Monday, November 30

Reese's Peanut Butter Trees

OK, so this makes me chuckle so I just have to share.

Reese’s Peanut Butter cups is facing a bit of a “social crisis” again, due to some disappointment in its holiday “tree” cups. The brand released, again, peanut butter cups shaped like trees to help us all celebrate the holidays. They've also done hearts and pumpkins for other holidays.

The problem is that many can't see the tree amidst all the chocolate and peanut butter. In fact many are seeing something quite different. And they are posting and sharing their opinions and pictures.

Ok, so the brand is taking liberty in how it defines its trees. I understand manufacturing and branding, so I get it. The general shape is there, but perhaps not enough definition to live up to expectations.

The brand handled the situation beautifully with a thorough social media comeback called #AllTreesAreBeautiful, and by responding directly to consumer complaints with style and a sense of humor. Well done.

What I don’t necessarily understand is how the brand didn’t anticipate the upset. Especially since it has gone through this in the recent past, with the same shape issues and the same social commentary.

Or maybe it did anticipate it!

I always say that when you are in marketing, “lessons learned” is a vital part of annual brand planning. You learn from the wins and losses each year, and you reapply to the next.

We are all talking about the brand - so I guess it's working. 

What do you think? What’s your experience?

Wednesday, November 25

Can One Pie Save a Bakery?

Can one single pie save an entire bakery? What about when that bakery is Walmart, the largest retailer in the world.

Evidently the answer is a resounding YES!

Many have been noting that the bakery section at Walmart has been lagging...lagging from lackluster products and lower sales. Well there's a new baker in charge who has set out to reverse a declining trend.

The reversal of fortune begins with an unlikely partner...Patti Labelle. Miss Lady Marmalade is quite the baker, as it turns out, and is most famous for her sweet potato pie. She's published the recipe and has even done the talk show circuit about her baking skills. Walmart reached out to her to see if she could start baking for them.

And baking she the tune of selling one pie per second for 72 hours straight in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Didn't hurt that the diva has been receiving reviews like this one:

Seems like this just may inspire a whole lot of new goods in the baked goods aisle of your local Walmart.

Have you tried it? What's your experience?  JIM

Thursday, November 19

When Fashion Meets Pizza

I'll admit that I'm a bit biased on this one.

I'm a huge fan of Chef Marc Vetri. I've met him personally a few times and I've been to most of his restaurants in Philadephia.

I'm also a big fan of Urban Outfitters, home to retail brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropology, and Free People, with headquarters based in Philadelphia in the now retro cool Navy Yard. Urban Outfitters was my first fashion go-to when I moved to Boston right out of college. They had cool shirts that I could afford. Perhaps that's where my "cool shirt thing" started, come to think of it.

So you can imagine my fascination when fashion meets pizza, and I heard that Urban Outfitters is acquiring Chef Marc Vetri's restaurant group including Vetri and Pizzeria Vetri.

But it's beyond fascination, it's forward thinking. Brick and mortar retailing is dying, or at best on a major slide. So innovators in the industry need to evolve the shopping experience if they want to survive, and get any kind of ROI on their real estate.

So I am imaging, with this new company, fashion shows while dining. Dining while shopping. Cafes next to racks of cool shirts. Night life with night time shopping.

I mean, let's admit it ... shopping is much better after a couple of glasses of wine. And a slice.

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, November 17

What's a Television?

While the execution of the film isn't so perfect, I love the concept of this new commercial from Time Warner Cable. What exactly is a television?

It's not really just a "television" anymore. The old-school definition is no longer relevant. You can watch television on virtually any screen from a handheld to a tabletop to a wall mount. It's all television.

Take a look:

Such a statement about the evolution of pop culture.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Sunday, November 15

Let's Ignore Our Differences

This article appears on Entrepreneur...all about acknowledging what makes us different and working to ignoring it.

Give a click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM

Friday, November 13

Adidas and the Mascot

With all the overly dramatic hype surrounding the scandalous "red cup" this week, I almost forgot to comment on the Adidas initiative that I think may have fallen off the radar but is certainly worthy of note and comment.

Adidas has offered to support any high school sports team who would like to change its reference to Native Americans. Evidently there are over 2,000 high schools in the US who use Native American references in their sports teams/mascots. Adidas will offer financial assistance towards re-naming, re-logoing, and re-executing a revised version.

Timing is everything...the brand paired the announcement with this week's White House Tribal Conference. Obama himself commented positively on the Adidas move.

While many applaud the initiative, there were some skeptics and critics, mostly noting that Adidas should mind its own business since it supplies sporting good apparel to many teams, including professional teams that also have such references.

I grew up and went to high school in a different era, so this concern wasn't top of mind back then for me and I honestly never really connected the imagery to racism ... but that's just me honestly being naive. It upsets a great many people and for that reason alone it is due its fair consideration.

As for Adidas having a voice in it all, I am personally a fan for brands having a point of view, particularly when it is related to their business. No one has to agree with that point of view, and in fact we can all vote with our dollar.

Just like with the now infamous red cup.

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, November 10

I Have a Theory About the Starbucks Red Cup

(this article also appears on Huffington Post - click here if you'd like to read it there)

I have a theory.

Starbucks re-introduced its beloved holiday cup this week, just like every November, to much drama. There's always a lot of anticipation for it, mostly because for many it heralds in the holiday season. Every year the cup is just as festive as the year prior. It's great fun if you are a Starbucks fan.

But not this year ... this year the cups are just plain red.

I have a theory.

Was it an anti-Christian move as some have speculated?

I have a theory.

Was it a take on minimalism as I believe one of the designers has stated?

I have a theory.

Was it a print production error and the company simply didn't want to dispose of the cups?

I have a theory.

Starbucks has long taken on social issues. This is the first company, brand, and CEO to take a stand on topics like same sex marriage, gun control, and tax reform. And it's taken a hit each time. But it's also gotten a lot of fans in the process.

This is the same company that not too long ago got slammed for trying to put race relations out on the table, well actually out on the cup, with #RaceTogether.

They are clearly not afraid to take on an issue.

I have a theory.

The blank red cup could be a statement about political correctness. There has been a lot of banter going on in the news and pop culture about an over-exaggerated emphasis on being politically correct. So much so that many say in some cases we are stripping away our culture.

Perhaps like stripping away our collective holiday festivities?

By stripping away the decorative design that once declared open season on the holidays, the company could be putting a stake in the ground about being too politically correct?

Just a theory.

No matter what, it is a not so subtle statement about the brand's role in the holidays and in our popular culture, given all the discussion that this move has created. That alone is a score, and another nod to the brand's active role in our pop culture. Quite impressive, regardless of any theory.

What's your experience? JIM.

Friday, November 6

Help Me Get Home

As we start to enter the holiday season, we start to make plans to go "home." Or to bring the family home. With two adult kids away at school, the complicated schedules merely get more complicated. But we still bring everyone home.

SC Johnson (makers of Glade, Pledge, and Raid) seems to get that with their "Help Me Get Home" promotion, just in time for Thanksgiving travel. It's a simple little sweepstakes where you can win $1,000 toward your travel home.

And of course there is a little video content to enjoy and share as well. There's nothing better than seeing families reunite for the holidays ...

It's all very simple and endearing, which is what I like about it. And it's also completely in line with the positioning of the parent company. SC Johnson, a family company. As you see so many parent companies struggle with a unifying identity, SC Johnson has stuck with theirs for years. A family company. And it's never more relevant than during the holidays.

So simple, so endearing.

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, November 5

Fear: Buried Alive on A&E

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of reality television. I was there for Survivor, American Idol, and all of the Real Housewives. I get the allure.

But I'm afraid this new show may be taking the genre too far.

Fear: Buried Alive. It just recently started on the A&E network. Home of Duck Dynasty and Hoarders.

On the show, three different people are separately buried alive in coffins underground as a social experiment on television. We watch as they cope and struggle underground. Did I mention that they are in a coffin? They can feel and hear the dirt being poured on them as they get buried alive.

EW! And I don't mean Entertainment Weekly. EW!

Why on earth would that be entertaining? It almost feels like it crosses boundaries of vulnerability and voyeurism. And what brands would want to advertise on it?

I can't watch it. But I'm dying to hear what you think.

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, November 3