Tag Archives: Marketing

Black Friday Branding Blunders

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been branded Black Friday in the public’s consciousness for years as an integral part of the traditional holiday season as the Macy’s Day Parade, Santa Claus, and Thanksgiving. For decades it has signaled the start of the holiday season for retailers with a strong Black Friday signaling strong holiday sales and signs of a robust economy. Consumers have flooded the stores waiting for coveted specials that come but once a year. Retailers have started opening earlier and earlier each year. Now many retailers are open on Thanksgiving Day with some beginning Black Friday sales days and weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. In this day of online shopping many are offering Black Friday discounts online so the consumer can do all of their holiday shopping from the ease of their computer without even leaving home. Plus for those online shoppers who want to wait a bit, there is now Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving for the best online deals.

So from a branding point are retailers hurting themselves with the way they have extended Black Friday? The answer is a resounding yes.

First Black Friday was branded as the day for the best holiday sales that happened but once a year that nothing could compete against. Today consumers no longer believe that. Black Friday is not a special event it has become like one of the billboards you pass time and time again and stop paying attention to after a while. The day no longer has meaning to consumers who begin seeing Black Friday advertised days if not weeks before Thanksgiving itself. So the credibility of retailers who claim that Black Friday deals are the best of the year is strained.

Next retailers stood out and enhanced their brand identity with their fabled Black Friday sales. Consumers would brave the elements to show their loyalty to a retailer who offered those exclusive sales, today all the sales seem the same and the retailers all seem the same except for those who differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Yet retailers that opt to do the opposite are building deeper brand loyalty and attracting even more consumers. Consumers today look for more than just the cheapest price, they buy into a brand’s story and its beliefs. REI made headlines when its announced that its stores would be closed on Black Friday. That move directly appealed to its consumers who frequent the store not for its sales and products (although that plays a role) as much as for what the retailer stands for in this world. Likewise Nordstrom garnered media attention by announcing that its stores would not only be closed Thanksgiving but there would be no holiday decorations in the stores until after Thanksgiving. Discount retailers, Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, and Homegoods have mounted massive advertising campaigns reminding consumers of Thanksgivings long ago and that all of their stores will be closed Thanksgiving. These retailers and others like them stand out to consumers. Consumers are more likely to seek these brands out on Black Friday as they buy into the story that the discounts offered mean something and that the brand itself is more about profits and the bottom line. Additionally, this strategy is likely to develop brand loyalty not only during the holidays but year round.

Black Friday as we know it may be close to disappearing. Yet retailers and brands that are savvy will honor the tradition knowing that it is smart way to stand out from competitors but beyond that build long lasting consumer loyalty.

Starbucks Red Cup Controversy? A Publicity Score!

Unless a person has been totally hidden from social media or traditional media, they know that Starbucks has unveiled its Christmas season cup. The cup is plain red with the Starbucks logo emblazoned on it. The company kept it simple with the traditional colors of the season in an effort to foster inclusiveness and diversity it claimed. The reaction has been incredible. Many claiming to be leading Christians blasted the company for omitting traditional holiday messages on the cup as in pervious years or missing the reason of the season. In fact the Starbucks holiday cup has been one of the biggest stories on social media and in traditional media. The Starbucks holiday cup has been of the most frequent searches on Google. Starbucks has emerged as a branding winner in this story.

How were they able to make this controversy a winner for the brand?

First they were very measured in their response to critics. Rather than ignore the controversy or go into full crisis mode, they were nuanced. On their website they reiterated their main point of why they were doing the simple red cup. For millions who buy into the Starbucks’ brand story that response just reinforced their belief in the brands. For others, it was a non-story not pitting Starbucks against its critics. And the media could not make a bigger story of the controversy from the company’s response so the story continued to be the new holiday cup and not Starbucks versus its critics.

With the increased noise over the Starbucks’ holiday cup, the Starbucks website saw increased traffic. Starbucks with this increased traffic in mind put its holiday offerings – Christmas blend and other products front and center on the website. What a great way to advertise!

Long term as I mentioned it reinforced the brand identity to its loyal customers. Consumers expect their brands to tell a story and share their values. Starbucks in this holiday cup saga reinforced the social values that so many of its loyal consumers have come to expect from the company.

Finally, Starbucks reaped millions in free publicity. It was a major story in all of the media. Social media is still several days later abuzz with the story. People who know little about Starbucks and its various holiday offerings now do. All achieved at very little cost to the company.

Starbucks has emerged as a major winner with its holiday cup saga. Other brands can learn from it.

Marketing Is Real Time: Don’t Overlook Social Media

Social media drives narratives. It is becoming the new way that brands reach consumers. An active social media presence is essential for any brand. Brands do shout outs on Twitter and Facebook when they are referred too. Yet one brand had a missed opportunity – Eveready/Energizer batteries.

In the Republican presidential debate, candidates were asked what their Secret Service code name would be if elected. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who has been called low energy by Donald Trump and others said, “Eveready. It’s very high energy, Donald.” Even Trump was forced to laugh.

This was a perfect opportunity for Eveready or its parent company, Energizer to take to social media for the shout out. Instead there was total silence. Energizer has not utilized its Twitter account since August 3rd. Other brands such as Harley, Scott Walker’s choice for a Secret Service name or Duck Dynasty that acknowledged Mike Huckabee’s duck hunter choice also were slow to take to social media.

Brands should remember from this, marketing in this world of social media is 24/7.

Why Businesses Should Include A Public Relations Strategy In Their Plans

Less than one percent of small and medium size businesses have a public relations strategy. The challenge is that many businesses simply do not understand what public relations actually is and what it will do for them in terms of business growth and branding. Many business owners and executives equate public relations component with paid advertising. They do not recognize the difference and value of ongoing media coverage which puts them out as thought leaders in their industry that customers will seek out and which is the best way to enhance a business’ brand.

Small and medium size businesses looking to grow and position themselves as leaders should look to public relations and its value in supporting growth. A modest budget combined with an ongoing program will reap consistent rewards. To educate prospects who are not familiar with public relations, I compare public relations activities to mortgage payments. When you carry a mortgage, you make a monthly payment until you own the home. Public relations activities should build awareness and attract attention over time.  These efforts ultimately enhance a business’s reputation and standing in its market.

One of the biggest things businesses seek to determine is ROI for publicity efforts. Media placements, which include articles, story links and video news coverage, need to be utilized and pushed via social media, sent directly to prospects and integrated into sales packages to reinforce branding and enhance business development. Simply gaining media coverage without reusing it is where many businesses fail.

Many small business owners succumb to “shiny object syndrome.” They hear about new marketing tools, strategies and services, and want them even though they have no idea how these services actually work or if they will work. They gravitate to this while public relations and its tremendous value is not prioritized.

Businesses often fail to see how publicity helps generate interest, support salespeople, enhances SEO, creates high quality social media content and positions experts as leaders.

Finally, businesses need to know that publicity is an insurance policy for protecting their brand and reputation. A crisis situation can happen to any business at and given time. If a business crisis hits the media or online, failure to have the ability to respond or properly react could mean the demise of a business. Having a public relations and crisis communications strategy in place when a crisis hits protects brands, businesses, products and people.

As we head into the fall and many businesses think about their marketing pushes, they should also include public relations in their planning.

Thinking About Rebranding? Take A Lesson From The Master Of Rebranding – Richard Nixon

Rebranding. Every company does it. From a new look to its logo to an entirely different image, companies do it to stay competitive and fresh. Subway is rebranding after the Jared Fogle case. They and other companies might want to take a page out of the master of rebranding – Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon is of course remembered for Watergate. Yet he was actually the master of rebranding. Each election there was a new Nixon that the media and public would buy into. And with that new Nixon brand, he was able to overcome some of the best – Earl Warren, Adlai Stevenson, Nelson Rockefeller, Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan, George Romney, and even battle Jack Kennedy to a draw (or based upon who you believe defeat him).

Richard Nixon began his career as a hard-hitting anti-Communist crusader. Adlai Stevenson described him as a “white collar Joe McCarthy”. Dwight Eisenhower used him as vice president as an attack dog and to appease the hard right of the Republican Party. But he was also seen as a fresh and younger face for Republicans in 1952 even though most of the country knew of him for exposing Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy. In marketing his youth he drew a sharp contrast to his two California rivals who also wanted to be on the ticket with Eisenhower – Earl Warren and William Knowland. Key lessons for brands from this – when rebranding something familiar make it appear new and fresh.

During the 1952 campaign, Nixon was caught in the so-called ‘fund crisis’ where it was revealed that wealthy donors had paid for his travel expenses (which was not illegal). The media and Democrats called for Nixon’s removal from the ticket. Eisenhower remained silent on Nixon’s status and suggested Nixon address the nation. So Nixon with the backing of the Republican National Committee went on television (still in its infancy) and revealed his finances, showing that he was like most Americans, a person of modest means, revealing that Eisenhower’s opponent, Adlai Stevenson also had a fund like his, and concluding with a reference to the dog Checkers that his children had received from a backer and he would not return. The public went wild with support of Nixon. Eisenhower was forced to keep Nixon on the ticket and Stevenson was forced to reveal everything about his fund. Overnight, Nixon became the average American compared to the image that many had of Republicans – the rich uncaring businessman. Nixon knew his audience and appealed to it. Any business rebranding needs to know its target audience and how to appeal to it when rebranding.

After Eisenhower was re-elected president in 1956 with Nixon as vice president, many thought Nixon was unelectable in own right in 1960, as he was seen as too mean and that Republicans might need to nominate someone like Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon set out to prove them wrong. He turned down his rhetoric but even more importantly made himself relevant. He interjected himself into attempts to pass a civil rights bill that led many reporters to consider him a statesman. Then there was the famous kitchen debate where he debated Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev where he was viewed by many as standing up for America. In 1958, with Eisenhower unwilling to campaign for Republicans, Nixon took up the role and appeared as the good Republican endorsing Republicans of all stripes while his emerging rival, Nelson Rockefeller did everything possible to avoid fellow Republicans. Key lesson from this rebrand – make sure that rebranding is tied into relevancy that will make it appear authentic.

Once nominated in 1960, Nixon faced the charismatic Jack Kennedy who was everything Nixon wasn’t – handsome, rich, elegant, eloquent, and Ivy League educated. In the first Nixon and Kennedy debate, Kennedy was declared the winner and even though Nixon battled back in subsequent debates the media believed Kennedy was a lock. Yet on election day, Nixon battled Kennedy to a basic draw (or if tales of the dead voting in Chicago and Texas are true defeated Kennedy). He did this by appealing to voters as who he really was – one of them, not the son of a rich former ambassador (Kennedy) but the son of a grocer who had worked his entire life. And voters believed him. Brands need to remember to be authentic when rebranding.

After losing to Kennedy in 1960, Nixon also lost the governorship of California in 1962 and famously declared to the media, “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore”. The media wrote his political obituary. Yet Nixon began work on his comeback. He did this by making himself available to the media. No reporter was too small nor question too inane for him during his so-called ‘wilderness years’. He appeared open and transparent. He cultivated the image of an elder statesman and in a polarized nation someone solidly in the middle. The media declared a new Nixon yet again. The public believed it allowing him to defeat Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, and even Ronald Reagan for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination and then liberal giant Hubert Humphrey in the general election. Transparency and openness as shown by this Nixon rebranding are a key component for any rebranding.

Even after Watergate, Nixon continued to rebrand himself and the media and public continued to buy it. He was a mater at rebranding and offers lessons that companies can learn from to this day.

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.

Are You Engaging Bloggers?

Did you know there are over 70 million blogs worldwide? Mention on a blog often has greater reach than traditional media for a product, service, or book. A positive review of a product, service, or book on a blog often has a greater consumer impact than millions spent on traditional advertising.

Blog tours are becoming as important as media stories for companies and authors. Set during a period of time, companies and authors are invited to a blog and promote their featured product, book, or service with live questions and interactions, even giveaways. Blog tours allow for consumer engagement and leave a viral footprint long after the event and goes hand in hand with all other promotional activities.