Branding Bad: Election 2016 and the Painfully High Cost of Marketing on the Cheap

Marketing and Branding. Do it cheap and fast, expect problems. Writing? Same drill.

Elections 2016. What a train wreck. I have work I should be doing, but I can’t help looking at the arguments I make for care in creating marketing content — and how sometimes people are so fixated on low cost and fast turns that they take insane risks with their brand development.

You would think. You would think that our two powerhouse political parties (and with only two, it’s always a fight, never a party) would easily have the resources to market their selected candidates effectively. Just as any (successful) startup would.

I’m reminded of young Summer days, walking across a hot parking lot, with my shoes getting caught in the melting tar. Once you’re halfway in and realize you should have walked around on the grass, it’s a bit late. Let’s jump right into some of the recent messes.

Melania Trump’s Plagiarized Speech (Copyscape anyone? How about 5 minutes on YouTube?)

Morning Joe got an early jump on this debacle, broken down by Raw Story:

‘Morning Joe’ panel blasts Trump campaign for Melania’s plagiarized speech: ‘It is a ripoff’

Melania Trump gave the first major speech of her life Monday night at the Republican National Convention — but her success will be overshadowed by some pretty obvious plagiarism accusations.  Portions of the speech closely resembled a speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention, and panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” blamed Donald Trump’s bare-bones campaign staff for the ethical lapse. Read more at

Here’s the full segment from Morning Joe panel:

The Problem with Speechwriting in 2016

Tools exist to both allow and prevent cribbing the writing of others. For an event to be viewed by 35 million, it’s unbelievable to think that something like this happened.

Let’s move on to something that all brands need and all brands screw up, from the pizza shop on the corner, to Uber. Logos.

The Art of the 5 Billion Dollar Brand and the Fifty Dollar Logo

I don’t have the words. Let’s just take a look.

It gets even worse.

And then there is this. Note while inserting the media (cough) in WordPress, I chose to change ‘Align Left’ to No Alignment. I’ll see myself out.

trump pence logo matt everett

OK. So Team Trump went back to Fiverr or Hire-a-Freelancer and got a graphic designer to take out the offending artwork for 20 bucks or whatever.

trump pence logo before and after

But the damage had already been done. The logo wasn’t BAD. But it wasn’t VETTED outside their little circle. And they didn’t hire a designer who had experience vision boarding, roundtabling, and other snarky little design activities that are very precious and probably not very Republican, but lead to giant embarrassments like this being avoided.

Let’s not lay only into the Trump campaign. Here’s Team Hillary’s disastrous logo.

Sounds like a stretch. But people are smart. They are visual. And they will make connections.

Arguments could be made in defense of each logo, of course. Again, they are not BAD.

But here is what the two logos do have in common. They look fracking cheap. They look like they came from a freelancer site. They could very well have been created in Microsoft Paint.

Now hang on you say. Wasn’t the Nike logo $50? What about Apple’s first logo? Points taken. But in 2016, whether for a brief political campaign, a startup, or a business, you do not have 20 years to develop your branding. Do it badly on a big stage and you will lose massive brand capital. At smaller scale, you will simply be quietly rejected and lose opportunity and traction.

Branding and good copy matter

Invest in each, or perish. Gotta get back to work. My Clients pay me to put them in the best light and never to embarrass them or harm their brand. I take that dead serious.



✍ Erik J. is the founder and director of Launch Module Media based in Greater New York City.

Featured image via Select article content courtesy of,, and and

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CAVU Venture Partners $160mm Fund Flying High with ‘Smart Money’ on CPG Startups

Launch Module Media Client CAVU Ventures have accelerated from concept to cruising altitude with clear skies ahead.

The Launch Module team produced an investor presentation for the CAVU Venture Partners $160mm fund in 2015 and we are amped to see these Consumer Packaged Goods industry experts driving healthy food and drink brands effectively to market.


Do you have a project?

Get in touch with Launch Module Media if you’re working on a pitch or business development / marketing initiative. We’d like to hear from you.

Following is some of the latest on CAVU Ventures’ action in the ‘challenger brands’ CPG space, kicking it off with a profile in Fortune:

Deep Eddy Vodka Founder Forms VC Firm with Former Coke Exec – Fortune

Last summer, Clayton Christopher wanted a new challenge. He had just sold his 5-year-old Deep Eddy Vodka business to a Kentucky distiller for nearly $400 million, and was still sitting on plenty of cash from his previous beverage venture—Sweet Leaf Tea Co., which had been acquired by Nestlé.

“I had been a pretty active independent investor in food and beverage brands for a while, and had started to think about having more of a formalized fund where I could have more say and influence,” says Christopher, who had originally launched Sweet Leaf Tea with the $14,000 he had in a savings account. “So I began brainstorming with Rohan and Brett.”

That would be Rohan Oza, a former Coca-Cola executive who went on to help build Vitaminwater, which later was acquired by Coca-Cola; and Brett Thomas, former managing member at investment firm Thematic Capital Partners. The pair had been talking on and off for several years about creating an investment platform for the consumer products market, but also felt that they needed a successful entrepreneur who would appeal to other entrepreneurs.

“We’ve nicknamed Brett ‘The Hunter’ because he goes out and sources the best deals,” explains Oza, who was profiled by Fortune in 2014. “In this case, his ‘deal’ was to bring me and Clayton together.” Read more at


Monica Watrous of Food Business News produced a great overview article here:

CAVU Venture Partners flying high – Food Business News
AUSTIN, TEXAS — Operators first, investors second. That’s the mantra of CAVU Venture Partners, a recently launched investment firm co-founded by three food and beverage industry veterans with a focus on better-for-you consumer brands. Investments have included Bai, Health-Ade Kombucha and Chef’s Cut Real Jerky. The name CAVU comes from a pilot’s term, “ceiling and visibility unlimited,” which means perfect flying conditions.

“What we look for is a passionate entrepreneur that has a learners’ mind-set versus a knower’s mind-set,” Mr. Christopher said. “Knowers scare me. Because I used to be one once, and they’re really dangerous to their business.”

“That’s really what we aspire to bring to our partners and the companies we invest in,” said Clayton Christopher, co-founder and partner of CAVU Venture Partners. “One of the things that I see too often is a lot of entrepreneurs are getting capital, but they’re not getting smart capital.” Read more at


Even Beyoncé is in on the healthy CPG action as an investor:

Has Beyoncé discovered the next coconut water? – MarketWatch

The 20-time Grammy winner announced this week she is becoming a “meaningful” equity holder in a three-year-old startup that makes cold-pressed watermelon water called WTRMLN WTR. At a time when soda sales are declining while sales of bottled and flavored waters are exploding, it may turn out to be a smart business move for the former Pepsi spokeswoman. PEP, +0.38%.

Consumers in the U.S. are more health-conscious than before and willing to spend on healthy options, said Eric Penicka, a research analyst at Euromonitor International, a market-research firm.

Her latest venture seems like it’s positioned well. Sales of bottled flavored water grew more than 400% to $917.1 million in 2015 from $174.8 million in 2001, according to Euromonitor International, a market-research firm. Sales of regular bottled water are far higher: They grew 92% to $15.9 billion in 2015 from $8.3 billion in 2001, at the same time when the market for soda has shrunk. (WTRMLN WTR’s website states it doesn’t add any water to its product; the beverage is cold-pressed watermelon with some organic lemon juice). Read more at


Here’s what’s happening with some of CAVU Venture Partners portfolio brands on social. Beyoncé? Who knew?

Pitch, Meet, Close. Launch Module Media and the Art of Staying Out of the Way

So, in closing, here’s an example of three dynamic founders who could pretty much walk into a room and raise $100mm together. That was the objective when we began working on their investor pitch deck. Look at the track record. Feature past successes. Explore synergies. Keep things visually clean and simple. Refine and clarify the arguments for the capital raise. Deliver. A $100mm objective becomes $160mm, just like that. Snap.


✍ Erik Johnson is the founder and director of Launch Module Media based in New York City.

Images and select article content courtesy of,,,

Twitter 10, crowds, and finding your own voice

Twitter was founded March 21, 2006. I watched it pass by for almost 10 years before I picked it up. I never doubted it would be popular. I just wanted nothing to do with it.

Heartfelt 140-character obituaries. Check-ins at the coffee shop, the mall, the movies. It seemed the perfect narcissist’s tool. And, as a seasoned, Grade-A narcissist, I don’t need devices and applications to expand on that. Twitter has apparently lost $2 billion dollars in those 10 years. I’m not sure what that says about what we value. And how we value our time.

Finding your own voice in oceans of noise

There will be more apps. It will get easier to express yourself. Or, it will at least seem it’s getting easier. Imagine how Twitter looks to someone first trying it in 2016. After you’ve been using it 5 years or more. Imagine what this type of feed-frenzied activity looks like from the outside. Imagine going to a concert, and at the door everyone is issued a megaphone.

How will you communicate in that venue? There are a few ways. Be up on the stage and command the most attention. Or, if you’re in the audience, be louder, faster, and more outrageous. You won’t come close to the attention given to the stage (known as social proof) — but if you’re really loud, really frequent, and really a buzzing hornet, you’ll be noticed.

Another way, which is probably the most common, is to simply communicate with some frequency with a smaller and tighter knit group. Share things you heard from others. Give your own opinions sometimes. Try to pitch a sale. Repeat the sayings of others that you like. But what about your own, personal, most unique self and voice? Is it possible to be an individual in a swarming crowd? Can we all be unique? Or can there only be a few. Or maybe only one.

I think of the scene in The Doors movie where Jim Morrison jumps down into the crowd, leading a trail of reveling dancers, snakelike, through the vast concert hall. And Jim being led, incidentally, toward his death by an unseen Indian shaman. But Rock is Dead, as Jim presciently said in 1969. The microphone has no more cord. It’s everyone’s turn to speak, or to sing, or to dance madly in the night. Everyone is the center of their own show now. This is democratic communication. It is a nightmare. And it’s only going to get worse.

The Prophet of Park Avenue

I remember working soulless night shifts in investment banks back in the go-go 90s. There was always this guy on one of the medians. Maybe 47th Street and Park Avenue. Repent. The Time is Now. Red light. Green light. Shuffle across the street. Yellow cab. Black limo. Coffee cart. Eat. Repent. Repent. Bible held high. Cardboard sign. Repent Ye Sinners. The Time is Come. The man may still be there. He was dedicated. In the middle of four directions of constant traffic, every day, he stood fast. He had one message. And he delivered it relentlessly.

This is what I am told I must do by social media experts. Say my thing. Over. And over. And over again. Schedule it. Repeat it. Blog. LinkedIn. Medium. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Anchor. Periscope. YouTube. I used to put an ad out on Craigslist. Maybe buy some Google ads. I made a living. That method worked 7 solid years for me. I’ve had over 350 Clients. Some nice deals. Lots of small, very difficult deals. But I scratched through. Now. I have to talk about what I do. Several times a day. I have to give value. Give more value. Don’t ask to make a sale until I’ve given tons of value. OK then.

So, who is financing this for me? I don’t have a line of credit. I am project to project. I get a VA Disability check monthly that really helps out. Even my mom is good for an (awkward) touch now and again. Running this show is a grind. But I am willing to learn. So tell me Twitter experts. Your platform has lost Two Billion Dollars in 10 years. And Facebook. All I hear is that organic reach there has died on the vine. So what’s up? I recognize that people are going to social over Web. I see it in our traffic downturn. We’re squared away on mobile. That’s not the issue.

If everyone is publishing, who has time to read?

If everyone is speaking, who has time to listen? And the answer is, to do even more? To add even more ‘content’? More content cannot be the answer forever. This is going to reach a tipping point. All systems do. Starbucks and Wal-Mart are closing stores. It has stopped snowing in Canada. Leo DiCaprio is pretty freaked out about the environment but I’m not sure he’s moved into a tiny house or Airstream trailer just yet.

Breadcrumbs on the trail

Politics is a circus. All we need is a good loaf of bread. Everything is always tipping. More content. Is that what you’re being told? Produce more? The Park Avenue Prophet had one message on his cardboard sign. But he had a Bible too. So he had a lot to draw from. And he delivered his scriptures beautifully, artfully, and with high drama. But he never targeted anyone. He just put it out there. In fact, the delivery was the same whether the streets were crowded or empty. Perhaps it isn’t about who is listening or watching. Perhaps the whole point is in your own experience of sharing your message. If that seems a little mad. A little crazy. Talking to no one in particular. Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just breadcrumbs. And so publish. Explore. Get lost sometimes. Maybe someone else will find your breadcrumbs. And it will help them. But certainly, let’s not cover the forest floor entire with breadcrumbs. At that point, the signal, the message, the trail is lost, no?

Photo credit: Flickr – garryknight


✍ Erik Johnson is the founder and director of Launch Module Media based in Greater New York City.

So what is Anchor? What could this be?

Thanks to Gary Vaynerchuk, I am beginning to grok social media. For the first time, I’ve gotten onboard a platform in its infancy. So let’s see. Following is a direct transcription of my first Anchor ‘Wave,’ no cuts, no edits, no nada.

New York media agency content marketing Anchor app

So, what do we have here? What is Anchor? This is something. This is something unique and quite excellent. The name, Anchor. Broadcasting desk. Also, a nautical symbol, mixed with audio waves. That was pretty nicely done. And even the medium of water. The way sound travels through water, is very dynamic. So, even the experience here of using it is so seamless and immediate and yes, it’s new, it hasn’t scaled yet, you know, the power users — the Gary Vaynerchuks — are gonna post Waves here, and, you know, they’re gonna have 187 replies. And Gary’s never gonna be able to go through all those. And even a casual listener isn’t going to take the time to go and listen to 86 minutes worth of audio replies.

So, I think the problem with social media, for the popular users, the leaders, is the scalability. You know, they can’t — you can turn the funnel upside down. But you can’t listen to millions.


Here’s the original Anchor Wave (I’ll take out the ums and the you knows from future transcriptions but it was interesting for me to leave them in this time):

If you can’t view or use the player above, you can listen here on the Anchor site.

You can follow me on Anchor: find me by searching for Erik J/LaunchModule or through Twitter @launchmodule.