Wednesday, October 28

REI #OptOutside

All's fair in love and war, as they say...especially on Black Friday.

Known as the "Super Bowl of Retail," the day after Thanksgiving has long long long been the biggest shopping day of the day, fueled by families being together, anticipation of holiday gift giving, and retailers boosting sales with big promotional boosts.


Critics have said that it's getting out of control with blockbuster sales, extended hours, and even retail doors opening on Thanksgiving itself. Black Friday has become much bigger than just one day.

It does start to make your head spin, and I for one avoid it. But as a marketer, it's hard not to put your brand in arm's length of shoppers looking to shop.

Well this year retailer REI is saying "enough is enough," and has announced that it will remain closed for both Thanksgiving and Black its employees a well deserved holiday off.

The announcement came with a call-to-action to #OptOutside, encouraging shoppers to skip the malls and spend the day outdoors, like its employees.

Good brand messaging. Here we are talking about the brand, right?!? I'm betting REI wouldn't have been on many people's radar quite yet otherwise. #OptOutside hashtag and all.

They even created a website to help people #OptOutside.

Critics here say the move is beyond just wanting to be good to employees, and that the brand is using the announcement to exploit its positioning and ultimately promote its products.

I say, "but of course." Shouldn't all policies consistently drive towards the same brand positioning? Isn't this a better way to promote what this particular brand is all about rather than having a 50% off sale that starts the evening of Thanksgiving and extends for 24 hours into Black Friday?

I think it's smart for this brand and I also think it's generous to take a sales day off and still pay your employees.

Well done, IMHO.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Who knew that REI stands for Recreational Equipment, Incorporated?

Tuesday, October 27

Target Halloween 2015

Just in time for one of the biggest holidays of the year, and certainly one of the biggest drinking and partying moments of the year, Target released on online video series that allows viewers to celebrate Halloween while interacting and shopping with entirely themed content.

It's quite cool...and a shining example of the current "content is king" mantra of marketers du jour. Including an easy-to-use linkage to sales...something most content marketers have been scratching their heads about.

Leave it to Target.

The kick-off video is called "The House on Hallow Hill" --- a haunted house that opens up a buffet of windows that takes viewers through a Halloween tale with "click to buy" options all along the way. The "hook" is that a raven has stolen your smart phone so you have to go into the house to try and find it, room by room.

Quite brilliant.

The brand makes it almost impossible not to engage.

Great fun. What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, October 22

This Too Shall Pass

This article appears on Entrepreneur as part of my series on balancing work and family.

"This Too Shall Pass."

Click here to give it a read.  JIM

Sunday, October 18

Gap in Experience

As marketers, we are all talking about the “brand experience” these days like it's the buzz word du jour.

I even wrote a series of books about it called The Experience Effect. 

(published five years ago btw before it was a buzz word)

#Just Sayin'
Building a consistent experience from across all of your marketing elements seems so obvious when you put it on paper, but in reality there are many brands that exhibit a gap in experience, shall we say, that can leave consumers scratching their heads. Guess it's not so obvious for them!

A case in point.

Over the weekend I bought a hard copy of the magazine GQ. I haven’t bought a magazine in years! I wasn’t feeling that great, and there’s just something relaxing about lying on the couch flipping through a magazine. I haven’t done that in years either!

I was quite excited to find that the issue covered a new collection of men’s clothing from a GQ "design team" in collaboration with the retail store GAP.

The two brands had done this before to great success; I have the camouflage cargo pants to prove it. This new collection looks just as interesting and the price points are amazing, as is the look and the quality.

There's obviously a huge "paid" media effort to get people to notice the new collection ... the print in the magazine here and I've also seen outdoor. I have not yet noticed it in social media but that may be me.

So as to not waste a trip to the mall, I phoned our local GAP to make sure that the new clothing was in store. The magazine had just come out and sometimes advertising and promotion (unfortunately) can beat retail distribution to the punch. 

That’s when the gap in experience happened.

The woman who answered the phone had no idea what I was talking about, and she was quite exasperated about it as if I had no idea what I was talking about.

Gap in experience.

When I pressed her, she rudely handed the phone to another associate…you know when as the person is handing the phone over they are also talking about you in aggravation. Yes.

Gap in experience.

This associate was aware of the collection but informed me that her store wasn’t going to carry it. Evidently her location is not a “premium” GAP. Didn’t know there was such a thing; bit of an oxymoron if you ask me. Ok.

“Is there a premium store nearby,” I (honestly) very politely ask.

“I don’t know,” she responds as if she’s ready to hang up on me.

Gap in experience.

“Could you look it up for me,” I continue, “because I don’t know how to decipher your stores from one another.

She then quickly goes on to tell me that there are no premium GAP stores in our area, and quickly ushers me off the phone. She left me feeling like she didn't even bother to check, just wanted me off the phone quickly. Maybe she was busy, not sure. She could have told me that and called me back.

No jumping through hoops for me today!

Gap in experience.

Funny, I live in one of the most densely populated areas of the country where there are a lot of men and women that I am sure buy men’s clothing.

Gap in experience.

No new cargo pants, or anything else, from this collection this year…leaving me asking myself, “why else would I go there?” Especially now.

Have you experienced a gap in experience? What’s your experience? JIM.

PS - As marketers, we should always strive to eliminate as many gaps in experience as we can. That's our job, among other things!

Friday, October 16

A Tale of Two Coupons

For marketers who have been around awhile, you'll all remember the height of couponing. We would spend so much time developing strategies and creative executions for coupons, whether for Sunday newspapers (FSI's = free standing inserts), or retail displays, or direct mail. And everything in between.

Looking back, it feels a bit old school but in some ways it worked, especially in highly competitive categories where brands had to do whatever it takes to drive sales.

I'm not sure they built brand equity in the process, but they were highly effective in generating household penetration and trial.

Which is why I had a smile on my face when I received a direct mail coupon via snail mail from Amazon, promoting their fashion offering.

How terribly traditional of them! But I have to say I noticed the focused messaging.

But you know what, I bought it! Literally. I clicked in and checked it all out. I haven't bought anything yet, but I'm betting that I will over the weekend. Household penetration and trial!

And I couldn't help but then notice the next day this coupon inserted into the New York Times from Macy's ... a brand typically known to do a lot of sales promotion and couponing. I think it's how they drive store traffic to be honest.

Holy Clutter Batman! As someone said on my Instagram post, "White space, people, white space!"

Not to be critical, but where's the enticement here?

But it's the contrast of the two couponing strategies and the two sets of messaging that I find so interesting.

Two retailers, two coupons, two sets of results. Two different customers? Perhaps.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, October 11

Extra Gum Made Me Cry

This video has been flying around my social channels the last few days, so much so that I just had to write about it.

As marketers, many of us have managed brands in categories that feel like commodities. It often seems impossible to find a way to differentiate from the competition and to connect with consumers on a deep level. This can be true of many products like laundry detergent, household cleaners, toothbrushes...I personally worked on one for many years.

And chewing gum. How do you make chewing gum seem different?

Here is Extra Gum, doing just that.

Without as much as a lick of copy or a spoken word. No words, no product claims, no superiority language...just an engaging story. With a brilliantly crafted approach to weaving the product into our lives without forcing it. Not so easy.


The best part is the commentary that has come along with the video. Almost everyone has commented on the irony of a commercial for gum making them cry. Me included!

Did Extra Gum make you cry? What's your experience? JIM

PS - A reader clued me into the fact that this campaign started awhile ago with this little ditty:

Friday, October 9

Barbie, You Can Be Anything

I'm going to put it out there that Barbie is one of the most iconic American brands ever. Sure, she's been in hot water a few times in her life, but all in she's been a staple in many American families for decades.

I know she was in mine.

But to my eye, her latest marketing effort takes her influence to another level and in my opinion strikes the perfect cord on the impact she truly has...or wants to have.

I applaud the effort, as a dad and as a marketing. Barbie, you can be anything.

Just imagine the possibilities.

Isn't that what we have our children imagine their possibilities? When they are young, they often do that through play and Barbie is right along side them.

I applaud the brand!

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, October 8

Innovation with Purpose

Last week I ran a Marketing Innovation Summit for one of our clients. I always enjoy pushing clients out of their comfort zone and out of their own industries to think differently about their businesses.

It’s my job. #MarketingInnovationDay.

For me personally, the magic happens when I end up learning something in the process as well. Happens every time!

I suppose it’s proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Given the more than obvious title, you might guess that the topic was innovation in marketing, which of course can take many forms. So we had brand representatives from three different industries speak about their form of marketing innovation.

We wanted different thoughts on what innovation is about so that we could give our audience more to chew on, so to speak.

One spoke about iterative innovation, one spoke about digital innovation, and one spoke about creative innovation.

Three sides to a coin if you will.

But I did find a common theme emerging that carried across all three perspectives, and it was a bit of an AHA moment for me.

Innovation for innovation’s sake lacks purpose. Just like technology for technology’s sake lacks any meaning. It just becomes idle noise that customers don’t absorb, or can’t embrace, or quite frankly won’t buy. Customers don’t get it because it all sounds the same.

But when innovation has purpose, that’s quite another story.


When innovation is filling a need gap or solving a problem or enhancing an experience then it becomes innovation that is tangible and real.

It becomes, well, innovation. YES!

So how can you tell when you’re on to something with your innovation?

It’s quite simple, actually, and it’s a good test for you to use whenever you are leveraging a new innovation in creativity, technology, or process.

Ask yourself this question: are you talking about the innovation itself or are you talking about the impact it has on your customer?


If you are talking about the features and gadgets and gizmos of the innovation then you are likely wasting your marketing efforts. There’s likely not much true innovation in any of that, and quite frankly nothing that will really get noticed or make much of a difference. Just being honest.

But if instead you are talking about the result it creates, then you have true meaningful innovation. If you are talking about the experience people will have, then you have innovation with purpose.

Then and only then will you have innovation that rises above the features and sets you apart.

Until you can answer that question, then I would argue you don’t have innovation.

Only then will you too have an AHA moment with your customer.

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, October 6

Dads in Marketing (Lately)

I love watching how brands portray fathers in their advertising and is a spectator sport as I say, and it's great fun observing and commenting on all of the behavior.

Plus I'm a big believer that brand marketing both reflects and inspires our popular culture. And if the following brands are any indication, then I am left feeling very optimistic and inspired.

Here are three big consumer brands who have all recently portrayed dads in a new light.

First up is Tide, with "Dad Mom," and its portrayal of the growing population of stay-at-home-dads. #SAHD.

Love the masculinity...changing gender roles don't make any of us less male or female. We are just taking care of our families!

Next up is Campbell's Soup with it's showcase of two gay dads. Made for real, real life. Indeed

And finally from Cheerios, on the other end of life's spectrum, a grandfather moving back in with his family. Tissue alert.

Welcome home, YES! Cheerios has been representing and inspiring families for years now. It's nice to see Tide embrace Dad, and it's amazing to see an American iconic brand like Campbell's embrace dads of every form.

Love it. Now go support these brands!

What's your experience?  JIM

Monday, October 5

#PSL Forever

I am going to officially call it...pumpkin spice has jumped the shark. (actually, I think the phrase "jumped the shark" has jumped the shark too)

I'll admit, I've never been much of a fan. In my first job out of college, I sold cans of Libby's Pumpkin when I was at the Carnation Company (now part of Nestle). I think I hit overload back then, so I am probably one of the first to hit overload with the Pumpkin Spice craze now.

Pumpkin Spice Latte: I get it. It comes back every year, it's a big hit, and now it has a hashtag #PSL. I get it. Sounds more like an airport to me, but I get it.

#PSL forever.

But when I went grocery shopping this weekend, I hit overload. Displays of pumpkin spice stuff everywhere. It's amazing how many products are now pumpkin spiced:
- Pumpkin Spice M&Ms
- Pumpkin Spice Oreos
- Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses
- Pumpkin Spice Pringles
- Pumpkin Spice Eggos (ok, those kinda sound good!)

I'm sure there's gotta be a Pumpkin Spice Pop Tart and Pumpkin Spice Yogurt brand out there somewhere.

It's too much #PSL. There are room fresheners, marshmallows, almonds, and smoothies.

It goes on and on and on. It's too much.

According to BuzzFeed, here's where it ends...there will be no pumpkin spice toilet paper! No way no how.

Are you a fan? What's your experience? JIM

Friday, October 2

Lessons Learned

As a marketer, I've always loved the concept of "lessons learned." There's something refreshing about trying to understand what you've accomplished and why. And why not!

In my latest Entrepreneur article, I turn the concept of lessons learned toward balancing work and family.

Give it a read here if you'd like.

What's your experience?  JIM

Thursday, October 1

Coffee-Mate In The Buff

I'm writing this post today not because it's breakthrough marketing and not because it's breaking's just kinda fun. I'm a little tired today, and I just need a simple little smile to get my creative juices flowing. :)

To get some attention for it's coffee creamer Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss, Nestle decided to draw a little attention to the fact that the product is all natural. So it took over a coffee shop in New York and staffed it with baristas that were all in the buff. Body paint, actually, but nude otherwise. They also included some customers in the raw as well.

Has this kind of "sex sells" and "body art" been done before? Absolutely. But it's still fun watching people and it's still fun seeing the creativity in the artwork from a biker to a guy in a shirt and tie to the two baristas behind the bar.

The body art is really well done, no surprise there.

But what was even more interesting? Many of the New Yorkers were more surprised that the coffee was free that day than surprised that the folks were nude.

Gotta love New York. And for what it's worth, I've tried the product many times and it's quite good. Especially the vanilla. :)

What's your experience? JIM.