A Political Cause Skitches on the Monsanto Brand

Opponents of genetically modified foods are successfully skitching on the Monsanto brand. As a kid growing up in Chicago, I used to grab the fenders of passing cars for an exhilaratingly fast slide on icy roads. “Skitching” is a portmanteau combining skate and hitch. Political causes often grab onto the power of well-known brands to use their power to efficiently communicate their messages and the get attention in the media. The nicely alliterative “March Against Monsanto” is just the latest example of brand skitching.

Millions Against Monsanto Brand Skitching
Organizers of today’s marches claim over 2 million people participated in over 400 evens in 52 countries according to founder and organizer Tami Canal. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said in media interviews.

Skitching off the Monsanto brand brought Canal’s cause enormous attention that would have been hard to obtain without the connection to this chemical boogeyman. Monsanto has long been associated with reviled chemicals like DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange.

Monsanto Old Logo

Old Monsanto Logo

Monsanto New Logo

New Monsanto Logo







The company adopted a new logo in 1999 (with the tagline “Food. Health. Hope.”) and spends a fortune talking about the “new” Monsanto being “a sustainable agriculture company.” Despite these investments in trying to build an earth-friendly image, the brand negatives are still high, making it ideal for skitching.



CBS Moneywatch: Merriam Interview in Time for Mother's Day

CBS-MoneyWatchAs a mother and entrepreneur, getting the balance right isn’t always easy. This article talks about working from home trying to focus and balancing home and kids. While I don’t get to work from home much–client projects have me working for all the heck over the place–keeping all the plates spinning can be a challenge. Happy Mother’s Day to all you special ladies out there. Okay–back to branding.

(More press here.)

Web Site Writing with an Eye to SEO

Association_Non-Profit_Consultants_Logo Congratulations to my client, the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits on their new Web site. It’s always a pleasure to work with Chicagoans, especially those who appreciate good writing and good SEO. Visit the site here.


Merriam's Guide to Naming Second Edition Now Available

9780982082935_CoverImageI am pleased to announce the second edition of my book Merriam’s Guide to Naming is now available. In the half dozen years since the first edition, I’ve led over a hundred company and product naming projects for Fortune 500 multinationals, mid-size companies and start-ups. As part of this work, I’ve helped executives wrestle with questions and deal with challenges that were not adequately covered in the first edition. And, in reviewing dozens of magazine articles I’ve written and media interviews I’ve given, I realized I had a large body of new knowledge on the subject of naming. Merriam’s Guide to Naming was quite overdue for a redo. Click here to order.

Louisville Slugger Hits It Out of the Ballpark with Its New Logo

Louisville Slugger unveiled its new logo this week and it is a home run. So often, when companies have adopted a new logo, they have stripped their visual identity of all personality in favor of “updating,” “streamlining,” or “going more upscale.” Louisville Slugger wisely went in another direction. For a brand well into its second century of life and with such an iconic following, they wisely adopted a look that is t full of personality. The new look is at once timeless and contemporary, but would not be out of place at the turn of the century–the last century.

Louisville Slugger Old Logo and New Logo

Contrast this success with ebay’s charmless new look. When your new logo works, you also mitigate the I-hate-the-new-look impulse reaction that many rebranding efforts provoke.

Download a Chapter One from Philip Kotler and Milton Kotler's New Book

I am honored to have helped marketing guru Philip Kotler and international marketing expert Milton Kotler set up their new Web site: www.KotlerOnGrowth.com.

The Web site offers their topical and timely thinking on headline issues and promotes their new book just out from Wiley, NY: Market Your Way to Growth: 8 Ways to Win.

Starting today, you can download the first chapter free here.

Always happy to dip an oar for fellow Chicagoans!



Twinkies--REALLY Worth $410 Million?

Buyer of distressed brands Apollo Management Group has cheered the hearts of Twinkie lovers everywhere with its$410 million purchase of the snack food favorite.

Twinkie Brand Value $410 Million

Big relaunch plans have been made including having Dennis Rodman bring several cases of Twinkies to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, to offering giant Wonder Bread size promotional sizes, to taking up giant swaths of shelf space in stores in Twinkie takeovers. Super-sizing Twinkies will surely upset Mayor Bloomberg. And shelf-space is going to prove an ongoing and daunting problem.

Apollo bought Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, but another company (Flowers Foods) bought Wonder Bread. Grupo Bimbo bought the Beefsteak brand, and McKee bought Devil Dogs, Yodels and others. In consumer packaged goods, the war is in the store. Where once a Hostess truck could drive up, elbow itself a lot of shelf space, then optimize the mix of products within it, now lots of companies and individual brands are vying for the space. Grupo Bimbo is probably the only company with the size to dominate. Twinkies will have a tough time regaining its former stature, much less achieving growth outside its core of die-hard brand fans. Paying off its $410 purchase price will be tough.

That said, with die-hard fans beings so important, that idea of promoting with Kim Jong-un looks the a winner.

KFC in China Faces More Than a Branding Problem

KFC Logo ChinaChinese companies made headlines a few years back with lead tainted toys and pet food that sickened cats and dogs. Now a US company is coming under fire in China. KFC is alleged to use excessive growth hormones and antibiotics in their chicken. This insightful article by Chinese branding expert Milton Kotler on the blog he shares with his marketing guru brother Philip Kotler points out that dealing with this crisis as a cosmetic branding and PR issue is a mistake. KFC has a business model problem that affects trust. Trust is the core of any brand and it is trust that fuels ROI. BP faced a similar problem.


Read Milton’s article here.



More on KFC in China:
KFC’s Success Breed Imitators in China

More on Branding in China:
Creating Iconic Brands in China
In China the Brand is Everything
Made in China Hazardous to Your Brand
China Brands and Globalization
Brand Nationality: Do People Know or Care What China Owns
Chinese Brands Go Global, But Not Necessarily American

More on When Brands Hit Trouble:
Johnson & Johnson Brand in Freefall
News Corp Brand Will Survive News Of the World’s Demise
Toyota Brand Still Strong after Recall and Toyota Brand Bounces Back
Toy Recalls Three Years Later
Crash Branding–Brand Communication in a Crisis
Viral Marketing Can Make Your Brand Sick
AIG Name Change to AIU

More on BP:
BP Disengenuously Branding
BP Social Media Slip Ups: BP Can’t Tweet
NPR Interview: On BP

Lance Armstrong's Profitable Non-Profit Livestrong Brand

When a brand’s strength is tied to a real person–when it is a celebrity brand–its fortunes rise and fall with that person’s reputation and behaviors (see Osama bin Laden, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods). In the case of the Livestrong brand, Lance Armstrong’s “doing the dirty” complicates his business and his charity.

Livestrong Lance Armstrong Brand Non Profit

The Livestrong brand is tightly tied to the cancer fighting Livestrong Foundation, but the brand is not strictly altruistic. The Foundation licenses the brand, which is personally owned by Lance Armstrong, and it is the driver of his multimillion for-profit empire. The dynamic is a complex one. Armstrong’s modest fame as a cyclist built the Foundation, and the Foundation burnished Armstrong’s reputation, catapulting his fame, marketability and fortune far beyond that of a mere road racer. Can you even name any other famous cyclists?

Lance Armstrong has confessed to doping by Oprah. The irony is the profit and fame dynamic of Livestrong was a key driver in Armstrong’s decision to cheat. He needed performance enhancing drugs to stage the comeback that built his celebrity that built the foundation that built the million-dollar enterprise. Now those performance enhancing drugs are dragging down the whole thing. It pays to be a winner. Being a cheater? No so much.

More: When a Brand Is a Person

Tebowing: Not a Trademarked Prayer Pose

Jets player Tim Tebow has filed trademark applications in some seven categories for the term “Tebowing.” The blogosphere has erupted in complaints that the football player is trying to trademark kneeling in prayer.


A look at the actual filings (you can look at them here) show that is simply not the case. The applications are for the word mark itself. People can rest assured that they can take a knee in prayer without paying a licensing fee to Tim Tebow.

Trademarking your personal brand makes sense. Lady Gaga sued last year to protect her name, which has been valued at north of $1 billion. Trademarking a gesture, however, is not so easy to do, especially one so common as kneeling in prayer.