Sunday, April 29

M&Ms Orange Vanilla Cream

Gotta hand it to brand M&’s always up to something. I had barely gotten used to the caramel version and now there’s a new one: Orange Vanilla Cream.

To my eye, this really marks a departure from being a “chocolate” brand. Caramel was one thing, as it often goes right along side chocolate. But Orange Vanilla Cream? That’s a creamsicle, not a chocolate.

Continual innovation is the lifeblood of a brand, but it must always be in keeping with what the brand is all about. Truthfully, the M&Ms brand has probably never really stood for “chocolate” per se, as much as it does for “fun, frivolous candy” that “makes you smile” and that you can “share with a friend.” Oh yeah!

Orange Vanilla Cream fits nicely under that description.

Give ‘em a try? What’s your experience? JIM

Wednesday, April 25

KFC Hong Kong — Hot & Spicy Print Ads

In a new print campaign that's reminiscent of the Cheetos museum, KFC in Hong Kong is celebrating its new Hot & Spicy fried replacing classic visuals of fire with visuals of its fried chicken. Classic. Hot. Spicy!

Pretty cool, right? Hot actually. Hot & Spicy. What's your experience?

Tabasco Diamond Reserve — 150 Years in the Making

Hot sauce lovers (and boy they do love their hot sauce!) are most likely rejoicing aloud in their kitchens and restaurant tables all over the world, as Tabasco releases a new commemorative edition hot pepper sauce called Diamond celebration of the brand’s 150th anniversary.

Who knew that Tabasco has been around for 150 years!

It looks like a champagne bottle...and at $35.00 a pop, you should probably pop it before you use it. Gorgeous.

But there’s more...this Reserve kicks off a year long celebration with pop up kitchens popping up around the world that feature innovative recipes with the limited edition sauce. Plus there’s yet another new Bloody Mary recipe as well. Like the world needs another Bloody Mary recipe...actually we do! See below, copied from

What do you think? $35.00 for hot sauce?!? Get it while it’s hot (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

What’s your experience? JIM

Diamond Reserve Bloody Mary Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

For Bloody Mary Cocktail:
  • 1.5oz vodka
  • 4oz Bloody Mary Mix (recipe below)
  • 2 drops sesame oil
  • 2oz dry prosecco
For garnish:
  • Black and white sesame seeds
  • a long cucumber slice
  • slice of red pepper
  • lemon peel
For Bloody Mary Mix:
  • 1.5 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon TABASCO® Diamond Reserve Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • In a mixing glass, add all ingredients except for the prosecco.
  • Stir with ice to chill.
  • Strain into stemless wine glass with one large square ice cube.
  • Top with prosecco and garnish.

Tuesday, April 24

North Face “She Moves Mountains”

Reminiscent of REI’s #ForceOfNature, outdoor brand North Face launched a series of inspirational stories about women conquering the challenging outdoor sports/activities. The content is featured prominently on the brand’s website, where it personalized these women’s unsurpassed stories.

Here’s one where Margo Moves Mountains...

And here’s where Hilaree Moves Mountains...

I’m sure you get the point. These women are intense...fueled by a passion and supported, presumably, by North Face. This is highly targeted content, but well done to say the least.

What’s your experience? JIM.

Monday, April 23

Tiffany Setting Gets Trademark Protected

Getting a trademark for design work is tough in our business. It's nearly impossible to protect an idea or trademark a feature. Nearly impossible.

Well, UPS was able to trademark the color Brown, which is highly unusual. The brand protected its color from being used by anyone else in the sector. Wow!

Louboutin also trademarked its signature red sole shoes. No one else can have a red sole, unless the shoe is also red. Wow!

And now Tiffany recently won the right to protect its "Tiffany Setting" diamond ring. Well, others can make it but they can't all it a "Tiffany Setting." Wow!

Perhaps we are making headway in being able to protect our very good work as an industry! I for one think that this should be far more common that it is. These three examples are exceptions to the rule, but it should be common procedure for us to be able to protect our creativity, branding, and marketing. I say "more!"

What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, April 19

Vans for Girls Skate India

This is a great partnership on so many levels.

Evidently, skateboarding is considered off limits for girls in India. Believe it or not.

So now it’s International Women’s Day...the day, among all days, when women (and young girls) should feel empowered to take on the world however they’d like. On their terms.

Enter brand Vans. Yes, Vans. Yes, as in those shoes. Skateboarder shoes.

Enter India’s first female professional skateboarder. Yes, you read that right.

This year on International Women’s Day, the brand Vans released an online film featuring Girls Skate India, a group that was founded by that first female professional skateboarder who’s name is Anita Verghese, to encourage girls in India to take up skateboarding.

But Vans did more than just release an online documentary featuring girls in India skateboarding, they are also giving free skateboarding clinics in 100 skateparks around the world to teach girls (and anyone else) how to skateboard.

So awesome!

A mix of online and off. A mix of pop culture and societal norms. A mix of gender smashing with inspiration with empowerment with education. With access. Fueled by a brand known to be in this pop cultural mix. Supporting a woman doing an amazing thing for the world.

Marketing at its best. What’s your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, April 18

Starbucks In Crisis - Anti-bias Training

Most experts in public relations will say that it’s often not the crisis itself that determines the fate of a brand, but how the brand handles the crisis. When handled well, consumers often forgive a brand and move on...sometimes pretty quickly, of course depending on the depth of the crisis. When the crisis is not handled well, consumers can have a very long memory...and act accordingly.

Starbucks found itself in a massive crisis  this week when two black men were arrested in one of their locations in Philadelphia. They were apparently just there to meet a friend and use the bathroom, but hadn’t ordered anything. Been there, done, that but without the arrest.

Bad situation to say the least, especially for the two gentlemen. Starbucks immediately sprung into action.

I’m not saying proof positively that consumers will forgive Starbucks this time around, but I am going to say that the brand handled the crisis very well and very quickly.

The CEO immediately made a statement, taking responsibility and announcing that the arrests are a “reprehensible outcome.”  Then just a few days later he announced that the company will be closing 8,000 of their stores on May 29th to give their 175,000 employees “anti-bias training.” Closing 8,000 stores for a day! He also pledged to do whatever necessary to correct the situation and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

This type of anti-bias training across a huge portion of their employee base could be setting a trend not only for how to handle a situation of this sort, but also how to truly impact change...especially when you’re a brand so entrenched in many of our daily lives and certainly in many of our communities.

They’re putting their money where their mouth is to try to correct a horrible mistake.

This isn’t the first time that the brand has been in the middle of tensions surrounding race relations. Back in 2015, Starbucks threw themselves in the middle with a cup campaign called #RaceTogether where they encouraged customers to talk about race relations with their baristas. It didn’t go well, and the brand quickly called off the initiative. Smart move.

Will consumers forgive Starbucks this time around? Is the brand acting appropriately, given the situation? What’s your experience? JIM

Sunday, April 15

Budweiser 100% Renewable Electricity

Last year, AB InBev (makers of Budweiser) announced that by 2025 all of its beer will be produced with renewable electricity. Very commendable.

Evidently the company is making good progress...this year all of its Budweiser-branded US beer will be produced with renewable electricity. That's a lot of beer. Very commendable.

To make sure consumers know, the brand is adding a new symbol to every bottle that has been brewed with renewable electricity and it's encouraging other brands to adopt the label as well.

Keep an eye out. Very commendable. What's your experience? JIM

Thursday, April 12

Serena Williams for The Lincoln Navigator

There’s a new spokesperson in town for Lincoln, so move over Matthew McConaughey.

Serena Williams.

She’s not taking the place of Matthew, but is appearing in a series of content videos for social media that highlight her relationship with the brand and how The Lincoln Navigator is helping her with parenting.

Here she talks about her first Lincoln...

The series includes different takes on life. This one is on intuition and timing...

The series goes on with several iterations, all very well produced, and certainly set the feel for The Lincoln Navigator brand.

Convincing? What’s your experience? JIM

Wednesday, April 11

REI #ForceOfNature

I recently judged The One Show Awards which is a prestigious awards program the best work from  a wide range of agency types. The criteria is marketing creativity...that produces business results for brands.

I’m in.

Aside from the judging itself, we were asked to pick some of our personal choices as well...and I picked a program from the retailer REI...#ForceOfNature.

#ForceOfNature was a 2017 followup to the now infamous #OptOutside promotion where REI closed all of its stores on Black Friday so that its employees could spend time outdoors. For a brand that's all about the outdoors, it was an authentic gesture. Consumers followed suit as well, spurring what many would call a movement.

#ForceOfNature takes that program one step further and highlights the fact that being outdoors is a level playing field, a place where we are all equal. I get that. I embrace that. As a result of that, #ForceOfNature encourages women to put aside that which has kept them back and to go for it. I takes barriers and makes them boosters.

It’s all about women finding freedom outdoors. I love the sentiment and the campaign...

I can't say if it was a winner or not, because honestly I don't know. But it was one of my choices.

What's your experience? JIM

Monday, April 9


I recently visited my favorite place to have margaritas in Manhattan and discovered a huge change that I was kinda upset about at first...they changed their straws! I love their straws! This place has the best margaritas but what makes them so great are the big fat straws. I even wrote about them in my book Out and About Dad. They're least in my book!

But once I understood the reason for the change, I totally bought into their new thinner straws. The new straws are biodegradable and won't end up in the ocean. Ahhh. Got it. Good!

Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day. 500 million! And many of them end up in the ocean, damaging sea life. Yuck! Now I feel guilty about all those margaritas and all those big fat straws over the years.

A new organization is trying to put a stop to using plastic They are asking us to all #StopSucking via this PSA (public service announcement).

Makes sense. Awareness of this issue can change behavior. I'm going to #StopSucking. Unless they're biodegradable! Like at my favorite margarita place.

What's your experience? JIM

Friday, April 6

Lee Jeans Extreme Motion...for Guys

Buying a pair of jeans is perhaps one of the hardest purchase decisions any of us will ever make. It's not necessarily about the brand, although that does play a big role. It's more about the fit. Jeans can be the most comfortable thing ever, if they fit. And because jeans are such an important part of our lives, we have to be able to relate to the brand once we find a fit.

There has to be a fit and a fit.

Looks like Lee Jeans is trying to tap into this basic need with a product called "Extreme Motion" jeans for guys, trying to make the brand relevant to guys again via a great fit.

Here's a bit of a recap:

I gotta say that I love the video content they've been pumping out too. I can relate!

A new "Lee Man!" Well done, on both equations.

What's your experience? JIM.

Thursday, April 5

These Are Some Powerful Sneakers

Sneakers are getting more and more powerful these days. First we started running better in them. Then we could start tracking our fitness stats with them.

Now we can order pizza with them...

And even ride mass transit for a year with them...

As my mom always said, "What will they think of next?"

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, April 3

JPMorgan Chase Berkshire Hathaway Amazon Healthcare

JP Morgan Chase Berkshire Hathaway Amazon...that's a lot of powerful names. And they're combining their power to put together an alternative healthcare program for their employees. Presumably stepping in where others have failed. Presumably stepping in where the government has failed.

Just another example of the private sector making greater progress than the public sector on issues normally reserved for the public sector.

And these names aren't alone.

CVS and Aetna. Walmart and Humana.

Large employers who are change agents in their industries are joining forces with healthcare "providers" or creating their own healthcare scenarios to put the control back in their hands. Presumably back in their employees' hands as well.

None of it's been finalized and it's all in motion, but I can't help but think...trend of the future? You betcha!

What's your experience? JIM

Skittles Super Bowl Ad for One Person

We've done plenty of talking about Super Bowl advertising this year, so for the most part I've put the topic to bed. But there is one brand that I've been following since The Big Game to see if it makes good on its promise. So far so good.

Skittles created quite the buzz not by showing its ad during the Super Bowl but by NOT showing its ad during the Super Bowl. In fact only one person on the planet has actually seen the ad. Yes, the brand created its Super Bowl ad to be viewed by one person only...a lucky superfan teenager in California.

Of course there have been plenty of teasers for the spot, starring David Schwimmer of Friends fame...

On Super Bowl Sunday, we did get to watch the lucky superfan teenager from California watch the ad...via Facebook Live. Literally watch him watch the ad. But not on broadcast television, and not for the world to see the actual ad.

So I've been waiting to see if Skittles would eventually release the ad, but they've remained true to their one has ever seen it. Except the lucky superfan teenager from California.

Clever? Breakthrough? Excessive spend of money for one person? What's your experience? JIM

Monday, April 2

Two More Brands Support Gay Dads

I'm a regular contributor to the group "Gays with Kids," and in fact I "report" on marketing activity that supports gay dads. Two new brands popped onto our radar, with very visual support of diversity including families with gay fathers. So inspiring!

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience? JIM

SpielBurgers at Carl's Jr.

File this under “Nice Try.”

Carl’s Jr. (as in the burger chain) recently renamed its Charbroiled Sliders “SpielBurgers” in honor of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film Ready Player One. But they didn’t get his permission first.

Now I have to believe that they knew exactly what they were doing...highly doubtful that he would give permission, but by putting it out there Carl’s Jr. was still able to get the attention. At least long enough to make headlines. And at least long enough to get Steven Spielberg to respond...

Now of course he took a pass, but with the nicest “cease and desist order” that I’ve ever seen. While it’s a bit manipulative, it is a clever way to get the brand out there and associated with something powerful happening in pop culture.

What do you think? Cool? What’s your experience? JIM