Category Archives: brand communications

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?

Keep Calm, and Carry On (Buying at Reitmans)


Happier days: Markle as Reitmans Brand Ambassador in the fall of 2016

Via classmate Sheena:

Meghan Markle has ended her relationship as brand ambassador for Canadian women’s retailer, Reitmans. The star of ‘Suits,’ more recently making headlines as Prince Harry’s girlfriend, said goodbye to the brand she signed on with in 2015. Meghan Markle was brought on board to inject a youthful refresh of the Reitmans brand. It was part of a strategy for the retailer to target younger customers to buy its apparel and re-energize the Reitmans brand, without “alienating the older women who still make up a core market.”

Will Meghan Markle’s split from Reitmans be detrimental to the brand, or will the brand benefit?

I suspect that Reitmans will see a bump in sales and brand awareness in the short term given the media is widely reporting on Meghan Markle ending her relationship with the brand. Media reports speculate the reason for the split is because Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement is imminent. It’s worth noting that had Meghan Markle ended her relationship with the brand and Prince Harry not been part of the equation, there likely would have been few or no media reports about this endorsement deal ending.

Reitmans will certainly benefit from the added media exposure, and the free buzz generated from the news coverage will help give the brand worldwide exposure. For example, media in Britain have latched on to the story, a place where Reitmans isn’t sold (although there are close ties between Canadians and fashion retail in the UK: the Weston family’s empire includes department stores Selfridges and Miss Selfridges).

As Reitmans’ brand ambassador, Meghan Markle would have increased brand awareness and attracted the younger customers Reitmans was targeting – so, in the long term, and in order to continue their brand strategy, the brand will need to find in its next ambassador someone who can both appeal to women of all ages. However, it is unlikely that Reitmans will benefit in the long term should Megan Markle and Prince Harry get engaged, as Markle’s celebrity didn’t have sufficient brand recognition or momentum during the time she served as brand ambassador for Reitmans for it to carry on.


“Ummm, NOT Okay, Burger King.”

bk-20170419102456900Google home is a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant, developed as a competitor to Amazon’s Alexa. As with its Google Glass offering, you summon help from Google Assistant with the phrase, “Okay, Google…”

Creatives at Burger King decided to leverage the new technology in an innovative–but ultimately disastrous–campaign. In a 15-second spot, a spokesman says he doesn’t have the time to describe the wonders of the chain’s signature sandwich. Instead, he says, “Okay, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Google Assistant’s algorithm goes straight to the source: the Whopper’s Wikipedia entry, which Burger King’s marketing team had edited.

The response was swift, with multiple Wikipedia editors calling out the company for breaking its community rules, and consumers editing the pages in a negative light, including:

“The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100% medium-sized child with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cyanide, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.”

According to reports, Google disabled the feature just two hours after the campaign began.

This “social media altercation” is one of many examples of the tension between brands and consumers, and a good illustration of the vigilance with which consumers monitor corporate actions, lashing back as needed.

Was Burger King technologically savvy or just naive? What do you think?

First Air Miles, Then United Airlines; Now Nike’s Putting On Airs?

Nike Kiss My Airs
Via your classmate Sebastien
On my way to class, I saw the above Nike advertisement displayed on a TTC bus shelter.  I knew that I had to take a picture of it even though I did not realize yet that it was going to be the topic of a blog post! 
KISS MY AIRS! Isn’t that rude? Why put the word air in plural anyway? Is it so that the word finishes with an –S (as the word usually in this phrase) or is it that the ads are talking about both shoes?  
Nike tried to “cleverly” modify a common expression to associate it with its Air brand of shoes. Did it work? I am not too sure. Some might see the result as witty; I would rather label it as corny. Regardless the way you perceive it, I believe that the ads do not fit Nike brand identity and image.
Nike is usually recognized as inspirational. Its spokespeople are athletic, focused, determined, and hard-workers. They are filled with a motivation to better and surpass themselves, but they are never arrogant about it. Nike is about one competing against oneself; it has nothing to do with others. This is the personality that I attribute to Nike. Its slogan expresses this attitude; no excuses, “Just do it”!
“Kiss my airs” would better fit a company with a slogan such as “Just beat them!”
Is “Kiss My air” witty? Perhaps. Does it fit Nike’s brand? I do not believe so.

United in a knot

Image by The Red Dress via

Via your classmate Joyce:

That breeze you’re feeling is Pepsi’s sigh of relief. In what’s been called the ultimate “hold my beer” move, United Airlines managed to find itself in an even bigger PR nightmare days after Pepsi launched its controversial ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

To give a brief recap of the United Airlines incident:

  • The airline had overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville and were looking for four passengers to volunteer their seats in order to accommodate four of its employees to make a flight.
  • When none of the passengers (who were already seated) wanted to give up their spots, United selected passengers to be removed from the flight.
  • While three of the passengers vacated their spots, David Dao refused to give up his seat. What ensued was airport officers being called onto the plane to physically drag Dao out of his seat. More disturbingly, Dao was injured in the incident resulting in lacerations on his head. And the kicker to this was that this incident was recorded and shared online.
  • Once made available online, the video went viral.
  • But it didn’t stop there. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz responded to the video in an email sent to employees. In the email, Munoz deflected the blame by stating that United employees followed proper procedures and that Dao was belligerent and had defied airport security officers.
  • Naturally, this email was also shared on social media where people voiced their concern on the tone-deafness of the communication.

I’m sure you know that it’s not uncommon for airlines to overbook their flights. It’s one of the many pain points of flying. I don’t envy the Marketing, Brand and PR departments of airlines. It’s a constant battle of handling customer complaints. But I think the David Dao incident is a really compelling case on how brands and organizations need to be mindful that people (customers and employees) are always watching and we’re at a time when everyone has a camera and video recorder readily available. Gone are the days when someone like Dao can be shuffled aside and provided compensation quietly outside the prying eyes of the public. We live in an age where isolated incidents can have huge reputational and financial repercussions. In the case of United, its stock dropped by 6.3% the day following the incident (

Case in point, organizations need to be extremely careful about how their brand is being represented at all times. It reminds me of the 2010 incident where a TTC transit fare collector was caught napping in the booth (

But the point isn’t the necessity for proper employee training and how they represent the organization’s brand. It’s that brands need to be keenly aware and prepared that eyes are on them all the time. All it takes is one incident, one error or even an event taken out of context to collapse all of the brand equity an organization has worked so hard to attain. Going back to United Airlines, even though it was airport officers who were dragging Dao off the plane, the incident happened on a United Airlines flight and the public immediately links what happened to the brand. Not only that, United didn’t get any sympathy from the public when it was revealed that the four seats were needed for employees. Why should United customers need to accommodate the company’s employees?

Overall, it goes to show how a cell phone and a social media platform can have such a huge impact on a brand’s reputation. This definitely isn’t the first or even the last time United will experience a dent in their reputation. What I hope is that the organization learns from this incident and makes the necessary changes on how they address their customers. At the end of the day, they’re in the service industry and customer service should be their top priority.

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 Snapchat Useful for Brands?

2-snapcode-to-special-discover-channelA recent article in Fast Company touts the ephemeral nature of Snapchat as a way for brands (and particularly start-ups) to get the attention of new media users.

Is this wishful thinking, or a distinctive way for brands to communicate their messages “for a limited time only”?

I’m the wrong person to ask, as I’ve downloaded but never actually used the app. Let me know what you think (and respond before this message disappears…)