Sunday, January 23, 2022

Why Female Leaders and Inclusion Are Good for Everyone


Today, January 23, is a symbolic day in women's history, also known as herstory. On this date in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from medical school and become a doctor in the United States. She graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York with the highest grades in her class and dedicated her life to treating the sick and helping other women to pursue careers in medicine. Her legacy continues because in 2017, for the first time ever, a majority of medical students in the United States were women.

To honor this achievement, I would like to welcome a special guest to my blog who has made her life's mission to help women improve their leadership skills. Shannon Rohrer-Phillips is a social entrepreneur, speaker, and producer who has worked with over 20,000 women over the course of her career. Shannon and I recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below her bio.

Shannon is the Founder of the annual Voice + Visibility Women's Summit in Sarasota, Florida, and Founder of The Bridge Builders DEI Solutions Training Program. She received her BA from Colgate University and an MSW from Smith College School for Social Work. She lives in Sarasota with her husband, two sons, and a growing family of pets. Shannon's TEDx Talk: Failure and Forgiveness in the New South, was delivered at University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee in November 2019, and can be watched at this link: Connect and follow Shannon on Twittter (@srpllc1), on Instagram (@Shannonrohrerphillips), and on her websites at and

QUESTION: You describe yourself on LinkedIn as "Social Entrepreneur, Producer, Speaker interested in all things: Female Leadership, Women in Business, Media, Film, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Community Building. Opportunity Architect. Producer. Stubborn Optimist. SNL Enthusiast. Mother TEDx Speaker." Some have said that the reason few women get ahead in corporate America is that they are denied entry into the "pro-bro" culture. When men are assertive, they are respected, but when women are assertive, they are not taken seriously. How can we move forward and achieve gender equality?

SHANNON ROHRER-PHILLIPS: Great question and great timing. I published an article called "WOMEN TAKE THE WHEEL, 10 WAYS TO SLAY GENDER DISCRIMINATION." I think about this phenomenon of what holds women back and how to remove barriers for women to increase their assertiveness, respect, and pay a lot.

I see the path forward for gender equity as an inside-out job. Internally, it requires us to do an enormous amount of work establishing our goals, boundaries, and seeking mentors. We must see ourselves as leaders, not vicitims. Externally, we must demand that companies, communities, and partners step up and commit to gender equity as well. This can be done by demanding equal pay, policy work, shared domestic work, and inclusive and intentional allyship.

Historically, women were forbidden economic and social independence in a myriad of forms. The realities of 2021/2022, espcially the data on the impact of the pandemic on women have revealed that women continue to shoulder the majority of the family caregiving in addition to their professional responsibilities. The time is now to elevate our voices and choose leadership, not ask for it.

Check out the article here:

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, "Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." President Biden remembered this when he nominated her as the first woman Secretary of the Treasury, and today, she serves as the 78th Secretary of the Treasury. What three characteristics do you think are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
SHANNON ROHRER-PHILLIPS: Our country is incredibly divided right now. Consensus building, and buildng bridges has never been more important. The three characteristics I see as essential for consensus building are:

(1) Identify the "Big Idea" and objective as a group.
(2) Demonstrate strong listening skills and validation of all opinions and ideas.
(3) Negotiate an agreement and invite all to implement.

QUESTION: What is your favorite quote from former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and why?

SHANNON ROHRER-PHILLIPS: "Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." We achieve power and progress in numbers! I've always believed that effective work for women's equality and diversity, equity and inclusion means we must learn how to compromise, show humility, listen, resist the temptation to be right, and find ways to connect around similarities. We are seeking progress, not perfection, on our path toward equality.

TWEET THIS: We are seeking progress, not perfection, on our path toward equality. -@srpllc1 #EqualityforWomen #EqualPayforEqualWork #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: The world has changed dramatically over the last few years due to the covid pandemic as well as the #BlackLivesMatter movement and fallout from the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby trials. As a result, how do you think workplaces can implement DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives and actually implement genuine change?

SHANNON ROHRER-PHILLIPS: In my opinion, all employers must begin with a current DEI climate Survey and re-administer them frequently. This allows teams to see where their employees, stakeholders, and organization stands with all forms of DEI including race, gender, ability, age, language, religion and more.

Once that data is reviewed, leadership must commit to assembling a DEI Board, Committee or task force that creates a strategic DEI plan with benchmarks and deliverables. Solutions that yield DEI success in organizations include: employee training, pay equity assessments, diversifying talent pipelines, diversifying supply chains, leadership embrace of DEI, marketing and messaging, reaching out to new customer markets, and demonstrating inclusivity in the core values of the organizational culture.

People need to feel valued for who they are in their workplace. The DEI Board/Committee must ensure that they not only track progress and outcomes, but create a safe and supportive place for all staff to process their obstacles, challenges, and achievements.

TWEET THIS: People need to feel valued for who they are in their workplace. -@srpllc1 #EmployeeExperience #DEI #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Which three leaders inspire you, from business or history, and why?

(1) Michelle Obama: As the first African-American First Lady, a best-selling author, attorney, mother, education champion, and healthy family advocate, her self-confidence is radiant and has inspired women and girls across the globe.  

(2) Nely Galan-Nely: She is a media mogul and former President of Entertainment for Telemundo. Her book Self Made is a call to action for all women to seek economic empowerment. My favorite Nelyism is: "To be Chosen, Choose Yourself First."

(3) Gloria Steinem: I was deeply inspired by Gloria's book The Revolution From Within as a child. Her approach and lifelong dedication to intersectional feminism, community organizing, and women's rights blazed the trail for all of us.

My thanks to Shannon for sharing her inspiring leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Shannon Rohrer-Phillips and Debbie Laskey.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Is There a Cookie-Cutter Mold for Leaders?

Over the last 13 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Lori Dernavich from New York. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Lori's bio.

Lori Dernavich is a Leadership Development Advisor and Executive Coach. She partners with leaders and their organizations to develop the skills they’ll need to scale. With additional background as a food scientist and psychotherapist, Lori’s background gives her an in-depth understanding of a wide variety of personalities, functions, and industries. Connect and follow on Twitter (@LoriDernavich), and on her website at

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, how has it impacted the role of leadership?

LORI DERNAVICH: COVID has certainly required more from leaders. They’ve had to go well beyond managing day-to-day activities and become laser-focused on clearly communicating vision, context, intentions, expectations, and accountability. Great leaders have recognized the necessity of paying attention to employee mental and emotional well-being too. I often coach leaders in the lifescience and biotech industries. Many of these leaders come from academia, where they weren’t taught how to be strong leaders. The COVID silver lining is watching these folks step up their leadership game quickly and wonderfully.       

TWEET THIS: Great leaders have recognized the necessity of paying attention to employee mental and emotional well-being too. -@LoriDernavich #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How do you differentiate between management and leadership?

LORI DERNAVICH: In my opinion, management is about the work people are doing. Leadership is more about the people doing the work. Management is about taking care of the day-to-day management of work, like creating and managing timelines and tasks. Leadership is about caring and growing the people you hope will want to follow you.

TWEET THIS: Leadership is about caring and growing the people you hope will want to follow you. -@LoriDernavich #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can people without grandiose titles lead others and/or make a positive impact in the workplace?

LORI DERNAVICH: People can become leaders long before they ever have direct reports. To make a positive impact, build your network within the organization to build your personal brand. Great leaders get rid of obstacles so their direct reports can focus on their jobs.

Think about how you can be of value and remove obstacles for others. That could be as simple as offering to schedule meetings, taking and distributing meeting notes, or staying late to help finish a project.

TWEET THIS: People can become leaders long before they ever have direct reports. -@LoriDernavich #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can a CEO be an effective brand ambassador?

LORI DERNAVICH: A CEO needs to be passionate about their company to the outside world, but it’s just as necessary for a CEO to show that passion internally too. Whether you’re charismatic or not, meet with employees. Ask them what they like about working there, what they wish they could improve, and whether they’d recommend the company to a friend. Show employees you care about them and that they’re integral to the company’s success.

QUESTION 5: To quote Peter Drucker, “There may be born leaders, but there surely are far too few to depend on them. Leadership must be learned.” What does this quote mean to you?

LORI DERNAVICH: We must invest in employees at every level of a company. There is no cookie-cutter mold for leaders. Give me someone who is open to always learning, shows humility, and exhibits empathy, and the rest can be taught. Actually, while empathy comes naturally for some, I even think it can be learned.

TWEET THIS: There is no cookie-cutter mold for leaders. -@LoriDernavich #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): “Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?

LORI DERNAVICH: Empathy, removing obstacles, believing in your people, and being willing to go to bat for them.

My thanks to Lori for sharing her inspiring leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog. Is anyone else craving cookies now?

Image Credit: Wordswag app.

Monday, January 10, 2022

2021 Was the Year of #BRANDIDENTITY Changes

Was your brand in the news during 2021? If not, don’t despair. There were many other brands that made headlines during 2021.

Here’s a recap of 15 interesting brands that either rebranded, changed their logo, co-branded, or changed their name during 2021.

* The 2,800-unit sandwich chain Jimmy John's began the year with a new look and logo for typography, packaging, illustrations, and uniforms.

* Major league baseball team the Cleveland Indians transitioned to the Cleveland Guardians. The decision to change the team's nickname was a desire to be more inclusive, which led to a survey of 40,000 fans and 140 hours of interviews with fans, community leaders, and front-office personnel. According to the team, "When facing the 43-foot "Guardians of Traffic" that have stood tall for nearly 100 years on the Hope Memorial Bridge, Progressive Field looms in the background. The two are now forever connected, the sculptures that have served the city as beacons of progress now trickling over to the city's baseball team."

* Auto brand Kia unveiled a new logo and brand slogan: "Movement that inspires."

* Auto brand Volvo changed its logo for the first time in seven years. Named "Volvo Iron Mark," the logo is the same shape as the male symbol and the scientific symbol for iron.

* Auto brand General Motors unveiled its new logo with a nod toward its electric future, since it resembles an electric plug. The new logo was tied into a new marketing campaign entitled, "Everybody In," which laid the groundwork for the automaker as it aimed to put drivers into electric vehicles (EVs) and begin the slow march away from the internal-combustion engine.

* Oscar Mayer, the packaged foods brand marketed by Kraft Heinz, partnered with Lyft to add its signature Wienermobile into the ride-hailing app's fleet. Lyft users in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta had the opportunity to be picked up by the 27-foot hot dog vehicle. Driven by two five-star-rated "Hotdoggers," Wienermobiles were decked out with music, neon lights, free shirts, and hot dog masks. This campaign was unveiled in the midst of an overhaul of the Oscar Mayer brand, a 138-year-old brand that struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

* Fast-food chain Burger King underwent the biggest brand evolution in more than 20 years with a new color scheme, uniforms, a custom font called "Flame," and an overhauled logo. A designer for the brand explained that the new logo "can be seen better on the small screen, clearly important during the digital age in which more orders are being made using smartphones."

* Food brand Velveeta changed its logo and tagline. With more people staying and cooking at home during the COVID-19 era, food brands have become more prominent. Another Kraft brand, Philadelphia cream cheese was more often MIA on supermarket shelves throughout 2021.

* Drug manufacturer and COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer unveiled its most significant brand refresh in 70 years with a new logo. The company began a shift in 2019 away from a diverse collection of consumer brands to a more science-driven agenda creating prescription drugs and vaccines.

* Nonprofit organization Canine Companions for Independence changed its name, tagline, and logo. The organization changed its name to Canine Companions and its tagline to "Lead with Independence." According to the press release, "The new logo captures the belief that the human-canine bond makes us all stronger. The dog and human connect to form a unified, heart-like shape, underscoring the strength of the relationship and illustrating how service dog teams help each other feel empowered and valued. Additionally, the human is based on the letter "I" to connect back to the life-changing independence that Canine Companions service dogs provide."

* Social media icon Facebook rebranded and became known as Meta. Facebook and its family of apps (Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp) will be a division of a larger Meta company still led by founder Mark Zuckerberg that will also focus on AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and metaverse efforts. On December 1, the company's stock ticker changed from FB to MVRS.

* Retail brand The Dollar Store added $1.25 and $1.50 price points. So, how can the store known for selling everything for one dollar continue to operate with the same name? Won't the brand identity be damaged? How can "Dollar Days" continue? Talk about misleading brand identity.

* The Israeli city of Tel Aviv took over the rein from Paris and Singapore as the world's most expensive city. Is that a moniker that a city would like? How does that impact marketing the city from a travel perspective?

* The California city of Los Angeles unveiled a new logo inspired by sunsets and car culture. While the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board wanted a memorable logo, nothing can rival the "I Love New York" tagline when it comes to city brands. Will the new logo still be around during the 2028 Summer Olympics? Time will tell.

* Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers since 1999, will be no more. AEG announced that Staples Center would be renamed Arena in December.

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/fan/stakeholder recognition? These are important questions to consider before making any strategic branding changes.

What brand change stood out to you during 2021? Please chime in.

Image Credits: Canine Companions, Pfizer, General Motors, and Oscar Mayer/Lyft.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Does Your Organization Have Culture Champions and Cultural Stewards?

Over the last 13 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Gregg Vanourek based in Denver, Colorado. We recently had a discussion about leadership and culture, and highlights follow below Gregg's bio.

Gregg Vanourek is an author and entrepreneurial leader. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose and passion, co-authored with Christopher Gergen) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (called “the best book on leadership since Good to Great,” co-authored with Bob Vanourek). His writing has appeared in or been reviewed by the New York Times, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, and more. He is adjunct faculty at the University of Denver, Stockholm Business School, and Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. Connect and follow on Twitter (@gvanourek), Facebook (, Gregg's website (,  Triple Crown Leadership website (, and watch his TEDx talk (

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, how has it impacted the role of leadership?

GREGG VANOUREK: We’ve all been tested by the pandemic, and especially leaders. Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, once said, “Bad companies are destroyed by crises; good companies survive them; great companies are improved by them.”

We saw how humanity, grace, and love rose to the surface during the pandemic. Organizations are communities, not just workplaces. With the best leaders, we’ve seen a renewed focus on humanity and community, the giving and receiving of grace, bonds between people during brutal times, and the common challenge of overcoming hardship together. Leaders have had to double down on empathy, vulnerability, trust, authenticity, communication, and integrity — always important for leaders, but even more so during a crisis. The pandemic has called into question what kind of work and workplaces we want, and it’s an opportunity to accelerate our move toward “conscious capitalism” via conscious leadership.

TWEET THIS: Organizations are communities, not just workplaces. -@gvanourek #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?

GREGG VANOUREK: We like to change the focus from the “leader” to “leadership” — to the act of leading (which can be done by anyone, regardless of their position). With leadership, it helps to know what your ultimate aims are — your “quest,” as we call it. Where are you going, and what kind of organization would you like to build? With that in mind, our top three are “excellent” (achieving exceptional results and impacts not just for shareholders but also for employees, customers, suppliers, partners, and communities), “ethical” (doing the right thing, even when it’s costly or hard), and “enduring” (standing the test of time and operating sustainably, i.e., being excellent and ethical over the long run). Put together, that’s what we call “triple crown leadership” (which is exceedingly rare).

A little clarity: The "we" refers to my Triple Crown Leadership book co-author (Bob Vanourek, my father) and me.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?

GREGG VANOUREK: An executive can become an organization’s number-one brand ambassador by maniacally focusing on the shared purpose, values, and vision of the organization and communicating them repeatedly for consistency. (It goes without saying that the shared purpose, values, and vision must be genuine and not just words on the website. The key is to inculcate them into the organization’s DNA.)

When we interviewed Dr. Shirley M. Tilghman when she was president of Princeton University, she said, “My most important job is to articulate clearly and consistently what the values of the institution are.” We agree, but we’d also add purpose and vision.

A counterintuitive key of becoming a number-one brand ambassador is to talk mostly about others (team, customers, partners, community) and not make it about you as the CEO. People want to know how your organization will help them with their problems or dreams, not why you are so good.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO create a culture that inspires employees?

GREGG VANOUREK: Here are the ways:
* Place the shared purpose, values, and vision at the center of everyone’s agenda.
* Make culture-building a priority by placing it on weekly agendas and priority lists across departments.
* Appoint culture champions: Empower a small group of trusted colleagues across departments to be proactive about culture recommendations and to take independent action.
* Unleash what we call cultural stewards. Though people all work in their functional areas (HR, IT, Sales, etc.), they should all have another job: steward of the culture. That means they have an irrevocable license to speak up, protecting and defending the desired culture and shared values.
* Celebrate and reward people who serve as cultural stewards though public recognition, awards, bonuses, raises, and promotions.
* Be a role model for the desired behaviors in the organization, including doing what you say you’d do, admitting and taking responsibility for mistakes, actively soliciting feedback (and responding to it), and demonstrating character, competence, courage, passion and emotional intelligence.
* Conduct periodic assessments: Monitor the culture regularly and take decisive action when problems arise.

QUESTION: In a post on your Blog entitled, “The Trap of Caring Too Much about What Other People Think,” you wrote, “The problem is when we’re so influenced by what others think - or, to be precise, what we think others will think — that it causes us to make choices that won’t serve us well over time.” What was the impetus in writing this post, and the background behind it, as it impacts leadership?

(Check out the post here:

GREGG VANOUREK: The idea was that caring too much about what others think can cause us to drift away from who we really are and what we really want to do. We lose bits of ourselves because we’re haunted by the expectations of others. I can relate to this as the son of a five-time CEO and one who has moved around so much and felt the pain of not fitting in, and I see it in many of my students and clients. Much of leadership is an inner game, and it begins with leading ourselves first, including our mindset and self-talk. Can we let go of all the noise and just do our best and trust that all will be okay? A key here is taking the focus off ourselves (how we’re viewed and whether we’re successful or appreciated) and switching the focus to serving and being in relationship with others.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?

GREGG VANOUREK: It’s a great quote! It reminds me of what Robert Greenleaf called “servant leadership”: an approach focused on putting the needs of others first, helping people develop and perform, and sharing power.

In our “triple crown leadership” framework, we talk about leadership as a group performance, not a solo endeavor. The best leaders unleash other leaders throughout the organization, giving them an automatic license to lead and to take ownership and initiative, as long as they uphold the shared values.

Unless you multiply your efforts by unleashing other people and inspiring their full engagement, you will drown in your overflowing inbox. So, yes, block and tackle for others, but also serve and unleash them and then see how they soar!

My thanks to Gregg for sharing his inspiring leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Branding Inspiration from Betty White

The initial shock has dissipated, but the sadness remains. But does it? Betty White gave us an amazing gift, the gift of laughter, and even now, after her death, she would want us to smile and laugh when we think of her.

Many in Betty’s industry, the entertainment industry, have shared their favorite memories and tributes. Betty was in three successful television shows from different eras: The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970’s, The Golden Girls in the 1980’s, and Hot in Cleveland from 2010-2015. She was also on the radio, appeared on game shows, and appeared in films. 

And throughout the years, she was a tireless advocate for wildlife and animal welfare – as well as a supporter of LGBT rights. She also earned several titles over the years including “First Lady of Game Shows,” “First Lady of Television,” “Honorary Mayor of Hollywood,” and “Ambassador to the Animals.”

But I put forward the idea that Betty White was actually a member of the marketing industry. She re-invented herself by starring in new TV shows and introducing herself to new generations of fans – including hosting Saturday Night Live in 2010 and appearing in an amusing Super Bowl ad for Snickers in 2010. The ad is viewable by clicking here:

A perfect example of her humor was evident in a 2012 interview with The New York Times. She said, “I’m a health nut. My favorite food is hot dogs with French fries. And my exercise: I have a two-story house and a very bad memory, so I’m up and down those stairs.”

She became legendary because she taught us all how to create a personal brand. The “Betty White Brand” represents laughter, happiness, and advocacy.  

So, what did YOU learn from Betty White? If you learned to laugh, respect animals, or re-invent your personal brand at any age, then Betty’s spirit will live forever.

Image Credit: Sacramento Zoo.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2021

With 2021 now history, it's time for my annual “Top 10” marketing highlights post – incredible that this is my 12th post featuring annual marketing highlights.

What do you remember from the 2021 marketing reel? 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!

A theme seems to be running through many of this year's highlights, and it involves words and language – very important in the marketing arena because communication is key.

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

NUMBER 10: There were two noteworthy announcements by Merriam-Webster. In January, it added the term "Second Gentleman" to describe Doug Emhoff's role. Emhoff is the husband of Kamala Harris, the first woman Vice President of the United States. And in November, it declared that the word of the year was "vaccine." According to Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor-at-large, "Vaccine was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021."

NUMBER 9: Budweiser's signature Clydesdale horses did not appear during the Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years. The company explained that the money that would have been spent for the ad, a reported $5.6 million, was shifted toward supporting a critical COVID-19 vaccine awareness ad campaign.

NUMBER 8: Mattel's Barbie line of dolls added former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to its "Inspiring Women" series. The addition was announced to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Other women in the series include Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Dr. Maya Angelou, Billie Jean King, Ella Fitzgerald, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson, Helen Keller, and Frida Kahlo.

NUMBER 7: Tiffany & Company had some fun on April Fool's Day. The brand known for its little blue boxes – often filled with diamond rings – changed its iconic blue color to yellow – just for the day.

NUMBER 6: Prince Phillip died at the age of 99 in April. Due to that loss combined with Prince Andrew's scandal and the exit by Prince Harry and Meghan, Queen Elizabeth introduced her core group for royal engagements: The Queen, Prince Charles, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Edward, and the Countess of Wessex.

NUMBER 5: Hershey's celebrated International Women's Day by emphasizing the SHE in HERSHEY. According to Veronica Villasenor, vice president of Chocolate for the Hershey Company, "We want to encourage everyone to share some extra goodness and take a moment to celebrate the "SHEs": the women and girls who have inspired us, motivated us, and have made a positive change in our lives."

NUMBER 4: With COVID-19 on everyone's mind and vaccines readily available, Krispy Kreme offered a free glazed doughnut a day to anyone who showed a vaccination card at its stores throughout 2021. According to Dave Skena, Chief Marketing Officer of Krispy Kreme, "Whatever little things brands can do to help make it past the pandemic are good things."

NUMBER 3: President Joe Biden formally recognized atrocities against Armenians as "genocide." The term was avoided by his predecessors for decades over concerns of alienating Turkey. This announcement was especially important because Biden campaigned on a promise to make human rights a central component of his foreign policy.

NUMBER 2: The Walt Disney Company removed the words "Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls" from its greeting from its Florida Magic Kingdom fireworks show and changed it to "Good evening, dreamers of all ages." According to a spokesperson, Disney announced that it was adding "inclusion" as a fifth key component of its customer service: "We want our guests to see their own backgrounds and traditions reflected in the stories, experiences, and products they encounter in their interactions with Disney."

And NUMBER 1 on my 2021 Marketing Highlights List:

Drum roll please...

NUMBER 1: Space tourism became a reality. Billionaires and celebrities became astronauts for a brief period, about 10 minutes. Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson, and Star Trek actor William Shatner were three of a select few who went into space and safely returned. Only time will tell how many people will pay the big bucks (ranging from $200,000 to $28 million) for their own space travel adventure.

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2022 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credits: Krispy Kreme and Hershey's.