Chip and Joanna Gaines have taken a simple remodeling show to a national trendsetting blockbuster. I even saw a man in Galena, Ill., with a Magnolia Farms t-shirt on — he was shopping in a shop carrying Joanna’s furniture.


Joanna’s line at Pier One

Their urban-farm look is changing how we all design our homes and how we talk about our homes’ interiors — did you know what ship-lap was before watching the show?

Is there anything we can all learn about branding from Chip and Joanna? Absolutely.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Consistency—Your catch phrases must be used consistently to be effective. Chip and Joanna always say, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” before the big reveal.
  • Innovate—You have to find products or processes that innovate and differentiate you from all the others. The Joanna look is now synonymous with hip country design. You can’t get that same feel if your brand is outdated like brass fixtures.
  • Tell a story—Each episode is a story from start to finish. There are stories inside the main plot making the show interesting and surprising. What is your brand story and the little stories inside the larger story?
  • Be Approachable—Too many times brands are unapproachable (that’s why you need logo cops and brand managers), but the it’s not the fonts that feel real, it’s the overall look and feel of the show and the design. It’s friendly and fun. The fun makes you want to get close and embrace their brand.
  • Humanize the brand—Chip and Joanna are stars, but they also bring in so many other people into the story that it starts to feel like a family of stars. You can also see the humanizing effect of Joanna’s designs in the houses.
  • Have fun with your brand—Chip and Joanna appear like real people by showing outtakes, bringing their kids into the storyline, and adopting a casual, comfortable lighthearted style. We all get very serious around our brands, and we forget the value of a smile or the fun you can have with a brand. Google changes their logo font every day and it doesn’t seem to hurt their brand.

Do we use too many words to express our basic brand promise?

If it takes more than a few sentences to explain your mission and vision it will be lost on your target audience and employees. For some reason, we all get a bit highbrow when we are trying to communicate fundamental truths about our organizations.

So is it possible to sum up the essence of your brand promise in something as simple as your name?  For one retail outlet you can:



What can we learn from this? Sometimes it is better to communicate what you really mean is small words and simple ideas.  Leave the erudite effusions for university mission statements.

Today marks a significant day in news coverage. On this day in 1784, the first daily newspaper in America was published (the Pennsylvania Packet & General Advertiser).

blog new york times

Many believe that newspapers have seen their last days. I do not believe it. The paper part may disappear, but trusted news aggregators and news reporters are even more important information sources in this age of fake news and accusations of fake news.

It seems newspapers are suffering on all fronts: Classifieds have drifted to Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist; display advertising is moving to digital; and free standing inserts (FSIs) may be going to direct mail. One large Midwest grocery chain has already stopped placing FSIs in local papers and is now using direct mail to distribute coupons.

However, with all this rather negative news, one chart did change my lead on this story.  The New York Times has surpassed 2 million digital subscriptions. The New York Times bucked all common thinking and established a pay wall that now provides nearly half a billion in subscription revenue.

If you look at the chart, how does the trend look to you? I see a steady, strong growth curve over the last six years. So maybe the idea of news “papers” is gone, but the idea of a trusted news aggregator with strong journalistic ethics is still alive and growing—and it’s making money.

Editorial Comment:

The Declaration of Independence was published for the first time in the Pennsylvania Packet. During the revolution, the prevailing government tried to suppress newspapers. Many did not survive the Revolutionary War. That may be the reason why the freedoms of the First Amendment are first and the most important freedoms to a democracy (and for those of you who don’t know, the First Amendment includes freedom of speech, press and religion).

,A common advertising myth is that you “must include a strong call to action.” And I’m all for connecting the brand narrative to exactly what you want people to do with your brand narrative.  However, I’m always surprised, especially on the web, how fast we go from “I’m an organization” to “Donate now.” It’s lightning quick, but we all know the sales process rarely is that fast. Take a look at our Moves Management of Marketing pyramid. There is a long way from Oblivious to Engagement or Name Recognition to Call to Action. Moves Management of Marketing

Research reported on in the Wall Street Journal  shows that the “buy now, donate now, like us now” overly assertive language may be hurting your brand. The research by Yael Zemack-Rugar, of the University of Central Florida (published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology) found that consumers don’t like to be told what to do.

We like to make our own choices, or feel like we are making choices. The research found that loyal consumers get more annoyed than anyone else if you tell them what to do.

The study found that even the phrase “like us on Facebook” puts negative pressure on the consumer and after the person reads it, their “liking” quotient goes down. The “best results came from ads that were informative and hint at action.” So, just the opposite of a local car dealer ad.

Social activism is on the rise. The populism movement is building. Political lines are being drawn. What’s a brand to do? For many, supporting noncontroversial causes is a good corporate policy, but does it make for good marketing?  Cheerful volunteer holding an adorable young girl

For most, a contribution is enough. But for today’s rising millennials, that kind of good- doing is not good enough. As one CEO put it, “…brands will need to give greater attention to carving out a corporate social responsibility platform that consumers” will engage with. Millennial purchasing power is expanding, so will the scrutiny of corporate cause marking.

How do millennials feel about cause marketing?  Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Toluna market research found that they seek out brands that support causes they align with. Half the people surveyed said they were more likely to purchase from a brand that supported a cause they believed in. The most popular causes according to the research were “hunger, homelessness or medical relief efforts.”

The real key is that millennials would change their behavior if they knew their money was going to a good cause because of their purchase: I would pay more for products (47% millennial, 32% Gen X, 15% boomer); I would be willing to research brands to see what causes they support (45% millennials, 39% Gen X, and 37% boomers).

Today’s consumers want brand to go beyond the expected. Cause marketing fills the requirement.


I had a banker once tell me that people don’t need to search for local banks. Well, they may not search for local banks, but if you don’t think people are searching for car loan rates, CD rates, and mortgages online you are sadly mistaken.Thank you for buying local

Last year, 80% of people said a search engine was their top choice of digital and non-digital ways to find information about local businesses.  Here are some highlights of research by Burke (March 2017). These are sources that U.S. internet users have used to search for local products in 2016:

  • Search engine   80%
  • Company website 63%
  • Friend/family 57%
  • Social networks 48%
  • Online video 38%
  • Newspaper magazines 36%
  • Printed yellow pages 13%

What is interesting is that the most trusted source is not friends and family (13%), but search engine (37%). Number 3 on the most-trusted scale was company website (11%). The most surprising result was that ratings and reviews were rated in the middle of the pack for both questions. Too many fake reviews and rankings have ruined the source.


Happy Labor Day

Happy labor day poster template. Flag of USA on grunge