Back from the Dead: PODCASTING!

You heard me. Podcasts are about as hot as The Walking Dead. Making a raging comeback, revolutionizing the old medium with high quality production, juicy story-telling, and attracting droves of young, new listeners, Podcasts are a marketing field covered with untouched snow. Is it even possible? New terrain?

Three Big Reasons to Pay Attention:

1. Mobility, Mobility, Mobility 
Besides good old, fashioned music, what other form of engagement lends itself perfectly to mobility and multi-tasking? Podcasts will literally be the “hands-down” winner in the coming year as the format extends engagement into untapped occasions that are now dominated by music: driving, doing dishes, gardening, hitting the gym, cleaning the house, etc. Looking forward to that commute? Hell yeah!

2. Ears: The New Eyeballs
By the end of 2014, podcasting was up 25% vs. 2013 with nearly 40 million listeners. 2014 was also the year people started thinking differently about old stereotypes of podcasting, namely, because of the hugely popular podcast, “Serial.” Serial likely marked the turning point of the medium from cold and dead to hot and trendy. Serial has been downloaded or streamed on iTunes more than 5 million times and averaged over 1.5 million listeners an episode. It is now the most popular podcast in history. Wait till the binge-listeners catch on and catch up.

3. Accessibility to Production and Distribution
For well under $100, anyone can create a high quality podcast production from home. Youtube, Vine, Instagram – all user generated content that built empires once the technology and infrastructure were in place.

With stereotypes up-ending …. Podcasting is the new frontier.


Leave a comment

Hijacking IKEA and the Benefits of Brand-Jacking

Today’s brands are being challenged to interact with consumers in ways that can range anywhere from uncomfortable to illegal. And while most of our brands were built off the Soup Nazi model of marketing (we make – you buy!), today’s consumer expects a seat at the table.

This past year, it was IKEA’s turn to decide how to handle an increasingly “intrusive” community proudly calling themselves IKEA Hackers. IKEA Hackers share a passion for using the simplicity and modular nature of IKEA products to create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture. The global community congregates onikeahackers.net to showcase and demonstrate how to recreate each unique design. In turn, more IKEA hacking businesses have emerged, hawking hacking accessories to further customize and reinvent standard IKEA furniture. (Check out Bemz,  Panyl,  Superfront  and Prettypegs)

At face value, a community like this can be seen as threatening to any brand: brand images are distorted, brand positionings are undermined and brand personalities become inconsistent.

You’ve been Brand-Jacked. Now what?

IKEA’s initial response was to issue a cease and desist order, demanding that the IKEA logo, the blue and yellow color scheme or anything trademarked by the company, including the ikeahackers.net domain name be taken down.

But what actually may seem threatening, reveals a group of IKEA fanatics, so beholden to the brand, they feel they own it. Jules Yapp, the owner of the site said, “I felt slapped by the person I loved and thought I was doing my best for. I wish IKEA could have looked at it from my side of the fence—that the site has generated tons of publicity and goodwill for their brand, which they did not pay a cent for.” In fact, “Jules” even hacked her name from the Jules Chair from IKEA. Her real name is Mei Mei.

In response to IKEA’s actions, the hacking community became outraged and vocal, attracting a second look from inside IKEA. In an unexpected about-turn, IKEA determined that the company’s initial reaction was not in the spirit of the brand, which is to “make life better for everyone.” For now, IKEA has backed off its hackers. BRAVURA!

So, for the rest of the brands out there: be prepared. Today’s consumer will increasingly try to access more than you may be comfortable sharing. It’s time to think about what you’re willing to let go.

For a great in-depth podcast on IKEA hacking, check out 99% Invisible’s Hacking IKEA.

Follow Nicole Ertas on LinkedIn to receive the upcoming series: Exploring the 10 Road Rules of Free-Range Branding.

The Death of the Brand Manager

1 Comment

For decades, a handful of large, brand monarchs ruled marketing empires, controlling the message, the airwaves and the channels.

But now, consumers have broken through the gates and small brands are starting to win this game of thrones.

The innovative, no name brands that were once too small to be any real threat are becoming anything but. They’re showing up on shelves that were once unavailable to any brand without big bucks for TV support and slotting fees. They’re reinventing themselves faster than we can align on a concept for test.

And our consumers, once neatly bundled into measurable and targetable demographic groups, are now reorganizing themselves, hijacking our brands and taking over the airwaves.

Today’s brand-building game is played in an open, unpredictable arena where very few rules govern how a brand is positioned, where it is placed, and how it is talked about.

This isn’t just a digital revolution. This is total brand anarchy.

Still Operating on Old Hardware

All that is certain is that this new, ever-changing landscape is only going to increasingly reinvent itself. Our processes that once served us, rooted in control, are now the formula for irrelevancy.

Yet, internally, where we’re safe and in control, we can breathe easy as we spend our year orbiting around our epic annual plans, strategizing, testing, analyzing and endlessly re-planning. As brand leaders, we have been groomed and pedigreed to operate off decades of best in class thinking proven to model consumer behavior, stimulate trial, purchase and loyalty.

But at the end of the day, when we shut off the lights and go home, our brand children must live on the streets alone in the world, navigate the open seas and live or die by their own devices. And we can’t be there to save them.

This is a time of crisis; of complete chaos. The landscape that was once dominated by the giants has now totally up-ended. There are no proven strategies to win. Any tactic that won yesterday is now obsolete – not for use again. This is a time of constant reinvention.

The brands that are still tethered to their helicopter brand mothers will undoubtedly struggle to find their footing in today’s world. But the brands that can thrive in today’s unpredictability and navigate with fluidity will become the survivors.

These are the Free-Range Brands.


Written by Nicole Ertas, Titled by Andy Horrow

© 2014 Free-Range Brands LLC All Rights Reserved

Benjamin Moore: Missed Opportunity

Leave a comment


Benjamin Moore jumped into prankvertising with a great creative concept that garnered some decent momentum.  But sadly, the brand missed the opportunity to link the creative to the message (UltraSpec 500 goes on fast) and/or leave the viewer with an emotional connection to the Benjamin Moore brand.

It’s great to see some big brands jump in the game, but some old-school brand-building ground rules still apply:  don’t let your creative overwhelm the objective, whether it’s a product message or a brand equity build.   Benjamin Moore gave 100K viewers a great prank to share, but got little in return.  Trick, or treat?


© 2013 Free-Range Brands LLC All Rights Reserved