WWTT? Walmart Learns Important Lesson About Third-Party Sellers This Holiday Season

I’m not sure when Ugly Christmas Sweaters became a thing, but they seem to show up regularly each holiday season, spurred by Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and people who enjoy making poor fashion decisions. However, it seems this trend has gone awry for Walmart Canada.

I’m not sure when Ugly Christmas Sweaters became a thing, but they seem to show up regularly each holiday season, spurred by Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and  people who enjoy making poor fashion decisions. However, it seems that what used to be ironic sweater-wearing has turned into shock-value sweater-wearing for some individuals, and there are sellers out there who will gladly cash in on that trend. And so we have the recent problem that Walmart Canada faced when a number of highly inappropriate Ugly Christmas Sweaters were made available for purchase on walmart.ca by one of the third-party sellers, Fun Wear, that sells its merchandise on the site.

The sweater that has caused the most uproar features a bug-eyed Santa Claus in front of a table with three lines of a white substance, with the words “Let It Snow” below. Okay, so not great. But then it gets way worse.


Unfortunately for Walmart, this is more than an embarrassment for selling something tacky and enduring some snickering from the Internet. The product description, partially seen in the tweet above, is particularly problematic:

“We all know how snow works. It’s white, powdery and the best snow comes straight from South America. That’s bad news for jolly old St. Nick, who lives far away in the North Pole. That’s why Santa really likes to savor the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade A, Colombian snow. He packs it in perfect lines on his coffee table and then takes a big whiff to smell the high quality aroma of the snow. It’s exactly what he needs to get inspired for Christmas Eve.”

On Saturday, Dec. 7, Walmart Canada removed the product, and issued an apology. A spokesperson provided the following quote to Business Insider:

“These sweaters, sold by a third-party seller on Walmart.ca (our website in Canada), do not represent Walmart’s values and have no place on our website. We have removed these products from our marketplace. We apologize for any unintended offense this may have caused. These sweaters were not offered on Walmart.com in the US.”

Despite the removal of the product and the apology, the reference of “Colombian snow” has the National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State in Colombia prepared to sue. According to the Washington Post and El Tiempo, on Dec. 10 the agency stated that Walmart’s apology about the product from a third-party seller on Walmart.ca was not enough. Agency director Camilo Gómez Alzate provided this statement to El Tiempo, reported by the Washington Post:

“The Walmart sweater is an offense to the country. It generates damage to the legal products of Colombia and damage to the country’s reputation. Although Walmart apologized, the damage was done.”

So the lesson to be learned here: third-party sellers may expand the amount of business you do and the revenue you pull in, but you can’t always trust that their products will be in line with your company’s values. This was not the only Ugly Christmas Sweater that Fun Wear had up on Walmart Canada’s site … and the majority of them were in rather poor taste.

While Walmart may have policies in place to limit undesirable products from third-party sellers, it’s clear these policies are either difficult to enforce or they’re not being enforced. The consequence of losing customers over this is one thing, but having Colombia’s National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State sue if appropriate reparations aren’t made is an even bigger problem for the retailer.

What do you think marketers? Is it worth it to have third-party sellers offer their products on your sites, checked or unchecked, or are issues like this enough of a reason to avoid third-party relationships? Oh, and yes, Amazon is selling products with similar and identical designs.


5 Multichannel Video Marketing Tactics to Engage Holiday Shoppers

Utilizing a multi-pronged holiday video marketing approach enables marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

It’s the time of year again for marketers to kick their holiday marketing efforts into high gear. As consumer buying behaviors and media consumption continue to change, it’s crucial for marketers to understand that shoppers increasingly use a variety of channels to find inspiration and make purchases, and therefore marketers must align their messaging across channels to effectively engage customers at optimal touchpoints along their purchase journey. Once they grasp the basics of these channels, marketers can start to utilize more advanced strategies as part of a holistic approach during this critical time of the year.

Among the channels consumers seek out when considering purchases, social videos have become a staple of product research and consideration. Social media marketing puts products right where consumers spend their time, and consumers expect product videos from brands, with many shoppers searching for a product video before visiting a store. Marketers often use social video ads to capture demand throughout the year, but during the holidays, they should be more proactive. By leveraging a multi-channel approach with targeting precision to be more assertive, they can take greater control in driving demand and expanding their results.

Retail marketers should consider the following tactics for developing a multi-channel holiday marketing strategy centered on social video ads to better align marketing with the customer journey.

Utilize Video Across a Variety of Social Platforms

There are many places marketers can reach their target audience, so investing holiday budgets by leveraging video ads across multiple channels generates more opportunities to create impressions and engage with shoppers.

After establishing which social channels target audiences frequent most, marketers can better determine what type of content and video ads to plan and post to offer a seamless experience between preferred platforms and capitalize on different stages of the holiday shopping experience.

Fostering Interest on Pinterest

Pinterest remains a popular destination for consumers to visually interact with brands and discover new products. With many users flocking to the platform to create lists for the holiday season and aid in their gift purchasing decisions, it’s vital for marketers to get their products and brand on the platform immediately.

The ability to showcase branded videos on the platform received a boost just in time for the holidays with the rollout of wide-format promoted video ads, driving efficient costs-per-view and lifts in brand awareness. With 67 percent of Pinterest video viewers saying videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action, there’s ample opportunity for marketers to capture interest for their products heading into the holidays.

Pinterest users’ inspiration period can start up to three months prior to an actual purchase; therefore, it’s important for marketers to reach customers early with video ads to cultivate their interest and move users toward conversion. Marketers looking to land on shoppers’ holiday radars should utilize Pinterest as a visual catalog. For example, a toy retailer could leverage video ads on the platform to reveal the hottest toys of 2018 or a clothing retailer might showcase their winter apparel line as customers look for inspiration for their holiday party attire.

Once they’ve captured interest through Pinterest video ads, marketers need to consider engaging customers by retargeting and remarketing to push their customer even further than the purchase funnel.

Tap Into the Enduring Influence of YouTube

YouTube continues to be a driving influence when it comes to making purchases, especially around the holidays, with mobile watch time for product review videos on YouTube growing each year.

As part of marketers’ holiday strategies, they should leverage YouTube TrueView followed by bumper ads to target prospective audiences and new customers. The best part is marketers only get charged when a user chooses to watch the full 30 second ad – a win, win!

Utilizing companion banners to drive click through rates (CTRs), bumper ads exist as a reminder to customers to purchase specific products. These products should be served via remarketing lists and similar audiences to maximize efficiency and reduce cost per impressions. Additionally, with Google’s mobile-first focus, these ads will serve in a format that is easily viewable for customers on-the-go.

Marketers should also consider running a brand lift study alongside these video ads to measure impact on metrics like brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent. By doing so, marketers can tweak their strategy within the first week of results to better connect with audiences and more effectively drive results throughout the holiday season.

Leverage Facebook and Instagram for Merchandising, Not Just Branding

Aside from being among the most popular social networks, Instagram and Facebook both command a greater interaction frequency than YouTube. Undoubtedly, video ads on Facebook and Instagram serve the purpose of effectively stimulating a marketer’s target audience on highly actionable and engaged channels. On Facebook alone, views on branded or sponsored video content increased 258% in 2017, with the highest numbers generated around the holiday season as shoppers sought inspiration for gift ideas. Facebook Carousel ads are a favorite among retail marketers because they encourage consumers to interact with their ads and allow greater opportunity to showcase products through images and videos with the potential for several different calls-to-action.

Instagram also recently expanded its ad offerings to more marketers with its Collection ad units, enabling online retailers to add the Shopping Bag icon within their Stories for the holiday season. The images and videos used within the carousel display can link to the brand’s site or product pages to drive e-commerce purchases.

Targeting users that have shown an interest or interacted with holiday topics across Facebook properties should be a key consideration in marketers’ holiday strategies. Marketers can utilize dynamic product ad offerings as an effective way to get in front of new customers with specific product sets or SKUs; for example, targeting users interested in a holiday sweater, gift wrap or children’s toys, or leveraging parental or relationship targeting to hone in on those most likely to convert.

Complement Video Strategies With Highly Relevant Keywords

Driving the desired targeted traffic that converts requires a varied strategy designed for a marketer’s specific brand and product set. To capitalize on the demand social videos generate across channels, marketers should create highly-relevant holiday-specific keywords as consumers who watched a video and are searching for the brand or products by name are likely deeper within the sales funnel. Marketers should develop and expand coverage on relevant keywords that reinforce messaging from their videos to include search terms like “gift ideas,” “best,” “kids,” and “holiday deal,” along with brand and product-specific terms.

Likewise, leveraging remarketing lists for search ads with proper messaging helps ensure marketers can reach customers in their exact moment of need to foster engagement and move them through the purchase funnel with greater precision to drive better results.

Utilizing a video-centric, multi-pronged holiday marketing approach will better enable marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through Pinterest, YouTube, social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

The Christmas Marketing That Worked on Me, and Why

It was the weekend before Christmas, and all through the house, not a wallet had opened, we hadn’t even gone out. … So, some direct marketing shopping was in order, but from who? Here are a couple pieces of marketing that worked on me this holiday season.

It was the weekend before Christmas, and all through the house, not a wallet had opened, we hadn’t even gone out. …

So, some direct marketing shopping was in order, but from who?

Here are a couple pieces of marketing that worked on me this holiday season, and one bit of retargeting that caught the attention of my wife.


It probably won’t surprise you that I have some geeks in my life. So I’m on the ThinkGeek email list (along with at least one other TM editor, spot their Schrodinger’s Cat mug).

I wasn’t planning on ordering anything from ThinkGeek this year, but I had some unfilled gift boxes, and this email came.

"Snuggle up with 30% off your order and ThinkGeek's coziest threds"? Don't mind if I do!
“Snuggle up with 30% off your order and ThinkGeek’s coziest threds”? Don’t mind if I do.

Why it worked: There’s a Harry Potter fan on my list, and that person happens to have been looking for a comforter. So X-mas marked the spot in the top-right corner with the Harry Potter House Comforter. In addition, the percent-off offers across the top are aggressive and hooked me in. In fact, I added a second gift for the same person just to get to the next discount level.

A Christmas Faux Pas: ThinkGeek did a good job with everything here, and got my gift in the mail the day after I ordered it (a Sunday, no less). However, they also made a little bit of a rookie mistake: The day after I ordered it, I got an email with the quilt on sale for about 20 percent less.

I’m not too upset over it, since it’s Christmas and the buying experience has been very good so far. But there was a moment there where I felt like a rube. I’m not sure what the best way is to make sure you don’t mail new deals to recent buyers, but as the buyer here, I feel like that’s a good way to undermine your good first impression.

Fairytale Brownies

I don’t only know geeks. I also know some ramblers. I’ve got family in a few states across the U.S. who we send gifts to.

3 Simple Ideas for Holiday Email

There are tons of great tactics, tips and tricks that pop up in the holiday email inbox, whether they’re just clever subject lines, headlines or designs. Here are just three of them.

So, who else is tired of the holiday shopping season by now?

Just kidding … I actually don’t mind it very much. The rush to get things done. The pause to reflect on the year that’s coming to an end.

And then there’s all that holiday email clogging up our inboxes.

The other day, I waded through a lot of the email we collect at Who’s Mailing What! I’ve been paying attention as more and more of it has been rolling in. But this is my first deep dive into considering some of the creative ideas used by marketers to drive online and brick-and-mortar sales.

There are tons of great tactics, tips, and tricks that pop up at this time of the year, whether they’re clever subject lines, headlines, or designs. Here are just three of them.

1. Count Down The Numbers
amazon12Numbers are important for more than discounts. You have to convey urgency to customers. They need to know how many shopping days remain to guarantee delivery before Christmas, among other deadlines. But the most popular number I’ve seen used is “twelve,” as in the carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This year, a lot of drip campaigns have deployed around that theme.

Some examples:

  • “12 Days of Deals”-Amazon
  • “12 Days of Saving Begins Now.”-4Sleep
  • “12 Deals of December”-Maryland Square

2. Make Cultural References
hebfalaOnce Black Friday comes around, the rich traditions so many of us know return. Stories, songs, even decorations, when called to mind, can really stand out.

Some examples:

  • “Fa-la-la-la flash deals”-H-E-B
  • “Don’t Be A Grinch! We Know You Can’t Resist This.”-Rebel Circus
  •  “Don’t go full ugly Christmas sweater.”-Diamond Nexus

3. Evoke the Spirit of the Season
marmotwarmthFrom Thanksgiving through to New Year’s Day, the season is about lots of things. Besides religious celebrations, it’s about spending time with friends and family.

You don’t have to get overly sentimental or sappy to get people to think about caring for their loved ones, serving others, or just feeling the warmth as winter draws near.

Some examples:

  • “Give warmth”-Marmot
  • “Jackets to keep you cozy and chic”-Wantable
  •  “Hanes and The Salvation Army are teaming up to help the homeless”-Hanes

Anyway, this is only a small sampling of the vast holiday and Christmas emails that have dropped in the last month or so. I’d love to hear about good holiday campaigns you’ve noticed. Please share in the comments below.

In the meantime, have a happy and safe holiday season, and may you find renewed inspiration in 2017.

Remembering What Memorial Day Is All About

For years, Memorial Day weekend for me meant driving up the turnpike to a cemetery in northeastern Pennsylvania. But this time, I didn’t go, and it took getting some holiday email to make me realize what I was missing most.

For years, Memorial Day weekend for me meant driving up the turnpike to a cemetery in northeastern Pennsylvania. But this time, I didn’t go, and it took getting some holiday email to make me realize what I was missing most.

So let me explain. It was kind of an obligation I accepted, to go and tend the graves of my mom’s side of the family. I would pack my pruning shears, a garden trowel, and a watering can. Somewhere along the way, I’d stop for flowers to plant. And, I’d buy some new flags for those relatives who served and died for our country.

My brother took care of all that this year. But my guilt at not going returned, thanks to a few of the dozens of Memorial Day email campaigns from the last couple of weeks.

Most email is about sales, the start of summer, a three-day weekend, etc. You see lots of images of barbeques and beaches. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That kind of Memorial Day email works well.

And, sure, there’s some red, white and blue, or stars-and-stripes in the designs to create a patriotic feeling. There may be a brief message about supporting our men and women in the military. But email that talks at length about who the holiday commemorates is pretty scarce.

LGOne exception that stopped me cold was an article I saw in LG’s May newsletter, “Life’s Goodness.” The teaser asked: “[D]o you really know what Memorial Day is all about?”  The story recounted how the holiday began in the 19th century as Decoration Day, to remember the dead from the Civil War.

dakAnother electronics marketer, Sol Harari of DAK Industries, took a slightly different tack. His email linked to a Memorial Day quiz on his company’s website. He also offered this perfect sentiment: “Personally, the more I learn about our rich history, the more connected I feel to our values, our country and our people.”

AmGiantTopI also liked an email from American Giant, the apparel brand, that paid tribute to “the sacrifice of the American servicemen and servicewomen who keep us safe.”

It announced that sales from one of its collections would be given to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The email explained that the group provides financial assistance as well as scholarships to families of Special Operations forces who are killed in action.

We hear a lot about the bad stories around the Armed Services: the scandals around the VA, sexual assault, PTSD and suicide, and the disrespect of former POWs.

But these marketers speak of what is the best of America. They deliver content and action that honors those who have served and died while serving a cause greater than themselves.

I’ll pause and remember our country’s war dead this year. And I’ll be back at the cemetery next Memorial Day.