Keep the Piano Player at Nordstrom, Virginia Branding Guru Says

Richmond,Va.-based branding guru Kelly O’Keefe has put together his Hall of Shame for 2007. Many of the shamed brands were picked by his students in the Virginia Commonwealth University Adcenter program.

On the list were jetBlue, Nordstrom and Facebook, all kind of “hot” brands that didn’t do everything right. Here they are, from the press release:

  • Number 1: Cartoon Network – What started out as a guerrilla marketing campaign ended up crippling Boston when Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network tried to promote its show Aqua Teen Hunger Force and its upcoming movie by littering the city with Lite-Brite-like gadgets that were mistaken for bombs. Cartoon Network’s head Jim Samples resigned over the stunt, and Turner and its marketing firm shelled out $2 million to pay Boston for its troubles. Oh, and the Aqua Teen movie flopped, grossing $5.5 million at the box office.
  • Number 2: Apple – Apple spent months building hype surrounding the launch of its iPhone. But after a highly successful debut, Apple geared up for the holidays by slashing the price of the iPhone by 200 bucks, alienating its tried and true supporters who were the first to purchase the new gadget. Apple quickly apologized and offered early adopters credit for (what else?) more Apple product.
  • Number 3: American Sports – Lying and cheating were the constant themes in American sports in 2007, with each superstar bigger and each sport as embarrassed as the next. Star quarterback Michael Vick* denied involvement in dog fighting and was in jail by year’s end. Slugger Barry Bonds* – and the rest of baseball – Olympic hero Marion Jones* and Tour de France winner Floyd Landis* continued to be plagued by allegations of steroids (Jones actually pleaded guilty to lying about steroid use and returned her five medals from the Sydney games). NBA referee Tim Donaghy* was busted by the feds for allegedly making calls that changed the games he was working.
  • Number 4: Facebook – Internet darling Facebook made headlines again when it introduced Beacon, a feature that uses e-mail addresses to track the purchasing habits of its members and publishes that info for friends to see.
  • Number 5: Whole Foods – CEO John Mackey had an alter ego for the past eight years. Posting messages as Rahodeb (an anagram of his wife’s name), Mackey posted messages about his company and competitors, including Wild Oats, which he repeatedly trashed before his company acquired it.
  • Number 6: JetBlue – JetBlue’s attention to the customer made it a favorite among airlines and a brand to be reckoned with. Then came a February snowstorm that exploited the airline: Thousands of flights were postponed, and questions were raised about JetBlue’s infrastructure.
  • Number 7: Starbucks – The coffee king built its empire on word-of-mouth marketing and the thought of one cup of coffee at a time. The past year saw Starbucks’ stock price plunge by more than 33 percent and same-store sales fall by almost 40 percent.
  • Number 8: Nordstrom – Nordstrom, long revered for its exceptional customer service and quality, has attracted and entertained shoppers with live piano music for more than 20 years. Stop the music. The upscale retailer has begun letting its nearly 160 stores phase out the piano man in favor of canned music.
  • Number 9: Unilever – For the past few years, Unilever has been the parent to children taking different paths in life. On one hand, there’s Dove, the pure, wholesome brand known for classy ads and its Campaign for Real Beauty and Self-Esteem Fund. On the other, there’s Axe, the immature, sleazy brand known for its sexist ads and Bom Chicka Wah Wah campaign. The family hypocrisy grew in 2007 when Unilever released a viral Web video called Onslaught that takes the beauty industry to task; a You Tube responder answered with a video (viewed 80,000 times) that replaced sexist images from the Onslaught video with snippets of Axe commercials.
  • Number 10: FEMA – Just when you thought the Federal Emergency Management Agency had stopped its self-inflicted agony, an October “press” conference made news for all the wrong reasons. FEMA gave the media 15 minutes notice for a press briefing about the California wildfires. Despite the fact that no media attended on such short notice, the “press” conference went off without a hitch, except for maybe deputy administrator Harvey Johnson calling one of the “reporters” in the audience by name.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *