Tag Archives: Branding

PR Tips For Start-ups

Many start-ups know that they need public relations to get their message out but are unsure on how to do it. They know that distinctive brands, which are easier to identify and thus purchase, can be achieved many ways via traditional and social media. A single cover story in a key trade magazine, an executive profile on CNBC, or inclusion in The Wall Street Journal can generate sales. A sustained visibility campaign across all mediums (news, speaking opportunities, social, etc. ) builds a brand and is a game changer.

So knowing this what should do they do?

  1. Be a media expert. How many times do you see a competitor on the news talking about an issue that affects your industry and wondering how did they get there? The answer is quite simple, they pitched themselves to the reporter or producer as an expert in the field who can address issues in a story the reporter is working on. For example if you specialize in IT, pitching yourself to reporters on the recent computer glitch on Wall Street as well as offering suggestions on what you would do to solve the issue would be something that any reporter would be interested in. The key is to monitor the news and position yourself and your company as an expert in a story that is of concern.
  2. Understand media deadlines. Want to see your brand in a holiday gift guide? Then think about pitching media in September and not November. It helps to know the dates, times and potential results of an event before the reporter does. Members of the press tend to act on the fly for most breaking news stories, but plan well in advance for traditional, time-oriented content.
  3. Be a speaker. One of the best ways to promote a business and reach target audiences is through speaking engagements. A speech at a local organization such as Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce reaches potential customers, can sometimes obtain media coverage, and elevates your business.

Public relations doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming. A well orchestrated public relations campaign can enhance your business and bring your customers to you.


The Bill Cosby Brand – Shattered, Beyond Repair

The Bill Cosby brand was built over the years by his ability to bridge the racial divide and a belief that he stood for traditional values. He was praised for lecturing young African-Americans about the importance of raising children in a two-parent household. During his heyday, appearing as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on NBC’s The Cosby Show, he was seen as America’s dad. According to surveys, his character was one of America’s most popular television dads ranking up with Mike Brady from the Brady Brunch and Jim Anderson from Father Knows Best.

Yet now the Cosby brand is tattered. Allegations that he sexually assaulted and raped women in the 1980s and 1990s had already burnished his image. On July 6th, the brand image was shattered when depositions of Cosby from a 2005 civil case brought against the comedian by a woman who alleged a sexual assault by him were released. In the documents, Cosby admitted to drugging women he wanted to have sex with by giving them prescription Quaaludes. Overnight, most of his defenders turned on him. Cosby seemed to turn into Tywin Lannister or Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones rather than, America’s dad, Cliff Huxtable.

The iconic Cosby brand is damaged, beyond repair. He will remain a comedic genius (no one can dispute his talent) but the brand that was built upon his emphasis on wholesome values and addressing social issues among today’s youth is shattered. The reason is Cosby ran afoul against the number one rule of branding – to be successful the brand must be honest and authentic. As these allegations and depositions clearly show, the private Cosby and the public Cosby were two different people. No brand can survive such a revelation. The Cosby brand that had endured for years is no more.

Now the question is can anything be salvaged for Cosby. The answer is not much. NBC last year when the allegations hit a crescendo nixed plans for a comedy show starring Cosby. TV Land and others pulled The Cosby Show reruns. Colleges and other forums that had regularly booked him as a speaker are sure to cancel appearances. What does remain is a chance for Cosby to make an amends with the public that supported and believed in his brand for so long.

So what should he do?

  1. Come clean with what exactly happened and apologize. His lawyers will be against this since it will open him up for judgments in the civil lawsuits he is facing and could invite additional potential lawsuits. Yet it will offer the only chance for him to apologize to fans and ask for forgiveness.
  2. Admit that he has a problem and seek help.
  3. Fade from the public spotlight as he seeks counseling.
  4. Re-emerge and work to educate youth, using his rise and fall as a lesson. This could actually be his greatest legacy.

Those are the steps she should do. What should he not do?

  1. Go silent. Although lawyers love silence to the public it is an admission of guilt
  2. Attack his accusers. This will make him look even worse.
  3. This will deepen the damage done to him.

Bill Cosby was an American icon and now a lesson for brands. If the public image and the private are not the same, the public will feel betrayed and turn on the brand.

Is NBC’s ‘Firing’ a Triumph for Trump?

NBC Universal finally said to Donald Trump, “ you are fired”. The action came as pressure was mounting on the network to sever all ties with the businessman/reality television star/Republican presidential candidate after he called for a great wall to be built in order to stop illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States. In his statement, Trump said, “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump’s remarks led Univision which broadcasts his ‘Miss USA’ pageant to announce that it would no longer broadcast the pageant. The co-hosts of the Miss USA Spanish-language simulcast—Devious Maids actress Roselyn Sanchez and actor Cristian De La Fuente announced that they also would no longer participate in that pageant.

Trump as is his style, hyped the controversy for all that he could. He announced that he would be suing Univision and banned reporters from the network from his campaign events. He further tried to make the media firestorm out to be a fabricated event with the media going after him because he was the strongest potential Republican candidate in 2016. Of course, Trump said his remarks were never meant to disparage Mexicans.

From a communications standpoint, the controversy was a godsend for the master showman. It continued to allow him to dominate the airwaves with coverage of his remarks and the reactions they were generating overshadowing the presidential launch of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the activities of other current candidates such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senators Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. Finally, it allowed his campaign to keep its momentum going. His remarks intentional or not, hit a chord with much of the Republican base that favors strong anti-immigration laws, propelling him in some polls to second place in key primary states just behind Jeb Bush. For Trump, any publicity even negative publicity has always been a win.

Strangely silent as the crisis unfolded over the past week was NBC Universal, the network that airs Trump’s beauty pageants, Miss USA and Miss Universe, and his reality television show, Celebrity Apprentice.   Even when called upon to make a statement regarding Trump’s remarks, the network released a tepid condemnation of his statement but would take no further action despite being urged to do so by many leading Mexican-American personalities. Many pointed out the sharp contrast of NBC Universal to the Food Network’s handling of Paula Deen several years ago when it was revealed that the celebrity chef had used the ‘N’ word. As the controversy continued into another week with Trump revealing in the attention, NBC Universal was finally forced to move and sever ties with him. Too many, the network did so reluctantly and did not seem to fully condemn Trump’s words for fear of losing one of its ratings champions.

The Donald Trump/NBC Universal saga could have been a non-story had NBC Universal acted more swiftly. In a crisis like this when racial words are at the forefront, the only way for an organization to act is swiftly in getting ahead of the story. NBC Universal dawdled, hoping they would not lose their ratings winner. As a result, there actions when taken looked forced earning them no praise from those offended by Trump’s remarks and earning Trump’s disdain as well. Crisis specialists should remember delay in handling a crisis makes the crisis worse and any action taken forced and not done willingly by the organization.

#SonyHack: Damage Control?…Reputation Management?

Sony has been a company under siege for the past several weeks. The company suffered a severe security breach.   Compromised were employee’s social security numbers, children’s medical records, and confidential emails from Sony executives.

The emails of top Sony executives were leaked to the media. Some emails revealed how Alex Trebek threatened to leave Jeopardy. Others spoke critically of stars such as Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington. Then there were the racially charged emails between producer, Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal, Sony’s Chairman regarding President Obama.

The breach was committed by the Guardians of Peace, believed to be connected to the North Korean government. The group and the North Korea government were protesting the Sony comedy film “The Interview” starring James Franco and Seth Rogen who are recruited by the CIA to kill North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un while doing an interview. North Korea considers the film that shows the assassination of Kim Jong-un as an act of war.   Both the Guardians of Peace and North Korea were demanding that the film be pulled. Sony insisted the film would not be pulled. Then after terroristic threats were made against movie theaters if they showed the film, the largest theater chains announced they would not be showing the film. On Wednesday, Sony announced that they were pulling “The Interview” and had no plans to the release the film.

The backlash against Sony for pulling “The Interview” has been enormous. Sony has given every sign that it caved in and appeased the repressive Stalinist North Korean regime. The security breach that Sony had suffered had garnered headlines with the leaks about Sony executives trashing major Hollywood stars but that was more an inside Hollywood crisis that required damage control within the industry. Consumer opinion for the most part, was not affected negatively or positively towards Sony because of the hacked emails. Sony even had defenders within the industry such as Brad Pitt and Aaron Sorkin over the hacked emails. With the cancellation of “The Interview” there has not been a voice raised in the company’s defense. Consumer attitudes towards Sony have been affected by the cancellation of the film and what many see as appeasement of North Korea.

So what if anything should Sony do to repair its image?

  1. Amy Pascal or another leading Sony executive needs to speak publicly and explain the company’s decision for pulling the film. When we think of Sony Entertainment we forget it is part of Sony, a Japanese company. In Japan, unlike in the United States, North Korea is seen as a clear and present threat. Missile tests by North Korea often go over Japan and it wasn’t too long ago that North Korea would snatch Japanese citizens off of Japanese beaches to be used as translators. If it was because of pressure from the parent company and fears of North Korean retaliation against Japan that needs to be explained. Whatever led to this decision Sony needs to explain fully and in detail.
  2. Announce a new release sate for “The Interview” in theaters or if the chains will not carry the film, a video release
  3. Support of various human rights campaigns that seek to bring change in North Korea.
  4. Reach out to key Hollywood talent, explain the company’s decision and ask for support.
  5. Replace the current management with a new team who vow to bring a new corporate culture to the company and vow never to allow outside forces threaten the company’s integrity.

The Sony PR crisis will play out over the next several days. For the company it could not have happened at a worst time – the slow holiday season. That is why it essential the company take immediate steps to repair its image not over the security breach (that a majority of Americans could care less about) but by what many see as appeasement of North Korea (something that disturbs a great majority of Americans). If the company doesn’t take steps at once, it will spend the start of 2015 in damage control mode.

How To Marketing Tips For The U.S. Cultural Mosaic

The cultural mosaic of the United States has never been more intricate. Varied cultural groups — many in their second and third generation — continuously blending together, maintaining and discarding various aspects of their own heritage while adopting, adapting and integrating different aspects of the new one that surrounds them.

U.S. Hispanics are no exception. Take something as (seemingly) fundamental as language, for example: according to a 2012 Nielsen report, only 56% of U.S. Hispanic adults speak only or mostly Spanish, while a full 40% speak only or mostly English. Four out of every ten Hispanics in the United States now speak more English than they do Spanish!

 However, this doesn’t mean that Hispanics are losing their culture in the wake of Anglo-American assimilation. Quite the contrary: the Latino culture is a vibrant, emotional, meaningful culture that continues to grow and thrive. But it does shed light on one of the most important lessons for today’s marketers and brand managers: when marketing to U.S. Hispanics, culturally-relevant content is primary, and language is secondary.

 Director Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Spy Kids, Sin City) understands this shift and its implications, announcing in February his plans to launch El Rey, a television network which will contain original Latino programming — entirely in English.

 “I have five kids of my own,” he said, adding that while they’re bilingual, they converse mostly in English. “They want to feel integrated into the mass community, but [still] have something they can point to that really reflects their identity.”

 Rodriguez isn’t the only one picking up on this linguistic shift. Cosmopolitan for Latinas is taking aim at bicultural readers, recognizing that even though Hispanics want content that resonates with them on a cultural level, they read, speak and work primarily in English. Blogs like Mamas Latinas and TV channels like NBC Latino are following suit.

Recently launched network MundoFox, on the other hand, is doing the reverse: seeking to emulate American programming “in every way except the language in which it is delivered … That means television that feels, looks, sounds like American shows, but just happens to be created in Spanish.” So instead of creating traditionally Hispanic programming in English, MundoFox wants to create traditionally American programming in Spanish.


Although MundoFox might target a different subset of Hispanic consumers than El Rey, and the two approaches may seem to contradict, both apply the exact same principle: when marketing to U.S. Hispanics, culturally-relevant content is primary, and language is secondary. It’s no longer a given that marketing must take place in Spanish. Consider the content first.

The same goes for any company, product or brand looking to tap into the Hispanic market. The content of your messaging should be strong enough to transcend the language in which it is presented. Make sure you understand who you’re talking to and what resonates with them before jumping to any conclusions about their preferences. The answer — and the language — may surprise you.

Branding Opportunities For Burger King

The business news dominating the final week of summer is Burger King acquiring the Canadian fast casual restaurant Tim Hortons known for its doughnuts and coffee.  The acquisition will make Burger King the third largest fast food restaurant in the world.  The new company will move their corporate headquarters to Canada (where the taxes are cheaper than the United States) while the Burger King division will continue to operate from Miami, Florida.  Burger King definitely went their way in making this move.  The announcement that the corporate headquarters would be moved to Canada drew a social media outcry and legislators looking to see if they could halt the deal.  It also offers branding opportunities for the company.

So what now for Burger King in terms of branding the new company and crisis communications over the social media and regulatory outrage?

  1. Burger King needs to remember that much of the outrage over its move to Canada is posturing by legislators during an election year and inflamed by social media. As a corporation, Burger King has a fiduciary responsibility to make money for investors and save on costs.  The move is doing this.  Further, the company can argue that just as its customers go to Burger King because of the value cost, so too is the corporation moving to Canada for the same reason.
  2. To further assure investors that this is a wise move, the company needs to promote the backing and blessing this acquisition received from Warren Buffet with the backing of Berkshire Hathaway which is considered the gold standard to Wall Street.
  3. The company needs to publicize that by going to Canada where the taxes are lower, it is able to keep expenses down which means unlike some of its rivals, it can keep the costs passed on to the consumer lower.
  4. Burger King needs to introduce the Tim Hortons brand (that makes up 62% of the Canadian coffee market far outstripping Starbucks in that degree which makes up only 6% of the Canadian market) to the United States market that is largely unfamiliar with the brand. This means telling the brand story of quality and always hot coffee.  Further the story of Tim Hortons’ baked goods as a contrast to the dominant Dunkin Doughnuts and Krispy Kreme in the U.S. market needs to be explained.  The selection and quality is argued to be better.  This means utilizing social media, television advertising, and community relations accentuating the new brand.
  5. Co-branding needs to be done with Burger King and Tim Hortons, as a one stop-shop for the breakfast need to the coffee fix to a burger on the go, very much as Tim Hortons co-branded successfully in the past with Cold Stone Creamery; KFC does with Taco Bell; and Dunkin Doughnuts does with Baskin Robbins. People must begin to see Burger King and Tim Hortons as one and the same.
  6. The restaurant industry is constantly changing. Burger King with this acquisition must now determine who it is competing with – the McDonalds and Wendys of the world or the Five Guys and Starbucks’ clientele. 

The acquisition of Tim Hortons was a whopper of a deal for Burger King with Wall Street reacting positively.  Now if the company can explain its move in a way people can understand and relate too and brand the company in the public’s mind successfully, Burger King will be poised to be a branding and industry winner in one fast swoop.

The Need For Branding In The Services’ Industry

One of the most frequent comments we hear is, “We are a service oriented company and not a product based company and therefore branding doesn’t make sense for us, or it just won’t work.”  We hear it from lawyers, medical service professionals, and those in the financial industry all of the time.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Service oriented companies are in greater need of creating brand centric experiences for their current and potential clients than product based clients.

Today, almost all companies are selling a commodity in the eyes of the consumer. You sell moisture wicking shirts or coffee to go… so do lots of other companies. You sell legal, accounting, or chiropractic services… so do tons of other companies who all claim to be very good at it. Which means the consumer is now looking for a way to differentiate between you and your competitors. But most service oriented brands aren’t providing their target audience with much help here.

The smart companies have realized that their brand DNA and their brand values – the emotional experience they want their target audience to have whenever they interact with them – is the only real way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. If their brand is created correctly, it allows them to stand out from the pack and give their potential clients a reason to choose them over the competition.

When making a purchasing decision about a service, the way most consumers make that decision is fundamentally and psychologically the same as whether or not they decide to buy from Starbucks. Yes, at Starbucks you walk out with a product and at a law firm or financial planner you walk out with advice. But at both, you are buying the experience they create for you, the relationship that is provided to you and how you believe that will make you feel.

That is all brand, and although we might not like to admit it, to the consumer, the baristas are really no different than the accountants at an accounting firm or associate at a law firm. They create and reinforce the emotional connection with the client.

Now a consumer goods company does have the extra advantage of selling a tangible product through which they can demonstrate their brand – in the product itself, its packaging, and the point of purchase experience. This is all the more reason that companies that don’t sell something tangible, need to ensure they have clarity of brand and their entire internal team shows it to the outside world consistently. They have one less avenue of opportunity for demonstrating how they are highly unique and relevant for their target audience – ultimately why a potential customer should choose them.

Sadly, we see way too many “service oriented” companies out there that say their brand is all about integrity and reliability, or some other overly used and vapid term. Please understand this just positions you and makes you sound all the more like a commodity. Think of it – would you buy from a company that said, “Well… we’re not so into integrity or reliability.” Of course not! It is assumed that you will have integrity and be reliable, otherwise I would never work with you.

That’s why it is so important for “service oriented” companies to go through a process that mixes science and art to clarify their brand DNA and brand values – ways in which they can truly and consistently be unique. Then they need to roll it out to their entire team in such a way that empowers them and encourages them live up to those brand standards every day.