Featured in “We Ask the Experts: Which Brands are Killing it Right Now?”

After an intense Advertising Week filled with panels, old colleagues and new partners, pockets stuffed with business cards, crowded concerts with watered-down free drinks, buzz words, startups touting “Download my App!” and 4D goggles from Marriott– I was amazed I could put two sentences together. But a very nice reporter approached me outside the Ipsos Girls’ Lounge activation and asked me to share a brand who “Killed it at Ad Week,” besides my own company, of course. More than happy to tip my hat to the marketing team at WebMD and their wellness lounge at Liberty Theater. Smart, contextual marketing. They knew the crowd and they catered to them. Cheers!

http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/which-brands-are-killing-it-right-now-160533

Advertising Week

We Ask the Experts: Which Brands Are Killing It Right Now?

#AWXI attendees laud marketing peers

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#United4th: Share Your Patriotism

TBT: #United4th

Make My Digi Day

While most of us are absorbed in the daily grind, July 4th is a reminder to celebrate our nation’s independence and each other. With landmark issues being battled back and forth in Congress, the states feel divided.  Independence Day reminds us we’re UNITED.

This holiday weekend, Clear Channel Outdoor invites us to celebrate the 4th with the first cross-country digital billboard display of “The Star Spangled Banner.” From Albuquerque to Atlanta to Seattle to Times Square the billboards will beam the lyrics to our nation’s anthem. As you drive to the family BBQ or walk downtown to your rooftop soirée, be on the lookout for the red, white and blue billboards.

Watch a sneak preview with this moving short film (2 mins.) and hear the “Star-Spangled Banner” sung by New York-based Indie pop singer Ingrid Michaelson. I always rate a rendition of the anthem with the “chills factor”. Hers:…

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Branson: The Original Entrepreneur

Richard Branson embodied the word entrepreneur before it was commonplace. At 16, he launched Student magazine to give a voice to anti-Vietnam sentiment, and at 22, after being kicked out of record shops, opened his own in the crux of a church in west London. A local sanctuary for those who enjoyed music, it led to the launch of Virgin Records and the signing of the Sex Pistols in the early 70s. The Virgin brand continued to grow, evolve and stretch into various sectors over the past four decades, with over 400 businesses including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Hotels, banking services and — Virgin Galactic. If the first flight launches later this year as planned, with Branson and his children aboard, he will cement his legacy.

At the core of Branson’s leadership style is his relentless focus on his employees. They are the blood of his business. He believes it’s all about finding the right people, inspiring them and drawing out their best. He advises, “Lavish praise and never openly criticize people.” People flourish on praise and don’t need to be told when they’ve done something wrong; they know. He also believes in second chances. Arrested early in his career due to export tax evasion, he is aware that everyone messes up.

He notes when people are proud to be part of your company, they become the best brand ambassadors you can have. To be a truly good leader, you need to listen to them. Branson doesn’t hide behind his desk; he aims to meet as many employees as possible. On a Virgin flight, he not only speaks with the pilots and cabin crew, but to the passengers, too. He looks for kinks in the chain of assistance, because the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. “One of my key lessons over the years has been to surround myself with great management teams who complement me and ensure that we have the all-round skills to make our businesses succeed,” said Branson.

A proponent of decentralization, Branson enables managers to “own their own business” and be entrepreneurs within the company. He rewards his fellow risk-takers and has found some of the best ideas come from failures. At Virgin, there is little red tape and things get done faster. Branson attributes the success of his first-to-market products to the company mantra, “Screw it, let’s do it!” — unlike the bureaucracy found at competitor British Airways.

Though a risk-taker, he abides by the guiding principle: always protect the downside. He advises having a way out if things go wrong, such as limited one-year contracts, and protecting your people. “All you have in life is your reputation. Being the best business leader is dealing with people fairly and well,” he shared during his first TED talk in 2007.

His inquisitive nature and turning the status quo on its head is what propels the Virgin culture and their growth into hundreds of businesses. A bit of maverick, it was his mother that stressed he had to always be able stand on his own feet. She also taught him to never look back in regret but to move on to the next thing, and that has fueled his resilience.

Branson is hands-on, knee-deep in promoting all that is Virgin.To be a success, he is always out there, always selling himself, even at the risk of appearing a fool. As his own publicity magnet, he has starred in dangerous stunts, such as hot air ballooning across the Atlantic. His PR team advises against such antics, as it’s risky having a Virgin-branded balloon potentially sink into the ocean. But Branson knows it’s better to be on the front page than the back page and takes it all in stride, even his adventurous failures.

Not a traditional student (he left school at 15) and hindered by dyslexia, he said, “I’ve been running the biggest private companies in Europe, and I admit I didn’t know the difference between net and gross. In board meetings, they simplify: it’s good, it’s bad.” He has since learned to ask for the net number.

Branson has grown awareness for the phrase, capitalist philanthropy, though the nonprofit arm of his company, Virgin Unite. He’s shared, “When extreme wealth winds up in the hands of a few people, it’s important that the individuals in that position do not compete for bigger and bigger boats, but tackle issues around the world.” Initiatives including The Elders, the Carbon War Room and the B Plan have tackled important global issues such as social injustices in Africa, global warming and alternative fuels, and finding news ways to successfully do business without destroying the planet. Branson practices what he preaches and tests alternative fuel right in his own backyard on Necker Island.

The Virgin brand he created can be described as innovative, fun and quality service at a great price. As for the name, there’s no sexy story according to Branson. “It smacked of new and fresh and at the time the word was still slightly risqué, so thinking it would be an attention-grabber, we went with it.”

Some of Branson’s best advice includes:“If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it,” and “to look for only the best in people.” His favorite quote from personal hero Sir Francis Drake, “Only a fool never changes his mind.’”

Richard Branson is a transformational leader who continues to change the face of business, because at the core he truly cares for his people. And he likes to have fun while doing it! When employees feel involved, appreciated and part of a team, they prosper and fuel productivity. The greatest example is how he sold the 4th biggest music company, Virgin Music in the 90s to EMI to save Virgin Atlantic (at best, the 25th biggest airline). If he let British Airways crush Virgin Atlantic, all those employees would be out of work. Turns out, it was one of his best business decisions, because after Napster, the music industry collapsed.

Branson celebrates life and reinforces that into every nook of the Virgin brand, providing an omni-channel of innovation, quality and fun. His self-deprecation is charming, and makes him appear more trust-worthy, not like another arrogant business tycoon, but someone I would love to work with. Hello Mr. Branson – is Virgin hiring?

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I Rented the Runway

It’s becoming impossible to pull off the same dress twice. With the proliferation of shared photos via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. — everyone’s seen it. And though it’s unlikely you’ll be tagged in a “She Wore it Twice!” post in a gossip magazine, your friends WILL notice. Ten years ago, you could rotate the same dress for years among different social circles. Today, not a chance. Many of us had doubled, tripled our wardrobes in college due to the close proximity of suite mates and sorority sisters.  But after graduation, our choices became limited to our own closets.

I had heard of Rent the Runway, but was wary of receiving a dress without having tried it on first and then having to return it immediately after wearing it. Too much pressure. What if it looked nothing like the picture? Was too tight? What if I doused it in wine after a night out? But recently, I put those worries aside. With a week-long work engagement approaching in Las Vegas with many high-profile events, I needed a solution. I didn’t want to empty my checking account on dresses I’d only wear once.

So I did it. I Rented the Runway. I viewed tons of dresses and styles online, but the part that really sucked me in were the personal reviews — and pictures of real women, fellow renters. It’s one thing to see a 6′ tall, 90lb. airbrushed model shot against a green screen. It’s quite another to see  how real women rocked the dress at a wedding, at a party… for their engagement photos. It was so much more intimate, and helpful. I could say “Ok, silver shoes worked better than the black… She wore a size 6 and a red clutch and she looks about the same size as me. And she said to wear a strapless bra with this one.”

RenttheRunway

I reserved two dresses and they were set to arrive two days before I took off for my work trip. There is a 4-day and an 8-day rental option, the latter a little bit more $$, but when you’re traveling out of town, that’s your safest bet.

While I waited for a courier to deliver my dresses in Manhattan, I received an email that one of my reserved dresses had been returned damaged and that they had personally picked out a nicer dress in a similar style to send me. The curiosity killed me, I was online in seconds to search the name of the dress on their web site. Wow. It was 100x nicer than the original dress I had picked out — and more expensive. But they covered the difference. It’s the dress displayed above.

Both dresses I received came in two sizes. They will include a second size at no charge, which is super smart. Did the dresses look brand smackin’ new? No. They were definitely pre-worn, but in good condition and drycleaned. For night-time events, I think they both worked perfectly. For daytime, I might be a bit more cautious. But I definitely recommend this service and will use it again.

Rent The Runway RainbowRent the RunwayRenttheRunway_Haze

Here are my tips:

  1. Pick a dress that is less popular. The dresses with the most reviews had obviously been worn the most.
  2. Rent the accessories to go with it, especially a nice clutch.
  3. Order a few dresses for a week-long trip.
  4. If you’re not completely satisfied with anything — call or email Rent the Runway right away. They’re extremely responsive.
  5. Don’t tell everyone you’re wearing “Rent the Runway” like I did. Keep it your little secret.

Kudos Rent the Runway, you’ve made my DigiDay!

Rainbow

Trader Joe’s Brand Audit

Few grocery store brands capture the loyalty of consumers like Trader Joe’s. I admit I’m a recent convert, having never had the patience to wait on a line 100 people deep before — especially in Manhattan. My obsession with Trader Joe’s began with a grad school project on their disregard for social media. I was amazed that they were one of four major brands that shunned Facebook and Twitter. Reading they were an $8 billion company , my curiosity took hold. What the hell made them so damn special?!

I visited the Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side and was mesmerized by colorful walls, friendly “crew members,” low prices and a rather fun grocery-shopping experience. Trader Joe’s crew members, dressed in Hawaiian-themed attire actually approach you and don’t run in the opposite direction when you ask where the chicken broth is located.  I didn’t even mind the line that wrapped the second floor, it went quickly. I also loved the fact that I walked out the door with four super-filled bags of groceries and spent under 100 bucks! That rarely happens in the city.

Since my first time, I’ve returned. Why? Because EVERY single product I’ve tried, I’ve liked. Every single one. From the breakfast bars to the coffee beans to the frozen pesto pizza to the Arrabbiata sauce for $5! I hate jarred sauce — but this stuff is good! Almost every item is $2.99. How do they do it? They only have 4,000 SKUs. The average grocery store has 150,000, which is just not cost-efficient.

I still stand firm in my belief that their social media ignorance leaves them open to a public relations disaster. Plus, they face the threat of posers and bloggers speaking on behalf of their brand, and not always favorably or accurately. But this time, I took a step back to audit the brand from all angles — Positioning, Essence, Hierarchy, Logo, Tagline, etc. High scores pretty much for all, except their tagline, “Your Neighborhood Grocery Store.” Ugh, that doesn’t say much of anything, might as well be a bodega. But it’s not. Check out my Trader Joe’s Brand Audit below:

Kudos to Trader Joe’s on their Brand Marketing, now let’s just get cranking on the social media, so you can Make My DigiDay!

Rainbow

Did Someone Die in Your House?

After a recent marathon of American Horror Story and the thriller flick Mama starring Jessica Chastain, I just need to know ONE thing.  Was anyone killed, murdered, and/or dismembered in my 100-year-old townhouse??

Sure, when you’re the first tenant to ever rent or live in a brand new property, you think, “Ah, clean slate.” But let’s not forget what we learned from Poltergeist — your new home may have been built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground! You’re never safe from the tortured souls of the past. Maybe you don’t believe in any of that or could care less if someone was strangled in your bedroom as long as it brings down the asking price, BUT if you are mildly curious, there’s a search program for that. Of course, there is.

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With justifiable marketing savvy, DiedinHouse.com launched a week ago. For $11.99 for one search, why take any chances when on the house hunt? Some states are not required to disclose this fact…and if you knew a homicide occurred behind closed doors, it could actually help you close. Though personally, I could never stomach living in the shadow of a former crime scene.

Here’s a sample description you may receive on a property:

DiedinHouse.com description

Their Facebook page seems to be more engaging than their web site. Check it out and see if you recognize any of the homes:

DiedinHouseFacebook

hauntedhome

Nice niche you’ve found there. Congrats, Died In House, you’ve made my DigiDay!

Rainbow

Michael Kors Gets in Front of Gmail Change

GmailUsers

Michael Kors smartly addressed the recent changes Gmail made to its email platform, because as the question above relayed some people are so busy they may not have even noticed. What did Gmail do?

GmailTabs

Gmail divided all your incoming emails into three categories:

  •  Primary: Emails from known contacts (friends, family, work)
  •  Social: Emails and notifications from all social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest
  • Promotions: Emails from online retailers, travel sites, etc.

While this does unclutter my desktop inbox, I often forget to even look at the other tabs. While browsing Gmail on my mobile, all messages flow into one feed, so when I get home and check my messages again on my desktop — I get confused.

“Didn’t I see an email for a $50 spa day earlier? Where did it go?”

I’m also more likely to make an online purchase on my desktop when I get home. And if that Michael Kors email is not in my Primary tab, but in Promotions — it’s forgotten.

PromotionalEmails

This is obviously affecting retailers’ email open rates and conversion, such as Michael Kors, who decided to get in front of the challenge with this email sent to its users. They wisely illustrate how to move ALL Michael Kors emails to Primary going forward with 2 simple steps — Drag and Confirm:

MichaelKorsEmail

Michael Kors clearly demonstrates an email best practice — communicating changes to your subscribers, and provides a solution in 2 Easy Steps. Michael Kors, you’ve made my DigiDay! And yes, I will move you to “Primary”.

Rainbow