Thursday, May 29


While at first glance it may seem to good to be true, there's a fun little phenomenon going on in San Francisco that's gathering a lot of social media attention ... and actually a lot of attention in general.  And not just in the Bay Area, but across the country.  And hopefully around the world eventually.

A Twitter handle called @HiddenCash suddenly appeared out of nowhere, along with anonymous video clips of someone planting envelopes of cash around the city ... with tweets sending out clues on how to find the envelopes of cash.

Seems too good to be true, right?  There's got to be a motive, right?  Is it just a social experiment.

No and no ... and yes, a social experiment with only good outcomes.

This anonymous gentleman isn't too good to be true and he has nothing but one motive in mind:  to start a movement.  He wants others to do the same, all around the world.  In fact to try to get it going, he moved down to San Jose and started hiding envelopes and tweeting clues.  Somebody is doing it in LA now too ... is it the same guy?

He hasn't been shy about asking others to follow suit, and says he can't help everyone ... but if we all kick in then maybe we just can.  Maybe these others locations aren't him ... hmmm.

But it all comes with a warning ... if people getting snarky or violent, then the @HiddenCash stops.

Does this guy have an amazing personal brand or what?  You can read a little more about him by clicking here.

Indeed.  What's your experience?  JIM.

#TBT - Tylenol Supports the Gay Community

It's Throw Back Thursday (#TBT) and also soon to be the start of Pride Month (June), so I thought I'd bring back a campaign I did years ago that seems appropriate to highlight today.

Back in the day, I had my own agency called CPPartners and our biggest client at the time was Tylenol.  We were a feisty little group, and super creative.  I loved that team!

Long story short, we had a very progressive client on the Tylenol PM business who understood the opportunity to target the gay people.  "Progressive" isn't even really the word, because at the time Tylenol was the very first OTC product to support the gay community ... believe it or not this was breakthrough at the time.

So pictured above is the print ad we did, that ran in parallel to the brand's sponsorship of Gay Pride in NYC ... it remains one of the fondest memories in my career.

If you'd like to read about what was said about the campaign at the time, give it a click here.

Thankfully, that term "openly gay" feels so outdated now!  (but that's another blog post)

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, May 28

Can Drones Be Creative?

I recently had a very interesting request to write a feature article about drones.

At first blush, I had no idea what I would have to say.  But as I thought it through, the rise of drones is actually pretty interesting and could in fact have application to our marketing industry.

So it got me thinking ... can drones be creative?  That got me writing!

Give it a click here if you'd like to check it out!

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

Tuesday, May 27

Your Personal Packaging

I've just recently started a new series of articles about personal branding at Entrepreneur.  Now I've already done a series, truth be told, when I launched my new book.

But this series is a bit different.  Rather than talk about personal branding in a conceptual way, I've decided to talk about what can all be doing on a daily basis to build our personal brands.

The magazine calls it "Living Your Personal Brand," which I just love!

The first installment is about your personal packaging ... yup, all of us have packaging and we should all be conscious about how we wear it!

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

Saturday, May 24

Seeds of Truth

I attended an agency conference last week, all about sustainability.  It was a fascinating flow of speakers that tackled the topic from many angles, mostly thinking about how brands can/should/do embrace the well-rounded notion of sustainability ... and make it all very tangible and meaningful.

I was struck by one example in particular, particularly as it relates to making it tangible and meaningful.

It's a brand out of Cape Town, South African ... and it's a coffee roaster/shop called Truth Coffee Roasters.  They've tackled their notion of sustainability in such an engaging way, making it all seem just so clear and easy.  With a bit of a WOW, making it core to who they are as a business and a brand.

It's called "Seeds of Truth." Take a look:

I want to do that!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, May 23

Colgate: Close the Tap

I love when a brand puts itself aside for a moment and helps move an issue forward.

As marketers, it's not easy putting your brand in the back seat ... we are generally in a situation where we are trying to sell a product or service, not necessarily take on an issue.

But when that issue is important to our consumers and close to our brand's core existence, then I believe a brand should help to further it along.  We are seeing more and more brands feel this way.

Evidently, so does Colgate.

Here in this video, Colgate tackles a behavior that I'm betting most of us do ourselves. But the brand sheds new light on it, causing us to think twice about our own personal impact.  In a part of the home very near and dear to the brand's heart.

It caused me to think twice this morning ... what's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, May 21

Standing on Your Shoulders

Last week I went to the premiere of a new documentary ... I expected to learn something new, and I expected to be inspired, but I didn't expect to be moved quite so much.

The documentary is titled The Renaissance Period of the African American in Sports.  It tells the story of the African American athletes who won numerous medals at the 1936 Olympic Games held in then Hitler's Germany.  These athletes captured the attention of the world and shattered Hitler's quest to sweep the Games that year.

It's an amazing story, and the premiere was accompanied by a live panel discussion.  I was so moved by the commentary that I just had to write about it for Huffington Post.  Give a click here to read.

Appreciate it.  What's your experience?  JIM.

McDonald's Packaging Goes Interactive

There are some interesting things going on over at McDonald's, where the brand is aiming to capture consumer attention via their "packaging."

First up, we have "Happy," the new animated spokesperson for the infamous Happy Meal, modeled after the infamous Happy Meal box.
Happy is promoting healthier food choices like yogurt, water, and fruit.  The problem, or so it seems, is that Happy came off a little scary to some who then quickly turned to social media to voice their critiques.  Gotta love social media ... lots of commentary about Happy's teeth!

We got into an interesting discussion in my class at NYU the other day.  The students posed a question aimed at targeting and brand positioning ... should McDonald's even offer healthy choices?  Hmm.  The discussion centered around why consumers go to McDonald's in the first place, which to the students view is not for healthy food, but for burgers and fries.  Comfort food shall we say.  Quite the debate!  I tried to stay out of it and merely moderate.

But I see the point.  Good positioning is focused and some say single-minded.  Good targeting is squarely focused on what your consumer wants/needs and those change over time.  The magic comes from getting those to match.

Speaking of fries ... McDonald's also launched new "packaging" for their fries, in honor of the upcoming World Cup.  Like "Happy," this packaging is also interactive.  When viewed with a new app, you can actually use it to play a soccer game!  Well played.

To my eye, one of the first World Cup promotions that goes beyond just some inspiring advertising, attempting to engage people into the sport of it all.

What's your take on this?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, May 19

A1 Takes Out the Steak

Just like Starbucks took out the "coffee" a little while back, A.1. Steak Sauce is taking out the "steak."

Evidently with red meat consumption on the decline, the brand doesn't want to narrow its usage occasions anymore, so it's dropping "Steak" and replacing it with "Original."  A.1. Original Sauce.

A few questions pop in mind:  Will anyone notice?  Will anyone care?  Are people already using it on other things besides steak?

Not sure, but it's yet again another interesting study in how a brand defines itself, and if it can grow beyond its traditional boundaries, especially when those boundaries where self-inflicted.  We talk a lot about how a brand defines itself in my class at NYU, and here's an example of a brand that perhaps defined itself too narrowly and is trying to do something about it.

My bet is that many people are already using it on other things beside steak, especially those who really love the flavor.  But by opening up the possibilities, I do believe the brand will give people permission to explore even further ... and hopefully a multi-media campaign will put the options directly in front of consumers.  It's going to take a lot more than a packaging change to motivate that kind of behavior.

Here's a new piece of advertising that is just starting to run:

But advertising isn't enough either, so here's a social campaign the brand launched as well ... quite clever, actually.

Certainly making a great attempt to contemporize the brand and make it more (socially) relevant.

Time will tell if consumers can drop the "steak" as easily as the brand has.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, May 14

Be the Master of Your Craft

I finished up my latest series on Content Marketing at Entrepreneur ... I love writing for that magazine because quite honestly the readers are so engaged and they give me such a great response.  It's nice to write to an engaged and appreciative audience.  Thank you.

I decided to close out this series with a big of a challenge.  When it comes to content marketing, or any kind of marketing actually, you should strive to be the Master of Your Craft.

Click here to see what I mean!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Shutterfly ... Whoops

Everyone in marketing is talking about "big data."

Big data to mine insights, big data to track customers, big data to drive programming, and big data to measure.  Well here's proof that big data is only as good as what you do with it ... Shutterfly.

Shutterfly released an email campaign yesterday congratulating people (women) on their newborn baby's arrival, and then reminding them to buy thank you cards to everyone who gave them a present.

The problem is that their database was none too accurate, so many people on the list weren't women (which might have been ok if they'd just had a baby), many on the database hadn't had a baby recently, and in fact many on the database were struggling with either a recent tragedy or with infertility.

So much for using big data to help segment and communicate with your customers.

Big mistake.  Big social media mistake as well.  What hurt even more, if I'm going to be completely honest, is that the brand tried to sell a product amidst the congratulations.  They should have left it at hello, and let consumers draw their own conclusion as to what they could do with the brand.  IMHO.

People took to social media toot sweet, notably Twitter and Facebook, to voice their upset, outrage, cynicism, and in some cases snark.  Not the response the brand intended, I am sure.

An honest mistake, I am also sure ... so we should cut them a break for sure ... and all learn from it.  It's an immense lesson learned that if you are going to try to relate to people, and you're going to use data to figure out who they are, then you better get your data and your story straight.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Cher - Dressed to Kill

I experienced an Icon.  Not just a Diva, but an Icon.  Capital I.  Yes she is and yes I did.

I went to a Cher concert and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Am I a big fan?  Not necessarily, but I do enjoy watching an entertainment brand in action, along with history in the making.  Cher is a brand that started in the 1960's, has reinvented many times along the way, and is just as vibrant now many decades (yes, decades) later.  A brand that, despite ups and downs and lots of curve balls, has remained true to herself and consistently, well, Cher.  A brand that has been criticized for not being a great singer, nor an actor, nor a Mother even.  A brand that stuck to her guns every step of the way.

The woman is amazing.  Signature songs, signature dresses, signature voice, signature staging ... it's the "Cher-ist Show on Earth!"  No one else could possibly pull it off.

Seriously, the woman is one-of-a-kind.  Her voice is in top form as is her body, squeezing into a "Turn Back Time"-inspired body suit, hitting every dramatic element of the song.  Every song.  Wow.

Highlights included a retro-duet with Sonny (brought a tear, I have to say), a Trojan Horse, "I Found Someone," and her finale which put her out over the audience in a cage-like contraption while singing her new song "I Hope You Find It."  Beautiful, stunning actually.  It felt like she really did want us to find our own happiness.  Right back at 'ya, Cher.

The joke of the evening was the fact that this is her second, never-ending farewell tour, as if we would ever let her retire.  We will never let her go, and she relishes in it.

The best-est of the best-est part?  The audience.  What a mix, literally.  There were much older people in wheel chairs and oxygen tanks.  I mean it!  There were gay men and all their friends.  There were women of all age, dressed in sequins, feathers, and beads.  There were adult couples of every certain age out for a night on the town.  And there were twenty-somethings most likely drawn in by her newest music.  It was amazing.

Even if you're not a fan, you can't deny the woman's pop culture impact.  And her ability to be her own brand.  I even wrote about her in my latest book on personal branding, and I'm not even necessarily a big fan.  But I am a big fan of big brands.

If you haven't experienced Cher, I highly recommend witnessing an Icon in action.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Get Comfortable with Content Marketing

Here's another installment on my content marketing series over at Entrepreneur.  Content marketing isn't easy ... it requires a shift in thinking in many cases.  In this short article I tackle some mental hurdles a marketer must get over in order to do it all right.

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, May 13

Apple Buying Dr. Dre's Beats

Last week Apple announced its intention to buy Dr. Dre's Beats, the headphone brand that is credited with making big headphones a fashion accessory.  The announcement sent many a buzzing and not all of it positively.

First of all, there's a bit of a history on the development of the brand that resurfaced as a result.  Not sure how relevant all of that is now, but it's out there.

Many say this is also a signal of more deals from Apple coming down the pike.  Apple hasn't been a typical acquirer, so with deep pockets of cash and a post-Jobs world, this could be the first of many other large acquisitions.  Out of character perhaps, but now not without precedent.

But most importantly, I believe this signals something even larger ... a move away from the Apple brand.  Apple has largely stood for innovation, it's why many of us initially jumped into the brand so many years ago (1985 for me!).  But everything has been branded Apple all along the way and the equity has always been about Apple.  Steve Jobs was Apple.

Well now there's a new "name" on the docket ... Dr. Dre.  Will this mean "he" comes out with more products as well, and will there be other brand "names" on the horizon too?  It's a fascinating move to see a strong brand, who has always been just one brand, move away from that model.

Will Apple move from being a branded house to becoming a house of brands ... much like P&G or Unilever?  Hmmm.

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

Sunday, May 11

My NYU Featured Brands

For the "final project" in my NYU graduate class, my students have to pick a brand (any brand) and present a full marketing analysis using the topics/tools we covered all semester long.  It's a very comprehensive review of a brand's marketing and product portfolio that allows the students to pull the pieces together from each class.

Of course for me, the best part is seeing what brands they pick and how they dissect them.  Semester after semester, it's the best night by far!

One group picked Havainas - as in the flip flops from Brazil.  I had no idea the culture behind this brand, and the love of color.  It's so rich ... not sure why the brand doesn't promote it more heavily.

Here's an opening video the team used to kick of their presentation:

Another group picked one of my personal favorite brands ... Red Bull.  This is a fascinating brand to investigate because it's a great example of how as consumers we can experience the brand without ever consuming the product.  The company has distinct efforts against the product line and also against the brand marketing. I'm a lover and I've admittedly never sipped from a can.  Here's an exhilarating video this team used to introduce their presentation:

And finally the third group tackled HBO with a fascinating look at a pioneer in what has become a very competitive, dynamic, and ever-changing category.  No one could have known that all those years ago when HBO first started (which was ground breaking at the time), that they'd not only be producing amazing original content (think Sex in the City as an early example), but that they'd be the inspiration for many others to do the same ... creating intense competition for themselves as well as the big television networks.  The students created a thorough analysis of where the brand lives and where it can go from here in the intense home entertainment industry.

Now this is what I love about teaching ... I learn more from them than they do from me.  Teaching keeps me on my constant journey of being a student of marketing, hopefully getting better and better every year.  And for that, I thank each and every one of my students.

Well done, class!  Best of luck in all your endeavors!

What's your experience?  JIM

Thursday, May 8

Call of Duty Trailer

At the beginning of every one of my classes at NYU, we start with "the week in marketing," where we talk about brand activity we've observed over the past week.  It's fun to see what hits the students radar and it's such a learning experience.

One student brought in this video release that was certainly "blog worthy" in my book!

It's a brand that takes a page out of movie marketing, right when all the summer blockbusters are starting to kick into gear.  Clearly blockbuster movies aren't the only entertainment properties that are doing amazing marketing.

This is the latest installment of Call of Duty ... the brand is doing what a movie would do to generate attention and excitement ... launching an amazing trailer ahead of the game release.  A trailer that has entertainment value in its own right.  A trailer that gets fans (and perhaps non-fans) so excited that they can't wait for "opening day."  Highly creative and visual, with a compelling storyline that makes you want to run out and buy the game.  

See the "movie-quality" trailer here for the release of the most recent Call of Duty game:

Amazing, right?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, May 6

Spider Man 2 & Earth Hour

Ok, just one more post on the movie Spider Man 2, lest you think I'm crazy.

At the risk of overload, I'd like to highlight one more brand partnership with this movie.  I'm partially obsessed because this is the first of many Summer movie blockbuster premieres and I think an early indication of what's to come with movie marketing this year.

But this partnership is different ... it's with Earth Hour, a WWF organization that crowd sources projects that help the planet.  This is a special partnership in that it features the stars of the film, each donating time to crowd source a project of their own for Earth Hour.  Perfectly matched with the essence of Spider Man ... responsibility!

The stars of the movie are actually getting in on the partnership action .. to help save the planet!

Earth Hour and Spider Man join forces to save the planet.

You too can be a super hero, by joining in the event yourself.  Brilliant CSR marketing, and a well rounded partner for the movie to balance out the more commercial interests.  Well done.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, May 5

The Evian Baby and Spider Man 2

Yesterday I wrote about the opening weekend of Spider Man 2, and the movie's partnership with the United States Postal Service.  Very innovative and very smart, especially for building the brand equity of the USPS.

A few of my students in my NYU class quickly pointed out another one of the movie's partners ... Evian water.

The brand smartly took it's Evian baby campaign, which you can watch here:

And brought it to life in the Spider Man theme, which you can also watch here:

Here's what I love about the Evian campaign:  the mix of babies from every race, ethnicity, texture, color, size, shape, and personality.  I just love the message it sends, and what better vehicle than babies?!?  "Live Young" ... don't we all look in the mirror and see our younger selves?

Some have questioned the linkage to the brand, to which I would imagine is all about showing youthfulness, vitality, and energy.  "Live Young!"

So now the brand is linking it to yet another kind of baby ... a Spider Baby (?) showing yet another dimension of diversity and vitality.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Just noticing that in all the time I've been writing this blog, this is the first time I've written about Evian.  It's about time!

How to Make Content Shareable

The world's a buzz about content marketing, but the only way you can get a buzz is if you make it all shareable.  Here's my next installment in my content marketing series at Entrepreneur ... how to make your marketing content shareable.

Give it a click here if you'd like to read it, and share it :)-

What's your experience?  JIM.

Spider Man and USPS

The movie Spider Man 2 opened this weekend ... to much fanfare, mixed reviews, and a slew of marketing ... with sales of $92 million in the US and close to $370 million worldwide.  While some say that's far from a huge success, when the film cost $255million to make then I would say it's well on its way.

But far more interesting than the film (at least to me), are the brand partnerships.

Of course we are used to seeing blockbuster promotions that bring awareness to summer blockbuster movies, of which Spider Man 2 is the first for this year.  It's become part of our pop culture and it's what's become normal marketing launch behavior for a movie.

But this film picked an unusual big partner, one that can actually benefit from the equity of the film to boost its own marketing.

The United States Postal Service (USPS).

By using imagery from the film, the brand is equating the speed and agility of Spider Man to that of their service.  Smart comparison indeed.

Go into a USPS location, and you can find packaging materials that mimic the film.  Great fun and an especially smart way to get the younger generations familiar with the USPS services over their competitors like FedEx.

Another interesting "partner" to the film is the Boys and Girls Club.  In many cities, the film was debuted at the local Boys and Girls Club location, many celebrities on hand.  What a great way to include the target demographic into the release of the film and give a little back.

This is just the start of the summer 2014 film season, I am sure, with many more brand partnerships on deck.  Keep your eye out for some more interesting pairings and we can discuss them here!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, May 1

Google Hangout - Personal Branding

Yesterday I did a Google Hangout with Entrepreneur Magazine about personal branding.

Great fun!  Great fun because it's really cool to apply the principles of big brand marketing to our own pesonal lives .. our personal and professional lives that is!

Give it a click here if you'd like to take a look at the video.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Are the Police a Brand?

Well the Sarasota Police Department certainly thinks so ... they've partnered with local Ringling College of Art & Design for a total rebranding project.

Blue + You ... a SPD Community Initiative.

It's quite brilliant actually.  And as one of the college students working on the project so perfectly said:  "We're not rebranding the police department, we're rebranding the police department's relationship with the community." (although admittedly it does sound like a health insurance company but that's another story)

Still brilliant.

The initiative includes a new website, community outreach, logo/visual identity, and events ... like "Blue + Movies + You" which is a community event to screen the new movie Despicable Me 2.

Brilliant again. Click here to watch a clip that captures it all.

Now Sarasota's counterparts up North aren't having the same luck with their program.  The NYPD started a Twitter campaign encouraging New Yorkers to post pictures of themselves with police officers at #myNYPD.  The campaign quickly backfired as tweeters used the opportunity to post pictures of police abuse and misconduct.  #Ouch.

Meanwhile, just a few months ago a photo went viral showing a NYPD officer helping a homeless person, giving serious boost to the "brand."

Proving once again that consumers control the message.  As marketers we can put it out there, and then it's up to our consumers to decide what to do with it.  Proving once again the need to really understand your consumer and what they are looking for, with a lot of upfront research to help guide your decisions.

What's your experience?  JIM.