Friday, May 28

Big Frontier Event in Chicago

Yesterday I attended a Big Frontier event in Chicago, the folks who organize networking breakfasts for marketing professionals in the Chicago market. People from all sorts of industries gather to share marketing thoughts and challenges, and get the chance to meet new faces.

I was the new face yesterday, and I led a discussion about brand experiences. It was so much fun!

We had a great turnout, and everyone was so engaged. I made my speech more of an interactive discussion, inviting everyone to talk about their own experiences about their own brands and about what they see in the marketplace.

A true test of marketing being both a team sport and a spectator sport.

We talked about BP, Lady Gaga, Jiffy peanut butter, the church, and various cars -- all in the context of their brand successes and challenges.

At the end, a young woman came up to me who had just graduated from DePaul University. She told me that she learned more about marketing in the last hour than in the fours years in college. That's the power of a group of smart marketers banding together to talk about great brands, and how to learn from them and each other.

Thanks to everyone who came yesterday, and for your energetic participation.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, May 27

Benjamin Moore Color App

There were the cola wars, and then the french fry wars ... now we are witnessing the color wars.

All the major paint brands have been ramping up their marketing and offering all sorts of value added services to lure the DIY (do-it-yourself) decorator to buy paint, specifically their paint. And they are including women in their communications.

I think it started a few years ago when Dutch Boy introduced a much friendlier (especially for women) paint bucket that is easier to carry and much easier to pour. Now all the brands, Benjamin Moore, Behr, Dutch Boy, and Sherwin Williams are all in the game of attracting new consumers, especially women, with lots of bells and whistles.

Personality tests to find out what color suits you. Room visualizers to help you see what your room will look like in a selected color. And now, an iPhone app that I personally think is really cool.

It's called ben Color Capture. Simply take a picture of an anything that has a color that you like -- a car, blade of grass, flower, dress, etc, and the iPhone app will tell you which Benjamin Moore paint color most closely matches it. Shake your iPhone and then the app picks more colors that coordinate. The GPS locator will then send you to the nearest retailer. Pretty amazing.

Who will up that in the color wars? I'm sure it's only moments away.

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, May 25

Apple Is The Brand

I was asked to write a feature column for BrandWeek, to coincide with the launch of my book. So I thought I'd celebrate a brand that truly embodies "The Experience Effect."


As I put my thoughts together, I realized that in the personal computing space, Apple really is THE only brand. Everything else is just a PC. The Apple brand experience is incredible through every facet. Can't say that about a PC. Not in my opinion, anyway!

So today's blog post directs you to my BrandWeek feature here.

What's your experience? Jim

Making Your Brand Memorable

I wrote a guest blog post on Small Biz Daily, an online resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Thought that for my post today, I would link it here.

It's a quick piece on how to make your brand more memorable. The answer? Get to know your consumers even better!

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, May 24

CEW Beauty Awards

On Friday I attended the CEW Beauty Awards -- it's the annual awards given by the Cosmetic Executive Women organization, recognizing outstanding beauty products across all categories.

The event was fabulous. Held in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and hosted by Mario Cantone, who was hysterical. There were a bunch of celebrities there giving out the awards, including Kim Kardashian who is a beauty award unto herself!

What I thought was so cool about it was the range of beauty products represented and recognized. From mass products like body washes to specialty prestige products found only in exclusive retailers. The whole range was there and completely respected.

I sat next to a beauty editor from "O" Magazine, and we tracked all the winners and tried to guess who would win before each award. Needless to say, she killed me in the guessing game! She knows her stuff about beauty!

The organizers even gave out an "Indie" award to the beauty product created by an entrepreneur (as opposed to one of the big publically traded companies). A clever way to make sure that everyone gets the recognition they deserve.

It was also fun to catch up with friends from my days in marketng at Johnson & Johnson, when the beauty group there was in its infancy. Now with Aveeno, RoC, Clean & Clear, and Neutrogena, that company is a powerhouse. Nice to see that!

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, May 21

Panera's New Concept

Not sure if this is a new concept restaurant, or a new concept in cause-related marketing. Either way, I find it fascinating. I don't know that I totally get the economics, but I love the concept.

Name your price for the food you buy ... pay what you want!

Panera Bread has launched a new restaurant where literally consumers come in and pay their own price. When consumers select their food choices, they are each given what the expected retail price would be, but then the consumer is left to decide if they pay that recommended price or something higher or even something lower.

How the heck does that work?

It's all for a great cause, not to pump profits into the company. A completely nonprofit restaurant, starting in a suburb of St. Louis, that the company hopes to expand. All proceeds go to the company's charitable foundation.

You can read about it here.

It's not a brand new idea as it turns out, but still a pretty compelling one. The foundation is obviously banking on the generousity of the human soul. Timing may be just right as we've seen a huge rise in cause-related marketing and participation at the consumer level. Despite, or maybe because of, the recession.

Will it work? As I said, I can't wrap my head around the economics but it sure will be interesting to follow.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, May 20

OTC Perspectives Conference

The last two days I attended the second annual OTC Perspectives conference in Philadelphia. It's a great venue for marketers of OTC products to gather together and share information. And to talk about industry issues. The organizers asked me to kick off the conference, which was a great opportunity. I used Lady Gaga as a case study to inspire the group to do great marketing, but that's another story!

I love these events. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones ... and especially for keeping on the learning curve on what's going on in our space.

It also occurred to me that using "OTC" is a bit limiting. The lines are blurring between OTC products, HBA products, food stuff, and so many other categories. So many brands offer health and wellness benefits, that we shouldn't limit our view to just those products with an active ingredient.

A few interesting tidbits from the various presenters:
- Wal-Mart DOMINATES, and if it were a country, it would be the 7th largest economy
- look for a rise in BTC (behind the counter) products as new products get introduced and as Rx products switch over
- shoppers are sticking to the essentials, eliminating all extra purchases
- retailers and manufacturers alike are cutting extra SKUs, focus is key as consumers don't really care about having SO many choices

We also spoke a lot about FDA regulation, as that is surely about to change and continue to intensify.

The conference ended with an awards ceremony honoring the top OTC Marketers of the Year, and it was wonderful to see clients new and old get honored.

Thanks, OTC Perspectives, for the opportunity to learn and exchange.

What's your experience? jim.

Wednesday, May 19

alli's Obesity Film

A marketing ploy or a real attempt to help solve the obesity issue in America?

The weight loss brand alli has taken some heat in the press and in social media circles for its support of a new documentary being planned about the obesity issue here in the states. Many are criticizing the brand for just using the film as a marketing gimmick.

Amanda Ehrlich wrote a nice account of the story in OTC Perspectives, and you can read about it here.

What do I think? Obesity is a tremendously complex issue, and we need to put all the resources we can against it to help solve it. We need public, private, and brand support in any way that we can get it. The brand is not being deceitful and has no control over content of the film. They are merely supporting it, making sure that it gets the funding it needs to get off the ground.

Nothing wrong with that in my eyes. Now it is true that alli has had its issues, and it has not been as successful as anyone originally thought. And it's not for everyone, that's for sure.

But it's still a legitimate way for some people to lose and control their weight, if it's right for them and if they understand how to use it (just like anything else, really). And I applaud the brand for being out there, right in the middle of the obesity issue, attempting to continue to bring awareness and solutions to it. And for partnering with the entertainment industry to harness the kind of resources it takes to begin to solve a problem.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, May 18

Haagen-Dazs Honey Bees

Happy 50th Birthday to Haagen-Dazs today, the world's first super premium ice cream. To celebrate, the brand is giving away free scoops of ice cream between the hours of 4:00pm and 8:00pm at their scoop shops. Go enjoy.

But while you are at it, pay particular attention to the brand's cause marketing because it's pretty unique and very near and dear to the brand's heart. You may not realize that honey bee populations are disappearing at an alarming rate. Many environmentalists say that it's an early sign of the impact of global warming, and that the honey bees are the first to suffer from it.

You may also not realize that honey bees pollinate one-third of the world's food supply, so losing them has devastating consequences for all of us. Not so good for the brand either since so many of ice cream's ingredients are honey bee dependent.

So Haagen-Dazs is stepping in to help the honey bee. The brand has created an entire foundation complete with a board of directors (bee board) and research partners to tackle the problem, and they have also created ways for consumers to contribute as well. You can learn all about it on the website They are building bee colonies and doing everything they can to encourage proper honey bee conditions.

When you really dig in, it's a very cool initiative and one that their employees have really embraced. Right now I'd like to embrace a cup of mint chocolate chunk!

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, May 17

My Book Is Out!

A year and a half in the writing, and an entire career in the making, my new book is finally out.

The Experience Effect!

It's a marketing book about creating brand experiences, with an emphasis on keeping consistency in every part of the marketing plan.

I've had this book in my head, writing it over and over again, for years. I just could never seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Two summers ago, though, I took my son JP to lacrosse camp at Cornell (my alma mater) for a week. I stayed up on campus for an extra night, just to spend some time and to make sure that he was ok. Maybe it was the university setting or the nostalgia of remembering all the things that I planned to do with my life, I'm not sure. But I literally said to myself that when I get home I am going to write that darn book.

So I put together the proposal and sent it off to six publishers. Two of them took a bite, and I decided to work with the publishing division of the American Management Association.

Now it's May 2010, and a million edits later, the book is available online and at retail. Holy Cow, I am a writer! Feels really good, to tell you the truth.

The irony of it all? Next month is my 25th Reunion at Cornell and I will be there ... doing a book signing at the campus book store.

Learn more about my book at, if you'd like.

What's your experience? Jim

Friday, May 14

The Limelight Marketplace

If you live in NYC or plan to visit soon, you have to check out something really special.

The Limelight Marketplace.

For those of you who don't know The Limelight, you are probably better off. It's an old old church that was converted into a dance club back when dance clubs were all the rage in Manhattan. The place had many lives as it was closed down and reopened several times for various reasons. When I was in grad school at Columbia I will admit that I danced the night away there once or twice. And in later years too.

It finally closed down for good and it's been pretty much abandoned ever since. Whitney Houston filmed her video for "I'm Every Woman" and Mariah Carey has done a shoot or two there as well. The place has history!

And now it has been completely reinvented into something quite spectacular. The Limelight Marketplace. Now you need to get to know it.

It's Fred Segal hits Manhattan in an old abandoned church (how's that for a visual)! Knowing the space from the last time I was in it, I was totally expecting a run-down flea market look. Boy was I surprised.

The place is transformed! Floor after floor and cubby after cubby of small little retail boutiques, from caviar to clothes to furniture to accessories to beauty products to small gifts. Incredibly well designed and styled HIGH! It feels like it just keeps going and going. And not just the brand names you've come to expect -- really new and different merchandise.

I think this just might be the wave of the future, at least in high end retail. It's the department store, revamped and restyled for how consumers shop today for specialty items. And you know what? People were buying!

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, May 13

I Bought a Pair of Levi's

Maybe it's the economy or maybe I'm just getting older, but I looked in my closet the other day and had a realization. I have too many funky pairs of jeans. Stitching on the seams, tattoos on the pockets, stripes down the sides ... it's ridiculous. Not too mention what I paid for some of them!

I just want a plain ole' pair of jeans. Nothing fancy, just those great fitting jeans like I used to wear in high school. So what's a boy to do?

I turned to the classic American brand, Levi's. There's a Levi's store right near me in Manhattan so I gave it a whirl. I haven't seen a Levi's ad in years, so I wasn't sure if the brand had kept up. But I at least knew I'd find a basic pair of jeans.

I was quite shocked. Levi's has it going on! I had thought the brand was half dead and that I was just being nostalgic. The place was bustling and filled with merchandise. Cool merchandise. They of course had every flavor under the sun from pre-washed to raw denim to button fly to whiskers. But I just wanted a simple pair of jeans! But that's ok, they have them!

The service was incredible! Told the guy what I wanted and in two seconds flat he had the perfect pair exactly in my size. He told me how they would first shrink a little, and then stretch out ... so I should buy them a little tight (hadn't heard that in years!).

The entire experience was wonderful. I even got an extra pair that was on sale for $19.

Levi's, founded in 1850, is still alive and well, offering consumers a relevant brand experience but staying very true to who they are. I'm sold.

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, May 12

Sabre Awards

Last night my agency attended the Sabre Awards, a great organization that honors the best of the public relations industry across virtually every product category.

It was great to see the pr industry so alive and well. The place was packed -- we all had a great time.

Didn't hurt that we won an award either, for one of our most beloved clients, Lumenis.

Lumenis offers laser therapy to treat burn victims. We do a lot of work showcasing burn victims and the remarkable recovery they are able to make as a result of this laser therapy. To say that the work is rewarding is an understatement! It is so wonderful to do marketing for a product that really changes people's lives.

Doing that work is rewarding enough -- having the industry recognize it is just icing on the cake.

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, May 11

"O" Ten Year Anniversary

Got my haircut over the weekend and had a chance to breeze through some magazines, a luxury that I don't often get anymore.

One of the magazines was the tenth anniversary of "O", Oprah's magazine. I don't read the magazine with much regularity, although I do enjoy it from time to time. I have to say, this issue was pretty darn good.

It was filled with guest contributors, each of whom gave ten tips on their chosen topic. It was such an easy read, and really helpful with tons of advice on health and home and relationships ... all things Oprah. The Oprah posse was all present including Nate Berkus and Dr. Oz, along with other surprise guests like master pastry chef Ron Ben-Isreal (whom I have met several times and is by far and away the most talented cake maker on the planet).

Along with all the articles were promotions for live events to celebrate the tenth anniversary as well. Like the Mother's Day walk in NYC to "Live Your Best Life".

An incredible mix of helpful editorial, great advertising (or course), and live events. Plus a few mentions of online content as well. A true celebration.

Just one element of the Oprah brand, all seamlessly working together to create an amazing brand experience.

Congratulations, "O"!

What's your experience? Jim.

Monday, May 10

Betty White on SNL

Facebook is becoming quite a force in determining pop culture. Friends are finding it relatively easy to create a movement to sway political causes, attendance at events, and entertainment choices. In the past few months alone, there have been fan waves about attending proms, supporting propositions, and artists to be featured on Glee.

Watching Betty White host SNL this past weekend made me so happy. Imagine being 88 years old and actually being begged to host a hit comedy show.

It all started a few months ago when a fan created a Facebook page asking SNL to have Betty White be a host. She had been asked a few times over the years, but had never been able to do it. She had no idea that this was happening, and honestly didn't really know anything about Facebook at that time.

Over a half a million Facebook fans later, the campaign worked and she hosted the show this past weekend to rave reviews. It was very cool to see. Her monologue was real and sincere, and her sketch with Tina Fey was one of the best of the season.

At 88, her career is still in full gear. She absolutely made "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock watch-able. And her Super Bowl commercial with Snickers made every best-of list. Betty White is living the good life and is still very much a part of our lives.

By hosting SNL, she also proved the power of social media in influencing pop culture. This might have been about hosting SNL, just imagine what might be next.

Betty White, we love you! Facebook, we can't get enough of you!

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, May 7

The New Mother's Day Card

Leave it to Hallmark to reinvent the Mother's Day Card!

In conjunction with its latest made-for-tv movie "Meet My Mom" which debuts tomorrow, Hallmark has added a tab to its Facebook page where "friends" (or I guess now "likes") can upload video testimonials about their moms. The tab has been up for quite a few weeks now, and has already been populated by many a military service-person, among many other sons and daughters.

A much more modern way to acknowledge and pay tribute to your mom. And a great example of leveraging one marketing asset ( tv movie) towards another (facebook page) as part of our culture (mother's day) within the core essence of a brand (making an emotional connection with a greeting card).

Bringing a classic brand and an American tradition into the age of social media.

Happy Mother's Day!

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, May 6

Dawn's Wildlife Rescue Efforts

Pure coincidence or a perfectly crafted PR move? Neither actually.

Dawn, the dish washing detergent from P&G, has long supported the protection of wildlife ever since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. What's happening with the oil spill in the Gulf right now, and the brand's response to it, is simply another chapter in the brand's commitment to saving wildlife.

This year, on Earth Day (even before this most recent oil spill), P&G gave new resurgence to its commitment with a campaign featuring its efforts to "wash" animals affected by such man-made catastrophes. In essence, the product is so effective that it can clean oil off of a duck yet is gentle enough to not harm it. It's a pretty compelling campaign.

But it's not just an advertising campaign. The brand has long standing relationships with a number of wildlife rescue organizations, and has been making donations for relief efforts for years. Some of those efforts go to big disasters, like the one currently in the Gulf, and some for much smaller (less news grabbing) efforts.

The current packaging features the wildlife, with the brand making a $1.00 donation for every bottle sold. They are also shipping 2,000 bottles down to the Gulf for relief efforts.

A pretty incredible brand story ... one of a long-lasting commitment to really help the environment, tied to the core equity of the brand. Really being there when there's a need. Just so happens that right now, in the Gulf and in other parts of the world, the need is as high as ever.

Thank you, Dawn!

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, May 5

Sunkist's Take A Stand

This one will make you smile! It's an American classic and a rite of childhood. I'm betting that every single one of us at some point has participated in one.

A Lemonade Stand! I can remember standing at the end of my driveway, pitching lemonade, like it was yesterday.

And I'm still pitching, just not lemonade anymore!

Who better to help keep an American tradition alive and turn it into something even better than a great American brand. Sunkist.

The brand has been helping kids for several years create lemonade stands to raise money for charity. The numbers are pretty impressive .... 65,000 lemonade stands and over $3 million in donations. With so many people in need, it's great to give kids a vehicle to give back.

The brand has been expanding the program every year, and now includes a design contest for the best lemonade stand. All done over social media.

Such a simple idea, so core to the brand and what it stands for. Marketing that can only make you happy. And of course sell Lemonade!

Check it out here:

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, May 4

Louis Vuitton On Top

The economy has hit many of our brands pretty hard, across all sectors. You might find it surprising, though, that many of the luxury brands have continued to do quite well.

A colleague sent me this really interesting list of the top ten luxury brands and how they have weathered the economic storm. It's important to note that several of the brands actually grew during the recession, which is a bit hard to believe. How? By staying true to their brand and giving their core consumers exactly what they want.

One of my personal favorites, Louis Vuitton, tops the list again. Hard to believe that a brand with such high price points would still be doing well, but the brand has a loyal following that continue to gobble up the core product lines.

Louis Vuitton is an amazing brand that has such a strong heritage yet is able to stay modern and relevant. The designs are a mix of classic with cutting edge along with true functionality. The shopping experience is so special, unique from city to city, yet all true to the brand. Not for everyone, for sure, but for loyalists, Louis Vuitton is their brand.

Evidently they have supported it well.

You can view the top ten list here: to get a full recap of the state of top luxury brands. It's a good read.

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, May 3


In the sea of retail sameness, I finally had a unique retail experience at a new store this weekend.

Let's face it, no matter where you go in America (and in some cases overseas), it's the same set of retail stores and retail look-alikes. The Gap, Restoration Hardware, J. Crew, etc, etc, etc. It's hard to find a truly unique, one-of-a-kind retail experience anymore.

On Saturday I checked out Terrain. A new concept store from the same company that brings us Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters. I know, it's still part of a chain but totally different from their other brands.

The store is located outside of Philadelphia, a bit of a jaunt from my house in Bucks County, but worth it for a little afternoon excursion. It hits you the moment you walk through the alley-way, this is going to be different. My eye immediately starting bouncing around to the pillows, lighting, flowers, fountains, books, shrubbery, glassware ... it was such amazing eye candy.

The concept? Take an old (somewhat down-on-its-luck) landscape nursery and turn it into a village filled with an eclectic mix of indoor and outdoor merchandise, beautifully displayed for you to wander and explore.

Part nursery, part home goods, part furniture, part book store, part gift shop ... Terrain is all those things wrapped up into one. Very outdoors-ey and everything feeling like it's coming from the earth, but in a classic French country kind of a way.

The place sprawled along several buildings as well as outdoor spaces and some green houses. We even had lunch in a little cafe, amid all the foliage in one of the greenhouses. Fabulous, a real treat (the cheese plate was amazing). The staff even holds events there where you can learn about plantings and landscaping. Shop, eat, learn -- a full experience.

In an age where everything retail is about being a chain or being online, it was refreshing to see a new retail experience. It's clearly a concept that can be replicated across the country, but with each location having a unique feel indigenous to the area, based on the local nursery re-invented. Terrain Miami would be very different than Terrain New York than Terrain LA. I wish the brand luck with its plans.

What's your experience? Jim.