved a difficult market for Peapod, as it exists in the region as online-only without physical locations and therefore couldn’t afford mindful shoppers the opportunity to see produce firsthand. Big winners include Instacart and Amazon, viewed as key competitors.

Read more: Chicago Tribune

I Scream, You Scream … But Not to Kids

Wall's Kids brand ice cream treat Twister

Unilever announced it will no longer advertise its ice cream brands to children younger than 12 after 2020, saying its decision was influenced by rising childhood obesity levels. Under the company’s plan, its ice cream marketing will avoid media in which children children younger than 12 represent more than 25% of the audience, a principle also employed by the UK Advertising Standards Authority. Unilever said it would  avoid advertising in or sponsoring films, promoting products in programs, offering gifts and toys, or using licensed characters that appeal to the young age group. It will also avoid using influencers who are either younger than 12 or appeal to kids that age. Unilever plans to launch a “Responsibly made for kids” logo to identify products designed for children with a maximum of 110 calories and 12 grams of sugar per portion.

Read more: Campaign

Amazon Gives Rise to ‘Pseudo-Brands’

The New York Times reports that a growing portion of Amazon’s business are third-party sellers that stock the website with goods that disappear as quickly as they appear, also overwhelming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “A seller in America might start with a brand idea and need to figure out how to get it manufactured; a seller connected to a factory in China’s manufacturing capital needs to figure out how to sell to Americans, which Amazon has been working hard to facilitate,” the Times reports. Kian Golzari, who works with marketplace sellers and corporate clients to source products from China, told the paper that it’s a matter of branding versus selling: the pseudo-brands sell until the market is flooded with the product, then they move on.

Read more: The New York Times

Catalog Comeback

Catalog mailings have been increasing since 2015, with response rates from catalogs increasing by 170% from 2004 to 2018. And evidence suggests that Millennials are particularly interested in catalogs they receive in the mail. Researchers partnered with a specialty luxury watches and jewelry e-commerce retailer to test the appeal of catalogs. They found consumers in the group that received emails and catalogs led to a 49% lift in sales and 125% lift in inquiries, compared to the control group, while the email-only group only had 28% increase in sales and 77% lift in inquiries over the control group. “When we marry our research above with a review of retail trends and consumer psychology, we see how catalogs stand apart from the increasingly cluttered digital inboxes and social media feeds,” the authors wrote in HBR. “As physical products, they can linger in consumers’ houses long after emails are deleted, which increases top-of-mind awareness among consumers.”

Read more: Harvard Business Review

Rihanna’s Lingerie Line Accused of Deceptive Marketing

Nonprofit organization Truth in Advertising has claimed that Rihanna’s buzzy Savage x Fenty line “ensnares consumers into unwanted monthly charges.” When items are added to a consumer’s shopping cart, a membership plan is automatically added to the order—customers must then proactively remove the charge, which may cause the price of items to increase. Savage x Fenty has denied the claims, stating that “These accusations are false and based on misconceptions of our business.”

Read more: The New York Times