James Bond and the Power of Imagery

June 3, 2013 — Cindy Lord

I love James Bond movies. All of them. Even the bad ones (think anything with Denise Richards or Tanya Roberts). And I have now done something either completely horrible—or fantastic and empowering—by introducing my tween daughters to Bond. We have been trolling the catalog together on Friday nights.

And so it was to my horror that I found myself completely unable to name a whole swath of Bond films, despite the fact that I have probably seen each and every one of them five times or more.

There were the films that jumped to mind quickly: •    Goldfinger •    Octopussy •    Moonraker (yes, I know, horrible) •    Diamonds are Forever •    Casino Royale •    Even On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (you know, the one with the Bond actor no one can ever remember – it’s George Lazenby, BTW)

And then there were the films I just couldn’t call up, although I had the vague recollection that they each had the words Live, Die or Tomorrow somewhere in the title. I even struggled with the recent Daniel Craig offering, Quantum of Solace. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to go there, why not just call it Spooky Action at a Distance?


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Two DO’s and a DON’T for Updating an Iconic Brand

May 28, 2013 — Sandra Creamer

Much like Duane Reade, one of the more defining NYC stores is Ricky’s NYC, the self-described “edgy, ultra-hip ‘beauty shop’ specializing in unique fashion accessories, cosmetics and beauty supplies.” After announcing an expansion in WWD in late 2011, however, updated stores are few and far between.

In the event Mr. Ricky Kenig, the eponymous founder and creative director, is reconsidering, I’d like to make a suggestion or two from a brand strategy perspective:

DO acknowledge what defines the brand from a positioning standpoint.

Ricky’s NYC is mainly about beauty care that is a quirky, fun, rainbow of colors and a little risqué. When thinking about modernizing this brand, it’s extremely important to keep in mind what represents its true heart and soul. The original Ricky’s is the retail version of a John Waters movie (like Hairspray) meets the East Village’s (now) vintage retail punk scene from the late 80s.

This combination is what makes Ricky’s different and special compared to Sephora or MAC, especially if consumers are outside of NYC or have never experienced the brand, and need to “get” right away what makes Ricky’s special and unique.

Which brings me to the next stage: Once you’ve clearly […]

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A Culture Found

May 22, 2013 — Lulu Carter

It’s 7:30 a.m. and I’m coming off my SoulCycle high, eager to seize the day. As I look around the main foyer of the NoHo location, the sunlit room is all smiles. I am truly in awe of this brand. In just six years Julie Rice has created a multi-million dollar fitness sanctuary; a place where a single class offering has amassed a cult-like following and put Exhale Spa addicts to shame. But why? The ambience is certainly a treat, with Verbena yellow candles infiltrating each room, neon words of encouragement covering the walls, and music playing so loud that the only thing you can focus on is the iconic yellow resistance knob on your bike. Still, this holistic health psyche is not new to the 21st century. Many other brands such as Lululemon and Organic Avenue have appropriated their brand meaning to the marriage of mind and body, a heavy-duty “mental floss” if you will.

Thinking on it more, I realized that SoulCycle has benefited from a cultural branding strategy that speaks to Millennials in a highly relevant way. Where brand meaning in the world of fitness is usually constructed by establishing associations between product and valued functional […]

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Brands Behaving Badly

May 16, 2013 — Andrew Heller

Recently, there have been a number of brands that had to apologize for campaigns that seemed to “take things too far,” and later offended somebody or a group. The mea culpa, usually issued by reps for celebrities fresh out of rehab, is now being offered by entire brands.

Most recently, PepsiCo apologized for an online campaign featuring a Dew-obsessed goat who tries to jive his way out of being identified by a white woman in a police lineup comprising exclusively African American men.

Critics have argued that the commercial portrays racial stereotypes and makes light of violence towards women. Dr. Boyce Watkins, an African American commentator and finance professor at Syracuse University, suggested, in fact, that the Dew commercial was one of the most racist spots he’d ever seen. The ad’s mastermind, Tyler, The Creator, also an African American, defended the storyline as so bizarre that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.

So is the ad really offensive? Maybe. Depends on how you look at it. That’s part of the beauty of an ad—viewer perceptions play a key role in how the message is unpacked and ultimately judged. Mountain Dew’s message may not appeal to Professor Watkins, […]

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Love at first type

May 6, 2013 — Eliza Sadler

“You’re not on OkCupid? Why the hell not?” Two years ago, a colleague of mine, her mouth agape, eyes widened and brow furrowed, posed this challenge about dating in an online age: “How else are you going to meet people?”

At the time, her concerns, and the prospect itself, seemed ridiculous. Little did I know that swarms of New Yorkers had already hooked up via digital means.

So here goes my “Hi, my name is Eliza and I have ‘dabbled’ in online dating” (cue awkward shrug and eye roll) confession.

During the time that it’s taken me to become just partially cool with the whole thing, online dating has rapidly transformed.

No longer are people motivated out of desperation, a hook up or dare we say, companionship. Now, it’s all about the tribe. It’s about knowing what you want and clinging to people most like you. It’s about the shared band (or brand) of people. The mystery for the most part is gone (#tear). Just look at the new, tribe-specific sites popping up today:

– If you consider yourself a classy lady (their words, not mine), specifically, an Ivy League student, aspiring model or young actress, and you want a […]

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Kids are dumb and that’s funny

April 25, 2013 — David Weinberger

I was feeling lazy on another lazy spring afternoon. I had just finished watching “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars on YouTube. My kids love that song and the irony is that it’s actually pretty clever with a well-choreographed video. I’m not sure exactly why the monkeys are in there. Maybe to imply that Bruno “monkeys around” on his days off? What the monkeys do provide though is innocence. They don’t know any better. Instead of judging Bruno for being lazy, they’re just happy to be there, having a good time and eating things out of each other’s hair.

The next video I clicked on was a commercial for AT&T. It was one of many in their “It’s not complicated, faster is better” campaign. Not quite a universal human truth but OK, I’ll nod. It shows a man in a suit sitting with 4 kids and asking them simple questions like, “Is saving money better than not saving money?” and “Is being fast better than being slow?”

The kids are as funny as kids can be when you get them talking. They are answering questions correctly and incorrectly and saying funny things like “pickle roll” when they should be […]

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Ingredient Sub-Branding

April 1, 2013 — Joshua Books

It’s no secret that Nike is a marketing titan among the many sports brands that dot today’s competitive landscape. The activewear giant pioneered the idea of driving awareness through brand sponsorships by enlisting professional athletes to endorse its products. Romanian tennis player Ilie Nastase, track star Steve Prefontaine, basketball god Michael Jordan and golf great Tiger Woods all paved the way for Nike to become the international conglomerate it is today.

From a brand perspective, introducing new products to the market is much easier and effective when you can hang your hat on a high-profile spokesman like LeBron James. But while that formula has proven successful for Nike, the brand hasn’t stopped there. It continues to innovate around the very sneakers, apparel and accessories these athletes use to compete and succeed at a high level, and has managed to stay on top by doing so.

Over the years, Nike has strategically integrated specific proprietary technologies and created naming conventions that play a large role in establishing a unified portfolio architecture model and sustainable brand equities. If you visit, it’s easy to get lost in myriad styles, models and colors in the brand’s sneaker portfolio. But thanks to a smart […]

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Martha: The Most Popular Girl in Retail

March 22, 2013 — Tina Masciadrelli

What’s important to you? Being popular? Making money? Putting a product you believe in into the marketplace?

America’s homemaking icon, Martha Stewart, has managed yet again to get serious media attention by becoming the most popular girl on the department store playground.

Earlier this year, J.C. Penney offered Martha millions of dollars for the rights to sell Martha Stewart-branded household products in their store to help with J.C. Penney’s turnaround strategy.

This would seem like a great business venture for Martha had she not already sold exclusive rights to her home products to Macy’s, and signed a contract that prohibited any other store from selling these exclusives.

In essence, Martha sold the same rights twice and offended Macy’s by making a deal with a less upscale department store. And all for a few extra million bucks

So what’s a girl to do? J.C. Penney claims that Martha is a critical piece of their turnaround strategy, while Macy’s says they need Martha products to drive growth. In Macy’s defense, they did take the initial risk  by selling her products post prison sentence. Does she owe Macy’s a thank you? Or is she simply saying, “It’s been real, I’ll be moving on […]

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Where Are All the Crabby Brands?

March 20, 2013 — Cindy Lord

Honest. Loving. Cheerful. Friendly. Sincere. According to one personality trait study¹ these are the top five most socially desirable personality traits that a person can have. I would venture to guess that  half of all the brands that I have ever worked on had one of these five traits in their personality description. And another hefty percentage probably leveraged a personality trait from the next tier: “helpful,” “warm” or “broad-minded.”

Why are these personality traits so popular in the world of brands?

The obvious answer is that we want people to like our brands and these traits encourage liking. When people like a brand, they are more willing to believe what it says, think it is unique and even buy it. This is all good and important.

Additionally, people use brands to reflect and reinforce their own self-image or to project an image they hope to aspire to. Who wants to signal to the world with their brand choice, “I am prejudiced, crabby and dumb.” I totally get that.

But by stripping brands of their shadows are we inhibiting their ability to connect in an authentic and more human way? The people in our lives including the ones we love […]

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Brand New Baby?

March 8, 2013 — Sandra Creamer

Sometimes, even a baby needs an update. Gerber Products Company was founded in 1927, and in 1931, the ubiquitous Gerber baby illustration was officially made the company trademark. Since then, the Gerber baby has been recognized as a sacred brand icon all over the world. According to Wikipedia (which means it may not be true), the company started looking at a new baby in 2011 but as of 2013, it appears that baby Ann still remains the Gerber trademark photo. As a worthwhile exercise, let’s play devil’s advocate concerning potential updates to the baby logo:

Argument #1 – The baby is iconic. Everything points to an exploratory that started and culminated in a study that reached this conclusion: Don’t change the baby. At the same time, brands modernize logos all the time because they realize they need to stay relevant in an evolving consumer and cultural context. By not updating, Gerber runs the risk of losing relevance as women become moms. Gerber is pursuing other brand touch points, such as a slew of iPhone apps, so we know the brand is trying to stay relevant. However, Gerber should also consider the relevance of its overall look, tone and feel


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