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The latest news on Branding from Business Insider

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    pepsi new bottleThe price tag for some of the most iconic logos of all time vary drastically.

    While some of the most iconic brands in the world cost hundreds of millions of dollars to create, others got away with a check for just $15. Some spent nothing.

    A good logo is crucial for a company's branding strategy.

    While Pepsi recently redesigned its bottle, it decided to keep its logo, which it redesigned in 2008 for $1 million. (Signing Beyonce as a multi-year brand ambassador cost the company $50 million.

    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.

    Microsoft: $0

    The company used its own in-house design team to update its logo in 2012.

    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.

    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.

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    What’s in a name? Quite a lot if it is on a stadium or famous structure. Marketers know that putting a name on a venue (if there is no negative association with the place) can make billions of positive brand impressions in the minds of potential buyers.

    Why billions? Visitors to important venues are just one of the audiences that see the name. Others include passers-by, TV and Internet viewers that watch events live and in replays, News audiences on TV and in social media, those watching videos posted on YouTube, or people that share photos in person and online. That’s why the owners of stadiums and other famous structures are more than happy to sell the naming rights as a way to generate significant additional revenue.

    Brief history of naming rights

    Not too long ago, stadiums were typically named after the teams that occupied them (Yankee or Dodger Stadium) or individuals (Comiskey Park or RFK Stadium) or a geographical location (Anaheim Stadium). In the early days of professional sports, there are only a few examples of venue names that were associated with companies.

    In 1912, the owner of the stadium where the Boston Red Sox played called it Fenway Park after a real estate company he owned. Then in 1926 William Wrigley named the stadium where the Chicago Cubs played Wrigley Field. It is not clear whether he did this to promote the gum company he owned or if he just wanted to put the family name on the stadium (or both). In 1953, August Busch II wanted to rename Sportsman’s Park, where the St. Louis Cardinals played, Budweiser Stadium, but the league did not allow it. He was able to name it Busch Stadium after his family name. To capitalize on the stadium name, “Augie” quickly introduced a new brand of beer called Busch Bavarian Beer.

    When prices began to soar

    The steep escalation in prices for naming rights can be traced to 1999 when FedEx agree to pay the Washington Redskins$205 million over 27 years for the rights to name the stadium where the Redskins play. This was followed by several other large naming rights deals.

    • MetLife signed a $400 million deal over 25 years to name the Medowlands stadium where the New York Giants play.
    • Reliant Energy signed a $320 million 32-year deal to name the stadium where the Houston Texans play.
    • CitiGroup signed a $400 million deal to put its name on the stadium where the New York Mets play.

    Farmers Field in Los Angeles

    Fast-forwarding to today, to get some perspective on the kind of money that can now be generated from selling naming rights, one only needs to look at Farmer’s Field in Los Angeles. Even though AEG has not broken ground to build the stadium and there is no football team signed to play there, Farmers Insurance recently signed an agreement to pay the developer $700 million over 30 years for the naming rights. If you don’t already know, that is the most anyone has agreed to pay for the naming rights of any stadium (or any structure for that matter) to date.

    The Lerner family, which owns the Washington Nationals, is looking at the large sums that are being paid for stadium naming rights. They are hoping their team, which is in first place in the National League East as of this writing, will help them to push up the price they will get for the naming rights.

    Are the high prices worth the investment?

    It is hard to say if all naming deals are worth the investment because there are so many factors involved. A few of the more important ones are listed below.

    1. Successful teams and events. Are the teams and events that take place in the venue successful? Staples Center in Los Angeles has the good fortune of having the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings play in the same venue. The Lakers have won numerous titles, the Kings won the Stanley Cup last year, and the Clippers play exciting basketball with several star players and a rapidly improving team.
    2. Traffic. Does the city and location generate sufficient home-grown and visitor traffic? New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have large populations and are popular tourist destinations.
    3. Media Attention. Is the venue in a big media market that gets a lot of media coverage, locally, nationally and internationally? The big media markets tend to mirror locations with large populations and successful events.
    4. Image of the organizations. The corporate image of the organizations that buy and sell the naming rights will play an important part. When it was reported that CitiGroup was paying $400 million for naming rights for the Mets venue, many were “up in arms” since the corporation took $45 billion in bailout funds from the U.S. government, and it was disclosed that it paid $50 million for a private jet for its executives. Articles in the media have critically referred to it as TARP Field and Bailout Park.
    5. CPM. What would it cost to make a similar number of brand impressions using other media? Marketers typically look at a measure called CPM, which stands for the cost to reach 1,000 prospects, to compare media costs.

    When naming rights can turn into a nightmare

    While the CitiGroup naming rights situation is not ideal, it does not rise to the level of a naming rights disaster. That is reserved for Enron. Enron Field was home to the Houston Astros. Enron paid $100 million over 30 years for the naming rights. As soon as Enron’s misdeeds were disclosed and the firm filed for bankruptcy, the name became a burning wound and a public relations disaster. In an effort to correct the problem, and the Astros bought back the naming rights at a discounted price of $2.1 million and renamed it Astros Field. About a year later, they sold the naming rights to the Houston-based Minute Maid Division of Coca Cola for $170 million over 28 years.

    Brand impressions rule

    In spite of the negative cases, putting your a name on a building is usually a great idea for the brand since it would be difficult to make billions of brand impressions over a similar period of time using other media. As long as the corporation or division for which it is named has a good image and the venue does not have any serious negative associations, it is likely to be a good deal for both sides.

    While more than a few people don’t like to see stadiums that house their favorite teams labeled with an otherwise unaffiliated corporate name, it is a fact of life in 2013. When venues get money from corporations for naming rights, perhaps they can charge us less for admission. Whoops! I guess I was dreaming for a minute. All of a sudden, I have a craving for some orange juice.

    SEE ALSO: Why Brands Like Nike Stuck With Tiger Woods Through His Scandal

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    It’s difficult to watch someone whose work you previously admired for revolutionizing both the technology and department store retail industries fail so dramatically.

    Yet fail is what Ron Johnson did during his 17-month stint as CEO at JC Penney. A failure so epic that experts and critics now question whether the 111-year-old retail chain will survive at all.  

    Unlike what many experts are saying, I believe Johnson’s vision would have been successful if he had just avoided five critical but common branding mistakes. Sadly, he made brand culture mistakes he avoided earlier in his career at Apple and Target.

    Upon leaving Apple to take the helm at JC Penney, Johnson attempted to rebuild the retailer's brand by remaking everything from the pricing to the merchandise to the overall store layout and design. Johnson’s vision featured trendier brands and a more intimate boutique-like shopping experience to replace their standard rows of overcrowded clothing racks.

    Some of his innovations were radical, like ending discount sales in a department store known for its markdowns. Other changes were typical, like refreshing the company logo and advertising campaign. 

    Yet no matter how forward-thinking Johnson's changes were, they didn’t work because his approach to rebuilding a brand was backwards. To truly change an external brand, you must change the internal company culture that is so critical in delivering the brand experience. In other words, brand and culture go hand in hand.

     1. Brand and culture go hand in hand – You must align employee culture with business strategy.

    While I appreciate Johnson's courage to innovate and take big risks, any visionary is only as successful as his ability to recruit believers and inspire them to follow his grand plan. Johnson tried to make a conservative JC Penney corporate culture jump too far, too fast without energizing employees at all levels to truly believe before taking such a tremendous leap of faith. The C-suite vision, store look, merchandising mix, external advertising, internal promotions along with employee morale and training were never completely aligned to execute Johnson’s turn-around strategy. Unfortunately, he made this all too common mistake while failing to recognize it was key to his previous brand-building success.

     2. Customers crave a consistent brand experience – Think Geek Chic at Apple Store.

    At Apple, Johnson and Steve Jobs started from scratch and created a unique brand culture for their store and a consumer experience that aligned perfectly with the promise of Apple products and the passion of dedicated employees. Much like the user-friendly and intuitive interface enjoyed on Apple devices, the clean Apple Store design makes the space easy for consumers to navigate and find what they need. From the employee enthusiasm that welcomes you into a store to innovations like geek chic gadgetry, the first of its kind Genius Bar for technical support, and even a cash register-less checkout—all of these factors work in unison to deliver an on-brand consumer experience. 

    Few outside of Apple believed that Johnson's Apple Store strategy would make money, especially after Gateway stores had failed so dramatically. Yet under his leadership, Apple's retail operations have become the most profitable in the consumer electronics industry.

    3. Always build upon existing brand assets – Think Cheap Chic at Target. 

    Before joining Apple, Johnson worked at Target where culture and brand were already aligned. He played to the strengths of brand loyal consumers who intentionally mispronounced Target (Targét) to make the name sound more like an exclusive Parisian Boutique. Experts predicted Johnson would fail at selling high-end housewares and designer labeled goods at what was essentially a discount store, but shoppers still flock to the store for inexpensive, chic merchandise. 

    Johnson made good products from big names affordable for the masses. The difference? At Target, Johnson had an established culture, ready to embrace and willing to achieve his vision.

    4. You can’t transform a company without changing the culture – The hope was chic but the talk was cheap at JCP.

    Upon joining JC Penney, Johnson wanted to start yet another retail revolution. The problem is that he didn’t have an army of brand champions behind him. And, as a result, he fought a lonely battle.

    Johnson set out to eliminate sales and lower prices 40% across the board and eradicate coupons from the store’s promotional strategy. He banished the words "sale" and "clearance" in Penney’s new "fair and square" advertising campaign. The ads were colorful, reminiscent of Target, with a touch of Apple whimsy. Recall the TV commercial with a dog jumping through a hula-hoop held up by a cute little girl? The message: "No more jumping through hoops. No coupon clipping. No door busting. Just great prices from the start."

    Interesting strategy backed by a cute, visually stunning TV ad. The agency hedged its bet using two old standbys in the ad, a kid and a dog, but it still failed because it was what Johnson wanted, not his customers. He admitted publicly that JC Penney didn't have "several months to waste on testing" because the store needed quick results. Even if these were brand promises consumers wanted to hear, Johnson moved too fast to make them promises his employees could  embrace and deliver.

     5. To turn around a brand - Turn it inside out. 

    Johnson tried to spark a retail revolution without a battle ready army behind him. Like any army, his troops needed a cause to believe in, a code to follow, effective weapons and thorough training to have the best chance at victory. Johnson set out to win the war before his brand vision and army were battle tested. 

    Judging by the company's prolonged poor performance, I don’t imagine Johnson wasted time or spent enormous resources on internal brand communication testing and training either (few CEOs do). Yet, without informing, inspiring, recruiting and retaining the right front-line employees to deliver an improved consumer experience first, a brand rebuilding will always fail no matter how hard sexy ad campaigns try to reposition it. Since the days of the actual “Mad Men,” corporate brand executives have bought into the mythology that brands are built externally. Frankly, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    History shares countless examples of empty brand promises to learn from. Think Ford back in the day. Was it true that "Quality is Job 1" when their cars’ gas tanks exploded, brakes slipped and tires caused roll-overs? Ford’s leadership team spent too much time touting their new slogan instead of training and communicating the importance of its meaning to their employees.

    While Wall Street may not value strong corporate culture building because it takes time and money, I contend that there is less shareholder value without it. It’s time for C-suites and marketing departments to pay closer attention and commit more resources to internal branding. Super Bowl ads and other splashy external tactics are great at extending brand awareness, but they do not build or rebuild great brands. Employees do.  

    The ultimate lesson: don’t make the epic mistake Johnson has made after decades of near flawless branding excellence. Never overlook or under value your organizational brand culture. Invest in quality internal communications and inspired brand training for your teams. Your employees are the advocates who keep the brand promises you make and deliver the consumer experience a brand needs to thrive. Take advantage of what your competition forgets. Repeat after me: "culture and brand go hand in hand."

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    Want to know why things go viral? Why some products get more word of mouth? Let me tell you a secret. It’s not luck.

    Viral has been seen as marketing’s Holy Grail. From the Harlem Shake to the Rutgers basketball coach abusing his players, hardly a week goes by without some video or news story going viral. And word of mouth and virality have a huge impact on businesses, large and small. Blender company Blendtec’s sales shot up more than 700% a few years ago after videos of the CEO blending things like iPhones spread like wildfire. But what makes something go viral?  

    If you ask most social media “gurus,” they’ll tell you it’s all about getting lucky. Viral isn’t a strategy, it’s like buying a lottery ticket. Or they’ll talk about cats. Lots of people share videos of funny kitties, so cats must be the reason things go viral.

    All these theories are great, except, well, they’re not really backed up by anything.  No data.  No analytics. Just old fashioned guesses based on looking at a couple particularly noteworthy successes. It’s like the idea that the Earth was flat. It seemed right until someone actually looked deeper and showed, well … it wasn’t.

    Virality isn’t luck. It’s not magic. And it’s not random. There’s a science behind why people talk and share. A recipe. A formula, even.  

    My colleagues and I have analyzed thousands of news articles and hundreds of brands, all to understand why some make the most emailed list or get more word of mouth. Again and again we found the same principles at work. Six key drivers that shape what people talk about and share. Those six principles are the basis of my new book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, and the first principle is Social Currency.

    New York City is a tough place to open a bar. Competition is fierce and it’s hard to cut through the clutter. There are dozens of options around every corner. 

    But a few years ago Brian Shebairo launched a place that’s been packed since the day it opened. In fact, it’s one of the most sought after drink reservations in the city. Bookings are only available day-of and people frantically hit redial again and again hoping to snag a spot. Yet he’s never advertised the bar. Never spent a dollar on marketing. 

    How did Shebairo do it?  

    He hid his bar inside a hot dog restaurant.

    Walk into Crif Dogs in the East Village, and you’ll find the most amazing hot dog menu you’ve ever seen. A Tsunami dog with pineapple and green onions, a Chihuahua dog with avocado and sour cream, and a Good Morning dog wrapped in bacon, smothered with cheese, and topped with a fried egg.  

    In one corner off to the side is an old-school phone booth. One of those rectangular numbers that Clark Kent used to morph into Superman. Walk inside and you’ll see a rotary dial phone on the wall. Pick up the phone, and just for fun, dial the number 1. Someone will pick-up the other line and ask you if you have a reservation. And if you do, the back of the phone booth will open and you’ll be let into a secret bar called, of all things, Please Don’t Tell.

    Has Please Don’t Tell violated traditional “laws of marketing?” Sure. There is no sign on the street and no mention of it in the hot dog place. In fact, they’ve worked hard to make themselves a secret.  

    But there’s a funny thing about secrets. Think about the last time someone told you a secret.  Told you not to tell another soul. What’s the first thing you did with that information?

    You probably told someone else.

    And the reason is something called Social Currency. People talk about things that make them look good. Sharp and in-the-know. Smart and funny rather than behind the times. If people go to a place like Please Don’t Tell, or even if they just hear about it, they tell others because it gives them status.  

    Social Currency isn’t just about hidden bars. It’s why people brag about their thousands of Twitter followers or their kids’ SAT scores. Why golfers boast about their handicaps and frequent fliers tell others when they get upgraded. McDonald’s used social currency to help the McRib sandwich take-off and RueLaLa used it to turn a struggling website into a $500M business.  

    Want to generate word of mouth? Get people talking about you? One way is to give them a way to look good. Make people feel special, or like insiders, and they’ll tell others—and spread word of mouth about you along the way.

    Along with five other key principles (or STEPPS: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories) Social Currency is a sure fire way to generate buzz. Will following these six principles guarantee that 10 million people spread your message? No. But it will increase the number of people who pass it on. Encourage people to tell two friends instead of just one. It’s like a batting average in baseball. No one hits a home run every time, but by understanding the science of hitting you can boost your average.   

    The next time someone tells you that going viral is about luck, politely tell them that there is a better way. Science. Word of mouth isn’t random and it’s not magic. By understanding why people talk and share, we can craft contagious content. And use it to get our own products and ideas to catch on.

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    This week France provided a very important branding lesson: full disclosure is not the best way to build a strong brand.

    After a rather embarrassing political scandal, France’s top political leaders released financial statements detailing all their assets. The reports are remarkable. You can read them here.

    Stephane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture, for example, reports that he has two houses, one with a value of 150,000 € and another with a value of 250,000 €. He also has a life insurance policy with a value of 29,000 €, a BMW motorcycle he bought in 2001 worth 300 € and a Renault Clio that he purchased in 1994 with no value at all.

    Is this a best practice? Should we all follow suit and publish our financial information?


    This information damages everyone’s brand. It certainly won’t enhance the stature of government leaders in France. If you have a lot of money you seem out of touch. Why should some fat cat be setting policy for the country?

    If you don’t have much money you look underpaid and unsuccessful. Why should someone who hasn’t managed their finances well be setting policy for the country?

    You can’t win. Disclosing this information doesn’t enhance anyone’ brand.

    Some things are better left unsaid.

    For individuals, this is certainly true. You don’t want to reveal all your financial information. You also don’t want to air all your views on social policy or your siblings. Shedding all your clothes in public is not a good idea, either.

    This is also true for brands; some information is best kept private. Should you publish all of your customer complaints? No. Should you release your latest competitive analysis? No. Should you tell people every time you change a product formulation to reduce costs? No. Must you announce every change to your pricing strategy? No.

    Marketers have to walk a fine line. It is important to be open with customers; people like to feel connected with a brand. But this should only go so far.

    As the French showed this week, more transparency is not always better.

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    Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo has become the envy of retailers worldwide.

    The company has exploded in  the past decade, becoming Asia's biggest clothing retailer. And Uniqlo's leaders have ambitious goals to make the brand the leader in retail worldwide, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    Uniqlo, which focuses on mass-producing affordable basics in dozens of colors, got its start in the Japanese suburbs. Less than 20 years later, it's laid its stake along swanky shopping streets in major global cities.

    What's the story behind the company's success?

    The first Uniqlo opened its doors in Hiroshima, Japan in 1984.

    The company is a division of Japanese retail holding company Fast Retailing, with Tadashi Yanai at the helm.

    The company originally called itself "Unique Clothing Warehouse." By joining those words together, Uniqlo was born.

    The name is pronounced "YOU-nee-klo" in English. 

    In the early 1990s, the Japanese economy hit a major slump. And Uniqlo's cheap clothes got popular fast.

    The Japanese economic downturn is often called "The Great Recession" and lasted for an entire decade. It was bad news for the country as a whole, but Uniqlo reaped major benefits by catering to citizens who were trying to cut back on spending.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    apple logo redesignMost logo changes by big brands are subtle.

    Some, however, are so drastic that the new marques look like they have been created for completely different companies.

    Think Coca-Cola — since the 1880s, its logo design has barely evolved. The Coca-Cola logo is ubiquitous and consistent, and it pays off: Coca-Cola is widely regarded as the most recognized brand worldwide.

    But logo recognition is clearly not everyone's top priority. It's a leap of faith to conduct a major logo design overhaul, but many big brands are still willing to take the risk, evolving to the point that their new logos look nothing like the originals. Apple, for instance, has evolved through a huge range of different looks.

    We've compiled some of the most drastic logo redesigns in brand history. Double-takes guaranteed.

    When it came to design, the latter half of the 20th century marked a time of slimming down and simplification. IBM's logo evolution reflects this trend — its current design dates back to 1972.

    Pepsi represents the path that many brands have taken — phasing out lettering entirely until all that remains in a logo is the symbol itself. Pepsi's first logo is illustrative of the design emphasis of the late 1800s — the more intricate a design, the better. Things certainly have changed.

    Adolf Hitler is often credited for designing an early version of the iconic VW Beetle. The pre-WWII logo for the car manufacturer bears Hitler's influence as well, a Nazi-style swastika clearly outlining the perimeter. VW dropped the swastika quickly for a cleaner design that eventually became today's button-like logo.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    We all have someone in our lives who talks a lot without really saying anything.

    It may be your poodle-obsessed mother-in-law, the neighbor who loves to yap endlessly about fertilizer, or the co-worker who drops by your desk several times a day just to say “hi.”

    An attack by one of these Chatty Cathys can leave you distracted, exhausted, and annoyed.

    Unfortunately, customers can view companies in exactly the same light. Many businesses have a lot to say to their customers, but they don’t take the time to consider whether the message they’re relaying is one their clients need to hear. In a world of nonstop marketing ploys, what your customers really want is some insight.

    Making Assumptions

    There’s a big difference between marketing to your customer and educating him. A lot of companies believe they’re educating their consumers because they’re elaborating upon the features, advantages, and benefits of their products. What’s relevant to the consumer, however, isn’t what the company values about its own product, but what the product can do to solve a problem for him. By using its marketing to do a lot of navel-gazing, a business shortchanges its customers by only providing them with the information it deems important.

    Customers, of course, see through this. When businesses blindly assume that their prospects already have the information they need and are simply making a choice between brands, they shift from a learning-focused mindset to a competitive one. The smart consumer will opt to buy from the company that’s educated him on the issue and presented him with multiple solutions. That company’s selflessness has built trust — and its ability to teach him has bought his loyalty in the future.

    The Silent Giant Killer

    What a brand doesn’t say is just as important as what it does say. The business graveyard is littered with companies that failed because they forgot that their prospects had to believe they needed the product before they’d ever buy it. They simply forgot to educate their customers.

    Even big business has hurt itself with its silence. Google Plus was launched as part of Google’s effort to enter the social realm. The behemoth search engine hoped to loosen Facebook’s vice grip on social media, but it went about it the wrong way. Vic Gundotra’s post announcing Google Plus implied that Google was inventing the concept of social sharing, acting as if Facebook didn’t even exist. This was confusing to consumers — did Google think they hadn’t heard of Facebook? Worse, it failed to address the real selling point: A company can’t demonstrate how its product will solve customers’ problems more easily if it’s implying that an already-established solution doesn’t exist. As Henry Blodgetsaid, the language Google used was “bizarrely out of touch.”

    TiVo, another technological juggernaut, failed to reach its full sales potential by forgetting to teach its own industry customers. TiVo was a godsend to TV viewers who wanted to skip ahead and avoid watching commercials. That same functionality, however, “scared TV executives into thinking the TV commercial was an endangered species,” as Kevin Kelleher noted. The company was left to fight a court battle against providers whose technology did not allow viewers to fast-forward.

    Leading by Teaching

    Other companies have made their mark by teaching their target audience what it needed to know. Apple’s iPad, for example, was immediately successful upon its release. It wasn’t because the market had been clamoring for tablet technology — instead, Apple triumphed because it had invested a decade into educating its customer base. By introducing its features and ideas one by one, the company enabled its customers to not only understand the iPad, but to see a need for it.

    I recently visited a Nike store to try on a pair of running shoes. The sales staff wouldn’t let me buy a pair of shoes unless I got on a treadmill. They taped my running style and then explained what type of shoe would be best for me, based on my running tendencies. They played the video back for me, explaining how my foot fell on the treadmill and how that one movement translated to a certain kind of support. I was hooked into buying shoes — and coming back — because they’d taken the time to educate me.

    My own industry, bedding, has made some mistakes in its attempts to educate the masses. While we knew adjustable beds enhanced users’ comfort at home, our customers automatically considered adjustable beds to be products for hospitals and old people. The remote control intimidated consumers, and our salespeople hadn’t received proper training from our manufacturers; they themselves couldn’t confidently explain what the customer needed to know. Once we shifted gears and began training the retail sales associates to train their customers, sales increased.

    We realized that we weren’t talking to consumers about anything but the beds themselves. This was irrelevant to bed buyers. What they wanted to know was how a mattress would impact their sleep, sex lives, and overall quality of life. Once we pinpointed our erroneous assumption, we created a Sleep Geek community (and a corresponding Geek University) to educate our sales teams on the elements that mattered most to consumers. This way, they could provide solutions to customers’ problems.

    When you’re marketing to people, you’re trying to sell them on your products. When you’re educating people, you’re helping them understand the benefit of a solution. Consumers can find information anywhere these days, but when it comes from you, the benefit is twofold: you establish a more knowledgeable customer base while you develop loyalty.

    Take the time to consider whether the message you’re communicating is one your customers want to hear. When you talk, you really want to say something.

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    JetBlue is getting lambasted today for this Jason Collins-related tweet:


    Critics are saying that JetBlue is using a milestone for the gay rights movement as a marketing opportunity.

    JetBlue has supported the gay community for a while now. And  brands that support gay rights are becoming more vocal (and gaining publicity for it) generally.

    But the company's apparent lack of connection with Jason Collins is causing even gay rights advocates to think twice.

    That's the irony: being gay is now so non-controversial among consumers that brands risk being seen as jumping on the gay bandwagon (even if they've been on it for a while now).

    "Torn between applauding this sentiment and seeing it as a cheap marketing ploy,"said one Facebook commenter.

    "I guess I just don't understand what JetBlue has to do with this story,"wrote another.

    Absolut Vodka also lauded Collins' decision to come out publicly, but avoided tying its unrelated brand so closely to the NBA star. Absolut, again, has long spent money in gay media and staged gay friendly promo events.

    Negative impressions are relatively high

    Among consumers, a majority in social media appear to be on Collins' side.The Twitter sentiment analysis site Tweetfeel shows that about only about one third of tweets regarding Collins are negative. Everyone else supports him.

    tweetfeel jason collins

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    supermarket, grocery store, shopping

    I went to the supermarket the other day. I walked up and down the aisles slowly. I noticed something. They have a lot of stuff.

    They have fresh stuff and canned stuff. They have packaged stuff and bottled stuff. They have new stuff and old stuff and expensive stuff and cheap stuff. They have stuff you eat and stuff you wear and stuff you peel and stuff you stuff.

    They have Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Crest toothpaste. They have Minute Maid orange juice and Tide detergent. They have Oreo cookies and Neutrogena soap. They have Skippy peanut butter and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. They have Yoplait yogurt and Hormel bacon. They have Pampers and Glad wrap. They have Dole pineapples and Coors beer.

    But there’s one thing they don’t have.

    They don’t have any brands that were built by online advertising. None. I couldn’t find one.

    No cream cheese or toothpaste. No orange juice or detergent. No cookies or soap. No peanut butter or ice cream or bacon or diapers or plastic wrap or pineapples or beer.

    I couldn’t find any brands that were built by banner advertising. Or on Facebook. Or blogs. Or podcasts. Or QR codes. Or even Google, for that matter. No mayonnaise that was successfully launched on Pinterest. No breakfast cereal that owes its life to Instagram. No yogurt from YouTube or toothpaste from Twitter.

    How can we explain this? Online advertising has been around for over 15 years. When TV was 15 years old as a major medium it had built hundreds of brands in dozens of categories. Or maybe it was thousands of brands in hundreds of categories.

    It’s not as if brands stopped appearing 15 years ago. There are now about 40,000 items in a typical supermarket, almost triple what there were in the early 90’s. In the year 2000 alone over 9,000 new food items were introduced. We have whole new industries. We’ve had the most explosive growth in consumer electronics and technology products the world has ever seen. But where are the major mainstream non-web-native brands that have been built by online advertising?

    Or is that not what online advertising is about? Is building brands too daunting a task for online advertising?

    Maybe banner ads and social media and “content” are just effective enough to get a customer to the website of an already established brand. Maybe they’re a nice way to keep in touch with people who already know you and like you.

    But maybe the heavy lifting of building a brand is too much to ask of online advertising.

    If not, where are they? Where are the web-built Crests and the Oreos? The Doles and the Tides and the Coors? The Pampers and the Skippys? Where is the next Heinz that Mr. Buffett is going to pay $23 billion for? I did a search and I couldn’t find them in the supermarket.

    Come to think of it, I skipped aisle 9. Maybe that’s where they are.

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    jc penney

    JCPenney is attempting to recover from the damaging strategies it took on during ex-CEO Ron Johnson's tenure. Its logo is one of its main concerns, with branding surveys showing JCP logo awareness dropped as much as 28 percentage points from 2010 and 2012.

    In JCPenney's recent apology ad, it begged customers to "come back" to the retailer. It also featured a redesigned logo, one that used the company's whole name rather than the hip 'jcp' design taken on last year.

    According to E-Poll Market Research, a trend-oriented market researcher, every redesign of the JCPenney logo since 2010 has hurt consumer awareness of the brand:

    E Score Brand JCPenney logo recognition

    In April of 2010, JCPenney's classic logo was recognizable by 84% of those surveyed. Following a 2011 redesign, awareness dropped to 76%.

    And following the radical 2012 redesign, awareness dropped to a measly 56%.

    The shift back to the old logo in the apology ad is another signal that JCPenney is looking for a major upheaval of its brand. Ron Johnson-era policies have all but brought the brand to its knees—and top-level execs and market researchers alike agree that new strategies are needed all around.

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    tostitos logo

    Whether you realize it or not, a brand's logo speaks to its viewer on many levels.

    There's the initial recognizability factor—if a logo is too complex or unrelated to its brand, it risks being glanced over without communicating its brand's message. For that reason, modern logos tend to err on the side of boldness and simplicity.

    But a closer look at many logos reveals more subtle marketing tactics.

    You may have noticed the subliminal features of some of these designs in the past. But have you looked hard enough to see them all?

    FedEx — The FedEx logo hides an arrow in its negative space. Even a glance subliminally inspires thoughts of efficiency and forward motion.

    Vaio — This cool logo for Sony's computers represents the brand's integration of analog and digital technology. The 'VA' is designed as an analog waveform, the 'IO' is binary code.

    Baskin Robbins — This logo, introduced in 2005, cleverly uses the company's initials to advertise its number of ice cream flavors (31).

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    shutterstock mother's day

    We all have Moms, we (at least most of us) love them, and Mother’s Day is a great way to recognize and appreciate them for all the great things they do.

    But, if you are a brand and you spend time and energy developing your business through social media, creating Mother’s Day promotions could be a trap.

    Many brands feel pressured by their peers (other brands) to build promotions around many major holidays. They pour time and resources into random social marketing campaigns for holidays that may or may not make logical sense for their product or their audiences to make sure they aren’t “missing out on a hot opportunity.” Messaging like this only dilutes the impact you’ve worked hard to create and confuses your audience, but this doesn’t mean you should reach out to our social communities.

    Here are some tips for staying ahead of the curve on social media this Mother’s Day.

    1. Don’t make a sappy picture with a puppy or a heart on it.

    Think outside the adorable animal picture. Every other brand is going to create a sappy picture of a puppy or a heart that says “If you love your mom, you’ll share this photo!” This is a blatant call for universal, spray-and-pray style sharing motivated by a sense of guilt that it’s Mother’s Day and you forgot to buy her flowers—instead of providing a meaningful experience or something with inherent significance.

    This type of content provides no real value to the people you’re trying to reach, and in fact, completely kills your ability to target and market to relevant audience members. This type of content also serves you no real business purpose. Even though a post like this may garner a whole bunch of retweets or eleventy billion shares, that reach is fleeting and not impactful because the content is lacking in.. well.. content, and any discernible brand messaging.

    Create a connection based on value with your social communities. Do a little research, find out what type of people your audience members are, how to talk to them effectively, and make a smart assumption about what kind of CTA (call to action) would make sense for them in regard to their mothers. Create a piece of content that will inspire an experience between Mom and child (based on something your brand supports) this year.

    2. Own up to who you are.

    General well-wishing is awesome, but if you can’t make business sense out of your efforts on Mother’s day.. then why the heck are you doing it? Not to be a cold, emotionless reptile, but make certain that a Mother’s day promotion could logically drive sales or brand equity for you before spending a bunch of time and resources on a campaign.

    Ex: If you are a medical practice and run a promotion that says “Hey! A mammogram is a GREAT gift for Mother’s day!,” most of your audience will think you are clueless or just an idiot, and the Mom’s of the people who will inevitably fall for your ploy will hate you—the opposite of what you are trying to foster online. A better promotion for your medical practice would be “Moms are people too and we should make sure they stay healthy. Dark chocolate contains tons of antioxidants to keep her body well and her heart happy this Mother’s day.”

    No, it isn’t a direct sale or direct lead generation, but people will remember you for being awesome when they inevitably do need that mammogram.

    3. Don’t fall into the “MUST SOCIALLY PROMOTE EVERY MAJOR HOLIDAY” trap.

    Don’t just slap a discount on a product, say “we are having a random sale on this completely unrelated product because it’s Mother’s Day!,” send it to Twitter, and call it a social marketing campaign. In other words, don’t just phone it in. Your social communities are fragile and will drop your brand super quickly if you consistently provide lame content just to provide content.

    It’s okay to not build promotions for every holiday in the world. Save your resources and bandwidth for special promotions for the correct holidays for your brand, even if they aren’t major ones, and make them count! For instance, if your pet grooming company wants to run a social promotion, doing so on “National Hairball Awareness Day” (April 26) is much more attention-grabbing and relevant to the interests of your audience (those with pets). A promotion like this will cut through the noise and grab attention on days which Twitter and Facebook aren’t bursting with the same repetitive content.

    If it doesn’t make sense for your brand, don’t pour resources into a Mother’s Day campaign. You can acknowledge all the Mom’s out there with a tweet or similar, but don’t try to capitalize on something that is going to fall flat just to “promote.”

    Think critically about what holidays and events make the most sense for your brand to create social media marketing campaigns around. Then make them awesome. A great social media campaign can have a huge impact on your bottom line and will build your brand reputation as someone with great, relevant content every day of the year, not just on major holidays.

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    Everyone thinks you have to move to the big music cities. But Mihkel Raud in Estonia sold thousands of albums, 100% independent, without leaving Estonia. Go to to see how he created an album so unique that word-of-mouth sold thousands, with hardly any promotion.

    Everyone says you need to make your music appeal to the masses. But Regina Spektor proved that emphasizing your quirks gets you further. Listen to her early albums from 2001 and 2002. She was being more mainstream fit-the-mold piano vocal. But the weirder she got with Soviet Kitsch, the more remarkable and noteworthy she became, and that’s when her career really took off.

    Everyone is worried about piracy, copyright, and trademark. But Jonathan Coulton writes a song a day, gives most away, and is one of the most successful independent artists today. By making more and more music, and letting it flow, his music has gotten into unusual places like webcomics, audiobooks, comedy shows, and others’ YouTube videos. He disclosed that he makes about $500,000 a year by licensing, touring, donations, and people choosing to buy his music from his site, even though they could get it for free.

    Because the music business is mostly perception, and minds are irrational, you can really have some fun with the counter-intuitive pop-psychology of it.

    A great way to win fans is to target a sharp niche - to proudly exclude 99% of the public. So the way to win fans is to exclude almost everyone.

    A great way to get funding is to act as if you’ll never get funding - to make a plan that doesn’t need it. So the way to get funding is to ignore funding.

    A great way to have a serious career in music is to take nothing seriously. Do the opposite of other musicians. Make up your own game.

    Gurus will say what you can’t do or must do. They mean well, but they’re wrong.

    For every rule they tell you, there’s an exception. They are just telling you their specific past, not your specific future.

    There are no rules in this game. You change them as you go.

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    abercrombie and fitch adAbercrombie & Fitch (A&F) has been in the news a lot lately.

    A seven-year old quote attributed to A&F CEO Michael Jeffries has sparked a media conflagration thanks to a YouTube video created by recent USC graduate Greg Karper that has generated over four million page views.

    Most in the media have lined up against Jeffries’ quote because it disparages young people whose body style does not fit the CEO’s definition of what is cool. On other hand, some have defended A&F’s right to take a strong “politically incorrect” position.

    Rather than take sides, I believe it is more useful to analyze the marketing issues that are at the heart of this controversy.

    Before doing that, it is first necessary to examine the elements that have fueled the debate – Mr. Jeffries quote and Greg Karper’s video.

    Quotefrom Jeffries’ interview in Salon magazine

    In his 2006 Salon interview, 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.”

    Greg Karper video

    In his video, Greg Karper passes out A&F clothing to homeless people living on skid row in Los Angeles. His stated motivation is two-fold …

    1. Provide clothing to the homeless, which he purchased at thrift stores so as not to give the money to A&F.
    2. Reposition the A&F brand as “the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel.

    Like it or not, Jeffries has the right general idea about positioning

    Even if you disagree with the sentiment behind Jeffries quote, he is correct that it is better for a brand to take a clear position than to try to be all things to all people.

    Good positioning requires brands to clearly delineate their target audience and to create brand images that provide unique and important benefits to that audience.

    In a Forbes post, Roger Dooley even says that Jeffries is “Crazy Like a Fox.”

    In her Mad Blog, Barbara Lippert reluctantly says, “it is a perverse win… for Jeffries.”

    Where A&F gets it wrong

    Even though Jeffries is right about the nature of positioning, his branding implementation misses the mark. A&F is an American lifestyle brand that supposedly targets 18 to 22 year olds that are cool, and its Hollister brand is positioned toward 14 to 18 year olds.

    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 in the US and parts of Europe.

    Otherwise, Mr. Jeffries quote is making him look foolish – not for the reasons given by most in the media, but because his thinking (as to what is cool) appears to be outdated.

    Some confirmation that A&F is out of touch

    My marketing class did a project for A&F two years ago, and my 171 “super cool” students (I am naturally biased) told the Company in 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 Asian countries where just about everything associated with the American lifestyle is considered cool, trendy, and desirable.

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

    Even though he had the right idea, some think Greg Karper is wrong too

    Ironically, even though I am sure that Greg Karper had the best of intentions in creating his video to help the homeless and hijack the A&F brand, some are not entirely supportive of his video or position.

    In a blog comment to a Los Angeles Times post with the headline Man hands out Abercrombie clothes on skid row in bid to shame brand,

    Sonsern Lin says, “Many believe that the whole idea of #fitchthehomeless is degrading because the homeless people are being used to contrast the idea of cool.The attempt to #fitchthehomeless looks down upon homeless people as ‘unworthy,’ or lesser human beings.

    And it’s not clear how or whether, from the homeless perspective, this stunt is actually helping anything.”

    Others attribute his motives to generating publicity for himself, which is a danger when anyone goes public with their good deeds. While I do not share those negative views, I know that quite often “no good deed goes unpunished.”

    Taking a stand on any issue tends to draw those with an opposite point of view into the discussion.

    So what is the main marketing issue that is negatively impacting Abercrombie & Fitch?

    While all the recent media hoopla is about the quote from seven years ago, the real problem for A&F is not any fallout from the quote.

    It is that the Company has lost its audience and brand image in the US. It is going to take a lot more than half-naked models, loud music, and stores wreaking of cologne to get the Millennials 14 to 22 in the US to think the brand is cool again.

    A&F needs to do some major brand research to find out what its target audience thinks of the brand and what it needs to do to re-tool its brand image. The real problem is the cool kids are different then they were seven years ago, and what’s cool has changed too.

    Unfortunately for A&F, a good number of the “cool” kids don’t think A&F is cool anymore.

    SEE ALSO: Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Won't Apologize For Saying He Only Wants Cool Thin People To Wear His Clothes

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    A.G. Lafley is back.

    Last week P&G’s board appointed Lafley CEO after Bob McDonald stepped down. This isn’t a new assignment for Lafley; he was CEO from 2000 to 2009.

    A look at P&G’s May, 2013 Brand Saver coupon booklet suggests he has some work to do. A few questions to consider:

    -Is investing in the P&G brand really a good idea?

    P&G is spending a lot of money and time promoting its corporate brand. The May Brand Saver includes a huge ad for P&G. The headline: “Thank you, mom, for seeing the potential in every child.” The ad goes on to proclaim that P&G is the “proud sponsor of moms.”

    This just can’t be a good use of money. Do consumers in the U.S. know or care what brands P&G owns? Do you?

    A quick test: which of these are P&G brands?





    Irish Spring






    I’ll put the answers below. If you didn’t get most of them correct, then you really have to question the P&G branding initiative.

    -Why launch a Fusion disposable razor?

    Gillette has had a consistent formula for building profits: introduce a series of high-end razors, each with outstanding quality and higher prices. Then count on refills to drive profits. Play in disposable razors but focus on the reusable segment.

    Now, however, Gillette is changing course and embracing disposable razors. P&G is currently rolling out a disposable version of Fusion, its premium product. The headline: “Upgrade to Gillette’s 5-Blade Disposable.”

    I haven’t studied recent trends in razors but this feels like a desperation move. When there aren’t any big ideas around, it is easy to launch a cheap version of a premium brand.

    This usually does not end well; there is a short-term profit jump and then the brand erodes.

    -Do brand mashups really make sense?

    P&G has fully embraced the concept of a brand mashup. The May Brand Saver includes the following products:

    Gain + Mr. Clean

    Gain + Febreeze

    Gain + Swiffer

    Head & Shoulders + Old Spice

    Gillette Venus + Olay

    There is logic to some of these pairings. But it gets confusing.

    What is the combination of Head & Shoulders + Old Spice? Is that a deodorant that prevents dandruff? Is arm pit dandruff a big issue for people? Or is it a shampoo that smells like a deodorant? That seems unappealing.

    A brand mashup can work but taken too far mashups lead to confused consumers and weak brands.

    P&G is one of the world’s great marketing companies but some of these recent moves appear focused on driving short-term profits more than building great brands.

    It is good to have A.G. Lafley back at the helm.

    Here are the results to the quiz:

    Charmin:  Yes

    Pedigree:  No

    Pantene:  Yes

    Windex:  No

    Irish Spring:  No

    Secret:  Yes

    Sure:  No

    Huggies: No

    Prilosec:  Yes

    Claritin:  No

    Let me know how you did!

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    whatsapp iphone

    A leaked presentation to customers from Taiwanese messaging app developer Line reveals one of the ways the company is monetizing its service: by charging companies to let them directly message their online followers.

    The Next Web got a hold of the document and has a thorough look at it on their site. 

    Here are the quick takeaways:

    • Line charges companies a one-time fee of over $6,000 just to create an account on the service.
    • It then charges the companies for messaging their followers directly. Prices start at around $5,000 to send 15 messages a month to 100,000 fans and range all the way up to almost $17,000 each month for 30 messages to 500,000 fans.
    • The company also offers one-off plans for companies that want to do short bursts of messaging rather than for months at a time.
    • As a way to help companies gather fans on its service, Line charges over $33,000 to let companies offer cute branded "stickers" that users can place on their profiles.

    As noted in The Next Web's article, these offerings seem to be working for the company. Line posted revenue of $58 million last quarter, a 92% increase from the quarter before.

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    apple store berlin

    Ever since Steve Jobs passed away, Apple has been hit by one wave of bad news after another.

    The International Trade Commission (ITC) just banned the sale of older iPhone and iPad models that run on the ATT network because it says they infringe on a Samsung patent. This comes on the heels of …

    What is Apple to do if it wants to minimize the brand hit from these waves of bad news?

    Communicate better

    Apple needs to do a better job of getting ahead of the story so that the images this bad news plants in the brains of the buying public are at worst neutralized and at best reversed. While this is easier said than done, it is not that hard. More importantly, it needs to be done if Apple wants to see its stock price and profits recover to pre-decline levels.

    Publicize the “facts”

    For most of the bad news issues, Apple has a good story to tell. It has told the story in some venues, but not sufficiently to counteract the negative headlines. For example, it should let the public know the following:

    1. Anti-trust suit. Apple should publicize data showing that, if the Government prevails in its antitrust suit, it is likely to give an eBook monopoly to Amazon. Apple might promote the research done by Wharton marketing professor John Zhang and others. They argue that the marketplace may be better off with the agency model where Apple charges a 30% commission and lets the publishers determine the price of their books as they would do if they sold them direct via their own Web sites. If the Government wins its case, some believe that the effect will be to give Amazon an eBook monopoly.
    2. Stock performance. By traditional measures, many believe Apple stock is undervalued. Apple should share the data and do a better job of marketing the stock. Based on the cash it has in the bank alone, it should be valued higher.
    3. Concerns about innovation post-Jobs. These concerns are perhaps the most legitimate. Apple has not done a good job of allaying the fears of most people about Apple’s ability to market its innovativeness after the death of Steve Jobs. Even Apple co-Founder Steve Wozniak has expressed concerns about this. The antidote to this is quite simple – show more innovation and market the innovation better. Apple has topped numerous lists as the world’s most innovative and admired company for several years. Apple needs to publicize these accolades more. Credible, third-party tributes are far more powerful than self-promotion.
    4. Dodging Taxes: Apple paid far more tax than many other corporate giants. In response to the headlines that accused Apple of dodging taxes, Apple should tell the public that it paid $6 billion in taxes in 2012 while 26 of the largest American corporations paid no taxes last year.
    5. Working conditions in China factories: Apple needs to publicize the fact that China factory abuses are not unique to Apple suppliers.In addition to promoting the efforts of Tim Cook in addressing the issues in Apple’s China factories, Apple needs to put these issues in perspective by explaining that most manufacturers are experiencing similar problems. Those that have visited athletic-shoe and apparel manufacturing plants in China are surprised to find nets strung all over the factories to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths.

    Could erosion of the Apple brand be the real issue?

    In addition to doing a better job of counteracting these waves of bad publicity, Apple needs to be more proactive in rebuilding the power of its brand. Since Apple’s brand identity was so closely intertwined with Steve Jobs, it was bound to suffer some damage after he passed away. Despite what Apple executives might like to think, it has taken a serious hit.

    The stock price and competitiveinroads provide proof. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Apple’s brand power can be restored if the main concern of its fan base and the financial markets is answered – where are the “gee whiz” products? What the market wants to see are significant improvements to the iPhone, the long rumored iWatch, iTV, iThis, and iThat. When someone at Apple can say (without having the marketplace laugh), “This changes everything,” even the naysayers may believe the Teflon coating that once protected the Apple brand has been restored. Until then, little “bites” from lawsuits and bad news are likely to hurt the Apple brand far more than they should.

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    In n out bible cupTalking about religion and politics can be dangerous among friends. It's doubly so for businesses.

    That double-edged sword became crystal clear last year after Chick-Fil-A's COO made comments about the chain's opposition to gay marriage. It sparked a massive backlash from the media, gay and lesbian couples, and even the mayor of Boston.

    The controversy also helped the company shatter sales records after former Arkansas governor and Fox commentator Mike Huckabee organized a "Chick-Fil-A appreciation day."

    Many other big companies in America are also religious, including some that might surprise you.

    [Kim Bhasin and Melanie Hicken contributed to an earlier version of this article.]

    Chick-fil-A provoked a firestorm of criticism after its COO made comments about gay marriage.

    Founded by devout Southern Baptist Truett Cathy in 1946 in Hapeville, Georgia, Chick-fil-A has since expanded to become a major American fast-food chain, with more than 1,500 locations in 39 states. 

    Throughout its success, the company has stuck to its founder's religiously-motivated decision to be closed on Sundays, and has donated significant amounts of money to conservative groups. 

    The chain's religious bent turned controversial last year after Truet's son and Chick-Fil-A COO Dan Cathy made controversial comments about gay marriage, saying, about the company that "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit"

    Forever 21 prints a reference to one of the most oft quoted passages of the New Testament on the bottom of all of its bags.

    Purchase a skimpy $15 top or $19 skirt from trendy but budget-conscious clothing retailer Forever 21 and you may notice "John 3:16" printed on your shopping bag. 

    Printed on the bottom of each of the store's bags, the biblical reference is perhaps the most obvious reference to the religious beliefs promoted by the store's owners, the Chang Family, who are born-again Christians. 

    Mrs. Chang told Bloomberg Businessweek last year that the store had religious roots, citing that "God told her she should open a store and that she would be successful."

    The store provoked criticism in the summer of 2011 when it released a slew of religious-themed tees emblazoned with slogans such as "Jesus ♥ You" and "Holy."

    Tyson Foods employs 1290 office chaplains to provide "compassionate pastoral care" to employees

    Many customers may not realize it, but Tyson Foods is a very religious company that embraces spirituality in the workplace.

    Founder John Tyson speaks openly about his Christian beliefs, and the company's core values say that it "strive(s) to honor God" and "be a faith-friendly company."

    Since 2000, the company has employed approximately 120 office chaplains who are there to provide "compassionate pastoral care" to employees, according to Tyson's website

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    I think one of the fairly unscientific but still decent ways of maintaining a feel for an industry, location, or professional discipline is to keep and eye on posted job advertisement activity.

    Whether it is trolling the career pages of your competitors to see what kinds of roles they are hiring for, (as well as the volume and velocity of their postings), or tracking the place where you live, (or would like to live), and keeping an eye on openings in your field or potential opportunities for advancement – watching job postings for me has always been an interesting exercise.

    Certainly if you are a recruiter, you should probably have a feel for what your competition is up to, (or at least is publicly recruiting for), and as someone that cares about your career, even though you may never actually apply to and get a job directly from a published job ad, the background, color about the health of the job market, and overall trends that published job ads help illuminate should be a factor in your overall career planning. And last, if nothing else, looking at online job ads offers the occasional opportunity to share an opening with a friend or colleague that might be looking for something new. There aren’t many better pay-it-forward type favors you can do for someone than turning them on to a great new job.

    So over the weekend one of the local job alerts I subscribe to alerted me to this opening – a local spot as the VP of HR at a mid-size brewing company. While I am neither in the market or particularly qualified to be the VP of HR anywhere the ad was pretty notable for a couple of reasons. One, my local area, Rochester, NY isn’t exactly teeming with VP-level openings in HR; and two, working as the VP of HR in a brewing company sounds like a pretty cool gig, at least on the surface. After reading over the job, my initial reaction was to Tweet out the link, maybe drop it on LinkedIn too, maybe someone I am connected to on either of those networks might be interested, or a good fit, or know someone – you get the idea.

    But before I hit the "Tweet" button, I wanted to check out the company a little bit first, since I was curious and I really don’t know much about them, despite them sharing two of my main interests – beer and the Rochester area. Indeed, (where I first saw the job), didn’t have much to offer in terms of reviews, (only one), and discussion forums, (none), so I hopped over to the go-to source for this kind of thing,

    On Glassdoor I found, (admittedly from a very small sample size), company reviews that had comments like“Job candidates are misled to believe that there is a team-based environment”, “Threats and disrespectful behavior is the norm”, and “Most people would leave in a heart beat if the job market in the beverage biz was any better.” One reviewer even went as far to state “Free beer, but not even worth it.”

    Sure, there were a couple of positive reviews mixed in, but the overall approval rating of the CEO was at 50%, and only 33% of reviewers would recommend the company to a friend. Think about it, how bad does your experience have to be with a company that offers ‘FREE BEER’ as a perk to not feel comfortable recommending it as a place to work to a friend? I want to think FREE BEER can make up for a lot of transgressions, after all, it is the only method anyone has to get their buddies to help them move.

    I don’t mean to unfairly pick on this company, I don’t know anyone there, and have never had any dealings with them (other than buying the occasional product). I personally don’t know what kind of environment exists there, and whether the majority of reviewers on Glassdoor are accurate and fair in their assessments. But I do know that I and anyone else that might be considering applying for said VP of HR job, would naturally want to learn a little more about the company before inquiring or applying – heck I wanted to learn a little more before even Tweeting out the link to the job ad. (Which I didn’t after reading through the reviews on Glassdoor). And it could be that the climate is so bad there that the new VP of HR will have a great opportunity and challenge to change the company. Maybe. But for me, it was hard to get past the initial reaction from the almost universally bad reviews. I couldn’t even Tweet the job in good conscience.

    Look, I know you, the sophisticated reader of FOT, doesn’t need to be reminded of the importance of the employer brand and how crafting and managing said brand has become a really important element in your overall recruiting strategy. But (sadly), not everyone in HR and Recruiting is as sophisticated as you, and shockingly not all of them read FOT (yet).

    So share this post and story with your colleagues, (and maybe even your company leaders), if you are willing, and share the main takeaway from the tale – You know you have a branding problem when FREE BEER can’t even solve it.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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