Using the Visible to Infer the Invisible

trader joesHave you ever wondered why great experiential brands like Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and Costco do little to no advertising? It’s probably because they understand that in the mind of today’s consumer, actions speak much louder than words.

Though they are values most of us care about, brand traits like “trustworthy,” “ethical,” “fair treatment,” etc., have become more buzzwords than reality. Consumers are so used to hearing companies say that they do business by these requisite traits, that the words do not mean anything anymore. This is especially true when a business says one thing and does exactly the opposite. Consumers no longer trust a company’s words when they are trying to gauge a company’s values. Instead, they look to what is most visible to them—the behavior of that company’s employees.

In some of PadillaCRT’s recent research work, we found that consumers use the apparent happiness (or unhappiness) of a company’s employees as a way to gauge whether or not that company is trustworthy. When they see employees of a company like CarMax, Trader Joe’s, or Southwest Airlines genuinely smiling, helping one…

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How NOT to Get Lost In A Sea of Acronyms

Cartoonstock.comThere are nearly 100,000 trade associations operating in the U.S. today (per NPR), and in a marketplace as crowded as this one, it’s all too easy for your organization’s true purpose to get lost in a sea of acronyms. But groups like the American Physical Therapy Association, National Association of Broadcasters and National Restaurant Association prove how associations can use the principles of branding to bolster their relevance, nurture their relationships with members and other stakeholders, and reconnect with their central purpose.

Here are a few anecdotes:

Know Your Audience, Inside and Out

Before you can strengthen your association’s image, you must explore the issues and trends impacting your members, how those factors influence their perceptions and behaviors, and how they influence the perceptions and behaviors of their stakeholders. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) set a good example of this when it engaged PadillaCRT in the development of its “Move Forward” campaign.

Research among consumers, physicians, health care professionals, insurers and APTA members revealed that while physical therapists were viewed very positively, consumers had a narrow definition of their capabilities and were more likely to access a physical…

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BuzzLine: I Can’t Get No… Satisfries



I try and I try and I try, but I can’t get no Satisfries. 

That’s because Burger King, less than a year after launching the low-calorie alternative to regular french fries, has decided to take them off the menus in about two-thirds of its North American stores. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the fast food chain said in a statement Wednesday “that 100 million guests have ordered Satisfries, but the results were not persuasive enough for restaurant owners to want to continue serving them.”

Fast-food chains have worked hard to diversify their menu and offer healthier options (did you know you can get tuna salad on an English muffin at Dunkin Donuts?), but Satisfries have apparently missed the mark (even after the BuzzLine shared several tagline ideas at launch).

So what to replace them with?

In six words, what new healthy fast-food option might you suggest to replace Satisfries? Maybe…

  • Bunless double veggie Whopper Classic, Jr.
  • Frozen yogurt with edible celery spoons.
  • Roasted kale chips with sea salt.

Leave your new six-word menu item in the comments below. If we like yours best, you’ll receive a $5…

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When Journalism and Brand Management Collide

Recently, PadillaCRT hosted a “meet the journalist” breakfast that invited a local magazine editor to our office to discuss their role and answer questions regarding how we can provide relevant content and news ideas on behalf of our clients. During the conversation, we were reminded of what most of us in the PR industry already know – editors are busy, their outlets are understaffed and their inboxes are often flooded with hundreds upon hundreds of unrelated email pitches from PR professionals assuming that their audience will be interested, which is a huge pet-peeve!

But, as I walked away from that meeting, I was left thinking about the relationship between brands and media. Given the shrinking number of journalists reporting for publications and the onset of owned content, the landscape and connection between journalist, brand and PR agency is changing. Journalists are up against native advertising, eBooks, videos and more that are not usually distinguished as advertising or marketing and further blur the lines between editorial and paid content.

Getty Images

Similarly, the PR industry is being impacted by these changes. Fewer media opportunities mean more occasions to self-publish and syndicate. Some brands are…

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The School of Gaga – 5 PR lessons we can learn from Lady Gaga


Credit: Flickr User John Robert Charlton

Mouths agape, my sister and I watched as a man sporting a pair of meticulously crafted angel wings with a six-foot wingspan nearly knocked out a security guard with his left wing and was escorted out of the concert venue. At that moment we knew we had come to a special place.

For my 18-year-old sister, our first Lady Gaga concert last weekend was a thing of dreams, but for me it was a fascinating window into Gaga’s methodically constructed public relations and brand strategy. Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Gaga knows a thing or two about building and executing a hugely successful business.

If you need convincing, just check out last year’s FORBES Celebrity 100 power list where Gaga was named World’s Most Powerful Musician of 2013, or the TIME online poll where readers voted her Second Most Influential Icon of the Decade. Her rank may have fallen slightly this year, but her 41.6 million Twitter followers suggest that she’s not fading into oblivion anytime soon.

Start taking notes. Here are 5 PR…

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True Belief vs. Longstanding Convention

618_tech_apple_first_iphoneLast week, a colleague and I were working on a project for a client, when the topic of longstanding conventions came up. It was a small part of our nearly three-hour strategy session, but stood out to both of us as one of the most important parts of our work that day. The topic came up because we were pondering how a business can come to a new standard of operating, when so much of the models out there are based on longstanding, ingrained category conventions. The client in question was looking for a new and better way of doing things, not only for their own business, but for their industry as a whole.

It’s a large challenge to say the least, and one that we face every day. When we’re looking for a completely new model, one that better suits a client (or ourselves) than anything they have found to exist already in the world, how do we make sure we are striving to forge new ground rather than falling back on the things we already know?

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.57.29 AMWe’d do well…

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Choosing a Winner in a World Cup Brand Battlefield

infographicBy now everyone across the planet is aware of the thrilling World Cup festivities. With many eyes and conversations focused on the ball, another discussion is proliferating the marketing world about the competition taking place off the field, starring two athletic-apparel titans – Nike and Adidas.

Having historically sponsored FIFA since 1970, Adidas has theoretically owned a big piece of the World Cup until now. The company claims, “This is where we put our stake in the ground and prove our domination in the market.” But, despite this official title and category exclusivity to the World Cup rights, Adidas is seeing its competitor take a piece of its pie.

In only the last few years, companies have become decidedly daring, taking leaps to harness real-time events to promote their brands. Take some favorite instances like Oreo at the Super Bowl or Arby’s and the famous Pharrell Grammys hat. Out of these examples came skyrocketing share of voice numbers and awareness levels. And they cost nothing.

bloombergSo, is the $280 million that Adidas is going to spend until the end of its…

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Are You Recall Ready?

Food Recall

A quick scan of FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts is enough to make you put down your lunch. While the majority of incidences tend to include undeclared ingredients, you do not need to look far to find multiple references to listeria, salmonella and E coli.

My colleague recently posted 5 Tips to prepare for a crisis, and while prevention is always the most important step you can take, how you handle a recall could make or break your brand. If not handled properly, you could at best experience a lack of consumer confidence and at worse face criminal prosecution from resulting deaths as families in the egg and cantaloupe industries recently discovered.

The FDA was granted authority for mandatory recalls under new rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act. However, this change was largely symbolic since the food industry traditionally honored voluntary recalls. This week the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed suit against USDA over their handling of salmonella in the meat supply. And as the GAO noted in 2012, communications of recalls does need to…

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5 Lessons in Brand Journalism from Ragan’s Content Summit

brand journalism

Image Credit:

In opening Ragan’s Content Summit last week at the Nascar Hall of Fame, Mark Ragan stated, “We need to stop begging the media, and become the media instead!” Powerful words, especially coming from a reporter turned publisher and CEO. But he hit the nail on the head; no longer are pitches and press releases enough. With media companies downsizing, there are now less people to cover more stories, making it even harder to get our messages heard… unless we write about them ourselves. Brand journalism provides us, as marketing and public relations professionals, the forum to give our audiences the information they want while bolstering our brands’ credibility and influence. Here are my top five brand journalism takeaways from the conference:

1. Tell a Story:

At the heart of brand journalism is storytelling. We must learn to think like journalists and tell stories that excite emotion in our readers. Brand journalism, also called content marketing, talks about the audience, their needs and desires, not the product or company. Rather than writing the story we want to tell, we need to write they story…

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Last Hospital Standing: 5 Tips for Communicating to Support Successful Mergers & Acquisitions



“There isn’t an independent hospital out there that is not thinking about this. At the top of the list is the question, Who should I merge with?” – Gary Ahlquist, Strategy& (from presentation by Susan Alcorn, Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, at the Forum for Healthcare Strategists’ Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit)

I recently attended the Forum for Healthcare Strategists’ Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit.  The three-day Summit was jam-packed with excellent speakers and content.  A number of the sessions that I attended touched on the topic of affiliations.  It’s no wonder that it remains a hot topic at most healthcare conferences.  Susan Alcorn helped quantify the size of the issue as part of her “Branding & Communication for New Affiliations” session:

  • “Hospitals across the nation are being swept up in the biggest wave of mergers since the 1990s, a development that is creating giant hospital systems.” (New York Times)
  • Number of transactions: 1,430 in 2012; 977 in 2013 (Modern Healthcare)
  • Value of transactions: $123.6 billion in 2012; $135.3 billion in 2013 +9% (Modern Healthcare)

These numbers are not surprising, as independent hospitals struggle with rising costs and lower reimbursement.  What is somewhat more surprising is…

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