Wednesday, June 30

Tom's Shoes

We've seen a big surge in cause marketing the last few years, likely fueled by the recession. Interesting that in tough times, we tend to give more, which is an incredible human trait. With the surge in cause marketing comes a real demand from consumers to know what companies and brands are doing to give back. They don't want us to be shy about our efforts -- give big and shout it out!

We always advise clients that not only should their cause efforts be real, authentic, and meaningful, but they should also directly tie to the brand's essence. Do something that makes sense given the brand's equity, target market, and other marketing efforts.

One great example that I'd like to highlight is Toms Shoes. Their cause marketing is so engrained into their very being, that in fact their cause has become their brand. And probably one of the most important reasons why consumers are flocking to it.

For every pair of Toms shoes purchased, another pair of shoes is given to a child in need. One for one. So simple. So meaningful. So tied to the essence of their brand.

And they shout it out! They are not shy. They want to give shoes to kids in need, and they can only do that if we all support them. Go buy a pair here! (note, the brand is not a client, although I wish it was!)

I love it. Wish every cause effort was so impactful and so strategically aligned with the brand.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, June 29

You Deserve A Break Today!

Mom always told us that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. I'm sure she was right, but as we go through our increasingly busy days, bouncing from priority to priority and deadline to deadline, let's not forget the importance of taking a mid-day break to recharge our energy, both mentally and physically.

One of our newest employees at the agency, Brooke Aronoff, talks a bit about taking a much needed lunch break -- away from the desk!

What's your experience, Brooke? Jim.

My usual morning routine consists of taking the 7:25 a.m. bus from New Jersey to Port Authority, followed by a sweaty 8th avenue to 7th avenue underground trek, concluding with a packed subway venture to Union Square. You can imagine it’s not your typical or pleasurable commuting experience.

However, I look forward to browsing through the morning paper, what I consider my reward for making it up the 14th street subway stairs in one piece. Stacks of free "AM-New York" in hand, I anxiously await to grab the paper from that same nice man, who I can always count on to wish me a beautiful morning.

The front page usually doesn’t excite me too much. I normally head straight to the “buzz” section or the horoscopes. But, on Wednesday morning, I was intrigued by the front page and quickly flipped to the cover story titled “Step away from the desk ,” which highlights the lack of a “eating lunch out” culture among NYC workers.

Let’s be honest, work is important, and we all want to excel and succeed. When you arrive in the morning, you tell yourself “today is the day I will FINALLY take a real lunch break” and enjoy the summer sun or a chat with co-workers outside of the office. But of course, the clock strikes 1’ o clock, and you just received a request from your boss that suddenly becomes top of mind. Yes, we are all guilty of it.

To confirm this trend, recent surveys from The Energy Project claim that the average person takes less than 20 minutes for lunch, and eating out or taking a stroll has pretty much become extinct. This is just not ok. Have we really turned into workaholics that have completely let go of our well-deserved lunch breaks? I'm not even going to try to quote the studies that show afternoon productivity sky rockets after a break at lunch.

I guess what I am trying to say through all of this (and I know I should be practicing what I preach), is set 30 minutes each day to step away from the desk and eat your lunch. Even if you ate your lunch at your desk already, take a stroll in the park or check out what the graffiti artist is whipping up as he attempts to entertain the NYC tourists. Us New Yorkers have no excuse to stay inside, especially during the summer, because the weather is beautiful and there is so much action going on that deserves our attention.

As I pledge to take a proper lunch and explore the NYC streets during my much-needed break from the computer screen, I am in need of suggestions for lunchtime activities or eateries for those on a budget. Please share your ideas with me and spread the message to your friends. Trust me, work will be a lot more worthwhile, productive and healthy when you take the time for a little R&R.

- Brooke Aronoff from Lippe Taylor Brand Communications

Monday, June 28

Changing the Game, Old School

lf you are active on LinkedIn, then you know about the groups you can join. I'm involved in quite a few of them, particularly the ones for marketing professionals. One of them, Game Changers, is filled with people who aspire to do things differently. I love that!

The organizers asked me to write a feature article for the newsletter. I firmly believe that you can't change the game unless you have your fundamentals nailed. So that's what I wrote about, and you can read it here.

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, June 25

Cirque du Soleil

Making mistakes is a part of marketing. If you are not on the edge of innovation, then you stand the chance of dying a slow death. So I believe that experimentation is a key part of the marketing process, in a constant pursuit of trying to evolve your brand. Even if you make a mistake, if the brand is strong it will survive. Look at Coca-Cola when it launched New Coke. Look at Madonna when she made the movie Body of Evidence (bet you don't even remember that one!).

My colleague Andy Levy just recently witnessed what looks to be a strong brand that perhaps made a big mistake. I'll let him share his perspective.

What's your experience, Andy? Jim.

In early 2010 when I heard that a new Cirque du Soleil show, “Banana Shpeel” was coming to New York City I immediately got excited. I love Cirque du Soleil shows – I have seen 5 of them and been lucky enough to meet the shows creator and co-founder Guy Laliberte. After every show I leave feeling that I had experienced something extraordinary. When I heard that the new show was coming to the intimate Beacon Theatre I was even more excited knowing I could get even a closer look at the performers balance and contort themselves in remarkable ways.

In my mind, Cirque du Soleil = Extraordinary.

I quickly went online to look at some videos on YouTube and the show looked like it would be fantastic. I even went to a New York Times talk, Behind the Scenes of Cirque du Soleil Banana Shpeel, and I left equally peaked. The show would be based on Vaudeville, not acrobatics, so it was clear that the brand was trying something new. I went to Zumanity, a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas based on Burlesque, and loved it. It’s been running for years so clearly the brand could be successful at non-acrobatic concepts.

I began reading that the opening was being delayed not once, twice, but three times!

Seemed that the producers were having trouble with development of the show so I put off buying tickets. Then one day on a Taxi TV I observed a promo that had practically wiped clear the Cirque du Soleil name and ended, “… produced by Cirque du Schmelky”. In another commercial a graphic line crossed off “Soleil” and replaced it with “Schmelky”!

I slowly began to see a purposeful de-branding. It seemed Cirque du Soleil was attempting to remove their name from a show that wasn’t working. I eventually went to see it regardless of the reviews - even hearing news that the show would be closing 2 months early.

It was a valiant attempt at something different, but it seemed that this one didn’t give theatergoers what they wanted. Can’t win them all.

- Andy Levy, intern at Lippe Taylor Brand Communications

Thursday, June 24

Acknowledging Our Troops

Put politics aside because this topic is universal, I believe.

Have you ever had that moment, when you are passing a military person in uniform, and you want to acknowledge them and all that they do for us, but you just don't know how? I have that feeling almost every time I am in the airport. I want to say thank you to them, but I don't feel comfortable interrupting.

Thanks to this powerful Youtube video, we now all have a collective way of saying our thanks and for connecting with our military brothers and sisters like never before.

It was all started by one person who wanted a way to say thanks -- and who got the Seattle Seahawks to back it. It's been around for awhile, just growing virally. It's called "The Gratitude Campaign" and I think it's awesome.

It's not the first "branded" hand signal or secret handshake, but it is perhaps the most meaningful one to come along in a long time.

Say no more -- I'll let the video tell the story. Click here.

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, June 23

They're Back - Online

We all love a good come-back. I was really pulling for Whitney, but it just didn't materialize. Sigh. But that's another matter all together.

With great sadness, we've been witnessing the decline of the magazine industry for the last few years. I personally don't think they will ever go away completely, but it's still hard to see great magazines fold. Like Gourmet, Metropolitan Home, Domino, and my personal favorite Cargo. So many great BRANDS that just couldn't make it work anymore, despite their loyal consumers.

Well maybe not anymore!

They are coming back, reincarnated online! Makes a tremendous amount of sense, especially now with the iPad which is revolutionizing how we "read". I am so happy to see that there's still a need for these publications -- it's just that their old format became inefficient.

Conde Naste just announced that Gourmet will be back as an app -- with Domino likely to follow. Now these re-births are also re-inventions in that they are much more tech savvy and not necessarily filled with the same kind of editorial we once knew from these brands. But that's ok, brands should evolve over time to keep pace with their consumers and how they live their lives. Due out in November, the new Gourmet app, for example, is chocked full of recipes and rewards as opposed to tons of great literary content.

One of the first to blaze the trail? Two former Domino folks started Lonny, an online home magazine. It reads just like a magazine -- just flip through the pages of advertisements and pictorials of room decor. Only now you can click on what you want and zoom around. Much more interactive, obviously.

Welcome back!

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, June 22

Bravo Real Housewives

I have to say, I was an early adopter. I watched the very first episode of the first season on The Real Housewives of Orange County, and have been watching what happens ever since. I was hooked long before we knew there would be a second season, or a NY, or an Atlanta, or even a New Jersey.

These women had me at hello.

As I've watched the show expand as a franchise and now as a brand, I have been trying to figure out the appeal, even for me as a fan. I mean it's so cheesy, it's embarrassing. The ultimate in guilty pleasure, with tons of guilt.

And then it struck me! The Real Housewives are the new soap opera. As the daytime soap opera slowly dies off, in comes a night time reality show, with just as much drama, that with the help of rotational time slots and on demand, can be viewed any time of the day. Repeatedly.

And if any of us still think that Real Housewives is unscripted, then we don't understand how tv programming works. Every scene is thought through and then researched to see if it will not only fit within the plot line but also if it will resonate with viewers. To see if there's enough drama to keep the audience watching.

The drama that unfolds is unreal, yet so real. Exaggerated for the purposes of tv, yet at the same time relateable enough to keep us watching. Tell me that Jill Zarin doesn't rival Erica Kane? Or that Ramona's renewal ceremony doesn't blow away Luke & Laura? Or better yet, that these women don't remind you of some of your friends?

Ok, I may be getting carried away but you get the point. Murder, espionage, drug dealers? Maybe not, although then there's Danielle! Certainly enough drama to keep the country riveted, taking the place of daytime soaps that at one point had us captivated as well.

Product placements a plenty, plus the cast members (yes, cast members) are asked to blog and tweet to keep the plot line going even after the show is off air. What P&G did for the soap opera back in the day, Andy Cohen is doing today. He even created a talk show around the housewives called Watch What Happens, featuring all the Bravolebrities (yes, they coined a phrase)!

And by the way, the same sponsors are still there as with the daytime soaps, buying airtime and banner ads to reach what has become a pretty darn big audience.

What's your experience? Jim.

Monday, June 21

Brand Your Graduate

June: it's that time of year again when hundreds of thousands of college graduates hit the job market. When it was my turn, it was one of the happiest moments in my life. Today, with the economy the way it is, I'm not so sure that's the case anymore. Sure, the celebration of the college years is an incredible milestone, but the thought of entering the job market is enough to scare even the most confident.

So what's a Mom or Dad to do, aside from offering emotional support and the warmth of a home-cooked meal? Help your college grad become a brand!

The great thing about marketing is that anything can be a brand, even a person. I've been doing some speaking engagements for my new book, and one topic that keeps coming up from the audience is personal branding. It's a hot topic these days with so many people looking for work, including new grads.

So the best help you can give the job seeker in your family is to help them create their own personal brand. How? Let's take a few tips from classic package goods marketing.

First assess your skills. Write them down in priority order and start to make some logical sense out of them. A brand would call these skills your "assets". Then write down a mission statement. What do you want out of life? What is your goal?

Now do some research. Find possible industries and companies that need your kind of skills and that would help you to achieve your goals.

With knowledge in hand, you can start to package your skill set, your assets, into a tight bundle of benefits for a potential employer. Time to write your resume. Don't do a data dump, but rather a carefully written sequence of your skills and achievements designed to show an employer that you will hit the ground running.

Fully prepared, you can start to market yourself. Get online and create a LinkedIn profile and become active on Twitter. Network to find people in the industries and companies that you are targeting. Most people are more than willing to help, especially for someone who has their act together.

Choose your language smartly, all to support your brand which should be a summation of all your skills, goals, and knowledge of your future industry.

As a newly minted brand, rather than just another college grad looking for a job, you will be well on your way towards landing a highly competitive job because you will make it easy for a potential employer to pick you out of a lineup.

Best of luck to all the college grads, and their moms and dads!

What's your experience? Jim

Friday, June 18

Celebrity Apprentice Snapple

I must admit that I fell off the "Apprentice" wagon after the first season. It's a great concept, and a great show, but I truthfully kind of lost interest. No offense meant. So when the first installment of "Celebrity Apprentice" hit, I didn't really pay much attention. Same for the second installment that just finished.

But I was at the deli the other day and something caught my eye. Celebrity Apprentice Snapple! Hmmm. I did a little research and discovered a very clever marketing initiative that is totally worth noting.

As part of their final task, the two remaining contestants from this last season each created a new flavor of Snapple, the proceeds of which go to each of their causes. And in fact the flavors are inspired by their causes.

Holly Robinson Peete created Compassionberry Tea to benefit autism, and Bret Michaels created Trop-a-Rocka Tea for diabetes. Both causes are very near and dear to their hearts. They are available for a limited time only, and I have to say that they are both very good.

I just think it's clever that both brands, Celebrity Apprentice and Snapple, were able to combine forces to create two new products and to do some good in the world.

Gives me a new reason to consider both brands again. Not to mention it put both stars back on the map as well!

What's your experience? Jim

Thursday, June 17

Apple FaceTime

I have certainly gone on record that I have a real love for the Apple brand. I wrote about it in my book, and I recently had a feature article in BrandWeek declaring my affection.

So I will leave it to my colleague from the agency, Nick Taylor, to highlight yet another incredible move from the brand we both adore.

What's your experience, Nick? Jim.

A new commercial for Apple’s upcoming iPhone 4, entitled ‘FaceTime,’ showcases the phone’s signature new feature: dual front and back cameras that enable video-calling. With Apple’s preexisting reputation for dramatically integrating itself into the lives of its customers, this ad shows their initiative to take that image even further.

The commercial features a series of very intimate vignettes of people video-chatting on the iPhone 4 with friends and family. The first few are classic; a father on a business trip watching his children play, grandparents gleefully smiling at their phone as their granddaughter dons her graduation cap and gown, and a girl trying on outfits while her friend commentates. Then, the ad takes a tear-jerking turn; we watch as a stationed soldier gazes into his iPhone and watches his wife’s ultrasound. Next, a deaf couple speaks to each other in sign language through a video-call.

The ad is brilliant from a marketing perspective because it’s designed to hit the viewer from two distinctly different emotional angles, and it seems to do so undetected. The first 3 vignettes are crafted so just about anyone can relate to at least one of them. With this relatability factor, anyone who travels, has a long distance friend, or remote family members can instantly see how their relationships and lives can benefit from this phone. The last two vignettes depict more unique circumstances: the soldier abroad, which is a definite soft-spot for most Americans, and the deaf couple, who the ad implies are now finally able to legitimately speak to each other through a phone. Even though not as many people can relate to these last two scenarios, they are so compelling that the viewer instantly empathizes with the characters and then watches as the iPhone 4 dramatically enhances their lives.

In any other case, I would find the commercial use of this kind of subject matter to be…well, exploitative. But this is Apple; the poignant moments are shot with such sincerity and grace that you don’t even notice the brand’s emotional craftiness, at least I didn’t (at first). This makes me wonder if Apple’s signature commercial combination of elegant minimalism, soothing yet hip music, and compelling characters has a subliminal effect on viewers. Regardless, with this last commercial they go right for your heart, and they do it beautifully.

See for yourself, here.

- Nick Taylor, Social Media Specialist at Lippe Taylor Brand Communications

Tuesday, June 15

Papa John's Pizza Challenge

If you like pizza, and love a challenge, then keep reading.

This brand is not the first to do it. Vitamin Water, Mountain Dew, and Dunkin Donuts have already paved the way. Now Papa John's pizza is inviting Facebook fans to create the brand's next pizza. Promoted exclusively through social media, the brand will pick their three top favorite submissions from fans, and give each finalist a $1,000 budget to market their pizza over the summer. They can name their pizza, use whatever toppings they want, and then they need to create demand for it.

The best selling pizza will get 1% of the sales, will win pizza for life, and will also appear in a Papa John's television commercial. I am a pizza lover so all of that sounds pretty darn good!

Just another chapter in the pizza wars, as we have seen Domino's pizza go to great lengths to improve and promote their new pizza. The better tasting pizza and aggressive marketing campaign have both paid off for Domino's as they have seen greatly increased traffic and improved profits.

It will be fun to watch as the contest rolls out, particularly interesting to watch how many people participate. An early tally shows over 6,500 entries just in the first couple of weeks.

Get rolling!

What's your experience? Jim

Duped by Private Label

It finally happened to me. I've been in marketing for a LONG time. I know their tricks and I finally fell for it -- private label products. They do everything in their power to mimic the market leader, and they've gotten pretty good at it.

Walk down a drug store or grocery store aisle and in almost every major category you will see a private label knock-off of the market leader. It's uncanny how close some of these private label products look like the major brands. Logos, colors, packaging materials, photography ... the entire essence of a brand's packaging can be replicated by a private label product.

I don't understand how they can get away with it quite honestly. Brands should be allowed to trademark their branding and their look.

Anyway, it finally happened to me. I was at the grocery store on Sunday and thought I was buying a big bag of Splenda for baking. It swear that I picked up Splenda off the store shelf and put it in my grocery cart. Then the entire time I was home and we were using the product, I thought it was Splenda.

I did notice a little difference at first, but still didn't think more than twice, kept on with the baking. But then it hit me. We made a blueberry pie and there was just something not right about the taste. So I went to go check the Splenda label and that's when I noticed.

I bought "Sucralose" instead of "Splenda". You cannot believe how close the Sucralose packaging is to the Splenda packaging! Almost criminal. I honestly don't know how they get away with it. The problem is that the proof is generally in the pudding. Or in this case, the blueberry pie. The private label version just didn't perform, as is often the case. Not always the case, but often.

As a marketer, I have a problem with that. As a builder of brands, private label makers should build their own brands, not just copy others. Many grocers have their own house labels, which become brands unto themselves. Nothing wrong with that because tha is legitimate marketing. But doing an exact rip off with the intent to confuse just violates every ethic of marketing that I know. Makes me crazy.

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, June 14

Cornell 25th Reunion

If life is just a string of experiences, then I just hit a milestone. I went back to Cornell this weekend for my 25th Reunion. To say it was a special weekend would be the biggest understatement of the last 25 years.

It was so great to see so many friends again, especially my extended Pike clan. So many good friends with whom we shared our very formative years together. Friends that I was really close with at such a critical time in our lives, really close. It was just amazing to see them all again. To share a drink, a memory, and by the end of Saturday night, a whole lot of crazy dancing!

The love, support, and interest that they all showed for my new book was just incredible. In many ways my book is a compilation of all my experience since I graduated from Cornell, and it was conceived while on a trip back to Cornell with my son, so the fact that I was back on campus just a few weeks after its release is part of the total experience for me.

I even did a book signing at the campus bookstore on Saturday. It started at 11:00, and sure enough at 10:50 in come some of my Pike fraternity brothers to show their support. That was a wow! And my friends kept streaming in the entire time. So overwhelming, to tell you the truth. Meant so much to me.

So thanks to all my Cornell friends: we've shared a lot through the years, most importantly the four years at school, and now I am so happy that I've been able to share my book release with you too. Really appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks to Facebook, we can keep sharing our life experiences.

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, June 11

Is Chevy Inconsistent?

There was an article and a call to arms in The New York Times yesterday about Chevrolet's desire to cease using "Chevy" as a "nickname".

Evidently management is worried about brand consistency so it only wants to refer to the brand as "Chevrolet." Now I just wrote a book all about brand consistency and I don't get this one, to be honest.

When you have such strong brand recognition I am not sure why you would tamper with it. The fact that consumers call you by a nickname, a long standing nickname, is such an amazing thing. It's almost like a term of endearment. Not to mention that it's a nickname that has squeeked into pop culture. "Took my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry."

Most brands would die for that kind of connection with their consumers.

Should Coca-Cola get rid of "Coke"? Is it ok to call Philadelphia "Philly"? Interestly, Radio Shack is right now trying to get their consumers to use "The Shack". Not sure how well that is going :)

For me, multiple versions of a long-standing iconic brand is not a problem of inconsistency. It's a wealth of brand equity.

You can read The New York Times article and weigh-in with your opinion on an auto blog right here.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, June 10

Nike on the Grid

Clients ask me all the time: "Should we get into social media"? And I say the same thing every time: "Wrong question"!

The question isn't "should" it's "how"! Almost every brand should participate in social media, but only in ways that are consistent with their equity, integrated with the rest of their marketing plan, and providing value to their consumers.

A colleague clued me into an example that illustrates the point perfectly. Nike. I admire the brand both as a marketer and as a consumer. I've incorporated the brand into my life because it offers me so much. The perfect Experience Effect, in my book.

The brand just launched a social media campaign in London that is so spectacular, mere words can't describe it. Check it out here.

Appealing to runners, the program uses location-based social media to inspire "athletes" (that's us!) to run the entire city of London, across the city's "grid". By logging onto the program, you become engaged in a plan to hit points across the city and "check in" to collect each postal code. Once you've hit them all, you will have run the entire city grid, earning points and getting crowned along the way.

I want to do it! The insight about runners is that we love to have trails and maps to run. The notion that I could run the entire city is so inspiring, it makes me want to do it right now. And now Nike can help me to track my progress, and compete with other runners as well.

A brilliant use of social media, including the website, Facebook, and the emerging location-based technology that so many brands are beginning to experiment with. Love it.

What's your experience? Jim

Wednesday, June 9

bp Apology Commercial

bp CEO Tony Hayward released a television commercial this week to apologize for the oil spill and talk about how committed the company is to fixing the situation.

The court of public opinion has certainly weighed in, and no one is happy to say the least. Ironic because bp has made strides in evolving their brand over the last few years to be ecologically friendly and "beyond petroleum".

I can't comment really on who did what and who went wrong, but I can say that bp violated one key rule in corporate communications: get out in front of the story. The problem is that no one knows when this is going to end, and so it's almost impossible to feel good about anything that bp is doing.

So the apology is a nice step, but for the most part people are feeling like it's just a little too much spin a little too late in the game. I still give the guy credit for putting himself out there, but my desire is for bp to tell us when this will be over. Get out in front of the tragedy, rather than getting buried in the headlines!

If you'd like to see the recent commercial, click here.

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, June 8

Huggies Denim Diapers

File this under "why didn't anyone think of that sooner"!

Huggies just introduced diapers that are covered with a denim pattern, so that Huggies babies look like they are wearing jeans instead of diapers. The brand launched the new diapers at a fashion show in New York just a couple weeks ago, and they are now rolling onto retail shelves.

So simple, so clever, so right. I so wish they were around when my kids were young. Love the copy from the website: "Mama may be struggling to get back into her skinny jeans, but for a limited time her babe can wiggle his way into a fresh pair every few hours." Too cool.

Proof once again that the simplest of ideas can often be the best. Smartest part about it? Gives moms a new reason to consider the Huggies brand.

The only sad part is that they are only available for a limited time. Just like your babies are only babies for a limited time.

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, June 7

The Car Buying Experience

My daughter is almost 17 and although I have resisted the temptation up until now, she really needs a car. It will just make all of our lives easier, including my own.

So we went shopping on Saturday, looking for the best option to suit our lives. Simple car, low monthly payment (she is footing the bill), safety features, and easy.

You would think that with this horrible economy and with the state of the auto industry, that they would have "gotten it by now." The entire car buying experience is dreadful. Makes you not even want to buy a car. We went to 6 different showrooms, and in every one it was the same.

I felt dirty, I felt taken advantage of, I felt confused. I felt everything except wanting to buy a car. It should be fun, adventurous, exciting. It's not.

C'Mon folks, don't you get it? Create an amazing brand experience for the car buyer and you'll sell more cars. You might even convince someone to buy a more expensive car. Who knows! But make it a positive, inviting experience.

Net, net. We didn't buy one yet. Not because we didn't see any options, because we saw a bunch (admittedly, all the cars are exactly the same, but that's a different topic). We didn't buy anything because we felt so insecure in making a decision that we put it off. Put it off to price compare online, to check references, to read consumer reports. To do our research and our homework because not one car salesman was able to make us feel confident in our decision.

That's a shame, and a missed opportunity, particularly for an industry in peril.

What's your experience? Jim

Thursday, June 3

McDonald's "Come As You Are"

There's a new advertising campaign for McDonald's running in France that is becoming bigger than a Big Mac. It's titled "Come As You Are", and it's meant to celebrate diversity by showing that everyone is welcome at McDonald's.

The first spot features a teenage boy sitting at a McDonald's table talking on his cell while his Dad is at the counter getting food. As his Dad approaches, he abruptly gets off the phone. By the end of the spot we learn that he was talking to his boyfriend, but Dad doesn't know. There are at least two other executions as well, featuring different "kinds" of people.

Is this spot good? The intentions are. If it's meant to show that ALL are welcome at McDonald's, then it's ok. I just wish Dad knew that his son is gay, would have been more meaningful. There has been much more ground breaking work in this area just in the last month on Glee and Ugly Betty. But culturally in France, I'm sure it works fine. The spot still accomplishes what it intends to do. And more.

The brand subtitled the spot in English and put it on YouTube, which is really how most of us are discovering it (approaching a million and a half hits already). There's been debate on whether the brand would ever run such an ad here in the States, and by putting it on YouTube it is here! Very smart.

The ad really hit the spot light yesterday when Bill O'Reilly commented on it. He contends, rather aggressively, that he doesn't understand the rationale for the spot, and that it would never run in the States. Never. Perhaps he's just not the target market? Whether he then actually compared gay people to Al Qaeda, I'll let you be the judge of that.

You can view the spot and Bill O'Reilly's comments here.

What's your experience? Jim.

NBC 10! Show Philadelphia

Yesterday I did a segment on the NBC 10! Show in Philadelphia as part of my book release. It was a blast, and boy what an adventure.

I didn't know for sure that I would be on until the day before, although it had been in the works for quite awhile. The original plan was to tape a segment that would run next week, just for scheduling.

When I arrived, however, the producer told us that they needed us live, right now! Yikes. So minutes later I found myself sitting on the set in front of the coffee table, ready to be interviewed.

The segment was on personal branding, specifically how to think like a brand when approaching the job market. The target for the show is stay-at-home moms, many of whom are re-entering the workplace. My premise is that if you can package your skills, much like a brand packages its ingredients, and position yourself properly to potential employers, much like a brand positions itself to consumers, then you are more likely to be successful landing a job.

It's the principles of classic marketing applied to the job search. The "personal" Experience Effect if you will!

Shortly after the segment aired, the station posted it on their home page. You can see it here.

I had so much fun, and can't wait to do it again. Thanks to the producers and the interviewers at the NBC 10! Show ... hope to see you soon!

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, June 2

Will Tylenol Survive?

Full disclosure: I started my career at Johnson & Johnson in brand management and then I worked on Tylenol on the agency side for a very long time. Although I don't work on the brand anymore, I'm still a lover and a believer. When my children were young, I gave them Children's Tylenol when they needed it.

But as a brand, Tylenol certainly has had more than its fair share of public crisis. The tampering back in the early 1980's, FDA scrutiny, headlines about liver safety, and the most recent recall of the children's products is a lot for one brand to take.

This latest crisis with the children's products is pretty big. If you haven't read about it, you can get the details here on the company's recall website.

Johnson & Johnson "wrote the book" on how to handle such a crisis, and has long been praised for how it communicates with its constituents and how it acts with such authenticity and speed.

So when a reporter from AdWeek called me a few weeks ago and asked me the question "Will Tylenol Survive?", I myself had an authentic and quick response. Over time, yes.

Not many brands can survive such a recall and so much negative press. But Tylenol has such a deep, authentic brand equity that spans decades of nurturing, caring, and proper conduct, that I have to believe that when this is behind them, people will welcome the brand back into their homes.

You can read the AdWeek article here, and read my response.

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, June 1

Sex And The City 2

I read the reviews, and I know how sequels work. I expected to be disappointed but I went to see "Sex And The City 2" anyway. With such low expectations, I figured that I would at least have some fun.

Boy was I disappointed. But not in the way that one would expect. I was disappointed as a marketer.

"Sex And The City" has lost its brand!

First of all, there was no City in "Sex And The City 2". Part of the premise of the television series was Carrie Bradshaw's love affair with NYC. The city was always there for her and never let her down. It was no where to be seen in this movie. Jeeeeeezzzze.

Secondly, nothing was relateable. I could find nothing in these women that resembled "normal" life, particularly in this economy. Not the clothes, nor the apartments, the lifestyle, the dialogue. Being able to relate to these women living, working, and enjoying the city was a big part of the brand.

The core premise of the television series was the never-ending knowledge that your friends are there for you, always. It was still in the movie, but it was completely buried in one-liners and ridiculous excesses. Except for the one line from Samantha which was priceless: "Men, babies, doesn't matter. We made a pact a long time ago. We are soul mates". I wanted more of THAT!

So what was the one take away? The one true insight?

Once you get to the place that you've been dreaming of and growing towards your whole life, don't be surprised if you're disappointed. That's not what the "Sex And The City" brand is all about! C'Mon!

Carrie finally got Big and doesn't want to be home with him. Charlotte finally got her children and they make her crazy. Miranda finally got the big lawyer job, and she gets abused by her male boss.

OK, maybe parts of this were real, but the writers didn't leverage it the way that they could have, and certainly not in a "Sex And The City" way. They totally missed the mark, and the brand, by not taking us down this path but instead taking us to the Middle East.

So my real disappointment is that "Sex And The City" stood for something. It had a real insight about life in the city and about trying to make it in the world and about expressing yourself and about relying on your friends to get through it all. The movie lost its sense of brand, and for that it's a real missed opportunity.


What's your experience? Jim.