Apr 13

BRAND BITE – #UnitedWeAreNot

United Airlines is in a tough spot—and they did it to themselves. Clearly, the behavior of United representatives and airport security crossed many, many boundaries, but when your brand is wrapped around a positioning of customer service and positive experience (not to mention boasting a tagline of ‘Fly the Friendly Skies’), this incident and everything surrounding it was nothing less than brand blasphemy.


Brand Thought

Strong and beloved brands can and do recover from slip-ups.  (Do you recall the Tylenol tampering incident several years ago? Or the failed introduction of New Coke?). But the brands in question must respond swiftly, appropriately and genuinely. United did anything but. The lasting impact on their brand value, customer loyalty and reputation is an unknown at this point, but every move United Airlines makes in the foreseeable future better be smart, strategic and focused on bringing back the friendly skies if they stand a chance of a healthy recovery.

Sep 07


In this business, you’ve got to be moving forward, thinking ahead, and breaking new ground to keep your brand relevant and interesting. But, sometimes a peek backwards can be a good thing. So courtesy of HubSpot, we can take a well-organized look at 12 of the most memorable and successful ad campaigns…ever.

I recall every single one of these campaigns, even if #4, #5 and #9 were before my time. They are iconic examples of great advertising, so as a student of marketing, they were part of my vocabulary. As I look at them with a fresh eye today, I have the same reaction I did the first time I saw them: Remarkable. Brilliant. Artfully strategic. Every one of them. Why? Because they tapped into the emotional connection between brand, culture and consumer. When you do that, you’re destined for greatness. So take a look back. Then move forward.




  1. Nike: Just Do It.
  2. Absolut Vodka: The Absolut Bottle
  3. Miller Lite: Great Taste, Less Filling
  4. Volkswagen: Think Small
  5. Marlboro: Marlboro Man
  6. California Milk Processor Board: Got Milk?
  7. Dove: Real Beauty
  8. Apple: Get a Mac
  9. Clairol: Does She or Doesn’t She?
  10. De Beers: A Diamond is Forever
  11. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
  12. Wendy’s: Where’s the Beef?



Mar 18

Daring or Dumb?

As you may know, Cadillac is repositioning the luxury car brand. They want to wipe the slate clean. They’ve gone so far as to disconnect with their parent brand, GM, by physically moving away from its Detroit headquarters into the trendy SoHo area of NYC. They’ve also decided their Boomer target audience is tiring (probably not a bad assumption), and have leapt over Gen Y to focus on Gen X. They sport a new campaign line “Dare Greatly” (a far cry from the previous,“Work Hard. Be Lucky.”—what does that even mean?). They’ve fired their Detroit agency and hired one in New York.
But a new location, a new target audience and a new agency, do not a new brand make. It’s hard to believe it could be true, what with all the work that’s gone into these decisions, but it sure looks like these separate moves may be ignoring the intersection between culture, brand and target audience—an alignment that is necessary in a successful repositioning formula. You can’t just wish a new reality true. It has to be true. So I wonder, is this a brave move for Cadillac or a move that will prove fatal?


See the commercial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGhaOV0BPmA

Feb 23

True Perspectives

Author Andy Crouch identified ‘the self shot’ as one of the top trends of the past decade. I find that pretty interesting. At first thought it seems so small and insignificant in the context of trends. But when you look deeper, it begins to make sense. Think about the fact that before the Selfie, pretty much the only way we could get a direct picture of ourselves, by ourselves, was through the view of a mirror. It’s a view that’s distorted; what’s left is right and what’s right is left. It’s not quite true or real.

Now, with the common place use of the Selfie, we can, with little effort, see ourselves the way others see us…with no distortion. That reality changes the way we present ourselves for public viewing. And I would argue it’s had an impact on our desire to become a little more ‘perfect’ for the world; now that we really see what others see. So, it’s not just a different way to take a picture, it’s a different self-awareness perspective. That’s where the significance for society lies and that’s why a small thing like a new way to take a picture has changed the way we interact with each other and feel about ourselves. That’s the sort of thing trends are made of. I get it now.


Feb 12

Mind Over Money

Over the past decade, there’s been a mind-shift toward money. Especially when it comes to how trusting we are about advice, investments and security. Put simply, we aren’t. We don’t trust that our money is safe just because someone tells us it is (think Bernie Madoff and Enron). We’re paying closer attention; taking control of our own finances. Even elevating the importance of saving. But sometimes, just sometimes, we need a little push. Enter some helpful motivators. Take Acorns (acorns.com) for instance, an app that rounds up user’s purchases to the nearest dollar and automatically invests the difference into stocks of their choice. Or Common Pence (commonpence.co), which donates leftover change from London’s Oyster travel passes to charities (well, OK, this one speaks to our philanthropic side, but at least we’re not just wasting the change). Or Digit (digit.co) which automates user’s savings by moving small amounts of money into a savings account each week. Taking control of our financial destiny…for our own good… just needs a little push sometimes. Thank goodness for technology and the smart minds that created it based on what they knew was best for us.


Nov 20

Local is as local does

A key societal trend we’ve been experiencing in the past few years is the idea of localization. Buy local, see local, be local. As a society, we seem to be ever-more interested in finding ways to support our local economy…and in finding ways to feel at home, even when we’re not. It’s a big trend that presents itself in all sorts of different ways, but we found ourselves wondering how the idea of ‘local’ comes into play when local is not home? When local is unfamiliar? When the local experience may only last a day or a week? In a nutshell, we wondered how the societal trend of localization dovetails with travel and tourism.

So, we did one of the things we like to do for anything we’re working on and that’s research. It didn’t take us long to find examples of new businesses being formed by grabbing hold of the idea and the possibilities.

Some examples:

If you want to go mountain climbing in a location you’re visiting, there are apps that help you meet up with potential hiking partners; it’s a bit like mountain climbing meets match making—your profiles have to line up or you won’t get that first wink. The added benefit? You’ve got someone from the area with familiarity and knowledge to share that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

If you’d prefer a more leisurely localized experience and you happen to be in Barcelona, sign up with Gourmet Bus and enjoy a local homemade meal while traveling through the countryside. You’ll get to experience food you may never have had before and you’ll feel right at home doing it.

And you’ll never get lost or make a bad sightseeing decision if you take advantage of ‘soul mate’ services such as Nectar & Pulse or Scouted. These services offer tips from locals to help you find your way around an unfamiliar city…they’ll even personally guide you. What better way to experience an unfamiliar town than by having those who know it best show you the ropes.

And I really love this one—if you happen to be going to Vienna, you can stay in a street loft hotel room with none of the usual amenities you generally find in hotels. That’s right. No amenities. The idea is to encourage tourists to get out and experience local businesses—to engage with the city they’re visiting and help out local businesses at the same time.

So there you have it…local doesn’t have to be close to home.