The Sweet Briar Brand Imperative: Trust


The recent legal victory that keeps Sweet Briar College open this fall puts its brand on the line.

A year from now, will students, parents, prospects, faculty, staff and alumnae perceive a college of new direction and ideas? Or will they continue to perceive business-as-usual uncertainty?

New president Phillip Stone will set the course when he takes office June 29. Job one: establishing trust.

With a to-do list a mile long after months of legal limbo, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to earn it. Stone’s priorities include meeting financial obligations, uniting faculty, administrators and students, convincing new students to come and, of course, raising more money.

All of this with fires raging. Saving Sweet Briar Inc., the nonprofit group that mounted a fundraising effort to keep the college open, must provide $12 million to the college’s ongoing operations. Of the $21 million in pledges secured by the group, however, only five percent of the money has been received. Many professors have taken other jobs since the closing announcement in February. Many students, too, have But wait, there’s more!


Heat up your summer branding campaign

The sun is shining, school is out, families are active and summer campaigns are in full swing for brands. Consumers are out and about, enjoying the warm weather and everyone is more accessible to marketing campaigns. Traditionally, consumers spend the most money during summer making it is an excellent time to promote your brand. Here are seven tips to consider when planning for your summer campaigns:

1. Depict the spirit of summer
Capture consumers’ attention with nostalgia and bring them back to childhood memories. Use bright colors, upbeat songs, and carefree summer activities in your content. Jeep’s “Call of Summer” featured a series of fun summer scenes conveying freedom, sunshine and selfies.

2. Craft a captivating story
Use variety types of campaign content throughout the season, tying all pieces of content together and weaving consistent messaging throughout to keep your brand top of mind. Bud Light recently released the “Whatever, USA” campaign across different mediums and platforms, but the messaging was the same: Bud Light is perfect for “whatever.”


3. Integrate with social media
Keep your content flowing from one platform to another by designing content for each type of social media post (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.).…


For Mature Brands – Like KFC and McDonald’s – Is Going ‘Back to the Future’ the Right Move?

Colonel Sanders

KFC has become the latest mature brand to unlock its archives to resuscitate old icons in an effort to revive declining sales. KFC has hired “Saturday Night Live” alum Darrell Hammond to play the legendary Colonel Sanders in new commercials that debuted in May.

hamburglar-hed-2015The return of the Colonel came just weeks after McDonald’s debut a new hipster Hamburglar, a character that hadn’t been seen in television commercials in over a decade.

But is it good business for mature brands to use old icons in new marketing campaigns?

Probably not, says Kelly O’Keefe, PadillaCRT Chief Branding Officer and professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, the #1 ranked graduate advertising program in the country.

“Truth is, nostalgia just reminds us that a brand is old. That’s exactly the wrong message,” O’Keefe said. “So what works for tired mature brands? Newness. Not saying new things. Doing new things.”

For example, Kelly said that if McDonald’s really wanted to evoke “newness,” the burger behemoth could nix the frozen patties in favor of fresher, leaner beef. It also…


On-Demand Culture: How Can Brands Keep Up?

1How did you start your day? My morning ritual includes a cup of tea, a look through my BBC News app, a podcast download for my subway ride, a peek at my Instagram feed and then an occasional Amazon Prime purchase – whether it’s restocking the apartment with necessities or a new book. That last item is not instant like the rest, but I know it’ll arrive within the next business day. All this and for those who know me, I’m NOT a morning person.

Our culture has evolved into one that seeks instant gratification in this digital age. Consumers expect fulfillment on demand and across the consumer journey, each touch is a brand experience. They want to interact at any time and any place. Let’s look at some companies who have evolved and then a few who were born out of this trend:

Amazon Prime – Everything on Demand

How do they deliver so quickly? In many cases, it’s robots shuffling your packages around to work faster and more efficiently than any human. Watch the video below to check it out, plus find out about their newest Dash product.

Netflix – Movies…


BuzzLine: Ben and Jerry’s Saving the World?

17384549899_315b90d0c9_zThere’s nothing more refreshing than a cold ice cream cone on a sweltering hot summer day. But what if that ice cream was only 2 degrees warmer and melting down your arm covering you in a sugary, sticky mess? That’s what Ben and Jerry’s wants you to consider with its newest ice cream flavor, Save Our Swirled.

The flavor is part of its newest cause related marketing campaign to encourage people to sign a petition demanding action on climate change when diplomats meet in Paris in December to negotiate a new climate agreement.

With the climate change talks coming up in less than a year, it’s the perfect time for Ben and Jerry’s to execute an on-brand corporate social responsibility campaign and partner with activist groups to make progress toward a common goal. But let’s be honest, the flavor also just sounds mouthwatering: raspberry ice cream with marshmallow and raspberry swirls, along with dark and white fudge ice cream cones…count us in!

If you were Ben and Jerry’s, what would your next ice cream flavor be, or, what would you rename one of their current flavors?

Tell us your six-word  ice cream flavor  in…


Saving Sweet Briar Requires Reinvention

#SaveSweetBriarAlumnae efforts to prevent Sweet Briar College from closing in August are laudable, but simply keeping it open isn’t enough.

Even if the Virginia Supreme Court reverses a lower court’s refusal to block the college’s closing, it’s hard to believe sufficient numbers of new students and their families will plunk down more than $40,000 a year to attend a college beset by uncertainty and deemed unsustainable by its leaders.

At this point, saving Sweet Briar needs more than a court victory. It needs a reinvention.

Reinvention could include a more focused academic mission that serves fewer disciplines and makes graduation possible faster. It could mean using technology differently, like the University of Florida’s experiment with some newly admitted freshmen. It could mean cutting some athletic programs, breaking from the traditional semester model or partnering with other institutions in ways that make higher education more affordable – for both families and the institution.

Serious Sweet Briar savers are likely already considering ideas like these and more.

By exploring different approaches and making the difficult decisions they require, an open-for-business Sweet Briar may chart a new path forward that inspires not just new…


A Content Marketing Strategy that Works – eBook

Picture2What was the first thing you did before making your last big purchase? If you’re like most Americans (around 70 percent according to SiriusDecisions), you opened a web browser. No surprise there – of course you’re going to do some online research before making a big purchase!

However, many businesses struggle to effectively align their marketing efforts with the way their customers are researching and buying big ticket items today.

If your organization could benefit from a revised approach to online and content marketing, our latest guide is for you. It equips you with the quick and dirty on:

- How to think about content marketing
- How to create effective content
- How to promote content so it drives more prospects to your website where they can become leads

Our guide gives you seven steps that will allow you to Drive Revenue with Content. It’s a fast read, good resource, and free!

Click here to download our latest guide as a PDF: Drive Revenue with Content.



The Scope of Periscope and How Brands Can Benefit



Last night, I enjoyed the sunset in New Haven, Michigan; watched Neil Diamond play “Red, Red Wine;” received a guided tour of the British Museum’s blockbuster exhibition, Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art; and was serenaded by a man singing “Pure Imagination,” as various fictional characters floated about behind him at one of the ComiCons occurring this week.

I didn’t have to apparate to any of these places to experience them in real-time – they were all brought to me through Periscope, Twitter’s recently released, live-streaming app that allows users to share their experiences in real time. Though it’s not the first mobile live-streaming app to exist, Periscope’s relationship to Twitter certainly boasts significant advantages, such as automatically suggesting people you already follow on Twitter to follow on Periscope. Originally only available on iOS devices, Periscope

launched its Android app this week on the Google Play Store.

You may be wondering what all the ruckus is about. Why would people want to watch live-stream broadcasts on a mobile device when they can just as easily sit on their couch and…


The Achilles Heel of U.S. Wine Marketing

I started my career in wine & spirits PR after leaving Europe to chase an American I fell for in my senior year of college. Luckily, both worked out fine – I love my job in the U.S., and I am happily married to the man I left Austria for.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been back in three years, but as I am visiting home this week, I can’t help but notice an undeniable advantage that European wines have over wines from the U.S.:  they are made in a cultural context of “easy living” that seeps into every bottle and lies at the core of European wine marketing campaigns worldwide. That’s the Achilles heel of U.S. wines and their respective marketing. The American way of life doesn’t have the same appeal as Europeans’ philosophy of living, and living well.

Photo credit: Werner Schandor

Take France, Austria and Spain for example. Each a major wine-producing region, the concept of “easy living” is deeply ingrained in their culture to the point where each language has a special term for it. The French call is “laissez-faire,” which can be translated as “let it be.” In Austria,…


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…