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Samsung, Big Mama’s and the brands that shook up this year’s Academy Awards

If there's one thing we've learned in the last 86 years, it's that Oscar night is without a doubt the biggest party in showbiz. As celebrities flocked the Dolby Theater on Sunday night, 2014 proved, yet again, what a powerful platform it can be for brands who want to leverage Hollywood's big night.

Though big names such as Mercedes-Benz, JC Penny, Chevrolet, American Express and Chobani followed a traditional approach when it came to advertising, it was Samsung, Twitter and a pizzeria by the name of Big Mama's & Papa's Pizzeria who stole the show, proving that authentic and spontaneous interactions during the show leave a far more powerful impression on viewers. 

Samsung Galaxy Academy Awards Oscars

Samsung, a big sponsor of the event, was more than present during the live telecast, especially during moments when host Ellen Degeneres took out a Galaxy mobile phone out of her pocket. The golden moment came when she attempted to snap a photo of her and Meryl Streep, which soon turned into the most star-studded group selfie, ever. 

Samsung Galaxy Academy Awards Oscars

The epic picture taken with the phone and posted on Twitter set a new record for the most number of retweets ever - an incredible amount of 2.4 million as of Monday - making it without a doubt the coolest product placement during the Oscars, and the most successful social media moment in modern history. The platform was mentioned several times and stole the show at one point, especially when Ellen announced that the they had accidentally 'broken' Twitter: "We crashed and broke Twitter. We made history." "It's fantastic. See what we did, Meryl?"

But perhaps one of the funniest moments came from Ellen when she offered pizza (with a real delivery guy) from Big Mama's and Papa's to the stars in the audience.

Big Mamas and Papas Pizzeria

Another brand who received a lovely surprise was Miller Lite, mentioned by Matthew McConaughey during his speech towards the end of the show: "To my father, who I know is up there right now with a big pot of gumbo; he's got a lemon meringue pie, probably in his underwear and he's got a cold can of Miller Lite and he's dancing..."

Of course, the brand did not let this historical moment slip through its fingers. It immediately posted:

Miller Lite Oscars

This year proved that interaction and authenticity is monumental and brands need to be ready to make the best of these opportunities - especially when it comes to live events.

Other stars at this year's Oscars:



American Express




 JC Penny


The Spree of the Season: Black Friday 2013

 Santo Domingo

For this marketer, the chance to experience Black Friday in the flesh is always welcome. It's different, it's fun and it's a great way of witnessing how brands fight it out in the retail battlefield. I mean, what could be a more perfect preamble for the Christmas season?  So just like last year, equipped with my camera and my two cousins, we hit the streets of Miami for a reprise of an unforgettable - and crowded - shopping spree. 

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent approximately $59 billion during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2012, with an estimated 247 million people who visited stores and websites. As people flocked brick-and-mortar stores, the online platforms exploded. This year was no different.

In 2013, while in-store sales dropped by 2.7%, online sales increased by 15% and 21% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, respectively. This led many retailers to target mobile and tablets shoppers more than ever before. According to Ron Josey, "This is the first holiday season when mobile is having its mark on overall retail sales. The online frenzy has couriers with higher shipping volumes., with an expected 420 million packages, a 10% increase from last year." The age of online shopping is at an all-time high.

So how did brands compensate? Simple, they started with discounts a lot sooner. By sooner, I mean days -  even weeks - in advance. This substitution effect made us ask ourselves: "Why should I spend the day being shoved, when I can enjoy my discounts beforehand without the masses? Or better yet - in the comfort of my own home?" Is this all still worth the hassle? As Rafi Mohammed from the Harvard Business Reviews points out, retailers are stuck with the "discounting prisoner's dilemma." 

CNN conducted a survey in which they asked people if considered Black Friday to be  worth it, and the result was a resounding "No" by  54%, and comments such as "Online shopping is the way to go" by  37%. True, web deals were hard to beat, but isn't Black Friday supposed to be about the shopping experience? Could online platforms give us that same taste of the holiday season? Is this effort from our part as marketers, to be ahead of the game, to beat the time, eventually killing the purpose of it all in the first place?

On another note, according to the folks of Kenshoo, ad performance was in an all time high. Retailers generated up to 15 times more revenue from Facebook ads on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and saw a growth on its Return on Ad Spend by 93%. But what is really interesting is how Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated triple the average number of conversions with clients.

Will this be an interesting phenomenon to study through the course of the following years? You bet. As far as I can tell, Black Friday is a festivity unlike any other, whose dynamics are transforming before our very eyes. It will be intriguing to see what the next twelve months will bring.

 Check out my pictures from this year's Black Friday:

"Getting ready for the mayhem." Walmart, 4:00pm

Getting ready for the mayhem. - Walmart, 4:00pm


50% off

50% off - Michael Kors, 9:00pm


All together now



Get in line

Getting in line at 11:00pm



$9.96 - Walmart



The Red Sea - Apple


The best buy?

Best Buy

Meanwhile, in Santo Domingo, my sister snapped this picture of one cute little shopper:

Early adopter

Ms. Panasonic


"How Thanksgiving lost its Mojo", Rafi Mohammed. Harvard Business Review.

"Cyber Monday Sales at Record as Amazon, eBay win Shoppers", Danielle Kucera. Bloomberg Technology.

"Poll: Do you think Black Friday is worth it?", CNN Money. 

"Infographic: How well did Facebook ads perform during Black Friday, Cyber Monday?", Justin Lafferty. Inside Facebook.

The Thrill of the Bargain: Black Friday


As a marketing and advertising freak, it's always interesting to see the lengths brands go through during the holiday season, and recently, even more so during Black Friday. I'd been watching so much being done - campaigns, sales, etc - but never had I experienced it in the flesh.  So this year, I packed my bags and flew to the USA for up-close encounter on what is the most extravagant shopping spree of the season. Of course, I wasn't alone. I was joined by two experienced and enthusiastic Black Friday shoppers, Paola and Carlos.

Our plan of attack was simple: hit the stores at 9pm (on Thursday) and pull an all-nighter. (with some power naps in between.)  Two of Miami's largest shopping centers and then the major retailers... WalMart, Best Buy, Macy's, the list went on. In the end, it was a 20-hour exhilarating shop-a-thon. 

Here's how it all went down: 

Check out my Black Friday photo album.

Getting down to business:

Retailers opened a early as 9pm on Thursday, Thanksgiving night, hence jumpstarting the holiday shopping season hours before. The result was 30% of Americans chosing to buy during Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday, according to polls. "Black Friday is still a huge day for retailers but is losing significance as chains start promotions earlier in the week both in stores and online. ShopperTrak, which measures foot traffic at stores across the country, estimated that sales fell 1.8 percent on Black Friday itself yet rose 2.7 percent for the overall weekend, which included Thanksgiving day." (Source:

It was a busy, busy day. The top destinations during Black Friday were: department stores, discount chains and last, but not least, electronics store. A record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend with the average buyer spending US$423, considerably higher than last year with 226 million shoppers spending an average of US$398. Through both channels - online and in stores- customers felt motivated by brands' super deals and the fact that retail chains got started even sooner.

I do, however, feel it's important to notice how several marketers are becoming concerned about the extension of Black Friday, and its long-term effects. Take strategist Daniel Burrus, for instance: "By extending Black Friday and also having Black Saturday, Black Sunday, Black Monday, Black Tuesday, etc., all of a sudden that special day becomes less special, and consumers do remember. That means next year, and the year after that, Black Friday becomes less of a driver to get people into the stores... it has the potential to dilute this special shopping day’s power next year, which will, in turn, hurt retailers." (Source: Business2Community)


The World’s Simplest Brands


Simpler is indeed better. According to branding firm Siegel + Gale in its third annual Global Brand Simplicity Index, these are the world's simplest brands. Those who "pass the test and offer experiences mired in complexity." The study was conducted through a survey involving more than 6,000 people across 7 countries and 25 industries in order to evaluate the degree of simplicity and complexity of each brand. 

"Not only are the simplest brands outperforming the major stock indexes, consumers continue to say they’re willing to pay a premium for a simplified experience." (Howard Belk, Co-CEO Chief Creative Officer) 

For the full report, click here.

More Than Branding hits the pages of “Brand Knew” Magazine


I was extremely thrilled when the team of Brand Knew Magazine contacted me in the hopes of collaborating an article for their upcoming issue. This publication, based in the United Arab Emirates, covers topics that range from branding, advertising, sales, facts and brand management on a global scale. Here's my article, entitled "The ABCs of Brand Auditing", which  I hope you find useful and enjoy as much as I did writing it! Click on this link to view the digital edition. 

 Special thanks to Suresh Dinakaran, CEO of ISD (Ideas Strategy Design) Global and Editor of Brand Knew for the terrific opportunity.