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Original articles from Maryann Fabian.
Saturday is National Record Store Day
In an age of digital downloads and YouTube, something strange and downright retro is happening. And it's not even #Throwback Thursday. Sales of vinyl records jumped 32% in the U.S. last year. Amazon says its vinyl sales are up 745%. As a result, new record stores have opened. And more artists are choosing to record again on this format. Saturday, April 19 is Record Store Day, a way to recognize the “unique culture of a record store” and its role in the community — more specifically, the indie record store.

Brand Shaming: Apostrophe Abuse
Target has always been the epitome of brand excellence, especially to those of us with a retail background. There was one point in the late '90s and early '00s when they had been winning so many retail ad awards that other stores never had a chance. Finally, they pulled out to “let” the other guys win...

Meet Keurig 2.0
The single-serve coffeemaker company has a new name, new machines, and a new attitude. It's even taking on the two S's: Starbucks and SodaStream. Now known as Keurig Green Mountain, the company is breaking ties with the Seattle giant as the provider of its premium coffee “pods.” This effectively calls off a five-year arrangement the two companies reached only last year.

Costco's Plan to Lure Millennials
On a second-quarter conference call with analysts last week, Costco execs said they were trying a new strategy to reach Millennials that has a lot to do with kale and clicks. When specifically asked how it was going to “get younger people into the warehouses,” CFO Richard Galanti told investors, “We’re not going to do anything rash but we’re also not going to have our head in sand here.” This should make for an interesting case study.

Super Bowl Ad Super Preview
Now that we know who’s going to be on the field, let’s take a look at the game’s other big action: the ads. This year appears to be the year of the celebrity pitchman. And if one celeb is good, three hawking your brand is even better. Look for a theme of three and consider this your spoiler alert...

So, You Want to Work for Amazon...
Are you tough enough to work at Amazon? It looks like at least one person saw the Steve Jobs movie that came out last year with Ashton Kutcher: Jeff Bezos.

DiGiorno Delivers with Sound of Music
The best part of The Sound of Music Live last night? No, not the annoying white noise/hiss in the background. Not the hope that Steven Moyer might revert into a vampire. The play-by-play reaction on Twitter as it was trending worldwide with not one but multiple topics (#TheSoundOfMusic, #JulieAndrews, #LauraBenanti, #Christian Borle, #Nazis). Oh, and the brilliant social media tactics of DiGiorno pizza. Walmart may have paid to sponsor the event but DiGiorno stole the show. A big kudos to the intern/team that live-tweeted the event.

GoldieBlox, The Beastie Boys, and The Super Bowl
An eager toy start-up brand makes an incredible promotional video and bungles it by using a Beastie Boys song without permission. Did they really go “from hero to zero” like Adweek contends? Oh, no. GoldieBlox played it just right and became a bear.

Men Ring In The Holidays
‘Tis the season for questionable taste and tunes you won’t soon get out of your head. Usually, we’re “treated” to a Victoria’s Secret “fashion show” around this time of year with women parading around in their undies for an hour. Now, the tide has turned. Men are the eye candy this year. And if they can show off their unusual talents as they hawk products, even better. But only for 60 seconds at a time. Of course, I’m talking about Jean Claude Van Damme in the new Volvo spot.

Even in 2013, Guys Won't Use Girly Brands
“Brand meaning is co-created. Everyone in the culture has a say in what a brand means, not just the company that owns it,” says Harvard Business School senior lecturer Jill Avery. And what she found out about brands that we perceive as “male brands” or female brands” is fascinating.

The Military Holiday Dilemma
It’s really hard to create good marketing campaigns for Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. After all, how can you sell cars, clothes, or mattresses on the backs of dead soldiers and wounded warriors? There are two standard approaches. One is to give in to patriotism, but try to do it tastefully. And it can be difficult to make a sudden patriotic spurt gel with certain brand attributes. Or, two, ignore the meaning behind the day altogether.

When Brands Get Scary
For the love of all things pure and puppies, and no matter what some brands may tell you, please don’t tweet from the seat. And do we really have to talk about your bum? There seems to be a lot more potty talk on TV this year. How did we get to this point? I know it’s 2013 and we’re all evolved humans, but...why? Can’t some things remain unspoken? I understand that a great brand attribute can be how your product feels. But can’t you sell toilet paper with endearing Mr. Whipple?

Trick or Treat? Neiman Marcus Mystery Box Sells Out
“Will women shell out $250 for mystery products?” Adweek asked. The answer is most definitely yes. Within hours of its debut, PopSugar shoppers scarfed up all of the mystery boxes available online with a promise that they were filled with goodies from Neiman Marcus. Only they won’t find out until November 17, when the box ships, whether it’s filled with tricks or treats.

Screw Obamacare; Walmart Has You Covered
Please tell Congress and the president that someone figured out the whole healthcare thing so they can put that aside and get back to work. Now we just need to get jobs at Walmart or Lowe's. In a joint statement issued yesterday, Walmart and Lowe’s announced a new national Employer’s Centers of Excellence Network formed with several other firms and the Pacific Business Group on Health Negotiating Alliance. What's that mean? To start, how about the ability to provide free knee and hip-replacement surgeries? Yep.

Social Media's Stranglehold on the Travel Industry
Social media makes it really easy for customers to air their dirty laundry and give immediate feedback about brands. One industry that’s been profoundly affected by this is the travel industry. According to one survey, 52% of Facebook users said their travel plans were affected by seeing pictures of their friends’ trips. And, according to another...

Brand Killers: The Dreaded Yelp Review & 'The Streisand Effect'
Yelp is suing a law firm in San Diego for allegedly posting fake reviews to boost its rating. The law firm says Yelp is just retaliating because it won back the $2,700 it spent in advertising on Yelp in a small claims court case. The firm’s owner calls Yelp “an Internet bully” who mistreats companies that don’t advertise with them. We’ve heard variations of this story before. Back in 2009, Yelp was accused of extortion. A San Francisco restaurateur claimed Yelp promised to hide negative reviews in exchange for advertising.

What Do Brands Know About You?
Want to check out the data that marketers have been collecting about you? There’s a new website, in beta testing, that allows you to not only see but also edit the information that companies use to send you targeted ads. The site was launched as an effort at transparency in these days when we're almost paranoid wondering who's been listening to our calls...

Cause vs. Brand: Who Wins?
“You can’t guilt people to give. It has to be about opportunity. I had to find a way to get real people, selfish people like me, to give.” So says Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water and #10 on Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business 2013. If that’s the case, then brands are finding lots of ways to sneak charitable “opportunity” into their marketing. And, sometimes, the brand even wins out.

Lady Gaga's Plan to Help Your Brand
What do Lady Gaga, The Bible, Nike, and Coca-Cola have in common? You can insert your own punchline, but guess who’s laughing all the way to the bank?

The Hard Sell of Al-Jazeera America
If you were pitching a new brand to America post 9-11 that may or may not be linked to al Qaeda, how would you do it? Today, the new news network Al-Jazeera America will start broadcasting. But will anyone watch? Interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi said last week that 75 percent of Americans have a negative view of the network. Pew Research reports that Al-Jazeera, the parent network, is “widely viewed as a conduit for al Qaeda.” Advertisers don’t want to touch it. As a result, there will only be about six minutes of commercials per hour and the website is lacking sponsors, too. That’s half of the on-air ad time that other cable news channels average.

New Logos Popping Out All Over The Place
Lotsa new logos and rebranding making the rounds these days. Some are good. Some are bad. Some just make you want to scratch your head. (And you can decide which is which.) Two rather ambitious changes in the online world are Yahoo and YouSendIt, aka Hightail. Yahoo’s rebranding project is so big, it will take a month to reveal the final look. They promise “a modern redesign that’s more reflective of our reimagined design(?) and new experiences.” A statement released by the company that keeps trying to beat Google explained, “To get everyone warmed up, we are kicking off 30 days of change… we will display a variation of the logo on our homepage… for the next month. It’s our way of having some fun while honoring the legacy of our present logo.”

Amazon's Other Big News
So much for the dog days of summer. First we hear that Amazon’s CEO bought the Washington Post. Then, within 24 hours of that news, Amazon launches a fine art marketplace online. So, along with your toilet paper and fridge filters, why not just add an Andy Warhol to your cart for a cool million?

Banana Republic Gets The Royal Treatment
People can’t seem to get enough of Kate Middleton and her fashion sense. There are websites dedicated to What Kate Wore and Kate Middleton’s style. She was just named to Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list. Even Tom Cruise’s seven-year-old daughter, Suri, likes to dress like Kate. Well, now you too can dress like the Duchess for a fraction of what she pays. Banana Republic has teamed up with one of Kate’s favorite designers, Issa London. The collection will include interpretations...

How Much Do You Love Sports?
See any good games over the weekend? Odds are that only a handful of you tuned in to watch your hometown baseball team play. According to a Nielsen survey, less than three percent of households, on average, watch televised sports. And less than two percent watch an NHL game. But ESPN and regional sports channels cost your cable and satellite provider lots of money. Is it worth it? Now, the three percent viewership doesn’t include the Super Bowl, obviously, and your primetime NFL.

Netflix Thinks Like HBO & Dreams of Harry Potter
Subscriptions are up. Revenue is up. You’re outsmarting the competition. You’re basking in 14 history-making Emmy nominations. And your stock price is plummeting. Go figure. On January 2, Netflix shares closed at $92. Last week, they went for $270. But you know those people who are never satisfied? Wall Street was not happy that Netflix had not done more.

How Nordstrom Became an Innovating Genius
From apps to social media and geo-tracking to snapping up tech startups, here’s a look at how a 112-year-old department store became one of America’s most experimental and most connected companies. In 2012, U.S. News awarded Nordstrom with that “most connected” title and it hasn’t looked back since. The company was said to have invested $140 million in ecommerce and tech strategy last year.

Iced Hoffee
The Hoff is back and New England can’t get enough of him. Thankfully, Cumberland Farms didn’t leave his fans thirsting for too long. “Cumby,” as the locals call it, and David Hasselhoff are back together for a command performance and it’s as refreshing as an iced coffee while hang gliding. The convenience store chain with 600 locations just launched a new music video-style commercial for its 99-cent iced coffee drink. Once again, it stars David Hasselhoff. From Baywatch and Knight Rider to European pop star...

Is It Cool to Bash Apple?
Remember when it was cool to like Apple? When people used to proudly put Apple stickers on their compact cars and notebooks (the spiral-bound kind) in school? Times have changed. So do people look at Apple differently now that Steve Jobs is gone? Or are we just between revolutions in innovation — no new successor to the iPod, iPhone, iPad to cheer?

Facebook's #GameChanger for Brands
As a site with a billion devotees around the world, one would think Facebook would be a brand’s dream-come-true for advertising. It hasn’t, but that may soon change. After much speculation, Facebook has decided to allow clickable hashtags on its site. This may be news to some. If you’ve noticed how some people pepper their posts with them...

Mammograms on Aisle 5
Talk about your one-stop shopping. A supermarket in Texas offered free mammograms last weekend. If you recall, it was Father’s Day weekend. Oh, and this is Men’s Health Month, so you guys know where you rate. (Unless men got to watch?) Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at The Breast Center for Excellence in Amarillo joined forces with United Supermarkets...

Co-Branding, the Jay-Z Way
During Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it was Jay-Z who really scored a slam dunk of a deal. We all learned that his new album is coming out on the 4th of July and it's already gone platinum! Guess who bought a million copies? Samsung. Yes, it’s good to be Jay-Z. Getting a cellphone company to buy you a platinum album? Genius.

Call Me Metadata World Peace
If Metta World Peace leaves the Lakers, as rumors suggest, maybe he could change his name to Metadata World Peace since the topic is so hot now. Suddenly, it’s all about higher-level information. Yes, if content is king, then metadata must rule the world. It’s not what you say that matters but who you connect with and who they call. Just what is metadata? Basically, it’s data about data, a way of organizing and finding information.

5 Brands With The Most Creative Content Marketing
According to Adobe, 2013 is “The Year of Content.” Need further proof that everyone’s doing it? Just this morning, the 225-year-old New York Stock Exchange jumped on the trend, thanks to a little help from Time Inc. Content Solutions.

Brand You: Advice for College Grads
You heard the lofty speeches from billionaires, celebrities, presidents, etc. at commencement. Now here’s what you really need to know to succeed in life. Your job prospects are much better this year, compared to grads from two years ago. But you can still increase your chances of finding what you want by following these tips. 1. Clean up your digital life. Or switch to a pseudonym for the personal stuff that can't be linked to your professional life. Your social media savviness is a definite plus, but all those drunken spring break photos? Desperate tweets begging the cast of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta to follow you? Imagine them all on the HR director’s laptop screen right next to your resume, because they will be.

Nordstrom's Been Watching You
Nordstrom is — scratch that — has been gathering information from customers through their smartphones as they walk through their stores. Just a couple days after the story broke and customers felt a little creeped out, a spokesperson for one of the country’s most admired retailers confirmed it stopped using the technology. The idea was fascinating, really; a Google Analytics of sorts for brick-and-mortars developed by Euclid Analytics. Finally, a way to put real numbers behind those burning questions from the Marketing department: Did my direct mail campaign encourage repeat traffic? How loyal are my existing customers?

Microsoft's Windows 8 Sings the Blues
Last week, during American Idol no less, JC Penney was the one who was singing a new tune. (Even though it sounded an awful lot like an old tune by the Temptations: “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”) This week, it’s Microsoft’s turn to sing. And they’re singing the blues.

How to Manage Your Digital Afterlife
A good friend passed away a year and a half ago. I miss her dearly and little things still remind me of her every day. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also her Facebook page that’s still up. And her LinkedIn account asking me to endorse her. Is our online presence meant to live on after we go just to haunt others?

Neiman Marcus Helps Boston
Neiman Marcus’s Boston location at Copley Place turned into a makeshift first aid station Monday following the terrorist attack on the marathon. As streets cleared, other businesses closed, and hotels locked up for safety, the store left its doors open and welcomed stranded runners. If you haven’t heard of brands being modest, NM’s corporate communications chief Ginger Reeder...

This is How Rumors Get Started
How does that State Farm commercial go? “They can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true.” “Where’d you hear that?” “The Internet.” Enter the Internet’s version of a French male model, fanny pack-wearing Bubba from down the block. The week is only half over and the Internet has already brought us some interesting rumors. First, that Cher is dead.

Carl's Jr. Cave In? Fat Chance
In the midst of all the food police hoopla going on (you know, Mayor Bloomberg’s quest to keep the streets of New York safe from soda guzzlers, the First Lady’s campaign against fat kids, and our country’s general obsession with telling other people how to live), food brands are being shamed into changing their ways. Coca-Cola got defensive.

I'd Like to Buy a Vowel
Twitter has announced a new two-tiered service starting today. As part of the basic (free) service, you can only use consonants. For $5 dollars a month, the new “premium” Twitter service will allow you to use vowels. “We’re doing this because we believe that by eliminating vowels, we’ll encourage a more efficient and ‘dense’ form of communication,” read the press release late Sunday night.

3 Things Brands Can Learn from the Easter Bunny
With all due respect to Harvey Mackay, motivational leader extraordinaire, here are three pieces of wisdom from a hare-brained fictional character: 1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. BlackBerry might be a good example of this, counting on one model and then finding itself unable to sway consumers away from the sexier iPhone. Although surprisingly, the company just reported a fourth-quarter profit of $98 million.

He Didn't Go to Jared
Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead was an especially good one. And one jewelry brand missed a major opportunity to capitalize on it. When last we visited with our favorite post-apocalyptic survivors, they were preparing to go to war with the Governor’s group. Like other young men getting ready for a tour of duty, Glenn wants a little hope in the midst of misery. He wants to marry his girlfriend Maggie as soon as possible. And, even in a survivalist world...

LinkedIn Endorsements: Almost Extinct?
Some call it the lazy man’s way of giving someone a recommendation without having to actually take the time to write something. Others call it the equivalent of a poke (do those still happen?) or “liking” your friend’s update about her visit to the dentist on Facebook. Love them or hate them, there are now predictions that the controversial feature...

Millennials Now Have Their Own Hotel
Just in time for spring break, Marriott announced that it is adding a new brand aimed at Millennials. As part of a partnership with Ikea, the first Moxy hotel will debut in Milan next year with 150 slated to go up across Europe in the next ten years.

SXSW: Stick a Fork In It
Remember when your favorite indie band from college started to go big time? At first, you enjoyed bragging rights: “l liked them first…when they weren’t big and famous.” Then everyone started to catch on. One day, groan, you actually hear your mom humming along to one of their tunes on a light rock station. And all of the coolness once associated with the band is gone. Complete sellouts, you think. That’s pretty much what has happened to South by Southwest in Austin. In the past, the interactive/technology conference and music festival turned Twitter and John Mayer...

It's On! Macy's vs. Martha & JCP
Oh, this is getting good. Better than any Housewives show or soap opera, the best daytime drama around these days is happening in the courtroom of the Macy’s/Martha Stewart/JC Penney case. To catch you up to speed, Macy’s filed a lawsuit against Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and JCP to stop her line of housewares and bedding from being sold at the competing retailer. If you were expecting insight into the carefully thought-out-and-planned, strategic business decisions that guide some of our country’s most historied shopping destinations, well, you’re in the wrong place. Where else can you hear such delicious morsels...

The Cost of Brand Loyalty
Imagine if an employee greeted you at the entrance to a store, noted what kind of car you drove, how you were dressed, and what cellphone you carried, and then determined what prices you should pay. Or, they escorted you to “your” aisle in the store so you could view more costly merchandise. Would you feel you were discriminated? Or happy that someone was catering to your specific shopping habits? Well, it’s happening — online, at least. Last summer, Orbitz experimented on Mac users.

Making Your Mark on a Brand
Remember when a famous brand decided to alter the formula of one of this country’s most beloved beverages? It didn’t go so well. After less than a week of public — err, social media — debate, Maker’s Mark decided not to lower the alcohol content in its bourbon by three percent. The idea was that with rising demand for the drink and supply constraints...

Rebranding Is Not Enough
Others can debate the merits of Frutiger v. Helvetica, negative space, and gradient color choices. We’ve all seen rebranding used as a revival technique (or been asked to administer the revival). But customer trust, brand loyalty, and a company’s reputation cannot be resurrected with a copy facelift and new logo alone. Take the case of the Capital One takeover of ING Direct.

We Are Young: Branding for the 'Young Old'
A pack of senior citizens out for a bit of late night clubbing and cruising is played out to comedic effect in Taco Bell’s newest ad. But underneath the yuck-yucks, the brand is on to something. There’s a new breed of seniors out there. 10,000 people a day sign up for Social Security and Medicare. Yes, those Baby Boomers that account for one in five of us are getting old.


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