Thursday, July 31

The End of Crumbs

I was talking to a fellow teacher from NYU last night about the demise of the brand Crumbs, as in Crumbs Bake Shop.

If you are not familiar with it, Crumbs quickly became a New York institution with the advent of what was at the time the best cupcakes in the city.  And it was that which may have been the ultimate end of Crumbs.

Note the word "quickly."

The brand expanded too quickly, on many levels.  They opened way too many locations way too fast, and it appears that they couldn't keep up.  Some say going public was the worst part, putting a different level of expectations on the business.  Quality fell down, consistency suffered, and the deliciousness that was once their cupcakes faded.  What was once a destination was no longer worth the trip.

That's not good for a brand.  The "neighborhood bakery" became too over exposed and too over rated, at least in our opinion.

The brand also moved beyond cupcakes, which in hindsight I think was a mistake.  Partnerships with Starbucks for coffee and David Burke for gourmet sandwiches/salads took the brand off of its game.

They lost their focus; they lost their cupcake mojo.

Does this mean the end of cupcakes too?  Not by a long shot.

Just because one business doesn't succeed doesn't mean that an entire category can't move forward.  Quite the contrary, I think if the brand had stuck to their knitting and grew more strategically and organically, then it might still be alive.

I for one was a big fan, so I'm sad to see them go.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, July 30

SKYY Vodka - Social Norms

SKYY Vodka released a new "campaign" recently, teaching us modern day drinking etiquette

The brand is using a quirky character to send us simple little messages about our social activity when drinking.  Little character flaws that many of us will recognize.  "Creative" aside, it's an interesting campaign meant to get us all talking about our own behavior.

Like putting the phone down and paying attention to who we are with.

Like not texting while drinking.

Even on tipping the bar tender.

The brand is clearly trying to make these videos go viral, which they very well may.  It'll be interesting to watch the mix of media they end of using to get traction ... I saw one on Bravo last night.   Videos don't go viral on their own, unless of course Jimmy Fallon picks them up, and as a brand you have to make even that happen.

I think it's interesting to see a brand take on social behavior and social norms, especially on a topic where the norms have changed so much.  Bar culture has evolved with the new generation, and with hand-held technology.  We are with both the folks in front of us as well as the folks networked on our smart phone.  It's an interesting clash of social circles, when you really think about it.  SKYY is asking us to think about it.

Is it acceptable to be texting while you are with your friends?  Should you even have your phone "out" when you are "out?"  What do you call your bartender, and do you need to have a "relationship" with him/her?

Here's a brand throwing themselves into the conversation, by sparking the conversation ... a conversation that is perfectly appropriate and very timely.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, July 28

Today's Modern Family, As Advertised

I am relishing in a recent trend in marketing that couldn't have come at a better time.  We can probably thank Modern Family for it.

There's been a flurry of activity from brands who are creatively reflecting today's modern family, and inspiring pop culture at the same time.

Some brands feature real families, while some use perfectly crafted scripts to capture the spirit of how we interact as a family unit.

We've come a long way from June Cleaver!

Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post on the topic.  Click here to give it a read.

Thanks!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, July 27

The Three P's of Personal Branding

It takes a lot to build your personal brand, every thing you do adds up to your total package.

My series at Entrepreneur is almost over ... this article is about putting the three P's together and attempts to start to sum up the topics discussed.

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Here's another great article that drafts off of my series at Entrepreneur, but adds some more texture.  I love it!  Click here to read it!

Thursday, July 24

Cheerios - #HowToDad

Now admittedly, there are a few flaws in this piece of marketing from Cheerios ... but this is one of the best representations of modern fatherhood that I have ever seen coming from a brand.  It's raw, it's fresh, and it's thorough.  It shows the complete picture of what it's like to be a Dad, from a brand that's all about childhood ... Cheerios.  It was a staple when my kids were young, that's for sure.

After years of bashing Dads, we've seen a trend happening where brands are embracing the role of Dad in the household ... in this case he's the primary caregiver, supporting the kids and the Mom.  To be totally honest, when my kids were this age, Dads were not represented in this manner.  Quite the contrary, and it got quite annoying.

It's awesome to see brands break out of what was the norm ... in an impeccably written story.  You just gotta see the narrative, as woven by Cheerios, for #HowToDad:

My favorite part:  When a rule is broken, we are the enforcement, but when a heart is broken we are the reinforcement.  I couldn't have said it better myself.

This is long form video, meant to be shared online.  There are also :15 second versions which I imagine may end up on broadcast and in online paid media.  They're troublesome for me, but that's ok, and the product integration is a little forced at the end.  But there's no doubt that the overall story is inspiring and real, and for that I want to thank the brand.

Thank you for representing me, for representing us.  Real Dads who do work work and home work.

British Airways - Look Up

I was at a conference this week where we were reviewing great creative from around the world ... particularly great creative that is fueled by technology.

There was one example that I thought was particularly interesting.  Yes, sure, the technology was very cool.  It made for a great experience.  But great creative is rarely about just the technology itself, it's almost always about the insight.  The technology simply enhances the story that brings the insight to life.

It's a cool installation from British Airways, where a billboard in London disrupts its current messaging to show a little boy looking up at a plane flying by and identifying where it's headed.

I can remember as a little kid, looking up at the sky to see a plane, wondering where it was headed.  Wanting to be on it, wanting to go to where ever it was headed.  It was curiosity and escapism at its finest.

The brand has captured that insight, with a creative expression that uses innovative technology.

Perfection.  Give it a look:

By the way, it also got a lot of social traction as pedestrians took videos and screen shots when the planes would fly over and then posted/shared them on their networks.  Great creative is designed to disrupt and get shared, and this certainly does that.

Also a pretty clever way to get a brand message in there as well, without being too product focused.  It becomes very clear that British Airways flies to a lot of international destinations.

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

Wednesday, July 23

Tamper Resistant Prescription Pads

I honestly haven't gotten a pharmaceutical prescription filled in a very long time.  I had read that there's been an epidemic of fraudulent scripts, as people use fake prescription pads to gain access to drugs, but I hadn't realized how much the pads had changed as a result.

They've become completely tamper resistant.

First of all there's a bar code on them now, keyed to the doctor who is authorized to write them out.  There's a unique serial number as well.

Plus if you try to photocopy it, a watermark appears rendering it invalid.

Now this does vary by state, but from what I understand most if not all of the states are following suit.

Pretty serious stuff for a serious problem.  These prescription pads have come a long way to help prevent a very serious issue.  Back in the day, pads could be easily stolen and photocopied, hence leading to the problem of fraudulent scripts.

I'm happy to see the advances to keep people safe.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, July 22

Share a Coke

I love the summer, always have.  It's not just the long days and hot weather, but all of the summer-time activity that comes along with it.  There's always a big summer song, big summer movie, big summer concert series ... and always a big summer marketing campaign from a major brand.

This summer the limelight belongs to the "Share a Coke" campaign.

It's just plain 'ole fun to buy a Diet Coke with your name on it, or give one to a friend that says "BFF," or "Gorgeous," or "Family" on it.  And a brilliant move on the part of the brand to get us to buy that extra soda for a friend or to switch from another brand because our name is on it.  I know I've bought a lot more this summer as a result.

It's just pure fun, nothing more and nothing less.  The other phenomenon I've noticed is that people are taking shots of their cans or bottles and posting them on social media, especially Instagram.  Now many of them are taking those shots in store without making a purchase, but I have to believe that the behavior is still building the brand, and I'm betting the brand managers don't mind all that much.  It's putting the brand out into the social sphere in a very fun way.

I'm sure it's quite a feat to pull off the manufacturing and distribution of all those names, but it sure is worth it.  It's the campaign of the summer IMHO.

Have you shared a Coke?  What's your experience?  JIM

Sunday, July 20

Your Personal Brand Lives at Night Too

I've only got three more weeks left in my "Living Your Personal Brand" series at Entrepreneur.

This week I tackle our social life, as in the night life we lead.

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, July 17

American Craftsmanship in Men's Fashion

I've been noticing a resurgence in "American Craftsmanship" in consumer goods, particularly those targeted to men.  I think it's been happening for awhile now, but seems to be hitting critical mass.

It's partially "made in the USA" to some extend, but it's more than that.  It's not just where it's made, and how it's made, but how it looks and feels and projects for the wearer.

It's the LOOK of American Craftsmanship that seems to be trending, at least to my eye.

Here's a laundry list of examples, just to prove my point:
- Carhartt jackets
- Filson messenger bags
- Shinola watches (my pick of the year last year for best product)
- Goorin Brothers hats (I have two!)

Not to mention J.Crew, Allen-Edmonds shoes, and even Jeep (the car you drive is a part of your image, after all).

Do you notice a similar look and feel with all of these brands?  Rugged, masculine, well-crafted, and ... well ... American.

I know it's a bit of a heavy look, but I like the message it sends:  confident, tailored, quality ... like the guy who wears it.  One brand helping another brand!

Do you wear this look?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Colbie Caillat - Try

My daughter turned me onto this new song from Colbie Caillat.  Now she is certainly not the first to tackle the expectations around beauty for women ... but she's doing it in a real way, which I absolutely love.  She's tackling all the behaviors that come along with those expectations ... behaviors that we might not really enjoy too much.

The new song and video are completely captivating, in their simplicity and clear messaging.  Colbie is tackling all the things we do to try to be liked.

"You don't have to try so hard.  You don't have to give it all away.  You just have to get up.  You don't have to change a single thing.  You don't have to bend until you break.  You don't have to try."

"Do you like you?"  

Exactly.  Well played, Colbie.  Such a positive message of letting go, of not trying so darn hard, and putting aside all the things we do because we think we have to.  While it's targeted to women, it's for women of any age.  And I'd throw in that it's for men too, because I completely resonated with it as well.  I like your brand, Colbie.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, July 16

Can't I Just Make A Purchase?

I had yet another fascinating, if not annoying, customer service experience the other day.  I realized that it's part of a trend I'm noticing, so I wrote about it for Huffington Post.

In many cases you can no longer just go up to a register and make a purchase.  I asked the question why, and didn't get a great answer.

Give it a click here if you'd like to read the article.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, July 15

Your Daily Interactions

This installment of my "Living Your Personal Brand" series at Entrepreneur tackles day to day life.  What you do every day shapes your personal brand, so behave with purpose.

Give it a click here to read the article.

What's your experience?  JIM

Monday, July 14

The Winners of the World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014:  what a ride it has been!  This is honestly the first time I've truly paid attention to the sport, and I really enjoyed the games and all the chatter.

While Germany won the Gold, there were certainly a lot of other winners as well.

I wrote this piece for Huffington Post about it.  Give it a click here if you'd like to read it!

What are your thoughts?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, July 10

Belts and/or Socks

I'm sure you've noticed the big fashion splash for men of late ... colorful, graphic socks.

I see men of all sizes, ages, and flavors wearing them.  It's hard not to notice, they stick out from the bottom of their pants like a neon sign.

For me personally, bold socks don't work.  I'm not that into shoes, to tell you the truth, so there's no reason I would be into socks either.  I don't like people looking down when they look at me.  Plus I'm into colorful shirts and Mama always told me, "One gimmick at a time!"

But I love them on other guys, particularly if there there's not a lot of color elsewhere in the outfit.  As they say, a little pop of color makes a statement.

But there is also another trend in men's fashion that I am all over, and have been for years:  belts.  Even the NYTimes says that they're in.

I love belts.  Big clunky belts with big buckles.

First of all, they look good with jeans, colored pants, and even suits when coordinated the right way.  Second of all , they are super comfortable because they help to hold it all in, if you know what I mean.  And most importantly, there's something about a big belt that makes you look slimmer.  Coupled with the right pants and shirt, it completes the look.  Even with a t-shirt for the summer.

Evidently, they are catching on and catching up with socks.  I'm into it.  While I wouldn't do it, I think you could even coordinate your belt with your socks, if you do it right.  You should absolutely match the belt with your shoes though ... leather to leather coordination is key.

If you've already embraced the sock trend, give a belt a try.  You just might like it!  Make it a part of your "brand."

Let me know ... what's your experience?  JIM.

The War of the Safety Videos

I've been traveling a lot this week, a lot.  I've literally been on a flight every day this week, and it's only Thursday.  I'll be flying back to New York later this afternoon.

Friday there will be no flights, just a NJ Transit train ride to my home in PA.  No seatbelt required.

There's been a secret, or not so secret, competitive war going on with the airlines that many have noticed, commented on, and shared:  the safety video.

Not sure if it was started by Southwest Airlines (flew that one yesterday) or Virgin (flew that one earlier in the week), but it seems like every airline is trying to up the game and the entertainment value with their safety videos.

Some seem like entertainment value for pure entertainment value's sake, IMHO.  While I appreciate the production value, some seem kind of inappropriate to my taste.  While others seem kind of obvious and way too purposeful.

These are safety videos, after all.  While I am all about the total brand experience, let's not get carried away folks.

And then along comes Icelandair.  I didn't fly them this week, nor have I ever.  But now I want to.

They've tackled the safety video in such an appropriate, branded way.  They make me WANT to fly their airline and visit their country.  Which aside from communicating important safety information, isn't that the whole point, isn't it?!?

It's a safety video that covers safety yet brings home a brand and a home country.  Bravo!

Take a look and let me know what you think:

What's your experience?  JIM

Tuesday, July 8

Real Men in Underwear Ads

As a society and as marketers, we've long talked about the unrealistic portrayal of women, in advertising, Hollywood, and society at large.  Dove positioned its brand around it.

There's no denying it.

We've long avoided the same topic as it relates to men, however.  Truth be told, men are also held to high standards in the same venues ... leading to unrealistic body images of perfection.  Unrealistic in that they are nearly impossible to obtain and maintain.

Believe me, I still try!

Well a group of people took it on ... giving men a little airtime on the very topic of body image by contrasting underwear advertising with real men in the same poses.  All to make a point; a very good point.

Take a look at the photos by clicking here and let me know ... what's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, July 7

B2B Can Do Content Too!

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about my books and at my speaking engagements is how to apply the consumer marketing techniques/strategies that I talk about to B2B scenarios.

I'm a big believer that B2C (business to consumer) strategies translate very well to B2B (business to business).  Marketing, in its most general sense, is a way of turning your business into a brand and getting customers to want to engage.  Not just need to engage because they need your product or service, but want to engage because they want your particular brand of it, beyond any other available.

There's no reason why that same line of thinking can't be applied to the B2B world.  You should get to know your customer, create a brand proposition that will entice them, and get them to want to engage with you.  Simple, right?

Here's some proof that my theory is right, from a B2B brand that's doing content marketing just like the big consumer brands.  It's a fun video that shows their unique brand, and hopefully gets their customers to want to engage.  Give it a look:

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

Sunday, July 6

Lessons Learned in Independence

Entrepreneur asked me to write an article in honor of the 4th of July.

Not an easy one, I must say!  But as I thought about it more, I realized that our forefathers were really amazing entrepreneurs themselves.  And there's a lot we can still learn from them.

So I gave that a go ... click here to give it a read.

Happy Birthday, America!

What's your experience?  JIM

BTW, I just love the photo they selected for the article!

Tuesday, July 1

Always #LikeAGirl

A friend and fellow parent shared this amazing video with me.  You have to give it a view.

It's from the brand Always, but it's not looking to sell "those products."  The brand is pitching confidence.

It's a brilliant portrayal of how confidence changes young girls as they age, and how we can easily instill confidence back in if we take the right approach.

As a Dad, I'm all for it.  As a marketer, I'm all for it.  And I say "thank you."

While certainly not the first to do it, I give the brand a lot of credit for stepping away from product pitching and promoting something of value to its consumers ... something valuable to all of us.

Join the movement ... let's change the meaning of #LikeAGirl to what it should be.  Give the video a look:

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

PS - Madonna tackles this very subject in one of my favorite songs from her career.  "For A Girl."