Vera Bradley: No Longer Your High School Sweetheart

We know Vera Bradley as those printed cotton lunch bags that the popular girls brought to school or the lanyards you stuck your college ID in, but Vera Bradley doesn’t want you to remember her that way.

Vera Bradley CEO Rob Wallstrom has a five-year plan that will completely makeover the brand as you know it, and he wants you to do a double take when you see it at the five-year high school reunion. With their segmentation analysis crowning the “daymaker” as their muse, Wallstrom is making headway into what is one of the biggest rebrandings in the fashion industry that I’ve seen in a while. Who is the “daymaker” you ask?

Daymakers are idealists, go-getters, and “choreographers” who are able to “balance 1,000 things” well for family, friends and themselves, he said. They also love to host others and are “joiners,” not loners… She appreciates femininity and beauty in color and prints and thoughtful details and in her relationships. And that’s what’s important. It’s not just beauty as something you acquire, it’s also beauty as in something you are and something that you do. – CEO Wallstrom, March 2016

Vera Bradley’s fresh marketing campaign launched this past week, with the brand tagline “It’s good to be a girl.” The marketing campaign includes influencer posts, social media, print ads, as well as digital audio on Spotify and Pandora. The move is intended to follow the primary audience as they age from high school and college into the working world, where printed cotton bags aren’t chic, and young professional women yearn for something more grown up.


The new logo

The changes are gradual but seem sudden – cotton bags used to make 90% of the brand’s collection but the refresh has pushed that number down to 50%, replacing the jaded prints with leather and similar materials. In an effort to compete with other premium brands, Vera Bradley has increased its assortment available in department stores, where being merchandised next to its peers should highlight the value-boasting prices of Vera Bradley (about $200). In addition to upping the handbag materials and styles to keep up with its graduated audience, Vera Bradley added more jewelry in July and increased its collection of scarves in addition to home products and perfume.


The new Vera Bradley

What do you think of the rebrand? Do you think that it will make the brand relevant again?

Celebrity Collabs

Lately, we’ve been seeing a ton of mashups among brands and celebrities or other designers:

The list goes on..

It seems like big brands that have been around for a while are venturing to find someone “current” that can help rejuvenate their brand for them and make the brand relevant to what is hopefully a strategic target audience. Often, these collabs get a good amount of media attention for a short bit, but then get forgotten. Before I go on further, I want to emphasize that I’m talking about celebrity collaborations, which result in a unique product, not celebrity endorsements which serve as promotion for an existing product. There are so many questions that many in the industry are still figuring out:

What makes a celebrity collaboration successful? How similar does the celeb’s brand and following have to be to the retailer brand? Is it better to have a one-off collaboration or an ongoing line? What’s the spectrum of the celebrity’s involvement in the creation of the collaborated product: full-on sketching the designs or is their name just slapped on? Is there a threat that the celebrity’s name on your product will cause an increase in sales and buzz that will then die down once the collab is over?

What’s a celeb collaboration that, in your opinion, failed? What’s one that’s just pure genius?


Package Design: Triscuit

I am an avid muncher of all things in the cookie/cracker aisle. As I’ve been trying to shift my lifestyle from “college” to “grown-up,” I find myself shifting from Oreos and Cheezits to Triscuits and Belvita. My favorite flavor of the wonderfully satisfying Triscuit crackers is the Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil one. It tastes great alone and it leaves a gritty residue on your fingertips, reminiscent of Cheetohs. I also enjoy eating them with a small dollop of cream cheese or slices of american or cheddar cheese. This past grocery trip, I noticed that my beloved Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuit crackers and all her cousins had gotten a makeover! The one on the right is the original and the one on the left is the NEW one:

New Triscuit Package Design

Let’s discuss, from the perspective of a Millennial (as brands love to call those in my age group), what the differences are in the packaging and their implications. The latest info I can find on Triscuit’s target audience is back from 2010 and 2011 when they ran their Home Farming campaign, and it was targeting the extremely health-conscious consumers who like to grow their own veggies (though I doubt the expansiveness of that market in relation to Triscuit’s widespread distribution).

The product, at its core, is made of three ingredients: wheat, oil, and salt. Lately, all the big brands are targeting Millennials because we are a growing segment and will soon outnumber all the other segments (your reign is over, Baby Boomers). If you are unfamiliar with the Millennial segment and our unique characteristics, I’d say this Forbes article gets it pretty right.

Millennials are more health-conscious than the last generation, and my friends and I are adopting “healthy snacks” much earlier than my parents’ generation did. Often in class, I see my classmates munching on apples and strawberries instead of Famous Amos cookies, and sipping on an iced green tea rather than a Coke. I think that Millennials might be a huge chunk of the new target market that Triscuit is aiming at – I don’t  know, I just have a hunch based on the little Pinterest shoutout on the back of the box. Before we get to the back though, let’s start with the front of the box.

Old box - front

Old box – front

The front of the old package design was a yellow background, with the brand name the biggest, and the flavor right under it in a brown box. The picture illustrates the flavor: we have a bowl of black peppercorns (I had to look up what they were called, I was gonna say “seeds”) and some the peppercorns have spilled over and are resting in large drops of olive oil. Next to that, there is a lone Triscuit cracker posing and showing off its back pepper flakes. Above the Triscuit brand logo, we see a darker yellow font with a wheat illustration that says “Baked with 100% Whole Grain Wheat.”

New box - front

New box – front

The front of the new package’s background has been muted to a more neutral beige, and a yellow, tilted square is layered beneath the rest of the elements of the design. The Triscuit font logo has been increased in size and the shaping of the letters has been altered (you can see it most in the i’s and the c). The most drastic difference is the photo. Now, we have a stack of the crackers topped with, as it explains in the blurb text next to it, “yogurt, fresh grapes & almonds.” A few scattered peppercorns are placed around the crackers. The flavor is in a box which mimics the shape of the yellow square which is in the background. The flavor text box has retained its original brown color, but now it is in the foreground of the design. The words “Cracked Pepper” are bigger than the words “Olive Oil,” probably to differentiate this flavor since a lot of the Triscuit flavors contain olive oil.

One striking motif that is so different on the new packaging is the focus on toppings. The old package showed the Triscuit cracker as a one-man show, but the new package highlights all the “recipes” you can make your Triscuit cracker a part of. In the front, we already see the yogurt, grapes, and almonds idea, but the sides and back of the new package can’t wait either to tell you more toppings you can decorate your crackers with:


another topping idea!

another topping idea!

It’s interesting and pretty ironic if you consider the fact that back in 2012, Triscuit apologized for always emphasizing toppings on its crackers and so launched a campaign that showed that Triscuits taste good on their own too, without toppings. Hm.. so why the push back to focusing on toppings? Maybe consumers got bored of eating their Triscuits alone!

Overall, I really like the packaging update that Tricots have undergone. The beige is much more Archer Farms-esque and by that I mean, more aligned with the image that Triscuits really should be promoting to Millennials – a healthy, wholesome snack made from natural ingredients and “foodie-friendly” flavors. The focus on the flavor is important to Millenials who aren’t just happy with plain Mac n’ Cheese anymore (seriously, there’s chain restaurants popping up that serve Mac n Cheese or Ramen dressed up with different toppings and Millennials are diggin’ it!). The photo update is definitely more appealing than the old box photo. The photographer captured the crackers with interesting camera angles and the arrangement of the toppings looks delicious and something akin to an appetizer at a fancy bistro. Good job, Triscuit!

Essie: not the same everywhere

I love Essie nail polish. I jumped on the Essie bandwagon a bit late – I got my first Essie polish this past November, but their colors and the longevity of the color instantly made me a fan. Today, in my Marketing capstone class, we were discussing distribution strategies and someone mentioned Essie’s strategy:

Essie distributes different polishes to its different categories of retailers. Get this- salons and beauty supply stores like ULTA and Sally Beauty Supply get the “real” salon-quality Essie, while the likes of CVS and Walmart get “inferior” Essie products. Both products are sold as the same line with the same color names, but the quality (and price points) are different. The story goes as so: Target asked to sell Essie nail polish but they wanted to be able to sell it at a lower price point. Essie had been acquired by L’Oreal then, and L’Oreal saw a huge potential market share gain for its new nail polish brand if it sold at mass retailers. To acquiesce with Target’s choice, Essie updated its formula so that it would cost less. In addition, Essie updated the packaging to a more economical one.

What’s the difference between the two, and how can you tell them apart?

The salon-quality Essie is the one that salons use, and it boasts a longer-lasting formula and better quality product. Both categories of Essie are still, of course, “Essie.” The “lesser” Essie comes in a cheaper glass bottle with a clear sticker which spells “Essie” on it in white. The more “expensive” Essie comes in a higher-quality glass bottle and the brand’s name is embossed into the thicker glass bottle.


Doritos: Crash the Super Bowl -insights

Doritos’ ads during Super Bowl XLIX (Feb, 2, 2015)

So I might be late (ok, really late) jumping into the Super Bowl converstation (is there even a Super Bowl conversation going on anymore?). Naturally, a marketing major’s homework over Super Bowl weekend is to analyze the ads! Of course, I was inundated by the amount of ads that had to do with sick kids, happy dads, and puppies. My main assignment, however, was to focus on one particular brand’s campaign: Doritos. My marketing capstone professor’s former TA is a brand manager at Doritos (in Frito Lay). Curtis, the brand manager, asked my class our opinions on the ads and the marketing strategy Doritos employs for its Super Bowl campaign, and then he debriefed us on the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into pulling off such a successful campaign. Let’s see the magic of how this consumer-generated Super Bowl ad legend works.

A brief overview of what I’m talking about:

Doritos holds a video contest called Crash the Super Bowl, where fans can enter a 30-second commercial. The contests’ finalists are revealed about a month before the big game. The grand winner and the runner-up ads are aired on national television during the Super Bowl itself. The grand prize for the maker of the winning commercial is $1 million and a dream job at Universal Studios!

How it works:

Eager fans who are film-making-savvy enter their 30-second commercial to Doritos. From there, 10 finalists are chosen by the judges. The judges have brand equity in mind when picking the finalists, so that’s what makes it okay that the final vote depends largely on consumers. Of the two that air on national TV during the game, one is voted on entirely by consumers, and one is half consumer vote and half judges’ vote.

This year’s Crash the Super Bowl:

The first prize winner was the ad called “Middle Seat” and the runner up was a slightly more edgy/weird ad named “When Pigs Fly.” Can you guess which one was selected purely by consumer vote and which one was pushed along by the panel of judges?

In an informal survey of our class, the overwhelming response was that “When Pigs Fly” wasn’t that good, a lot of people didn’t get it, and many of us didn’t find it that relevant or funny. Hearing that, we were all confused when it was revealed that “When Pigs Fly” was the ad that was weighted on heavily by the judges! The winner based solely on consumer votes was “Middle Seat,” and as a class, we all agreed it was more funny than the runner-up. I do understand why the judges, who have brand equity in mind, may have picked the piggy one: that commercial exclusively mentions Doritos, and it appeals more to younger kids (say, elementary- and middle-schoolers). When you have a preteen in the house, the snack imports of your household are largely dependent on them. Naturally, chip-makers want to target this bratty little demographic. As adults viewing the Super Bowl, we enjoy the ads most when they are relevant and funny to us. Almost anyone that has traveled by airplane can join in on the conversation about weird seat-neighbors, so that’s my justification of why “Middle Seat” was voted #1 by consumers, but not necessarily the judges.

Doritos Crashes Social Media:

After “Middle Seat” was aired on TV and revealed as the grand prize winner of Crash the Super Bowl during the game, Southwest Airlines jumped up with a Twitter promo: Get a bag of Doritos if you sit in the middle seat! Very timely, and a very good, easy brand push for Southwest. Now, you ask, was this all planned out? The answer is “kind of.” Doritos did not reveal which spot was going to win to anyone prior to the national reveal, but Doritos had planned a promo for almost every finalist, so that as soon as a winner was announced, some more buzz could be created out it. What a cool way to get yourself talked about!

Also before, during, and after the Super Bowl game, Doritos had its Twitter game going strong with funny tweets, a “fake ad” video that made fun of all the mushy-gushy ad content this year, and some funny tweets at other brands.

A good deal:

The Crash the Super Bowl campaign is a wonderful thing for Doritos. Think about it from their perspectives- no money spent on production because happy fans who want to be famous will produce the ad for you for free. Because you’ll be saving a TON of money on that, you can afford to hand out $1 million to the winner, so now you have saved money and have acquired many superfans. The consumer-generated content is producing what consumers want to see, without having to do an expensive consumer insights study to learn what they want to see- just let them make what they want to see! Lastly, of all the 4,900 entrees that Doritos received, every single one of those 4,900 amateur directors was probably posting his video on his Facebook and blog, probably gaining about 4,000 impressions each, if not more! And then the voting stage… you basically have hundreds of thousands of people actively visiting your site and sharing your URL on other sites. You’ve basically just hit marketing bingo!

Brand Development Idea…

For my brand management course this past fall semester, we had to create a new brand in an existing product category where we felt there was opportunity. My project resulted in a cute idea called Sweetheart Premium Cotton artisan blankets. Read on and let me know if you would buy these!


Introduction. Sweetheart Premium cotton aims to be the best new brand in the artisan cotton blanket product category. The company will sell locally grown and handmade cotton blankets to niche audiences. These blankets capitalize on the macrotrends involving buying locally, creating local jobs for the underserved, and supporting organically grown products. Cotton is a 100% natural fiber and Sweetheart strives to support Texas’s booming cotton industry while providing more jobs in the South. The final product will be sold within Texas’s urban centers.

Business Opportunity & Distribution. Texas is the largest cotton producing state in the United States. Currently, about 60% of Texas cotton is exported away (production is at a surplus). Sweetheart has chosen to buy cotton grown by farmers associated with the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association and the Blackland Cotton and Grain Producers Association. These two associations cover cotton farmers in the regions which include the Texas urban centers of Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and the Austin and San Antonio metropolitan areas. This is crucial because these cities are where the majority of the finished product will be sold. Sourcing cotton from the same geographical vicinity will drastically contain transportation costs which can then be translated into higher profit margins, greater focus on localization, and lower costs for customers. The cotton would go directly from the farmers to local weaving companies to be woven into knit fabric. Leftover, lower quality cotton will be used for the stuffing of the quilts. We would ensure that all growers are organic and that the manufacturers pay fair wages and use high standards of quality and ethics. Local people in the nearby towns will be hired to make quilts of the cotton, hand-stamp the blankets, and will design and create the embroidery. Once the business gets big enough, the firm would look into mass-producing but keep the original ideas of locality, high-quality, and the brand personality in mind.

Competition. Direct competitors to Sweetheart Premium Cotton include other artisan blankets on Etsy and other handmade outlets and gift shops. Indirect competition to these gift-worthy cotton blankets includes other handmade or cute purchases like mugs, candles, sweaters, and scarves from boutiques.

Consumer. The target consumer of Sweetheart Premium Cotton can be understood through the consumer persona we’ve named “Allie.” Allie is a young mom with a toddler. She’s 28 and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she lives with her husband in an apartment in downtown Austin. After work, she enjoys strolling Urban Outfitters, Francesca’s, and Anthropologie for their well-priced, unique items. She frequents local coffee shops and believes strongly in supporting local businesses, especially ones that advocate fair trade. Allie also shops online to find sustainable, high-quality products for her small family; her favorite finds are from Etsy.

Brand positioning statement. For proud Texans who love to be cozy, Sweetheart Premium Cotton is the handspun cotton comfort that wraps you up in the feeling of home.

Brand theme. Sweet ol’ Texas heritage meets modern urbanites.

Brand personality.  Sweetheart Premium Cotton is family-oriented with a small-town vibe. Our services and products are sincere, wholesome, and home-grown. The final designs give a Texas staple a unique twist with contemporary details. Just like you, we’re born and raised in Texas, and we love sweet tea and s’mores.

(Picture of inspiration.

–I reserve all rights to this idea, brand name, persona, and content– Aditi Bhandari

Brands & Emotional Connections


A McKinsey article I was reading centered on the modern and updated consumer purchase funnel. The gist of the study is that the stereotyped funnel doesn’t exist like it did before (large consideration set of brands that eventually lead to one brand being purchased and then post-purchase behavior) but rather has transformed to a more circular loop with many touch-points at which marketers can make connections with and hopefully influence the consumer. I further thought about which touch-points are most successful and what determines the influentiality of marketing messages. Thinking about my own brand preferences and with whom my brand loyalty lies, a brand’s emotional connections with consumers are stronger than rational ones.

I would like to focus on one easy emotion by which brands can “touch” the consumer: nostalgia. How many people use Tide because their mom used it when doing their laundry and not because Tide cleans better? Despite its price being 50% more than other “average” liquid detergents, Tide manages a a third of the market share! How about Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies? Blue Bell ice cream? Vintage-themed retailer Fossil has built its entire brand on nostalgia! These brands all try and connect with consumers at various points of the marketing process using nostalgic packaging, visuals, and music, evoking emotions that make a consumer feel good and remember the good ol’ days, hoping that those positive feelings transfer over to the purchase decision. The best recent example of a brand using nostalgia (it’s seriously amazing) is Dove Chocolate’s ad featuring Audrey Hepburn; watch it here.

Can you admit to several brands that you choose to use because of the emotional (particularly nostalgic) connection rather than logic?