Friday, July 30

Wheat Thins Uses Twitter

Wheat Thins just came out with a new advertising campaign right after my own heart. It fuses new media with traditional media in a seamless experience tied directly to the essence of the brand.

In the new television campaign, which by the way is posted all over YouTube, a Wheat Thins branded van visits unsuspecting Wheat Thins fans who have posted tweets about their love of the brand. The brand spokesperson, on film, then fulfills the tweeter's request which is generally all about the "crunch".

Brilliant and very engaging, I could watch them over and over. Not a brand new idea, certainly, but I love the use of real followers on Twitter in a mass advertising vehicle.

You can watch a couple here. Notice how everything is branded with a signature yellow color? And all tied to the "crunch". Great use of two elements (color and sound) to make more memorable branding.

Note to self: Old Spice isn't the only game in town.

What's your experience? Jim

Thursday, July 29


I'm on the road this week for a new business pitch and I stepped into McDonald's yesterday, just to get a bottle of water (honest!).

Now I have heard a lot about the McCafe offerings, and I know that McDonald's is serious about entering the coffee game. I write in my book how Starbucks has opened the door to competition, basically by eroding the brand experience and continuing high prices. I've heard and read that McDonald's is taking advantage of the opportunity -- yesterday I saw it for myself.

I have to say that I was a bit surprised when I finally went inside. The brand really does rival the coffee menu of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Certainly still not the brand experience of Starbucks (they are working at getting it better again), but at much lower price points it's hard to not let the rational side take over. Even how the brand languages its coffee sourcing and all day and night coffee options is knocking right on the door of Starbucks.

And this was just a regular McDonald's. Many high volume locations actually have built separate McCafe seating areas which makes it even more inviting. There's a spot in New York which is just all McCafe, a concept that the brand has been testing for years.

Good work, McDonald's, for giving us options in our quest for coffee. You just might see me again, this morning!

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, July 27

Eat Pray Love

Everyone loves a good summer "feel good" movie, and everyone loves a come back. Brace yourselves for a big one on both accounts. Coming in August, the new movie with Julia Roberts called Eat Pray Love.

From watching the trailer, get ready for quinessential Julia Roberts -- the "pretty woman" we fell in love with years ago. The Julia Roberts we want ("need") to see on film. A perfect timing story as we all struggle with the after math of a decade of public bad news and personal set backs.

"I used to have an appetite for my life, and now it's just gone."

The movie is not even out yet, and the marketing machine has already kicked in. Gaming, contests, web content, social media, and of course a trailer fit for a Julia Roberts fan. Even a line of products at Fresh. All aimed at reinforcing the Eat Pray Love concept of finding ourselves again. All to get us engaged in the movie before it comes out, so that it opens at number one.

"This is my 'no carb left behind' experiment."

I can't wait -- I need to see this movie!

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, July 26

Mad About Mad Men

Last night was the season premiere of Mad Men (in case you are hiding under a rock) ... all the social media outlets were on fire over the weekend in anticipation.

Personally, I love the show. I love watching the era that it reflects and the pace at which things move. Business was so much slower back then, it's fascinating to watch these ad men interpret what consumers want and it's fascinating to see how they conduct business.

Funny that I share a client with Don Draper - Clearasil. But I don't really share his clothing or his gimlets. I traded in the suit for a sports coat and funky shirt, and I stick to Diet Pepsi at lunch. But I certainly could have the look, and maybe even a walk-on role, from Banana Republic.

Banana Republic once again is partnering with Mad Men to recreate the fashions from the show. The store's window treatments are geared up with signage that says "Mad About Dresses" and "Mad About Suits", along with period-inspired clothing and pictures of the cast.

If you pick up a Mad Men style guide from Banana Republic, there's a special code on the back page that allows you to upload your picture to the Mad Men website to win an appearance on the show. The style guide itself tells you everything you need to know to capture the Mad Men look, accessories and all! Great marketing that merges reality with fantasy.

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, July 23

Fiskars and Crafting

Really successful brands "own" something. They take on their core benefit, they BLOW IT OUT, and they do it better than anyone else in their category. They succeed because they produce real value to their core consumers and they make an intense emotional bond over time with each and every one of them.

I found a great example in an unexpected place to illustrate the point. Scissors. Who thinks about scissors, really?

Fiskars does, and so do the millions of consumers who do crafts. If you are into crafting, then you can't live without a good pair of scissors. The brand Fiskars gets that and they own it.

With a signature color and unique product design, the brand is also recognizable from ten feet away - not an easy feat in the scissor category. And you'd be amazed at the breadth of their product line. Who knew?

Take a look at their website. It has everything, and I mean everything, that someone who is into doing crafts needs. Resources, ideas, classes, links, a blog, ambassadors, fans ... even craft tv. Much of this also gets translated to the retail environment at key locations and at certain times of the year. It's actually incredibly impressive to see a brand do such a deep dive into a topic, a topic so near and dear to not only their business but to their consumers' hearts. And they do it so well that no other brand can touch them.

The brand owns crafting, full on, and for that I applaud it.

What's your experience? Jim

Thursday, July 22

Personal Branding

My book publisher, Amacom, asked me to write a guest post on their blog about personal branding.

From my perspective anything can be a brand, even people. In fact by creating a personal brand and cleverly marketing yourself, I bet you'll get more out of life.

So today's post is a link to the post I wrote on personal branding. Hope it helps you to think differently about your own plans.

What's your experience? Jim

Wednesday, July 21

Domino's, Naked

You gotta admit, Domino's has made great strides recently. At least in its marketing, if you don't believe anything else.

Full disclosure here: I've been a Domino's fan since Freshman year in college, and I still am (don't judge). I guess it's that feeling of comfort from gobbling something really delicious when you are really hungry and maybe a little bit stressed. So satisfying.

The Domino's campaign started earlier this year with an admission that their pizzas were not all that great (along with a promise to improve) -- and now comes a follow-up campaign with a promise to only show real, un-retouched photos of their pizzas in their advertising and marketing materials. Naked, if you will. Only a confident brand would do such a thing, right?

It's an unconfirmed nod to the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty" -- the Domino's "Campaign for Real Pizza". And the brand invites consumers to submit their own photos of "real" (naked) Domino's pizza onto their website.

A pretty cool move in yet another chapter of the pizza wars.

What's the best part? The fact that Dove has made it yet again into pop culture with a knock-off of its original campaign concept around the beauty of real women and using un-retouched photography. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

What's your experience? Jim

Tuesday, July 20

Geek Eyewear

Geek is the new cool, no doubt about it. The technology age has created heroes out of the once isolated and the once unpopular. It's become cool to be a nerd, but there's a limit don't you think ... fashion too?

(just kidding, I embrace every bit of it)

I went to the eye doctor for my annual check up over the weekend. Not sure if you feel the same way, but every time I go there I feel like a kid again -- a kid getting glasses for the first time! I swear it's 1975 all over again.

(after I got my first pair of glasses, I switched to contacts as soon as I could)

So in the middle of my angst, what did I spy out of the corner of my little eye? Something new. Something different. Something ... nerdy!

(it jumped out at me because it just looked so new and noteworthy)

Geek Eyewear. A new brand of eye glasses inspired by ... geeks. Big, thick plastic frames that make you look, well, like a geek. Truthfully, they really are cool. I tried on every pair and was almost, almost inspired to buy a pair.

(the last pair of glasses I bought was in 1991 and I have not worn them in years)

The best part? Every pair comes with a pocket protector.


Check it out on their website.

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, July 19

Disappearing Brands

There's been a list or two circulating for months now of brands that are not likely to make it into 2011. A number of people have asked me to comment, so here goes. I love lists, so I am happy to weigh in.

It's interesting to see the brands that have been making these lists. I don't think there are really any surprises though. Truthfully these brands have either not kept up with our needs and wants, or have a competitor(s) that is just so much better. These brands lost sight of what business they were in, and they honestly lost sight of their consumer and how we all live our lives.

Blockbuster. They were in the video tape rental business and should have been thinking much broader all along. They should have known that this day would come and should have been thinking bigger about how to service our at-home entertainment needs.

Borders. Barnes & Noble KILLS them. No comparison. Everything that Borders does just looks like a knock-off. They should have tried to be more innovative instead of "me-too". With, there's just not enough space for two big brick and mortar book retailers without something more special.

Newsweek. We all get our news online now and they just didn't keep up with the "information right now, I want to comment" age. Way too old school.

Reader's Digest. Hate to say it, but their consumer base is dying off and no one is replacing them.

Motorola. The brand just got drowned out by all others who were innovating at the speed of light. Motorola is like a rotary phone in comparison (thanks to my friend Adam for that little comment).

Palm. Who? I've been to the one in Miami!

What are the lessons to be learned from this list? Three big ones in my mind:
- Define your business and your brand broadly so that you can evolve over time. If Blockbuster had defined their brand more broadly than just video tape rental, perhaps they would still be thriving.
- Get to know your consumers and how they live their lives, better than your competition. Even more importantly, follow them as their lives change and evolve, so that you can evolve along with them. Motorola got out shined in this area for sure.
- Constantly keep new consumers coming into your brand, don't just rely on the ones that you already have. By keeping fresh and innovative, you will continually attract new devotees. Newsweek and Reader's Digest failed in this arena.

What's your experience? Jim

Friday, July 16

Adding New Life to Old Spice

It's been heralded as the best social media campaign to date. "To date" because we can't really say "ever" because all of this is so new. Someone will come along soon and up the game, which is the great part about marketing.

But for now, let's pay homage to the recent campaign for Old Spice. I'm not going to call it a social media campaign, though, as others have, because it's so much bigger than that. It's a full-on marketing experience.

It started out as a traditional advertising campaign just a few months ago, when we first met the new Old Spice Guy. Cleverly written, the campaign pulled people in, with social media circles all a buzz, including YouTube and Twitter. We didn't know at the time that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Suddenly, Old Spice Guy started responding to tweets, and then started making video responses to tweets. These videos are hysterical and really bring to life the character that started out on a :30 television spot.

The chatter is now off the charts, with virtually everyone commenting not only on the videos but also on the marketing. Getting consumers to retweet a question and then creating a custom video response for them is approaching the ultimate in brand commitment, engagement, and experience, IMHO.

Me? I love the synergy and the consistency. The brand created a new character, completely in keeping with the Old Spice personality but with a modern (yet retro) feel. So good. And then the brand used this new character across multiple touchpoints to represent the brand in places where they could engage with consumers.

Then as quickly as it all got started, the character makes a video announcing that his run has come to an end. Hmmmm. Will we see him again or does the brand get the notion of "quit while you're ahead"

Such a good use of not only social media, but of weaving in other marketing elements as well, and proof once again that traditional advertising isn't dead -- it's just a matter of how you use it.

You can catch a video or two here.

What's your experience? Jim

Thursday, July 15

Florida Beaches

I saw a piece of television advertising the other day that made me really sad. I don't normally have that reaction, unless of course it's for animal adoption services. But this one really hit me.

It was advertising for the beaches of Florida, including Pensicola, persuading people to come visit this summer. It took me a minute to figure it out and then I realized. No one is going because of the oil spill.

The spot showed the beaches beautiful and untouched, but empty. Like a birthday party that no one showed up to.

The oil spill itself is sad, don't get me wrong. The damage to the environment, to the beautiful coastline, and to the safety of all the wildlife is heart wrenching. But it's also hit people's livelihoods, their ability to take care of their families.

I know that Obama has called for bp to reimburse people for their losses. How could that possibly happen, and how do you even begin to measure it? How will these folks recover? These are the thoughts that immediately ran through my head after the :30 spot was finished.

The fact that the state has to spend even more money to convince people that it's safe to visit is just another side to the devastation and it makes me really sad.

What's your experience? Jim

Wednesday, July 14

All Stars Among Us

Yesterday we lost another baseball legend, a "brand" and marketing legend unto himself, George Steinbrenner. Something really special happened in the game of baseball on the day we lost "The Boss", the ultimate all-star. My colleague Jessica DiPietro reports ....

What's your experience, Jess?

Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year. The “midsummer classic,” the Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game. It’s something I look forward to all season as a coming together of teams to celebrate “America’s National Pastime.”

But as MLB has been overrun with scandals from drugs to salary caps to possible strikes to the rising cost of tickets, now the players, owners, and the entire sport have lost some luster. Last night, they got some of that luster back! In my mind, MLB began a rebirth last night by connecting emotionally with their fans and tugging on their charitable heartstrings.

Partnering with People magazine, MLB honored not only our sports celebrities, but “All-Stars Among Us.” Every day people, just like you and me, making a difference in their communities through selfless acts of giving. Extraordinary citizens from every major league city gathered on the field in Anaheim, the home of DisneyLand (could the setting be any more perfect?), to be honored.

Their introduction? A-list celebrities Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford, and Sheryl Crow, all paying tribute to hometown celebrities in video introductions.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more emotional, our sports heroes, the MLB All-Stars, walked onto the field and starting shaking the hands of the “every day heroes” while a version of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” was sung in the background by Glee star Amber Riley.

At that moment, the tears started to well up in my eyes. How beautiful in deed! What a way for MLB to connect emotionally with fans, begin to change their tarnished image, restore the faith of fans, and hopefully, reclaim their positioning as “America’s National Pastime.”

To top it all off, a moment of silence for my team’s “boss”, George Steinbrenner, who passed away yesterday, and acknowledgement of legendary Yankees announcer Bob Sheppard, who passed away this passed weekend as well. Being able to remember and honor two amazing “All-Stars” in Yankee history at this particular All-Star game was icing on the cake for a fan like me.

Congratulations MLB for finally making it about the fans and the “All-Stars Among Us.” Bring on the rest of the season!

- Jessica DiPietro, EVP at Lippe Taylor Brand Communications

Tuesday, July 13

Why Just Y?

The YMCA announced yesterday that it will be shortening its brand name to just "Y" as part of a five year plan to completely rebrand its organization across its vast network of resources. Let's face it, we've been calling it that for decades anyway.

Funny because just a few weeks ago social media outlets, and even my blog, were all a twitter over Chevrolet supposedly not wanting to use the name "Chevy" anymore. And here the YMCA is embracing its nickname, and attempting to freshen its positioning and its look as a result.

I think it's smart, honestly. If you've ever experienced a YMCA, you will notice that the network is quite inconsistent. Some locations are fabulously modern, while others are in desperate need of a reinvention. Some have gorgeous state of the art gyms and recreation facilities, while others are well .... . By giving the brand a national overhaul, perhaps management will be able to give its locations some consistency of services, environments, and branding. In this case, a shorter and hipper version of its name will reinforce the changes being made inside.

The brand's mission isn't really changing, if you read the fine print. Just a little more welcoming and perhaps more of a focus on youth, but still providing resources for all kinds of people and their various needs. And hopefully consistently from location to location.

I applaud the work. But must acknowledge that the dance floor will never be the same. "It's fun to stay at the Y" -- I'm sure The Village People aren't too happy.

What's your experience? Jim

Monday, July 12

What Is A Brand?

The producers of the morning news show on CBS/CW in Philadelphia asked me to come back to do a television segment on personal branding. Specifically how Moms who are going back into the workforce can think about themselves as a brand to be more successful landing a job.

While preparing for the segment, one of the first questions they asked me was "what is a brand?" Funny, I've been doing marketing my whole career and I've never been forced to think about it so succinctly. There are so many ways to answer that question -- entire books have been written answering that question.

How do I clearly describe a brand to non-marketing people in 20 seconds in front of a live television camera? I can't drone on and on about emotional connections and positioning statements.

Then I realized, in layman's terms, what a brand really is: a collection of ingredients that have been packaged to benefit a specific consumer.

Now that's certainly not the most perfect answer, there probably really isn't one. But it's enough to get the conversation started. So when it comes to personal branding -- people are really just a collection of skills and accomplishments that can be and should be packaged to benefit a specific target.

If you're looking for a job, then the target is a potential employer. So package your skills in a way that will benefit that employer. Present yourself as a brand to them and show them how hiring you will benefit them.

Way too simple, I know, but it's a good start.

If you'd like to see my television segment, click here for the video.

What's your experience? Jim

Friday, July 9

Stonyfield Yogurt

If you are reading this, then you've already bought into the concept of blogging. Bloggers have become an influential force in our culture, and brands are catching on to their power. One of my colleagues at work discovered an interesting initiative from a yogurt brand that obviously "gets it".

What's your experience, Alyssa? Jim.

These days the typical PR campaign includes a cool event, a group of editors and a handful of press materials. But as budgets continue to be cut, PR events, launches and deliverables are changing with the times. . Brands are reaching out to different targets and seeking an alternate direction while still promoting within a budget.

One of the most notable changes in the campaign arena is the attendees. As magazines and newspapers continue to struggle every day, and with social media on the rise, bloggers are becoming a new and valuable friend in the world of PR. Blogs and social media sites get news out fast, with clean delivery and execution, and they offer brands the ability to generate great placements that can be posted, clipped and showcased to the client all within minutes.

Many people are becoming fans of social media: moms, college students, and corporate America. I know I religiously start my mornings sipping on a cup of coffee while perusing my favorite blogs and that’s when I stumbled across one of the coolest PR campaigns I have seen in a while.

Ready, set… Introducing… Stonyfield Barnstorming Tour. Stonyfield is known for their amazing and delicious organic yogurt, but what you probably didn’t know is that they invited a group of select bloggers to escape reality this past weekend in Vermont and New Hampshire. Bloggers experienced an exclusive behind the scenes look at what the Stonyfield brand encompasses while learning about their commitment to organic farming and why it is so important to the production process. Stonyfield has always been dedicated to social responsibility and you are seeing a lot more companies participating in this type of commitment and sharing their initiatives with their consumers.

Stonyfield set up trips to several organic farms where bloggers were able to learn about organic farming and how it is incorporated into the Stonyfield brand. They shared intimate dinners with the farmers and got “down and dirty” on the farms.

As the four day weekend continued, bloggers constantly posted summaries and Tweeted about their barnstorming adventure. From a PR/marketing point of view, this was a stroke of genius, as the bloggers’ audiences were able to experience their journeys as well. The barnstorming tour culminated with a trip to the Stonyfield plant –where all the magic happens– where they experienced the production process from top to bottom. This type of event is always a plus for the media, because bloggers can share their experiences and their readers are able to relive them through their blogs.

Kudos to Stonyfield on a job well done, you have definitely raised the bar in blogger outreach and are making strides in the world of social media. I loved this campaign and your commitment to organic farming is commendable. This organic yogurt lover along with our agency applauds you!

Check out more about Stonyfield’s Barnstorming Tour at:

Alyssa Ciambriello - yogurt fanatic and AAE at Lippe Taylor Brand Communications

Thursday, July 8

I Witnessed an Icon

My "friends" know that I talk about this woman a lot. She's in my book, I cover her when I do speaking engagements, and I was just interviewed over the weekend for a feature article about her as a brand.

Lady Gaga. I went to her concert at Madison Square Garden last night, and I witnessed an icon.

Sure, her music is good but that's not what I am talking about. Lots of people make lots of great pop music. Honestly hers is not that different, although boy the girl can sing!

It's all in who she is, how she defines herself, and how she presents her craft. It's all about her brand.

Lady Gaga has positioned herself as the role model of the underdog, the under-served, the shy and inhibited. Even has a manifesto that encourages us all to put our inhibitions aside and do what we want to do. She certainly has and she consistently talks about it in every move she makes.

Lady Gaga also knows her fan base, serves her fan base as a matter of fact. Has a name for them, Little Monsters, complete with a hand signal. Gives generously to her "cause" -- helping gay and lesbian youth who have been pushed out of their homes for being who they are. Talk about underdogs!

At one point in the show, she called a fan on their cell phone in the audience and upgraded their seats to be closer to the action. Just a simple example of her media strategy -- mobile and social media has built her fan base and her brand.

Partnerships and strategic alliances galore, all tied back to her brand called "House of Gaga" -- surrounding herself with talented writers, musicians, videographers, fashion designers and other brands who all share her same mission to encourage people to come out of their shell and do what they want to do.

I witnessed an icon last night, the likes of which I have never quite seen before. And when she sits down at the piano and sings her torch song, it's an experience you will never forget.

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, July 7

Bed Bath & Beyond Dorm Rooms

I spent the long 4th of July holiday weekend visiting colleges with my daughter. She's a "rising Senior" in high school, so we are picking out the schools that she will apply to in the fall. It's a stressful time for a young person, and as a parent I know the enormity of the decision. My years at Cornell were among the best of my life, and I want the same for my two kids.

But of course as a marketer, and I find it hard to turn myself off. So as we are sitting in the information sessions and doing tours of the schools, I can't help myself but to think of these schools as brands and dissect how they present themselves. It's amazing how much of it sounds all the same. These brands could use some positioning work. I know, I'm terrible!

Visiting school number two for the weekend, we are walking around William & Mary down in Virginia, just about to go into one of the dorm rooms -- and even Mr. Marketer here gets caught by surprise. The dorm room has been outfitted by Bed Bath & Beyond! Talk about being at the right place at the right time. And the brand is not shy about it with tons of posters, coupons, and accessories promoting their offerings.

The secret sauce of marketing is to intersect with your consumer right at the moment when they may be considering you -- and add value to their lives. Exactly what Bed Bath & Beyond did during a campus tour!

They made the room look adorable, and completely took away the anxiety of what living quarters might be like for a Freshman. As part of a corporate sponsorship with select schools across the country, the brand even sponsors field trips with dorm advisers to help incoming Freshman get settled. Decorating advice, easy access, and money saving offers, right at the time of need.

Brilliant marketing that has put Bed Bath & Beyond on my radar -- and on the radar of hundreds of thousands of college students looking to outfit their dorm rooms.

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, July 2

Newspapers Still Relevant?

With the onslaught of all things digital, lots of folks are predicting the demise of the traditional newspaper. Of course these same folks say the same about television advertising and print magazines, and I don't necessarily agree. With newspapers, though, even I'm not sure where it will all go.

The key for any brand is to stay relevant, and to continually add value to your changing customers' lives. As soon as your brand is no longer as relevant, then a better alternative will take its place.

The truth is that traditional media outlets still produce the most news, but interestingly the newer outlets I believe are becoming more and more relevant. I personally get more of my news from Twitter and Facebook than anywhere else. Sure, it's filtered by a friend or follower, but that's how I generally hear about something first. Or the Yahoo! home page. Or bloggers. These outlets have made it into my life because they help me, so I go to them first.

Let's look at The Wall Street Journal, as an example, because there has been so much speculation about that brand lately.

For the first time in 35 years, The Wall Street Journal did not win a single award at the Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. Earlier in the year, The Wall Street Journal also walked away empty handed from the Pulitzer Prizes. Almost never happens.

The paper still dominates the news, and their circulation is actually up ... but are they losing their edge? Is the brand keeping relevant?

Perhaps it's all just a sign of the times.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, July 1

Giada De Laurentiis for Target

I've been a big fan of Target since the beginning. I remember working with them in the early '90s when I was at Johnson & Johnson. The company was just starting up in the mid-west and I knew they were onto something. But who knew, really, that they would become such a strong, consistent brand with such a compelling promise and personality.

Through the years, they've developed that brand through smart alliances with other brands to create amazing, affordable designs across many of their categories: fashion, home, appliances, beauty. Michael Graves, Isaac Mizrahi, Thomas O'Brien.

One of their latest moves is a strategic melding of brand equities that I just have to acknowledge. Giada De Laurentiis for Target. Talk about another powerful brand with a compelling promise and personality! Like retail stores, there's no shortage of celebrity chefs these days. But Giada is unique, and has developed a big following for her brand of tv shows, videos, books, and products.

She brings her "chef-ness" to Target with a new line of cookware, kitchen accessories, and even food that aligns perfectly with the Target essence without losing any of her own. Beautifully packaged, and of course expertly designed. We'd expect no less. Actually, officially, I think it's "Expect More. Pay Less."!

The advertising and the website are SO Giada, yet very Target. Wonderfully shot with interesting angles, with a website that compliments and showcases the breadth of the line. You have to check out the online videos on the Giada section of Easy to watch, that's for sure.

Right when Target is trying to develop its grocery business. Hmmm. Good timing :)

What's your experience? Jim.