Wednesday, December 30

Favorite Blog Posts of the Year

I write a blog post virtually every day ... it's just a normal part of my routine at this point. It's a creative outlet that gives me great joy.

In particular, I do a lot of writing for Entrepreneur and Huffington Post, on various topics surrounding business, marketing, pop culture, and family. Sometimes all of the above!

I thought it would be fun to once again pick my favorite posts from the year, from these two venues. A year-end list, if you will, of what captured my fancy most. Ten of them to be exact.

Here goes ...

TEN ... Here's How To Boost Your Social Media Following: Begin with the basics, for any kind of brand.

NINE ... Is There a Difference Between a Brand and a Product?: You guessed it, the answer is yes! My mantra at work all year long.

EIGHT ... Lift Off Whoa!: A much-needed eye-opening flight.

SEVEN ... College Reunion - Going Home: One of my most read posts of the year about a life-defining event.

SIX ... Instead of Always Aiming to Win, Agree to Agree: A main philosophy that rules my life, and my book.

FIVE ... An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg: Respect, from one dad to another.

FOUR ... Are Those Your Kids?: We need to redefine the role of "parent," for all "parents."

THREE ... Do We Groom Ourselves on Social Media?: Perhaps it's time to remove the filter. I know I tried.

TWO ... A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: What you put out there makes an impact, back then and right now.

ONE ... Honesty and Acceptance Starts with Self: Taking a look at the man in the mirror isn't always easy. My most shared post of all time.

REI - Brand of the Year

Every year, at the end of the year, I highlight what in my opinion is the brand of the year. I give kudos to the one brand that to me either made a breakthrough, advanced their marketing, or made a difference. Or whatever I think made it stand apart that year.

While this year's pick didn't necessarily drive the biggest marketing moment of the year (it came in at #6 on my annual list), I do believe that it significantly brought its brand to another level, got people talking, and made a difference.

My pick this year is the retailer REI, specifically for its #OptOutside campaign around Black Friday.

This is a brand that honestly probably wasn't on many people's radar. It's a brand that is all about the outdoors. So it launched a campaign to close its doors on Black Friday, urging consumers (and its employees) to spend the time outside instead. The brand's website also gave some suggestions for how to spend that time outside. Well done.

The brand stood for something and it wasn't afraid to take a profit hit on the biggest shopping day of the year to make a statement. I've personally seen a lot of #OptOutside shopping bags ever since.

Sure, their management took some flack for creating a "stunt." Nothing wrong with a stunt in my marketing eyes, provided that it's tied to the brand's equity, which in this case is surely the case. And in this case, the brand was able to spark a national dialogue about Black Friday behavior two beats ahead of every other retailer who is also tackling the topic of extended hours, long lines, door buster promotions, and employee relations during the holidays. REI came out of the gate early, with an inspirational message.

It built its brand in the process.

Well done. Great branding. Amazing leap forward. Well-intended promotion!

What's your brand of the year? What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, December 28

Biggest Marketing Moments of 2015

(this article also appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there)

I just love year-end lists! My fascination started as a kid when I'd listen to the year-end music countdown from Casey Kasem (if you don't know who that is, please don't tell me but feel free to click this link).

So clearly I can't miss a chance to do one of my own...the biggest marketing moments of 2015.

Here goes with my very own Top Ten list ... the brands that IMHO made the biggest splash this year.

TEN ... Holiday Red Cups at Starbucks: This annual adventure sparked a debate that most didn't even want to have. Intentional or not?

NINE ... Amazon Dash: A brilliant idea at the core of this brand's essence. At the push of a button.

EIGHT ... Racing Extinction: A moving tribute on an iconic screen. While I missed it in real time, I certainly caught the conversation.

SEVEN ... Hillary 2016: A new logo launches a new campaign for the Presidency. Amazing how a logo can say so much.

SIX ... REI #OptOutside: A bold move put this retailer on the map, and got others thinking. Holiday preservation?

FIVE ... Patti Labelle's Sweet Potato Pie: Lady Marmalade may just have saved an entire bakery. Selling like hotcakes minute by minute.

FOUR ... Burger King Peace Burger: A show of solidarity or a re-commitment to rivalry? Great use of social media to communicate across battle lines.

THREE ... Adele: She had us at Hello, and shattered records in the process. I finally jumped in.

TWO ... Tylenol #HowWeFamily: A blockbuster campaign brings back a blockbuster brand, jumping on a trend and leading the way. I was personally moved.

ONE ... Marriage Equality: A chance for brands to support their many consumers, and many took the chance. More than ever in history, just in time for this moment in history.

Anything I miss? What would be in your top ten? What's your experience? JIM.

Holiday Traditions Big and Small

This article is a part of my continuing series at Entrepreneur. Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM

Friday, December 18

Butterfinger at the Super Bowl

Hello, Adele has a new album out. There's a major marketing force going on for the new Star Wars movie. And by the way, Santa Claus is coming to town.

So why on earth would be care about the Super Bowl?

Well there are a few brands that are trying to get us to care, with a few early release announcements of the intention to air campaigns during the big game. But let's be honest, if you are going to break through the clutter of what's currently going on, you're going to have to go big or you might as well go home.

Which is exactly what Butterfinger is attempting.

Just this week, the brand announced its Super Bowl presence by having a guy jump out of a plane mid-air, captured all on Periscope. As brands all rally around trying to figure out how to use the new venue, this brand comes out of the gate and shows us all how.

And then some. The best part, for me, is that they tied it all strategically to their campaign manta of #BolderThanBold. We've heard that before, to be honest, but at least the brand is being consistent in its approach as it uses new channels. We shouldn't care that it's reminiscent of Doritos, Taco Bell, Red Bull, blah blah, blah...the brand is breaking new territory with it.

Fortunately, Periscope recently added a play back feature so the content isn't immediately lost ... take a look at the announcement by clicking here.

To be clear, folks, this is just an announcement of an intent to advertise in the Super Bowl...proving that advertising in the big game is all about pre-game hype and post-game analysis. Being first with something new isn't so bad.

Who's up next? Hello!

What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, December 16

Sing Alongs

What is it with our fascination with Sing Alongs? Not just karaoke, but in the shower, the car, and in front of the mirror. We just love to sing along to our favorite tunes, and we love pretending we are on stage!

We can't help ourselves.

Which is why we are seeing the pop culture success of these sing along concepts, all of which I love equally ....

Jimmy Fallon does a bit where he sings along with famous artists singing their signature songs with only classroom instruments. He had me at Holiday with Madonna, but then Hello, here's Adele:

I guess I'm not the only one with the seems that this is a genre where Jimmy Fallon is most comfortable. As the creator of Lip Synch Battle, the show has hosted many a sing along including this most recent version of Rhythm Nation:

Speaking of Jimmy Fallon, just this week he did this sing along with the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to much social media fanfare, par for the course given all of the Star Wars hype:

But enough about Jimmy, then there's Late Night Carpool Karaoke.  While I've never been much of a Carrie Underwood fan, would couldn't love her singing in harmony with herself:

Jesus Take the Wheel!

There is one big thing that separates these sing alongs that have come long before media. The shareability is out of control, which is how I've gotten hooked to begin with.

Do you sing along? What's your experience?  JIM.

Tuesday, December 15

Monday, December 14

Sunday, December 6

2015 Holiday Video Advertising

It's been said that the holidays are "the most wonderful time of the year." I'd have to agree, both personally and professionally.

I love the holidays, as I have documented quite feverishly in my new book Out and About Dad.

But I also love the holidays because of all the marketing activity. Most retailers make a huge portion of their revenue and profit during the holidays, so it's fun to see them fight for consumer attention with elaborate campaigns...on-air, on the internet, and ultimately in-store.

Here are a few video advertisements that have captured my attention this season so far.

Brands in the UK are known for competing heavily with elaborate videos during the holiday season. Here is Sainsbury, a retailer in the UK, who knocks it out of the park. Let's face it, cats are hot on the internet, especially a CGI cat:

John Lewis, another UK retailer famous for its holiday videos, has no intention of being left behind this holiday season after a very successful 2014 season with the now infamous #MontyThePenguin:

This video from Edeka, the largest grocery chain in Germany, has some people crying, some people offended, and many people perplexed. It's a great story, although admittedly there is an uncomfortable twist. Whatever your take, there is some solid storytelling in here in line with holiday family gatherings:

Coca-Cola found itself in some controversy this holiday season with a video that perhaps had the best of intentions, but ultimately had to be pulled based on how many interpreted it. The internet dubbed it "the white savior" proving that the message really is in the eyes of the beholder:

Given the fact that it's still early December, I'm sure there much more to come this season. Stay tuned and send me some examples!

What's your experience?  JIM

PS - here's an extra for fun...a spot from an unlikely brand, PornHub. You may remember this brand from the Super Bowl, although its advertising was banned well before kickoff. In this spot, we see the business aggressively trying to elevate its brand by show casing that perhaps the generation gap no longer exists and perhaps showing how modern families relate to each other:

Friday, December 4

Uber Puppies

My family is full of dog lovers. We had dogs growing up and then we had a fur-kid of our own, Sophie, for twelve years when our kids were growing up. She was the light of our lives for twelve years. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her and miss her.

And while we yearn to have another, at this point in our hectic crazy lives we just can't swing it. We sit in hope that when the kids get out of college and grad school that they will take the plunge...and we can puppy sit as grandparents!

We've often talked about how fun it would be to just "adopt" a dog for a couple of days or so, just to get our fill. Soak up the love but not have the full time responsibility that comes from having, basically, another kid.

So you can imagine my sheer delight when I heard that Uber was partnering with local shelters in select markets to give you fifteen minutes of play time. Evidently this has been going on for months; can't believe I missed this!

Just like you can click to get a ride, you can now click to get a pup, or two. Of course, just in case you decide to extend your playtime to a permanent gig, there are adoption forms on hand and at the ready.

Click here to see a video covered by NBC News. "It's like delivering Christmas!"


Brilliant for the dogs and the shelters to help give loving homes to deserving beings.

Brilliant for Uber to elevate its brand and honestly combat some of the negative commentary that's been put out there. I'm not sure anything except puppies could reverse search engine results around unions, surge pricing, and safety concerns.

Puppies, puppies, puppies!

To be honest, I'm not sure I'll partake because I have a feeling that puppy would be on a one-way trip and never go back. So I'll do it when I'm ready :)

Good going, Uber. Now that's a reason to light up the internet.

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, December 1

No Friday in Black Friday

(this article also appears on "Huffington Post" - click here to read it there)

Black Friday has had a relatively long history of being one of the largest, if not the largest, retail sales day of the year. The name literally came from the fact that the Friday after Thanksgiving was typically the first day of the calendar year when retailers would start to make a profit. It was the day when their P&L went from red (losing money) to black (making money).

Hence the name Black Friday...the day when retailers went into the black.

Then Black Friday became a "thing" that retailers would promote to drive sales even further and further and further. To be honest, Black Friday has become exhausting as a result.

And I'm afraid to say that over time Black Friday has also become more of a loss leader than a day of turning profits.

This year I noticed a considerable shift, one that has been brewing for awhile now but has really changed Black Friday.

It's no longer just on Friday. It started to begin on Thanksgiving night, and then it kept going and going.

This year, I walked into a few stores on the Monday before Thanksgiving and all I heard about were Black Friday sales. All week long it was all about Black Friday sales. The sales even carried on after Friday. It's like Black Friday is now a total event, not a particular day in the year.

Same with Cyber Monday. It's typically been the Monday following Thanksgiving that online retailers have joined the sales party. Well now Cyber Monday was starting well before Black Friday, and then extending well past Monday.

It's enough to make your head spin. What day of the week is it?!?

Will this ever end? Maybe next year it'll just be a Black Sale and a Cyber Sale...just in time for the White Sales of January!

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - Maybe retailers could take a lesson in communications from this Japanese retailer and just get right to the point ....