Technology puts ‘lock’ on digital content

A deal reached last month between Cinram International, a leading manufacturer and distributor of videocassettes, music CDs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs, and BroadCast Software, a developer of solutions that thwart would-be pirates of digital content, promises to have far-reaching implications for marketers...

A deal reached last month between Cinram International, a leading manufacturer and distributor of videocassettes, music CDs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs, and BroadCast Software, a developer of solutions that thwart would-be pirates of digital content, promises to have far-reaching implications for marketers bent on integrating direct and interactive marketing methods.

Under the terms of the deal, Cinram has been appointed sales and marketing representative for BroadCast’s electronic content sales and distribution (ECSD) technology.

The technology allows content publishers and distributors to compress and ‘lock’ content on Internet servers and hard media, such as CDs.

By using so-called ‘digital wrapper’ technology, content publishers can provide customers with electronic files or discs containing a sample of content – a software demo, an audio track – that is open to them. Only by purchasing the ‘unlock’ code can they gain access to the balance of the content.

If used properly, the technology promises to be a landmark in the integration of direct and Web-based marketing, says Garson Hoffman of Toronto-based Cinram. ‘Everybody is fighting for a piece of this huge ocean called the Net and we are helping them complete transactions very simply.’

The exciting opportunity for e-marketers is in the area of disk deployment, says Hoffman. ‘Marketing services, distribution fulfillment, content – all delivered, on disk, to an identified target market. The recipients have a limited sample of electronic content and can access the rest of the content by buying the unlock code.’

Here’s how it might work: A software company specializing in children’s games could use direct mail to send units of a new application to select postal codes in Canada. The eight-year-old girl of the house pops the disc into her PC and gets a ‘taste’ of the game or related content. She likes what she sees and asks her parents to ‘unlock’ the balance of the content by calling a 1-800 number or ordering the unlock code online. This example works in a completely Web-based electronic model, too.

‘Using our technology, pretty much every house with a PC and a CD-ROM is a target,’ says Hoffman, whose own company is developing an online store. The company is currently working with a tax software firm whereby it’s taking the discs and sending them to up to 1.5 million households.

‘It’s push marketing and we anticipate a high level of success with it.’

Hoffman says his ‘digital wrapper’ technology is timely, particularly when music publishers would like to distribute their product over the Internet without fear of having their product pirated.

Industry and technology watchers say it’s exactly the kind of technology that content publishers need to take back some control.

‘This certainly has the potential to be a tremendous enhancement,’ says Charles Van Horn, president of the Princeton, N.J.-based International Recording Media Association. ‘These are enhancements that can move more product and content and it’s a good synergy between the Internet community and manufacturers of packaged media. This is what manufacturers have to do.’

The Cinram/Broadcast agreement is perhaps the latest development in so-called digital rights management. While DRM is technically an ‘after-sale’ copy protection measure, Hoffman says they are closely allied.

In a recent report from New York-based research firm Jupiter Communications, ‘Copyright and Intellectual Property: Creating New Business Models with Digital Rights Management’, principal analyst Aram Sinnreich says those using DRM should recognize the collection of data as tantamount to generating direct revenue.

By setting permissions on content when it is first distributed, he says, owners can take advantage of online pass-along to effectively target and provide incentives for new customers.

‘Perhaps most important,’ he writes, ‘DRM is an excellent tool for market research and customer data mining, both at the one-to-one level and at the broader market level.’

Meat and plant-based sales are both strong at Maple Leaf

Both priority areas performed well in the company's full-year results, helped by a boost in marketing for new products.
Maples Leaf All Natural 4

Maple Leaf Foods reported higher Q4 and full-year 2020 sales, driven by its sustainable meats and plant-based proteins. 

The CPG co. reported quarterly sales of $1.13 billion, up from $1.02 billion for Q4 2019, as well as net earnings of $25.4 million, compared to $17.5 million for the same period the year prior (an increase of 45.2%).

For full fiscal 2020, the company reported a total increase of 9.2% in sales, driven by what it says is “strong growth in both the meat and plant protein groups.”

“We have repositioned our portfolio towards two high-growth categories now representing 20% of our annual sales generating a compounded growth rate in excess of 25% over the last three years,” says Michael McCain, the company’s president and CEO.

Meat protein group sales  comprised of prepared meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-serve meals, snack kits, value-added fresh pork and poultry products that are sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels, and agricultural operations  grew 11.3% for the quarter. 

Meanwhile, sales of plant protein products  refrigerated plant protein brands such as Lightlife and Field Roast, premium grain-based protein, and vegan cheese products sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels  was up 5.5% over the same period. 

Sales growth for its meat portfolio was driven by “a favourable mix-shift towards sustainable meats and branded products,” but also growth in exports to Asian markets, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases, according to the company. Strong demand in the retail channel was offset by lower volume in foodservice as a result of COVID-19.

For its plant-based offerings, sales for 2020 were $210.8 million compared to $176.4 million last year, representing a growth of 19.5%, or 18.1% after excluding the impacts of foreign exchange. The segment was driven by expanded distribution of new products, continued volume increases in its existing portfolio, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases.

SG&A expenses totalled $144 million for the plant group alone in 2020, with investments focused on advertising, promotion and marketing to build awareness, as well as supporting brand renovation and new product innovation. SG&A for meat proteins were $346.6 million for the full year, and the company says it expects SG&A levels and marketing investment in 2021 to be largely in line with where they were in 2020.

The company, which in 2019 announced it had gone carbon neutral, says it’s amplifying this commitment while “focusing on eliminating waste in any resources it consumes, including food, energy, water, packaging, and time.”