Memorial Day: More Than BBQ and Branding

Memorial Day weekend has come to an end. Over the last three days, you likely gathered at a cookout or enjoyed the pool to mark the start of summer. Since it falls at the end of May, Memorial Day gets mistaken for the start of summer. Unfortunately, Memorial Day often doesn’t get the justice it deserves. When it comes to how consumers are celebrating the holiday, an advertising-industry survey found that 54 percent plan to have a barbecue or party, while only 28 percent expect to attend a parade and 14 percent to visit a military cemetery. Even among those who have served in the armed service, that number is still only 24 percent.

Memorial Day 2

If you happened to check your email or social networks this weekend, you might have seen nods to the holiday – photos of BBQs posted by friends, sale prices by your favorite brands and sentiment for our fallen troops and the freedom we have as Americans. Some brands take it upon themselves to capitalize on this opportunity and translate their support for American troops, many tipping their hat to the men and women who have served…


Sweet Surprise Dinner

aOne of the biggest challenges in public relations is to continue to capture and increase interest among our audiences – one of the hardest audiences being media. So how do you host a media dinner in the center of a major global media hub filled with influential writers who are constantly invited to multiple dinners a night?

With this challenge in mind, the NC Sweet Potato Team decided to add an element of surprise. On behalf of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission (NCSP), we partnered with Dinner Lab, a social dining experiment uniting undiscovered chefs with adventurous diners. Our team reached out to local media with a lone promise: enjoy a delicious, one-of-a-kind dining experience. What was our selling point? The air of mystery – mystery chef, mystery pop-up venue, mystery menu (with sweet potatoes of course).

Turns out, suspense wins! Held in a vacant factory penthouse lit up by skylight windows, the dinner was attended by more food editors and bloggers than we expected (fortunately no one had to sacrifice a seat).  Dinner Lab sold out tickets to consumers who exclaimed the dinner was “one of the best…


In Defense of Origin and Geographic Branding – It’s the Where that Counts

the-real-deal3This week in Geneva, Switzerland, over 75 nations are debating why the ‘where’ is as powerful as the ‘what’ in branding premium products, from Champagne to Prosciutto di Parma.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Diplomatic Conference is laboring to update the existing 1958 agreement protecting appellations of origin on a global level, hoping this updated language will encourage additional countries to join. Let’s say, the Unites States, for example.

Having formed a career around defending the value of origin in wine and food, I can sincerely appreciate the importance of courting the U.S. and other countries to help protect the geographic identity of products made with passion and integrity for hundreds of years in a specific location.

After all, would you pay a premium for a jug of “Hearty Burgundy,” a chunk of domestic parmesan cheese, or a generic balsamic vinegar? All of these products have capitalized on the name of real deal products by using their geographic brand to label and sell less expensive products. In many cases, they are displayed side by side at retail, leaving it up to consumers to make the distinction.

But wait, there’s more!


Applauding the Geniuses at Wegmans

If you haven’t already heard, Wegmans announced this week that a Brooklyn location is in the works.

Now, if you’re not from upstate New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Virginia (their other locations), you may not understand the gravity of the situation.


Every year, different media rank supermarkets. Just this Wednesday, The Washington Post tagged it as “the best supermarket in the U.S.” Annually, Consumer Reports ranks it number one and even CBS News went so far as to call Wegmans the “best company in the world” in 2011.

With all this praise, you’d imagine people must run, not walk, to a nearby store. In fact, this latest addition might just get New Yorkers to that far-off place called Brooklyn.

Buzz Bin photo 5.14

And if that isn’t reason enough, I have three more that prove the Brooklyn move is a marketing coup.

  • Convenient for Consumers. Despite the fact that you’ll find a Fairway in Red Hook and a Whole Foods in Gowanus, the Navy Yard location will offer manhattanites a quick trip across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’ll be like…
  • Branding

    The Power of Purpose and Authenticity

    Purpose has more purpose and is more popular than ever. Today employees are much more attuned to an organization’s purpose. In our modern language we refer to organizations with a highly regarded purpose as having a “double bottom line.” High-performing employees thrive on organizational purpose; it’s becoming an important criteria for their career choices and impacts their level of engagement.

    chocolateI believe there are two intrinsic elements that can make an organization’s purpose attractive to high performing employees. The inherent intention described in a purpose statement makes it attractive on its own merits. The implied authenticity of a purpose statement adds another important element to its charm. Purpose and authenticity must be essentially interconnected. Authenticity is chocolate to purpose’s peanut butter. Purpose without authenticity is hype. And hype turns off high performers.

    A powerful, trendy-sounding purpose statement will soon become a part of every organization’s employer brand strategy.

    Purpose Drives Performance

    When an employee perceives that an organization’s purpose is aligned with their personal purpose, high performance happens and organizations are more likely to experience sustained excellence.

    Fact: The use of well-defined, shared principles and beliefs linking to frontline behavior had the…


    How to Avoid a Photoshoot #fail

    Last week was the type of week that I stepped back in awe of my job.

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    EXHIBIT A: A shot from our recent Prosciutto di Parma shoot. Read on to see how your shots can end up this gorgeously yummified.

    For eight hours, I worked with creative geniuses to visually showcase my client’s yummy, luscious, delectable product – Prosciutto di Parma. I didn’t even get to eat it, but I still walked away with a smile on my face, knowing that we rocked it. Why am I so confident in our outcomes? Because no matter the subject of a photo shoot, whether it’s food, lifestyle or consumer products, there are specific parameters we set before walking into the room. These critical elements are what you need to ensure your photos are just as beautiful as you imagined.

  • Set clear objectives. What are your expectations going into this shoot? This includes the rationale behind it, what the client expects, who your audience is, how you want the product shown and particularly, how the photos will be used when they’re done.
  • Decide on the creative theme… and stick to…
  • Branding

    Game On – #HigherEd Gets Serious About Branding

    picA new report from consultancy mStoner is sure to make some college marketers nervous.

    Higher education institutions are building brands in a big way, becoming stronger competitors in the arena for prospective students, promising faculty, community attention and alumni contributions.

    Of 125 chief marketing officers at public and private colleges surveyed, three-quarters report having undertaken branding efforts at their institution.

    They’re spending serious money, too. Two-thirds of the respondents shared cost details, with 63 percent of them reporting investments of more than $100,000, and 31 percent investing more than $200,000. The Buffalo News reported that the University of Buffalo is launching a $314,000 project.

    The money isn’t buying new logos and t-shirts.

    Branding is about identifying what distinguishes an institution from its peers, determining why an institution matters to specific audiences and using the findings to make better connections with people in a noisy, cutthroat and distracting marketplace.

    It sharpens the competitive edge.

    For college marketers still on the branding sidelines, t-shirts and cups offer little protection against the newly, strategically branded teams now taking the field.


    Off & Running: As Candidates Announce Run for the White House, Attack Ads Follow

    Democrat Donkey Republican Elephant Mascot Boxing

    We’re more than a year and a half away from the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but candidates have already begun making their official declarations to run.

    Conservative firebrand, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the first to announce officially. Kentucky Sen. Paul Rand followed suit and came out swinging against reporters in his first TV interviews. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it official on Sunday, a surprise to … well, no one.  The only thing that came close to overshadowing Hillary herself was the chatter about her new campaign logo. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio declared on Monday. This election has the potential to be history making with the possibility of Clinton become the country’s first woman president and Rubio becoming the first Hispanic president.

    This is only the beginning. Other presidential hopefuls are still weighing their options, waiting in the wings for the right moment to announce or playing coy with the media and the public. According to the New York Times, at least a dozen Republicans and a few Democrats have already expressed an interest in running.…


    H&M “Fake Underground Metal Bands” Accidentally Create an Amazing Publicity Stunt

    Heavy metal imagery has been ripped off by pop culture and high fashion for years. The spikes and studs normally associated with this dark and anti-mainstream culture are now adorned on high heels and are found throughout women’s fashion. Even Chris Brown and Kanye have been spotted with sporting some metal fashion. You can even pick up a Judas Priest inspired t-shirt at The Gap (which they are getting sued for) and Urban Outfitters will sell you a “vintage” Megadeth leather jacket for $375.

    Taking this a step further, the newest player to this trend has been H&M as they recently released a product line full of fake metal bands utilizing entirely imaginary band names and logos.
    In conjunction with the clothing, music, videos, promotional materials and social profiles for all of these fake bands erupted over night. Strong Scene Productions claimed ties to all of H&M’s bands in an effort to help spotlight the new clothing line.

    At this point, heads were spinning and the metal blogs were on fire as it appeared H&M was behind the deep guerrilla marketing of these assets…


    Life at the Push of a Button

    If you haven’t already seen the latest launch from Amazon, watch this video before you even bother reading the rest of my post. Seriously.

    Amazon took the first step this week in creating a direct line from home to store without the need for an iPhone, iPad or iCloud. The tech giant launched what they’re calling the Dash Button, a little USB-looking button, which enables consumers to reorder the toothpaste they’re running low on (while they’re thinking about it).

    At the push of button, you get your favorite product delivered straight to your door –


    The thirsty future of the Dash Button? Probably not.

    tomorrow – via Amazon Prime, which has become a staple in my apartment (mainly from my responsible roommate).

    So, are these buttons the new automated shopping vehicle? Is this the first of many blinged out buy-it-now buttons? I think so and here’s why:

    1. There’s barely a path to purchase. In fact, there is none. There are minimal barriers to entry – and what brand wouldn’t want that? Consumers are purchasing your product at the exact moment they need you. Small brick…