Publication: Huffington Post

‘The People Are Revolting’: The 1 Percent Should Think Twice About Mocking Mainstream Brands

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May 16, 2016

When Italian design house Moschino swiped the look of a Windex bottle for its Fresh Couture luxury perfume earlier this year, the oxymoronic twist felt familiar to educated elites who can spend $82 for 3.4 ounces of eau de toilette.

After all, the unexpected elevation—everything from Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain,” to Warhol’s 1962 “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” to Damien Hirst’s dead tiger shark in formaldehyde—is now such a part of the art world that it is … well, expected.

Reversals such as these are now part of high fashion, too. Moschino’s Jeremy Scott, in particular, is known for appropriating the language of the masses. Past Moschino collections have included fashions that looked like Hershey’s chocolate bars, bottles of Budweiser, McDonald’s “Happy Meals” or even the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. In addition to the Windex-like spray bottle, Moschino’s 2016 spring-summer collection riffs on rubber gloves, car wash brushes and feather dusters—all of which are everyday items that hinge on manual labor.

It’s all just artsy, tongue-in-cheek fun, right?

In an America that has given rise to the xenophobic rants of @RealDonaldTrump and open discussion of “class wars,” maybe not.

When I saw Fresh Couture’s Windex-inspired trade dress, my first thought was of Americans […]

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Responding to a Cultural Moment? Don’t Use Deflated Creative

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January 30, 2015

By Gregg S. Lipman

Did you like Krispy Kreme’s response to the ‘Deflategate’ cheating scandal? How about Apple’s ‘Je Suis Charlie’ banner on their French website? Starbucks’ homage to Martin Luther King?

Call it the New Holy Grail of marketing — a brand generates speed-of-light positive buzz by jumping in on a timely social issue or responding to a cultural moment. To this day, Oreo’s infamous blackout tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl is considered the epitome of a social media win, garnering 525 million earned media impressions, which is five times the number of people who actually watched the game. Ben & Jerry’s delighted their fans last year with a tweet about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. And most recently, Krispy Kreme scored a real-time marketing touchdown with their Deflategate-themed social image.

You might be saying yourself: “I have an idea. How about if I don’t play the game at all? Isn’t that the safest play?” Here’s the thing: branding is all about creating value beyond product benefits. We live in an era where people use brands, not only to express their personal style, but who they are and what they believe in. When 87% of consumers believe […]

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The Race to Zero: Time to Rethink ‘Discount’ Mentality

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November 25, 2014

By Gregg S. Lipman

The running joke in the retail world is that the battle to entice shoppers with heavy discounts starts earlier each year. It’s no longer a matter of deep discounting on Black Friday, or even Hurry-Up-and-Finish-Your-Turkey-So-We-Can-Start-Shopping Thursday. In fact, a recent Google survey finds that half of all shoppers start scouting for deals before Thanksgiving — 26 percent of them even start before Halloween. Retailers are more and more extending Black Friday-like discounts through at least the entire month of November.

Who doesn’t love a deal? David Ogilvy wasn’t a big fan, or at least he wasn’t very keen on brands partaking in them. “Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand,” the late advertising legend said at a New York City luncheon in 1986.

But here we are, already into the holiday season, a time of family gatherings, peppermint lattes and deliriously deep discounting. But beware marketers: From a brand equity perspective the implications of “discount creep” on brands should not be overlooked. Discounting will give retailers a short-term advantage over competitors, but it can come with perhaps unforeseen consequences.

Truth: Leading with low prices […]

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Art vs. Commerce

by Gregg S. Lipman
May 29, 2014

Every year, millions of people shop at Walmart — but few of them are as inspired by what they find in the aisles as artist Brendan O’Connell. O’Connell, who has been the focus of several TV news segments and magazine articles, has been painting on canvas what he finds there: everyday household products like JIF peanut butter, Velveeta cheese and Wonder bread, as well as the people who go there to purchase them. O’Connell’s subject matter is not dissimilar from that of Andy Warhol, another artist who made a career out of portraying the designs that our agency, and others like it, spend days and late nights creating as art. But do we — or even the brands that engage us — get any benefit or credit (or even compensation) from Mr. O’Connell for the subject matter that so inspired him?

In the age of Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, et al., there seems to be an ever-growing blur between art and commerce. Except for when it comes to the business (i.e., the money part) behind the creativity. There the lines become pretty black and white. While artists — like illustrators, photographers and musicians — who develop commercial materials continue to leverage […]

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The Business of Creativity: 3 Ways for the Client/Agency Relationship to Work

April 24, 2014

By Gregg S. Lipman

I asked a contractor doing some work on our house for an estimate. The first pass was a lump sum, and he was reticent to line item it. I explained that I too am in the service business, and that I had no issue with him making a fair profit. I just needed to know what the base cost was, and what premium my wife was adding to the party. I’m sure my clients sometimes wonder the same. So here are three things to keep in mind when dealing with your agency.

1. Talk About Value… Even if It’s Awkward

Value is generally understood as the ratio between price and quality. We get it — in the service business, the value equation is hard to peg. In work for hire, agency models are most often based on time — the goal is to get the best work in the shortest amount of time. Clients use leverage to minimize cost (and therefore time). But, fact of life, creativity needs time to “bake” — it is an iterative science where mistakes are made (see Creative Inc., Ed Catmull’s [head of Pixar and Disney’s] new book about creative management], […]

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From Startup to Grownup: 5 Challenges Agencies Face as They Mature

December 19, 2013

By Gregg S. Lipman

I’ve often equated growing a business to raising a kid (much to my staff’s chagrin). At first, she needs your utmost attention — feed her, nurture her, coddle her. Pookie can’t survive without you. Your influence will help shape what she will become.

At every stage of development, the relationship you have with your child changes, your role changes and his/her needs change, too. I’m happy to say that I’ve got two relatively happy (hey, they’re teenagers), healthy, productive kids. I also have a relatively happy healthy, productive company (it’s also a teenager). Having given birth to CBX with my co-parents, uh, co-founders just over ten years ago, I feel qualified to share some of our parenting experiences.

All companies face significant challenges as they go from startup to grown-up. Most of them are not unique, but they are unique to you — especially when you are a first-time parent (I still have nightmares about the period right after my daughter was born). Success is not without its pitfalls and roadblocks, but the companies that succeed are the ones that have the wherewithal to be open-minded, introspective, and have the resolve to push through the hard […]

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What’s the Future of Soda?

June 5, 2013

By Gregg S. Lipman

Challenger soda brands, take note: there seems to be a tremor in the force of the beverage world. I’m talking, of course, about the war being waged on “big sugar” — sugary beverages like Coke and Pepsi, namely — by one Mr. Michael Bloomberg (that’s “Mayor” to you). Sugar is the devil these days, thanks in large part to widespread campaigns against childhood obesity, the trendy farm-to-table movement and an uptick in healthy eating in general. Soda sales dropped 1.2 percent in 2012, compared with declines of 1 percent in 2011 and .5 percent in 2010. New York has been embroiled in a battle over “to tax or not to tax” for the past year, and 33 other states are giving the thumbs down to soda and its sugary counterparts. And it’s not just America that’s giving these beverages the boot. Since 2012, France has imposed a “fat tax” on sugary beverages as well.

Not that we should really feel that bad for Coke and Pepsi, who’ve done a great job of expanding their portfolios to include water (now the #1 beverage in the world), juices and energy drinks. Apparently they knew the day would come […]

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Can Manhattan Get Its Groove Back?

May 10, 2013

By Gregg S. Lipman

Manhattan, you’re losing your edge.

Once upon a time, you were the place to be, home of cool restaurants, stylish stores, landmark brownstones, enviable lofts, beautiful people and driver-driven Escalades.

Actually, that place still exists – but now it’s called Brooklyn.

Yup, Brooklyn has become so synonymous with all things cool — and also “artisanal,” “DIY,” “indie,” “handcrafted,” and “foodie” – that the New York Times recently deemed it its own brand. The Brooklyn Flea, which has been written about in so many publications, is thinking about branching out into other non-New York markets. The Brooklyn Nets won’t be celebrating a championship this year at the brand-spanking new Barclays Center, but the team definitely has cool cache (helped in part by Jay-Z and Beyonce). And the 25-year-old Brooklyn Brewery is going to open its first outpost in Stockholm this year. Brooklyn is also a verb, as in “Brooklynizing,” and an adjective, as in “Brooklynish.” Los Feliz has been called the “Brooklyn” of Los Angeles, Kreuzberg is the Brooklyn of Berlin, Jersey City is the Brooklyn of…well, maybe not, but you get the picture.

For someone who always considered Manhattan the holy grail, all this hype around […]

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Is the NCAA Losing Its Identity?

February 14, 2013

By Gregg S. Lipman

On a brisk fall day in 1869, the Rutgers football club (the Scarlet Knights nom de plume would follow much later) defeated the Princeton club 6-4 in the first intercollegiate football game. Such glory has been rare at my alma mater. And while it’s been a few years (please don’t ask just how many) since I graduated from Rutgers, my fandom for my school’s teams, and collegiate athletics in general, has remained steadfast. Even as the college football season has ended, I get myself psyched up for college hoops and March Madness — I’m in a bit of a tizzy, as they say. But what the heck is happening at the NCAA? The “venerable” National Collegiate Athletic Association, it appears, has a branding dilemma on their hands. Despite having the enormous advantage of built-in “brand” loyalty (e.g., fans support teams for years, generations even, regardless of whether they win or lose), the NCAA and its sub-brands — the conferences that lie under the NCAA banner — are having a bit of an identity crisis. The organizational efficiency and rich regional rivalries steeped in tradition, once hallmarks of the NCAA brands, have eroded into something approaching, well, […]

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Pardon My French…

January 4, 2013

Gregg S. Lipman:

For years, I always thought my friends up in Canada were exaggerating when they’d talk about how fiercely protective the province of Quebec — through its official language watchdog The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) — was of its French language. There were stories filled with references to eating chiens chauds (literally ‘hot… dogs’), watching their favorite quart-arrière (quarterback) and having to stop for signs that read “Arrêt,” despite the fact that they say “Stop” in every other French-speaking country in the world.

I always found these anecdotes simply funny, until I heard about the office’s recent attempt to force major American retailers like Walmart, Costco, The Gap, Guess, Old Navy and Best Buy, to amend their brand names to include a French phrase/slogan that would clearly articulate what the company is selling. Not only would these brands have to change their signage — they’d also have to spend millions of bucks to update all their marketing materials, packaging, labels, price tags, and so on. All for what? To dilute their trademarks?

And that was when the brand guy in me got a little — how do you say — “PO’ed” (pardon my French). I […]

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