Friday, September 29

Will & Grace Returns

The beloved Will & Grace is back...and given my personal history with it, I just had to write about it! Give a click here to read it on Gays with Kids.

What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, September 27

Fred Segal, Back Again

First time I stepped into Fred Segal in Santa Monica, years ago, I was enamored. Love at first sight. I had never been to a retail experience quite like it. Circa 2004. The whole notion of a boutique within a boutique with all these fresh niche brands was so alluring. I was in.

Through the years whenever I was in LA I would try to stop into either the LA or Santa Monica location. But if I'm to be honest, the destination started to lose its luster so I wasn't quite as excited with each visit.

Evidently, if I have the story straight, the company was going through some changes and perhaps losing its way a bit. A bit sad, as I am a shopper and a lover of brands. Fred Segal was a unique concept brand and I didn't want to see it fade away. I loved how it showcased brands I couldn't find in other places so where would that happen now?

Well now it's back, at the corner of La Cienega and Sunset...which many consider the corner of the universe. I generally stay along the Sunset Strip when I'm in LA so I wouldn't necessarily argue.

The brand is back, fresher than ever. I paid a quick visit on my way to a client dinner this week. I wanted to pay my respects to this iconic experience, so to speak. While I didn't have a lot of time to shop this time around, I'm sure I'll be paying some bills in the future.

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, September 26

Decor Meets Retail Meets Chocolate

You know the a kid in a candy store. Which is exactly what it must feel like as an adult walking into the new candy store in LA inspired and designed by iconic designer (and my personal favorite) Kelly Wearstler.

It's called Compartes and it's in partnership with renowned chocolatier Jonathan Graham. It's a melding of gorgeous package design with inspired retail design for a sight that satisfies the senses before a single bite into chocolate. And I'm sure the chocolate isn't so bad either.

In my book, there's nothing wrong with candy going adult and upscale. While not the only sophisticated candy store of its kind, this new creation proves the point.

Home decor meets retail experience meets chocolate bar. What's your experience? JIM

Flipping Out Over This Gay Dad

This season of the reality show Flipping Out shows Jeff Lewis and his partner Gage become dads.

Such a great opportunity to showcase gay fathers in a positive light. But they missed it.

I shared my take on it on Gays with Kids. Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM

Friday, September 22

GE Puts STEM into the Grand Central Constellations

Ok, there are marketing stunts and then there are marketing stunts. This is a good one.

Grand Central Station in Manhattan has been home to its constellation ceiling since 1913. It's quite a New York scene if you've ever seen it. Go see it.

Well this week GE gave it a new twist by re-arranging the constellations to celebrate pioneering women in STEM fields as a way to encourage today's young women to pursue such careers.

BTW - STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. I can never remember the "M!"

The "stunt" has a limited engagement, but hopefully unlimited impact in inspiring young folks (men and women) today.

I know it did me. What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, September 21

Target Goes Private with its Labels

For quite some time, we've known Target to be the place for affordable fashion. In fact, the brand kinda sorta invented the notion of designer labels at affordable prices with exclusive collaborative lines.

Think Isaac Mizrahi, Missoni, Calypso. To name a few from back in the day. Infamous and very successful.

It seems that this fashion season Target is going back to being a bit more in launching their own lines of private label fashions for the whole family. They're bringing in house, so to speak, with new brands exclusive to the retailer.

They are all "new and only at Target:"
- A New Day for Women
- Goodfellow & Co for the Guys
- Project 62  for Home
- Cat & Jack for Kids

All brought to life in this little ditty:

I must say, well done. And yes of course I love the theme song as any child of the '70's would, not that this is targeted to children of the '70's. Maybe the children of the children of the '70's. But I digress.

Brilliant move, really, when you think about how millennials think about brands and fashion. It's less about the brand and more about the fashion. Disposable fashion that might only last a season but leaves room to go out with friends and family.

Good move, Target! What's your experience? JIM

Home Depot Company's Coming

I received this catalog in the mail, snail mail that is, and couldn't believe it was from Home Depot.

Home Depot! As in the racks of lumber and the rows of lightbulbs! These are the kinds of images I've come to expect from the Home Depot that I know and remember:

Not these kinds of images:

Entertaining? Table top? Home accessories? Looks more like Martha Stewart or Williams-Sonoma has come to town, rather than Home Depot!

Upon further digging in, I noted that most of these items, if not virtually all of them, are available really only via the catalog or online presumably (definitely presumably) through partner brands/sites, etc. Not necessarily in the store. Not a bad business model, though, as there are certainly others who have found success in this model :)

Amazon effect?

And of course, as with many online retail models these days, you can always order online and pickup at store.

Just in time for company! Just in time for holiday and holiday spending. Exactly the point. What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, September 20

The Death of the Toy Store?

( update to this post...the brand announced that it’s now closing all of its US stores.)

The news of Toys 'R Us going into bankruptcy brought back so many memories for me. While it's not the first time we've heard the business was in trouble, it did make me realize that the toy store of lore is no longer alive.

And that's a little sad.

When I was a kid growing up in Syracuse, NY, we went to THE toy store. It was in a round building and it was chock full of toys and bikes. No electronics back in my day. Then when I started my career in marketing on Johnson's Baby Products, Toys 'R Us was one of our biggest clients. I was marketing baby wipes at the time (can you imagine me kid-less at 26 marketing baby wipes) and the retailer had a big section of diapers and wipes. I was there all the time.

Then when I had kids of my own, my credit card was constantly swiping out at Toys 'R Us as a weekend destination and also at FAO Schwarz for holiday and summer road trips into New York City. Toy stores were magical and mystical, and it was such a treat to take the kids there. I was hoping to go back again with the next generation of my family some day.

But then along came Walmart and Target and other retailers offline and then on that simply ate the toy stores' lunch. Clearly the small business owners couldn't keep up but evidently the big toy guys struggled too.They evidently couldn't survive the pricing and convenience of the likes of these giant retailers and then of course the Amazon effect.

It's a bit sad, if I am to tell the truth. But it's a good lesson learned not only in proper financial management but also in staying relevant to your consumer and to the times. Keeping up not only with the competition but also keeping one step ahead of the needs in the market. Creating an in store experience, and online for that matter, that matters to shoppers. And experience that they can't live without rather than simply a toy that's a click and a ship away. The toy store brands needed to be better destinations than that.

There's the miss. And a watch out for all of us marketers.

What's your experience? JIM

Monday, September 18

Genetic Testing at a Football Game?

Branded parternships and sports -- it's the stuff that games are made of. We are used to Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and any other brand promoting its goods on-site and on-air at football, baseball, and soccer stadiums. No problem, and in fact sports and brands kinda go hand in hand if I'm to be honest. Or at least the brands known to partner with sports.

But an unusual partner popped up at the game yesterday in Baltimore: Orig3n Genetic Testing.

What say what?!? Testing your genes at a football game? Not Levi's jeans but your own genes!

Yes indeed, brand Orig3n was on hand at the Baltimore Ravens game yesterday handing out genetic tests to fans...and in fact encouraging them to take the test on site and drop the "swabs" in bins to be tested and reported back.

The brand offered tests on three genetic markers...with the ability to go online and do more.

And this just in...this isn't the brand's first football collaboration. Oh no. The company partnered with the San Francisco 49ers last year, for a multi-year effort to collect medical data to advance their scientific studies. Fascinating to see science, marketing, data collection, user engagement, and football all coming together. Whoa.

Certainly makes all that soda and beer promotion seem a bit, well, 2016.

What do you think? Game to do some genetic testing at a game? What's your experience? JIM

Saturday, September 16

What's Your Omelette?

I had an omelette the other day. It got me thinking. So I wrote this piece for Entrepreneur to capture my thoughts. Click here to give it a read.

What's your omelette? What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, September 14

Halo Top - Eat the Ice Cream

In the brand's first attempt at "advertising," Halo Top is launching a new video called "Eat the Ice Cream."

Although the branding is minimal, I'm sure the brand is counting on the tonality to get some traction. The advertising will run during some pretty big feature film debuts this Fall, so the audience will be strong.

I'm sure the brand is looking to take sales over the top, given the fact that it's already the largest selling pint ice cream in the States. Given the low calorie count, I can see why. I sampled one myself this past weekend, although that's using "sampled" loosely. I ate the entire pint in one sitting.

Isn't that the point of pints? At 280 calories, I too can "Eat the Ice Cream!"

What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, September 13

Dylan's (Baking) Candy Bar

When I saw this in the store, Michael's (arts and crafts), I thought it was pretty clever. Clever enough to blog about.

Dylan's Candy Bar has long been associated with fun mixes of colorful candy since it opened it's signature location in Manhattan, right by the infamous Bloomingdale's. The brand has expanded into many locations since then, making it less NY-exclusive and more accessible yet still in an exclusive kind of way.

I remember the first time we took our (then young) kids there...we were like kids in a the biggest candy shop ever. So many colors of M&M's!

And then the brand went beyond candy to start featuring baking decorations as well, one step away from candy in my book and evidently in their book too.

So now, logically, here in mass retailer Michael's stands an entire end-cap display of baking tools and kits, right where consumers shop for their other arts and crafts supplies, making the brand even more accessible and opening up an entire new avenue of shoppers that might not otherwise have come across the brand. With tools, not just candies.

Pretty colorful too! What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, September 12

Jolt Cola is Coming Back

Billed as "America's Original Energy Drink," Jolt Cola caused quite the sensation when it first launched in the '90's.

"All the sugar and twice the caffeine." Indeed.

Well it's coming Dollar General Stores. 10,000 locations no less.

They haven't announced the price but I'm betting it's a dollar.

Will you give it a try? What's your experience? JIM

Nordstrom Stores Have No Merchandise

A retail clothing store with no merchandise? What are you kidding me? What planet do you live on?

Planet Earth. Location: USA. West Hollywood, CA to be exact.

Concept Store: Nordstrom Local.

Reality: brick and mortar retailing has changed forever. The convenience, selection, timing, and service of online resources has dramatically changed the amount of traffic that goes through physical retail locations. Some retailers are responding, while others are not. As a result, some are suffering while others are thriving. If you haven't noticed, then either you don't live on Planet Earth or you simply don't ever shop.

Nordstrom is responding, hoping to be thriving. Many are noticing.

The idea behind Nordstrom Local is a much smaller, service-oriented retail experience that has no inventory. There's no merchandise to browse. But there is beer, wine, manicures, and tailoring services all catered to the online shopper who stops in to pick up, return, or tailor their clothing. With a pleasant experience the entire way through. In fact if you order early enough in the day, you can come by in the afternoon to get it all sized. With a latte.

Pretty brilliant. While the brand is starting out with one location in California, I'm betting we will see more to come soon. From other retail brands as well.

Nordstrom Local. What's your experience? JIM

Friday, September 8

Hurricane Airfares

JetBlue took a bold, community move to help for those displaced by the incoming Hurricane Irma.

Despite prices competitively being much higher, the airline capped it's pricing at $99 per flight to help people get out of harm's way. The other airlines soon took note and followed in the same direction. The brand's move was in direct contrast with some social media buzz stating that airlines were doing quite the opposite by actually raising prices. JetBlue turned that conversation and dynamic around. Well done.

A bold leadership that shows the brand is truly trying to be a part of our collective community. Perhaps building loyalty for future flights as well.

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, September 7

Amazon - Busiest Brand of the Year

(This post also appears on HuffPost, click here if you'd like to read it there)

A year or two ago I would have said Starbucks. Or Google. Or even Zappos or Coca-Cola. But this year I've got to say Amazon.

Amazon, to my naked eye, is the busiest brand of the year.

Amazon Dash, Alexa, Echo. Amazon Echo Look. Food delivery. Wine delivery. Just delivery in general. Book stores. Convenience stores.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Oh, and original Entertainment. Can you say Transparent?

It's almost like it's an Amazon World. Well, maybe not almost. Boy oh boy the brand has been bizzz-eee. The effect has been, well, "The Amazon Effect" as online retailing, and this online retailer in particular,  has dramatically changed how people shop and what they expect from a shopping experience as well as the speed at which they expect product selection and delivery.

But it's not just online anymore for this retailing change agent. We've already seen the brand expand in the physical world and we knew there would be more to come. Whole Foods...bam.

And now...a partnership with Kohl's to add brick and mortar Amazon departments within select Kohl's locations. Ten of them to be exact, around the LA and Chicago metro areas. The space will be about 1,000 square feet (not huge) and will offer a curated selection of Amazon Home products that you can buy right then and there on site, right along side an Amazon consultant who will help you get it all set up.

A pretty brilliant way to add a network of actual physical retail locations. With a great amount of service...service that will likely convert a lot of interested users who might otherwise be intimidated to buy it all and set it up themselves.

And pretty smart for Kohl's too...becoming a source for tech and tech service. Hmm...more to come from that arena?

Continuing to change the face of retail? Certainly seems so.

What's your pick for the busiest brand of the year? What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, September 6

Budweiser Cans Water for Harvey

Just like for Hurricane Katrina and Super-Crazy-Storm (can't believe it wasn't a Hurricane) Sandy, the  corporate/brand donations for Hurricane Harvey have been hugely inspiring. Estimates for Katrina and Sandy each top over $1billion, and Harvey is projected to top even that.

I'm proud to say that many a brand I know personally have gotten involved.

Wisconsin sent cheese, and many brands have been sending food, diapers, batteries, personal care items, blankets, name it. Michael Dell, as in Dell Computers of Austin, gave a reported $36million. The Red Cross says that most companies are giving money, which experts say is equally effective to help them do their work. Even the Kardashians chipped in.

While I don't want to necessarily single any one contribution out, I of course am always intrigued when a brand leads a helpful effort that fits squarely in their business. Like when Tide rolls into town with Loads of Hope to help families do their laundry. Or Duracell races in with Power Forward to help people power their electronic devices. Just like so many brands did with Katrina and Sandy.

But I hadn't heard of this one before: evidently Anheuser Busch delivered canned water to those in need due to Harvey. They actually shut their beer production lines down to fill cans with drinking water instead. They evidently do this on a regular basis to keep a stockpile.

Pretty smart. Pretty effective. Pretty darn good.

How can your brand help? What's your experience? JIM

Sunday, September 3

Taylor Swift's Second Single

This is a follow-up post to my recent take on the Taylor Swift and UPS partnership for her new album, Reputation. A novel partnership for sure, perhaps the first of its kind. I asked the question, "What can brown do for you?"

Mind you I'm not commenting on the music, but simply the marketing of the music. The innovative marketing of the music if truth be told.

Brand Taylor Swift took it to another level this past weekend, using social media and another unlikely partner to create yet another buzz about an upcoming single from the new album. Now I'm going to ask, "What can football do for you?" As in American football, college style.

Evidently the first single was a (promised) departure from typical Taylor Swift, but single #2 gives the fans exactly what they want. Signature Taylor Swift. It all happened in a tweet from Taylor Swift alluding to a college football game. "Are you ready for this," ... simply put and as simple as it gets. And that's all it took. And sure enough, a sneak peek of the second single appeared during a break in the game, sending fans in a frenzy.

Showing us all how to market in the modern age.

Well done brand! What's next, Taylor? What's your experience? JIM

Wine, Delivered

Our local liquor stores are getting a run for their money. And for those states that are state-run, even more so. There's nothing (well I'm exaggerating) worse than carrying bottles of wine home for blocks on end. I know, there are bigger issues in the world, that's for sure.

But let's fact it, the local liquor has had the advantage of convenience, esp if there's delivery involved. Until now.

First up, the Tasting Room. An online delivery service that will curate wine and send it to you every month.

And now there's Amazon Prime that now delivers wine. Prime wine, if you will. And if I understand it correctly, Amazon has taken over Whole Foods delivery too, including wine in many states.

Wow. Doesn't get any easier. No wonder no one goes to (brick and mortar) retail anymore.Which is exactly the (brand) point. Upping the game and solving unmet needs each and every time, just like every good brand should.

What's your experience? JIM

Saturday, September 2

Happy Father's Day in Brazil

Father's Day is actually in August in Brazil and this year it was Sunday, August 13th. An LGBT rights group there, called Grupo Gay da Bahia, decided to celebrate the day right with this touching video. The likes of which, dare I say, none of us have seen.

So inspiring, and nothing short of that IMHO.

Click here to give it a view via Creativity Magazine (one of my personal favs in the industry).

Set to a cover of True Colors no less (one of my personal favs from back in the day)! Happy Father's Day to all the dads and to all those who do dad things.

What's your experience? JIM

PS - In honor, here's a little of the original True Colors:

Friday, September 1

O That's Good

For years brands have tried to put Oprah's name on their product line or to get her to endorse it. Trust me, I've tried too.

Weight Watchers finally did it in 2015 and their business has bounced back.

Well now Kraft Heinz was able to grab her equity on a new line of refrigerated soups and side dishes under the brand name "O That's Good." Gotta love the name.

The foods are billed as healthy versions of comfort foods, inspired by Oprah's own version of mashed potatoes that combines cauliflower to make it more healthy and perhaps less weighty. There's also broccoli cheddar soup with butternut squash mixed it.

Sounds smart actually. And also affordable at $4.49 to $4.99, all in the refrigerated section which apparently is a growing sector for grocery. And a place that could use some innovation, like any where else.

Will Oprah's magic strike again? O we shall see this fall. Probably in O Magazine.

What's your experience? JIM