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Original articles from Alexander Villeneuve.
Art or Advertising?
Wren is a small clothing company that you've probably never heard of before, but after last week, there is a good chance that you've seen their work and don't even know it. Their video, "First Kiss," recently became the latest YouTube sensation, racking up fast 42 million views and is now approaching 61 million views. The artistic film features 20 strangers...

For Subway, Repetition Works
Over the weekend, I was struck by Subway's latest advertisement, which was pitching the all-new Big Hot Pastrami sandwich. What's interesting about the Big Hot Pastrami ad...

Brutal Honesty from Abercrombie
Abercrombie & Fitch is not for everyone. As a marketer, I really respect this about their brand. I absolutely love that they're fanatical about keeping a strict focus on their youthful target in order to preserve the strength of the brand, something that would certainly be compromised if old dudes like myself were comfortable walking the streets in Abercrombie gear.

What $30 Million Won’t Buy
Johnson & Johnson is ailing. In recent years, the company recalled over 280 million packages of its over-the-counter medicines, including medicine cabinet staples like Motrin, children’s Tylenol liquid, and Benadryl. Furthermore, J&J's DePuy Orthopedics division has recalled two of its artificial hips.

Luv Lost at Southwest Airlines
Renowned British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson once said, "If you want to be a millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline." He should know from experience. However, the industry exception to this humorous rule-of-thumb...

Were This Year's Super Bowl Ads a Waste of Money?
It all began during the pregame show, when I learned that Hyundai, an automobile brand strongly positioned as dependable and affordable because of its popular Assurance program, would truly prefer itself to be a Benz or a Beamer. Interestingly, I later learned that Mercedes-Benz prefers itself to be a Hyundai because it was promoting a "luxury" vehicle priced under $30,000.

A Focus On Fuel
Earlier this week, I was watching television and I happened to notice a striking similarity in three different automobile advertisements. The ads were for full or mid-sized luxury cars and each one was touting fuel efficiency as a unique selling proposition. This Buick LaCrosse commercial with Shaquille O'Neal was one of them.

Why Soda Marketing Is Going Flat
By now, it's likely that you've seen the advertising for Dr. Pepper 10, which was recently launched as a diet alternative to its own diet alternative, Diet Dr. Pepper. However, this alternative is envisioned to be the alternative that male soda drinkers, who have not been quick to reach for a Diet Dr. Pepper, choose. Commentaries will make a big deal about the off-beat "It's just for men" tactic that Dr. Pepper has employed in getting the message of this new variety out to consumers; however, that will not be the reason Dr. Pepper 10 is going to fail. Along with its alternative cola counterparts Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, Dr. Pepper 10 was launched with calories in mind — the principle culprit of why more consumers are passing on their pop. As the American body continues to tip the scale further than ever before, much of the blame gets directed at the empty calories consumed via colas. Sales have been trending down for almost a decade.

How Long Can A Kodak Moment Last?
I grew up in a town on the northern edge of Rochester, New York and lived about 15 minutes from the headquarters of Eastman Kodak, an anchor to downtown Rochester. Even closer to my home was Kodak Park, a major bustling cluster of factories and office buildings located just west of the Genesee River and a short ride from the end of my driveway. Kodak employed 60,000 Rochesterians at its peak in the early 1980s.

Don't Marry Name and Price
A great brand name is an essential quality if that brand is going to work its way into the minds of consumers. Names that are unique, memorable, and easy to pronounce help the process. It should fit the characteristics the marketer desires to declare. However, it's a good idea that the brand name doesn't include the price.

Be In Search of Dissatisfaction
Sifting through my newsfeed this week, an article about yoga apparel brand Lululemon Athletica caught my attention. Lululemon was born in 1998 after entrepreneur Chip Wilson became dissatisfied how athletic apparel fit when practicing Yoga. Thirteen years later, it's the leader of the category it invented, coming off 2010 with $712 million in sales and expectations of growing that by 33% in 2011. Naturally, the giant brands of athletic and women's apparel like Nike and the Gap missed this opportunity to outfit yoga practitioners and are now scrabbling to catch up. The Gap recently launched a new line of athletic clothes for women called Athleta. While the name sounds strikingly similar to the originator's surname, the Gap denies any copying of Lululemon Athletica.

Awareness Alone Is Not an Advantage
This week, the Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo! was fired, which got me thinking about what a great brand name Yahoo! is. Furthermore, the brand was an early mover in the Internet search business. Yet, despite its quick jump on the category and a name that translated into incredibly strong brand awareness, the company is the search engine equivalent of dial-up Internet. To be honest, I don't much about Yahoo! currently.

Build a Friendlier Website
A good website should serve as a window into your business. People can go to them and learn some basic information and get your attention if they need to. They're pretty basic, yet very useful and powerful. However, a lot of websites are seemingly not built for human interaction. I'd like to start a list of some simple fixes (sans the expensive graphics and fonts).

Is The NFL Brand Indestructible?
With the National Football League appearing to be on the cusp of a new collective bargaining agreement between its ownership and its principal labor force, the professional football fans who pay the bills are preparing to take a deep breath any day now. Wait a minute, isn't that backwards? Shouldn't the NFL be begging the fans to come back? Despite taking them for an unwanted ride, I don't think football fans ever left. The National Football League risks losing the most by not playing football in 2011.

Netflix Introduces A Plot Twist
Last week, Netflix introduced a major plot twist to the movie-watching habits of its customers. The movie subscription service announced that they would be raising the price of its unlimited subscription by sixty percent: up to $16 from the previous $10. Since news of the price hike broke, the company has been paying the steep prices itself, thanks to a vocal group of angry customers.

Is Facebook Becoming Distracted?
On the surface, the recent agreement between Facebook and Skype seems to make sense if one is judging it with the broad perspective that both sites are online tools that bring people together and help them communicate. However, the deal becomes a bit of a head-scratcher you analyze how each site is used very differently. Skype is essentially a face-to-face conversation in real time, but with the advantage of not having to be in the same room.

Why Not Charge Your Consumers?
It was recently reported that Twitter is progressing on its plans to launch advertisements in users' feeds. According to Twitter executive Sean Garret, Twitter has "been talking about Promoted Tweets in the timeline since we launched Promoted Tweets.” And who can really blame them? Something has to keep the lights on at the social network that's home to more than 300 million users.

Customers Have Credibility. Crowds Don't.
Perhaps you heard, but McDonald's does not charge African-American customers more for their hamburgers. Caught in the crosshairs of the latest Internet buzz firestorm, the fast-food chain was forced to repeatedly remind people through its social media outlets and official press releases that silly sign was a fake. A fake, got it?

P&G Makes Second Attempt at Social Sales
Procter & Gamble wants to sell its consumer goods through Facebook. According to AdAge, the consumer goods company is calling it "social network selling" and they believe that it can "accelerate their e-commerce growth," an area they aren't particularly known for.

How I Know My Bank Doesn't Care
At my youthful age of 26, I have closed three bank accounts out of frustration, anger, or flat-out indifference. I learned long ago on that my bank doesn't care about me; at least not to the degree that June Gregg's bank cares for her. Gregg, a 100-year-old woman from Chillicothe, Ohio, has had the same savings account since her birth, when her father opened it for her and deposited $6.11.

What's Good For Hulu Isn't Good For You
News Corporation is going to ask Hulu to increase the number of advertisements it shows during Fox programming. I'm sorry, but someone pinch me because I'm in shock. The formula is obvious. News Corp. is, rightfully so, in business to make money.

Ronald Remains the Man for McDonald's
The world's most famous fast-food chain recently side stepped another attack from activist health care professionals and Corporate Accountability International, a consumer watchdog organization known for its influence against big tobacco companies.

Don't Give Social Media All The Credit
As a kid, my grandmother would always tell me: "monkey see, monkey do." If you've never heard this before, the idiom is used to express that children behave and learn from their surroundings. Although if adults aren't just as susceptible to this condition, then I think someone should investigate if the marketing world is being run by monkeys now.

Consider Marketing's Un-Sexy Side
It's very fascinating how so many smart business people get stuck thinking about marketing in terms of advertising. It's obviously way more than that. If making promises, either explicit or implicit, is in your job description, then congratulations, you're a marketer. Therefore, if a promise is broken — for instance, if a restaurant's restroom is grungy — it's a marketing problem. This never gets the headlines or the credit that the new million-dollar campaign does, but perfecting the nitty-gritty operational stuff is vital to every brand.

Trump Brand Buffoonery
Without question, Donald Trump is a very smart guy with an incredible marketing mind. He has never wavered in marrying the Trump name with some very powerful and highly desired characteristics. The Trump name has long stood for uncompromising wealth, power, and luxury. Donald's carefully crafted brand is living proof of the power of focus for a brand. Clearly a man who understands the power of focus, his professional success is undoubtedly reflective of his aptitude and ability. Of course, there is a personal side to the businessman that is not easily respectable: the qualities of a man that is uncompromisingly brash and bold, spoiled, and arrogant.

The Bogus Branding of ExxonMobil
It doesn't matter how many times I watch their phony math and science advocacy ads; I will never have an ounce of warm and fuzzy feelings toward ExxonMobil.

What's a 'Syracutie' to Do?
For a small businesses still in their infancy, every decision can feel magnified and carry the feeling that the entire fate of the business is at stake. It's a familiar feeling for most entrepreneurs. Now Alyson Shontell, a young entrepreneur who created the tee shirt company Syracutie, can empathize.

Advertising In Jail Is A Branding Crime
The Eire County Holding Center in Buffalo is going to start capitalizing on the attention of its captive audience by turning it into bonus income from advertising revenue. Aided by a digital advertising services company, the jail is going to sell space on its high-definition information televisions to, who else, defense attorneys and bail bondsmen.

One Big Anti-Walmart Ad
In my opinion, any highly publicized court case brought on by former employees is one big anti-Walmart advertisement. This case, just like any effective advertising, reinforces an idea that people already believe to be true: Walmart mistreats employees. Walmart's perception problems could get worse.

Great Sierra Mist Ad Failed By Strategy
This month PepsiCo's Sierra Mist Natural debuted a new spot to promote the fact that it now uses real sugar to make the drink, not the more commonly used high fructose corn syrup. The bold new spot is executed very well. It's clear and simple and uses a direct comparison to Sprite.

Now Forget Everything We Ever Said
A couple years ago, Buick decided to shift gears and rebrand their cars to be sportier and market them to a younger demographic. Currently, they're running a flashy set of ads for its Regal Turbo CXL model. The ads acknowledge that "turbo" hasn't exactly been the story of Buick in the past; however, eventually we will get used to hearing them together. Buick, believing in the power of advertising, is trying to manufacture a completely different perception about its cars. However, the power of advertising doesn't come from being seen or heard, it comes from being believed. Yet the story most people believe about Buick is a different one.

New Fast Food Buzzwords Fool No One
An article published in AdAge yesterday dissected the current trend of fast food chains using vague buzzwords like wholesome, fresh, or all-natural to convince consumers that their products are healthy without risking the drawback of creating the perception of a lack of taste. Even better for advertisers? These claims don't seem to be drawing the eye of regulators.

The High Cost of Email Advertising
A countless number of people all share the tiresome computer ritual of checking email. Personally, I waste time every day deleting at least 20 useless and unnecessary email ads, despite leaving what I consider to be a small footprint of Internet usage. I unsubscribe to things I never really explicitly subscribed to, yet the emails still pile up.

What Are Billion-Dollar Ideas Worth?
While I'm really not the type to get hyped up for a reality television, I admit I am excited for the premiere of NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant. It's Top Chef meets The Apprentice, and the show is searching for the next "billion dollar" restaurant idea with the winning restaurateur receiving enough capital to start up a three-location chain For a marketing guy who loves his fast food, America's Next Great Restaurant feels like it could be television gold.

How Do Brands Apologize?
Everyone knows that Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate love and romance. Unfortunately, it can be a trying time as well. Sadly, many may wind up remembering today more for its heartbreak and disappointment than love and romance, and that's not just the lonely singles.

Celebrity Endorsements Less Than Super For Branding
The celebrity endorsement is a Super Bowl ad staple; however, I wonder if the tactic is just a super waste. If I've got this right, the consumer is to perceive certain human qualities in a celebrity (that they don't actually know), and through the magic pairing of said celebrity with some brand name, the perceived human qualities are transferred to a product or service. Am I supposed to believe that Richard Lewis embodies everything good in a Snickers candy bar? I've questioned the tactics of a paid celebrity endorsement before and after watching a full slate of ads graced with some celebrity star power, I still can't see the value. Yet, on marketing's big night, the flimsy strategy of employing the celebrity endorsement is usually a must-have for marketers.

A Beefy Rebuttal
Taco Bell has begun firing back. In an effort to correct the critics weighing in on the "taco meat filling" controversy, the fast-food chain is fighting back with a new ad campaign intended to clear up any confusion. David Oven, Taco Bell's Chief Marketing Officer, said that reassuring customers and employees is a top priority for the brand and that "we are telling our customers the truth using only the facts about our food."

H&R's Free Tax Prep A Bad Idea
This tax season, H&R Block has a bold new marketing strategy to reverse the downward trend in store traffic. Its strategy is to give its tax preparation services away for free. For 30 days ending on February 15, all the early-bird filers will get their taxes done for free.

'More Car Than Electric': The Chevy Volt
Electric cars have become all the rage at the 2011 gathering of the Detroit Auto Show. After the Chevrolet Volt was bestowed the honor of 2011's North American Car of the Year award on the convention's opening day, the car's hype surged from zero to 60. The Volt beat out electric rival Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Sonata.

Misconceptions of Social Media
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the tools of social media and how they are best utilized in marketing. For example: "It's about creating content." The adoption of social media tools has caused a lot of marketers to abandon what once worked very well when they thought all they were doing was advertising. Curiously, popular opinion has decided that if it's going to be social, then it must be for entertainment purposes. I can see how one could easily believe this when videos of crazy cats accumulate 46 million views.

Brands Battle For Second Place
In brand wars there is only ever one winner, and it's very easy to predict who the winner will be. With very few exceptions, that brand that claims the title of "category king" is the one who invents it. Despite this fact, some marketers never stop trying to overthrow the reigning brand—but for what gain? I wasn't surprised when Brandweek announced that Sears is going after Netflix. The headline says it all: "Sears Intros Netflix-Like Service." The retail dinosaur will be partnering with Sonic Solutions to deliver movie downloads to Sears and Kmart customers on a "growing network of devices."

Be Authentic in Branding
Just months after October's logo-gate, the Gap brand has been exposed again. However, this isn't exactly the swift justice of transparency served up by WikiLeaks. It was just a guy with a camera who caught the retailer acting dishonestly. The goal of feeding hungry children in America is a noble one to support; however, this obvious oversight is a strong indictment that Gap was acting disingenuously.

Political News Marketers and Prickly Politicans
When I want political news and opinion on television, I always watch the "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart and "The Colbert Report" first. However, on "The Daily Show" Tuesday, Stewart delivered an interesting real-life marketing story.

Do Your Customers Know Why You Exist?
My Sunday ritual is very similar to the rituals of many Americans. I always block out a few hours of the day to watch football and cheer on my favorite team. After a long week, we football fans cherish the opportunity to relax and be entertained by the game we love. But it seems the game isn't the only thing trying to entertain us.

Replace Vague Terminology In Advertising
To explain why some advertising campaigns were successful and others were not, legendary ad man, Rosser Reeves theorized that the difference was successful ads had a Unique Selling Proposition. The theory was composed of three elements. First, the advertisement must be honest, without empty words, and the ad must clearly state what single benefit the customer will enjoy for the product or service.

The Fragile State of Celebrity Endorsements
Marketing professionals should be taking note of just how fragile the celebrity endorsement strategy can be. Sure, defenders of celebrity endorsement will always be quick to remind the world what Michael Jordan did for Nike, but more and more, Nike is looking like the exception and not the rule and marketers should be skeptical of the practice. Lebron James provides all the evidence one would need. Last week, James made his return to Cleveland to play the team he so publicly abandoned over the summer. Instantly, his public persona changed...

What Drives Us to the Drive-Thru?
For obvious reasons, food has been on my mind this week. It's hard not to be excited because, like a lot of Americans, Thanksgiving is one of the rare times when I enjoy a meal in the most traditional sense of the word. These days it seems that the main ingredient come meal time is a paper bag. Not surprisingly, fast-food marketers are considered by many to be the ringleaders causing this phenomenon and consequently responsible for fattening the American belly.

Bad Branding Killed Jeeves
Last week, Ask.com officially conceded that it could not beat Internet search behemoth Google, which currently controls about 65 percent of the market. Ask.com accounts for about 2 percent of the market. Barry Diller, the media mogul who purchased the search engine in 2005 for $1.85 billion said, “We’ve realized in the last few years that you cannot compete with Google.” Unfortunately, that’s one very expensive branding lesson Diller received. Originally known as Ask Jeeves, the Web engine operated under the catchy premise of having a personal butler fetch answers to all your questions.

Should U.S. News & World Report Go Digital?
U.S. News & World Report recently announced it will be ditching its one million plus paid subscriptions next year in order to move "very aggressively into digital," according to Brian Kelly, the magazine's editor. This is definitely a bold move for the magazine, considering that their paid subscriptions account for all but six percent of the print circulation.

A Marketer's Quest to Engage Consumers
When marketers discuss social media, one word always makes it into the conversation. That word, of course, is engage. We hear it all the time: "In order to be successful in this new medium, marketers cannot sit back and advertise to fans and followers. They must engage in relevant dialogue with consumers." Unfortunately, it's no longer that easy.


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