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Marketer's Brief: Echo Dot, Fire TV Sticks Win Black Friday Weekend

Published on .

Welcome to the latest edition of Marketer's Brief, a quick take on marketing news, moves and trends from Ad Age's reporters and editors. Send tips/suggestions to eschultz@adage.com.

Walmart shoppers were apparently hungry for food storage on Black Friday. Read on to find what surprising item led sales for the retail giant on the critical shopping day. But first, what was hot at Amazon.

Alexa, wrap up that Echo

Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo Credit: Daniel Berman/Bloomberg

Here's one guess on what presents you might find under the tree. Following record online spending through the Black Friday holiday shopping weekend, Amazon announced this week that Cyber Monday was its largest sales day on record—topping its own Prime Day summer shopping holiday. Over the weekend, the company sold millions of its devices, led by the Echo Dot and Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote. Shoppers bought 2.7 times as many Fire TV Sticks as the year-earlier period, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant said. And Alexa even helped with the Thanksgiving prep. The virtual assistant was asked by consumers to set nearly twice as many timers on Thursday than on any other day. Let's see what she cooks up for Christmas.

Merry Christmas: Have some pork loin in a Rubbermaid bowl
Black Friday is supposedly about gift buying, but the top-selling item at Walmart on Nov. 24, at least by unit volume, was a 36-piece Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids storage set priced at $7.60, according to InfoScout, which tracks offline purchases with a panel that scans receipts with their smartphones. The more festive Sharp 55-inch 4K LED Smart TV priced at $298 led Walmart items in dollar volume though. The leading Black Friday item by units at Costco on Black Friday was discounted pork loin. Seemingly more normal gift things were top items at Target ("Stranger Things" Season 1 Blue Ray DVD) and Best Buy (Amazon Fire TV Stick.)

Who (or what) is Jacques Penné?
In a move to upgrade beyond its traditionally low-cost roots, JC Penney is hosting a holiday pop-up boutique called Jacques Penné. Stationed in New York City's SoHo, the store will be open to the public on Dec. 8-9 and available online through Jan. 7. The brand's celebrity design ambassadors, including Nicole Richie, Michael Strahan and Libby Edelman, will attend the store's opening and help curate special collections for sale. Proceeds will go to the JC Penney Foundation. According to a spokeswoman, the new shop is part of the struggling department store chain's holiday campaign challenge in which it's asking shoppers to save on their budgets with its value-laden merchandise.

Two chains offer discount to rivals' employees
Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are offering a somewhat unusual and very limited discount. Employees from rival burger chains who wear their uniforms to its restaurants Wednesday can get the company's standard 50 percent-off employee discount on the 100% Angus Charbroiled Thickburger. It's up to those workers to decide whether showing up at a rival chain in their work clothing violates any corporate policy and is really worth the few dollars of savings on a burger, when they can likely snag something similar for less (or for free) at work. The CKE chains are out to prove that even competitors know they have the best burgers. It's the latest marketing and publicity stunt from the company, which has its U.S. creative and digital work up for review. Last month, Carl's Jr. unsuccessfully (as of yet) tried to get Amazon to buy it through a series of tweets.

Pizza insurance is now a thing
One of Domino's latest pushes suggests it has some clumsy customers: insurance for carryout orders. The chain says it will now replace pizzas picked up by customers if they accidentally get ruined once they leave the store. The plan is portrayed in a couple of new spots from CP+B, including one in which a guy seems way more concerned about his pizza than his car after a tree falls on it. It's also touting a Domino's baby registry, yet another attempt by a major pizza chain to stand out during a busy time of year. Last month, Pizza Hut introduced a new delivery pouch made with three thermal insulation materials and an updated pizza box. Every chain wants a bigger slice of the brisk business this time of year, with the upcoming New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and Super Bowl Sunday among the five busiest days for the industry. The other two just passed: Halloween and the night before Thanksgiving.

The hunger for food merchandise is real, to a point
Did you hear about the $50 keg that comes with a year's supply of Hidden Valley Ranch? It's temporarily sold out on the brand's Ranch Outlet, showing that people who really love brands have some money to spend. Stove Top's Thanksgiving Dinner Pants also quickly sold out. But maybe people will only spend to a point. KFC's $10,000 Internet Escape Pod is now on sale for just $5,000. But KFC's less pricey items, like a $14 pillowcase with Col. Sanders face on it, are sold out. For Ranch fans, Hidden Valley and agency Current have other items including an ornament ($12), an ugly holiday sweater ($40) and, for the bigger spenders, a $110 Ranch fountain with a festive skirt. That one also comes with a year's supply of the dressing.

Gillette goes farther downscale with new razors
After cutting Gillette razor prices an average of 12 percent in April, Procter & Gamble Co. is going a bit more downscale with a new product lineup in January that includes more moderately priced Gillette5 and Gillette3 razors starting at $7.99. Higher-end Fusion5 and Mach3 blades will get enhanced "low cutting force" blades at no increased price. And an upgraded Sensor3 Cool will have the first cooling technology applied to the cheaper disposable category, along with new products in the Venus lineup for women. P&G didn't say what the net effect of the moves would be on its overall razor pricing. The April price cuts, while they've helped stem losses of market share and may have played a role in flattening of sales for Unilever's Dollar Shave Club, helped push P&G global grooming sales down 6 percent last quarter.

Credit: Burger King

Would You Buy This?
Flamin' Hot Mac n' Cheetos are hitting Burger King for a limited time starting Nov. 30, with a suggested price of $2.69 for five pieces.

Number of the Week
$2.4 billion -- What Arby's is paying to buy the Buffalo Wild Wings chain.

Tweet of Week

Moves
Digital ad tech provider The Trade Desk hired Susan Vobejda as chief marketing officer. She was previously executive VP and CMO for global fashion brand Tory Burch.

Contributing: Jessica Wohl, Jack Neff, Adrianne Pasquarelli, E.J. Schultz

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