Monday, November 26, 2007

Marketers use brands to help holiday shoppers

A handful of marketers are using their brands to help shoppers during the holiday season, when patience is strained and the advertising din is deafening.

Free gift wrapping, chargers for mobile phones, food and beverages, parking-spot reminders, a place to rest — and even restrooms — are some of the perks that brands are using to stand out while retailers ring up an expected $474 billion.

Bank of America on Friday opened a Gift on Fifth store — at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City — in a shopping area where more than 30,000 people pass daily. The 3,500-square-foot, all-glass building is topped with a 2.5-ton steel red bow and wraparound deck with pine trees. It will be open through Dec. 2. Inside: a kids craft area, gift wrapping, hot chocolate, coffee, photos —and the opportunity to sign up for a new version of the classic plastic, a BankAmericard. It's now actually a Visa card with 1.25 points of rewards for every dollar charged.

Other intersections:

• Philips. At Minnesota's giant Mall of America, more than 50 people a day call security to locate the vehicle they left in one of the 12,500 parking spaces. To help head that off for the holidays, Philips Electronics is providing a cellphone text-message service. Philips signs throughout the parking areas, over elevators and in stairwells provide numbers for the parker to text that will result in a message being sent back with the location. Ads inside the mall tout the service as well as Philips gift ideas, such as a Norelco shaver and or Senseo coffeemaker.

• American Express. To bond with customers, the company has opened an American Express Lounge at Natick Collection shopping center in Natick, Mass., and another AmEx lounge is back for a second year at the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J. The lounges will be open to card members through mid-December.

Staffed with about a dozen people, they provide sofas, cellphone chargers, e-mail stations, iPod chargers, coat checking, restrooms, gift wrapping and quick gifts. Visitors can purchase gift cards or redeem rewards points for up to 20% less for gifts such as digital cameras or an Xbox 360.

• Illycaffè. Starting Nov. 29 at the fancy new Time Warner Center in New York City, this Italian espresso brand will provide complimentary coffee, gift ideas and a limited selection of gifts for sale. To add to the brand experience — and entertain — Illy will bring its Push Button House.

The brand commissioned the innovative house, designed by architect Adam Kalkin, both as art and to promote sustainability. First shown this summer, it's a fully functional five-room home contained in a standard ocean shipping container. With the push of a button, actuators controlled by a computer hidden in the dining room table open the container in 90 seconds into a kitchen, dining room, bedroom, living area and bath.

• Charmin. If all that coffee has you looking for a restroom, Procter & Gamble's Charmin is at your service for a second year with 20 plush public restrooms in New York's Times Square. With hardwood floor stalls and Kohler sinks and toilets, they'll arrive in the popular shopping area on Monday. The stalls aren't cheap. It was Charmin's second-highest marketing expense last year after TV ads.
Source: USA Today

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