Monday, March 31

The American Work Ethic

There's an interesting "war" brewing in the automotive industry ... between Ford and Cadillac.

It's a war unlike any other I have seen, because it's based on core personal values ... a consumer psychographic of sorts.

Enter Cadillac with a campaign that debuted at the Academy Awards.  In it, the American work ethic is explored via non-stop hard work and the possession of worldly things.  Basically, the narrator tells us that Americans work harder than anyone else in the world, which affords us a lifestyle of riches.

It caused quite a stir because of the values the brand portrays as the American way.  Many are inspired by it, while others see it as American materialism.

Just last week, Ford came back with a direct assault on that Cadillac commercial spot with yet a different set of American values:

Wow, what a difference!  Absolutely fascinating to see two very different sets of values.  A direct comparison of how different people may think about their own work ethic ... why they work and what inspires them.

No right or wrong, I believe.  But amazing brand personalities and portrayals ... with distinctive targeting in the process.

What's your take ... what's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, March 28

Developing a Content Calendar

I've been writing a new series of articles at Entrepreneur, designed to help small business owners tackle content marketing.  No small task.

Here's the third in the series, all about developing a content calendar.

Give it a read here if you'd like.  Appreciate it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, March 27

The Danger of Not Differentiating

A friend sent me this "generic brand video," knowing that I'd get a kick out of it.  I got more than a kick, I got a lesson.  In branding.

The lesson here is "differentiate or die."  Die in a sea of sameness that is.

The crux of good marketing is finding a way to position your brand uniquely ... in a manner that your customers find compelling like no other option available to them.

This video creatively points out that what might seem differentiating has become in many cases what I call "table stakes."  Cost of entry into a category.  The given that every brand offers.  The same as everyone else.

Sure, many of these attributes may be important but they don't necessarily differentiate the brand.  So sure, the brand has to offer them, but they should not be the focal point of the marketing if every other brand is saying the same thing.  Pick something else that's going to be unique to the customer, that you can uniquely deliver.

The other lesson buried in this video is prioritization; perhaps the hardest part of a marketer's job.  A brand can't claim EVERYTHING.  You have to pick the attributes/benefits that are the most important to your customer, the most unique to the marketplace, and the ones that you are best at delivering.  And then drive those home.

Use this video as inspiration as I did.  Inspiration to continually improve your marketing, finding unique ways to differentiate your brand to delight your customers.

And ask yourself ... what's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, March 25

Twitter's 8th Birthday

It's hard to believe that Twitter has only been around for 8 years!  For those of us who live on it, it's hard to imagine life before Twitter.  I know it's changed my professional life immensely.  I've also formed some amazing friendships on Twitter as well, and been able to keep in touch with people from around the industry that would be difficult to do otherwise.  I'm a grateful participant.

PRWeek wrote up a "celebration" of sorts in honor of Twitter's birthday milestone, to which I contributed.

Give it a read here, if you'd like.  A few folks commented on the impact that Twitter has made, and it's quite interesting to hear the different perspectives.

I'd love to hear your perspective as well ... what's your experience?  JIM.

PS - I'd like to honor all my #Exp peeps ... together we have changed how we view pop culture event television and you've all made it a blast.  Thank you!  And thank you Mike Brown for the inspiration to get the party started with that very first Super Bowl event.  Thank you!

Monday, March 24

Alcohol at Starbucks

Following what appears to be a brief test market, Starbucks is expanding the number of outlets where it sells wine and beer.

At first glance, it may appear as a move to merely expand sales past the typical coffee hours -- like after 7:00pm.   But actually, when you think about it, there's a lot of consumer sensibility in the very strategic move.  And it's clearly a statement that the Starbucks brand stands for a lot more than coffee, something the company has been consciously working on for years.  This is just the latest move, and a smart one at that.

It makes total sense.  When you think about it, there are times when you want to meet a friend (or capture a little alone time) and potentially have a glass of wine or a beer.  But you don't necessarily want to go to a bar or a restaurant.  Perhaps you just want one glass and be able to sip it slowly.  Perhaps you don't both want alcohol.  Perhaps you don't want to deal with table service, etc.  Perhaps you want to get some work done and you need a little space and some good lighting.

Interestingly, there's none of the hard stuff ... just wine and beer.  Which also makes sense, if you think about it.  It's not a full service bar, just a neighborhood place to grab a drink,  hang your hat and meet a friend.

Perhaps this Starbucks move is exactly what people need.

So grabbing a glass of wine from a Barista and and sitting at a table for a bit makes perfect sense.  Tasting a few of their shareable small plates makes total sense as well ... let's hope they're "shareably" delicious (something else the brand has been working on for years as well).

Starbucks has stumbled onto an unmet need, I believe.  And for that, I applaud the brand once again.  Serving unmet consumer needs is what marketing is all about, especially if you are trying to expand your brand.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, March 23

The Cover of Vogue

Not since the Boston Bomber made the cover of Rolling Stone has a magazine cover caused so much social stir.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are currently taking that title position for one of the world's most iconic covers ... Vogue.  If not THE world's most iconic covers.

The magazine is touting them #WorldsMostTalkedAboutCouple.  That may have been the starting point for a lot of social media commentary, much of it not so complimentary.

Whether they merit the cover or not is left to personal opinion.  And while I'm not sure they merit the attention it's caused, there certainly is a lot of attention being paid to it.  Word has it that Kanye begged for the cover, but I think that's just speculation.

The Muppets took the opportunity to embrace the topic as did Seth Rogan and James Franco, among others.

For me, the lesson here is in the power of branding.  The cover of Vogue clearly means something to people; something powerful.  It means something to Kim and Kayne for sure ... and it certainly means something to the legions of people who have a strong, emotional point of view about it.

That part is pretty cool.  For any brand to have such powerful cultural significance that it can stir these kinds of emotions is pretty incredible.  I'd say that's true of all "brands" involved TBH.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, March 21

Good Content Marketing ...

... Starts with Knowing Your Customers.

Sounds simple, right?  Certainly a simple approach but the devil is in all the hard work.

Here's the second in my series at Entrepreneur which explores how small businesses and entrepreneurs can do good content marketing.

Give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, March 20

Muppets Most Marketed

Be honest with me here, have you ever seen a movie more marketed?

Muppets Most Wanted ... premieres today, March 21st.

But I'm calling it "Muppets Most Marketed."

I swear the marketing started last summer.  That might not be accurate but it sure feels like it.  Then it came on strong during the holiday season; so strong that I thought it came out.  Now that it's hot and heavy again, I thought it was for the DVD release.  The marketing has been so long and so strong that I thought it had already come out!

Or maybe I'm just in the target market so I keep seeing it over and over again.

Granted, it looks good.  And if you are a Muppet fan then I am sure it's fantastic.  But do we have to get hit over the head with it?

Having said that, good marketing does get into your soul and under your skin.  And marketing needs investment to break through.  This movie certainly has done that!  I'm sure it will be quite the success.  Given that movie marketing is all about opening weekend, I wish the franchise nothing but blockbuster results!

If you see it, let me know what you think.  I may wait for the DVD that I thought was coming out!! What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, March 19

Hold onto Summer with L&P

Here's a little summer fun from a beverage brand in New Zealand.  One of my NYU students turned me onto this low-tech, completely interactive outdoor advertising campaign that gives out flip flops and beach towels with the message "hold onto summer."

While this would never work in NY (ha!), it's a great example of not needing to go super high tech or super complicated, despite our desire in our now complex world.  As marketers we are constantly trying to out do ourselves, but sometimes the simple can break through.  Just give away disposable flip flops and beach towels!  Talk about giving value to a consumer at a time when they are still trying to enjoy what's left of the summer weather.

Here's a video that shows the delightful engagement that results:

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, March 17

No Beer for St. Patty's Day

Not one, not two, but three major beer brands pull their sponsorships of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in New York and Boston.

First Heineken, then Sam's Adams, and then the late breaking Guinness.

The reason?  The parades were excluding any self-expression from the LGBT community and many called it discriminatory.

I say I love it when a brand supports its audience.   A brand should know what it stands for and it should always stand for its consumers.  'Nuff said from me.

In honor of the decision, may I present some pretty breakthrough advertising from Guinness ... "the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character."  Indeed.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - HuffPo ran a post from me on this very same topic!  Click here to read it.  Thanks!

Sunday, March 16

World Down Syndrome Day

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day.

To properly acknowledge the lives of people and families living with Down Syndrome, an organization in Europe released this celebratory video.  It's in response to a woman who sent an email to the organization upon finding out that her expectant baby will have Down Syndrome, asking for advice.

The video response to her and many others in the process is ... nothing short of ... inspiring.  Inspiring for all of us who are parents, friends, family ... humans.

Dear Future Mom,

Follow it all at #DearFutureMom on Twitter.

Speechless.  What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Thanks to my NYU class for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, March 14

Surprising Examples of Diversity

There's been a lot written lately about the rising diversity in advertising and marketing in general.  It's been said that finally advertising is reflecting the dynamics of our culture in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and family dynamics.

Thank you very much.

Thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite examples of late, from brands you wouldn't necessarily expect to be cutting edge when it comes to these kinds of discussions.  But maybe that's the point, each are sparking discussions.

Swiffer features a mixed race family with a disabled Dad.  Many have also said that the disabled are extremely under-represented, so it's good to see people showcased so powerfully, so real, and in such a normal day-to-day situation.

Honey Maid (HONEY MAID!) takes diversity to a whole new level featuring a surprise addition of a gay couple and their baby, a single Dad, and an interracial family ... "labeling" them all as wholesome!  WHOLESOME!

Banana Republic takes a different a diverse approach in print and point-of-sale by also featuring all sorts of people, including Nate Berkus and his fiance.  Mixing in a "famous" gay couple (or anybody) with all sorts of other people is exactly the way it should be done, IMHO.

All I have to say is:  more, more, more!

Any examples you'd like to share?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, March 13

Content Marketing for Small Business

I'm starting my third article series over at Entrepreneur ... it's great fun and the readers there are so engaged.  My approach has been to break down the marketing concepts of the big brands and apply them to entrepreneurs.

My first series was for small business, and my second one was about personal branding.

Now I'm tackling the buzz du jour ... content marketing.  The first post landed this week!

Click here if you'd like to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, March 12

Chevy: Storytelling

For years now, those of us in marketing have been talking about storytelling ... wrapping your brand message into a compelling consumer story that will draw people in.  Hopefully creating an emotional connection in the process to drive sales.

Of course storytelling can take many forms, from very product specific (not much of a story) to a complete work of art (not much about the brand).  Either way, for storytelling to work the consumer ultimately needs to feel something for the brand as a result.

Since I live by example, and marketing is a spectator sport, I thought I'd share a great story created by Chevy.  One of my NYU students showed it to us in class and it left our jaws dropping to the floor.

Major tissue alert ... especially if you are a dog lover.

This example is on the farther end of the range:  full on storytelling with not a lot of branding.  In fact you'd be hard pressed to really even feel the brand, even after a couple of viewings.   It's in there, but for my taste I would have made it even stronger.  But the story is amazingly strong, especially when you can relate to it.

The brand's goal here is to create an emotional connection so powerful that you'll see how it can fit into your life and you'll therefore put it in your consideration set for the next time you are ready to purchase.

Did Chevy succeed at that?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, March 11

Does Print Have a Shelf Life?

With news happening in Twitter speed, I got to thinking .... is print relevant anymore?  If the answer is yes, then does it have a shelf life?  I took to our blog at Cohn & Wolfe to explore the notion.

Click here if you'd like to read it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, March 10

Oreo Trending at SXSW

I picked Oreo as my 2013 "Brand of the Year" for a good reason:  it knows how to keep things fresh.  Sure, "dunk in the dark" could have been a shot in the dark, but the brand has kept up its pop culture presence ever since, with in the moment tweets and real-time marketing that has keeps the 100+ year old brand alive and kicking.

Even at a crowded place like SXSW ... and trust me, it's hard to break through with anything at SXSW.

A brand new vending machine made the scene there with technology that picks up trending preferences from Twitter and dispenses them to would be buyers.  Using a touch screen, you can pick what flavor combinations and cool prints are getting the most attention and hit select ... then a sample comes out within two minutes.

It's called "Trending Vending," and it's pretty darn cool ... at just the right venue IMHO.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, March 7


This is a follow up to my post yesterday about Amtrak's "Writers in Residency" program.  A couple people alerted me to another similar program from Amtrak called #AmtrakLive.  Again, an amazing idea that generates brand content by letting others share their experiences with the brand and their own unique take on the world.


Amtrak is taking thirty diverse digital and pop culture influencers on a ride from LA to Austin for SXSW, arguably the biggest digital and pop culture bonanza of the year.  While traveling, the crew will talk about their chosen field of expertise, debate issues of relevance to their industry, and share their experiences along the ride.  On Amtrak.  They arrive in Austin today, 3/7/14.

With scenery that I am sure is breathtaking ... you should take a look at their pics at #AmtrakLive.

I guess I'm mildly obsessed with these two programs because I would bet that none of us would put Amtrak in the content marketing bucket.  But arguable, they've been doing it for years with their magazine and website where they offer trip suggestions, profile people/places in destination cities, and basically give riders something to chew on.

I guess I never realized that the brand had taken it all to such a cool level.  Chronically in the moment experiences is exactly what others want to experience too, inspiring them to create their own.  It's simply brilliant.  I'm so impressed, and I'm going to follow this all out!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, March 6

Writers Ride for Free

So many brands are talking about content marketing ... trying to find their unique twist on what they can offer their consumers to add value to their lives, and trying to find their unique way of creating it easily and efficiently.

It's not an easy task.

But along comes Amtrak with their own twist to it ... giving others a safe haven to create content.

Amtrak's "Writers in Residency."

Basically the company is giving free rides to writers with the one caveat that they have to blog and tweet about their experience.  Say what?

So imagine you are working on your great American novel and you hit writer's block.  A long smooth ride from NY to Chicago and back again may be just the inspiration you need to throw down a series of chapters.  What a brilliant idea!  The story has it that the whole idea started with a single tweet from a writer, and Amtrak jumped on it.  Proof that they are into their social media.

As a writer myself, I just love it and welcome any brand that supports a creative craft.  As a marketer, I think it's such a clever way to keep the brand fresh and give it some meaning, with a certain cool factor that would be hard to put into a traditional advertising campaign ... so the brand hit social media, letting its riders speak for the brand.

Just the ticket!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, March 5

Out of Home Advertising

"Out of home" advertising ... now there's a term that certainly feels dated.  With mobile and social and digital and everything in between, it all feels out of home now.

But take a walk through the airport or a shopping mall, or a drive down I95, and you'll quickly see there's nothing dated about the medium at all.  It's gone mobile, social, digital and everything in between ... and attempting to breakthrough and drive consumer engagement with every set of eyeballs.

It's becoming more and more outdated to have a static message on a billboard; now they rotate, change out, dimensionalize, and move like their television advertising counterparts.  Even more so.

Here's a great example from a haircare brand in Stockholm, Apolosophy.  It's an "out of home" transit billboard a train station, and it actually reacts to the oncoming trains.  Amazing.  Even more amazing is the engagement it creates among passengers.

Amazing.  It's just one (amazing) example of the great work being done in out of home.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, March 4

The Oscars: More Human

I'm going to continue a theme that I've seen running so far this year during all the event television we've been experiencing in pop culture.  Event television meaning these big live events that people watch together on television, either in the same room together or while using social media together or both.

These are "events" because they're live and in the moment and aren't being recorded for future viewing.
You either watch it in the moment and participate or you miss out on the "water cooler chatter," in real time.  It's been great fun ... Golden Globes, Super Bowl, Grammys, Oscars.  Of course all the YouTube videos the next day help to relive the most memorable moments.

Like when Ellen ordered pizza at the Oscars.  Or Julia Louise-Dreyfus did a skit with Tina and Amy at the Golden Globes.  Or when Renee Fleming sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl.

Have you noticed that these events have gotten so much more human?  The quest for viewer engagement and the inclusion of the viewer in the viewing has made these events not only so much more fun but also more real.  We get a snapshot of what these people are really like, and we like them in the process.

Like the sheer joy on Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts' faces in Ellen's now record-breaking selfie from the Oscars.  Or the self-deprecating laugh when Jennifer Lawrence took a stumble on the red carpet.  Or the look of pride when Sara Bareilles sang with Carol King at the Grammys.

While these moments are in fact fabricated for our television and commenting pleasure, they are also real and in the moment, making them all the more special and shareable.  The celebrities are sharing them in real time as well, recording their reactions just like we are.  Doesn't get more human than that!

And the brands have gotten in on the action as well, with hashtag overload seeking to make the marketing more real and real time.

Pantene went into overdrive at the Oscars with #WantThatHair ... leveraging a universal emotion of hair envy, not just from the women I might add.  The brand delivered tips on how to get the look and how to love your own hair in the process.  There's nothing more real than hair issues, the brand will tell you that for sure.

DiGiorno Pizza has kept up its flow of Twitter chatter from event to event, never disappointing.  If only it had been DiGiorno that Ellen handed out to the celebrity studded audience ... that would have been amazing!  Nothing more unifying than a good ole' pizza.

This is a trend I'm really enjoying.  Not just the event television part, although I do really like that.  It's the human part that is really making it all so much more real and interesting and yes, shareable.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - This post was also posted on Huffington Post!

Monday, March 3

Oscars 2014, As Twitted

It's been said that the Academy Awards are the "Super Bowl for Women," at least when it comes to marketing.  I don't necessarily see it that way, given what we all tweeted about at my Twitter party last night at #OscarExp.  It's pop culture at its finest, no matter who you are.

Sure, there was #IWantThatHair from Pantene, the "statement necklace" trend on the red carpet, and the Wrap Dress from DVF for American Hustle (remember those?!?).   Sure that stuff has hitting the women, and some of us men too.

But to my eye, the "winners" crossed gender boundaries, across the board.

First we had the winning color blue.  The guys were wearing blue tuxes like there's no tomorrow, and then in walks Ellen in a blue tux to open the show.  The only other tux color to compete was white, and sure enough Ellen changed into a white tux half way into the show.  Stealing the show, and the award for Best Supporting Actress, was Lupita with her version of a #NairobiBlue dress.  Fabulous beyond belief.

Next was Mom.  Never has Mom been more in fashion, with celeb after celeb taking their Mom as their date and talking her up.  Of course no one did it better than award winner Jared Leto who honored his Mom with his win ... not a dry eye in the house.  He deserved the win and so did his Mom.

But the moment of the night came when Ellen shot the "selfie of the century in an attempt to get the most retweeted photo ever into the Guinness Book of World Records.  She certainly succeeded, and created a pop culture moment at the same time.  SO MUCH FUN!

As far as the brands,  shout outs go to:

American Express Everyday credit card, for "best use of a celebrity:"

"Best use of a movie theme" to introduce a new product goes to Pepsi Mini:

But the best of the best IMHO goes to Cadillac for "best insights".  The story around the American work ethic and why that makes us so competitive really struck home for me.  The brand had not one but two spots that scored for me, this one about all the magic that happens in the American garage:

"Best moment of the night" goes to emerging brand Jared Leto, not only for his win (what a performance!) but also for his acceptance speech.  An amazing guy.

Finally, I have to give a high five to Pink, the brand.  "Over the Rainbow" has been sung a million times by a million people, and she was still able to give us all a wow.  She gets "best performance."

It was one of the best Oscars in my memory.  Thank you to the Academy!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Note that this post also appears on Huffington Post.