Christine Taylor

Creative strategist, designer and fan franchise expert Christine Taylor is Licensing Creative Account Manager at Hallmark Cards, Inc. She works with iconic brands like Star Wars, Star Trek and DC Comics for product development, merchandising and promotion. Her licensing experience and “passion for geekdom” led her to create something unique for Hallmark, which she’ll share more about as a presenter at the FUSE 2017 Conference, April 4-6 in Miami, Florida.

As a preview to her presentation “Pop Goes the Brand,” Christine shares her insights on how Hallmark is connecting and marketing to a passionate group of fans through a new branded experience called PopMindedTM.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How has Hallmark evolved into the iconic brand it is today?
Christine Taylor:
 Since we’ve been around for 107 years now, I would attribute our success to our founder J.C. Hall. He was a visionary of his time. He brought greeting cards to the U.S., invented modern gift wrap, created an omni-media presence with entertainment—before the word “omni-media” existed—and he and his son who followed him, actively looked for partnerships, like Disney, and acquisitions, like Crayola, that synergized with our company’s mission. J.C. also established relationships with public figures that had an eye for art, like Winston Churchill and Jackie Onassis, as well as with some of the biggest artists, celebrities and designers of the 20th century.

I think Hallmark really became a household name through broadcasts of Hallmark Hall of Fame and our legendary commercials that made people cry, thus coining the term, “Hallmark moment.”

Hallmark was, and still is, one of the largest employers of creative talent worldwide. J.C. was an entrepreneur who loved and had a passion for creativity and how creative products transcend into how we connect with those around us. His belief in quality and creativity are still the foundation of the company and what we continue to strive for in all we do today.

PB: What are the creative processes involved in collaborating with companies with which you have licensing agreements?
We have some long, established relationships with some of our licensors that date back over 20, 50 and even over 80 years. We are one of the very few licensees that are allowed to create original content and illustrations of licensed characters. We have illustrators that can perfectly replicate the characters to create new poses to match specific concepts, and we also have artists that interpret the characters to create unique looks for our products.

Another difference is we have creative managers who are experts of these licensing entertainment brands and are responsible for the creative relationship and brand integrity. 
We ensure the licensor’s franchise strategies and character attributes are translated across all our products from end-to-end of the design process, and in turn, those strategies align with each Hallmark product development team’s intent. We meet with our licensing partners regularly to stay up with the most current franchise information and often have collaborative brainstorms. Having these strong relationships allows for a smoother creative approval process, and that close collaboration makes for better end products.

We share a common goal - the consumer/fan is key - so finding a co-branded product approach that meets consumer needs and expectations is a big focus for us. It’s not always easy, but we often align people who have affinity for, or are fans of, certain brands and products, keeping the passion for getting it right for them, a high priority.

PB: How does Hallmark find new audiences for their products?
Much like any larger company would: Diversification of products, omni-media channels of branding and distribution and continually seeking out new partnerships, sponsorships and acquisition opportunities. We recognize it’s all about building up your digital content and engaging with consumers in social spaces, not just relying on traditional media and brick-and-mortar stores.

Currently, we are looking at how we can target various consumer segments by tailoring product design, retail merchandising, online engagement, sponsorships and event opportunities in a very specific, niche way that speaks directly and more authentically to that consumer. This may be through identifying a cultural trend, or revisiting an existing brand, capability or product offering that we just have changed the conversation around to be more relevant to a specific sub-set of consumers.

PB: How did PopMindedTM get started?
We’ve been attending Comic & Fan Conventions for about a decade now. We had done some great co-branded booths with a Star Wars overlay featuring all original artwork by our in-house illustrators and designers, but what we came to realize is we did not have our own clear point of view for Hallmark to this consumer. We already had all the co-branded licensed product that we had curated for the shows, and exclusives we had created to sell, but no branded voice that was relevant to them to gravitate to beyond the conventions.

We took a step back last year and decided to approach these conventions more like a branded, perennial pop-up shop experience. I gathered a small band of “rebels” at Hallmark, which included cross-functional fans of geeky pop culture franchises. We ultimately came up with what now is a pop culture sub-brand intended to serve this very loyal segment of consumers. It has evolved into a full consumer acquisition and retention strategy, where we have the opportunity to connect with these fans of fandom in a very authentic way because the ones behind PopMindedTM and the products are pop culture fans themselves.

PB: What do you see as the next phase of the PopMindedTM experience?
We have already started some social media on Instagram and a weekly YouTube video series. This year, Hallmark Gold Crown stores plan to have a PopMindedTM section dedicated to the front of store in late summer with exclusives like we would sell at conventions. We want to bring a little bit of that excitement in-store for consumers already shopping Hallmark.

We are also scouting other conventions and events, as well as looking at potential partnerships and sponsorships that will help us grow and spread the word. We plan to launch an online community forum that fans can discuss, chat and link with us as well as buy, sell and trade past collectibles.

Dream Plans? We would love to partner on other store-within-a-store concepts with other pop culture purveyors that align with our sensibilities and have our own online shopping experience.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
In all honesty, I can’t say I will leave anyone with any profound wisdom, but what I hope people will take away is that innovation doesn’t always have to be about some novel product or what the next big thing is.

There are new opportunities and innovative ideas for us and/or our companies hiding right under our noses. Too often we can get so caught up in our day-to-day roles and responsibilities that those things become too hard to recognize. But we must stop for a second and remember the many insights, instincts, experiences already living inside us that we need to let out!

We must continually remind ourselves that we are consumers too—and most likely even fans (of something). We create content, use social media and are people seeking to connect with others. And these days, that empathic and authentic understanding can go a long way, but it may take stopping the presses for a moment to find it…and when you do, you must let it out.

Want to hear more from Christine? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.
Brilliance@Work profile originally published on

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC is an Accredited Business Communicator specializing in corporate communication best practices. Connect with Peggy on LinkedInTwitterGoogle+, and at 
Dr. Mark Freeman

Dr. Mark Freeman, Doctor of Philosophy, Counseling & Organizational Behavior, is a senior organizational development and behavioral consultant, primarily working in the academic, hospitality and healthcare industries. Mark’s research interests are in the areas of organizational excellence, change management, personal and professional development for leaders, executive coaching and team building. He’s also a presenter at the FUSE 2017 Conference, April 4-6, in Miami, Florida. 

As a preview to his presentation “Wake Your Sleeping Genius: Interpreting the Meaning and Power Behind Your Dreams,” Mark shares his insights on how dreams are windows into the mysteries of life that can help you find solutions to your personal and professional challenges.

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: What inspired you to pursue studies and work in counseling and organizational behavior?
Dr. Mark Freeman: Since early adulthood it has been my calling and passion to help people achieve their highest potential in work and life. I am a fortunate person to work in something I love with purpose.

I think the most important aspect of being human is finding out who you are; where you are going; and who shall accompany you on your journey (It is important to answer these questions in the right order). These life goals drive my work as an organizational behavior professional and a counselor. It is very gratifying to see people find their way in life and work.

PB: How did that lead to studying dreams and their meaning?
 Dreams have always been a fascination of mine. As a young professional I participated in several dream sharing groups and have studied the most on that subject. Dreams are a window into the mysteries of human life, clarifying confusion, enhancing creativity and finding meaningful direction. Working with the dreams of others has been very rewarding. Nothing is more fulfilling than witnessing someone find truth, innovation and direction through understanding their dreams.

PB: How can people make connections with what they dream and what they do in their daily lives?
 It is extraordinary to see the awareness people gain from reflecting on their daily lives from a day or so before a dream appears to them, then making meaningful connections with often very clear next steps for growth and solutions to life’s challenges. Learning how to interpret dreams is the key skill I teach participants in my workshops.

PB: What role do dreams play in the creative process?
 Wow, so much! I teach participants how to incubate solutions for design, branding and business problems by developing partnerships with their dreams at night. You see, we have this sleeping, creative, genius inside that works at night in Technicolor to create stories and images for remarkable solutions unbeknownst to our poor, distracted and muddled brains which cannot possibly experience creativity well in the overstimulated daytime.

Dream incubation is asking that critical open-ended question you desire the answer to for clarity when you are stuck, then asking the dream to answer it for you the next day. For instance, “Where is this relationship going?” or “How can I achieve the greatest leverage with this new brand idea?” Your dream self often provides literal answers to your business and life questions in a creative way.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
 If people come prepared with a well-formed, open-ended question to a design, branding or business challenge, they will get the most from the workshop. In addition, participants ought to begin to record their dreams and notes of events from the previous day before each dream is recorded for a week before the presentation.

Recording dreams is easy. Keep a pencil and paper by your bed and tell yourself to remember your dream before you go to sleep. When you wake up, immediately ask yourself, “What did I dream last night?” and write down your answer before you get out of bed.

Want to hear more from Mark? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.

Brilliance@Work profile originally published on

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC is an Accredited Business Communicator specializing in corporate communication best practices. Connect with Peggy on LinkedInTwitterGoogle+, and at 

FUSE Miami Keynote: Martha Stewart: From Domestic Diva to Brand Icon

Join Martha Stewart on Wednesday, April 5 at FUSE Miami for an intimate conversation as she shares insights about creating a household name, overcoming adversity and reinventing yourself. Find out how she evolves to remain relevant in an age of disruption.

FUSE Miami
April 4-6, 2017
Miami, Florida

You can also Connect with Brand Legend Martha Stewart during our Tea Time with Martha. This VIP Q&A is where you will be able to ask your most pressing questions and gain brand insights.

In addition, hear from other keynotes and speakers:

·         Christopher Gavigan, Co-Founder and Chief Purpose Officer at The Honest Company
·         Vince Voron, VP, Executive Creative Director at Dolby
·         Brian Robinson, Global Head of Creative, Design & Development at DreamWorks Animation
·         Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist and Author at Calm Technology: Designing for the Next Generation of Devices
·         Brian Singer, Former Brand Catalyst for Brand Creative at Pinterest
·         Jeremy Lindley, Global Design Director at Diageo
·         Stephen Webster, VP, Brand & Design at Mary Kay, Inc.
·         Stanley Hainsworth, Founder & Chief Creative Officer at Tether Inc.
·         Stephen Gates, Global Head of Design at Citi
·         Barry McGeough, Chief Innovation Officer at PVH
·         Robin Albin, SVP Conceptual Innovation at Estée Lauder

View the brochure for full program details:

Use our exclusive LinkedIn discount code FUSE17BL for $100 off. Buy tickets here:

We hope to see you in Miami this spring!

The FUSE Team
At FUSE last year, we caught up with Cheryl Swanson, Managing Partner, Toniq, to discuss how brands are changing the world and how the synergy of brand strategists and designers can impact business.

Today, building better brands is key and big brands can do amazing things on the planet. Essentially, they have the power to give back. For example, Stella Artois with its water project and Vaseline with its healing project.

“To me, better brands are brands that act better in terms of good citizenship,” she said.
Brand strategists know what’s going on with the consumer and the culture, while designers really know how to bring all of that information to life in a visual way. So, if they are siloed, you don’t get that synergy of effort and creativity.

Swanson explained, “If designers and brand strategists are brought together, they can knit something that is powerful and bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Watch the full interview below:

Interview with Cheryl Swanson, Toniq from IIR USA on Vimeo.
January's color alert is Life Spurt. It's the beginning of a new year, and Life Spurt bursts forth with its fresh hue. Mimicking the first sprout of life, as leaves unfurl and open, this clean, crisp green instantly connects us to our surroundings, and it's brightness lifts us up.

We want you to continue to be successful in 2017. In order to do that, when it comes to business, you need to think about the future beyond next year.  

We know you are under pressure from your managers to stay ahead of the curve and always be thinking of the future in your industries. So, that’s why it’s more important than ever to attend live conferences and events to hear what the future holds directly from industry leaders.

Here are the events that will keep you thinking ahead in 2017:

·         The Media Insights & Engagement Conference
January 31 - February 2, 2017
The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Use code MEDIA17BL for an additional $100 off
Learn more and buy tickets:

·         Marketing Analytics & Data Science
April 3 – 5, 2017
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square, San Francisco, CA
Use code MADS17BL for an additional $100 off
Learn more and buy tickets:

·         FUSE Miami
April 4-6, 2017
Nobu Hotel – Eden Roc, Miami, FL
Use code FUSE17BL for an additional $100 off
Learn more and buy tickets:

·         FEI: Front End of Innovation
May 8-11, 2017
Seaport World Trade Center Boston, MA
Use code FEI17BL for an additional $100 off
Learn more and buy tickets:

·         OmniShopper
June 20-22, 2017
Hyatt, Minneapolis, MN
Use code SHOPPER17BL for an additional $100 off
Learn more and buy tickets:

·         TMRE: The Market Research Event
October 23-25, 2017
Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, FL
Use code TMRE17BL for an additional $100 off
Learn more and buy tickets:

·         TMRE Digital
With TMRE Digital you can access 27 Sessions from the World's Leading Insights Event TMRE from the comfort of your own home or office.
Learn more and download:

Don’t get stuck in the past. Look forward to the future!  

We hope to see you at our 2017 events!


The Knect365 Team
Friday, December 16, 2016 | Jeremy Lindley social links

lost in thought
with Jeremy Lindley

Global Design Director, Diageo

I'm inspired by the people with whom I work. One of the great things about my role is that I get to choose who we collaborate with, I am privileged to work with outrageously talented colleagues globally and some of the world's best designers.
To me, brilliant is always worth holding out for. The best idea is rarely the first idea, I find that perseverance pays off.
My favorite app is Nike+ my running has improved significantly since knowing how I'm doing each kilometre, the data fuels my competitive nature!
When I'm having a creative block I leave the topic and come back to it the next day. It's remarkable how much processing your brain does while you are asleep.
My favorite brand is Johnnie Walker – and not just because it's one of our brands and happens to be the world's number one scotch whisky! I've had the opportunity to work with the Master Blenders for over 10 years now and never fail to be inspired by their skill and creativity.
My favorite color is Yellow – warmth and happiness.
My dream project is I'm working on a few of them right now – sorry, all secret!
The best advice I ever received was "Be kind and generous, go the extra mile."
The very next thing on my to-do list is something important but not urgent – I try to tick those off first.
My dream collaborator is the designers I'm already working with – if there's someone you want to work with just get in touch with them, there is no point having dreams you don't pursue.
At least once, everyone should go on retreat – regularly invest in your spiritual health.
The best way to unwind after a long day is chatting the day through with my wonderful wife while enjoying a Tanqueray & tonic.
If I had a one-year sabbatical, I would learn an entirely new skill – go back to art college!
The most overused word in meetings today is Millennials.
At the moment, I'm obsessed with Ottolenghi – wonderful Mediterranean recipes that give a whole new take on salad.
As of now, I'm totally over carbs – I cut out bread, rice, potatoes and pasta to lose weight, it worked and I've not eaten them since.
My tools of the trade are curiosity, openness, seeking clarity.
The biggest thing that has changed since I started in the industry is how connected we are – it's made a real difference to creativity and ideas.
I'm happiest when I'm with my family.
I'm proud that my hunch that Design was an interesting career to pursue turned out to be correct – to date I've not come across another profession that's so much fun.
My playlist is stuck in the 80s.
You can usually find me on a teleconference.
The last stamp on my passport was the U.S.
The next stamp on my passport is Amsterdam (at a stupidly early time in the morning).
When I look back on my career I will do so with a smile.
Find out more about his participation in FUSE arrow © 2016 IIR Holdings, LTD. All Rights Reserved.
FUSE, at the intersection of design and brand strategy.

Uncover strategies to survive and thrive in the new brand reality at FUSE 2017.

View the Full Brochure Now:

Use our exclusive Blog discount code FUSE17BL for $100 off. Buy tickets here:

We hope to see you in Miami this spring!

The FUSE Team

Donald J. Trump has defied all political polls to become the United States’ next President-elect. Not only did the win the electoral vote, the win also came with an enormously needed re-boost to the Trump brand.

A post-Election Day, overnight national survey conducted by Brand Keys, a brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy, revealed that in each of the seven categories Brand Keys has tracked the Trump brand – a brand whose added-value had been badly battered by campaign rhetoric and the release of a video tape that captured Trump making lewd comments about women – rebounded to levels close to or exceeding added-value measures seen just prior to his announced presidential candidacy in April 2015.

“Mr. Trump has been one of the most powerful brands we’ve ever tracked,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “You could add his name to anything from ties to buildings and the increased perceived value of the products fell into the 20% to 37% range. Which was very high, enviable by any category or brand standards, and what a brand is supposed to do. Now, I suppose, he literally qualifies as ‘the most powerful brand in the world’.”

When Trump threw his hat into the presidential ring in June of 2015, some of the product and service categories Brand Keys tracked were positively affected; some were negatively affected. “But that didn't totally surprise or alarm us,” he said.

“In becoming a candidate Mr. Trump changed both the brand paradigm regarding consumer expectations and values surrounding the Trump brand and also blurred the traditional lines regarding where the ‘Trump brand’ was expected to compete. These shifts changed how the Trump brand was perceived by consumers. And an oft-contentious campaign didn’t help foster consumer emotional engagement and brand loyalty levels.” But the disclosure of a videotape capturing Mr. Trump making lewd comments about women seemed to have placed the Trump brand in real peril.

“Brands – particularly Human Brands, people who are seen to be the living, breathing embodiments of those set of values they alone are able to so successfully, seamlessly, and profitably transfer to products and services – that are then so negatively and publically exposed the way the video did to Mr. Trump, don’t usually come back as strong as they used to be. Think about what happened to Martha Stewart or Tiger Woods. Their brands survived but they never came back as strong as they were before the brand imploded – after they went to jail or were forced to do a PGA Adultery walk-of-shame, for example,” noted Passikoff.

“Human Brands don’t generally get a second chance to breath real life back into their brands or rekindle the desire in the hearts and souls of consumers. Not at their former brand strength, added-value levels, at least. These shifts are incredibly strong.” But apparently winning a presidential election is the exception that tests the rule.

According to 1,203 registered voters in the 9 US Census regions, 100% of the categories where Brand Keys has tracked the Trump brand that had been negatively affected a month ago with the Access Hollywood tape disclosure, all rebounded to Post-Candidacy+ added-value brand levels.
Added-value related to the Trump brand – that is, how much more a product or service is seen to better meet consumer expectations and be seen to be worth more monetarily with the Trump brand – is back up significantly from a month ago in each of the seven categories where Brand Keys has historically tracked the Trump brand.

With the White House won, the Senate race no longer a toss-up, and the House within GOP hands, “a brand that was once deemed toxic by many consumers is now seen as not only a safe option, but an emotionally desirable option,” said Passikoff. “Especially given the new set of values that the brand has created around itself: victory, self-confidence and determination, a sense of the visionary, and ultimately greatness. We’ll have to factor those into our next Presidential Model.”

“The election occurred in contrast to predictions by the political polls and pundits, and we’ll leave it to them to predict the future when it comes to presidential politics. What we know for sure is that these brand engagement, added-value numbers correlate very highly with consumer behavior and consumer perceptions of added-value for consumers’ own sense of self and actual product/service price value,” he said.

“They certainly did in voting booths across America. One should remember that these are leading-indicators, which means that we’ll be seeing their effects six to nine months down the road, although we’d have to do some additional drill-down research to predict the product and political effects of those consumers/voters who feel disenfranchised.”

Passikoff said, “I think it’s fair to call it ‘The Brand Commander-In-Chief’!”

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