What We Learned from Penn State about Self-Preservation

Do you remember much about the Sandusky/Penn State scandal from 2011? From a PR perspective, I recall several press conferences from Penn State, but I mostly remember being surprised by the lack of engagement from the university.  It definitely had a “let’s just hope this goes away” feel to it.  Professor James Grunig of the University of Maryland (2001) says that public relations is becoming much more a management function than a technical communication function.  Historically, he says, public relations practitioners have known how to “secure media coverage, prepare press releases, write speeches, write and design brochures, produce video news … Continue reading What We Learned from Penn State about Self-Preservation


The problem In 2013, journalists for the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge, reported on a failed sting operation of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  In an effort to get guns off the street, Operation Fearless aimed to purchase drugs and guns from felons by setting up (fake) storefronts and luring criminals into the store.  Stores included phony pawnshops, tattoo parlors, recording studios and thrift stores. Agents would purchase the weapons from customers and then trace them to “determine their source and use forensics to tie the guns to homicides” (Jeunesse & Prabuncki, … Continue reading The ATF

The $600 Haircut

In addition to seeking millennials, Hillary Clinton is hoping to win over the middle class.  She is hoping that with help from people like Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa governor, she will be more appealing to this demographic.   Vilsack said last month of Mrs. Clinton, “This is a person who is rooted in the middle class. She grew up in the middle class. She’s never left the middle class in terms of her values and her concerns and her thoughts and her programs” (as cited in Bassali, 2015). Set aside that the Clintons’ net worth is over $11 … Continue reading The $600 Haircut

Singling Yourself Out | The Marketing Power of the Autobiography

Baskin (2014) said that we are living in the “Golden Age of feminine sass”.  She points to three female comedians who have picked this as their brand identity.  In addition to doing stand-up, YouTube videos, and/or TV, these women have all employed the same marketing tactic to promote their brand:  the autobiography. Tina Fey:  Bossy Pants Lena Dunham: Not that Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” Grace Helbig: Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up Amy Poehler: Yes Please An autobiography is a way to get your content into the hands of your consumers in a … Continue reading Singling Yourself Out | The Marketing Power of the Autobiography


Jeb Bush rolled out an updated logo for his presidential campaign this year.  Some marketing professionals commented that it lacked maturity but that Jeb needed to use it to counterbalance his low-energy vibe.  Some suggest that the problem with Jeb Bush’s logo is that he used an exclamation point.  It was a campaign element from his 1998 campaign that should have been ditched.  The problem seems to lie in the perception of the exclamation point.  It looks like a cheap marketing tactic.  Like Big Lots!   Dahl (2014) claims that exclamation points are “shouty and juvenile”.  They “reflect an emotional … Continue reading Jeb!


The city of Nashville has heavily invested in its “Music City” brand identity.  In fact, Governor Bill Haslam approved a budget which included earmarking $8 million for incentives to ABC to continue filming the TV series “Nashville” in Nashville.  “Nashville” is a TV drama which follows the lives of fictitious country music stars and their lives in Nashville.  Scenes in the TV show have featured local hotels, bars, the convention center, and a university.  Local doctors, reporters, musicians have been hired to play themselves on the TV series.  Randy Boyd, the commissioner for the Nashville Department of Economic and Community … Continue reading Nashville

Only in New York | The real story behind the I Heart New York logo

New York State Empire State Development (ESD) is the economic development agency of New York.  It is responsible for “economic development strategy” which “benefits the entire state” (Empire State Development, n.d. ).  Though ESD may not be a familiar brand name, I Heart NY is sure to conjure images of New York to the viewer. The ESD has used this brand logo since 1977 when NY Governor Hugh Carey and the NY Department of Commerce decided to use tourism as a “means to improve the state’s economy” (I Heart NY, n.d.). NYC was not an attractive tourist destination in the 1970s, “crime … Continue reading Only in New York | The real story behind the I Heart New York logo

Lady Antebellum Decorates

Was it a good idea for Lady Antebellum to extend their brand to home decor?  That is exactly what it did when it collaborated with Bed, Bath and Beyond on “Heartland”, a collection of pillows, sheets, drapes, comforters.   I actually love Lady A and even drug my husband to their concert in Chicago.  But the band doesn’t seem to have credibility in the home décor department.  They do have a strong brand and perhaps their goal was to develop a source of revenue outside of music sales and concerts.  Leveraging their brand personality outside of the music studio will surely … Continue reading Lady Antebellum Decorates

(O)K- Cup?

Campbell’s Soup recently introduced customers to its newest line: Campbell’s soup via K-cup.  Was this a thoughtful move? Keller (2013) pointed out that brands have to be careful when extending their product offerings or stretching their brand name.  He said that brands can experience a  “lack of control that arise[s] from being aligned with another brand in the minds of consumers (Keller, 2013, pg. 243).  While K-Cup has a significant following, there are some haters.  Keurig Green Mountain produced 9.8 billion K-Cups in 2014, none of which are recyclable or biodegradable (Godoy, 2015).  Mike Hachey, CEO of Egg Studios, released … Continue reading (O)K- Cup?

Challenger Brands: How Dear Kate Keeps Reebok on its Feet

Reebok recently shifted marketing focus.  Its 2014 campaign strategy to appeal to a fitness-focused consumer seems like a great way to position itself opposite of its parent company, Adidas, and Nike. Matt O’Toole, Reebok’s Chief Marketing Officer said about the change, “It’s an invitation for all of us to take part and fight against complacency for everyday people, not just super stars and elite athletes” (as cited in Miller, 2014).  Who doesn’t want to support a brand championing “everyday people”?  By saying this, O’Toole was positioning Reebok by product user (Belch & Belch, 2014, p. 57).  Dear Kate, a women’s … Continue reading Challenger Brands: How Dear Kate Keeps Reebok on its Feet

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival is rolling out a new feature for its cruises: housing families on one floor.  I can see a number of benefits with this arrangement and can imagine young families being more comfortable from a safety perspective.  Carnival seems to be very good at marketing to families.  They are known for carrying more children than any other cruise line (USATODAY, 2013).  By contrast, Royal Caribbean is investing more heavily in the millennial market as a POD for the line.  While I know that all the cruise lines market to this group, it seems that Royal Caribbean is expressing the greatest … Continue reading Carnival Cruise Line

Better Matters | Verizon

I have been a Verizon loyalist for about 4 years.  Though I detest my bill, I feel like the risk of dropped calls is greater than the reward of saving money every month.  I have always appreciated Verizon’s coverage map.  As a marketing tool, it works on me! Do you know why some carriers are able to offer better coverage than others? The U.S. government controls the wireless spectrum which can be purchased at auctions by mobile carriers.  For instance, there will be an auction of spectrum in 2016 of the 600MHZ band.  This could potentially be a game changer … Continue reading Better Matters | Verizon

Feeling the Love at Southwest

Freshening up Southwest’s image was a step in the right direction for the brand.  I love the new logo and colors.  I thought the now-long-retired gold and orange looked very budget.  I know that is what the carrier is known for, but I think the shift over the last decade has been a brand image success.  I wonder what role the airline’s home base, Dallas “Love” Field”, had in selecting the heart as the new logo. In addition to connecting its brand home, it seems this particular logo was selected so that Southwest could boost moral among employees. Bachman (2014) … Continue reading Feeling the Love at Southwest


When the new Airbnb logo emerged in 2014, it generated quite a lot of social media buzz.  Lanks (2014) wrote that the larger online public “offered different interpretations of Airbnb’s ostensibly benign upside-down heart logo, which to some resembles breasts, buttocks, a uterus, a vagina, and, of course, male genitalia.” I think you have to work pretty hard to say that it resembles those things, but I do think companies have to test their logos to see how well they are received.  The company’s co-founder, Joe Gebbia said the company did test the symbol to see how it would resonate among … Continue reading Airbnb

Rebounding: How the WNBA Scored with a New Identity

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) discarded a sixteen-year-old logo in 2013 when it introduced fresh insignia to mark its evolved brand. The WNBA took the opportunity to revitalize its look when it extended its broadcast partnership with ESPN, who will air up to 30 games per season on its network and affiliates.  In a press release to address the change, the WNBA noted,  “The refreshed identity reflects how far the level of play has come in 16 years as stronger, more agile players have made the game more competitive (WNBA, 2013).  The logo change fulfills the six criteria identified … Continue reading Rebounding: How the WNBA Scored with a New Identity

Coke Life

The Coca-Cola company has developed a number of their own soda products (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Mello Yello) while it has acquired other product lines to round out its beverage offerings (Monster Energy drinks, Honest Tea, Minute Maid).  Coca-Cola company wants to be seen as a beverage company, not necessarily a company that just sells Coke.  In order to give true Coke aficionados (who are also health conscious) what they want, they have developed a lower-sugar Coke alternative called Coke Life.  Housed in a green can (as opposed to the traditional red can which Coke is known for), the … Continue reading Coke Life

Project Runway Junior

Project Runway (PR) made its network debut in 2004 on Bravo as a reality- competition TV show.   On this wildly successful show, fashion designers compete for $100,000 to start their own design line. PR became the No. 1 show in its time slot among 18-49-year-olds.  This Emmy-nominated show features model Heidi Klum as host and fashion designer, Tim Gunn, as mentor and co-host.  Judges have changed over time, but the current judges are Nina Garcia, Marie Claire’s creative director, and Zac Posen, fashion designer.  Celebrity hosts are recruited to add panache each season.  Project Runway is currently promoting its 14th season which premiered in August.  Project Runway is a solid brand in the … Continue reading Project Runway Junior

Shooting for the Stars, Not bucking the system | Starbucks

Starbucks uses a variety of marketing avenues to reach their customer. Instead of relying solely on digital platforms or sales promotions or loyalty programs, Starbucks effectively markets across many channels to elicit a response from their customers. One of Starbucks’ marketing strengths lies in their ability to “reach their audience digitally- through their app and other mobile experiences”. Tech Crunch finds that apps dominate when it comes to where customer’s spend their time on mobile devices. Either way, marketers must understand the value of mobile marketing as it “truncates the lead-to-sales pipeline dramatically” (Wells, 2013). Wells contends that fast conversion … Continue reading Shooting for the Stars, Not bucking the system | Starbucks

Ghosts | Not Just for Halloween

I stumbled across some articles related to pharmaceutical companies and the public relations tactics commonly used. I learned about medical ghostwriting which was fascinating as it relates to public relations, media and ethics. Because drug companies’ success is at the mercy of the doctors who prescribe their medications, a great deal of effort is put into influencing those doctors via earned media channels. Doctors turn to medical journals, which are supposed to be independent “evidence-based” literature (Ross, 2011). As it turns out, some medical journals are not quite so independent. Spinak (2014) writes, “One of the hidden secrets of the … Continue reading Ghosts | Not Just for Halloween

Anti-Marketing | Trader Joe’s

“They don’t do things ‘by the big brand book’ and ironically that is their secret to becoming big brands.” -The Millennial appeal of Google, Under Armour & Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s marches to the beat of a different drum. I agree that it seems odd that it doesn’t play the advertising and PR game, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting the retailer. Based on a recent survey of 7,200 customers, Trader Joe’s was ranked as the #1 choice for grocery stores (Mahoney, 2015). A lack of presence in print, broadcast and digital media may be more intentional than an … Continue reading Anti-Marketing | Trader Joe’s

Lay’s | Doing Marketers a Flavor

Lay’s, a division of Pepsi Co, has been a major producer of potato chips for 75 years. Losing market share to competitors who were doing a better job marketing to millennials, Lay’s enlisted the help of Public Relations Firm Ketchum, a public relations agency in New York City, and Energy BBDO, an advertising agency in Chicago. These agencies collaborated on an award-winning campaign titled “Do Us A Flavor” which sought to marry marketing and public relations in an effort to bring millennials back to the brand. In 2012, Lay’s promoted a crowdsourced contest where fans submitted their ideas for new … Continue reading Lay’s | Doing Marketers a Flavor

Wake up to Eggs with Bacon | The American Egg Board

It is easy to see why marketers seek celebrity endorsements. It has worked for companies like Priceline with William Shatner, Lincoln with Matthew McConaughey, David Beckham with H&M, and Nicole Kidman with Chanel. If the celebrity has predominately credible characteristics and is considered positive (like Michael Jordan) as opposed to negative (like Tiger Woods), then the brand will likely benefit from a celebrity endorsement. However, a study from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that consumers might be more likely to associate celebrities’ negative traits to a brand over the positive ones. Consumers revealed in one test that they had … Continue reading Wake up to Eggs with Bacon | The American Egg Board

The Power of Being Just a Kid | Powerade

I think Coke’s Share-A-Coke campaign is brilliant. Share-A-Coke is connecting with people on a personal level. Who doesn’t want to see their name on a soda can? This kind of promotion creates “emotional bonds with brands, which results in positive psychological movement toward them” (Belch & Belch, 2015, p 307). Powerade, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola has done something similar with its brand by putting hometowns on apparel to promote their “Just A Kid” campaign. The Just a Kid Campaign launched with a 30-second commercial called “Rose from Concrete”. The late Tupac Shakur narrates a poem he wrote, The Rose that … Continue reading The Power of Being Just a Kid | Powerade

The Value of Agile Marketing | Oreo & AMC

  Oreo has a brilliant marketing plan in place and has hired some forward thinkers to manage its social media. The “You can still dunk in the dark” is nothing short of genius. Ward (2014) says Oreo is the perfect example of agile marketing. Quoting Bruce Daisley, the UK managing director for Twitter, Ward (2014) writes, “Marketers must adopt an in-the-moment approach to using their social network. Rather than waiting for events to occur and reacting to them, brands will prove more successful if they target keyword trends and peak conversation times to deliver on-topic messaging”. The AMC vs. Oreo … Continue reading The Value of Agile Marketing | Oreo & AMC


Netflix has been a market leader when it comes to getting to know its audience. It has used social media as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over other entertainment providers. For instance, Netflix has been tuned into the social phenomenon of “binge watching” as TV enthusiasts have taken to social media to proclaim how they’ve caved to their TV addictions. According to Kara (2014), “Unlike other binges, of which we might want to stay mum (drinking, eating, shopping…), television binges seem to warrant proclamations on social media, much to the delight of entertainment companies and their marketing teams.” … Continue reading Netflix

How to Stay Smart | The Holiday Inn Express

 The Holiday Inn Express is an example of a company that has embraced social media and has integrated it into its overall marcom strategy. In 2013, HIE, a part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), brought back their “Stay Smart” campaign. This campaign had been one of the longest running and most successful marketing campaigns by a hotel chain dating back to 1998. The reimplementation of this campaign was in two stages. The first stage of the advertising campaign was, for the most part, traditional; the second stage was 100% digital, with a focus on social media. In April of 2013, … Continue reading How to Stay Smart | The Holiday Inn Express

The Creative, Copernican Shift

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) planners can generate creative ideas by gaining extensive knowledge of the product for which they are creating content. They must understand what makes it unique, learn the motivations and emotions of those who might buy the product, imagine every use and application of the product, and compare it to other similar products on the market. Belch & Belch (2015) note that the four best-known approaches that can that “guide the creative team’s search for a major selling idea” are: “Using a unique selling proposition, finding the inherent drama, creating a brand image and positioning”. IMC planners must … Continue reading The Creative, Copernican Shift

Stilettos on Steel | Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson is extending its marketing reach to the female motorcycle enthusiast. It makes sense for Harley from a revenue-generating perspective and I love to see companies that have traditionally marketed to men expand their scope and validate the female consumer. I wonder, though, if Harley-Davidson is experiencing any disconnect between the new female-friendly corporate culture and the traditional male-dominated environment present in their stores. An article I read addressed this, though it only mentioned “dealerships”, not Harley-Davidson dealerships specifically. President of the Milwaukee-area “Stilettos on Steel “ motorcycle club for female bikers, Anne Zube feels that “she and other women … Continue reading Stilettos on Steel | Harley-Davidson

Zumiez, Part I

Zumiez Inc. is a retail chain of over 500 stores that markets adventure sport equipment and apparel to teens. Specifically, Zumiez outfits young consumers with “apparel, equipment and accessories for snowboarders, surfers, skateboarders and BMX/motocross riders (Anderson, 2013). After visiting a store location or viewing their website, it is clear that Zumiez’s target audience is consumers in the 12- 24 age range. The caps, jewelry, backpacks, sunglasses, footwear, and other novelties are all designed with youthful appeal. While the retailer sells female clothing and gear, the young male extreme sport enthusiast reigns supreme for Zumiez. Zumiez communicates their message to … Continue reading Zumiez, Part I

Zumiez, Part II

Zumiez has been a strategy leader when it comes to social media engagement with its customers. It encourages customers to connect via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare. Zumiez rewards customers with loyalty points when they do. In addition, if you attend a Zumiez Presents Event and tag your photo, you can win additional prizes. When customers are posting about your brand, they have more skin in the game. They are more protective of your brand and have a greater chance of being loyal long-term. Zumiez is a leader in the loyalty department. Why? It pays. Smith (2015) says, “Since loyal … Continue reading Zumiez, Part II

Tweens Get Justice

Did you know that Justice offers additional clothing sizes for tween girls. After doing a little research, I learned that Ascena Retail Group (owner of the Justice brand) markets to women of all sizes and ages. They segment their market based on age. Justice appeals to tween girls, Maurice’s clothes are for women 17-34, Lane Bryant markets to women 35-55 shopping for high quality clothes and the Dressbarn caters to women of the same age shopping for value-priced clothing (Ascena, 2015). All of these retail stores have plus-size clothing, but their store, Catherine’s, carries an even broader selection of full-figured … Continue reading Tweens Get Justice


Target’s new CEO is “focusing on creating more urban stores to reach specific demographics”. Target has typically catered to a higher socio-economic demographic. According to Ries & Ries (2004) Target is “branching off from the mass merchandiser category to become an ‘upscale’ mass merchandiser. Their “wide aisles, neat displays and designer merchandise help to differentiate the Target brand from the Wal-Mart brand. ‘Cheap chic’ is the theme.” When I visit my local Wal-Mart, I am confronted with camouflage jackets on clearance and Styrofoam coolers on end aisles. It doesn’t feel very upscale. My town is relatively rural and has a … Continue reading Target

Chipotle, Part I

When it comes to Chipotle, I am a fan. Not because I necessarily need to eat a 1,000 calorie burrito, but because the company makes me want to. Chipotle’s fast-casual concept lures me in by offering a high quality product at a good value in locations that are easy for me to access. Product, price and place were the initial impetuses for my visits, but this Chipotle has made me a loyal follower because of their brand. The Chipotle brand is synonymous with farming sustainability, environmental friendliness and the humane treatment of animals. Because I value these business practices, their … Continue reading Chipotle, Part I

Chipotle, Part II

Chipotle’s marketing campaign is brilliant because they are reaching the target audience for which it was intended. Though the lines that run out the door at Chipotle are comprised of nearly every demographic, Chipotle’s target audience is primarily the Millennials. The number one casual restaurant among Millennials is Chipotle. In California, three out of five 20-24 year olds visited Chipotle in the past year, the highest penetration of any casual restaurant chain…Chipotle’s Millennial penetration is twice what it is among older age groups. (“Millennial target”, n.d.) According to Belch & Belch (2015) Millennials are typically considered those born between 1982 … Continue reading Chipotle, Part II