Unique connections. Powerful results.
See the connection
Branding

‘Daddy, you love your phone more than me.’

Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

A father’s wake-up call to make real connections in a tech-obsessed world.

HEATH article

What a terrible thing to hear from your 8-year-old. It was as if the apple of my eye had been replaced by another, well let’s be honest, Apple.

I’d been called out, and I was completely aghast. I have always been an advocate for the adoption of new technology. However, over time, what was less obvious to me, was how all this technology had stealthily slipped its brilliance into other aspects of my life and began to have a significant influence on how I existed in real life.

And I was not alone. Like many, technology had enabled a world where I was so much closer to everything and everyone. I could fill every moment of silence with a snippet, post, or update from apps, news services, and friends anywhere in the world. I was a click away from anything 24/7, ubiquitously connected to the planet; but was I really actually connected?

Since 1992, I had been an advocate for the ever-mounting virtual tsunami of technology as a communications platform. The level of investment and invention happening was astounding.…

Branding

Rise of the Robo-Restaurant: Will Technology Change the Way we Eat?

Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

image: Tablet Magazine

The topic of technology in restaurants has been stirring up some pretty interesting discussion recently. Touch screens, interactive apps and online ordering have become an increasingly common fixture in fast-casual dining. Meanwhile, new-comers like Eatsa are pushing digital integration to a Jetsons-esque extreme with a dining experience that is almost entirely automated—where customized quinoa bowls magically appear on demand with no human in sight, as if the food itself was constructed from ones and zeroes.

09UP-Eatsa-slide-LQB4-superJumbo

photo: New York Times

Though operators and consumers alike are showing an appetite for more tech in their diet, there is a growing concern around what this means for the future of food. Will humans in food service go the way of the dodo, or the gas station attendant? Will automated dining change the way we eat forever?

Nope.

Not really.

Look, I love paranoid fantasies as much as the next guy. The first time I ordered a sandwich from a touch screen, I too fast-forwarded to a dystopian future where apathetic humans suckled at the bosom of…

Branding

Is There Really Such a Thing as Thought Leadership?

Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

The Thinker

While “thought leadership” is not a new phrase or concept, it’s certainly en vogue right now. In fact, thought leadership is one of the most frequent asks in the Requests for Proposal that cross my desk. And the interesting thing I’ve learned from talking to these companies is that there are different definitions of what it is; different expectations about what it looks like; and, different beliefs about what it can accomplish.

As recent headlines and sound bites have featured fallen thought leaders, rising thought leaders and those who only think they are thought leaders (you know who you are), I thought I’d offer my perspective on the topic and a few tips for using thought leadership as an effective strategy for your personal or corporate brand.

Defining thought leadership

While there are several acceptable ways to define thought leadership, I define it as an earned outcome of a purposeful, integrated communications strategy. Key ingredients include passion, relevant experience, meaningful content, and a point of view. Thought leadership can apply to an individual brand such as Warren Buffet, a regular go-to on financial matters, or it can apply to organizational…

Branding

Navigating Hot Topic Terminology

Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

4.28.16.2

What’s in a name? Or should I say, what’s in a claim?

These days, American consumers are bringing a less-is-more attitude to the brands they engage with. Whether it’s an ingredient, term, claim, or process, we as humans are more cognizant about the environmental, bodily and (gasp!) marketing implications of our favorite products.

People don’t have (or want) to take the time to research what triethanolamine (amino acid in cosmetics) or polytetrafluoroethylene (compound in makeup) are. They roll their eyes when we say 100% NATURAL. They scoff at “environmentally friendly.”

They don’t trust terminology anymore.

But what happens if you represent a client that does have these ingredients in their products? Or does make claims that are controversial today?

Here I take some of the hot button issues and offer suggestions for ways to navigate them:

  • 100% Natural: Gourmet Retailer EIC Anna Wolfe says natural “has become commonplace, and arguably overused and misused.” The hottest and most contested term in personal care and food marketing has no meaning. Literally. So your client wants to push 100% natural… what now? You define it. You explain it. You give your customers

Branding

Brewing Crisis: When Craft Beer Hits the Big Time

Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

 

DB beers

Photo: Heidi Crandall

On April 12, Devils Backbone, an independent brewery located in Nelson County, Virginia, announced they were being purchased by the biggest name in big beer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

And then, the universe exploded.

Well, maybe not the entire universe. But if you follow craft beer, especially Virginia craft beer, you likely experienced an eruption of opinion across your news and social media feeds. Though the tone ranged from repulsed (“this is disgusting…a cancer in the bloodstream of good beer”) to resigned (“you will be much missed”), the largest, or at least the loudest, reaction from craft beer enthusiasts was that this was not a good thing, and would signal the decline of a quality craft product.

taps

AB InBev’s recent acquisitions include Blue Point, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and Goose Island Breweries, among others. photo: Eric Helgas for Bloomberg Businessweek

What’s going on:

Devils Backbone is the eighth independent brewery that AB InBev (primarily known for not-so-craft beers like Budweiser, Corona, and Bud Light Lime-a-rita) has acquired since 2011. While their strategy is clearly…

Branding

Lessons from the Grand Poobah of PR at Ben & Jerry’s

Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

If you weren’t already a fan of Ben and Jerry, you will be after this reading this. Reader’s note: this post is best enjoyed with a spoon in one hand and a pint of your favorite flavor in the other.

Ben and Jerry Flavors

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a visiting innovators lecture with guest speaker Sean Greenwood, Grand Poobah of Public Relations (yes that’s his real title) for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. It was a night well spent and one of the most interesting and inspiring lectures I have ever attended. From a guy who started as a factory tour guide and worked his way up to grand poobah, the story of Ben & Jerry’s social activism could not have had a better storyteller.

They call themselves an “aspiring social justice company” that happens to sell ice cream – REALLY good ice cream. The company, also known for partnerships with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Sir Elton John, had very humble beginnings starting with a $12,000 investment and one local scoop shop in a renovated gas station. They built themselves on two principles:

  • If it’s
  • Branding

    April Fools’ Day 2016: The Best and Worst Brand Pranks

    Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

    Well, today is April Fools’ Day. People’s reaction to that news is mixed, depending on whether they are usually the fooler or fooled.

    One thing remains constant, however: This is the day consumer brands spend a lot of time, money and creativity to generate fake news, products and headline-grabbing PR stunts. And over the past decade, each April Fools’ Day gets bigger and bigger, sometimes to the holiday’s detriment.

    Don’t get me wrong, when these pranks are well-executed they attract a lot of social engagement and media attention for brands. Do you remember Wiffi’s Wi-Fi You Can Smell prank this past year? I would love to be able to sniff out the greatest Wi-Fi connection. Genius!

    It’s certainly not easy for brands to be human and successfully pull off a prank. There’s a fine line for brands to play, especially when a poorly executed prank could potentially lead their consumers to distrust them.

    If you’re planning to make an April Fools’ Day recommendation for your client, or you would rather prank a few of your PR colleagues, there are few things you’ll want to keep in mind to be successful: Be playful and mischievous but avoid alienating your core consumer.

    Branding

    Combatting Consumer Skepticism of Food

    Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.
    Buzzbin1

    tomdwyer.com

    A recent Bernstein survey revealed that 55% of consumers are becoming more distrustful of the food system, a 15% increase from 2013. While it has a way to go before reaching distrust in government levels that have fueled a raucous presidential primary season, it continues a trend that manufacturers (and investors) large and small have noticed.

    Concerns over food safety, GMO foods, and antibiotic use in animals were all up in the survey. One of the big drivers of this I believe is transparency, or lack thereof. Earlier this month, the state of Washington won a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) for not disclosing donations from major food companies to defeat a labeling proposition.

    The GMO labeling debate reached a tipping point resulting in Kellogg, General Mills, Mars and Campbell Soup announcing they will begin to identify products that contain genetically modified foods. This followed the failure of a Senate bill that would have blocked state GMO labeling requirements like the one about to go in effect in Vermont.  I expect this to lead to national…

    Branding

    How Millennials Are Shaping the Alcoholic Beverage Industry

    Your current browser isn't compatible with SoundCloud. Please use one of the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 10 or higher.

    womendrinking

    New Year’s Day 2016 rang in a new era for booze marketers: On January 1, all millennials were of legal drinking age.

    Millennials are now between 21 and 38 years old and 79 million strong. Even without the last stragglers reaching 21, millennials consumed 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, according to a recent report on U.S. wine drinkers from the Wine Market Council (WMC). That represents 42 percent of all the wine consumed in this country last year, more than any other age group (Baby Boomers came in second with 114.1 cases).

    Last month, I wrote about WMC’s presentation on marketing to women wine drinkers. Wine Spectator’s Ben O’Donnell produced an excellent summary of the WMC millennial data specific to wine in his post here. Building on those metrics, here are my three “a-ha” moments and key takeaways for marketers seeking to reach millennial drinkers:

    1. There are two types of millennials

    Segmenting millennials into older (30 to 38 years old) and younger (21 to 29 years old) groups reveals substantive behavior differences when looking at wine consumption behavior. Millennials inhabit two significantly different life stages: Younger millennials…