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.


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.