David Milliken's Brand Marketing Blog

Cause Marketing, or Marketing with a Cause

Posted in Cause marketing, Planning by dlmilli on July 26, 2010

I had an incredible lunch today. And it was not about the food (which was good), it was because the company was inspiring. Lunch was with Janelle Hail, CEO and Founder of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Neal, her husband and Co-Founder, and sons Brent (VP of Operations) and Kevin (Chief Operating Officer).

My brand is collaborating with a major restaurant reservations website this October to raise funds for the NBCF. Today’s meeting was partially a mutual thank you, but also the opportunity to meet the personalities behind each organization and determine how to grow the relationship. I had similar meetings when I teamed with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital while working on Coors Light (I am proud to have played a role in raising over $1 million in the battle against pediatric diseases).

Most brands, mine included, pick their charities wisely. Our target consumer is 25-50 year old females – the demographic most concerned with the tragedies of breast cancer. So it is understandable that consumers can feel brands are only “doing good” for themselves.

But this meeting was an extraordinary reminder that, yes, working with a charity can build a brand AND be an authentic relationship. While her work has offered many noteworthy experiences, Janelle did not seek the position of leading a major charity. Her journey started with the misfortune of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a 34 year-old mother. And “success” was not handed to her, as a 30 year survivor, she has worked hard out of passion for a cause, not a paycheck or the next promotion or fame.

As we were saying our goodbyes, Neal thanked us for lunch and our donation, saying “what you do saves lives everyday”. He meant those kind words, and they served as a reminder that a brand can do good for itself and a cause at the same time. But of course, Janelle, Neal, and everyone at the NBCF are the ones who are saving lives everyday. We are just fortunate enough to have the marketing resources to assist their heroic efforts.

Janelle Hail was "lucky" enough to meet Hugh Grant


He Who Fails to Plan, Plans to Fail — Proverb

Posted in Planning by dlmilli on July 23, 2010

Summer in consumer packaged goods means beaches and BBQs. It also means long hours planning for the following year.

Late last month I gave a three hour presentation to our sales organization. The topic was our entire 2011 promotional calendar. The presentation included 2009 and year-to-date 2010 results and learnings, a review of the competitive and macroeconomic environment, 2011 brand objectives and strategies, and every single promotional activity we have planned for next year, from January 1 through New Year’s Eve – still 18 months away! (It went extremely well.) If applicable to my brand, this presentation would have included product changes or innovations, new partnerships, and other brand news. This step is very similar to planning processes I have experienced at different companies.

Last week I drafted budgets and sales volumes for each US sales region. Regions will review this information and provide their feedback shortly. As Senior Brand Manager, I will submit the final recommendation to senior management. In my experience at other companies, this step is typically completed via marketing and sales collaboration, or simply handed down by senior management. Each approach has their pros and cons.

Through an iterative process, our entire brand plan, including all brand activities and a profit and loss statement, will be rolled into a corporate plan. While planning, I will work with just about every department in the company, as well as several outside suppliers and agencies. The process will not be complete until early January – just in time to begin the planning anew.

So here’s to a great summer, and great planning.

David Milliken working at the winery on David Milliken's Brand Marketing Blog

Me at "the office"

Today There Are No Wrong Answers. Welcome to an Innovations Brainstorm

Posted in Innovations by dlmilli on January 13, 2010

Innovate or die” goes the famous saying. Since innovating suddenly sounds like a great idea, I recently led an afternoon of innovations brainstorming.

As we know from our packaging project, walking down the wine aisle is like swimming in a sea of sameness. The goal of today’s session was to identify concepts that would help us increase our appeal to consumer or retailer stakeholders.

The game plan:

  • Assemble diverse participants. One person each from the tasting room, wine making, event planning, production planning, and marketing. Members represented three countries of origin, both genders, and a wide age range.
  • Review benefits our target audiences would desire, for example, integrating more senses into the wine experience or reducing retailer waste.
  • As stimulation we had on hand about 100 grocery items that reflected those benefit areas. Who knew that cookies tasted better in 100 calorie bags?
  • We spent 40 minutes each ideating around each of the three pillars in our brand positioning.
  • Every idea was a good idea today (like a therapy session). Cost and feasibility do not matter until tomorrow.
  • Ideas could be small improvement (we should use soy ink) or game changers (let’s make a bottle that sings).

We identified hundreds of concepts. Our immediate next step is to determine the most interesting dozen ideas to develop further, building in cost and timing estimates, to present to winery management. After that, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


Posted in Welcome by dlmilli on November 3, 2009

When I tell people I worked in brand marketing on the Coors Light brand I often get this response: What was it like working with the Coors Light twins?

Coors Light "Love Song" Ad

Many people hear the word marketing and immediately think of TV ads. But like an iceberg, the 10% of what we do that you see (like the famous twins), is supported by the mass of our efforts – strategy, research, planning, and more. So while ads of athletes and mascots roaming the halls of ESPN are funny, I promise they do not reflect the life of the ESPN brand marketing team. (Contrary to popular belief, the brand manager for Charmin is not an animated bear).


Charmin Bear ad

While there are countless blogs that offer marketing advice, the goal of David Milliken’s Brand Marketing Blog is to provide insight into the professional life of a brand marketer. Have no fear – I will also provide plenty of perspective about the right way to grow both sales and brand strength.

Who am I? The Senior Brand Manager at a large Napa, California winery. My marketing experience also includes MillerCoors, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Zagat Survey (yes, those awesome restaurant guides), and IBM. I have an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business and an undergraduate degree from Emory University.

So come along and share the new challenges, learning experiences, and fun I experience as a brand marketing professional. Please make this an interactive blog by sharing your questions, opinions, and experiences.