What’s your point?

Every brand has characteristics that are directly targeted to how they do business. One of the most obvious selling points I see with retail and restaurants, is that they are stable, and have been around for awhile, like the bar below:

McSorely's Old Ale HouseThe windows of this establishment proudly boast that “we were here before you were born”. This Ale House was established in 1854 and it’s true, that is something to boast about. But what about newer establishments? How do they give themselves credibility without a history?

I’ll be discussing many characteristics that could be used for credibility later on, but today I will highlight one that’s unique: innovation.

Just down the block from McSorley’s Old Ale House lives the new building for Cooper Union, one of the best Engineering (and art) schools in the country.


P1030395This school prides itself on the innovative research, and the real-life application of that research. This is beautifully characterized by the unique and futuristic architecture of the new main building. Though this school is also well established (founded in 1859!), it is more beneficial to the school to focus on its innovation instead of its reputation.


Build an Experience

Look at Yelp. Nine times out of ten, a bad review comes down to someone’s experience with a staff member. When building a brand, you’re shaping every experience that a user shares with your company.

Today I want to give the spotlight to one of my favorite stores in New York: Cure Thrift Shop.

P1000508Not only is it a great thrift store that donates all profits to diabetes research, but it has also managed to cultivate a certain ambiance that welcomes the culture of thrift shopping (not the Macklemore culture, but the thrill of a sweet vintage discovery).

Cure Thrift store hoursIn a recent blog post, Cure even designed a job posting that fits perfectly with the NYC style of Broadway casting calls (and how hard it is to get a job here!).

Cure Thrift Shop is my local brand crush.



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Conflict of Interests

Branding is about reputation. A brand develops over time, and needs to be trusted, preferably honest. A brand, like a person, is trusted when it has opinions and sticks to them. That doesn’t mean that opinions can’t change over time, just that a brand can’t speak out of both sides of its mouth, like Unilever.

Unilever is a behemoth of a brand, with a wide selection of sub brands hiding underneath its umbrella:

The two sub brands I’m currently irked by is Axe (top left in the above picture) and Dove (top right corner).

These two brands are very well know for their edgy advertising, but both in their own ways. The issue is that these two brands have very different messages, and make Unilever rather two-faced.

Dove is known internationally for positioning itself against the beauty industry and for the confidence of women, seen in this film of theirs below:

This hard-hitting short film should convince women that Dove is on their side, right? Unfortunately, Unilever also owns Axe, a brand that constantly objectifies women in its ads:

Or this ad that literally uses the woman solely for her breasts:

With such opposing views on women, how is a customer supposed to trust Unilever?

We need elbow room

As seen in the picture below, advertisable space has gotten a little crowded recently.

Overstimulating ads

So what did architects do when they started running out of land? They went in a new direction: up.

There are two main ways to “build up” and find new space for advertising that I’ll describe today.

1. Find new spaces to buy, like the food cart below:


This is the simplest form of “new media”. This requires no change in how you advertise, just where you put it. In the last two months that these food cart ads have popped up, the most interesting/eye-catching ads have been like the one above, not even selling a product. This form doesn’t make your ad more memorable, but it at least gives it some elbow room and allows it to be seen.

2. Use the space you already have:

NYC coffee shop "The Bean" draws in customers with it's flamboyancy

The space you already own – your store, kiosks, product packaging, etc. – is your best asset. This is how people see you anyways, so why not show people what you’re made of?

Pretty bar codes are pretty

For instance, why doesn’t everyone have a decorative barcode? They’re easy to make and are an innovative continuance of your brand.

This is what you see on the ceiling when you lay on a bed in IKEA

IKEA is one of my favorite brands when it comes to marketing. The above picture I took while trying out one of their mattresses. Each bed had a different statement pointing out a feature.

What are your favorite creative uses of space?

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Spice up your copy!

Company: Seamless.com

Medium: public transit display

One of the unwritten rules of New York public transit is to avoid eye contact at all costs. For this reason, ad space is sometimes monopolized by one company for an entire subway car, forcing you to read every single ad. Often these are the exact same ad over and over, but some campaigns and brands are honestly a pleasure for me to read, and I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I look forward to reading the copy of seamless.com:

The thing that makes these ads so addicting (can you tell I’m a marketing nerd?) is that they are current, and appeal to their young audience perfectly. My generation strives to be authentic, and we like to publish our weird quirks, as is evident in our Twitter accounts filled with “just got out of the shower” and “tacos make me gassy”. Seamless takes this brutal honesty and spins it to suit their service.

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The Premiere Strategy

If you’ve ever talked to me about marketing, or even if you’ve read my other posts, you know how much I love the Australian talk show Gruen Planet. I first fell in love with this show before I even watched it, when it was still called “The Gruen Transfer”.*

A few years back I was perusing commercials on YouTube, when I came across this case study of how the show was first introduced to Australia, through the marketing agency known as The Monkeys**.

There is a key phrase in this video that perfectly explains why this strategy went so well: rage turned into engagement.

Companies today give millions of dollars to be able to have the engagement and response seen in this case. Though no specific social media is used as a platform, this strategy does what is most important to succeed in social media: it presents a scenario, and opens up a conversation. Anger is a powerful emotion, and when used in marketing it is very difficult to keep it from spinning out of control. The Monkeys did a superb job of presenting their audience with a terrible scenario (the public channel airing commercials) and replacing it with a better proposition (no commercials, just an awesome new show with a well-known comedian as the host).

When The Monkeys presented an opportunity for anyone to make a commercial, they allowed their audience to feel like they are participating.

Though I could practically write a book about how much I love this strategy, there is one key factor that every campaign should follow: it tells a story.

*Eventually I’ll explain what the “Gruen Transfer” is, but if you’re curious you can learn more about it here.

**When this case was published, The Monkeys was known as Three Drunk Monkeys. I applaud them for their branding audacity.

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Reacting is important.

I know I’ve said this before, but it needs to be said again: social media is about conversations.

The best way to manage social media is not just by being proactive, but by being reactive. A good example of this is Oreo.

During the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo had a marketing team staying up all night to watch the game. Their preparedness came in handy when the stadium had a blackout, and they were the first ones to react. Though many companies tried to bring wit via Twitter, Oreo had an image and punchline conjured up within ten minutes of the event.


It’s easy to pre-write ads and have them automatically publish throughout the week, but by the time your tweet comes out it’s already outdated.

Real-time reactions are the only way to strike advertising gold.