Monday, December 14, 2020

2020 Was the Year of Women!

While 2020 will be known as the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. However, based on many events that took place during 2020, it appears that 2020 was also the year of women and their amazing and inspiring accomplishments. 

To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, "A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water."

Here are the names and the events that made HERstory during 2020:

KAMALA HARRIS - First female Vice President of the United States, chosen by President-Elect Joe Biden, and first Black woman and the first woman of Indian heritage.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last — because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities." - Kamala Harris (November 7, 2020)

Keisha Lance Bottoms, Governor of Atlanta, on the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris' historic win: "It's great for me to see it happen, but I'm also happy that my mother gets to see it, and my daughter get's to see it, because this is so much that so many generations have hoped for."

DR. JILL BIDEN - First "First Lady" in 230 years with four degrees including a doctorate in educational leadership, has plans to maintain a paying job outside the White House. She will continue teaching English at Northern Virginia Community College, where as Second Lady, she advocated for students and education after high school.

"As I work hard every day to inspire my students, it is ultimately they who inspire me."  - Dr. Jill Biden

RUTH BADER GINSBURG - Due to the passing of RBG, her legacy inspired millions of girls and women to get involved in politics, the law, and standing up for others.

"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made." - RBG

KIM NG - First female General Manager hired by the Miami Marlins major league baseball team - and first woman hired to be the GM by any of the professional men's sports teams in the North American major leagues.

"I entered major league baseball as an intern and, after decades of determination, it is the honor of my career to lead the Miami Marlins as their next General Manager." - Kim Ng

HOLLY MITCHELL - With the election of Holly Mitchell to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a once-all-white-male institution will now be led by five women.

Janice Hahn, a member of LA's Board of Supervisors, said she hopes the novelty of having five women on the Board wears off eventually, but she’d like to celebrate it for a little longer. “We’ve once again broken a glass ceiling right here in Los Angeles County."

According to the Los Angeles Times, "For the first time since the board’s inception more than 150 years ago, the powerful Board of Supervisors will consist of all women, each of whom comes with significant backgrounds in politics and government. I can’t think of another example in the entire United States where you will have five women having control of ... the largest county in the entire country just in terms of people, but also the largest county budget in the entire country,” explained Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, a professor and chair of gender studies at USC.  

JANET YELLEN - Back in 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Janet Yellen as the first woman Federal Reserve Chair. While that appointment was a shattering of a glass ceiling then, in 2020, President-Elect Joe Biden nominated Janet Yellen as the first woman Secretary of the Treasury.

According to Alan Blinder, a Princeton University economist who served with Yellen on the Fed’s Board in the 1990s, "If she becomes Secretary, when she goes into a room with finance ministers from other countries, she's going to be the best prepared person in the room - probably the smartest person too."

According to Julia Coronado, founder of economic-advisory firm MacroPolicy Perspectives, "One of her underappreciated talents is the ability to drive a consensus in pretty convincing ways."

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog post about Yellen's appointment - here's the link:

Other quotes that continued to inspire during 2020:

Priyanka Chopra's father: "Don't try to squeeze into a glass slipper. Instead, shatter the glass ceiling."

Hillary Clinton: "Whether I am meant to or not, I challenge assumptions about women. I do make some people uncomfortable, which I'm well aware of, but that's just part of coming to grips with what I believe is still one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in human history: empowering women to be able to stand up for themselves."

Chelsea Clinton: "One of our core values in this country is that we are the land of equal opportunity, but when equal hasn't yet included gender, there is a fundamental challenge there that, I believe, having our first woman president - whenever that is - will help resolve." (2016)

Michelle Obama: "When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed."

Nancy Pelosi: "I would say that one of the things that encouraged me so much when I became elected to the leadership was the letters I received from fathers of daughters, saying that, ‘My daughter can now do many more things because of what you did.’”

Sheryl Sandberg
of Facebook: "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat."

Shirley Chisholm
: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”

Ayanna Pressley: “I wanted to fight for girls, not be their voice, but to lift up their voices.”

Kirsten Gillibrand: “If I had a daughter, I would tell her certain things. I would tell her that it’s great to be smart, really smart - that being smart makes you strong. I would tell her that emotions are powerful, so don’t be afraid to show them. I would tell her that some people may judge you on how you look or what you wear - that’s just how it is - but you should keep your focus on what you say and do. I would tell her that she may see the world differently from boys, and that difference is essential and good. (On November 20, 2018, I had the opportunity to attend an event at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York presented a reading of her book BOLD AND BRAVE, and talked about women's suffrage and the state of our democracy following the 2018 mid-term elections.)

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex: "With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility — to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I'm lucky enough, to inspire." 

Image Credits: Quote by RBG; Kamala Harris image by artist Bria Goeller; Debbie Laskey's Great-Grandmother, Bertie Green, suffragist in New York in the early 1900's; and Facebook frame for November election designed by the National Women's History Museum.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Does Your Brand Communicate with Customers?

Like many of us during the covid pandemic, I shop more online than in the pre-covid days. This translates to purchases made via websites that in the pre-covid era, I would have visited stores in person to make my purchases.

One recent item consisted of three dozen colorful plastic hangers. While this item was not a necessity, it added some smiles when hanging clothes during the challenging covid era.

I chose some teal, purple, red, and yellow hangers on a retailer's website, and completed the online purchase. A few weeks later, in a timely manner, the teal, purple, and red hangers arrived on my doorstep. They were just as advertised, and immediately, they "met" some clothes and were placed in my closet.

But something was wrong. I noticed that the yellow hangers were missing. Soon after the box's arrival, I received an email indicating that the yellow hangers were not available from any nearby stores, but they would arrive shortly.

I don't know about you, but "shortly" means "soon" to me, certainly, within a week or two. Otherwise, the store should have sent another email and either provided a delivery update or asked if I wished to cancel my order.

Two months later, and still no yellow hangers. I only purchased five yellow hangers for a total less than two dollars. But where is the update from the retailer? I have sent a couple of emails asking for an update, and I have received no response to any of my communications.

I understand that we are living in a different world, but if a brand offers to sell products, and those products are not available, and the brand accepts payment, then it owes its customers an explanation or a refund. 

You can probably guess the name of the brand I'm talking about.

What would your brand do in this scenario?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Branding and the November Elections

While it is advisable for brands to remain neutral when it comes to American politics, brands should definitely be aware of current events that impact the community-at-large, consumers, customers, and fans. The recent November elections are a perfect example whereby brands should not choose candidates but they can still promote voting.

Here are examples of how five brands participated while staying neutral.

This nonpartisan nonprofit was founded in 2016 with a simple mission: make "democracy delicious by delivering free food for all to polling places with long lines." If you see a line at the polls, go to the website, provide the address, and free pizza will be delivered. Both small pizza joints and large pizza chains are used for deliveries. This happened on election day in 25 cities across America.

Most online news content comes at a cost. But on election day, The Wall Street Journal offered its content for free.

Election day is not yet a holiday, and it may never be, but many people still had to go to work. Zoom provided a background promoting "get out the vote" and "voting" to get users in the mood and so that users could add a vote-themed background to their online meetings during election day.

Many people who voted wore their "I Voted" sticker on election day, so it was cute to see a familiar face, or in this case, a familiar M&M chocolate candy, in this case, Yellow, showcasing his stickers.

If one wore his or her or their "I Voted" sticker to Krispy Kreme, a free original glazed doughnut would be provided.

What brands stood out to you on Election Day? Please chime in and share.

Image Credit: Pizza to the Polls, The Wall Street Journal, Zoom, M&Ms, and Krispy Kreme via Instagram.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Three Instagram Brand-Building Tips from Halloween


Instagram is an easy-to-use and fun social platform for brand-building. Brands use it to share engaging images, thought-provoking quotes, and timely product or service launches. If a post grabs viewers’ attention, they will comment or like it – thus increasing brand awareness.

While holidays present an opportunity for memorable posts, Halloween provides three useful tips for brands to apply toward other holidays later in the year like Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and New Year's.

Color is a universal way to tell a brand’s story. What brand is associated with red? Coca-Cola. What brand is associated with brown? United Parcel Service. What color provides the nickname for IBM? (Big) Blue. Once October begins, all variations of orange take front and center. Recall the beverages served by your favorite coffee houses and doughnut stores at this time of year: pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin iced coffee, pumpkin spiced iced latte, to name just a few.

My two favorite examples are a post by Pantone, the color company brand, and a post by Sherwin-Williams, the paint store brand. Candy corn, the most popular candy from Halloween is featured, and it is comprised of several colors. Pantone showcases the specific colors that align with candy corn. In Sherwin-Williams’ post, jelly beans are featured, and one specific color is called out. Does your brand integrate color in a creative way during October, November, and December?

When brands introduce characters into their posts, they often showcase humor, and humor is a universal way to attract interaction and support. Who wouldn’t laugh at the Muppets, the Energizer Bunny, or the M&M characters? Does your brand have characters that tell your brand’s story? If not, how can your brand integrate characters and humor into your Instagram posts?

My favorite example is a post by M&M’s chocolate candies. Two chocolate characters, Brown and Red, are featured in a field full of pumpkins. Everyone can associate with the two characters because everyone would like to have fun with their family and friends in a field of pumpkins.

When brands integrate elements of tradition into their posts, their posts become embraceable. When we think of the fall season with colder weather, the beginning of the holiday season, leaves changing color, we often think of times spent with family. And food is often associated with family gatherings. Starting with Halloween and pumpkins, there is the arrival of pumpkin pie. What’s more traditional than pumpkin pie?

My favorite post that demonstrates tradition is by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. This post shows how its pumpkin beverage was created by the traditional pumpkin pie. Do your brand’s posts show how your product or service originated or began?

How will you apply these three Halloween tips to your brand storytelling during the remainder of the holiday season? Chime in to share.

Image Credits via Instagram: @MMSChocolate, @Pantone, @TheCoffeeBean, and @SherwinWilliams.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Inspiration from RBG - A Tribute

During the days following the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, people who knew her personally reflected on their memorable experiences and memories. But for those who watched her from afar, we reflected on her actions and words. I've assembled some of my favorite RBG quotes below.

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.

I'm a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.

Don't be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.

I pray that I may be all that (my mother) would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons.

I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception.

We are at last beginning to relegate to the history books the idea of the token woman.

My idea of how choice should have developed was not a privacy notion, not a doctor’s right notion, but a woman’s right to control her own destiny, to be able to make choices without a Big Brother state telling her what she can and cannot do.

You can disagree without being disagreeable.

When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that.

And lastly, about RBG:
No other justice in history has become a popular icon in the way RBG did. She modeled for all of us in how to spend a life working to make society and individual lives better. We only can hope for a new justice in her mold. ~Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law

Image Credit: Paying tribute to RBG while attending an exhibit in her honor at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in February 2019.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

What Happens When Leadership, Service and Encouragement Join Forces?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership experts. One of these experts is James Strock – who I met in 2011 – a speaker, author, and reformer in business, government, and politics. His book is a must-read, Serve to Lead 2.0: 21st Century Leaders Manual. Connect on Twitter @jamesstrock and visit his website at We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

QUESTION: One of your pearls of wisdom is, "When your ultimate concern is those you’re serving, your vantage point necessarily is from the outside-in, not the inside-out.” Can you please explain? 
JAMES STROCK: Quite understandably, many people analyze their life and work from the inside-out. They approach the world seeking, as it were, to sell the notions they’ve spun, the perspectives they created, the knowledge they’ve accumulated. This is encouraged by the ways in which most people are formally educated, with focus on their individual performance.

An alternative is to work from the outside-in, to transcend self-focus to attain a service mindset, focused first on those one would serve. This can result in much more effective value creation for customers and others. It can also be of significant value in building a strong psychological basis for one’s work and life. Various studies have borne out that when we’re focused on serving others, many of the stresses and anxieties that can inhibit performance are reduced or redirected positively.

As just one example that may be familiar to many readers, consider public speaking. This is a necessity for most of us, to one degree or another. Nonetheless it is often one of the greatest fears for many. If one removes self-consciousness, replacing it with an audience-consciousness, one’s performance may be enhanced. Going further, if one is aiming the performance of speaking or other tasks toward transcendent goals, the further one goes beyond self-concern the more effective the result can be.
QUESTION: Due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders for many employees, what new practices can businesses implement to collaborate with other businesses/strategic partners in the future?
JAMES STROCK: 2020 is emerging as a hinge moment. It may well be a year that is recalled in the way of 1914, 1919, 1929, 1939, 1941, 1945, 1963, 1968, 1974, 1979, 1989, 2001, and the Great Recession beginning in 2008. Which is to say, 2020 may be a year which divides the past from the present and future. We’re very much in the midst of 2020—and it’s a very crowded year thus far—so any observations are provisional.

One change that’s already manifesting is that telecommuting is rising to a new level. Rapidly improving communication technologies are a factor. So, too, the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many physical offices to close—along with schools—has meant that many employees were directed to work from home. Many bosses who were a bit out of date were brought up to speed rapidly, learning that employees can work at least as effectively from remote locations in many cases. This will change management approaches. It may lend itself to new office arrangements and schedules. CV-19 will prompt distancing in workspaces. This will coincide with the prospect of reducing commercial real estate requirements. Cities and states may incent distributed work arrangements for the benefits in reduced air pollution and infrastructure wear. This may come quickly in areas with extensive mass transit, which may face reduced usage because of distancing concerns.

So, too, the rising capacity for a distributed workforce may incline more enterprises to retain talent as contractors rather than full-time employees. This will add to a surging political debate on the regulation of independent contractors, already stirring because of the controversial AB 5 legislation in California, which seeks to push Uber drivers, for example, from independent contractor status to full-time employees with the prospect of unionization. One anticipates that many employers and employees may be receptive to new arrangements after the forced shut-down reset their views of long-established customs.

For business, as for other institutions, the pandemic has accelerated existing trends and exposed areas of weakness. Ultimately, two overarching trends may face examination and recalibration. One is the financialization of business over the past forty years, including its relation to international trade and supply chains. Another is the transition from an industrial economy to a service economy. We may end up with a hybrid built around updated notions of national sovereignty, with a rise in the US, for example, in manufacturing capacity. However that sorts out, it will be necessary to update social insurance arrangements from the past century that were created for an industrial economy emerging from an agricultural economy, rather than a service economy.

In sum, there are numerous issues that will arise. The great thing is that ultimate outcomes are difficult to predict because we’re likely on the verge of an explosion of innovation, particularly in the US. The next decade holds the prospect of being extraordinary for entrepreneurs of all kinds.
QUESTION: You last appeared on my Blog back in 2018, and I asked you, "How can leaders (Presidents/CEO’s) explain their vision to employees so that they also embrace it?" How has the current COVID19 situation changed your thoughts about this when many businesses are closed? (Referenced link provided at end of this Q&A.)
JAMES STROCK: The specific practices change, but the principles of leadership communication remain the same. There have been numerous instances of excellent use of Zoom and related communication technologies by CEOs during the pandemic. Regrettably, there have also be dispiriting misfires. As with other areas, the pandemic may have constituted a stress test, with some enterprises and CEO’s emerging with flying colors – while others fell short.

QUESTION: Which three brands are your favorite industry leaders, and why?
JAMES STROCK: My favorites tend to be brands that customers and other stakeholders view as occasioning relationships, far deeper than merely transactional. This is consistent with Kevin Roberts’s notion of “love marks.”

May I offer a somewhat idiosyncratic group? One is The Beatles. This is an astonishing brand, conveying creativity, excellence, experimentation, joy, and a stunning capacity to reach across time and space.

A second would be Apple. It’s no accident that Steve Jobs constructed the Apple brand in no small part from the inspiration of The Beatles.

A third would be Southwest Airlines. In an industry that in the best of times is noted for strained labor-management relations, Southwest stands apart. So too their customer-centric approach to management has created exceptional customer loyalty. With the transportation, entertainment and hospitality sectors reeling under the pandemic lock-down—and the likelihood of ongoing distancing—Southwest is benefiting from its best-in-class service.

There are, of course, many more, but these three stand out in most any consideration of brands.

QUESTION: What is your favorite leadership quote, and why?
JAMES STROCK: I have so many favorite leadership quotes that choosing one seems a bit random! One that speaks to me is the epitaph selected by the late British politician Tony Benn: “He encouraged us.” When we truly encourage one another—inspiring courageous thought and action—many, many good things can follow.


My gratitude and appreciation to James for appearing on my Blog a fourth time and for sharing his inspiring leadership insights!

Sharing Timeless Leadership Lessons – from 2018:

Leadership Is All About Serving Others – from 2014:
Serve to Lead – What a Visionary Concept – from 2011:

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What's Your Favorite Fourth of July Brand?

Some brands include “America” or “American” in their names, and here are some:

  • American Airlines
  • American Apparel
  • American Broadcasting Company
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • American Express
  • American Greetings Corp.
  • Bank of America
During the months of June and July, brands can take advantage of the “America” or “American” portion of their names for advertising and memorable promotions.

The reason behind the advertising time extension can be explained by a simple advertising fact. Businesses want to capitalize on the buzz of the moment. In the case of June and July in the United States, that buzz is Independence Day, that takes place on the Fourth of July.

If your brand had “America” or “American” in its name, what would you do during June and July to capitalize on Independence Day or the entire month of July? Certainly, product or service discounts are an option, or maybe, the launch of a new product or service, or perhaps, the implementation of a new loyalty or referral program. But whatever announcement your business makes, you will definitely have an audience.

Another spin on this topic is if a portion of your brand name is tied to a national park, national monument, theme park, hotel resort, etc. There is no doubt that your brand has a head start on brand awareness if the name of your business is Mount Rushmore Cement Company or Yellowstone Coffee or Liberty Bell Music Store.

In all of these scenarios, the first goal of all marketing campaigns has been achieved. There is immediate brand recognition.

However, don’t lose sight of your brand strengths and the competitive positioning that you’ve worked hard to achieve.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey (featuring American Greetings, American Airlines, and Bank of America)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Tips to Focus on Your Customers During #COVID19

The best part of social media, and especially my favorite platforms Twitter and Instagram, is the people I meet from all over the world and the information they share. Recently, I met Augie Ray on Twitter, and due to our shared passion for customer experience marketing, I invited him to appear on my Blog to share his expertise. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Augie Ray is Vice President, Analyst at Gartner. He publishes research and offers guidance on topics relating to customer experience (CX), including CX strategy and governance, the ROI of CX, voice of customer programs, and the role of personas and journey mapping as tools to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.  Augie has also led the Gartner for Marketer’s research response to COVID-19. Prior to Gartner, Augie was Director of CX action at American Express and led social media at two Fortune 500 companies.

QUESTION: How do you clarify the difference between "customer experience" and "customer experience management?"

AUGIE RAY: I see CX and CXM as different sides of the same coin. CX is the customers' side, and it's their perceptions and feelings accumulated from all of the experiences they have with a brand. The definition of CXM comes from the brand’s side of the relationship, and it is the practice of anticipating, planning, and reacting to customer interactions to meet their expectations and improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. That last part is essential: customer experience management is about what we do strengthen customer relationships and deliver strong retention, frequency, cost to serve, referrals, and other business benefits.

QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a quality customer experience, and why?
AUGIE RAY: This is a trick question. All CX should begin with an understanding of a customer’s needs and expectations. As a result, there is no single answer. A given audience and persona may need, want, or value experiences on Facebook while another may desire brand interactions on TikTok. Or, a given persona may not value having social media engagement with brands in the first place.

As a CX advisor, I recommend listening to what customers want and evaluating their feedback for drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction before deciding on a channel for CX. In other words, the question shouldn't be which social platform is best for CX (with the implicit assumption that one must be best). Instead ask, "What are customers' needs and drags on their loyalty, and are social platforms equipped to help your brand deliver on expectations?"

QUESTION: Have you had any exceptional customer experiences during the current COVID-19 era? Please elaborate.
AUGIE RAY: The number of disappointing customer experiences I've had during the COVID-19 era is much greater than the exceptional ones, but there is a local restaurant whose pivot to curbside pickup has been outstanding and is a wonderful model for other restaurants.

While other restaurants simply shifted their full menu to take-out or delivery, Buckley's ( gave some real thought to providing the best experience under the circumstances. It limited the menu to focus on things the staff could best produce that would travel well. The restaurant updated its website with prominent information about its COVID-19 offerings. And, the thing I really like is that the food comes with instructions for reheating and assembling.

Other restaurants' food comes lukewarm, soggy, and in need of reheating, which only diminishes the experience that much more. Buckley's food takes a tad bit more work to complete the process but is warm, fresh, and tasty. (And the handwritten thank you note in each order is a nice touch, as well.) While some restaurants merely shifted to the take-out or delivery services they already had, Buckley's reconsidered how customers can best enjoy their food despite the challenges.

The funny thing is that I wasn't that big of a fan of the place before COVID-19, but they've become my go-to neighborhood restaurant during our stay-at-home period, and it's changed my perception of the place. I suspect I'm not alone, as the lines of cars waiting for curbside pickup demonstrate.

QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote, "In an increasingly social, mobile, and real-time world, brands are created not by the messages they broadcast but by the experiences they offer — ones that create empathy, build trust, earn loyalty, spur Word-of-Mouth, encourage collaboration, and provide ever greater value to customers in innovative ways." How would you propose that brands improve their messaging for the post-COVID-19 era?
One thing brands must do during COVID-19 is to avoid relying only on messaging but to lead with actions. It's one thing to say you're empathetic but another thing entirely to be empathetic. It's faded a bit now, but in the first month of the COVID-19 crisis, brands filled the airwaves with lookalike ads competing to convey how deeply each brand cared about employees and customers. They all felt alike, and thus, did little to differentiate the brands.

Also, people got sick of those ads quite quickly because they didn't need brands to express their care for employees and customers but to actually care. Don't just say you're grateful to your frontline workers; show them your appreciation by adequately compensating them and providing the necessary protection. Don't just buy an ad to tell customers you support them; consider the challenges customers face and proactively offer solutions. Before you spend one dollar on messaging during the pandemic, make sure your actions speak louder than your words.

In addition, I try to avoid talking about “post-COVID” with my clients. We’re not likely to be post-COVID for 12 to 18 months and possibly longer. There’s a long road ahead, and I urge brands to focus on the lengthy and difficult period of uncertainty we face throughout 2020 and into 2021 rather than trying to predict and plan for a “post-COVID” world quite yet. Most brands face far too many difficulties in the immediate future to start jumping to conclusions of what 2022 might be like, in my opinion.

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?
AUGIE RAY: I'm a big fan of Disney, particularly the quality of its content and the experience at its resorts. I joke that one of the reasons I'm a CX professional today was that my first Walt Disney World experiences were so remarkable, I had no choice but to read about the culture, practices, and leadership that could deliver those experiences.

I think Best Buy has done a remarkable job of navigating the challenges of the digital and brick-and-mortar experience. They're an example of how the online and offline channels can work together and feel like extensions of each other rather than the sort of awkward online/offline divide I see from so many other retailers.

And, I respect USAA a great deal. I had the pleasure to work for USAA and got to see how the brand prioritizes the member from the inside out. My employment experience with USAA continues to inspire me for how customer-centricity can be made such a big and important part of a company's culture.

My gratitude and appreciation to Augie for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring insights.

Image Credit: Augie Ray outside Buckley's.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Why Generic Marketing Won’t Work during #COVID19 Crisis

In 2014, while I watched the Super Bowl and the ads, I encountered a stream of live Tweets on Twitter led by Jim Joseph in New York using the hashtag #SuperBowlExp. While 3,000 miles away, I enjoyed the discussion about the ads with fellow branding and marketing experts. Each year since 2014, I've looked forward to Jim's Super Bowl chats sometimes even more than the Super Bowl itself. Based on Jim's expertise, I've invited him to participate in a Q&A about branding and marketing in the current COVID-19 era, and highlights follow his bio below.

To quote Jim Joseph, “Marketing is a spectator sport,” and he’s one of the industry’s most engaging, enthralling, and entertaining commentators. As the Global President of marketing communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), Jim constantly puts his experience to the test. He is also an award-winning author of "The Experience Effect" series and an adjunct instructor at New York University where he teaches a graduate class in integrated marketing. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimJosephExp and check out his blog at

QUESTION: Tom Fishburne's cartoon accurately reflects how countless brands are interacting with customers and consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. What is wrong with the generic strategy?
JIM JOSEPH: In one word, fatigue. Consumers are getting tired of the same messaging over and over again. This proves that you have to be a first mover if you want to break through!

QUESTION: What brands do you think are doing a good job with their advertising and marketing during the COVID-19 crisis?
JIM JOSEPH: It's hard for me to specifically call out brands with so many being clients. But I will say that the brands that have pivoted their normal activities from trying to sell their products/services to instead focusing on adding value to their communities, be it small businesses, teachers, healthcare workers, etc., are doing a good job.

QUESTION: You last appeared here on my Blog in a Q&A in August 2018, and one of your pearls of wisdom was, “It’s nearly impossible now to separate an organization’s leadership and values from a brand.” In today’s COVID-19 era, how can leaders translate their vision into actions when many businesses are closed?

JIM JOSEPH: Connectivity is key here, more so than ever. As businesses close and employees go remote, engagement and connectivity are the only ways to keep teams feeling like they are still a part of something solid and sustainable.

QUESTION: Which five marketing books should everyone read while staying safe inside?
JIM JOSEPH: I’m currently reading:
(1) Superforecasting, the Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
(2) Authentic Marketing by Larry Weber
(3) Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

And then, but of course, my two latest books titled “The Conscious Marketer” and “Out and About Dad.”

A final thought…while in the second question, Jim did not highlight specific brands, I’d like to share some excellent examples of brands who have stepped up their marketing and advertising during the current crisis – as featured on Jim’s blog: Cottonelle, DoubleTree Hotel, Jeep in Peru, McDonald’s, Nike, Honda, Fisher-Price (as well as Mattel). I urge you to check out the timely messaging presented by these brands. You’ll be impressed!

My gratitude to Jim Joseph for appearing on my blog and for sharing his amazing insights about our passion, branding. Hope you join us during the next Super Bowl on February 7, 2021, pending how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the 2020 NFL season, from the comfort of your living room and smartphone or tablet on Twitter for Jim's live TweetChat using hashtag #SuperBowlExp.

Image Credit: Tom Fishburne ( and @TomFishburne on Twitter.

August 2018 Post Featuring Jim Joseph Q&A:
Can You Build a Brand and Tell a Story with a #Hashtag?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Leading and Brand Building during #COVID19 Pandemic

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for ten years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with John Cloonan and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

John Cloonan is a marketing and branding strategist who creates measurable growth for both companies and people. He's created brand and marketing strategies for companies ranging from startups to $2B plus, and has talked about those experiences as a speaker. John's held roles as a marketing consultant, an agency owner, a corporate marketing executive, and an adjunct professor. You can follow John on Twitter at @JohnCloonan and visit his website at

QUESTION: On your blog, you described the difference between a boss and a leader (link provided at end of this Q&A). Can you provide some examples from your work experience?
JOHN CLOONAN: In a recent role, I was brought in to manage a team of early career professionals and to reduce turnover. A typical marketing team member on this team would stay for a year or two and then bail out for greener pastures. When I got there, the reasons became pretty clear to me why they were leaving. They were being managed, mainly because of their relative youth. They had no decision autonomy on how work would get done. The person managing them was remote and treated them like children. In fact, one of the first things I had to end was other leaders calling them "the kids."

One of the first things we did as a team when we started was figure out what goals we had to accomplish to be successful in the organization. We then determined, as a team, how we were going to accomplish those goals. I provided guidance to the goals, acted as an advocate with the rest of the leadership team, and removed roadblocks. Mainly, though, I was there with them in the trenches. As an example, we found ourselves needing to edit hundreds of job descriptions on our employment site. I sat with the team for several nights, working right alongside them. We accomplished in a week what the rest of the company thought would take forever.

In a short period, the turnover stopped. The team overcame many challenges together, and both productivity and quality increased.

TWEET THIS: A boss directs and manages the activities of a group. A leader motivates a group to a common goal. ~@JohnCloonan #LeadershipTip

QUESTION: How can leaders be educated to understand that an amazing culture will yield a positive employee experience that will ultimately spill over into a positive customer experience?

JOHN CLOONAN: Begin by explaining to leaders that HR and marketing have the same job. The only difference is segmentation. Think about it. A brand represents the promise you make to your customers, and how you fulfill that promise. Your employees are a customer segment for whom you need to provide value in order to attract and retain them. You increase your customer lifetime value by providing a positive experience. That positive experience is your culture.

Beginning with that framework makes the rest simple. If you're happy, you're more likely to provide good service to your customers. If you're delighted, you're going to be an advocate for the organization and go above and beyond to improve the overall experience.

QUESTION: As a result of the current COVID19 situation, how would you recommend that leaders connect with their employees - when most businesses are closed?
JOHN CLOONAN: Be creative. Meet your team where they are. Give them the opportunity to reach out to you in the channel they want. Also, make an effort to be where they are. If you have a team member who is active on social media, engage with them there. Comment, like, and reshare their posts. If you have team members who prefer text messages, give them your mobile number and respond there. A personal favorite of mine that tends to surprise people is the occasional handwritten note in the mail. I've had former colleagues tell me they still have notes from me from years ago. Don't assume that everyone wants an online video call.

No matter what channel you choose, what you have to do is connect regularly, and continue to motivate and advocate.

QUESTION: As a result of the current COVID19 situation, how would you recommend that brands communicate with their customers and fans - when most businesses are closed?
JOHN CLOONAN: If you have customers and fans, you should already be communicating to them in a preferred set of channels beyond in-person interfaces. What changes is the message. My personal belief is that the only acceptable messages right now are "How can we help you through this?" and "Here are ways we are trying to help. Is this valuable to you?"

Notice that both of these are questions. Spend a lot of time listening. Find out what your customers and fans need or want from you right now and figure out how to deliver it.

TWEET THIS: During #COVID19, brands need to spend a lot of time listening. ~@JohnCloonan #BrandTip #BrandExperience

QUESTION: What is your favorite brand, and why?
JOHN CLOONAN: I always struggle with this question. I'm not terribly brand loyal, in fact, I'm more brand DISLOYAL - as in there are certain brands I know I'll never use. If I had to pick one, though, I'd have to say Southwest Airlines. I make a point of always flying with them, which is almost anathema here in Atlanta. I've never had a truly awful experience with them, as I have with a couple other of the major airlines.

My gratitude and appreciation to John for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring insights.

Link to John's blog post referenced in first question:
"Boss vs. Leader"

Image Credit: Medium.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

TweetChat Highlights: How to Improve Leadership Readiness during the #COVID19 Crisis

On April 22, 2020, I collaborated with fellow member of the Twitterverse and leadership development advocate, Katherine Spinney, to co-host a chat on Twitter. Katherine tweeted from Maryland, and I tweeted from California. Since we originally met on Twitter a few years ago, this social platform was a good fit. Our topic was "How to Improve Leadership Readiness during the COVID-19 Crisis."

Here were our five questions:

(1) What are some books to read during the COVID-19 crisis?

(2) Who are some leaders to follow on Twitter?

(3) What are some blogs to read?

(4) If you could interview any leader from history who dealt with a crisis, who would it be and why?

(5) What are some activities to pass the time that can improve one's leadership skills?

If you'd like to read the responses, visit Twitter and search for our hashtag, #LeadInspireChat. Click "latest" to read the entire chat.

My thanks to Katherine for co-hosting the chat, and to the many tweeps who participated or "liked" or "retweeted" one or more comments including @ErikaAndersen, @KevinEikenberry, @LeadToday, @LeadershipNow, @AdamMGrant, @Rebecca_elvy, @AskAManager, @DavidBurkus, @jasonmorena_, @Tips4Tech, @LindaHirshman1, @Kimballscott, @JohnBaldoni, @DougDickersonSC, @ebboyd, and @mgarcia9622. 

I always enjoy chats on Twitter. What are some of your faves?

Here's my interview of Katherine Spinney from 2018:
How Can Leaders Help Employees Exceed Expectations? It’s All About the Culture!


Image Credit: Katherine Spinney and Debbie Laskey.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

How Has Your Brand Reacted to the #COVID19Pandemic?

Life has changed dramatically over the last few weeks since the COVID-19 crisis hit the United States. Also referred to as the coronavirus pandemic, most Americans have been directed to stay-at-home to minimize the risk of catching or spreading the virus. As a result, non-essential businesses closed their doors - which has led to an eruption of email marketing campaigns so that brands can stay in touch with their customers and fans.

Has your email box been overflowing? Mine certainly has. I have received emails from brands I regularly support - retail brands as well as nonprofit brands, as well as brands that I may never have communicated with via email.

The following resembles the content of the emails that I've received:
BRIGHTON - jewelry brand: Brighton your day. Faith. Hope. Love.

TALBOTS - clothing brand: A love note from your Talbots family - while our retail stores are temporarily closed, we'd love for you to still visit us online.

LOVEPOP - greeting card brand: At Lovepop, our mission is to create one billion magical moments by helping people connect with those that they love. In today's situation of isolation and social distancing, this feels more important than ever.

SKIRBALL - museum brand: It's an unprecedented challenge to serve as a place of meeting when we cannot meet in person. We look forward to welcoming you back. Until that time...we're all in the same boat! By staying safer at home for the common good, let's navigate this storm together. We invite you to #SkirballAtHome. We've compiled new content and resources to help during this time.

LINCOLN - car brand: Doing what we can, where we can. That's the Lincoln way. Nothing is more important than your well-being. And now more than ever, your home is your sanctuary. So, as the COVID-19 virus presents new challenges every day, we're taking steps to minimize direct contact, while making your Lincoln ownership experience as easy and flexible as possible.

CANINE COMPANIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE - nonprofit brand: When the world needs love, our dogs are there. Staying paws-itive during ruff times. (This nonprofit even provided a link to its puppy cam!)

According to Jeff Beer of FastCompany:

"There seems to be three tiers of brand emails at this point. First, the service message. This is the most important and helpful, the ones that inform us about a change in service, an updated policy, or a relevant discount. It’s the Gap telling you about store closures. It’s airlines keeping you posted on travel restrictions and flight updates. Tier Two is the Brand Friend. This is where brands who have built a direct line of communication with customers feel obligated to at least acknowledge the situation, even if it’s just to say hi with a “We’re all in this together.” The third tier is the seemingly completely random, we-just-happened-to-have-your-email-thanks-for-buying-our-cat-food-three-years-ago message."

In addition, marketing and advertising are changing almost daily. More from Jeff Beer of FastCompany:

"As the spread of COVID-19 began to rapidly increase, sports leagues like Major League Baseball and the NBA began suspending play, and the NCAA made the move to cancel the March Madness basketball tournaments. Ford had planned to boost ongoing campaigns around its Escape and Explorer models with ads during March Madness but now had to alter its approach, and quickly created two new ads that addressed the crisis, launching them just days later. In those spots, the company said that if customers were impacted by COVID-19 and were financing or leasing through Ford Credit, they should contact the company about payment relief. It’s a move that the company routinely does around regional emergencies, like hurricanes and wildfires — but typically doesn’t advertise."
So, what has your brand done or will do to make an impact during this crisis? What message has your brand communicated? If your brand does something truly memorable, it might just be regarded as a defining moment for your brand and will be remembered long after the pandemic ends.

Follow along by AdAge: A regularly-updated list tracking marketers' response to coronavirus

See an appropriate cartoon by Tom Fishburne (@TomFishburne on Twitter):

From FastCompany: Why every brand you’ve ever bought something from is sending you coronavirus emails

From FastCompany: ‘We’re all in this together’? Why brands have so little to say in the pandemic

Image Credits: Brighton, Twitter, Budweiser, and Walmart.

Monday, April 6, 2020

What's Your Favorite Easter Brand?

Other than the religious services, what do you associate with Easter? There are egg hunts at the White House, egg decoration parties, chocolate, Easter baskets filled with all types of candy, plush bunnies, rabbit ears, and ham. But which brands stand out? Let's see if your top five match mine.

Founded in 1953, Peeps are marshmallows shaped into chicks, bunnies, and other animals and are used primarily to fill Easter baskets. Are you a fan?

Click to visit a website dedicated to all things Peeps:

Cadbury first aired what has become an iconic television commercial entitled, "Easter Bunny Tryouts" in 1994. A cat, lion, turtle, and other animals wear rabbit ears, but as the final scene reads, "Nobunny knows Easter better than Cadbury." Do you know how many animals appear in the ad?

Watch the ad here:

Manufactured in the United States since 1907, Tootsie Roll is a chocolate-flavored, taffy-like candy similar to both caramel and taffy. Company founder Leo Hirshfield named the candy after his daughter Clara, whose nickname was Tootsie. For Easter, the brand offers a large selection of themed chocolates including its classic named for the holiday, Chocolatey Easter Midgees.


The HoneyBaked Ham Company is a food retailer which sells hams, turkey breasts, and other pre-cooked side dishes and desserts. According to the brand’s website, “In 1936, Harry J. Hoenselaar built a prototype of what was to become the first spiral-slicing machine, and by 1944, he filed his first patent. In 1957, Harry opened the first HoneyBaked Store in Detroit, Michigan, officially bringing together his patented spiral slicer with The Honey Baked Ham Company.” Do you eat ham on Easter Sunday?

M&M’s are well-known for their Super Bowl advertising, but during Easter, this timeless chocolate brand evolves into eggs. The M&M eggs come with a crunchy shell and milk chocolate filling, in bags ideal for sharing, but they’re only available in the milk chocolate flavor – not peanut, not peanut butter, etc. The taste is the same, “the chocolate melts in your mouth and not in your hands,” but the egg shape is different from the original circle.

Visit this site to personalize your own M&M’s packet for Easter:

How'd we do? Did you match my list or have different brands? Happy Easter!

Image credit: Peeps, Cadbury, Tootsie Roll, Honeybaked Ham, and M&M

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The end of the brand known as “Sussex Royal”

By now, everyone has heard that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his American-born wife Meghan Markle, have made the earth-shattering decision to step back from their official duties as “senior members” of the British Royal Family, effective March 31, 2020. Harry and Meghan received the Sussex titles by Her Majesty The Queen upon their marriage on May 19, 2018, and since then, the couple has branded themselves as “Sussex Royal.”

As part of the British Royal Family, the couple has been included on the family’s website (, but it is unclear as to what information will remain following March 31. The couple also created an account on Instagram ( and its own website (

However, the couple has been told that they may not use the term “Royal” in the U.K. or elsewhere after March 31, and Harry has stated that he wants to be addressed simply as “Harry.”
The couple plans to continue their involvement with philanthropy and specific issues, such as, veteran rights, women’s rights, conservation, elimination of landmines, and mental health. Their likenesses will definitely sell products, and as the last week has shown, they will be much sought-after speakers at corporate events. So what will the couple’s new brand look like?

According to Wikipedia, “Personal branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as brands. It is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization.”

This marketing-savvy couple has drawn a large amount of media interest, so there is no surprise that the world’s spotlight is shining on them as they create a new brand. Some of the things they will consider in the process:

* Brand name
* Tagline
* Graphics and color palette
* Website
* Social media platforms
* Nonprofit partnerships
* Corporate partnerships

And lastly, here are some questions for the couple to answer once they have created their new brand:

* Will the brand clearly stand apart from the British Royal Family?
* Will the brand be representative of the couple’s interests?
* Will the brand name symbolize Harry and Meghan?
* Will the brand be able to stand the test of time?
* Will the couple’s fans embrace the new brand?

What do you think the couple will choose as their new brand? Please chime in.

Image Credit: ABC News/Australia via Reuters/Henry Nicholls.

Monday, February 10, 2020

What’s Your Favorite Valentine’s Day Brand?

With the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve/Day holidays over, the next holiday on the calendar is Valentine’s Day.

For some history about Valentine’s Day, check out this link from Wikipedia:

When you think of the holiday featuring Cupid and his arrow, there are countless brands that come to mind. Which brands are your faves? Here are five that symbolize the holiday.

With a tagline, “Every kiss begins with Kay,” this brand stands out. According to the brand’s website, the first storefront opened in 1916 in Reading, Pennsylvania. “Back then, customers could find eyeglasses, music boxes, silverware, appliances, and razors among the gifts of jewelry. A lot has changed since then, but thankfully, love lives on. Kay Jewelers, now part of Signet Jewelers in Akron, Ohio, has grown. As the number one jewelry store in America with more than 1,000 stores, Kay has had the honor of being a part of countless love stories from coast to coast.”

Dating has evolved due to the digital age. While there are numerous online dating sites ranging from religious sites to specific age sites to hobby sites, this Dallas-headquartered brand launched in 1995. According to its website, “ services 24 countries and territories and hosts websites in 15 languages…We give singles the opportunity to express themselves through various free writing sections. Profiles may include up to 26 photos, as well as selected preferences regarding the person they're searching for. With the click of a mouse, members can instantly see photos and read about potential matches in their area.”

For an interesting look at online dating statistics, check out this research by Chadwick Martin Bailey:

Tiffany & Company has long been synonymous with diamond engagement rings that come in little blue boxes. But during February, little blue boxes may be considered by some to be better gifts than chocolate heart boxes.

According to Wikipedia, “The Hershey Kisses were first introduced in 1907. At first, the Hershey Kisses were wrapped by hand, but in 1921, a machine was made so that the Kisses would be wrapped automatically. Brothers Walter, Howard, and Raymond Phillippy made improvements, such as, devices to reject misshapen Kisses and position unwrapped candies upright. This is also when the plume was added. In 1924, Milton S. Hershey received a registered trademark for the plume.…Kisses are one of the most popular brands of candy in the United States. In 1989, the chocolate drops were the 5th most popular chocolate brand in the United States, spawning sales that topped $400 million. More than 60 million Hershey's Kisses chocolates are produced each day at the company's two factories.”

Click to see the extensive list of variations of Hershey’s Kisses in the United States, Canada, and internationally – as well as the “limited time only” varieties:

Do you send greeting cards via snail mail? Well, believe it or not, some people still do, and the most well-known brand for greeting cards is this brand founded by a teenager in 1910 with headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.

According to Hallmark’s website, here are some interesting facts about Valentine’s Day (
* Hallmark first offered Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and began producing them in 1916.
* In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France Australia, Denmark, and Italy.
* Approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged industry-wide (not including packaged kids’ valentines for classroom exchanges), making Valentine’s Day the second-largest holiday for giving greetings cards.
* According to the National Retail Federation, the average person celebrating Valentine’s Day spent $143 in 2018.

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day brands?

Image Credit: Kay Jewelers,, Tiffany & Company, Hershey’s, and Hallmark.

Monday, February 3, 2020

A Review of the #Ads from #SuperBowl54

Unlike some previous big games, Super Bowl 54 was full of football action. But, if you live and breathe marketing, the game is just background noise. Your focus is the ads that take place in between the snaps, kicks, and runs. With a staggering cost of nearly six million dollars for 30 incredibly short seconds, is it possible for a brand to tell its story effectively? Were there any ads that rivaled Apple’s 1984 ad? Were there any Tweets that rivaled Oreo’s Tweet during the 2013 power outage? Can you RECALL any of the ads?

This quote from Landor Associates is timeless: "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, New York-based brand guru Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp) hosted his annual #SuperBowlExp party on Twitter (minus chips and guacamole), and since 2014, I've chimed in. 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. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the ads that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up (#BrandBowl, #AdBowl, etc.).

For the third year, I simultaneously followed along with the Kellogg School's TweetChat using the hashtag #KelloggBowl led by Tim Calkins (@TimothyCalkins), Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. This group of marketing folks had interesting comments throughout the ads.

This year for the first time, I also followed the Tweets by Pantone (@Pantone), the the global authority on color, as it shared comments using the hashtag #BigGameColorCommentary. For instance, when a referee threw a yellow flag on the field, Pantone tweeted the specific color Yellow. At the conclusion of the game, Pantone tweeted both teams' specific colors of red with the final score - great marketing!

This year, I didn't see my favorite brand spokes-characters. There were no M&M's, no Coca-Cola polar bears, and no Budweiser Clydesdales with their pal, the adorable Dalmatian. These icons have become part of the Super Bowl advertising tradition - and in the process, part of the Super Bowl itself. Perhaps, next year, these icons will return.

Without further ado, here were my five favorite ads:


Seats were not even warm as this ad began. It featured women playing football, and its message was let's "Kick Inequality." The hashtag #KickInequality became a theme throughout numerous ads including Olay, Microsoft, and Tide (which featured Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot).


This ad introduced Katie Sowers from the San Francisco 49ers, the first woman to ever coach in the Super Bowl. What an inspiration!


Do you remember when Budweiser changed its name to "America" from May through November 2016? This ad aligned with that marketing campaign because its theme was that all of us are "Typical Americans." The much-loved Clydesdale horses may have been absent, but the message that we all have something in common - in this era of disagreement in Washington, D.C. - came through loud and clear.


Spokes-canine Scout received excellent treatment from the angels at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, and this ad told his story. With the hashtag #PetsMakeADifference, viewers were asked to make a donation. All fans of dogs and animals were touched by this ad.


Viewers of this ad who work in the information security industry might have wondered why Facebook didn't use the opportunity to talk about privacy and new ways to protect users' data. Instead, Facebook used its ad to promote its "Groups" - specifically groups with the word ROCK - ranging from rock climbers to senior citizen porch rockers. The ad ended with a group of runners running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum just like Rocky Balboa did in the "Rocky" movie in 1976 - and then, surprise! There was Sylvester Stallone!

It seems as if most of the other ads fell flat. I don't want to share any political commentary, but Michael Bloomberg spent a reported 11 million dollars on his ad. Tide's constant reminders to do #LaundryLater were a little annoying. As some people wrote on Twitter, "Even we wouldn't do laundry during the #SuperBowl, #LaundryLater."

And lastly, 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."

Are you counting the days to Super Bowl 55, scheduled for February 7, 2021, in Tampa, Florida? Or, are you planning a party to review the ads instead?

For more commentary on the Super Bowl's Ads, I recommend the following reading:

2020 Ad Meter Results

Jim Joseph's blog post:

Kellogg School's recap:

Pantone recap:

Tom Fishburne's blog post:

If you want to read my previous annual recaps starting in 2012, search my blog using "super" for the links.

Image Credit: Pantone via Twitter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

2019 Was the Year of #REBRANDING

Was your brand in the news during 2019? If not, don’t despair. There were many other brands that made headlines during 2019. 

Here’s a recap of 15 brands that either rebranded, changed their logo, or changed their name during 2019.

*MasterCard dropped its name from its logo and became a wordless logo like Apple and Target. (January)

*Dunkin’ unveiled new packaging. (January)

*ComedyCentral unveiled a new logo. (January)

*Slack unveiled a new logo. (January)

*Hickory Farms unveiled its rebrand with a new logo, website, and packaging. According to CEO Diane Pearse, “At Hickory Farms, we’re in the business of connecting people. We aspire to make food gifting effortless because we know that making connections through food is a meaningful intersection in our busy, fast-paced lives. 2019 marks an important year for Hickory Farms as our brand evolves with a modern look and feel that appeals to a broader audience with choices for every occasion.” (January)

*Pizza Hut changed its name to “Pizza Hut Hut” with signage and a pop-up store in Atlanta to celebrate its sponsorship of Super Bowl 53. (February)

*Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas changed its name to The Strat. (February)

*Marriott International announced a new logo for Sheraton. (March)

*Mars rebranded with a new logo and tagline: Tomorrow starts today. (March)

*IKEA launched a new logo as part of its move toward digital sales. (April)

*Sears launched a new tagline and logo to create a new image in the wake of negative publicity surrounding its bankruptcy filing and wave of store closings. (May)

*Several brands changed their logos to recognize pride month: IBM, American Airlines, US Weekly, New York Public Library, The Gap, Levi’s, Banana Republic. (June)

*Jamba Juice changed its name and logo to Jamba to reflect its emphasis on its expanded product line and wellness, not just juice. (June)

*Mimi’s Cafe changed its name to Mimi’s Bistro & Bakery. According to Tiffany McClain, the chain’s director of marketing, “We spent two years researching where we’ve been and what we could do to strengthen the brand in the future and strengthen our connection to France...Adding “bistro” to the chain’s name reflects a French feel, with a nod toward relaxation, while “bakery” emphasizes the restaurant’s grab-and-go offerings.” (July)

*Yahoo rebranded with a new logo. (September)

*Wharton Digital Press changed its name to Wharton School Press to better emphasize the book publishing arm of the Wharton School. According to Dean Geoffrey Garrett, “We’re very excited about this new direction, which emphasizes the school’s continued commitment to publishing important books.” (October)

With all these changes, one wonders if brands that don’t make changes have staying power. Do logos need to be refreshed every so often? Do brand names need to change every so often? How do these changes impact brand equity and customer recognition? These are important questions to consider before making any strategic branding changes.

What brand change stood out to you during 2019? Please chime in.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2019

With 2019 now history, it's time for my annual “Top 10” marketing highlights post – incredible that this is my 10th post featuring annual marketing highlights. 

What do you remember from the 2019 marketing reel? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history that was as memorable as Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad? Without further ado, let’s get to it! What campaigns were great?

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


In April, Budweiser unveiled a “Jackie Robinson” bottle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the baseball legend’s birth and used the hashtag #ThisBudsForJackie in its promotions.


In April, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex launched an Instagram account as their sole social media channel. According to their first post, “Welcome to our official Instagram; we look forward to sharing the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues.” The first post was liked by nearly 1.3 million viewers; and the account has attracted nearly 10 million followers.


In May, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex introduced the world to their first child, a son named Archie Harrison, the seventh in line to the British Throne. Imagine all the items with his name and likeness on sale in Britain!


The Walt Disney Company partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to raise money due to the release of its Aladdin movie and granting of wishes in the film, released in May.


For a limited time, Taco Bell opened a hotel and resort in Palm Springs, California. At “The Bell,” guests could buy Taco Bell-themed apparel and plan Taco Bell-themed weddings.


In a press release by Oreo, the cookie brand confirmed that limited-edition Marshmallow Moon Oreos would hit store shelves in honor of the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo lunar landing. Each pack of Marshmallow Moon Oreos featured three custom cookie designs inspired by the moon landing, including an astronaut floating in zero gravity, a rocket ship blasting off, and a crescent moon next to three stars. The best part? The cookie packaging actually glowed in the dark!


CBS Evening News introduced its new anchor, Norah O’Donnell, on July 15, with both a new logo and new introductory music. O'Donnell explained that her evening broadcasts would place an emphasis on fair and unbiased news combined with a focus on the 2020 presidential election. In Fall 2019, her studio moved from New York to Washington, D.C.


Frontier Airlines was proud to be America's greenest airline dedicated to #sustainability, and on August 13, anyone with the surname Green or Greene could fly free.


Mattel, the company that created Barbie, introduced a line of gender-neutral dolls called Creatable World. “The doll can be a boy, a girl, neither or both, and Mattel, which calls this the world’s first gender-neutral doll, is hoping its launch on September 25 redefines who gets to play with a toy traditionally deemed taboo for half the world’s kids,” according to TIME magazine.

And NUMBER 1 on my 2019 Marketing Highlights List:

Drum roll please...

A sign of the times: Starbucks announced in July that it would stop selling newspapers - and remove newspaper racks - at its coffee shops in Fall 2019. The company began selling The New York Times in stores nearly 20 years ago and added The Wall Street Journal and USA Today in 2010. Following the announcement, Starbucks offered digital access through its free in-store Wi-Fi at all company-operated locations in the U.S. for a limited time for the following pubs: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, and New York Daily News. 

In a post on Starbucks' Blog: “This is just the beginning. We will continue to listen and learn from our customers, looking for new opportunities to deliver news, content and experiences that are relevant to our customers, inspiring to our partners and meaningful to our communities.”

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2020 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credit: BigStock photo.