Category Archives: Branding

How to Make Patriotism a Good Business Strategy

With our Presidential campaign in full swing, Americans could easily begin to feel a bit leery of anyone waving the flag too hard, and rightly so.

However, it doesn’t take much for a marketer to do something patriotic, appropriate and (probably) profitable.  Here’s an example:


This is what you see when your kids watch Nickelodeon 16 hours per day

In the current jargon, CloudPets are connected stuffed animals.  As in, the toys have a wifi-enabled memory chip in them that allows a parent to record a brief message for his or her child on a cellphone and then have the child listen via the inbuilt speaker.  The DRTV spot shows a parent on a business trip recording a good night message on his phone that the child (happily, obviously) receives at home.

Notice the circled offer in the image above: free shipping for active-duty military.

Regular shipping and handling costs the buyer $6.99, which represents mostly profit for the seller.  The manufacturer can well afford to give away the cost for the relatively few military families who will take up the offer.  Saving seven bucks on a moderately-priced toy does not–and cannot–fully compensate the families of our armed services members, but it still represents a nice gesture.  It gives non-military families a sense that CloudPets has good priorities.  I couldn’t say that the offer drives incremental sales (perhaps they’ve tested it), but a little goodwill goes a long way.

At the same time, CloudPets deserves kudos for making the offer without making a huge deal about it.  They offer this simple, patriotic gesture without acting as if they had raised the flag on Iwo Jima.

Nicely done.

Superbowl Ad Fail: Williamsburg Plantation Owners

Yes, I liked the wiener dogs.  No, I didn’t think Snickers got it right with Willem DaFoe.  Forget all that.  Let me get at the commercial that really made me angry as hell.

What, no “Brown Sugar” for the music bed?

The revitalized New York Daily News has already picked up on one of the signature scenes in this commercial for Colonial Williamsburg (shown in some East Coast markets, but not the national broadcast), the Twin Towers building themselves back up.  I found that moment shocking, but I didn’t personally take offense.  I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking offense, of course, but in the context of the commercial, it appeared around other violent moments in our nation’s history, such as the WWII landings at Normandy Beach and fighting in Vietnam.

Rather, I couldn’t believe what I saw at 0:38.  It showed marchers from the 1960s holding a banner labeled “We Shall Overcome” marching backwards.  “We Shall Overcome,” of course, was the motto of the Civil Rights movement.  Later, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it montage, the commercial also showed a still picture of, I believe, Martin Luther King’s 1963 speech in Washington.

In case you didn’t catch it, the commercial suggested that none of these moments, fair or foul, would have happened if America as a nation hadn’t started in Williamsburg.  I’ll accept a little tourism puffery (after all, Philadelphia and Boston may have had a little to do with it as well), but I can’t accept the symbolism of our nation marching backwards to a time when the good white people of Williamburg owned black people.

As an ardent reader of history, I appreciate what Williamsburg wanted to do.  They wanted to import upon a now-focused audience that the city depicted in their theme park (or whatever you want to call it) played a major role in the creation of this Republic.  However, they played no small part as well in ensuring that slavery became a part of this nation, a stain we must never forget or underestimate.  Naturally, I don’t think Williamsburg’s marketing people meant to suggest that they want to see the return of slavery, but I do question the sensitivities of people who don’t appreciate the power of symbols taken lightly.

We have plenty to celebrate in this country, Colonial Williamsburg.  And we cannot even hint that we can roll things back to less enlightened times.

Marketing Winners and Losers at the NY International Auto Show (Part 3)

Manufacturers put on exhibits at auto shows because they want to sell cars to adults, but sometimes they recognize another key attendee group: kids.  Subjects of “My Super Sweet 16” aside, the kids don’t buy cars, of course, but they do have immediate value to the exhibitors for two reasons:

  1. Kids attend the auto show in droves ($7 tickets help) and drag adults with them.  As in, adults who potentially buy cars
  2. Kids actually influence car purchases to a large degree

While a lot of brands offer kid-friendly exhibits (Jeep had Camp Jeep and other booths had video games), not as many have anything specific for the kids.  Let’s look at one that did have something for the kids, Ford Trucks, and what they did well and not so well.

Good: Hands-on brand experience


My Research Assistants

Ford Trucks let kids 12 and under built snap-together models of their halo truck, the Raptor.

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Marketing Winners and Losers at the NY International Auto Show (Part 2)

The marketing spectacle known as the New York International Auto Show had more to chew on than one man’s rant about station wagons.

For this installment, I’d like to focus on one exhibit with its hits and misses.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present Camp Jeep.


For the past 11 years (give or take), Jeep has given consumers the opportunity to experience their vehicles’ capabilities in a first-hand manner.  They chauffeur participants over an obstacle course that shows how well the Jeeps can attack slopes, uneven ground and other things that 95% of drivers will never encounter.  All cynicism aside, the exhibit really impresses upon participants the astounding performance of the fabled brand.

Even within this impressive showcase, some aspects stand out: 2 good and one not-so-good

The upshot

  • Good: data collection from participants before and after
  • Good: keeping the troops happy
  • Not-so-good: the world’s most pointless cell phone charging station

Collecting data for fun and profit

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Marketing Winners and Losers at the NY International Auto Show (Part 1)

The lights!  The cars! The pumping music!  The attractive people on spinning turntables!  My aching back!

Yes, I attended the New York International Auto Show and lived to tell the (precautionary) tale of experiential marketing done well…and not so well.  Over the new few posts, I’ll point out how some marketers really made the most out of their residency at the Jacob Javits Convention Center and those who didn’t.

I’d like to start out with a winner, at least in my book: Subaru.  Subaru understands its audience, also known as nerds.



Here’s what I learned:

  • Experiential marketing is a great opportunity to capture email from an interested party
  • There is no substitute for understanding your customer

Revenge of the (Station Wagon) Nerds

Oh, Subaru, you get me.  Your exhibit shot a marketing arrow right through my heart.

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The New Luxury Brands

In a recent post, I discussed what a marketers with brands made obsolete by technology should do.  In short, I suggested treating these brands like luxury brands.  Since “something you don’t actually need” works as a basic definition of luxury, I think it makes sense to use luxury marketing approaches for products that technology has displaced.  In fact, even the august New York Times has picked up on the idea that mobile phones alone have put the heat on less adaptable devices.

So what are some examples of these new luxury brands?  And how might they re-establish their relevance in today’s marketplace?  Let’s look at three examples:

1. Cheap watches


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Has Technology Made Your Brand a Luxury Item?

We all know luxury brands when we see them, whether we see them on the fender of a car, the clasp of a handbag or the label of a bottle.  Or do we?

Technology has made some luxuries more accessible–look at black cars on demand and fitness coaching.  Once available only to those with lots of disposable income, these services have become affordable to middle-income consumers.

By the same token, however, products that used to be customer staples have become luxuries.  Because of cellphones, no one needs to wear a wristwatch.  Because of smartphones, no one needs a camera or any other of a host of devices.

One the one hand, you could say that technology has made these items redundant.  However, it might be more relevant–not to mention profitable–to say that technology has made them luxuries.  Here’s why:

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A Hess Truck for Simon: A Plannerben Holiday Special

Every year, broadcasters temporarily replace their programming with Christmas- and Holiday-themed shows from old chestnuts like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (pace, Stuart) to such cutting-edge and meritorious fare like “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”

Who am I to stand apart from the crowd?

I’d like to share my own personal tale of Holiday marketing, which we shall call “A Hess Truck for Simon.”  For a good bit of marketing insight and not a little schmaltz, read on.

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Great Holiday Marketing about UNDERPANTS.

I had planned to write a piece about smart Holiday marketing, but Fruit of the Loom took the wind out of my sails:

I would have said “got my panties in a bunch,” but that’s not an apt metaphor

Instead, let’s look at the quick lesson FotL gives us on Holiday marketing and how that applies to pretty much every marketer trying to take advantage of the season.

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