TIME Companies

Nike Exec Leaves the Company Because He Hates Portland

"It was a culture shock"

The dream of the ’90’s may be alive in Portland, but for Nike’s rising star chief information officer, it wasn’t worth dreaming.

Anthony Watson announced he was quitting the Oregon-based company on Wednesday, citing “personal reasons.” But Fortune, citing an unnamed source close to him, reports the real reason for his departure is that he found just found Portland to be too boring “As a single gay guy from London,” the source said, he “underestimated what it would be like. It was a culture shock.”

Read more at Fortune

MONEY consumer psychology

Why JetBlue Can Break Your Heart, but Comcast Never Will

JetBlue Planes
Seth Wenig—AP

It hurts to find out that brands like JetBlue want you to love them—but they only love you for your money.

This week, JetBlue announced it’s adding more seats on planes and new fees for checked baggage. The moves are clearly aimed at hiking profits—which is what businesses are supposed to do, right?

So why, then, has JetBlue’s policy change been met with outrage and a sense of betrayal? Isn’t JetBlue just a business that’s, you know, in the business of making money? Shouldn’t we fully expect these kind of profit-first policies? And if this kind of behavior is to be expected, why would there ever be any sense of surprise or disappointment, let alone heartbreak?

The subject brings to mind the old fable “The Farmer and the Viper,” in which a farmer nurses a freezing snake back to health—and is then promptly bitten and killed by the snake as soon as it has the opportunity. The moral is that you shouldn’t be surprised, and you certainly shouldn’t feel betrayed, when a snake behaves like a snake. A similar takeaway comes from the disturbing 2005 documentary “Grizzly Man,” which tells the tale of a man and his girlfriend who were killed, in essence, because a bear behaved like a bear.

The complication is that consumers don’t necessarily view brands that we interact with regularly as animals that will take advantage of us whenever the opportunity arises. We’re encouraged to “like” brands on Facebook, and marketers spend billions to try to get us to love brands, ideally with a cult-like fervor. We tend to view favorite brands as trusted partners or even friends, and we can feel violated and betrayed to the core when the terms of what can be a very warm partnership are exposed as more “strictly business,” to quote The Godfather.

“Some brands are so good at connecting with consumers on an emotional level that the relationship feels incredibly personal, much like a friendship,” explains Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and TIME and MONEY contributor. “In most cases the consumers feel they share the same values as the brand, which they see as manifesting human characteristics.”

This certainly seems the case for JetBlue and its longtime customers. The brand resonated and indeed became beloved because of the perks (free TVs and snacks for everyone) and amenities (leather seats and plenty of legroom all around) as much as because of its overriding ethos that all customers were valued—and valued equally. What helped make JetBlue stand out and become an industry darling is that its competitors in the airline business are notorious for exceptionally poor customer service, especially in regards to passengers who are paying the least for their flights.

Slowly, though, JetBlue tweaked its business model—adding a business class and adding more fees recently—and with this week’s announcement about shrinking legroom and the addition of baggage fees, it’s clear that the values originally embraced by the brand have changed as well. For the people who loved and were loyal to JetBlue specifically because of its egalitarian, customers-first approach, the latest moves serve as a big slap in the face with the cold-hearted reality that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but hurts nonetheless: Brands like JetBlue want you to love them, but they only love you for your money.

Experts who study marketing and company-consumer relationships believe that brands that have developed cult-like followings for supposedly doing things the right and honorable way—Chipotle and Whole Foods come to mind—are likely to feel greater backlash if and when they appear to violate customers’ trust. “Our theory is that the people who feel most betrayed are the ones who were most attached to the brand in the first place,” says Debbie MacInnis, a marketing professor at the USC Marshall School of Business who is researching brand betrayal with colleagues.

By and large, consumers tend to get most attached to scrappy smaller brands with a streak of independence—brands they can identify with and feel good about supporting. “We love underdog stories,” says MacInnis. “We see ourselves as underdogs. We love the little guy, so there’s a natural brand connection.” It’s a connection that goes beyond a mere mutually beneficial economic transaction.

On the other hand, brands that are monolithic and fail to develop long-lasting loyalty or affection—big banks, pay TV and wireless providers, and yes, airlines come to mind—are less at risk of betraying customers’ trust because there was little to no trust to begin with. “You’re not likely to feel betrayed when a cable company treats you poorly,” says MacInnis. “You’ll shake it off and jump” to a competitor without blinking (assuming another one is actually available). “The transgressions are par for the course.”

It’s all about expectations: When someone we thought of as a friend turns out to be just another snake, it’s heartbreaking. Hence, the presence of several “Et Tu, JetBlue?” headlines out there, indicating that the once beloved airline’s betrayal is one of epic proportions.

“When consumers sense they’ve been used or manipulated they feel a burn more similar to a human betrayal than simple transactional disappointment,” says Yarrow. However, bigger, widely bashed brands are “lucky” enough to disappoint customers so frequently that there’s no surprise or sense of betrayal when they make yet another profit-first, customer-unfriendly move. “Consumers have such low expectations of Comcast, for example, they are thrilled when there simply aren’t problems.”

MONEY groceries

Lawsuit Could Force Upstart Condiment Brand to Hold the ‘Mayo’

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In a lawsuit, food giant Unilever says that Just Mayo must change its labeling because it is not real mayonnaise. Jim Wilson—The New York Times/Redux

In a David vs. Goliath battle over sandwich spread labeling, things could get messy.

Unilever, the food giant that owns the Hellmann’s brand of Real Mayonnaise, recently filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek, a well-funded startup backed by the likes of Bill Gates. The upstart company is being accused of false advertising because its sandwich spread brand Just Mayo contains no eggs and is therefore not real mayonnaise.

The Food & Drug Administration stipulates that any product calling itself mayonnaise must contain one or more “egg yolk-containing ingredients,” and Just Mayo is made with yellow peas instead of eggs. The rules also require genuine mayonnaise to be at least 65% vegetable oil—which is why Kraft’s Miracle Whip, which doesn’t meet that standard, is not a mayonnaise and is technically classified as a salad dressing.

Unilever is demanding that Just Mayo change its labels, and it is seeking unspecified compensatory damages. The “harm is impossible to quantify because of the difficulty of measuring lost good will and sales” for Hellmann’s and other mayonnaise makers, the suit states. The suit claims that the “Just Mayo false name” has “caused consumer deception and serious, irreparable harm to Unilever,” and that it’s “part of a larger campaign and pattern of unfair competition by Hampton Creek to falsely promote Just Mayo spread as tasting better than, and being superior to, Best Foods and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.”

On its website, Just Mayo states its spread is “outrageously delicious, better for your body, for your wallet, and for the planet.” In recent months, the product—which is vegan but isn’t marketed overtly as such—has appeared on the shelves of national retailers such as Whole Foods, Costco, and Walmart.

Putting taste aside because that’s a subjective matter, how can Just Mayo label itself mayonnaise when it’s not mayonnaise? Well, actually Just Mayo never says that it is mayonnaise. The product is always referred to as “mayo,” not “mayonnaise.” Hampton Creek maintains that there’s a difference, that it never claimed the product was genuine mayonnaise, and that the lawsuit is the result of Unilever and Hellmann’s feeling threatened in the marketplace. “We’re competing directly with a company that hasn’t had real competition in decades,” Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick told the Wall Street Journal. “These things happen.”

Andrew Zimmern, the celebrity chef and Travel Channel personality who is quoted calling Just Mayo a “must have” on the Hampton Creek website, has created a Change.org petition against Big Mayo, asking others to join his effort to get Unilever to “Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies.” The online petition, which urges Unilever to drop the lawsuit and “focus more on creating a better world rather than preventing others from trying to do so,” has already registered more than 15,000 signatures. Look for the movement to spread.

TIME interactive

Are You a J. Crew Democrat or a Pizza Hut Republican?

Check out this chart and search tool to see the political leanings of the places that Starbucks, Walmart, and 2,700 other companies call home

If you live near a Ben & Jerry’s or a few Dunkin’ Donuts outposts, odds are good that your Congressional district elected a Democrat on Tuesday. More familiar with the inside of a Pizza Hut or a Long John Silver’s? Chances are you’ll be represented next year by a Republican.

The following chart places 49 common brands on a political spectrum based on the percentage of their brick-and-mortar stores that are located in Democratic or Republican districts. To do this, TIME matched nearly 2 million store locations provided by the research company AggData to their corresponding Congressional district and then tallied them by that district’s vote in 2014 midterms. Of the 139 American Apparel stores, for example, 83 percent are in blue districts. Nearly nine in 10 Belk department stores, meanwhile, can be found in red districts. All the other brands on the chart fall somewhere in between. You can look for any store you like in the search tool below the graphic.

There is no evidence, of course, that a regular infusion of banana ice cream and fudge chunks inspires a person toward liberalism. Because two-thirds of the Ben & Jerry’s in the United States are found in Democratic districts, however, the mere presence of a store in a district raises the statistical odds that its residents are people who vote for Democrats.

While stores like Whole Foods or Hobby Lobby might already conjure partisan stereotypes, the vast majority of America’s brands do not. Even so, where these stores are located tells us a tremendous amount about who their shoppers are sending to Washington.

Methodology

The list of retail locations was provided by AggData. Stores were matched to Congressional district by comparing their longitude and latitude to the Census definitions of districts. The results do not include the 14 Congressional races that have yet to be resolved as of 6:00 AM on Nov. 6, 2014.

Read next: How the World Sees America Now

Correction: The interactive chart originally linked the incorrect record for Armani Exchange when the user clicked the icon in the chart. It has since been updated.

TIME technology

Google’s Former CEO: Amazon Is Biggest Rival

The South Summit - Spain Start-Up Convention, Madrid
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt speaks at the 'The South Summit'- Spain Start-Up convention at Las Ventas bullring in Madrid on Oct. 10, 2014. Geisler-Fotopress/DPA/Corbis

Eric Schmidt said there's competition brewing from unknown entrepreneurs, too

Google’s former CEO said Monday that the tech giant’s biggest rival is Amazon.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon,” Eric Schmidt, currently serving as Google’s executive chairman, told a crowd in Berlin. “They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”

Google is the most-visited site on the Internet, with 233 million unique visitors in August. According to the same ranking, 172 million visited Amazon, making it the sixth most visited.

But while Schmidt may see Amazon as Google’s biggest competitor right now, the CEO said that there’s competition brewing from unknown entrepreneurs.

“Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us,” Schmidt said. “The next Google won’t do what Google does, just as Google didn’t do what AOL did. Inventions are always dynamic and the resulting upheavals should make us confident that the future won’t be static.”

TIME Advertising

DiGiorno Used a Hashtag About Domestic Violence to Sell Pizza

DiGiorno Pizzas are displayed at an Associated Supermarket i
DiGiorno Pizzas are displayed at an Associated Supermarket in New York Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unintentionally, it says

Monday night provided the perfect example of why social media can be simultaneously inspiring and soul crushing.

Twitter lit up after the suspension of NFL player Ray Rice for beating his wife Janay, with thousands of women opening up about #WhyIStayed in violent relationships. Janay Rice has faced criticized for her decision to stay with her husband following the incident of domestic abuse.

But in an attempt to stay #social #media #relevant, DiGiorno’s Twitter account hijacked the trending hashtag to … sell frozen pizza.

Quickly realizing its error, DiGiorno deleted the tweet and explained that it actually hadn’t taken the extra ten seconds to click on the hashtag to see what exactly it was contributing to.

DiGiorno’s entire “brand” relies on snark and exploiting trending topics. But this instance was nothing like cracking jokes about #TheSoundofMusicLive.

And it has been apologizing to the many people it offended ever since:

Brands, please: look before you tweet.

(h/t: Mic)

TIME Companies

Here’s Why Abercrombie & Fitch Is Ditching Its Logos

The retailer's earnings are falling as logos become less fashionable in North America

Abercrombie & Fitch was “the brand of the moment” a decade and a half ago. Sales of its preppy clothes had jumped into the billions, teens had ranked it as the sixth coolest brand, and its newly launched surfer-lifestyle line, Hollister Co., was an instant sensation. But now, with stores like H&M and Zara turning white tees into fashionable pieces, Abercrombie wants to win back its base.

The retailer reported its 10th straight decline in quarterly sales on Thursday, with net sales decreasing by 6% to $891 million, according to an earnings conference call. Shares dropped as much as 8.5% after the announcement.

CEO Mike Jeffries said in the announcement that while Abercrombie’s clothes have made “great progress” in evolving their fashion component, the company is now rolling up its sleeves to reduce its use of logos.

“In the spring season we are looking to take the North American logo business to practically nothing,” Jeffries said on the call.

Higher pricing at Abercrombie stores have kept customers back, according to the Chicago Tribune, as stores like Forever 21 are selling jeans for less than $10 while similar items at Abercrombie can go for $75. Jeffries said that Abercrombie has been cutting costs, which is allowing it to achieve lower prices, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The shedding of logos on most Abercrombie clothing is the company’s latest rebranding effort as it regains its footing from a over decade of bad publicity. Abercrombie settled for $50 million in 2004 after being sued for discrimination against racial minorities. Last year, quotes made by Jeffries during a 2006 interview resurfaced; he had said the brand targeted “cool, good-looking people,” a statement that generated heavy, even viral backlash. (And earlier this year, researchers suggested that its crowded, cologne-filled stores may actually cause anxiety.)

What’s next for Abercrombie? While the company has said it plans to close 60 stores this year after leases expire, Jeffries is hoping that Abercrombie’s back-to-school clothing line and logo-free options will allow it to escape the climate of declining popularity and earnings that is also being faced by rivals like American Eagle and Aéropostale.

“We are confident that the evolution of our assortment will drive further improvements going forward,” Jeffries said in the announcement. “We remain highly focused on returning to top-line growth and driving long-term value for our shareholders.”

TIME Companies

Apple Wins Patent for Its Glass Cube Store Design

Apple Wins Patent on Glass Cube Store Design
A general view of the glass cube facade of the Fifth Avenue Apple store in front of the Plaza Hotel on February 9, 2012 in New York City. Ben Hider—Getty Images

The 14-year patent will protect the building's "ornamental design"

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved Apple’s application this week to patent its iconic glass cube design at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan.

Filed in 2012, the 14-year patent sanctions the “ornamental design” of the 32-foot cube, which underwent a $6.7 million remodeling in 2011 to achieve a cleaner look with 15 glass panels instead of 90, according to Apple Insider. Apple had applied in 2010 to trademark the “distinctive design of the building” but that has not yet been approved.

The glass staircases inside Apple Stores were also patented last year, according to documents published by the USPTO. Apple previously won a patent in 2012 for the glass cylinder design of its flagship store in Shanghai.

The cube was designed by several people including former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, according to the patent application. Jobs had reportedly paid for the construction of the glass cube himself and owned the structure.

TIME

You Know Things Have Gone Too Far When a Samsung Galaxy Challenges an iPhone to the Ice Bucket Challenge

#Brands being #Brands

Some people are dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for ALS. Others are dumping buckets of ice water over their head to raise awareness for their social media profile. Samsung, for instance, dumped a bucket of ice water over a waterproof Galaxy S5 to bash Apple’s non-waterproof iPhone.

Brands, amiright? Always finding a way to latch onto the latest viral trend…

Chili’s had a more subtle approach to the challenge:

And Ronald McDonald had the most confused, failing to mention donations and nominating all “redheads”:

The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $80 million for ALS research since July 29.

TIME Brands

Why It’s So Hard for Aunt Jemima to Ditch Her Unsavory Past

Aunt Jemima Racism
Bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup are displayed for sale at a grocery store in Connecticut in Aug. 2011. Bloomberg via Getty Images

A genuine brand history is nearly impossible to replicate, which makes parting with a controversial name incredibly tough for any business

fortunelogo-blue
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

Change doesn’t come easy. For popular brands even with controversial images, that seems to be especially true.

The most obvious example is the Washington Redskins football team, which has been embroiled in controversy recently for refusing to change its name despite claims that it is demeaning and prejudicial towards Native Americans.

A lawsuit filed in Chicago federal court last week pointed to another prominent instance of branded racism. The great grandsons of the woman who assumed the role of Aunt Jemima in 1935 accused several companies of benefiting from her likeness without paying for it.

In a class action lawsuit, D.W. Hunter and Larnell Evans claim that PepsiCo Inc. PEP 0.20% , its subsidiary Quaker Oats Co. (which sells Aunt Jemima syrup), and Pinnacle Foods (which makes Aunt Jemima frozen pancakes) schemed to deny that their great grandmother, Anna Short Harrington, had worked for Quaker Oats while refusing to pay her royalties for 60 years, as products bearing her image brought in millions of dollars in sales.

Quaker Oats declined to discuss the details of the lawsuit but said in a statement that the company believes it has no merit. Pinnacle PF 0.32% said that it has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. (Hillshire Brands HSH 0.19% is also named as a defendant. The complaint characterizes the firm as Pinnacle’s merger partner, but that deal never went through. The company declined to comment.)

Beyond the eye-popping sum that the plaintiffs are seeking—$2 billion, plus punitive damages to be determined at trial—the lawsuit is notable for its chronicling of the alleged exploitation of Harrington and her fictitious character’s unsavory past.

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

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