Wednesday, January 31

Crock Pot on “This Is Us”

Spoiler Alert if you’re not caught up on This Is Us. Stop Right Here!

Brand Crock Pot found itself in an unlikely hot mess this past week due to a plot line on the (really big) hit show This Is Us on NBC. Evidently one of the beloved characters (Jack, if you're familiar with the show) got killed in a house fire caused by a Crock Pot and its faulty switch.

Fans were enraged, blaming the Brand for this gentleman’s untimely death. Social media lit up, in a (what’s becoming more common) bizarre mix of fiction meeting reality. 

Now clearly, Crock Pot had nothing to do with this and most of the time brands would kill to get this massive exposure in pop culture. Even Stephen Colbert weighed in about pushing a “simmer” button. But this particular situation isn’t necessarily anything a brand would ask for.

Crock Pot, in good form, released a statement and the show’s creator also sent a reminder that fiction is fiction. Perhaps, in the end, it’s a good reminder to check the condition of all our appliances. I know it made me think twice about all the things that I have plugged in around my house. 

It’s a fascinating case of the intensity of fans, the impact of a plot line, the spreading of proper information, and the mixing of fiction with reality.

What’s your experience? JIM.

Saturday, January 27

Budweiser Water for Super Bowl 2018

True to form, Super Bowl leader Budweiser is one of the first brands out of the gate with a preview of its new Super Bowl spot. And I for one can’t wait for this Super Bowl Advertising season to begin!

Year after year after year, we can always count on Budweiser to bring us a tear-jerker ala their Clydesdales. It’s almost a tradition. Here’s one of my favs from 2014...

Last year the brand broke tradition and very ceremoniously celebrated its immigrant roots, many say in perfect timing for the new American President...

Well for 2018, it looks as though we have a new message of nationalism coming from Budweiser and in my humble opionion this spot is spot on...

Perfect song, by the way! I had written about Budweiser’s water efforts for the Hurricane Relief at the time, so it’s very interesting to see that they are using those efforts as their core brand messaging.

In what is certainly become a paradigm shift in how brands communicate with consumers, Budweiser is showcasing how it has become an active member of the community. Putting aside product messaging and profits for the sake of the greater good. And using its employee base as proper ambassadors for what the brand stands for.

I believe this is going to be a trend in Super Bowl advertising this year. Nationalism. Giving back. Unity. Employee engagement. Putting aside profits to help fix what needs fixing.

UPDATE!!! Sister brand Stella Artois just released their spot for the Super Bowl, using "water" in a different way with spokesperson Matt Damon speaking on behalf of Seems like they have a magical chalice?

And in another UPDATE...sounds like we may still see a Clydesdale spot from Budweiser after all. Perhaps speculation and it may not even run during the Super Bowl. We shall see and we'll have to tune in to find out!

What’s your experience? JIM

PS - We’ll be following all of the advertising during The Big Game on Super Bowl Sunday on Twitter at #SuperBowlExp. Join us at 6:20pmET! See you there!

Friday, January 26

Ellen and Cheerios

There are many good things to say about Ellen and her show Ellen. One is that she is very promotionally easy to work with...she loves a good brand sponsorship. And why not? She’s been able to leverage many a brand budget to do good work. And why shouldn’t she?

Her latest promotion with Cheerios is pretty good, and it’s pretty simple.

One Million Acts of Good.

Ellen is simply looking to tell one million stories where people have done something good... big or small. Simply upload your story to Ellen or write in to her or hashtag your goodness and she’ll pick up as many as she can to feature on Ellen or on her social media or in a round-up video.

Pretty simple.

But why Cheerios? Well part of their brand equity is to “create something good and make it go round.” This promo with Ellen and Ellen certainly fits that bill.


Great match up, IMHO. Congrats to both brands, Ellen and Cheerios.

What’s your experience? JIM

PS - Wonder if Cheerios will be a Super Bowl advertiser? Join us on Twitter for The Big Game at #SuperBowlExp where we’ll be discussing all of the advertising!

Murphy Brown

We’ve seen a string of classic (shall I say vintage?!?) television shows set to return to television in what has become a highly competitive (shall I say high quality?!?) arena for content which now makes up “small screen” programming. As the programming gets more competitive, producers are looking for ways to up the game and find an audience. Iconic characters are a quick way to do that. I’m in!

Will & Grace has been a huge reboot, and hugely needed IMHO. Roseanne is set to come back...which will be interesting given the current political climate. From what I understand, the iconic That ‘70’s Show is an ironic draw amongst Gen Z, so perhaps that is sure to come back too? We shall see what’s up with that “must-see.”.

But nothing could be more appropriate, crazily even more so than The Mary Tyler Moore Show, than bringing back Murphy Brown. The timing is perfect on so many levels.

Murphy Brown!!! An empowered female leader. Journalist. Taking on social issues. Embracing single parenting. Dealing with health scares. Telling one’s truth (ala Oprah just recently).

Ten seasons. Multiple awards. And if you remember the headlines back in the day, mixing fiction with the real world, dealing with real world issues at the time.

I just happened to watch the movie Home Again (Reese Witherspoon) on a plane the other day, and Candance Bergen makes a bit more than a cameo appearance in it. She was a real highlight. A gem. It made me miss her. I made me miss Murphy Brown. And then I read the news.

Perfect timing. Can’t wait to embrace her again. We need her!

What’s your experience? JIM

PS - Just also read that Magnum PI and Cagney and Lacey is coming back too. ‘Tis the season.

Thursday, January 25

It’s the Year of the Dog

2018! Every new year brings an entirely new way of thinking about how we can live our most fulfilling lives. It’s refreshing! And I’m excited to say that 2018 is The Year of the Dog. 

I am going to make this my year, and The Year of the Dog is going to give me the fuel to do it. I’d encourage you to do the same...this is OUR year and we are going to make it all happen. Let the year begin!

“But what does that actually mean,” you might be asking!?!

The Year of the Dog is about luck, money, love, and success. It’s about feeling hopeful for the future because all the hard work will really begin to pay off. The Year of the Dog is about getting the rewards we so richly deserve after a lot of sacrifice, struggle, and sweat. 

So let’s use this new found energy and put the essential elements of The Year of the Dog to use for us, for our success. 

Here’s some thoughts on how...

Focus on your core skills and maximize them out. Deep down, you know what you’re truly good at. Set your humility aside and and just go ahead and embrace your special talents. Own it! Bring it! Work it! Because you’re damn good at what you do! So let your core expertise be the focus of the year and make the most of it. Work your skills hard to build out your success for the year, and you’ll be amazed how what you’ve learned through the years can now serve you so well in making you happy and successful.

Build out the relationships that are most important to you. We all have an inner circle of family, friends, and colleagues who we value the most. Seinfeld had them on speed dial, and you should have them be your hashtag for the year. Spend time taking those relationships to the next level, and make some extra meaningful time with those you love the most. The returns will give you the boost you need to make this the year of a lifetime.

Get out there! Admit it, you love to be out and about, whether online or off. Take advantage of your networking skills to put yourself and your business out there. Leverage your natural ability to make connections and put them to work towards your goals. You’ll get there faster and much farther as a result. 

Get pragmatic and add some structure. You’re not just a pie in the sky dreamer. You know that it takes hard work and discipline to get where you want. So buckle down and get your ducks in a row. Align the building blocks that will build your foundation for growth first, and then move on from there. 

Apply the learnings of your past mistakes. Really successful people have long memories. You’ve been paying your dues and you’ve learned a lot in the process. Now’s the time to put that knowledge to work to build out your success. You won’t make the same mistake twice if you’re purposeful about it. This is the year that the cuts and bruises of the past will become hallmarks of success. 

It’s The Year of the Dog.

If you concentrate on the elements that make The Year of the Dog so meaningful, then 2018 will not disappoint you. Quite the contrary, it’ll end of being a year for the record books. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 23

CVS Beauty Mark

First it was cigarettes...CVS discontinued all sales of tobacco products to better promote better health. I'm sure it took a big hit in sales and profits, but CVS was looking at the bigger picture of health.

Now it's beauty products...CVS just announced that it will no longer use retouched photography to promote any of its own branded beauty products. And it's encourages other brands to do the same. How can they do this? Well CVS is one of the biggest homes for beauty sales so they have the volume and the clout to pull it off.

CVS is calling the initiative Beauty Mark! A watermark will appear on imagery that is true to form and that has not been altered. Clever name. All CVS brand beauty products will have a Beauty Mark. For those other brands who still use altered images, CVS plans to label those as not in compliance with their policy. That’s a wow, and likely a deterrent to sales.

CVS may take another hit to sales and profits as a result, but I guess it’s again looking at the bigger picture of health as in positive perceptions of natural beauty and aging. Enhancing self esteem. Avoiding misleading and damaging stereotypes of unattainable beauty.

This isn’t the first of its kind, so my belief is that this is here to stay and we’ll see others follow. We’ve regulation of this sort in parts of Europe and even Getty Images recently banned the submission of photos that have been photoshopped for weight. Bravo!

As someone who has worked in the industry my entire career, CVS is making a pretty radical move. Many are saying it's way over due. Perhaps. I for one can't wait to see how it all plays out.

What’s your experience? JIM

Monday, January 22

Amazon Go — Now Open

About a year ago I wrote about Amazon’s foray into brick/mortar with a new convenience store especially created for Amazon members. It’s completely cash-less and cashier-less in that all you do is pick the item off the shelf and walk out. Your membership does the rest...meaning your phone calculates the entire transaction. It even knows if you pick something up and then put it’re only charged for items you exit with in your hand/bag.

It’s basically a smart store, chocked full of convenience items and food. Complete with a chef. A smart chef! It’s the convenience store of the future, powered by Amazon tech. Smart tech, convenient tech.

But at the time it was first opened, it was only for Amazon employees. Not just officially opened up to the public in Amazon's hometown of Seattle. I have a feeling we’ll see other locations coming soon! And probably offering a broader range of categories eventually as well.

Such a smart advancement for this retail giant. But not just online anymore. As someone who recently visited the Amazon bookstore in Manhattan (fabulous but not "smart"), I certainly hope we see more.

Have you been yet? What’s your experience? JIM

CEO of BlackRock - An Inspiring Message

The CEO of BlackRock, an investment management company, got it right last week...he sent a note out to other CEO's in the industry basically saying not to solely focus on short term profits.

Click here to give it a read.

This from an investment management firm?!? Yes, indeed!

While certainly any for-profit organization needs to make a profit for its various constituents, including shareholders, but it shouldn't look that way. It shouldn't be so obvious and it shouldn't be the only item on the agenda. And it shouldn't be at the expense of everything else.

So for a company (and industry) known to focus on (solely) generating profit to make such a bold statement is quite inspiring! A great way to build its brand equity...for the company and for the CEO personally.


It's refreshing to see a CEO take a broader view on the business, clients, employees, communities, and the world.

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, January 18

Hanger Latex Flame Choker

Hanger Latex Flame Choker? What? In hindsight, probably four words that should never have been strung together.

File this next to H&M...under ”But how could THIS happen!?”

Just this week I wrote about the H&M hoodie heard ‘round the world and about how its backlash keeps on. Now the mom of the model used in the ad is citing concerns over safety of her son. Too far.

But we are witnessing similar backlash at another fashion retailer, ASOS, for its promotion of an item called “Hanger Latex Flame Choker” (pictured above). Note that the brand name is Hanger so this isn’t the only product with that brand name, but it makes for a messy combination of words. Social media comments say that it’s celebrating suicide. Perhaps, but as worrisome is the completely poor timing given all of the social commentary as of late. Well actually, no timing would have been anything but poor timing on this one.

Have to ask the question...”Did they think this one through? How could this happen?”

Lessons Learned for Brands: Be conscious of the marketing you’re putting out there and how people may react and also have an appropriate approval process in place to screen for content that may confuse, ignite, or be misinterpreted. And then double check it before you release it. And then have a response plan if you still happened to miss something.

Here we go again. What’s your experience? JIM

IKEA's Pregnancy "Test"

You have to admit, this is clever. It may be other things as well, but it is clever.

Sweden is home to IKEA, the innovative retailer that's not afraid to put it out there. Like when they were one of the first big brands (and big retailers) to advertise to same sex couples way way back in the day. Gotta respect that.

This time, in their home country, IKEA is targeting soon-to-be moms with a special discount on their cribs. But the only way you can get the discount is if you pass the pregnancy test and actually pee on the print ad that appeared in a national print magazine. Yes, the ad is an actual pregnancy test.

Clever. At a time when actual print advertising is diminishing, this ad gives it a reason for being (so to speak).

Now truth be told, you don't have to actually bring the test into's just a way to capture attention. The attention of very busy pregnant women prepping for the upcoming arrival.

Many have had many comments about this promotional ad on social media. Me? Clever.

What's your experience? JIM

Tuesday, January 16

Brita's “New Year, New You” with Stephan Curry

Right about this time every single year, New Year’s Resolutions start to fade off. Brita must understand this, so it’s teamed up with Stephen Curry to inspire us to keep on keeping on.

This isn't the first collaboration between Stephen Curry (of the Golden State Warriors) and Brita (the water filtration brand), as part of its "Make Every Drop Amazing" campaign. In fact, it debuted a few  years ago with this little piece of video ...among other marketing elements:

"Make every drop amazing," indeed. Very inspiring.

Well this time around to inspire our new resolutions, Stephen Curry is back with YouTube sensation Rudy Mancuso to spread the word again. It's very well done, especially in the social media court of opinion...New Year, New You:

"You are what you drink!" And that is for sure! Happy New Year!

What's your experience? JIM

H&M’s Hoodie Ignites Outrage

At first I wasn't going to write about this debacle because I honestly didn't want to give it any ink. It troubled me so much that I literally didn't even want to write about it. I kept going back and forth in my mind on how it could have happened, if it was done purposefully, or if it was a mistake made by someone who just had no idea that it was offensive.

I kept asking myself, “But how could something like THIS happen?”

If you don't know the details, the fashion retailer H&M ran an ad in the UK with this image:

Social media lit up almost instantly, and H&M quickly apologized and pulled the ad. Their response was quite quick and gracious, but in no way explained the whats or the whys. 

Why I have ultimately decided to write about this is what has been continually happening as the anger continues to mount against H&M. Racks of clothing have been turned over and protestors have gathered in front of the stores in massive amounts. So much so that in South Africa, the company had to close all of its stores. And in what is becoming a bit more common, politics and the government are voicing their views...the Opposition Party has made this issue one of their major statements. 

Governments affecting brands and vice versa. People voicing their views and holding brands accountable. The effects of a brand’s marketing having negative impact on the brand's business.

This is what happens now if a brand isn't extremely careful and conscious of its actions. And we all need to learn from it.

And we have to keep asking, “But how could THIS happen?” We need to learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.

What's your experience? JIM

Monday, January 15

My Thoughts from CES 2018

(this post also appears on HuffPost - click here to read it there)

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas finished up on Friday and although I didn’t attend this year (I’ve been many years prior), I did follow it on my social feeds and the news. It’s always super exciting to see what’s developing in tech that we know will have profound impact on our lives.

Of course “Home” was the battle ground between Amazon and Google, each fighting for attention with their voice-activated systems. Not sure who won, except for all of us who benefit from the innovations.

Cars were also another battle ground, but what I found even more interesting was the non-auto applications of driver-less operations. Like retail. We saw what is likely the first driver-less mobile store. Brilliant. And driver-less scooters, bikes, and other types of non-auto transport.

Of course wearables have been the talk of CES for a few years now, I even introduced one a couple of years ago at CES for one of our clients. But this year we saw a turn of the tides IMO. Wearables are becoming less “all in one” and more compartmentalized for specific issues. The Apple Watch isn’t necessarily going to do it all. But specific wearables for specific issues, particularly in health seem to be a trend. And it seems like the cure to the opioid crisis might come in the form of Augmented Reality rather than in another pill.

While it might seem small, the biggest innovation I read about involves getting rid of all our wires. Sure we’ve all got wireless ear buds now, but we’re still contending with charging wires and cords. If you travel like I do, then you know that cord and charger management is a big time suck. And they’re a pain in the neck to pack. And carry. Now while we’re not there yet, this year’s CES gave us hope that being totally wireless is in our very near future. Soon we’ll be able to pack up our cords and toss them. How on earth will Apple replace that revenue stream?

What’s my overall impression of CES this year? Beside seer excitement for the technology that’s continually improving our lives, I think I realized (once again) that every company and every brand is really a tech brand even if it doesn’t appear to be that way on the surface. Technology has invaded every aspect of our lives and any brand who’s looking to connect with consumers need to use technology to do so, and needs to use technology to continually improve its offering. Every brand is a tech brand!

What did you see or read about from CES? What’s your experience? JIM

Friday, January 12

New Diet Coke Packaging

Someone’s starting the new year off with a bang...actually one massively iconic brand is starting the this new year off with a BAM!

Diet Coke. BAM! This has to be the biggest change to Diet Coke since its inception decades ago.

I’m old enough to remember Diet Coke coming into play...DIET? WHAT? It almost instantly made what was then the cool brand TaB seem so...yesterday. And TaB was also from Coca Cola. If you’re too young to remember TaB (cap B and all), here’s a link to a history lesson.

Through the years we've seen many changes to Diet Coke, most pretty subtle in the scheme of things especially when compared to what's going on now on the brand. With a fresh start for 2018 though, Diet Coke just launched its most radical packaging change ever (to my eye any way).


Sleek new, taller (skinnier) packaging ala Red Bull. Colorful graphic design ala, I don't know, the current look in beverage design with a rainbow like Skittles. Makes for a very contemporary look, and NOT very Diet Coke. Very not DIET! With a new lineup of new flavor combinations that make what feels like a buffet of Diet Coke that doesn't seem very Diet Coke at all.


And if what I've read about it is accurate, that's exactly the point. Beverage sales in this portion of the beverage category have not exactly been growing, while other parts have. Younger consumers are going elsewhere, so of course Diet Coke is going to try to reinvent to bring them back.

But don't worry, if you simply just can't live without the traditional can still get that shape too. I would imagine this makes for tricky merchandising on the store shelf and refrigerator case, but alas that's what change brings.

Funny how when you just look at the original flavor in contrast with the original can shape, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. But lined up with all the flavors and BAM! you have a big change.

As a big brand fan I'm in. As a marketer, I love to see continual reinvention and this is a pretty big one. It'll be interesting to see how it plays in the marketplace.

What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, January 10

Stick to One New Year's Resolution

If there's anything on anyone's mind, aside from the usual, it's New Year's Resolutions. But most never make it. Thought I'd share my perspective on how to turn that around, on HuffPostClick here to give it a read.

What's your New Year's Resolution? What's your experience? JIM

The Elvive "Comeback" at The Golden Globes

There was a mysterious piece of advertising that aired during The Golden Globes the other night that just can't go unmentioned. And it was all based on a "comeback."

Everyone loves a good comeback story; its human nature. And actress Winona Ryder has certainly had one of her own with her roles in Stranger Things and Heathers as of late.

Ms. Ryder was featured in a new video for L'Oreal brand Elvive, which creatively showed her getting ready to go back on stage, with beautiful hair but of course. Take a look...

Beautifully shot, for sure. Fun to see Ms. Ryder, absolutely. The connection back to damaged hair, a creative stretch. But it's creative nonetheless and a good way to build awareness for this brand.

Giving damaged hair a comeback via a Hollywood comeback story.

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

Tuesday, January 9

KFC's Nuclear Tweet to McDonald's

It's not uncommon for category competitors to declare war on each other, and the fast food industry is amongst the most competitive.

And it's becoming more and more common for brands to jump on the news of the moment, and use it to promote their own messaging.

We saw a little bit of both this past weekend from KFC in the UK/Ireland when it "paralleled" the recent tweet from Donald Trump touting the size of his nuclear button. Basically, KFC went right for McDonald's to say that it's meal box was bigger and more powerful, and has gravy!

The social media reaction was a bit mixed, with some applauding the creativity while others felt the seriousness of the topic shouldn't be touched. The correct opinion is in the eyes of the consumer, who will vote with their voice and their wallet. But it's yet again another lesson learned in brands being conscious about how they message their marketing and being conscious about how consumers will react.

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

Monday, January 8

Oprah's 2018 Golden Globes Speech

Instead of a blog post today, I'm going to publish Oprah's Speech last night from the Golden Globes where she received a lifetime achievement award.

Nothing more for me to say...Oprah's speaks for herself!

Social media instantly lit up with calls for "Oprah for President!"

But Oprah didn’t just speak for herself. As a business leader and a father, I for one am happy to have Oprah speak for us and to propel us forward. And as someone who has also “spoken his truth,” I encourage all of us to speak our truth! That is what will change the game.

Inspiring, motivating, game-changing.

What's your experience? JIM

PS - BTW, I personally loved the black dress initiative. Not only did it show solidarity, which is THE  point, but it was also such a great artful expression. Kudos to the designers for being so creative with a single color. Not the statement for sure, but I'm a lover of fashion as an art form so I just had to shout it out!

Friday, January 5

Eataly’s New Campaign About Italians

I was an early adopter of Eataly, and I worked above the first Manhattan location for over five years. I've eaten and shopped and consumed many times over, but to be honest I've never noticed the advertising. That's probably because the advertising was very much product and location focused, and pretty much in-store.

Well not anymore.

Just recently brand Eataly launched a new campaign that lots of people are noticing. Not necessarily for all the right reasons. And in a way, the new campaign is communicating as much about Eataly as it is about Italians as it is about its founders.

Here's a poster that appeared in the storefront window, but the campaign was featured in multiple outlets...

And that one was just one execution. There were others...
- "Bring Home an Italian, Great Legs, Better Body" for wine
- "Bring Home an Italian, The New Hunk in Town" for salami

Many weren't happy about the stereotypical references to Italians or the campaign's sexual overtones. And many weren't happy with the timing based on co-owner Mario Batali's recent issues. Especially since he referenced a recipe for Cinnamon Buns in his apology.

My point here isn't to critique the campaign or anybody, but to learn from the feedback that the campaign has gotten. Brands need to be conscious of how consumers are feeling about issues happening in their worlds. They need to be conscious of how their marketing activity fits in with other parts of their business and their activities. They need to be conscious of what reactions they may get as a result of their communications.

I always say, "Marketing is a spectator sport," so we should all learn from each other. 

What say you? What's your experience? JIM

Wednesday, January 3

Congratulations, Hoda...and The Today Show!

In my book, The Today Show is a brand and it may have just made the smartest brand move in its long history as a leader in morning news/television/entertainment.

Yesterday, on the first official work day of the new year, The Today Show announced that Honda Kotb will replace Matt Lauer as permanent co-anchor alongside Savannah Guthrie.

Smart move on a number of fronts. Internal promotion of a beloved employee, apparently both internally and externally. A woman. A woman joining another woman for an all female hosting duo. A great bounce back from the Matt Lauer issue.

Most importantly BTW, also a person who earned it, deserves it, and has had numerous struggles all along the way. Just like a lot of us. And a person who is excellent at it. All the skills are there for news/television/entertainment!UIKeyInputDownArrow

And no small factor...the ratings have responded since the moment she started filling in. Back to #1.

Smart move, brand The Today Show. Congratulations, Hoda! What’s your experience? JIM