Tuesday, April 29

Taco Bell Goes Premium

I'd be interested to get everyone's take on this ... Taco Bell is launching a new more upscale version of itself ... U.S. Taco.  It's more upscale and more "Americanized" than it's more casual counterpart.  No Doritos tacos and no waffle tacos here, but they do plan to sell booze.

The question is ... can a brand expand beyond the level it's known for and build a business?

In this case I'm not sure that's the point.

With a new brand name (US Taco) and a heritage of food prep (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut), the pieces may be in place.  The bigger issue for me is whether there is a market for it and is the company willing to invest the marketing it needs to launch a new brand.  It's less of an extension of Taco Bell and more the launch of a new concept.

So instead of competing with Taco Bell per se, or the other fast food chains, it'll compete more with the other more formal yet quick options like say Olive Garden or even Chipolte.   It'll be interesting to see if the parent company (Yum Brands) can make it in this space ... and if they really bring something unique, special and premium, regardless of the tie to Taco Bell.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, April 28

3C's of Content Marketing

Here's the next installment of my series on content marketing over at Entrepreneur ... we're getting close to the end.  Only a couple more in the series!  But it's been great fun.

Give it a read here if you're interested ... it's about the 3 C's of Content Marketing.  Hope you like it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

World Cup Advertising/Marketing

Every week to open my class at NYU, we discuss "the week in marketing," where we review brand marketing activity that we've observed.

My students picked up on the rising level of marketing activity around the impending World Cup.  The big brands are starting to kick in, and kick in big time.  So as a class we took a look at three of the biggest who have recently launched new advertising campaigns around the World Cup.

It was absolutely mind-boggling to see the sea of sameness and to see how these three particular brands chose to incorporate their branding (or not).

First up is Pepsi:

Interesting to note that, as a viewer, you can make the video much more interactive ... a way I imagine to increase brand engagement as well.

Now take a look at Pepsi's biggest competitor, Coke:

Finally we take a look at Nike, as a way to observe how these three brands all tackle the same pop culture moment from their unique brand perspective:

The consensus among the class?  Three brands tackling the same sentiment, all sounding relatively the same and relatively interchangeable.

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

Thursday, April 24

Representing People with Disabilities

We put a big emphasis on multicultural marketing at my agency, so much so that every single team creates programs that reflect the changing landscape of not only the American culture but the evolving Global culture as well.

While as marketers we have become much more aware of our multicultural flavors, it's been written quite a bit that there's one segment that is often forgotten:  people with disabilities.

While perhaps not "multicultural" by name, these folks do represent a part of our diverse culture with their own unique needs and wants like any other segment.

So today I honor that with two brands that honor them.

The first is Swiffer, a brand some might say is quite traditional in nature ... a household cleaning product.  But as the brand so clearly tells us, it's for all households.

There are so many things to like about this campaign, not the least of which is that the brand used real people and that this is just one execution of a larger campaign that features other people from different kinds of families.  Bravo.

The next brand is Powerade, one that you wouldn't necessarily think would think along these lines.  A sports drink?!?

Wow!  Doesn't get more real or raw than that!  Let's just leave it at that.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, April 23

Inspiring Creativity

I was in DC this week for the DTC Perspectives National Conference ... an annual event where consumer marketers of health and wellness prescription products gather to network, learn, and share.

The week started out with an induction into the Hall of Fame, which was an amazing experience.  A cocktail party and dinner with colleagues closed out Tuesday.  Then on Wednesday I hosted a panel discussion with the primary goal of inspiring creativity.  To pull it off I had to call in the professionals!

I called in the Brandcenter at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), where I am also on the Board.

The Brandcenter is the #1 graduate program in the country for branding/creativity/marketing.  So who better to help inspire creativity in the conference attendees.  So naturally I was thrilled when the Director (Helayne), a Professor (Kelly), and a local alum (Jamin) agreed to join me!

Yes our goal was to inspire creativity by taking the attendees out of the pharma box ... by showing examples of great creativity in other industries.

We started out with the Honey Maid campaign, which I have written feverishly about.  Love the brand's bravery in the line of fire, sticking up for its consumers.

We then took a look at a really interesting campaign from Dick's Sporting Goods.  "Sports Matters" indeed:

We also spoke about storytelling, and the subtle use of emotion with this spot from Apple:

But the favorite of the panel was this little ditty from Coca-Cola, showing how being "human" can make a real connection:

It was a lot of fun ... wish you were there!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Brands Responding to Brands

We're starting to see a trend emerge that is unprecedented in marketing:  brands responding to other brands' activities.

It's been brewing in social media, particularly in the tweet feasts during big event television like the Oscars, Grammys, Super Bowl, etc.  We saw it with Pharrel's hat and Arby's, JCPenney's mittens, and DiGiorno pizza during the Sound of Music Live to name a few.  Tweet on tweet action where brands are interacting live and in the moment.  Great fun, especially for an observer of brands!

We're now seeing it come up a notch with full-on video production match ups.

The first was a month or so ago when Ford executed a direct response to a Cadillac commercial that ran during the Academy Awards, depicting two sides of American values.

And now this week we see Bud Light respond to the American Greetings video about "the world's toughest job." (thanks to Sonia from my NYU Class for finding this little gem!)

Here's the original from American Greetings:

And the response from Bud Light:

Too much!  Really too much!  If you notice, this is a part of the brand's #UpForWhatever campaign that I believe launched during the Super Bowl this year with a real live consumer.  But it's a direct mock of the original from American Greetings, and in fact there's a link to watch "the original."

Personally, I'm not sure I like it much to be honest.  I think it mocks Dads in the process but admittedly that's a sensitive topic for me personally.

From a marketing perspective it's pretty cool to see these brands up against each other ... in this case two brands that otherwise don't compete yet they're "meeting" around pop culture moments.  In this case in anticipation of Mother's Day and then Father's Day.

I predict we'll see more and more brands interacting with each other.  Some with high production values and some without.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, April 22

DTC Hall of Fame

Last night I was inducted into the DTC Hall of Fame from DTC Perspectives.

For those not completely familiar, "DTC" stands for "direct to consumer" which is short hand for consumer marketing of pharmaceutical products.  It originated as television advertising and started as just prescription products but now the category has enlarged immensely.

For those also not completely familiar, "DTC Perspectives" is the largest trade organization in the space ... a gathering place so to speak for those of us in the industry to share, network, and learn together.

Which is exactly the point.

I read recently that leaders should be "masters of their craft."  I agree, but the truth is I'm not sure that is a goal that anyone can attain.  It's an ongoing journey of constant learning.  Which is why I am such a student of marketing.  It's why I write this blog every day, teach at NYU, and work with clients.  I'm constantly learning and striving to be better, right along side all of you.  Right along side my colleagues who were also inducted last night and in years past.  Congratulations to you.

So I take an honor like this as inspiration to keep studying and keep learning.  Marketing is a craft that gets better over time.  I guess something like the Hall of Fame says I've been doing it for awhile, to which I say I still have awhile to go!

Thanks for the incredible honor ... I promise to use it to do even better.

With a big thanks to Helayne Spivak, my partner in crime at Saatchi Wellness, who gave me an incredible lifetime moment of introducing me at the ceremony last night.  I am forever grateful for that and the many other memories we have together.


Thursday, April 17

Keep Your Customer at the Center

Here's the latest installment of my Entrepreneur series on content marketing.

All about keeping your customer at the center.

Give it a read here if you'd like ... hope you enjoy it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, April 16

Even Beard Transplants

I spent the day out in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last weekend, a place recently noted as the "hipster" capital of the country, if not world.  Easy to see why ... it was quite a cool crowd and the streets were filled with boutiques, restaurants, bars, and lots in between.

A couple things to note:

No tourists.  These were all NYers, no doubt about it.  While Manhattan has become the land of the visitor and the part-timer, Williamsburg is feeling like NY used to be back in the day.  A big mix of ages, races, and flavors living and socializing together, as is NY.

In addition to no tourists, there were no chains.  Not one in sight, not even a Starbucks.  The store fronts were filled with entrepreneurs and small business owners, and if there was anything that might resemble a chain (like the Goorin Brothers hat store), it certainly didn't feel like a mass market chain.

And just as noticeable ... facial hair.  It's been noted that the craze for facial hair started with the hipsters in Brooklyn and I can now certainly see why.  There was barely a clean-shaven guy around, sans me.  Facial hair is where it's at.  So much so that it's been reported that many in the neighborhood are starting to get beard transplants.  Transplants of facial hair!  You know, to fill in the patches or to add scruff to what otherwise might be a baby-face.  Even beard transplants!  Evidently the procedure takes hair from another part of your body and transplants it on your face.  It grows naturally to fill in either a five o'clock shadow, a scruff, or a full on grown-out beard.  Wow!

It was quite the day, I have to say.  Something I plan to rinse and repeat often.  Next time I won't shave though.

What's your experience?  JIM.

World's Toughest Job

Here's a must see video from a surprising brand.

Hint ... we are ramping up for the next pop culture moment.  But it's not what you might expect.

This video has gone completely viral, very quickly, to celebrates this moment.  It starts with a simple question ... would you like to apply to what looks like is the "world's toughest job?"

In a very unexpected way.  From a very unexpected brand.  Give it a look ... "World's Toughest Job."  You have to watch the video to find out the brand who created it, and why.

That's a wow.  Wow!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, April 14

Mad Men, As Tweeted

(this article also appears on Huffington Post)

Sunday night was the Season Premiere of Mad Men, the final season I should say.

With so much hype, you'd think we were gearing up for the Super Bowl.  But honestly other than the big game, this is the biggest event in marketing/advertising of the year so I guess it all makes sense.

So what's a guy like me to do with an event of this magnitude?  Hold a Twitter party!

A bunch of us jumped onto the hashtag #MadMenExp to chat about the show, the marketing, and of course all the brands participating.   Here are a few observations:

First of all, we got a serious lesson in marketing with the "4 P's".  I felt like I was a freshman in college again!  Fascinating to note that if you flash forward to modern times, we are well past the 4 P's at this point.  But at the time, it was a marketing format that just had to be followed.

Secondly, we got a sneak peek at integrated marketing ... the buzz word du jour.  The "client" actually coached his team by saying, "advertising is just a small piece of the marketing mix and it's better when it's integrated with the other P's"  Indeed.  A man after my own heart.

The "tagline" was alive and well Sunday night, signaling a by-gone era when the art was in cracking the code on a  tagline.  Ah ... the way we were ... life was so much simpler then ... or has time re-written every line?

The surprise of the night, if anything, was the lack of brands running contextual advertising ... having a Mad Men theme that is.  Southwest Airlines did it best in social media by "serving Mad Men since 1971."  Charles Schwab talked about "accountability" which I'm sure was a nod to Don.

Finally, we caught a glimpse of what is perhaps fueling today's current craze:  facial hair!  It seemed to be bubbling at the surface on the show while today it's almost impossible to find a clean-shaven agency man.

My predictions for the final season ahead:  more of the same in terms of plot lines but hopefully much more activity from the brands.  That's what makes it all the more interesting in my book.  Oh, and more facial hair.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Let Your Brand Guide Your Content Marketing

Here's the next in my series on content marketing for small business at Entrepreneur.  I'm really happy how the column is rounding out, and the interaction I've had with the readers.  Great fun.  Hope you enjoy this installment.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, April 10

Dermablend Doesn't Conceal "You"

I've worked in the beauty space for most of my career, and I learned day one that it's all about confidence.   In a nutshell, the products cover up our imperfections ... fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, dry patches, blotches ... you name it ... so that we can feel better about ourselves.  Sounds shallow when put in black and white like that, but an entire industry exists to do just that.  And it's a very important industry.  Building up confidence is a wonderful thing, no matter who you are.

Dermablend takes it all to a whole new level, literally, with "Camo Confessions."

Perhaps infamously known for covering up tattoos, Dermablend is a line of "corrective cosmetics" designed for people with pretty severe skin conditions.  The products cover it all up so no one has to know what's going on underneath.  Truly builds self confidence in the process.

The brand's new campaign adds a new twist though ... by showing us that by covering up what makes people less confident actually helps their true self come out.  All these years in the business and I'd never thought about it that way!

By concealing these people's insecurities, they don't have to conceal themselves anymore.  They can be who they really are without all the insecurities that have plagued them.  Their true selves can come shining through.

Here's an example of one of the brand's "Camo Confessions:"

Dermablend shows us a fascinating reality and the true benefit of cosmetics, with an invitation to share your own "Camo Confession."

Here's another one:

To me, this all elevates both the brand and the industry.  Thank you.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, April 9

A Great Story from Thai Life Insurance

I just love this incredible storytelling from Thai Life Insurance.   Gives meaning behind what life's all about, something that seems to be a recurring theme these days ... all around the globe.  We're seeing an amazing number of brands proving that marketing is both reflecting pop culture values and also influencing them, at the same time.  As brands should be.

It grabbed over two million views in just two days.

Give this incredible story a look, but grab a tissue first!

Thai Life Insurance ... Believe in Good.  A friend reminded me that this reminded her that it's not always about instant gratification.  It's the little things in life, that come over time, that are the most rewarding. Indeed.  If a brand can remind us of that, then that's a "good" brand.

Certainly inspires a life of giving back, something well played as an insurance company.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, April 8


Just a few weeks ago, Berlin was the first city in the world to get it's own internet domain.


Meaning that anyone in the city can purchase a url with .berlin (as opposed to.com or .org).  It's a great way to quickly identify, solidify, and codify localized concerns.

Imagine you open a new restaurant and you have a website called Restaurant.Berlin!


Other cities will be jumping on the bandwagon soon, including New York and London.

Score one for the locals, at least how I see it.  It's a great way for small business to separate itself out, or for big business to localize its content.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, April 7

This Is Why We Need Small Business

I recently had the pleasure of popping into a new men's clothing boutique in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, much to my delight.

"letter J"

I was lured in by a friend (influencer marketing in action) and from the moment I entered I knew the store was speaking to me.

Now admittedly I am a clothes horse, but I know what I like and I like a lot of it.  It's my "thing."

The selection felt hand-picked for me, so I didn't even know where to start.  In fact I found myself having to segment what I picked up ... "I'll come back for swim wear; I don't feel like trying on pants."  After about a half hour, I walked out with the coolest light blue camo shirt and a perfectly fitted pair of sweat-shorts.  Perfect.  I walked over to the Rocking Horse for a margarita (two actually) with a friend and felt satisfied with the perfect Manhattan after-work night.

Someone else at the bar recognized my shopping bag and asked how I liked it (community marketing in action).

On the way home, though, it struck me.

This is why we need small business.

The owner (Jason) was there, helping me all along the way.  Suggested items to try and then gave me previews of items coming soon.  Once he saw a sense of my taste, he knew better what to show me.  It became very clear to me that this is his trade.  His trade.

This is why we need small business.

Small business owners are close to their customers and they create experiences for them.  They know what their customers want and they know how to give it to them.  And we feel special in the process.

As a customer, I just don't get that from big business.  Trust me I do my fair share of trade in those establishments too, but I don't tend to buy clothing.  It's just not personal enough for me.

This is why we need small business.

Small business, like "letter J", keeps the city alive with a unique NYC personal touch.  There's no "letter J" anywhere else in the world, and it's uniquely NYC.  Uniquely built for the customers who will frequent it.

This is why we need small business.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, April 6

Why Entrepreneurs Make Good Content Marketers

I've been running a series of articles at Entrepreneur about content marketing.

Here's the latest in the series, where I explore why entrepreneurs make such good content marketers.

Give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, April 4

Brands Defending Their Consumers

(this post is inspired by my awesome INFUSE multi-cultural team at Cohn & Wolfe)

It's been a fascinating few weeks in marketing with an interesting phenomenon emerging that I hope becomes the norm.

Brands Defending Their Consumers.

Back in mid-March, we saw it with Guinness Beer when the brand pulled out of the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade because the parade organizers wouldn't allow "out" marchers.

This week we have two more examples.

OK Cupid asked its members to not use the the Mozilla browser when using their site because the CEO had donated money to support anti-gay legislation in California.  The CEO of Mozilla has since resigned.  Smart move on both accounts.

Honey Maid has made a name for itself lately with its new campaign featuring "wholesome" families of every size, shape, makeup, and color.  In response to some hatred slung its way, it released this video response:

Literally brings a tear to my eye.

All three of these brands, and hopefully countless others to follow suit, know and understand and yes love their consumers.  They stand by them, they live with them, and yes they defend them.  As well they should.  As consumers we should support them in return and as marketers we should be inspired by them.  I know I am.

Notice too that these brands are staying close to their knitting ... OKCupid has a huge gay membership, and Honey Maid has always been about being wholesome.  So these brands are defending their consumers because it also makes sense, and these actions are tied directly to what the brands are all about.  Plus they're staying current with what's happening to the makeup of our pop culture.  As well they should.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - If you have not seen that Honey Maid spot, here it is:

And here's one of a series of documentaries that the brand produced as background:

 (note that this post also appeared in Huffington Post)

Thursday, April 3

Taco Bell Waffle Taco

Every week in my NYU marketing class, we have a group discussion about what we've seen in the marketplace during the past week.  One of my students sent in this little ditty from Taco Bell, and I just had to write about it.

It's a great example of the brand's continuing effort to expand their meal occasions.  They've done it for late night, so now they're tackling breakfast ... a meal where I don't think Taco Bell has been historically strong.

It's also an example of something I've been noticing a lot lately ... very competitive marketing.  We saw it with esurance going head to head with Geico and we also saw it with Ford basically mocking the American values presented by Cadillac (in a very compelling way I might add).

So take a look at the latest breakfast campaign from Taco Bell, featuring Ronald McDonald!  What?!?

I have to say, it does look tasty.  There is one thing I wonder though:  does the continual reference to Ronald McDonald take away from the new breakfast item?  I wonder if it's too much and if it takes away from the branding and messaging of Taco Bell.  Competitive advertising can be risky for that reason, the more you mention the competitor then the more consumers remember the competitor instead of your brand.  Hmm.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, April 1

Are the "Real Housewives" Sexist?

(this post also appeared on HuffPo, click here to read it there)

I grew up in the ‘70s when Farrah Fawcett and Charlie’s other Angels made “jiggle tv” not only popular but infamous.  As a culture, we’ve long been fascinated with watching groups of women interact with each other.  Just take a look at The Facts of Life.

But there’s been an interesting development that I’ve noticed lately that makes me kind of uncomfortable.

I’ve been a fan of The Real Housewives franchise since day one, when it first debuted in Ocean County as a response to the popularity of Desperate Housewives.

As the franchise has grown from city to city, so too have the issues that the women have confronted, and I’ve been glued.

But it never occurred to me until just recently that there’s been an underlying issue brewing, at least in my view; one that I really don’t like.  Not that I’ve been crazy about some of the other ones either, to tell you the truth.


Sure there is a lot of labeling going on, much to Carlton’s (from LA) dismay.  There’s also a lot of stereotyping too, thank you Adriana in Miami.  And of course a lot of accusations, note the recent exchange between Carole and Aviva in NY.

I suppose all of that is fodder for a compelling plot, along with all the apologies that fly soon after.  I guess that’s why we tune in to watch these groups of women.

But it’s the sexism that is really starting to bother me.  Accordingly to these women, it’s ok for women to gossip, accuse, fight, meddle, and hold grudges, but not the men.

This is women’s business, according to NeNe in Atlanta.  Not for the men to get involved, or you just might get labeled with the “b” word.

Now granted, these are not actions that I would necessarily want to entertain for myself, but I just think it’s odd to separate the men from the women so distinctly.

To me, these are raw human emotions and actions that are not necessarily relegated to one sex or the other.  So to say that your life partner shouldn’t be involved in your “doings” is just wrong in my book.  Saying that the men should stay with the men and the women with the women harkens back to a day way before the ‘70s.

So while the accusations are flying, I guess I’m not comfortable with the one that says the men should stay out.  Of course unless you are gay, then that’s a whole other matter and yet again another stereotype played out with these women.

It’s old school gender and sexuality lines that just are not relevant anymore.  They are certainly not relevant to me, and to many in my own group (men and women, gay and straight).

Now granted these women are entitled to their opinions and they are paid to air them on television, that’s for sure.  But I’m also entitled to being annoyed by them and to speak my mind, just like they do … even if I’m a man, regardless if I’m gay or not.

You're On. Diet Coke.

As a die-hard diet soda drinker, I actually understand this new campaign from Diet Coke.  And as a long time Diet Pepsi drinker who switched loyalty a few years back, I understand it even more.

(that's a long story for another day)

But as a die-hard social media participant, I actually also understand all the buzz.

You're On.  Diet Coke.

It's a new tagline/headline as featured in a new digital, outdoor, and print campaign (and perhaps more) from Diet Coke.

Depending on how you read it, nothing to be chatting about.  The campaign talks about all that you've achieved ... you're on!  Got it.

Depending on how you read it, there's plenty to chuckle about, particularly if you overlook the word "Diet" in the logo attached to the tagline.

I highly doubt the brand intended anything other than to be motivating, optimistic, and celebratory of the over-achievers amongst us ... this has been their campaign strategy for quite some time now.  This creative execution is just an extension.

So calm down folks, to my eye this is just an opportunity to fix a graphics and typography issue that makes the whole discussion mute.  But then again, it's these kinds of issues that make for social media fodder which isn't always necessarily bad.

As I always say, "marketing is a spectator sport!"

What's your experience?  JIM.