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How asking for my two cents cost XSport a member

Like most people my age, I am trying to stave off the effects of middle age by visiting a gym a few times a week.

Recently after a workout at my local Xsport, I decided to get one of those protein / energy drinks as that is what the physically fit, meat heads in the gym usually drink. When I went to pay, the girl at the counter informed me that the were out of pennies. As a result, she asked if I would be OK with her giving me $5.15 in change versus the $5.17 that I was actually due.


Before I continue with the story, I must say that I usually drop my coins in the “leave a penny” dish or the pickle jar to help the local kids raise money for their school. Partly because I want to do good and partly because I hate change. But not getting my two pennies is not really the issue here. What is the issue is that I was even asked to short-change myself on this transaction in the first place.

First of all, I am a member of this club. The word club itself denotes that to be there, you have to join. You have to pay a membership fee and you are promised to receive privileges that are not available to non-members of the club. And as far as gyms go, the club is higher end too. There are weight machines galore, exercise studios for classes, internet hub, juice bar, tanning beds, saunas, a hot tub, pedicures and manicures and a spa for massages and other member pampering. All these amenities are there to make the members feel special.

So when they asked me if they could keep my money because they ran out of pennies is unacceptable. I think back to how many times I have been asked if I had an extra penny or two so that the cashier can make easier change. Or when my change would have been $0.98, I recall the cashier changed the total so that all I got back was bills – saving me from having a pocket full of change.  Both of these instances gave me a good feeling about the store and their brand. They got it.

So when Xsport asked me if they can keep my two cents for no other reason other than they can’t make the right change, there is a problem. Assuming that there was no way to fill the change drawer with pennies, what the cashier should have done is think of the member first. Let me know that they are out of pennies and then edit the bill a few cents to make it work in my favor. Or, better yet, don’t even tell about me the problem of running out of pennies and just tell that you rounded down so you don’t have to bog me down with change. Either way, I would have walked away knowing that this is a place that really does care about developing and maintaining a long term relationship with me (at the tune of $40 a month or $480 a year). Instead they showed me that they don’t think of the members above all else and that they couldn’t think on their feet. (and don’t get me started on why there never seems to be enough towels for members)

Maybe now is the time for me to move on.  I have been at “the club” past my required membership and am free to leave without penalty. 

Maybe I’ll look for a club that really knows the value of my two cents.



One day after reaching out to XSport about this experience at the club, the customer service team reached back to me to see what they could do about my experience.  Their response was professional, sincere and helpful.

And kudos to them for offering a solution that hit on all marks.

In addition to acknowleging, that perhaps, they did the wrong thing, their solution was to offer me a free month of membership.  This is was great make-good for a couple reasons:

  • It gets me back in the club for at least another month.  Another month of creating and maintaining a personal habit of getting into the club, working out and being inside their brand. 
  • It provides new opportunities for me to purchase those high profit items (like protein drinks and energy bars)
  • Makes me feel that I won

This last point, is really what it is all about.  No, I am not an egomaniac.  But in today’s world, the customer is ALWAYS in control of the brand.  Being able to point out to XSport where their brand missed the mark and then for XSport do something about it, makes me feel good knowing they took notice of the brand miss and made it right. 

I am not sure if XSport has a sophisticated POS system.  If they do, I would hope that when I check in next time using my barcode key fob, they might follow-up with  me personally to see if I am satisfied with how their brand is doing. 

Nonetheless, kudos again to XSport for doing the right thing.  Let’s hope I am not just a “saved customer” statistic to them but that they share this story with their staff so that they can be customer-centric all the time.


Why Your Cause Can Be Your Secret Weapon Against Your Biggest Competition

In today’s world of hyper-competition, chances are your biggest competitor looks just like you. They copy your merchandising plan, have a similar go-to-market strategy and even have big weekend sales at the same time as you.

So to consumers, you are the same. Interchangeable.

So how can you compete better?

Support a cause. I mean REALLY support a cause. Here’s why:

Generally, consumers want to feel good about themselves. They like to think they are eco-conscious, pro-planet and pro-people. Yet, they drive diesel V8 4 wheel drive behemoths and hide behind the curtains when the girl scouts are selling their boxes of thin mints. In other words, while they WANT to be philanthropic in reality, they can do more.

Enter your brand. When you commit to a cause and do a good job of activating your commitment, your customers can redeem themselves just by doing business with you. By supporting you, in their mind, they have done something to support a cause too. Philanthropy by proxy, if you will. A competitive edge against your competition that do not support a cause.

Here are some tips on making cause marketing work:

Support A Cause That Makes Good Sense For Your Business

While supporting just about any cause is a good thing, you want your customers to ‘get it’.  If you are bookstore, support a cause that fights illiteracy.  It makes good, logical sense and it will also be easier to you to get your customers and employees behind the cause.

Get Your Employees Involved

The best cause programs are those that the employees believe in. If you are asking your customers to support you and donate to the cause, having knowledgable, engaged and committed employees to talk about the problem the cause is trying to solve and how your company is helping is crucial.  They’ll provide the passion and information that encourage your customers to support the cause too.

Give More Than Dollars

Yes dollars are important but if all your customers see is your company handing over an oversized cardboard check, they may not see the true commitment.  Do your employees volunteer their time to support the cause or organize fundraisers outside of your four business walls?  Seeing employees in the community dressed in their logo shirts donating their time goes far in enhancing a brand (and further differentiates yourself from your competition who doesn’t volunteer).

Share Your Good Deeds

While the ultimate goal of getting involved in cause marketing is to help others, don’t forget about the marketing part either. Successful fundraising and awareness building is being contagious. The more people know about what you are doing, the easier it is to create local events, generate publicity and further draw those people who are looking for a reason to pick you over your competition.  Through effective marketing, you can rack up a lot of free impressions for your business, forge new partnerships and, of course, enhance your brand.

eyeBrand helps companies develop winning fundraising strategies, events and partnerships that enhance brands and helps communities. 

Let the designers have the cookies but leave the logo

eyeBrand does a lot of graphic design work and brand management. We are often asked to redesign a company’s logo or update their touchpoints. Usually, this is included in the scope of work when we are re-branding a company or product.

The scene usually plays out where we are in a large conference room with the senior management or c-suite executives discussing branding strategy.  Then it happens.  The graphic designers walk into the room – usually around the time that lunch is brought in – and present a deck of oversized, black art boards.


Them: “Our designers took a stab at redesigning our logo.  What do you think?”

Us: “Uh.  There are some really nice design elements here”.

Then after the parade of designs conclude, we thank the artists for their efforts and watch them leave (usually with the rest of the cookies from lunch) and try to bring the execs back to talking strategy.  It always starts with strategy.

With that being said, take a moment to consider the different paths that these two fierce competitors took along their 100+ year history.






























While there is a lot to be said about keeping up with trends and to position your brand as contemporary, young, hip, new or in touch, sometimes keeping your old logo is the best way to stay relevant.




Will your brand suffer collateral damage from the Rush Limbaugh fallout?

With each passing day, the firestorm rages hotter against Rush Limbaugh for his recent comments that a Georgetown law student and contraception activist Sandra Fluke was a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before Congress about the health benefits of birth control pills.  As a result, over 150 advertisers have pulled their ads from the show with more being added every day.

These advertisers spent hundreds of thousands to actively advertise to Limbaugh’s audience and are now recoiling from the fallout.  Advertisers are quickly trying to protect themselves from the raw rage from the public who don’t agree with Limbaugh’s opinion.  While some groups are forming benign boycotts that never seem to work, others are actively threatening and harassing companies if they don’t comply to their demands. 

We heard from a client today that such a “passionate” group left a harsh voice mail threatening that they will post malicious comments about the brand on store review pages on Google, Yelp and throughout social media if they don’t pull all their online advertising from Limbaugh’s page by the end of the day.   

Unfortunately, for this brand, they are not a Limbaugh advertiser but may soon feel the same heated aggression and vigilantism as if they were.  

Here is why.

Many brands these days are spending a lot of their ad dollars engaged in site retargeting.  Site retargeting is when a visitor visits your website and then leaves and goes to another website.  When they get to that new site, at some point, your ad appears on that new site based on the fact that they were on your site previously.  (For a more detailed, yet simple explanation of site retargeting, click here).

While this is an effective way for a brand’s online advertising to follow someone who has already expressed interest in your brand, it is causing collateral damage for some brands because of the Limbaugh firestorm.

If your brand is actively using site retargeting as an advertising strategy, people who have visited your website in the past few days may now see your ad plastered on the Rush Limbaugh page.  While your brand is not an active advertiser, you now appear to be in full support of his show and therefore its content.  Unfortunately for the average consumer, they do not realize that some of the banner ads they see on any given page are a result of site retargeting and not paid advertising for that web page.

So, the question becomes, how many brands will be boycotted or, worse yet, be subject to hateful threats and protests because their online advertising strategy of site retargeting places their ads on Limbaugh’s page? 

If you are experiencing this collateral damage, how are you responding to customers and consumers about it?  Do they understand or accept the fact that you are not advertising on the Limbaugh site?

Black Friday / Cyber Monday – How Did Your Favorite Brand Do?

It’s that time of year again – the Holiday Season!  The time when retailers supposedly emerge from an 11 month sea of red (operating / sales losses) and finally start to make a profit.  Thus, why we call it Black Friday.

But it is also the time of year when our favorite brands are put to the real test.

After the millions of tantalizing email blasts have stuffed our inboxes and the early-bird / door buster displays are stacked to the ceiling, ready to be destroyed by tryptophan-induced, post Thanksgiving day, insane shoppers, the true test of brands take place.

While this time of year is meant to stuff the register tills it is also the time of year when brands get killed.  After marketing has done its job and has driven in thousands of new and existing customers, how well can the operations team handle the mess when there are too few door buster specials to go around and long lines waiting to check out?

Tell us how your favorite brands did on Black Friday / Cyber Monday.  Did they meet your expectations or did they lose you as a customer?  



When Customers Turn UGLY In Your Social Media Stream

We all have them. The angry customer who slams your page with 13 posts in the span of 25 minutes with their complaint. An incessant stream of diarrhea spewing on your platform. They berate you. Resort to personal attacks. Use ALL CAPS to get their point across and then, even after you resolve their issue, they never say thank you.  Even when you prove to them that they were wrong and you were right, they don’t show any courtesy. And on top of it, they carry out this tantrum in public on your Facebook or Twitter page.

As marketers and stewards of brands, we call this opportunity. A chance to shower customers with a heaping dose of compassion and understanding even though they deserve to be put in their place. It also gives us a platform in which to show voyeurs of our brands how we always take the high road even when the path is flanked with insults and aggression.

As as a social media professional, share your pet peeve with us.  What get’s your goat?  What challenges your patience and innermost resolve when managing your social media efforts.

Is Abercrombie & Fitch’s Bribe Just A Publicity Stunt?

Today, Abercrombie & Fitch offered to pay “Situation” from the popular reality series Jersey Shore, NOT to wear its brand (to get the back story on this, you can read one of hundreds of stories and posts here).

A&F claims that the association with the star of the reality show is “contrary to the aspirational nature of their brand”.  This is particularly ironic as A&F is not exactly a brand as innocent as Disney.  In 2002, A&F had to pull a line of thongs from its shelves that aimed at girls age 10 and under. Then a year later in 2003, they had to pull its Christmas catalog after receiving boycott threats from a parents’ group because the catalog featured nude models.

Regardless, as of today, A&F does not believe being associated with Jersey Shore is where they want their brand to be.

We give kudos to A&F for trying to control its brand but let’s face it, as far as brands go, we know that no matter how hard a corporate marketing team carefully crafts and executes their brand strategy, the brand will ultimately be determined by what consumers believe the brand is.

For many brands, getting your brand into pop culture is the holy grail.  It can be great for sales, name recognition and real estate on the shelves. But there is definitely brand risk to consider.

Let’s take a quick look at pop music and in particular, rap.

Back in 2006, there was a public fight between rapper Jay-Z and Cristal champagne after Jay-Z featured the champagne brand in a song and in his clubs – (click here for a story about that).  While Cristal was upset that their premium brand would be tarnished by its association with rap, it quickly became part of the vernacular of an untapped market.  So, did Cristal suffer because of Jay-Z unpaid and unauthorized endorsement?

And back to A&F, what is worse for them?  Being tied to ‘Situation’ and one of the most popular shows on TV or public outrage for marketing thongs to 10 year olds?  Personally, I think that this is all a publicity stunt to get the A&F name in the news.  In Chicago tonight, the story was featured on the 10pm news.


Let us know your thoughts about the relationship between brands and pop culture.

Meijer stereotypes in their advertising

Recently, I heard a Meijer radio ad.  The ad was mostly forgettable as most radio ads are but what made me remember this ad is in this day and age where unemployment continues to rise and domestic roles continue to evolve, that Meijer fell into the sterotypical role of assuming that the care of the children are the responsibilty of the moms. 

The radio ad was for back to school shopping.  At the end of the commerical, Meijer makes it clear that shopping for back to school supplies are the mom’s job.

According to the Washington Post in a 2007 report, it was estimated that about 159,000 -or 2.7%  of the US stay at home population are dads.  This statistic tripled from 10 years earlier.  While 2.7% is really not a lot, it is big enough to take into consideration when creating an ad. 

Being a male who has taken on much of the role of the traditional mom, I personally take offense to advertisers and brands that approve such ads that sterotype men and women into these traditional roles.  Men are taking a larger role in the family business and not just as stay at home dads.  Everything from grocery shopping to running domestic errands is now a shared service in today’s domestic operations. 

What is surprising is that Meijer has had to dance over this topic before.  Here are comments from a  2009 ad that was offensive to women.  You would think that once you are called out on your insensitivity, you would take note and try to be appealing to everyone. 

While it is true that Meijer’s over indexes toward females (113% female compared to 85% male) according to a Quantcast report dated 12/2/2010 – 5/30/2011, it doesn’t give the company a free pass to buy into the stereotype that men don’t shop for school supplies (or care for kids, or cook, or clean, or support their wives, etc). 

So, how what does that mean for their brand? 

You tell me.

When Bad Things Happen, Good Brands Succeed

You’ve heard the saying a million times – bad things happen to good people.  But what happens when bad things happens to good brands?

Good brands use these opportunities to succeed, grow and even become even better.  In the bible, James 1:2 says, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Here is proof of how one great brand is using their recent misfortune as an opportunity to share their brand with others.

Last month in Chicago, a huge snowstorm dropped 23″ of snow in about 18 hours.  Roads, schools and businesses were closed.  As a result of the heavy snow, the roof on a local business collapsed.

Big deal.  Happens all the time, right?

Perhaps.  But when bad things happen to great brands, good things happen.

The business is called Aquascape.  They are a really cool place for backyard and commercial waterfalls, ecosystem ponds, rainwater harvesting and other outdoor features that you just won’t find anywhere else.  But what makes this company different is their brand.

Just after the collapse, Aquascape  turned to social media to share the story of the roof collapse.  Partly because they wanted people to know that they were OK and they were still open for business.  But mostly, perhaps, they know that social media is a great way to show people who they are – i.e. their brand.

As you will see in this video posted right after the collapse, they used this opportunity to share with others that their company is more than just ponds and rocks.  It is about the people.

After watching the video, you can almost see the joy that is to come from this incident as it is described in the James bible verse.

Great brands have a way of letting their personality shine through – especially in times of trouble.

For Aquascape, they regularly use social media to let customers, suppliers and YouTube surfers get to know the real people behind the brand though their  YouTube Channel.  There, you can find everything from expert how-to videos on pond building to videos about how LED lights can dramatically enhance your landscaping.  As of today, there are over 80 videos posted on their channel.

While these videos successfully demonstrate their expertise and experience in their category, in my opinion, the best video in the entire collection is their Christmas Video.  Once you watch this video, you truly understand the people behind their brand and what makes them special.

Bad things happen to brands – both strong and weak brands.  But it is your attitude and your belief that you can have great joy on the other side of the trouble that separates you from your competition.