Monthly Archives: October 2013




I love this logo. I am not a hot tea guy but the marketer in me sees the tea drinking trend and mad growth potential in the US.  Apparently, so does Starbucks who purchased Teavana last year.  For those unfamiliar, Teavana is a retail chain selling various teas and tea-making accessories.

The block letters of the logo and the word itself, do not make the logo perfectly readable.  The name isn’t particularly poetic or easily mispronounced, but the mark before the name is splendid. It’s Eastern, relaxed, friendly and conveys warmth and goodness.

I’m not sure tea is the Facebook to coffee’s MySpace just yet, but keep your eyes peeled.

I’ve spoken with the CEO of a big ready to drink iced tea brand, which is growing quite nicely YOY, about the “tea-ness” in his brand plan and I am waiting for him to step up.  He’s 65% committed, but not all the way there yet.  When he rolls, he’ll whoosh his volume.  Tea’s, hot then cold, are going to be the haps.  Peace!

Brands and Integration.


What happens when a brand purchases a warehouse? 

Jos. A. Bank is attempting to purchase Men’s Warehouse. The offer was rejected yesterday but we haven’t heard the last of this story.  Jos. A. Bank, at face value, is a well-managed brand.  Stores in key zip codes, retail space (outside and inside) befitting an up market men’s clothier and the expectation of Jeeves-like service.  Men’s Warehouse, also a well-managed brand, has over 1,100 stores nationwide, sells similar suits at similar value, but is branded and often presented as a lesser frills warehouse. The natty George Zimmer aside.

How would one merge these two similar businesses, each possessing very different brands? I suspect the Men’s Warehouse stores performing most poorly will be closed. Let’s say 300.  That money will be pooled back into redesigning the Men’s Warehouse retail environments, the street-facing first, to look more like Jos. A. Bank.  The Bank name will be picked up for all stores.  Most brand values of the Bank will be kept along with the best of Men’s Warehouse, and I’m sure there are many. You don’t grow to have 1,100 stores by accident.

If the take-over effort continues, and I believe it will, what needs to happen for proper integration is good leadership and making sure the clothes match, metaphorically speaking.  One brand that looks magnificent. Stay tuned. Peace.


Data Driven Decision Making


My first experience with the term Data Driven Decision Making was in the K12 education space. Sharnell Jackson, who helped the Chicago Public Schools improve online student learning, is a leading supporter.  As much as I tried, I couldn’t quite get the concept until she talked about taking student learning data and scrubbing it with outside demographic data, e.g, address, parental situation, income and the like.  For some reason I thought data driven decision making was more deeply based in education, such as learning styles, teaching styles, means and methods. Not demographics.

Data Driven Decision Making is also the rage in marketing.   Here’s some boilerplate from a leader:

Neustar is the first real-time, cloud-based information services and analytics provider enabling clients to effectively promote and protect their businesses. By using our unique, authoritative data combined with our clients’ information, we make data-driven decisions through actionable analytics. We uncover insights for our clients, thus making complex problem-solving easy for Marketers, IT and Operations professionals through our suite of complete, cloud-based workflow solutions.

Whether we are talking about education or marketing this dashboard approach is after-the-fact. It’s execute, automate and monitor, in that order. This is a billion dollar business and counting. It’s tactical, not strategic. It’s Ballmer, not Jobs.

Let’s take some of that billion and invest it in strategy. Start looking “Beyond the Dashboard.” I wrote the brand strategy for ZDNet in the late 90s “For doers not browsers.” It implied browsers were stepchildren of doers. I can see a time not too far off when the “dashboard” is stepchild of strategy. Peace.  

Shopping vs. Buying.


As I was graduating college my psychology professor suggested I look into “leisure time counseling.” “As the baby boomers reach optimal numbers in retirement they will be bored and need things to do” – hence counseling for those who unfulfilled and unhappy.

I’m reading today about electronic payment companies and a number of trials that allow consumers to use their phones to buy directly from codes on empty cereal boxes and ads in Conde Nast magazines. The words “instant gratification” appear over and over as the key benefit.  These tools are all about “buying” and less about “shopping.”

I’d like to go on record as saying that buying without shopping is bad for the economy, bad for consumers and bad for our health.  

The craft economy is an emerging cultural trend. Two things driving the craft economy are personal pride and preservation of the environment. A nicely crafted dinner, a well-finished piece of furniture, a thoughtful hand-crafted gift take time to create but provide much in the way of personal reward. Psychically and physically.  As for the environment, products that have great shelf life vs. products that go by the curb in 14 months are the new black. Well-built products that require some maintenance also fuel the America economy.  This isn’t all hippy granola shit this is a culture where people take pride in what they buy, consume, build and share. (Perhaps they will watch a little less TV, as well.)

Think about serving and fascilitating the craft economy and be early to market. Peace.

My Take On Twitter.



Twitter is right, one of its great advantages at the moment is its ubiquity and lovely harmony with mobile.  My gut tells me though, that if it starts putting spammy ads into the flow, more so than what it’s doing now, twitter will be dinged by consumers.  And I’m a guy with a house paid for by ads. I believe Twitter will create its greatest value by being in the data business. Why?  Because words matter. The words we use in our twitter feeds, more than pictures, videos and song are what deeply define us. People who use the word “should” a lot are bossy. Users of the word “hate” tend toward intolerance. Even those , for instance, who hate Oreos.

What Twitter knows is words. And if they sell those words, translated into customer insights, they will sell at a premium. I’m not talking about buying keywords here – I’m talking customer profile and customer insight stuff. Think Nielsen.

As the data world abounds and we figure out privacy issues (invest in those companies) we will land on some important positive applications, e.g., electronic medical records.  Once we crest that wave and look past advertising in the stream, we’ll see that the data Twitter can provide will provide weighty real-time and long-time selling insights worth billions. Peace-ful.

A brand strategy.


If I were to try to determine the brand strategy for REI, a camping and outdoor store, I’d have to say it was “Get Out.”  I saw one of their print ads today and it made me want to get out of my chair and hit the mountains.  The ad showed snow covered peaks in the background. Sodden green grass field in the fore. A small open, netted tent postage size in the middle of the picture and some other gear, perhaps a drying sleeping bag, nearby.  My brain was snapping internal pictures.

If good advertising makes you feel something then do something (Ford’s Jim Farley quote), this is great work.  My mom might fly by this ad.  Not me.

The brand strategy Get Out is active. The double meaning of Get Out suggests “no way” or unreal.  Also the unseen, the vastly alive.  Any brand manager, creative director, or retail POP manager, selecting pictures for ads, home pages or displays, would know what criteria to use to make a selection with this this strategy.

Yesterday I posted about an offer to do a brand audit — looking at work and backing out what I believe to be the brand strategy. For some companies – companies with good consumer awareness—this will be an easy task for me. REI is one such company.  Peace.


A “Tough Love” Brand Strategy Offer.


Does your company or product have a brand brief? Also known as a brand plan. It is a piece of paper outlining for senior officers, marketing and sales teams what your strategy is.  I’m not talking mission and voice and personality — all that agency gobble-di-gook; I am talking about a piece of paper on which there is an actionable plan that drives product development, consumer experience and messaging. Think brain, not words and actions.

I pretty much know you don’t.

Why do I know that? Because I study this stuff for a living. Because in my years of doing this work, I’ve seen very few with articulate brand plans?  I’ve read strategy documents from large Fortune 100 companies with hundred million dollar marketing budgets and you can drive trucks through them.  They’re like maps with myriad roads and routes leading everywhere.  Frankly, you can almost flip-flop brand names on these plans and manage the products with little negative impact on market share. 

And that’s the big boys and girls.  Imagine what happens to mid-size companies and small companies?  SMBs reach out to the only marketing partners they can afford (C and D level players), falling for some Svengali charm and marko-babble, and pay out $50,000 or $100,000 for some web design, brochures and pretty ads. But they have no strategy to measure, just tactics.

The Offer.

So here’s my offer.  For 3 companies I will conduct an audit of materials, product, packaging, web presence and stated marketing strategy. Learning and findings will be presented in the form of an assumed brand strategy, within 48 hours of the beginning of the audit.  The presentation will show how you really look to your consumers and the public, not how you see yourself.  The first 3 companies, with sales in excess of $750,000 will be awarded an audit. I’ll happily sign a nondisclosure agreement.  The offer does not apply to agencies and marketing consultancies. Tough love this brand work. Offer ends 10/31/13.

PS. Certain rules apply, e.g., cost of travel not covered. For more information, please write

Teach and Tool



So I was reading yesterday about the Green Giant Anti-Bullying Campaign and clapped out loud (COL).  Cause marketing is a wonderful thing so long as it doesn’t try too hard to come off as product promotion. In this case the “Raise a Giant” idea is intended to inform parents they need to educate their kids about bullying and root it out.

I’m of the mind that “education” can solve many societal ills if done correctly, but it can also be a useful marketing device.  Sy Sims famously said “And educated consumer is our best customer.”  Finding the things about which to educate consumers that predisposes them to your product is the key to successful marketing.  But teaching alone is not enough. Back to the anti-bullying example, it’s not enough to teach kids bullying is bad.  We need to give them the tools to do something about it.  Too much advertising and marketing is all teach no tool.   And in retail, a tool is not a coupon or a purchase source.  

To prove the taste of a healthy snack, a super food like Smooch Snacks for instance you need a sampling program. If super foods are supposed to taste like kale, the tool has to be about taste. If all natural cookies are typically dry as cardboard and “moisture” is part of your brand plan a la Sweet Loren’s cookies, consumers need a tool to prove moisture.

You don’t have to do everything in one ad or one digital experience, but you do need to teach and tool as part of your long term plan.  The difference between teaching and learning is often the tool.  Peace it out!