Monday, September 29

Outlining Your "Because"

I'm continuing my Entrepreneur series on positioning, with a look at how product attributes can make a brand unique.

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

What makes you unique ... what's your experience?  JIM.

KLM Lost & Found

The airline industry is a interesting business to watch from a marketing perspective ... all the brands fight it out to differentiate themselves, but few succeed quite honestly.  There are the fare wars, the safety video wars, the luggage wars ... they each try to one-up the other in an effort to engage consumers.

Now along comes KLM with a masterful attempt.  I'm not sure how far it'll go or how great of an impact it will have on their sales, but it's very insightful.

Losing stuff while traveling is a huge inconvenience and a major source of stress from the moment you realize you've left something behind.

I just lost my smart phone the other day (although luckily it was quickly retrieved), and I went into panic mode.  Thankfully I had it password protected.  

So to have man's best friend do a search and return is just a wonderful feel-good, making us feel good about the airline.  Give this video a watch:

Totally makes me feel differently about KLM, an airline that I honestly didn't have on my radar but now I have great admiration for the brand.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, September 26

Riding "The Ice Bucket Challenge"

PRWeek asked me to provide my point of view on the recent phenomenon "The Ice Bucket Challenge," in a point-counter-point style column they have called "Gloves Off."

You know I love talking and writing about marketing so of course I said "yes."  Actually I ended up saying "no."

Give a click here to see what I mean.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, September 24

The New Tech Generation

There's a new generation of tech enthusiasts, and they are influencing brand choices.

Here's an article on Huffington Post where I wrote about it.

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

OutRVA in Richmond, VA

Full disclosure here:  I'm on the Board of Directors of the Brandcenter at VCU 
(Virginia Commonwealth University)

But even if I wasn't on the Board, I'd still be writing about a new campaign co-created by the students at the VCU Brandcenter in conjunction with Richmond Region Tourism to promote tourism in the city of Richmond, Virginia.

A certain kind of tourism:  LGBT visitors.

It's called OutRVA.

In essence, the city is "coming out," and declaring itself welcoming and gay-friendly, something you may not assume to be true coming from a southern state like Virginia where same sex marriage has not yet been accepted.

Timed with its annual Pridefest this week, OutRVA is a fully integrated campaign that will not only blanket local businesses, but other cities where LGBT travelers are looking for places to visit.

I personally admire how the campaign basically mirrors how a person may personally come out, except in this case it's a city that is proudly declaring, "I'm gay."  I admire "anyone" who has the courage to come out!

What I love most, and admittedly I am biased, is that the campaign was created by a community of creative students, aligning with their greater community, to breed new life into a city that is having a new renaissance.  It's a great place to visit, and it's time to come Out!

The fact that the students are becoming a part of the city's revival, with an "audience" that is also going through its own cultural renaissance is quite inspiring.

And of course the creative is great too!  Kudos to the students and faculty of the VCU Brandcenter!

What's your experience?  JIM

Tuesday, September 23

IKEA, High and Low

I’m a big fan of the IKEA brand, both personally and professionally.  I’ve talked about it in my writing, and it constantly comes up in my classes at NYU.  IKEA is a mega-brand that has mastered the brand experience, in my book anyway!  Browsing the store is an adventure in creativity and imagination, whether you run in for 15 minutes and shortcut the route or whether you savor every twist and turn in the retail maze.  It's an amazing case study in multiple touchpoint marketing.

Which is why I was so psyched to see this little video put together to promote the brand’s new catalog.  The messaging is clear:  what’s old is new again, as it takes a swipe at the latest technology innovations that capture our attention these days.

It’s the IKEA BookBook:

Now don’t be fooled by this brand, they put technology on their side as well.  There’s an interactive version of their catalog that allows you to virtually “place” furniture in your home, right along side your other belongings, including your family members.  It’s technology put to amazing use to help us all make decisions about our home, and I think it’s fabulous.

Thank you, IKEA, for always delivering on a fantastic brand experience … your brand experience … inside the store, outside the store, and in consumers' homes.

What’s your experience?  JIM.

Monday, September 22

The NFL "Crisis"

From a marketing perspective, and ONLY from a marketing perspective, it's been interesting to follow the developments of the NFL "crisis" as they unfold.  The actual events are disturbing to say the least, but I'm only observing the marketing activity from this vantage point.

I've been impressed by how some of the sponsoring brands have handled the situation, especially over the course of the last few days.  It would be easy to either keep quiet and let it blow over or simply pull out.  Neither one would do much good to be honest.  But using a brand's economic power to influence how the NFL handles the situation is putting brand marketing to good use.

Stay in the game and then try to change the game.  That's impressive, actually.  Like the statement from the PepsiCo CEO ... that's using your marketing clout to influence change.

And now the NFL has announced that it's hiring a former PepsiCoCEO to be its CMO.  Smart move.

One thing we've learned in this situation is that there's no separation between home and work life, that's for sure.  What a player, or any of us, does at home can severely impact how we are perceived at work.  And it can ultimately affect performance at work as well.  The lines between work and home are gone, particularly if you are a public figure.  Your "brand" has to be consistent throughout.

Which is why I was also impressed when the NFL announced its continued, permanent commitment to support a domestic violence hotline.  Good thinking.  Not only because it's needed and it's right, but because it shows the ability to put customers first and to listen to sponsors, who after all are the reason why the NFL even exists.  It also shows going outside of your "space," and getting into the homes of those who count:  the families who watch your programming.  The families that you make money from.

While this "crisis" isn't solved yet and while I don't think we've heard the end of it, I am relieved to see it all turning the corner toward a path that makes sense.  At least now it's on a corrective path, thanks in part to the influence of very powerful brands and their consumers.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, September 18

What Do You Do Best?

Continuing my series at Entrepreneur on brand positioning, this article  asks you to focus on the one thing you do best .... and use it as the basis for your positioning.

What is it "THAT" you do?

Give a click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, September 17

CoverGirl, Intercepted

My social channels were buzzing all day yesterday with friends trying to make sure I saw what happened with CoverGirl and the NFL.

It was a cramped day, so truthfully I had no idea.   I clearly know what's going on with the NFL ... but with CoverGirl?  All of these messages were making me so anxious ... I had to find out what was going on.

Luckily, I was teaching my NYU class last night so I asked my students and they schooled me.

Turns out that the official NFL CoverGirl advertising had been intercepted (so to speak) to make a point.

As an official sponsor, Cover Girl had recently launched a new campaign targeting female football fans, of which there are many.  In fact many say that 50% of the football viewership is from women.

Given my friends' fascination, I would tend to believe that fact.

A sponsorship of the league makes total sense, but not necessarily when there are issues with domestic violence swirling around.

To make a point regarding the scandal that the NFL is currently facing, some protesters used the campaign and altered the messaging to put pressure on the NFL, and perhaps on the brands that sponsor it.

Issues aside, this is a great example of consumers hijacking a brand's message and forcing its hand.

CoverGirl responded appropriately, I have to say, with a statement and a statement.  The brand is not dropping its sponsorship, yet is using its power to encourage the NFL to take appropriate behavior.  A lesson learned in letting go, hanging on, taking responsibility, and having a point of view.  Well done.

Let's hope it all makes a difference, especially as we start to see other sponsors take a similar stand.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, September 15


"So what did you do on your summer vacation?"

My answer is in this article I wrote for Huffington Post.

Click here if you'd like to hear about my work-cation!

What did you do?  What's your experience?  JIM

Sunday, September 14

#NYFW2014 - Fashion Week News

Last week was Fashion Week in New York and you could certainly feel the buzz in the air, without a doubt.  The restaurants were packed, taxis were all jammed, and the news was filled with notes of fashion.  It's one of the best weeks in New York.

E! was filming and reporting from the official events all week long, so all you had to do to keep up was click on the channel or the website.  For this week, E! became Fashion TV, although I must admit that I terribly miss Joan.

The hero of the week was Ralph Lauren, whose Vegas-style "4-D" extravaganza in Central Park (at 9:30pm Monday night) was a show-stopper for sure.

But not all of the news was tied to official Fashion Week events.

The show-stealer of the week was the appropriately named "Scarf Guy" who took over the social media buzz when we first saw him during the Apple brand announcement last week.  Having nothing to do with Fashion Week, he certainly made the fashion news around the country.

One brand that took away it's "brand" a few weeks back was still the talk of the town ... Abercrombie & Fitch.  They recently announced that the brand name will no longer appear so outwardly and dominantly on its clothing.  The announcement included "research" that their millennial consumers don't like overt branding, so the brand is merely addressing their customer's needs.  Many beg to differ:  it's the Abercrombie & Fitch brand that they don't want.

The over-exposed award goes to Kendall Jenner who is already managing to wear herself out.  She was everywhere during Fashion Week, and always in front of a camera.  While many says she's a beauty, many also say she'll be done before her time if she doesn't take it easy.

What a week!  Anything to report on your end?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, September 11


What's up with waffles?  WTW.

It seems like every time I turn around, there's another "restaurant" selling waffles ... premium waffles at that.

Ice cream shops, diners, Taco Bell, and even high end restaurants. Cafe Bene, new to New York, has a whole line dipped in different flavors.  Food trucks pull up in front of stores and office buildings, making homemade waffles on the spot.  Everyone is talking about Liege Waffles, and in fact some are even importing them from Belgium just so they can be totally authentic.

I was talking to a restaurateur the other day who just bought special waffle making machines from Europe that exclusively press the exclusive mix of Liege Waffles that they are importing.  She's invested a substantial amount of money, hoping people are going to come for miles to try her waffles.

Me, I'm waffling.  I make them at home for sure, but I wouldn't go out of my way for them.

And let me tell you, people are picky.  If the caramelized sugar isn't quite right, then they're not quite Liege Waffles.  Next.

Have waffles replaced the cupcake that replaced the donut that replaced the chocolate chip cookie?

Just maybe.  What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, September 9

BuyPartisan App

Not too long ago I loaded an app onto my smart phone that educates me on the food choices I make:  Fooducate.

I simply scan the bar code of what I'm about to buy or eat, and it grades it for me based on the nutritional value of the food.  If I just stick with A's and B's, I figure I have a plan to eat better.  It's super helpful.  An informed consumer is a smart consumer, right?

Well now there's a new app in beta test that takes this to another place:  political contributions.


This new app helps educate me on the political donations of my favorite brands.  By once again scanning the bar code, I can see where the company puts its money:  Republican or Democrat.

And let me tell you, it's a pretty rich app.  You can see where the employees put their money (not sure how) vs. where the leadership of the company puts its money.  You can even compare two companies side by side.

It's the ultimate in corporate transparency, and yet another way that we can weigh our brand choices.

In an era where we as consumers want to know about the companies and brands we frequent and support, this is a great new tool in our library of gadgets.  Now in an instant I can find out calorie counts, fat content, and political beliefs ... right on my smart phone, right at the grocery store, and right as I make my purchase decision.

Pretty smart.  What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, September 8

What Business "IS" You?

I'm continuing my series at Entrepreneur magazine on brand positioning.  It's a step by step guide, and this week we are up to "defining the business you are in."

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

A Lesson Learned from Joan Rivers

I'm a big fan of Joan Rivers, so how I deal with a loss of her magnitude is to try to learn something from it.

I wrote this article about it for Huffington Post, click here if you'd like to read it.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, September 4

Joan Rivers, The Brand

RIP Joan Rivers.
Thank you Joan Rivers.
We love you Joan Rivers.

The world just lost a pioneer, a legend, and a humanitarian ... in so many ways.

I can't even imagine or comment on how Joan's daughter and grandson are feeling right now. It's unimaginable. I'm sure on some level they knew some day this day would come, but honestly this was not her time. It was not supposed to happen yet, not this way and not this day. It's very hard to accept.

Granted, she lived a long and rewarding life ... with a lot of struggles along the way ... but this was not her time. Not yet anyway. She had so much more to give, and we were ready and waiting for more from her.

While I must admit that I am a mega-fan, I didn't know her personally so I can't really comment on anything personally. But I can comment on Joan Rivers, the brand.

Pioneer. When honoring the brand Joan Rivers, we must start and end with the word "pioneer." She broke boundaries, shattered ceilings, fought obstacles, and helped others to do the same. Great brands bring new things to the table, and that she did. Yes, she was the first female to break into comedy and expose the boys club of late night. But she was also the first to reinvent the red carpet. She gave us a reason to want to experience her red carpet.  "Who are you wearing?"

Unique Legend. Her comedy, her brand essence, is uniquely her own. No one can touch her brand of comedy.  Nobody, not even her proteges that follow her. We thank you, Joan, for the hours of side splitting laughter that was real. We need it. To be touched by Joan, no matter what she said, means that you had invaded pop culture. She brought celebrities down ... down to a real level that we could laugh about.  "Can we talk?"

Emotional. Most importantly, she draws on people's emotions which is exactly what every great brand does. She makes us laugh, she makes us cringe, she makes us gasp ... she makes us feel.  She makes us want to hear what she has to say.

As someone who has benefited from her brand many times over through the years, how do I take solace in this tremendous loss? How do I accept the loss of a brand that helped me laugh when times were really tough for me personally? How do I thank her for helping organizations that have helped me?

No need because great brands live on forever. Joan Rivers will live on forever, and for that her fans are forever grateful to her and her family for all that they have given us. Her entire brand gestalt is inspiring, actually, and makes me want to do more.  Aside from the laughter which is a gift, I guess that's how we move on with the brand. We keep doing more, just like Joan did.

Long live Joan Rivers.  JIM.

US Open Sponsors

When I was young, I was massively into tennis ... I practically slept with my Wilson T-230 racquet

(I think that was the model number; can't believe I even remember it).

As an adult, the sport has fallen by the wayside for me, but I do still enjoy watching a match or two on television and it's always great fun to watch a little of the US Open, especially living in New York.

I have to admit that I've disengaged for the last few years, so there's one thing that really struck me this season when I tuned back in ... it's so blue!  Everything looks so blue!

Which must please at least one of the major sponsors, Chase, who's signature color is also the same blue.  The blue back drop completely drowns out all of the other sponsors, leaving Chase appearing to be the only title sponsor.  For me, Chase is very "New York," so it's somewhat fitting.

Well that and the perfectly placed iconic Mercedes Benz logos on either side of the net.

See, I'm marketing obsessed and I notice these things!

Chase also created a custom piece of advertising to promote their mobile app.  I personally appreciate the creative because it gives a nod to those of us who have been around the sport for awhile, yet also celebrates the newer generations.  The "inside" joke may not be so inside, however.

I wouldn't say that tennis is a well-marketed sport per se, and there's not a lot of brand activity when you compare it to say football, baseball, or soccer.  So we have to take it while we can.

But it is interesting to see some unsuspecting brands that have taken on sponsorship deals, in addition to Chase and Wilson:  Emirates Airlines, Visit Orlando, LG, and Chia Pod.

Chia Pod?  Yes, it's a new high energy breakfast that I believe is just starting to see the light of day.  Each cup has a full serving of chia seeds (!) mixed in with coconut milk and fruit.

The breakfast of champions?  Oh, that's another brand!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, September 3

A Very Different Back-to-School

(This post appeared today on Huffington Post Parents, click here if you'd like to read it there)

I've always looked forward to the month of September and the back-to-school time period. To me, it's more like the start of a new year than New Year's Eve. It's a time of fresh beginnings, and a time to start over again.

I guess it's a feeling I've hung on to since I was in school, and then it extended into when I was raising my kids and getting them off to a new school year every September.

Brand new school supplies, a new backpack, new jeans and sneakers ... what's not to love?

Well this year is very different for me. While I'm embracing the back-to-school time once again, it has a different layer of emotions this time around.

For me, this is an empty nest back-to-school.

My kids are both in college, which is bitter sweet. On the one hand, I'm happy that they are advancing so well in their lives, pursuing a new semester and all that it brings. On the other hand, I don't have a hand in what they are up to. I don't really know their fall schedule, and I certainly don't know their teachers. We didn't go supply shopping; they did that with their friends and roommates. I don't really even know where all the tuition money is going, to tell you the truth. I write the checks with blind faith that they are following the right coursework with the right guidance. It's a weird feeling.

On the flip side, I'm also teaching at NYU now. I teach two graduate-level courses in Integrated Marketing and I absolutely love it. This week is the first week of classes so I am literally back to school, for real. The irony is that I'm teaching students in similar ways that my kids are being taught. It's a strange twist of fate, making for a surreal back-to-school time period for me this year.

Where do I land? Let it go and embrace it. I'm letting my kids take the wheel of their lives, with me as back-up. I'm stepping out into the academic environment in a different way this year, enjoying a very different kind of back-to-school.

I do miss the years when my kids were young, but I'm still enjoying the text message updates they send me from between classes and I'm still enjoying the advice they are seeking from me.  While I don't know any where near as much about their turn going back to school, I'm trusting that they will let me know if they need me.

They will reach out to me when they need me ... just like my students are full of questions about their coursework for their new semester.

Change is healthy because it means we are growing. This is a period of growth for me this time around, and I'm relishing in it.

What's your experience?  JIM

Tuesday, September 2

Getting the "WHO" Right

I'm continuing my series at Entrepreneur about positioning ... how to build it step by step.

In this article, we take a look at the "WHO."  Who knew it would be so important!

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

What's your experience?  JIM