Thursday, August 28

Dating Naked

My college-aged kids turned me onto a new show on VH1 called "Dating Naked."

It's a mix it up, date it up show where they pair partners who go on dates with multiple people so that they can choose the best "match."

The hook?  They're all naked.  Nothing left to the imagination.

Ok, it's on television so there's a lot of blurring ... but there's still not much left to the imagination.  Evidently one "contestant" has already complained because the blurring wasn't to her satisfaction.

Adweek recently ran an article noting that "Dating Naked" is just one in a string of "naked" shows.

Hmmm, I don't know.

I'm all for pushing creative boundaries and I'm all for advancing our craft of entertainment.  And admittedly I've watched a few episodes out of sheer curiosity.

Did curiosity kill the cat?  Not yet, but I'm not sure how much I'll tune in.  It gets old very fast, and you honestly lose sight of the nakedness after awhile.

One contestant put it appropriately and yet ironically:  dating in the nude allows you to really see what the person is like inside.  I actually buy the appropriateness and the irony.

Do I worry about kids watching?  No, that's what parents are for and that's what parental controls are for.

Do I worry that it opens up other shows to go even further?  That's not a worry, that's a reality my friends.

We are always going to push the envelope.  That's how cable television and then subscription television have been able to dominate.  They push the envelope.

This is just a recent example IMHO, and VH1's attempt to continually build an audience.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, August 27

Burger King & Tim Hortons

Burger King announced its intention to purchase the Canadian "coffee" company Tim Hortons this week, a move that would make the combined entity the third largest fast food chain ... although there is no intention of actually merging the two brands together; each brand will still operate as separate brands.

Clearly the synergies are very obvious.

The move may not have made quite the splash it did without one other wrinkle that was added to the equation:  a move to Canada.

In an attempt to lower taxes, the combined entity will move to Canada where Tim Hortons is based.  This didn't sit well with the consuming public, who made their feelings quite public.  Fans and followers took to social media, especially Facebook, to express their patriotism.

Admittedly, it's a move that flies in the face of a recent trend toward American goods, particularly with the rise of Detroit, right on the border of Canada.

Generally speaking, I'm not sure it's ever mattered much where company headquarters are located, and in the past I'm not sure anyone would have noticed or cared.

But in the age of social commentary, the court of social opinion makes decisions on every aspect of a brand, in this case including the location of its headquarter offices.  It didn't play well to people because they perceived it as an anti-American move to merely save money ... moving jobs to another country to save money, yet still banking on American customers to make that money.  People didn't like it.

Proving once again that a brand is made up of many elements and each of those elements has to be well played for a total brand experience.  Including something you may not have thought through before, like the location of your headquarters.

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

Monday, August 25

2014 Emmy Awards, As Tweeted

I hosted yet another Twitter party during the 2014 Emmy Awards at #EmmyExp.  The gang gets together mostly to talk about the marketing, but we end up rapping about just about everything related to the awards show.

The night got off to a bad start for most of us ... mostly because it was on a Monday night.  Who wants to see this stuff on a Monday night?  Even the host made fun of it as a sign that the Emmys are over.  Perhaps.

There was lots of beef about it, quite honestly, because none of us could get home from work in time to see the red carpet.  What's an awards show without seeing the red carpet?   It's like ice cream without sprinkles, shopping without a credit card, or as some said ... sex without  a little playing around first.  It just wasn't the same.  We couldn't get into it, because there was no ramp up.  So unsatisfying.

While certainly not a new phenomenon, it was fascinating to see the continued evolution from network dominance to cable creativity to Netflix binge watching.  My how television has changed, and it was more obvious than any prior year.

There was lots of commentary on the celebrity tans ... bad spray tans I might add ... I guess "orange is the new tan."

Big advertisers included Audi, Samsung, AARP, NBC (the originating network), and Dove.  None of them really stood out, if I'm going to be honest.  And in fact both Samsung and Pepsi had movie-themed creative which seemed sort of odd for an awards show that celebrates great television.  There was actually no sign of any custom advertising; nothing was tagged to the awards or to television.  Felt like a big miss.

This little ditty from Depend was a standout though ... with a bit of a shocker at the end.  All I have to say is Brava and #Underwareness!

Since we missed the red carpet, at least we were treated to the Twitter mirror from ET!  While most of us couldn't see the stars enter, at least we could see them ham it up from backstage.  It added a little bit of fun to what otherwise felt like an lackluster production.  It's like everyone was tired because it was Monday night.  Who does these things on Monday night?  There we go again!

Weirdest moment of the night was Weird Al, probably by design.  His medley left most of my tweeters feeling a bit of an ick.  Interesting that Weird Al, who has been around for decades, is seeing a surge in his celebrity popularity, at least in recent moments.  It was a weird moment at best.

Biggest winners for the night were Modern Family, Breaking Bad, and American Horror Story ... at least to my eyes.  I'm personally a big fan of all three.

Was it a shining moment for celebrating television?  Not by a long shot ... but maybe it could have been if it was on a Sunday night.

What's your experience?  JIM

The 2014 VMAs - Too Cool?

I guess I'm getting old ... "getting!!"

I tried with earnest to watch the MTV VMAs last night, mostly because for my work it's important to stay on top of pop culture.   I hear the music, I know the names, so I want to see the "stars" do their thing and I want to hear their acceptance speeches in person.  I want to see the people behind the pop.

I couldn't last thirty minutes.  I guess I'm getting old.

I'm sure it's just me, but they all seem to be trying too hard to be cool.  The clothing, the language, the body gestures ... it all seems so forced and so contrived.  Everything seems to be done for the shock value of it, all to be caught by the camera.

"Coming up, a shocking performance from Beyonce," must have been repeated four times in the short time I watched.  Got it, she'll be doing something soon and it'll be shocking.  Big shock.

Even the camera seems to be trying too hard as it angles around, hoping with earnest to "catch" the moment.  The lights are flashing around it, and everyone is twerking to the lens.  Not to the music but to the lens.

I couldn't last thirty minutes.

Yes, I heard about the snake bite and I witnessed the cover-up for the wardrobe malfunction.  This morning I heard about the picture-perfect, perfectly time acceptance speech from Mom, Dad, and child.

Just seems so purposeful to me.  Can't these folks just play music and sing?

Now clearly I'm not in the target market, and that is part of the point.  That's why I want to watch pop culture shows like the VMSs because I'm not the target and I want to keep learning.  I'm in marketing and I need to know what's important to the younger generation.  Is this what's important?

As for the marketing, I was so overloaded by the show itself that I couldn't even focus on any of the advertising or the social commentary.  I felt like a deer in headlights!

I know I'm going to sound like an old man, but I have to say ... is it that important to be so cool?

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, August 24

Getting the "TO" Right

I'm working a new series over at Entrepreneur that breaks down the concept of positioning.

This installment focuses on the target market, or the "TO" in our positioning format.

Give a click here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, August 21

P&G Brands on the Market

Ever since P&G announced that it would be cutting a massive number of brands from its line-up, there's been incredible speculation around what brands will be on that list and what will happen to them.

Will the brands just merely go away? --- Like the iconic brand Ivory that appears to be on the list of possibilities.  Off to the brand grave yard?  Who will write the obituary?

Will these brands be sold off to another organization who is willing to reinvent them?  --- It's very typical for a brand to go through phases of its lifecycle.  Perhaps some of these brands just need a refresh, which could be a priority project for another company.  I have experience in this area myself, when I worked at Johnson & Johnson and relaunched Clean & Clear, a brand we purchased from Revlon.  They didn't make the brand a priority, but we certainly did by reinventing it as a teen skin care brand.  One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Will smaller companies buy some of these brands because while they may be small for P&G, they are huge for a smaller organization?  --- This seems like a no-brainer and would keep some of these brands (that many people still love) alive.  This is where size matters.

There was no stated timetable attached to the P&G announcement, but that hasn't stopped the scenario mapping from consumers to fellow marketers to Wall Street.  I'm betting that's because the company is managing the exit strategies of each of these brands, which could fall into any of the categories above.

Time will tell.  What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, August 19

Lands' End

When it comes to marketing, the devil is in the details.  And data can certainly help you navigate those details and help you make good decisions.

Just ask Lands' End.

They recently sent out free magazine copies in their shipments, but apparently they didn't check the content carefully.  There were some covers that customers didn't think were brand-friendly, or family-friendly for that matter, and they got quite vocal.

Provocative magazine covers that may be suitable for some, but only if you have your targeting right.

And only if your customer data points you in the right direction in terms of what's appropriate to add to a shipment.

Here's the GQ cover that was added to many a shipment, with some customers getting quite upset:

The Moms in particular were quite vocal.

This is why we do CRM (customer relationship marketing) and this is why we use data to do it right.  To avoid these kinds of mistakes.  A free gift with purchase is a wonderful thing, but only if your customer thinks it's wonderful.

It's important to learn from each other.  The lesson here is to check your details twice.  Make sure everything is aligned towards what you know will add value to your customer.  Pay attention to the details.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, August 18

Toyota Sing-Along

I love it when a brand taps into a known, acknowledged, and universal consumer behavior as a way to make a connection.

In this case, that behavior is our love of singing ... singing along to our favorite songs.  Also in this case, it's to launch a new hybrid car.

Sure, it could have been singing in the shower but in this case it's singing in the car.  I mean, who doesn't sing along in the car?  I've been caught at many a red light myself, as have my kids.  Let's face it, we all do it.

Well Toyota certainly gets it, so they embraced the fact and made it a way to draw attention to their new car.

The brand turned the center of Prague into a jukebox matrix, where each street was renamed for a classic pop hit.  Like "I Will Survive" Street. As consumers test drive the new Toyota Yaris hybrid car around the city center, at each turn the music in the car changes to the music that matches the renamed street.  Inside the car, a camera captures the sing-along fest, song by song.

Unless there's a picture, it didn't happen ... so here's the video proof.  Loads of fun!

Makes me want to jump in and sing, and drive that car around those streets!  Exactly the point.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, August 17

Old School Positioning

While there are many approaches to building a brand positioning, sometimes old school is still the best.

Here's a post I wrote for Entrepreneur where I put it to the test for a small business.

Give it a click here if you are interested.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, August 15

Reebok's Human Billboards

Reebok is running an interesting promotion ... he who gets the biggest tattoo of the Reebok logo wins a year-long sponsorship deal.

It's a pretty cool engagement program for the Reebok CrossFit brand in Sweden.  ReebokForever, "Pain is temporary, Reebok is forever."

For one day, the brand is giving free tattoos to aficionados and fitness junkies ... and size matters because the biggest logo wins.  It'll be interesting to see who does win, and how big it really gets!

This isn't the first brand to try to create human billboards with human billboards via tattoos, just take a look at all the sports teams and how they try to get fans to billboard themselves.

Even Reebok did it last year at SXSW where a bunch of folks got free tattoos of the brand.

I guess it's the sign of true love if you are willing to permanently brand yourself, so indeed the brand should give something back in return.  A sponsorship deal isn't too bad.

Would you do it?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, August 14

Levi's Free Concert

On the surface, this seems like a pretty cool and pretty simple idea.

To get into this hot little summer concert at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in NYC, all you have to do is show up in a pair of Levi's.

Summer + outdoor music concert, makes sense.

Jeans + concert, makes sense.

Brooklyn Bridge Park + outdoor concert, makes sense.

Levi's = jeans, right, so that makes sense.

What's not to love?  Great branded promotion taping into a pop culture behavior and adding value to consumers' lives, right?  Adding value to their lives, right?  Giving them a free summer concert with the likes of Haim and Sleigh Bells in a great NYC summer venue.  All you have to do is throw on your Levi's.

Unless of course you didn't get the memo and you show up not wearing Levi's.

On the surface, you turn them away, right?  The rule is you have to wear the brand to get into the concert, right?  So these folks can't get it.  That's the rule, right?

So that's what they did, they turned them away.  Ouch.  Probably not a good idea in NYC with a millennial crowd who have no problem turning to social media.  The concert goers, or non-goers I should say, got very vocal.

Not the impression that the brand wanted to make, I am sure.

Lesson learned ... have a back-up plan.  Always have a default mechanism that consumers can turn to if they aren't in complete compliance with what you had planned.  For example, non-Levi's wearers have to pay to get in perhaps.

Give them an easy and agreeable way out.  Making people turn back empty-handed is not the impression you want to leave.  Otherwise the brand ends up looking too self-serving and too commercial, which doesn't necessarily work in pop culture scenarios.

Let's learn from this; I'm sure it has many applications to programs that many of us are developing for our brands.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, August 13

The Characters of Times Square

There's an interesting debate going on in New York City this month regarding the "costumed characters" that frequent Times Square, making tips by posing for pictures with tourists.  Many of these characters are brands, cartoon characters, or super heroes.

While many say they are just trying to make an honest living, a few have made a bad name for the group by behaving indecently.  The New York Police Department started handing out flyers to inform tourists that tipping these characters is optional.

The city also wants these folks to potentially register  to get licenses to wear the costumes and pose for pictures.

The actions from the city have evidently hurt these folks' ability to make a living, so they are trying to band together to perhaps form a union and exercise their rights.

As a New Yorker, I never knew this was even a problem, but if you think about it I understand the issue.  If left unregulated completely, we have no idea who is under that costume and what their intention is.  By having the city monitor this activity, perhaps it's a way to legitimize it all and make it all safe.

As a marketer, I never thought about this before either but truthfully these are brands ... and they are in this case being represented by other people ... that could be a problem.  Brands like M&Ms, Sesame Street, Disney, Marvel, etc.  They are licensed characters that in theory are protected by law from infringement.  If the characters aren't behaving well, then it could affect the brand's reputation/identity.

It's ironic because I've seen these characters in Times Square many times and just never thought about it before, but it could be a potential problem on many fronts.  Perhaps by regulating it and allowing them to join together, it can become a safer experience for all ... with permission from the brands of course.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, August 12 Pet Adoptions

I've never paid much attention to the brand, to be totally honest, mostly because I don't necessarily understand what it is.

Although I have ordered furniture for work from the site from the past, I never really paid enough attention to really engage in the brand.  I'm not really sure why, it was just never on my radar.

But then over the weekend, the brand took on a whole new meaning when I saw a television spot for their pet adoption public service.

And who says television advertising is dead?

I immediately went to their site to see what this was all about, and sure enough there was an entire section devoted to pet adoptions, created as a public service.  Not only can you adopt a specific pet by geography or breed, but you can learn about the best breed for your lifestyle.  The site connects visitors with animal shelters all across the country, for free.

Holy cow.  It makes a lot of sense ... here are extra pets that need homes ... an over stock of sorts.  I love it!

So of course, I browsed the site to see what else was up and I was pleasantly delighted to see an entire section devoted to local artisan trade.  I stayed on the site for quite some time, tooling around, and plan to go back to order a few things for my home.

Who knew?

This is a classic example of good marketing:  offering a new service that will attract a new audience, who then very well may engage in your core services as well.  And if we ever decide to get another dog, guess where I'm going!?!

Bravo!  CSR in action, with televisions advertising driving online traffic.

Check it out and let me know ... what's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, August 8

New Positioning Series at Entrepreneur

I started a new series over at Entrepreneur this week.

It's meant to break down the daunting task of positioning your business and turning it into a brand.  No small feat.

Click here to see what I mean!

What's your experience?  JIM


I'd been hearing about this men's brand called Bonobos for quite some time.  And I'd been seeing the Facebook ads continually.

Clearly I'm in the target market.

The khaki pants seem really cool.  I love the strip of striped color across the back pocket ... so me.

When I dug a little deeper, I realized that they weren't talking to me, and that's just fine.  I'm a different kind of shopper, and this is a different kind of brand.

It's the store for men who don't like to shop.

Whoa.  At first glance this wouldn't be for me at all.  I love to shop!

But in digging a little deeper, there's more.

My spin on it ... It's the store for men who don't like to shop without buying anything.  I like to buy!

It's totally geared towards buying.  The catalog makes it easy, and by the way ... wouldn't you want to look like that in the clothes?  Hello!

Bonobos started opening showrooms, first in New York, so that men could try on the clothes and then order them.  You can't walk out with any merchandise ... the stores don't carry the inventory ... but you can order stuff and get your goods really quickly.  The stores are called "Guide Shops."  I'm in.

It's a different kind of shopping for men who like to buy stuff.  For men who like to look like they put some care into their look.  For men who want their pants to look ... well, purposeful.  Like they are fitted and tailored.  But they don't want to look like they've "shopped" for it.  I love it!

Now that's the look, ladies and gentlemen!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, August 7

Nine West's New Campaign

In the last 24 hours, I have gotten so many comments on this new campaign from Nine West -- and all from women.

It reminds me of when Pantene launched their "stereotypes" campaign not too long ago.  I got flooded with requests to write about it, as social media caught on fire with those for and against the messaging.

I asked several of the women who reached out to me what they thought, and I got a very interesting initial reaction:   "well, I'm not in the target audience."

Most went on to tell me that they found it offensive, but the clear sentiment is that the shoes must be for "other women" or perhaps "the younger generation" or for "women who wouldn't be offended."

So I changed my opinion on the campaign.  At first, I felt annoyed that here we have another brand either leveraging or keeping alive old stereotypes.  I had that same reaction with the Pantene work at first.  Can't we let this stuff go already?

But now that I've thought it through more, with the help of a few shoe shoppers, I realize that this is about targeting.  It's psychographic targeting.  And for that, it's quite smart IMHO.

Nine West is sending a message to its consumers, getting them to relate to the brand on a common ground and on a shared view on life.  So of course there are going to be women who love it, and then there are going to be women who think it's offensive.  That's because they can't relate to it.  It's not targeted to them.

Great targeting means you are not going to appeal to everyone all of the time.  You have to focus and choose those who you want to pull into the brand, and then relate directly to them and how they live their lives.  That's what Nine West has done with their campaign.

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

Wednesday, August 6

Do US A Flavor

There's been a crowdsourcing competition over at Lay's potato chips that we are now starting to see at retail.

The brand had consumers create new flavors of chips and then had the public vote on the most interesting.  Four of them made it into production and are now on sale across the country.  I witnessed a massive display at a grocery store just this weekend.

Contestants had to pick a chip style and then create a flavors.  Here are the flavors that made it:
- Cappuccino
- Bacon Mac & Cheese
- Mango Salsa
- Wasabi Ginger

Each of the finalists has their name on the package to boot!  The ultimate winner gets a million bucks.

While certainly not the first of its kind (hello HaagenDazs), and also not the first for this brand either (remember Chicken & Waffles), it is a fun promotion and a great way to engage their chip-loving audience.

But the flavors!  Wow, there has been some interesting commentary on them, and I'm not sure how much love there is for them.  I'm personally not sure about them to be honest.  But before I judge, I will taste and then I will vote for the finalist.  It's all under the name Do US A Flavor.

Isn't that the point?  Engage with consumers on something provocative to get them talking.  They're talking and writing.

If you'd like to vote, here's the link.  Wasabi Ginger?  I don't know ...

Let me know what you think.  What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, August 5


There's a very interesting art installation happening this month across the U.S., an idea that came across the pond from the U.K. where it was installed last summer.

Perhaps I'm using the term "installation" too loosely, but I think this is very cool.

It's called Art Everywhere US, and it's a collaboration between the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and several museums around the country to feature great American works of art on outdoor advertising spaces.

Some of the featured art was curated via crowdsourcing, and some selected by the museums themselves.

One in particular has some irony attached to it:  Andy Warhol's famous Campbell's Soup Can.  Ironic in that the advertising industry Warhol was paying homage to created a classic American work of art that will now appear on an advertising space.

The art ranges from the late 1700's to the 2000's, in a retrospective view of American art, displayed on outdoor spaces that range from billboards to transit stops to staircases.

It's an amazing public service to expose this artwork to the American public, with the hope of keeping the arts alive and driving attendance to the museums.

I'm surprised there are no brand sponsors ... that would have been cool too.  Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing the buffet of art around the country, for all to enjoy and learn.

Well done!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Saturday, August 2

Becoming a Personal Benchmark

I've just completed my personal branding column at Entrepreneur titled "Living Your Personal Brand."

It's a column all about the every day ins and outs of being your own brand.

It is meant to give practical, day-to-day advice.

The last article features what I believe is the entire goal of personal branding:  being the best you can be.  Or in other words, becoming a benchmark.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, August 1

Sexism at India's Airtel?

I would really love to get your take on this campaign from Airtel, a mobile provider in India.  The court of social opinion has weighed in, and I'd love you to as well.

You don't have to know the language to figure out what's going on, that's for sure.  People have been on fire on social media, on both sides of the fence, picking holes at what some are saying is mixed messaging.  Mixed messaging about gender roles, sexism, and professional behavior.

I don't know ... I kind of get it and I kind of like it to tell you the truth.  I actually think it's a pretty real portrayal and I love that it's tackling social norms and getting people to think.

Others say that it's sending a very mixed message.  I think it's bending our minds, which is a good thing.  It feels like a real account of balancing work/family responsibilities, managing workloads, and being an entrepreneur.

What's your experience?  JIM.