How Necessary Cutbacks Can Lead to Growth

You’ve heard the phrases repeated over and over again like mantras; bad economy. Tight budget. Business is slow. Even UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company and recognizable icon of industrious business everywhere is acknowledging the severity of the situation and projecting continued sluggish growth for the global economy. In reaction, the company is cutting back on its capacities, including sending fewer cargo flights around the world, and simultaneously lowing its projections for the remainder of the year. With expectations that the company’s third-quarter earnings will ultimately come up well short of last year’s numbers, other business leaders are feeling the pressure.

It’s not anything in particular that UPS is doing wrong, FedEx, its largest and most rival competitor recently predicted that its own earnings would suffer in similar fashion, and countless other companies are thinking and acting conservatively as well. Doing business in 2012 has undoubtedly become a trickier proposition. The general perception is that there is not much that can be done, but it isn’t entirely impossible to operate or even start up a successful business amidst the challenges of a struggling economy.

This is now the 3rd consecutive year in which the mid-year economic outlook has stalled out after a promising start. There is little reason to think that the end of 2012 will be much different, especially considering the special circumstances of the upcoming US Presidential election. Truth be told, not much about the environment is changing. Yes, in the bigger picture, 2012 may be a less desirable time to run a company than 1998, but the circumstances and attitudes are hardly any different from how they were in 2010, or how they will likely be in 2014.

Many companies will not feel ready to stop just ‘weathering the storm’ and get back to business until the persistent uncertainties of the past few years are cleared up. In the interim, businesses with the real goods will not only persevere, but thrive, because spending more resources isn’t the only way to build more business. Companies who are willing to step back, scrutinize every aspect of their situation, and then adapt strategy accordingly will find that periods of recession are a time to learn how to operate smarter.

UPS’ forecasting appears accurate, and their action appropriate, but it is important to recognize that as the company cut back services to conserve resources, it increased revenue and became more profitable. The realities of the economy aren’t going anywhere, but with the right approach, the time to build your business is always now.

Got the Time?

**From the pages of Junction’s notebook: Read about the experiences, perspectives, and ideas of Junction team members.

I was racing to a meeting and realized that I had left my cell phone at the office. I desperately looked at my colleague fearing that I would be late. I ask her if she can check her cell phone to see what time it is. She peered at me and smiled. She calmly replied, “Aren’t you wearing a watch?” In fact, I was wearing my favorite white ceramic watch. It was one of those embarrassing moments, but it made me question- how did we get to this point?

Now that so many people rely on their cell phones to tell them what time it is, global sales of watches have been consistently declining since 2005. Wristwatches are now just a fashionable, rather than functional, accessory. Since most people carry mobile devices with them at all times, the timekeeping abilities of watches are all but obsolete.

We interact with our phones and tablets so much that mobile device use is projected replace PCs as our primary point of access to the internet by as soon as 2014. Sometimes, I subconsciously know the time just because I have been checking my phone every 5 minutes for the last hour…

There is real lasting impact to the culture shift we are currently undergoing. Technology continues to change how we approach work and life. It’s strange to think that our future generations may not have to learn how to tell time on an analog clock, but rather will be conditioned to look at a digital display as I am. Hopefully the next time I leave my cell phone behind, I will remember to look at my wrist!

Finding the Golden Ticket

For nearly 50 years, children and adults alike have enjoyed the wondrous and whimsical tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Chocolate is one special type of product with which many consumers have a true lifelong relationship. For most, trying a new chocolate isn’t a huge risk. Consumers are generally open to eating a piece of chocolate offered to them without much brand consideration.

However, sales results prove that consumer purchase behaviors are driven by brand loyalties to just a handful of makers. Available data supports the notion that loyalties for other types of consumer products are quite strong. Take household cleaning products, for example; consumers choose one product from one brand and stick with it, often for life. There is not much deviation or experimentation from these brands. But are consumption behaviors the same for chocolate lovers?  Is there much variation in how the products stack up, or is it the brand name, rather than the chocolate itself, driving the decision? We set out to decide how much influence branding has over a presently thriving chocolate industry.

We opted to conduct a taste test to further understand how brand preference can shape a palate. Our team tasted milk chocolate composed of between 11% and 41% cacao from six brands spanning a wide variety of price points. We included brands with a varying degree of presence in the marketplace such as Hershey’s, an unlabeled block from small Venezuelan producer El Rey, Dove, Lindt, Godiva, and Green & Black’s.

The double-blind test had some interesting results. Half of our tasters chose Mars’ Dove bar as their favorite for taste and texture. Surprisingly, both Hershey’s (the lowest price point) and El Rey (the highest price point) were the other winning products selected. The overall scores of the products fell within a relatively narrow range, with the highest overall score averaging just 20% better than the lowest.

The experiment proved that the products available to consumers are largely equivalent in quality. In fact, for many consumers, there may not be such a thing as a ‘bad’ milk chocolate on the market today. In the end, reaching for that familiar sweet treat at the checkout counter remains a powerful experience. It seems that brand equity, including visibility, packaging, and price point, may be driving consumer purchase decisions, but the quest for the real ‘golden ticket’ goes on.

Do you have an idea for a product test that test brand experiences and consumer behaviors under the microscope? Leave a comment or email with your suggestions.

A Trip to Boston to Talk Financial Marketing Futures

Junction headed to Boston on Thursday, August 16 for a gathering of more than 100 senior marketers from the world’s top financial brands at the Gramercy’ Institute’s Journal of Financial Advertising and Marketing (JFAM): FORUM.

Featured speakers throughout the half-day conference addressed prominent issues relevant to branding and reputation, measurement and optimization, social media, mobile marketing, and audience targeting. Brands represented on the five panel discussions included Bankrate Inc., Brown Brothers Harriman, John Hancock, Bank of America, The Hartford, Fidelity Investments, Liberty Mutual, Thomson Reuters, State Street Global Advisors, and Linkedin, among several others.

The financial industry has been in a mode of ‘protect and preserve’ through the economic downturn, protestations on Wall Street, and recent public scrutiny over missteps such as those made by J.P. Morgan Chase. Financial brands must be able to effectively communicate the value of products and services in a way that resonates with consumer audiences. Junction has previously addressed how business can achieve this type of brand affinity by simplify messaging and injecting the ‘human’ element, turning mindshare into brandshare.

The themes discussed at JFAM:FORUM in Boston aligned with Junction’s own evaluation of the current market; with a plethora of new technologies at their disposal, marketers are looking for agile resources who can adapt quickly. With great segmentation occurring in marketing, there is a need to partner with agencies who are staying on top of trends. Junction is a member of Brave New Financial, a best-practices consortium designated by JFAM serving as a trusted resource for these financial marketers.

“Bill Wreaks (CEO, Gramercy Institute) has once again put together a star panel of experts who shared insights on the goals and objectives that will guide financial marketing initiatives in 2013,” said Julie Gareleck. “This summit of the industry’s top marketing minds shed light on how the financial services market can approach messaging and regain the trust of the consumer. At the beginning of the strategic planning phase for the upcoming year, there is certainly much to consider. “

A Real ‘Light Bulb Moment’

Brand is defined as a “distinguishing symbol, mark, logo, word, sentence or a combination of these items that companies use to distinguish their product from others in the marketplace.” The definition is simple enough to understand and is vastly understood by marketers and successful companies attempting to establish their products in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Generally represented through a graphic mark or logo, brand identity, when properly and creatively designed, can speak volumes about a company, its culture, mission, products, and services. Like the song that you heard at a special time or place in your youth, hearing it many years later as an adult can illicit vivid emotions and memories of the events of a former life.

Successful businesses invest wisely and generously in their brands in an effort to make them memorable and easily recognizable, and to create a sense of quality and reliability. A well designed, displayed, and maintained logo will produce a value premium for a company by creating a certain level of product loyalty in consumers. It is part of what makes Coca-Cola more desirable to consumers than its generic equivalent.

But just as a smart, clean, and buttoned up logo can create equity for a business, a poorly presented public image can quickly become a liability when the brand is improperly maintained or positioned, particularly when it is placed in an environment where consumers can easily draw comparisons to the competition.

A recent trip through a well-traveled commercial area, via the expressway, provided a clear example of a brand asset becoming a brand liability. Approaching the exit, travelers came upon the familiar large signs designed to inform drivers of gas and food options available at the upcoming exit. These signs are very effective in getting hungry travelers to pull over and “fuel up” at a favorite eatery.

This particular sign displayed the brand logos of six nationally recognized fast food competitors. Five of the logos were bright, clean, and well maintained, but one major national fast food franchise’s signage was faded, with a cracked surface – barely legible at all. Driving past the business, situated among its attractive, well lit competitors, the restaurant featured a half-lit sign, a tarnished facade, and at least a half dozen burned out decorative light bulbs. Suddenly, the decision of where not to eat became an easy one. Checking back months later, the business still featured the same derelict appearance.

Well-formed marketing, brand identity, creative advertising, and promotional programs are essential to success in any industry, and touching all of these points are crucial to any business looking to rise above the crowd in a competitive environment. However, even the best designed and beloved brand can be instantly damaged by the neglect of the simplest of details.  Remember success in the details, and in this case, the light bulbs.

Attention All Shoppers

Over the course of the past decade, the retail industry has arguably undergone more change than it had in the previous century. Entrepreneurs like Rowland Macy and Richard Sears probably never could have envisioned their modest businesses blossoming into a more than $4 trillion industry in the US in less than 100 years. The rise of a predominant consumer culture has been well-documented, and is responsible for much of the increased demand for consumer and trade goods, but the immense transformation of retail into an institution embedded in the American lifestyle has truly been fueled by growth in available technology.

The boom in tech has created a great amount of competition in the mobile space for retailers. By the end of 2011, 39% of brick-and-mortar retailers with top-500 e-commerce websites by revenue also had mobile websites, and nearly 26% had mobile apps. Still, online sales currently represent only 9% of all retail sales – so what is driving shoppers through the doors?

Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and a drastic increase in average consumer time spent online, marketing for retail has, in essence, evolved from targeted engagement on a single channel to capturing an audience across touchpoints on multiple platforms, devices, and locations. Attracting customers is no longer as simple as offering better pricing or amenities; customers make purchase decisions based on experiences. Just this year, JC Penney reported a severe drop in business when they ceased offering sales and coupons (a hallmark of their brand) in favor of an ‘everyday low price’ pricing structure. It’s not a simple formula; considering how many different items are now listed on the modern retail marketer’s agenda, uniformity of message across each andevery channel becomes more crucial than ever.

The best way to achieve this consistency is to build connected experiences that carry the brand between different times and places of interaction. Consumers have been empowered to research, price, and purchase nearly any product or service within minutes and have it delivered directly to their doorstep. Amidst all the options, delivering the right message at the right moment is the strongest way to influence a purchase. Placing as much information in the hands of consumers in order to make their decision is important, but no amount of messaging is useful without timing and targeting. The challenge is to make the transition across platforms as seamlessly as possible; nail the experience even just once and create invaluable loyalty.

Keeping the Sizzle in the Agency/Client Relationship

The advertising industry is often imagined as being encapsulated by a scene from the popular TV show Mad Men. Agencies are thought to be an exclusive club of talented, like-minded individuals who have an innate ability to transform creative to sell products and services for the most notable brands. But is this what clients are really expecting?

With the market experiencing a huge shift in focus as organizations evolve, corporate clients are now looking to agencies to solve not just marketing problems, but business problems. In turn, the agency model must dynamically adapt to maintain relevance. The CMO Council reported in a recent study that only 9% of senior level marketers say ad agencies are managing to evolve and extending capabilities in the “digital ocean.” Furthermore, other surveys have shown that the same senior marketers are not as confident dealing with the complexities of this new marketing economy looking ahead to the next 5 years.

These volatile changes are undoubtedly affecting the traditional relationship between agencies and clients. Now, both are faced with increased expectations of measured effectiveness and delivered results. How do we keep the flame burning amidst the uncertainty? A successful agency/client relationship is one with:

Clarity: The client must set expectations for the desired outcome of a project or campaign. Agencies must also be clear upfront as to what can be expected with a specific marketing solution.

Communications: Consistency in communication is critical to the relationship. Both the client and the agency must engage in the conversation, speaking with each other rather than at each other.

Manners: Advertising is a high stakes game. When money or reputations are on the line, it’s easy to forget manners when dealing with a client or an agency.

As agencies move forward, hand-in-hand with clients, qualities of trust, value, accountability, and responsibility are being elevated over the Don Draper prototype in importance.

The secret to keeping the sizzle in this relationship is simple: Be transparent. Deliver results.

The Beefeaters of Brand

One of the most widely viewed portions of the Olympics isn’t any of the competitive events or ceremonies. Over television and digital platforms, millions of eyes are on the bevy of advertisements decorating the Games. Each Olympic year, the International Olympic Committee and the host city of the Olympiad come together to protect the prestigious brand of the Games that will be on display for the world to see. Every advertiser wants a piece of the pie, but few have the resources required to become an ‘official sponsor.’ The title doesn’t come cheap; Adidas reportedly spent $62 million solely for the right to be one of the fortunate Olympic sponsors, which doesn’t even factor in the cost of creating, printing, and running their advertisements.

Other companies left in the dark typically engage in any sort of ‘guerilla’ marketing possible to grab attention during the biennial spectacle. Brands like Nike, American Express, and Kodak are some of the more prominent companies that the average person might expect to get involved in the $2.1 billion affair, but have been excluded from the London 2012 Games.

This year, with help from the British Parliament, the IOC has actually criminalized the kind of guerilla tactics so commonly seen as a result of the exclusivity of advertising at the Games. The result of the legislation has been the creation of a so called “brand police” squadron charged with fighting unauthorized campaigns. Among the broad duties of the Olympic Delivery Authority, responsible for much of the infrastructure of the Olympics, is enforcing the new branding rules. The ODA has posted 250 “specialist enforcement officers” at the 28 venues and sites across London to protect the integrity of the all-important official sponsorships

The extent of the powers granted to the ‘brand police’ has not been seriously tested, but there has been a great deal of discussion sparked merely by their presence at the Games. Murmurs from London suggest the squad may be quietly exercising its authority, pulling down unauthorized signage and telling athletes and spectators what to wear.

Regardless of hyperbole surrounding how severe the measures being taken to protect the messages of official Olympic sponsors, the creation of the “brand police” serves as the latest mile marker in the dramatic shift in brand culture since London’s first hosting of the Games just over a century ago in 1908. For many, it is a somewhat disconcerting sign of the times. Although G4S, the private security firm hired to handle security at the London games, failed to deliver, the group of esteemed official sponsors can rest easy knowing they are being strongly protected.

Solavei: The Network Where Social Meets Commerce in a Big Way

Solavei™, the first social commerce network for mobile services distribution, is grabbing headlines in anticipation of its September 21st launch.

Solavei™ is a new social commerce company offering an affordable, contract-free mobile service that actually pays back consumers for adding new members. The Solavei Mobile Service is a comprehensive mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) utilizing T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G network. As a member of the network, consumers sign up for a $49 per month unlimited voice, text and data plan, and earn income by engaging friends and family to purchase the mobile service through Solavei’s integrated social networking platform.
“We are going to make a difference in people’s lives by shifting billions of dollars from traditional mass-media advertising into the greatest advertising vehicle today – people,” said Ryan Wuerch, founder and CEO of Solavei. “Solavei is the first company to create an economic linkage between mobile service, social commerce and social-networking technology. We give people the opportunity to earn income by using and promoting the services they are already consuming each and every day.”

The first half of 2012 has brought quite a bit of excitement across the marketing and media industries. Facebook stole the headlines with the unprecedented valuation and their May 17 IPO that is now considered one of the worst performing of 2012. Twitter experienced its longest service disruption since an hour long outage in October 2011, causing an internet freak-out. Just now, as Q3 begins, Microsoft and NBC complete a web divorce that has industries speculating what the future holds for The appointment of Marissa Mayer, 37, to run the global media giant Yahoo! as the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500 continues the trend. While it’s hard to predict what is to come, it’s safe to say that Solavei is attempting to do what no other company has tried.

“As a purveyor of all things social and mobile, Solavei is positioned to completely revolutionize the market place,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner of Junction Creative Solutions. “As founding members, we have the access to test the platform before its official launch into the marketplace. As an agency, it’s a great experience to be involved with such an amazing group of leaders who will make a significant impact on consumer behavior, social networks, and commerce.”

Gareleck is sharing a few spots for other industry leaders interested in testing this new network before its debut on September 21st. Contact Gareleck at for an invitation.


Solavei is a social networking and commerce platform that enables users to connect, share and capitalize on the power of social networks. Solavei’s mission is to make commerce less expensive by empowering individuals to earn income on the products and services they enjoy and use every day. Solavei’s initial product offering is affordable, no contract, unlimited text, voice and data services throughout the United States. It operates as a MVNO through a strategic partnership with T-Mobile USA. Solavei is led by former Fortune 100 telecom and retail executives and advisors. For more information, visit For the brand’s latest news and updates, find Solavei on social media at and