Dec 22

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 4

digHaving already taken a look into the crystal ball in such fields as financial services, experiential and consumer, we next turn our attention to the white hot world of digital (which, as we know, means different things to different people). No matter how you define it, Peppercomm’s Digital Director, Mike Friedin has selected five trends to keep your eyes on…

  • Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will increasingly augment and extend every technology enabled service, thing or application. More businesses will place focus on creating systems that continuously learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously than execute against a set of predefined instructions.
  • Small data must be managed better. Big data gets the headlines, but small data runs the intricacies for many businesses, as we see an increase in Account Based Marketing and personalized experiences driving deeper engagement and customer loyalty.
  • Right time not real time. When and where in the customer journey will become more critical than fast data assembly, and delivering optimal messaging with customers and prospects on a one-to-one basis by automatically replacing entire sections of your messages based on each recipient’s unique behaviors, interests and needs.
  • Advances in Content Marketing sophistication, breaking through the noise with greater contextual targeting, personalization and marketing apps that drive interactive experiences with programmatic flow and logic, especially mobile in-app.
  • Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers continue to gain traction based on the promise to transform industry operating models. While the current hype is around the financial services industry, there are many possible applications including music distribution, identity verification, title registry and supply chain. 

We wrap up our weeklong series tomorrow with a glimpse into the industrial manufacturing sector by our own chief foreman, Ann Barlow.

Dec 21

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 3

experienceSpecial events and conferences have morphed into a much larger service offering called “experiential.”

Melissa Vigue, our most experienced experiential expert, passes along her tips for what to look for in 2017.

  • Rise of brand moments vs. sponsorships. We are beginning to see brands move away from traditional sponsorship activation to create true brand experiences as either stand-alone events or major activations at or near existing events.
  • Increase in cause-related experiential. I don’t want to just go to something, I want my attendance to mean something. And for brands, it’s about going beyond the “donate a dollar at the register” and getting out into the community.
  • Further integration of physical and digital landscapes. Consumers want to be fully immersed in brand environments but it must also be personalized. So as predicted, the personalization trend continues – consumers increasingly want to direct their own experience within an environment. Gamification will play a big role here. Choose your own adventure, anyone?
  • The role of psychology. There is even more of a focus here.  While emotional connections and currency are important when creating experiences – doing something people really want to be a part of whether for a cause or because of the way it makes them feel – there is a movement toward cognitive fluency. What’s that? The idea that people tend to prefer things that they are familiar or comfortable with and are easy to understand. Imagine the impact if you can generate that mindset in a place where they can experience and maybe even purchase products.
  • Being live. While live streaming is not new, 2017 will be the year that its potential can be fully realized through the Facebook and Instagram Live platforms.  Beyond that, streaming is not just about sharing the experience beyond the event, but rather about engaging those onsite and creating an excellent experience for attendees and sponsors.

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the mysterious and sometimes murky world of digital. Our skipper will be Mike Friedin, Peppercomm’s digital director. Remember it’ll be a BYO life preserver blog, so come prepared.

Dec 20

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 2

consumerWelcome to today’s second demonstration of Peppercomm leadership’s superb prognostication skills.

Yesterday, you were treated to Jacko Kolek’s look into the financial services crystal ball.

Today will feature a rare doubleheader. In the home opener, Maggie O’Neill, our consumer group leader par excellence will provide her views for what’s just around the corner of the next shopping aisle.

The later blog, whose start time is 2:15 EST, will see Melissa. If you’re on the mound, serving up her 99 mph fastballs to readers hoping to know what’s next in the experiential ballpark.

Oddly, both have predicted Ed and I will be fired and replaced by new general managers by ground Hog Day. Time will tell.

And, now, hereeeeeeee’s Maggie.

  • Consumer trust in brands continues to decline while the consumer demand for 100% brand authenticity continues to rise. And, we are coming off a year of large established brands letting people down.  Brands need to find their unique authenticity and voice (think Shinola) and not just try to insert themselves in a place they don’t belong. And when it comes to trust – transparency, accessibly and responsibility are essential.
  • Consumer brands are picking sides in today’s Trump era.  The divided election and raised voices across the country has propelled many brands to cater towards or against the new president-elect in a much more obvious way than ever before.
  • Personalization remains king.  As we shift our marketing focus from Millennials to Gen Z, the need for brands to personalize the entire brand and product lifestyle experience will continue to grow.
  • Data and analytics are driving almost every decision and the budgets that go along with them more than ever before. An ever-more diversified consumer makes understanding your audience even more important.
  • The traditional path to purchase for most or all consumer goods does not exist anymore.  Traditional product manufacturers must look at the new journey, and learn how to reach customers at all points along it is critical.

Let us know if you agree, disagree or simply aren’t interested in Maggie’s thoughts.

Maggie will be replaced on the mound by our crack middle-reliever (and experiential expert) Melissa “Big Train” Vigue.

Dec 19

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017

finserveTo say there’s more uncertainty in the world right now is to suggest digital is a critical new factor in marketing communications. No duh to each.

While we at Peppercomm aren’t gifted fortune tellers, our senior executives are very serious students and analysts of the events, trends and what might be’s in the various categories in which they specialize.

So, I thought we’d focus on five key “verticals” and ask our thought leaders in each to tell you what’s next.

Our lead-off hitter is Jacqueline “Jacko” Kolek, the top dog in our Financial Services group. Please feel free to riff on her thoughts, add some of your own or, if you disagree, tell her why.

One of our top priorities in 2017 is to upgrade our soothsaying capabilities.

  • A Trump administration will potentially completely shake up the FS sector, from regulation to tax reform the pain points of clients and products they will need could change dramatically over the next 4 years.
  • The push for a more robust social media presence for FS companies will accelerate as more senior leaders recognize the value of social selling, including in B2B organizations.
  • Silos between marketing, communications and compliance/legal will collapse as firms seek to create a more robust and efficient way to share content across paid, owned and earned platforms.
  • Analytics rule – understanding the customer journey and gleaning insights to inform more than just marketing strategy will become of paramount importance.
  • Millennials are starting to have money, and lots of it and have very different values in terms of investing it. FS firms will have to figure out how to connect and engage with them more than ever before.

Check out tomorrow’s two-part blog that will provide consumer trend forecasts in the AM and experiential ones in the afternoon.

Dec 15

Millions and Millions Killed

138266I’ve been remiss in not extending my condolences to the family of Jim Delligatti. He died in late November at the age of 98.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it should.

The man stands alongside Edison, da Vinci and Franklin as one of history’s greatest inventors.

Jim Delligatti invented the Big Mac.

Yes, Virginia, this is the man who, in 1967, poured gasoline on the slowly smoldering fire that was American obesity and set it aflame. He’s your prototypical firestarter.

Delligatti’s legacy is impressive indeed. Each year, McDonald’s sells 550 Million Big Macs. And, that’s just in the good, old U.S. of A. Mickey D’s sells billions more worldwide.

Just imagine the number of calories Big Mac enthusiasts are shoveling down each year!  Guessing that the average Big Mac packs about 550 calories, my fuzzy math adds up to some 550,000,000,000 calories absorbed annually. Now, there’s a legacy.

I find it amusing, and alarming, that Delligatti lived for another 49 years after inventing the highly addictive Big Mac.

Assuming he ate one of his precious Mac’s every week for his remaining 49 years, Delligatti consumed more than 17,000 of those “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun bastards.” Sorry, that last word was mine.

Anyway, multiply those 17,000+ all-beef parties by 550 calories and ya gotta believe the coroner’s were confused as to whether Delligatti died of natural causes or committed the slowest suicide in history.

There’s so much more to be said. I think I’ll end by suggesting that, while McDonald’s may boast that billions and billions have been served, Delligatti alone can say he’s played a personal role (passively or otherwise) in accelerating the deaths of millions and millions.

R.I.P. Jim Delligatti. The man who brought obesity to the masses.



Dec 12

What were they thinking?

the-new-york-times-asked-readers-if-they-could-ki-2-2171-1445664152-6_dblbigMy good friend and Peppercomm’s Chief Comedy Officer, Clayton Fletcher, likes to joke that one person can ruin a name for everyone else.

“For example,” he says, “have you heard anyone naming their little girl Kaitlyn of late?” He continues by asking about the name Adolf. “Ever hear a worried mom asking if anyone had seen little Adolf? ‘He’s about six, has a little mustache and is pushy.'”

I cite these politically incorrect jokes because a name really can shape the image of a person or an organization.

That’s why I was stopped in my tracks (which happens daily on my NJTransit commute, BTW) when I stumbled across The Alt.

Serving Troy, Schenectady, Albany and Saratoga Springs, The Alt bills itself as “The capital region’s alternative news weekly.”

All of which would be fine if there wasn’t a certain, far right-wing extremist group known as the Alt-Right (See: Steve Bannon, fake news, etc.).

The Alt’s editor, David Howard King, says the publication, which just launched, intends to “…. differentiate ourselves by writing alternative journalism. Hard-hitting [poor word choice if I’ve ever seen it] stories that daily newspapers don’t have the resources to pick-up.”

And, get this, King says The Alt will “…always remain opposed to normalizing racism and hate speech.”

Wow. Then why choose the damn name in the first place?

I’m delighted to see the return of a FREE alternative print newsweekly in the wake of similar publications going belly-up in Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco.

But, considering the paper’s mainstream target audience, The Alt is knowingly, or unknowingly, alienating at least 50 percent of its readership from the get-go (See results of recent national election popular vote).

It not only boggles the mind but flies in the face of Clayton Fletcher’s astute observations of the impact one bad apple can have on the future of a name.

What’s next? A Democratic National Committee newsletter called “The Clan?”



Dec 08

Reebok’s “Perfect Never” Campaign Isn’t So Perfect

Today’s guest RepMan is by Peppercommer Nicole Newby. 

1111911thenandnow1Supermodels are synonymous with the fashion world’s vision of perfection. So I was a little surprised at the irony when Reebok recently appointed Gigi Hadid, one of today’s most recognizable models, as one of the faces of its Perfect Never campaign.

This is not a post about Gigi’s physical appearance or what she does outside of the spotlight to maintain that physique. In fact, since she became a face for the brand, I’ve been reading several articles about her athletic background and affinity for boxing. And I have to say, I’m impressed.

All of that aside, this is about brand image—both for Gigi and Reebok. At first glance, it seems like this is a very clever move from Gigi’s management team to make her more relatable and human. But that’s not what her career is based on. Her public image, which has tied her face to high-end names like Versace, Stuart Weitzman and Tom Ford, is built and relies on her having the perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect outfit, perfect figure…

Since Reebok rebranded a few years ago and through strategic partnerships with Spartan Race, UFC and CrossFit, the brand has built a strong foundation of supporters who embody a tough fitness mentality. A career supermodel is not someone with whom they would have a lot in common on the surface.

I understand Reebok’s intention. Gigi works hard behind the scenes, and she undoubtedly has her own insecurities and story to tell. But consumers today are smart and value brand authenticity. The comments on Reebok’s Facebook posts featuring Gigi give direct insight into the audience’s disappointment here. There is a fine line between a campaign that intrigues the audience to want to learn “why” and one that just doesn’t initially make sense at first glance.

Ronda Rousey was a previous icon for the campaign, aptly following her first-ever loss in the UFC fight that cost her the championship belt, shattered her perfect record and knocked her off her invincibility pedestal. She became more human, and Reebok’s campaign exonerated that. These ads exuded a raw intensity and authenticity that made them memorable—and consumers were able to relate and rally behind the message of “being perfect isn’t as powerful as being human.”

With some digging, consumers may learn that the message is still authentic with Gigi, but on the surface it looks like Reebok is just conforming to the same mold as every other fashion brand. And with a target audience of athletes who are vocal about embracing imperfections, this marketing decision isn’t a knockout.

Dec 07

Fighting fire with fire

Tired of receiving e-mail pitches from vendors whose services you neither want nor need? Tired of deleting said pitches only to receive the very same ones a day later?  Not to worry. We have a sure fire way of fighting fire with fire. Enjoy the e-mail exchange and try it on for size.

email-spam-860x450Hi Steven,

Sometimes there needs to be a method to the madness. Once noon hits, I imagine Peppercom employees take the cue to step out of the office or socialize for an hour.

XXX has the solution: delivered, healthy, and delicious meals either already stocked in your office fridge or ordered at the last minute. Not only will you maximize Peppercom employees’ time, but you will also keep your people healthy–saving you money on healthcare in the long-run.

A convenient, productive, and satisfying lunch no longer has to look like this:  

Let’s set up a call on tomorrow or Thursday to discuss specifically the type of resources Peppercom can save through working with XXX.


From: Steve Cody
Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 6:45 PM
To: XXX>
Cc: Lee Stechmann <>
Subject: Re: no more pizza pockets

Kacie: I swear the guy in that photo looks just like my business partner. It’s beyond uncanny. As far as the chow is concerned, Lee Stechmann is Peppercomm’s (Two ms, BTW) answer to Rachel Ray. I must warn you, though, that pizza is a staple of our lunchtime menu and we really don’t buy into the whole wellness myth. Personally, I think it’s just another Chinese hoax.

Best, Steve 

Sorry, Kacie.  Having just wiped chocolate off my mouse (part of my “breakfast on the go” of 8 Chips Ahoy cookies) and looking forward to the juicy burger and greasy fries I’ll be having for lunch, I’m not going to be of much help. I AM into wellness, I just prefer watching other people pursue it.

Lee Stechmann | Office Manager

Hi guys!

First off, this is single-handedly the best email thread I’ve read since as far back as I can remember. It seems like you guys have great team chemistry, and that’s always great to see… especially when it’s revealed in a great email. This will be the highlight of my day for sure.

Hold on to your pizza… because now it’s my turn.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I love all things pizza and hamburgers. The Pizza Pouch has changed my life more than Sour Patch Xploderz, and that’s saying something. There’s just something about having a go-to slice on hand for whenever the moment is right (and that’s every moment). I say all this to let you know that I too enjoy the finer things in life. This is America, after all.

My email positions our food as a healthy alternative because that normally resignations with our current and future clients, but the truth is, it’s just great food. We’re not just offering vegetables and other stuff that our parents tried to feed us on an “airplane.” I’m talking about Smothered Pork Chops, French Dip Beef Sandwiches, Vietnamese Caramel Chicken, Mudslide Chocolate Cookies, and Marcona Almond and Caramel Brownies… plenty of chocolate to put on everyone’s mouse.

The whole purpose of XXX is that we deliver high-quality, chef-prepped food to cater to multiple preferences, so no one is stuck eating something they hate.

If you change your mind, just let me know. I’m happy to set up a meeting to discuss more about what we do, but no worries if not. I just figured I owed it to you guys to respond!Have a great day! -Lee, I hope you enjoy that burger for lunch!

From: Steve Cody <>
Date: December 7, 2016 at 3:06:07 PM EST
To: XXX>
Subject: Re: no more pizza pockets

Great response, XXX Well played on all fronts. Hopefully Lee and/or his mouse will be in touch to give you guys a try.

Best, Steve

PS: My business partner really does look like Stanley from The Office. Also, what are Sour Patch Xploderz? Sounds like something we’d be using to fight ISIS. 



Dec 06

The real deplorables

salsssdIt strikes me that one can find a group of deplorables (to quote from Hillary’s unfortunate remarks during the campaign) just about anywhere.

Many TSA agents fit the description. So too do the sweet, kind and speedy workers at EVERY division of motor vehicles known to mankind. And then there are the small town cops who pull you over for a red light violation. Those latter-day Gestapo wanna-bes would bomb the sh*t out of Syria if given half a chance.

But the ultimate deplorables are the men, women and robots who package everything from razor blades and steak knives to scissors and fruit salad.

These people no doubt take great pride in the quality of their work. I really don’t  know how the robots feel. Who would except for the robots themselves?

But, getting back to living, breathing packagers, I’ll bet it gets a tad tedious sealing, say, kale, eight hours a day, five days a week, year-after-year. One would think the mind would tend to wander from time to time.

Be that as it may, I’ve noticed a hate-filled, Alt Right movement among packagers who seem to take great delight in creating packages that are simply impossible to open.

Just yesterday, I employed every instrument in the office from a letter opener and scissors to a box cutter and screwdriver to pry open this seemingly benign fruit cup (see photo). No go. I was tempted to ask Lee Stechmann, our all-world office manager, to break out his 1970s-era, Dundler Mifflin certified paper cutter to slice the damn thing in half.

Instead, I eventually just tossed the fruit world’s answer to Superman’s Fortress of Steel into the garbage.

And I know for a fact there’s some guy silently chuckling in front of an assembly line in some Cedar Rapids manufacturing facility.

The truly bizarre thing about impossibly hard-to-open packaging is that there’s no image or reputation fallout whatsoever. Have you ever contemplated switching from, say, Gillette to Schick because the former’s packaging was sealed tighter than Fort Knox? Nope. And that’s probably because you know the damn Schick package is probably even harder to open.

So, I’d like to address a question to The Institute of Packaging Professionals and ask them a simple question: Why do you torment us?

I’d also like to address my friends at the Reputation Institute and ask them why bomb-proof packaging isn’t factored into the seven areas they examine to determine a global organization’s reputation.

I’ve sliced open many a fingertip and gouged my palm on more than one occasion trying to achieve the impossible. And, I know there must be millions of other Americans who’ve suffered the same plight.

In the meantime, if there are any packagers out there who, for reasons best known to them, subscribe to RepMan, I want you to know I know who are and I know what you’re doing.

And I will track down the right person at your trade association and threaten a grass roots program to stop your deplorable acts. Better yet, I’ll get my lobbyist buddies in DC (and I have quite a few) to introduce legislation to set a goal of replacing you with packaging-sensitive robots by 2025.

So stand down now before it’s too late. The job you save may be your own.



Nov 30

Dead Mayor Walking

deblasioI’ve always believed the best PR in the world cannot compensate for a flawed product, service, company or, in this case, politician.

In the latter case, I’m speaking of embattled New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who just made the most unusual and some say “unprecedented” decision to hire a Manhattan PR firm to provide counsel, pen press releases and, get this, craft commentary for city officials to use when defending Hizzoner’s controversial programs.

To further complicate this sordid tale, the PR firm in question, BerlinRosen, represents several other clients who conduct business with The Big Apple. Holy conflict, Batman.

When confronted by the ever tenacious Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV the mayor was his usual haughty, dismissive self, poo-pooing Kramer’s suggestion he’d created a “shadow government” by hiring a whole new team of outside advisers when hundreds were already on the city’s payroll. The mayor sighed and said it “…was nothing unusual.” Yeah, right, and Donald Trump’s flag-burning Tweets are standard operating procedure for any president-elect.

There’s no doubt the de Blasio brand is in desperate shape. Since taking office, he has not only managed to antagonize virtually every key constituent audience, but has seemingly turned a blind eye to the city’s rapidly-deteriorating state.

Alas, neither BerlinRosen nor Edward Bernays himself can, or could, save de Blasio from losing his bid for re-election.

That’s because, despite what our hagiographic trade press may tell you to the contrary, the very best PR programs in the world can never compensate for a shoddy product or a horrible customer experience.

But, hey, maybe there’s a silver lining to this particularly grey cloud after all. Imagine the business they’d be able to attract if the PR firm in question can change its name to BerlinRosendeBlasio?  It does have a certain ring to it.