Monday, July 1, 2024

Marketing News of the Month: Partnerships, Pricing, Publicity, and More

During the month of June, there were many news stories that reflected advertising, brand identity, brand names, line extensions, personal branding, product launches, product pricing, publicity, and more.


During June, the American car industry was under attack, but not by a visible bad actor. This was a cyberattack so intrusive that dealerships were unable to service customers since their SaaS (software as a service) platform was held hostage. CDK, the San Jose-based (California) company that provides the software to over 15,000 dealers nationwide, was reportedly hit with ransomware. Dealers rely on the dealer management system software to complete deals, provide financing, track store profitability, and monitor employee compensation. According to JPMorgan analysts, "The disruption has plunged the auto industry into disarray." This is still a fluid situation as we enter July.


Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said that the threat that social media poses to children requires urgent action and has demanded that Congress put a warning label on apps similar to the warning labels that appear on cigarettes and alcohol. The Surgeon General cannot act on his own, thus, his request to Congress. While Congress has long criticized social media companies, claiming they cause harm to children, Congress has taken little action to curb children's social media usage. Interesting fact: The warning label on tobacco, first instituted in 1965, has led to a steady decline in cigarette smoking in America over the last five decades.


Costco has announced that it will pull back on selling books, and according to publishing industry rumors, has only committed to stocking books during the holiday sales period from September to December. In Canada, where Costco was once the second leading physical retailer of books, it has also been pulling back significantly.


To celebrate this year's National Donut Day on June 7th, Dunkin' teamed up with Scrub Daddy to create a limited-edition Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy. According to Scrub Daddy's website, "This delicious duo is perfect for scrubbing away donut crumbs and wiping up iced coffee spills...Despite appearing good enough to eat, these scrubbers are not for consumption...and edible donuts are not included."


Known for its customizable ice cream options, Cold Stone Creamery announced its partnership with Illumination's "Despicable Me 4" film with the release of its Despicamallow Ice Cream. According to a press release, "The new creation, called Mega Minion Marshmallow Meltdown, features Despicamallow Ice Cream, Chocolate Chips, Marshmallows, and Yellow & Blue Sprinkles, inspired by the mischievous antics of the Minions. Cold Stone will also feature Heist Cream Cake with layers of moist Yellow Cake and Despicamallow Ice Cream with Yellow & Blue Sprinkles and wrapped in fluffy White Frosting featuring the Mega Jerry Minion. Guests can dive into these limited-time offerings at participating Cold Stone Creamery locations nationwide June 12 through July 30."

According to Jana Schneider, Vice President of National Programs for Kahala Brands, the parent company of Cold Stone Creamery, "We can't wait for ice cream lovers and Despicable Me 4 fans to taste our new Despicamallow Ice Cream in a Creation or ice cream cake. Minions and ice cream are both guaranteed to make you smile - so put the two together, and we dare you not to have fun!"


Long known for both hot and cold coffee, Starbucks recently announced its PAIRINGS MENU with two new options:

*Starting at $5: A tall iced/hot coffee or tea paired with a butter croissant​.

*Starting at $6: A tall iced/hot coffee or tea paired with a breakfast sandwich.

Naturally, there's always a disclaimer: "Limited-time offer. At participating stores. No substitutions. Customizations may cost extra. Plus tax if applicable. Pairing costs $7 if ordering a Double Smoked Bacon, Pesto Egg Mozzarella or Impossible breakfast sandwich. Cannot be combined with other offers or discounts. Product availability varies by store. Starbucks Reserve coffees and ready-to-drink beverages excluded. Excludes delivery services."


The diner chain Perkins Restaurant and Bakery has changed its name after 66 years to Perkins American Food Co. This means that the word "bakery," which has been part of its brand identity for five decades, is disappearing, but actual bakeries will remain in the restaurants. According to Toni Ronayne, Perkins President, "The refreshed name really speaks to our American values and the American comfort food we deliver." In addition to the new name, the logo will update its green color, and restaurants will be remodeled featuring brighter flooring plus new tables, silverware, and uniforms.


In order to keep up with rising maintenance costs for the iconic monument in the French capital, the Eiffel Tower has increased its ticket price. The admission price has increased by 20 percent from 29 Euros ($31.91 USD) to 35 Euros ($38.31 USD) to help cover the costs of renovation work and financial losses during the covid pandemic. The Eiffel Tower welcomed a record 6.3 million visitors in 2023, the highest since 2015. Originally, Gustave Eiffel mandated the tower's repainting every seven years to preserve its structural integrity, however, the 20th repainting cycle commenced in 2020, eleven years overdue, due to funding and logistical challenges.


While many folks travel to San Diego for their summer get-aways, two giant pandas are en route from China to become the newest residents of the San Diego Zoo. These two pandas are the first pair to enter the United States in 21 years, but will not be viewable to the public for several weeks while they acclimate. The rare loan was finalized in February as part of what China refers to as "panda diplomacy." The pandas are "envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples," according to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.


The United States Postal Service announced that former "Jeopardy!" TV show host Alex Trebek will appear on a new Forever stamp. The stamp is designed in the style of "Jeopardy!" clues, where contestants answer with a question, reading: "This naturalized U.S. citizen hosted the quiz show 'Jeopardy!" for 37 seasons." The stamp will be available to purchase beginning July 22nd at post offices nationwide.


Have you ever heard of Luxembourg, or officially, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg? It is a small European country surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany. While its population is around 670,000 (in 2024), making it one of the least-populated countries in Europe, foreigners account for nearly half of the population. It is a representative democracy headed by a constitutional monarch, Grand Duke Henri, making it the world's only remaining sovereign grand duchy. And interesting fact, according to Wikipedia, "Being landlocked, Luxembourg has no navy."

Roughly six months after Queen Margrethe of Denmark abdicated the throne in favor of her son, Prince Frederik (now King Frederik), another European monarch has announced his abdication. Grand Duke Henri has announced that he will abdicate later this year after 24 years on the throne, and his son, Prince Guillaume will takeover.


One doesn't need to be a fan of the San Francisco Giants to be a fan of Willie Mays. Long considered to be one of the best all-around players in the history of baseball, Mays passed away on June 18th. According to Leo Durocher (a former Dodgers manager), "If somebody came up and hit .450, stole 100 bases, and performed a miracle in the field every day, I'd still look you in the eye and say Willie was better." On Mays' Baseball Hall of Fame page, "In 1954, in Game 1 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th inning with runners on first and second and no outs, Vic Wertz hit a towering drive that would have been a home run in most parks. Mays, playing shallow center field, took off and ran with his back to the ball, caught it over the shoulder an estimated 460 feet from the plate, turned, and fired. The Giants won the game and the World Series. "The Catch" is considered by many to be one of the greatest defensive plays in history." On a personal note, my father, despite being a lifelong Dodgers fan from age 7, was also a lifelong Willie Mays fan. Talk about the power of personal branding! 


Netflix announced that it will open two massive venues with experiences and shops themed to its shows. The experiential complexes called "Netflix Houses" will open in empty retail space in Dallas and Philadelphia. Critics of the expansion note that "attracting repeat business will be challenging." According to ABC, "For Netflix, it's just the latest move in a series of efforts to broaden its profile and income beyond standard streaming, even though the bulk of its profits come from its core business."


Environmental protesters sprayed orange powder paint on Britain's Stonehenge, and some of the protesters were arrested. While the protesters demand a treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030, causing damage to a nearly 5,000 year-old prehistoric monument was not the best form of protest. However, I'm writing about the protest here, so you be the judge.


Following the first Presidential debate of the 2024 Presidential Election year between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, the New York Times editorial board called for Presidential Biden to leave the 2024 Presidential race. This is historic for many reasons. First, the New York Times is known as a liberal publication. Second, while newspaper editorial boards often endorse candidates and issues, they do not often call for liberal incumbents to leave office. And third, what are the brand implications of this monumental decision? Will existing subscribers terminate their subscriptions or will new subscribers flock to the news publication?


Based on President Biden's disappointing performance at the first Presidential debate on June 27th, how will his personal brand survive all the negative buzz? Not only are members of the liberal mainstream media calling for him to leave the 2024 Presidential race, but high-ranking members of his own party are doing the same.


New Balance has partnered with Archive, a resale company, to launch its in-store trade-in program in nearly 100 participating U.S. retail locations. When customers bring in gently worn footwear, they will receive a voucher for their next purchase. Interesting fact: According to New Balance, secondhand products supplied by customers sell 2.6 times faster than its new products.


Walmart became the latest retailer to announce that it will replace price stickers in its aisles with electronic shelf labels. Nearly 2,300 stores will have the digitized shelf labels by 2026. According to NPR, "The new labels will allow employees to change prices as often as every 10 seconds. If it's hot outside, we can raise the price of water and ice cream. If there's something that's close to the expiration date, we can lower the price." While Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods already have electronic shelf labels, here's an interesting fact: Digitized shelf labels are more common in stores across Europe.


During her time in London, superstar Taylor Swift may have taken selfies with Prince William and family, but even more significant, she became part of the London Underground. Using the hashtags #LDNTaylorsVersion and #LondonTSTheErasTour, the London Transport social platforms re-created a map of the Tube stations and inserted names of some of her songs. Here was the message included with the updated Tube map: "Introducing Tube Map, Taylor's Version: We're delighted that Taylor Swift has chosen to perform more nights of her record-breaking Eras Tour in London than anywhere else in the world - a huge boost to London's economy. We're expecting to see lots of Swifties across TfL services this week. To everyone visiting London, welcome!"


Two terms have appeared as a result of Swift's international fame: "Visitor Economy" and "Economic Fairy Dust" = the impact on local economies where she performs because visitors flock to each location's airports, hotels, restaurants, and more - and Swift dusts the cities with an economic boom.


This summer, Regal Cinemas is offering $1 movie prices as part of its Summer Movie Express promotion. Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 11am, family friendly movies will cost $1 from mid-June until August 7th. The list of eligible movies includes: "Despicable Me 3," "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway," "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," and "PAW Patrol: The Movie."


Apple edged past Microsoft in mid-June to become the most valuable U.S. public company. Apple's market cap closed at roughly $3.29 trillion (USD), above Microsoft's $3.28 trillion (USD).


Since June was Pride Month, what did your brand do to recognize, celebrate, and promote the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equality? What did your brand do to support the LGBTQ+ community? Did you change your logo, add a tagline, or place a Pride flag at your physical headquarters or on your main website?

And on a related note to the food-related updates in this month-end recap, what is a food famous on July 4th? If you answered Nathan's due to the annual hot dog eating competition, then you're correct. Each year, nearly two million people watch Nathan's hot dog eating contest, according to ESPN; and tens of thousands of spectators arrive at Brooklyn's Coney Island to watch the event in person. The first contest was in 1972, when PR experts Max Rosey and Mortimer Matz thought that a hot dog eating competition would drum up publicity for Nathan's.

With all these product partnerships and co-branding initiatives, one wonders if brands need partnerships to make their products more appealing. Are these brands not strong enough on their own, or are they simply adding some pizzazz? Are these alignments appropriate for the brands, and will they lead to increased sales?

What other recent marketing buzz caught your attention? There's always something happening that impacts marketing, so tune in to #DebbieLaskeysBlog for the scoop! (No pun intended due to the ice cream references in this post!)

Image Credits: Cold Stone Creamery and Scrub Daddy.

For more details about the Eiffel Tower:



See Great Towers Around the World:

Learn 10 Interesting Facts about Stonehenge:

Learn about the history of the Pride flag:


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