Friday, December 29, 2017

The First Book for Your 2018 Reading List

With all the female voices, silence breakers, female empowerment, and attention paid to the #MeToo movement in social media during 2017, there’s a book you should definitely add to your 2018 reading list. WOMEN WHO WON, Stories of Courage, Confidence, Vision and Determination was written by Bill Ellis as inspiration for his twin granddaughters. I met Bill, a brand marketing professional, through our Twitter conversations as well as our respect for the enduring Budweiser brand.

Bill often writes about fearless brands. “A brand can be a person, place or thing – it can be a business, a product or a service…While we define a brand, a brand’s value is built, managed and communicated to us.”

So, what makes a brand fearless? According to Bill, “A fearless brand is one which has achieved clarity as to its value and purpose. A fearless brand has attained the conviction that comes from true humility. Fearless brands accept their strengths and shortcomings exactly as they are – without deflection and without exaggeration.”

Bill explains that there are three aspects to creating a fearless brand:

[1] Passion: motivation or purpose.

[2] Talent: assessing one’s skills and assets.

[3] Relevance: identifying the people and businesses that find relevance in your (product or service) offering.

Bill’s branding refresher course prepares readers for stories of 28 remarkable women. The women represent a variety of ages, backgrounds, and industries. From Queen Elizabeth II to Dr. Maya Angelou to Indra Nooyi to Ellen DeGeneres to Betty White, to name just a few, Bill explains how each woman is a “fearless brand” in addition to including their personal branding lessons.

Here are some of those lessons. Queen Elizabeth II is a fearless brand because she has remained relevant for 65 years. Dr. Maya Angelou is a fearless brand because she knew not only her parameters but also her opportunities. Indra Nooyi is a fearless brand because she didn’t seek a job, but instead, followed her calling. Ellen DeGeneres is a fearless brand because she is authentic, kind, funny – and dances a lot. And Betty White is a fearless brand because she is resilient and positive, especially admirable while still acting well into her 90’s.

As fearless brands, these 28 women shattered glass ceilings. So, to quote Bill, “Teach your daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings.”

Connect with Bill on Twitter: @WCEllis

Follow Women Who Won on Instagram: @Women_Who_Won

Image Credit: Bill Ellis / Women Who Won on Instagram

Friday, November 17, 2017

Five Thanksgiving #BrandTips

How is your brand celebrating Thanksgiving? Do you have a brand strategy to thank your customers, clients, guests, or other stakeholders? Does Thanksgiving even fall on your brand marketing calendar? If you care about your customers and other stakeholders – and you should during the holiday season – here are five Thanksgiving Brand Tips.

[1] Send email thanks to customers, clients, guests, and other stakeholders
When was the last time you sent strategic email communications to your customers and other stakeholders? If your brand is like many others, it was last week, yesterday, or today. Your email strategy probably includes a distribution calendar of regularly-scheduled emails. But when was the last time you sent an email that simply said, “Thank you?” If you cannot remember the last time, then it’s definitely time to send this type of email.

[2] Offer holiday discounts
No matter what industry your brand lives in, it would be easy to offer a themed holiday discount. A turkey-themed discount or a pumpkin-themed discount might appeal to your customers. Or, perhaps, your brand might offer a discount that lasts for the months of November and December. Be creative, be memorable, and put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

[3] Launch a new product
While people shop and travel during the November and December holiday season, if your product is widely-used, a new product may become big news. Apple often launches its new products in September, but consider the buzz if new iPhones were launched the week before Thanksgiving. If they were, new iPhones would be the “must-have” gifts for the holidays. (Often, they are despite the September launch.) Customers look to their favorite brands to make their lives easier, and especially during the holidays, they would welcome new and easy.

[4] Promote a co-branded partnership
If your brand establishes a partnership during the year, promote it during the holiday season to thank the partner for its collaboration. You can include a combined logo or both brand logos and both brand mission statements in your marketing communications, such as, emails, annual reports, newsletters, etc. In addition, testimonials from both brands’ Presidents speaking about the partnership could also be included.

[5] Offer a BOGO
Are you familiar with the concept of BOGO, or buy-one-get-one? Especially for the holiday season, you could offer a special product or service for free or discounted if something specific is purchased. For example, if you’re a make-up brand and a lipstick is purchased, you could offer a free lip gloss in a matching color. If you’re a hotel brand and three nights are reserved, you could throw in a free dinner of a certain value at your high-end restaurant. And lastly, if you’re a law firm brand and a client is charged for ten hours of legal service, you could throw in two hours of free service.

So, are you now convinced that Thanksgiving offers many opportunities to simultaneously build brand equity while thanking your many stakeholders? Chime in and share your brand’s Thanksgiving plans.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Does Your Brand Show Gratitude?

Did you watch the 2017 World Series? It was the 113th World Series and the best-of-seven playoff between the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the American League champion Houston Astros. Even if you weren’t a Dodgers or Astros fan, you had to get caught up in the excitement! There were many firsts and new records set, and a team won the World Series for the first time in its history. 

But, for brand marketing professionals, the most significant aspect of the 2017 World Series happened after the last at-bat and the winning team’s parade.

Did you see the full-page ad that appeared in the Houston Chronicle on November 5, 2017, following the Astros’ victory? The Los Angeles Dodgers ended their amazing 2017 season with a full-page ad featuring their congratulations to the Houston Astros. Even though the World Series came down to one game, all players demonstrated good sportsmanship on the field.

The Dodgers ad posed the question, does your brand show gratitude? If yes, what action or actions do you take to thank your customers and fans? Do you offer discounts, coupons, VIP shopping days, strategic partnerships, or something else? Consider how Amazon shows gratitude to its Amazon Prime subscribers with its Amazon Prime shopping days. And what about this, does your brand thank its competitors? Has your brand ever placed an ad to thank your biggest competitor?

An ad can be a very powerful marketing tool, because it can be remembered for years. I vividly recall one of my favorite ads for Apple featuring Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog and the “Think Different” tagline. View the ad here on Instagram:

Will Astros fans remember this full-page ad if the two teams meet again in next year’s Fall Classic? Perhaps, the Dodgers marketing department had that goal in mind.


To read more about the 2017 World Series, check out this link on Wikipedia:

Image Credit: Houston Chronicle

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Branding with an Ampersand

In case you missed it, September 8 was National Ampersand Day. An ampersand is that recognizable symbol that stands in for the word “and.” If your calendar did not include National Ampersand Day, this post can serve as your belated celebration as well as a reminder to add the date to your 2018 marketing calendar.

When creating a memorable business or nonprofit name, there are many considerations and influences, but if you want to join two names or words, what can you do? An ampersand is the solution.

According to Wikipedia, “The ampersand is a logogram representing the word AND (a conjunction). It originated as a ligature of the letters ET, Latin for AND…In written language, a logogram is a written character that represents a word or phrase.”

But where did the ampersand come from? According to, "The symbol “&” was actually part of the English alphabet. In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand.” (By the way, if you’re wondering, when a word is formed from an incorrect pronunciation, it’s called a mondegreen.)

How many brands featuring ampersands immediately come to mind?

•    A&E (television station)
•    A&M Records
•    A&W Root Beer
•    Arm & Hammer
•    AT&T
•    Bang & Olufsen (Danish furniture)
•    Barnes & Noble
•    Bed Bath & Beyond
•    Ben & Jerry’s
•    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
•    Black & Decker
•    Boys & Girls Clubs of America
•    Dolce & Gabbana
•    H&M
•    H&R Block
•    Johnson & Johnson
•    M&M’S
•    Marks & Spencer
•    Ogilvy & Mather (advertising agency)
•    P&G (Procter & Gamble)
•    Tiffany & Co.
•    Victoria & Albert Museum
•    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (movie/book)

Did you realize that there were so many?

“Each of these [brands] has a unique approach to the ampersand they use. Some use the same font as the brand name (logotype), while others use a completely different font for the ampersand. The style for these all depends on the emphasis the brand wants to create with the ampersand. Using an ampersand can provide added benefits, aside from aesthetics. If a brand name is slightly long, using an ampersand will help shorten the length of the logotype. This means you don’t sacrifice legibility for size, especially for web and digital media," explains Nicte Cuevas, Principal of Nicte Creative Design (Twitter: @NicteCreativDSN).

While there are countless ways for a brand to stand out, don’t forget the ampersand. It’s so much more than a space saver. In fact, it just may get your brand noticed.

Final Note: It seems as if there has been an abundance of ampersands in the restaurant industry. Check out:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is Your Brand Promoting the Eclipse?

It's extremely rare for me to blog about the same food group, let alone the same food, two posts in a row, however, the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017, warrants a second post about doughnuts.

According to Wikipedia, "An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer...An eclipse is the result of either an occultation (completely hidden) or a transit (partially hidden)...The term eclipse is most often used to describe either a solar eclipse, when the Moon's shadow crosses the Earth's surface, or a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow."

According to NASA, "Experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens about once in 375 years. So, unless modern medicine advances considerably in the next few years, you might not make it to the next one. The last time anyone in the United States witnessed a total solar eclipse was almost 40 years ago, on February 26, 1979. It's been even longer - 99 years - since a total solar eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The total eclipse on June 8, 1918, passed from Washington to Florida."

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Learn all you need to know from NASA at

So, with all the buzz about the eclipse, how can brands capitalize on the buzz and also join in the fun? One brand in particular has hit a home run with its marketing campaign to promote the eclipse. For the first time, Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Doughnuts will be "eclipsed by a mouth-watering chocolate glaze" to coincide with the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, at participating United States shops. Doughnut fans can get an early taste on Saturday and Sunday, August 19-20.

“The solar eclipse is a rare occasion providing a total sensory experience for viewers across the continental United States. Chocolate will have the same effect as we introduce a first-time chocolate glazing of our iconic Original Glazed Doughnut. The Chocolate Glazed Doughnut is a delicious way to experience the solar eclipse – no matter where you are – and we can’t wait for fans to try it. Be one of the first to try the tastiest eclipse in history. Find a Krispy Kreme shop near you by going to,” announced Jackie Woodward, Chief Marketing Officer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and founded in 1937, Krispy Kreme doughnuts can be found in approximately 12,000 grocery, convenience, and mass merchant stores in the United States. The company has more than 1,300 retail shops in 31 countries.

Finally, if you've become a fan of eclipses after reading this post, here are some dates to add to your calendar:

  • The next total solar eclipse in the United States will be on April 4, 2024. 
  • The next eclipse similar to the one on August 21, 2017, that moves from coast to coast, will be on August 12, 2045.
If you have questions about all the eclipse lingo you've heard in the news, check out NASA's glossary of eclipse terms at:

On Monday, after the eclipse, guess where I'm going? The nearby Krispy Kreme store, of course. I cannot wait to celebrate the event with the limited edition Krispy Kreme Chocolate Glazed Doughnut! How about you?

Image Credit: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Branding Less Than Donuts

In today's competitive coffeehouse race for customers, Dunkin' Donuts is making some significant branding changes. According to industry experts, Dunkin' Donuts has a name that doesn't jive with calorie-conscious consumers. With donuts in the name, they wonder, how can it compete with Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Peet's Coffee, and more?

When a variety of factors indicate a need for drastic change, the time has come for a new marketing strategy. This is exactly what this Massachusetts-based chain founded in 1950, is in the process of unveiling. Visit one particular Dunkin' Donuts in Pasadena, California, and you'll see a new sign: Dunkin’. Coffee and more.

According to the company's announcement:
"The branding experiment in Pasadena marks the start of a trial period during which the company will gauge customer response and evaluate whether to take the new name nationwide. There are more than 11,300 Dunkin’ Donuts stores worldwide. Most, about 8,500, are spread across 41 states. The 3,200 international locations span 36 countries."

If you were curious, industry leader Starbucks operates in 70 countries with more than 24,000 total stores.

The company announcement continued:
“While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as “Dunkin’. The name change shouldn’t come as a big surprise to customers. We've been referring to ourselves simply as Dunkin’ in our advertising for more than a decade, ever since we introduced our ‘America Runs on Dunkin’ ’ campaign. We'll introduce new storefront signage at an unspecific number of additional restaurants later this year [but] It will be late 2018 before any final branding decisions are made."

So what do you think? 

Has Dunkin' Donuts made a good decision to drop the word "Donuts" from its name? What about its brand equity, brand experience, and brand story? The brand has a relationship with its customers and fans, and its name is part of the overall brand experience. Will "Dunkin'. Coffee and more." create the same brand experience? Only time will tell - donuts certainly won't.

Image Credit: Dunkin' Donuts.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Essential Books for Your Summer Reading List

Every summer, we plan extra hours for all sorts of activities. From beach excursions to museum visits to outdoor hikes, the summer is the time to catch up on all the adventures that don’t happen during the rest of the year. In addition to all the fun outdoor adventures, another activity on our summer “to do lists” is reading. Some of us even build a stack of “must-read books” all year-long with the intent to read them during our summer vacations. While you may have some non-fiction or novels on your reading list, I highly recommend that you add these three business books, more specifically these three marketing and leadership books, published this year to your summer reading list.

MORE IS MORE by Blake Morgan
The buzz in today’s competitive and social economy centers on the brand experience, which relies heavily on the customer experience. Businesses stand out by providing the most positive and most memorable customer experience. But how do you accomplish this? There is no secret sauce, and every industry has differences, whether big or small. According to Morgan, there is a customer experience crisis underway, and most brands have no idea how to move their brand from mediocre to extraordinary.

“Instead of being intimidated and shying away from the abundance of new channels and digital platforms, brands need to act quickly and figure out meaningful strategies that can help them meet potential customers at these new touch points...Contrary to popular belief, the customer experience boils down to far more than just sales and customer service…Customer experience is an attitude embraced within the company; it’s a company-wide approach to building an operation that has the customer at its center.”

Here are eight pieces of advice from Morgan:
[1] Hire someone to own the customer experience. Some businesses use the title “Chief Customer Officer,” others use “Chief Engagement Officer,” and others use “Chief Branding Officer.” But no matter what title you use, this individual will represent your customer at the highest level of your organization.
[2] Involve your entire organization. Create and maintain a customer-centric culture. One example is the Walt Disney Company, where all employees or cast members attend Disney University to learn about the culture, corporate lingo, and more.
[3] Meet and serve customers in their preferred channels. If your customers post lots of photos on Instagram, you should have a large and growing presence on Instagram. If your customers post comments or ask questions on Twitter, you should have a large presence on Twitter. Don’t spend time on social platforms simply to say you’re there.
[4] Don’t ignore mobile technology. How does your brand leverage mobile technology to improve your customers’ lives? The answer will determine your mobile strategy.
[5] Offer a strong employee experience. Do your employees have authority to fix problems, or do they pass off the customer from one employee to another with no end in sight?
[6] Be a good corporate citizen. Participate in local, regional, or international philanthropy and involve your employees. Some businesses are known for offering employee philanthropy or volunteer days whereby the businesses close for the day and employees volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a literacy program, or others.
[7] Embrace change. One example is the evolution of retail. If you only sell in a physical store, your brand may soon disappear. But if you’ve developed a digital presence and strategy, your brand has a better chance of surviving.
[8] Ask this question: What role do customers play in your business? This question should be at the core of all your key discussions.

This book is a revised and updated version of a previously-released book from 2010. The concept behind the book was that “there is a type of leader called Multipliers, who saw, used, and grew the intelligence of others, while other leaders called Diminishers, shut down the smarts of those around them.” There is probably a bit of this concept playing out in every business in America today, and the result is a waste of intellectual capital. This waste of intellectual capital can be viewed in terms of productivity, intellectual growth, and overall manpower hours. The bottom line is that employees suffer because they don’t work to their full potential, leaders suffer because they don’t empower their employees or inspire them, and businesses suffer because they only witness a percentage of work product by their employees – not 100%.

“Some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, everyone else had to look dumb…In countless settings, these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.”

“Other leaders used their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. They applied their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them. People got smarter and better in their presence. Ideas grew, challenges were surmounted, hard problems were solved.  When these leaders walked into a room, lightbulbs started switching on over people’s heads…These leaders seemed to make everyone around them better and more capable. These leaders weren’t just intelligent themselves – they were intelligence Multipliers. Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.”

Wiseman explained the five disciplines of Multipliers:
[1] The Talent Magnet: Attracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution.
[2] The Liberator: Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work.
[3] The Challenger: Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch.
[4] The Debate Maker: Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate.
[5] The Investor: Gives other people ownership for results and invests in their success.

If you know or work for someone who is a Diminisher, you can make a difference in the workplace by sharing the disciplines of Multipliers.

Who has inspired you? This is the question that author Kristi Hedges used as an icebreaker when making a keynote or presentation. Responses included first bosses, colleagues, parents, friends, teachers, politicians, members of the clergy, and more. Every time, though, it had the same result despite the fact that may people were in attendance because they had to be: excitement and passion.

Hedges thought more about the issue and wondered why this level of excitement was missing from many workplaces. “If we want to have inspired companies, then we need inspirational leaders. And that involves being the kind of leader who communicates in a way that creates the conditions for inspiration in others. It’s about making the right connection and letting the inspiration take off from there.”

Hedges offered the following settings for offering inspiration:
[1] One-to-one meetings.
[2] Group meetings: team meetings, status meetings, leadership meetings, and brainstorming meetings.
[3] Presentations.
[4] Networking.
[5] Difficult conversations.

Lastly, “People remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. If you can engage people in real, meaningful conversations that inspire them to think and do more, you’ll be making strong connections that endure…Capture conversations that would otherwise slip by, and use them to give a positive bounce. Make them zing, Inspire because you can. Inspiration can happen anytime, and anywhere, started by you. Be the spark.”

What business book would you recommend reading this summer? Please chime in and share.

Connect and follow these great authors on Twitter:
Blake Morgan: @BlakeMichelleM
Liz Wiseman: @LizWiseman
Kristi Hedges: @KristiHedges

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Five Tips to Create Your Brand Style Guide

What’s one of the most important documents that your company has? While you might think it’s the list of passwords to gain access to your customer database, and that’s certainly important, a brand style guide is critical. In today’s competitive and social economy, a consistent and positive brand experience leads to future business and new customers. Therefore, a brand style guide is essential for the future success of your business.

This post provides five tips to create a brand style guide. A note, this document is a living, breathing document, so it will evolve over time – just as your business evolves. But if you don’t have one, don’t delay, create a brand style guide immediately.

[1] Showcase Your Brand Voice

Is your brand playful or serious? Do you have industry-specific jargon that’s easy to understand, or do you need to provide definitions? It may be easier to explain your brand’s voice by sharing examples with sample sentences. Another way to explain your brand’s voice may be by way of comparisons. Here’s an example from MailChimp: “We’re fun but not silly, expert but not bossy, confident but not cocky.”

[2] Showcase Your Brand Visuals

Is your brand associated with a specific color or colors? Think UPS and brown. Is your brand associated with a specific font? Think Coca-Cola’s swirl. If yes, know the Pantone or PMS colors as well as the CMYK and RGB versions. Also include “Don’t Use” examples with your logo and tagline.

[3] Showcase Consistency

Your brand is not just one logo, one tagline, and one or more colors. Think of how the Apple brand has evolved from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. When your main brand evolves and co-brands are created, consistency with the main brand provides credibility. Consumers, users, and stakeholders have developed a bond with your brand, and as a result, you want them to also develop a bond with your other brands. The best way to make this happen is to provide brand consistency. Apple did this by including the “i” in its brand naming structure.

[4] Include Your Legal Team

Ask your legal team to review the style guide. This will accomplish two important goals. First, the legal team will be involved in the process so that if any brand or trademark infringements happen, the legal team will be aware of the document you’ve created. And second, the legal team can share its trademark law expertise and possibly add something to the style guide that was missed by the marketing, design, PR, and/or personnel teams.

[5] Share Your Guide Company-Wide

Once the brand style guide has been completed, don’t toss it into a drawer in the personnel department leader’s office and forget about it. Include it as part of your onboarding process and hold quarterly brand training sessions. Feature it as a PDF on your website in the online press room and feature highlights in a blog post or blog posts on your company’s blog. Apply the guidelines to all other company marketing applications including letterhead and envelopes, business cards, email signatures, PowerPoint presentation templates, meeting agendas, flyers, and more. Use the logo or an approved tweaked version on all social platforms. Make sure that your employees know that they are encouraged to associate themselves with your company/brand when they post in social media but that they must clearly note their online posts as their own (for example, in their Twitter profiles).

And lastly, it is a good idea to provide an introduction to your brand style guide. Here is a sample introduction:

"These guidelines are provided to help carry our brand message to the community. Along with the brandmark, typography, color palette and other visual elements, directions are included to help manage the visual communication materials. This guide should be used as a reference when working with outside vendors and also with internal departments to ensure that everyone is using the (include your company name here) logo and other brand tools in a consistent manner."

What else have you included in your brand style guide? Please chime in and share.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Tale of My Favorite #Hashtags

When I think of social media hashtags, I think of storytelling. These words, shortened words, or combined words preceded by the number sign often tell a memorable story or introduce a story. I have three favorite hashtags, and here are the reasons why.

As a brand marketing professional, my most-used hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is #BrandTip. I share my blog posts, quotes from other branding experts' posts, and highlights from other brand experts' books with this hashtag. I enjoy making new connections especially on Twitter and Instagram, and I've met many amazing people as a result of using this hashtag.

Every Monday, I look forward to seeing #MondayMotivation tweets on Twitter. Two users who regularly share corporate culture, employee engagement, and customer experience insights with this hashtag are @DisneyInstitute and @ValaAfshar. One recent tweet by the Disney Institute was "Spring into action – nurture your workplace by cultivating a thriving team environment." Another was "Ready, set, go. Drive success by providing a clear path forward." Without a doubt, everyone can learn from the business insights shared with this hashtag – and it is also an energizing way to start each work week.

Do you have another name for Saturdays? I do. #Caturday is another way to refer to the sixth day of the week. This hashtag is a fun way for cat owners and fans to share photos, illustrations, and videos of their cats in funny poses, with clothing, or simply playing. While there may be other animal hashtags, especially on Instagram, such as #catsofinstagram or #dogsofinstagram, the fact is, no other animal owns a day of the week.

All three of these hashtags improve overall brand experiences, whether the brand is a product, service, or cat with a stand-out personality (for example, Grumpy Cat). As for me, I enjoy my social media marketing more thanks to these hashtags.

What are some of your fave hashtags? Please chime in and share.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Disconnect Between Customer Service and Customer Experience Marketing

Many marketers and other social influencers understand that the way to stand out in today’s competitive social economy is to provide an outstanding customer experience. This can be interpreted or played out in many ways. Some businesses offer loyalty programs to repeat customers. Other businesses offer discounts. And others personalize all forms of communication. But what happens when a business doesn’t understand that the other side of service is a positive customer experience?

Recently, I made an online purchase from a small online retailer, which had previously been a catalog-only business since the 1970’s (according to its website). I chose two products, added my credit card, added my mailing address – and this is where it gets silly. I added my email address and telephone number. Remember this as the story goes on.

At the two-week mark, I wondered where the items were. I called the toll-free number and spoke with a customer service representative. After much discussion, we learned that my package had an incorrect digit in the street address and was en route back to the retailer. The shipping process began with FedEx, who then transferred the package to the US Post Office. At no time in the package’s journey, neither FedEx nor the Post Office thought about using my email address or telephone number, which were on the shipping label, to reach out to me to ask for my correct street address.

Instead, the package was simply MIA. The customer service rep had no idea when the post office would return it, so she could not issue a refund. She did, however, offer to take my credit card number over the phone to place a new order, and she even offered to pay for the shipping cost. Wow, a big gift of eight dollars!

I wondered, did the representative have any authority to make sure I had a positive customer experience? Could she have offered to send me one of the two items that I had initially ordered at half price or even free – as a token of understanding my frustration and disappointment? Or was it more important that the online retailer balance its books and ignore the entire concept of customer experience marketing altogether?

Before I ended the call, I told the rep that I understood customer experience marketing and that, if I had been in her shoes, I would have done something to make sure that I did not lose a customer. The Potpourri rep replied, “Sorry,” and hung up. I wonder how long until I notice the refund on my credit card statement. With service like I experienced, I wonder how long this retailer will remain in business.

Have you ever experienced a disappointing customer experience that turned around at the end? Please chime in and share.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Brand Experience Lesson: Think Like A User or Customer

Think back to the time you got your first smartphone. What did you do first? You probably added some favorite apps, such as, weather, maps, news, social media platforms, and games. (There was a time when all people talked about was Angry Birds!) But what happens when a game is no longer supported by its developer? Developers need to put themselves in the shoes of marketers. When the time comes to end a game, developers need to consider their users, customers, and fans.

Nowadays, when a movie opens, there are co-branded retail products, food partnerships, and games. When the movie "The Secret Life of Pets" appeared, there was a game called "The Secret Life of Pets: Unleashed." The game featured all the movie's memorable characters (dogs, cats, rabbit, and more) and was fun to play.

And then, one day, a message popped up on the screen. It read in part:
"We've had an incredible time together solving puzzles, but soon it will be time for us to make our final match...The Secret Life of Pets: Unleashed will be retired and no longer available."

While the message continued by asking users to play other games created by the same developer, there was something missing from the message. There was no human element, no understanding of the connection that a user had made to the game. Users most likely used the game as a form of relaxation and maybe even used the puzzles as a form of escapism. Or fans of the movie wanted to know how smart the characters could be in challenging puzzles. Above all, users had a clear brand experience with the game that had carried over from the movie.

So, why did the developers end the game with the above-referenced message? Where was the recognition for fan support? Why didn't the developers go further with their goodbye message and add friendlier language? These developers made a mistake by making the final interaction between users and their brand a disappointing one. With so many people placing an emphasis on online reviews and ratings, this developer should have thought a little more strategically before retiring this game. Users may voice their disappointment and/or displeasure where other apps/games by the same developer are listed or sold.

Have you ever had a favorite app or game that was retired? Please chime in with how the developer or brand made the announcement.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Inspiring Leadership Quotes

Recently, I saw five leadership quotes that have remained with me. While there are countless quotes surrounding this important business topic, what separates one from another? Is it the length of the quote? Is it the person who stated the powerful words? Or is it the company behind the person behind the quote? You decide. In the meantime, check out these five memorable quotes and see if they inspire you to be a better leader, to become a leader, or to simply improve your interactions with your colleagues and team members.

"Being a leader is not about you. It’s about the people that are on your team and how you can help them be successful.” --Susan Vobejda

"A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." --Arnold H. Glasow

"Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." --Mark Herbert

"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” --Sheryl Sandberg

"Create an environment that allows your employees to thrive." --Kevin Eikenberry

What's your favorite leadership quote?

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Review of the #Ads from #SuperBowl51

Super Bowl 51 may easily go into the history books as the best in history with its overtime surprise win, but if you live and breathe marketing and branding, the ads are the day’s focus. With a staggering cost of $5 million for 30 incredibly short seconds, is it possible for a brand to tell its story effectively and memorably? Were there any ads that rivaled Apple’s 1984 ad or Oreo’s Tweet during the 2013 power outage? Bottom line, can YOU recall any of the ads?

According to Landor Associates, "Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”

During the game, Jim Joseph of Cohn and Wolfe in New York hosted the #SuperBowlExp party on Twitter (minus chips and guacamole). Although it's always fun to see what fellow branding and marketing folks say about the ads in real time, there are a couple of challenges. First, some ads run in regional or local markets, so there were some instances that Tweets referenced ads I didn’t see. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the ads that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up. In addition to Jim’s party, there were these hashtags that I followed: #BrandBowl, #AdBowl, #SuperBowlAds, and #whartonfoa.

For a complete recap of my Tweets during the #SuperBowlExp chat party, visit my Storify link:

This year, many brands and brand icons were noticeably absent. There were no Oreos, M&Ms, polar bears wearing scarves featuring the colors of the competing teams, or the entire group of Clydesdales with their pal, the adorable Dalmatian. This year, politics was in the air. According to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, “Great Super Bowl ads this year. Shows the country moving the right direction, pro-women, pro-environment, pro-immigrant, pro-diversity.” Without further ado, here were my five favorite ads:

AUDI – A father and daughter were featured with the theme of #EqualPayForEqualWork and #DriveProgress. While some viewers complained about the ad afterward by stating that the company has an all-white male Board of Directors, the critical issue is that equal pay for equal work must be implemented before women will earn a place in the C-Suite and Board room.

BUDWEISER – During a national and international time of immigration crisis, this ad pushed the envelope. Adolphus Busch came to America in 1857, and during his lifetime built an enduring brand, the King of Beers. America represents open doors and opportunity around the world – and always will. Most of us are hail from immigrants – something we must remember. Allegedly this ad was created quite some time ago, but in the current economic climate, the irony was not lost on anyone.

AIRBNB – In an uncertain and troubling political climate full of protests, demonstrations, and political disagreements, AirBnB presented an ad with a powerful and uplifting statement that, no matter where you live, who you love, or what you believe in, the answer is #WeAccept.

KIA – Comedienne Melissa McCarthy appeared as an Eco Warrior tasked with saving the planet. She saved trees, whales, rhinos, and icebergs while simultaneously introducing the new Kia Niro vehicle. Her hashtag was #SmarterWay, and her humor was contagious.

TIFFANY AND CO – This ad featured half-time entertainer Lady Gaga as she talked about being a rebel, being true to herself, determining her own direction, and creating change. Tiffany jewelry has been a timeless brand, always unique – and representative of Gaga’s themes. Created in black and white and without any color, this ad was a good representation of rebellion combined with beauty.

To answer Landor Associates’ questions, these five ads were totally on brand – true to their core brand promises. I will remember the ads, and, all were incredibly timely – just recall Senator Schumer’s comments.

If you’d like to see some stats about how the ads rated, here are some links:

USA AdMeter:

Kellogg School’s Super Bowl Advertising Review:

AdWeek Tracker and Roster of All Ads:

Don’t forget to check out Jim Joseph’s post on Huffington Post:

If you need a Budweiser Clydesdale fix, here’s a link to their party via the #ClydesdaleCam on Periscope:

And lastly, this ending appeared in my post last year, but it’s just as appropriate this year. Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households. "The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."

So, are you counting the days to Super Bowl 52? Will that mean a trip to freezing cold Minnesota or simply tuning in to watch and critique the ads?

Today's post-Super Bowl game Instagram share.

Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon at the top of this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Five Ways the New Year Can Jump-Start Your Personal Brand

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With the arrival of the New Year, it's time for clean slates in the marketing arena. Many marketing budgets have been refreshed and are set back to zero. Marketing campaigns have new objectives, and metrics have yet to be met. With all the possibilities in front of your brand, it's a great time to spend time thinking about your PERSONAL brand. In fact, here are five ways that the New Year can jump-start your personal brand.

[1] How does your personal brand look?

Do you need a new head shot for all your social media platforms? While it may be interesting to see someone standing in front of the Taj Mahal, that is not an appropriate photo except maybe for a travel agent – and maybe not even then. Interview photographers, look at their portfolios, and review LinkedIn profiles – and then arrange a photo shoot so you'll have lots of new photos in your personal branding tool chest. If you have a variety of social platforms and are active in social media, you'll want high-quality head shots. If you're a professional speaker, writer, etc., you may want pics taken with different backgrounds. Whatever your needs are, smile for the camera!

[2] What colors reflect your personal brand?
When you think about your strengths, do you think blue, yellow, or orange? What does your Twitter or Facebook profile image say about you? Your color palette should reflect your competitive strengths and positioning exactly how you want to present yourself. If you need a refresher in color associations, see below.

Image Credit: Buffer

And let's not forget the color of the year. Pantone, known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer, has named Greenery as the color of 2017. "Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose," explained Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

[3] What does your personal website say about you and your talents?
This question assumes that that you do, in fact, have an online portfolio or website. If not, do not pass go, don't collect $200 – create a website and reserve a URL with your name immediately. In this era when people buy URL's to hedge their bets that someone may want to purchase them or act with nefarious intent, reserve your name followed by .com. Then create a website with the basics including some of your work, links to your social sites, and your contact info. If you don't want to include your email address, phone number, or snail mail address for security reasons, create a form for a visitor to complete to connect with you – because you never know when Bill Gates may want to connect with you! In the alternative, create an email address specifically for your website. But no matter what you decide, in this social era, you definitely need a website.

[4] What does your personal blog say about you and your talents?
Everyone has an opinion. I've even seen realtors and doctors with blogs. Now I'm not recommending that you write posts about real estate or medical procedures (unless those are your specialties), but there is an abundance of mainstream news for you to read that will inspire you to generate content. Since I started my personal marketing/leadership blog in 2009, and with over 200 posts on my site and more than 200 on other sites around the Internet, my most popular posts have included these topics:

•    Annual Marketing Highlights
•    Annual Brand Tips
•    Annual Marketing Terms
•    Social Media Secrets
•    Q&A with visiting thought leaders (an interview series)

[5] What new social platforms have you tried?
When was the last time you used Snapchat? What about the stories feature on Instagram? While you may not discover the next Facebook before tech journalists at TechRepublic, the Verge, SilconAngle, or BuzzFeed, you CAN try new apps in beta form or test their new capabilities as soon as you hear about them. This is a way to become an early adopter. And if you become an expert while using an app's new capabilities for your personal brand, you can extend the expertise to your 9-5 brand. Imagine your boss' smiling face!

What other ways will you jump-start your personal brand in early 2017?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Do Loyalty Programs Create Strong Brands or Lose Customers?

Do you ever drop your key ring because it carries too many loyalty cards? Or do you use one of the many loyalty program applications on your smartphone to access your accounts, points, discount coupons, and other program perks? Whatever way you access your favorite brand’s loyalty program, there is no denying that loyalty programs are effective tools in the brand-building tool chest. However, there must be smart strategies behind the programs, or they will lose their impact and may even lose long-time customers.

Like you, I'm a member of many loyalty programs. While most don’t provide huge cost savings, the $5 coupons or 20 percent off discounts are welcome.

At the conclusion of the recent holiday season, I received an email from a nationally-known fine dining chain that has been in business for 87 years. While I had dined at the restaurant for special occasions throughout my life, I had not visited in about a year. From the wording used in the email communication, you would have thought my absence was a crisis of international concern. But upon further reading, the email takes a turn to the dark side with terms such as “inactive status” and “no longer.”

The subject of the email was: WE MISS YOU!

The email message follows below in its entirety, and was signed by the restaurant’s President and CEO:
Dear Debbie,

We've noticed that you haven't been in to dine with us for more than 15 months. As a VIP, the points in your account will never expire. However, after 18 months of inactivity, your account status will become inactive, and you will no longer receive the full benefits of membership.

To maintain active status, you can:
* Dine with your VIP card
* Buy Gift Cards or eGift Cards
* Purchase gifts from our shop

If you have questions about your account, please call Member Services at (number). If there is a specific reason you have not visited, please call me directly at (number). We continually strive to better serve our guests. On behalf of all of us at (restaurant’s name), we look forward to serving you again. (Signed by the President/CEO)

With such a long and rich history, the restaurant welcomes Los Angeles natives and tourists on a daily basis, and during the holiday season, welcomes football teams who compete in the Rose Bowl football game. In fact, publicity abounds for this restaurant during December every year – publicity that every restaurant can only dream about. So why, I wondered, would a communications team write such a strongly-worded email that did not thank me for my lengthy customer status?

Perhaps, a better email would have been:
Dear Ms. Laskey,

We hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season! We missed you during the holidays and would like to welcome you in early 2017.

Our VIP guests are very important to us, and we are thankful that you choose our restaurant for family celebrations and other special occasions. As a VIP, your points never expire. But to entice you to visit soon, we’d like to offer you a complimentary dessert or complimentary glass of champagne (or $25 coupon) during January or February.

If you have questions about your account, please call Member Services at (number). If there is a specific reason you have not visited recently, please call me directly at (number), so I can address any concerns you may have. Our goal is to continually improve our guest experience, so on behalf of all of us at (restaurant name), we look forward to serving you and your family again soon.

It seems as if my accumulated points are more important to this restaurant than they are to me. All I ever expected from this restaurant was exceptional guest service and delicious food. But based on the tone of the email, despite many years of family celebrations, I will not return to this restaurant. One poorly written email led to the loss of a long-time repeat customer. This restaurant’s loyalty program was an example of an #epicservicefail.

If you think you know the restaurant, chime in. Happy New Year!

Image Credit: Digitalart via

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2016

With 2016 now history, it's time for my annual "Top 10" marketing highlights post – incredible to believe this is my 7th annual post featuring annual marketing highlights. Without further ado, let's get to it! What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history as memorable as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad? What do you remember from the 2016 marketing reel?

With a quick nod to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:

Number 10: 

Budweiser changed its name to "America" starting in the summer and lasting until the Presidential election in November. While it was certainly interesting to see the word "America" in that familiar script on cans and billboards, it was a little odd to see a country name on beer.

Number 9: 

Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, and during the campaign, a new term was coined: BREXIT, a combination of BRITAIN and EXIT. This was an interesting example of how quickly a concept or political campaign can lead to a memorable word or term that can become part of everyday conversation. Did you use the word?

Number 8: 

After 108 very long years, the Chicago Cubs won baseball's World Series. As a result, the city of Chicago and all things related to Chicago became big news. For a little while, everyone stopped talking about politics, and instead, talked about Chicago, Cleveland, baseball, and overcoming a 108-year curse.

Number 7: 

Instagram changed its logo, and following in the footsteps of the Gap and the YMCA, there was little excitement.

Number 6: 

For the first time since 1995, Taco Bell refreshed its logo at the same time it opened its 7,000th restaurant - located on the Las Vegas Strip. According to a Taco Bell spokesperson, "The new logo mirrors the new restaurant strategy: One size doesn’t fit all. In this modern take, color makes a splash and allows customization through patterns and textures, giving usage flexibility while maintaining its iconic framework." Again, little excitement.

Number 5: 

The city of Las Vegas was awarded a new National Hockey League (NHL) team, named the Golden Knights, to celebrate the NHL's 100th anniversary. However, as 2016 came to a close, there were trademark concerns over the ability to use the Golden Knights name.

Number 4: 

Prince William, his brother, and his wife launched a PSA (Public Service Announcement) campaign about mental health awareness. According to a Kensington Palace spokesperson, "It will be the biggest single project Their Royal Highnesses have undertaken together. The Heads Together campaign aims to change the national conversation on mental well being and will be a partnership with inspiring charities with decades of experience in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health challenges."

Number 3: 

Time Warner Cable changed its name to Spectrum. However, unlike most re-branding strategies, there was no compelling brand story, no brand promise, and no memorable tagline. One day, the company was Time Warner, and the next day, it was Spectrum. And to add insult to injury, the customer service is worse. This is an epic #brandfail.

Number 2: 

Talk show host Kelly Ripa has evolved from "Live with Regis and Kelly" to "Live with Kelly and Michael" to simply "Live with Kelly." Regis retired, Michael left under a shroud of mystery, and now, it would appear that Kelly prefers a variety of guest co-hosts. There is no question that she prefers the show to be an extension of her personal brand.

And Number 1 on my 2016 Marketing Highlights List:

If you refer back to my Marketing Highlights list from 2015, this is what I wrote: "Donald Trump evolved from business tycoon and TV host to Presidential candidate. While some may question his viability for this position, there is no doubt that he can teach everyone something about building a powerful personal brand."

Since Trump evolved from business tycoon and TV host to Presidential candidate to President-Elect during 2016, and since TIME magazine named Trump as its "Person of the Year," my comments from last year's post will remain as number one on this year's post.

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2017 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

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