Friday, January 19, 2018

A Not-So-Sweet Brand Story

Did you hear the food industry news this past week? Nestle, the world’s largest food company according to Forbes, sold its U.S. confectionery business to Italian chocolatier Ferrero. You may be familiar with Nestle’s iconic American sweets including Nestle Crunch, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Raisinets, Nips, Skinny Cow, and Laffy Taffy.

Nestle’s mission is “Enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future.” With U.S. confectionery sales just 3% of the overall company’s sales during 2016, CEO Mark Schneider explained, “This move allows Nestle to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals, and infant nutrition.” Nestle’s brands in these categories include Purina, Coffee-Mate, Gerber, and Stouffer’s.

New owner Ferrero, headquartered in Luxembourg, is best known for Ferrero Rocher chocolates as well as Nutella and TicTacs. This acquisition will make Ferrero the third-largest chocolate confectionery in the world, according to London-based market research company Euromonitor International. And now, Ferrero will become a well-known brand in the United States.

What do you think? Has Nestle diluted its brand equity as a result of this sale? Do you associate Nestle with sweet brands and confections? The company began in 1866 as a milk and infant cereal company, and in 1875, began making milk chocolate. Whether you agree or disagree with the sale, it will be hard to see Nestle products under the umbrella of another brand.

Image Credit: Nestle.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ten Useful Brand Marketing Hashtags

Thanks to social media, hashtags have become an excellent marketing tool when reaching out to customers and potential customers. Whenever a hashtag or number sign (#) is inserted in front of a word or phrase, it brings attention to the word or phrase and facilitates online searches. Hashtags have become useful throughout social media but are most widely used on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google Plus.

According to Wikipedia, a hashtag "makes it possible for (people) to easily find a specific theme or content...If promoted by enough individuals, a hashtag can 'trend' and attract more individual users...Because of its widespread use, ‘hashtag’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014."

While there are countless marketing hashtags, here are ten focused on branding and brand-building:

[1] #BrandExperience
When talking about the impact a brand makes on its customers, fans, or stakeholders, the term is brand experience. A positive brand experience can create a customer for life, and by contrast, a negative brand experience can be a brand’s worst nightmare due to the power of word-of-mouth marketing. All brands should focus on their brand experience, and always walk a mile in their customers’ shoes. Use this hashtag to showcase your overall brand experience and to attract more fans, followers, and customers.

[2] #BrandStorytelling
What story does your brand tell? Consider Apple, Tiffany & Co., and Amazon. What are their stories? Their mission statements easily tell their stories. Use this hashtag to tell stories that will engage your followers and fans.

[3] #BrandPositioning
Is your brand an industry leader or a follower? How do you position your brand in the marketplace? Consider Avis and its tagline: “We're #2 – We Try Harder.” Avis may not be the biggest car rental agency, but its tagline sticks out. Consider the Energizer Bunny – who doesn’t think of the pink bunny when a wireless mouse or keyboard needs new batteries? And while the golden arches of McDonald’s appear on almost every corner around the world, Burger King’s emphasis on bigger and cheaper hamburgers have developed a large following. There are advantages to being #2. One advantage to being #2 is the ability to create unique product specifications and/or packaging since no one expects you to be different. Other advantages include the ability to tweak pricing, the ability to align or partner with totally unconventional companies or brands, and the ability to change packaging or advertising just to see how consumers react. Use this hashtag to explain your brand positioning and how you excel – wherever you fit into your industry.

[4] #BrandStrategy
According to Bernadette Jiwa (@bernadettejiwa), “We think our job is to change how people feel about our product or service. But, in fact, our job is to change how people feel about themselves when they use that product or service.” Use this hashtag to highlight some aspect of your brand marketing strategy.

[5] #BrandPromise
What is your brand’s competitive advantage? Do your employees know, and can all of them clearly articulate your brand promise? From the CEO on down, commit to delivering your brand promise to customers. Use this hashtag to highlight your brand promise and show how you deliver.

[6] #BrandConsistency
How do you present your brand to your target audiences? If you have a tagline, specific colors in your logo, or words that represent your brand, all must be included on a consistent basis whenever talking about your brand. If you’re inconsistent, not only will you confuse your audiences, but you may lose customers. Use this hashtag to demonstrate ways that your brand is consistent.

[7] #BrandVoice

How does your brand speak to all of your audiences? Do you use industry-specific jargon? Are you formal or informal? Are you consistent with your brand voice throughout all social platforms? Consider these questions as you build and maintain your digital brand. Use this hashtag when something you post/say is in line with all your other brand assets.

[8] #BrandRelevance
How relevant is your brand? While it may be top of mindshare to your employees and key stakeholders, it may not be well-known outside of your circle of influencers.  Use this hashtag to demonstrate the strengths and unique attributes you contribute to your industry and the community-at-large. You may be surprised by how your brand recognition grows.

[9] #BrandIdentity
According to David Aaker (@DavidAaker), “An extended identity can help a brand break out of the box…consider the strategic role of the Wells Fargo stagecoach in the brand’s awareness level.” Use this hashtag to explain elements in your brand story, as well as your values and culture.

[10] #BrandAmbassador
Today, every employee has the potential to represent your brand. Therefore, leaders must ask, “Do employees have enough information to explain our competitive advantage? Can they articulate the brand promise in one or two sentences? Do they know who handles customer service complaints or press inquiries?” If the answers to these questions are no, then ask yourself this important question: How can my employees be enthusiastic brand ambassadors? The answer may force leaders to create a culture where innovation is promoted and recognized, where questions are answered, where good work is rewarded, and where leadership is transparent. Engaged employees will emerge – people who will live and breathe your brand on a daily basis. Use this hashtag to provide assistance to create brand ambassadors – and to highlight and thank your existing ambassadors.

On a related note, there are two other hashtags that you should also keep in mind. #EmployerBranding is useful when looking for top quality candidates. Show job applicants that your company, business, or nonprofit cares about employees by being conscious of your employer brand. And #PersonalBranding is an important hashtag because every individual is a brand and has something unique to offer.

I’d like to end with my favorite quote about branding. Ken Peters (@brand_BIG) said it best, “Advertising shouts at you. Marketing talks to you. Branding connects with you.”

What do you think? Chime in with your fave brand marketing hashtag.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2017

With 2017 now history, it's time for my annual "Top 10" marketing highlights post – incredible to believe this is my 8th annual post featuring annual marketing highlights. Without further ado, let's get to it! What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history as memorable as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad? What do you remember from the 2017 marketing reel?

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

Number 10: On January 1, 2017, residents of Los Angeles, California, were welcomed not by the well-known Hollywood sign over Hollywood, but instead, by a sign that read Hollyweed. With the legalization of recreational marijuana, some vandals thought they would play a joke on the city. Jokes of this magnitude are not funny, and law enforcement certainly didn't think so.

Number 9: In March, international brand Coca-Cola fired its chief marketing officer (CMO) and chose NOT to hire a new one. As a result, the role of the CMO was put into question not just at Coke, but at other businesses too - large and small, B2B and B2C.

According to Fergus Jarvis on, "Once upon a time, the chief marketing officer was a simple custodian of a brand. But the role is changing rapidly. Nowadays, they are more deeply involved in a business’ proposition, customer journey, technology and sales. Consequently, marketing functions face immense pressure on resources and bandwidth. But on the flip side, never before has the function been so business-critical or the CMO’s importance to the chief executive so self-evident. Ironically, while the function’s work is becoming more strategically important to the business, CMOs are running to keep up with the tactical demands of a vast and fast-changing digital landscape."

Number 8: In April, United Airlines forcefully removed a passenger from one of its airplanes, and in the modern social media and smartphone era, the violent action was taped by many passengers and picked up by major news sources. The public relations crisis that followed did nothing to restore the public's confidence in United Airlines or its personnel. According to Steve Barrett of PR Week, "Communication, especially in a service business such as an airline, starts with every member of staff that interacts with the public. You earn your reputational chops every day, from the CEO down."

Number 7: In May, after a year of working with guest hosts, Kelly Ripa of morning TV talk show fame finally welcomed a new co-host, Ryan Seacrest. The ABC morning show was quickly and seamlessly re-branded from "Live with Kelly" to "Live with Kelly and Ryan."

Number 6: In June, to celebrate the legacy of Adam West, better known by his alter ego Batman, the city of Los Angeles became Gotham City for one night, when the bat-signal was projected, aka, lit, against City Hall.

Number 5: In August, Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week launched a slew of co-branded partnerships - some more appropriate than others - that included Southwest Airlines, Oceana, Georgetown Cupcake, Lokai, Coldstone Creamery, and the National Aquarium located in Washington, D.C.

Number 4: Did you see the total solar eclipse in August? According to NASA, "Experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens about once in 375 years. So, unless modern medicine advances considerably in the next few years, you might not make it to the next one. The last time anyone in the United States witnessed a total solar eclipse was almost 40 years ago, on February 26, 1979. It's been even longer - 99 years - since a total solar eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The total eclipse on June 8, 1918, passed from Washington to Florida." So, with all the buzz about the eclipse, how did brands capitalize on the buzz and also join in the fun? One brand in particular has hit a home run with its marketing campaign to promote the eclipse. For the first time, Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Doughnuts was "eclipsed by a mouth-watering chocolate glaze" that coincided with the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, at participating United States shops. (Click here to read my post on the eclipse.)

Number 3: In September, Paris won the 2024 Olympics, and Los Angeles won the 2028 Olympics in an unprecedented joint decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). While the Paris logo incorporated the Eiffel Tower and was an overall good logo, the LA logo was not such a good choice. Designers explained that the setting sun was the inspiration, but it had no references to either the logo from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics or the city overall.

Number 2: Also in September, Hillary Clinton's long-awaited book entitled WHAT HAPPENED about the 2016 presidential election was released. The title could have been What Happened? or even What Happened!, but without any punctuation, the title was not as powerful as it could have been. The jury remains out about the book, and as 2017 drew to a close, Hillary's impact on the future of the Democratic party was still unclear.

And Number 1 on my 2017 Marketing Highlights List:

Drum roll please...
While the expected birth of Prince William's third child and Prince Harry's engagement were announced during 2017, the birth and wedding will take place during 2018, and as a result, will appear on 2018's marketing highlights list since they will have countless marketing influences on products, news, and more. However, Pantone chose to highlight the royal family and its upcoming eventful year by naming the 2018 Color of the Year as Ultra Violet, otherwise known as purple - for royalty, perhaps?

According to Pantone's website: "A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future. As individuals around the world become more fascinated with color and realize its ability to convey deep messages and meanings, designers and brands should feel empowered to use color to inspire and influence. The Color of the Year is one moment in time that provides strategic direction for the world of trend and design, reflecting the Pantone Color Institute’s year-round work doing the same for designers and brands."

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2018 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credit: Pantone.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The First Book for Your 2018 Reading List

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

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

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

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

[1] Passion: motivation or purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Bill on Twitter: @WCEllis

Follow Women Who Won on Instagram: @Women_Who_Won

Image Credit: Bill Ellis / Women Who Won on Instagram

Friday, November 17, 2017

Five Thanksgiving #BrandTips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Does Your Brand Show Gratitude?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Image Credit: Houston Chronicle

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Branding with an Ampersand

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

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

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

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

How many brands featuring ampersands immediately come to mind?

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

Did you realize that there were so many?

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

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

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