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The latest news on Branding from Business Insider

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    burts bee

    Burt's Bees is marketed as a homespun natural brand from Durham, N.C.

    Of course, the brand downplays that it was sold in 2007 for nearly $1 billion to mega-corporation Clorox.

    Brands like Burt's Bees attract environmentally conscious consumers. They rely on being marketed as local and natural, but many people have no clue that these brands are part of globe-spanning corporations.

    Quality often drops as a result. 

    "It's very common that when an organic food brand is acquired, that the new parent corporation reduces its commitment to organic ingredients and seeks out cheaper substitutes,"says Michigan State University professor Philip Howard, who studies the food system

    We found 19 brands that you think are small-scale artisans — but are really the latest in corporate crunchiness.

    Reporting by Kim Bhasin and Patricia Laya, with additional reporting by Alison Griswold.

    Mars bought Seeds of Change for an undisclosed amount in 1997.

    Seeds of Change was founded as an agriculture company specializing in rare and organically grown seeds back in 1989. After candy giant Mars bought the company in 1997, Seeds of Change was allowed to keep running mostly as it did before.

    As part of its green-friendly mission, Seeds of Change operates a research farm near El Guique, New Mexico, along the river valley flood plain of the Rio Grande. Originally located by the Gila Wilderness in the southwestern part of the state, the company relocated after purchasing its new property in 1996.

    Hain Celestial bought Garden of Eatin' in 1998.

    Garden of Eatin' makes some of the most delicious chips around — the spicy-savory crunch of the Red Hot Blues is without comparison. 

    "Our all natural chips and snacks are bursting with the highest quality corn, seeds, and spices,"the company says. "Best of all they're as hearty as they are uniquely original."

    Organic conglomerate Hain Celestial couldn't resist the crunch, nabbing the company back in 1998. 

    General Mills bought Cascadian Farm for an undisclosed amount in 1999.

    Cascadian Farm used to be famous for its cereals with "no added sugar." A few years ago, this label disappeared from its boxes.

    A Cascadian Farm customer said her children noticed a funny new taste in their Purely O's. It turned out the cereal had tripled its sugar count to 3 grams from 1 gram in 2009.

    The move was condemned by Cascadian Farm customers, who felt duped and complained the new cereal tasted "dreadful" and looked "disgusting." Some time later, the company posted a note on the back of Purely O's boxes saying it had returned to a recipe with just 1 gram of sugar.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Mazda MX 5 25th Anniversary Edition

    The Mazda Miata is turning 25.

    The peppy little roadster first took to the road in 1989 and has been in uninterrupted production ever since. Mazda just pulled the cover off the latest version for the 2016 model — and created a special 25th anniversary model for 2015.

    That kind of staying power puts it in the same league as the Chevy Corvette, the Ford Mustang, and the Porsche 911.

    But here's the thing: From the get-go, the Miata has been tagged, unfairly or not, as a "chick car."

    And for over two decades, Mazda has been sensitive to this.

    As a result, the Miata — now called the MX-5, a tweak to the name that in itself is evidence of Mazda's sensitivity to the "chickness" of the vehicle — has gotten bigger and burlier over the years.

    The first generation Miata weighed just over 2,000 pounds. The 2015 model tips the scales at just over 3,000 2,500 pounds!

    The first-gen Miata had a 1.6-liter engine that made 115 horsepower, which is just nothing, really. The 2015 model has a 2.0-liter engine that generates 167 horsepower, which still isn't that much, but it's pushing around an additional 500 pounds! [Thanks to @MattHardigree for pointing our my error about the weight here!]

    Here's what it looked like in the beginning, in British racing green, evoking its important genetic connection to the convertible English roadsters that inspired the Miata's revival of top-down motoring:First Generation Mazda Miata And here's what it looks like now:

    Mazda MX 5 25th Anniversary Edition Side ViewIn the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that I owned a 1997 Miata — flip-up headlights and hand-crank windows — for a few years in Southern California and have never really been able to fully accept the later generations. If you were a fan of British (and Italian) roadsters and just wanted to see the genre perfected, as the Miata did — the top didn't leak, the engine always started, the lights always worked, the brakes actually stopped the car — then there was no good reason to change anything about the car.

    Admittedly, the car was adorable and hardly a zero-to-60 beast, and it came along at a time when big SUVs were very popular on America's roads. 

    But if it was a chick car — and there's really no point in denying that it kind of was — then the question Mazda should have asked itself wasn't "How can we change that?" but "Should everyone who likes to drive be driving a chick car?"Mazda-MX-5-With-Chick Here's the thing: While you can buy any of a number of high-horsepower, big-engine sports cars — and now even sport sedans and sport SUVs — the speed limit in the U.S. is in most places is still well under 100 mph, and besides, the last time I spotted a Ferrari, it was sitting behind me in bumper-to-bumper traffic, using a minuscule percentage of its 500-plus horsepower.

    My '97 Miata, meanwhile, was an unmitigated joy at 40 mph. In fact, there had never been a car that was as much fun at 40 mph as the first-gen Miata. The later generations are also fun at 40, but the earlier models had the Shock Of The New in ways that the later ones don't. You could be tooling along with the top up and with a simple twist of the hand and flick of the wrist, the top was down and the sun and wind were streaming in and all was right with the world. 

    Additionally, 2,000 pounds plus a quick-shifting five-speed manual plus rear-wheel drive and a perfect 50-50 balance meant that 40 mph could easily feel like 100. There's a lot to be said for a car that feels fast when it's actually going slow. 

    And just for the record, it wasn't impossible to push the first-gen Miata in the general direction of speed. You just had to redline the engine for every shift. That's right: To take that little motor to its limits, you had to actually use the tachometer, an instrument that's been relegated to dashboard decoration on almost all cars.Miata-TachMy technique was to rev it into the redline and then launch out of the upshifts by quickly getting right back on the throttle and starting all over again, five times in a row. I'd do this on the freeway heading north and west of L.A., then jump off on a canyon road and wind my way down to Highway 1 and cruise back to Santa Monica with the Pacific Ocean off my right shoulder.pacific highwayThis was driving as recreation. This was driving as automotive meditation. This was roadstering, in its purest form.

    You can do this with newer Miatas — I mean, MX-5s— but it just isn't the same with all that extra car wrapped around you. The sturdier stance might make you feel more, you know, manly. But the bottom line is that you aren't having as much fun and you aren't becoming one with the road.

    This was obvious when the first-gen gave way to the second-gen, as Vicki Butler-Henderson capably demonstrated on the British motoring show "Fifth Gear":

    Richard Hammond did the same thing on the better-known "Top Gear" and came to slightly different conclusions:

    The flip-up headlights went away, the two-seater welcomed a thicker and more sculpted body style, more distracting stuff entered the cockpit, and the Miata began its steady march away from chick-car-ness. But it didn't make any difference in the end because the MX-5 — the fatter and more powerful edition —is still derided as a chick car, a girlie ride, a dollywagon. 

    A great example of fixing something that wasn't only not broken — it was practically perfect.

    OK, so Mazda had, and still has, perfectly good reasons for upgrading and enhancing the MX-5. Reasons related to safety and the overall auto market. Civics and Accords and Corollas and Camrys have all also gotten bigger as they've gotten safer and, ironically, sleeker:1987 1990 Toyota CamryToyota Camry XLE And let's not forget that the Miata is still with us. And it hasn't traveled too terribly far from its roots.

    I'm delighted it's still around. It deserves to celebrate a very happy birthday. If I wanted to buy a sports car right now, I wouldn't hesitate to buy an MX-5. And at about $23,000, it still wouldn't come close to breaking the bank (although the cost-to-thrills ratio with my '97, picked up for $6,000, would be hard to beat).

    But I still think Mazda messed with perfection, at least partially because the chick-car label came along. To their credit, the 2016 MX-5 is a bit of a throwback to the original: lighter and, to my eye, more like a small, sharp knife with which to carve up curvy roads.2016 MX 5_SideProfileSo maybe the carmaker has finally stopped worrying and learned to love what is for a lot of folks the true ultimate driving machine.

    And a total chick car.

    SEE ALSO: 9 Bargain Convertibles You Can Buy Right Now

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    Robert Herjavec Lori Greiner Daymond John Kevin O'Leary shark tank hosts judges

    Today's top-selling brands have their mantras down cold. For Apple, it's "Think different." Nike has "Just Do It." And FUBU asserts "For Us By Us."

    Each iconic slogan is short, simple, and easy to digest. That's precisely what makes them so memorable.

    If you want people to just do it and buy your brand, "Shark Tank" celebrity investor Daymond John says you'd better be able to distill its essence down to two to five words.

    If you can't, you're guilty of committing the most common and detrimental branding mistake he sees:"Not having a definitive understanding of your brand and what it stands for."

    John should know. The millionaire marketing and men's apparel mogul, and resident branding expert on "Shark Tank" had a big hand in designing his FUBU fashion line's distinctive, graffiti-like original logo.     

    The edgy, urban flavor and personality of John's first sportswear brand — which launched in 1992 after three failed attempts and was popularized by veteran rappers like LL Cool J and the late Notorious B.I.G., then rebranded in 2010 as FB Legacy — stands for so much more than a basic, letters-only logo captures. It is John's response to mainstream fashion's failure to serve "inner city kids who really loved hip-hop," a major demographic that he says the industry was completely neglecting.

    FUBU"We [John and his FUBU co-founders Carlton Brown, J. Alexander Martin, and Keith Perrin] knew what we were about and what we came to do," John recently told on the set of the popular startup pitch reality show. "We were really laser focused on what FUBU stood for. For Us By Us. It became our brand mantra. If you can't describe your company in two to five words like that, you leave it up to others to interpret and your brand suffers."

    Fellow "Shark Tank" investor Kevin O'Leary told that consistency is just as important as boiling your brand down to an unforgettable, roll-off-the-tongue slogan.

    "Your message has to remain the same," he said. "It can't change all the time, because branding is a long game. Once you start down that path, you stay with it and you defend it and you grow with it and you define it by being consistent. That's what branding's about."

    You can watch both branding-savvy Sharks put emerging brands (and the entrepreneurs pitching them) through the ringer check on Season Six of "Shark Tank," which premieres this Friday, Sept. 26, from 8 p.m to 10 p.m. ET/PT on your local ABC station.

    SEE ALSO: The 12 Worst 'Shark Tank' Pitches Of All Time

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    uncle samCheck out the Business Insider Jobs section >>

    As part of our new partnership with, each week we'll feature one of the awesome jobs advertised on the Business Insider jobs board.

    To learn more about this opportunity click here

    Follow Business Insider Jobs on Twitter here


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    kids on iphones

    One problem marketers find difficult to overcome is how do you get buyers to choose your product when they are in the habit of buying other brands? Human habits are hard to break — especially if you are competing with a well-known (and liked) brand that has a good “relationship” with a significant segment of the market.

    The big and powerful have failed to break habits too

    Even large and powerful companies have failed to convince buyers to break brand habits and select their products. Back in the 70’s IBM tried to unseat Xerox in copiers. They failed. In the 80s, Xerox tried to take market share away from IBM in the PC business. How many do you know that bought Xerox PCs?

    Microsoft has spent a small fortune trying to convince the marketplace that Bing is better than Google for search. How are they doing?

    Google+ is trying to unseat Facebook in social media. Where do most go to connect and share with friends?

    I could go on and on with other examples. The key issue is significant market segments are in the habit of choosing a particular brand, and if there is not a very strong and compelling reason to switch, most won’t.

    What are habits?

    There are so many different ways to look at habits. When created by effective branding and communications strategies they are:

    1. Cognitive shortcuts to purchase. If you prefer Coca Cola and are in the habit of choosing it over other choices, you do not have to think much when you go to the market to buy cola. It saves you time and energy.
    2. Relationships between the seller’s brand and buyers. When fans root for their favorite teams or wear clothing associated with that team, they are showing their relationship with the team and fellow fans. Even if they move to another city, it is hard for them to break the habit and root for another team — especially if it is an arch-rival.
    3. Status contributors. Certain buyers receive a contribution to their own personal brand when they identify with status brands. The association with the brand identifies them as a member of an exclusive club.

    Neuroscience view of habits

    When viewed in terms of physiology, habits are (1) grooves, (2) fortified connections, or (3) well-worn paths in the brain. The benefit to the seller is that buyers are more likely to select your brand if it becomes a habit. The benefit to the buyer is it enables the buyer’s brain to be relaxed so it is available for important decisions and emergencies.

    What habits do for people?

    Habits speed up decision making much the same way that unclogged roads and freeways enable faster travel of moving vehicles. Before roads were built, vehicles had to find pathways through dense forests, brush, or muddy fields. That took time, was often dangerous, and usually caused damage to the vehicles involved. Habits form in the buyer’s brain for similar reasons leading to quicker and safer buying decisions.

    Why are they hard to break?

    There are many reasons why habits are hard to break. Some of the more important ones are listed below.

    1. Physical connections. Once people develop habits, their decisions follow the grooves, or established connections, in their brain. In fact, brain research shows that habits are stored, or ingrained, when the dendritic spine component of brain neurons are physically rebuilt. These physical changes make it harder for people to change habits.
    2. Switching costs. Another reason habits are hard to change is the switching costs can be prohibitive. To the brain, making a change takes it out of its comfort zone. There is a cost to switch from a Wintel standard computer to a Mac platform, and vice versa. The brain wants to stay in its comfort zone because it feels safer. It takes, time, money and effort to switch.
    3. Rationalization. Even if the habit is bad, the brain sometimes rationalizes that it is safer doing what you have been doing since making the change might harm you. This is sort of the thought process people go through when the doctor recommends an operation, but you are thinking that you can die as a result of the operation. Most pick what they believe is the lesser of two evils.

    Hard does not mean impossible

    Good marketers know how to break through habit barriers because they (1) understand why people have them, (2) appreciate the difficulty of changing them, and (3) they have experience doing the necessary non-invasive brain surgery to counteract them.

    Too many marketers fail because the do not understand these issues. They presume that it will be easy to convince buyers to switch if they point out the “neat” features their products have that their competitors don’t. Apple smartphone competitors continue to use this tact with little success.

    How to break buyer habits so they’ll switch to your brand

    It is conceptually easy to break buyer habits so they’ll switch to your brand. You have to apply a sufficiently strong marketing force using the following primary building-block strategies to pull buyers out of the “habit groove” and break the strong bonds they have with other brands.

    1. Marketing information system. Use a marketing information system to find out what buyers want that they are not getting from the brands they typically buy.
    2. Branding. Devise a branding strategy that positions your products as having sufficiently unique and important capabilities that (1) your target audience wants but (2) your competitors do not provide.
    3. Product. Develop products (including technologies) that meet or exceed the expectations promised by your branding strategy.
    4. Communications. Create promotion strategies that clearly communicate the compelling benefits of your products so that members of the target audience will understand why they should (1) buy products from you and (2) break the habit of buying them from your competitors.

    Some examples of habit breakers

    There are so many examples of brands that successfully broke habits and took brand positions away from competitors. The following are just a few of them.

    Google. Google entered the search engine market after Infoseek, AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, and Yahoo! were already providing search services on the Internet. Google unseated them with a very easy-to-use, uncluttered home page that performed searches easier and better. Google broke any habits that had formed with the other search engines. They made it very easy to do so, and the word spread quickly. Microsoft’s Bing has come long after the Google habit was formed and has been unable to make any significant dent in the use of Google for searches.

    Facebook. Friendster, MySpace and others predated Facebook in social networking. Yet, Facebook grew faster and became synonymous with social networking because it gave its users more of what they wanted. Google developed Google+ to unseat Facebook, but Google has not provided the marketplace with sufficiently compelling reasons for users to switch.

    Apple. Starting with the iPod (and perhaps the iMac), Apple created products with compelling designs that got buyers to take notice and spread the positive word about them. With the iPhone, they created a smartphone that was also a portable computer. It had sufficiently unique capabilities because developers could supply Apps so the phone could do just about anything it was programmed to do. This disrupted a marketplace that was dominated by Nokia and RIM, and caused these established companies to rapidly lose market share and dominance. The habits were broken. RIM, now Blackberry, has been looking for buyers, and Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft.

    What if your product uses a new technology the marketplace will find difficult to understand?

    When the automobile was introduced, most did not know what the term automobile meant. They were in the habit moving from place to place on bicycles, horses, or carriages pulled by horses. Therefore, the early automobile was called a horseless carriage.

    Similarly, when the telephone and telegraph were introduced, they were called the “wireless” since most did not know what “telephone” and “telegraph” meant, but they were accustomed to communicating over wires. So if you develop a new product that uses a new technology that might be difficult for the average human brain to process, you can express it in terms of the older technology that it replaces. That may be necessary to supplant the old habit with a newer one.

    To introduce a new product that breaks habits

    If you want to introduce a new product that is likely to break ingrained brand habits, you should expect that it will not be easy. People are not going to automatically understand the benefits and advantages you know unless you can position and communicate them effectively. I hope this post gives you the information you need to feel comfortable with the process. It is not easy, but also not that difficult if you are able to execute the proper marketing strategies delineated above.

    SEE ALSO: Why The Container Store Pays Its Retail Employees $50,000 A Year

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    Recently, Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) reported a precipitous drop in sales to $911.4 million.

    This is well below the $982.4 million analysts expected – causing its stock to fall 13 percent.

    Revenues had already tumbled quite a bit from 2012 when it had over 1,000 stores and $4.5 billion in sales.

    This was predicted in a post I did over a year and a half ago.

    Why the great fall, and what does it have to do to be “cool” again?

    Failed to listen to marketplace signals

    As with so many companies, those that created A&F’s success fell asleep. They either did not have a good marketing information system to wake them up, or they failed to listen to marketplace signals. As many companies learn too late, success is a lousy teacher. Those that assume that success will continue by doing the same things they have been doing often have a rude awakening.

    This is what has happened to Abercrombie & Fitch. Didn't Albert Einstein tell us that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

    Lost their brand focus

    In the words of CEO Mike Jeffries, “We want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” The problem is that the “cool” college kids do not think that A&F is cool anymore. And the “cool” high school kids feel the same way about the Hollister brand — partly because they emulate the college kids.

    This means that A&F needs to get a better marketing information system to find out why its brand has lost its cachet. Unfortunately, Mr. Jeffries' quote makes him look foolish because his understanding of “what is cool” appears to be outdated. To investors, declining sales and stock prices are definitely not cool.


    My marketing class at USC did a project for A&F several years ago. My 171 “super cool” students (I am naturally biased) told the company in their marketing plans that the A&F brand is no longer considered cool on college campuses. They pointed out that the students that wear A&F gear at USC are from other countries where just about everything associated with the American lifestyle is considered cool, trendy, and desirable.

    A post entitled Ten Companies That Will Never Recover from Their Mistakes confirms, “The specialty retailer did a poor job of judging its market beginning in early 2009.”

    Negative publicity

    Misjudging the market is only one of A&F’s problems. Over the past twelve years, a string of negative publicity has hurt the Company. In 2002, A&F t-shirts that disparaged Asian Americans caused quite a stir. An employee discrimination lawsuit followed in 2003.

    A lot of other negative press regarding comments, behaviors, and lawsuits followed including a 2006 Salon interview in which Michael Jeffries said, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

    Amplified in social media

    In 2013, a YouTube video created by USC graduate Greg Karper generated over four million page views. In his video, Karper passes out A&F clothing to homeless people living on skid row in Los Angeles.

    His stated motivation was two-fold: 1. Provide clothing to the homeless, which he purchased at thrift stores so as not to give the money to A&F, and 2. Reposition the A&F brand as “the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel.” Unfortunately, some homeless advocates thought that was also not cool.

    What A&F should do to be successful again

    The real problem for A&F is the company has lost its audience and brand image. To get it back, it is going to have to find a formula that is different from what worked in the past (half-naked models, loud music, and stores wreaking of cologne). If it wants to target a young, hip, and cool audience, it is going to have to identify 1. who is in this audience, and 2. what they think is cool. To do this, A&F might want to follow the steps listed below.

    1. Build a marketing information system. Do independent market research to find out who is in its audience, what they want, and what they consider hip and cool. Create a good marketing information system to continuously monitor this group and fine-tune its marketing strategies necessary to satisfy their needs.
    2. Assess the A&F Brand. Determine if its brand image can be repaired or if it needs to create an entirely new brand identity to bring its audience back.
    3. Profile its target audience. Build an accurate profile of its target audience members and identify the opinion leaders.
    4. Identify the unfilled needs of this audience. Determine what this audience wants that it is not getting from direct and indirect competitors.
    5. Develop a new brand image and product mix. Create a new brand image (or key) that fills the needs of this audience better than competitors and remake its products to fit this new image.
    6. Promote the brand image and product line. Determine the media its audience frequents. Communicate its new brand image and resulting products in the media identified.
    7. Measure results and make adjustments. Insure that the opinion leaders and their followers are buying and wearing A&F brands by constantly monitoring the marketplace and taking necessary corrective action.

    Ira Kalb is assistant professor of clinical marketing at the Marshall School of Business of the University of Southern California and president of Kalb & Associates.

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    Kalashnikov, maker of the iconic AK-47 assault rifle, produces weapons for military, civilian and sports use

    There are already upwards of 70 million AK-47s in circulation worldwide.

    But amid domestic unrest, global criticism of Moscow, and EU and US sanctions, the state-owned Russian company responsible for the gun's production is trying to rebrand itself.

    In Moscow on Tuesday, the Siberian company behind the rifle unveiled new slogans ("Protecting Peace" was one of them) and a red-and-black logo shaped like the letter "K."

    The new logo appeared on the gun's ammo magazine, and Sergei Chemezov, head of a state company with a controlling stake in Kalashnikov, said he hoped the brand would reach Apple's level of worldwide recognition.

    The AK-47 was designed in 1947 (hence the call number), but really took off in the late '50s when the USSR allowed its various satellite states and other friendly countries to produce their own.

    As recently as 2012, Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez said his country had begun production of AK-103s, another assault rifle in the Kalashnikov family.

    Deadly, inexpensive, and widely available to both formal militaries and nonstate groups, the AK-47 is an icon of contemporary warfare. One of Saddam Hussein's sons had his plated in gold. It adorns the flag of Mozambique — and that of the Lebanese Shi'ite militia group Hezbollah. The AK-47 is the weapon of choice for terrorist groups like the Afghan Taliban and Somalia's al-Shabaab. Even so, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev once called Kalashnikov "a national brand which evokes pride in each citizen."

    AK 47 Kalashnikov Creator Funeral ProcessionMore recently, the company has been hit by US and EU sanctions over the Russian government's role in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Those sanctions blocked the delivery of up to 200,000 units to the US and Canada, and mothballed an ad campaign featuring actor and gun advocate Steven Seagal.

    The rebranded Kalashnikov wants to use the company's iconic status to dull the effect of the sanctions and even move beyond the firearms market — it will expand its offerings to include accessories and a clothing line. Company CEO Alexei Krivoruchko also told Russian news agencies it aimed to double production and quadruple sales by the end of the decade. The company sold 140,000 units this year, twice as many as in 2013, reports stated.

    Mikhail Kalashnikov, the gun's creator, died last year at the age of 94. Visiting Germany in 2002, he revealed mixed feelings about his legacy.

    "I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists," he said. "I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawnmower."

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    george foreman grill

    Lots of companies have a deeply religious background, even if you don't realize it. 

    Forever 21 and George Foreman Cooking are just the start. Read on to see other big companies that are extremely religious.

    This is an update of an article written by Kim Bhasin.

    Marriott International Hotels

    Bill Marriott was CEO of Marriott International Hotels for 40 years, stepping down from the CEO role in 2012.

    Throughout that time, he was an active member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. 

    Thus the need to balance his beliefs with his guests' desires.

    "I've always been concerned about (pornographic) movies in rooms,"he told the Associated Press in 2012. "In the next three or four years, we won't have any more of those. That's something we've had a real problem with because the Church is very, very opposed to pornography, as it should be, and we are for families. But the owners of our hotels were making a lot of money. In fact, the only movies that make any money are pornography."


    ServiceMaster owns domestic brands like Terminix, American Home Shield, and Merry Maids. 

    It was founded in 1929 by Marion E. Wade.

    "Wade had a strong personal faith and a desire to honor God in all he did,"the company's website reads. "Translating this into the marketplace, he viewed each individual employee and customer as being made in God's image — worthy of dignity and respect." 

    Theodore Malloch, author of "Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business," says that ServiceMaster is an example of "servant leadership." 

    What does that mean? "Think of the picture of Christ washing the feet of his disciples,"he tells CNN.

    George Foreman Cooking

    After leaving behind a successful boxing career, George Foreman gained new-found fame as the boisterous hawker of low-fat cooking grills.

    Foreman discussed his own religious reawakening in an interview with Success Magazine, and said that his personal integrity guides his business decisions. For example, he won't invest in products or sellers that promote alcohol consumption. 

    Foreman also spent years as a Christian preacher— developing the charisma he'd use to sell grills.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    It has been a difficult year for a number of brands, ranging from newer companies like American Apparel to stalwarts like McDonald's.

    Fortunately for these companies, nothing is permanent. We spoke with three branding experts to get their take on which struggling business and personal brands are poised to come back strong next year.

    American Apparel

    The controversial clothing retailer removed founder Dov Charney from his CEO position in June, reportedly after his board of directors became concerned that he had not been truthful in responding to claims that he had sexually harassed his employees.

    Jeetendr Sehdev, a celebrity branding expert and professor at the University of Southern California, expects the company's new leadership to return the brand to prominence with its trademark provocative advertising and a new campaign starring dancing YouTube sensation Brendan Jordan.

    "American Apparel remains a challenger brand imbued with masses of cultural currency that perfectly positions itself for 2015," Sehdev says.


    The yoga-inspired athletic retailer spent 2014 working to recover from a disastrous 2013, when it had to recall 17% of its bottoms for being too sheer and its founder made comments indicating that women who had a problem with the size of Lululemon's clothes were too fat to be wearing them.

    But as 2015 draws near, it seems Lululemon is turning a corner. Erich Joachimsthaler, founder and CEO of the strategy firm Vivaldi Partners, thinks the company is in for a resurgence in the New Year.

    Joachimsthaler predicts that the company's new ventures into menswear will make everyone forget the mistakes of 2013. Plus, the recent drop in oil prices will help make its products cheaper to produce.


    The world's most famous fast-food brand struggled in 2014 as young people continued to seek personalized, organic options over the brand's signature mass-produced hamburgers and chicken nuggets. Meanwhile, the company was the target of nationwide protests from workers seeking higher wages.

    Sehdev says that in 2015, the Golden Arches will succeed with the implementation of re-designed restaurants, a mobile ordering app, and the "Create Your Taste" sandwich option, a test program that allows people to customize their own hamburgers with high-quality ingredients.

    "Next year we'll see the start of a necessary re-imagining of the iconic brand as McDonald's demonstrates a greater understanding of business ethics and consumer purpose," Sehdev says.

    mcdonald's strike workers


    JetBlue started 2014 by stranding a bunch of passengers in Barbados after canceling flights due to cold weather. Later in the year, it eliminated several features that had been the brand's hallmarks, including its one-class-fits-all boarding system, its promise of generous legroom for all passengers, and its refusal to charge a baggage check fee.

    Joachimsthaler sees the company bouncing back in 2015, as it begins to make more money from courting high-end, first-class passengers and its geographic expansion into the midwest. He also thinks consumers will be won over by an emotional new ad campaign, through which the company is giving free flights to citizens who perform good deeds.

    Justin Bieber

    Biebs began the year by getting arrested for drag racing without a license while allegedly under the influence of Xanax and marijuana. He also made headlines for getting into a fight with actor Orlando Bloom, while otherwise keeping a fairly low profile.

    Sehdev sees a 2015 resurgence for Bieber due to the release of a new song and renewed interest from fans who admire his willingness to be his bad boy self in public, regardless of what the critics say.

    "There is only one Bieber and his brand not only remains differentiated from a plethora of other pop stars but also is now more humanized than ever before," Sehdev says. "Justin's authentic persona is rewarded with Beliebers that are nearly three times as loyal as other fan followings."

    The NFL

    The National Football League's concussion issue lingered throughout the year, as players fought in court over the fairness of a legal settlement that could cost the league $1 billion. And later in the year, several teams dealt with lawsuits alleging they had paid cheerleaders below minimum wage.

    Of course, the negative media coverage from those proceedings paled in comparison to what came after the league ignored allegations that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulted his wife in an elevator and TMZ published video footage of the incident. The league also endured criticism when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for allegedly assaulting his four-year-old son with a tree branch.

    Matti Leshem, founder and CEO of the brand strategy firm Protagonist, thinks the NFL is poised to turn its public image around in 2015, in large part due to its hiring of former Pepsi executive Dawn Hudson to be its chief marketing officer.

    Leshem, who worked with Hudson when she was at Pepsi, says her willingness to consider outside-the-box ideas and experience reaching out to constituents on the consumer side will give her the power to redirect fans' attention to the league's on-field action.

    "She's an incredibly formidable, very strong woman," Leshem tells Business Insider. "She is going to make a huge difference because she really understands marketing and advertising."

    Roger Goodell


    The past year was one of change for Target, which suffered a massive customer data breach at the end of 2013 that will end up costing the company an estimated $148 million. The breach caused CEO Gregg Steinhafel to step down in May, with the company hiring Pepsi executive Brian Cornell to replace him.

    Sehdev thinks the brand will return to glory in 2015 due to its unique visual identity, which makes it stand out from Sears and Wal-Mart, and new partnerships with Taylor Swift and Billy Joel.

    "The retailer's efforts at creating innovative brand-centric shopping experiences, such as partnerships with Taylor Swift and Billy Joel, will not only further its perception as a dynamic brand in tune with today's audiences but also revive some of that 'Targé' mojo in the hearts and minds of consumers," Sehdev says.

    SEE ALSO: The 10 Worst Corporate Logo Changes Of 2014

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    When companies set out to design logos to brand their products, they often go above and beyond to create recognizable and memorable graphics.

    Over and over again we see examples of corporate logos with hidden visual messages buried inside.

    Produced by Matt Johnston

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    ray ban ad

    There are 26 letters in the alphabet. 

    Which two are your favorite?

    Most likely, you favor your initials due to a phenomenon called the "name letter effect." 

    Coined by Belgian psychologist Jozef Nuttin in 1985, the name letter effect describes people's tendency to prefer the letters in their names to all others.

    "They find those letters, in particular their first and last initials, more aesthetically pleasing or beautiful than others,"reports Jessa Gamble for the Last Word on Nothing, a science blog.

    The effect has been found across countries and age groups, and it has some surprising consequences for consumer behavior. 

    Namely, people tend to buy brands with names similar to theirs. 

    A 2005 study by Canadian psychologists Gordon Hodson and James Olson found that people didn't prefer foods or animals with similar initials as theirs — for instance, Sue doesn't necessarily like sundaes, nor Pete penguins — but they did prefer brands with similar initials. 

    Aaron likes Apple. Nicole likes Nike. 

    Why the difference? Most of us don't see our favorite animal as an extension of ourselves, but we're convinced that our go-to jeans company says something about our soul, Hodson and Olson argue. 

    You can see it walking down the street: Think about what wearing a North Face fleece versus a Patagonia jacket says to the world, or Air Jordan sneakers versus Toms slippers, or Ray-Ban wayfarers versus Oakley wraparound sunglasses. 

    "Given that individuals can choose to buy, own, or display particular brand names, objects' brand names often may be used to communicate one's identity to others," Hodson and Olson say. "The identity relevance of brand names may strengthen the impact of other features that draw implicit connections to the self, such as similarity between brand names' initials and individuals' initials."

    It's a funny bit of consumer psychology: Since we see brands as an extension of ourselves, we unconsciously seek out brands with names like ours. 

    SEE ALSO: Here's Why Using Your Middle Initial Makes You Look Smarter

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    ipad apple logo wallpaper

    Great logos are recognizable in a blink. They also should make a lasting impression.

    Target hits the bullseye, Nike goes swoosh, and Apple catches the eyeAll three company's iconic logos are unique, memorable and stand the test of time. They instantly and consistently do what a potent logo should: Identify a brand, make it stand out and, ideally, drive customer interest and sales.

    We all know great logos, but we don't all know that great logos aren't easy to create. From concept to color to rollout, there's much to consider when boiling your brand down to a single emblem.

    "We have less time and less space to tell our stories in than ever before," says Alina Wheeler, a Philadelphia-based branding expert and author of "Designing Brand Identity" (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., fourth edition, 2013). "To rise above the clutter, a symbol or a logo is the fastest communication known to man. It unlocks associations with your brand on sight, so it's important to get it right the first time around."

    Here are 10 essential questions to ask when designing your company's first logo:

    1. What types of logos are there?

    Wheeler separates logos into four categories:

    • Wordmarks are freestanding word or multi-letter abbreviation groupings comprising a logo, a.k.a. logotypes. Companies with wordmark logos include eBay, IBM, CNN, Google, Kleenex, Saks Fifth Avenue and, yes, the publication you're reading right now, Entrepreneur.

    • Letterform logos are comprised of a single letter. Think Honda, Uber, Unilever, Beats and McDonald's.

    • Pictorial logos are illustrated symbols of recognizable things. Starbucks, Twitter and Playboy all have pictorial logos.

    • Abstract logos don't represent anything otherwise recognizable, like abstract art. Perhaps the most famous brand to successfully pull off an abstract logo is Nike.

    2. Which type of logo would best suit my company?

    Unfortunately, there is no one type of logo that works for everyone, Wheeler says. "Which fits you best depends a lot on your name and what you provide or make."

    For example, if you have a short company name like eBay, a wordmark logotype could work well. Wordmarks and letterform logos generally help consumers remember your name better than abstract logos. If you opt for an abstract symbol, however, be sure it's straightforward and mirrors the personality of your brand.  

    Related: When Designing a Logo, First Comes Personality, Then Color

    3. What are the key points about my business that my logo should convey?

    Your logo — from the color to the shape — should provide an immediate sense of what your company is all about.

    "When people look at it, they should get a feel for your brand personality and your distinctive point of view," Wheeler says. "They should know that you're different from your competitors, you're professional, a real business and you're confident and successful in what you do."

    Amazon's logo, represented by the company's name, with an arrow below it pointing from the "a" to the "z," is an example of a logo that embodies its namesake's brand identity exceptionally well, according to Wheeler. "The arrow doubles as a smile that conveys friendly customer service and it connects the 'a' to the 'z' because Amazon offers everything A to Z. It's all there."

    4. What are the best logo colors?

    Color choice is incredibly important. To best differentiate yourself, Wheeler says it's paramount to choose a color that your biggest competitors do not use in their logos. 

    Also consider that different colors pack different psychological punches. For example, the color red — appropriately used in Red Bull's logo — is active, intense and even a little alarming. Yellow is happy, energetic and fresh, perhaps a wise choice for a company focused on health and wellness. Meanwhile, blue — the hue of Ford, Samsung and GE's logos — evokes confidence, calm and reliability.

    Related: 5 Must-Haves for a Successful Logo

    5. What fonts should I consider?

    Fonts, like colors, convey and inspire various emotions. Different fonts work best for different businesses.

    For example, a logo for a legal firm — which should convey honorability, strength and justice — might best be represented in a bold, straightforward font free of flourish. Whereas a candy shop might opt for a whimsical font that communicates youth, sweetness and fun.

    6. Should I design a logo myself or hire a graphic designer to do it?

    Even if you think you're a decent drawer and even if you're on a tight budget, Wheeler suggests that you leave designing your logo to a trained graphic designer. "Working with a skilled graphic designer is really critical. They understand what a good logo is and how it needs to scale and function across different media and marketing channels, like on your website, within an app or on a storefront sign, all key things that shouldn't be left to chance or guessed at on the fly." 

    That said, it's still a smart move to know which logo colors, shapes and fonts you like and don't like ahead of meeting with a designer. Communicate your preferences to him or her before any mockups are drafted.

    Related: 25 Must-Have Free Fonts for Entrepreneurs

    7. How much will it cost?

    Professional design firms typically charge anywhere between $4,000 to $15,000 for a logo alone, which might not be in the budget for startups and small businesses.

    For a more affordable option, Evenson Design Group founder Stan Evanson suggests contracting a freelance designer who charges between $35 and $150 per hour, depending on his or her level of experience. "But don't hire someone because of their bargain price. Find a designer who's familiar with your field and your competition," Evenson says.

    There are also several web-based professional logo design providers, like Logoworks, that provide logo concept, design and revisions packages for as low as $299 to $599, depending on the number of logo designs delivered.

    8. Where should I display my logo?

    A better question would be "Where shouldn't you display it?" because you'll want to show it off "pretty much everywhere," Wheeler says. Online, weave your logo into your website, digital ad campaigns and on social-media sites where you have company accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

    Offline, put your logo on your front door, business card, product packaging, uniform and on company stationary and contracts.

    Related: How to Make Your Logo Memorable

    9. What are some mistakes to avoid?

    The worst mistake of all, Wheeler says, is settling on a logo before seriously considering your key competitors' logos. If your logo ends up similar to theirs, even in the slightest, customers might not be able to tell you apart and you could lose business.

    Wheeler also cautions against sizing up your logo on a piece of paper only, as opposed to envisioning it across several diverse marketing places and spaces, like as an app icon, on a website, a billboard, or on a T-shirt or the side of a truck.

    10. Is it too soon to worry about how my logo will look in 10 years?

    Most logos, Wheeler says, need some touching up after a decade's time or so anyway, to avoid growing stale. The key is to get it right from the start, then fine tune as needed over time.

    "Think of it, the Michelin Man has undergone Botox and minor surgery a bunch of times in the last 100 years," she says. "But the core idea is still the same as the first Michelin Man."

    SEE ALSO: The 10 Worst Corporate Logo Changes Of 2014

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    While Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign did not come as a surprise to many, the design of her logo - a large, uppercase blue colored letter H, with a horizontal red arrow pointing to the right - is unexpected. 

    Initial feedback for the logo on social media was absolutely brutal. Design experts who spoke to Business Insider also had a mixed reaction to the design. Some were puzzled while others complimented the Democrat for a bold choice that avoided the traditional patriotic imagery normally seen in campaign branding. 

    Many of the early Twitter reviews of Clinton's logo said it looked like the FedEx logo, which contains a subtle white arrow between the letters E and X. Others suggested it was reminiscent of a hospital entry sign or a car blinker.

    Lindon Leader, the designer who created the FedEx logo, told Business Insider he doesn't think Clinton ripped off his design. However, he clearly is not a fan of her logo, which he described as "disappointing, amateurish, clumsy and decidedly static."


    "From a communication perspective, I have two issues with it. First, as the arrow crossbar runs horizontally, it suggests an even keel or 'business as usual.' If an arrow was mandatory, it should been angled up to connote optimism and the sense of a new agenda. Second, the arrow facing to the right could be construed as tipping Hillary's hat to the Republicans. If a monogrammatic treatment was essential, I might have had the Democratic Party's donkey leaping over the crossbar as if in a steeplechase (which may well describe the run up to the election)."

    Karl Gude, a graphics professor at Michigan State University and former graphics artist at Newsweek and the AP, also told Business Insider he found Clinton's red arrow confusing. 

    "In politics, a big RED (Republican) arrow pointing RIGHT is probably not what a LIBERAL candidate wants," he said, adding, "Unless, of course, Hillary is sending a secret message to the fence sitters out there knowing that her liberal base will not be fooled by the image. But I don't think anyone thought this far on the logo. Okay, let's go for symbolism that would work for her: she should have reversed the colors and had a BLUE (Democrat) arrow blowing past the unbending, red pillars of modern American conservatism. Phew."

    But not all the reaction to the logo was negative. At least two branding experts hailed Clinton's "H."

    Richard Westendorf, a creative director at Landor Associates brand consultants, told Business Insider he found the logo "extremely progressive and modern."

    "Intuitively says we intend to move forward. A powerful statement that she now must live up to. The palette alludes to flag colors without relying on the expected stars and stripes imagery. Clever and strong," Westendorf said.

    Debbie Millman, chair of the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, also complimented the novel thinking behind the design.

    "I like Hillary's logo. And I understand why people don't like it--it is not the kind of logo we've ever, ever seen represent a Presidential candidate," she told Business Insider. "That is precisely why I like it. It flies in the face of everything we've come to expect of a campaign logo: there are no stars, no stripes, no rolling plains—and mercifully—there are no exclamation points. Instead we have a strong, confident, stately logo representing a strong confident, stately candidate. And there is something very appealing about a candidate who defies conventions having a logo that does so as well."

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    Tisdale, a town in Canada nicknamed the "Land of Rape and Honey" for nearly 60 years, is surveying residents about rebranding, the Star Phoenix reports. 

    The town hasn't been advertising a high rate of sexual violence — "rape" in the slogan refers to "rapeseed," a flowering plant used to cultivate canola for canola oil.

    Tisdale produces large quantities of both rapeseed and honey, according to the town's website.

    For obvious reasons, however, Tisdale's economic development office is "seeking input" in the form of a survey about whether the slogan portrays the town well.

    "There's passionate people who believe it should be changed and passionate people who believe it shouldn't be changed," Sean Wallace, the town's director of economic development, told CBCNews 

    The survey also notes that organic rapeseed accounts for less than 1% of crops today, and honey production has also fallen dramatically, according to CBC.

    Tisdale, located in Saskatchewan, has a population of about 3,200.

    According to CBC, other options for the slogan include: 

    • Hub of the Northeast.
    • A Place to Grow.
    • A Place to Bee.
    • Land of Canola and Honey.

    In 1988, industrial metal band Ministry also named its third studio album "The Land of Rape of Honey" after Tisdale.

    SEE ALSO: 10 things about Canada that shock foreigners

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    Cristiano Ronaldo Nike

    Sneakerheads have a love and hate relationship with Nike's social media accounts. With almost five million Twitter followers and nearly three times as many on the 'Gram, the brand has quite the grip on the footwear market.

    However, according to a new report issued by the Harvard Business Review, the Swoosh could actually be doing better than they already are.

    According to the HBR, Nike's tweets are amongst the worst in the business world, joining companies like Starbucks, Burberry, and American Express. Meanwhile, brands such as Bank of America, Facebook, and Verizon ranked high on the list of best corporate tweeting. 

    So, how can Nike be killing the numbers yet score so poorly? The HBR says it comes down to empathy and making the consumer feel valued. "In our view, empathy consists of three components: reassurance, authenticity and emotional connection. Empathy goes beyond simply solving a problem," said the study.

    Although there's no hard examples provided for the Swoosh's ranking, the HBR points to cookie-cutter, bot-like replies as the main reason that companies like Starbucks struggle on social media.

    Or maybe this has to do with how angry sneakerheads get at Nike Store's Twitter account nearly every Saturday morning. 

    SEE ALSO: A shoe brand no one ever talks about is becoming Nike's biggest threat

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    People Drinking Coffee Starbucks

    Mankind has valued design for as long as we can remember. Just think about the Seven Wonders of the World or the creative genius of Michelangelo.

    Great form, which refuses to sacrifice great function, is hotter than ever.

    Last year, the Design Management Institute and Motiv published a study claiming that design-driven companies outperformed the S&P by 228% over a period of ten years.

    "The basic premise," the study explains, "is that using design methods to understand customer needs better ... is leading to insights that constitute strategic competitive advantages."

    The study also suggests that margins can be driven higher by generating an I gotta have it at any cost mentality on the part of customers.

    So what can you learn from the top design-centric companies in the world? Consider the following four examples:

    1. Nike: The power of a logo.

    The Nike "swoosh." It's one of the most recognized logos in the world, and has helped sell billions of dollars of merchandise through the years.

    Carolyn Davidson designed the icon in 1971 as a college student, and was originally paid only $35 for her work. (She later received 500 shares of stock as a thank you.)

    Davidson says she wanted a symbol that conveyed motion, looked good on a shoe, and would be liked by the rest of the team.

    Almost 45 years later, that $35 logo has evolved into a brand that Forbes recently estimated to be worth over $15 billion.

    How's that for ROI?

    Lesson: Don't underestimate the value of a great logo. It may cost you more than $35, but if successful, it'll be worth its weight in gold.

    2. Ikea: Broaden your horizons.

    When I got married, my wife left her home country of Germany and joined me in New York. For anyone who's ever moved away, you know how difficult the first few years can be.

    So whenever my wife got homesick, where did she want to go?


    In her words, it was the one place she could visit that felt "just like back home."

    As I've shared that story through the years, I've found it resonates with others. How can Ikea feel like home to so many people from so many different countries?

    According to its website, Ikea representatives visit thousands of homes around the world every year. The purpose? "To find out what people want, need, and (if we're really lucky) some of their wildest dreams. We then turn these insights into new ideas and solutions to make everyday life a little better."

    It works. Millions around the world feel "at home" in Ikea, no matter which country they're from ... or currently in. Including my wife.

    Lesson: Learn from your customers. Don't just ask. Watch, scrutinize, analyze. Observe how they use your products or services. See what works and what doesn't.

    Then, commit to making things better.

    ikea shopping carts

    3. Starbucks: Design an experience.

    The king of the $5 coffee.

    Why are so many people willing to spend so much money on one of the most ubiquitous beverages in the world?

    CEO Howard Schultz put it perfectly in his interview with Katie Couric a few years ago:

    "People around the world, they want the authentic Starbucks experience."

    Ah yes, "the Starbucks experience." You're not paying for coffee; you're paying for that soft leather sofa, the Norah Jones in the background, and the most valuable and sought-after resource in the world:

    Unlimited Wi-Fi.

    Demand for "the experience" has only increased in today's culture of freelancers and coffee-meeting schedulers.

    Lesson: Don't provide customers simply a product, or even a service.

    Give them an experience.

    4. Apple: Think different.

    It's more than the company slogan. As Steve Jobs once said: "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

    Jobs wasn't implying that market research is useless. He was simply stating that good design can solve problems that people don't yet know they have.

    Apple struggled for years in Microsoft's shadow. But along the way, it built one of the most loyal customer bases in the world. It succeeded because once consumers tasted good design, they refused to go back.

    And as the company started "jumping curves," the masses followed.

    Lesson: Resist the fear to be different. It might take time for everything to click, but do you really want to be like everyone else?

    I didn't think so.

    So ... what are you waiting for? Start implementing these design lessons in your company today, if you're not already.

    I can't wait to see what you come up with.

    SEE ALSO: How a sponge company became the biggest 'Shark Tank' success story, with over $50 million in sales

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    Brandon Webb

    The customer is always right.

    I started my company, Force12 Media, three years ago on a soggy Guinness-soaked napkin in a La Jolla, California, trying to invent my way out of an executive job with a large defense company.

    One thing I learned from my experience with L3 Defense, and in large part from my boss Elissa, was the value of taking care of your customers.

    And it can’t be faked; you have to genuinely care.

    What started over a beer and one website grew to ten sites, two internet-radio shows, online TV, and our own publishing label with St. Martin’s Press of New York. All in, we reach 40 million people monthly.

    It wasn’t an easy journey, and the company wouldn’t be where it is today if we didn’t take care of our customers, all of them, internal and external.

    Last week I met briefly with the CEO of Skull Candy during an Entrepreneurs Organization New York (EONY) event in Manhattan and the conversation drifted toward knowing your customer. Toby, the CEO, reminded me about the customer relationship. I took it deeper and started to reflect on the customer conversation — both internal and external.

    Both are incredibly important to a successful and healthy company in my experience.

    I see so many employees forget that their internal customer is their reporting senior, not external customers of the business. External customers are the business' customers, not an employee's customers.

    I’ve got news for you: If you’re not taking care of your boss you’ve got one foot in the unemployment line. I just had a very candid conversation with one of my team members about this.

    If your boss is unhappy, it's a problem; it is always a surprise to me how this is lost on so many people I run into today who start in complaining about their boss. Whether you like it or not, your boss is the one you have to keep happy. He or she is customer #1 and you better realize it.

    meeting, woman, work, boss

    Respect is a two-way street, and I work to foster candid communication and respect up and down the chain of command. (Sorry for the military term — I can’t help myself.) But at the end of the day, I’ll side with my senior staff over their subordinates if it comes to that. However, enough about internal customers, let's talk external, the customers of the business.

    In my businesses we have two core external customers: consumers of our online content and our advertising sponsors. It’s written in stone via our company core values to take care of both along with our own people. (I’ll get to that later.)

    It’s easy to experience success and grow complacent or arrogant about your customers, but it’s early stage cancer to let it continue in an organization.

    If I hear even the faintest murmur from someone on my team complaining about one of our customers, I’m quick to address the situation and remind them that our customers are always right. If your customers aren’t feeling taken care of then it’s you who has failed them, not the other way around. It’s that simple.

    Last year we had our largest-advertising-customer’s agency experienced high turnover and their digital team became a compost heap. Then it got even worse, and we started getting treated like the help, not a fun position to be in.

    Switzerland_indoor advertising

    Seriously, it was bad — someone on their digital team threatened to not RFP (request for quote) us unless we took their team out for dinner and drinks. In another instance it was manicures and pedicures. It got so out of hand that I was forced to call the brand directly.

    Note: Advertising agencies don’t like that very much.

    The good news was that we valued this customer, like all our customers, and had a great relationship with them.

    Our team will do anything for our customers. Two of our company mottos are “You dream it, we build it” and "The difficult done immediately, the impossible by appointment only”.

    One very candid call to the client directly and they turned the tables on the dynamic. Suddenly the agency was forced to shape up and treat us like the partner we were. It was a valuable lesson for me and our team: We witnessed the value of taking care of your customers first hand.

    I've also experienced one of our content consumers actually call the CEO of a company sponsor on our behalf to pay them a compliment for advertising with us. It was an amazing thing to witness and grounded the fact that if you take care of your customers, they will take care of you.

    Brandon Webb is a former Navy SEAL, CEO of Force12 Media, author of "Among Heroes: A U.S. Navy SEAL's True Story of Friendship, Heroism, and the Ultimate Sacrifice," and a member of EONY.

    SEE ALSO: The story of a college professor who helped transform her student into an award-winning leader

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    apple iphone 6 japan launch

    Apple has overtaken Google this year to become the world's most valuable brand, according to WPP and Millward Brown's annual "Brand Z" rankings.

    Technology brands dominate the top 10, but there is also a surprise entrant.

    Millward Brown's study uses the views of around 2 million potential and current customers of a brand, alongside financial data, to calculate a company's brand value. You can see the full report and methodology here.

    10. Marlboro

    Brand value: $80 billion

    Percentage change from last year: +19%

    Last year's rank: 13

    What happened: Perhaps a surprise entrant into the top 10 for many people, Marlboro's brand value has shot through the roof over the past year. It commands 43.8% of the US cigarette market, and outside the US, Marlboro's share is bigger than the next two largest brands combined, according to Forbes. Millward Brown says the increase in brand value is largely due to the rise in Altria's (the company that controls Marlboro in the US) share price, which has increased around 26% in the past year.

    9. McDonald's

    Brand value: $81 billion

    Percentage change since last year: -5%

    Last year's rank: 5

    What happened: It was a testing year for McDonald's, which had to battle consumer concerns around its ingredients, supply chains, and environmental responsibility. Its 5% decline in brand value this year follows another 5% decline in value a year ago. 

    8. Coca-Cola

    Brand value: $84 billion

    Percentage change since last year: +4%

    Last year's rank: 6

    What happened: Millward Brown also credited Coca-Cola for roughing out tough times by adjusting its product range and communications to more effectively address growing consumer concerns around health issues. The brand had particular success with its worldwide "Share a Coke" campaign, which boosted sales in the US for the first time in more than a decade.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Alexis Rutledge shops for clothes at Crossroads Trading Company, which buys and sells used clothing, in San Francisco, California May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Allison Armour loves fashion, but doesn't need to keep it in her closet.

    The 24-year-old frequents privately-held chain Crossroads Trading Co, where she buys brand-name goods secondhand at a discount, then sells the items back when she wants to refresh her look.

    Armour, a marketing manager for a nonprofit in Oakland, California, has picked up skirts and shirts, Oxford shoes for $30, a J.Crew trench coat for $40 and a Dooney & Bourke satchel for $150, less than half its retail price. "When I get tired of certain things, I put them aside and sell them back," she said.

    For Millennials – the roughly 77 million Americans born between about 1980 and 2000 - the allure of "no ownership" is moving beyond housing and cars.

    A new industry based on sharing or renting clothing, electronics and small appliances is springing up from nothing about five years ago, posing a disruptive force to traditional retailers.

    Battered by student loan debt and the Great Recession, Millennials place less emphasis on owning and more on sharing, bartering and trading to access coveted goods. These behaviors have propelled businesses such as car rental service Zipcar, taxi service Uber and home rental site Airbnb.

    What Millennials do buy, and keep, is their smartphones. About 85 percent of people aged 18 to 34 own them, according to Nielsen research, and the devices are the doorway to the sharing economy.

    Now these "NOwners," as Jamie Gutfreund, chief marketing officer for Deep Focus, calls them, are propelling a new wave of privately-held companies such as children's resale marketplaces Kidizen and Yerdle, which allow customers to swap or buy smaller-ticket items like used clothes and household goods. Deep Focus does market research on youth trends.

    Woman Clothes Shopping

    While their parents may have frequented thrift stores to save money, Millennials who have the income to buy new goods also see sharing and re-using as a way to promote environmental benefits such as reducing landfill waste.

    "Instead of paying for something and getting rid of it with no value when you are done – swap and resale gives Millennials the ability to extend the value," Gutfreund said. "It's efficient and it's green."

    Indeed, 59 percent of Crossroads shoppers said "being an environmentally friendly way to shop" was one of their favorite things about the store.

    "A lot of people can't afford the timeless brands new but they still appreciate the quality," said Erin Wallace, director of marketing for Crossroads Trading and its sister store Fillmore & 5th, which has opened six boutiques since 2012.

    Many of these new businesses are getting funding from traditional sources like individuals and private equity firms including Bain Capital Ventures but also from startup platforms such as Onevest.

    "Just about every major industry is likely to experience disruption (because of the sharing economy)," said Joe Atkinson of accounting and consulting firm PwC, whose April report that found that Millennials are among the most enthusiastic about sharing and account for almost 40 percent of those who have provided something.

    Flow of stuff

    Driven by demand and technology, membership at Kidizen is growing 40 percent to 50 percent a month. The company was founded by two mothers with retail and marketing experience who wanted to share the endless flow of "kidstuff" that arrived with parenthood.

    Members post photos, blog about their families, even send notes and lollipops in shipments to the next family.

    "It is a community where people have gotten to know each other," said Dori Graff, 39, a co-founder. "That makes it sticky. People keep coming back."

    Yerdle estimates that American closets and garages contain $100 billion in unused clothes, tools and other items, which it wants consumers to acquire from the site rather than buying new.

    "They shopping with things they don't need any more," said co-founder Andrew Ruben, 42, who previously led sustainability efforts at U.S. discount retailer Walmart. Yerdle now has more than 300,000 members, and is growing 30 percent month over month. He said the ultimate goal is to get people "to buy 25 percent fewer new items."

    It has no inventory costs because members post a photo of an item, and keep it until someone else wants it. Ruben said about 40 percent of the items go in their first day.

    The company has received $10 million in funding, including about $6 million from The Westly Group, which includes former eBay <ebay.o> executives. The Menlo Park, Calif., firm focuses on making money while solving social issues by investing in everything from Good Eggs, which delivers fresh food from local producers, to Greengate Power, a wind farm in Canada.

    "It's about how do you take all these assets and get them used over and over by other people," said Gary Dillabough, a Westly managing partner, who now sits on Yerdle's board. And that appeals to Millennials. "They want to use things that are already in the economy." shopping clothes store

    Worn wear

    Some established retailers have taken note. Patagonia, already popular with Millennials because of its quality and environmental reputation, has offered free repairs since the 1970s. More recently, it launched a program encouraging customers to trade in used clothing in good condition. They are resold at its Portland, Oregon store for about half the original price.

    "We found that it encourages new customers to come to our brand," said Nellie Cohen, 32, environmental marketing manager at Patagonia. "People come to see what is on the Worn Wear rack."

    Highland Capital Partners, which has more than $2 billion under management, has invested in a number of businesses including Rent the Runway and ThredUp, an online fashion resale shop, which focus on Millennials and the shared economy, said Dan Nova, a partner. He likes Rent the Runway's leadership and business model.

    Rent the Runway, founded in 2009, allows users to rent couture for special occasions. Not yet profitable, the company, which says it's raised $116 million and is worth $600 million, now has almost 5 million members, including celebrities and billionaires, and $1 billion in inventory. It describes its typical client as a well-educated 29-year-old female professional.

    "In the age of Facebook, people don't want to be photographed more than once or twice in the same dress," Nova said.

    (Edited by Michele Gershberg and John Pickering)

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    The LGBT rights movement has made unprecedented ground in recent years. 

    Using data from 1,400 brands, research firm YouGov BrandIndex analyzed which companies are best-perceived by LGBT Americans. 

    Here are the top 10 brands for 2015, according to YouGov BrandIndex:

    10. Panera Bread

    panera bread worker

    The bakery-chain supported the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force‘s radical “Creating Change” conference in Kansas City, Missouri in 2006, according to Americans for Truth

    9. PBS

    Filming for PBS

    PBS regularly features point of view documentaries exploring and celebrating LGBT culture. The company recently partnered with Logo, a channel focused on LGBT people, to air a new series devoted primarily to LGBT culture, according to Variety.

    8. Google

    Google Maps has expanded its public transit directions

    Google promotes and encourages diversity within the company. The company has a group called the "Gayglers" for their employees to celebrate LGBT rights, lead and organize events, and network within the Google community.

    7. Subway

    subway sandwich

    Subway is very open about their willingness to enrich cultural diversity within the workplace. According to its YouGov BrandIndex ranking, members of the LGBT community acknowledge that willingness.

    6. HBO

    Looking HBO

    HBO aired the comedy-drama series "Looking", which focused on a group of gay friends, for two seasons. Although it was recently cancelled, the show was a huge step for mainstream television accepting LGBT culture.

    5. Samsung

    Samsung foldable

    Samsung recently signed a petition calling for gay rights in Texas, according to the Texas Observer

    4. Netflix

    orange is the new black

    Netflix regularly features the latest LGBT films and television shows on its streaming site. 

    3. iPhone

    iPhone 3G iPhone OS 2.0

    Thanks to a variety of LGBT-focused apps, the iPhone is favored among this group, according to its ranking.

    2. Apple

    Tim Cook at GWU

    Apple's CEO Tim Cook publicly confirmed that he is gay in 2014, making him the first openly gay CEO on the Fortune 500 list. He actively supports different gay rights campaigns.


    Amazon Jeff Bezos

    The founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos pledged $2.5 million to support same-sex marriage in 2012, which made him the largest financial supporter of gay marriage rights in the country at the time. The Human Rights Campaign gave the company a score of 90 out of a possible 100 points.

    SEE ALSO: The top 50 brands for millennials

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