Friday, March 5, 2021

How Important Is Brand Storytelling?


Last year while the covid pandemic raged, there were other raging fires. The #BlackLivesMatter movement took to the streets to start a dialogue that will not easily be resolved overnight. Thankfully, many brands took notice.

Some brands with lengthy histories had names, product imagery, and taglines that reflected different eras. It was definitely time to change.

The most recent brand that listened to current events and made a change is Quaker Oats. Its “Aunt Jemima” product line of pancake mixes and syrups presented a racist stereotype on its packaging.

According to CNN, “The name Aunt Jemima long criticized as a racist caricature of a Black woman stemming from slavery, will be replaced with the Pearl Milling Company name and logo on the former brand’s new packaging, according to the parent company PepsiCo.”

According to PepsiCo, “The Pearl Milling Company was the 19th century business that created the original ready-made pancake mix. It was founded in 1888 by Chris L. Rutt. He named the original company after “Old Aunt Jemima,” an 1875 song from a minstral show that featured performers in blackface who wore aprons and bandana headbands. The new Pearl Milling Company brand logo replaces the Aunt Jemima image with what appears to be a 19th century watermill, where flour was ground at the time. The new logo’s red, white, and yellow color scheme matches the colors that were used on Aunt Jemima’s packaging.”

According to Laura Holloway, Founder and Chief of The Storyteller Agency, “Storytelling is our obligation to the next generation. If all we are doing is marketing, we are doing a disservice, and not only to our profession, but to our children, and their children. Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling.”

While brand history is important, brand legacies and cultural sensitivity are also critical to long-term brand success. The brands that listen to cultural shifts and integrate those shifts into their storytelling are the ones that will survive.

TWEET THIS: Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling. ~@StorytellerAgcy #brandtip #brandstorytelling

Image Credit: Quaker Oats/PepsiCo.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Leadership Secret: Be "Other-Centered"

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a variety of inspiring leadership experts. One of these experts is Linda Fisher Thornton, the CEO of Leading in Context LLC, in Richmond, Virginia. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Linda’s bio.

Linda has been in the leadership field for 25 years and can be found online at and on Twitter @leadingincontxt. She has a passion for ethical leadership and her book, 7 Lenses (in its second printing), introduces a practical 7-Lens model and 14 Guiding Principles for learning ethical leadership. She teaches global leadership and applied ethics as an adjunct associate professor for the University of Richmond.

QUESTION: Since the Covid-19 pandemic began a year ago, how has it impacted the role of leadership?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: The most obvious leadership challenge during the pandemic has been managing the risks to customer and employee health and safety, but leaders must also deal with the psychological impact of working remotely, and the medical and financial challenges employees are experiencing.

Organizations with good leadership and positive cultures will be ready to navigate these pandemic challenges with a high degree of concern for people’s mental and physical well-being. Because health and safety are so important and so much is at stake, organizations without positive cultures will likely need to move toward creating a caring culture during the pandemic if they want to stay in business.

QUESTION: What book should every leader read, and why?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: My recommendation would be my book: 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Many leaders seek a more meaningful kind of leadership than what they see in the news. I feel the need to share this book even though I wrote it, because it offers practical guidance for leaders on how to apply ethically aware thinking and leadership. It includes seven lenses for ethical decision making and a four-quadrant model of leadership with the ethical values built in.

QUESTION: What are some key elements that a leadership team can do to create and maintain a positive corporate culture?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: Leading with values is the way to create a positive culture, and it needs to be consistent. Leaders need to find out what employees need and find ways to meet those needs; demonstrate respect and care in all interactions; and talk about, guide, and support ethical decision-making.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Leaders need to find out what employees need and find ways to meet those needs.  –@leadingincontxt #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: What are the best ways to motivate employees?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: What motivates people best? It’s the trust we build with them. It’s how we show respect and care for them. It’s the relational investments we make in them.

What people want most is for leaders to build a positive human relationship with them. To listen to them. To include them. To find out what their aspirations are and help them reach their potential. To recognize their talents and nurture them. To use their suggestions and give them credit.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: Job seekers and prospective customers often check out an organization’s reputation so that they know who they’re dealing with. They want to see the CEO living out the stated values and consistently making responsible decisions. Ethical CEOs invest time in building trust, transparency, and positive relationships – which translates into great customer and employee experiences all the way down the line.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
LINDA FISHER THORNTON: I love it! This quote drives home the point that leaders need to be “other-centered,” focusing their time and attention on how to make others smarter, better, and more successful. That requires setting aside ego and embracing the true role of leadership, which is about nurturing the success of others. It also means accepting that some of the roadblocks to employee success we uncover may be of our own creation.

Leaders should consider and ask team members to respond to these questions: What am I not noticing that you think is important? What are the biggest challenges that are getting in the way of your success? What am I doing that is making it harder for you to do your job? Leadership doesn’t require power moves. It requires humility, service, and vision. Authentic leaders see the possibilities in people and teams and find ways to help them bring those possibilities to life.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Leadership doesn’t require power moves. It requires humility, service, and vision. –@leadingincontxt #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Linda for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her leadership insights!

About the book referenced in Question #2:

Tools for readers of the book referenced in Question #2:

Image Credit: GR Stocks via Unsplash app.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Content Will Always be the Fuel to Push a Brand Forward and More #SocialMediaTips

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership and marketing experts. A new connection with a shared passion for social media is Troy Sandidge from Chicago, and I'm thrilled to welcome him to my blog in a Q&A. Highlights of our discussion follow below his introduction.

Troy Sandidge is a Growth Marketing Strategist (aka, The Strategy Hacker) that skyrockets business growth through his C.L.O.V.E.R. Business Framework. He has 10 years of experience creating pathways and roadmaps to achieve next-level success, maximizing revenue, increasing brand authority, and developing social communities through cutting-edge growth marketing strategies and digital marketing solutions. His work portfolio includes Entrepreneurs, Thought-Leaders, Startups, Small-Medium Businesses, Nonprofits, and Fortune 500 brands. Troy is the Chief Strategy Officer at Vult Lab, the Founder & CEO of Strategy Hackers, and the Host and Executive Producer of iDigress Podcast. He is also an international speaker, a Twitter power user, and loves connecting with other people and learning about their zone of genius! He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube with @FindTroy and his website is

QUESTION: Your pinned Tweet on Twitter was shared in April 2015 and states, “#Imagination is the engine. #Content is the fuel. #SocialMedia is the highway. #Marketing is the roadmap. #Sales is the destination.” Please elaborate why it continues to be relevant today, nearly six years later.

TROY SANDIDGE: Yes, it’s amazing how that tweet still amazes and connects with people when they stumble upon it for the first time, even in 2021. I think it continues to remain relevant because the correlation doesn’t change even though the platforms, tools, terminology, and mediums change in popularity or out of necessity.

You will always need to have imagination to bring something creative to life. Any campaign, content piece, narrative, and so on stems from this. In the same way, whether it’s video, audio, articles, the content will always be the fuel to push a brand forward. And whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or the new kids on the block like TikTok, Clubhouse, and Twitter Spaces, social media will always be the most effective way to distribute your content to your desired audience at scale. Marketing is always the driver to attract, nurture, and compel people to achieve the goal being sales. And of course, the end results of all of this is sales, dollars and cents, getting adequate outcomes from all of the outputs.

And since 2020, I’ve added: “Culture is the GPS” because cultural trends and behavioral economics push what’s popular or in high demand. I also think when you look at this entire illustration as a whole, it suggests always being in a constant state of momentum, and to do so each of these things has its place to ensure you maintain that.

SHARE ON TWITTER: The content will always be the fuel to push a brand forward. ~@FindTroy #MarketingTip #SocialMediaTip #BrandTip

QUESTION: What is your favorite social media platform or platforms for brand-building, and why?

TROY SANDIDGE: I still think in 2021, all personal biases aside (since this is also my favorite platform), and looking at this from a pure growth marketer perspective, Twitter would be the platform of choice. You can connect more quickly and efficiently with desired individuals and brands you would like to work with, not including the same for PR and collaborators. It’s still the most public-centered platform where you can get a lot of exposure (coupled with the right timing, trends, attached media, and what audiences you’re entertaining). Plus I truly do believe that Twitter is the bridge to LEADS. You can even get your tweets indexed by Google to help with your brand search visibility by being consistent with posting on topics true to you and your brand, making sure your Twitter profile and bio match your website and other resources, and diligently providing value.

QUESTION: What three brands use social media the best when it comes to “social listening” and “engagement” with customers, fans, and stakeholders?

TROY SANDIDGE: Three are Domino's, Agorapulse, and Kleenex.
(1) Domino's is a brand that sets the bar pretty high when it comes to social listening and engagement. Domino's provides no less than 15 different ways to order their pizza and other items from their menu, ranging from voice command on home assistant devices like Google Home to sending an emoji over social media. The diversity and distribution of how they really want their customers to “have it their way” are taken literally with their preference to make their order. They were definitely ahead of their time by launching it as a campaign - and ahead of their competitors.

(2) Agorapulse is one that comes to mind as well. They do a phenomenal job using their literal audience as guests on their various shows, being part of groups to ask questions, educate, give value, and serve as a networking hub. So not only are they utilizing social listening to drive more sales, they are using it to be of service to their audience to help them acquire more leads and grow their brand authority.

(3) Kleenex is a good example of a brand that used social listening to make an impact on its community. I’ve been studying some of their campaigns and wanted to echo a source (YtC Studios) praising the brand about some of their campaigns during 2020: “The company used social listening to increase brand sentiment. Perhaps, the most unique initiative is its “Feel Good” campaign, in which Kleenex scoured Facebook for statuses from users indicating different degrees of sickness. Upon identifying these status updates, Kleenex leveraged the users’ online connections to obtain their addresses and send them specially prepared Kleenex Kits. Fifty lucky people received kits, and every single one of them posted about this special surprise. The result? Kleenex garnered over 650,000 impressions and 1,800 interactions between the brand and social media users.” This demonstrates how well they used/are using social listening to give their audience what they need most, which also serves as a powerful series of campaigns too.

QUESTION: You recently participated in a podcast hosted by @MakeAMarketer, where you discussed the importance of a marketing strategy for all brands. (A link is provided at the end of this Q&A.) Please provide a few highlights for those who missed the podcast.

“Likes, comments, and shares don’t pay the bills.” These are byproducts and secondary goals of a good social media strategy and should not be the main goal of one. Knowing how to decipher what such metrics are telling you as far as measuring how effective your campaign is doing, is key to hitting the goals you want like a higher click-through rate to your landing page for your product or service, a more engaging community, more traffic to your website at a lower bounce rate, more subscribers to your newsletter and so forth.

“Strategy isn’t over the moment I give you a blueprint.” A strategy is a living, breathing document or series of processes that need to have results/goals reassessed, direction and vision realigned, style and process evaluated, and so forth. As we experienced all through 2020, what worked yesterday, may not work today, and be irrelevant by tomorrow. So you must always be nimble and adjust your strategy the best you can.

“Get the right people in the right seats on the bus.” Make sure you know everyone’s capabilities, roles, responsibilities, and who the decision-makers are to make an adequate process that makes sense and maintains constant flow. You don’t want a good campaign to fail and a strategy not to be successful because you had the wrong people managing the wrong things. Over-communicate with everyone involved in your campaigns and marketing strategy will make things so much better and efficient.

The best and most effective marketing strategies and campaigns follow my C.L.O.V.E.R. Business Framework: Clarity. Leverage. Optimization. Vision + Value. Execution. Results. Make sure you have clarity around your goals, timeline, and audience. You have to leverage all of the resources you have at your disposal (internal team, external team, budget, audience insights, etc.). Recognize your marketing strategy is in a constant state of optimization. Have your vision and give value to your audience every step of the way. Execute. Execute. Execute. Execution is necessary to have success. So many get lost in getting everything perfect and never start making progress. And as everyone knows, what is all this work for you if you don’t get results? Results are necessary to know if your strategy and your campaigns are working. Make sure you have benchmarks that are relevant you can track to know you’re going down the right path.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Get the right people in the right seats on the bus. ~@FindTroy #BusinessStrategy #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding 

QUESTION: Lastly, what’s your favorite marketing campaign, and why?

TROY SANDIDGE: Brand awareness campaigns are my favorite type of campaigns. They are the most meaningful and can drive multiple things: brand authority, brand exposure, drive CTA (call to action), drive visitors to the website, gain more followers, increase community, lead to more PR opportunities and collaborations, among other things. It’s always necessary and needed for brand awareness. On top of that, brand awareness is typically aligned with your mission, your purpose, your story, your why, and how you help others. It doesn’t have the complication of a full-blown sales campaign and never feels like one. It’s fun and fulfilling as well. Not to mention, you can get positive ROI (return on investment) from brand awareness campaigns with or without paid media as long as the quality of the organic is of high quality and authentic.

An example I would like to highlight is Apple’s ongoing brand awareness campaign series “Shot on iPhone” which is to promote obviously their line of smartphones but through the lens of their consumer. One of the big things to realize is that the content is 100% derived from their target audience base for their target audience base. A plethora of original content (much of which that doesn’t make it as part of a commercial collage), serves as UGC (user-generated content) for the brand to repurpose and reshare using its own community to create as well as magnify. 

Their Instagram account is a living case study of how effective a brand awareness campaign when tied directly to a community. The #ShotoniPhone hashtag has over 18 million posts. Keep in mind, this is mostly an organic campaign with their community doing most of the work creating and distributing, and their social media marketing team is spotlighting and highlighting various ones on their grid, in their stories, highlights, and reels. It is quite powerful. This goes to show you that some of the most successful campaigns aren’t necessarily through paid media but simply by connecting what you do to a feeling, an emotion, or a result felt by a community.

My gratitude and appreciation to Troy for sharing his inspiring perspective about marketing, social media, and effective brand communications.

Image Credit: Quote by Troy Sandidge.


Here's the link that Troy referenced in Question #2:

Here's the link that Troy referenced in Question #3:

Here's the link for the podcast referenced in Question #4:

Here's the link for more info regarding Question #4:

Here are the two links that Troy referenced in Question #5:

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Glue Between Culture and Leadership

Anyone who spends time in social media has one or two favorite platforms. Some may prefer using Twitter, some may prefer using Instagram or Facebook, and some may prefer an obscure site that fits a specific industry. Many of us who use social media as a marketing tool to build our employer's brand or our personal brand have also met an amazing array of people. One new acquaintance is Paul LaRue, who I met on Twitter, and we recently had a discussion about corporate culture, leadership, and the impact of COVID-19 on both. Highlights follow below Paul's bio.

Paul LaRue is a leadership consultant with over 30 years in the hospitality industry. Aligning a focus on culture and connection within the workplace, his work is guided toward creating leaders who do what is right by their people while challenging conventional norms. His writing is featured on his blog The UPwards Leader, as well as the leadership sites Connection Culture and Lead Change Group. Connect and follow Paul on Twitter @paul_larue.

QUESTION: From your experiences since March, how has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the employee experience?

PAUL LARUE: The current Covid pandemic has shifted everything that most leaders thought they knew. Security among the workforce has been shaken, and employees are looking for leaders who are more understanding of what individuals are going through than in staying the normal course of business. Employees want more assurance of security, not just from the changed workplace dynamics that the pandemic presents, but also in the tectonic shifts in society, having leadership who value differing viewpoints. The leader who balances this with navigating his/her/their organization through the coming year will be effective in meeting these converging and colliding needs.

QUESTION: What are the three key elements that a leadership team can do to create and maintain a positive corporate culture?

PAUL LARUE: First, is to keep your cultural values in front of you and refer to them at all times. The more that people reinforce culture on a conscious level, the more it will start to permeate into the subconscious and into the DNA of the individuals on the team. Whether reading them weekly, focusing on a core culture trait, or having culture checks among team members, this is usually the best foundation on which to build culture from.

Secondly, is to infuse culture into every goal, project, and task to help align the culture you want to sustain. When all work, in all departments, is aligned to culture, this will build the organization's culture and brand both externally as well as internally.

The last component is to hold each other accountable for culture. Accountability is always seen as top down, but the company and leadership that allow top levels to also be held accountable will create an equality of coachability where only a positive culture can exist.

TWEET THIS: Infuse culture into every goal, project, and task - this will help align the culture you want to sustain. ~@paul_larue. #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience


QUESTION: What book should every leader read, and why?

PAUL LARUE: Without a doubt, it has to be Michael Lee Stallard's "Connection Culture -- The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work." I just read Mike's latest edition, and a few weeks ago, we discussed how the book has evolved. When it came out about seven years ago, it was a book needed for the time. I believe it's even more imperative that every leader reads it now if we're going to meet the needs of employees that are committed and connected – if any sustainable success is to be had. People are lonelier in the workforce now than ever before, especially since Covid appeared, and the principles in this book are what every leader needs to achieve.

QUESTION: You wrote a blog post entitled, “Start the Week by Reinvigorating Culture.” What are the three most important things that a leader should do to reinvigorate his/her/their culture, and why?

PAUL LARUE: I would say it's almost exactly the same as the previous question about maintaining and creating a positive culture, but with more emphasis on the leader allowing others to hold themselves accountable. I applied that principle in my last role and it took a year-and-a-half for people to understand there was true accountability and willingness to learn from it and not be defensive. 

So many times, I see organizations where leaders speak to culture, but don't embody it themselves. This creates a hypocrisy and distrust that leads to disengaged employees and other toxic behaviors. 

I read a book years ago by an entrepreneur who created a culture that if they didn't support the values their organization was built upon, there were actions the employees could take to remove him. And this was the owner who created a culture where he needed to be aligned or he would be removed from his own company! Having that type of commitment to culture over any individual, even yourself, is what is needed from leadership today. (Note: the book referenced was “Made in America” by John McCormick.)

QUESTION: Whitney Johnson’s (@JohnsonWhitney on Twitter) best teambuilding advice is to be a CEO, defined as a Chief Encouragement Officer, because “You don’t win unless your team does.” How would you apply that advice when different departments work in silos and don’t share project updates?

PAUL LARUE: I think that largely depends on the dynamic of the individuals in each department, but encouraging each team to be open to another person from a different department is a common step toward breaking down those walls. Every time I've coached leaders to create this, the awakening of understanding from the person outside the department to truly hear and understand what the other team is doing becomes a cornerstone for empathy and teamwork. 

It seems as if once someone understands the pressures you and your team face, and the nuances of the work and skills dependent on the team, there becomes a validation that opens up a team in silo. 

Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it takes much longer, but having the outside employee be a positive, and not threatening, force to understanding the team and how to work cross-functionally is the best recipe for opening up the organization.
My gratitude to Paul for sharing his insights.

Image Credit: CulturePros ( / @LisaCulturePro on Instagram.

Blog post referenced in #4:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Some Monday Morning Quarterbacking about the Ads from Super Bowl 55


This year’s Super Bowl game was fun, especially if you’re a Tampa Bay fan, but the ads were not as exciting as the hype leading up to game day. There was no ad similar to Apple’s 1984 ad. There was no ad that was as memorable as Budweiser’s post-911 from 2002 with the kneeling Clydesdales. There were no animated Coca Cola polar bears, no Budweiser Clydesdales with their pal, the Dalmatian puppy, and no Budweiser frogs or lizards. And there was no Tweet timely or memorable enough to rival Oreo’s from 2013. 

The 2021 Super Bowl was a very different game and ad environment than any previous year. First, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the fans in the stands were essential workers, doctors, nurses, first responders, etc. These approximately 7,500 fans did not pay the exorbitant prices normally paid for Super Bowl tickets. Second, football fans submitted their photos to be made into large signs to be placed at empty seats so that the stadium would look full of people. And third, several brands who typically advertise during the Super Bowl chose not to advertise. These brands included Budweiser (no Clydesdales appeared in ads), Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hyundai, Audi, Planter’s Peanuts, and Avocados from Mexico. Budweiser’s parent company, AB InBev, announced that, instead, it would donate some of its 2021 ad budget to the vaccine awareness work being done by the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative.

According to Derek Rucker, Marketing Professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, “A consideration this year is that fewer people will gather for Super Bowl parties (due to the COVID pandemic), which traditionally are the number two group party occasion, after New Year’s Eve. Watching a commercial alone, versus in a group, changes how people react to it because they don’t have social cues from others.”

And let’s not forget: “The thing is, by not being there, Budweiser is getting people to talk about them. That’s pretty brilliant,” according to Cait Lamberton, Marketing Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Planters will take the roughly $5 million it would ordinarily spend on a Super Bowl ad slot and instead route that money to recognize people doing charitable acts. The brand is calling them "acts of substance," a play on positioning the snack as a substantive alternative to options like potato chips. The brand is kicking off the campaign by giving $130,000 to Hook Hall in Washington, D.C. The owners of Hook Hall went "a nut above" by giving free meals and supplies to hospitality workers even when struggling themselves to stay afloat. Planters will also give away an additional $1 million to locally owned bars across the country that go above and beyond for their neighbors with the funds ensuring those establishments can continue to remain fixtures of their communities. Additional rewards for acts of extraordinary substance will continue throughout 2021.

So, what does this once-a-year advertising event cost? According to CBS, the cost for a 30-second commercial cost $5.6 million, which was the average cost of the same length ad for last year’s game. To put that number into perspective by Nielsen Media Research, the cost of a commercial during the first Super Bowl game in 1967 was $37,000.

Since this year’s event could easily be nicknamed, “A Pandemic Super Bowl,” according to Tim Calkins, Marketing Professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, “It will be a very different game this year, with few big parties, not many (live) people in the stands and no vast fleet of corporate jets winging in with big spending executives.” Additionally, according to Calkins, there were three trends to watch out for: different advertisers; pandemic messages reflecting the COVID-19 reality; and light, funny, upbeat, and positive messaging.

If you’re a marketing pro or a simply a fan of the ads, there’s much more activity regarding ads on Super Bowl Sunday than between the goal posts. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the #SuperBowlExp chat on Twitter hosted by Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp), a famous advertising exec in New York. Participants chimed in with their commentary about the ads in real time, and I enjoyed participating for the eighth year! Jim’s fave five ads were: Jeep, Toyota, M&Ms, Indeed, and Bud Light Lemons.

This quote from Landor Associates is timeless: "Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”

I’d like to welcome Julia Carcamo (@jccarcamo) back to my Blog. Julia and I met in 2012 on Twitter. While separated by miles – I’m in California, and she’s in Louisiana – we’ve stayed in touch through the years and reconnect every year around Super Bowl time so we can discuss the ads after the game. The link to our first collaborative blog post appears at the end of this post. We reconnected again this year, and our five thumbs-up ads and five thumbs-down ads follow below.

DEBBIE LASKEY’s top five:
Jeep: This ad was reminiscent of Chrysler’s “It’s Halftime in America” that appeared in 2012. At a time that is so divisive in the country, the themes of “The Reunited States of America” and “the road ahead (not behind)” were excellent. While some may have thought the pitch was unusual and inappropriate for a car manufacturer, we need to remember that Jeeps are typically American – and that we can all find common ground in the middle.
Toyota: The themes of adoption and inclusion were well-done in this ad featuring Jessica Long, a Paralympian champion born without legs. According to Toyota, #LetsGoPlaces together because “there is hope and strength in all of us.”
GM: Whenever you see Will Ferrell, you know humor will be involved. He was upset that Norway had more electric vehicles per capita than the US, so he took his electric Cadillac to Norway but ended up in Sweden while friends ended up in Finland. (Note, this “No Way Norway” ad is even funnier the second and third time you watch it!)
Ford: With the pandemic on everyone’s mind, the Super Bowl provided a much-needed form of escapism. But this #FinishStrong ad from Ford reminded us that “soon we will be what we were – touching, loving, living.”
T-Mobile: If you’re ever watched “The Voice” on NBC, especially since the beginning, you know about the close friendship between competitive coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. And if you’re a fan and have watched the show for several seasons, you know that Gwen Stefani met her fiancĂ© Blake Shelton through their involvement as coaches on the show. So, this storytelling about their first date combined with the lack of cell phone signal was humorous and memorable.

And the five that failed to hit the mark:
SquareSpace: While the rewrite of Dolly Parton’s famous “9 to 5” anthem became “5 to 9,” and was just as catchy, the vignettes portrayed in the short ad did not capture the essence of the brand. When there are only 30-seconds, an ad has to tell its story and showcase its strengths quickly, or it will lose its audience.
Hellman’s: Amy Schumer as the “Fairy Godmayo” had potential but fell flat. Just think of all the creative sandwiches she could have helped to make.
Miracle-Grow: If you took your eyes off your television or other device for a few seconds, you may have missed John Travolta and his daughter dancing. And what exactly was the tie-in between the brand and the dancing? However, if the ad had featured John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John repeating their dance moves from the film “Grease,” then maybe the ad would have had more potential for success.
Indeed: While this ad featured the tune “Rise Up,” it’s important for employers to understand that the onboarding process begins with the interview – and that interviews are a two-way street. I think that message got lost in the ad.
Sam Adams: No one should be including Clydesdales horses in their ads (other than Budweiser). That should be an unwritten rule of Super Bowl advertising!


There were some shining lights in what I think was a pretty gloomy ad collection. Without further ado and in no order, here are my top five.
M&Ms: They are always entertaining. They always find a unique way of telling the story of the chocolate candies in a way that humanizes them, and always with a great twist at the end that makes you laugh.
Door Dash: I’ll admit I pretty much like anything with Daveed Diggs. I think he’s such a talented artist. I am constantly blown away by him. Door Dash did a great job. They didn’t just cast a great actor. They took a concept that we all grew up with from Sesame Street. The neighborhood connects us all, and there is no time like now to remind everyone. But they took the concept even further in supporting our local neighborhood small businesses. To me, everything fit together in this one.
Indeed: Looking for a job can be a gut-wrenching experience. There are so many different channels, and you never really know which one is going to be your best investment of time. But whether you’re just starting out or an executive looking for a new role when they least expect it, knowing that you have found the right place to put yourself out there is key. Indeed somehow managed to say we work with everyone, but they still managed to talk to people individually in the spot.
State Farm: This spot was just pure fun. I’m dying to know how much money they spent on all those influencers.
Jeep: I remember the first time Chrysler came out with one of these heartstring-pulling spots. Remember Paul Harvey telling that story of the American farmer. Each Super Bowl since then, Chrysler has managed to tell this amazing story of the American fabric. I think it touches everybody. All the rumors about Bruce Springsteen being in the spot apparently were true, and I guess this late game placement was a big payoff for fans.

I wish I could say picking losers was hard. Unfortunately, what was hard was picking only five!
Oatly: I don’t even know where to start with this commercial. The CEO singing and playing the keyboard? Or is it the constant no cows message? I’m not sure what it is, but this commercial just really hit me wrong.
GM: When did car commercial stop being fun and exhilarating? This was just weirdness to the nth degree.
Uber Eats: Everything Door Dash did with their commercial Uber Eats did wrong. They both took something nostalgic. They both tried to apply it in a new, fresh way, but Uber Eats failed. I felt like it was the same old humor over and over again.
Huggies: Whatever happened to diaper commercials being about making sure your baby stays dry or making sure they can sleep through the night? Now apparently, we’re making sure they can “go” whenever they want.
Draft Kings: This was by far…far the most disappointing of any of the commercials. Maybe it’s because I work in the same industry. They have so much in terms of reach and resources. I just imagined more. More excitement. More pizzazz. This was what they put out for Super Bowl? I would’ve lost my bet that they would’ve had the best commercial. At least when I ran in the Super Bowl, I put our chairman on the rooftop of our hotel!

According to Saatchi & Saatchi Chief Creative Officer Jason Schragger, an industry veteran who worked on Toyota’s ad this year, “We had a lot of conversations on every single word and every single piece that is part of this, to say, Is it okay? Is it the right thing? Are we not acknowledging some people’s suffering? Are we not acknowledging other things? How can we do something that actually helps people through this time without being flippant or needlessly inspirational? It is a really tough one.” According to USAToday, Schragger’s team considered a few different approaches before landing on a heartwarming theme for its 60-second spot, which spotlights 13-time Paralympian gold medalist Jessica Long and her adoption from a Russian orphanage.

And lastly, Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households. "The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."

My thanks to Jim Joseph and Julia Carcamo for sharing their advertising, marketing, and branding insights on Twitter and here on my Blog – and for making Super Bowl 55 a fun marketing day!

Are you counting the days to Super Bowl 56, scheduled for February 6, 2022, at the new SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles? What are the odds that the Rams or Chargers will play host in their home stadium, like Tampa Bay did this year? Or, have you had enough expensive ad watching and would rather plan a visit to Walt Disney World instead?

Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon with this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at and follow on Twitter @tomfishburne.


For more commentary on the Super Bowl’s ads, I recommend the following:

A Pandemic Super Bowl by Tim Calkins:

For all the Tweets from the #SuperBowlExp on Twitter from 2/7/2021, visit Twitter and search for the hashtag #SuperBowlExp.

2012 Super Bowl Ad Review featuring Julia Carcamo:

To read any of my previous Super Bowl ad recap posts, search this Blog using the term “super” to access all the complete links.

If you wonder if the Super Bowl ads are effective, read this commentary:

Does a Strong Super Bowl Ad Carry Over into the Year-Ahead? 

If you’d like to see the Kellogg School’s Super Bowl Ad Review: 

If you’d like to watch all the ads again, here’s a link:

Monday, February 1, 2021

Leadership Is ALWAYS About Those You Lead!

Thanks to Twitter, back in 2018, I met Katherine Spinney, a fellow advocate for effective leadership. We collaborated on a post here on my Blog in August 2018, and we also collaborated on a TweetChat on Twitter in April 2020 (both links appear at the end below). 

I invited Katherine to return to my Blog for a Q&A due to workplace and leadership changes resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic. Highlights from our discussion follow Katherine’s bio.

Katherine Spinney has spent over a decade in executive leadership positions and now has the great privilege of supporting leaders to more effectively develop themselves and their teams. Through a trademarked model of leadership, Lead with Your MIND, Katherine goes beyond the traditional model of skill development and combines it with work around mindset, investment and desire. Katherine's vision is to help build leaders' confidence and impact to better serve their teams to ultimately better serve their clients. Work should provide a source of satisfaction, and she is confident that it can and should be possible for everyone. Visit her website at and connect and follow on Twitter and Instagram @CoachKat2017 and on Facebook /CoachKat2017.
QUESTION: Based on your experiences since March 2020, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted leadership?

COVID-19 has affected leadership in a number of ways. Generally, those who were strong leaders before the pandemic remained strong leaders throughout and adjusted where necessary. Those who were less effective leaders largely remained so. This year provided an opportunity for leaders to step up and adapt to what has been a dramatically different work environment for the majority of people.

Effective leaders responded with empathy, implementing effective health precautions, both physically and mentally and providing flexibility to people in challenging if not impossible situations. Additionally, effective leaders adjusted to their clients' needs and provided service in a responsive way.

It has been a time of great challenge, and those who have stepped up and supported their teams while continuing to serve their clients have provided a strong example of how it can be done.
QUESTION: In a post on your blog entitled, "When Poor Leadership Goes Unchecked: The Cautionary Tale of the Washington Redskins," you wrote: "Whether you run a team, a department or a Fortune 500 company, your responsibility as a leader is to serve your clients by supporting your employees. When you face challenges in your leadership, as you most certainly will, examine yourself first, and surround yourself with people who will help reveal your blind spots." What do you recommend an employee do if/when leaders do not welcome feedback about their blind spots?
It is important to always be open to new connections and opportunities. In the case that you have simply had enough of a job, you will be in a much better position to transition than if you wait until you reach that point.

If you find yourself in a position where your leadership does not welcome feedback regarding their blind spots, it's important to ask yourself, "Is there someone else I can talk to at the organization? Do I want to stay here but perhaps work for someone else? Am I fulfilled enough in the position that I am okay with leadership that will not change?"  

If you have exhausted your options of impacting change, you need to decide if you are okay living with it, or if it's time to go. If you decide to stay, accept the things you cannot change and do the best you can.
QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote "How to Build a Leader" by listing 17 ingredients. Which of those 17 do you consider the most important, and why? (The full list can be found on the link at the end below.)
It's so hard to choose just one because they are all important. And my caveat is that I think skill is just one of the components of effective leadership (in addition to mindset, investment and desire), but if I have to choose one, I will choose relationship-building.

The days of a disconnected boss in the corner office dictating orders are long gone (though too many organizations continue to operate this way). True leadership requires authentic relationships at all levels: with colleagues, with organizational leadership, with clients, with stakeholders, and, of course, with staff. At the core of effective leadership is the strength of these relationships.

TWEET THIS: The days of a disconnected boss in the corner office dictating orders are long gone. True leadership requires authentic relationships at all levels. –@CoachKat2017 #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, "Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics do you think are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
I used to work at an organization that did consensus hiring. In an organization of nearly 40 staff, this was not easy. Ultimately, what I learned from that process and what research has reinforced, is that in order for consensus to work, there needs to be (1) a clear, shared understanding of what the desired outcome is, (2) a willingness to listen and be open to all the voices in the room and (3) an appreciation and respect for the person with the most knowledge and the person who will be most affected by the decision.

In the case of hiring, we strove to be upfront about who we were looking to hire, be open to all voices in the room, and if there were disagreement or challenge coming to consensus, ultimately defer to the department doing the hiring.

Consensus is hard and it will be rare for an entire staff to be in complete agreement on anything, so it's important to recognize the common moments when, not everyone will agree but they are comfortable deferring and getting on board with the decision.
QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other publications: "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." What does this quote mean to you?

This quote is a great illustration of what leadership is all about, which is, the people you lead. It isn't about you and your needs but first and foremost, the needs of those you have the great privilege of serving. Be generous in recognizing others and humble in taking ownership of mistakes, even when they are not yours alone. When you try to deflect in an attempt to save face, it only serves to undermine your leadership. Act with integrity and show your staff that you put them first. When your staff know you have their best interests at heart, they will generally return that loyalty.  

TWEET THIS: Leadership isn't about a leader’s needs but first and foremost, the needs of those you have the great privilege of serving. –@CoachKat2017 #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience

My gratitude to Katherine for appearing here on my Blog and sharing her insights and perspective.

Image Credit: Katherine Spinney’s Blog.

Blog post referenced in #2
Blog post referenced in #3
Blog post referenced in #4
Blog post Q&A in 2018
TweetChat highlights in 2020

Friday, January 15, 2021

How Will Your Team Decide If You’re a Good Leader?

It's time for a three-peat appearance by Ron Thomas since he appeared here on my Blog in 2011 and 2015. Ron's specialties are human resources and leadership, and his international experiences are both eye-opening and inspirational. Ron and I met on Twitter in 2011 when social media was still relatively new. We spoke by phone when he was based in New York, and he soon moved to the Middle East to work for a company that recruited him via social media. I’m thrilled to welcome Ron back to my Blog. Highlights of our discussion follow his bio below.

Ron Thomas is the Managing Director of Strategy Focused Group, an international consulting firm based in Dubai and Singapore. He was the former CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and CHRO of Al Raha Group, based in Riyadh. Previously, he worked in senior level roles for IBM, Martha Stewart Living, and Xerox HR Services (HR Consulting) in the United States. He is a visiting Executive Faculty member at the Global Human Resources Leadership Institute at Howard University School of Business in Washington, D.C., and an Adjunct Facilitator at American University in the Emirates, Dubai. Ron was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia, and his work has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, Inc. Magazine, and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India, and the Middle East. Ron is a sought-after speaker throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific Region and USA. Connect and follow on Twitter @ronald_thomas.

QUESTION: From your experiences since March, how has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the employee experience in Dubai?

Like the world over, it has had a tremendous effect. Since my work covers the Middle East, Africa, as well as Asia, the impact has been jarring. Inadequate workspace in the home, slow internet speed, entire families home with parents working, and children being schooled all in one space. However, on the flip side, commuting time has been drastically cut, and there is the possibility of more work-life balance.  

Organizations should begin developing managers for the new WFH/WFA dynamic (work from home/work from anywhere). Virtual management skills are different from in-person. Zoom burnout is much talked about as being the default method of communications. I have tried and successfully shifted back to personal calls as needed and have advised my clients to do the same as needed. The default communication should NOT be Zoom.

QUESTION: You appeared here on my Blog in a Q&A back in 2011. With that in mind, I'd like to circle back to a question I asked you then to see if your perspective has changed: What are the five most important qualities of a good leader?

One thing that Covid has showed a lot of leaders is that leading in a crisis is a lot different than leading in a normal environment. I have heard from numerous leaders that it has exposed the lack of skills needed in managing in ambiguity, decision-making, etc. While on the other hand, some leaders and “non-leaders” have stepped up to fill the void. The past few months have shown the cracks in the armour of leadership that will have to be addressed while It’s hot.   

That being said, my five qualities of Covid Leadership are:
(1) Empathy
As workers return to the workplace, leaders will become counsellor-in-chief in many ways, whether they like it or not. Indeed, this tragedy has touched so many in such profound ways that many workers will be essentially working while grieving. Empathy must be authentic, which means that a lot of managers are not equipped for that role. Developing them is key.

(2) Candor
Be honest. If you led with honesty pre-Covid, you will be fine as long as you stay the course. While honesty has always been an important leadership trait, this moment requires another level of honesty – candor. Arguably, the best antidote for a workplace climate of anxiety and cynicism is being honest and open. People respond so much better to the known, than the unknown. Managers should be open, and their people should feel this as truth being spoken. “We are all in this together” is the mantra for Dubai citizens.

(3) Communication
Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. “Information is the oil that greases an organization and keeps it running smoothly,” Klann says. “This is especially true during a crisis.”
Repeating and reinforcing information on a daily basis and via multiple delivery methods helps it to sink in and be retained.

“Remember, when information regarding what is happening is scarce or non-existent, people revert to gossip and rumours.” I learned this when I was VP of HR at Martha Stewart Living, when she was convicted. An employee told me one time “I spend 8 hours a day at this office and nobody is addressing this issue and what it means for employees. I have to go home and watch the news to get information as to what is happening although I just left there.”

(4) Listening – Be an Active Listener!
Don’t focus only on the words that your employee is using; nonverbal cues can convey essential information if one knows how to read them. Look out for changes in intonation, volume, pace, and flow – and keep an eye on facial expressions and body language. All of these can be quite informative and reveal a lot. Think of it this way: if you have kids or you are married, you can sense when something is wrong by the responses. STAY WOKE.

(5) Collaboration
Bring your team closer in your decision-making. Ask their advice, seek out their opinion more. Create an environment where they feel trust.

TWEET THIS: The five most important qualities of a good leader are empathy, candor, communication, listening, and collaboration. –@ronald_thomas #COVID19 #leadership

QUESTION: You also appeared on my Blog in 2015. I'd like to circle back to a question I asked you then to see if your perspective has changed: We agree that, for all new employees to be successful, an effective onboarding strategy must be implemented. What are your three must-have tips to all businesses when it comes to creating effective onboarding strategies?

Imagine getting invited to someone’s house and when you turn up, it is a lukewarm welcome, you feel like they are looking at their watch until you leave. That was my experience at a former company. It was the worst experience ever, and I said then that if I had the opportunity to run this program, I would fix it. When the opportunity did come, we built an award-winning Onboarding program that was profiled in “Creative Onboarding Programs” book.

Three Must-Haves:
(1) Make them feel welcome and correct that they chose the right company.
(2) Check-in at the end of the first week and every month thereafter. At the end of the quarter, bring back a cross section of the new hires. Mission is to find out how are things and how could they be better. Those check-ins should last one year.
(3) Think of them as new customers and not new employees. This will alter your thinking and re-frame the conversation.

QUESTION: You wrote a recent post entitled, “You’ll be a better leader and manager if you don’t believe the hype.” Can you please elaborate?

“I know that I am a great manager.” When I hear that phrase, I am looking at possibly a candidate for the worst manager. Your team will brand you as a great manager, it is not self-anointing. Leadership branding is earned over a period of time. It is a journey NOT a one-time event. My test is to go back to previous jobs and count the number of people that you still keep in touch with. How many of them reach out to you to keep you abreast of their career or to seek career advice? How many of them still count on you as their coach?

TWEET THIS: Your team will brand you as a great manager, it is not self-anointing. –@ronald_thomas #LeadershipTips #EmployeeExperience

QUESTION: You included a business tip in a recent blog post: “My rule is that if the email goes back and forth twice, I get up, walk over or pick up the phone to get the issue resolved.” Of course, that was pre-Covid, but once we are in the post-Covid world, it will become relevant again. Can you please elaborate?

Since the phone was invented, it was the go-to tool to keep in touch. Covid has driven everyone to video calls, but if you are like me, the visual portions add an extra layer of stress. I have found that just picking up the phone is better for clarification or just to check in. Because every call should not be just about business. Remember how we react when we notice certain calls pop up. Do we eagerly pick up or do you, like me, respond by saying “Not now, I will deal with it later.” Create the relationship so that you are in the former category.

My extreme gratitude to Ron for sharing his leadership insights from across the miles.

Image Credit: Gratitude to Josh Winters of The Brooks Group (@TheBrooksGroup on Twitter).

Blog post referenced in #4:
Blog post referenced in #5:
Blog post Q&A in 2015:
Blog post Q&A in 2011:

Lastly, if you are interested in taking a job in a foreign country, read Ron’s tips on the TLNT website:

Friday, January 1, 2021

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2020

With 2020 now history, it's time for my annual “Top 10” marketing highlights post – incredible that this is my 11th post featuring annual marketing highlights.

What do you remember from the 2020 marketing reel? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history that was as memorable as Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad? Without further ado, let’s get to it! 

With a nod and thank you to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:

When it comes to signage, everyone knows about the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign from 1959 that greets visitors at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard. But during 2020, a new downtown landmark appeared, the Gateway Arches. The 80-foot-high twin interlocking steel arches dangle a seven-ton, pink, retro-style City of Las Vegas emblem framed by more than 13,000 LED lights.

Numerous brands changed their names in an effort to show their sensitivity to diversity, equality, racial injustice, and inclusion following the death of George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatter protests.

Here are some of the new names: The Dixie Chicks became The Chicks, Lady Antebellum became Lady A, the Washington Redskins became the Washington Football Team.

The following food brands also made some changes:  

  • Uncle Ben’s Rice became Ben’s Original.
  • Eskimo Pie decided on a new name three months after it acknowledged its original name was offensive toward native arctic communities. In 2021, the chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar will be called Edy's Pie, after one of the company's founders, Joseph Edy.
  • Land O' Lakes rebranded its packaging for its 100th anniversary, “to better tell its farmer-owned story” and removed the lady (a Native American Indian) from its logo.
  • The Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will get a new name and image – this 130-year-old brand featured a Black woman named Aunt Jemima, whose look perpetuated a racist stereotype.
  • Mrs. Butterworth and Cream of Wheat are in the process of a complete brand and packaging review.
  • The Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves major league baseball teams may also change their names, logos, and uniform design in the future.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. Soon after her death, protests started because the person nominated to replace her had completely opposite views on all matters. However, women and men vowed to continue to honor Ginsburg’s legacy of equality for all. Shirts, hats, and pins appeared everywhere with Ginsburg’s likeness and famous quotes.

No retail store is more associated with Christmas than Macy’s, but in 2020, Santa Claus ended a 159-year tradition and did not visit Macy’s stores for his annual meet-and-greet with children. This decision was made due to concerns about the Covid-19/corona virus pandemic. According to the company’s press release, “To replicate the magical experience of visiting Macy’s Santaland for children and their families, we will shift to a virtual engagement this year. The experience starts with a greeting from virtual elves who lead the way through Santa’s village and workshop, stopping to see the sights and play interactive games. At the end, kids will meet Santa through an interactive video, where they’ll be able to share their holiday wish list and take a selfie with Santa, which families can download immediately.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and wife Meghan) gave up their status as “senior working royals” and moved first to Canada and then to Beverly Hills, finally settling near Santa Barbara. Their goal was to become financially self-sufficient – made easier due to deals with Netflix and the New York-based Harry Walker Agency, also used by the Obamas, the Clintons, Oprah Winfrey, and Jane Goodall, to arrange speaking engagements. The couple wishes to create their own philanthropic foundation called Archewell, and to focus on issues such as racial justice, gender equality, environmental concerns, and mental health.

Little boys like to play with plastic toy soldiers, and until 2020, toy soldiers were all male. A seven-year-old girl, Vivian Lord of Little Rock, Arkansas, wondered why they weren’t any female toy soldiers. So, she wrote a letter that read in part, “Why do you not make girl army men?”and sent copies to several army toy manufacturers. Jeff Imel, owner of BMC Toys in Scranton, Pennsylvania, agreed with Vivian, and now, BMC Toys has a line of 22 women army toy soldiers. This action was demonstrative of the difference one person’s voice can make – as well as the change in the toy industry, especially for BMC Toys.

Scientific American magazine broke its 175-year tradition and endorsed a Presidential candidate for the first time. The magazine endorsed Joe Biden due to his concern for the environment and his ideas to combat the Covid-19 crisis.

Throughout the United States, women celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. The National Women’s Party began wearing three distinct colors in 1913, and the United States Post Office created a stamp featuring purple, white, and gold. Purple was the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, and unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White was the emblem or purity and symbolized the quality of the suffragists’ purpose. And gold was the color of light and life.

The COVID-19/corona virus pandemic changed life dramatically. With a start in a small town in China, the virus traveled to all corners of the world infecting millions and killing thousands. This virus changed the way everyone lived and worked during 2020. Offices closed, which resulted in many people working from home or losing their jobs - some even lost their homes. Restaurants closed, hotels closed, stores closed, etc. One example of a retail store that closed was Lord & Taylor, which was the first department store in the United States - it closed after nearly 200 years. Sports teams played in empty stadiums. The 2020 World Series was played with less than 20,000 lucky fans in the stands. Stay-at-home orders were imposed, lifted, and imposed again in many cities across the world. While there are rumors that several drug manufacturers are developing vaccines, everyone hopes that vaccines appear in large quantities in 2021.

Online commerce was the only place where sales increased, thus, creating an opportunity for creative digital marketing.

And NUMBER 1 on my 2020 Marketing Highlights List:

Drum roll please...

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 Presidential Election in November. Biden, formerly a Senator from Delaware and Barack Obama’s Vice President, chose Harris, formerly a California Senator, as his Vice President. Harris will be the first woman vice president, the first black vice president, and the first South Asian vice president. Inauguration day will be on January 20, 2021. The amount of marketing swag with the Biden-Harris names and likenesses appeared almost overnight following the announcement of their win. And their marketing team was quick to act with the creation of social media accounts for the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition using the Presidential seal, the number 46, and their tagline of “Build Back Better.”

To quote President Elect Biden, “I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American President. I will work with Democrats and Republicans, and I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. Because that’s the job of a President.”

To quote Vice President Elect Harris, “What a testament it is to Joe’s character, that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his Vice President.”

Despite one’s political beliefs, there is no doubt that this was a memorable election and certainly an appropriate one to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2021 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credits: President-Elect Joe Biden's Inauguration campaign, Amazon, and US Post Office.