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Global Slowdown Forces Unilever to Axe Thousands of Products, Employees

Posted by Dale Buss on December 6, 2013 02:47 PM

Maybe the glum economic view in Europe is souring the perspectives of CPG-company CEOs there. Or maybe they're the ones most looking at the global economy without rose-colored glasses these days. In any event, both Unilever and Nestle have announced significant new moves that will bring about big new skinbacks in their portfolios—and marketing.

Unilever stunned followers of the company by announcing that it aims to cut the number of individual products it sells by a whopping 30 percent by the end of next year so that it can become more efficient and navigate a global economic slowdown that it admits it was slow to confront, according to Reuters.

As a result, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Lipton tea, Knorr soups and Dove personal-care products—among many other brands—is cutting about 2,000 jobs, including about 800 alone in marketing, and will continue to adjust its portfolio.Continue reading...


Though Leaving Europe, Chevy Is Growing as a Global Brand, CMO Says

Posted by Dale Buss on December 5, 2013 05:41 PM

Chevrolet remains on track to burgeon as a global brand despite the fact that General Motors executives just announced they're essentially pulling the brand out of Europe, Chevrolet CMO Tim Mahoney told brandchannel today.

GM plans to drop the Chevy brand in western and eastern Europe (but not Russia) by the end of 2015 and focus resources on pushing the much-better-established, much-higher-volume Opel and Vauxhall brands as the company, like nearly every other automaker, struggles amid an epic recession in European car sales. Opel and Vauxhall have begun posting improved results while Chevy has continued to languish there.

CEO Dan Akerson decided on the move after a few years of indecision by the company about how hard to push Chevy as a complementary brand in Europe—considerations that at one point included building Chevrolets in underutilized Opel factories. Chevy sales never budged much from around 200,000 cars a year since GM relaunched the marque in Europe eight years ago, and most sales were rebadged, Korean-made Daewoo cars at the beginning, though now Chevy offers versions of the same Cruze, Sonic and other models that help anchor its US portfolio.

Continue reading...

With Global Nod, Ford Unveils Quintessentially American New Mustang

Posted by Dale Buss on December 5, 2013 11:45 AM

The new Ford Mustang is here, and for the first time ever, the half-century-old global icon of American-style automotive freedom has a global face. Ford officially launched its streamlined, modernized, sixth generation of the pony car today not only in its hometown of Dearborn, Mich., but also in New York, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Shanghai and Sydney.

On a day when (ironically, or deliberately, or both) cross-town rival GM announced that it was taking Chevrolet out of Europe and therefore diminishing its plans to make Chevy a global brand, Ford made sure that the formal launch of the long-awaited 2015 Mustang was a truly worldwide event.

In a first, the latest Mustang will be sold in Europe despite having remained very much an American project, Bloomberg said. Ford executives have shrugged at the thought of any risks that the car will be a tough sell in markets where it’s never competed.Continue reading...


With the Holiday Shopping Season Comes Crackdowns on Counterfeit Goods

Posted by Barry Silverstein on December 5, 2013 10:52 AM

Cyber Monday is an opportunity for legitimate online merchants to capitalize on the holiday shopping season—but it's also a time when a slew of websites look to sell consumers counterfeit goods. Online and offline scammers sell about $250 billion of fake brand name items annually in the US alone, with the design and fashion industries particularly hard hit. 

This past Cyber Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked together with European and Hong Kong authorities to seize some 700 websites, 297 of them based in the US, that were selling counterfeit goods. It is the fourth year that such sites have been targeted on Cyber Monday.

ICE Acting Director John Sandweg said, "Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP [Intellectual Property] crime," in a press release. "Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites."Continue reading...

fashion therapy

Esprit Takes a Page from Zara's Fast-Fashion Notebook in Brand Revamp

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 2, 2013 03:47 PM

Jose Manuel Martinez Gutierrez jumped from the steady deck of Zara a year ago onto the struggling (some say sinking) deck of a competitor, Esprit, to try and lead the company back to a more stable place as it does battle against his former employer as well as H&M, Gap, and Uniqlo.

Part of his plan, apparently, was to bring former employees of Inditex, which owns Zara, to the company to help inspire change at Esprit. Accrording to Reuters, the 44-year-old Martinez has a 12- to 18-month plan to get the business back to where it needs to be to compete with fast fashion brands like Zara, with “upgrades to technology and distribution to help … new hires get clothes designed, manufactured and on the racks in three to four months from the current seven to eight month time frame.”

"Competition is very intense," said Aaron Fischer, head of consumer research at brokerage CLSA, according to Reuters. "Esprit has high brand awareness but it needs to convert foot traffic into sales—and that requires good products. Right now, their products are quite poor compared with their peer group."Continue reading...

traveling brands

United Plans to Boost Performance, Profitability with—You Guessed It—More Fees

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 20, 2013 05:46 PM

United Airlines has had a rough go of it lately, especially since it merged with Continental Airlines back in 2010. "These past few years, in many ways, have felt like we've been managing a merger and not an airline...and now we get to manage an airline," United Chief Executive Jeff Smisek admitted, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The airline has become a bit of a punch line for its policies and slip-ups, including boarding passengers with window seats first to its ranking as the least satisfying major airline on the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index. And the fees, oh the fees. 

So the airline has announced plans to both improve its profitability and performance, USA Today reports. Of course, part of the plan is to add on more fees and “optimizing” the ones it already has. The airline figurs it can make an extra $700 million annually that way resulting in “$3.5 billion in ancillary revenue by 2017.” Those extra charges could be for such things as “priority boarding, roomier seats, and/or less-stringent rebooking rules,” according to the Chicago Tribune. That doesn’t exactly sound like it will help those satisfaction ratings, though.Continue reading...

GM Shuffles Its Cards Overseas In Hopes of Finding Balance in Europe, Asia

Posted by Dale Buss on November 18, 2013 04:57 PM

For decades, the "old" General Motors lived uncomfortably with the evident overlap between its Buick and Oldsmobile brands in the US market, a counterproductive overlap that encompassed product segments, dealers and, of course, many customers. But it took the company until just before the 2009 bailout to finally end the brand confusion by vanquishing Oldsmobile.

GM faces a similar conflict in Europe between the Chevrolet and Opel brands, and CEO Dan Akerson has said, "Something has to change" about the arrangement. What isn't clear at this point is exactly what will change. But the whole problem is pretty consequential for the company.

Opel is to GM in Europe what Chevrolet is to GM in the United States: the big, bellwether, crucial brand for the company in that market. That remains the case despite the woes of the European auto industry that have affected every company, brand and segment, and would seem to favor a further incursion by budget-priced Chevrolet. But Opel outsells Chevy five-to-one there despite GM's efforts to grab a significant foothold for Chevrolet over the last several years, including shared Opel and Chevy showrooms and some similar product lines.Continue reading...


Here Comes COS: H&M Readies to Introduce Upscale, Artsy Sibling to US

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 15, 2013 03:42 PM

Swedish retail giant Hennes & Mauritz is gunning for its “coolly-minimal younger sibling,” COS, to make big a splash in the US market after building up quite a fanbase in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The brand will make its debut in the spring, joining fast-fashion phenom H&M. 

But the higher-priced, more artsy brand has no intention of settling for second place. According to H&M's head of business, Marie Honda, the high-fashion brand has the potential to be huge. After testing the waters earlier this month with a NYC pop-up shop at Opening Ceremony, the upscale, minimalist and cosmopolitan COS brand will target US ities "that have an international feel," Honda told Women's Wear Daily

Come spring 2014, the brand plans to launch US e-commerce and open its first store in April in NYC's Soho neighborhood. 

It’s a strategic shift for H&M, which launched in the US market as a trendy and cheaper alternative to Gap, Zara and Forever 21, and for whom American stores deliver the most revenue after Germany.Continue reading...

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