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The latest news on Branding from Business Insider

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    chuck e cheese

    NEW YORK (AP) — Chuck E. Cheese has been given the pink slip.

    The company that operates the chain of children's pizza restaurants is retiring the giant rodent's outdated image — and the man who voiced its character for nearly two decades. CEC Entertainment Inc. says it plans to launch a national ad campaign Thursday with a revamped image of Chuck E. Cheese as a hip, electric-guitar-playing rock star.

    It's just the latest makeover for the 35-year-old mascot, which started life as a New Jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar.

    CEC Entertainment, based in Irving, Texas, is struggling to revive sales at its more than 500 pizza restaurants, which offer games, prizes and a musical variety musical show.

    In May, CEC said revenue at its locations open at least a year fell 4.2 percent in the first quarter. The company also lowered its outlook for the year, citing factors such as higher prices for cheddar cheese and rent.

    According to, a Chuck E. Cheese fan site, the man who voiced the mascot in commercials since 1993 learned of his replacement only after coming across "Chuck's Hot New Single" online and realizing it was sung by someone else. The fan site this week published a Facebook post by Duncan Brannan, the mascot's former voice.

    Brannan could not be reached for comment. But in the post, he writes that part of his assignment when he first took on the role was to transform Chuck E. Cheese from "a joke-telling, sometime off-color New Jersey rat" to a lovable, mainstream mouse.

    He notes that there were various signs in recent months that suggested he was being pushed out, but that he was assured by the company that he was still the voice of Chuck E.

    The Facebook post was republished by The Dallas Observer this week.

    CEC Entertainment says that Brannan wasn't fired but that it simply "chose to utilize new voice talent."

    The new Chuck E. Cheese that launches this week will be voiced by Jaret Reddick, the lead singer for the pop-punk bank Bowling for Soup. The Chuck E. Cheese Facebook page now shows a silhouette of a cartoon mouse playing a guitar.

    The first Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre location opened in 1977 in San Jose, Calif. According to, the founders originally considered calling the restaurant "Rick Rat's Pizza" but a PR agency figured a rat would be a bad mascot for a pizza chain.

    The name Chuck E. Cheese was selected because it downplayed the mascot's species and forced people to smile when they said it, according to the site. The chain was founded by Nolan Bushnell, who also co-founded Atari and Pong.

    This story originally appeared at the Associated Press.

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    Anderson Cooper

    When Anderson Cooper decided to announce to the world that he's gay, he showed that he knew a thing or two about personal branding. 

    By writing an e-mail to The Dish's editor Andrew Sullivan — later published — Cooper had complete control over the medium. He didn't conduct an interview, where a curveball could've thrown him off, thereby ruling out the possibility of ad-libing or rambling.

    Furthermore, by picking Sullivan's domain to share the news, Cooper purposefully chose a space where it would be welcomed (Sullivan is an openly gay blogger). 

    Tom Peters writes in Fast Company:

    "When you're promoting brand You, everything you do — and everything you choose not to do — communicates the value and character of the brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you're sending about your brand." 

    Especially in the age of social media, a person's brand doesn't switch off when he or she leaves the office.  One's activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare are loud statements and can track a person's every move. Celebrities who have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers know that fans eagerly await each new post or tweet. While Cooper is right in saying that "who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something [they] have to discuss publicly," our interconnected, web-dependent world emphasizes that people are listening to everything one says.  

    The most valuable part of one's personal brand is its authenticity. "Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged," writes John Grant in The New Marketing Manifesto.  At the end of the day, integrity and genuineness always win, and Cooper's personal brand will likely reap benefits from those applauding his candor. 

    As Cooper said in his e-mail, "It is...part of my be relentlessly honest in everything I see, say and do." His "coming out" is consistent with this message. 

    Now see what you should do after you've been demoted >

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    Lance Armstrong

    Sparks flew again in cycling great Lance Armstrong's alleged doping saga when a Texas judge refused to "indulge" Armstrong's ego and tossed his lawsuit.

    It's a blow to Armstrong, but this saga effects more than just the legendary athlete.

    Down the line, it could also be bad news for the smaller brands Armstrong has endorsed over the years that heavily rely on his seal-of-approval for business.

    In addition to the household names that have partnerships with Armstrong (Nike, Michelob Ultra, et. al) the cyclist has long supported smaller brands — which in turn rely more heavily on him, and have more at stake in these doping debacles.

    Armstrong has thrown his support behind FRS Energy, a small California-based company that manufactures energy drinks and chews. After his endorsement sales exploded, and the company grew fivefold. In 2010, Armstrong put his Midas touch on Honey Stinger, a maker of honey-based power food products, at the pinnacle of the energy bar craze. At the time, the company only had eight employees; today, they employ approximately 50 people and continuously have new hires, according to Honey Stinger's marketing coordinator Colin Osborn.

    Armstrong's endorsements of these smaller brands fit nicely with his own image; as a cancer survivor and one who has "beat the odds," helping these underdogs gain traction in competitive markets makes sense from his own PR perspective.

    He once told CNBC, "I don't care if they say in business school never [endorse] anything less than IBM. I'm at a point in my life where I don't need anything professionally, financially or personally. I'd rather be with businesses who have products I believe in."

    The question for FRS Energy and Honey Stinger, which had no comment on the allegations, remains what to do while waiting for answers. Do they abandon the athlete who helped build their businesses? Or stand by his side as he vehemently denies any drug use?

    Now read more about the doping allegations Lance Armstrong is facing >

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    London Olympics

    Almost 300 "enforcement officers" are soon to hit the streets of the UK, working to ensure firms are not staging "ambush marketing" or illegally associating themselves with the Olympic Games, the Independent reports.

    The officers will wear purple caps and tops and have the right to enter shops and offices near Olympic sites and give fines of up to £20,000 ($31,000) for the mis-use of words such as "gold", "silver" and "bronze", "summer", "sponsors" and "London". Only 42 companies will be allowed to associate themselves with the Olympics.

    Understandably, these "brand police" are controversial, and the exact extent of their powers hasn't been tested yet – the front cover of a magazine that bears the Olympic rings may warrant a fine, for example. They may even be inside the Olympic grounds telling people what to wear, according to a Vanity Fair article earlier this year — with part of the Olympic contract giving organizers the right to ensure spectators do not “wear clothes or accessories with commercial mes­sages other than the manufacturers’ brand name.”

    Perhaps the craziest part of all of this is that this entire process has been enshrined in law (the "London Olympic Act 2006") by the British parliament, who were apparently keen to protect the £1.4 billion ($2.1 billion) of sponsorship money helping to fund the Olympic budget.

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    Barclays TwitPic Joke

    The relationship between businesses and customers is based on trust. How can anyone trust the banks and credit card companies after the revelations of the past couple of weeks? First we learned that the Libor rate was rigged.

    Then we’re told that credit card companies and many of the largest banks were guilty of price-fixing credit card transaction fees. And, then we find that JP Morgan Chase’s hedge fund losses, originally estimated at $2 billion, are now thought to approach $9 billion.

    These revelations come too soon after the financial crisis that has been estimated to cost US households $17 trillion in losses – roughly $100,000 per household.

    Everyone is still rattled from the financial meltdown

    As if a loss of $17 trillion of wealth is not enough, everyone is still rattled because the economy is shaky, Europe is having serious debt problems, and even China’s economy has started to slowdown as a result of a diminishing worldwide demand. The banks and credit card companies should understand that we need honesty, transparency and stability from them – not reports of rigging, price-fixing, or more risky behavior.

    Politicians make matters worse

    You might think that politicians might do something to help fix the situation. It seems as if too many of them are doing the opposite – calling for more de-regulation when experts believe that is what got us into this fix in the first place. The fox has been guarding the hen house, and the hens, most of the American pubic, are getting eaten alive. At least one of them could be chicken little’s mom.

    JP Morgan Chase was thought to be the most stable of all the big banks

    Prior to its reported loss of $2 million from one risky hedge trade, JP Morgan Chase was considered to be the most stable of the big banks. That’s what scares most people. If the most stable of the big banks is engaging in this risky behavior again, what are the others doing? Meanwhile, in two months, estimates of its loses from a hedge trade gone bad have grown to $7 billion, with some estimates going as high as $9 billion.

    Making customers pay again and again

    What have banks and credit card companies done to rectify their mistakes? One might expect a lowering of fees to compensate the American public for the pain it has endured from…

    • Bailing them out
    • Learning the Libor rate was rigged
    • Hearing that the banks and credit card companies have settled with retailers over price-fixing charges
    • Knowing that credit card transaction charges typically get passed on to customers
    • Discovering that the most stable US bank is engaging in risky, dangerous behavior

    Instead of lowering fees to help customers, what has happened? Fees have skyrocketed. Banks seem to be making customers pay more because of bank errors. According to David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times, early withdrawal fees at Bank of America are nearly 1700% higher than previous fees.

    Banks are businesses that need to make money

    While banks are businesses that need to make money, they should figure out how to do so without killing the geese that lay the golden eggs. If the fees are really necessary to stay afloat, the banks need to do a better job of marketing them as a transparent choice rather than as requirements that are often hidden or buried in legal language that most customers have difficulty understanding. So far these fees have only served to anger and frustrate customers — causing them to distrust the banks that levy them. If financial institutions really need to charge these fees to stay afloat, customers wonder how banks can afford to pay their executives huge bonuses in spite of poor bank performance. There is definitely a credibility gap, and banks need to take responsibility for creating it.

    If banks and credit card companies want to regain the public’s trust

    To regain the public trust (that erodes further with each newly reported irregularity), banks and credit card companies need to be more transparent, do a better job of communicating, stop lobbying for less regulation (that many say caused problems in the first place), and stop engaging in fraudulent and risking behavior. Is that too much to ask?

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    axe clean your balls commercial

    Sometimes campaigns can work too well and backfire on the company that produces them.

    The ad campaign for AXE body spray was so successful that teenage nerds everywhere began dousing themselves in it—hurting the brand's image and smelling up schools everywhere.

    Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

    However, the brand’s early success soon began to backfire. The problem was, the ads had worked too well in persuading the Insecure Novices and Enthusiastic Novices to buy the product. Geeks and dorks everywhere were now buying Axe by the caseload, and it was hurting the brand’s image. Eventually (in the United States, at least), to most high school and college-aged males, Axe had essentially become the brand for pathetic losers, and not surprisingly, sales took a huge hit.

    Then Axe faced another big problem. Insecure high school students had been so convincingly persuaded that Axe would make them sexually appealing that they began completely dousing themselves in it. After all, if Axe = sex, then more Axe = more sex, right? According to CBC News, “Some boys have been dousing themselves in Axe, apparently believing commercials that show a young man applying the deodorant and being immediately hit on by beautiful women.” It got to the point where the students were reeking so heavily of it that it was becoming a distraction at school. So much so that in Minnesota, school district officials attempted to ban it, claiming that “the man spray has been abused, and the aerosol stench is a hazard for students and faculty.” The principal of one Canadian school started actually confiscating bottles of Axe. “They spray it all over their heads and their necks,” one teacher said. “They don’t realize how powerful the odor is. . . . They have no idea how much it takes to be a walking stink bomb [which is] basically what they are.”

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    Related posts:

    Can AXE body spray really make women want to tear your clothes off?

    10 things science can teach us about being sexy as hell

    10 ways science explains why James Bond is so irresistible to women


    Read more posts on Barking Up The Wrong Tree »

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    London Olympics

    As the stakes have risen for companies wanting to associate with the Olympic Games and athletes—we’re talking billions of dollars over the four-year Olympic “quadrennium”—the competition among brands is as fierce as any action on the track or in the pool. 

    With the opening ceremonies in London fast approaching, which companies will perform the best?

    IEG, a consulting firm that has worked with Olympic sponsors and organizers for nearly three decades to strategically select, leverage and quantify the results of their partnerships, has identified ten brands that are taking smart approaches to their Olympic relationships and are poised to earn significant return on their investments.

    Some of these sponsorship medalists are at the top of the Olympic partner food chain—those spending about $100 million for four-year global sponsorship rights. Others are “local” sponsors of the London organizing committee, tapping the excitement for the Games in the host country. The remainder are supporters of the U.S. team or a single sport, plus a brand that many would consider an “ambush marketer.” 

    The thread connecting all ten is their ability to tap into the interest and excitement surrounding the Games and use them as a platform to uniquely connect their brands to their target audiences, even though those targets and the methods used to activate each partnership range from teens and social media (Coca-Cola) to C-level executives and sustainability projects (Deloitte).

    These ten companies exemplify a larger shift in the way leading brands think about and practice sponsorship. While others remain mistakenly focused on mass recognition as an Olympic sponsor, these companies—and their forward-thinking peers involved in other sports, entertainment and cause-related partnerships—have transformed their relationships into value creators that are driving measurable returns in the form of increased brand equity, perception, loyalty and sales.

    Each of these brands has embraced a new approach to sponsorship that includes four critical elements: 

    • They are using the Olympics to not just tell stories, but to nurture story-telling by others. They recognize that consumers are now collaborators, capable of instantly spreading a message throughout their social networks. Their association with the Games and athletes allows them to create stories that consumers want to share and serves as a catalyst for brand ambassadors to co-create their own stories.
    • They are moving from exploiting the assets obtained through their partnerships simply for their own needs to using them to serve others. They seek to create value for consumers, customers, business partners and communities, as well as themselves.
    • They recognize it is no longer enough to merely engage, but instead strive to become part of the community that surrounds an event like the Olympics. In turn, they help their consumers truly belong to those communities and reap the credit and reward for doing so.
    • They are innovating, not just activating. Not content to rely on what’s been done before, they are applying new technologies, thinking differently and executing creatively to rise above the white noise of other sponsoring brands that are using the same old tactics that no longer generate interest.

    Status: Worldwide Sponsor

    To make the Olympic experience relevant to teens, Coke commissioned producer Mark Ronson to create a song incorporating sounds made by athletes in competition. The company is making it “shareworthy” by letting fans remix the anthem and create music videos spread through social media. “Move to the Beat” is just one element of the company’s largest ever Olympic marketing effort.

    Procter & Gamble
    Status: Worldwide Sponsor

    In addition to finding a unique, memorable and popular Olympic hook through its “Thank You, Mom” campaign, P&G is addressing criticism of the “corporate takeover” of major events by sacrificing some hospitality benefits and giving away 90 percent of its Games tickets to consumers.

    Status: Worldwide Sponsor

    Aside from a lighting makeover of Tower Bridge and participation in other infrastructure projects, GE ensured a legacy from its London Games relationship through a donation of $8 million worth of medical equipment to a hospital in an underserved area of East London as part of its healthymagination initiative.

    Status: Official Partner, London 2012 Games; Official Sponsor, Netherlands Olympic Committee

    The Dutch brewer’s two deals give it the best of both worlds. It positions itself as a prestigious international brand to Olympic visitors through its designation as the official beer of the Games. And it stands out as the primary supporter of its home country’s team through its naming of the Heineken Holland House, the Netherlands committee’s home in London that features restaurants and a sports bar and has proven a popular hot spot for visitors in previous Olympic cities.


    Status: Official Partner, London 2012 Games

    The British telecom giant is the people’s sponsor through its BT London Live project. The company is installing huge viewing screens, cafes and interactive sports activities in Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Victoria Park to give those without tickets a memorable Olympic experience.

    British Airways
    Status: Official Partner, London 2012 Games

    BA is taking full advantage of the Olympic platform to introduce creative advertising executions—including spots that urge British consumers not to fly (but stay home and cheer for the home team)—and a wildly popular viral campaign that allows users to customize the TV spot by entering their address to create a video in which a BA plane drives through their neighborhood.


    Status: Official Sponsor, U.S. Olympic Committee

    Consumers won’t be aware of this partnership, but that’s okay as the consulting firm can share a relevant story with its B2B target, showcasing its role in spearheading the USOC’s Green Ring sustainability program. The company has already established relationships with Team USA cosponsors and Green Ring contributors Anheuser-Busch, BMW, BP, Dow, GE and McDonald’s.

    Ralph Lauren
    Status: Official Sponsor, U.S. Olympic Committee

    While Adidas, Nike and other athletic apparel brands battle it out with multiple team and athlete deals, Ralph Lauren has a clean shot at U.S. consumers with its opening, closing and medal ceremony outfits that will be a broadcast focal point. It doesn’t hurt that the company is bringing back the berets that have been especially popular in previous Olympic versions.

    Status: Official Sponsor, U.S. Olympic Committee; Official Sponsor, USA Gymnastics

    Although it is a Team USA partner, the company’s smartest move may be its new deal with USA Gymnastics to be the title sponsor of the post-Games Tour of Gymnastics Champions. While many Olympic sponsorships will struggle to remain relevant after mid-August, Kellogg’s gets a 40-stop, September-through-November showcase of some of the Games’ most popular athletes.


    Status: Official Sponsor, Jamaica Track & Field Team


    Most would brand Puma an ambusher, as it will unveil its Puma Yard “brand experience” in East London on the day of the Games’ Opening Ceremonies to “celebrate the global sporting events taking place this July and August in London,” according to its carefully worded press release. The company is a sponsor of Team Jamaica, but the heart of the matter is its association with Usain Bolt. Whose shoes other athletes are wearing pales in comparison to what’s on the feet of the World’s Fastest Man.

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    KIDS Procter Gamble

    The Olympics are right around the corner and the 60 or so brands that are official partners of this year's games are gearing up their ads, and that includes viral campaigns. Unruly Media put together a nice graphic to show who is doing the best, and it might come as a surprise to many.

    According to Unruly's data, the company doing the best is not a member of the usual sports sponsor suspects—Visa, Coca-Cola, British Airways, Adidas, BP, Samsung, or BMW—it's Procter & Gamble. And it's not just "the best"—it's killing the competition. Not only does Procter & Gamble have four of the top 13 most-shared videos, it has one video that has more than six times the shares of videos No.2 through No.99 combined.

    *Note: Rankings were based on the data from Unruly Media at 11:50 AM ET July 17, 2012.

    13. Raising an Olympian — Lolo Jones

    Brand: Procter & Gamble
    Views: 196,784
    Shares: 11,926

    12. London 2012 Olympic Games TVC

    Brand: Samsung
    Views: 120,828
    Shares: 13,419

    11. Move to the Beat 2012 Commercial — 2 Minutes

    Brand: Coca-Cola
    Views: 1,421,309
    Shares: 13,811

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    dan schawbel entrepreneur mag

    Today's advice comes from Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Brandingvia the Washington Post

    "First and foremost, entrepreneurs need to focus on creating a strong product and vision so that other people will have a genuine desire to be part of something bigger than them. They then need to maintain a strong Web identity so that both active and passive job seekers can find out more information about their company." 

    Companies and prospective employees have a symbiotic relationship with the Internet; both parties use the web to promote themselves and connect with one another. For businesses to fully take advantage of this medium, they must optimize their brands on social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can be especially useful when recruiting new talent. A quick and targeted search can lead you to a candidate with skills that match your company's needs. 

    Above all, remember that you are in control of marketing your company. Your accessibility and image will determine whether you attract or deter applicants. 

    "The object of your Web presence, as it concerns recruiting, is to tell your story and explain the type of talent you’re working for. By putting it all out there, you will eliminate those who aren’t a cultural fit and attract those who are." 

    Want your business advice featured in Instant MBA? Submit your tips to Be sure to include your name, your job title, and a photo of yourself in your email.

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    james bond sean connery

    The James Bond brand looks as good at 50 as any of the actors who portray the international spy.

    This year marks the golden anniversary of the first James Bond film, "Dr. No," which launched the world's second most lucractive movie franchise ever.

    The films have grossed more than $5 billion since 1962, and with the upcoming film "Skyfall" set to premiere November 2012, the Bond franchise could earn another $600 million at the box office ("Quantum of Solace" earned $586 million in 2008).

    But money alone can't measure the success of 007. The brand essentially created the secret agent film and TV genre, along with all of its parodies, spoofs and tributes. Without James Bond, the "Austin Powers" series probably wouldn't exist, either.

    Much of the brand's success stems from its iconic sets and props, cars and girls, villains and good looking actors who play the hero. James Bond remains a character that fans everywhere can still obsess over, even in a post-Cold War world when spies have become a somewhat arcane movie theme.

    To celebrate 50 years of the timeless secret agent films, an exhibit at The Barbican in London opened last week that features some of the most memorable Bond paraphernalia and reveals what sets 007 apart from other international spies. This inspires a look back at the brand and how it grew into the moneymaker it still is today.

    Ian Fleming creates the character James Bond for his short story series in 1953.

    Fleming's first Bond novel, "Casino Royale," hit the United Kingdom bookshelves in April 1953. Nearly 17,500 copies sold in the first two months, and the book received strong reviews in its first market. In a 1953 review, Hugh l'Anson Fausset of The Manchester Guardian said that the novel "was a first-rate thriller...with a breathtaking plot."

    But the U.S. wasn't ready for Bond just yet. "Casino Royale" arrived in the States in 1954 and sold only 4,000 copies for the entire year. Fleming even tried to come up with a new title—"The Double-O Agent" and "The Deadly Gamble" were two of his suggestions—to make the book more marketable to Americans, but they still didn't want to read it.

    The first attempt to turn "Casino Royale" into a TV show flops.

    Though the book sold poorly in the U.S., in 1954 CBS decided to adapt "Casino Royale" into a TV episode that was part of its series Climax Mystery Theater. The network tried to familiarize James Bond with audiences by calling him "Jimmy" and giving him an American accent. The episode debuted in October 1954 starring Barry Nelson as Bond.

    The episode aired without much notice (and was actually forgotten about until a film historian dug up a copy in 1981), but CBS approached Fleming again in 1960 and asked him to create 32 new episodes based on the James Bond character. Fleming agreed to do the project, but eventually lost interest and returned to producing more short stories and novels.

    The first James Bond movie, "Dr. No," debuts in 1962.

    American film producer Albert Broccoli was one of the few in Hollywood who saw potentinal creating movies based on James Bond—many studios saw the books as "too British" and sexualized. In 1961 he partnered with another producer, Harry Saltzman, and the two bought the rights to 007 novels from Ian Fleming.

    They created Eon Productions and got started on producing "Dr. No," the first film to feature what would become the world's favorite international spy.

    The film premiered October 5, 1962. Once again, James Bond was much more popular in the U.K., grossing $840,000 in just two weeks. But by the end of the year, "Dr. No" grossed $6 million internationally on a $1 million budget. Eon saw that they had franchise goldmine on their hands.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    ear woman listen

    Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of branding is what industry insiders like to call an "audio logo."

    Good brands tend to have distinctive music or sounds, which they put a lot of time and money into creating. Sure, people recognize the Nike swoosh logo, but how many people get fry-cravings once they hear McDonald's "Ba-da-ba-ba-ba"?

    Click here to take the quiz>

    Katz Media Group recently did a study that polled how well people recall sonic branding—"or using sound to communicate brand messaging via a well-established audio signature, music, or character voice."

    Some companies do a fantastic job, and others leave a lot to be desired.

    Test your skill to see if you can match the jingle to the brand.

    34 percent of listeners correctly identified this brand.

    That's the Duracell jingle.

    According to the study, the vivid image of the “copper top” battery is inspired by this sound.

    32 percent of listeners correctly identified this brand.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    chick fil a

    By now, many have heard about the controversy prompted by Chick-Fil-A President Don Cathy when he told religious publications that he and his family-owned restaurant is “guilty as charged” for financially supporting groups that advocate “the biblical definition of a family unit.”

    Rather than go away, the dust-up his comments created has mushroomed in the media and fueled all sorts of agendas – political, religious, social, you name it.

    And, it does not appear that it is going away any time soon.

    It's a business rather than a red-blue issue

    While it is disturbing that the most heated discussions tend to underscore the red-blue divide in the country over interpretation of such founding principles as free speech, separation of church and state, who has the right to marry whom, and “liberty and justice for all” (the last few words of the pledge of allegiance), it is the business issues that seem to be largely ignored in the discussion.

    After all, Chick-Fil-A is a business, and the business involves many more people than the CEO, Mr. Cathy. It involves an entire marketplace.

    Not a good idea to voice personal opinions on controversial topics

    Most of us learn pretty early in life that discussing religion and politics will too often cause quite a stir. While some think it is admirable for an executive to take a stand on these issues, it turns out that it is not good for business. In the case of a CEO running a company, he or she is the leader of the business.

    The leader has a responsibility to all those with whom the company does business including employees, franchisees, vendors, and customers. If the leader says something controversial, the others who may or may not share those beliefs often suffer. This is why it is not a good idea for leaders to take a stand on controversial issues that are unrelated to the business.

    Collateral damage

    Already franchise owners are going on the defensive because organized groups of protesters are advocating boycotts. Some have even defaced property. Because of the protests, employees (gay and straight) that work for Chick-Fil-A fear losing their jobs or are embarrassed about the attention the controversy is attracting.

    Customers who are offended by the CEO's comments are not likely to forgive and forget. Mayors and other politicians being pressured by their constituents are also blocking new franchises from being opened in their cities. If Mr. Cathy weren’t so “chatty” and acted more responsibly, would any of this happened? Not likely.

    Another family business run by a CEO with conservative values

    In a recent Business Week article, Dianne Brady talked about her interview with Bill Marriott, CEO of the family-run Marriott Hotel chain for 40 years before he recently stepped aside at the age of 80. She pointed out that Bill is a devout Mormon who does not believe in drinking alcoholic beverages or same sex marriage. Even so, he was always reluctant to impose his views on the company his father founded. Why? He did not want to adversely affect the company’s $12 billion in worldwide sales or demoralize its employees. She quotes him as saying, “We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else.” He also says, “Our church is very much opposed to alcohol and we’re probably one of the biggest sales engines of liquor in the United States. I don’t drink. We serve a lot of liquor.”

    Hats off to Bill for running such a successful business for 40 years and building the Marriott brand into the powerhouse it is today. What about the effect of Mr. Cathy’s stand on the Chick-Fil-A brand?

    Chick-Fil-A brand indicators

    Despite the fact that Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and other conservative activists rallied supporters to line up in droves during Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, the longer-term brand indicators are trending downward for Chick-Fil-A. According to the YouGov’s QSR (quick service restaurant) brand index that measures quality, impression, value, reputation, satisfaction and willingness to recommend, Chick Fil-A's QSR index was at 65 before Mr. Cathy’s comments. After his comments, this index fell to a low of 39 last week when the average for all competitors in Top National QSR sector was 43. A lot of former fans of Chick-Fil have said that they will not be going back. Marketers know that when you lose one of these customers, you also lose their word-of-mouth pyramid which averages 250 people.

    Bottom line

    The bottom line is that CEOs should be wary of making controversial personal statements when they are representing the business they run. Freedom of speech is not the issue because those that disagree with the controversial statements also have the same right.

    They will continue to exert their right of free speech too. The key issue is the effect the controversy will have on the Chick-Fil-A brand, and so far the objective key indicators have gone down. The brand represents the relationship between the company and its constituents. All executives have the responsibility to properly manage that relationship when they speak for the companies they run.

    If they feel it is important to make controversial personal statements, they should step outside their role as CEOs and make it clear that their statements are personal and do not represent the company. Mr. Cathy did not do that. As President Abraham Lincoln once said, a house divided cannot stand. Dividing the “Chick-Fil-A” house makes very little business sense. Unfortunately, the innocent victims of the collateral damage are the ones that are likely to pay the biggest price.

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    iphone, how to, girl, curious, focused, texting, cell phone,

    Depending on a brand’s geography, audience demographics and other behavior patterns, mobile access to the company website has either outstripped access through the PC web browser or will soon.

    While most consumer-facing brands understand that mobile access to the company is imperative to business, the decision of which ‘mobile’ strategy to adopt remains a complex decision.

    The options come down to this: creating a dedicated mobile website, making the existing website more mobile-friendly, developing a native mobile app, or a hybrid of any or all of the above.

    Many consider the Boston Globe to be the poster child of responsive design, but that’s in part because the user of the website is there to read the newspaper. Optimizing that experience is all about making it easier to read the text, so a responsive website design that changes depending on the screen is ideal.

    But not all websites serve the same purpose, and the first question to ask is what the mobile visitor wants to achieve and how can the experience be made easier and more engaging?  

    One clear scenario for a native app instead of a mobile-optimized website is banking, where customers frequently check their balance. The consumer is willing to invest in the download and the regular updates because they care about the security and access the information regularly. On the other hand, they won’t download an app for finding local branches, so having a mobile-optimized website also shapes the overall brand experience.

    This task-focused approach isn’t just about mobile web versus native applications. For example, if you take a look at the Lexus website on your PC web browser, the experience is loaded with big rich media, multiple navigation options and a car configurator. View the same website on your smartphone browser and you see lighter graphical content and a pared down site navigation. 

    This pared down navigation is focused on what the mobile visitor might be trying to do – they are probably out car shopping or wanting to find somewhere to have the car serviced, so ‘Find a Dealer’ is prominently featured. It is important to remember that the experience is not just about responding to the screen size (like the Boston Globe), but responding to the task the user is trying to complete.

    In addition to understanding the task, the visitor being on a mobile device gives us some context to that task. It is unlikely that a potential customer will want to do extensive product research, review detailed product information, terms and conditions (or as in the Lexus example; configure a new car). 

    Another example of task-focused mobile applications is the GoHow app, available at the Denver and Minneapolis airports. The app effectively uses the context of the visitor – they are travelling, they are in an airport, they are flying from a specific gate, etc. – to provide the user with a highly relevant mobile web experience focused on what they might be interested in doing, like finding something to eat.   

    Besides the task the visitor wants to perform and the context that mobile gives us, another consideration in your mobile strategy is whether the device capabilities will enhance the user experience. Will knowing where the visitor is, through a Smartphones GPS capability help you deliver more relevant content or would taking photos help with the task?

    Insurers like Nationwide, Progressive and Geico all have iPhone apps to take pictures and report claims from the scene of the accident. This neatly packages the task (reporting an accident) in the context of standing by the roadside and uses the device capabilities to enhance the experience.

    This is where the mobile customer experience can diverge from the PC web experience, where the mobile experience is more than just a subset of what the visitor can achieve on the website, but offers an extension to the overall customer experience.

    When deciding on your mobile customer experience strategy, it’s important to remember to do more than just reproduce your PC web experience on the small screen. Mobile is not just a device, it is a delivery channel and you must ensure you deliver what your mobile visitors want to receive. 

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    Marketers already know way to much about us thanks to online tracking, and now they have yet another powerful way to understand consumers.

    MIT startup Affectiva has created a webcam that codes facial expressions and a sensor that measures changes in body temperature. Both could be a huge way for brands to steamline the market research process.

    Liz Gannes over at All Things Digital reports that MIT professor Rosalind Picard and research scientist Rana el Kaliouby initially created the technology to "help children with autism understand facial expressions," but now marketing research companies like WWP Millard Brown and IPG Media Lab primarily use the products. Affectiva just raised $12 million in Series C funding from Kleiner Perkins and Horizon Ventures.

    Kaliouby told Gannes that “we have the largest repository of facial responses ever collected in the world,” which is part of its webcam product, the Affdex dashboard.

    According to the company site, the "dashboard provides overall emotion scores and real-time, scene-by-scene playback of facial data." It can also compare the difference in emotional and facial responses from men and women, and people of different races.

    Affectiva's other product is the Q Sensor, which measures skin conductance — or in other words, how body temperature and sweat glands change over time.

    NOW READ: The Incredible Story Of How Target Exposed A Teen Girl's Pregnancy With Sophisticated Market Research >

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    unevolved brandsLogo designer Graham Smith has put together a series called Unevolved Brands which use only colored circles to create iconic brand logos.

    "Logos and brands that have strong and unique colors, as well as strong positional aspects, are usually recognizable when Unevolved to just circles," writes Smith on Flickr.

    Mostly, each circle represents a single letter, or a single part of the logo. 

    We've put together a quiz with Smith's redone logos — how will you fare?

    The answer is on the following slide

    unevolved brands


    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Coke Santa

    One of the most important parts of a company's branding strategy is choosing the right logo. The process takes a lot of time, vision, talent ... and sometimes money.

    Stock Logos—a site that offers, well, stock logos—has compiled a list that reveals how much Coca-Cola, Nike, BP, and other companies spent creating their logos.

    But you'll be surprised which companies spent millions and which spent the cost of a movie ticket on their iconic images.

    Coca-Cola: $0

    Coke's famous logo was created by its founder's partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, in 1886. According to the soft drink's website, Robinson "suggested the name Coca‑Cola, thinking that ‘the two Cs would look well in advertising’. He wanted to create a unique logo to go with it, and experimented writing the company’s name in elaborate Spencerian script, a form of penmanship characteristic of the time."

    The best things in life are free.

    Google: $0

    Although Google's famous, rainbow logo has gone through minor alterations over the years, the original design was created in 1998 by Google co-founder Sergey Brin on the free graphics program called GIMP. Then Ruth Kedar, a mutual friend of Brin and Larry Page from Stanford, got to work on other logo prototypes.

    Twitter: $15

    Twitter bought rights to the now-famous Twitter bird for $15 on iStockphoto. Artist Simon Oxley, a British citizen living in Japan, might have only received $6 for his work—without a credit. However, the bird has undergone a recent makeover.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council isn't satisfied with how people view blueberries, reports Lori Zanteson at QSR Magazine.

    So, it's "modernizing" blueberries, and rebranding them in an effort to double blueberry consumption by 2020.

    They're being positioned as "little blue dynamos" to try to get Millennials interested in them. Blueberries are considered a "superfood," since they're full of antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, and they're supposed to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.

    The USHBC is also trying to expand blueberries out of the summer months.

    Here's what Guest Services chief executive chef Russell Baratz told QSR Magazine:

    “I see blueberries breaking out of the seasonal offerings. We will see them throughout the year, on the salad bar; in fresh-baked, low-fat bars; as beverages of all types, including energy drinks and smoothies; on made-to-order salads; in sauces on grilled chicken; [and] in salsas. With the continued education for consumers on the health benefits, consumption is sure to grow.”

    NOW SEE: 20 'Superfoods' That Everyone Went Bonkers Over >

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    Abercrombie & Fitch used to be the pinnacle of high-school coolness, with people lining up to spend $90 on a logo-emblazoned hoodie.

    Now they've fallen on hard times. The retailer's international expansion failed and they're shuttering stores back home. Profits were cut in HALF in the second quarter, the retailer announced today.

    Abercrombie's brand recognition is incredibly strong, and almost any American could describe the way the clothes look or how the stores smell.

    But their preppy signature is polarizing in a fashion cycle that embraces alternative looks. If punk, goth or grungy looks are cool, then Abercrombie decidely isn't. 

    And that can be dangerous in the fickle teen market.

    For instance, here's a main display from competitor American Eagle's site embracing the "geek chic" trend popularized by actress Zooey Deschanel:

    american eagle

    And here's a display on Abercrombie's site:

    abercrombie display

    The clothes look unchanged from this 2000 catalogue we saw for sale on eBay:


    In a world where motorcycle jackets, funky glasses and skull bracelets are popular, Abercrombie can't succeed. 

    John Jannuzzi at even wrote a "nostalgic" essay about when people used to wear Abercrombie & Fitch hoodies. At one point, Jannuzzi owned 20 of them:

    "Rarely a day went by, regardless of the heat, that I didn't wear one of those guys. My Christmas money, birthday money and allowance disappeared at such alarming rates, that my father intervened. Ultimately, I was told that I was being irresponsible, which is true, and as a result was forced to begrudgingly part ways with my beloved hoodie collection. I was allowed to keep a couple before being deported from Connecticut to college."

    LFO's 1999 song Summer Girls, which said "I like girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch," and helped launch the brand, is now considered vintage.

    And a quick Twitter search of Abercrombie reveals sentiments like this one:

    tweet abercrombie

    Is Abercrombie in desperate need of reinvention? Or should they just wait out the current fashion cycle?

    DON'T MISS: Here's Ron Johnson's Complete U-Turn On JCPenney's Ad Strategy >

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    Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan

    The most innovative brands in the world, like Apple, know how to create an air of exclusivity while also appealing to the masses.

    Striking this balance requires genius marketing, and few companies ever achieve this. But Equinox — the New York City-based gym known for its provocative advertisements — is one of them.

    The company, which also owns SoulCycle, Pure Yoga and other top-tier fitness chains, recently hired Sarah Robb O'Hagan, president of Gatorade and Global Sports Nutrition at PepsiCo, to guide its big plans for growth. We caught up with O'Hagan briefly over the phone, and she told us about her new gig, and what she's learned about creating an enduring brand.

    What's the first thing you're going to tackle?
    There's already so much momentum at Equinox, and there's an opportunity to move it further into the digital lifestyle space. So I'll spend time deeply learning and understanding the existing business. I need to get my head around the pace at which we are expanding. We're first moving into London and Toronto, and then expanding significantly around the world. We're starting to investigate other markets, with a 5-10 year plan.

    How will you develop a global lifestyle brand?
    By focusing on the brand's core belief. If you rewind 10, 20, 30 years, [brands] were so much more focused on what was said. Now we're focused on what we do, and how the brand behaves to appropriately fit into a consumer's lifestyle. We've got a very diverse member base that's incredibly loyal, and filled with cultural and thought leaders.

    At Virgin Atlantic, where I was the U.S. director of marketing, I learned that you have to create a unique customer experience that creates an air of exclusivity. You want to bring others into the lifestyle, and make it a deep and active experience.

    What was it like to work with Virigin Founder Richard Branson?
    He's phenomenal to work with. He's very focused, knows exactly what his business stands for, and knows how to surround himself with talented people. At Virgin — and Nike and Gatorade —  I learned how to manage a brand and deliver and meet the needs of a focused core customer. When you do things just because you can, that's when brands get into trouble. I've always had this philosophy that if you do something spectacular for a few people, instead of something average for many, these people will be so loyal to you that they will influence and spread word among the wider market. You've got to sweat the details and get it right for the core consumer. 

    That perfectly defines what Apple has done.
    Yes. We're offering a premium experience, focusing on urban markets. The macro trends on health and fitness are so strong right now. 

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    A longtime JCPenney customer, who wishes to have her name withheld, shared with us a letter she recently sent to JCPenney CEO and former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson about what he's doing to the struggling retailer.

    It's an interesting look at how consumers respond to changes in a company. Loyal customers like her have become emotionally invested in the retailer over time, which often happens with brands.

    This is usually a great thing for brands, but if you do something wrong — something that, it can backfire in a hurry.

    In the letter, she explains that her trust in the company has been "shatter[ed]."

    She feels betrayed.

    Here's her description of how she feels. From the letter:

    "Think of the way most women have a best friend. For many of us, our favorite department stores and brands are like best friends. We rely on them to offer what we need and provide support and interest in our lives. Large-scale drastic changes to stores and brands are akin to having a best friend become a completely different person and leave the friendship. This effect is compounded when a favorite retailer suddenly sends signals that you as a customer are no longer valued or wanted. Not only does it create discomfort, but it shatters trust and causes emotional pain.

    ... Your customers are not being treated “Fair and Square”. We are being treated as mindless idiots who can’t possibly understand your grand strategy. We see your new Personality and feel betrayed by it. We understand your Pricing, we just don’t like it. Your Promotion offends us and makes us feel like we no longer matter as customers. Your Products are becoming cheaply-made trends that don’t provide what we want and need. Your Presentation and Place create a clean-looking cold and shallow experience that drives shoppers away. And finally, your People are being replaced by cold uncaring technology or transient workers who could care less about the true customer experience. You’ve transformed the retail experience by destroying it.

    As a Platinum-level J.C. Penney cardholder and customer since 1995, I am shocked and upset by what you have done to my former favorite store."

    Do you work at JCPenney? We want to hear what you have to say. Shoot an email to

    NOW SEE: Here's What JCPenney Retail Workers Really Think Of CEO Ron Johnson >

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