Friday, October 31

A Gay CEO?

(This article also appears on Huffington Post.  Click here if you'd like to read it there.)

The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, "came out" yesterday, just a couple weeks after National Coming Out Day.

Best quote from his announcement:  "Let me be clear:  I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."  He also went on to say that while he has been open with many of his colleagues, he's never "announced" it before.  I understand that fully.

But first ... when have you ever heard being gay described as a gift?  I love it!

Sure, we've grown accustomed to celebrities coming out, some with great fanfare.  But business people?  It's a rarity.  Big business people?  Hardly ever at all.  In fact just a short time ago, BP CEO John Browne resigned for fear of being "outed."  That was 2007.  My how times have changed!

I was personally told, back in the day, that I shouldn't tell people that I'm gay.  I was told that I'd lose clients and people would be afraid to work for me.  This coming from "friends."  Maybe it was true, I'll never know.  It may have taken me awhile, but I eventually told people.

I eventually put a picture of my partner in my office.   With my kids.

I eventually took my partner to a work function.  Even to a client dinner.

No fanfare, no announcement, no declaration.  I didn't wave flags to scream it down the halls. Just a slow process, really just telling people one on one for the most part.

For many years I had my own agency, CPPartners.  We created the first print advertising for Tylenol specifically targeting the LGBT community timed perfectly for gay pride that year.  An industry publication wrote that I was the "openly gay" President of the agency.  It was meant well, but just sounded so odd at the time.  Sounds even odder now.

Coming up through the ranks, I'm sure I paid for being open.  I would walk into meetings and comments were made publicly about "the gay guy walking in the room."  I smiled through it, but it worried me about being labeled as someone who wouldn't go far as a result.  I felt like it was being said to somehow push me down.

Looking back from where I sit now, I don't care.  I did what I had to do to balance my career with raising my kids.  I'm happy with every decision I made.  My kids are succeeding in college, thank you very much, and I'm thrilled with my work.

Was I proud ... yes, but also scared.  I didn't know what the impact would be to my professional or personal life.  I still don't really know.  But thanks to high profile business people like Tim Cook, I think we can all breathe just a little easier now.  Let's hope he sparks a trend of people being more open about who they are, no matter who they are, at work.

Have I ever considered being gay a gift?  No, but I do now.

I say Bravo to Tim Cook.  While some may say, "What took you so long?"  I say anytime you're ready to talk about who you are is the right time.  Bravo!

As Tim said, if he could help one teenager then it was worth the effort.  That's why I'm also writing this blog post.

Thank you, Tim!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, October 27

Enter, The Hand Sanitizer

I've made two trips to Dallas in the last couple of weeks, and I live in Manhattan.  The Ebola scare has certainly been top-of-the-media in both markets, and you can't possibly escape the nonstop coverage.

In our media-driven world, that's a given.

But there's another side effect of the situation that's equally as noticeable and once again changing our behaviors ... hand sanitizer.

It seems like the hand sanitizer comes in and out of favor, as our awareness and paranoia for infectious conditions rises and falls.

Literally, everywhere I went in the Dallas area there were bottles and pumps of hand sanitizer.  And now that New York City is on alert, they are popping up all over the city here as well.

I hadn't seen them since the last time we were worried about such things ... If I remember correctly it was the swine flu.

It's almost as if the hand sanitizer is a barometer for our depth of concern over catching something dangerous.  Like a thermometer of sorts.  We are worried now about Ebola, so enter the hand sanitizer.

As a result, I'd wish they'd go away!  I'm sure we all do!

Of course, the interesting part is that the branding doesn't seem to be an important part of the mix.  Sure, there are brands in the equation, but they don't seem to be driving the solution ... just reacting to public sentiment.

Is there a perceivable difference in the products?  Is there a role for branding here, especially when emotions run so high?  

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, October 26

Take It Personally

My series at Entrepreneur about brand positioning is coming to a close.

My final perspective ... take it personally.

Give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, October 24

Not That Kind Of Girl

Before I start, I must say that I am by no means a super fan of Lena Dunham.  I don't think I'd even say I'm a fan.  I don't think she's honestly even on my radar.  If anything, I'd probably say she's over-exposed and I don't really pay attention.  Her over exposure isn't to the level of Kim Kardashian, but it's all relative.

So along comes Lena with a new book, Not That Kind Of Girl.  I never noticed TBH.

Along comes her web series to go with the book, I never noticed.

I was at a conference yesterday for The PR Council where this INCREDIBLE woman, an American woman who is Muslim was talking about prejudice.  She said to watch Lena Dunham's new web series, or at least the first episode.  She said it was "must see."

I'd do just about anything this woman told me to do.  She was that insightful, brilliant, informed, and logical.

As soon as I got home, I clicked in:

Ok, this is the first definition of feminism I have seen that absolutely 100% matches mine.  Actually, it doesn't match my definition of feminism, it matches my definition of how we should go through life, and how we should look at others.  It is exactly what I say to my daughter, and to my son.

Sold.  What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, October 23


FCKH8 ... as in "F@&K HATE" (sorry for the language) just released a shocking video to draw attention to women's rights.

There's shock value to be sure, and in fact when you watch the video linked below you need to do it knowing that you've put your headphones on and you won't be offended.  And you may not want the kids to see it quite yet.

The message is clear ... the point isn't that these little girls are cursing, the point is that they are growing up in a world that is still filled with inequality.

In this case, the inequality is against women, but it's universal in my book and from FCKH8's POV.  In this case the video is raising money for women's charities, but the organization tackles anyone and everyone who faces hatred.  I have to applaud that.

F@&K HATE is exactly right.  Hate has done a lot more damage than the word F@&K.

Click here to give it a view.

I've heard it said that the message gets lost in the shock value.   Maybe, if you turn it off the instant it starts.  But I don't think that's the case.  I've also heard it said that the stats are exaggerated to make the point.  Could be, not sure.  I have even heard it said that it's exploiting kids.  I don't personally like the treatment TBH but ...  I do get the point.  Putting these girls up to the task is a bit harsh IMO, but I still like the message.

I don't know much about the organization either, but they seem to stay consistent with their messaging across multiple topics.

I viewed the video far a bigger picture POV ... a curse word means nothing in the scheme of things.  It's the inequality and the treatment of women (and anyone facing hatred) that is far more damaging.  Hate is far more damaging.

I get it.  I respect it.  I love the message.   The organization must have felt the need to scream in order to be heard.  I get that too.  Even though there's a cringe factor to it for sure.

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

Wednesday, October 22

Shopping Victoria's Secret

My daughter posed a question, a challenge to me if you will.  I grabbed it, for Huffington Post.

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

What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, October 21

A New Champion at Breakfast

There's a new face on the Wheaties box, and it's not an Olympic hero or a professional athlete.

But she is a hero and a consummate professional.

Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State.

Say what?!?

In a very smart move, the brand is redefining what it means to be a "champion."  It's not just about sports, but about challenging your personal best.

Ms. Albright certainly fits the bill.

So the "kids these days" are going to be staring at her face at the breakfast table, at least for a short time.

Talk about inspiring the next generation!

Well played!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Saturday, October 18


Continuing my continuing series at Entrepreneur on positioning, this post talks about the biggest benefit:  focus.

Focus is critical to good marketing, and good business in general.

A focused positioning can help you get there.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, October 16

Starbucks Art

I talk about Starbucks a lot, not just because it's a personal brand fav of mine but because it's a classic example of a brand that has been able to infiltrate people's lives way beyond you'd ever imagine a product being able to do.  In this case coffee.

It's a powerhouse, benchmark brand.

First of all, when a brand can extend beyond it's functional benefit (caffeine to wake you up) to a much higher emotional benefit (being part of the community fabric), then you're onto something.

Second of all, when you can drop the product name from your logo and identity (i.e. coffee) and still be known better than ever, then you're onto the next level.  You've gone way beyond the product.

And then thirdly, when pop culture starts to play with who you are, extending who you are, celebrating who you are, then you've reached a level that very few brands ever attain.

Take a look at this artwork from an artist in Asia ... and what he's able to do with the Starbucks logo.

Amazing!  What's your experience?   JIM.

Wednesday, October 15

Biometrics T-Shirts

This week my agency is having its 5th Annual Digital Summit ... a global gathering of our Digital Innovation Group where we share knowledge, explore opportunities, and advance our collective capabilities.

It's one of the best things we do all year!

In his opening remarks, our Global Digital President presented a whole range of "new" technologies and emerging behaviors that we should note as digital marketing professionals.

One of the most interesting, to my eye anyway, was wearable biometric clothing.  It's not brand new technology, certainly, but it's fascinating to see new applications that are merging into our lifestyles.

Hexoskin makes a fitness shirt that tracks your breathing, respiration, and heart rate while you are exercising so that you can track your performance.  Or if you have a health issue, you can track your safety.  Wear it at night, it'll track your resting heart rate and sleeping positions.  You can read it all from your smart phone ... and listen to music while you are exercising.

Track your beats to the beat.

Cool.  I'm running to get one this weekend.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Raising the Emotional Benefit

I talk all the time about how brands need to deliver on an emotional benefit for their customers.  It's our job as marketers to go beyond the product features and show people how they should feel when they engage with our brand.

Here's an example from Sweden that I think highlights what it means to talk about your products, versus marketing a brand.

First up, a product story:

And how a brand took it to a different level:

See what I mean?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, October 14


It's October ... so you know what that means ... pink!

Pink, pink, pink.

It's amazing when a brand can completely take over a color, and own it.  Breast cancer certainly owns the color pink.  And I don't think there's ever been another brand or cause or activity that has owned a color more.

As someone who has certainly had cancer impact my family's life, I applaud the activity.

I'm certainly not going to get into the politics of it all here, but I do think it's fair to acknowledge the debate about over exposure and the excessive use of pink.  Some people think it's gotten to be too much.


Fuel oil?


And  ... J. C. Penney?

A little proof that as marketers we have to be careful about how we use "pink."  While the brand can't seem to get a break, they've gotten more than their share of commentary on this year's "pink" advertising.  I'd chock it up to a bad execution because I'm sure the intentions were good.

What's your take on "pink?"  What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, October 13

May Your Positioning Be Your Guide

Here's the next installment of my continuing series at Entrepreneur about brand positioning.

This article talks about how to use your newly minted brand positioning to guide business decisions.

Give it a click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, October 9

Rock the Vote 2014

Rock the Vote has been around for a long time now, so it's not exactly new news.

In fact, you could argue that it's become a fabric of the election season ... the only thing REALLY new (to my naked eye) are the celebrities featured to promote it.

But you can't argue with the cause ... our right to vote shouldn't be taken for granted nor should it be ignored.  We need to vote every year, even in a non-Presidential year.  So I'm happy to see it come back year after year.

There is a spin to it this time around that I hadn't noticed before.


Each of the celebs are stating why they are voting ... what they are voting for.

Reproductive rights, marriage equality, human rights, education, prison reform ... you name it.  It's your vote.

I did like the little cameo from Whoppi Goldberg too; always love a little Whoppi.  And Lena puts it out there too, which is her certainly her brand.

What will you turn out for?  What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, October 8

Thug Kitchen Cookbook

It's very hard to differentiate a brand in almost any category.  But some are harder than others.

Cookbooks is one of the particularly hard ones.

Our kitchen bookshelves are loaded with cookbooks, most of them signed.  We have two large bookcases filled with all sorts of topics from desserts to meats to raw foods to grilled vegetables to organic to French ... and everything else in between.

While we clearly collect them, we'd be pretty hard pressed to separate them out.  They're kinda all the same.  Sorry.

There are some standouts for sure, from some pretty amazing chefs with beautiful photography that's just fun to flip through, with a try of a recipe here and there.

Which is why I was so surprised to see this new cookbook come across my social media feed multiple times the other day.  Which is why I just had to take a look.  Which is why I cringed and laughed at the same time.

Which is why this just might be the most differentiated cookbook I have seen.  With a message that's important.

Thug Kitchen Cookbook.

The approach isn't for everyone, but they're clearly using a different technique (in this category anyway) to explain their usefulness to people.

I'll let the video speak for itself, and then duck as you'll comment.  If you're at work or around any sensitive to language, keep the volume low or put on your headphones.

What's your experience?  JIM

Monday, October 6

Lock the Back Door

The kids are back to college, fourth year for my daughter and second year for my son.

After an amazing summer, it's empty nest time again.

When you're living in an empty nest, some things are harder to get used to than others, especially the second time around.

Here's an article I wrote for Huffington Post, that describes one of the hardest new things I've had to face with my kids out of the house.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, October 3

Frictionless Commerce

I'm a sucker for a good concept, especially one that gets me thinking.

Which is why I enjoyed interviewing Lisa Pearson, the CMO at Bazaarvoice, this week during Advertising Week here in New York.

She talked about the "frictionless" economy.  Given that their technology platform fuels customer comments, reviews, ratings, and content for e-commerce, then clearly she's an expert on the topic.

"Frictionless?"  I had to probe her on that one!

Basically, friction happens when the shopping experience is less than perfect.

Long lines, out of stock merchandise, inconsistencies between brick and click ... these all cause friction.

The other day I was at a home store and there wasn't a price on an item I was interested in buying as a gift for a friend getting married.  The sales associate couldn't locate the price, nor could she find the item on their website in order to look up the price.  I walked out empty handed, frustrated that I had to find the time to go to another store to get a gift.  Friction.

Now that commerce has gotten so complex across multiple off and online channels, there are a lot more moments for potential friction.  The interchange between physical retail stores and their e-commerce counterparts can be quite bumpy for a lot of brands.  While mobile can be a bridge, it's still less than perfect.

But it's happening.  Last year's sales on Black Friday left many brick and mortar retailers disappointed.  The data showed a new mobile phenomenon.  While people were running into the stores for door buster deals, they were researching on their mobile phones for better deals while they were physically shopping.

Here you have customers standing in your store, buying an item elsewhere on their mobile.  While they are standing in your store.  Friction.

Friction can cost you sales, and it can also dampen the relationship that your customers have with your brand.

Which is why marketers have to think about the total brand and shopping experience.

Marketers have to think about the complete and sometimes complex path to purchase and how to influence and create consistency every step along the way.  And how to reduce friction.

I honestly had never thought about it that way.  Friction.  It's a marketer's job to reduce friction.

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

What's your experience?  Is there any friction?  JIM.

Thursday, October 2

Connect Emotionally

I'm continuing my series at Entrepreneur, all about brand positioning.  This post is perhaps the most important, because it's all about the emotional benefit.

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

Wednesday, October 1

Biggest Marketing Moments of 2014

My students in my NYU class have homework every week, no surprise.

This week's assignment was to outline what they consider to be the biggest marketing moment so far this year.

I have to admit I was surprised at some of the submissions.

Sure, I anticipated seeing Ellen's selfie from the Oscars.  Check.

I figured someone who say the iPhone 6 Launch.  Check.

Share a Coke was sure to make the list.  Check.

No surprises there.

ISIS use of social media?  Do explain, please ... it changed many of the social media outlets' policies regarding monitoring of posts and censoring.  That's big.

Apple hiring former CEO of Burberry.  It signaled a focus on accessories and pop culture.

FIFA and the US Soccer Team.  Some say it changed the face of soccer in the US forever, giving it a face and an audience.

So much fun!  I say it all the time:  I learn more from the students then they learn from me.

What would be your pick for the biggest marketing moment so far this year?  What's your experience?  JIM