Humanizing Your Brand, On Purpose

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Ragan Communications’ Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Disney World. I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information I gathered, the caliber of the speakers, and of course… the magic of Disney.

Speaker after speaker addressed the need to humanize your brand – to put a face on your company and give outsiders a behind-the-scenes view of your organization in order to create connection. So, rather than give you a simple recap of the conference, I’m going to attempt to humanize my company’s brand. Inspired by the honesty and raw beauty of this post, I give you my story – the story of a girl whose own health struggle led her to a fulfilling career in healthcare communication.

In high school, after a run-in with a nasty case of mono that landed me in the ER twice, I noticed a change. Playing my favorite sports seemed harder than it used to, the comfort of my bed was more attractive than an evening with friends, and I started to get sick. All. The. Time. For three years I went from doctor to doctor searching for answers,…

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How to Honor Independent Research

All things being equal, media and consumers trust studies without corporate or branded backing most. Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer confirms that academic experts are twice as credible to consumers as CEOs.

credibility of spokespeopleWe are quick to call out bias, which makes a new report published by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last week so significant. An independent, government-backed advisory panel announced that drinking more coffee is good for you. It was the first time in 40 years the committee weighed in on coffee consumption and said that up to five cups of Joe a day are A-Okay.  Now, federal endorsement for drinking coffee seems imminent.

If you work in the coffee business, I think you would agree: It doesn’t get much better than this.

One important question remains: How do you leverage positive and independent health research? Everyone agrees independent research ranks highest in credibility. But since you don’t own it, you can’t customize the study to fit your communications needs. Or can you? I spoke to our in-house RD and Manager of Nutrition Communications, Joanne Tehrani to find out.

Here are three…

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5 Lessons Learned About Internal Brand Building

Any and every organization can learn and benefit from a proactive internal brand-building program. By learning more about internal brand building, any organization can uncover and energize the hidden brand power that resides inside its culture.  In this cramped blog space I will restrain from providing a comprehensive how-to guide of internal brand building. Instead I will take a more compact, practical approach and pass along a few key lessons learned after 10 years of developing and implementing internal brand building programs. Here you go.

  • If I can name it I can know it. Define the organization’s brand platform in a way that is understandable, relevant and believable to all employees. Most organizations have defined their brand to support marketing and communications professional’s tactics (external brand building). As a result the language is tuned to resonate with external audiences. Tag lines and positioning statements are the exclusive language of marketers and can easily turn-off rank and file employees. Before any organization can expect employees to embrace the intentions of the brand, the language must be practical, less marketing-ese and easily translate the brand’s intentions and character into action. A brand must be defined so an employee can name it,…
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    Chocolate Cupcakes and Corporate Identity

    Last week, Fox News published the Hungry Girl’s guide to outsmarting Valentine’s Day overeating. It’s dedicated to recipes options that won’t “ruin your budget, waistline, or the mood”.

    Valentine’s Day aside, the majority of religious and civic holidays have become synonymous with overeating. The national Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders even describes over-eating around the holidays and on special occasions as a “normalized” part of American behavior.

    All you have to do is google “holiday overeating” and you’ll find hundreds of articles describing tips to avoiding binge eating and over indulgence – as well as one that includes five ways to avoid a post-holiday heart attack. But this got me thinking – are the holidays the issue? Or, are we causing the problem?

    Let’s talk about food-specific holidays. According to The Nibble, a magazine dedicated to specialty foods, there is a food dedicated to just about every day of the year.


    Photo Credit: Flickr – Farrukh

    Here’s a taste of your food holiday options:

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    Internal Brand Building – The Long Tail of Brand Building

    pic 1The “new breed” of global brand leaders has turned traditional brand building inside out. Over the last decade we have witnessed a fundamental shift, placing internal brand building at the core of corporate brand-building strategies. Internal brand building has become the source of brand power for organizations like Starbucks, Google and Zappos. These innovative, game-changing organizations believe their true, sustainable brand power resides in activating and energizing the hearts and minds of their employees. They believe in the new brand axiom “the brand on the outside is a true reflection of the brand on the inside.”

    For these true innovators building a strong brand is a natural result of igniting and nurturing employees’ authentic passion for making a difference. This is accomplished with a two-step process starting with providing employees a meaningful context to focus their intentions and behaviors that reflect the ethos and character of the organization. Employees are guided to leverage and focus that authentic alignment to make a positive difference for a customer that leaves a lasting impression. This new innovative way of thinking expands the possibilities of brand building, providing almost infinite leverage to traditional external brand building techniques.…

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    Ad Bowl XLIX: Who Scored, Who Flopped and Who Caught Us Off Guard

    Another Super Bowl has come and gone. There were miraculous catches, (potentially) heartbreaking interceptions, deflategate jokes and plenty of controversy about the “worst call in Super Bowl History.” Yet within the walls of PadillaCRT’s offices today, the hot topic of conversation is the Ad Bowl.

    Who scored? Who flopped? What unexpected themes caught us off guard? Here to weigh in are two of the agency’s heaviest hitting creative minds: Heath Rudduck, Chief Creative Officer  and Kelly O’Keefe, Chief Creative Strategy Officer and Professor at the acclaimed Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    Spoiler alert… like on the Super Bowl result, we don’t all agree. With whom does your creative mind align?


    20141112_PadillaCRT_MNPLS_Rudduck_46Overall Impression:

    At $150K a second, you’d better be getting your message right and executing it flawlessly. This year, I was fascinated by the attempt of so many to make Dad misty. Sure, we all understand we should work less and think about the kids more, not to mention all the other shortcomings we have, but it’s not up to a brand to tell me that. There’s nothing worse than a forced purpose. But, among the old bawdy…

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    The Big Mac of Brand Integrity

    The beginning of a new year signals an opportunity to reflect on the person you were last year and who you want to be this year.

    No matter the resolution, I think we can all agree that bringing a certain level of authenticity to the table is important to a person or a brand’s image – and generally, a good way to start off (and end) the year.

    On that note, just two weeks into 2015, two major consumer brands are already shining a light on the reason why brand reputation can be your best friend or worst enemy.

    As you may have heard, McDonalds released a feel-good TV ad during the Golden Globes this past Sunday as part of their brand relaunch. In an effort to reposition the Dollar Menu brand as the company that cares, one ad uses signs (literally) to depict McDonalds as a supportive helping hand for local communities. Despite it’s valiant efforts to refresh the struggling brand, McDonalds received immediate backlash for its good will.

    Why? Because it wasn’t authentic.

    McDonalds is an embattled brand that for years has received harsh criticism around unfair wages and a perception that it serves cheap junk food. Sales…

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    2015 Food Trends: What we love, hate and can’t wait to start

    Each January is jam-packed with trend analyses and predictions, and the food/beverage/nutrition world is no exception. Here, instead of restating what was or professing to know what will be, our cross-category team of food marketing experts shares its hopes and dreams for the good, the bad and the not-yet-developed trends.

    FOOD MEDIA – Max Martens

    A trend I hope to see continue:  

    Printed recipe illustrations

    Seeing recipe ingredients deconstructed and laid artfully side by side demystifies complex dishes and gives us publicists a way to gain awareness for ingredients that aren’t always visible in a finished dish.

    HappinessIs (Source: HappinessIs blog)

    A trend I hope to see fade:


    They aren’t unique to food journalism, but in this genre I’m tired of seeing the likes of “the five pancakes to eat before you die” and “top 20 restaurants with secret menus.”

    A trend I hope to see start:

    Some sort of reconciliation between the extremes of typical eye-grabbing consumer food headlines

    Deprivation and decadence. Diets vs. deliciousness. Let’s face the fact that food can be really good ­AND good for you if you do it right.



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    Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk – A New Cash Cow or an Udder Branding Disaster?

    If you’re a follower of marketing, branding, the food industry or consumer products in general, you probably saw the news last month that Coca-Cola is launching Fairlife – a “premiumized” (their word, not mine) milk product with more protein and less sugar than “normal” milk.

    Frankly, I’m a little bit conflicted.

    fairlife ad

    On the one hand, it’s no secret that carbonated beverages are on the decline and the company doesn’t hide the fact that its brands include non-carbonated products like FUZE, Dasani, POWERADE, Monster and glaceau. This includes, by my count, six different water and three different tea brands. So I guess rather than launching a seventh water brand (#H2OhEnoughAlready?), if you’re going to capitalize on consumer desire for all things protein and all things naturally sourced, why not take a crack at revitalizing what is arguably the world’s first protein drink? And from a health and nutrition standpoint (as well as in support of family farms), I’m kind of happy to see a company put some marketing juice behind what’s clearly a better choice than a lot of today’s protein and energy drinks.

    But that said it’s hard not…

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    Ditch Your Agency’s Process

    Choosing not to follow the rules laid out for you might just be the difference between mediocrity and greatness.


    Browse a few communications agency websites and you’ll quickly see that every agency has a branded process for their work. They preach it internally and promote it to clients and in new business presentations. Many of these processes are proprietary, yet nearly every one of them includes some combination of research, strategy, creative development, and measurement. Each agency has its own unique twist, spin or terminology, but the basic building blocks are always there.

    It’s so important to have a well-defined process and approach. Following a process is how we learn. It’s how we grow and hone our craft. No matter the industry in which you work, you must spend time practicing the basics. Where would Fred Astaire be without his first dance class? Where would Shakespeare be without learning the basics of sentence structure?

    But the hard truth, the one most agencies never grasp, is that you can master the basics—you can follow them to a “t”—but that approach will never lead to great work.

    Truly great work happens after you’ve mastered the…

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