Reconnect? I’d Rather Not

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


After coming home from work yesterday, I did what I do every night: check my Facebook newsfeed to see what all my “friends” were up to.  Among the normal status updates about upcoming shows, ridiculous work hours, and the plethora of complaints my generation makes, something very interesting caught my eye: a link to a new Internet Explorer ad on YouTube.  The ad’s screen shot had the game “Hungry Hungry Hippos” along with the caption: “You Grew up.  So Did We.”  I couldn’t resist.

Before explaining this ad, I think it’s very important to mention that I absolutely abhor Internet Explorer.  It freezes inexplicably, messes with website layouts and is generally less reliable than my browser of choice, Google Chrome.  Internet Explorer is to browsers as New Jersey Transit is to mass transportation.  It’ll kind of work, eventually.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Internet Explorer decided to connect with me, personally, by helping me remember my childhood.  In their new ad, IE reminded us that they were around for generation Y’s most iconic trends: yo-yos, floppy discs, Oregon Trail, Lunchables, fanny packs, wallet chains and tomogatchis.  Besides reminding me of my childhood in the early 90s, this ad was trying to tell people my age that IE grew up with us.  As we learned new things, so did they.  And, now they want us to come back.

The thing is, I really don’t care that Internet Explorer remembers the days when boys sported bowl cuts and girls cared for electronic pets.  Those days are long gone, and remembering them does nothing.  Sure, those days were simpler because we didn’t have deadlines or relationship drama- but that’s because we were young.

I love this ad.  It’s cool to see how far pop culture has come in the past twenty years.  But, why did it take IE this long to realize they needed to change their reputation?  This ad is too little too late.  Yes, yo-yos WERE amazing, but that doesn’t make me switch browsers from Google Chrome to Internet Explorer.


What would the Sugarbakers say?

by Jessica Sieff on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 in brand | Marketing - (0 Comments)

gardenandgunA NY Times article recently noted that lifestyle magazine Southern Living announced it would be bringing in some new blood to the 56-year-old publication versed in southern recipes, decorating tips and practical advice.

Jenna  Bush Hager has been added to the roster as an editor at large, an attempt to draw in young, southern readership.

In a world where publication is starting to feel, well, antiquated, a large publication trying to pull in younger readers is not uncommon, nor is it a new story. In this world, many swipe rather than leaf through the pages of their favorite mag and many pubs are looking for ways to keep their print alive.

In the story, the Times mentioned another publication and this one set my heart aflutter – the stately, young Garden & Gun.

I am by no means a southern girl, believe me. When working on designing a hyper-local magazine for my former employer, I discovered Garden & Gun. Around that time, it’d won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. So I checked it out.

What I found was an example of how print gets it right. It’s why I’ve given subscriptions to the magazine as gifts and have one myself.

Covers draw the eye: from dutiful canines to decadent pecan pies and cocktails so sinful you can practically taste the syrupy bourbon.  A flip through the pages and you’ll find interviews with literary voices of the southern states, profiles of cities like Knoxville, Little Rock and Greenville, an interview with Morgan Freeman, profiles of pioneers of environmental change and musicians like Mumford and Sons.  One issue can give you travel ideas for an entire year.

The writers have a connection to their coverage area. They know the south. They love it. They think you will too. Columnists include Julia Reed and Roy Blount Jr. and dog lovers will relate to the “Good Dog” column, telling heartfelt stories of man’s best friend. And true to its name, there’s plenty to learn about hunting and even a little fly fishing. It’s not my thing, really, but I still read it…

Because Garden and Gun isn’t trying to reach a demographic. It’s trying to reach a reader. Someone who can appreciate a hot summer day, that place on a back road with the best barbecue in town and the perfect song to pair with the perfect afternoon. It is so in tune with its readers, some pay up to $500 to be a part of the Garden & Gun Club.

To be successful these days, it’s not enough to just know our business. We have to know our respective cultures. Therein lies the key to a good product – even a great one like G&G.

super-bowl-XLVII-picAs a 24-year-old single girl living in Hoboken, I totally understand the whole Super Bowl phenomenon from both a social and marketing perspective.  Friends get together to eat ridiculously unhealthy food and drink copious amounts of alcohol while advertisers spend the bulk of their yearly budgets on 30 second commercials- all under the pretense of watching a football game.

What I don’t get is WHY some girls pretend to understand and like this sport.  To me, it’s nothing but a brutally boring and time consuming activity that I’d rather not waste my time on.  The ONLY reason I’d even consider watching a game is to A) socialize with friends and B) mock the new ridiculously expensive ads.

My problem is that the vast majority of these ads really do appeal to me.  I love that someone’s hunger makes them complain like Betty White.  I like watching Britney Spears sing in a gladiator’s arena for Pepsi.  But, what does football have to do with that?  I can watch these commercials on YouTube without suffering through the endless game!

So, I’m forced to ask the question: Do we really need the Super Bowl, or any other football games for that matter, to be on in order to feel it’s acceptable to drink all day and eat crappy food?  Not this year!

This year, I’ve decided to stage a Super Bowl protest.  Instead of hanging out with friends and pretending that I enjoy watching jacked-up men run around for no apparent reason, I’ve decided to dedicate my day to reading and working out.  It’s not that I’m anti-social, I just hate PRETENDING that I’m enjoying myself when I’m not.  If I’d rather be reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in bed with a nice fresh beet kale salad than eating buffalo wings and drinking cheap beer, isn’t that my prerogative?

In years past, my friends have called me a loser and a homebody for not wanting to participate in such activities.  But, at the ripe old age of 24, I’ve decided that I no longer care what people think of my social behavior.  If I want to stay in bed on a Friday night and catch up on past episodes of Downton Abbey and Dance Moms, I’m going to do that.

So, to all you other fellow football-haters, what do you plan to do this Super Bowl Sunday?  Don’t succumb to peer pressure!  Try picking up an old classic (or a guilty pleasure read, if that’s more up your alley) and dedicate the day to engaging your mind rather than your stomach.


It was on a seemingly ordinary day in mid-December 2009. In southwest Michigan that means everything had been bathed in slate gray and muddy brown. It was cold and dreary and Dickensian. The cuffs of my pants were soaking wet and cold and I knew later they would dry with those annoying white rings left behind from the salt that line the roads and parking lots. The
chilly, 20-degree air had slipped down my collar and wrapped me in a stubborn, cranky chill.

And then, I stopped at a Starbucks. Now, hear me out. When I stepped inside, the store had been transformed into its  traditional holiday décor. Shades of red were everywhere, bags of Christmas blend coffee lined the shelves, there were snowmen and snowflakes clinging to the windows and I swear, I walked through the door and was filled with joy.

Somewhat obsessed with coffee, I’m a big supporter of smaller, independent roasters. When I travel, I collect 1 lb. bags of local roasts like some people collect shot glasses.

But there’s something about Starbucks…

This year it hit me as I stood in line shortly before midnight on Thanksgiving. Starbucks was my first stop on an evening when
friends frantically shop for deals and I tag along to people watch and pick up a movie or two.  Inside, the line was long but even with the large crowd, the late hour, the barista recognized me from my regular Saturday and Sunday morning stops – kind of like your neighborhood coffeehouse. I stocked up on bags of Christmas blend – gifts for the holidays.

Lately, the baristas have been good at upselling me, getting me to buy just about any bag of coffee they’re pushing at the moment. This year, for the holiday, Starbucks is betting on its new home brewing system. The market for single cup brewers is … well … brewing (oh, come on) and challenging the beliefs of some purists.

The truth is – if I buy a single cup brewer as this Wall Street Journal article predicts I will – it may not be Starbucks’ new Verismo. The brand has beaten tough economic times and a loss in company direction. It’s done a lot of things right. I like their coffee, I really do. But I’ll be curious to see if the Verismo can beat the biggest element of Starbucks’ success:  a very genuine  sense of place.

The catchy music, the studious décor, the newspapers and the easy-to-work-in ambiance. The red and the  nowmen and the joy. You can never underestimate the importance of a sense of place – the experience you get as a customer, when you’re coming in from a cold, dismal day to a place that offers you more than just some caffeine but rather, comfort in a cup.

When was the last time you heard about customers standing by their brand – even if it  meant abandoning the brand name all together? That’s exactly what happened with the case of Glassman vs. Glassman and it proved to be a valuable lesson in loyalty. Greg Glassman is the founder and creator of CrossFit – I could try to explain it or you could just watch this video here.

When Glassman and his wife decided to end their marriage, Lauren Jenai Glassman’s share of CrossFit came into play. CrossFitters found out she was interested in selling it to Anthos Capital. Almost immediately, the subject filled discussion boards, Facebook pages and tweets. Affiliates were against selling to Anthos for fear of being forced to operate like a franchise,
selling supplements or other merchandise they didn’t support.

While Anthos Capital tried to quell fears, swearing they wouldn’t change a thing – affiliates rallied around their founder and threatened to pull their affiliations if the deal went through. Meanwhile, the Glassmans headed to court.

The fight caught the attention of a number of media outlets. T-shirts were designed slamming Anthos and touting Glassman’s
his concept was “unbuyable.” For months, members of the CrossFit community could only wait while millions of dollars were pumped into litigation. Then, on Nov. 15, he announced he officially owned 100% of CrossFit Inc. Without support from a large, worldwide and defiant community, it’s a wonder whether the deal still seemed lucrative to Anthos or Lauren Glassman – or even possible for that matter.

For now, the future seems pretty bright. CrossFit boxes continue to pop up across the country and around the world and a multimillion dollar partnership with Reebok continues to catapult the brand and the sport into the mainstream.

The lesson learned from the drama? Loyalty matters. Uh, and maybe think twice before going into business with a spouse or instead of books and trinkets you’ll find yourself fighting over the future of your company.

Seems like the term “story telling” has been the buzz word of 2012, getting tossed around like the word innovation was in 2000.  Today too many brands are looking for any way to connect with their consumer in an over-saturated and very brand-skeptical
market.  Brands can’t just push product – well maybe Apple – and assume their legions will follow.  There is a need to provide content that motivates their consumer and applies to their needs in life, their goals.  A tall order for a brand?  Well Coke thinks not.

Today, one of the most beloved brands – though plagued recently with Bloomberg’s and others bans on soda – is launching a new website transformed into a consumer publication called Coca-Cola Journey. According to Stuart Elliott’s column in today’s New York Times, the article points out that “the use of the word ‘story’ is significant because the Web site changes are indicative of the growing interest among marketers in recasting their communications with consumers as storytelling rather than advertising. Just as attention is being paid to developing content to use for brand storytelling, an appetite also exists for  corporate storytelling.”

The question remains for Coke and all brands as to whether the consumer will engage with the story and take the journey.  I think if they can create a journey with their target, rather than forcing them down the road strewn with ads and product promotions, the iconic brand has hope with its new offering.  So read on soda lovers.

Ok, I admit it made me laugh.  And I do have a friend who loses at least one Chapstick a day, but outside of the two of us it appears the Where do Chapstick’s Go campaign has Pfizer hoping it would just go away.  Why?  They didn’t stand behind their offer to listen and they went into what AdWeek called a “social media death spiral.”

It wasn’t the semi-offensive creative that sunk the campaign (though it got folks talking), and it really wasn’t the fact that consumers don’t wonder where their Chapstick went (not a good problem solution approach).  It was the fact that they asked for our opinion and then didn’t listen.  In a world where marketing and communications has to be about a dialogue with the
consumer, this campaign opened up the dialogue and tossed it back in the consumers’ face.

As we have seen by other social guffaws this year (I won’t name them to open up old wounds), there is a right way and a wrong way to respond and listen.  Those that have done it right – and you know who you are – got through the 1.5 days of backlash hell
and have moved on to building the brand alongside their consumers.  Chapstick’s response while accurate was late.  And their removing of campaign commentary simply said they didn’t want to hear from the people they invited to the conversation in the first place.

What would Suzy Chapstick think?

To Spin, or not to Spin?

by Rebecca on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

With a little less than three weeks until the presidential election, the notion of ‘spinning’ anything is generally not advised. When it comes to skin care, though, you have to spin it to win it. Truly clean skin, that is. The folks at Clarisonic, a Seattle-based tech startup known for its Sonicbrush toothbrush and skincare devices, certainly believe in spinning. Since launching, the company has made seemingly little missteps: it’s helped raise more than $2 million for cancer research, gained several celebrity endorsements (unpaid, mind you) from the likes of Cameron Diaz, Tyra Banks and Oprah Winfrey, and achieved remarkable sales figures ($105 million in 2010), making it a smart buy for L’Oréal last year.

Clarisonic has also made smart decisions in selecting its retail partners. From Nordstrom to Amazon to Bliss, consumers – men, women, young and young at heart – can purchase the right Clarisonic spin brush that suits their needs. As many of our clients know all too well, a retail partner can define success for a product – or it can drive sales into oblivion.

So what happens, then, when a retail partner makes a mistake?

Recently, a small group of Peppercomm-ers were made aware of a special promotional code at which awarded a 100 percent discount on Clarisonic purchases made on the site. Too good to be true, or did we just stumble into a super-secret, super-savvy marketing stunt designed to surprise and delight both Bliss and Clarisonic enthusiasts? Never ones to question a brand’s marketing motives – or a good deal – several of us made good on the offer. With holiday parties just around the corner, visions of glowing skin began dancing in our heads.

However (you knew this was coming), the promotion code turned out to be available in error, and the dreaded ‘oops we made a mistake’ email hit our inboxes later that week. One could practically feel skin tone fading while reading the company’s attempt to make right: a 25% code for a purchase of $75 or more. Huh? How does that begin to make up for this colossal mistake? This wouldn’t have been nearly as bad had Bliss not then charged everyone’s credit cards the full amount ($159). Double whammy.

After some lively tweeting, many of us were put in touch with the VP of global communications for Bliss. Our individual levels of interaction with her varied; I personally had a twitter exchange, direct message conversation, email correspondence and finally a phone call with this person. The end result: a refund on my credit card and a brand-spanking new Clarisonic spin brush of my very own.

While my faith in Bliss is somewhat restored (how can you not love the at home triple oxygen™ instant energizing mask?), it begs the question: what’s the price of customer service. Better yet, what’s the value of customer loyalty? Had Bliss not responded the way they did, I would have, begrudgingly, found an alternate to their fab products. But now that I’m on a first-name basis (BFF might be taking it too far) with one of the company’s top people? Yeah, I’m at a higher state of happy.

In-Flight Entertainment

by Kendyl on Monday, August 27th, 2012 in airlines | entertainment | product | travel - (0 Comments)

By Sarah Sanzari

As I prepare to embark on a two-week European adventure, there is still one part of the trip that I am dreading – the eight hour flight.  Cramped spaces, crying babies, and security lines are not my idea of a good time.  Luckily, I have pulled together a guide with some great, and wacky, inventions to help ease the pain of flying.

If you’re worried about the latest in x-ray technology you can purchase flying pasties which protect you from TSA’s eyes.  The orange pasties include the slogan “Only my husband sees me naked,” and can be purchased for about $15.

Once you make it past security you have to deal with the flight.  A must-have is Bose noise cancelling headphones, no more crying baby or chain-saw like snoring from my seatmate.  Of course, don’t forget to bring your iPod along for the flight as well.

Tired of having your space infringed on? Get the Knee Guard which prevents the person in front of you from reclining.  You might have to deal with an angry passenger but that’s ok because you can just put on your Privacy Scarf. The scarf envelopes your head and laptop so people can’t creep on you while doing work or taking a nap.

Now that I have packed all the essentials, I’m ready! Will you be taking any of these gadgets with you on your next flight?


How Fair Art Thou?

by Nick on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 in brand | food/bev | loyalty | Marketing | moms | retail - (0 Comments)

Living in Manhattan, I’m always surprised when I somehow manage to stumble upon a bad restaurant, a moody store owner or just generally bad customer service. The reason it surprises me is that there are so many good restaurants and retail establishments in Manhattan. With so much excellent competition, I don’t know how the good ones stay in business, much less the bad ones.

Plus, New Yorkers are notoriously… um… particular, which makes it all the more wonderful when an establishment is able to stand out above the rest. I’m speaking, of course, about that wonderful New York City bastion of grocery excellence, Fairway. What began as a fruit and vegetable stand in 1933 is now a nine-store juggernaut of high-quality food in the greater NYC area.

But that’s not what makes Fairway great. First of all, it seems like I always go grocery shopping at the wrong day or time. I’m always bumping elbows at the deli counter, dodging baguettes by the bakery or having my toes run over by stroller-pushing mothers in full yoga regalia. Fairway is great in spite of all that, much of which I attribute to my poor planning anyway. That’s because pretty much every employee I’ve ever encountered at Fairway has been helpful and human.

I’ll give you an example. One day I decided to go to Fairway right after work. As every working person is wont to do after work, I was rushing to get home. So I gathered my jerk turkey, dark chocolate with mint, greek yogurt and honey-glazed almonds, and jumped in the express line.

The customer in front of me was completely bonkers. One of those women of ambiguous age with an alien-esque stretched face and stringy hair, she was losing her mind because the cashier accidentally added an extra zero to some quantity of vegetables, making the grand total something around $400 for her handful of items. The cashier, handling a barrage of insults, patiently explained to the customer that she would get a manager to simply void the transaction. The manager came quickly, and, before voiding the transaction, asked the cashier what happened.

It was too much for the customer to handle. She kept screaming “I refuse to pay that much!” After voiding the transaction, the manager then offered the lady free delivery. I would have called a NYC Animal Control Officer to “crate” her for a while. When the debacle was over, and it was my turn at the register, the cashier and I looked at each other and both burst out laughing. It was a little slice of humanity indicative of what I always find at Fairway and supporting what Fairway says about itself: “Fairway: LIKE NO OTHER MARKET.”