Tuesday, December 31

My Favorite Blog Posts of 2013


I spend the first few moments of every business day writing a blog post.  It not only gets my day and my creative juices flowing, it also keeps me in touch with what's going on in the marketplace, which only helps me try to keep my work fresh and inspired.  It brings me a lot of joy.

The turn of a new year is a great time to reflect on the year past, so I thought I'd do another Top Ten List ... this one of my favorite blog posts of the year.  Enjoy and Happy New Year!

10.  The Year of the Snake.  My prediction for what the year's theme might mean in 2013 marketing.  Watch out, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.

9.  Husbands and Wives.  I just love how we've had to redefine these labels.

8.  Social Referencing.  I spoke at a big branding conference at VCU, and this was a big topic of discussion among the students.

7.  Personal Positioning.  I launched my third book this year, on personal branding.  This post captures the best of it IMHO.

6.  Electronics at the Dinner Table.   An eye-opening statement about spending time with the fam that stirred a lot of good conversation.

5.  Why a Best Place to Work.  2013 was a big award-winning year for my agency, and here's my hit on perhaps why.

4.  The Big C.  No pop culture moment hit be harder than the series finale of this amazing show.

3.  Only One Kind of Milk.  I spent a "milestone" birthday in Paris this year, and got a lesson in lattes.

2.  Social Media Icon at 50.  Me?  Are you kidding me?

1.  Make a Living Not  Killing.  By far my favorite post of the year, with inspiration coming from the most unlikely of places.

And .... one more for good luck:  My Personal Favorite Brand of the Year:  Shinola.

Happy New Year!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, December 30

Duck Dynasty: A Brand Pass?


Over the weekend, I wrote a post for Huffington Post about A&E's decision to carry on with Duck Dynasty, the entire clan.

As I try to make sense of this crisis, compared to others in the past, I do hope that something good comes out of it.

You can give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, December 26

Top Marketing Moments of 2013


The day after Christmas I always do my top 10 marketing moments of the year ... top 10 lists are one of the best parts of the season, bringing closure to twelve moths of activity.   This year it appears on HuffPo, but I'll reprint it below for ease of click.  Happy Holidays!

So here are my picks for marketing's defining moments this year:

10.  The Jersey Shore:  Bringing it Back.  The Jersey Shore gave us the "comeback" story of the year, making us all so very proud ... with some boardwalk fries on the side.

9.  Abercrombie & Fitch:  Targeting.  A&F's CEO forced us to decide if we can acknowledge the brand's "effective" targeting or if we simply want to walk away from what feels like bad karma.

8.  Guinness:  Turning the Tables.  I love when a brand changes a paradigm, and that's exactly what Guinness did with the male consumer and beer advertising this year. 

7.  Cheerios:  Reflecting Our Culture.  Likely without realizing it, Cheerios put a stake in the ground by representing our society and sticking by it.

6.  Asiana Airlines:  Handling a Crisis.  If there's no one thing Asiana Airlines taught us this year, it's how to handle a crisis with professionalism, care, and transparency.

5.  Paula Deen:  Lessons Learned.  On the flipside, we saw brand Paula Deen not handle a crisis so well, something we can all learn from and hope never to see repeated.

4.  Miley Cyrus:  Twerking.  This was a big year in pop diva music with Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce all competing for attention and downloads.  No one stole the show more, from a brand perspective, than our little girl Miley.

3.  Kmart:  I Shipped My Pants.  Kmart used simple humor to put the brand back in our consideration set.  The campaign also demonstrated how online video can go viral and then mass, in a heartbeat.

2.  Univision:  Numero Uno.  Univision showed us the sign of the times when the network went number one for the first time ever, beating out the traditional big guns.

1.  Prince William:  The Royal Dad.  The biggest birth of the century launched the brand of the world's most famous Dad.  A monumental marketing moment, the biggest of the year IMHO.

Honorable Mention:  I have to give a shout out to Volvo and their Epic Split with JCVD.  Super creative, especially given this was a campaign to highlight specific features in a truck!  A big truck!

Brand of the Year:  I wrote this post a couple weeks past, but wanted to mention again that I give Oreo my "Brand of the Year" nod for freshest marketing, all year long!

What a year!  Did I miss anything?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, December 23

Pantene - #ShineStrong

I don't think I've ever gotten more requests to comment on a campaign than I have this one from Pantene.  I wish my grad class at NYU was still in session, because I'd love to get the students' take on it.

As anyone who reads my posts know, I'm a big proponent of a brand rising above its functional benefits to find an emotional connection with its consumers.

Pantene certainly does that in its newest campaign, seeking to align with women who are tired of the labels put against them, when in fact those same labels work to elevate men.

Take a look here:



I will say one thing:  I love how the hashtag relates both to the emotional connection and to the product benefits, quite clever.  The integrated aspect of the campaign is impressive.

Do I think the campaign works?  Probably.  I guess I just wish it was stated on the positive side as it feels too negative IMHO.

I'm not denying that those labels still exist, and I know some women (personally) who still fight against them.  But I guess I just wish we could put them behind us, and I worry that by putting them back out there in mass consumption we are simply just keeping them alive. 

I can speak personally in the case of my children, they don't recognize these old stereotypes, so by reminding them I worry that we are by default keeping them alive.

I think in the end, though, this is a well-designed campaign that seeks to connect with professional women, specifically professional women who can relate to the messaging.  And as a result, the brand is doing an effective job of targeting by not just targeting all women but by specifying a particular kind of woman and reaching out to her psychographically, in an emotionally specific way.  A very specific way, albeit maybe too specfic.  Exactly as I teach in my class at NYU ... find a deep emotional connection in a very specific kind of way in order to engage your target market.

It's hard to argue that this isn't smart marketing.  Whether or not you relate to it depends on if you are in the target market and if you feel those emotions. 

What do you think ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Sunday, December 22

The Tweet Heard 'Round the World

I'm commenting on this matter, because it's a perfect example of a topic in my latest book about personal branding and my personal branding column at Entrepreneur.

The topic is how to manage your personal reputation, which must be done carefully and consistently ... acknowledging that one small post can damage it in a minute.

Such was the case just a few days ago with Justine Sacco, who allegedly carelessly tweeted inappropriate and insensitive (let's leave it at that) comments while in route to Africa.  She almost instantly lost her job as a result, amidst a global media explosion that happened before she had even landed at her destination.  Her personal "crisis" is now the first topic that pops up when her name is searched online, completely eliminating what perhaps could have been a list of accomplishments.  Proving that managing your reputation has both personal and professional implications, with blurred lines in between and all around ... affecting her career, her family, and the company she worked for ... not to mention the innocent people offended by her comments.

CNN called it "Trial by Social Media."

The post I recently wrote on the topic of personal reputation management can be read here.  Let's all learn a lesson on this one, please.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Friday, December 20

Your Voice, Your Look, Your Brand

Here's the next in my series over at Entrepreneur, all about personal branding.  We're hitting the homestretch, moving from chapter to chapter in my new book The Personal Experience Effect.

This week it's about choosing your look and finding your voice, two very important elements in creating your personal brand.

You can give it a read by clicking here.

What's your look, what's your voice, what's your experience?  Jim.  

Thursday, December 19

Duck Dynasty Going Down?


Now you would think we'd been paying attention here.  Haven't we learned from Paula Deen that hate just doesn't do well for your brand?  We've got yet another brand in crisis, stemming from "inappropriate" public comments.

Evidently the lead character, the Dad, from A&E's Duck Dynasty is quoted in an upcoming issue of GQ Magazine as saying some pretty nasty things about gay people.  He says he's spreading his "religious" beliefs and many are saying that he's entitled to do that.

Ok, the man's entitled to his opinions and beliefs but the rest of us don't have to buy them.  Or him.  His franchise has gotten huge, far beyond the television show with an entire lineup of products so these kinds of comments can't help but reflect on his (growing) brand.

A&E quickly responded by halting future filming, probably while they sort out a game plan.  Good move.  It'll be interesting what GQ has to say, now that his comments are causing quite the stir.  The issue isn't even out yet!

Fortunately, hatred doesn't sell and he's already trying to back track a bit.  The "back tracks" are always a bit comical, I have to say, because they end up digging a bigger hole IMO.  We saw that with Paula Deen, the CEO of Barilla, and sadly an even longer list of public brands that can't keep their personal comments to themselves and then "regret it" later from a business standpoint.

Every time this happens, I keep coming back to a couple of thoughts.  It's hard to support hatred of any kind, even on an issue that still polarizes people like gay rights.  Or perhaps this is all just a form of targeting, getting your audience to align around some core beliefs and thereby building a connection with them.

Freedom of speech, absolutely.  Freedom to turn the channel, absolutely. Freedom for the cable operators to take away his platform, absolutely.

Either way, I am not going to support hatred from any brand, but I also can't help but chuckle at the irony of it all ... his comments are in GQ!  GQ!  Enough said on this topic.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, December 18

Forbes Picks the 10 Best Apps


What's a guy like me getting asked a question like this ... "What app can't you live without?"  From Forbes no less!

My answer?  Hightail!  Formerly YouSendIt.  A file collaboration app that let's you go from device to device, reviewing and commenting on big files with your team.

Can't live without it.  Can't travel, can't review creative, can't keep up with my teams.  It's Hightail all the way.

Want to see the complete list from 9 other "executives?"  Just click here.

What's your "can't live without app?"  What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, December 17

Why A Best Place to Work?


It's been a year for the record books at my agency, Cohn & Wolfe.  Aside from winning PRWeek's Agency of the Year award right at the start, we've won multiple "Best Places to Work" accolades across various award categories throughout the year.  I'll admit it's a pretty darn good place to work, but why a "best place" to work?

I tackle that very question on my agency's blog, so give it a read here if you'd like.

And let me know, what makes your place a "best place?"  What's your experience?  Jim.

Monday, December 16

Queen Bey Surprises Us All


Sometimes the best marketing is no marketing at all, that is if you have a solid consumer base and a really compelling product.

Certainly seems to the case with Beyonce's surprise album, released with no fanfare last Thursday.  Despite the mega-marketing campaigns of her contemporaries Gaga and Katy Perry, Beyonce put out her new album without as much of a peep.  Nothing, nada, zilch.

Let's break down her non-marketing approach:
- a complete surprise to the entire industry, NO ONE knew this was coming
- no tracks leaks in advance, no rumors, no speculation
- no lead single, in fact no single at all, and nothing "radio friendly" as the critics would say
- only available on iTunes as a complete album, no track purchases allowed
- released on a Thursday, when the industry standard is a Tuesday
- 15 tracks with 14 videos, making it a "visual album"

A visual album!  Leaving everyone asking, "how'd she do that?"

The result?  430,000 copies sold in the first day putting her on track to be the biggest selling female artist of the year and far outpacing the debut week's of aforementioned Gaga and Katy Perry.  This is a true testament to the power of earned media and word of mouth.  Beyonce is relying solely on people noticing and sharing to get the word out, and the word is getting out.  Not a lick of paid media or traditional marketing in sight and she still is breaking sales records. 

Now admittedly, I am not a big fan although I'm not sure I could even possibly say why.  I do have tremendous respect for what she's done in her career, and this move catapult's her to marketing maven in my eyes.

Queen Bey, that's all I've got to say about it.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Friday, December 13

Duluth Trading Goes Buck Naked


I've written quite a bit about the "new male consumer," the one who is super involved with his family, multi-tasking at work, and yet still has time to spend with his buddies.  This is also a man who knows how to dress ... he puts a scarf with his t, throws on a hat, and wears the latest sports coat.  All while instagraming from his tablet.

Well there's an underlying current that also threads with this "new male consumer":  he's a man.  A manly man.  He gets his hair cut at a barbershop, he grows his beard out for Movember, and he definitely hangs with his boys.

And evidently he wears underwear:  men's underwear, manly underwear.  The kind that doesn't pinch, bunch, or dare we say it ... stink.

Accordingly to Duluth Trading Company, their "Buck Naked Underwear" is like wearing nothing at all, which BTW is really what a guy wants to do.  This is the next best thing.  Or if you prefer, you can also try their "Free Range Cotton."

Can't comment from personal experience, but I do have to say that the advertising is quite compelling.  From a brand that's been around a long time, actually, but seems to be finding its voice.


The brand also sells a "Big Ass Brick of Soap" and "Anti-Monkey Butt Powder."  If you are looking for a gift for your guy, you can certainly get a pair of briefs packaged in a Man Can.

Just in time for holiday shopping, if you ask me.  After all, as the brand says ... Santa's Secret is that he goes Buck Naked!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Thursday, December 12

Ron Burgundy

This is perhaps the best movie marketing that I have ever witnessed.

But this is no ordinary movie release, this is the launch of Anchorman 2 ... a sequel to one of the most iconic of comedies ever created IMHO.

Admitedly, I'm not much of a Will Ferrell fan but his character of Ron Burgundy is hard to beat.

To promote the upcoming release of the movie, Will has been making appearances all over the country in the character of Ron Burgundy, doing news interviews as the Anchorman.

Now this is a style of humor that doesn't suit everyone, but I personally find it hysterical.  I love character sketches, and it's incredibly impressive to see Will Ferrell in such consistent character but doing so in real life situations.

Here's a clip of him interviewing Peyton Manning for ESPN:




Ron Burgundy has made an appearance on local news in North Dakota for Black Friday:


I'm not sure that I've ever seen a movie character go out in real life before.  With social media, of course it then spreads like wild fire.  Movie promotions tend to be pretty formulaic, so we have to give props for the originality.  The funny thing is that Ron Burgundy is more famous than the movie itself; he's a brand unto himself.

The trick with these movie releases is that often the hype is more hysterical than the movie itself.  Given the nostalgia of this one, and the fact that it's Judd Apatow I have a feeling we won't be disappointed.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, December 11

Brand of the Year

One of the best parts of the end of the year are all of the end of the year lists.  Can't get enough of them.

So I thought I'd start out the season with my vote for "Brand of the Year."  While it's been an amazing year of many marketing feats, this was an easy choice for me.

Oreo:  Brand of the Year.  It's not easy staying fresh, especially when you are a household icon that's been around for over 100 years.  And it's not easy finding that ongoing mix of digital and traditional media; even the newer brands struggle.

Oreo stormed into the year with its now infamous "Dunk in the Dark," leaving every consumer saying "how did they do that" and every brand saying "I want to do that."  From that moment in the Super Bowl, Oreo has been pushing out fresh messaging right in tune to pop culture events, but never straying  from its core heritage.  We are all still dunking and twisting and licking and crunching our way across package after package.  I'll admit that I hadn't bought an Oreo in years, but I certainly did this year.

So hats off to Oreo, brand of the year.

Just to make it interesting, I thought I'd mention two runners up if you don't mind.

Starbucks:  First Runner Up.  Starbucks has certainly been a trail blazer in how a brand should (or shouldn't) get involved in social issues, never being afraid to be at the center of the discussion.  Bravo!

Shinola.  Second Runner Up.  This new kid on the block is looking to bring manufacturing back to America, specifically to Detroit, via the age old craft of watch making.  And doing it with style, precision, and commmitment.  Very impressive.
I'd love to hear your pics ... what's your experience?  Jim.

PS:  Stay tuned for my top ten marketing moments and top ten favorite blog posts coming right before the new year.  Always great fun!

Tuesday, December 10

Managing Your Personal Reputation


Today I'm featuring the next in my Entrepreneur lineup on personal branding ... today's topic is managing your personal reputation.

The digital world has made it a very interesting place, to say the least.  We must manage with care.

Give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  Jim.


http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230187

Monday, December 9

SnoreStop Billboard Goes Viral

A new billboard from a relatively unknown brand is a perfect example of using traditional media that ends up creating a social sensation because of the dialogue around a cultural issue. Whoa!

That's a whole lot of action for one little brand and one little billboard.

The billboard is from SnoreStop, and it features their new campaign #BeTogether.  The premise is that by helping people to stop snoring, they are helping couples stay together.  The tagline says it all, "Keeping You Together."  From personal experience, I think that may actually be true!

This particular execution features a very diverse couple:  an American soldier and a Muslim woman.  Whoa!


Ok, this is not the first brand to use an extreme example to make a point. It's also not the first brand to take on a social issue.  And it's also not the first brand to purposely do so in order to create buzz and sensation.  And it's also not the first piece of marketing to get banned (NYC rejected it for Times Square ... it currently appears in LA and Chicago).   Whoa!

Who would have thought that one outdoor billboard placement would draw this many eyeballs.  This is the media marketing world we live in today.

Is it just being gratuitous?  Is it sensation for sensation sake?  Is it tacky and inappropriate? (these just some of the negative comments made on social media, not to mention all of the racial slurs)

My take?  Applause, applause, applause.

I think it's perfectly fine for a brand to push boundaries, provided it's within the brand's character and positioning.   I actually think the messaging makes sense -- the brand took a functional benefit of helping to stop snoring and turned it into an emotional benefit of helping couples get along.  This is EXACTLY what I teach in my NYU classes, and have been living my entire marketing career.

Being a brand is about offering an emotional benefit.  If you can portray it in a way that attracts attention, then that's good marketing.  If you do it in a way that sparks dialogue, well then that should be your social media goal.  And if you push the lines of pop culture, and you're willing to do it, then I say Bravo.  But it has to all tie together, and in the case of SnoreStop, it certainly does.

Our world is a diverse one.  I love seeing a brand embrace it.

What's your experience?  Jim.

PS - you can watch the "behind the scenes" video of the production by clicking here.




Friday, December 6

Sound of Music Live!


I had the strangest experience last night watching The Sound of Music Live! on television.

I had actually forgotten about it until my daughter sent me a text from college asking, "are you watching?"  Jumped right on it.  This coming from a girl who played this movie every day when she was a toddler and acted out all the scenes.  I just had to watch.

On the one hand, it was wildly uncomfortable, sorry to say.  I have a lot of respect for these kinds of productions; I understand what goes into them, particularly when they are live.  Holy cow!  But it was just so awkward.  I'm sorry to say that Broadway is made for the stage, not for the small screen.  Acting on a stage just somehow doesn't translate to a television production.  Sorry.

I think the real problem is the The Sound of Music is a "thing" in our culture ... it's my youth to tell you the truth, and evidently the same for my daughter.  So it's very hard to separate from the screen version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.  Actually we WANT the screen version with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.  And while the singing was fabulous, the story didn't flow the same and many of the songs were different and therefore felt out of place.  I personally didn't want the stage version, I wanted the original version.  I wanted the BRAND!  According to the texts from my daughter, she and her friends wanted that as well.

But there were some wonderful moments.  It's very difficult to replicate or reinvent cultural icons but Audra McDonald singing "Climb Every Mountain" live on stage on tv was a show stopper for sure.  Brought tears to my eyes.  There were a couple of moments like that, although honestly I think it was more nostalgia than anything.

I do applaud the guts and creativity.  I'm all into that.  Reinvention and trying something new is what I am all about.  So Bravo for the effort.  And Carrie Underwood, you can sing girl and sing you shall!  Now available on DVD at Walmart!

A+ for effort, and we'll leave it at that.  Thanks for the memories though.  So long, farwell ...

Now from a marketing perspective, I've gotta give it to DiGiorno's Pizza for their live tweeting.  The pizza brand's little pops about "Dough Ray Me" and "Rolph the Delivery Boy" were so well timed and entertaining, it made the whole event (and the brand) seem super fresh.  Curiously, "Why Isn't Pizza One of Her Favorite Things?"  Gotta give them a round of applause for timliness, creativity, and living in the moment.

Honorable mention to Walmart for some very well-timed and well-executed advertising integrations, themed to the key songs of the show, all throughout the show, with a retail tie-in of the CD/DVD to boot.  Bravo for that too!

What's your experience?  Jim.


Thursday, December 5

What I Learned On My First Job


I've been spending a lot of time with new folks in our industry lately ... their energy and enthusiasm inspires me.

So it got me thinking about my very first job, the place that launched my personal brand with the people that I have perhaps learned the most from, during some very formative years.  Such fond memories.  Thought I'd write a post for Entrepreneur to reflect upon it.

Click here to read the post, if you are interested.

What did you learn on your first job ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, December 4

Newsweek Goes Back to Print

Now that's a headline that seems out of print.

In an interesting retro turn of events, the magazine Newsweek that not long ago went all digital is now going back to the presses to include an offline version.  A weekly offline version.

Holy paper chase, Batman!

Is it a concerted effort to revive sales?  An acknowledgement of how their consumers choose to receive their "news?"  A leadership move that will set a trend to come?

Is everything old new again?

It feels off to me, to be honest.  News has become so of the moment, that it's hard to believe that readers will wait for the hard copy to come out when news appears so much faster online.  Unless of couse the paper version somehow has so much more value in terms of content in written or visual form. But I don't know if that's the Newsweek "brand."

We will have to keep an eye out on this one. What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, December 3

The Changing Face of Holiday Sales


With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday behind us, it's time to take stock on what has become the biggest extended weekend of retail sales all year long.  This fact is not a new one this year, but there have been some interesting shifts in behavior ... some created by consumers and some manufactured by brands/retailers.

Black Friday Sales Were Down, Way Down.  It actually turned out to be a pretty bad Black Friday, if you measure brick and mortar sales on that day alone.  Double digit declines.  But that's because much of the sales either time shifted to Thursday night or moved online for early Cyber Monday activity.  We'll have to see the net impact in total sales as the season progresses.

Small Business Saturday Is Not Translating.  Sample size of one here, but I'm still not seeing this amazing concept actually execute at the local level.  I went to several stores on Saturday, none of which were participating in any coordinated effort with the movement or could even really articulate any kind of connection to this new retail "holiday" created in large part by American Express.  I still LOVE the concept, but I'm not seeing it come through.  I think it's having a hard time competing with the noise of the weekend, to be quite honest.

The Rise of the Mission Shopping.  Retailers and brands are NOT going to like this trend, but the industry saw a lot of shoppers running into stores to buy the one hot item and then running right back out.  No impulse buying to go along with the "door buster" and not as much "one for you, one for me" self-gifting that we've seen in the past.  Stay tuned, we are likely to see "Panic Sales" come from retailers trying to make up the volume and the margins as a result.

Cyber Monday Goes Mobile.  This year turned out to be the tipping point for mobile shopping, as the industry saw a huge surge in shoppers browsing and in many cases buying items on their smart phones.  Much more so than any prior year, resulting in record breaking Cyber Monday sales.  Mobile is now a legit distribution vehicle, causing some retailers to also extend the Monday date to include the entire week, giving birth to Cyber Week this year.  Yikes, I'm exhausted from it all.

So ... how was your holiday?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Monday, December 2

PRWeek 15th Anniversary



Today is a big day for our friends at PRWeek, and I am thrilled to be a part of the festivities.


The highly respected trade publication is celebrating its 15 year anniversary with a gala event tonight in New York.  I'll be there cheering them on with a table of my colleagues from the agency.  I've also been enjoying the 15th Year issue of their magazine over the holiday break ... chocked full of both great memories and predictions for the next 15.

At tonight's event, the magazine will also induct an inaugural bunch into its Hall of Fame.  Congratulations to all of the folks honored tonight, I'll be shouting out for you!

But first ... it's off to a secluded conference room where we will finalize the judging of this year's awards submissions from the magazine.  A group of judges from all aspects of the industry already made a first cut, and now we will pick all the winners and honorable mentions across a wide variety of categories.

It was great fun reading all the submissions, I have to say.  To see our industry at its greatest is just so rewarding.  I always say, "marketing is a spectator sport," so great creativity in action is nothing short of inspiring.

I am also inspired to say that PRWeek released its winners of the "Best Places to Work," and my agency Cohn & Wolfe made the very short list.  WooHoo ... I am so proud of all my colleagues around the world.  So exciting.

Quite a day for sure.  Congratulations to all my friends at PRWeek ... so happy for you!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, November 27

GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys

This story is a little sad ... sad because a great brand seems to apparently have made a not so great decision.

GoldieBlox:  "a toy company on a mission to inspire the next generation of female engineers."  The brand seeks to "level the playing field" in terms of the number of women who pursue careers in science, technology, and engineering, by getting them young via constructive playtime.  This video asset is amongst the most innovative and entertaining I've ever seen in the toy space:



As a marketer and father, I'm inspired.

As I teach my students at NYU all the time, marketing is all about making good decisions.  This is a great concept!  So sure, you have to define who you are as a brand and align your brand with an interested target market.  Check.

You also have to stick with who you are as a brand, and make consistently good decisions along the way.  At every step along the brand's journey.

Now I don't know the ins and outs of the alleged controversy over the use of the Beastie Boys song in this video, but I do know it "feels" wrong.  To parody someone else's work without compensation is against code in our industry, if in fact that's what they did.

This is not a non-profit company by any means.  It also looks like the brand allegedly went into attack mode upon the Beastie Boys first inquiry.  I'm not sure that's right either ... as professionals we should work things out.

It's a shame, because I love the concept behind the brand and what it's teaching young kids and their parents.  But I don't like how it's all going down.  I'm not a fan of "any publicity is good publicity" ... I worry that without this controversy we wouldn't be talking about this brand right now.  I'm worried that the real message is getting lost in how the brand chose to execute it, and the resulting side effects of that decision.  Marketing is all about making good decisions and I'm not sure that this was a good one.  I worry that we have to uphold the standards of our craft.

Makes me sad to see a good concept take a wrong course.  It's a shame because the kids intended to hear this message may hear something else entirely.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, November 26

Much Ado About Content Marketing




There's been much written and said about "content marketing" lately -- the new marketing buzz word du jour.  So much so that I think "content marketing" has replaced "integrated marketing" as the "it" phrase of the moment.

The funny thing is that, as marketers,  I'm not sure when we weren't in the "content" business.  Just like I'm not sure when marketing wasn't supposed to be "integrated."  Isn't that what marketing is all about ... adding value to consumers' lives?  Content is how you add the value, beyond just what the product actually does.  And when your product is in a category filled with other products offering the same functional benefits, then the content becomes even more important to differentiate and add value beyond what the consumer can get elsewhere.

It's still a fun and lively discussion, nevertheless, so I am happy to be a part of it.  There are many interpretations and explanations for content marketing, and that's what makes marketing in general so much fun.

Like you I'm sure, I've read a ton of articles that attempt to explain it all.  Here's one that I think captures it best so far, with a really good example ... the best way to learn.  As I say, "marketing is a spectator sport," after all!

Click here to read it ... featuring Coca-Cola and their new content marketing strategy as it relates to their corporate website.

What's your experience?  Jim

Monday, November 25

Target "My Kind of Holiday"

There's a new holiday television advertising campaign that takes "program integration" to a new level.

The retailer Target has partnered with three abc programs -- The Middle, Back in the Game, and Modern Family -- to create a series of television spots that use characters from the three shows to weave a holiday story of gift giving.  Perfectly timed to run during the actual shows, to give an appearance of continuity from programming to commercial break.  So well done.

Here's the first part of the series, featuring The Middleclick here.  That character from The Middle just cracks me up!  Classic character acting, both on the show and in this piece of advertising.

And here's the second in the series, featuring the new show Back in the Game :  click here.  I'm imagining that the network is using the success of The Middle to try to build an audience for this new show.

Finally, my favorite of all with my favorite character from Modern Family, the little Frenchie:  click here.  That little dog is by far the best character on tv right now, in my humble but extremely biased opinion.

What I love about all of this is the creative partnering that is bringing new meaning to what could otherwise be considered standard fare holiday advertising.  Not necessarily the most creative advertising this season, but a great example of a network partnering with an advertiser to benefit both parties somewhat equally. 

What's your experience?  Jim.

PS - Full disclosure,  I am a Frenchie lover.  Here's a shot of my little Sophie ....




Thursday, November 21

Flexibility is Key to Personal Planning

 Here's the 9th post in my series over at Entrepreneur ... all about personal branding.

This one is about flexibility, something not so easy to come by when planning out our lives.

Give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, November 19

Toys 'R Us Field Trip




This piece of marketing is the last of four featured brands that we spoke about in my class at NYU this week, and it's from Toys 'R Us.  I asked my graduate students to break down each brand's product management and brand marketing, making for quite a lively discussion.

It's worth noting that this particular video asset is yet another example of the "marketing du jour" movement called "prank-vertising," where brands pull a prank on consumers and catch it on film.  Many of these happen to be slightly scary or somewhat negative, shall we say, but this one from Toys 'R Us is sheer joy.

The footage has caused quite a stir on social media, and the brand has also edited it down into consumable segments for broadcast advertising.  Perfect timing for the holidays, I am sure as planned.

I asked my students to analyze the branding, and they came up with what I believe is the true spirit of the marketing approach.  Witnessing the surprise and delight on these children's faces is nothing short of awe inspiring ... exactly the moment you want when your children open the presents you give them for your holiday celebration.  Whatever your holiday celebration.  It's these exact emotions and moments you want to create as a parent.  Watching these little kids makes you want to replicate the feelings for your own.

Most likely the point the brand was trying to make.

Does it separate out Toys 'R Us from its competitors?  Well my students were not completely sure, but it did make for a memorable brand experience.

What's your experience?  Jim.

KMart Jingle Bells


Jingle Bells indeed, better watch the spelling!  We talked about this new ad from KMart last night in my grad class at NYU.  I actually split the class into four groups and each group analyzed different "holiday" marketing ... KMart, Shinola, Volvo, and Toys 'R Us ... advertising or video assets that had just recently debuted and are getting a lot of buzz.

Of the four we looked at, this was by far the hardest to decipher from a marketing perspective ... but is on fire in social media!

We came to the conclusion that KMart is trying to differentiate via "attitude" and "personality," rather than through price or trendiness, as its competitors do.

This spot for Joe Boxer at KMart follows a string of viral videos turned main stream marketing for the brand over the course of the year, starting out with "I Shipped My Pants."  A chuckle at the time when we perhaps needed it most, right in the dead of winter.

This video is drawing a lot of criticism, I must add, for being inappropriate and in bad taste.  That I don't see, neither did any of my students.  Just some good holiday fun, and a reminder of where we can all go buy a little part of it.

Me?  I applaud the creativity.  It's not saying much strategically, and it's not very compelling on why I should shop there.  But it is telling me to have a little fun along the way, and when the holidays get hectic I don't mind that message at all.

What's your experience?  Jim.

PS - This week I'm covering all four of the featured brands we discussed in my class ... tomorrow will be Toys 'R Us to finish up the round up. 



Volvo Epic Split

I've written a lot lately about "prank-vertising" and the rise of the stunt as a way to attract consumer attention.  It's a tactic of high risk because it may alienate the viewer or potentially bore the viewer.  But not if it's strategically aligned with the brand, at least in my book.

Here's a very recent "stunt" caught on advertising film that I think is a perfect example of strategic alignment, not only between the stunt and the brand's core positioning, but also with the talent they used to pull off the stunt and tell the story.

If you listen hard to the messaging, you'll see what I mean.  So well written!  Makes me want to buy a Volvo truck!


It's a great strategic stunt that is not only bringing the core functional and emotional benefits of Volvo to light, but also revitalizing "celebrity" brand for what he too was once known for.  Brilliant.

Have you seen another truck (or celebrity for that matter) differentiate itself so well?

What's your experience?  Jim.

Monday, November 18

Shinola


When I first heard about this brand, I felt immediate respect.  Then I saw the products, and I felt immediate interest.  And then I saw the brand and products merchandised at retail, and felt immediate desire!  I want to be a part of this brand!

Shinola ... a new brand coming out of Detroit, with the goal of bringing watch-making back to Detroit, a city long known for manufacturing.  100% American made.



Watches, journals, leather goods ... even bikes!  The product line is fabulous, and segmented for women and for men, although honestly it has a distinct "male" feel.

Shinola is not only a great product line, but also a great brand with a purpose -- bringing the mojo back to American made goods, using Detroit as symbolic of a great American city in need.  And using the watch as symbolic of returning a artistry back to America, where it was once strong.

The brand is the beginning, I hope, of a movement to bring not only revitalize manufacturing in Detroit, but also style, prosperity, and talent to a city that was once filled with all of the above.  And making "Made in America" relevant again and again.

Shinola ... "Where American is Made."  The retail stores are equally as fabulous, with flagship locations in Tribeca, NY and Detroit of course.

I just hope Santa is reading this post so he knows what to put in my stocking this holiday season!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Friday, November 15

A Personal Gap Analysis

 Here's the next (8th to be exact) in my personal branding series at Entrepreneur.  I'm basically following the pathway I wrote in my book, in a series of short blog posts.  It gives a flavor for what the book covers more fully.  Hope you get something out of it!  You can click here.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Thursday, November 14

Holmes Report Global Summit


I've been at the Holmes Report Global Summit this week ... an amazing conference where Communications professionals from all over the world gather to talk about how to advance our craft.

It's been a great experience networking, sharing, and learning.  That's what these things are for!  And every time I make new friends that make the industry, well, a nicer and more friendly place, which means a lot to me.

And I also see and hear a lot that stretches my mind, which is also the point.  Thought I'd share a couple of nuggets here.

Brand as a Verb.  The notion that a brand as a "noun" is basically dead.  A brand is no longer a "thing" that consumers merely just buy.  Brands should be a verb.  Brands should be all about action ... engaging, sharing, discussing ... all verbs.  It's an interesting notion to think about branding this way, and I kind of like it.  It forces us to think about our brands as being much more action oriented. 

We need to be more confident.  During Martin Sorrell's discussion with my CEO Donna Imperato, he encouraged all of us to be more proactive and more aggressive when it comes to advancing integrated marketing and adding more value to our clients' brands.  I'm summing up a lot of what he said, but basically he said we come to the table ready to take action and push our clients' business ahead.  I guess we should be verbs too!

UN Women Campaign.  During one of the panel discussions on creativity, the participants showcased some really cool global campaigns.  There's nothing more inspiring to me than dissecting good creative and strategic messaging.  One campaign featured really struck me ... the UN Women campaign, which highlights the need to continue to fight for women's rights around the world.  It's shocking that we even have to continue the dialogue at this point in our human evolution.  I did a little digging and realized that the campaign extends beyond just women's rights, to include anyone/everyone fighting adversity.  Hopefully campaigns like this one help the cause.

While I know many worry about the cost and time, conferences are such a great investment ... the networking and sharing of information is invaluable as we each build our careers and our businesses.  Thanks to everyone at the Holmes Report for a great week!  It was all very inspiring!

What's your experience?  Jim.

PS - if you want to follow any of the commentary from the participants and from the Twitter chat, just go to #PRSummit

Wednesday, November 13

The Empty Nester's Parents' Weekend


Tis the season for Parents' Weekend, at least if you've got kids in college.  With two kids in college and an empty nest, it's been quite the season!

Here's a little blog post I wrote for Huffington Post that captures the sentiment.  I'd love to hear your stories!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, November 12

Your Cyber Monday Strategy

 Just in case you hadn't noticed, the holiday season is starting to kick in.  Retailers are ramping up their messaging, getting ready for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, right after Thanksgiving.

We've got Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.  What on Earth are we doing with Sunday?

I wrote this article for Entrepreneur this week ... every business should have a strategy for Cyber Monday.  Give it a read here, if you'd like.

What's your strategy?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Monday, November 11

Veteran's Day Offers


Today is Veteran's Day ... a day when we celebrate those who serve and protect us, past and present.  It's a day that doesn't get enough attention, to be honest, and really should be celebrated as PTO to really give it justice.  We are all so busy going about what seems like a "normal" day that I don't think we give it enough respect.

But many of the brands are ... I am thrilled to see so many brands jump into action this year, giving free food and services to our active military.  I first noticed Applebee's, who has a huge advertising campaign offering a free meal to our military.  Yesterday, they were advertising "see you tomorrow" quite heavily on all the programming, including sports.

But happily the list is long:  Olive Garden, TGIFriday's, Outback, etc etc etc all have free food offers.

At Great Clips, veterans get a free cut OR if any of us get a cut we get a coupon for a free cut that we can give to a vet.  Well played.

There are also free car washes, coffee, doughnuts, and even a free bagel and shmear at Einstein's bagels.

It looks like a day when brands are giving back ... which should be what this day is all about.  I believe it's part of a much larger trend in marketing, where brands are trying to show a purpose and trying to find ways to fit into the community, giving back to those who are loyal to them.  I like this trend.

Thanks to our veterans who have kept us safe and our active military service people who continue to do so!  We appreciate it.

What's your experience?  Jim.

I will leave you with one of my favorite spots from the Super Bowl this year ... Jeep.  I've been using it ever since in my presentations and class work at NYU.  It's amazing.


Friday, November 8

Survey Coercion


Last week in my class at NYU we discussed consumer surveys as a market research technique.  They are a tried and true approach to getting feedback or getting to know your customers ... the online world has opened up many an opportunity to get this kind of data.

The discussion reminded me of a recent experience when I was asked to fill out a feedback survey after making a large purchase.  It was an online survey to basically assess the skills of the sales person and to rate the overall customer service experience.

The sales person pushed hard to get me to commit that I would in fact take the survey when prompted by email.  He even had a hard copy print out to show me the dozen or so questions that I would be asked, on a scale of 1 - 10, based on my satisfaction.

He went on to tell me that his "boss" doesn't accept anything less than a 10, and basically said that he wouldn't accept anything less than a 10 from me.  He even circled the column of answers with all 10's and told me that this is how I should answer the questions.  And then dramatically crossed off the options of 1 - 9.

The implication was that I would be hearing from him if in fact I scored less than a 10.

It was Survey Coercion in the purest of forms, an awkward moment as you can imagine that completely tarnished the entire purchase experience ... and this was a luxury good, not a pack of fries at McDonald's.

So of course I have ignored every single email and phone call that followed from the company, asking why I hadn't responded to the survey.  My attitude is to let them figure that out when they don't see me return.  The brand has now taken on a very different tone to me, one I dislike, from just a  simple little touchpoint like a customer survey and how it was handled by a sales person.  Such a shame, but powerful in its meaning.

Customer surveys are meant to provide a window of understanding into the attitudes and behaviors that shape your customers' decisions.  And to gather great feedback on how you can be doing better as a brand.  While they can be a measure of performance as well, they shouldn't be used to hold your employees hostage to the point where they use it as a weapon.  A weapon of brand destruction in this case.

And in fact, a customer survey can be another consistent touchpoint for your customers that builds toward loyalty.  When done correctly.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, November 6

15 Inspiring Books

If you like to read books, there's a fascinating recap over at Entrepreneur showing the 15 most inspiring books for entrepreneurs.  The magazine asked a bunch of us what books we thought inspired us most and compiled this very unusual list.

You can read the article here

My pick was the classic Ogilvy on Advertising, which is probably the first business book I ever read.  Back in college, it inspired me to pursue a career in marketing so I owe a lot to that little ditty.  At the time, I loved reading all the rules about how to make great advertising and then how so many great brands had broken the rules.  I just found it fascinating.

My other choice was Atlas Shrugged, which is actually fiction so I decided to choose a more business oriented book.  It's an amazing account of seeking excellence in anything that we do.  Ironically, it's also the first book listed in the Entrepreneur compilation.

Years later, with three books of my own under my belt and a bookcase full of others, Ogilvy on Advertising still sits among the best of the best of nonfiction books.  Timeless and inspiring.  You should give it a second look.  And if you've never read Atlas Shrugged, give that a whirl too.  It's a biggie, so reserve a lot of time for you because you won't want to put it down.

What would be on your list?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, November 5

American Horror Story: Coven

This weekend I jumped into a new trend in television programming:  binge television watching, or as some say marathon television watching.  I've honestly never done it before ... but I was dealing with allergies so I hunkered down on the sofa and turned on the tube.

I finally caught up on the series American Horror Story:  Coven.  It's a fabulous series, the third season, that is both phenomenal storytelling and superb acting.  It completely pulls you into the action, and doesn't let you go.  It was easy to sit in one place and keep on watching, episode after episode.

The show is written by Ryan Murphy ... perhaps one of the most versatile writers on the planet.  He's done Glee, Nip/Tuck, and The New Normal.  The man is a genius with a wide range of genres in his abilities, clearly.

I've been meaning to keep up with the new season, but in reality I quickly realized that it's best watched in a marathon session, much like a feature film.  Makes it so much more exciting.  Three episodes are almost like a movie, so I think I'll wait for three more to come on demand and then I'll do another session.

Next time without a head cold.   What's your experience?  Jim.

Monday, November 4

Where Do You Want to Be in 10 Years?


Here's the latest from my personal branding column over at Entrepreneur.  It's all about writing your own personal marketing plan ... starting with where you want to be in 10 years.  Where do you want to be?  Start planning now.  Give this a read!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Friday, November 1

YouTube Music Awards


While critics have panned this as "just another awards show," I actually think this is quite cool and very reflective of what's going on in consumer behavior and pop culture.

The YouTube Music Awards - YTMAs (presented by Kia).

Sunday night, November 3rd, YouTube will do a live stream from New York of their very first awards celebration to recognize those videos with the most views, shares, likes, and comments from the past year.  Sure, many of the usual suspects are there like Lady Gaga (who will perform live along with Enimen) and Katy Perry, but hey I am sure they racked up a lot of social media volume with their album releases so they likely deserve the recognition.

But there are some buzz-worthy categories too that only a social media outlet could credibly crown like Response of the Year (fan created video response to an artist) and Biggest YouTube Phenomenon --- acknowledging the huge impact that fans have on music trends, sales, and our sharing habits.

YouTube has been promoting the awards heavily, getting viewers engaged early with all of the voting, the playlists, and engaging with the nominees via video.  There's plenty of underground stuff here mixed right along side the mainstream work, IMHO.  Plenty to go around.  I also respect that they limited the categories to a few core areas, so as not to overwhelm and bore us to death like some of the awards programs end up doing.

I certainly plan to view - this is the first if its kind and sure to start an evolving trend so we have to check it out.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Thursday, October 31

Helping Young Talent


I just love my job, I really do.  Though the tough weeks can be a challenge, they get completely negated when one of those "pinch me" weeks comes along.  Last week was a "pinch me" week.

I spent a big chunk of time last week working on helping "young talent," which to me is the most rewarding part of my job right now ... helping the next generation of our industry get the experience they need to eventually lead their own agencies and brands.  Future leaders in action, shall we say.  It's this next generation of brand builders who will make our industry even better, so we have to nurture them.  I was so lucky to have a host of mentors when I started out at Johnson & Johnson.  I'm not sure that happens as much anymore, so these young folks need a place to learn.

It's the reason why I teach at NYU to be honest.  I love being in touch with the students that are learning our craft ... so I teach a full semester graduate level class plus a weekend intensive for those continuing their education.  Both classes for the Fall Semester hit last week, my favorite time of year in New York.

I also attended my first Board Meeting for the VCU Brandcenter, which is the nation's #1 graduate program for branding.  Helping the school build better programs to teach students what we do everyday is a blast.  And the company I keep there is off the charts ... very inspiring.

Lastly, I also announced the winner of the "Take Flight with PR" video contest for the Council of PR Firms at their annual dinner.  The winner won a round of interviews at a few NY-based firms plus $2,500 to help with their education.  Young talent in the making.

What a week!  I write in my personal branding book that we all need to find our own way to give back and to find a purpose.  I guess this is mine, although I receive a lot in return and it hardly feels like "giving" at all.

I want to do even more as time goes on, and make it a bigger part of my brand.  Thanks to you all for the continued inspiration.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, October 30

Stella Cidre

This is the most logical line extension on the planet, or is it?

Stella Cidre.  A new apple cider beer from Stella ... You know, the brand with the cool glass.

I don't know what to make of it, quite honestly. On the one hand, you've got an iconic mega brand capitalizing on a hot trend ... cider beers are all the rage in the UK and they've been not-so-slowly making their way stateside.

On the other hand, you have an iconic mega brand capitalizing on a trend.  While Stella is hot in and of itself, I wouldn't consider it trendy.  It's more sophisticated and classic than that.

Apple ciders are hot, so why wouldn't you?  But it just feels awful coming from Stella, and I can't really articulate it.  It feels wildly opportunistic, which isn't what Stella is about, at least not to me.  I first thought that Stella was from Italy, and wondered if Italy has apples ... I don't know.  I've since discovered that it's from Belgium ... do they have apples in Belgium?  I don't know!

We were just talking about Stella in my NYU class last weekend ... the students were marveling about the brand's leadership in a very cluttered category.  I guess I expected more.  Not just following a trend but leading one.  Like they did with launching a truly high end sophisticated beer.  Arguably, the first really sophisticated beer.  And they changed their glass to a white wine glass - why wouldn't they keep their signature glass?  Their glass put them on the map, at least from a marketing perspective. 

I honestly don't know what to make of it ... do apples have that much of an impact?

What's your experience?  Jim.

Tuesday, October 29

Who's Your Enemy?


As the economy and the marketplace get more and more competitive, I've heard a lot of talk lately about "having an enemy" in business and using that as a focus for getting ahead.  Not sure where it's coming from, but it's counter to how I personally think.  So I wrote an article for Entrepreneur to capture my thoughts on the topic of being competitive.

You can click here to read it if you'd like, and let me know what your think.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Monday, October 28

AICP Awards - Best in Show IMHO

Last week I attended a screening of the AICP Awards ... The Association of Independent Commercial Producers, the folks who make television advertising.  The AICP picked the best of the year's past advertising, across several categories. 

We watched the screening in an old theater in the middle of Richmond, VA of all places, because we were all in town for a Board Meeting for the VCU Brandcenter ... the #1 graduate program for branding in the country.  The Board of Directors is an amazing cast of characters from the industry, and I am so honored to be a part of it.

So here's my top 4 picks from the awards.  They will be the topic of conversation in my graduate NYU class this week (so students, if you are reading consider yourself warned)!  Should make for a lively discussion.

Volkswagon:  this little ditty debuted during the Super Bowl last year, to great debate.  Looking back, I'm not sure any of that was necessary.  I love how the creators try to capture an ownable mood for  the brand.



Durex:  this won for best "spec spot," meaning that it never aired.  Certainly shows off the product benefit without saying a word, perhaps the most convincing of advertising approaches.



Dollar Shave Club:  An entrepreneurial brand that is looking to reinvent a deep-seated category.  Awesome go at it with a real flare for engagement.





Expedia:  the show stopper by far.  I had never seen it before, and it stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to the audience.  Brilliant storytelling ... "Find Your Understanding."  I later found out that this was not only a true story, but the creator was the one getting married in it!  She's one of us!



I think the best part about the awards was watching them in a big theater on a big screen.  For one of the first times in my life, I was watching advertising as pure entertainment and didn't really over analyze any of it until much later.  Pure enjoyment ... we laughed out loud, we cried, we smiled, and we rejoiced in our industry of creativity.  Doesn't get any better than that!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Friday, October 25

Katy Perry: Is It The Music or The Marketing?

I wrote this article for Huffington Post, posing a question about Kay Perry and her intense success.

Is it the music or the marketing?  Click here to read it.

What do you think?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Thursday, October 24

Take Flight with PR - Contest Winner


Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Council of PR Firms annual dinner, where I announced the winner of the PR Takes Flight video contest.

Part of The Council's mission is to attract young talent, so we've put together a comprehensive program to showcase how exciting a career in PR can be.

Part of that was asking young folks to submit video entries of how they would view a PR career opportunity.  The winner received $2500 and a series of interviews at NYC PR firms.

Ashley Varner from The College of William and Mary was the winner, and she sat at my table for the entire dinner last night.

Take a look at her incredible video by clicking here.

What was amazing about the evening was the attention that Ashley was getting.  First of all, we were all blown away by her video.  Incredibly insightful and professional, especially when coming from a college senior.  She created a concept within the video with a great set up, story line, and execution.  Amazing work.  The audience literally sat stunned watching it.

But probably more importantly, we were all struck by Ashley as the symbol of the next generation of our industry.  Articulate, savvy, and creative ... and ready to apply her talents.  It's so energizing to be around the new folks coming in because we can all continue to learn and grow from them.  It's why I teach my classes at NYU.

Congrats to Ashley and all the upcoming talent ... we're waiting for you and we need you!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post


Wednesday, October 23

Warby Parker


I've been meaning to spotlight this brand for a long time now, because I think it's a great example of "marketing is a spectator sport":  Warby Parker.

Warby Parker is the online prescription eyewear brand that sells a huge variety of frames.  Actually they started out online but now have brick and mortar locations as well.

If you know anything about buying glasses, you know that it's an expensive and stressful process.  Did I say "expensive?"  There have been a few new entrants to the scene lately to try to overcome those two facts (glasses.com is one of them), but none do it quite like Warby Parker.

The brand clearly picked up on the do-good success of Tom's shoes ... for every pair of glasses purchased, another pair goes to someone in need.  "Marketing is a spectator sport" indeed ... the brand paid attention to a winning concept and replicated it in their industry.  Nothing wrong with that, especially when there's a note of giving.

But they did it so well!  Buying glasses is an expensive proposition, and it's filled with stress.  An "ordinary" pair can get upwards of $1000 without even trying that hard, and then who knows if you are really going to like them.  Making the glasses more affordable takes out some of the risk, and makes it easier to create fashion accessories with the frames ... you can buy multiples with the same amount of money.

The brand also has a home try-on feature where you can experiment with five frames at home for five days, getting your friends and family to help you choose.  Again, eliminating some of the risk.  There are also social features that allow you to share pics of yourself in the frames, to do more crowd sourcing selections.

The fact that you are giving someone else a pair of glasses in the process just makes it so much better.  Classic contemporary marketing.  But the brand took it one more layer ... they are setting up micro-entrepreneurs in areas around the world and setting them up to sell affordable eyewear in their communities.  Taking the concept on the road, shall we say, and making sure that people have access to glasses.

So while it's hard to say that this brand is brilliant, because it basically modeled itself after Tom's, I do have to say that I love how it "searched and reapplied" a marketing idea and made it all theirs .... addressing consumer concerns of pricing, risk in product selection, and ability to get friends' feedback all at once ... bringing it all to those in need.  Addressing consumer concerns, in a beautiful fashion, is what marketing is all about.  Creating a business model out of it is even better!

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post

PS - Glasses are a big part of your personal statement, and of your personal brand.  Check out my new book on building your own personal brand by clicking here!  Thanks!