Walmart may be the king of retail in the physical world, but on the internet, it’s still a challenger.
Jeremy King, a Silicon Valley engineer who built key parts of eBay’s infrastructure, joined global retail titan Walmart in the summer of 2011 as CTO of Walmart.com.
Farhad Manjoo interviewed King for his great story on Walmart’s evolution at Fast Company, and the engineer described the “irresistible pitch” that CEO Mike Duke gave him over a videoconference call, luring him into the job.
Duke wanted to become more experimental — and he was making the moves to prove it. From Fast Company:
After years of seeing his company lag online, Duke swore that digital was now a priority for Walmart. Duke had restructured the company, placing e-commerce on equal footing with Walmart’s other, much larger divisions. He had made serious investments in high-tech talent, acquiring several startups. One, a 65-person social media firm called Kosmix with expertise in search and analytics, was the impetus for Walmart rechristening its Valley operations “@WalmartLabs.”
Duke was looking for people who would revive the company’s sites and services, and energize its entire culture. He hoped to turn a company famous for rigid, coldly effective business processes into one that’s flexible, experimental, and entrepreneurial. In other words, Duke wanted to inject a bit of Silicon Valley into Bentonville, Arkansas. In the summer of 2011, King signed up as CTO of Walmart.com. “We’ve hired hundreds of incredibly talented peop! le, in S ilicon Valley and around the world,” says Duke of his aggressive moves. “We are playing to win.”
King now heads @WalmartLabs — the company’s skunkworks. He has been tasked with bringing Walmart into the rapidly morphing world of e-commerce. That means reinventing the shopping experience — both in-store and online — and facilitating Walmart’s digital transformation.
And, judging by Duke’s pitch, it looks like he has his CEO’s full support.
After Justice Holdings acquired Burger King this month, it announced a major rebranding and image change, updating its menus and adding to its management ranks.
The new branding is supposed to be a fresh start. But just as things were looking up, a spot featuring Mary J. Blige outraged consumers with its racial stereotypes.
Most brands can move past controversies like this with a heartfelt apology and a donation to charity. For Burger King, however, this is just the latest is a string of marketing blunders it’s committed over the past four years. Coupled with the recession and the growing success of McDonald’s and Wendy’s, Burger King couldn’t be in more trouble.
2003: Burger King gets new management and reactivates “The King.”
Things had been bad at Burger King for a long time: through the late 1990′s, revenues were declining, market share was down, and the company was tied with Wendy’s for the No. 2 fast-feeder spot. So when then-owner Diageo sold Burger King in 2002 to TPG Capital for $1.5 billion, the company looked at the deal as a clean slate.
In 2003, Burger King’s then-chief marketer Russ Klein hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky as the chain’s ad agency. CP+B, under charismatic chief creative Alex Bogusky, was the hottest, hippest ad agency in the U.S. The stage was set for a comeback.
One of CP+B’s first major decisions to was to resurrect “The King,” a brand icon the company had ditched in the 1980s.
The decision would prove fateful.
2008: Burger King started selling absurdly expensive burgers.
In the U.K., a Burger King started selling a gourmet burger for $190.
“The idea is to change perceptions by pushing the envelope to raise awareness of our ambitions,” Mark Dowding, Burger King’s head of product and innovation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told Ad Age. “We have emphasized the quality to create noise and interest in the market.”
The recession was in full swing and the PR stunt made BK look out of touch.
The brand hit its peak between 2004 and 2007 with campaigns like “Subservient Chicken” and “Whopper Freakout”
CP+B revived the brand by bringing back the company’s mascot, “The King,” and reverting to the tried-and-true slogan “Have it your way.”
As an extension of that slogan, the agency created “Subservient Chicken,” a website where consumers could type commands and watch a giant chicken act them out. The website had 20 million hits in the first week.
The “Whopper Freakout” campaign saw Burger King employees telling customers the famous sandwich had been discontinued and recording their reactions. The campaign resulted in double-digit increases in quarterly sales that year.
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AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES U.S.A.
It’s the perfect example that doing what you love — and knowing what the market lacks — will eventually pay off.
Alex King-Harris, Craig Kohland and Amani Friend met through the yoga community, but what’s unique about the trio is that they were all musicians making music for those who were terminally-ill or facing chronic illness. King-Harris had been involved in a bad car accident years ago which introduced him to yoga.
As yoga increased in popularity, the co-founders realized there wasn’t a platform for instructors to get recommended healing music or share their playlists with one another or with their students. All three guys immensely believe that the right music is essential for various sequences in a yoga routine.
After initially raising $150,000, YogiTunes, which works a lot like iTunes, but is catered specifically to the yoga community, launched in July 2011. The site currently has around 6,000 artists to choose from and the downloaded music can be played through any medium — unlike iTunes, which requires Apple products.
But people are used to getting their music through iTunes and other popular sources:
“You’re up against people who have really strong habits of consuming through iTunes, or consuming through Pandora,” King-Harris told us. “It takes a little while to shift people’s habitual ways of consuming.”
Eventually, the company wants to grow beyond music and become a community for health and wellness enthusiasts.
“We definitely want to draw people in with the music and then extend to other products, other services, other things that we feel are valuable for people’s lifestyles. It’s kind of taking the Amazon model. They were really good at selling books and now they do everything.”
“We can also scale quite quickly beyond yoga to the health and wellness market. A lot of massage therapists, fitness teachers, tai chi people use our music. I think the yoga market is particularly interesting because, in general, the median income is high so we know we have an broad enough audience.”
For inspiration, the company looks at Beatport, a private company that offers music for the DJ community.
“It’s a similar way that we see ourselves servicing the yoga community. They’re a very successful enterprise, very well-known and well established in what they do. They really know their niche. And that’s what we want to do.”
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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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