Want to Build a Great Brand? Start with Great Character.

In August 2016, Target’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones left the company to join Uber as its new President.

Just over six months later, he resigned, saying that “…the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber…”

That’s pretty damning, but it shouldn’t be all that surprising. In Jones’ first year, he spent a good deal of time talking to Uber drivers to hear about their issues and experiences. While our firm doesn’t work for Uber or its rival Lyft, I’ve been doing roughly the same thing for the past 18 months – asking drivers who work for both which one they prefer.

My informal tally of roughly 100 drivers shows that they prefer Lyft to Uber by a 9 to 1 margin.

You’d think the reason would be economic – that Lyft pays more than Uber, or that Lyft allows passengers to tip in the app (it does). But the reasons drivers cited were often less tangible – the policies on surge pricing (Uber being viewed as predatory), the method for doing auto safety checks (Lyft slower, but more deliberate), and the tone and tenor of


2024 Olympics: A Sustainable Solution

It’ll be a heated summer in Paris and Los Angeles, as both cities vie for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Ahead of the announcement on September 14, even the number of social media followers are creating controversy.

This is exactly what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would like, two competing cities driving online engagement, all in the spirit of the Olympic Movement. This healthy competition will push the planning and bid committees to spread positivity about the Olympics around the world.

In the end, both cities might be declared winners. There are rumors that the IOC will name one city the winner of the 2024 Games and the runner-up as the host of the 2028 Games. This is a good idea, as both cities are top-notch finalists.

However, the IOC’s plan highlights a deeper issue: the unsustainability of selecting different host countries for each Olympic Games.

High building costs, paired with limited post-Games usage are a very large barrier for potential host countries. Many countries are passing on hosting the games – which ultimately hurts the Olympic brand.


A look to the past

In December 2014, I had the opportunity to tour London’s Olympic Park. Since…


Pepsi Ad Autopsy

You may have heard about a certain multimillion dollar television ad campaign for a carbonated beverage that was quickly pulled after quick and extensive online backlash. It stunningly revealed the dangers of using current events to sell products in today’s connected world.

As brands try to make more meaningful and emotional connections, more are wading into current and controversial issues. We saw plenty of sociopolitical co-opting by bold brands during the Super Bowl. SNL satirized it hilariously in a skit of competing ad pitches for Cheetos. For some reason, the Pepsi ad was different. The ad spawned a crowd-sourced outrage that ended in it being pulled in 24 hours in a form of social censorship.

I anticipate an extensive autopsy of how the ad came to be. Some are blaming the lack of perspective in the creative process by relying on in-house creative, while others see a desperate pepsi2attempt at relevancy for television advertising. I don’t think either are at the heart of the backlash. I have no doubt the intentions of the ad were good. The nondescript protests looked to be about equality…


Most believe B2B branding is unique; we believe that’s BS

Christian Markow and Barry Saunders have spent decades thinking about brand strategy and customer experience while working on top-notch brands, such as GE, Chick-fil-A and Target. They also lead Joe Smith, Padilla’s brand consultancy. I sat down with Christian and Barry a few weeks ago to discuss how B2B companies should approach branding.

Christian Markow

Christian Markow

Barry Saunders

Barry Saunders

Q: How is digital disruption affecting B2B branding?

B2B customers have been influenced by extreme improvements in customer experience and design on the consumer side. Everything we deal with in our daily lives – from the way we pay bills, buy stock and order sandwiches – influences how we think about our business relationships. So we have wonderful, dynamic, interesting and joyful experiences that are equally influenced by both digital and human interaction on the consumer side, but then our B2B interactions are total “BS.” They’re laden by horrible procurement processes, impossible invoicing and a customer experience with sales people who just spit stuff at us. Or we end up in the silo the salesperson represents when we need…


The Winners & Losers of Ad Bowl LI

A big thank you to my co-author, PadillaCRT Chief Creative Officer Heath Rudduck (@HeathRudduck)!


20141118_PadillaCRT_Richmond_Parrotte_0010Nikki: Each year, we marketers anxiously await the Ad Bowl (and the chance to write about it: 2016, 2015). It’s an invaluable opportunity to callously throw around judgment be entertained and educated. The ads that score excite and inspire us, while the ads that flop… well, same. And these days there’s so much more to witness than the good, bad and ugly commercials on TV thanks to brands’ bold adoption of the second screen. Like the good marketer I am, I was extending my ad-viewing experience not on my smartphone, but my laptop, frantically taking notes with one hand, clasping a glass of wine in the other. My colleague Heath was tuning in, too:

20141112_PadillaCRT_MNPLS_Rudduck_0040Heath: What a game. Despite the fact I was hoping for a different result, I couldn’t in any way discount the incredible effort a comeback of that magnitude took. What a brilliant game. Strangely enough, the advertising left me feeling a little the same way. I had high hopes for the showing of some brands. Was I going to be entertained or enticed? Who will grab my


Why Strong Brands Will Win the Wine Game

image: shutterstock

Millennials are changing the face of the wine world. And they’re doing a pretty kick-ass job of it.

Propelled by a thirst for authenticity and discovery, this new generation of drinkers is embracing both old-world traditions and experimental styles. They’re not just drinking more, they’re drinking better.

Producers around the world are eagerly trying to engage this lucrative yet elusive market. And overall, they are not doing such a kick-ass job.

With a mass of curious new-comers on their doorstep, most of those trying to sell to them are doing so in the cryptic lingo of the wine aficionado—with promises of “bramble berries,” “old saddle leather” and “forest floor” as an attempt to start the conversation. While others, fueled by trends reports and superficial demographic data, are pursuing an opposite yet equally flawed strategy, of bending over backwards to show their audience how well their wine will fit into a mundane, millennial existence. (“You can pair it with pizza! You can take selfies with it!”)

“This wine pairs perfectly with my ADD, you guys.”

Neither strategy is…


New Year Prediction: Brands with Conviction Will Thrive

As we approach the new year and a new president, the country remains divided, the future most uncertain and for many, the threat to American democracy unthinkable.

As the public or shall we say consumers, become increasingly incited by the social environment, brands will be forced to take a stand. Those that toe the line of neutrality may end up vulnerable for remaining agnostic in relation to civil rights.

Let’s review what we’ve seen so far.

BuzzFeed terminated a $1.3 million dollar ad deal from the Republican National Committee over Donald Trump.

Tecate, a Mexican beer company, mocked Trump’s proposed border wall with a Tecate beer wall in the spirit of bringing people together.tecate

When Donald Trump Jr. compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles,” Wrigley brilliantly responded with the following statement: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”skittlesAmazon released an important ad featuring the friendship between a priest and an imam to promote Amazon Prime, but


Brands, politics and painful presidential elections

Guys, the end is near.

No, not the apocalypse (though it feels like it at times). The 2016 Presidential Election is next week, offering us sweet, sweet relief from the chaos of these campaigns. We as consumers have been feeling the effects of this tumultuous election cycle for what seems like forever.

Alongside us, brands have been feeling those effects as well. Here’s a few ways how:

1) They spend a ton.

Given the exponential increase in political advertisements over the past decade, commercial advertising was bound to be impacted. One way is “political crowd-out” – competition for airtime is fierce, causing brands to purchase spots months earlier than usual. Brands that were looking to run advertisements during the Olympics or promote summer-themed products (such as sunscreen) likely went through a different ad purchasing process than in most years.

Additionally, brands fear a “spillover” effect – a negative political advertisement’s tone can be pervasive and a significant percentage of consumers are likely to change the channel, meaning they fail to absorb the message of the brand’s advertisement that immediately follows. And, if they do keep the channel on, a recent study from JWT showed that brand advertising that airs right


What’s in a Name? Everything.

Want to know the top-secret recipe to create a name for a new brand? Great. Here it is: Grab a few creative folks, lock them in a quiet room and toss in a case of beer before you lock the door. Give them a couple hours. Presto, new name!

Easy. That is, if you only want a name. If you want a GREAT name—one that is memorable, meaningful and steeped in your business; one that can spark and sustain an emotional bond with your target audience—well, then there’s a little more to it.


Great names don’t inspire standing ovations, but sneakily take up residence in our brains, influencing how we think, speak and behave. It’s hard to imagine a time when people used cotton swabs, adhesive strips and facial tissues instead of Q-Tips, Band-Aids and Kleenex; a time before anyone Googled, Swiffered, FedExed or Venmoed.

The hidden power of a good name helped transform these brands from a product to a staple in our lives; filling everyday activities like cleaning our ears or looking up directions with a little extra magic and meaning. But creating a name with that kind of power


Little Brown Lies: Craft Whiskey’s Dirty Little Secret

Distiller Dave Cuttino leaned back in his stool and pushed a short pour of bourbon in my direction. Yet, the way his words punctured my perception of reality, he could have been Morpheus, extending a handful of red pills.


Dave Cuttino of Reservoir. Basking in artisanal opulence.

Cuttino and his partner Jay Carpenter are the owners, distillers, managers, and pretty much the everything else-ers behind Reservoir distillery in Richmond, Virginia. A tiny operation that has found big success by defying a dirty little secret at work throughout much of the whiskey world.

The craft whiskey renaissance that we appear to be living through, is in many ways one big hand-crafted lie. Or at least, an act of artful artisanal misdirection.

Most of the whiskey brands on the market today don’t actually distill their own stuff. Odds are your favorite “small batch” whiskey actually originates from a company like MPG in Indiana, where oceans of bourbon, rye, vodka and gin, are distilled for dozens, if not hundreds of brands. If that doesn’t take the wind out of your flannel, know that, at the same location, they’re producing “food grade industrial…