Tuesday, January 31

Budweiser - It's Original Immigrants

Budweiser released its Super Bowl ad this week, and the timing couldn't be more perfect even if they had planned it. Or maybe they did.

Essentially, the spot is highlighting and celebrating the immigrant heritage of its Founders. While there's no direct mention of President Trump and his policies, there's also no need to...we all get the message. Evidently the spot was planned well in advance of the recent Executive Order, which makes sense given the timeline to produce such high quality film. Coincidental or not, the brand portrays such a positive view of how this country and their company was built that it's stands in stark contrast to what's happening in real time.

So while there's no puppies this year and very little of the Clydesdales, I like the symbology and the timing coming from Budweiser. And the messaging.

I'm sure this will make for great fodder when it plays during the Big Game...and we all debate the best in show from all of the advertising. More to come on that!

What's your experience? JIM

Friday, January 27

The Infamous Hat - Now a Cover Story

There simply are moments that become iconic milestones in our lifetime and in our historical pop culture. It just happens.

It doesn't hurt when there's a simple, iconic visual to go along with it.

I think we all just witnessed one of these moments with the Women's March on Washington...which actually wasn't even just a march on Washington since virtually every major city had participants marching somewhere! I had friends texting in from Austin, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and of course New York.

And it wasn't just women BTW. I myself went to the march in New York, right up 5th Avenue. And so did many of my male counterparts.

I have to say that it was an amazing experience. Once in a lifetime.

I guess that's the point, and the hope.

Time Magazine and The New Yorker chose to commemorate this particular milestone, of course with a little commentary.

Ironic that these two iconic news organizations still seem to have the ability to validate what's happening in our world. For some reason, seeing this hat on these covers gave it all so much legitimacy.

Can't necessarily explain it.

But maybe that's me. Or maybe that's the power of brand equity...in this case brand equity in journalism. Something that seems to be under attack right now.

Just sayin'

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

Live Snickers Ad

The race is on for Super Bowl advertising fame, and the brands are starting to pull a few punches (how's that for the tragic use of three puns in one sentence?).

How on earth will the brands out do each other this time around?

Well here's one that's going to try...Snickers. The brand announced last week that it will continue its (now) infamous campaign called "You're Not You" with a live commercial during the Super Bowl. Yes indeed, football fans, the brand is going to put on a live production during a commercial break.

If you're not familiar with the campaign, here's the version that broke during the 2010 Super Bowl with Betty White:

Wow, this campaign has endured seven years, quite a feat!  Here's last year's version too:

We've been seeing this "live" trend for a bit now, perhaps starting when NBC did the live version of The Sound of Music during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend a few years back. Target pulled it off at last year's Grammy Awards with Gwen Stefani, when she launched her new single.

I guess when it comes to the Super Bowl, as the Carpenters would sing, "It's Only Just Begun!"

Here's the best part...when it's "live" then the brand can't preview it which makes the suspense even better!

Can't wait for the Big Game!  What's your experience?  JIM.

Mr. Clean Gets Sexy

Ok, this isn't the first time that a household cleaning product has used sex to sell.  Remember Liquid Plumr?

Well we've never seen this before! A sexy Mr. Clean?

Yes indeed, Mr. Clean just released its Super Bowl spot for the year a bit in advance of the game. And evidently it's "game on!" So men who clean are sexier? I'd say hell yeah! 

Great example of an iconic brand keeping it fresh, using the oldest game in the game.

What's your experience? JIM.

Starting a New Job

It's a new year and a new #POTUS...lots of people starting new jobs. Here are a few tips I've learned along the years to help ease the transition...via Entrepreneur. Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, January 26

Dunkin' Donuts on SNL

Back in the day, a rising star knew they had "arrived" when they got asked to be on The Johnny Carson Show. That's when you knew you had made it! The Johnny Carson Show was the epitome of entertainment success.

For me, the epitome of success in marketing is when a brand gets immersed in popular culture. And you know you've "arrived" when you make it to Saturday Night Live.

We've seen a lot of political commentary on SNL as of late, but don't forget that the cast tackles other aspects of our popular culture as well...like brands and brand marketing. And let's face it, you've "made it" when SNL spoofs your brand!

Just recently the show did a mock advertisement for Dunkin' Donuts with Boston native Casey Affleck. Like Afflect, Dunkin' Donuts is a native of Boston and a staple of the culture there (and lots of other places too). I know from personal experience having lived in Boston after college and having worked with some of the DD locations in the area.

Take a look...

Getting "spoofed" is the sign of a mega-brand...a force in our culture that goes beyond the product being sold. An acknowledgement that the brand is a vital part of the culture. The epitome of marketing success, if you will.

Evidently, America Runs on Dunkin'. What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, January 25

New CEOs at Starbucks

There's been a dramatic shakeup in leadership at Starbucks that seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Perhaps it's the endless news cycles of politics or the holidays, but this one has gone under the radar of most.

There's a new CEO at Starbucks.

What say what? What happened to the living legend Howard Schultz? How could he be gone from Starbucks, the brand and company he personally built from 4 stores in Seattle (I remember them) to 24,000 all around the world (I've been to a bunch of them)?!?

Well he's not gone entirely, and in fact he's not gone at all. He's just changing his focus towards more innovation for the company. He'll be looking to build a premium offering from Starbucks, to take the company to another level...speculatively under the Starbucks Reserve brand name. To allow him to accomplish said focus area, a new CEO will concentrate on their main business. His name is Kevin Johnson and he starts his new position in April 2017.

Hmm, Starbucks Reserve. Even more special coffee? A deeper coffee experience? Perhaps casual dining?

The world is his oyster.

Despite the Starbucks legacy that Howard Schultz has created (or maybe because of it), this makes sense. It often takes a different kind of leader to build a business from small to mega-huge than it does to maintain a mega-huge business. Perhaps Schultz's strengths lie in vision, innovation, and creation as opposed to continual maintenance and improvement. Johnson is currently the COO of Starbucks, so evidently his strengths lie more operationally, likely what the main brand needs at this stage.

It takes a lot of fortitude to make these kinds of changes, and I'm a big fan of all of the above. But mostly I'm just plain excited to see what comes next from this man, this company, and this brand.

Perhaps he will go into politics instead, as some have suggested. He wouldn't be the first business person to do so.

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, January 24

Tecate Beer Wall

I think it's fair to say that we are going to start seeing a lot more political references in brand marketing...some taking a stand (like what I wrote about last week on Patagonia) and some merely tapping into the banter.

Like this piece of film from Tecate...as in the beer brand from Mexico.

Somehow seems very appropriate on several levels. It's a nice statement about getting along, without being too overtly politic, yet directly linked to the brand at the same time.

Let me know what you think...

What's your experience? JIM

Saturday, January 21

Fake News in Marketing

All this talk of fake news has my head in a swirl. Fake news. Gas lighting. Post-factual. And now the latest, "alternative facts."

It's all over the place in politics, but really should have no place in marketing...so I shared my thoughts at Entrepreneur. Give a click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, January 19

Florence Foster Jenkins - She Sang!

I've started out the new year in flight, so to speak, with an already dizzying number of multiple-hour plane trips across the country, and across the Atlanta and Pacific oceans. Surely a sign of more to come, and I'm all for it.

Long plane trips are realistically the only time I can catch up on a movie, or two. It's a time for me to relax a bit, turn off the wifi, and click through the on-demand movie options. Granted, it's a tight space but it's some much needed personal space for me.

This week I watched Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep. Figured it was only fitting to watch it after her fabulous acceptance speech at the Golden Globes just recently. Figured I owed her one, in some sort of way anyway.

The movie was okay, totally watchable on a plane but I'm honestly not sure it would have played well in a large theater. But that's just me.

The morale came at the end, and it is still with me today.

This real-life woman had a dream to sing at Carnegie Hall. She had the notoriety to get on stage, but not the talent to really pull it off. But she did it anyway, to fulfill her dream.

Gotta love that.

When she finally heard what the critics had to say about her performance, she held her head high and said, "People may say that I can't sing, but that can't say I didn't sing."

Oh she sang!

And if you too have a dream, then you should "sing" too. I certainly want my two kids to feel that way...

Brava!  What's your experience?  JIM

Wednesday, January 18

The State of Patagonia and Utah

Patagonia has really never been afraid to take a stand, that is for sure. And from a marketing perspective, all of the issues that the company has tackled through the years have been consistent with what the brand is all about.

Like donating all of the profits from Black Friday to environmental causes.

Like closing operations on Election Day so that people can go out and vote for the candidates that support the same issues.

Like advertising that once you buy a Patagonia jacket, you had better like it for life because that's how long it's going to sustain.

So it's no wonder then that the company and brand is now going after the State of Utah, for a very specific reason. The legislators there are looking to repeal an order that Obama put into place to conserve land and create a national monument. Many thought that Obama stepped out of bounds while others applauded the effort to protect the land.

No matter your POV, Patagonia decidedly has one and it's putting its marketing muscle behind it. A great example of a brand putting its resources behind what it believes is public good...and presumably so do the brand's consumers.

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

Monday, January 16

Reimagining Barbie's Shoes

File this under fabulous...fabulous brand equity that is.

Check out these amazing woman's shoes crafted from iconic Barbie doll shoes. Who can't remember those classic pumps, in virtually every color imaginable!?! These adult shoes are instantly recognizable and instantly heart-warming. Especially heart-warming if you were ever a fan of the brand because now you can still engage as an adult too.

Now that's an amazing brand, and a fabulous fashion statement too! Here's where to buy, if you're interested.

Warning:  they're a little more expensive than the ones that Barbie wears!

What's your experience?  JIM

Wednesday, January 11

What Will Happen to Brand Trump?

With Donald Trump about to take office, Politico decided to explore his presidency's affect on his brand. What will happen to Brand Trump, if you will.

And they asked me to weigh in! Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM

Branding in a Trump World

We've got a new #POTUS coming up, which could mean a whole new world for brands.

I put my thoughts down for Entrepreneur...click here to give them a read. 

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, January 10

Starbucks Cups Created by You

I realize that this is a bit of old news, but I still find it fascinating and evergreen ... and I learned something new today that surprised me.

This year, Starbucks went all out for its annual red cup promotion for the holidays. Perhaps as a response to last year's minimalist approach, the brand had 13 different and very ornate versions of cups that we consumers could experience all season long.

What I didn't realize and just found out is that the cups were all designed by consumers!

As you may or may not know, the typical white Starbucks cup is a bit of a blank canvas for artists. Many use it to draw/self-express and many create wonderful works of art.

Starbucks capitalized on this phenomenon for the holidays and really expanded it out!

Gotta love it! What's your experience? JIM.

Monday, January 9

Meryl Streep - I Finally Got What I Wished For

Every time I watch a Hollywood awards show I pine for a acceptance speech that actually means something. I always say that these particular people hold such influence...I don't understand why they don't they use it for good when they finally have the stage to say something meaningful.

No matter the political point of view, they do hold influence.

Lo and behold, I finally got what I wished for...from none other than Meryl Streep. Of course.

Thank you.

What's your experience? JIM

PS - This post also appears on Huffington Post - click here if you'd like to read it there.

Saturday, January 7

Adidas, Student Style

I've been teaching marketing courses for a few years now, and I always say that I learn just as much from them as they do from me!


Well here's a spot for Adidas created by a student in Germany on his own fruition, which absolutely proves my point. It's called "Break Free," and I have to say it makes me want to start running again! Universally timeless, yet told from a moment in time. And so powerful, it needs no sound (the first time I saw it I was on an airplane and hadn't plugged in my buds yet.)

Say no more...

Proves the point also that sometimes our consumers know our brands better than perhaps we think!

What's your experience? JIM.

Friday, January 6

CocoaVia Shows the Benefits of Chocolate

As I've been traveling through airports already this year, I've been noticing signage for CocoaVia...a nutritional product made from cocoa. It's made by Mars, the makers of M&Ms.

I'm not a chocolate consumer to be honest, but I've certainly heard about the health benefits. Admittedly, I've never known if they are true or not! Fact or folklore?

Turns out that the true health benefits lie in cocoa flavonols, a compound within cocoa.

Seems as if "chocolate" does have some true health benefits, specifically for the circulatory system. Perhaps now we can finally confirm all those benefits we were hoping were true!

Clearly the company has done a thorough job of telling the cocoa flavonal story and putting together the brand CocoaVia. The website has loads of information including recipes and how they source from Indonesia.

How cool that Mars, the same company that makes fun and frivolous M&M's, is offering those true benefits as well. In digging into that company a bit, you'll find a real commitment to science.

Pretty cool in my branding book. What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, January 5

Branding Trump Around The World

I've long said that this Presidential cycle was going to be all about branding...and Brand Trump came out on top.

Now that he is soon-to-be President, Donald Trump's brand seems to be proliferating...in some of the most surprising places.

Like at shopping malls.

A big mall in Taiyuan, China erected a large stylized statue of Donald Trump as a rooster. It is the year of the rooster, after all. The statue is a major traffic builder, and sales generator since it is also available for sale in sizes that range from around $50USD to over $1,500USD.


Shopping malls are a big part of the Chinese culture, so any way to get your shopping mall "brand" to attract attention could be a great traffic builder. This is just one example of one "brand" trying to use the power and influence of Brand Trump...which is now Presidential Brand Trump.

From a marketing perspective, it's all fascinating to say the least. Some might say the very least, but then again I find any and all branding and marketing activity absolutely fascinating. When it's tied to what's happening in our collective pop culture, then it becomes even more fascinating and likely more powerful.

And yes, politics is a big part of our pop culture as many a brand is starting to find out. And this is just another example of how politics (and branding) is affecting us all across borders.

What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, January 4

Audi Spain Tackles Gender Stereotypes

I appreciate it when folks from all over the world send me marketing tidbits to take a look at. I especially appreciated this one from Spain. Muchas gracias.

One of the coolest productions I've seen in awhile, with a message that subtly, or perhaps not so subtly, takes on an issue far greater than the category (cars) or the brand (Audi).

We hear over and over again that consumers want to see brands tackle social issues, with some bigger than others. The best are the ones that address topics close to home. In this case, the brand speaks to what is feminine vs. masculine when it comes to cars. And I guess toys as well. Age-old stereotypes being shattered as we watch.

The even cooler part is that the brand created limited edition sets of the car and doll, acknowledging that the two do in fact go together...for the holiday gift-giving and toy season. Well done!

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, January 3

Speak Spanish!

Every year I try to set a lofty goal for myself...two actually:  one professional goal and one personal goal.

This year's personal goal is to speak Spanish, again. It's something I've been longing to do, so now I'm going to do it. Click here to read about it in my post for Entrepreneur.

What's your personal goal? What's your experience? JIM