Tuesday, June 30

Pricing Win, Win, Win


My latest series over at Entrepreneur is all about products vs. brands...pages swiped out of the class I teach at NYU.

This week's installment covers the topic of pricing. Yes, even pricing should be looked at from both perspectives.

Give a click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.



Sunday, June 28

Pride = Equality...Again, Finally


The headline on The New York Times read, "Equal Dignity." The White House was lit up in rainbow colors. My Facebook feed became a massive celebration of love, friendship, and sheer joy as people of all flavors added rainbow flags to their profile pics.


I literally never thought I'd see the day.

When I got married in the late 1980's and then got divorced and came out in the 1990's, the thought of getting married never crossed my mind again. Even after I met the love of my life, we never spoke of marriage. It wasn't ever going to be possible, at least not in our minds.

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure we thought equality was possible either.

We were grateful for "don't ask, don't tell" and for any anti-discimination law that would get passed. We just wanted to be "tolerated" and didn't want the fact that we were gay to be used against us. Through the years, we've seen great progress, hoping to reach "acceptance." Just please accept us for who we are, that's all we were asking for.

But to be equal? Sure, but surely not possible.

Granted, I'm coming from my own unique place and from my own unique experiences. We all do. Overnight, I went from being a white straight married father - a majority - to a divorced single gay father - completely on the outskirts. Overnight. I lost the respect of society, and worried about my job and about my children. Or at least those were the burdens I suddenly carried.

I just wanted to be accepted, but becoming "equal" again was not in the cards for me.

Not anymore!

We've moved passed tolerance and acceptance, all the way to equality. Pride = Equality. Boy does it feel good, let me tell you, and there's no turning back. We've just witnessed a watershed moment in our lives, in our culture, and in how future generations view anyone in our society.

We've grown up.

As a marketer, it felt real good to see all the brands embracing Equality and Pride as well. The tweets started pouring in from the minute the news broke. I was in a cab coming back from a grocery store in Manhattan, stocking up so that we could cook dinners all weekend for my son who is home for the summer. While I knew the decision was coming, it still hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked over at my partner and said, "it passed," and we both welled up. Then when I saw Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Johnson & Johnson - all of my old clients - announcing their support, well, I felt equal again.


I smiled to myself thinking about how I once feared that they wouldn't hire me if they found out I was gay.

Not anymore!

As I walked around Manhattan all weekend, soaking in the rainbow flags, banners, and balloons, I couldn't help but notice company headquarters like Google, Deutsche Bank, and TD Bank proudly waving rainbow flags. Of course the Parade itself was loaded with sponsors from Kiele's to Delta Airlines to Walmart. Yes, even Walmart had a float (btw, thanks for standing up to Arkansas).


We no longer have to wonder if people will tolerate or accept us...we are now all equal.

That's not to say that there still won't be discrimination and bigotry; we still have to tackle that on many levels. We all do. But for the moment, let's revel in our new found freedom.

We've come a long way...I've come a long way...and I'm enjoying the view.

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - My new book just came out called Out and About Dad where I chronicle my journey as a father. Give a click here to check it out on Amazon, another brand also omnipresent this weekend!

Wednesday, June 24

Every Person and Every Brand Can Change the World

In his interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner confidently said, "We are going to change the world." Caitlyn Jenner is trying to do just that...not only with lipstick and a splashy photo shoot but by talking to people who are going through what she went through. I understand that she went right from Vanity Fair to some support groups, helping transgender teens accept and cope.

But she can't do it alone, which his why I love seeing brands jump in and try to help as well.

Take a look at this video from Google My Business, featuring a small business owner from an unsuspecting place trying to do their part. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor by the time the video ends.


"My gym should be more than a place to work out, it should be a place to belong."

Every brand, every business, every person should be thinking the same way. That small business owner is trying to help, as is Google My Business by showcasing the effort and giving it exposure.

Every brand, every business, every person should be thinking the same way.

Last week I was on a flight to Dallas and waiting with me in the gate area and then sitting in front of me on the plane was an off-duty flight attendant. She was transgender. She was single-handedly the nicest, most engaged, most interesting stranger that I had met in (ok I'll say it) years. So confident, so poised, so friendly...totally engaged with everyone around her in the most sincere of ways. Her winks of acknowledgement to me were priceless. I was hoping that everyone else was noticing too and telling others just like I'm telling you now. She was inspiring.

All I could think was what an incredible role model she is...for any of us. For all of us.

If we are going to change the world, we all have to help. I've just released my own story, in my own little attempt to help others struggling with what I once overcame. We all have to do our part.

And the more brands that jump in to help, all the better. It's shows a force of nature and a movement of pop culture that can indeed change the world. Every corner of the world. Bravo!

How can you help? What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - If you are interested in checking out my new book Out and About Dad, give a click here.

Tuesday, June 23

Target Loves Every Body

My daughter turned me onto this new campaign from Target: Target Loves Every Body.

It is swimsuit season, after all, which makes it the toughest time of the year for anybody to love their body. It just comes with the territory. It's likely the low point in self esteem when it comes to body image.

So Target brilliantly pulled together four bloggers into a video, each with a characteristically different body shape, to not only fit into a swim suit, but to talk about it. And to revel in it.



I love how the host got each of the women to talk about their favorite and not so favorite parts of their body...let's face it, honestly is the best policy when it comes to this stuff...inspiring other women to do the same and to do something about it. But not with exercise and diet, but with the right swim wear selection.

This is not a new message, and we encounter this phenomenon every year right around this time. But Target tackled it a bit differently, with a fresh approach using influential bloggers who talk about this stuff all the time with their audiences.

This is what we should be talking about to build self-confidence in a moment (like wearing a swim suit) that our confidence may not be at a high point.

Click here to read a bit more and to see some great stills.

Well done.

What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, June 22

The Ages and Stages of Fatherhood

This past weekend I went to a Father’s Day Brunch in New York City, hosted by The Handsome Father to celebrate Father’s Day weekend.



If you are not familiar with The Handsome Father, it’s an amazing non-profit organization committed to supporting, networking, and celebrating gay fathers. I’ve recently joined the group with the launch of my new book.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the brunch. I’ve never really been around a large group of gay fathers…there weren’t very many of us when I was raising my two children in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Most fathers weren’t that active back then and most gay fathers were pretty quiet about it. We kind of had to be quiet.

There were certainly no support groups like this.

So I was a bit amazed to see all of these gay fathers so out and about, literally! But what was even more amazing was witnessing the ages and stages of fatherhood, all in one room.

We heard from a “dad in waiting” as he was going through the process of becoming a dad. Sitting at our table was a single dad with his newborn, along with a one-year old boy with his two dads. The table next to us had three children in elementary school, and the table across from us had kids in middle school.

I’m betting all the teens opted out! Ha!  Those teen years weren’t so easy, if memory serves me well.

Me? I’m on the other end of the spectrum with two kids in their early ‘20s. My son came to brunch with us…he’s in the city for a summer internship. I guess in some ways I was there to prove that you do make it through it all!

I can’t even image how different life would have been if we had support groups to join.  I felt so inspired.

Now as inspiring as it all was, it didn’t make we want to have another baby! Been there, done that.

But it did make me realize just how far we’ve all come.

The fact that there are communities out there, like The Handsome Father, City Dads Group, Gays With Kids, that are all for supporting gay fathers and fathers of any flavor is just awesome. When I was going through it, I had nothing, absolutely nothing at all.

It was amazing to hear everyone’s story, and to feel the common bond we all share: loving our children and working hard to raise them as best we can.

When I got home I took to Facebook, and was overwhelmed by the parade of tributes to my friends’ fathers…again, I participated via social media in the ages and stages of fatherhood. New fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, experienced fathers, uncles, brothers, and yes sadly all the fathers who have left us.

The sea of pictures, stories, and love was spellbinding.

We all have a story to tell when it comes to fatherhood, and that story evolves as we pass through our own ages and stages. I personally loved every stage as I was raising my children, despite the backbreaking work! Yes, we all share that too!


Which is why I wrote my new book, Out and About Dad, so that I could share my story from a time when support for fathers and even more so gay fathers was non-existent. We were alone in our journey back then, but that doesn’t have to be the case anymore.

It’s clearly NOT the case anymore.


Now that is something to celebrate.

Happy Father's Day...every day of the year.  JIM

PS: If you want to check out my new book Out and About Dad, give a click here.

PPS: To read an article I wrote about fatherhood for The Handsome Father, in celebration of Father's Day, give a click here.

Thursday, June 18

Dove

I remember the feeling like it was yesterday...the moment I found out that I was going to be a dad.

It's not like I had been obsessing about having kids my entire life, I just always envisioned that at some point I would be a dad. It has just always been a part of my DNA.

Which is why my eyes welled up when I saw the Father's Day video from Dove Men + Care, where the brand celebrates that magical moment when men find out that they are going to be dads.

For me personally, that moment was a moment I'd been waiting for. It's not that I spent my life obsessing about having kids, not at all. I just always saw myself being a dad. At some point. I'm lucky to say that that moment happened for me twice.

I'll let the video speak for itself.


I will say this: I LOVE the mix of dads. Every flavor, every variety...exactly as it should be.

And I will also say this: it was not this way back in the day when I had my kids in the early 1990's. Fathers were no where near as recognized as the active caregivers that they are today. Brands barely mentioned us at all, and when they did it was usually in dad-bashing mode. It was offensive if I'm going to be honest.

But I love the place we've come to, and I want to thank brands like Dove Men+Care for doing us right.

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - I've just released my new book that chronicles my journey as a dad: "Out and About Dad." Click here if you'd like to view it on amazon.com


Monday, June 15

Tylenol - #HowWeFamily

June is Pride Month, and while we used to just celebrate alone, I'm starting to feel a massive movement of inclusion. I couldn't be happier.

And since I'm a brand guy, of course I'm going to notice that we are now starting to see more and more brands roll out the rainbow flag. As a marketer, I couldn't be more proud of us all.

I was there back in the day when there wasn't a brand in sight supporting or acknowledging the gay community. Eventually the travel and liquor companies started to see where their business was coming from, so of course they jumped in. It was good business. We welcomed them with open arms and gave them more business. The mutual support was appreciated.

Other brands took notice.

A few years later I was working on the Tylenol brand and I had the opportunity to create a first. A first for me, a first for the brand, and a first for Pride.

I personally wrote and released the very first OTC (over-the-counter) product print ad targeted to the LGBT community... on behalf of Tylenol...some twelve years ago. Twelve years! It may seem like nothing now, but it was a breakthrough moment for everyone involved, and I took great delight in helping to make it happen. The press quoted me as being "openly gay," yet another first for me.

2015-06-15-1434338962-7935269-ad.jpg


Well the brand is back again, supporting Pride in a different way by showing us that any family is family regardless of where you come from and how you may have come together. The first time I saw the ad, I was beaming. Given my personal history, in more ways than one, how could I not?

My how the messaging is oh so different a dozen years later, right in tune to what we see happening in our culture.

It's not a wink and a nod like the ad that I wrote. Oh no. It's not even about being gay. It's about family...the equality of any family. Any family, no matter where you come from or how you all got there. As a gay father who raised two kids, I am sure you can understand why I'm beaming.

Yes, this is #HowWeFamily...for Pride Month and every month of the year. My how we have all grown.

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - Check out my new book where I chronicle my journey as a father, with all its twists, turns, and a few twirls. It's called "Out and About Dad." Available at Amazon by clicking here.



Friday, June 12

Target Takes Pride

Target just launched a new piece of advertising/video in celebration of Pride Month. It is as much breakthrough as it is inspiring.

The timing is perfect, not just because it's Pride Month...oh no it's so much bigger than that. This messaging is perfectly timed to our society's changing perceptions around individualism, acceptance, and equality. It's timed to show that the brand is right there with its consuming public.

It's also perfectly, and somewhat oddly, timed to my new book Out and About Dad, where I explore how our culture has changed, and the triumphs we can now share, through the lens of my own personal experience as a father. As I was hearing the copy of the Target commercial, I couldn't help to think that they were reading a page out of my book.



We’re not born with pride. 
We’re not born knowing where our life will lead, the obstacles we’ll face, 
the joy we’ll find, the heartbreaks we’ll feel. 
We’re not born knowing these milestones are also stepping stones in helping us find our footing 
in what we stand for and who we will stand by.
In searching for the words that help us find our voice, to be heard, to be seen, to belong, 
accepted for how we live, respected for who we love 
and what we overcome gives power and shape to what we become. 

We are not born with pride, we take pride, pride in celebrating who we were born to be.

Wow. I couldn't have written it better myself, although this is definitively the theme of my new book.

This is not at all about being gay, by the way. It's about being who we are and who we were meant to be. And being proud of that, everyday. No matter who you are.

Part of the campaign is also a line of Pride merchandise available online and in Target stores...sold in support of Pride Month and The Family Equality Council. Not going to argue with that!



Bravo, Target.

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - If you are interested, you can click here to see my book on Amazon. Appreciate it!


Trunkster


I'll say it...I'm a bit obsessed about my luggage. I'm in constant search for the perfect messenger bag, the perfect carry-on, the perfect suitcase, and the perfect man-bag. It's a never ending search.

I haven't found it yet.

But I am intrigued by Trunkster.

I love the obvious attention to design and usability. I love the attempt at innovation. I love how they are at least trying to break through the boredom that is the luggage category, IMHO. The brand clearly understand the traveler's lifestyle.

They've also got an interesting funding model.

Worth a look, at least for me. Although I may have to say, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for."

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, June 11

Distributing Your Product and Your Brand

Here's the next in my series at Entrepreneur, all about the difference between a product and a brand.

Today's topic ... distribution and finding new opportunities.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, June 10

A Jingle Mashup

I'm been doing this marketing "thing" for a long time now, and I'm still amazed at how brands can infiltrate pop culture.

And this fun little ditty proves it once again.

It's a mashup, of sorts, of jingles but they're played with the actual products.

Great fun, give it a look.


What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, June 8

Cornell Reunion - Going Home



The sign over the entrance of the the dorm said "Welcome Home." As I glanced up at the window that used to be my dorm room, I couldn't help but think, "Welcome home indeed." I was on campus at Cornell University for my 30th Reunion, on my way to the first event of the weekend, quietly anticipating seeing all of my friends.

While it was a long time ago at this point, the four years that I spent in college were amongst the best four years of my life. I don't mean to insult anyone or anything that's come along since then, but I have to say that I was blissfully happy in college. It was the years and decades after graduation when real life kicked in.

Cornell was home, and it always will be home. It felt good to be home, even for a brief weekend.

I've been to every Reunion, every five years, since I graduated. In many ways, I can mark the milestones of my adult life by those Reunions.

1990. At the first reunion just five years out of college, I brought my then wife. Granted, she went to Cornell as well so it wasn't a stretch, but we had been married just about a year so there was much cause for celebration. Among my group of friends and fraternity brothers, we were one of the last to get married so it was fun to join the crowd. Yes, I know, I was 27 but that's what you were supposed to do back then.

1995. My daughter was born in 1993, and then my son in 1995. They were the hot topic of conversation at the second reunion. I was still dealing with newborn sleep deprivation, but I made it back on campus. Again, most of my friends had already been having children so sharing war stories until the wee hours of the night was just the thing to do. Truth be told, life was starting to unravel, but it was easy to blame it all on the babies.

2000. The next reunion was the most difficult. Gulp. In the five years that had passed, I'd gotten divorced and came out. It's amazing how much can happen in five years, and I have the scars to prove it. Some people knew, some people didn't know, and I couldn't be sure who was who and if everyone or anyone was cool with it. Going in, I wasn't sure what to do, what to say, and who to say it to, and as a result none of us really said anything. One of my best friends from college chaperoned me, and I do mean that literally. Good friends know when to just have a beer and dance, and I came out a better man after feeling a lot of love that weekend.

2005. I was in a much better place as my new life had settled in. My worries of raising kids as a gay dad had calmed down, as had the stress of it potentially being used against me.  Back then you couldn't be too sure if a court action would come your way to take your kids away. I'd lived in fear for those five years, but slowly I was starting to put that behind me.  I'd been with my partner quite awhile by now, although I went to Reunion alone and hadn't really introduced him to anyone quite yet. Not sure why, probably still that nagging need to keep it all quiet. I had started my own agency so that I could be home for the kids, and while it felt like a step back at the time, it was really starting to flourish at this point. My friends were all starting to excel in their work as well, so it was fun to see everyone so successful and happy. Me included.

2010. I launched the first of what would eventually become three business books right before Reunion that year, so I did a book signing at the Cornell Bookstore. I almost burst into tears when my friends started streaming up to the table where I was sitting behind a stack of books. It was such a big career milestone for me, and they were all sincerely excited. It was also the year that I brought my partner with me to meet the gang all at once. It felt good to be a couple, and it felt critically important to bring him home with me too.

2015. This year was probably the biggest Reunion of them all, with a true milestone moment in my life. I've once again just launched a new book called Out and About Dad, but this one is really personal...it's about my life as an active, divorced, single, gay, and then coupled father and all the trials and tribulations that comes from those labels. Yes, I did another book signing on campus but this one was so different. The book isn't about my career or even about my kids; it 's about me. It's about me coming to grips with who I am, it's about overcoming societal expectations, and it's about overcoming the obstacles that can hold any of us back. Out and About Dad is an unconventional tale of a very rewarding journey as a father and here I am sharing it with my friends.

I still can't believe I had the guts to put it all down on paper; I guess that's what growing up is all about. Now that my kids are young adults themselves, pursuing their own paths, I feel comfortable enough to bring it all to life.

My 30th Reunion year was a big year for me...I finally told my story, all of it, in the most honest way that I know how. Sadly, I had to cut the weekend short for a business trip to London; still balancing work and life like all the rest of us. While my life may be a road less traveled then for most, we all have our own struggles. While mine may have been different or perhaps not, they are no more severe or no more easy than anyone else's experiences.

By sharing our stories, we can help each other move forward and pass our milestones happily.

I can't imagine what the next Reunion in 2020 will bring, but all I can say is that I'm looking forward to it.

I'm looking forward to going home again.

Friday, June 5

Pizza Hut Projectors


As part of a double pizza promotion, Pizza Hut pulled an innovative move by creating pizza boxes that could be easily turned into movie projectors with a smartphone. Four different box designs represent the various genres of movies from horror to comedy, and special QSR codes allow access to free movies.

Nothing short of brilliant...coming from Pizza Hut Hong Kong. Truly a reason to partake in the brand, snack on a pizza while watching a free movie, and literally engage for what is easily two hours. And then some.

Click here to see how it all works.

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, June 4

Finding Gaps on the Maps


Over at Entrepreneur, I'm creating a series of articles that mirror my class at NYU on the difference between products and brands.

This week's article is about finding gaps in the marketplace, from a product and a brand perspective, using perceptual maps.

Click here to give it a read. JIM

Tuesday, June 2

Modern Parenting Styles

They say that pop culture reflects reality...which I believe is often true. But I also believe that pop culture can influence reality as well. And not just television and movies, but marketing as well.

In this article on Huffington Post, I explore this phenomenon as it relates to modern parenting styles.

Click here to give it a read.

What's the situation in this case...what's your experience?  JIM.



Monday, June 1

Caitlyn is Free



Bruce was carrying around a lot of secrets. Caitlyn has no secrets.

As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I'm free.


Those were the chilling words, or shall I say chilling truths, coming from Bruce Jenner as he prepped on the set of his Vanity Fair cover shoot with famed photographer Annie Leibowitz.

Chilling.

This man has been walking around unhappy for basically his entire life, and as he begins the next phase of his journey he can finally rest.

She is now free.

I find this all so inspiring. For Bruce Jenner (Bruce Jenner!!)  to have the courage to tell his story, in this manner, at this time, is just so inspiring. I feel moved. I can feel the thousands of people, if not millions, being helped by his every action.

The cover of Vanity Fair! That's not a publicity stunt, and it's not a rebranding. It's one of the most courageous moves in self-discovery, personal affirmation, and confidence that any of us have ever witnessed from a person.

She is helping to shape perceptions and save lives.

That's why it's important that we tell our story. Sharing the experiences we have and the struggles we go through collectively helps everyone around us. When we learn about what people go through in their lives, we build up strength to get through our own.

Sharing our stories can change the world.

Bruce said he wanted to change the world, and Caitlyn is doing just that.

What's your experience...share your story.  JIM