Category Archives: Authenticity

Oh Say, Kanye See….









Via your classmate Vincent:

When you hear “brand,” you often think of a corporate brand image. With Pepsi and United Airlines recently making headlines with brand blunders, is it time corporations take some inspiration from individuals who have been able to make negative press a positive thing? A recent article on ( essentially praises Kanye West for his ability to draw attention to himself – arguing that any PR is good PR. Anyone who has watched his interviews might conclude that he is borderline sociopathic; but is he really? He might just have an absolutely perfect understanding of what it means to attract attention and garner more buzz for his upcoming business ventures and music production.
His famed wife, Kim Kardashian, knows how to do the same. Sure, she’s had a tape or two (not that I’ve seen them) and tons of controversial imagery released to the public over the years but what remains true is people want to know what she’s up to. This can’t be any better for her brand. I think one thing to note about all these individuals is their ability to stand out, and remain consistent and true to their brand: Kanye West will always be Kanye and Kim will be Kim.
Is it an individual’s values that we are attracted to, or more so the fact that they are who they are and the public almost rewards them for their unique characteristics? See Donald Trump for further supporting evidence. In the article, president and CEO of a global marketing agency JWT says “it’s a matter of being able to find and activate those consumers to see who you are,” and “that doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. It does take a lot of effort”. Is this something that corporate giants can take home and learn from? Are those millions of dollars in ad-campaigns going to the right place or has the internet completely changed the way a business should develop and maintain it’s brand?

Resolves Racism AND Tastes Great!

Image result for kendall jenner pepsi

Unless you’ve been sleeping…in the library…without a smart phone (none of which is remotely likely), you’ve probably heard about the failed Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

Moving from “fake” (modelling in a blond wig) to “meaningful” (joining in a protest), Jenner’s transformation–her own, the crowd’s and, most importantly, law enforcement’s–is enabled by the magic of Pepsi.

Confused? So were the in-house creative team that conceived of this campaign.

Industry executive Benjamin Blank, quoted in an article in Advertising Week, explains:

“I understand what they were trying to do: They had data that probably said 75% of millennials consider themselves activists, or whatever that data piece was, so we are going to embrace the idea of activism,”  [But Pepsi misfired by taking a] “very broad-stroke approach as opposed to standing for something. It’s like standing for love or happiness, that’s not really a stance.”

If Kendall Jenner actually did something that was meaningful and they documented that and supported that, that would probably be something that would make more sense for the brand as opposed to paying her whatever they paid her to appear in a scripted piece of content that was not based in any true meaning.”

Adding insult to injury, Martin Luther King’s daughter noted that the ad was released on the 49th anniversary of her father’s assassination.

Image result for mlk daughter tweet on pepsi


The result? The ad was pulled, Pepsi was mocked, and everyone’s talking about it. What’s your assessment: Win? Fail?

Is there such a thing as “artisanal funding”?

Clorox Co.'s Soy Vay has teamed with Three Jerks Jerky on a Kickstarter campaign behind Veri Veri Teriyaki

Just when we thought we’d heard of large companies trying everything to launch brands that are be perceived as small, authentic, “craft” and (implicitly) independent (I’m looking at you, Caleb Cola), here’s a new wrinkle.

AdAge reports that Soy vay (a quirky brand of Jewish-Asian mash-up sauces and marinades) is raising money to fund a partnership with Southern-California Three Jerks on a new teriyaki-flavoured beef jerky on Kickstarter.

Sounds cool–and delicious–except for the fact that Soy Vay is owned by parent brand Clorox.

Should large CPG companies turn to Kickstarter? What happens when funders find out they’re funding Clorox, which, aside from providing a less-than-luscious association for beef jerky, can surely afford to launch its own products?

Adam Simons, head of the Emerging Brands Group at Clorox, said the move was, “less about we don’t have the cash. That was way low on the priority list.” The idea was to help foster a mindset of running as “entrepreneurial and scrappy, very much like the startup within the company.” For whom: consumers or employees?


You know an ingredient is popular when…

sriracha beer Rogue

This is the beer I mentioned in class, a product of Oregon-based Rogue Beer. I did not buy it, so I can’t say if it’s deliciously spicy, or just strange.

Does the beer “steal” too much from its source? Or does it provide important brand and product associations? Do we forgive the “Rogue” version because it’s an independent, craft beer–and it’s going rogue–or is it appropriating another brand’s identity?


Duck, Duck, Canada Goose!


Canada Goose’s wild ride into luxury retailing is in its next phase, as the brand plans to open its own stores in select cities.

“We’re a global brand,” said [company president Dani] Reiss, in The Globe and Mail. “When we have these gathering places for Canada Goose fans, it builds and adds to the global halo of the brand. We’re not looking to go to 150 stores tomorrow. We’re not becoming a retailer, specifically. It will be important to open stores in places where there are large concentrations of Canada Goose fans…there are lots of potential markets for that.”

The opening of retail stores follows on the successful launch of a video last year aimed at telling the adventure stories of people who have worn the brand.

Are these savvy moves for a brand just starting to stretch its (soft feather-covered) wings, or a push to expansion that may over-expose a brand whose appeal may have been, in part, that it had to be noticed by someone who recognized the patch rather than someone who saw a commercial?


Tokenism or Equity? Hint: It’s Tokenism










International Women’s Day (IWD) is an admirable concept. But should it also be a brandable moment?

When brands like Brawny Paper Towels produce mini-campaigns like the image above (#strengthhasnogender), it’s tempting to let the feel-good testimonials to women’s abilities wash over you like a soft, cozy, pink blanket (cough…choke…sputter).

But here’s how you know women still don’t “count” for messages that aren’t congruent with shopper, mother, homemaker, heroic multi-tasker….from Marketing Magazine’s descriptions of some of the special IWD campaigns:

“Brawny has swapped out its iconic “Brawny Man” in favour of four successful women, whose images will appear across the brand’s social media channels throughout March in honour of Women’s History Month.”

See what they did there? But if strength has no gender, there’s no reason to “swap” the women’s images out at the end of March.

Because this is how Brawny is usually marketed:











See how our heroine, home from a long day of work (in heels!), gets to come home to chaos and needs a product with a “man’s strength” to clean it up? Even better, the brawny man’s voice in her head taunts her for wanting a dog…because he was “such a cute little thing!” (spoken with a baby-talk voice).

Unless… the errant dog, Jack, symbolically represents all the men in her life who create messes for her to clean up just because they don’t get enough attention. That’s the interpretation I’m going with, anyway.

International Women’s Day can remind us of women’s still-unequal status, give voice to the powerless and provoke real action and change. Or, it can give ad agencies an extra bit of seasonal creative work each year, along with a reason to pull out their thesaurus to find synonyms for “strong” and “empowered.”

Consumers are skeptical about “green washing” (companies that talk about environmental sustainability for marketing spin, but don’t live it); why isn’t brand communications work like this seen as “woman washing”?

(…and please don’t tell me it’s because they’re already the one’s doing the washing…sigh.)


Papa John, er, Peyton, celebrates the Super Bowl by kissing his Budweiser, uh, wife

Peyton Manning SBowlVia your classmate Erin, an article in MarketWatch about Peyton Manning’s apparently unsponsored (but repeated) plug for Budweiser and Papa Johns.

According to the article, he’s done something similar before, and has a financial interest in two Louisiana Anheuser-Busch distributors and bought 21 Papa Johns franchises in the Denver area in 2012.

So, is it a brand plug? If so, does it matter if he has financial interests in the brands he talks about? Is this an ethical concern, a brand equity concern, or both?