Why Everything Tastes Better on Vacation (and what that means for your brand)



We’ve all had that moment.

While on vacation you eat or drink something that is so transcendentally delicious, it instantly ranks among the best things you’ve ever had. The pleasure is so deep and complete it’s like your taste buds are hard-wired to your very soul. “Do I detect a hint of fresh mint, or is that MDMA? Either way, I want more.”

So you buy up as many cases as you can get through customs, or obsessively hunt down the recipe to recreate it a home. But, despite your best efforts, it’s never quite the same. Sure, it’s good, but it’s not as good as you remember it.

What’s going on here? A temporary insanity of the taste buds?

Well, sort of.

Consider this: In 2008, a group of neuroscientists in California conducted an experiment that shed new light onto how we taste. Twenty volunteers were strapped into an fMRI scanner and given samples of wine. Among them were tastes from a “$10” bottle and a “$90” bottle that, in reality, were the exact same wine. It should come as no shock that the…


How to Lose Sales…on Purpose: A Lesson From the Canadian Tobacco Industry

Credit: Smoke-free Canada

On a recent trip to Canada, I had the privilege of exploring Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. It’s always exciting to explore a new place and, that being said, I expected some cultural differences. Prior to my trip, I knew Canada had a different healthcare system than that of the U.S., but I quickly learned that the health differences didn’t end there.

While in Toronto, my brother pointed out an empty cigarette carton on the ground – completely taboo from anything I’d ever seen before. On it was a photo of an older woman hooked up to an oxygen tank, with a short story about how smoking gave her emphysema and led to her lungs collapsing four times. The picture took up so much of the box that the brand of cigarettes was the very last thing I noticed. If you work in communications or public relations, this would typically be a nightmare, but I couldn’t help but admire the angle Canada is taking to send a message and how it may be benefiting their overall health goals.

Upon further digging, I found that…


Fallon Social Media Strategy: #GetJimmyWitIt

With over 40 million Twitter followers, we know the guy is doing something right. Jimmy Fallon’s robust, multi-platform social media presence can be summed up in a three-pronged approach to social media strategy. The following tactics are key for brands aiming to thrive in the social realm.

1. Tailor content to each platform

The majority of Fallon’s Facebook and Twitter posts consist of the latest show content packaged into shareable video clips and GIFs – a tactical move considering most platform algorithms favor visuals, yielding much higher user engagement than content that does not include visual elements.

The Tonight Show’s Instagram account documents backstage and onstage moments with Fallon’s guests in addition to GIFs of the latest show content. The show has additional social presence on Snapchat, where staff pose challenges that encourage fans to send snaps back for a chance to be featured. Fallon’s celebrity guests also participate in Snapchat ‘takeovers’ as a tease to the show that night. This informal and uncut, behind-the-scenes content is exactly what Snapchat users expect to see from celebrities and organizations on Snapchat. No one platform is the same. Followers expect to see different kinds of content


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

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.…


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

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.


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?


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…


Is There Really Such a Thing as Thought Leadership?

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…


Navigating Hot Topic Terminology

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


Brewing Crisis: When Craft Beer Hits the Big Time


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.


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…


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

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