Has Vogue Gone Rogue?It looks like Marissa Mayer and Kim Kardashian have more in common than business sense—both moguls are also talented at turning off Vogue’s high-fashion audience.  As I’m sure you have seen, Vogue’s April cover features a wedding shot of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West accompanying hashtag: #WORLDSMOSTTALKEDABOUTCOUPLE.

All personal feelings of Kimye aside (I have to, or it would cloud my judgment of whether or not this is a good brand decision), this is not entirely a rogue move for the magazine. Vogue also drew much attention and criticism from their decision to feature Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer in 2013.

Yes, I completely agree that Vogue’s brand is high caliber and does not exactly mesh well with the mass-marketed, over-publicized reality TV couple’s image. However, the magazine industry is facing a very difficult time in today’s culture. With so many people getting their news online and through tablet subscriptions, the printed publication has been slowly moving into the land of fax machines and flip phones. The average Vogue reader is currently 37.8 years old, compared to 30 in 2001. As the current market is aging, Anna Wintour knew she had to spice up her brand to help bring in a newer audience.

The Daily Beast put it best: “Between the two of them, Kim and Kanye have more than 30 million Twitter followers. Vogue has only 3.6 million.”

When it comes down to it, Vogue may have alienated several of their current subscribers, but they also potentially opened the door for a slew of new readers. I really don’t even think they strayed from their brand either. Sure, Kimye is no Kate Moss, but Kim is still wearing high-fashion gowns, and Annie Leibovitz’s photos also comply with the current brand standards. The cover has even inspired spoofs from James Franco and Seth Rogen (who are certainly not newbies when it comes to spoofing Kimye) and even Miss Piggy and Kermit, in addition to the many articles and newscasts that are talking about the “controversy”.

Whether or not you agree with Wintour’s decision, you can’t really argue that Vogue’s April issue is #THEWORLDMOSTTALKEDABOUTCOVER, thus making it a smart brand move.

Why I Will Not #BanBossy

by Nicole Hall on Thursday, March 20th, 2014 in children | Marketing | Millennials | Politics - (2 Comments)

Why I Will Not #BanBossyAs the oldest of three kids, I’ve done my fair share of bossing around, whether it was telling my sister the correct way to play Barbies with me or making the executive decision of what movie to watch despite everyone else’s opinion. My parents and siblings, like this dad, would tell me to stop being bossy, because that’s exactly how I was behaving. Did it stifle my leadership abilities? No. In fact—it did quite the opposite.

The #BanBossy campaign has received as much criticism as it has praise lately.  Women from Beyonce to Condoleezza Rice have joined the fight to help #BanBossy because “Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up.”

No—words like “bossy” are used to describe someone who is being…bossy. No one likes to be friends or work with someone who is bossy. In fact, a recent study from Pershing (client) shows that Americans prefer a more collaborative style of leadership—and 70 percent of people associate that leadership quality with women.

Furthermore, Google Definitions shows that synonyms for “bossy” include: overbearing, tyrannous, despotic, masterful, domineering, authoritative, and dictatorial. Synonyms for “leader” include: chief, innovator, trendsetter, pathfinder, and pioneer. According to this, the two are not completely interchangeable.  You CAN lead without being bossy.

Being told that I was being bossy at a young age helped me gain self-awareness and to develop a style of leadership that respects and considers others’ opinions. Just because a word does not have a complimentary connotation, it does not mean that it should be “banned” from our vocabulary. As a woman who is striving to create my own path of leadership in my career, I fully support the intentions of this campaign to help young girls take initiative. However, I believe that their way of going about it is misguided.

There Is An Airline Doing It Right!

PorterThis post is in praise of airline customer service and an overall EXCELLENT air travel experience.  Yes, really.  A positive one.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were looking for an easy, seamless ski vacation that didn’t involve driving 8 hours to Vermont or flying out west and battling the altitude, the time change and a cross-country flight.  We decided on the ski resort Mont Tremblant which looked to be just the right fit for us, but what sealed the deal was that a small Canadian airline called Porter flew direct between Newark and the local Tremblant International airport.  I liked their tagline, “Flying Refined,” and the price was comparable to other commercial airlines, so we pulled the trigger.

I have never had a more pleasurable flying experience.

Porter flights don’t have a business or first-class section, which means no priority boarding (unless you are infirm or travelling with small kids) and their in-airport customer lounges are open to all customers.  Here you can relax with FREE wifi, a bottle of water, some yummy snacks and even make yourself a coffee, cappuccino or espresso – in a real cup.  Like in Italy.  My husband and I slugged two each before hopping on board.

Once airborne, we had a very short flight to Tremblant (1:10), except that we had to take three approaches to land in what looked like a shoveled driveway in the middle of the snowy wilderness.  (Pretty standard for the more remote airports in Quebec, or so I’ve been told.)  After each of two failed attempts to land, there was a brief announcement from the pilot about visibility and then the stewardess came down the aisle with additional information, including a contingency plan to go to another airport should visibility not improve.  We all felt informed and even the nervous fliers on board weren’t alarmed because we knew exactly what was going on.  Very civilized.

Fortunately, the third time was the charm and we landed easily on our final approach, hopped a shuttle to the resort and had a great vacation.  But then, another inevitable polar vortex of weather was threatening to hit Newark airport on Sunday, so we made the decision to try and get on an earlier flight home, just in case.

When placing the call early Sunday morning, I steeled myself for a long wait, inevitable extra charges and possibly a flat out “no.”  I mean, this was a small airline with limited flights.  After approximately 8 minutes we were booked on a new flight with a short layover in Toronto – no extra charges, no drama.  The nice Canadian lady even apologized that our trip would be cut short by a few hours.  (Really?)

I’m not a fan of layovers, but Porter flies out of Billy Bishop International Airport in downtown Toronto (with regular shuttles to downtown Toronto, which is just a few hundred yards across the water) and is the only airline to use that airport, making international transfers as easy as walking down the hallway.  This also means that the whole airport is actually a Porter lounge, including a huge business center with computers, free wifi and an even nicer snack spread than Newark.  Porter is currently petitioning to have an ultra-quiet jet approved for landing at Billy Bishop (they currently fly only prop planes), which would allow the airline to fly to further destinations, including the Caribbean.  My fingers are crossed that this will go through – and that they will stop in Newark along the way…

I know it may seem silly that I was so floored by Porter’s cute lounges, good customer service and seamless flying experience.  I’m also not alone in recognizing that Porter is kicking butt in the airline space – they were awarded best small airline in the world according to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards.

The thing is, flying has become torture for all of us in recent years, so when things go RIGHT, it feels like being given a gift.  This is a sad state of affairs, but it’s also an opportunity for airlines – should they deign to care about their silly customers – to set themselves apart from the pack with small, yet very important details.  Porter has certainly done that in spades.

Oh – and onboard snacks and wine were free…  What’s better than that?

internet-birthdayWhile the world took some time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web this week, I spent a few minutes speaking with some of Peppercomm’s finest digital minds: Charlie SouthwellSam FordJeff Simpson and Richard Ouyang. My goal: to reflect on the past and look to the future…

Be sure to check out their thoughts on The Innovation Mill!

Location. Location. Location.

by Lauren Banyar Reich on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 in brand | food/bev - (0 Comments)

about you1It’s that time of year again, when those of us still riding the “eat more healthy foods” New Year’s resolution train are tempted with the greatest challenge of all:  Girl Scout Cookies.

In fact, I hear their seductive calls in surround sound these days – enticing offers to buy from my co-workers’ daughters, local troops stationed at the supermarket, even a gaggle of Girl Scouts set up outside my favorite department store.  And if you live in San Francisco, you can find them conveniently located in front of your local marijuana dispensary.   Genius?  I think so.

After catching wind of the story, I was eager to know what the Girl Scouts were saying about the idea.  Never having been a Girl Scout myself – but knowing how badly the Boy Scouts have managed “controversies” in recent years – I was curious as to how the organization might respond to naysayers.  Turns out, they’re taking a lesson from the dispensary customers and have been pretty chill about the whole thing:

“Girls are selling cookies, and they and their parents pick out places where they can make good sales,” Dana Allen, director of marketing and communications for Girl Scouts of Northern California, told Mashable. ”The mom decided this was a place she was comfortable with her daughter being at.” Later, she added, “We’re not telling people where they can and can’t go if it’s a legitimate business.”

According to the Girl Scouts website, “ When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she’s building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, success, and life.”

I think this young woman and her daughter were simply following one of the cardinal rules of business:  Location.  Location.  Location.  They also identified a customer pipeline based on foot traffic from an established local business that resulted in a major uptick in sales.  I would say that probably led to a big confidence boost for this young Girl Scout, which, after all, is the whole goal of the cookie program.

What do you think?

Does Losing = Winning?

by Catharine Cody on Monday, February 10th, 2014 in brand | Marketing | wellness - (0 Comments)


As a recent convert to the whole “fitness thing” (aka working out, watching what I eat and how many calories I burn,) I can’t help but comment on the Biggest Loser controversy that’s currently blowing up the Twittersphere.  In case you don’t know, this season’s show featured Rachel Frederickson’s drastic weight loss of over 150 pounds! That’s 60% of her starting body weight!!!

I know it’s unhealthy to be overweight, but it’s JUST as unhealthy to drop such an extraordinary amount of weight in a short period of time.  Not only does it leave one open to injury, but can also lead to health problems including immune system suppression and bad skin, hair and nails and in some cases even an irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps and loss of bone mass.

People, rightly so, are absolutely outraged that Rachel lost so much weight in a short period of time.  But, no one ever mentions that the entire purpose of The Biggest Loser is to, that’s right folks, lose weight.  Instead of chastising Ms. Frederickson for simply following her trainer’s routine, we should be looking into the entire program.

It’s unhealthy to force overweight individuals to go from zero to 60 and expect them to drop serious amounts of weight in a three month period (which is the amount of time allotted to contestants on the hit NBC show.)

Equally harmful to the show’s brand is the fact that the face of the show, Jillian Michaels, claimed she had nothing to do with the extreme weight loss.  Um, hello?  You are the freakin’ host of the show! And you’re telling me that you had nothing to do with this transformation?  I find that a little bit hard to believe.  And, if it IS true, perhaps you should focus more time on your contestants and less time on your own personal brand.

Customer Service Done Right

by Sarah on Friday, January 31st, 2014 in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


No matter the weather outside, i.e. a polar vortex, I love ice cream. Since moving to New York City, from New Jersey, I don’t purchase it as often because a pint is upwards of $6.00 in most grocery stores. The other day, I happened to pop into Gristedes to pick up a few things and saw that my favorite gelato, Telenti, was on sale for a steal at $4.00. I promptly picked out a pint of Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip.

Later that night, I scooped out a cup of ice cream and took the first bite. It was awful; it had a sandy texture without the crunch that usually accompanies it when you accidentally get some in your mouth at the beach. I decided to let Telenti know that something was wrong with the product. I hunted around the website for a phone number or email address but came up with nothing but a comment box. I hate filling those out; you know that your comment is probably one of two hundred that they receive on a daily basis, getting lost in oblivion. I did it anyway.

The next day, to my surprise, I received an email within less than 24 hours of submitting my comment. The rep asked me for the date and time stamp on the bottom of the pint and promised to look into the issue with the manufacturing department. She also asked for my address so she could mail me out complimentary coupons for another pint.

Marketers rely on brand loyalty, but it goes both ways. Consumers want to know we can trust in an organization when something goes awry. Although it wasn’t the best ice cream experience, because Telenti handled the situation the way they did, I am definitely still a fan. I was more than pleased with Telenti’s prompt reply, and eagerness to make sure that I was satisfied .This is the type of customer service consumers, look for and expect, when dealing with companies.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

by Catharine Cody on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

climbingWhat does mountain climbing have to do with leadership skills? Catharine discusses in her latest Innovation Mill Post:

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Speak to me, not down to me: Brosurance

by Catharine Cody on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 in brand | Marketing - (0 Comments)

BrosuranceIn an effort to encourage Millenials to sign up for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado launched a series of ads as part of a campaign entitled “Got Insurance?”

The series of ads feature young adults (18-26) in “typical” situations that are intended to be fresh and speak to us on our own level.  Most of the ads, nicknamed “brosurance,” AKA insurance for bros, are offensive, and some might say, stupid.  One of the worst shows a young woman holding a package of birth control pills with a guy standing next to her.  The caption reads, “Let’s get physical.  OMG he’s hot! Let’s hope he’s as easy to get as this birth control.  My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers.”

I understand that this ad is supposed to target the “modern woman” who is in control of her life and makes her own decisions.  This ad, however, just makes the girl look, well, not smart.  It’s fine to use birth control, and it’s fine to talk about sex openly.  What’s not OK is the fact that the girl in the ad seems to be saying that she only takes birth control so she can have sex and in no way indicates that she is practicing safe sex.

When targeting a specific age group, it’s important to understand said age group. What people do in their private lives should stay there. This approach most definitely didn’t do it for me.  It is critical for brands and government organizations to listen first, and begin to communicate after gaining an understanding of how and where their target wants to be communicated with. And yes, I said with, not to.

When it works, it works well.

by Maggie on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 in brand | Marketing | media | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Seriously Google, well done.  As a fan of a teaser campaign and someone always looking for new brand experiences, let alone an ultra-cool floating venue, I have been watching the mystery of the Bay Area Barge unfold.  Its amazing how well played this “stunt” was. cn-image-google-barge And,as marketers we know it could have gone so wrong.  Think about the planted light boxes in the Boston tunnels a few years back…oops.

Want to hear more, check out the following Inc. column written by Steve Cody that speaks to the good, bad and ugly of the marketing tease.

Cracking the PR Code of the Google Mystery Barge