Issue 79: Let's Not Talk about Sex, Brands
From Serial Marketer: "The Cutting Edge of Marketing”

I published much of this week's column initially on LinkedIn, as I couldn't wait until today to share some thoughts on Netflix’s risqué Twitter post from last week: "what's something you can say during sex but also when you manage a brand twitter account?"

A lot of the responses from other brands were hilarious, but those included too many that showed a complete disregard for their own brand identity. This needs to stop.

If a brand is going to be okay acting like a teenager (or social media-obsessed adult) trading its brand values for a cheap dopamine surge that accompanies thousands of likes on a fleeting post, the brand no longer stands for anything.

The worst offenders were family-friendly brands. There’s a big difference, or there should be, between the brand voices of Jägermeister and Jell-O. Brands shouldn't sound, look, and act alike, even if they're in the same category. This is Branding 101.

When I pick up a package of Kraft mac and cheese, for instance, I’m okay with them promoting unicorns and Disney movies on their packages. Yet I don’t want to worry about them quoting “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That’s why I was surprised to see this reply to Netflix from @kraftmacncheese: "Can take anywhere between 7-10 minutes." 

Or consider these offenders:

Pepsi: "We prefer it in the can." (Bud Light has more business responding here and actually managed a tamer response: "Check out our new cans.") (An aside: kudos to both of these brands for including punctuation, as most eschewed the formality).

Boston Market: "you've been waiting for this stuffing all year"

Mr. Peanut: "I need a nut"

Pop-Tarts: "Fill me up" 

Kettle Brand Chips: "You can go elbow deep in me". (This is one of the worst ones. Paqui Chips, which is a spicy brand in many senses of the word, also went graphic with "Don't get it in your eyes". I do not need to eat any potato chips for a while.)

KFC UK & Ireland: "This is a bucket made for sharing" (Good, because I just threw up in one.)

Outback Steakhouse: "We recommend medium. Firm with a warm pink center. 🥩" (I'll pass on seeing the rejected tweets they had about a bloomin' onion.)

And then there's Petco, getting more than 60,000 likes for posting photos of pet toys that look like torture devices, saying, "We hope you enjoy these new toys!" (I empathize with  @adeleee's response: "omg Petco how am I supposed to buy any of those for a dog now".)

Freeform's participation made little sense, and its tweet made less sense: "You can call me whatever you want, as long as you don't call me ABC Family" (That is most definitely not something you can say during sex, unless you're looking to get your license revoked.)

Just for good measure, the award for strangest brand participation has to go to Burlington, as in the retailer formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory, which for some reason had to reply to DSWHuluGrouponBed Bath & Beyond, Pop-Tarts, and Snickers. Weirder still, while all those responses were visible as of early December 8, but by late that night, the responses to Pop-Tarts and Snickers disappeared. Its response to Netflix, "There's a style for everyone," got all of 23 likes (as of three days after posting it). As of December 10, these were the only tweets from their Twitter account since late November. All of this makes me want to go to the Burlington Coat Factory (which it will ALWAYS be to me) on 6th Avenue, buy a knock-off Canada Goose jacket for way less than the original but way too much for a knock-off, and give their whole communications team a very warm hug that would have been even warmer if I had just paid for the actual Canada Goose jacket.

Pardon the digression. I was so rattled by investigating Burlington's account that I was craving comfort food like Outback, Kettle Chips, or Pop-Tarts, but then I remembered what those brands posted, and I will not be eating for quite a while.

Back to the issue at hand:

There’s an art to not responding and to sitting on the sidelines. Consider Jell-O, a brand I did a bit of work on in the past. You know what a lot of people search for and talk about regarding the brand? Jell-O shots. You know what the brand never talked about? Exactly. They were taking money off the table by not promoting one of the most popular uses of their products, but what was more important was prioritizing the brand’s family-friendly image. They picked a lane. And no, they did not respond to Netflix (much to my relief).

Not every brand needs to hold back in such situations. Penguin Random House publishes a wide range of books for different audiences, so they responded, "I'm going to be doing this in bed all weekend." (I responded, "So relieved you went with a reading reference and nothing about a penguin" -- this alone got 230 likes, or 10 times Burlington's response to Netflix.)

Arby’s, which benefited from its brand becoming a meme (a rare achievement), responded, “Do you want more meat?" Netflix fired back, “Ma'am, this is a Netflix." That's Twitter gold.

Some others were surprisingly savvy. I liked England's blood drive service (@GiveBloodNHS) chiming in with, "It's just a little prick." @Niallneilnail with all of 6 followers said, "I laughed. Then I signed up to donate," and more than 7,000 people liked his response. Go NHS, and cheers to you, Niall.

I'm torn on Motorola US: "Unfolds to the best 6.2" you ever had." For a brand with massive awareness that is struggling with product traction, it's not the worst way to let people know they have a product meant for big hands.

So many of the other brands would have been better to sit this out. One-off compromises dilute a brand’s value over time. The brand’s identity becomes cloudier. And then soon they just try to compete with the most popular brands in any category just for the fleeting social media glory and maybe a slide in the social media manager’s portfolio when he or she applies for a job at Arby’s.

Maybe you think I should just Netflix and Chill. If you’re a brand that stands for everything though, you stand for nothing. If you have no standards with your voice, it’s a signal to everyone involved with that brand that there are no standards. I'd also bet that many of the wholesome brands publicly responding to Netflix will be the first to raise hell if a display ad of theirs appears as remnant inventory on some adult website.

Brand identity matters. It’s what separates brands from commodities. Brands have enough struggles staying relevant today, but instead of pursuing cheap thrills, they need to be proud of what they are and uphold their standards consistently.

Otherwise, you might as well just Disney+ and chill.

What do you make of all of this? And what are you making of yourself?


PS: Thanks to all the responses on vendors vs. partners last week. There's so much more to share here, and we can tackle it further in other issues. Meanwhile, read Valeria's article below. To those who demonstrated how you are indeed partners, that's why I called partners narwhals instead of unicorns. It's great connecting with all the narwhals, tardigrades, grey crowned cranes, and other marvelous creatures among you.


There are two reliable ways to get featured here: write as well as Valeria Maltoni, and mention me. Valeria did both with a thoughtful follow-up to my Vendor vs. Partner musings as she explored what terms are best for you to use.

It also helps to write as well as Peggy Anne Salz of MobileGroove fame. One tip she has here for app marketing is to shift the focus from purely growth to retention, which can get overlooked. She includes some sharp expert opinions here.

The IAB released a detailed report with tons of stats, definitions, and examples to explain OTT, CTV, AVOD, SVOD, and BB8. This should be a useful one to bookmark for anyone interested in or working in streaming video.

Android Authority ranks 50 failed Google products from the best to the worst. The best? Google Nexus phones, followed by Project ARA modular phones, and then Google Reader for RSS. The worst? Google Buzz, Knol, and Lively. My #1 failed product of theirs is Picasa, an acquisition; I still use it for managing photos on my PC and haven't come across anything nearly as good (recommendations welcome).

The Advertising Club of NY is running its silent auction through the end of the year. Bid on experiences like:
- Enjoy a meal at Tao with Paolo Provinciali, Head of US Media and Nick Kelly, Head of US Partnerships, Anheuser-Busch
- Grab a bite with Elizabeth Windram, VP, Marketing, JetBlue (or bid on round-trip tickets)
- Attend a Knicks game with John Nitti, Chief Media Officer, Verizon
Bids start at $250.

I asked members of Serial Marketers yesterday to share one thing they're working on, professionally or personally, that they could use help accomplishing before the end of the year. There are some asks you might be able to help with, and feel free to share your own if you're a member. (If you're not a member yet, just email me or visit


Want to include your event below? Just reply with the details.

January 6, 2020
Via Jay Mandel of The Collective NYC: "Join me for an intimate live workshop where I will share with you my proprietary method for defining your core values. The process starts with defining your core values and then uses those values to anchor your business in terms that drive meaning for you and connect with your customers and prospects." Exclusive here: use the code 'serial' for 20% off.

January 8, Royalton Park Avenue (29th St)
New York, NY
Serial Marketers has teamed up with First Wednesdays to bring back this long-standing tradition in NYC. Every month, we meet at the top-floor penthouse bar from 6-9. While Zack Rosenberg and Rachel Herskovitz post the event links on Facebook, if you want the recurring invite on your calendar, just let me know, and I'll add you to it. I'm also now sending updates via Meetup.
(Given the January 1 holiday, this is a rare Second Wednesday.)

(I'll have more updates on SXSW as we get closer.)
March 11, 2020
Austin, TX
Attention Designers! Place by Design is a pitch competition aimed at showcasing innovative and invigorating design in the public sphere. Urbanists, artists, architects, and designers have the opportunity to present their scalable solutions for improving our shared landscape.


Reach out to me if you want introductions or any additional information, and let me know if you have other job postings you'd like to share. There have also been many job updates within the Slack community, so if you're part of that, be sure to check the #jobs channel for more. 

Social Media Managers (x4)
Yes, I know some folks there; as mentioned in Slack, they need four for a certain key account. "The Social Manager’s role is to define and execute the social media strategy for 360i brands across platforms. This person will lead all social media and advertising initiatives to increase overall engagement with the brand and brand positioning, driving social media strategies that fuel the business with best in class creative execution."

Director, E-Commerce - B2B Mobile
Ridgefield Park, NJ
My friend is the hiring lead, so I can refer you if this is relevant and interesting, and I also have a full job description that can be shared:
"The Director, eCommerce B2B Mobile (aka Head of eCommerce – B2B Mobile) will serve as a strategic-thinking, goal-driven head of merchandising, product, CRM, analytics/forecasting, social media management, affiliate/partnerships, and customer experience.  The Demand-Gen marketing team will provide customer insights/research, acquisition marketing content and media, and PR support. The Head of eCommerce – B2B Mobile will be responsible for building an ecommerce business within the B2B organization with external Samsung corporate support in the areas of web development and cart-checkout, fulfillment, and customer service."

Social Media Manager
The founder of KIND and other endeavors seeks a social media lead, ideally with around 4-7 years experience. "As the Social Media Manager you will be responsible for building Daniel’s social media platforms and engaging with Daniel’s community across multiple social platforms." See the #jobs channel in Slack for details and a warm intro, or let me know if you want to be connected directly.

Senior Social Media Insights Analyst
Via Chloe in Serial Marketers:

Analyst/Paid Social Media Buyer
Via Kara in Slack: "L'Oreal's luxury beauty division (Kiehl's, Urban Decay, Lancôme, It Cosmetics, YSL/Armani/Ralph Lauren beauty, etc) is hiring Paid Social Buyers! This is a great team with a centralized view of all media efforts in-house. It's an incredible opportunity for someone looking to move to the brand side from an agency." DM her in Slack or I can connect you.  

Other job resources:
-Ad Ops Online: Job listings for ad operations, programmatic account management, sales operations, and more
-ExecThread: Senior roles spanning a range of verticals and cities; membership is free but fully vetted
-TechNY Daily: While more technical typically, there are also some sales and marketing jobs at NY startups

Do you run or enjoy other job resources? Let me know, and I'll share them.


David Berkowitz, publisher


100+ TECH RECOMMENDATIONS (updated regularly)

18 TYPES OF STARTUP MARKETERS (now in quiz form, thanks to Riddle)

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