BLOG: Dan Morris

This groundbreaking patent should have both retailers and manufacturers losing sleep at night

Last month, Amazon was granted a patent for a technology described this way: “The technology can identify price comparisons, coupons, special offers, interest within a second location, and availability of the products. It can then counter offer the in-store visitor a lower price or incentive in the form of a coupon or offer through text message, email, or push notification.”  In layman’s terms, this means your retail store and product’s appeal better be more than just price alone.

By now we all know that Amazon is trying to own and sell the world, not only with dry goods, but with fashion and groceries as well. Furthermore, their introduction of a Hispanic Amazon site as well as discounts on Amazon Prime membership for low-income members are expanding its reach toward retail domination. However, this new technology, if introduced, takes things up a notch. Or two. It would immediately redirect shoppers to their site, no matter where they shop.

You can’t compete on price alone!

Why should I go to your store rather than shop online?

  • You have fashion advisors. Does everyone know that?
  • You have classes in photographing children at home. Who did you tell?
  • You have a deli that makes the freshest sandwiches. Is that clearly noted outside your store and in your ads?
  • You sell exclusive, imported ice cream. How would ice cream devotees know this?

These enticements could mean extra visits and increased spending in your store.

Do you really believe in your product? Why? How do you communicate these features to your intended shoppers?  Your packaging should do more than just be “noted” on the shelf. It must instantly portray superiority (better taste, higher quality ingredients, better cleaning capabilities, longer lasting, etc.)  on critical attributes. If this is only portrayed in copy on the package, then unless your consumer is engaged enough to pick it up and study your claims, you are just more expensive than the Amazon-hyped brand.

What is your image in your advertising and marketing? Are you “cool”? Are you what everyone should be looking for? While the shelf (or computer screen) might be the last second of decision, personal product biases are well-established before the “moment of truth.” It’s not just whether they recall your ads, it’s whether they were impacted by your message regardless of ad zapping, ad clutter, streaming video, and competing pop-up ads.

Don’t wait for the train to hit. Move the tracks now.

As a retailer or manufacturer, you have the power to make your stores and/or products fun, unique, and desirable. But you have to do the homework now, before it’s too late.

I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or dan.morris@pretesting.com.

Report from the Amazon and Walmart war – the secret to success in the new battleground.

Let’s face it: It’s time to stop focusing on what you want your consumers to see and time to start focusing on what actually engages them in the real world.  Your Consumers’ Perceptions – not your own – are your brand’s reality.

Enough of the ancient metrics to measure performance!

In today’s world, why focus on unaided brand recall, tagline playback, and illustration recognition? With today’s e-commerce shoppers, nearly all brands are present before them. What do they see in your brand that engages them and separates you from your competition?

Recalling your ad or your tagline doesn’t mean consumers will buy your product. Seeing your product on the shelf is worthless if it stays on shelf. You need to generate positive engagement if you want to convert consumers. Our studies have found that an engaging e-commerce package presentation can increase its purchase by as much as 40 percent!

Seeing is not enough; you need engagement!

Had enough of paying for endcap headers that aren’t seen, POSM materials that are ignored, and free-standing displays that aren’t restocked? PTG’s nondescript truVu glasses have revealed that while certain display elements engage shoppers, most are noted, but promptly ignored. In fact, too often consumers can’t even recall why they purchased one brand over another.

Our data has shown that spring-loaded product displays discourage over 25 percent of shoppers from picking up and considering the product, simply because they don’t want the bother of having to put the packaging back! On the other hand, we’ve found that samplers and immediate tie-in discounts nearly double shopper engagement.

Measure ad engagement, not GRPs!

Have you wondered why traditional commercial skipping rates haven’t climbed? The answer is simple—because millennials and Gen-Xers don’t even bother with the remote control. They go straight to their smartphones when forced commercial breaks appear. However, over 92 percent of them will skip ad pre-rolls when given the opportunity. Their attention span for advertising hovers around six seconds.  If you haven’t engaged them by then, they’re lost, as are your ad dollars…

Stop pretending the world is perfect!

Most package testing research is simply unrealistic. Using ideal planograms, perfectly aligned product placement, and exposures with all labels clearly on display is just not how it appears in the real world. And with the test product placed in the center of the display, at eye level, and with full SKU counts?!

We’ve found that these planogram displays can seriously mislead clients and give them a false impression as to what they can expect in the real world of shopping. Only engaging packages can compete in cluttered environments, with incomplete SKU displays and placed in unfavorable shelf locations.

Knowing what really engages shoppers in real-world environments can stretch your marketing dollars multifold! Ignoring real-world consumer shifts can result in significant loss in market share. The choice is yours.

I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or dan.morris@pretesting.com.

5 Tips to Keep Your Marketing Wits in a Topsy-turvy Consumer World

YouTube is launching a 40-channel network, while traditional TV viewing keeps falling. The use of ad blockers has reached the 47 percent level worldwide, while Google admits that 92 percent of viewers skip pre-rolls when they can. Long-leading brands are seeing huge brand share erosion, while “natural,” “organic,” and imported brands are taking over store shelves. Coke and Pepsi are out, water and club soda are in. Beer and Craft drinks are out, wine and whisky are in.

What’s a marketer to do? 

1. Forget what was. Look to what’s next
Hoping for the return of the past—high TV show ratings, newspapers, retail stores, and respect for “authority figures” endorsing your brands—is pointless. Instead, look for the next trends, and reshape your marketing plans and new products. Be quick and take risks, because the former trial time lines don’t exist anymore.

2. Don’t use the “standard” metrics for measuring success
Brand recall isn’t as important for online ad performance because there are no commercial pods to break through. Instead, engagement is the key, because if you don’t capture consumers’ attention within the first few seconds, you have lost your audience. Likewise, stop testing package designs strictly for in-store, on-shelf performance. More and more products are being purchased online, without high SKU visuals. If your individual package doesn’t have high engagement on the eCommerce page, you lose the sale.

3. Think about new ways to reach your audience
Advertisers are experimenting with ways of directly delivering discounts, coupons, and information through signals embedded in standard content—TV, radio, online, in-store, and so on. These signals are inaudible and don’t require the phone owner to activate their apps or WIFI. The messages are customized to the phone owner and the offers are “invited in” instead of being pushed on them. This will be the future of engaging target audiences if the old advertising model starts to fail.

4. Understand how consumers really shop and interact with your brand
Using nondescript glasses, advertisers are learning exactly what engages or turns off shoppers as they go through stores or surf the Internet. Small changes have been found to make substantial differences in product sales.

5. Stop partnering with suppliers who cling to the “old world”
You are fighting a new marketing war with new rules. Using suppliers who are fighting with outdated weapons will prevent you from achieving your goals. Focus groups cannot tell you how your audience will react in the real world or to real media. Likewise, “forced exposure” testing systems are providing “ideal” results, not what will happen in a competitive world.

If you are going to try to understand the new marketing world, align yourself with partners who share your goals and have tools to engage.

I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or dan.morris@pretesting.com.

Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire: 5 Lessons We Learned the Hard Way

Several weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. I was in my office on a conference call with an overseas client, and I noticed the lights flickering above my head. Moments later someone ran into my office to say they smelled smoke. I ended my call as politely as I could under the circumstances, and we began to evacuate the building, which was quickly filling with smoke as the fire spread. Everyone got out safely, and my colleagues and I are all so grateful.

In the process of scrambling to relocate our headquarters, I have been pondering the impact of this experience. Here are 5 lessons we learned when the unthinkable happened:

1. Focus on what matters. In an emergency, the only thing that counts is human lives. In the day to day, prioritize, and then act according to those priorities.

2. Don’t ignore warning signs. We would have been foolish to ignore the flickering lights and smoke, but isn’t that what we do in our businesses sometimes? We see the warning signs of trouble, but we choose to ignore them—either because we don’t recognize how threatening they are or because we don’t know how to fix the problem. Ignoring warnings only leads to bigger trouble.

3. Back up everything in the cloud.  Backing up data should be one of your priorities; backups enable business to go on when the unexpected happens. Computers fail, and fires and natural disasters are always happening somewhere. What you think can’t happen to you may happen to you. There’s no excuse for no backup.

4. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts motto is one to live by. Our data was backed up. Fire extinguishers were in place and in working order, allowing us to contain the fire (for a bit) so we could safely evacuate. There are so many ways to be prepared in the day to day — whether it’s putting a disaster or emergency plan in place or just preparing for a meeting with a client. No one ever regrets being prepared.

5. Embrace the present. Don’t waste time with regrets from yesterday. Learn your lessons and move on. And don’t waste time worrying about tomorrow. You have no idea what’s coming down the road. Today is a gift. Truly. By living in the present, you won’t get sidetracked by regret or worry, and you’ll appreciate what is in front of you—which will also give you a clear vision of what you might need to change.

It’s human nature to look for lessons in adversity—and to share them. This fire has taught us a lot, and we hope you can benefit from some of the clarity it’s brought to us. We hope you’ll share this with your colleagues and your loved ones. I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or dan.morris@pretesting.com.

4 Lessons for Next Super Bowl

We have seen plenty of polls. Some commercials are rated by likeability, some by the number of YouTube views, some by tweet mentions and some by the water cooler. But who’s got what it takes to make a “winning” SuperBowl commercial?

After years of testing and tracking Super Bowl ad impact on sales, here’s what we know.

1. Invest in long-term benefits.
You had better have left over media funding for week 6 and thereafter. With rare exceptions, if you spent most of your annual budget the two weeks before and after the game, don’t expect to see any long-term sales benefits. Especially this year, where more people were talking about the game itself and the Patriots comeback, than the commercials.

2. To “win”, bring in the energy and engage.
This could be humor, emotional heart tugs or the surprise factor. Without the energy, the message gets lost in the field of other ads. Bai and Snickers could use an energy kick, not to mention Mercedes and Go Daddy.

3. To “win”, you need strong branding.
When it comes to branding, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall and YellowTail needs to take a drink of its own.

4. Make it personal and avoid visual vampires.
To really “win”, combine the above two with a clear understanding of the personal customer benefit. While, as a dad of a new little princess, I personally loved the Audi ad, how are they going to solve gender inequality? Michelob and Sprint didn’t give a clear understanding of their unique benefits — that weren’t overshadowed by exaggerated “visual vampires” in their ads.

So, which ads really “won”? Air it out with Febreeze, eat your Skittles, and import your Avocados while driving a Hyundai to support our troops!

Disagree? Let’s discuss which Super Bowl ads you feel really “won”… I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or dan.morris@pretesting.com.

Millions of dollars in marketing opportunities and pitfalls are right in front of you. Do you see them?

It’s not an easy time to be a marketer.  Consumers are more fickle and less brand loyal than in recorded consumer behavior history.  It was recently reported that sales of low-fat Greek yogurt fell over 20% in a two month period of time as consumers suddenly worried less about calories and more about protein. Consumer “winners” and “losers” change in the bat of an eye.

The QSR, beverage, beer, natural foods, telecommunications, and fashion industries have all fallen victim to whiplash-generating changes in consumer purchase behavior, sometimes within a matter of months.

The billion dollar question is how do you thrive in this environment and regain the loyalty of previous customers and “non-considerers” without hurting your image among loyalists?  Here are 4 helpful steps we uncovered:

1. Understand Consumer Behavior.  It is imperative that you understand the purchasing differences between those who are still loyal to your product and compare them to those who have moved on.  To evaluate these differences, don’t just ask them about their purchase behaviors and drivers – watch them.  Did their purchasing habits changed across many different categories, or just yours?   Was price a prime driver in their decisions?  What about healthier food choices? Are they purchasing products that follow a dietary restriction such as gluten free?  Do they appear to be stepping up their purchases of brand name products? These real-world experiences provide the critical answers to the tough questions marketers are facing in boardrooms across the country.

2. Be relevant.  It is critical to test new introductions; and sometimes without the family name.  At PTG, we’ve found that maintaining a family name can occasionally prevent true consideration of an item that consumers may indeed want to try but are hesitant to do so because of a halo effect.  For instance, J&J had to introduce their now successful Aveeno line of skin products as a standalone brand because J&J was viewed as a company that made products “for babies”.

3.  Speak their language.  Be sure to study and approach non-considerers differently than your loyalists.  For example, non-considerers may have different reactions to the same TV spot, digital ad, in-store display, package or claim. You may even need to target them differently, with a unique brand in order to bring them back to the fold. However, if this segment didn’t leave you due to taste or quality, but, rather, they moved on seeking something special, then you have a good opportunity to get them back.

4. Give them what they want and what they always had.  Offer them what they’re seeking while making it sound that it is a natural feature of your (new) brand. If you are now additive-free, say “we always believe in nature.” If it is a new beer flavor say “always providing surprises for those looking for unique tastes.”  If you reduced sugar in your product tout the healthful benefits rather than admit you had high sugar content to begin with.

Use technology that enables you to follow and study the shopping and usage habits of your target audiences. Target your media strategy to reach this lapsed audience even if it means a separate campaign from your loyalists. Keep pressing and, lo and behold, they will be yours once again. 

Let’s discuss how you’re winning back your customers and how PTG can help. I can be reached at 201.569.4800 or dan.morris@pretesting.com.

Dan Morris


As the President of PTG, Dan is responsible for building lasting client relationships and leading the development and implementation of the company’s research offerings.

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