It's June, everyone, and you know what that means: every brand is gay. During Pride month, rainbows are everywhere: in store windows, overlaid on brand logos, and streaming off of a Chipotle Pride float that reads, "¿Homo estás?"

But what role, if any, should brands play during Pride? John Olson, a designer and queer artist/performer, jumps into The Brand Hole to talk about the give and take between queer communities being seen by mainstream culture and being pandered to. 

This week, we welcome animator and satanic-panic enthusiast Smo to the show ( This story has everything: the makers of Tide PODS, rumors of funneling millions of dollars to the Church of Satan, Geraldo AND Phil Donahue, and...Amway. We explore a weird (and very long!) chapter in P&G's management of its brand reputation, and talk about all the ways that the 80s branded us all satanists in one way or another.

Last episode, we covered the rich backstories of some of the most iconic brand mascots. This episode, we get into some of the stranger characters (The Noid), the suuuuuper racist ones, and the sexiest mascots of all time—at least to special guest Robert Dean ( and host Caitlin Barrett. You might be attracted to different mascots, but we can all agree that at one point in our lives, we've felt sexual attraction to a brand mascot. That's capitalism, baby!

Poppin' Fresh. Horatio Magellan Crunch. Ernest J. Keebler. The characters that brands invent to sell us shit, yet somehow become part of our childhoods, our culture, and, in some cases, our kinks (thanks for being so open minded, Chester Cheetah). 

This week in The Brand Hole, we welcome back comedian Robert Dean ( to talk through some of his suspicions on the history of Mr. Peanut, the darkness of Chuck E. Cheeze's origin story, and the sad desperation of the Hamburglar. Back in two weeks with mascots that are racist, sexy, and just plain strange. 

Also, if you like this episode, check out Robert Dean's new album at! 

Dan Hendrickson of Volum8 ( back in The Brand Hole this week with more on digital accessibility. Whose job is it to "own" accessibility in an organization? How do you start to have these conversations at work? Where can you learn more? And, finally, is it possible to hate Comic Sans without being ableist?

It turns out, there's more brands can do to be accessible than avoid yellow type on white (though that's still bad too). Dan Hendrickson of Volum8 ( invited The Brand Hole up to Montgomery, NY, to learn the basics of accessibility in the digital world.


Special guest Danya Glabau of Implosion Labs is back for part 2 of our discussion of ethnographic research. We get into why brands should even bother with this kind of research, why they should rethink their research recruiting criteria to include input from people, groups, and perspectives they don't always consider, and what to expect when they're expecting the results of a study. 

When a brand gets something really, really wrong, it's often because it missed something really important about what its brand means to the people who use it. And when a brand gets something really right? It might be because it tapped into a way of using its brand that it hadn't understood before.

Special guest Danya Glabau of Implosion Labs joins to explain what ethnographic research is, its value in answering "how" questions, and what to think about along the way. 

Episode link:

Holy 50th episode. It's crammed full of the professional advice you crave, and the returning guests you can't get enough of: Amanda Munilla, Paula Pou, Anjelica Triola, Emma Cofer, and Mike Preston. 

Stick around for the end to hear about some upcoming changes to the format of The Brand Hole, and an amazing compilation of theme song versions that James Sparber put together, as a gift to us all. 

Ok, here it is on its own:

Brand strategist Michael Mitchell flew all the way from Singapore to record this episode about what's going on with branding in Southeast Asia...and Caitlin messed up the recording quality.

Huge apologies for the tinny sound—tune it out, you'll hear all about what you might find if you move 10,000 miles away to work in branding, the mistaken assumptions brands (and people) have about being relevant within the many cultures that make up Southeast Asia and beyond, and all the good food Michael gets to eat that we don't have in the U.S. 

Even more optimistic content! This week, smaller brand collabos designed to fight the big-boss brands, brands handling gender identity in an inclusive way (we cannot wait to see how many classic brand moments emerge from that...), and the (possible) shift away from hollow cheap-and-cheerful language to something a little more...good?

What will brands bring about in 2018? Brands that force us smile to pay (but also pay with money!). Brands that are totally onboard with monetizing our inability to become adults. But it's not all bad: brands will give you a hologram to sit with you while you eat alone! 

In this first of two episodes, Paula and Caitlin go through Trendwatching's 2018 predictions, and share some of their own, as well as predictions from very special past guests.

One holiday ep just wasn't enough. So brand strategist Amanda Munilla joins to talk about dystopian holiday ads from a German supermarket chain, our Spotify years in review, and how badly we wanted those men to Thelma-and-Louise it off the parking lot in the Audi mall-parking ad. 

'Sup, cool youngs. Your fave brand here, coming at you with lit branded content that recent studies show us will increase engagement and favorability. 

Special guest Emma Cofer of Lippincott joins to talk about a request we hear a lot from brands: help us be cool. What IS cool? You won't be surprised to find out that there are frameworks out there, which will help you to nail an alien's idea of what is cool. Good luck out there, brands! 

Elf myself?! NO, Elf YOURSELF. We tackle the good and mostly bad ways brands present themselves to you, the consumer, during the holidays. Special guest Nora Geiss joins to discuss the mythical Elf Yourself to Macy's rape-y holiday catalog headlines to CVS pumpkin-spice coughdrops. 

Brands, via technology, want our attention ALL. THE. TIME. Courtney Maum, author of Touch, joins to talk about persuasion design, and how technology is increasingly designed to make us passive audiences, rather than active participants. 

"Breaking Up With Your Smartphone"

"Notifications: A Tragedy Of the Digital Commons"

"Technology is Diminishing Us"

"'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia"

Shillington. Yes, that is the real name of a for-profit design college. Is it a good name? No. But, as Caitlin and special guest Paula Pou discuss, it's hardly the worst branding offense committed by a for-profit college.  

Also: Lil Wayne went to University of Phoenix? And Shaq? SHAQ??

How do you get to better answers? You ask better questions. Wild, right? Brand strategist Taylor Gandossy drops in to talk about all the ways we could be asking better questions as we're building brands, growing brands, and taking brands apart to put them back together. 

Can you truly not have a brand? Of course not. Moving on...

Ultra special guest Dan Spiegel joins Caitlin to go way, way, waaaaay off topic into the stuff that really matters: how to handle having to pee during client meetings, looking important during a presentation, and giving Amazon the keys to your house. 

WHY DO WE WORK SO HARD? There is almost no situation in which branding, marketing, and advertising (or most industries) are life-or-death, and yet SOME of us work until we literally lose all of our hair (ok, that might be specific to Caitlin...)

Caitlin's mom, Chris Barrett, joins to talk about why we push ourselves to work so hard and the super expensive ways we try to cope with stress, which sucks up all the extra money we make working extra hard, creating more stress get it.

The sonic brands are back in town! In part 2 of our episode on sonic branding, Kevin Perlmutter returns to share examples of how sonic branding shows up in everyday life—to guide us, delight us, and annoy our faces off. And actually? This stuff might even save lives.

Brands can own sounds? Yeah, that's a thing. Special guest Kevin Perlmutter of Man Made Music joins today, in the first of two episodes, to explain sonic branding. What is it? What does it include? Is it just, like, jingles? (Spoiler: NO.)

Wht th fck, brnds? Creative strategist Natalie Balthrop joins today to talk about brands dropping vowels and picking up a whole lot of obnoxious brand baggage. From the simple dropped "e" in Flickr to vowel-free BHLDN, we dig into the many ways brands give up A, E, I, O, and U (occasionally Y, sure). Help us put an end to the War on Vowels!

Alert! Alert! Interbrand's Best Global Brands list of the top 100 brands in the world is LIVE and that's all we're talking about in this week's episode.

Special guests Nora Geiss and Markus Hutchins join Caitlin to question absolutely everything about this list, from its theme to its methodology to the dollar values attached to these brands...and then we all admit that the list still matters and is important anyway. to see the list and download the report—let us know how you feel about the list!