What’s in A Name?


via your classmate Ruby:

Kylie Jenner has established a successful brand identity as a reality television personality, socialite, fashion designer and model. She has capitalized on her celebrity status through various business ventures including a clothing line called Kendall and Kylie and a successful cosmetics line called Kylie Cosmetics. Naturally, Kylie submitted a U.S. trademark application for her respective name in 2015, as she wanted to protect her name in relation to advertising, entertainment and personal appearances “by a celebrity, actress, and model.”

Unfortunately for Jenner, in February 2016, Australian pop star Kylie Minogue and her representative business, KBD, filed a notice of opposition to Jenner’s application. KBD argued that Minogue already owns trademark registrations for “Kylie Minogue Darling,” “Lucky – the Kylie Minogue musical,” and her full name, “Kylie Minogue.” She has also owned kylie.com since 1996, which is to say, before Jenner was born. Kylie Jenner has filed an appeal to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Minogue has been active since 1988 and has established a prominent brand not only in pop culture but also through philanthropic and humanitarian efforts. She has been known as “Kylie” for the entirety of her career. Jenner, on the other hand, debuted in 2007 and her name has appeared in a variety of outlets and products. As it currently stands, ownership of a name is quite often a first-come-first-serve situation.

Kylie Jenner has established a strong brand identity which has been powerfully defined through various social media platforms. She was voted as one of 25 most influential teens of 2014, and in 2016 she was one of 10 most followed celebrities on Instagram and has a best-selling app on iTunes.  She has accumulated a large and loyal following which has enhanced her brand’s personality. Her followers, primarily millennials and teens, are exposed to her life and she promotes EVERYTHING on her social media platforms. If Kylie J. doesn’t win the appeal, will it affect the Kylie Jenner brand?



This Email, Well, Bombed.

Image result for adidas boston marathon

Via your classmate Adiela:

Adidas is running–to apologize after sending an insensitive email to finishers of the 2017 Boston Marathon. The subject line of the email read “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” Recipients of the email took to social media expressing their outrage at the insensitive subject line of the email which was intended to be a promotional email, encouraging runners to “share their race day experiences and shop official gear.”

Adidas subsequently apologized, stating that they were “incredibly sorry”, and that “the Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we’re reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event.”

Although the company has acknowledged it was a poorly executed marketing email, I simply feel that an apology is not enough. In my opinion, this is likely to hurt the brand more than help it, as it displays a high level of insensitivity on the part of the brand and is directly offensive to the survivors of the Boston marathon bombings. The brand image in the eyes of loyal customers who hold this issue dear to their hearts will likely diminish. Adidas has to take a more active role in showing that they are truly sorry. To right their wrongs, they should come up with innovative ways to get directly involved with helping the current survivors and use the publicity from these efforts to redeem themselves in the eyes of the public and reverse their image from insensitive to community activist!

Link: http://runningmagazine.ca/adidas-sends-extremely-poorly-worded-email-boston-marathon-finishers/

Zellers: Night of the Living Dead Brand

zellers queensway

via your classmate Vito:

One of the best known Canadian brands has come back from the dead to feast on the clearance merchandise of Hudsons Bay and Home Outfitters! Many people don’t know this, but there are two Zellers locations still chugging along in Canada. One in Nepean, ON – a suburb just south of Ottawa and one right in our backyard on the Queensway in Etobicoke, ON. They’ve been open since 2013, but you won’t find much advertising for these two stores. In fact, the stores aren’t listed on the HBC store locator and you won’t find any mention of them on the HBC corporate website. It’s almost as if they are run by some supernatural retail force.


What treasures are kept in these stores you might ask? Well, in the article linked below, Christina Avila bravely ventures to the Queensway location and admits she was surprised at what she found. Unlike the original Zellers stores of yesteryear, these stores sell a variety of clearance merchandise from large brands including Nine West, Ralph Lauren, Ivanka Trump (everyone’s favorite), Dooney & Bourke, Kensie, and BCBG MAXAZRIA.


Apparently these stores were quietly re-opened after HBC sold all locations to Target, which begs the question, why continue using the Zellers brand name? They could have reopened as ‘Designers4Less’, ‘Brand Clearance Warehouse’ or something along those lines and allowed the well-known name associated with Zeddy the bear and 3D club sandwiches to rest in peace.

I’d argue that the mass familiarity with the Zellers brand among Canadians, whether the connotation is positive or tainted, is what accounts for much of the patronage that these stores get. Why ditch a brand that is well known and try to build a new one from scratch? Maybe the negativity surrounding Zellers (if there is any) doesn’t outweigh the familiarity when it comes to getting feet in the door.

What do you think?

The Grass Is Always Greener…


via your classmate Ryan:

While medical marijuana has been on the market for some time with a prescription, the Federal Government of Canada is currently in the process of legalizing the sale and recreational use of marijuana. Importantly, this legalization will be managed with regulations which specifically include how marijuana can (or cannot) be branded.

The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommends plain packaging and prohibit any product deemed to be “appealing to children” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/files/editorial/News/marijuana_explainer-1213/Marijuana.pdf). To note however, there are different camps with varying definitions of the phrase “Plain packaging”.

In one camp, “The federal task force recommended that plain marijuana packaging be allowed to include the company name, strain name, price, amounts of psychoactive ingredients and warnings.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/cannabis-industry-opposes-plain-packaging-advertising-ban-1.3982113)

Another camp believes, “Cannabis should be treated essentially the same as liquor, a sector where companies cannot show people using the product in commercials or target underage individuals.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/cannabis-industry-opposes-plain-packaging-advertising-ban-1.3982113)

Arguably, the latter would be a more appropriate treatment whereby there are restrictions on branding but branding none-the-less. Branding will give firms the opportunity to display and convey their value proposition and differentiation. It will also make the product look more legitimate than what is currently sold in the black-market. Legitimacy and access is what I think will drive current customers to purchase from newly authorized (legal) sources vs. illegal sources (one of the government’s goals). Marijuana has as many variations as alcohol (or versions of alcohol i.e. whiskey vs. scotch, etc.) so branding will be critical in informing the customer about the differences and characteristics of one brand or strain over another. Elements that could be included are grower, growing conditions, source, farm name, etc.. Similar to food, where customers are demanding to know more about where their food comes from, the same principles apply here.

If branding to this degree is allowed, it would be an interesting time for new brands to build an identity, image and personality. This would be the first time the product is available to the masses in Canada, so potential customers would need to be educated to entice trial. This would be followed by more education to explain why one brand has a better product than another brand. Brand Personality would need to be managed carefully due to federal regulation regarding the branding of marijuana. Recommendations from the task force seem to indicate that firms could not brand themselves as being part of having a luxury or fun life style the way alcohol brands do but also seems to be more liberal than cigarette branding. Accordingly, these new brands should focus of the uniqueness, rarity and production effort of their particular product over others. This would convey a premium product but would exclude any personality traits (i.e. fun, hip, older, younger).


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.



Note to Samsung: Don’t Screw This Up

Galaxy Note 7

Via your classmate Shashin:

In August 2016, Samsung introduced the newest addition to its popular Note Phone series: The Note 7. Boasting moderate improvements from the last Note Series, the Note 7 came with a wide range of features and an extensive battery capacity. The tech world rejoiced, for a while.

Within a few days, news of overheating and exploding batteries started coming to light. By mid-September, Samsung stopped selling the Note 7 and issued a voluntary recall of devices sold before Sept/15th. Samsung tried to identify the root cause and fix the devices before reselling them, but the problem persisted. By the end of the year, Samsung was forced to pull all Note 7 products from the market and reimbursed the customers in exchange for the devices.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review highlights Samsung’s recovery from this fiasco, and predicts that in the long-term, the brand will not only survive, but thrive. The author highlights 3 key insights into the Samsung brand:

  1. A large, loyal base of existing customers insulates the brand.
  2. Geographically identified brands bounce back quickly.
  3. The Note 7 crisis is limited to a single Samsung product and is self-contained.

The issue around the Note 7 batteries and Samsung’s reaction to it epitomizes why customer experience and brand management are critical to a company’s survival. Having a large base of customers helps to insulate a brand from rapid market loss. In Q2 of 2016, Samsung sold over 78M smartphones. Including all the products that Samsung sells, the company’s consumer base would be ~1B customers. During the recall period, customers chose to replace the defective devices with brand new Note 7 devices, further evidence that loyalty runs deep in Samsung’s base. Further, Samsung’s speedy response and ownership of the issue gave consumers additional confidence in the brand and helped them look past its transgression. Given a history of successful and popular product offerings, the loyal customer base will quickly put the Note 7 debacle behind them.

If this issue plagued a smaller brand without a large, loyal customer base, then then negative publicity would have decimated the company. In Samsung’s case, the culmination of having a loyal customer base and being proactive while dealing with the crisis will help ensure the brand will rebound in the long term.

Do you agree?


“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?