Tuesday, March 31

"Rudderless:" A Father's Journey

I rarely watch movies when I'm on planes; I either work or sleep. Flying gives me a few hours of alone time to catch up, which generally means writing, reading emails, or getting some shuteye.  But for some reason, even though it was an overnight flight, I felt compelled to watch a movie on a recent trip from New York to Berlin.

Something drew me to this movie: Rudderless. Directed by William H. Macy (and co-written I believe). Good exposure at Sundance. Lead character is an advertising executive and a father. I'm not sure why but I clicked in.

Maybe it's because I'm putting the finishing touches on my own book about fatherhood, and the movie description said it was about a dad...a dad dealing with the death of his son. A dad dealing with the death of his son from one of those campus shooting incidents. A dad facing the trauma of his life, just as I am trying to chronicle my own journey as a dad.

The shocking death of his son was delivered right at the beginning of the film. Even more shocking --- SPOILER ALERT --- his son was the mass murderer on campus.


I was up for the entire flight and the entire next day in Berlin. I couldn't get the story off of my mind. His son's death put this dad in a downward spiral. This dad was dealing with so many emotions; so many emotions that I think any father could relate to, despite the extreme nature of this particular story.

Are we responsible for the actions and behaviors of our children...our adult children? Is it our fault? What did we do to cause this? What could we have done to prevent it?

Does isolation or anonymity take away the pain? What's our duty to disclose information?

Am I doing everything I can to help my children be confident young adults?

Basically...am I a good enough father?

Let's face it, when it comes to being a parent we are all rudderless. There's no rule book to follow and no training that can possibly prepare us for the journey.

Rudderless is a very real portrayal of how tough it is to get over life's struggles. And sometimes you never get over them. And sometimes they affect others, a lot.

My life in no way compares to Rudderless, and I hope that's true of most all of us. But I am a dad, and I carry tremendous responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of my two children. Now that they are adults, I work hard to continually build their confidence as they tackle life's challenges. So far so good, despite the ups and downs along the way.

As I write my own journey as a father in my new book Out and About Dad, I'm soaking in every story I can about other fathers. I'm a firm believer that we can learn from each other, fact or fiction, and that the role of being a father is the most important one we can play, fact and fiction.

Thank you, William H. Macy, for this amazing portrayal of another dad...I learned from him.

What's your experience? JIM

Monday, March 30

Taco Bell on Breakfast

I love when a brand has a goal...and I love it even more when you can clearly see that goal.

Taco Bell clearly has a goal to take on breakfast, and it clearly has its sights set on McDonald's. It certainly appears that McDonald's dominates fast food breakfast and it certainly appears that Taco Bell wants a piece of the, well, breakfast sandwich.

And the brand is going for it!

It's not a new goal, we've seen a lot of activity in this regard from the brand. But its latest campaign seems to be taking it up a notch by taking a direct assault on what they consider to be the "routine" behavior of having at "routine" breakfast sandwich.

"Happiness is eating the same breakfast."

Take a look at this short film about the "Routine Republic:"

"Where are the rest of them? They're coming!"

To make it a bit more personal, Taco Bell has a corresponding website called "Breakfast Defectors." I love how they used their breakfast "wrap" symbol as a symbol of breaking routine. Of course there's a hashtag #BreakfastDefector...of course there is.

"Defect to the next generation of breakfast." Are they appealing to millennials, or to anyone who is tired of the same old breakfast?

Yes. Quite smart.

And it looks like they have a solid strategy to get influencers into the movment:

Wow. What's your experience? JIM.

PS - The ball pit killed me!

Friday, March 27

A New York Winter

No offense, it's not often you see a healthcare provider with a sense of humor. I've worked in and around healthcare for my entire marketing career, so I feel free to say it!

But this was a killer winter for those of us in New York and the entire Northeast. So it's very fitting that a member of the New York community would tackle the winter with a bit of a smile and a big benefit.

It's either laugh or cry.

See for yourself in this very clever advertising for NYU Langone Medical Center. "Made for New York."

I can relate, but also hope that I never have to partake. What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, March 26


The latest in my series on marketing planning over at Entrepreneur is all about building in flexibility.

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

What's your experience? JIM


Wednesday, March 25

Evolving the Coca-Cola Packaging

I've always loved package design...from being a young kid to my first marketing job at Johnson & Johnson to right now. I love package design and I love to see it evolve. I love the subtlety of it all.

Which is why I've been watching with great delight the slowly evolving packaging of the Coca-Cola line around the world. With a portfolio that gets more and more broad, it's just as much art as it is science to balance unified branding with flavor/type differentiation. No small feat, especially when you're an icon.

Here's the old packaging, at least here in the US:

With a few tweaks that are rolling out over the next few months:

No big deal you might say? Well, when you think about how the cans are displayed at retail and you think about how people hold the cans when they are drinking them, maybe it is a big deal.

There is similar evolution happening in Northern Europe:

But with more interesting use of color in Spain:

It may seem confusing on the surface, but these kinds of changes require a great deal of thought and strategy, not to mention logistical coordination to get it out in the market. These are the kinds of subtle, continual changes that brands need to make to stay current and up-to-date.

I find it all so fascinating, as subtle as it may seem. Will it get me to buy more? Maybe not, but it makes the brand feel fresh for some reason. That's the beauty of an continually evolving package design.

What's your experience?  JIM

Sunday, March 22

Are Consumers Still Consumers?

This article also appears on Huffington Post, 
to read it there then simply click here!

I’ve been in consumer marketing for my entire career, and I’ve been obsessed with understanding consumer behavior from day one.

I was classically trained to think of my customers as consumers…consuming the products and services that I offer to them. They not only consume the products literally into their bodies or into their homes but also into their lives. It was put into my marketing consciousness from my first days at Johnson & Johnson as a summer intern during grad school. It’s been a part of me ever since.

But I’m beginning to think that I have to change how I think.

Yes of course our consumers consume our products and services. They brush their teeth with our toothpaste, they drive their children to soccer practice in our cars, and they swallow our medicine when they’re suffering from a health issue. They consume our products.

In the process, they interact with our packaging, navigate around our websites, and shop off of our retail displays. They also consume a wide range of information as they seek to consume our products.

But with the advent of social media, they do a lot more than just consume our products.

They participate in our brand.

When we post a picture on Facebook, they share it with their friends. When we tweet compelling information that will add value to their lives, they retweet it to their followers. When we upload a video to YouTube that makes them laugh, they view it, and comment on it, and share it…hoping to make people just like them laugh too.

Consumers participate in our brand.

And in doing so, we learn from them. They tell us what they think when they share, retweet, comment, and view. We get a glimpse into what’s important to them, beyond just what our product delivers. We start to see what guides them every day, and we thank them for letting them into our lives.

Our brand changes as a result. We adapt to their lifestyle and to their desires. We even change our products to better meet their needs. It’s a social form of co-creation that marketers have never seen before.

Which is why I don’t think we should call them consumers anymore.

Sure, they consume our products but they are so much more important that to us than just that.

They participate in our brand, keeping it vital and relevant in their lives. They make our brand, well, our brand.

So we should stop calling them consumers…we should call them participants.

Brand Participants.

There you go!

Thursday, March 19

Modern Day Measurement

Here's the next in my series on marketing planning over at Entrepreneur. It's on measurement, modern day measurement.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, March 17

Clean & Clear with Jazz

The article also appears on Huffington Post. 
If you'd like to read it there, then click here!

They say time heals all wounds.

I've been around a long time in the marketing world, and I'm still licking a few old wounds.

Like when I forgot to put wedding rings on a couple we were featuring in a print ad.

Like when I received a disturbing weekend phone call from a high ranking official at my company when he saw our newly launched campaign on MTV's Spring Break.

Like when I sat in the crowded conference room when one of my major clients decided to pull out of The Ellen Show when she came out.

Time not only heals all wounds, it also opens our minds and evolves our thinking.

Yes, I've been got caught in the midst of many debates when as marketers we've tried to deal with various societal issues. I wasn't always on the positive receiving end and looking back, to be honest, I wish I had been even more vocal.

I could have done more; I should have done more.

So you can imagine my extreme delight when I heard that the brand I personally launched back in that day, Clean & Clear, was featuring a transgender teenager in their new campaign. That brand was my baby, and remains a shining moment in my career.

Sheer, unadulterated, ear to ear, delight. Dancing the "happy dance" as I write this post.

If only I had been able to do something like this back then!

I'm not sure if this is the first of its kind, but it certainly feels like it. To feature a confident, beautiful, articulate, and intelligent teenager who happens to be transgender in an advertising campaign is nothing short of breakthrough.

Standing ovation.

We've come a long way baby, and I couldn't be prouder.

The new Clean & Clear campaign is called #SeeTheRealMe...you can read about it by clicking here or you can watch it in this video here.

Let the healing begin.

What's your experience? JIM.

Sunday, March 15

A Letter of Thanks to Dolce & Gabbana

This article also appears on Huffington Post 
so if you'd like to read it there,
simply click here!

I’d like to send an open letter of thanks to the two men behind Dolce & Gabbana. I’d like to thank them for their comments about parenting and families.

I’d like to thank them because they’ve given me renewed confidence and motivation for my new book that is slated for a Father’s Day release this year.

I’ve been conceiving and writing this book for what will be about a year, and worrying every step of the way if I should indeed publish it.

Will anyone care? Will it be relevant? Will it help people?

My new book is about my family and fatherhood. I was a divorced dad, gay dad, single dad, and then coupled dad at a time when it wasn’t acceptable to be any of the above. I tried to conform to societal expectations only to find myself in a very unhappy place. While I did all that I could to make it work, I ultimately discovered who I was and what it would take to find happiness.

While I faced great prejudice along the way, I held my head up high and tried to be the best father that I could possibly be. My kids are now fully grown, starting their own journeys and I couldn’t be prouder.

When I started writing the book, I worried that times have changed so much and gay parenting is now so accepted that the book would fall on deaf ears. I worried that no one would find it relevant anymore.

Thanks to the comments from Dolce & Gabbana, those worries are unfounded. People clearly still suffer from having to live up to what others view as required norms and people still suffer from trying to fit in.

Parents of every flavor are still dealing with the prejudice that comes from not following an unwritten textbook of how it’s supposed to be done.

Sadly, prejudice still does not discriminate…even when you’re a parent doing the best you possibly can.

These gentlemen have stated their case for traditional families, and they are in fact entitled to their point of view.

As am I…and I intend to proceed with the publishing of my book, hoping that there are people out there who will care, who will find it relevant, and who will find encouragement from reading it.

Parenting isn’t about being the perfect mom or textbook dad, it’s about caring for the physical and emotional well being of your children. No matter who, what, where, when, or how.

Love is love, and a parent’s love is just about as deep as it gets.

By the way, my book is called Out and About Dad…it is indeed about my journey as a father with all its twists, turns, and a few twirls. It’ll be out in June of this year, if not before. By what I’ve been hearing lately, it can’t come out soon enough.

What's your experience? JIM.

Saturday, March 14

Power Brand Lego

Every year, at the end of the year, I pick the "brand of the year." Now I know it's only March, and we still have the better part of nine months to go, but if I were forced to pick "brand of the year" this year it would have to be...Lego.

Since last year and The Lego Movie, the brand has been on a tear working slowly but surely to turn itself into a power brand. In fact just this February it topped null list of the most powerful brands on the planet.

One building block at a time.

How did that happen?

Quite honestly, IMHO, it happened because the brand realized that it was not in the world of toys, but in the world of entertainment. Of course a highly successful movie didn't hurt. But they took that movie as a launching pad to elevate the brand beyond building blocks and escalating into the minds of children and parents as a major part of their family's entertainment. Movies, retail experiences, theme parks, video games, DVDs, merchandise, and yes of course toys.

It was all in the works for quite some time, but for some reason it all hit critical mass this year. Forbes helped. As did the Oscars. As did critical acclaim in household after household.

It very well could be my brand of the year.

What's your experience? JIM.

Friday, March 13

Recyclable Retail Bags

File this under...sustainable...really sustainable, and really smart.

A retailer in Sweden has decided to take "recycling" one step further, by making it even easier to recycle your old clothes and donate them to charity.

You simply take the shopping bag that carries your new purchases, turn it inside out, fill it with your old clothes you want to donate, and stick the bag in the mail!

Say what?

That's right...when you turn the bag inside it, it's pre-printed with the address and postage to donate your old clothing. Recycling the bag and your old clothes. Plus the bag is also bio-degradable.

The name of the retailer is Uniforms for the Dedicated. I guess they are proving that they are dedicated to not only helping other people, but also helping to protect the planet.

Bravo! You can read more about it by clicking here.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, March 9

Tactics, Tactics, Tactics

Over at the series on Marketing Planning at Entrepreneur, we're at the meat of any plan...tactics. The key is that they should easily flow from your strategies, if you're plan is cohesive.

Click here to read more. 

What's your experience? JIM

Friday, March 6

Emily's Oz from Xfinity

We all got so caught up in the awards, and the fashions, and the acceptance speeches, and Lady Gaga, that we kinda sorta missed a hidden gem from this year's Oscars. Sure there were lots of good brand activity too, from many of the usual suspects in the automotive, beauty, and beverage categories. But there was one brand that gave us a wow, and I'm not going to let too much more time go by before I give it a shout out.


In a nutshell, the brand showcased its new technology that allows those with vision impairment to still watch movies. It's sheer brilliance...told through the eyes of a little girl named Emily watching the classic Wizard of Oz.

Give a look:

Very cool technology that will really make a difference in people's lives. Not something you'd necessarily expect from Xfinity, giving us a new take on the brand as a result.

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, March 5


An interesting new brand hit the market, and hit my radar for a few reasons...Fabletics.

Celebrity Co-Founder. Following a recent trend in celebrity-owned businesses, Kate Hudson started this brand a few months ago.

Yoga Wear. The only thing hotter than yoga pants right now is hot yoga. I've tried it, and it is indeed hot.

Online Retailing. The merchandise is only available online, just the way the millennials like it.

Low Price of Entry. It doesn't cost much to dig into the brand, so the risk of trial is minimal. Also something that millennials like. And boomers too, I might add. And Gen Xers...all of us.

Monthly Subscription. Once you sign up, you get a package once a month pre-selected for you...fulfilling the thrill of a surprise every month.

Online Influencers. Bloggers (vloggers) are promoting it heavily, or so they say.

I single this brand out not because in and of itself it's so special (no offense), but it is indicative of a growing trend of online brands making their way through the fashion industry with a new business model. Worthy of note.

What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, March 4

I Decided Not To Wear Underwear

Caught your attention, right?

A Facebook friend certainly caught my attention when he posted that he was soon going to be a dad. Of course I commented with a resounding "congratulations."

Big mistake.

Turns out it was a ploy to get me to respond, only to force me into picking among a list of provocative options to then post on my Facebook page in return. It was a game I chose to jump into.

So I chose to post, "I decided not to wear underwear."

Why, you might ask. Exactly. Why? Why did I partake in this game?

Turns out it was to raise awareness for breast cancer. One of the options to post was, "I used my boobs to get out of a speeding ticket." That one makes sense...sort of. But why does it matter if I'm wearing underwear?

I decided to play along because I wanted to see where it would go. So I played by the rules and sent everyone who commented on my post the rules of engagement, encouraging them to in turn pick a post and put it up on their Facebook page.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Where did it go? To my amazement, no where. Absolutely no where. I have to say that I was a bit surprised. I was waiting for something magical to happen, but nothing happened. Nothing. Where's the awareness for breast cancer? Is it simply in the rules of engagement that I chose to accept?

What a disappointment...and a bit annoying. I'm a bit bummed that I got my friends involved in it TBH.

Well, I did get one interesting post among the many who chose to post. A friend showed me this new campaign from Cottonelle...daring us all to go commando. Evidently Cottonelle works so well, that you can skip the underwear. Perhaps this friend thought my post was serious. Umm, thanks for the advice??

Not exactly the intention of the "game." What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, March 2


I've been continuing my continuing series about writing a marketing plan over at Entrepreneur. This week is all about setting strategies.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.