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 and...you 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. 

www.bestglobalbrands.com to see the list and download the report—let us know how you feel about the list!

Today, special guest (and Caitlin's business partner) Paula Pou talks about when brands go too far in service of creating "brand experiences": when they tell their employees, like, how to be a person. From personal hygiene to jaywalking to encouraging criticism of fellow employees, brands try to control how employees look, speak, and behave in ways that create a job on top of their actual job

Lauryn Bennett of Villain Branding drops into The Brand Hole today, to talk about how brands talk. What's a voice based on? Who should use it, and how? And when does it get in the way of clarity?

It’s not even controversial to say that the state of politics today is BAD.  Special guest Anjelica Triola, of Skill Committee and Creative Caucus, joins to talk about how politicians and political groups can use the skill of branding to be clearer, more consistent, and maybe even dabble in being relevant to modern voters (too much to ask?).

Brands are notoriously bad at goofs (see: April Fools' Day). Comedian Zach Broussard is good at them. So he joins Caitlin today to talk about some of the best goofs he's done and if brands listen verrrrrrry closely, they might learn something. 

For more info on Zach's latest goof, check out the New York Sorta Marathon

When a word becomes a buzzword, it's on its way to being meaningless. Comedian and linguist Myq Kaplan joins Caitlin in The Brand Hole today to say goodbye to formerly good words, like "empathy." It's fun!

Also you can hear Caitlin on Myq's podcast talking about very un-brand-y things.

Today, Caitlin and special guest Nora Geiss give the Kardashians far more respect than they deserve. Nora, Beautiful Mind-style, lays out the universe of the Kardashians and the strategic intent behind each member of the Kardashian clan's brand. (If nothing else, we can admit that the Kardashian family knows what they're doing.)

Will you think the Kardashians are good now? Maybe not. Will you ever be able to look at their collection of brands and businesses the same again? Certainly not.

Paula Pou is back! Caitlin and Paula are on the road, doing their real jobs, so a short episode about one of the most polarizing issues in America today: Miracle Whip.

We ask and answer critical questions such as:

  • Why's it called that?
  • Wait, what is it if it's not mayo?
  • They want me to keep an open WHAT?
  • What's wrong with you if you like it?

And more! (But not that much more because we have to go to a meeting.)

Rachel Bernard, VP of verbal strategy at CBX, joins Caitlin to talk about one of the most important parts of brand naming: making sure it's not incredibly offensive. We get into why we check for linguistic issues, what we look for, and, most importantly, we tell tales of all the ridiculous disasters we uncover (or create).

Paula Pou joins Caitlin once again, in an episode that was definitely prepared well in advance and was not in any way a last-minute concept. We review MIT Technology Review's 50 Smartest Companies for 2017, a list that in no way was developed to be judged by brand experts, and we judge it. We judge it hard. 

Nick Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League, pops in to tell us about branding something that didn't exist before. Like a Drone Racing League, for instance.

We talk about building a brand and business at the intersection of sports, technology, media, and entertainment. And then Nick tells Caitlin about the future of robot sports and she freaks the hell out and hates it. (Zorlon IS number one, though.)

Paula Pou is back again, and we finish answering your branding questions, such as:

Thought leadership: Barf?

How do you resolve a dispute in the world of branding and advertising? (We won't even make you listen for the answer: It's arm wrestling.)

And where do branding folks go when they get burned out? (We've got a great idea for a farm upstate...)

Everyone is so horny for start-ups these days: What's up with that? In episode 23, we tackle that question with a real-life start-up founder, Jonnie Hallman of Cushion. We talk about starting your start-up without funding, how to exist outside of the bro-y culture of the start-up scene, Employee Larry, and why the hell there is such an obscene definition of success in the start-up world. 

In episode 22, we talk about talent with none other than Hugh Tallents, partner at cg42 and a Very Charming British Man. Why does the business world have so many stereotypes about the people it employs? And why are they all completely true?

We talk about whether to get an MBA, how to hire, why to invest in your junior talent, and which of us can wear zebra pants. 

It's episode 21 and Paula Pou is BACK in The Brand Hole. We are answering your best and worst questions about branding: how to charge for your work, how to travel for business, and whether it's possible to work in this world and enjoy work-life balance (if you think the answer is yes, please life coach us).

We talk about how Paula calls her eyebrows "Scowlers," and Caitlin once again apologizes for doing something that approximates singing.

Episode 20 is a shortie of an episode with a special guest this week—Chris Barrett, A.K.A. Chris Barrett Design A.K.A. Goodnewsbarrett. Not only is she Caitlin's mom, she's also an interior designer who helps businesses make their places of business...good. How do you create a space that makes people want to stay? How can you get them in and out? And why is that chair from Caitlin's childhood in this restaurant's bathroom?

In episode 19, special guest Asterios Kokkinos joins to talk about advertising. Well, sort of. Caitlin and Asterios enter a dark part of The Brand Hole and debate what advertising should and shouldn't be allowed to do.

Also, was Mad Men about advertising, or was it a show about crazy rich people? (It was definitely a show about rich crazy people.)

In episode 18, special guest Mike Preston joins to talk logos: Why do we need them? What makes them good? What makes them bad? And why do SO many of them look like buttholes?

Caitlin talks about how she was once the worst client ever, and Mike explains the ten levels of illuminati that designers go through to be empowered with the ability manipulate consumers via symbols. 


In episode 11, Patrick Coffee, senior editor at Adweek and editor of Agency Spy, joins us to tell the story of William Grizack, a.k.a. The Griz: branding's most notorious criminal. This story has it all: $269 million worth of fraud, burner phones, an Audi Q7, and, of course, brands. 

We talk about how he got caught, and, more importantly, how he got away with it for so long. What are the weaknesses of the agency system that he was able to exploit? What did it take to pull off this con—over and over, at agencies across the country?