Debbie Laskey, MBA

Take a look at anyone’s smartphone or tablet and you’re bound to swipe through screen after screen of applications, or more commonly known as apps. Some apps are pre-programmed into the device, such as, calendar, maps, and stocks. And, of course, there are also apps for contacts, a camera, and social networks. But others are chosen by the device owner. Many marketers are curious as to why you chose the apps on your device, but more importantly for all marketers, what do popular and successful apps teach us about brand equity and branding? Here are some branding tips from my five favorite apps.


This app is useful because it allows the user to provide the URLs for countless blogs, and then each day, new posts for each blog are available for reading in one easy space. No more searching for each blog’s URL separately. No more searching through Twitter for each blog’s latest post. This is a one-stop app if you enjoy reading blog posts and follow more than a few bloggers.


How does your brand communicate your content? How often do you communicate with your audiences? Does your brand have a blog?


This app is memorable because it provides a daily piece of art with information about the specific piece of art, its artist, the time it was created, and where it is housed. The art spans all genres and time periods. Users are just as likely to see a piece of art by Jackson Pollack as a sculpture from the Acropolis. If you cannot visit a museum or gallery on a regular basis, you can get your art fix on your mobile device with this app.


Does your brand think of your customers and prospects as art lovers? This app reminds all marketers to create high quality images while simultaneously taking us on a daily museum visit without standing in line or having to deal with public transportation or parking. When you show visual content (photos and videos) to your audiences, how much time do you spend on making sure that the visual content is high quality? Continue Reading Branding Tips from 5 Awesome Apps

Debbie Laskey, MBA

In May, Anheuser-Busch made news when it announced that it would change the name of its most famous brand from Budweiser to America. So, from late-May to November, in every liquor store, convenience store, gas station kiosk, discount warehouse, and supermarket, people will be saying something strange: “I’ll take a six-pack of America.”

According to Money Magazine, “All 12-ounce cans and bottles of Budweiser will feature the word “America” on their labels, instead of Budweiser, in the brand’s distinctive cursive font. The temporary label swap, which will be in effect from May 23 through the presidential election in November, is meant to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity. The new cans and bottles will also feature lyrics from “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” A picture of the Statue of Liberty will appear on Budweiser’s 16 and 25 ounce cans as well as its 16-oz. bottles.”

The name and packaging changes should not come as such a surprise. Jorn Socquet, U.S. Marketing Vice President of parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev, explained that the company is simply implementing its summer marketing campaign, which will feature the Olympics, the Fourth of July celebrations, the Copa America soccer tournament that will be played in the United States, and the presidential campaign season. A fact not readily shared, though, is that beer with “America” labels will not be available outside the U.S.

Will there be negative consequences from the name change? Will people think the beer’s taste will change? Remember the New Coke fiasco. Will people think it sounds weird to go into a bar and order a bottle of America? Will the temporary name change create a wave of patriotism to accompany the interest in the presidential campaign season? Certainly, hot dogs, hamburgers, apple pie and bottles featuring “America” labels will create great Instagram posts on July Fourth.

Of course, some Americans may have missed reading about the name change in Adweek, CNN Money, The Atlantic, USA Today, or Fast Company Design. And they may have missed hearing about it on TV or radio news broadcasts. Worse, they may order a Bud and not even notice the new name and other slight differences in the packaging.

Which brings us back to the key question: If your brand changes its name for a limited time, does the new name better capture your brand promise? Does the new name better attract your core audience? Does the new name better reflect a new audience? Above all, what do you want to accomplish with your name change? And from a legal standpoint, is the new name registered as a new trademark? What happens if there is a trademark infringement, since your brand will be reverting back to its original name at some point in the near future? Do you have answers to these questions? They’re only the tip of the name change iceberg.

While this name change generated media buzz, let’s not forget that the presidential campaign season will just become more heated during the hot summer months. Perhaps, the limited time name should have been “Vote in November” rather than “America.” Let’s just hope voters don’t walk into the polls in November carrying bottles of America!

Debbie Laskey, MBA

Recently, a news report was released announcing the launch of Mattel’s newest addition to the Barbie line : “Interim CEO Barbie.” From a marketing perspective, why would a company launch a professional businesswoman doll and add the word “Interim?”

Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie, said in an interview with The New York Times, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, a girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” Barbie quickly became an icon, with a wardrobe and career options that mirrored women’s changing goals.

So, with all the emphasis on career options and women’s choices, why would Mattel create a new Barbie with the name of INTERIM CEO? How does that title motivate a young girl or teenager who sees the new doll on the Target or Walmart shelf or on More importantly, how would a parent explain the title to his or her child so that the child understands this individual’s role and value in a business? Above all, why would a young adult want to grow up and become an INTERIM CEO?

But wait a minute! Have you checked your calendar today? Yes, that’s right, it’s April 1st, and that means it’s April Fool’s Day. So, if you had doubts that a story about a new doll from Mattel with the name “Interim CEO” was fake, you would be correct. While Barbie has been a football coach, dentist, yoga teacher, veterinarian, United States Air Force jet pilot, UNICEF summit diplomat, firefighter, police officer, architect, chef, astronaut, architect, film director, and ballerina, she has never been an “Interim CEO.”

However, this story was reported in the Los Angeles media by a well known and very respected business reporter. After learning that this story was fake, I reached out to Mattel, and though I did not receive any response, the story caused me to reflect how businesses respond to crisis communications, and whether that differs in matters of satire. Do most businesses have plans in place? Do they respond in social media? Or do they disappear under a rock with the hope that a story quickly disappears?

What do you think? Should companies have an obligation to respond to incorrect or satirical reports, to protect their brands?

Debbie Laskey, MBA

These days, as newspapers and magazines are on the wane, it seems as if anyone who can write has become an online journalist to promote his or her area of expertise. In social media lingo, the title is now known as a “blogger.”

According to Wikipedia, “A blogger is a person who keeps a blog as a major activity in his or her life…Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important contribution to the popularity of many blogs.”

Since a blog is an important element of an overall social media marketing plan that may include sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google Plus, it’s important to consider how the blog’s theme and content reflect a business’ or individual’s brand. Does the blog’s voice reflect the brand in a consistent manner? And, most importantly, who reviews the content before posting it live? Does only the Marketing Department review the content? Or, do the Public Relations, Technology, and Legal Departments also review the content?

There are some actions you can and should take to protect your content. First, set up daily alerts with Google Alerts and TalkWalkerAlerts with keywords such as your brand or brands, business name, and blog title. This way, you will receive immediate notification when and/if your content appears on an unknown website. Second, check out the US Government’s copyright site to answer a myriad of questions about copyrights for online content. And third, make sure to add a copyright symbol at the end of all blog posts and on all web pages.

In the words of Oleksiy Synelnychenko of IP WatchDog, “Under the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act, all content published online is protected under copyright law [because] any content, no matter the form it takes (whether digital, print, or media), is protected under copyright law.”

So, keep up the great writing, aka, blogging – just do your due diligence to protect your content.

By Debbie Laskey, MBA

In the United States, July is the month when we celebrate Independence, specifically on the Fourth of July. While many retail stores promote “Independence Day” sales that last more than just one day, we can all recall automobile sales advertised on TV and radio called “Independence Day Sales” but start in June and last well into July

The reason behind this advertising strategy can be explained by a simple fact. Businesses want to capitalize on the buzz of the moment. In the case of June and July in the United States, that buzz is Independence Day.

Consider the following well-known brands. During June and July, they are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the “America” or “American” portion of their brand names for a myriad of advertising and promotional opportunities – check them out to see what they do differently this time of year to build brand awareness:

* American Airlines

* American Apparel

* American Broadcasting Company

* American Eagle Outfitters

* American Express

* American Greetings Corp.

* Bank of America

* TravelCenters of America

If your brand had “America” or “American” in its name, what would you do during June and July to capitalize on Independence Day or the entire month of July? Certainly, product or service discounts are an option, or maybe, the launch of a new product or service, or perhaps, the implementation of a new loyalty or referral program. But whatever announcement your business makes, you would definitely have an audience.

Another spin on this topic is if a portion of your brand name is tied to a national park, national monument, theme park, hotel, resort, etc. There is no doubt that your brand has a head start on brand awareness if the name of your business were Mt. Rushmore Cement Company or Yellowstone Coffee or Liberty Music. In all of these scenarios, the first goal of all marketing campaigns has been achieved. There is immediate brand interest during June and July.

It’s important, though, that you don’t get so caught up in the buzz of the moment that you lose sight of the core strengths of your brand. Your competitive positioning and overall brand promise should stay front and center – always, no matter what unique advertising opportunity presents itself.

So, will your brand celebrate American independence?

Debbie Laskey, MBA

Is your industry crowded? Does one brand overshadow the rest of the players in your industry? How can your business stand out? Here are five tips every business can learn about branding from recent data breaches.

With countless stories centering on the recent Sony and Anthem data breaches in the mainstream media, the time has long since passed for businesses to become proactive with their risk management planning. However, many businesses continue to operate with their heads in the sand.

Today, after reading this article, you will learn:

* Invaluable insights from some security/privacy industry experts

* Five useful lessons that you can apply to your business

* The website that announces data breaches the moment they happen (and not Krebs on Security)

According to Wikipedia, “A data breach is a security incident in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by an individual unauthorized to do so. Data breaches may involve financial information such as credit card or bank details, personal health information (PHI), Personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets of corporations or intellectual property.”

According to Robert Siciliano (@RobertSiciliano on Twitter), online safety expert for Intel Security and personal security/identity theft expert, “These days, the consensus is that when a company is breached, it’s their fault. While the company certainly needs to accept a portion of the blame, it’s often dragged through the mud by the media. While it’s important for companies to respond to a breach as quickly as possible, they must lock down their networks before they inform the public. Locking down is essential so that they don’t inform the public and then more data is exposed making them look like they don’t have control. They also need to express to the public and the media that they are victims of crime – I don’t see this often enough. It’s also important that companies inform the public as to what steps need to be taken in regard to the type of data that has been breached. Too often, I see companies responding with a blanket approach to security that involves way more fixes than is necessary, and this just leads to confusion by the public.”

According to Rebecca Herold (@PrivacyProf on Twitter), information security/privacy/compliance expert, shared some insights from a recent course she taught about geo-location privacy to a large group of surveying and mapping professionals. “They were all interested not only for their own use in their professional activities, but also from their own personal perspectives and experiences. One class member who was in the midst of recovering from identity theft raised his hand, “That store has cost me over a thousand dollars so far to reclaim my identity…and it was their mess! Why are all these businesses allowed to ruin the lives of others without any penalty?” Another class member replied, “Stop using that business! I’ve stopped using every business that has a breach.” This microcosm is a pretty accurate reflection of the growing attitude of the general public; and it’s supported by a recent Forrester report stating that, according to their research, strong privacy protections will become a major competitive differentiator starting in 2015. Businesses need to establish or beef up their privacy programs, and information security protections, if they want to keep their clients, customers, and patients.”

According to Allan Pratt (@Tips4Tech on Twitter), information security expert and technology instructor, “Without awareness, buy-in, and participation by all business units, companies will not engage all employees in the company-wide objective of practicing infosecurity. The IT department of the old days no longer means simply fixing computers and setting up networks. IT Departments actually touch all departments within a business, so techies must speak a language other than technology. If this happens, then all employees will learn and understand why security is important to them, how security relates to them, and how they will be affected when breaches happen. And once, all business units work as a team, the business, its data, and its employees are all better protected.”

Armed with this background about security breaches, here are five branding tips every business can learn and apply:

[1] Place yourself in the shoes of your customers

You, as your company’s CEO and leadership team, probably don’t want your data stolen. So, put yourself in your customers’ shoes – they aren’t happy about the news that their data has been compromised and may be sold on the black market. Use language that tells your customers you value them – and that you’re just as upset as they are about what has happened. Don’t let your business be perceived as if it is ignoring the data breach or the fact that customer data may be at risk.

[2] Be honest, transparent, and quick with your communications to customers

If something horrible happens with your customer data, be up-front with your customers. Distribute press releases, place messages from the President/CEO front and center on your website, present webinars or video messages from the President/CEO, etc. Don’t hide behind an anonymous Chief Information Officer, a faceless public relations agency, or even worse, a PR intern. Tell the story of what happened, once you know, and if someone from inside the company is at fault, take action and let the public know.

[3] Provide options

At a minimum, provide credit monitoring at no charge to your customers – all customers. This will be a small price to pay when you consider that if your customer data is sold on the black market, and lawsuits happen – and class action lawsuits may be even more likely, your company could go out of business. Remember that customers want to know they are valued – and when their data is compromised, they definitely don’t feel that way.

[4] Educate employees about the consequences if they break the law and steal confidential information (insider vs. external threats)

It may sound strange, but when strangers visit your office, they can easily fit in. If your company doesn’t have strict visitor policies (nametags, a guide to accompany them while walking around, etc.), then a stranger could easily walk off with a laptop (it’s been known to happen on too many occasions. And if the laptop has HR data or Finance Department data – that is not encrypted – well, your legal team better get ready for long days and nights. And, an even worse scenario is when the threat is internal: when employees are the actual criminals. Develop a policy with consequences and include it in your onboarding process and review on a regular basis.

[5] Develop a BYOD policy and enforce it

Look around your workplace. How many employees use their own smartphones or tablets for business-related projects? If they do, they are putting your confidential data at risk. This data may be on Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or CRM systems. One wrong move, one malware attack, and voila, a hack can happen quicker than you can say BYOD. Develop a policy, include it in your onboarding process, and make sure that employees use password protection on their devices, regularly change their passwords, and only provide access to those employees that absolutely need it. Also, when employees leave or are terminated, make sure that you have BYOD in your off-boarding process. Consider this: How many employees leave with access still on their devices and with company confidential data still on their devices?

And now, for the promised website where you can learn about data breaches immediately when they happen. Bookmark this link. Once there, make sure to click “go” to refresh the page.

In conclusion, apply these tips and see the impact they can make on your brand – ideally, before you experience a data breach!

Debbie Laskey, MBA

There is an often-overlooked aspect of marketing that can be considered a distant relative. Public relations, also referred to as PR, is this sometimes forgotten but very important component of marketing promotions. At its core, PR can be defined as managing a brand’s image and reputation, but it touches all aspects of a business including employees, shareholders, customers, investors, financial markets, politics, media, and business partners.

When executed well, PR can garner free publicity in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and on CNN. When executed poorly or a crisis happens, publicity or saying the wrong thing may cause an employee to be terminated – or even worse, a company can go out of business.

Talented PR professionals develop long-term relationships with reporters, and over time, reporters depend on marketing and PR pros to provide them with the information they need to write their articles.

Here are my Top 10 Branding Tips Using PR:

[1] Develop a competitive positioning statement and include with all printed collateral and online web pages, for example, fact sheets, brochures, annual reports, etc.

[2] Write articles about your company and how your product or service has solved problems for your customers – and submit to local, regional, and national publications and websites.

[3] Videotape experts from your company as they answer questions about your product or service and submit to TV and radio stations.

[4] Develop traditional press kits and online versions and include fact sheets, press releases, media alerts, printed or PDF versions of media coverage, etc.

[5] Develop a media list of appropriate reporters who cover your industry and reach out to share updates on a regular basis – don’t forget to update on a regular basis too.

[6] Create a schedule for regular press releases and distribute to your media list – and post on your online press room.

[7] Develop testimonials and case studies by interviewing satisfied customers and use these people as brand advocates/ambassadors – include these items in your press kits.

[8] Showcase your brand at industry trade shows and obtain keynote speaking engagements for your company experts – events are also great places to announce new products or services.

[9] Blogs have become an easy way for companies to share news and control how the information is presented, therefore, create a blog or several blogs – invite comments and monitor them quickly to further evolve compelling conversations.

[10] Since social media has changed the landscape for the dissemination of news, develop a social media marketing plan and integrate it with your overall marketing and PR outreach initiatives (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest).

What would you add to this list?

Debbie Laskey, MBA

Who owns the brand in your business? If your business is top heavy with numerous members in the C-Suite, this may be a difficult question to answer if you don’t have a Chief Marketing Officer. Your Chief Sales Officer may claim ownership, or your Chief Information Officer may claim ownership. Perhaps, your Chief Legal Officer may claim ownership. If you don’t have a large number of people in your C-Suite, your Chief Executive Officer may be the face of your brand and simultaneously leads your messaging.

But no matter who owns the brand in your business, there are three key responsibilities for the person in this role.

First, make sure that all brand tools are consistent. This means that all your digital assets including your main website, your blog, and all your social media accounts reflect the same look and feel; and make sure all your printed collateral also reflects the same look and feel (brochures, newsletters, flyers, annual reports, etc.). Make sure they all provide the same description about your company and brand, feature the same logo and/or tagline, and include the same color palette. For example, you would look twice and not trust a site with a purple Coca-Cola – those iconic red and white colors are as famous as the product they represent.

Second, make sure your brand has a defined voice. If you provide professional services, for example, legal or financial services, you may use formal language that matches your industry. But if you sell consumer products, your ads and emails may be full of informal lingo or slang. Think detailed emails versus brief texts. Also, depending on your industry, there may be appropriate words that would be considered essential to include in your brand messaging. For example, professional sports have terminology that is important in their branding – football ads can easily integrate “touchdowns” and “hail Mary’s,” and baseball ads can easily integrate “home runs” and “shut outs.”

Third, create brand advocates. As the owner of your brand, you want to welcome employees into the branding process so that they understand their importance in sharing your brand story with the world. Since all employees are brand advocates, take the time to educate employees about your brand’s strengths during the onboarding phase and also re-train on a regular basis. Make the training fun and always have a smile on your face.

What do you do as your brand’s owner? Please chime in.

Debbie Laskey, MBA

When we think about the qualities that characterize a leader, we often create a list that includes charisma, vision, and strength. But it’s also important to consider the qualities that a leader instills in his or her followers, such as, loyalty, motivation, and dedication.

For an individual to be an effective leader, he or she must be extraordinary at the core of his or her spirit – capable of overcoming extreme odds, capable of seeing much more than a quick fix to a fleeting crisis and, above all else, capable of inspiring followers to join together to achieve a common goal or aspire to become better individuals. Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female member of the US Supreme Court, represents the epitome of this most extraordinary type of leader.

Sandra Day O’Connor was born in 1930 in El Paso, Texas. She attended Stanford University, where she earned a BA Degree in economics followed by a law degree. She also served on the Stanford Law Review. In December 1952, she married John Jay O’Connor, and they had three sons. She was married for 55 years until John’s death in 2009.

In spite of Sandra Day O’Connor’s accomplishments during law school, no law firm in California would hire her due to her gender. One law firm offered her a job as a legal secretary – which she refused. Instead, she dedicated herself to public service and accepted a position as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County in California. She also worked in Germany as a civilian attorney and practiced law in Arizona. In 1969, she was appointed to the Arizona State Senate and re-elected twice. In 1975, she was elected judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals by Governor Bruce Babbitt. During her time in the Arizona state government, she served in all three of its branches.

Ronald Reagan made a pledge during his 1980 presidential campaign that, if elected, he would appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court, and on July 7, 1981, he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as an Associate Justice. Pro-life and religious groups opposed the nomination because they feared she was pro-abortion, but on September 21, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed by the US Senate with a vote of 99-0.

During her tenure as a Justice, O’Connor was known to review cases on an individual basis, which placed her in the center of the court and drew both criticism and praise. She retired from the court in January 2006, and in August 2009, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.

What makes Sandra Day O’Connor a great leader? While she was not a CEO or president of a Fortune 500 company, she demonstrated leadership traits on a daily basis. She set goals and accomplished them. She taught, and she learned. She created a team and led. She accepted public criticism and gave credit. She listened and spoke. She inspired and was inspiring. The truth is, there are not many of us who would hold our heads high if we had been in O’Connor’s shoes when she could not find a job as a lawyer. Instead of shouting about the unfairness of the situation, she looked for another option, an option that would yield great results once she proved herself in public service.

So, the question should not be, what makes Sandra Day O’Connor a great leader. Instead, we should ask ourselves, how can we apply her leadership qualities and successes to our businesses and everyday lives?

While this post was originally written a couple of years ago, I have reprised it as a result of an exciting experience. On March 4, 2014, I was thrilled to attend a luncheon featuring the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor. She spoke in an endearing manner and regaled the audience with humorous anecdotes from her days on the Supreme Court as well as commentary about her latest project as the creator of iCivics, an online game that provides students with tools for active participation in the democratic process so that they become engaged citizens. Despite being 84, Sandra Day O’Connor continues to lead and inspire.