Archives For July 2013

CircleUp is a fund-raising platform for consumer products companies. Founded in 2011 by two Stanford MBAs, CircleUp helps accredited investors invest in high-growth consumer products companies with annual revenues of at least $1 million—mostly food and retail companies.

They created the CircleUp 25 to honor brands that are starting to change the way we live our lives – companies that influence what we wear, what we eat and what we use every day of our lives. These are true innovators. Each has a unique story to tell. CircleUp excluded from the list any companies that they have worked with to avoid any appearance of partiality. The list was recently published on

A number of the companies on the list caught my eye. It is exciting to see so many new and innovative brands emerge in categories dominated by big companies. One brand that caught my attention was Suja Juice which is based in San Diego, California. Suja was created by Eric Ethans and Annie Lawless from a passion to help people transform their lives through nutrition.


Suja juices are cold-pressed and feature 100% organic ingredients. When juices are cold-pressed, rather than using the centrifugal juicers commonly found at juice bars, it prevents oxidation and helps keep the enzymes and nutrients in tact, so you get more nutritional bang for your buck! Also, Suja sources their organic produce locally, allowing their company to maintain low-carbon footprint.

What makes Suja juices especially unique, is their shelf life. Unlike most cold-pressed juices, which must be consumed within 3 days, Suja uses a High Pressure Pascalization process that uses pressure, rather than heat, to preserve their juices and extend shelf life. These juices may last up to 30 days when stored in the fridge! This is a huge advantage if you can’t manage to make your own juice daily, or find the time to run to your local juice bar.

Suja juices are a unique combination of fruits and vegetables. Products feature names like Fiji, Fuel, Glow, Green Supreme and Lemon Love. Fiji includes apple, celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, collard greens, lemon and ginger. Each bottle has 2-3 pounds of fruits and vegetables inside. For years, I have drunk orange juice and cranberry juice from the supermarket. Combining fresh fruits and vegetables into juice is a new experience for me. This juicing on a whole new level.

Suja Juices are available in most Whole Foods stores.

Have you tried Suja Juices?


Bleacher Report has made a significant impact on the sports media landscape. Bleacher Report is an innovative next-generation sports publishing brand that was built on a user-generated content model. The company, also known as B/R, specializes in creating and curating content about trending sports news topics, with an emphasis on delivering opinion-oriented analysis and multimedia programming via varied content formats and mobile technologies.


Bleacher Report was founded in 2007 by David Finocchio, Alexander Freund, Bryan Goldberg, and David Nemetz—four friends and sports fans who had been high school classmates at Menlo School in Atherton, California. Their goal was to create a more enticing online experience that provided an outlet for writers with unique voices, a localized network for readers whose favorite teams were under-covered by national sports companies and a civilized community for intelligent debates.

The group shared a belief that mainstream sports media didn’t offer the range or depth of coverage to satisfy diehards, and that some of the most insightful analysis comes from the fans who know their teams best. With Bleacher Report, they created a platform to empower all fans to become fan-journalists, producing high-quality content and sharing it with a built-in readership. The original vision was to capitalize on the “Wisdom of the Fans”.

Bleacher Report has experienced rapid growth to become one of the nation’s most popular websites and one of the most-visited sports sites. In January 2013, the site generated over 14 million unique visitors. Bleacher Report is as polarizing as it is popular. Bleacher Report has been criticized for valuing site growth over journalistic quality or even readability. Many of the original site contributors were poor writers.The site churns out around 800 articles written by 2,000 core contributors. The sites use of search engine optimization has placed it on equal footing with original work created by established journalistic outlets.  

The site avoids seeking out and breaking news. It is instead designed to engage in the far more lucrative practice of pouncing on news broken by others, deploying its writers to craft articles or multi-page slideshows — linking to its own archives, and supplanting original stories on the Google rankings. Breaking a story is “no longer valuable: owning it is.”

The site in the last two years has worked to improve its image. Would-be writers must gain admittance via a process that rejects 17 out of every 20 applicants. Lead writers and knowledgeable feature columnists have been added to the site. Many of the site’s early contributors “have been bounced.” They have invested a lot of time and energy in efforts such as Bleacher Report University, where young writers were coached in how to produce professional-level content. In 2011, Adweek, selected Bleacher Report as the “Best Sports Media Brand”.

I use the mobile app Team Stream to track the latest news on my favorite teams. It has replaced as my primary source of sport’s news.

Bleacher Report was acquired last year by Turner Broadcasting for $175 Million. This validated the user-generated content model.

Do you use Bleacher Report?

As a life-long baseball, I enjoy watching games in different major league and minor league parks. When I travel to a new city, I try to attend a game. One of my bucket list goals is to see a game in every major league ball park. Each ball park is a unique experience that creates vivid memories that last a life time. It is an opportunity to spend time relaxing with family and friends.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend two games at Oriole Park in Camden Yards. This was my first opportunity to see Camden Yards live. I saw the Orioles play the Angels in June and the Oakland A’s in July. I attended one of the games with two of my daughters. My oldest daughter is a passionate and knowledgeable baseball fan. For me, as a lifelong baseball fan this was a “WOW” fan experience.

2012 was the 20th anniversary of the opening of Camden Yards. Oriole Park is the Stadium that forever changed baseball in a positive way by helping baseball return to its authentic roots and providing fans with a great experience. Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore was the first of the “retro” major league ballparks constructed during the 1990’s and early 2000’s.


Customer Experience is key differentiator for brands and businesses today. Even hospitals are now focused on improving the patient and visitor experience. Good customer experiences are useful, easy and enjoyable. A positive customer experience creates a strong emotional connection with your customer. A positive customer experience creates a much stronger emotional connection than traditional advertising messages.

A visit to Camden Yards in Baltimore is a positive customer experience. It has old-time charm with modern conveniences. Camden Yards has a great selection of food and drinks. The people who work at the stadium were polite, friendly and very friendly.

In his book “Platform.” Michael Hyatt describes a WOW experience as having some combination of the following elements:

•    Surprise – always exceeds our expectations. It creates delight, amazement, wonder or awe

•    Anticipation – anticipating a WOW experience is almost as good as the experience

•    Resonance – touches the heart

•    Transcendence – you experience purpose

•    Clarity –  creates a moment when you see things more clearly

•    Presence –  creates timelessness

•    Universality – nearly universal

•    Evangelism – has to be shared

•    Longevity – The shine never wears off

•    Privledge – Makes you proud in a good way

My visits to Oriole Park at Camden Yards last summer combined many of the elements that Michael Hyatt outlined in his book. It was an experience that I anticipated and will always remember.

Can you share a great fan experience?

Last night, I took my family to see a minor league baseball game in Troy, New York. We saw the Tri-City ValleyCats play the Hudson Valley Renegades at Joe Bruno Stadium. The ValleyCats are a Single A farm team and compete in the New York-Penn League. They are affiliated with the Houston Astros. We attended the game because the ValleyCats gave away a 1994 Mariano Rivera Albany-Colonie Yankees Bobblehead Doll to the first 1,500 fans in attendance. Mariano pitched in 9 games for the Double AA Albany-Colonie Yankees in 1994. The ValleyCats did a great job recognizing Mariano Rivera, one of the games greatest and most respected players in baseball history. Mariano represents everything that is good in professional sports. The Valley Cats drew 4,631 fans on a comfortable summer evening.


It had been several years since I last attended a ValleyCats game. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience last night. I would recommend that anyone attend a ValleyCats game. The ValleyCats worked very hard to deliver a great fan experience. Single A baseball is all about the fans and their experience. A major league baseball game is essentially all about the star power of the players and the team. The Valley Cats management understands that they are in the customer experience business.

The ValleyCats face an interesting marketing challenge. The players change every year. There is often plenty of player turnover during the season. Mark Appel, the number 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft pitched two games and five innings this season for the Valley Cats and then was promoted to Quad City. The ValleyCats use the tagline “From the Joe to the Show” to promote the players like Ben Zobrist and Hunter Pence who played for the Valley Cats and made the Major Leagues.

The ValleyCats mission is to Create “Fans for Life” by creating an experience that is affordable, fun and entertaining while in a safe and clean environment. The ValleyCats have increased attendance in each of the past nine years because they have created a unique and fun fan experience. Fans are entertained by on-field promotions, mascots, fan recognition and the opportunity to be close to the players. An added touch is a fan experience survey that is front and center on the home page of their website. The Valley Cats are interested in feedback and using that feedback to improve fan experience.

Good customer experiences are useful, easy and enjoyable. A positive customer experience creates a strong emotional connection with your customer. A positive customer experience creates a much stronger emotional connection than traditional advertising messages. The ValleyCats understand that minor league baseball is all about fan experience.

Can you share with me a brand or business that you have encountered that delivers an excellent customer experience?

An interesting brand marketing battle will unfold later this summer and fall in the cable sports television category. It will feature Fox Sports 1 which launches August 17th, versus ESPN. Both will compete for the attention of serious sports fans.

Fox Sports 1 is a 24-hour network that will feature live sports events, news shows and studio programs. Fox’s goal is to develop a unique brand and personality for Fox Sports 1 that is different from ESPN. Fox has described their positioning as “jockularity”. Their plan is for Fox Sports 1 to be the funny, irreverent, less serious sports channel. Fox’s research has shown that fans are growing tired of ESPN’s stat happy approach. Regis Philbin will host “Crowd Goes Wild” an hour-long interview show that will air daily at 5PM.


ESPN launched the first 24-hours sports channel in 1979. It has owned the cable sports business free from serious competition for years. Competitive efforts by CNNSI and NBC Sports Network failed to generate large audiences. ESPN is very profitable. It generates $9 billion a year in revenue for its parent company, Walt Disney. This is the first time a serious rival has emerged.

Personally, I have been dissatisfied with ESPN for years. I have grown tired of their antics, emphasis on trying to be clever and reporters who didn’t have their facts straight. For me, Bleacher Report has replaced as my go to site for breaking sports news. The sports news and broadcasting category is ripe for disruptive innovation.

Fox Sports, which was formed in 1994 has accumulated some impressive live programming assets for this battle. These assets include the NFL, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, Soccer, College Football and College Basketball. Fox has aggressively bid for sports programming rights in recent years often driving up the price.

This competition will be interesting to watch. It is always good to see new competition emerge in a category that has been dominated by one player. With the demand for sport programming and information robust, my hope is that it will spur continued innovation that will benefit fans.

Do you think that Fox Sports 1 will be successful as a 24-Hour All Sports Cable Network?

For NFL Fans, the month of July signals the beginning of a new season. Football is back even though it’s nearly always on fans minds. As usual, their will be a number of great stories and surprises. Most training camps start within a week. The start of the regular season is not far away.


Last Monday, Forbes announced its 2013 list of the world’s 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams. Thirty NFL teams made the list of the top 50. The Dallas Cowboys (5), New England Patriots (6), Washington Redskins (8) and the New York Football Giants (9) made the top ten list.  Only two NFL teams the St Louis Rams (51) Jacksonville Jaguars (52) failed to make the top 50. This speaks to the power of the NFL Brand and the strength of individual team brands. The NFL is clearly the most valuable sports league in the United States.

The NFL’s success is the result of strong brand management and ongoing communication with their fan base. The NFL has made a six-month season into a 12-month business and branding effort. The draft is a key part of the strategy as it bridges the gap between one season and next. It generates a huge amount of media and fan talk value. The draft has also become a huge revenue generator. Once the draft is over media attention shifts to signing the players, filling out the rosters and mini-camps. Football talk is always in season.

The NFL Brand has its challenges. Player concussions are a serious issue. The Aaron Hernandez case and other player arrests have created negative publicity for the brand. However, the brand is skilled at overcoming short terms challenges and continues to thrive and grow in value. There are many reasons for the success of the NFL Brand. I can’t possibly highlight all of them in one post. Listed below are some the reasons why the NFL has built a strong relationship with their existing fans and expanded to attract new fans.

  • Football is extremely advertising friendly. The game has natural stops and starts, a 60 minute game lasts three hours, leaving plenty of space for television advertising.
  • The league has created a major event with “Super Bowl Sunday” that attracts the largest television audience of the year.
  • The product is limited, there are only 16 regular season games. Your favorite team plays only once a week. Whether your teams wins or loses, most fans can’t wait till next Sunday.
  • The NFL owns Thanksgiving one of our country’s most important holidays.
  • Football is an exciting experience. From watching the games with friends and family, to the NFL’s website, NFL Mobile and the Madden NFL Games, the brand creates an interactive experience.
  • The NFL creates memories that span generations. NFL Films allows fans to re-live past games. Giants fans love to re-live our Four Super Bowl Championships. We never tire of watching David Tyree’s catch in Super Bowl 42.
  • Fan’s love the game, not just their team. Fantasy Football and fast paced highlight shows have helped make the games fun to watch even if your team is struggling.
  • In recent years, the league has seen women grow to become over 44 percent of its fan base, with 60 percent of females over the age of 12 identifying themselves as NFL fans.

I have witnessed the NFL pass Major League Baseball as the most popular sport in the country. In many ways, it has displaced baseball as the sport American’s love. The NFL has a brand that means something deep to many football fans, whether they realize it or not.

Are you excited for football season to start? Who is your favorite team?


New brands are created every day around the world, but only a few succeed in finding a place in consumer’s hearts and minds. These successful brands have a story to tell, are innovative and authentic.

Today I am going to share the unique story of John Altman cookies. Omno Lixenberg and Hajo de Boer from Gummo, a Dutch Advertising Agency, wanted to introduce their own brand of cookies. They had previously worked for a Dutch cookie manufacturer. They felt that the cookie market could use some spice and innovation.


Omno and Hajo were relaxing at Baker Beach in San Francisco when they ran into John Altman giving away free homemade cookies. They tried John’s cookies and felt that they were the best they had ever tasted. They were also struck by John’s positive and carefree attitude. John was a guy with an infectious grin strolling along the beach with a tray of cookies, wearing nothing but an apron and pair of dog-eared flip-flops.


The cookies were so good, the guys asked John if they could take them home. “Sure dude” he said, “spread the love”. John invited them to spend a few days with him. He baked, and they ate the cookies. Just before they left, he gave them the recipe for his cookies along with his blessing to make them around the world. John asked them to “spread the love”.  They began working with one of the best Dutch bakeries to produce the product.

All the recipes are inspired by John’s attitude to life, balancing the sweet and the sour, and all the cookies are made with 100% Natural and Fair Trade ingredients. They currently come in three flavors; sour cherry and chocolate, green apple and almond and grapefruit and butterscotch.

The outside of the packaging is made of uncoated paper, creating a fresh look that resembles the bags that John himself used to use back in San Francisco. The bags are sent to retailers in a ready for display box that’s fully recyclable.” They have expanded into additional product categories including wine and books.

Expanding distribution especially in large supermarket chains is the biggest challenge that independent brands face. It will be interesting to see how far the John Altman Brand can expand. Personally, I hope that they are successful. 

Do you know of any other independent brands like John Altman that have great story to tell?