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Original articles from Janet Kalandranis.
Jamba Juice is Relevant...and Also Not
Relevancy is a big branding topic. With the change of years and decades, customers' wants and needs change as well. So brands need to ensure that their products, although maybe once successful, are evolving with customers for continued success. Sometimes it’s more than just relevant products; sometimes relevancy has to do with customer lifestyle. Maybe the product is still relevant, but the way it’s delivered just doesn’t work anymore. It’s not uncommon for brands to evolve more than just products and really transform the way they do business. Think about the fast-casual food category. It’s essentially faster food, but in an environment that feels a bit more upscale. That’s relevancy at its best. Now think about the juicing craze. Absolutely relevant in today’s market, so brands like Jamba Juice should be riding the high wave. Well, not exactly.

Soda Faces the Diabetes Crisis
This shouldn’t be surprising, but apparently it’s new news. Maybe because there is now more info and more research, but the outcome is still the same. The Type-2 diabetes concern is growing and now brands are suffering from the outcome. Those brands that ignored that this could have happened years ago...

One-Hour Delivery via eBay — for Real
There are never enough hours in the day. Never. But that’s okay, because eBay is helping everyone put more time back on the clock and running those errands that really eat into accomplishing that to-do list. Just in time for the busiest time of year, eBay has launched its eBay Now service...

Pushing Yogurt Past Breakfast
Sometimes products get stuck in a rut. Just like any person, they serve the same purpose day in and day out and customers see them for only what they’ve known. So it can be hard to break those boundaries and get out of that rut and push the product into new areas.

Sometimes Free Coffee is More than Free Coffee
Today is free coffee day at Dunkin’ Donuts in the New England area in support of the 2013 World Series Champs: the Boston Red Sox, of course. It’s free coffee; so what, right? Well, not exactly. Sometimes a promotion or initiative is about more than driving customers into stores. Sometimes it’s about being part of something bigger.

A Real Re-Do of the In-flight Safety Message
Truth: No one listens to the safety message on a flight. It’s just so boring and corporatey and no one can really follow the crazy instructions. So instead passengers are powering down, finding their snacks or taking a snooze. Because let’s be honest, the safety message is like listening to morning announcements...

Chevy Uses Boston’s Emotion — Bad Idea
Brands are directed and pushed to play on people’s emotions; to connect with them on a deeper level that makes choosing the brand’s product or service a no-brainer. It’s to showcase who the brand is and what it means to customers...

Sure Deodorant is Now for Women Only
Remember Sure? Everyone does; it was a key player in the deodorant market and both men and women alike were raising their arms for Sure. That’s right; Sure was gender neutral, with positioning that included clean, fresh arms and a confidence that anyone was happy to have. The brand made a specific decision back in the '70s that Sure would be the people’s deodorant and not play to only a male or female set.

Oral-B & Halloween: A Funny Story
What’s the number one rule in advertising? Kids and puppies, of course. It’s an age-old rule that anything with one of these will ultimately win over the consumer. A bit outdated, but sometimes it still tends to be true, when a brand can so perfectly capture the essence of children and have them prove a point...

Cars for Sale at Enterprise Rental
Enterprise car rental is a very successful brand. In addition to being one of the top car rental players this brand is known for its employee training and leadership program. The brand places customer service as a top priority and pushes its employees to take their careers to the next level. This brand is living the brand dream, and now it has more to celebrate...

Bacon’s Going Back to Its Roots
Brands are consistently updating their marketing messages to ensure they are relevant to customers. There is no brand that has used the same message for decades and received high levels of success. It’s essentially impossible. Things change, people change, the world changes.

Millennials & Their Brand Thoughts
Guess what? The millennial generation grew up. They are now the ripe ages of 25 to 34 and many of them have kids. But this group is worth another look. They’ve long been known to be that spoiled set who is extremely image conscious...

Reinventing Greeting Cards
Being honest: greeting cards need a makeover. Like a full-on, wipe it to the ground and start all over. It’s not that they aren’t serving their purpose anymore, it’s just that they all seem to be the same. There’s no originality, there’s no uniqueness, and the whole process is daunting.

Expecting More and Expecting Less
It’s no secret that all brands are different. Varying levels of success, a wide range of products and services, and marketing plans that are unique to the business. Customers know this as well. They know the difference between the Mom & Pop in their town to the international brand they see everywhere.

Spider-Man's Healthy Side
Last week there was an in-depth view into Disney doing things right; making changes to fix an operational function that didn’t work and ensuring that customers were happy with the brand. One would think Disney would relish in that glory and be quiet for some time, but no; this is Disney. The brand that keeps pushing the limits, testing new things...

Google Earth's Heartfelt Story for the Win
So here’s the thing. Sometimes in order to bring about the true core of a brand, the business needs to step away. Quiet the marketing, remove the brand words, and just let customers speak themselves. When customers speak and they tell their stories, other people listen.

Targeting for the Branding Win
Brands that win are brands that have a great product/service, answer a need in the marketplace, and continuously market to a specific target. Note: targeting females ages 25–45 isn’t enough. Way to narrow it down to a gender, but targeting is much more in-depth than simply choosing female adults. It’s important for brands that want to succeed to understand who their target is, how they behave, what they want, and what they have for dinner.

Social Media: Presence vs. Interaction
It’s been stated no less than three trillion times: every brand needs to have a presence on social media. In some aspect, some application, a brand needs to be a part of this marketing tool. It’s no longer an option, but now a cost-of-entry for brands to compete. This part is pretty much common brand knowledge in today’s business world.

IKEA: From Home to Lifestyle
Part of being a successful brand includes growth. This can be accomplished in many ways — diversification, additional products/services, or even new companies under the same brand name. But in order for a brand to see success in the future, it needs to think bigger and be bigger than what it simply is today. Enter IKEA. The home brand.

Brands & Blogs: Yes or No?
Everyone has access to all kinds of information today. Brand info, scientific info, topic info, and basically any personal human’s info. That’s a bit scary, but it’s also pretty cool. Anyone — yes, anyone — can start a blog. Sounds like brands should stay far away, but that’s not actually the case.

The Past is Back in Barbershop Form
Guess what’s back “in?” Everything. That’s right; everything. It seems there’s a bit of a craze, or maybe it’s a trend, where things from decades back are returning with a modern flair and creating just as much buzz as they did in the past. Instead of brands or concepts looking for the next big idea...

Disney Does Customers Right
Disney is another legacy iconic brand. It brings about happy smiles, happy customers, and tends to do no wrong. How does this brand consistently win with customers and truly live up to its “happiest place on earth” mantra? First, it most definitely isn’t easy. It’s not like Disney has run into decades of luck and simply exists on this happy wave of success.

The Duffin, Now at Starbucks?
In the brand world, Starbucks is at the top of the list, in with the elite few like Apple. These are the brands that are held to a higher standard and seem to produce only success. Even with mistakes or wrong turns, these brands understand how to learn, move on, and succeed in the future. Starbucks is one of these brands. So when they do something, it’s definitely been researched...

The Right Amount of Change
There’s constant conversation, here included, about making sure a brand is timely and relevant. Ensuring that a brand is delivering what customers want. Because what worked in the past isn’t the sole solution for success in the present. So brands change. It’s expected, it’s welcomed, and most often it creates future success for the brand. Change is good. End of story? Well, not really.

Pick a Cause; Customers Want One
Today’s consumer is more complex. A) They know more. B) They want more. C) They expect nothing less. With access to so much information about brands, customers want to know the full scope of what a brand entails. Sure, products and services are key, but customers are also interested in what the company believes in. This is a combination of how the brand does business, how it treats its employees, and now also includes what causes the brand supports. This can run the gamut of brand-born charities to fighting the obesity epidemic.

Pickles Change with the Times: Hearty to Healthy
There are some products that are timeless. The ones that don’t need to be changed or updated at the core and simply sell with new packaging or fancy new fonts. But those are the lucky few. Most brands that are in for the long haul understand the importance of being relevant to customers...

'I Feel Ugly': Market Away
Brands know how important it is to make sure they target the correct audience for their product or service. By marketing to these customers, there’s a higher chance that the brand will see success. Brands take into consideration when their audience is listening, where they listen, what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it.

Coach Moves into a Lifestyle Brand
There are some brands that have such iconic products that they get stuck being known for something very specific. They might even offer other products and play in other categories (successfully), but their flagship product is the only thing that gets discussed. Coach is one of these brands. Known for luxury purses in a multitude of styles, Coach is the purse brand and nothing more. But, quite honestly, this brand has been producing Coach products in other categories for years, and quite successfully.

Fast Brand or Slow Brand?
Guess what? Everyone wants fast these days. How do I bank faster, schedule appointments faster, make purchases faster? It’s all about spending the least amount of time yet getting an even better result. This isn’t a new idea, but something that has been built over time. It’s based on how integrated technology is into the day-to-day...

In the End the Product Still Needs to Rule
So this is branding blog. It covers the world of branding and marketing and everything in between. The topics run from strategies to tactics to initiatives and perspective. Today, let’s put that all aside and simply talk product. Why? Because it’s important. Really important. No matter how well thought-out a branding plan is...

There’s a Positive Future for the DMV
Everyone — yes, EVERYONE — has had THAT experience with the DMV. The one where information is confusing, the line is out the door, and it’s a three-trip minimum to accomplish what is needed. Yeah, that DMV. This is a brand in trouble. Yet somehow government brands are given a little more leeway...

Burger King Satisfries Customers?
Nope, that’s not a misspelling in the title, just a new product name for Burger King. Please hold all laughter until the end. Options are nothing new in the fast-food world. Many brands, Burger King included, have diversified their menus to provide options that keep customers visiting. This means customers can choose the traditional burger and fries...

Dare: Define 'Advertising'
It’s not as easy as it looks. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago there was a textbook definition that just about anyone could recite, but today the word means so much more. Advertising for brands has taken on a world of definitions, some that are accepted by all and some that are just as creative as brands themselves. Advertising doesn’t fit into a little box with pre-determined definitions.

Advice for Entrepreneurs & Brands Alike
At one point in time every brand was an entrepreneur. That’s when brands start out; their growth period that gets them to success or forces them to dissolve away. Getting to success isn’t easy for any entrepreneur, so when there are some tips provided to make it positive, brands should be all ears.

They're Finally Here: Pinterest 'Ads'
Consumer brands are all over Pinterest and if they’re not, they are losing out; this social media platform is where users go to ideate, search, and be inspired. It’s also what customers are using to organize things in their lives; decorating, fashion, recipes, workouts, you name it.

Starbucks Says No Guns, Others Listen
There are a gazillion reasons Starbucks is a loved brand, and a gazillion more why this brand is so successful. Is it because Starbucks has a set of rules it follows or is there more at play than that? Maybe it’s not as complicated or thought out as it seems. Maybe Starbucks just does what is at the core of the brand and the rest simply falls into place.

A Little Competition Never Hurt
So here’s the thing. Brands come up with grand initiatives and strategies complete with implementation plans. This can include handbooks for associates and key messaging that should be used. It’s all needed and it’s all relevant, but does it work? In some respects, yes. In others, it needs a little boost. A little realistic love that makes the program more successful...

Content from Customers
Guess what? Not all content has to be created from a brand! Sure, it has to be approved by the brand, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the brand is spending months ideating and weeks creating. It’s a little breather in the content creation world. Where’s the best place to get content without creating it...

Put the Bathrooms in the Front
There’s one thing that makes certain customers happy: bathrooms in the front. These customers don’t want to walk all the way through an overwhelming store, potentially with a child in tow and another on the way, just to use the facilities and care for their children. This is called knowing the customer and understanding what they want. Seeing the world from their perspective and delivering on something so simple, yet so important?

...But Will it Sell More Burritos?
In short, yes, but starting from the beginning will probably help this meal become a whole lot clearer. There are some brands that break the rules. In a good way. It’s not that these brands are ignoring the rules or assuming they are too good for rules. Instead, these brands are changing the rules because they're not the best decision for the brand. They create their own rules, live by them, and hopefully see success.

Inside a Real Social Media Team at Taco Bell
There’s so much talk about when it comes to social media. Tips, tricks, ideas, how-tos. It’s overwhelming at best. But it’s all needed because this social media game is still uncharted territory. The flexibility of social media and the way it changes from month to month means that there will be never-ending conversations...

Where to Get the News? Apps
The decline in newspaper circulation is old news. With so many online sources, consumers don’t have to purchase a yearly subscription or pick up a copy on the way to the train. Instead, they have the news at their fingertips whenever they want it. And this news is more frequently updated...

The One-to-Brand Connection with JetBlue
It’s not all roses and smiles in the branding world. There are times when a brand is flying high and others when it feels like it can’t get off the ground. But there’s always a lesson to learn from the tough times; little nuggets of information that can help brands become better on the other side.

A Look into Pumpkin Spice
Here’s the thing. Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte is back again, yet earlier. Each year the timeframe shifts around and somehow more days are added to this successful campaign. It’s not clear whether Starbucks knew how BIG Pumpkin Spice would be until years later, but it’s really demanding its own strategy...

Filling Every Branding Hole
The strategy is all set, products and services are attractive to the target audience, and marketing is running as planned. Sit back and relax? Not quite. There’s a big gaping hole in what today’s brands need to supply: content. Customers want and expect brands to be able to provide them with consistent messaging, consistent branding, and of course unique messages.

There’s a New Logo in Town: Yahoo!
There comes a point in time when every brand needs to update, reinvent, and reintroduce. It’s part of the brand cycle to stay current and relevant to customers and to make sure everything within a brand connects. One of the most common changes a brand can make is its logo. Many times this artwork was created well before the brand hit its stride; it becomes outdated, almost reminiscent of the brand’s beginnings instead of representing the brand as it is today. Even slight changes in logos can make a big difference — updated lettering, a new color, or a more modern shape.

Stepping Out of the Social Media Rut
Not gonna lie. Social media is tough. Every brand needs to be in it, but of course that’s only the beginning. There are questions around who will manage social media, will there be a team, which ones will the brand play in and of course what is the strategy. Many times brands start out strong, but then they seem to find this social media rut and comfortably stay within it. They run contests, talk about products and just make sure to have a presence for their followers. And that’s when programs fall flat. Because customers want more, they want to get an inside look into the brand and understand what makes it unique. They want to see real people and real images that gets them engaged instead of product highlight after product highlight. So instead of talking about what brands are doing wrong, it’s time to take a look at a few that have done social media right. Those that have a strategy for each outlet and make it seem so simple that customers latch on.

Two Many Messages
There are some basic rules in the world of branding. Have a clear and direct call to action so customers understand the message. Seems simple, right? It is. That is, until brands decide to switch it up and provide multiple messages. IN. ONE. AD. Sure, brands can have multiple campaigns running at one time and even multiple messages.

Reinventing a Brand Message
It’s the start of the school year and in many people’s minds this is the actual new year. It’s back to routine, a new focus emerges, and many are making goals and resolutions. And brands know this. They put their best foot forward with suggestions and ideas to be a part of this new start. Many health and food brands create a focus at this time around healthy living and want customers to choose them as a solution to reach a weight-loss or activity goal. Kellogg’s Special K has been a part of this September plan for years and is staying strong in its message to choose the brand as a way to reach a goal. But something has changed recently for this brand. They are no longer talking about losing weight (well, not as blatantly) and there is no mention of calories or fat.

Are Brands Completely Out of Step with the Seasons?
Halloween candy is already out. It’s not even September yet. That means we have over two months to buy candy, but anyone can start now and maybe get the best deal. The same thing is true of winter holiday decorations; they’ll probably be available sometime in October, even before Halloween has occurred. Well, this one follows the pattern as well.

Reach Out and Touch Someone (From Afar)
Many times the simplest ideas are the best. The ones that are fun, easy, and just make sense to anyone who is introduced to the idea. These are the little gems that seem to take off into a whirlwind of success with a crowd supporting it. This goes to show that not all successes come from years and years of planning...

Almonds Shove Soy Out of the Limelight
As short as a couple years ago non-dairy consumers were drinking soy milk. It was THE thing to do and really the only readily accessible alternative to dairy. Soy was running the market and reaping the benefits of being the chosen dairy alternative at Starbucks. Fast-forward to today and the story is much different.

Make a Process, Then Make it Flexible
It’s important for all brands to have a process — not just one process, actually, but many, for anything from operations to PR and marketing to development.

Free or Pay a Little More?
There are so many free branding options these days that sometimes the idea of paying for something seems unnecessary. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and of course LinkedIn. Brands are able to creatively use these resources as they are and see great results. But then there’s always an option to pay to get a little bit more. But is this option worth it? Do the dollars invested return such a larger amount success that it makes sense? There’s no one-word answer, but instead brands need to research...

Beginning Steps of Customer Experience Success
This week there has been a lot of conversation around customer service, customer experience, and customer feedback. With examples to review, both good and not so good, the question now lies in how brands can change.

Dear Brands: The Little Things Count
Brands that think customer service and day-to-day operations are separate from brand strategy need to re-evaluate their thought processes. Because today, as it should be, everything in a brand is connected and affects the success of the business. Especially those things that touch customers directly, like employees and customer service. Sure, this topic has been discussed all week on BTB, but there’s reason for it. IT. IS. IMPORTANT. And in order for branding professionals to see the benefit of “the little things,” the topic must be discussed time and time again. Perhaps years ago customers weren’t as connected to brands. Sure, they had favorites, ones they preferred...

Customer Feedback: Fight it or Learn From It
There is a cardinal rule of branding: the customer is always right. It’s a long-standing rule that has helped companies evolve over time and gain success over the years. But maybe this rule is changing and brands are seeing feedback in a different light. Some are learning from the comments and changing processes and ways about the brand, while others are simply fighting it.

What Happens on the Inside is Seen on the Outside
This is nothing new, but the topic is worth repeating time and time again. Any brand that wants to be successful today and for years to come must, must, MUST create a culture internally that they want reflected externally.

Every Brand Should Have Its Own Success
There are certain brands that win the game every single time. It’s like they are consistently riding this wave way up high and following them seems like the only way to gain success. But remember, that brand’s success is individual and customized for the specific business. It can’t be replicated and expected to produce the same results because brands are unique...

Turning Vendors into Partners
There’s been an overarching shift in the branding world. Vendors who were once considered ancillary businesses are now being called partners by the brands they work with. It’s a relationship that makes sense to the brand and to the partner and ultimately benefits the customer. What used to be described as a mere transaction — payment for service — has now evolved into something much more. Brands are looking to vendors to be an extension of their own team and want them to play in the game day in and day out.

Tips for More Creativity: Thinking Backwards
It’s hard to be creative on demand. Everyone is always saying “let’s be more creative,” or “find something creative we can do.” That’s a lot of pressure on a brand to create something that no one else is doing and that fits that “creative” bill. And when every other brand is also trying to be creative it’s a tough challenge to find the winning answer...

Apps Win in the Battle of the Bulge
This is 2013. It’s full of social media, online integration, and digital applications. And many of these options are free. Access to information and insight for customers without having to pay a price. It feeds into the DIY mentality that has been on the rise in recent years.

CEOs Keep Quiet on Twitter
Most every brand knows that in order to play in the big leagues they must embrace social media. This doesn’t mean simply having accounts, but truly using them to connect and engage with customers and elevate the brand to the next level. Because of this, successful brands have full-blown Twitter strategies...

Oprah Magazine on Keeping it Fresh
Here’s the thing; whenever anyone says words like “thinking outside the box” people normally turn the other way and laugh. It’s such an old branding term that it doesn’t feel relevant. And what does “thinking outside the box” even mean? If it’s that important, shouldn’t every brand be doing it?

Honest Tea: A Brand with a Soul
There are two distinct types of brands: those that have soul and those that don’t. It’s very apparent which brands belong in each group and each has its positives. Brands minus the soul tend to focus solely on gaining sales and doing anything to achieve this goal. This strategy makes sense for many brands and produces success for the business.

AT&T Borrows an Idea From Apple
Here’s the thing; no one knows if borrowing is allowed. But if it’s a good idea and makes sense for a brand, is borrowing acceptable? Of course the answer isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no,” but it’s an interesting topic to tackle. Because if everyone is honest, there is a lot of borrowing that happens within the brand world. And lots of it is okay; there are some tactics and strategies...

Content Relevancy: Super or Scary?
There’s always this constant battle of being a scary brand or being a super relevant brand. No customer wants to feel as though brands know their every move, but on the other hand, customers also want brands to know them. Could that line be any thinner? How is any brand supposed to find the balance of relevancy while also letting customers feel warm and fuzzy instead of scared? This idea is continually tested with online content. Customers are always on the hunt for new and interesting content...

Branding Minus the Brand
It’s pretty obvious that any branding strategy should probably include the actual brand in its tactics. Otherwise, there could be customer confusion and success driven towards another business instead of the intended. It would be pretty ridiculous to see any sort of initiative that leaves out the name or likeness of a brand. Unless that brand is McDonald’s; no branding is necessary.

Oreo Jams Relevancy & Flexibility
The world can’t get enough of Oreos and quite truthfully the brand is owning 2013. It’s almost like Oreos figured out this magic equation and is using it to create new brand success for a product that has been the same for years and years. It’s truly magical and it’s exciting to watch.

Turning Tea into a Habit
Guess what? There are some people that don’t have coffee in the morning. (It’s okay, keep breathing). These people have tea. But not just any old Lipton tea, because there’s now a whole market of tea connoisseurs. It’s like the coffee craze that has really brought attention to brews and beans and the like, but this time it’s for tea. And a brand that holds this tea drinker's attention...

When Brands Force it to Work
Nothing is easy; nothing. Brands work hard day in and day out to make strategies and programs and products work for the business. It’s how business gets done. But sometimes that hard work goes a bit too far. That’s when brands force things to work — pushing too hard so something can see success. Many times, customers can see through this. They know if something seems easy and relevant or if it was forced into place like a mismatched puzzle piece. Brands need to teeter on that fine line of working hard and forcing things to make sense. If at first glance it needs explaining, or seems a bit too far-fetched, then it probably is. Customers are going to notice. Maybe they’ll laugh and chuckle and talk a bit about the brand, but success isn’t something that will follow.

Flash Sale Overload?
Everyone loves a sale – everyone. There’s nothing better than feeling like there’s top quality matched with a lower-than-expected price. It’s like winning the game. The shopping game that is. This is why when those flash sale sites started to pop up people went crazy for them. And quite honestly, they still do. And there isn’t a lack of options either. There are flash sales for everything – clothes, furniture, décor, travel, cooking, etc. But with so many options, why does it seem like there are new options being introduced every week. Does the world need that many flash sales? Are they all truly different from one another to be successful?

Mrs. Meyer's Big Brand Idea
There are SO many brands out there. Too many to count and too many for them all to be a success. But every so often a new brand comes about with a solid, well-thought out idea and it works. It’s not like it isn’t hard work.

Wendy’s and Its Pretzel Bacon Burger
Food Week has been fun, no? To round out the branding topics within the food world, this one is big. It’s a burger with bacon on a pretzel bun. It doesn’t get much tastier than this. And it’s all brought to us by Wendy’s, the brand that stood in the shadows of McDonald’s and Burger King for some time...

Is Oreo's Twitter Really a Success?
Continuing on this week’s food conversation, the topic turns to Oreo. The brand that has been written about time and time again this year. It made its social media bang with a relevant tweet during the Super Bowl at a time when everyone else stayed quiet. Ever since that itty bitty tweet, Oreo has been on a roll, tweeting funny and relevant comments to various brands and to customers, showing the world that it GETS this social media thing. And it’s not a new brand, but one that is making itself known...

Cooking Light Enters a New Industry
It’s official; lots of food and restaurant talk on BTB this week. This time it’s about the ever-popular food magazine Cooking Light. It’s the known healthy food magazine and the go-to for recipes, ideas, and resources. With years of success and being able to transform from the '90s idea of healthy to what is healthy today...

Timing + Quality = Success
Let’s continue on this fast-food conversation that started on Monday. In fact, maybe this week will be completely dedicated to branding within the food world. How delicious is that? Today’s topic is not new; it definitely something that has been discussed before, but it’s another example about timing and its effect on a brand. Timing may not be EVERYTHING, but it sure is close.

Fast Food is Getting Fancy
Fork and knife required. That’s right, because now fast food has new requirements. It’s upping its game and creating a new category within the restaurant industry. Sure, it’s not going to be the next Michelin-rated spot in town, but it’s definitely not fast food as it’s known to be today. And which brands are playing in this field?

Fridays = Fun = Ice Cream = Brand Win
To state a fact, any brand that is serving up ice cream this week is probably winning. Especially in those heat-wave states. Ice cream quite honestly is the business any brand wants to be in, interact with, or support this week. So when the opportunity comes along to participate, jump in. Or even better, don’t wait for an opportunity to be handed over and instead create one...

Cheerios Gets Real
It’s a legacy brand, one that’s grown with the ages and has enjoyed its fair share of success. And the brand’s more recent campaign is one where real families, real modern-day families, highlight the benefits of Cheerios and the smiles it still creates. It’s one of those campaigns that makes you smile, chuckle a little...

Thoughts on Celebrities Selling
So here’s the thing. Celebrities definitely sell. It’s a known fact, but is it the right strategy? Does it build a strong brand? What happens if the celebrity leaves? Going back to branding 101, there are definitely many case studies that showcase using a celebrity endorser to build a brand; celebrities already have followers and attaching a brand name to their likeness seems like an easy “yes.”

Little Things = Big Impact
Customers are impressed easily. A thank-you, a kind letter, a discount coupon. But it’s those little items that when not expected from a brand really throw the brand engagement into high gear. Customers want to be noticed by brands, they want to be called out, and they want to feel special.

KitchenAid has Gone Digital, Finally
Iconic products and brands are branching out! Instead of sticking with what worked, oh, 94 YEARS AGO, brands are embracing newer technology for more success.

Will this Partnership Work? Walmart & American Express
Did anyone see this one coming? The megastore giant partnering with the credit card maven. It’s definitely not an average partnership where customers can easily see the connection, but this one might work.

Branding Basics: Showing vs. Telling
This isn’t shocking new branding news. Showing versus telling is kinda an age-old branding tool. One that brands have been taught years ago, but sometimes a quick reminder can be good. It’s good to get back to basics and update an old lesson for today’s world. Most brands know that they need to be specific...

Little Caesars Played Us All: Social Media Score
It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week, and everyone needs a little humor. So today’s topic includes a little pizza, a little relevancy, and a whole lot of fun. In the social media space, of course. Much of the social media strategy that is seen today includes well-thought out plans that feature viral pass-along...

It’s a Crocs: Transitioning Core Products
Everyone — yes, everyone — knows what Crocs are. Those rubbery, kinda ugly clogs that are comfy yet so out of style. Those are Crocs. Actually, those are what the majority of Americans associate with the brand name. It’s not that Crocs is a one-product business; that the brand started and ended with these rubber garden and water shoes and never did anything else.

Snail Mail & Social Media Unite
It’s a beautiful thing when the best of two worlds can collide and create something that’s a bit of perfect. And Hyatt House is testing out a little perfect through the new Postagram capability on Facebook.

Are Slogans and 'Big Ideas' Gone for Good?
Remember in the '80s when Nike came up with three words that somehow stuck around forever? It was marketing genius; a slogan that really encapsulated the big Nike idea. “Just do it” were three words that brought together fragmented media and demonstrated exactly what the brand set out to do.

Vera Wang Prefers Democratic Over Dilution
There are some brands that are just so perfectly thought out that it seems effortless. Almost like the brand always existed and the business simply runs itself. It’s refreshing. Yet when taking a closer look, it’s definite that this brand worked hard, has great leaders, and has a vision that always includes success. So taking bits of advice from these brand mavens is always a great idea — it’s free advice and often brand goodness all wrapped into one.

The Restaurant Biz Just Got (Technologically) Cooler
Everyone knows OpenTable — many people even love it. The ability to make reservations for restaurants (online) and earn points for doing so...it’s ease of use for the customer, another access point for the restaurant, and OpenTable creates the technology to make it happen.

For Sale: Downton Abbey Wine
It’s true; there will be Downton Abbey wine so every viewer can sip along while watching one of their favorite TV series. It seems a bit ridiculous, but it actually also makes sense. There really isn’t a whole lot a TV series can do to market itself except when extending outside the TV screen.

Marketing Sense: Who Has It?
It seems a little silly to simply state that marketing should make sense. Duh, right? But it should make sense — to a brand, the customer, the world, and everything that goes along with that. But sometimes what makes sense and is the most simple idea gets overlooked.

Yes, Hashtags are a Big Deal
Many brands have shied away from the whole hashtag craze. Assuming it is only for younger, cooler brands or those that have a very specific consumer product. But hashtags are a real thing — an actual marketing tool. It’s time that brands learn what they can provide and start using them for specific marketing strategies. Social media isn’t going away, so ignoring the tactics and tools available only leave certain brands at a disadvantage. Instead it’s more beneficial for brands to understand the specifics...

Meatiness Doesn’t Sell: Know the Lingo
It’s funny what works to sell products and what customers decide doesn’t appeal to them. But what’s even funnier is how brands like to dismiss these facts and forge ahead as their internal strategy suggests. If customers are willing to let brands know what works and what doesn’t, and if the data supports this, then brands need to listen.

Giving Them What They Want
Is. Not. Easy. As a brand, the number one goal is to satisfy the customer and ensure that the business has continued success. But giving customers exactly what they want is no easy feat. If it were, all brands would be number one and success would be easy. But the thing is, customers don’t just want what they want, they also want the best of it.

Vine was Good, Instagram Video is Better
Just stating a truth. Instagram brought its A-game with video, and it’s probably going to win. Not that there was a contest, but if we’re all honest, Instagram’s solution is just a bit more what the world and brands want. So yes, it wins. This whole social media thing started with words, then it was pictures and images, and now it’s all about video. This week Instagram launched its video capability, which knocked the socks off of users.

Place & Price Should Play Along
It seems that everyone assumes a brand equals a certain price. That’s somewhat true. Walmart equals lower prices, Lexus equals a pretty penny for a great car. It’s easy for customers to associate a certain price range for a specific brand — it’s what they know and how they’ve come to interact with the brand. But what if price was specific to place...

It’s Okay to Rework and Remind
Sometimes it’s hard for brands to take a step back and understand what it’s like to be an outsider looking in. To be someone who knows only what the brand says and does through marketing strategies. For employees that live, breathe, and hear about the brand all the time, sometimes they forget that audiences don’t have the same luxury. So as much as a program, tactic, or message might seem redundant and annoying to the brand, it might actually be needed for the customer.

Sharing = Success
It’s kind of like the saying in kindergarten, “sharing equals caring,” but this is the grown-up version that has to do with brands and social media. Sure, when things are shared there’s less spotlight on one brand, but what if there were no spotlight at all? Sometimes sharing actually creates that buzz and that talk...

Vine: Who’s Using It and How
There are a gazillion social media applications. Yes, a gazillion. Okay, maybe not that many, but to a brand it feels that overwhelming. Which ones to focus on, should new ones be added once they are introduced, what’s best for the brand, etc.? It’s a conversation every brand is having, both big and small, because the worst thing would be to have a presence on all social medial applications, each with little success. Vine is a Twitter application, so essentially a spin-off of the social media giant...

Check the Facts, Always
As brands it’s important that content is relevant and makes sense to the audience. Seems pretty obvious, right? Well, maybe not. But no matter what, brands need to make sure their relevant messages are actually correct, current, and will attract the audience. One of the biggest opportunities with audiences is to “speak their language.”

Food & Wine Taking it Real
It’s Friday, aka the perfect day to talk Food & Wine. With a little branding mixed in of course. Food & Wine is very visual of course. So any tactic that allows the brand to showcase the taste, the presentation and the assortment of treats is a benefit to the brand. The product can sell itself, but it must be shown...

Same Cookie, Different Marketing
Okay, can everyone just agree to love Oreo? This brand is a constant topic on BTB and it’s for good reason. It knows how to market, how to be flexible, and how to achieve long-term success. With. Only. One. Product. That’s where this success story is different than many others.

Is One Mistake All It Takes?
People make mistakes. Brands make mistakes. It’s all part of the way the day-to-day works. One mistake shouldn’t be the end of a brand, the end of success, or the end of a person’s responsibilities. But sometimes it depends on the mistake and the result that follows that mistake. And sometimes when a mistake happens, people need to blame someone. Customers want to see change, physically, and unfortunately that has to fall to someone.

Partnerships are a Three-Ring Circus
Literally. If that partnership is with Cirque du Soleil, of course. And don’t think that this is an unlikely case, because brands are lining up to hold hands with this brand. Why? So many reasons. The show. The audience. The experience. It’s luxury at its best, it’s one-of-a-kind, and it makes for a great partner brand. With an engaged audience...

Oakley’s Disrupting: Is It Too Much?
Any time a brand does something a little too different or a little too headstrong, people start to talk. They take a stand about how the brand went a little too far and make some noise. But hey, noise is good. Oakley is a long-standing brand, one originally known for sunglasses. Well, this brand is stepping out, picking an audience, and being very specific in its new campaign.

Amazon Takes on Perishables
Is there anything Amazon can’t do? Or at least try in very thought-out, organized way. If any brand is going to make the leap from an online packaged goods delivery brand to one that now crosses over to the grocery-store industry, it’s going to be Amazon.

Are Brand Options a Benefit?
The first step of building a successful brand is to have a concept that is specific and delivers a certain promise to a set of customers. For Whole Foods, this is the brand’s ability to deliver healthy organic foods to the middle-class set. Or maybe those a little higher than middle class. Because Whole Foods is known to be more expensive in order to deliver a higher quality grocery product.

A Brand’s Career Path
It’s that time of year again. Graduation. The time when different ages of kids leave one experience and move on to another. Whether it’s from pre-school to kindergarten, grade school to high school, or college into the real world, the message carries a similar theme. Have new challenges, create different experiences, and have a plan.

Coke Split Its Cans in Half – Now Share
Tuesdays are silly. They aren’t the middle of the week and they aren’t the start either. So today, it’s a little bit of silly on the blog. But silly that makes sense, or at least has a purpose. Coca-Cola it seems has taken its brand positioning and made it very clear. Something that is tangible and seen by its consumers.

Starbucks Now Controls Fresh Air
Strong brands are good brands. Those brands that push the bounds of what’s accepted and what’s been done and basically write their own story. Love those brands. But not all brands have the power to do what they want and gain support from customers. This comes from years of building trust and acceptance and also educating people on who the brand is. Starbucks. This strong brand does a lot of new things and many brands wish they could follow suit.

If Customers Hand Over Control, Take It!
There’s this really fine line between helping a customer and forcing them to do something. Like really fine. And brands are aware of this, most of them erring on the side of caution and allowing the customer to find their own way. This usually is the way to go, making sure not to over-step any bounds.

Nailing that Customer Experience: Take 2
Figuring out how to implement and succeed in customer experience is no one-day task. That’s why today is “take two” of customer experience; providing brands more insight and more thought around the topic. How to start. Where to take it. As is the case many times, customers have a lot of the answers.

Nailing that Customer Experience: Take 1
Warning: this post will contain branding buzzwords, but that’s okay, because this post will also break down some helpful tips to actually achieving that buzzword success. It’s all about customer experience. All brands are concerned about it, some are actually delivering on it, and many have no idea where to start. Today it will all become a little clearer...

Battling It Out On TV
Many times brands have another brand that is its top competition. It’s good in a sense, hard in another. It means the brand is consistently striving to get better, make advances, and win over customers from the other business. This competition also means there is an ongoing battle of “this” versus “that.”

Catalogs, Websites, Mobile, Tablet?
Oh, the transition of shopping. On any given day all of our mailboxes (or at least the majority of them) still receive catalogs, which feature the age-old way of shopping where the reader earmarks things they want and then calls the 1-800 number to purchase.

Silver, Gold, or Platinum Customers?
CRM, or customer relationship management, is not what it used to be. Now it’s an exciting world of customer actions that brands can really customize based on individual needs. And within this CRM world is the idea of customer tiers or levels and the famous “status” labeling.

Gaming Brands: Yea or Nay?
There’s more gaming talk around the brand world today and it’s coming from the most unsuspecting brands. It’s the consumer brands, the restaurant brands, and not only the teenage-boy brands. There’s talk about badging and sharing and points and engagement, yet it still all seems like a puzzle for those brands that haven’t caught the gaming bug. And rightfully so — seriously, what does this gaming mean? Is it worth it? Do all brands have to incorporate gaming to win?

The Brand Tradeoff
It’s Monday, so it’s time for reality. No brand can be everything or have anything. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s important to speak the truth. So those brands that want it all, want to be everything, need to think again. Success doesn’t come from always being in the positive as there needs to be balance in the journey of a brand. And today the conversation is around tradeoffs — those things brands should do...

What NOT to Do On Social Media
Oh boy. There’s been a huge mistake on social media and it comes from a little bakery brand called Amy’s. It’s scary, it’s bad, and everyone needs to understand what went wrong. It’s one of those things that no one wants to look at but no one...

The Whole Definition of 'Brand'
There’s a textbook definition of the word "brand" and it’s pretty specific. According to the dictionary, it’s something very profound like: “kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee.” Yes, that definition is ridiculous. Because that definition is from years past and today the word "brand" is so much more. It’s not dedicated to only big brands or products that customers buy, but instead can encapsulate more aspects of a business. The definition of brand has expanded and today includes a feeling, a community, and of course a business.

Target Tests Cartwheels and Loyalty
Truth: Target doesn’t technically have a loyalty program. Truth: Target kinda sneaks loyalty in every chance it gets. Truth: Target kinda wins at the loyalty game. Truth: Target is getting more serious about a loyalty program. Some Wednesdays just call for truths, and when it comes to Target it’s all about truth and loyalty...

The Finer Things in Life: Brand Experiences
Today’s lesson is about what makes a brand. Quite frankly, it’s also about what does NOT make a brand. Luxury brands teach this lesson; the ones that focus on and dedicate time and patience to the customer experience. These are brands that don’t build a brand through advertising but instead make it a priority to create that brand experience. One that is different, one that customers remember, and one that ultimately builds a brand.

Fresh Ideas, Fresh Campaign
BTB loves the new; we like to talk about what brands are doing to highlight differences in what they do best and the way they choose to do this. That’s what branding is all about; not only getting that message across to the audience, but also the vehicle used to do the talking.

Dear Brands, Do You Know Me?
It’s true, it’s 2013. Why does this matter? Because there has been a shift in what’s accepted and what’s expected. And rightfully so. If everyone is honest, today’s customer wants brands to know them and understand them. Gone are the days where dedicated and targeted marketing are thought to be intrusive (to a point, of course!), but instead customers only have the time and energy for what’s relevant. It’s almost as if brands need to be mind readers and best friends with every single customer.

H&M Showcases Real
This topic will be an ongoing one. It’s pretty certain that our world won’t be one where the female body image isn’t discussed. But that’s okay; it’s all about progress and for now the goal is to simply move one step forward. Many brands promote this, specifically Dove with its real beauty campaign. This brand is on the forefront of bringing true female beauty (no matter the shape and size) to the forefront. Well, now other brands are taking note and understanding not only the importance but the impact that doing this can have on business and on perception. H&M, known for being quite the opposite of Dove, has shifted, maybe listened and learned a little, and truly is showcasing female beauty this season.

Seasonal, Regional, Local
These words are all the craze right now. Customers love them and brands want to be them. But there isn’t enough emphasis on the power of seasonal, regional, and local right now. Sure, there is a group of smaller brands and even bigger ones that do it right, but the majority even forget to mention these important words. And they aren’t just words...

Who Doesn’t Want More Data?
No one should be shocked by this topic as it has been a long time coming. In a good way; definitely a good way. And with two strong digital brands, the landscape for marketing will forever change. It will no longer consist of good guesses and mass messages, but more tailored campaigns to reach a specific audience.

Sometimes Apologies Aren't Enough
This topic is too good not to dissect. So although the social media portion of JC Penney’s new campaign was discussed last week, there are more thoughts and messages that need to be mentioned. By now everyone has seen or heard what JC Penney set out to do. It’s apologizing and begging customers to come back into their stores. It seems honest and relevant and open when discussing the facts, but it’s not working. At least not in theory. Because JC Penney, you are too late. Your apology just won’t work this time.

Market the RIGHT Thing
Big week this week. For sports, for people, for all. Earlier this week Jason Collins made history as becoming the first openly gay athlete on a major U.S. sports team. Go Jason go. Not for being different or being unique, but for being you. Isn’t this what we preach on BTB? It sure is — each brand, athletes included, needs to be open and honest...

Name THAT Brand
This isn’t a new topic on BTB, but it’s important enough to discuss again. That little brand name that many times is created at the start of a business. Maybe it’s given some thought, hopefully a lot, but many times it just sort of happens. Then business happens and hopefully the brand grows. But that brand name is with a brand almost forever.

Take the High Dive into Video
Think of this as a public service announcement for all brands; one that deserves attention and needs to be heard. Video is where it’s at. This isn’t something that can be taken lightly because all those brands ignoring the message are going to be left behind. And with good reason. Video has capabilities that other tactics just can’t boast. Not to mention customers want it and really aren’t accepting anything else in its place.

Follow the Group or Stand Alone
As brands there are choices to make every day. With every tactic, every marketing plan, and every program that’s instituted. Many times that decision lies with being one in the crowd or navigating the waters alone. But here on BTB, it’s time to break down this decision and explain that neither is the correct answer...

Coca-Cola Does Young Love Perfectly
The Coca-Cola brand isn’t perfect. No brand is perfect, for that matter. But sometimes being imperfect as a brand leaves the door open to create something that is completely perfect: an ad that all other brands are jealous of and one that customers just fall for. Not in that fake annoying kind of way, but in a way that is just so perfectly right. A brand ad done to perfection that makes the audience hold their breath, take an extra moment, and just enjoy. Coke is that brand; the imperfect brand with a new spot that is so perfectly perfect that it just works. Many brands assume that it’s all or none. In planning, in executing, in strategy — but Coca-Cola has shown that this is not the case. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from being perfect everywhere and create an ad that shows complete brand strength...

The Brand Balancing Act
Everything about a brand is a balancing act. The goal isn’t to please everyone and do everything, but instead to make choices that result in brand success. That’s where balancing comes in: deciding who to target, what to offer, and how to market. It’s all about careful research and making some mistakes, and eventually the balancing becomes a whole lot easier.

Who’s Mobile Shopping?
Yesterday the talk was over shopping online versus shopping at a storefront. Today, to keep on this fun shopping topic, BTB will take a closer look at who exactly IS that mobile purchaser. Females? Incorrect! Shocking, or maybe not, but the men are more likely to use mobile shopping than the ladies. Why is this? Are most brands aware of this and using it to target the correct audience? Or are there a bunch of assumptions going around that brands need to re-visit?

Online or Storefront?
This is the digital age, folks, where anyone can truly purchase anything online — it’s wonderful and horrible all at the same time. But when looking at the positives, an ecommerce business is quite a brand win when done correctly. There’s less overhead, more flexibility, and of course 24/7 access for customers.

The Other Side of the Dove Campaign
It went viral. It was a success. Dove has done it again. For the past couple of weeks the topic of conversation has been around Dove’s newest campaign; the one where real women describe what they look like to a master sketch artist. And the result showcases what women really think of their bodies. It’s another Dove campaign that speaks straight to the heart...

Please Set Brand Expectations
Expectations are a funny thing. Brands try to set them, but many times customers overlook these statements and expect the world. It’s unrealistic, really, but hey, they are the customer. Yet when any person goes to accept a job, there is a list of job duties and compensation and expectations that are mutually agreed upon. So, it is a common practice. If only it were that easy for brands to print out a list and have everyone sign on the dotted line. Then maybe there wouldn’t be so much confusion...

AT&T Lets Kids Be Kids
This post is not about how AT&T markets to kids — that would be a little crazy. And on this Friday, it’s not about crazy but about cool and funny. AT&T is the brand running this great new campaign that uses kids, not as a background, but as the star of the show. It’s quite amazing, because as everyone knows, kids are, well, kids.

Being First or Getting it Right?
To be completely honest, BTB actually had a quite a fun little look at a brand’s new TV campaign planned for today. But then something happened and this topic felt a lot more pertinent, and although quite serious, is still producing many smiles. Yesterday was another big day in Boston, one where there was a breakthrough in the tragic Boston Marathon bombing.

Are Influencers and Brand Advocates Alike?
Confusing terms? Understood by many brands? The jury is still out. But while the debate is still in session, it’s time to dig a little deeper into each of these and determine who is a brand helper and who is simply there to talk. Because there is a difference, a very real one, and one that affects brands. Many strategies contain influences and brand advocates almost assuming they are one and the same. But the result from focusing on one instead of the other can produce a much different outcome than was originally expected.

How Brands (& the World) Have Changed
Today BTB is getting real; taking a break from research and metrics and brand best practices, and just talking about the world. About what changes it from day to day and how this now affects a brand. Yesterday was supposed to be one of Boston’s happiest days. Great weather, thousands of runners, smiling volunteers, and a marathon to complete. That is, until the unthinkable happened and that happy day was interrupted by violence.

Organic Beauty, Organic Business
A lot of talk here on B2B pertains to larger brands, bigger strategies and well-known companies. But today B2B gives homage to the smaller brands, ones that started on a simple premise, with a “regular” person who had an idea and went with it. It’s inspiring to see a brand that stays true to its initial concept and can build a successful brand on this idea.

Weather-Based Ads?
It’s true, it’s happening. Ad space purchased only during specific weather conditions. It’s a dream come true for many brands. Relevancy is a hot topic here on BTB and luckily it seems that the trend is to move towards more relevant, more current marketing.

Brand Loyalty For the Rich
Opportunity is knocking and it has a lot of money. Like the most money. So brands should take note, and understand there’s money to be spent and it’s being dropped everywhere. One would assume that the more money a consumer has, the more preference over brands there will be. Apparently this is not the case. So rich people (that’s definitely PC, right?)...

The Westin Does Free for a Reason
Free for free's sake. Customers love it. Brands sometimes see a benefit. But mostly it’s just free. Free product, free service, free customer smiles.

Brand Follow-Through
Brand follow-through is a simple practice that most companies have down to a science. That is of course if the topic is about customer service and business objectives and strategy. A customer reaches out, has a concern or question and a brand follows-up. It’s a simple practice, one that is expected from customers and one that brands have considered a necessity.

A Fashion Stylist for Every Customer
It’s the ultimate in one-to-one marketing. Imagine this. A fashion brand that includes a stylist for every customer. Oh, and it’s affordable. This is not a joke, it’s real. It’s the new Stitch Fix. Haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s a smart brand, one that is taking this journey one step at a time and has listened to its target. Oh and it’s providing something that currently is not found on the market. Accessible, pick-for-you clothes that align with the customer’s budget and style.

Customer Experience from the Experts: Part 2
No brand has to worry. There are more customer experience tips that both Oracle and Southwest are willing to share. It’s nice to be able to learn from brands that excel in this area, but also from two very different industries. So before the weekend comes, take a sip of that coffee and read on.

Customer Experience from the Experts: Part I
It’s not new, but it’s still the talk. Customer experience. It’s where brands are focused today more than ever. It’s not a new thought, but one that gained more attention because it seems that somewhere in the early years of this century it was being ignored. Brands were gaining success, the market was good...

The Facebook Ladder: Like, Comment, Share
Remember when the talk was all about how many Facebook “likes” a brand could receive? It was the measure of success. Yeah, that’s so yesterday. Brands have moved on, social media has gotten more intense, and the world of success is so much more than a simple “like.” This isn’t to be discouraging, but instead to show how much brands have grown and where the value of engagement truly lies. So move over, “likes.”

Whole Foods, Now Serving (Craft) Beers
Nine times out of ten, if Whole Foods is doing something, it’s a brand win. Its new craft beer tasting program is no exception. Whole Foods, how do you know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it? The brand is nothing short of a stellar, yet many of its successes seem so easy and simple. So maybe that’s the trick to success — don’t over-think or over-complicate new programs and strategies. But there’s more to building success than just simple programs.

A Down & 'Clean' Innovative Idea
It’s nice to see new brands and startups come onto the scene with a really great idea. It reminds all brands, big and small, that innovation can come from anywhere and that the use of that word is not yet dead. And when a brand is able to innovate something that is completely relevant and timely in today’s world, all the better. It’s a “down and dirty” idea...

Don’t Do Cool Simply Because It’s Cool
There are so many ideas and partnerships available that there is no lack of interesting and exciting opportunities. Brands no longer need to stick with the traditional media placements or partnerships and instead are able to create their own.

Celebrating Brand Successes
Everyone loves a celebration, from employees to customers. So the question is, why do most brands forget to celebrate their successes? In today’s fast-paced environment it seems like taking a time-out to be proud would put any brand at a disadvantage moving forward. But without celebration there is little time to reflect on what went right and how to carry this enthusiasm and practice over into future strategies. So today the talk is about taking a break from what’s next...

Sometimes Smaller (Data) is Better
The rage is about big data. The more information, the more a brand can learn, and the more opportunities to succeed. It’s a simple thought and makes sense, yet put it into action and the result is quite different. Today, brands are so focused on getting every piece of real-time data that they get lost in the data itself. It’s like having a gazillion cookies to choose from with an appetite for only a few.

Sometimes It's Not About the Bottom Line
There is such a focus on dollars and cents in business that many times nothing else seems to matter; this is rightfully so. In order to have a successful brand, sales must be made and dollars created for the company. It’s quite simple. But those brands that are out of launch years and lucky enough to be selling who the brand is can focus on more than just numbers. There’s a whole lot more out there that customers want to see once a brand has created its foundation and has proved its worth. So look past the numbers at the core of the brand and make decisions based on this. Starbucks has yet to conform to any sort of standard. The brand has its own standard...

Goodbye Google Reader, Hello ________?
For those that are daily site and blog readers, there’s been big news buzzing around. Google has made an announcement that changes the landscape.

Break it Down: Social Media Hints of the Visual Kind
People love pictures. Brands love people. Brands show pictures. It all seems so simple, yet it’s actually a bit more complex than that. The simplicity of brands sharing pictures has grown to be an accepted practice, and one that customers are really drawn to. However, brands, especially of the smaller kind, need to make sure they put that photo to work. Sharing a photo without following some basic rules can lead to a photo that’s out there and has no purpose.

Milano Cookies Combining Product and Brand
Think back five or ten years ago, and what comes to mind? Besides a fashion faux paus that should be forgotten, there was a shift in the world of brand marketing. Instead of focusing on products, companies were pushing brands; those brand messages that overtake a single sale and hopefully create a long-term engagement with the customer. More companies were focusing on the overarching brand message instead of a simpler product highlight. This was the time when brands were talking about who they were...

Brands That Live in Today’s World
There used to be certain topics, certain aspects of society, that brands didn’t infiltrate. These were the “steer clear” aspects of life that brands just didn’t want to take a stand or make a comment about and risk losing a customer set. But things are different these days and brands are becoming more synonymous...

If 'It' Works, Do More of 'It'
This is a pretty simple thought, but one that many times is overlooked. If something works, go with it and do more of that thing. But many times brands overcomplicate things and look for new ways to be creative and innovative. Sometimes that’s exactly the opposite of what will bring success.

B2B Feels Cramped By Advertising
General marketing principles are the same across the board no matter the brand, the industry, or the goal. However, digging deeper is a necessity because there are definitely specifics that need to be included in every situation. It’s like the same, but totally not the same, all in one little marketing package. And one of the biggest differences is the world of B2B as opposed to B2C.

Should Brands be Everywhere or Just Somewhere?
There are so many channels right now. Like, SO many. And these aren’t just traditional media channels, but also the non-traditional ones that allow brands to get noticed. With so many channels, the question lies in which is a better strategy — be present on them all or do a couple really well? The answer may seem simple, but there are actually a lot more things to consider when brands decide “where to be.” After all, if a brand is everywhere there’s more exposure, right?

Some Planning + Some Spontaneity = Authenticity
In a traditional branding sense there has always been a lot of talk around planning and strategies and visions. These are the tools that all brands use to create a brand, grow a brand, and make it succeed. Without some planning, brands can’t expect to have a business with a really strong sense of who it is, what it does, and where it plans to go. Planning = good business. But then there’s the other side: spontaneity.

Putting a Face to the Name
Brands spend a lot of time and money focused on driving that brand name. It’s an important asset and one that can help brands succeed over time. The more well known a brand is, the higher customer engagement should be, and in the end a successful brand is built. But there has been a little shift in those brand names...

Peeps Are Going Viral
Everyone knows Peeps; they are pretty much a viral brand all wrapped up in brightly colored marshmallow. And shockingly, there are quite valuable brand lessons hiding beneath their sugary core. Peeps is a seasonal brand with a product that comes out once a year...

Disney Does the Basics Better than Good
Today’s world is complex. For everything. There’s more technology, there are more touchpoints, and about a gazillion choices of ice cream. That’s a lot going on at one time, and it’s almost amazing that any consumer has the energy to determine brand preferences.

When Meetings Go Google
It’s a benefit, not a curse. And this makes sense because many lives revolve around Google, so why not bring this into the workplace. Now in all honesty everyone knows how corporate meetings go.

Southwest’s Lost & Found: Expect a Poem
Nothing Southwest does is “normal.” This is the brand that follows no rules but its own and has seen such great success doing just this. So it’s no surprise that the “Lost & Found” for Southwest is also different. The brand takes it to the next level and makes sure there is a moment of remembrance when glasses are returned...

Facebook Owns the World
Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but it’s got some merit to it. Facebook is the brand that breaks all those Branding 101 rules. It doesn’t play nice (in a good way) and it changes and innovates so constantly that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But the benefit here is that Facebook has a well-thought out strategy and the brand is letting no one stand in its way.

Stop, Collaborate & Listen
That’s right, today is the day brand inspiration comes from '90s rap artists. But hey, whatever works. With brands, there is a constant commitment to competition. Identifying who they are, creating strategies to be on top, and always playing the brand game to win. But what if brands took some time away from the competition and worked together?

Follow the Crowd, But Do It Differently
There’s something to be said for trends and their popularity with customers. If something is “the thing of the moment,” brands are going to want to be involved. But when dealing with trends or popularity it’s important that brands make it unique, customize it, and do it correctly.

Warm Up by the Wendy's Fire
Or not. Because the fire is actually fake. And the location of this fire is not somewhere that most people actually want to spend time chatting and hanging out. It’s almost like a misplaced fire. One that got lost from a cute romantic Inn and somehow found its way into a fast-food chain. It seems odd, because are consumers really going to want to enjoy a double bacon cheeseburger kazoo...

Welcome to 2013, Budweiser
Last week on BTB (that’s the lingo for Beneath the Brand, folks) there was conversation around Maker’s Mark. The brand made an announcement about reducing the percentage of alcohol in its beverage and then quickly reversed that decision after hearing from customers and being an active participant in the conversation. It was almost as if the brand wanted its customers...

Tear at Those Heartstrings Wisely
First lesson in advertising? Use babies and puppies, of course. These are the no-fail items (if used correctly) that are always brand wins. People love them and people love to love things, so it’s kinda a no-brainer. But brands are smarter these days and consumers are even smarter than that — so use those babies and puppies wisely. When used correctly brands can make an internal connection with customers to get a point across and hopefully create a bond that’s more than just product love: it's brand love.

Debut of a Brand
There are many brands that advertise consistently; those that the world expects to see in TV campaigns and ad prints from year to year. But then there are newer brands, or even brands that choose different marketing strategies, that are never represented in that classic TV campaign or that pretty magazine ad.

Save the Bells and Whistles
Everyone loves bells and whistles. It’s like a little more “pep in your step” for a product or service. And what customer doesn’t want more, doesn’t want to feel the love from a brand? But bells and whistles don’t cure all; these aren’t the ultimate brand winner unless some specifics have already been put in place. A bell or a whistle is only appreciated and accepted when the product or service is delivering the base as best it can. It’s almost like a mathematical equation that doesn’t work unless...

Are Brands Ready to Play the Twitter Game?
It’s all about the Twitter mentions these days; those brands that get a cool mention and it somehow snowballs into something bigger. The positive impact of these mentions is definitely fleeting, so part of the game is being at the right place at the right time. Or having a team that watches 24/7 for brand highlights on the social media platform. Because, believe it or not, there are brands that receive free advertising with a positive mention, but never truly capitalize on what they’ve been given. It’s shocking, but also quite common. Not all brands are ready and capable to play the full Twitter game.

Playing the Coffee Game
Somehow, at some point in time, the fast-food industry decided coffee was its game. Not everyday coffee, but the slightly higher, slightly better kind many consumers prefer. It’s almost opposite, yet this industry refuses to let these dollars be captured by anyone else. It started with McDonald’s, which has put a prime focus on coffee in recent years, and today includes the “other” one...

Who Has a Loud Voice?
There’s been quite the Marker’s Mark controversy lately. The alcohol brand was doing the unthinkable. Well, at least unthinkable in the customer’s mind. And in a world where customers can say a lot and be heard a whole lot more, the brand had to rethink its plan.

Take it Up a Notch
Oreos are America’s favorite. That’s a general statement, but in all honesty this brand has been anything but quiet in the last year. This brand is all over social media being all sorts of relevant and timely, showing other brands “what’s up.” (That’s an official marketing term.) With each positive program and stellar tweet, Oreo is upping the ante and forcing other brands to play its game. That’s great for the industry and for branding as whole...

Changing the Way Ads Work
There’s a new type of ad in town, thanks to Microsoft. Well, kinda thanks to Microsoft. It’s more thanks to those creative agencies that are now able to design and innovate something that will work for their clients. Microsoft is just the host or platform behind this whole new ad world.

WANTED: The Ultimate Stressed Customer
How about something super creative for this Friday? Don’t worry, this post has it covered. Perhaps one of the most well-thought out, creative campaigns that by no means was a walk in the park. If brands want to do creative, they really need to put the energy and effort behind this. Because there is no semi-creative; it’s either really good or not a winner at all. Luckily Nivea is a brand that understands this...

Tweet to Purchase
Credit card companies are boring, annoying, and frustrating. There’s not a lot of fun talk to be had with their content, as the industry is tied to dollars and cents. So these brands have to go extra far, take an extra step, to be even a little intriguing. And there have been many successes over the years...

The Brand So Familiar, It's Like Looking in a Mirror
What if there was a brand that knew its customers so well that it was like looking in a mirror? A brand that understood each customer’s individual needs and it felt like talking to a best friend, all the time. That would be great; kind of unrealistic, though. But what if a brand plays in this fantasy world and steps up to be a customer’s best friend each and every time?

The Silent Partner Every Brand Needs to Succeed
Every brand needs one of those. Someone that leads the way to success. But what if the successful partner wasn’t a “someone” but simply a thing, or aspect of the business. Even better! Brands are actually able to work towards success without having drinks with this silent business partner.

Stay Warm with Starbucks
The northeast U.S. got hit with a doozy of a storm this weekend. It was one of epic proportions, predicted days out, and literally hit right on target. Most brands hunkered down and provided those nice “we’re here for you,” messages if needed. But then there is a brand that takes it up a notch.

One Brand, One Mascot, One Book Deal
Brands are always told to create a human side. That bit of character that allows customer to relate to the brand on a deeper level and form a connection. One that lets customers see that there is more to a brand than corporate sales, but that this brand can think, feel, and do. But what about a brand that uses a “mascot” of sorts and places all these human attributes on that character? It’s almost like taking this human stuff to a whole other level. Do brands need mascots? Do brand mascots need emotions? Is it getting confusing or is it actually clarifying the unknown for customers?

Cookies vs. Onions
That’s right, it’s a little food talk wrapped up in some marketing know-how. There are so many lessons out there of what not to do, which brands not to follow, that sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint when something is right. Luckily, there are two brands that are above all that, rocking what they do in social media and making it look oh-so-simple. Once a brand figures out its little rhythm, it's almost as if the work does itself. Now doesn’t that sound nice? Oreo has been a topic in the social media world before.

Brand Fan Fake Out
Every brand wants to be loved. It not only makes them feel all happy inside but proves to be great for business. Brands that are loved are brands that are successful. And what brand wouldn’t want that? More important is how this love started. Is it true love or simply fake puppy love? It makes a difference. Maybe not at first glance, but when digging deeper...

Don’t Make the 'Worst' List
No kid wants to be on the naughty list during the holidays, just like no brand should strive to be on any “worst” list. There’s just no future in the “worst” list. People and brands alike want more; they want the “best” lists. They want a future. They want success. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic...

Don’t Follow the Rules, but Still Play Nice
Pepsi never follows the rules. The brand should get a time-out for the rules' sake. But actually, it’s loved that this brand can change the game even more so than any other brand. Even during the Super Bowl, when every brand is changing the rules, Pepsi finds a way to go above and beyond. Applause for this brand; the one that doesn’t listen, takes a challenge to heart...

It’s Game Day: Wear Clean Underwear
This time next week, the talk of Super Bowl ads will be dwindling. Luckily, there’s still a bit more time to see which brands will be appearing during the big game. Underwear. That’s right, two brands will be focusing on underwear during the big game. It definitely will get some attention and hopefully provide some success for these brands, because when there’s talk of underwear it seems fitting that everyone would listen. It’s exciting when brands appear during the Super Bowl for the first time.

Create a Brand Campaign Big Enough for the Super Bowl Field
There are still three more days until Super Bowl Sunday, and don’t worry, there’s lots more Super Bowl brand talk until then. If a brand is lucky enough to have a spot, the next task is creating something big enough for Super Bowl Sunday. Something that plays alongside what other brands are doing, yet is distinct enough to get noticed. It’s one part science and a whole lotta parts creative. So what should brands consider when creating their masterpiece? Some popular game-day trends, of course. Make it Long: Yes, longer than the norm, because those are the ads that people talk about long after the game is over.

How to Win the Big Game
Just because a brand has secured a spot for the big game does not mean there’s an automatic brand win. This is the big leagues, folks. Brands must bring their first-string team, the best-of-the-best, in order to make an impact. How does a brand do that? Go to the experts, of course.

The Release Before the Big Game
The Super Bowl hasn’t happened yet, but viewers don’t have to wait to get a sneak peek of the ads. Think back even five years ago and anyone can remember a much different landscape; one where the ads were still secret to the public and social media wasn’t truly playing an integral part in the pre-release strategy. Fast forward to today and the game plan for game-day ads is much different. Brands want that pre-release talk and they want it to come organically from social media, talk shows...

The Super Bowl Isn't About Football
That’s right; the biggest football game of the year isn’t even about the game itself. Sure, the teams compete to get there, everyone’s bringing their best talent, and fans are ready to watch, but these viewers want more. Many of them look at the Super Bowl as a time to see the best of the best — and they aren’t talking about athletes. Fans expect to see the most creative TV spots of the year during this famous game. So just as the players practice all year to be on that field, brands must do the same if they want to be a highlight.

Everyone Needs a Reminder
For brands there’s always a focus on innovating, changing, and staying arm-in-arm with the competition. But many times a brand’s idea is already where it should be and the focus should be more on messaging. A campaign that convinces, one that reminds, and messages that explain what the brand is...

Taking a Cue
Many brands want to learn, want to understand, and most importantly want those little secrets on how to succeed. For smaller brands, this is even more important. The ability to learn a couple of key tactics, get some direction, and hopefully emulate success is essential.

Work or Play?
Everyone knows the difference. Work is a struggle and play is fun. So if a brand thinks about all of its marketing initiatives, project plans would be work and social media would be play. Right? Social media is a different initiative, one that confused many (actually most) brands when it first came on the scene.

Blonde or Brunette?
Two completely different looks; how does one decide? Honestly, people tend to prefer one over the other. So what if a brand only offers brunette, but the customer wants blonde? Said brand invents blonde, lets the customer know, and the rest is history. No, this isn’t about hair color or dating; it’s about coffee...and the way Starbucks invited an excluded customer segment to come give the brand a try.

Don’t Beg People to be Friends
The Facebook news is good for brands folks. The data is positive; people are jumping on the bandwagon and connecting with brands they love. It’s a whole lot of brand excitement. And for those brands that think social media can’t help, that it’s just an added extra, are those brands that won’t be receiving the praise of customers.

Be Serious, But Not Too Serious
Brands today can, no, are expected, to have a personality. One that shines through and lets customers truly understand the brand's emotions. This can be a tough thing for many brands to accomplish as many take it too far and many more don’t embrace it quite enough.

Detangling Data, for Brands: Take 2
Data is a big topic, so big that one day on the topic doesn’t do it justice. It’s also an important topic; one that brands need to listen to, fully understand, and wholeheartedly implement. A brand without data is not a brand that will see success and not a brand that will be able to grow year after year. And that is why it’s more data talk today.

Detangling Data, for Brands: Take 1
It’s not a new conversation, but more one that can be overly confusing and quite time consuming. And if brands don’t know what to do, where to turn, how to get it done? It’s all just a bunch of data not helping the brand succeed. The topic of data started with “get as much as possible” and has simply evolved...

Giving Customers a Seat at the Table
Making web analytics public. No, like really public. Like allowing people to be on the journey of a site and readily view graphs that display the analytics of what is happening. It’s the sheer idea of being transparent while also teaching what this whole data thing is about and, more importantly, how this digital data drives business...and have it all happen real time. That’s the vision, but do all brands buy it? ome brands may have just gone down in cardiac shock...

Legos Talk
It’s a childhood memory for adults and still a childhood favorite of those still in elementary school. This legacy brand is one that has been around for generations and luckily was smart enough to modernize with the times. But only in certain aspects. Because the products are still pretty intricate, still connect as they used to and still provide hours of entertainment for certain inquisitive minds. The brand however, has stayed on top of what’s needed to succeed in today’s world and has made modern customer service a priority.

The Price of a Comped Meal
It happens. There’s a customer issue and a product or service is given for free. It’s the cost of doing business. But what is the cost of those comped meals or those discounted services? A whole lot if you ask Baskin Robbins. In a world where value is underappreciated, customers notice the little things and many times repay a brand for a truly unaided act. Let’s call it a brand bonus. Many brands save free or discounted products and services for making a wrong right in the customer’s mind.

Who is THE Expert?
Many brands employ experts. The design expert, the product expert, and even the branding expert. Each provides their own perspective, helping the brand to achieve success in some part of the business. However, the question still remains: what makes someone an expert? Are these experts providing the right information to help the brand be better than the next? Those are the expert questions that need to be answered in order for this strategy to work.

Marriott’s Hiring: Zero Pay
Marriott’s on a hiring spree. It’s more of a freelance role and, oh, there’s no salary attached to the work. Sounds intriguing, right? Sometimes the best information can be found from the local experts and Marriott Renaissance Hotels wants to be the hotel brand...

Because Everyone Needs Cake Mix
Re-doing grocery. Making it elaborate, glamorous, and downright exciting. Because let’s be honest; the world of grocery can be rather boring, rather sticky, and rather annoying. But then you have a brand like Target that decided to put its Target charm all over the boring stuff and make it dramatic.

Be True; Brand True
All brands want to be authentic. It’s a brand buzz word that is discussed in boardrooms and one that many brands hope to achieve. Yet there isn’t a ton of conversation on how to be an authentic brand and the tools that are needed to achieve this status. It is necessary to understand the definition of authentic and then use some of these ideas to ensure the brand can truly be authentic. Brands can achieve authenticity by connecting to a place.

The Healthy Brand Check-Up
It’s a new year with a whole new checklist of brand goals. Things that carry over from last year and new intentions that brands want to achieve. But it’s important for all brands, especially small businesses, to take a step back, a moment to breathe and make sure that the brand basics are in check. It’s like a yearly physical for a brand, a timed mile that it must achieve. Before those crazy goals are kicked into high gear make sure the following have been checked and approved.

More 2013 Thoughts on Content
Let’s get right back to it: the content evolution that will happen this year. New year, new things. Content is on to bigger and better things and for brands it’s all good news. Twofor Known as COPE: Well if that isn’t the most confusing description ever.

What 2013 Will Bring to the Table
It happened. It’s 2013. Yes, 20-13. That’s crazy! There was bubbly, there was cake, and now it’s time to get serious. And as much as there’s a longing for the good old days, there’s a lot to be said for being so advanced. Brands are better, brands are smarter, and this brand landscape is no joke. There’s strategy, there’s technology, and of course there’s content.

Don’t Be Quiet; Take a Stand
Many brands, actually most brands, don’t put themselves in the midst of controversy. They try to stay right on the line between two sides and not get involved. It’s the safest place. And many people think that’s where brands should be; they are there to sell products and services but not much more. That is, of course, unless you do it correctly. Then there’s the ability to take a stand and really create a human brand. Starbucks never ceases to amaze. It’s always there, always relevant, and can move faster than most brands. Oh, and it has a personality. One that is emotional, one that feels, and one that gets involved. Last week, Starbucks locations in the D.C. area took a stance.

All Good Things Must End
It’s the cycle of life, even brand life. Brands come, they gain success, and then there’s a point where they must leave. Either on to something new or the brand has determined it’s time to make an exit. Hopefully that point is on a good note and not after too much of a struggle. Many brands determine an end when they have something new in sight; a way to be more relevant.

Sears is Putting it Out There
Larger brands that have been around for some time run the risk of becoming stale and losing traction with customers if they don’t keep it fresh. Many times this has to do with the brand not being as relevant as it once was, or the products and services simply are not needed anymore. If larger brands are going to keep continued success they need to reinvent, stay relevant, and most of all let customers know they are a lasting brand.

What Went RIGHT?
So many times, brands focus on how to change, how to fix things, or how to make it better. They're always focusing on what went wrong and how to make it go right the next time. This is definitely a logical strategy for brands and something that is needed in order to have success in the future. But there is also quite a lot to be learned from the other extreme: the idea that there are lessons to be learned from what went right. Brands are always critical of themselves.

From One Small Brand Brother to Another
All the big brands love to give advice (and it’s much appreciated) on how to use social media effectively, but many times these strategies are too costly or too time intensive for a smaller brand to even consider. The result is that smaller brands resort to the normal humdrum (or drum hum) of social media.

Brands HAD It Easy: Instagram and Its Users
It used to be much simpler back in the good ol' days. Brands made a decision, announced it (or sometimes didn’t), and customers adjusted. That was the way the world worked. Brands held the cards and customers just played with the hand they were dealt. It usually meant that there was a lot of compromise on the customer side, but what else was there to do? And let’s be honest; brands tried to make the right decision the best one.

After Gifts are Opened…
Consumers buy. That’s right; they purchase. And this isn’t about a trip to the mall, but instead about the click of a mouse or the touch of a finger. Think about it. What are many people asking for this holiday season? iPads, mobile devices, and tablets. What happens after family time has reached its limit and boredom has set in? App purchases, of course.

In Case of an Emergency
It’s impossible to ignore what happened last Friday. Not only in the U.S. but China as well. Innocent human beings who left too early. The majority of the day was spent listening to news coverage and trying to get the most up-to-date information on the situation. Whether it was TV, online news, or even social media...

What’s at the Core?
Core competency — Branding 101. Determine what it is, market it, and never let it go away. That core competency is the thing that makes most brands run. It’s the one competency that, at the end of every day, brands can thank for making it through. And it doesn’t have to be life-changing; it simply must work, and work consistently. Without that competency the brand disappears.

Sometimes Right is Also Wrong
It’s true. Brands should do what is right for their core concept and never let anything get in the way. Because this should be the ultimate goal of any brand — to succeed and grow on a core concept. This is right; anything else should be wrong. Right? Unfortunately, there is more to the story than simply success when customers are involved. It’s not as black and white as the statement above, because brands need to consider what works for the user...

The Lottery Wins, in Georgia
It’s been a big couple of weeks for the Lottery. Lots of press, lots of excitement, and lots of engagement with the overall brand. And now it’s holiday time: the period between Thanksgiving and the end of the year when people purchase gifts for family, friends, and those they don’t even know. And lucky for the lottery, the brand has a product that fits all, costs little, and can offer a little fun.

The Post-Holiday Plan
It’s a busy time of year; lots of excitement and lots of brand activity. For many brands, this is the time of year they focus on when they're planning their top strategies. Other brands simply capitalize on what this holiday season means and put dollars aside to make sure they can compete. All this is for good reason, but it’s important for brands to know what’s next.

Fresh-Cracked Eggs
This topic has come up before and it will continue to appear again: the idea that brands need to show instead of tell, and do something to make customers understand. Saying the words and truly getting customers to believe are two different things.

Brands Should Do a Gut Check
Brands are different than people in some senses, but in others they need to be just like consumers. That includes having a point of view, having emotions (yes, brands should have feelings, too), and always doing a gut check.

SEO Laws: Part 2
Yes, there are still more laws to follow for SEO. It’s not an easy strategy, nor one that a brand should take lightly, which means a list of laws is needed. The basics were covered yesterday, but it doesn’t stop there. If you want successful SEO (which is the key) there are specific steps to take to get there. It's more important that a brand and a team understand the difference...

SEO Laws: Part 1
Okay, so they aren’t really laws, but it seems more serious if it’s called a law instead of a guideline or rule. With a topic like SEO, that’s pretty important. It’s a scary marketing tactic, one that is still fairly new, and one that many brands don’t truly understand. But as a branding connoisseur, SEO is important and it’s just as important to know how to execute a successful SEO strategy.

The Power of Repurposing
A new idea is great and definitely something brands want to strive for, but new also comes with consequences. Those are normally time, money, and resources. Plus, new is hard to create; it’s unreasonable for brands to think they can create new for each and every program and each and every initiative.

Brand Integrity is Forever
Many brands talk about the “good” they do. It can range from charities they support/create to community opportunities they attend or even how they support their employees. Companies don’t hide where they interact, hoping that it adds to the overall brand image customers create for a company. And then there are positioning statements and brand missions.

Holidays = Social Media Giveaways
Want to win something? Check Facebook or Twitter — it's contests, giveaways, promotions galore. Not unexpected, but the truth is in what will last the full month December and what will simply become annoying towards the end. Brands have seen the opportunity and coupled it with relevancy to create a new avenue for customer engagement. And, of course, giveaways won’t make every name entered a brand loyalist, but there will be quite a few that hang on past the holiday season.

More Who’s Who in Content Marketing
There are more success stories around content marketing that need to be shared. Those brands that have made content the top priority and have a dedicated focus around its benefits. It’s not about content itself but the effect that this tactic can provide — customer engagement. Here are the brands that have taken to this little successful gem.

The Who’s Who of Content Marketing
There’s been a shift in brand thinking. What used to be a conversation around why content marketing is needed has now transformed into how to do content marketing well. Most brands have been convinced (as they all should) that content marketing is a successful strategy that should be included in overall plans.

Was Cyber Monday Real?
It’s been termed the highest online holiday purchase day. The day after the Thanksgiving long weekend when consumers are back in their routine, sitting at their desks and apparently ordering away. Cyber Monday grew and is now a known date just like Black Friday, when customers expect the deals. However, are companies actually serving up the best savings or have brands decided to play along?

If Something Works, Change It
Brands hope for the day when they’ll find a product, a service, or a marketing tool that brings them success. The item that ultimately has the pass-along effect; the one customers tell their friends about and ultimately create additional business. It’s a brand’s dream to be the one that figured out the key to success and ride the wave from year to year. But there’s an important lesson in finding that “golden ticket.” Brands can’t let it live and let it die, but instead have to alter it, change it, update it to create a prolonged success.

Thanksgiving Means 'Holiday Season'
Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, the long-awaited day (or long-dreaded day) that, for many brands, signals the start of the holiday season. There’s a different feel in the air once Turkey Day arrives — more hustle, more bustle, and also more giving. It’s something many brands talk about and promote during this time period. But many also forget to do one important thing — say thank you.

Cheerios Plays Family and Tradition
It’s the cereal that many kids start out with when they move to real food. It’s a classic and one that many parents themselves enjoyed as a toddler. It’s simple, it’s healthy, and it’s been able to live more than a decade. General Mills knows that Cheerios has a story to tell; one that’s less about ingredients and more about the memories that these little circular bites can create. Those are powerful things that, if created, can help strengthen a brand for years to come. General Mills has a host of cereals to promote, and yet...

The Push for Pistachios
It’s all the rage these days for a brand that was never a brand but now is: Pistachios. It’s shocking and a bit cool at the same time that this little nut is all of a sudden kicking up a marketing storm, from TV spots to specific store displays and new packaging. And it’s not all nuts; just pistachios. Those are the ones that are getting the attention, and this is the nut brand that decided to go all out. And Brand Pistachio signed up quite the big talent to make its debut. Pistachios launched a new “Get crackin’” campaign that’s all the rage. Using talent from Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion; that’s a whole other brand topic in itself), Khloe Kardashian, and Snooki, this little nut is trying to be the “in-nut” and knows what it takes to get there.

Allstate, Selling Safety
Many brands take on initiatives that support the environment, the community, and, overall, their customers. These strategies can range from being a sustainable brand to one that supports a cause that’s close to the brand. And although many brands use these tactics as a way to emotionally connect with their customers and to be relevant to what is important to them, there is little financial benefit to the brand.

Make Websites Work Harder
There are still a couple more website basics that brands need to follow when launching a site. Remember it’s not just those pretty pictures or clever words that make a website. This marketing tool has a job to do so it’s important for brands to ensure their website is working hard for the brand. Just a couple more items to remember when launching a brand site.

Websites are More Than Pretty Pictures
Brands today NEED a website. Even small, newer brands need to have a presence online because that’s where customers go to find more information. However, a website, no matter how small the brand, needs a purpose in order to convert people into customers and from customers into brand enthusiasts. And although for many startups there’s little time to think about the website while creating a successful brand, there are a couple of key items that can help.

Don’t Tell, Show
Brands love to talk, a lot. Sometimes too much. Less talking and more showing, that should be the focus at the next marketing meeting. It’s important for customers to understand a brand and be able to quickly know its differentiators, but does it have to be all talk? Brands need to easily show customers how they are different because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Walmart Called. Now What?
Brands strive to make it big, play with the big boys, and have continued success. And many brands start out small, working on individual orders, hoping to one day be the supplier for a bigger brand. Once a smaller brand can get one of the big guys to latch on, success can come soon after. However, many brands don’t know how to go from being a smaller business to a larger one.

Is Imperfection the New Perfect?
Many brands focus on characteristics like perfection, being the best, top-notch. It all makes sense as brands would never talk about being the runner-up or the brand that serves as the second best. But what if there was merit to being a little less than perfect and a benefit arose from this characteristic? Then maybe brands would talk about imperfection as if it were message to be discussed. Whole Foods, a seemingly perfect brand in some ways, is talking about imperfection.

Tablet Owners Multitask: Now What?
It’s well known that consumers are multitasking when they interact with, see, or hear a media message. Brands are aware that they do not have the undivided attention of consumers, no matter how good their newest campaign might be. This phenomenon also applies to modern technology. Now that consumers are more connected and more accessible, their attention is even more divided.

A Little Election Peer Pressure
When brands think about engaged customers they only hope for a pass-along effect. The ability for brand enthusiasts to authentically recommend a brand to others. These messages, from a current customer to a potential one, are priceless. It can equate to a new brand advocate and of course a new purchaser of the brand. And it’s not just for certain brands, as this tactic can be (and was) used by all, even brand Election 2012. There are little stickers given out at every voting location.

When Online Brands Go Traditional
Brands that are born and rooted in digital and technology tend to stay in the world they know. It makes sense; these brands are where their customers are and they invest in keeping this audience in the realm of where their brands reside. The conversation is normally about traditional brands and the slow push to get them to interact online...but what happens when the brand is already digital and needs to help customers get there?

Who's Passing the Scotch Whiskey?
Most brands have a very specific target audience. This is the set of people or businesses that the brand appeals to, and the majority of sales are made with this audience. Sure, there can be sub-segments of this audience, but rarely does a brand focus on completely changing its core set of customers. That is, unless the brand needs to come out of its shell, shake things up, and ultimately create a new revenue stream. And that is why Scotch whiskey is now for women.

Be a Sensitive Brand
This week has been filled with devastation, loss, and survival. Hurricane Sandy took the east coast by storm and for some just provided an annoyance, but for others it took away their homes and their state.

Little Change, Big Impact
Brands understand big changes; strategy shifts that affect every facet of the business. This means that all teams are involved, there are weekly status meetings, and a very detailed launch plan is brought to the table. All this makes sense, and for brands it’s something that is tried and true and ultimately accepted. But what happens when the change isn’t all encompassing, but really just a small notch on the scale? Do brands know what to do?

Who’s NOT Going to Rock the Holidays, Retail Style?
There are brands that are expected to win this holiday season and then there are those that haven’t made a plan. They are unprepared, simply hoping for increased sales with no strategy in place.

The Eye of the Storm
Relevancy and timeliness are key topics for brands, especially in today’s super-engaged and connected world. Brands also need to understand what information and support customers want. It’s also important for brands to be connected and understand what information they can capitalize on so customers feel they are a number-one priority…especially when a storm is about to hit.

Who’s Going to Rock the Holidays, Retail Style?
It’s almost that time of year again — the holiday rush. Starting on Black Friday and ending Christmas Eve, retail brands hope for that big bump in sales and an increase in customers buying, buying, buying. There are always brands that make this time of year a success with planning and strategy...and then there are brands that leave those tools out and ultimately lose.

Customers Don’t Care About French Fries
Customers today want and expect transparency from brands. They are more interested in business practices, materials used and how products are made. It’s this transparency that helps create engagement with certain brands and also gives a deeper look into “who” the brand is and what it believes. But transparency also needs to feel real and authentic in order to gain that positive response from customers. Maybe transparency isn’t one-size fits all.

Burger King is Always Changing
There’s something to be said for brands that are constantly evolving. Change is good; it keeps customers interested and it helps the brand stay relevant within a time frame. Everyone loves change. That is, unless, there’s too much of it. If a brand is constantly updating, constantly changing, customers can’t keep up. Then change becomes confusing, not useful and ultimately turns the customer away from the brand. So how much change is too much?

Game 7 or the Debate?
The debates are over, the last one ending on not so much of a high note. Yes, Americans were watching; yes, there was chatter amidst the social media world, but attendance was low. Was it relevancy, was it the candidates, or was it Game 7 and Monday Night Football that won the eyes and ears of Americans Monday night?

The 'They Ask, You Answer' Business
Brands start out with a core concept; a product or service that fulfills a need in the marketplace and is competitive within an industry. Although successful with the original strategy, this doesn’t mean that brands can’t branch out and provide answers. That’s right, answers to questions that customers are asking and answers to questions that the industry hasn’t talked about yet. It’s stepping beyond products and services and bringing content into the mix.

Customers Want to Hear from Customers
It’s funny; a brand can tell a consumer a thousand times that their product or service is better than the rest, but consumers won’t hear this message at all or they won’t believe it. Very few brands can pull off such a bold statement and have it work. Instead consumers want to hear it from the source and understand the positives and negatives of any product or service.

It’s Okay to Achieve Contentment
It’s easy to do the same thing. It’s also easy to do the same thing with a little update. But it’s much harder and much more appreciated for brands to go outside their comfort zone. Not all the way out, not in an unexpected matter; but instead something that shows the brand is alive. It’s important for customers to feel intrigued and for brands to test the boundaries.

Nike Stands By Its Beliefs
Consumers have beliefs; normally, a strong set of them. These beliefs are what direct them to follow certain brands, use them, and ultimately engage with them. Recently, there have been many cases where a brand did something out of character and customers reacted. This reaction can go as deep as eliminating the brand from a consumer’s consideration set, and all because a brand didn’t uphold its beliefs or maybe didn’t really have a set of beliefs at all. Then there are brands that have learned from their mistakes.

Pin for Holiday Success
It’s that time of year again; the time when consumer brands focus a core segment of their business on the holidays — the traffic, the products, and most importantly, the sales.

Continuous Quality by Facebook
Quality is something all brands are concerned about in order to be and stay successful. It’s something that is discussed consistently, but many brands are only making updates in this realm every so often.

Is Anyone Watching TV?
It’s no surprise that most consumers are getting their news fix from other sources than print. That daily morning paper has turned into a multimedia affair that is more accessible and is timelier than a nightly print run. But what does this mean to other information channels? Are these media able to surpass the effects of technology and accessible information and still stay relevant?

Don’t Serve Stale Bread
It is cost of entry at any restaurant — the bread must be good and it must be fresh. Sure, it can be the same French baguette that is served every night, but it must taste new and perfect to the customer. The same thing is needed for brands; customers want what they are used to, but they don’t want it to be stale and they want it to feel new every so often.

Walmart Steps Into Banking
There are certain industry and brand boundaries that are unstated, yet known by both companies and consumers. There’s a place for a brand to be, a place where it interacts, and certain set of criteria it fills for its customers. So when these lines are crossed and a brand decides it can play in another territory, is it a smart and successful strategy or one that confuses customers and enrages other brands?

Bringing Mobile In-House?
When mobile technology first started, all brands went to the pros. This was not something any brand played around with as new technology needs experts. That trend has lasted for quite some time, with most brands outsourcing mobile development through agency partnerships.

A Number Doesn’t Equal Engagement
There’s customer engagement and then there is employee engagement. Employee engagement is all the rage and definitely a buzzword every brand is talking about. There are surveys that go out, numbers that are discussed...

Planning for Social Media Mishaps
It’s happened time and time again; a human error mishap that tarnishes a brand and can become a PR nightmare. However, with a world that now uses technology more than pen and paper, these mishaps can become far more detrimental to a brand.

The Blogger Strategy
Brands understand that the game has changed and what worked five or ten years ago is no longer the best plan for today. There are new ways of communicating with customers, new channels of information delivery, and ultimately new brand plans that need to be created. And most brands are open to growing and staying current in order to gain success.

Tried and True, or the New?
There’s comfort in something that is familiar and known with expectations that are set by one party and met by the other. It’s the reason that customers grow loyal to certain brands and become advocates for them. There’s a certain sense of ease for the customer knowing that what they’ve received in the past is exactly what they’ll get in the future.

Being the Whole Solution
Brands are specific, known for certain products and services that customers understand they can receive from the company. It’s the strategy that makes sense so there is a clear understanding of what the brand delivers and who it is. Customers are able to form a perception of the brand and the company is able to deliver.

When the Patient Requests the Drugs
There are many brands that deal with a channel as a means to distribute and sell its products and services. The most classic is the insurance industry, which involves a broker or agency to sell the products of various carriers to a consumer or business. Of course, over the years, many brands have progressed past these hurdles.

Luvs Wants Second Timers
Parent brands – most of them look to acquire the target during that sweetspot before the first bundle of joy is born. Get them during those stressful moments, provide benefits and hopefully retain them as a customer through many more kids. It makes sense to create brand advocates early on and then move with these customers through stages of life.

It’s Oreo vs. AMC Theatres
There are lots of serious topics when it comes to branding and marketing. But sometimes it’s more important to just have a little fun with a brand and see where it goes. There’s no goal at the end, no specific ROI, but instead it’s the brand just being itself. Living without strategy and without direction and letting its true colors come out. What could be more human than that? Oreo and AMC Theatres decided to let the brands speak and take themselves a little less serious recently. It started off as an Oreo social media question to its followers that then grew into something more. Something unplanned but perhaps better for the brand than its original posted question.

Taking a Gamble...On Price
What if there was a product that allowed you an option of price? Pay a slightly higher price now to secure a specific rate or roll the dice and pay later for what might be a better deal. Seems impossible and also interesting at the same time.

What’s Beneath a Brand Promotion?
There’s much more to an online promotion than meets the eye. Sure, it’s aimed at getting customers engaged or re-engaged, but the benefits go further than this. It allows the brand to try something new, create a short-term buzz, and ultimately direct customers to hear very specific information. In the end, the promotion is really a means to much more than a grand prize or bragging rights..

Goodbye, Kindle
It finally happened: one brand doing business with another just broke up. The partnership was beneficial until one brand wanted more and noticed that the other brand may be hindering its future. Couldn’t these brands work together for success and for the benefit of customers? Or was the split actually the answer to putting customers first in the future?

“Do Not Track” a Mistake?
There’s an ongoing discussion these days around cookies, online tracking, and behavior-driven ads. Some groups want to give consumers the option, whereas the other side is more about education and choice. Unfortunately, there’s no standard on this topic, no guideline to follow from the past, and no golden answer. It’s all new territory that’s confusing and exciting at the same time. Tracking affects the possibilities all brands will have.

Brands Cannot Ignore Social Media Comments
There’s some kind of mis-branding rumor flying around out there. It’s telling brands that they can ignore customer comments and issues. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it’s true. Apparently someone or some company decided that if a customer comment or issue came across in a social media platform, then it is okay to ignore. It’s a lie.

There’s a New Logo in Town
Seventeen years using the same logo is not unusual at all. It’s the first representation of a brand and usually the thing customers remember after a brand is introduced. Many brands opt to keep their original logos for their history and iconic value.

If a Cheeseburger Could Talk
It’s an interesting strategy, one that not many brands take and one that many critics will tear apart. Most brands actually take an opposite strategy, while this brand, or this product, turns all the rules upside down and just does what feels right. If it’s successful it might work, but in the meantime it’s at least getting a whole lot of attention. And no matter what that’s definitely a brand win. McDonald’s has been a game-changer in the past and will continue to do so in the future, but this brand was normally thought to pull out all the stops with new products, operational excellence, and a headstrong strategy that in the last 10 years has been mostly positive. Consumers knew what to expect; even with new campaigns, there was a set of consistency that came with McDonald’s.

iPhone 5 : Will 4G or Accessories Matter More?
It happened: the new Apple iPhone was debuted on Wednesday. Of course the anticipation was worth the wait, and today is the day to preorder. The two days between the announcement and preorder are definitely longer than the time between the releases of each new iPhone. As the announcement was made and consumers listened, there was excitement around the new features.

Building a Better Internal Brand: Part 2
There’s still more to learn and more to understand about creating that strong, invincible internal brand. It’s an important factor in the overall success of any brand, so it warrants the time and energy to understand. Remember, this internal brand is the first representation to the outside world and any strength, or lack thereof, can be felt by outside customers. So give the internal brand the importance it deserves. Here’s just a taste of what comes from a strong inside brand.

Building a Better Internal Brand: Part 1
Brand success starts on the inside. Not with customers, not with products, but with building a branded team that supports the business inside and out. Much of this success — why some go far and why others only last a short time — is connected to the leadership of the brand. In order to build a successful team that can take the brand places now and in the future, there must be a clear vision. This comes from the top, and it must be an open book.

Fashion for All (Almost)
In the midst of NY Fashion Week there are images of over-the-top outfits, shoes that girls would die for, and an inaccessibility that makes it the “who’s who” of the fashion world.

Amazon vs. Apple
Customers want services, not the gadget. Or at least that’s what Amazon focused on in its new release last week through a set of tablet devices. The brand directly challenged Apple with this launch.

A Brand that Changes Every Year
That’s impossible, right? Well, not exactly. Imagine a brand that releases a set of new products every September and many times every January as well. And this isn’t an extension of an old product and it isn’t a launch of just one new product. These brands release five to seven new products that are completely different, yet are built to help the brand grow.

Have Consumers Lost Faith in Brands?
Today’s consumer is smarter, with more access to information and a more holistic view of the world. Customers not only want more from brands, but they expect it and they deserve it, from the brand that sells them soap to the one that feeds their kids to the one that keeps them connected. And consumers are using the information they have at their fingertips to make decisions about what brands to use and which ones to keep out of their circle. But there has also been a shift in consumer perception. The brands that were once accepted and relied upon are being asked much tougher questions. How is food sourced?

Who Tweets?
Many brands leave the tweeting to the PR team. Seems sufficient, but that’s really all it is. Most companies are not utilizing one of the newest forms of technology to enhance their brands. Sure, this is a PR pro's dream, but the technology and its benefits do not stop there. Among Fortune 500 companies, only 20 brands actually have Twitter accounts. Twenty divided by 500 equals 4%. Imagine if only 4% of these companies used billboards or talked about innovation.

Be the Talk of the Town
Shhh...there’s a secret. It’s the coveted formula that all brands look to uncover. The secret ingredients to becoming that sought-after brand that takes up space in many dinner conversations and chats between friends. Every brand is looking to become the popular one and become more successful. The funny part is, many of the ideas to becoming this “talk of the town” are exactly what real people follow to become more successful.

Are Brands Human?
Clearly the answer is no; brands are a thing, they have no vital organs, and breathing is not something they need to stay alive. That is, of course, if you look at a brand through the eyes of a textbook. When taking a deeper look, brands are human. They have a personality, they need people and structure to make them move forward, and they make mistakes.

The NYC Marathon Bag Debacle
It’s big news in the running world and even bigger news in the marketing world. It’s the coveted marathon, 26.2 miles through the five boroughs. To enter, you must qualify or be chosen through a lottery process. This little ING NYC Marathon brand is nothing to joke about.

Location, Location, Location
Sometimes the premise for a brand is based on a need; an empty space within an industry where there is potential for success. Other times brands are born out of a location. The fact is that there are certain distribution challenges; nothing's available everywhere.

Best Buy’s Big Try
Some brands spend year after year in a successful position, trading between first, second, and third place. Then there are other brands that circle in the spotlight and go dim for some time before making a return. It’s clear that no brand is the same and the path to success is always different, but with all these different trails it’s important to note that success is not guaranteed.

When Good Things Go Bad
It’s one of the most well-known and successful organizations. It fights a bad thing in life and works to make it better. As a brand, it’s very visibly prominent and outsiders think very highly of it. That was, of course, until a couple of days ago, when the top spokesperson went into the “bad” limelight and potentially changed the future of this brand forever.

Stay True to the Brand
Everything changes over time — people, products, services, and the world. So it’s not uncommon for brands to go through these exact same changes to evolve and stay current for their customers. But there are some areas of a brand that need to be consistent and stay that way if they have proven successful in the past. This represents a consistency that is positive for brand followers.

The New Modern Family
It’s Marketing 101: Know who the target is and message to them appropriately. Seems like a no-brainer not worth repeating. Many brands understand and employ this strategy to ensure they are reaching their target audience. Tactics need to be customized and communications need to reflect the attributes of the group. If this is the case, then why are so many modern families feeling ignored?

The Buzz About Community
Every brand is hearing it and every brand is talking about it: community, or idea that there are subsets of customers with shared interests that can prove to be beneficial to a brand. It gives the brand new light and allows customers to “use” the brand past its products and services. But as always, communities must be built correctly in order to be positive for both the customer and the brand. Make it easy for customers to be part of the community.

Know When to Hold ‘Em…
And know when to fold ‘em. As a small-business owner or an entrepreneur starting out, this can be one of the most important lessons to learn. It’s understanding what you have at the time and assessing the risk of moving forward.

Take a Lesson from Pet Food
No, don’t eat the pet food...although actually it tastes pretty good. The point is, there’s something to learn from the newest avenue in the pet-food category. Refrigerated pet food is no longer for those luxury pets, but has become mainstream with its accessibility.

The New Brand Approach
Times have changed. There are remotes for TVs, purchases can be made with the click of a smartphone and yes, customers are expecting more from all brands. What used to be acceptable to a customer has shifted drastically and brands need to be aware of how to achieve success in this new world. Customers don’t want products and messages forced upon them.

Small Brands Can Go Big
There are some rules to brand success; maybe more guidelines than rules. But most of these guidelines apply to big-time brands that can plan and execute with a strategy that is set. However, when a brand is smaller and newer nothing ever goes as planned. So how can these brands ever achieve success?

Etsy is a Brand of Brands
Etsy’s a popular place — really popular. It’s not promoted, yet consumers know if “you want something unique — go to Etsy.” The funny thing is that Etsy isn’t even the brand making a single thing; it’s the vehicle used to bring all these brands together.

Wegmans: A Successful Experimental Brand
Of course most brands take chances and push the bounds, but many of these strategies are calculated risks that stay within certain pre-conceived boundaries. Going too far out can be confusing to the customer and disastrous to the brand. Then again, staying predictable can also have the same effect. It’s important for brands to take chances and push their limits, but these risks should always align with the core brand.

Better Burger, Big Brand
This brand makes one thing really well and capitalizes on it. It doesn’t try to branch out to new products to attract newer customers, but instead consistently delivers its core product at its best each and every time. All the focus is on the burger and fries, which means time/money/energy is not diluted across various facets of the business.

Idaho is a Brand?
It seems anything can be a brand these days, from products to people and services to states. That’s right; states. Whether it’s good or bad, brands can take on numerous forms as long as there is something to support the idea, like a state. Idaho, New Hampshire, Florida are all now considered brands. It’s partly ridiculous in theory and thought, but really quite unique and interesting when the definition of “brand” is dissected. In the last five years, each state has taken on its own identity when it comes to branding. It is common knowledge that each state has certain attributes to offer, but these were never really discussed or “branded” in the past. New York is known for the big city, Florida for its beaches, and Idaho (of course) for its potatoes. These bits of information were passed on informally.

Do the QR Code Right: Take 2
Although QR codes have been around for a bit of time now, they are still a newer marketing tactic. Both brands and customers are a bit unsure of how these crazy little squares work and what benefit they should provide. When in doubt, learn more and execute correctly so a QR code campaign can be a success. Marketing is a creative function for brands. (Side note: If this isn’t a true statement for your brand, definitely look into changing that!) By default, QR codes should be just as creative.

Do the QR Code Right: Take 1
It’s the new marketing toy that every brand wants to play with. Customers are seeing QR codes pop up everywhere and used in various campaigns. Brands are jumping on the QR bandwagon in fear of being left out. But you know what’s worse than being left out? Implementing a QR code program that doesn’t use some best practices. Brands are so anxious to be part of the QR-code club that many of them are forgetting the key idea behind this new tactic — adding customer value.

Sell the Benefits and Beyond
The simplest of brands sell products and services. They talk about A-Z product characteristics and why their brands are the ones to purchase. There’s little connection to the benefit and how this translates into a long-term positive for the customer. One brand might provide a better product, but there’s little staying power.

Taglines: Need ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?
There are various perspectives on taglines and quite frankly it’s a bit confusing. Much of what is written is about the benefit of having a tagline to help explicitly represent a brand.

It’s the Phelps Show
You can’t get much more current than the Olympic winners. It’s happening now and it’s relevant; the best kind of brand news. Those brands that can prepare ahead of time and develop every option for release during the Games definitely reap positive impressions.

Get It Right the First Time
Brands learn from their mistakes, no doubt about that. There are strategies and tactics that are implemented that never really get off the ground and provide no extra benefit to the customer or success for the company. Brands learn and move on and rethink what will get the company to its next best step. This seems fair and reasonable; however, the question is whether or not making one incorrect move can harm the future of the brand.

Ordinary Greatness
Nike’s figured out the best of both worlds. Not exactly unexpected with a brand that has grown to greatness and stayed in the spotlight for quite some time, but is the best of both worlds the “best” for a brand or a does it cause customer confusion? Brands usually focus around a core set of both ideals and customers, so when a company goes into many worlds, how does it really do so successfully? Maybe staying true to one strategy and one concept is the answer to brand success.

Think Beyond the Brand
There’s “think outside the box,” and “stay true to the brand," but are there times when these two thoughts need to be combined to make sure brands are focusing less on their brand and more on ideas that are unexpected but needed? This is about removing the constraints on what is accepted within the brand’s world and taking a holistic view on what the brand can do within its current industry or even a different one.

Brands That Demand
Most times the conversation is about customer satisfaction, ease of use, and going above and beyond for the customer. Companies work to make sure their brands can be easily integrated into the lives of their customers. It all makes sense. Then there are some brands that have gone in the complete opposite direction.

The Olympics: A Brand Every Four Years
Technically it’s every two years, but if you focus on only summer or winter it is every four. It’s the only brand that is consistently successful every four years. In between, it falls to a quiet place to work on its comeback. It’s different and unexpected each time it appears, yet consistent in some ways in order to accomplish success.

Hello? Is Anyone Listening?
Most brands are used to dealing with customer comments and feedback and handling these situations in an appropriate manner. That is, of course, if those comments are fielded via phone, mail, or even email. But that dynamic is changing and customers are talking everywhere, especially online. As much as it seems unreasonable, they expect brands to listen and to take action no matter where the comment is made. An unhappy customer becomes downright annoyed when they are ignored.

Goodbye SEO, Hello Engagement
There’s big news – SEO will soon be a fleeting memory. Those brands that are just catching on, just starting to invest might want to put the brakes on that strategy. Or even better, shift their focus to newer ideas that just might be longer lasting. And even crazier is that most of this is controlled by another brand, a powerhouse known as Google. Don’t worry though, Google’s theory is a good one and hopefully helps successful brands be successful and stay that way. Brands that are using SEO are privy to buzzwords like "internal and external SEO," “white hat,” and “black hat.”

Attaching to a Cause
People love warm and fuzzy feelings and happy smiles. Any brand that can create these for a customer is able to have an emotional connection that is priceless. It’s above product features, low prices, and even accessibility. It makes the brand feel more real, more connected, and more in tune with its customers. However, brands can’t simply say they're providing warm and fuzzy feelings or happy smiles; they must create these feelings in a way that is believable. Saying isn’t doing and customers can sense that.

Couponing: Brand Positive?
It’s a familiar scenario: a crumpled piece of paper in the back of a wallet used to save five cents. Is it worth it? Isn’t the world past paper, past coupons, and past a silly five-cent discount? Successful brands should have enough brand engagement to never have that discount conversation in a single marketing meeting. Or maybe couponing is saved for certain industries, certain products, and certain life stages of brands.

Shhh…More Secrets Revealed
Brands sell products and services. Seems simple, but those that don’t realize that this is quite complex miss an opportunity to create a customer connection. Target has many familiar competitors, but it is the only brand to make an experience out of buying shampoo, toilet paper, and bath towels. The brand is still a discount store, yet the layout is organized, the associates are friendly, and people enjoy being there. Target has created an experience that draws customers from its competitors into its own brand.

Shhh…Top Brands’ Secrets
There are a handful of brands that are not only successful but also hold the award of “trustworthy.” This is not a word that consumers toss around and use lightly. It’s saved for those brands that are top on their list and have gone above and beyond to create a connection with customers. Don’t worry, though; secrets are going to be revealed to hopefully get more brands on that successful and trustworthy track. First, customers want brands to know them. It’s half crazy and half realistic.

Be That Disruptive Brand
Most brands (hopefully all) set out to be successful brands by creating products and services that are craved by customers and fill a need within the marketplace. Conversations are had about creating the “the next best thing” within an industry and how this will translate into higher sales, increased customer engagement, or even deeper brand knowledge. Sure, this is success, and most brands stay within this somewhat-safe haven, but what happens when brands push the bounds and really create breakthroughs? There are brands that are teased, even, for their big dreams and crazy ideas.

A Brand They Won’t Forget
There are certain industries that are a collection of lackluster brands. It's not exactly the fault of the brand; it's due to the fact of the specific industry. There’s little innovation, little connection with customers, and the industry really exists as a convenience instead of a collection of sought-after brands.

Following the Restaurant Crowd
The restaurant industry is made up of various levels of eat-in, take-out, quick-bite, and special-occasion options. Each has its own brand, some stronger than others, but each is relative to the area it inhabits within that restaurant category.

Big Fish, Small Fish
In a competitive world, the question becomes: Is it better to be a big fish or a small fish? Big fish have more money, more resources, and ultimately more opportunities to grow their brands. Small fish have to work harder and are usually trying to gain success with a smaller pool. But all the fun and success doesn’t always lie with the big brands as small brands are growing and gaining by being viewed as intimate, local, and personal.

This Is the Big One: Big Data
Brands used to speculate and guess, create surveys, and make inferences as to who their customers were and what they wanted. Sure, many of these conversations were based in some sort of data, but there was never one clear picture.

It’s All in the Name
Well, not entirely so, but a name is an extremely important asset of any brand. Pick the right name and it could mean success; pick the wrong one and the brand could never get off the ground. Although all brand names must be backed by a strong idea or a sought-after product, the name is an important thing to get right in the beginning.

Follow the People
If consumer brands are meant for people, shouldn’t they have traits like a person and take cues from what people do, how they think, and most importantly what they want? This seems like the answer to a very strong consumer brand and the strategy that could lead to the most success. If that's true, then why are most brands not paying attention to customers and only half delivering what they want?

An Optimistic Brand
Imagine a brand that is built on a simple premise and a sketch. A cartoon drawing, to be exact, with a happy grin and the words “Life is good.” This brand doesn’t follow any of the best practices and never drew up an initial business plan, but it’s successful...really successful. Life is good for Life is good. Although Life is good doesn’t employ many traditional branding tactics, there is one thing the brand does extremely well. The company has a very distinct and specific brand premise upon which it bases all decisions.

A Lifestyle Brand
There are many reasons why people choose one brand over another. Sometimes it’s convenience or price, accessibility, or brand attachment. But other times the choice for one product over another has more to do about lifestyle integration than any other factor. A brand that fits into a customer’s life better than another can be the deciding reason between A or B. It’s the idea that there is some connection between that product or service that just “fits” within the customer’s life at that point in time.

Insurance Mascots?
Mascots and known figures were a strategy of the past. Put a famous face on TV and, voila, instant brand success. Or maybe that was the hope. Either way, many brands have shied away from this strategy and gone full force into creating a brand story without a face attached to it. Unless, of course, that brand happens to be part of the Insurance industry. Apparently, different rules apply there. When comparing insurance brands, customers are really trying to nail down price and service. For something that is quite personal, the industry has turned to a 1-800 number.

It’s the Customer’s Fault
The saying goes that “the customer is always right,” which seems pretty straightforward. Brands go above and beyond to make sure customers are the number-one priority. It’s been like that for years.

Brutally Honest Domino’s
If something is wrong with a brand, it should be fixed. Seems like common sense and really the only reliable answer to turn things around. But many times, companies look to answer other questions, all the while ignoring the facts that have been made apparent time and time again. Successful brands, though, don’t just hear what customers are saying; they actually listen and take action. And shockingly, this strategy can really be successful, as obvious as that might seem.

Battle of the Hotels
Where to stay: a Hilton or a Starwood hotel? Five years ago, this decision would have been made based on a recommendation from a friend over lunch. Both brands are well known and, really, the only thing to consider was logistics (price, location, and, of course, bed comfort). Now these two brands, both still respected and well known, are fighting in the digital world.

Social Media Shifts: The New CMO
Marketing products and services are in the job description that is tied to any CMO. A brand’s success is tied to how well the marketing creates a reason to buy and why these purchases are, in fact, completed. But now that everyone is talking — and talking a lot — online, the core job of a CMO seems to have shifted. Instead of talking product benefits and differentiators, the conversation is about the brand.

Social Media Shifts: Goodbye, Marketing Funnel
Funnels are simple - something enters the wider opening at the top and makes its way down to the smaller exit. The marketing funnel has customers enter during the discovery phase and pushes them through until a purchase is complete. Customer acquired and goals achieved. But brands are now realizing that the funnel doesn’t end with a purchase in this new age world where brand advocates can be created. With a never-ending amount of information, customers are able to rely on multiple sources.

Product, Marketing, or Both?
Which comes first, the product or the marketing? Should one lead to the start of the other or are they meant to work in tandem for success? When looking at traditional, more established brands, a product or service is created and the marketing is built to support the idea. It’s logical and has worked for decades.

Make It Simple, Warby Parker
Many times, brands create a concept that is too complex, too difficult, or too inconvenient for the everyday consumer and the original idea is misunderstood. Consumers are looking for something that answers a need and either makes their lives easier or is differentiated and grabs their attention. However, when a brand is similar to 20 other brands...

Only One Chance with Customers?
In today’s world, customers expect the best of the best. It’s now the status quo, and with so many companies able to pull off the best on the first try, the idea of second best is hard for customers to swallow. Shouldn’t the norm be equal across all companies? Are customers forgetting to put things in perspective? Or should brands be more responsible and tell customers their plans so they are “in the know"? With this mentality, there is no margin for error and as a brand there is really only one chance to make an impact with new initiatives. Branding talk often includes “getting it right,” “making sure customers are happy,” and “driving success.”

Are Ink and Paper Obsolete?
Consumers no longer have only a cell phone. There is the smartphone combined with the tablet and maybe an e-reader that all belong to one person. With the available technology and ability to get information through multiple online resources, the paper boy must be dealing with a decline in business. The conversation should be all about mobile, right?

'Thank You' Goes a Long Way
It’s time to update those legacy systems. No, not the IT infrastructure or the account practices, but the idea that a "thank you" is based on tenure instead of hard work. It’s interesting to think that many companies still have rewards programs from their initial days that focus on the number of years at the company passing by the opportunity to reward really great work. And just to note, those tchotchkes probably aren’t helping the cause. Employees are looking to be recognized for specific contributions.

Jeep®: A Brand That Inspires
There are brand loyalists, engaged customers, and even enthusiasts. And then there are Jeep® customers. This group is not only a fan of the brand and happy with their four-wheel purchase, but they live the “Jeep life” (real or perceived). It’s less about who they are and more about what their car can allow them to do. It may sound a bit far-fetched, but talk to a number of Jeep customers and you’ll hear the same thing: “I love my Jeep.”

Should We All Share?
The little “share,” “like,” and “post” buttons that have come to be standard on most high-profile sites provide more than just pass-along content. These social share buttons could provide data and information for a company to segment like customers.

Build a Better Website…for Your Customers
As companies look to create strong brands, having a digital presence is not merely a topic of "Can we afford it?" but more about the cost of entry. Whether your customers are everyday consumers, targeted niche individuals, or other businesses, a website plays a large part in brand perception. Customers are looking to do some preliminary research and answer top-line questions before making a final decision. So does a website make the sale or does the brand? Customers are more informed than ever.

Engage Your Customers by Putting Them to Work
Customer engagement — it’s the phrase that’s been tossed around for decades and now has come more seriously into the spotlight. These words are no longer a figure of speech or words you associate with a tactic; they now have promise and measure, making them real. If engagement is the ability to ensure that a customer is thoroughly connected to a brand, then what better way to engage them than by putting them to work? It’s a secret kind of work, though; one that benefits the brand.

Red Carpet Branding
There comes a point in time when many brands decide they need a voice, a face, a “something” to stand for the brand. There are companies that choose a mascot (for lack of a better word) while many others turn to Hollywood, the red carpet, and celebrity standing.

Brands Should Be Accessible
Shouldn’t they? Companies want to be able to get products and services in the “hands” of customers, so the more accessible the better. More locations should equal more customers, which should produce more sales. But what happens when there are too many locations with not enough customers and sales aren’t creating a profitable business? Maybe "accessible" is a fine line.

Who's Going to Launch This Brand?
When launching or re-launching a brand, companies tend to focus on customer reactions to their initiative. What will customers think? Will the brand create increased customer engagement and retention? How do we gain brand enthusiasts? While all valid and important questions, many brands fail to realize...

Where Are All the Digital Dollars?
Companies already know they want to be in the digital space, a big player online — don’t they? Although that’s where companies want to be to increase brand identity, many of them are still keeping their dollars in traditional media, where there is a sense of comfort and understanding of what a dollar delivers. Are companies willing to take a chance to find out?

Target's Gone Small Business
As a consumer you can get almost anything at Target; now you can add products from much-preferred small businesses to that list.


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