Beth at the Photographers Dining Club in London on April 1st

March 27 2015

Beth is very excited to have been invited to curate an evening on Discovering and Communicating Your Brand at the Photographers Dining Club at the Proud Archivist in London on April 1st. Joined by her clients, photographers Tom Parker and Squire Fox, Beth will be speaking as well as participating in an extended Q & A about the branding process, how it works, and how these two photographers have grabbed hold of their careers by working from the inside out.


The Dining Club marries two of our favorite yummy subjects: food and photography! Participants sit down for a dinner while discussing critical subjects in photography in talks given by leaders in the field. All in all, it’s a very chic event, which sold out in the first two hours! Never fear, though, as we will be posting excerpts from the event on our website in the near future, so stay tuned!

If you were not able to get a seat at the the Dining Club but still would like to meet with Beth, she will be meeting with clients old and new while she is in London. We are taking bookings until April 15th

Please contact studio@mercurylab.com to book your appointment.

See you soon!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No Change at the Cash Register: Confusion at JC Penny

September 21 2013

jcpenny

Makeovers come in all forms. A little touch up paint, a vase on the corner table, or in some extreme cases a complete, top-to-bottom transformation. It’s an internal process that manifests externally, whether we are dealing with our personal lives or our professional and business lives. Our hope is that we’ll make a room stand out or look more like “us,” or that we can turn around a failing business. The latter is what former JC Penny CEO, Ron Johnson, was going for.

When Johnson came into the position of CEO he determined that JC Penny was having an aesthetic and experiential problem at the retail level, and that it had caused sales to drop dramatically. Apparently, he didn’t feel that the core problem was the rough economy, or that their wide range of competitors had better products or prices. If you followed his short-lived plan of attack then you already know it didn’t go as planned. Sales continued to fall—twenty-five percent to be exact.

Johnson also decided that the JC Pricing strategy needed a makeover. Instead of putting out merchandise at full price and then marking it down later, he thought it would be better to start at a cut-rate price. The brands that JC Penny sells weren’t too happy with the news that their merchandise was being sold at discount, as it devalued their brands and put pressure on them to lower their prices overall. Johnson’s strategy was flawed, since historically, the JC Penny customer is more willing to buy when they think they are getting a deal. These days in particular, bargain hunting is in most people’s blood. If there is no scent of a sale, shoppers are more likely to move on.

Finally, after two years of ineffective strategizing, Johnson was relieved from his CEO duties. The company is now faced with bouncing back from a hole that just seems to be getting deeper. JC Penny needs a visionary CEO who is able to develop a new strategy and positioning that will build confidence and consistency, and that will bring customers back to the brand. Consistency and sustainability are the name of the game in good brand management, even when implementing a shift from existing positioning. Brands evolve over time, or sometimes go through a major reinvention, which is fine. But radically switching gears every few years will drive customers away. Brand confusion doesn’t work on any level.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Social Media Mishaps and Your Brand: Think Before You Tweet

July 03 2013

                            Images via thinkprogress.org and metrocookinghouston.com

With all the news about Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, being lifted in California, people are bound to share their opinions on the matter. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion of course but shouldn’t certain individuals, such as CEO’s of large companies, be wary of what they say? Especially in today’s world where, with the help of social media, you can post something and millions will see it instantly. Of course you can delete an embarrassing picture or a few harsh words but nothing is ever really erased from the web.

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, turned to social media earlier this week. He tweeted, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent actions in regards to same-sex marriage, “Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen.” The tweet was deleted but as previously stated, once you put something out on the Internet you can never truly get it back.

Chick-fil-A immediately provided their own statement, which read, “Dan recognizes his views do not necessarily represent the views of all Chick-fil-A customers, restaurant owners and employees, so he removed the tweet to eliminate any confusion.” This rebuttal was a smart move on the company’s part; protecting their brand should be top priority. However it is too early to know for sure how much damage Cathy’s statement will end up creating.

This isn’t the first time Chick-fil-A has had to manage their brand image because of their CEO’s public, derogatory statements. About a year ago they dealt with the cover-up of a different but similar issue when Cathy shared his critique of the government’s dealings on same sex marriage laws. At that time, Chick-fil-A issued a follow-up statement that all members of the company do not hold their President’s views.

This past month, in particular, has been full of high-profile folks being careless with what they say. Well-known chef and television star, Paula Deen, was released from her contract with the Food Network due to racial slurs, which she openly admitted using. Her empire is estimated to lose 12.5 million dollars, which is pretty serious dough. Chick-fil-A might want to plan ahead for damage control. Brands have to be managed from the top down, and a CEO who is a loose cannon in public is bad for brand image.

Tags: , , , ,

Macy's and Martha: Managing an Awkward Brand Moment

May 29 2013

By now, most of you members of the shopping public are aware of the contentious court battle between Macy's and J.C. Penney over Martha Stewart's Home Collection. Now, Martha has a long history of selling different products and product categories with retailers other than Macy's. She produces a line of carpets for FLOR, a number of furniture collections with Bernhardt, sold a lower-end line of paint and linens with K-Mart, and sells home office products through Staple's. It was only the J.C. Penney deal that would have infringed on Macy's, in which J.C. Penney was hoping to sell kitchen, bedroom and bath goods that would compete directly with Macy's. Martha's Home Collection is the anchor of "The Cellar" at Macy's, where the retailer offers up all of its tabletop, cookware and home goods from a variety of vendors. Martha's products are an essential draw that brings customers into this department nationwide. 

So, what was Martha thinking? Did she think that Macy's needed her so badly that they would simply accept her actions? I don't know, but I would imagine that J.C. Penney's was offering a better cut of the profits, important as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's earnings are down. None the less, Martha has a history of making some strange choices. Who knows the psychology behind her self-destructive moves, (remember the insider trading conviction, and the ankle bracelet, which are hard to forget)? She has had such an enormous influence over late twentieth sensibilities, home aesthetics, and how we live that one would think that she could rest secure in her enduring legacy, but that doesn't seem to be part of her emotional make-up and drive. She also seems unable to understand that her actions create reactions. Did she actually think that Macy's would roll over?

                            

                                               Macy's Martha Stuart Collection direct mail

Ultimately, Macy's has won the Martha battle, and has handled the crisis in an interesting way. The whole court battle played out in the media, and was never a crisis that was acknowledged or communicated directly between Macy's and their customers. It was simply not addressed, and played out in the background. Now that the issue is resolved, Macy's has handled the win in a graceful way. Hence, the direct mail piece that arrived last week. It doesn't say, "Martha's still here," or "Martha's back." It merely reminds you to come and shop Martha's Home Collection at Macy's; with Martha herself featured front and center on the piece. Very classy brand management, I must say.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The fate of Brooklyn’s Great GoogaMooga: A food festival not in the making

May 22 2013

        Image via Brooklyn.GoogaMooga.com

After what was reviewed by many as an event failure last year, the 2nd annual Great GoogaMooga festival took place in Prospect Park in Brooklyn this past weekend with promises of several improvements meant to alleviate many of last year’s problems. While promoter Superfly was not at fault for the rain that caused the cancellation of Sunday’s programming, the fact that the event was not called off until hundreds of people were already in line and waiting to enter was frustrating for attendees and vendors alike. The one hundred-plus food and restaurant vendors were left “holding the bag,” with their already prepared foods and lots of it, after preparing additional offerings rather than running out of food as they did quickly during GoogaMooga’s first year. The vendors immediately put out a ‘cry for help’ in New York Magazine by mid-day Sunday (check out the power of social media here), collectively asking the public to patronize their restaurants instead, as their booths had been washed out. The management’s gross incompetence and level of brand mismanagement will hurt the future of GoogaMooga. 

On the other hand, Williamsburg’s weekly Smorgasburg Food Festival has been very successful, offering a variety of local treats in an outdoor setting. Although the food is expensive and lines are long for the most popular offerings, people are willing to pay for the overall experience—unique, artisan, locavore eats in a fun, sunny weekend setting. They do lots of things right, and establishing a sense of community is one of them. Smorgasburg began as an offshoot of the popular outdoor weekly market The Brooklyn Flea, and has expanded in an organic way, rather than starting big. People have watched Smorgasburg grow, and are committed to supporting the local New York based food artisans.

Ultimately, the problem with GoogaMooga is that the promoter failed to fulfill the brand promise, and didn’t come close to delivering what they had committed to, with a resulting damage in brand identity and equity. In its first year, attendees faced food and drink shortages, overcrowding, and frustratingly long lines. In its second year, GoogaMooga put its consumers last, and they felt it. 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Time Warner, NY1 & Brand Management

March 21 2013

In my frequent talks about branding, and in speaking with my clients, I always start out by saying that your logo is not your brand. Your logo is an expression of your brand, providing a means to connect the consumer to your company or product. It is a symbolic expression of your brand, but it doesn't define it . It's a tool, one amongst many, that help the consumer to identify, connect and viscerally relate to who you are.

In its twenty-year existence, NY1, the all-news channel dedicated to New York City and the greater metropolitan area, has become an institution. We turned to it for our Hurricane Sandy coverage and to watch Mayor Bloomberg's testy news conferences, Neil Rosen's take on the movies, and Shelley Goldberg with her ageless blonde pageboy to tell us where to take our kids this weekend. And who doesn't love to watch key news anchor Pat Kiernan read the newspaper headlines to us every weekday morning? It's our morning tea, coffee, and weather person all rolled into one.

Last week, in an effort to make viewers aware of their ownership and the channel's exclusivity to TWC subscribers, Time Warner announced that they would be rebranding NY1, changing the name to TWC News and getting rid of the simple, yet iconic, blocky blue logo. The New York internet media reacted immediately, and not very happily. Gawker posted an article titled "NY1 to be Rebranded as 'TWC News' Because We Can't Have Nice Things." But anchor Pat Kiernan went on air and tried to assure viewers that nothing will change, saying  that the "logo is less important than the content."

In some ways, he is right, but not entirely so. What he was trying to say is that the anchors and content of the channel will stay the same, no matter what the logo looks like. At the same time, he was saying that there is going to be a brand disconnect between the station, its history, how it is known and loved by its audiences, and the new name and logo. He was asking you to stay put and not abandon NY1 no matter what happens at the corporate level. What he was really addressing was the issue of brand mismanagement, and a lack of sensitivity at the corporate level.

Time Warner might want to consider a name like TWC/NY1 News, or NY1: News From Time Warner. There are a number of options that would be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and that would hook the old NY1 into the bigger landscape of the Time Warner brand. Pat was saying, 'we're still here' and we will be, Pat, no matter what the logo looks like. That is not always the case for a brand, but in this case, we just can't give up our morning coffee and you.

 

Tags: , ,