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It’s been a While

Wow, my last post was in February.  The reason being is that things were in a bit of flux.  The company I worked at had a huge restructuring that not only involved personnel, but involved our business model.  Before the restructuring we were consumer focused and marketing lead the business.

Our CEO moved into a new position within the larger organization (our parent company) and we got a new CEO who had a completely different vision for the business.  His opinion is that we need to be more sales and customer focused versus marketing and consumer focused.

Control of the P&L was given to our Regional Vice Presidents of which there are 12.   All decisions regarding the product (including packaging), pricing and even promotion were given to the RVPs.  The marketing department was rendered a service organization and has no authority to lead the business at all.  Even projects that I was in the process of managing had to change as I could no longer lead them without getting approval from so many people because our RVPs would delegate decision making to their subordinates.

One conference call that I was running on Mondays went from 15 people to 50 because that many people had to get involved.  The project I was managing was running like a well-oiled machine and then became a Sisyphean task because no one could agree in the aggregate or maybe one region wouldn’t agree with another so we couldn’t move forward.  It was especially acute in situations where one region saw my brand in one light and another region had a different opinion.

Meetings and conversations became endless lines.  One step forward, three steps backward.  There was no management structure in terms of decision making as our upper management would let the regions make decisions so every single decision became a series of circular conversations.

The role of marketing became this nebulous concept.  Many of us had “manager” or “director” in our titles yet what were we “managing” or “directing” if a decision we made could be usurped if a region didn’t agree?  Then, the projects we were given became insulting and downright stupid.

For example, our executive team wasn’t getting answers from our RVPs regarding questions on strategy.  So instead of telling these guys to provide the information they asked the marketing team to “interview” the RVPs and get the answers.  Then, we were to present them at a big meeting.  The conversations were awkward and the information was vague.  One RVP even said to me “Who are you to ask me these questions?”  One question we were to get answered was “What is the vision for 2015?”   One RVP told a manager “I refuse to provide this answer until I feel like it.”  That’s how it was presented, no lie.

Then, I was assigned a similar project except it had to do with pricing at a big account.  Some of the regions were going against the strategy adopted by the Key Account team and I was to speak to them and find out why and whether they would change it.  Obviously, most of the regions had answers like “That’s our strategy” and “That’s how we’re going to proceed; we are not changing it.”  Then, when I would provide the information to the Key Account Team they got angry with me rather than speak to them directly.  It was really weird.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the new philosophy that our executive team was espousing.  “Leading without authority.”  What exactly is that?  How does one lead without any authority?  I’ve seen some articles on it and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.  You mean to tell me that Bill Gates is wrong?  That Steve Jobs was wrong?  I’m a big fan of military history and military strategy.  You mean to tell me that generals like Leonidas, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great led without authority?  Seriously?  Please provide research that proves that “leadership without authority” is more effective than leadership WITH authority.  Given the above comments on how my projects were affected by the change in organization structure I don’t see how this concept works.

I basically felt like a secretary on that show “Mad Men” where I met with people carrying a pen and notebook and said “What can I help you with, Mr. RVP?”  It was insulting to my education, intelligence and experience.  So I quit.  I found another company in a different industry, not food, but still CPG and am in the process of getting oriented.  I’ll keep you updated on my progress, but I am enjoying the overall experience.

I actually have authority and there is structure to the business.  Also, the team likes to make fast decisions they don’t dilly dally on things and want to move forward.  I like it.  We’ll see how it goes .


Listverse Blog

I follow the Listverse blog and today they posted “The Top 15 Ads That Fail On All Counts.”   Enjoy.


Superbowl 47 Ads

I am late with this post.  I thought I could live blog throughout the airing of Superbowl 47, but my wife thought it would be rude to our guests.

Because of my lateness I’m not going to review every single ad as that would be tedious and pointless given how late I am.  However, I will make a couple of comments and mention my favorite ad and the ad I disliked the most.

A couple of comments:

  • I still see that companies are enamored with the idea that they are advertising on the Superbowl that they shirk their responsibilities as brand managers and put out horrible ads.  An add is supposed to follow the A.I.D.A. concept and most of the ads did not do that.
  • I really don’t like the trend started by Chrysler with the 2-minute long ad featuring Eminem (a horrible ad on so many levels).  Now more companies are doing 1:30 to 2:00 minute ads that are no better (I’m talking to you Jeep and Budweiser).  The Samsung ad featuring Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd prattled on and on like a comedian who is telling you a joke, but never gets to the punch.
  • GoDaddy, please fire your entire marketing team and never do ads again.  Apologize to Danica Patrick while you’re there.  That ad was horrible and just because people were talking about it afterwards doesn’t make that a good thing.  Especially when all the talk was negative.
  • Although there were some bad ones the car ads did a little bit better than they have in the past.
  • The food and beverage category did a better job than they have in the past.

OK.  Here is my favorite ad:

Personally, I am a cookie guy.

The reason I feel that the Oreo ad was the best was because it got your attention and maintained it throughout the ad.  It was consistent with their cookie versus filling debate ads in the past.  It’s those two features of the product that give the brand it’s equity as they are very ownable.  Chips Ahoy can’t speak to filling versus cookie.  The ad is extendable.  They can easily carry this theme throughout their advertising and even include “wet (which milk) versus dry” and so on and so forth.

Here is my least-liked ad:

Although not a consumer of Volkswagen I do like their products; however, what the heck does speaking like a Rastafarian have to do with German engineering?  What about that ad made you want to buy the product?  What about that ad was ownable?  What was the brand manager thinking?  There are several other questions I have and would like answered as well.  Hopefully, the sales of Volkswagen will speak to how bad an ad this is and will get the BM to re-think his brief.

What did you all think?  Which was your favorite ad and why?  Which was your least favorite ad and why?



Zoosk Commercial Review

I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but work and home life have gotten in the way of my blogging habits.

While I’ve been A.F.K. I saw a commercial that I love because it’s cute, but I hate at the same time, which I’ll explain below.

Zoosk,, is the romantic’s “Facebook.”  It describes itself as “the social network that helps members create and share their romantic journeys.”  From what I can tell the service is free and the interface is similar to Facebook.  You can even log in using your Facebook log-in and password.  There is an app on Facebook, along with an app for an iPhone/iPad, Twitter and YouTube page.

Apparently, the founders met in college and started a company doing market research.  They used their research technology to develop the Zoosk app and here they are.  Despite the fact that the company was started in 2007 it is ranked the number 3 dating site according to (see link below) right above eHarmony (when ranked by monthly visitors), which is 12 years old.

Being married I don’t follow dating sites, but I stumbled upon Zoosk’s commercial that aired before a YouTube video I was looking up.  Here’s the video.  I don’t know how old it is, but it was posted on 12/19/12 and has 13MM views.

I like this add because the heart does all the talking, the dialogue is funny.  Especially the part where he’s kissing the computer and the face he does at the end of his speech cracks me.  I love that the ad takes its time.  Liz hears her heart’s speech, reaches out to grab the cup and then responds.  I love the heart’s last like “Damn right I’m going to book the date.”  It cracks me up all the time.  The tag at the end about listening to your heart is a nice touch.

So that’s why I love the ad.  Here’s why I hate it.  It does nothing about selling Zoosk as a service versus other dating sites.  I watch a ad and I know how it works.  I watch eHarmony, who arguably does the best job explaining how the site works, and I get it.  I don’t know how Zoosk works after watching that ad.  I had to go to the site and figure out the interface and how it works.

That’s not good if you’re trying to raise awareness of your service.  I should have some idea how the site works and be enticed to sign up.  The ad doesn’t do  that at all.  Especially when you have very successful competitors like and eHarmony.  It doesn’t even say that it’s a “romantic’s social network.”  Why wouldn’t you use that in your ad?

How is Zoosk the “smart way to date?”  What does the heart have to do with the process?  I’m confused and that is called cognitive dissonance.  How are they going to resolve that?  They aren’t.

It seems like the brief that was given to the agency emphasized the cuteness of the ad instead of the objective.  Never sacrifice the objective for cuteness.  You just waste money.


Facebook 101


Social media is a funny subject for me.  On one hand it presents an opportunity to reach your target consumer in a personal way.  You can answer questions, provide information on new product launches, provide information on things happening in your industry.  Use it for contests; use it for marketing research and/or product development.  You can even use it to post your new TV ad or radio ad.

On the other hand it can be an unmapped territory where you know there are landmines, but you have no idea there they are and unfortunately lots of companies step on them.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of “irrational exuberance” about social media and what it can do.  It’s like a new toy for a child.  They go crazy with it and then they go to far and break it.

I will say that there are no rules for social media despite the “experts” out there who claim they can help you make money on it.  You can make money, many have, but the rules aren’t as clear cut or set as one thinks.

As with anything it all depends on your goals and how you go about achieving them.  It has been my experience that social media is best used when it comes to answer questions from consumers, market research and product development.  I have yet to see any of my strategies result in increased sales.  It can definitely drive relevancy.  You can get people talking about you and sharing your posts, but that rarely translates into real sales.

Rather than speak to how you can make it work (speaking to my point in regards to no rules) I’m going to show an example of what not to do.

Here is an image a friend sent me that a local pretzel shop he follows on Facebook posted the other day.  I’m no Photoshop genius so I blocked out any identifying markers as best I could (don’t want to get in trouble with the lawyers).  This local shop is known for making cool designs based on themes.  For example they did a Thanksgiving Day Turkey out of their pretzel product.  Here they are doing the same thing:

Wrestling Picture Modified

OK.  What’s going on there?  What thoughts went through your head?

Well, obviously it looks like a sex act; however, that’s not what it’s supposed to be.  It’s supposed to be a double-leg takedown as seen in wrestling.  This picture was commemorating the start of the high school wrestling season and the owner of the shop was celebrating his son making the varsity team.

Do you get it?  Probably not because most people don’t know anything about wrestling other than what the WWE produces.  So what’s the lesson here?

Don’t post things that can be misconstrued so easily.  There are a lot of different ways to say in pictures what you can say with words.  If you can’t do that than DON’T DO IT!  It’s better not to say something than to say something you will regret.

In business you have lots of things going on so if you can’t post about one subject without having issues then post about something else.  For this pretzel business, what’s wrong with just saying “It’s a great day, come out and get a pretzel.”

If anything the lesson is to double check everything and think.  Think. Think. Think.

Iams I’m not a Rabbit Commercial

Iams, the pet food brand, has released a new TV ad called “I’m not a rabbit.”  In it the brand states that they use 50% more animal proteinto their pet food than any other brand.

Here’s he ad:

It’s cute, but there is a big ol’ dab of psuedo-science mixed into the recipe.  Gluten is a protein; a protein is a chain of amino acids that is used by the body for a variety of purposes like moving molecules or creating a reaction.  There are different types of proteins, meaning animal versus plant (read: gluten) and some proteins may be more complete than others depending on how they are constructed; however, at the end of the day a protein is a protein.

Now, I know we’re talking about animals, but nutrients such as proteins are used in similar fashion so the logic still applies.  There is no science indicating that animal bodies can tell the difference between a plant protein and an animal protein and there is definitely no proof that a pet is better off consuming one versus the other.

If anything there is an argument that eating a plant protein would be more beneficial because plants do not come with the negatives of meat like cholesterol or fat.

So there is no evidence that Iams will be better for your pet than any other brand.  It’s kind of sad that they went with this message.  I think there are other ways of selling pet foods and other ways of differentiating your product.  They could say “We have 50% more protein than other pet food” or “We add x ingredient, which is proven to improve your pets growth from puppy to full grown dog.”

Hopefully, one of Iams’s competitors will realize this and pounce on it.

Polly-O String Cheese Crayola Co-Promotion

The subject co-promotion a few weeks ago, but never got around to writing about it.

Kraft has partnered with Crayola in a back-to-school program that leverages the equities of both brands.  The idea is that by purchasing a bag of Polly-O String Cheese you get $3 off of any Crayola products via a coupon inside the bag.

The Polly-O packaging was designed to look like a Crayola crayon box and even the individual packages of cheese look like crayons.  Below you’ll see a picture of a bag I opened (I was a bit rough with it).


They did a great job translating the both equities into the packaging.  Both brands are displayed with Kraft being more dominant than Crayola in terms of hierarchy, but that’s OK.  It’s a Kraft product and they shouldn’t make their brand play 2nd fiddle to another brand.  I think they could have done a better job with the individual packets and make the crayon image much bigger.

I wonder if there was a possibility to use food coloring to make the cheese look like an actual crayon.  That would have been really cool.  I’m no expert in producing cheese so I’m sure there was a reason they didn’t do it.

The promotion:

It has been my experience that promotions like these are very effective, especially when the equities are lined up so well.  Promotions where consumers are rewarded for a transaction are great sales drivers and can be used to launch new products (although I wouldn’t use this solely for new product launches).

Both brands target the same consumers, moms with kids between 6 – 12.  The usage of both products falls within the same day part: afternoons.  Both brands are wholesome.  It’s not like Crayola is risque or vice versa.  Also, at a very basic level, what child doesn’t need crayons?

If it weren’t for crayons my childhood would have been VERY boring.  Not to mention that I’m a heavy user of string cheese.  If i were a child now I would be begging my parents to buy this.  It’s a win win in my opinion.


One smart think that Kraft and Crayola are doing is to promote this via their web sites and Facebook.  Crayola goes so far as to offer activity pages that moms can print for their children to color.

So I’ll give kudos to both brands for a great partnership.  Hopefully, it is successful and they continue it next year.  I hope other brands start exploring more promotions like these in the future.