- Created on 20 December 2012
AP) — Chrysler recruited hometown star Eminem for a memorable 2011 Super Bowl ad that introduced the tagline "Imported From Detroit."
The automaker is going back to that well with an ad campaign it launched Thursday relying on another homegrown entertainment figure: Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.
"We are Motown, and this is what we do," the 83-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer says at the conclusion of the 60-second commercial that promotes both the new 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition as well as an upcoming Broadway musical based on Gordy's life.
Gordy's line is a play on the Eminem spot that featured the rapper driving a sleek Chrysler through the streets of Detroit, proudly cruising by the city's landmarks. In his case, the journey ended at Detroit's Fox Theatre, where he pointed to the camera and defiantly stated: "This is the Motor City, and this is what we do."
The new ad features Gordy sitting in the backseat of a white Chrysler 300 Motown, which is parked outside the "Hitsville, U.S.A." building in Detroit. Set to the Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the ad shows Gordy being driven through the streets of Detroit and eventually ending up in front of New York's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where "Motown: The Musical" will begin its run of preview performances March 11 ahead of the official opening on April 14.
Figuring in the 2-minute "Halftime in America" ad that starred Clint Eastwood and ran during the 2012 Super Bowl, Chrysler now has churned out three pro-Detroit ads featuring entertainment heavyweights in a 22-month span.
"Our collaboration with Motown Records elevates our passion to express our Detroit roots further," said Saad Chehab, president and CEO of the Chrysler brand.
Around the same time "Motown: The Musical" makes its debut, so will the Motown-themed Chrysler 300, which has a starting price of $32,995 excluding shipping. The limited-edition sedan also comes loaded with 100 tracks from original Motown recording artists and features the Motown logo on the front seatbacks.
"Motown: The Musical" stars Brandon Victor Dixon as Gordy and Valisia LeKae as Motown star Diana Ross. Gordy is producing and writing the book for the show, and he also penned a few original songs for it.
- Created on 19 December 2012
(AP) — Facebook isn't just for goofy pictures and silly chatter. Whether shoppers know it or not, their actions online help dictate what's in stores during this holiday season.
After polling customers on the social media site, Macy's decided to carry denim jeans in bright neon hues rather than pastels. Wal-Mart for the first time decided to let customers vote on which toys they want discounted. And to better plan orders for the decorative flags she sells, a small business owner in Mississippi is running a contest that encourages customers to chime in about how they're decorating their homes this winter.
The impact of social media on a company's bottom line is tough to quantify, with no hard data on how millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers translate into sales for stores. But during the holiday shopping season, a roughly two-month period when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue, stores are uncovering a valuable use for all the seemingly useless online muttering: market research.
The result is that whenever folks press the "like" button to give their seal of approval for a particular company's page or make a comment on how much they like the leather boots they just bought, they're helping everyone from independently-owned small shops to the nation's biggest retailers make decisions about what products to stock up on, what to play up on the sales floor and what promotions to offer online.
For the first time this year, one of Macy's Inc.'s apparel buyers suggested the company solicit feedback on Facebook on which colors it should stock for "Else" brand jeans in the fall ahead of the holiday shopping season. Several weeks later, with about 2,500 "likes" and 750 comments, "Very Vivid" colors in bright blue, orange and red were declared the victor over softer shades such as baby pink and baby blue.
The company, which has more than 9 million "likes" on Facebook, followed up with another poll in July on whether it should carry a "Kensie" brand dress in a bird or floral print. About 4,000 people issued their verdicts within 48 hours, and the department store plans to carry the floral print this February.
Rather than simply using social media to tout promotions and new products, companies are just now realizing the value of making customers feel as though they're part of the decision making process, said Jennifer Kasper, who heads digital media at Macy's. In addition to making customers feel like insiders, she said it helps businesses better tailor their offers as well.
Matt Cronin, a founding partner of Web Liquid Group, a digital marketing agency, agreed that companies are still in the early stages of figuring out how to put their social media profiles to use. Until now, he noted that social media strategies have primarily been about capturing as many followers or fans as possible without really knowing where to go from there.
One hurdle for major retailers is that it's difficult to take the information they learn online and put it to use while the trends are still relevant, said Nicolas Franchet, head of retail e-commerce at Facebook.
That's one of the trickier aspects of Wal-Mart Store Inc.'s new "Toyland Tuesday" contest, which lets fans vote on which of two toys will be discounted on the following Tuesday. Once a winner is declared on Thursday, the retailer acts quickly to inform its 4,000 stores of how to adjust pricing and displays, says Wanda Young, senior director of social media for Wal-Mart, which has more than 25 million likes on Facebook.
Although it's the first time Wal-Mart is letting shoppers have a direct say in what merchandise gets discounted, the retailer is learning to use social media in more discreet ways as well. Last year, Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., acquired an analytics company called Kosmix that monitors online chatter to try and predict what products might suddenly become popular.
The unit, now called (at)Walmartlabs, suggested that the retailer give juicers prominent display for the holidays last year, after a movie about an obese man who lost weight on a juice diet started trending online. Wal-Mart declined to give examples of how it used online chatter this holiday season but said it's slowly playing a bigger role in product decisions.
That's critical because companies are realizing shopping behavior is often more influenced by what's happening in pop culture, rather than their own past shopping patterns, said Shernaz Daver, a spokeswoman for (at)Walmartlabs.
"Social media has enabled us to understand intent," she said.
Melinda Vitale Shaw, owner of the two-store MeLinda's Fine Gifts in Picayune, Miss., is using the same concepts as the world's biggest retailer. Since setting up a Facebook page in 2010, she's used it as a sounding board for what to stock in her stores.
In the south, for example, it's common for people to change the decorative flags outside their homes depending on the season or the holiday. To get a better sense of what type of decorative flags might sell well next year, Vitale Shaw recently asked fans to post about the designs they were currently flying, or what they wished they were flying.
She was surprised to see several comments about snowman flags, since it doesn't snow much in the south. Even though Facebook sometimes proves her business instincts wrong, she called the site "a true retailer's friend."
In a more unusual case, the outdoor retailer Gander Mountain is handing the reins over to fans on social media. The chain, based in St. Paul, Minn., is running a promotion that lets customers determine the price of its products.
Every Thursday during the holiday season, customers can push down the price on five selected items by sharing them on Facebook or Twitter. The more shares an item gets, the lower the price goes; discounts start at 10 percent but can go as high as 50 percent. Shoppers can jump in and buy the items at any point, or wait for a lower discount but risk that the store will run out of the items.
"The customer has to decide. Do I buy it at 25 percent off or do I risk that Gander runs out of the jacket?" said Steve Uline, executive vice president of marketing of Gander Mountain, which has more than 500,000 "likes" on Facebook. "It makes it interesting for the consumer."
- Created on 18 December 2012
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Attention Discover, American Express and Capital One credit card customers: Don't be surprised if you see a credit show up on your monthly statement soon.
The three issuers owe a collective $435 million in refunds to nearly 6 million customers as a result of a government crackdown on deceptive credit card practices by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
And refunds should be arriving soon -- if they haven't come already. Most consumers can expect to receive payments from all three issuers by the end of March.
Customers aren't required to take any action. Instead, current cardholders will automatically receive a credit on their account, and former customers will receive checks in the mail or have any outstanding balance reduced by the refunded amount.
American Express, the CFPB's most recent target, started doling out refunds in October, an Amex spokeswoman said.
The CFPB ordered the issuer to refund a total of $85 million to about 250,000 customers after finding that American Express subsidiaries imposed higher late fees than they were legally allowed to charge and promised customers non-existent monetary rewards, among other violations.
For example, federal regulators found that customers were sent misleading offers about American Express Centurion Bank's "Blue Sky" credit card program, in which a $300 bonus was advertised that many customers never received. Customers who didn't receive this bonus will be refunded the $300.
Other refunds will depend on the individual situation and Amex said its criteria for determining whether a customer qualifies have been reviewed by regulators.
Capital One said it will send out refunds during the first quarter. The first of the CFPB's public enforcement actions, Capital One was ordered in July to refund $150 million to two million customers amid claims that its third-party vendors were pressuring and misleading customers into buying additional products or services when they opened credit cards.
Cardholders who enrolled in Capital One's payment protection or credit monitoring product between August 2010 and January 2012 and didn't already get money back should receive a refund, in addition to any related finance charges, over-the-limit fees or interest.
Capital One said refunds vary based on how long a customer had the product, but it expects the average payment to be under $100.
Two months after it announced its crackdown on Capital One, the CFPB ordered Discover Bank to refund $200 million to more than 3.5 million cardholders who purchased credit protection products over the phone from December 2007 to August 2011.
Discover said it expects to begin sending out refunds in the new year and to finish by mid-February.
The CFPB said Discover telemarketers used deceptive language to convince cardholders to pay for products including identity theft protection, credit score tracking, wallet protection, and payment protection. Fees ranged between $2.99 and $9.99 a month for most of the products.
Refunds will be determined based on the product, when it was purchased and how long it was held. Customers who had any of the products for less than a year will receive the full amount paid, while those who had the products for more than a year will get 90 days worth of fees returned to them.
If you believe you're owed a refund by any of these issuers but don't receive one, check with the card issuer first. Then contact the CFPB, an agency spokeswoman said.
- Created on 19 December 2012
AP) — Instagram, the popular mobile photo-sharing service now owned by Facebook, said Tuesday that it will remove language from its new terms of service suggesting that users' photos could appear in advertisements.
The language in question had appeared in updated policies announced Monday and scheduled to take effect Jan. 16. After an outcry on social media and privacy rights blogs, the company clarified that it has no plans to put users' photos in ads.
That said, Instagram maintains that it was created to become a business and would like to experiment with various forms of advertisements to make money. Instagram doesn't currently run any ads. As of now, the free service has no way to make money and brings in no revenue to Facebook.
"Our main goal is to avoid things likes advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
What had riled users and privacy advocates was Instagram's new assertion that it may now receive payments from businesses to use its members' photos, user name and other data "in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation" to them.
"This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used," the earlier blog post said, adding that the updates also "help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow."
Facebook bought Instagram in September for $715.3 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock.
Instagram's new policy, which takes effect Jan. 16, suggests that Facebook wants to integrate Instagram into its ad-serving system.
"These services are publicly advertised as 'free,' but the free label masks costs to privacy, which include the responsibility of monitoring how these companies sell data, and even how they change policies over time," said Chris Hoofnagle, director of Information Privacy Programs at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology.
The fast-growing service has become a popular way to share photos from cellphones. The Instagram app, available for the iPhone and Android devices, offers a variety of filters to give photos a retro feel or other look. Although many other apps also offer filters for enhancing photos, they don't offer the sharing features and community aspects of Instagram.
Instagram has had a loyal following since before Facebook bought it. The purchase worried some of the earliest fans of the service, who feared Facebook would swallow up their beloved community.
Users must accept the new terms when they go into effect or leave the Instagram.
Twitter users were vowing to cancel their Instagram accounts. They complained that the new terms would essentially let the service sell people's photos for ads — something Instagram said Tuesday it doesn't plan to do.
Facebook's stock price increased nearly 4 percent on Tuesday amid the Instagram ads chatter, to close at $27.71.
- Created on 17 December 2012
(CNNMoney) -- Relief at the pump meant a drop in overall prices in November, according to the government's latest inflation reading.
The Consumer Price Index, the key measure of inflation, fell 0.3% during the month, thanks to the 7.4% drop in gas prices in November alone, the Labor Department said Friday. Overall prices were still up 1.8% compared to a year ago, but that's down from the 2.2% inflation rate recorded in October.
Even with the drop in prices in November, gasoline prices are still 1.9% above year ago levels.
The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline fell about 12 cents during the course of the month to $3.40, according to a daily tracking of prices at 120,000 gas stations by the Oil Price Information Service.
There were some increases in gas prices in the New York and New Jersey area early in the month due to gas shortages and some price gouging that followed by Superstorm Sandy. But the national price average fell steadily throughout the month.
Food prices, another key component of the price index, edged up slightly in November and were up 1.8% from a year earlier.
The so-called core-CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, also edged slightly higher in the month and was up 1.9% compared to a year earlier, slightly higher than the annual change in October. The core prices are more closely watched by economists as a sign of the underlying inflation pressure.
A reading of under 2% in core inflation is considered within the Federal Reserve's comfort zone of where the central bank prefers to see inflation come in.