Marketing during hard times

Mery Chrstms!

That’s not a misprint — that’s “Merry Christmas” with 20 percent off!

Based on the advertising I’ve seen, holiday marketing this year is all about price. I spent a recent evening as a couch potato, and I saw ad after ad focusing on low, low prices.

In a Kmart ad, a father nervously watches his kids unwrapping a pile of presents. His tension is eased when his wife whispers, “Relax — I got it at Kmart.”

Chevrolet, Mercedes and Lexus are having red-tag sales, though I always wonder just who buys automobiles as Christmas gifts. Wal-Mart ads tout an array of gifts for under $14. Even Target is getting into the act, focusing on the second half of its “Expect more. Pay less” slogan.

Microsoft recently cut the price of the Xbox 360 Arcade, its low-price unit, by about one-third — from $279 to $199.

Locally, my Star Tribune on Friday was stuffed with sale circulars:

• HOM Furniture offered Serta mattresses for 50 percent off.

• Macy’s had Calvin Klein coats at 50 percent off.

• Herberger’s offered an extra 30 percent off items already on sale.

• Big Bertha golf clubs were half price at Golf Galaxy.

One of the few items escaping the price-cutters is Nintendo’s popular Wii video game system, which is setting sales records even at its full price of $249 — or higher.

What does this mean for marketers? We’re clearly in a period where pinched consumers are making buying decisions based on price. This is a case where sellers are responding to buyers, rather than the other way around.

Marketers will be challenged to be smarter and more creative, finding ways to reach consumers more intimately and pitch their messages more persuasively. Social media, anyone?

It’s also time to bond more tightly with your core consumers, enlisting them as brand evangelists to build word of mouth about your products and services. There are some very good agencies in the Twin Cities that have been on this track for years.

And, of course, it never hurts to have a product so superior that people simply have to have it — as the Wii demonstrates.

See you at the Salvation Army — they have some great deals on samples and seconds from Target.

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