Here’s A List Of The Least Despised U.S. Brands

On Wednesday, AdWeek ran an article titled, The Best Perceived Brands of 2013It was a recap of a recent YouGov Brand Index survey that “measures consumer perception of brands by asking consumers if they’ve heard anything negative or positive about them and assigns a score ranging from 100 to -100 by subtracting the negative from the positive feedback.”  Here’s a look at the top brands courtesy of a AdWeek graphic:


Now here’s what I find fascinating. Everyone one of the top saw a year-on-year decline in brand perception. And these are the cream of the crop! On average the Top 10 brands dropped nearly 7 points. Put another way, the Top 10 brands averaged a score of a little over 26 points. The 6.9 average drop amongst them from 2012 represents a more than 25% decline in brand perception.

If I follow the methodology correctly the Top 10 are receiving roughly three negative pieces of feedback for every positive one. Nike, the darling of every marketing case study has a score of 16.5. What in the world is going on here?

It seems to me that there is something fundamentally wrong culturally. The would appear to be a massive gap between how brands would like to be perceived and the reality of the situation.  If the scores are any indication, there isn’t a magic bullet solution here either.

Dissecting the Top 10 is a fascinating exercise as well. You’ve got old, traditional brands like Ford, V8 and Cheerios right next to Amazon and YouTube. Media outlets like History Channel and brick and mortar locations like Lowe’s.  If I were to take a stab at it, I think all 10 are perceived as providing value, or empowering people in some way. Take control of your health (Walgreens, Subway, V8, Cheerios), DIY (Lowe’s, YouTube), on-demand (Amazon, Kindle). Ford and History channel are interesting. They both are a nod to nostalgia, perhaps even patriotism on some level, but neither brand feels stuffy or out of date.

It would be worth a deeper dive to see if there aren’t some other insights that can be derived from this survey.





Should a Fast Food Outlet Employ an All You Can Eat Strategy in Social Media?

Burger King Norway has decided to “Think Outside The Bun” when it comes to social media. Wait, that’s Taco Bell’s tagline. Ok, let’s just say BK Norway is taking a decidedly unconventional approach in regards to their Facebook page. FastCo.Create has the details. The short version is that BK Norway offered followers to their Facebook page a coupon for a free Big Mac – the key product of their chief rival! – to those people who would unfollow BK Norway. That’s right, they gave away somebody else’s signature item in an effort to lose followers. Why on Earth would they do that?

Social Media strategy, brand loyalty and community engagement all put to the test

Social Media strategy, brand loyalty and community engagement all put to the test

Here’s the thing about Facebook “likes,” especially for brands: Likes are a cheap, and I would say frequently arbitrary and misleading metric. Especially when you lure an audience with free goodies and coupons. Those are fans of your brand, those are fans of a brand called “Gimme Free Stuff.” Listen to what Burger King Scandinavia marketing director Sven Hars said in explaining the rationale for the move:

“This campaign gave us the opportunity to get rid of all the fans that just liked us because of freebies,” says Hars. “We stopped focusing on how many likes we had, and put time and resources into finding out what to talk about and how to engage our fans.”

Bingo. Several key insights here. Let’s break ’em down:

1. They got rid of the “fans” that were just there because of the freebies.

Those people are going to be nothing but a drain on resources. They’ll want to know when they are getting their free food, and then they’ll likely complain about the quality when they do — both in public. Don’t believe me? Go ask TGI Friday’s.

2. They stopped focusing on “likes.”

Quick, go to your Facebook profile and review the brands you’ve “liked.” My bet is that you can’t remember ever “liking” about 30% of them, you have patronized another 30% in the last year (or ever) and then there’s another 30% that you do use/buy, but their Facebook presence has nothing to do with it. Focusing on “likes” is a never-ending race to nowhere. What’s a successful number of “likes” to have? One million? Ten million? Who knows. Likes are a result of doing the right thing, not a means to and ends.

3. They decided to do some research and focus on the people who matter

Most brands, especially in this category, just pump out product promotions, but Facebook – and by extension social media – isn’t, or at least shouldn’t, be about that. It should be about understanding how people live, what they really want, and being part of culture. Then figure how your brand (not your product) fits in.

Yes, BK Norway has a lot fewer fans on their Facebook page. But these are people who, when given the choice, declared they would prefer to stay loyal to Burger King over their chief rival. Now BK has set up an us vs. them situation, just the type of thing that can be the catalyst for building a true community.  Again, here’s Hars on the results of the move…

 “There are so many more conversations going on between both us and the fans, and the fans in general,” he says. “Focus on quality for us has led to a dedicated and loyal fan base, and has also made it easier for our fans to connect to the brand.”

Conversations are a better way of measuring than mere “likes.” In a category where quantity usually trumps quality, at least when it comes to products, it’s great to see a brand focus on the latter.

Great. Fast. Cheap – Pick Three. Marketing Today

This piece was originally written for the Advertising Week Social Club. Lots of great content over there, check it out.


For many years the phrase “Great, fast or cheap – pick two” has been a favorite of mine. A delicious bon mot that creatives throw around amongst each other, rarely however having the courage to actually say it to a client. It was an understood but unspoken truism that was proven correct time and time again.

Thanks, Oreo

Thanks, Oreo

Even as desktop publishing and various technological barriers to entry began to fall, there was still a feeling that truly great work was something that needed to be crafted over time, and that that effort deserved an appropriate level of compensation. The corollary of course would come after a project turned sour. “Well, you get what you pay for.”

I was recently in a conversation with someone at a marketing agency and we were talking about this and he noted that for those of us who work in the social media field the truth was,  “great, fast or cheap – pick three.”  Indeed. The rules have changed thanks to the #1 advertising buzz-word of 2013: Real-Time Marketing.

Now, the truth is that the majority of brands putting a marker down on ‘fast’ have done so at the expense of good, and many have thrown away cheap as well, opting to eschew the ‘get the intern’ approach and instead hiring a specialist agency.  Of course the brand wasn’t set up for this sort of thing, so legal, marketing, sales and other internal groups hindered the use of the outside agency. But every once in awhile everything comes together and that little part in the middle of the ‘great/fast/cheap’ venn diagram lights up. Oreo now being the primary example.

And so an outlier becomes the perceived default. Now brands are trying to find ways to quickly turn out great content at little cost.  But right now that’s a bit like seeing someone win the lottery, asking them their strategy for picking numbers, and heading down to the liquor store to buy your own winning ticket. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

So how does an agency respond to this?  How do you manage client expectations while still proving your worth, and the worth of the strategy and tactics you’ve sold in? Here are some tips:


Sure events like the Super Bowl or MTV Video Awards are a prime opportunity to strike Real-Time gold, but make sure your plan is bigger than that. Your strategy should be an on-going one, not all or nothing.


Bake the social strategy and tactics into other above and below the line executions. Social, real-time efforts should be one leg of a stool – remove it and the whole thing topples over.


Make sure your definition of “fast” and your client’s definition of “fast” is the same thing. Does one day for you = one week for them? Does one day for you = one hour for them? Either way it can be a problem.

Great, Fast, Cheap may be the present for marketers, just make sure you slow down and think about how you are going to make it happen.


HBO, Jay Z and the #SecondScreen opportunity for #PicassoBaby

Jay Z’s not just a rapper and he’s more than a businessman (or a business, man); he’s a cultural force. From Rocawear to marrying Beyonce, from selling a million copies of an album before it’s released to a subliminal shout-out from a Presidential candidate.

We could talk about his Livestreamed concert at SxSW last year, or his fledgling sports agency, but for right now, let’s focus on Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film which will be premiering on HBO tonight at 11pm eastern. Here’s a taste:

As a fan of Jay Z, and an HBO subscriber, I’m certainly planning on tuning in. As a marketer, and Content Advisory Board member to the 2nd Screen Society, I’m intrigued by the possibilities. HBO and Jay Z are both rightly lauded as innovators in their respective fields. This seems like a perfect opportunity for going beyond the traditional and extending the experience to a mobile device or tablet.

Marketing strategist Rob Fields thinks it’s a missed opportunity: “Since it’s only 11 minutes, HBO should make it available on HBO GO for, say, $1.99. Whatever the price is, it would open up the viewing legally to a whole new audience. They’d get the revenue and the consumer data, which is probably more important. It’d be a huge prospect list.”

This sort of content, from an innovative thinker like Jay Z is ripe for something like a 2nd screen experience.  I spoke with several 2nd screen industry innovators to get their take on what they’d like to see, or what they would have recommended:

Jeremy toeman, CEO Dijit media:  “In this era with such rich apps and a huge, excited, engaged, and obviously mobile, fan base, seems like there’s a lot more to offer an audience. From alternate camera angles to making of/extra footage to interactive social experiences, it seems like a great second screen opportunity!”

Aaron Williams, Founder/CEO of SocialSamba“The most exciting part of the whole concept for me was seeing the fans, 

Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery

Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery

participating in and recording their experience with the performance.  Think about it this way – it would only take 14 different fans hitting record to rack up a thousand different takes, angles and perspectives for every second of that song.  That’s a pile of content that begs to be mashed up by amateur fans and pro remixers alike.  There’s a kick-ass startup called Switchcam that does exactly this kind of syncing across multiple fan cams to allow everyone to mashup their favorite take on a shared experience (like concerts and weddings).  Jay should give them a call and put all that content to great use.”

Gitamba Saila-Ngita, Chief Innovation Strategist at Deft Collective had a different take:  “If you’d seen the process of creating the video you’d know that Jay Z spent almost 8 hours performing the song as “performance art” to random strangers and celebrities, with some joining in. Somewhere in that process a second screen experience should have been born that would enhance the experience when viewing the content on mobile or tablets. I think adding second screen to this [the HBO presentation] would be purely novel and nothing quite innovative or ground breaking. That said, it could explain why this is being pushed as something you have to watch on our downtime Sunday night.” 

Rob Fields counters, “The second screen experience could be interesting.  Remember that Jay filmed 6 hours, so there’s a lot of footage that could be teed up.  Point at which audiences on laptops, tablets and phones could go deeper.  They should definitely offer bios and video perspectives on the other artists that Jay included.  For example, I’m only broadly familiar with Marina Abramovic, and the broader population may be less so.  Also, do they have footage of Jay talking about why he chose the other artists?  It’d be great to hear his own words on this.  A win for HBO would be to have the 2nd screen experience be incredibly immersive so that you’d stay on the HBO site long after those 9 minutes were up.”

Rather than from purely the content aspect, I look at it from a brand opportunity point of view.  Jay Z’s deal with Samsung, the one that allowed Samsung mobile owners to download the new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, a few days early – the one that got Jay Z a million sales before the album proper even dropped – was criticized for certain privacy related issues. Could providing those consumers with exclusive 2nd screen content to the HBO program have been a nice apology or surprise and delight bonus? Perhaps.  What about Pace Gallery, where Jay Z did his 6-hour performance art piece? Surely a 2nd screen experience highlighting the gallery or the history of performance art would have made sense.

As many above noted, there is a lot of material to work with and perhaps we’ll see it come to life at a future date. In the meantime, we’ll watch tonight and wonder what might have been.

3 Ideas Better Than Hiring a Celebrity Creative Director Lady Gaga. Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Justing Timberlake. No, not a list of Grammy winners. Well, actually, yes, I’m pretty sure

He drinks Bud Light Platinum?

He drinks Bud Light Platinum?

they’ve all won Grammys, but they and others like them have also been tabbed as Creative Directors by brands looking make a splash. The brands tend to be technology companies looking to add a bit of coolness to their ‘science nerd’ persona. The Harvard Business Review blog has a piece on the trend worth checking out as well. Now, celebrity endorsements have been around for a very long time so grabbing a famous face is nothing new, and by making these talented people ‘Creative Directors’ it supposedly adds more authenticity to the enterprise.

But does it? Does the average person looking to buy a computer think, “I was going to get a laptop with an AMD processor, but with in place at Intel as ‘director of creative innovation,’ I guess I’ve got to go for the one with the i7 core instead.” Ok, on some level I can imagine that a laptop needs to be high performance for the type of stuff does – producing, mixing, etc., but how does that qualify him for the Intel gig. Movie stars need high performance toothpaste, but I wouldn’t buy Crest because Jennifer Lawrence was in the lab coming up with a new tartar control formulation.

But even partnerships like Gwen Stefani and HP, or Alicia Keys and Blackberry are more believable than Justin Timberlake and Bud Light Premium. Does anyone think JT drinks light beer? In fact, this pairing seems like it’s more harmful to Timberlake’s brand than it is helpful to BLP.

Of course there are other reasons that celebrity pairings are a dubious strategy. Many celebrities are just one movie, album, athletic season away from being yesterday’s news. Others remain in the spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons (crime, poor life choices, etc.). Here are three strategies that are more sensible than going the Celebrity Creative Director route:

Make Your Own Star

Lady Gage & Polaroid. A Recipe for...?

Lady Gage & Polaroid. A Recipe for…?

Yes, Apple has used celebrity in their ads. But the ‘celebrity’ most associated with Apple? Apple’s own Steve Jobs. If you had to name another it might be their Senior VP of Design, Jonathan Ive. Building celebrity from within has several advantages. For one, it’s a whole lot cheaper. It’s also a lot more credible. It was easy to believe Jobs was obsessed with Apple products because Apple was his sole focus. It’s a lot tougher to believe Lady Gaga was sweating the film game over at Polaroid.  Making your own star can also be a strong way to tell employees or potential employees that the company sees the important role they play.

Make the Product the Star

The first thing I think when a brand announces a celebrity Creative Director is that the brand can stand on the merits of the product, and that instead of trying to make the product better, they’re going to try to dazzle me with a boldface name. When craftsmanship and quality are the core of your brand you don’t need much else. Look at Red Wing Shoes, Tiffany or even Starbuck’s. The product is what sells the brand.

Make the Customer the Star

Smart brands understand that their role is to make people’s lives more fulfilled, enriched, easier or otherwise better. Ultimately it is the enjoyment  people get when using your product that is the magic. Put the customer front and center and you are on your way to creating a community, not just renting one from a celebrity. Perhaps no one knows this better than LEGO, who champion and showcase the great creations made by their fans, and have even created the LEGO Certified Professionals group.

Every brand is different and sometimes a celebrity partnership is the right way to go, but the celebrity Creative Director trend is one that can go away. There are better alternatives for brands.



Weekend Reading: The Oscars, Netflix and House of Cards

For the video entertainment fans out there, two pieces I wrote that were published this week:



From Host to Hashtag, a look at the 2013 Oscars


First, on PSFK I wrote about the Oscars. I touch on Seth MacFarlane’s effort as host, what some brands did, social media in general, and being a real-time content creator.


Netflix is betting big on binge-viewing.

Netflix is betting big on binge-viewing.

For FastCoCreate, I took a deep dive look at Netflix and their original content play with House of Cards.