Friday, January 29

DiGiorno Pizza - From Social Media Icon to Storm Survival

During last week's #Jonas snow storm, I was stuck in my New York apartment all by myself for two days. I honestly think it was the first time since I've been a father (22 years) that I had a weekend completely by myself, all alone, with no one else in the house. Honestly, it was glorious. Although truthfully, I don't need to do it again for about another 22 years!

Like every good New Yorker preparing for the storm, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work and stocked up on food. Food of the frozen variety for the most part, but I wasn't sure how much I'd eat all by myself all weekend. Keeping it frozen would keep it from going to waste.

I found myself turning to a brand that I'd never tried before, yet feel like I know very well:  DiGiorno Pizza. Actually, it's a brand that I have tremendous respect for, but I've never consumed a slice.



You see over the past few years, DiGiorno has become a bit of a social media icon. At virtually every major pop culture event, they take to Twitter and run real-time commentary that bridges the brand with what's going on at the event. It seemed to start out with The Sound of Music Live and hasn't stopped.



In the process, the brand modernized its image and suddenly found itself in the consideration set of pizza lovers everywhere. Truthfully, I've never bought a frozen pizza in my life.



#Jonas was my chance to have a first.

And you know what...it was good, and it totally reinforced the positive reputation that it has now established with me. Consistency! The hallmark of good marketing. The product experience was consistent with the brand experience. Bravo.

So for me, DiGiorno has gone from unknown to social media icon to storm survival. And it's in my house.

Can a brand ask for more? What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, January 27

Stonewall - The Movie and The Reality


This article appears on Huffington Post. It's all about my reactions to the movie Stone Wall. Quite a moving movie if you get past some of the actual production.  Click here to read the article at HuffPo.

What's your experience? JIM.


Monday, January 25

Super Bowl 50 Advertising Predictions - The Year Of?

This article appears on Huffington Post - click here to read it there.

And join us for #SuperBowlExp - we'll be tweeting about the advertising all during the big game.

And I'll be asking...what's your experience? JIM

Sunday, January 24

Nike Snow Day

The roads are closed, the schools are canceled, and everyone is working from home. This time around it was #Jonas, but it's a familiar scene that in some ways I look forward to (although I certainly don't like people getting in harm's way). But all this snow does remind me fondly of my childhood growing up in Upstate New York.

While this video isn't new, I felt like it was perfect timing to resurface it. Leave it to Nike to inspire us to do more, on this snow day and every day.


Yet another symbol of an iconic brand ... the ability to inspire, no matter the elements.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Saturday, January 23

Yes, Even Putty, From Vat19

I get asked all the time how to create content for, how shall I say it, boring products. Marketers struggle with how to make business-to-business or very standard consumer products seem, well, interesting.

I know it's a challenge, perhaps more of a challenge, but trust me it can be done. Start with some customer intelligence, develop a sound strategy, and get creative...the basics of marketing.

But it's the "get creative" part that people struggle with.

Well here's an example that perhaps can provide some inspiration, from Vat19. Vat19 is an online retailer of many quirky things, including putty...stuff they call "curiously awesome." Ok, but how on earth do you make putty interesting...interesting enough to get people to log on and buy it.

Well here's where the brand "got creative," one of many times across many of their product lines...it all started with a bathtub and 500 pounds of putty:


Suddenly, putty isn't so boring. It was actually interesting enough to get me to log onto the site and discover all the products they feature, bringing me into the entire brand experience.

Like this chocolate milk mixer. Wish I had seen this when the kids were young...


There's an entire buffet of content videos that pitch their unique products. I think that's quite creative.

What's your experience?  JIM

Tuesday, January 12

Youth and Beauty are not Accomplishments

This article appears on Huffington Post. Click here to read it there.

Hint...inspired by Princess Leia.



What's your experience? JIM.

WestJet Above & Beyond

The Canadian airline WestJet has been known to produce inspiring content that shows how their team goes above and beyond for their customers. That's their story.

Witness this viral video that's made the social circles these last few holiday seasons.


Well it appears that they are sticking to their story with an entirely different series of stories, featuring people who have personally gone above and beyond in their lives.


This one story in particular captured my attention, featuring a young man who faced bullying head on. He changed his life and changed his attitude, and found happiness as a result.


As a dad, my heart sank at the thought of how much he misses his dad. I can't even imagine it. And I can't imagine the bullying he faced, and how he so bravely decided to alter the course of his high school experience.

How inspiring! And such an amazing reflection on the values of the WestJet brand. Well done.

You can see more WestJet Above & Beyond Stories by clicking here.

What's your favorite? What's your experience? JIM


Monday, January 11

Defending Campbell's Soup

Not too long ago, Campbell's released a new campaign featuring two dads. Two dads channeling commentary from the iconic Star Wars series. It was perfectly timed to the new Star Wars release and perfectly timed to join the growing positive depiction of fathers, especially gay fathers, in marketing.

I personally couldn't have been more pleased.



Having seen brands like Honey Maid, Swiffer, and Tylenol come before them, I'm sure the folks at Campbell's anticipated a little backlash. We all anticipated a little backlash. We're used to the backlash. We expect the backlash.

Evidently someone prepared for the backlash, someone not from the brand. Someone created a mock Campbell's Customer Service Facebook page and opened it up for comments, I'm sure anticipating a bunch of negative ones. Now while this looked like it was officially a Campbell's site, it was in fact created by an individual.

Sure enough the negative comments came. The answers were priceless! Here's one example...


The best part is that many consumers just assumed that this was an official response. But it was instead an individual who just wanted to defend the campaign. This writer was just polite enough, just snarky enough to be believable. And many applauded "Campbell's" for its willingness to go out on a limb for its consumers.

I haven't noticed any response from Campbell's, which to me is the best response. Let consumers speak on their own, and your behalf.

As marketers, we always talk about consumers taking over our messaging, especially on our social channels. Some of us even stress about it because we simply can't control it anymore. But the truth is that it's going to happen, whether we like it or not. We of course have to monitor it for appropriateness, that goes without saying.

But sometimes consumers can just simply say it better than we can.

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - This isn't the first time this has happened. Comedian Mike Melgaard has become infamous for his defense of brands like Doritos Rainbow Chips and Target. I love seeing consumers defend each other when they see their brands supporting them!

Friday, January 8

Nixon Watches - The Brand Experience

For me, being a brand is all about the experience you create for your audiences. It's what turns a product into a brand, at least in my book. :)

Which is why I love hearing about people's experiences with brands, and why I love seeing consistent branding taking place in the marketplace.

Here I have a guest post from a colleague who had a very positive experience with Nixon brand of watches. Fascinating to hear how the culture of the company very much reflects and is incorporated into the marketing of the brand.

What happens as a result? Respect, loyalty, sharing.

Take it away, Damien...
As a fan of marketing and branding, I like to pay attention to the way brands engage consumers and attempt to influence their behavior.  As a professional, I work with military Veterans who are in college and learning how to rebrand themselves, identify a career path and satisfy an underlying need for their new “purpose beyond a paycheck”.  

What often influences their decisions in careers?  The very experiences they have with professionals and the brands those professionals represent.  

The same way my experience with Nixon Now co-founders Andy Laats and Chad DiNenna has made me a lifetime, loyal fan of their brand.

While earning my undergrad at Cal State University, San Marcos, Andy and Chad were visiting one of my business classes, “In the Executive’s Chair”.  Andy and Chad had eluded to certain operation and marketing models that they implemented and used which fascinated me.  To be honest, I thought if I could get a one-on-one with them, I’d look like an all-star if I could list an interview with them as a primary source for a consulting project I was working on at the time.

At the end of the class, I asked Andy and Chad for an interview.  

Chad didn’t hesitate to agree and I was in the Nixon Now Global HQ the following week.  I made sure my questions were brief; I was excited to have the opportunity.  I showed up and was welcomed warmly.  Then, unexpectedly, Chad took me on a comprehensive tour of the facility – I was loving it.  
20 minutes later, I was in an office with Andy and Chad, and had their undivided attention for nearly an hour!  Who does that?  They wouldn’t let me feel rushed; I couldn’t help but feel like I had been accepted as a part of their culture.

At the time, I hadn’t owned one of their watches – let alone known about their brand beyond the name.  In full disclosure, I have had other brands of watches and I’ve only kept two (both were gifts).  Since that day, the only watches my wife or I have bought have been Nixon.  When the topic of watches comes up, I recommend Nixon.  It was an experience I won’t forget.


If you were wondering – in that interview I learned about how Nixon inherently incorporated marketing into production (at the time, 2010, this idea of marketing as more than just a post-production function was not so common).  I took those notes to my team, which influenced how we framed the project.  The results were incredibly successful, enough so that a summary of our group’s work was reviewed by the local Chamber of Commerce and published in local newspapers.


Damien Bertolo
Program Director at the Four Block Foundation
MBA Candidate at NYU Stern


Wednesday, January 6

#2015BestNine Lessons Learned

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

Towards the end of 2015, I started repeatedly seeing #2015BestNine on Instagram, and then on Facebook...and then all over my social feeds. While spinning my wheels trying to figure out what it was all about, I searched the term to see what's up.

Turns out that #2015BestNine is an app that automatically curates the "best" nine images you've posted on Instagram throughout the year. Evidently it cycles though and finds the ones that generated the most likes.

So clearly, I couldn't resist ...


I wasn't shocked to see what made my #2015BestNine at all, but the collage certainly got me thinking. What did I learn last year? How have I grown? Was it a "best year?"

A few lessons learned emerged through these scattered images.

Hard Work Will Pay Off. My daughter graduated from college and started a graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy in San Diego. My son finished his sophomore year in college and completed his first real big-time internship in New York City. Both of them, as they say, saw it and conquered it. They both accomplished what they'd been working towards for years. I was beaming the entire year. Still am.

Create a Supportive Environment. My agency once again won multiple "Best Places to Work" awards. While we've won many awards for our work, it's this accolade that I wear with the most pride. It's my job to create an environment where people can excel, and where their hard work pays off too. I've hopefully been doing that as much as I can. I will try to do more.

Honesty and Acceptance Starts with Self. After three published books on marketing, I released a new book all about my journey as a father. Over twenty-two years in the making, Out and About Dad has been reviewed consistently as an open and honest portrayal of how to balance work and family...as any kind of parent not just a single gay dad. None of it would have been possible if I hadn't first been honest with myself and sincerely accepted who I am. While it may appear that this journey is complete, I am happy to say that it lives on and on. Including a move to Palm Springs, CA last year.

I Love My Home. While we probably spend more time at work, it's our time at home that is the most cherished. I love the home we have created, and we relish spending time in it together. There's nothing better in life than that.

Equality is Equality. After the Supreme Court approved Marriage Equality, I finally married my "partner" of seventeen years. We were waiting for equality to be, well, equal. Aside from the piece of paper and the new ring on our fingers, the benefits have been countless. Not the least of which is a renewed spring in our step as citizens of New York City and the United States.

By all accounts, it was a banner year but not without its twists and turns. Don't want to present a filtered story because the demands are never ending. But it wouldn't be life and it certainly wouldn't be real without a few struggles. Carry on.

What did you learn? What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, January 4

Weight Watchers and Oprah

It's the first of January, so of course it's the season to talk about new year's resolutions which always includes weight loss.

I know my gym was packed packed packed this morning; at 5:30am no less. Most of the year there's only a dozen people there at that hour and today there were three times that amount. And all I hear from everyone is cutting back...on food and booze.

I can relate, I'm pulling back too to get rid of an excess ten or fifteen! So I skipped the bagel and added an extra thirty on the treadmill this morning. 'Tis the season!

Which is why I don't really mind seeing all of the weight loss advertising hit the online and offline waves this time of year. I find it kind of inspiring. Helps me to drop the carbs and add the cardio.

But even I was shocked to see Oprah jump into the action for Weight Watchers.


Oprah a Weight Watchers spokesperson?!? Hail to the Queen!

My first reaction was, "WOW how did they get her?" And then my second reaction was "WOW that could be a bit risky."

Let's be honest, this isn't Oprah's first attempt at weight loss nor is it mine. She has a documented history of going up and down with "this time being the one." So both Oprah and Weight Watchers is taking a bit of a chance on this one. What if she doesn't lose the weight? What if it bounces right back?

If that happens, what would it say about the brand and about her?


Honestly, it says a lot. The risk is real but so is the struggle. Bravo to them both for taking a high stakes approach to show how to get to a healthy weight. It may not work, because that's just how life is. But with the right approach and a lot of inspirational help, maybe it just will this time.

Hopefully the risk is worth it as it inspires others to do the same.

What do you think? What's your experience? JIM.

UPDATE:  In an interesting turn, Oprah just announced that she is truly buying into the brand with a 10% stake in the company, and a seat on the Board. She's certainly not the first celebrity spokesperson to have ownership in a brand. We've seen it quite a bit in beverages and in beauty care. And in many cases it works. I guess she's banking on her brand power to boost Weight Watchers' brand power.