Marketing for Thought

Kids say the darnest things

For the past two summers I have babysat for the same family in the town where I grew up.  I spent hours playing games, coloring, riding bikes, going on adventures, and watching cartoons with  the 7 year old girl and 3 year old boy, and every night without a doubt I would come home exhausted but with plenty of stories.

Everyone, even if they have only been around a kid below the age of ten for five minutes, can tell you that they say the most ridiculous, innocent, and thought-provoking things we will ever hear in our lives.  While I was babysitting on my 19th birthday, the young boy told me I was so old that when I was his age there were no GPS’s in cars. Another time, I was greeted by him on the front lawn, riding his bike without training wheels for the first time.  I asked him how it had happened so fast- just last week he had his training wheels on.  He told me that he was training to be in the Olympics.

Their innocence, curiosity, and carefree spirit paired with their non-filtered dialogue is what pulls at our heart strings.  It makes us melt. It makes us think of things in a new way, a different light.

How have marketers used this to get their messages across? Here are two of my favorite examples from this past year:

Soulpancake: Kid President Pep Talk

We watched this in my Integrated Marketing Communications class. I still melt.  His enthusiasm, speech inflexion, and perspective makes me smile and stay engaged the entire video.

Extra Mile: 10 year old teaches college guys to be gentleman

This one came up in my Facebook feed yesterday. Once again, these are simple calls to action: be nice, treat a girl nicely, pay for her dinner, pull out her chair, open the door, take long walks and talk, be a gentlemen, and ultimately be a nice guy.  Coming from a little kid though makes it mean even more.

Why do these videos work?  As we get older, we forget the little things.  Kids reminding us to make a change, be happier, or be a nicer guy, prove that these are simple things that we haven’t adopted into our lifestyles. Hearing it through this communication channel makes it even more effective than someone older telling us “the right thing to do.”

A couple weeks ago, we read as a class David Williamson’s “Marketing & Communications in Nonprofit Organizations,”  and he discusses in his cause marketing guidelines the importance of identifying the appropriate vehicle and combination of tools for delivering your message. This ties directly with knowing your audience.  He used the example of the “Truth” anti-smoking campaigns that use real facts and smokers to deter teenagers from smoking instead of authority figures.  This audience was not receptive to their parents, teachers, or other authoritative figures saying “don’t smoke” and needed to see the message in another manner.  The Kid President and the Extra Mile video use this same tactic- hearing what we should be doing from someone we don’t see as “above us.”

Plus, don’t you think they are just precious?

Marketing for Thought

One Ad, Two Messages

How can one ad contain two completely different messages?  I’m not talking puns- I’m talking actual wording and meaning.

ANAR, the Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation in Spain, has found a way.  Their recent ad campaign launched this past week and utilizes lenticular “top layer” technology that allows viewers of different heights to see different messages.  If you are below 4 feet 5 inches (the average height of a child), the ad you will see is a picture of a young boy with bruises and a message that reads “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we will help you” along with the foundation’s phone number.  Any taller than this and you will see a message that says “sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.”  This is taking social responsibility and directness to a whole new level.

The goal here is to provide a communication channel where the foundation can offer their help to abused children even if their aggressor is walking with them on the street.  Adults won’t be able to see the message, but any child walking past it will.

I think this is a brillant initiative that not only brings awareness to the foundation and child abuse, but also provides a direct message in what was originally conceived a safe channel.  That being said, I agree with most when saying that launching YouTube videos and announcing the campaign online takes away from it’s effectiveness. Now all adults, including aggressors, know what the true message of the ad says.


Inner Fashionista, Marketing for Thought

How to create a fashion following

How J.Crew became a fashion powerhouse by reinventing preppy chic and integrating all of their marketing initiatives


Recently I have been obsessed with J. Crew.  Yes, I have jumped on this bandwagon late, considering the countless fashion blogs obsessed and dedicated to J. Crew.

My obsession goes beyond the variety of chambrays, bold stripes, and playful lobster and sail boat prints. I idolize their runway preppy chic, but my current obsession stems from their CEO Mickey Drexler and President Jenna Lyons.  Within the past ten years they have created a fashion power house- a fashion following if you will- that has stepped up and reinvented “preppy,” so drastically different than the way it was when I was growing up.

Not only have the clothes taken a full 360, but so has their entire aesthetic and image.

For the past two weeks I have been researching Mickey Drexler for a leadership paper for my management class at Elon, and one thing that the President Jenna Lyons told Fast Company struck me:

“There were a lot of really talented people, but they were all doing their own thing, and it looked like it. [J. Crew] was bifurcated and fractured. It didn’t come together.”

And she was so spot on.  Researching for our ABAN marketing strategies project this semester made me realize how vital it was for a brand-especially in the fashion industry- to have a cohesive, strong, image on every platform they present themselves.  Everything needs to look in unison and on the same page.  If even one outlet is slightly different, it deters from the power of their image.

the fabulous J. Crew President and fashionista Jenna Lyons,

the fabulous J. Crew President and fashionista Jenna Lyons,

Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons revolutionized J. Crew’s clothing lines and overall fashion identity, but they also took the initiative to unite all of J. Crew’s communication channels. According to Fast Company, “Lyons believed that to create a coherent brand and drive the business forward, every piece of the creative organization–from retail to catalog to web–had to be unified”; and that is exactly what Lyons did.

Everything got a facelift- the retail stores, website, and monthly catalog.  Similar to Mickey Drexler’s  “everything is in the details” philosophy  Lyon’s pours over every detail of every cashmere and every website link.

One of the most important focuses Lyons had was uniting the website and catalog into one cohesive force.  She told Fast Company that originally their were different teams of merchandisers working on the catalog from the website- and it annoyed her that you could tell.  They didn’t have the same feel or style whatsoever.

Going on J. Crew’s website or receiving one of their catalog’s in the mail, you can tell that has changed.  Whether you are clicking through online or flipping through the pages at home, you instantly feel like you are looking through a glamourous fashion magazine.  They have their own identity  they own styling.  They use clever headings like “pops of polka dots” and professional editorial photo shoots in exotic locations.  You don’t feel like you are being sold products, but instead like they are presenting you with a new look and all of the means of achieving it.

As much as I love shopping online, I ADORE their catalog.  Despite the demise of mail promotions, J. Crew has found a brillant way to keep their monthly catalogs fresh and at the forefront of their marketing campaign with over 40 million copies distributed every year.  Renamed “J. CrewThe Style Guide,” their new catalog takes their website a step further by showing new and improved ways to pair and wear your favorite J. Crew items.  The Style Guide has even been praised by fashion bloggers including A piece of Toast.

So, why do print catalog’s still work? Because the J. Crew customer wants the availability of fashion at every outlet:

“Our twenty-something customer makes little delineation between channels.  She or he enjoys viewing our catalogue online, in her mailbox or on his phone, so we make sure our fashion is always available no matter where our customers want to view it,” Express CMO Lisa Gavales said. “That said, we haven’t seen any virtual viewing work as well as a good, old fashioned paper catalog.”

Clearly something is working- since Drexler became CEO in 2003, annual revenue has more than tripled to $2.2 billion.  



This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.

Marketing for Thought

Attracting new markets online

The explosion of social media platforms has opened doors for brands and services to reach even more diverse, specific audiences.  With the majority of social media obsessors still between the ages of 16 and 24, companies have gone new lengths to appealing to a younger demographic.  But what works, and what doesn’t work?

Coca Cola “The AHH Effect” Campaign

Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 9.40.30 PM

According to an article on Fast Company, Coca Cola recently purchased 61 domain names, all variations of “” with different numbers of h’s, in their most recent effort to attract a younger demographic.  Each webpage has interactive games, YouTube videos, and gifs that will remind teens that Coca Cola is the perfect refreshment.

The site’s content will be updated every two weeks based on hits.  If teens aren’t enjoying certain games or videos, they will be removed.  Ideas for content will also be contributed from other brands targeting the same age group including Vevo, as well as teens and young artists themselves, creating a community where people can share their “ahh experiences.”

There are no television ads for their latest campaign, but all content is designed for mobile application in “snackable” doses. “They can dip in, dip out, and move on,” Pio Schunker, senior vice president, integrated marketing communications, Coca Cola North America Group says, adding, “and if you look at the way teens consume tweets and posts and texts, that’s pretty much their behavior.”

While I agree that targeting teens through interactive social media platforms is key for reaching that demographic, I can’t see how teens, with so many different aps, social sites, and gaming sites available, will choose to go to or or to play or watch Coca Cola designed content. Why spend time on ah aps or webpages when can you search for specific content you want to watch or see directly on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter?

It is a creative length and an extremely interactive digital campaign, but at what point will people reach out to this site over their own social media obsessions? Maybe I fall too far outside their target demographic or am skeptical to games with brands plastered all over them, but what is going to make young kids choose this site over the original? It will be interesting to see what works over time.

Dodge Dart Online Car Registry

Wieden + Kennedy Portland, the same company who created the “AHH Effect” campaign above, invented an entirely new way to purchase new cars.  The Dodge Dart online registry works similar to a wedding registry, providing a platform where the potential car owner can personalize the car and then different people can sponsor parts of the car.  Using social media sites, you can pitch family and friends to sponsor parts of the car.  Users have 90 days to get the entire car sponsored.

There are currently 6,000 active accounts with over 500,000 needed parts, and only 1,330 parts have been fully funded.  While these numbers seem daunting, this market effort is not considered a failure.  According to Forbes, the marketing campaign has built a relationship with younger users who have spent the time to customize and familiarize themselves with the different parts and features of a Dart automobile.

The Chrysler Group recognized a problem: younger demographics can not afford a new car.  They are paying off college debts, trying to find a job, maybe they just graduated high school.  They are in the market for a car, but there is no way this target profile can afford a new car on their own.  This crowdfunding has given millennials the chance to petition for a new car, completely customized for their preference.

Only time will tell which campaign will be more successful and effective. What do you think?




This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.




Inner Fashionista, Marketing for Thought

Spring’s hottest look: Green Fashion

Discussing Levi’s current Water<less green campaign in class a couple weeks ago

It turns out that they aren’t the only ones trying to reduce their carbon footprint and go green.  H&M’s green clothing line H&M Conscious clothing line that launched in 2012 offers pieces made with sustainable materials such organic cotton, recycled polyester, recycled wool, recycled plastic, and organic linen.  Yet, the Conscious line holds true to the H&M name- super-cute, in-trend, high-end styles with a low price point and a quick turnover rate.  


H&M’s Conscious Exclusives Collection, Spring 2013

Their commitment to making sustainability an integral part of the fashion industry spans deeper than just their Conscious line.  CEO Karl-Johan Persson’s goal is to make it a central point of their future business model.

“Our business idea is to offer fashion and quality at the best price. Sustainability is an increasingly important part of this. I strongly believe that sustainability will more and more become a hygiene factor in our industry. Our goal is for H&M to be at the forefront of sustainability. We work hard to always strengthen our customer offering. I think that adding sustainable value to our products is one of the keys to do so.” –  Karl-Johan Persson, H&M CEO

The line recently expanded this spring, introducing a more formal look called The Spring Conscious Exclusives Collection.  These pieces became available online April 4 and several celebrities including Ashley Benson, Victoria Justice, Jessica Lowndes and Jessica Stroup hosted parties across the country to promote the new line.

Beyond the eco-friendly clothes themselves, H&M has implemented other strategies to ensure the success of this line and the betterment of the environment.

H&M Conscious also acts as a service where customers can bring in old, unwanted clothes in return for 15% off any item in the store.  Ninety-five percent of all clothes that people throw away could be used again, and H&M is making this possible while reducing landfills. For every pound of clothing donated, H&M CharityStar donates one cent to a charity in that store’s location.

Celebrity promotion and endorsements are leading the sustainability initiatives to success. Not only is the face of the brand French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, but iconic celebrities including Amanda Seyfried, Michelle Willimas, and Helen Hunt have been photographed wearing pieces from the lin on the red carpet, including the Oscars.

Going back to marketing basics, you need to give consumers what they want in order to succeed.  Maybe green marketing initiatives in the past haven’t worked because they weren’t what the consumer was looking for, or maybe it wasn’t a big enough change. Douglas L. Melville, president of Red Carpet Runway and a strategic adviser for various entertainment brands and personalities, wrote in his article “Why Green Marketing is Doomed” that people did not understand that Frito Lays’ eco-friendly bag helped save the environment and that’s why they weren’t willing to sacrifice a noisier bag for a worthy cause.   I doubt that it was their lack of understanding or awareness that turned them away from the bag.

We are led by our wants and needs, and at that point in time maybe people weren’t ready to “sacrifice” their quiet snack time for the environment. H&M’s strategic clothing collection does not only help our environment and local charities, but it provides a service that is easy and of interest to consumers today.  They aren’t just shoving a green movement in their consumer’s face- they are offering lifestyle changing products consistent with their image and a service that will help them improve the environment.


This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.

Marketing for Thought

If you can’t beat them, join them

We’ve spent a lot of time in class discussing the customer’s growing power in today’s marketplace, but what companies actually commit to change and create environments and dialogues that are more valuable to the customer?

And then I walked into one of the new Microsoft retail stores.

I was wandering through the Mall of America (for the first time), adoring the variety of stores and the enormous amusement park, when I stumbled across what I thought was an Apple store.  The storefront was completely glass.  Inside was white and clean-cut, very simplistic, with light-colored wood flooring.  Long tables with were set up in rows across the store-each a different station for trying different products.

Almost everyone has been to an Apple store or has seen an Apple store. Doesn’t this sound like one?

Well, that’s what I thought…until I glanced to my right and noticed the actual Apple store. What I described above was actually a Microsoft store.

Microsoft retail stores are sprouting up across the nation

Microsoft retail stores are sprouting up across the nation

Apple and Microsoft’s Rivalry

Almost anyone can recall the “Get a Mac” campaign, and nothing exemplifies the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft more than these commercials.

To recap, a younger man and an older man personify each computer system, a Mac and PC respectively. Each add described different characteristics, but overall describes Macs as reliable, compatible with other technology, easier to use, and “cooler.” PC’s are described as slow, older models, not compatible, less secure, and “less hip.”

As a Mac user, I completely agree with this stereotype.  In my own experience, my PC was slow, Windows had lots of defects, and I always got viruses on my computer. Meanwhile, my Mac is easy, fast, and I have never gotten a virus. It’s reliable. And I always have onsite assistance at the Apple store if i need help with software or have questions.

I know many others have had similar experiences with PCs and now prefer Macs, especially students. But how did Microsoft initially react to this campaign? Through this lame attempt-the commercial below, of course.

What Microsoft has learned from Apple

Create retail locations.

The creation of retail locations has allowed Microsoft to develop relationships with their customers.  Coming to a tangible location to ask questions and get a feel for the products is less intimidating than calling Microsoft’s customer service line or ordering offline.

“Microsoft retail stores – both brick-and-mortar locations and seasonal holiday stores – have become a vital way for the company to develop closer relationships with consumers, and conversely, to put consumers directly in touch with Microsoft technology,” said Jonathan Adashek, general manager of Communications Strategy.

They are also set up similarly to Apple stores- each are simplistic, with long wooden tables that display gadgets, a wall of accessories, and a station for tech support.

inside a Microsoft retail location

inside a Microsoft retail location, via

Place importance on customer service.

Apple’s employee training program places emphasis on one major concept: it is more important to help the customer solve their problem than push merchandise. The Wall Street Journal interviewed employee’s about their training experiences and compared their observations of the employee’s responses to therapists. The confidential training manual actually reads “Listen and limit your responses to simple reassurances that you are doing so. ‘Uh-huh,’ ‘I understand,’ etc.”

This is where Apple succeeds.  They create an atmosphere where the customer is in control.  What the customer needs, wants, and feels dominates the conversation. Employees are attentive, perceptive, and reassuring.

Not only this, but Apple provides in-store classes to learn the Mac software and a Genius bar for on-staff technology assistance.

Microsoft has taken the hint. Ryan Scott, a Microsoft store manager, describes Microsoft’s mission as customer satisfaction and service oriented.“From the second they walk in the store, whether they buy anything or not, I want them to have a world-class experience and walk out with that wow factor so when they think about Microsoft they think about incredible service, the best technology in the world, and they then want to share that with their friends and family,” he says.

Physical locations have given Microsoft the opportunity to open conversations with customers about their products and get a better feel for the brand.

How Microsoft is going above and beyond

Incentives for attending store openings.

Every store opening features a special performance from popular musicians.  Past performances have included Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Enrique Iglesias, and Black Keys.

Community giving at every store opening.

Microsoft views store openings as a way for them to connect with the community.  It allows them to introduce their products, company, brand, and store while supporting important groups in local communities.

In every community where Microsoft opens a store, they give software grants to organizations within that community. For example, at the Corte Madera store opening, Microsoft gave a $250,000 technology grant to the the Children’s Creativity Museum and the non-profit organization Girls Inc. They also gave a $1 million grant to Junior Achievement of Northern California.

New job title: community development specialist.

Microsoft created a position at every store that specializes in organizing in-store events and activities to raise awareness of causes in the community while providing opportunities to learn new technology.

Each store has theatre space.

Theatre space is provided to give space to community organizations to use for free.

Are you still a Mac user?

Microsoft employees excited and enthusiastic at the opening of a store location in the UK, via

Microsoft employees excited and enthusiastic at the opening of a store location in the UK, via

It’s clear that Microsoft  is making strides at improving their company and brand image, but many have argued that the similarities between Apple and PC stores are a huge turn-off. But who can blame Microsoft for following suit? The Wall Street Journal reported that “more people now visit Apple’s 326 stores in a single quarter than the 60 million who visited Walt Disney Co.’s four biggest theme parks last year.”

Customers demanded better customer service, more answers, more help, and easier technology. They want to be understood and heard. The retail store was the best answer.

Their first store opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2009, and currently operates 43 stores. And every store is strategically located in proximity to Apple stores. Why? To reassert them as a competitor- and a darn good one to say no too.

Not only this, but they are playing Mac’s game even better than Mac. Microsoft has not only set priority on providing the best customer service (so good that one report says that an employee offered a customer a Diet Coke while browsing the store!), but they have made it their mission to connect and help the community. Their technology grants, theatre, and in-store activities allow the communities to engage with the brand and develop new brand perceptions.

They may be copying Mac’s retail look and customer service agenda, but who’s to say they aren’t spitting better game?

This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.

Marketing for Thought

Are you representing yourself well?

As a junior undergraduate looking for summer internships, I know that I am preaching to the choir when I say that entering today’s workforce is extremely competitive. Reviewing the list of preferences and qualities that companies are looking for in interns is alone overwhelming.  Tradition lies in sending in paper resumes, personalized cover letters, etc., but how do you differentiate yourself from other candidates when your potential employer’s are reviewing hundreds of other people?

Maybe we don’t.

Example 1: #EllenNeedsErica

Erica Barstein advocating herself to be hired by The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Erica Barstein advocating herself to be hired by The Ellen DeGeneres Show

According to, it has been Erica Barstein’s dream to see The Ellen DeGeneres Show in person.  And her dream has come true: on January 16, she won tickets to see the Ellen show on February 21. Life for University Arizona senior Barstein would be even better, if her second dream comes true: working for Ellen.

As an avid fan of the show, Barstein knows what type of candidate the show would consider hiring.  They need to be bright, witty, a quick-thinker, imaginative, and have the ability to laugh at themselves. So how does she plan on differentiating herself from the hundreds of candidates that apply for the famous talk show?

Through 36 videos, one for each day since she got the tickets until she goes to the show. She has created videos showcasing why Ellen needs her, and each highlights a different theme or characteristic she has that would benefit the Ellen team.  Video topics include accomplishments, humor, diversity, and parities of other viral videos. No matter what topic of the day it is, she always brings it back to Ellen’s carefree and witty attitude.

Her YouTube channel alone has over 80,000 views (to date). On Facebook, she has over 2,000 likes, and has generated more than 50,000 views. Advocates for her have also taken to Twitter, using #ellenneedserica to increase popularity and tweet at The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Example 2: BuzzFeed Fellow

BuzzFeed, a website that captures the essence of what’s trending online through videos, images, and editorials, uses humor, sarcasm, and lists in most of their pieces.  What better way to grab the attention of employers than a list of why they should be hired?

Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 5.45.56 PM

The future of branding yourself

Are Barstein’s videos and social media campaigns or BuzzFeed’s mock post really that far-fetched for advocating for a position? Not at all.

We, in the job search journey, are faced with similar challenges that companies face when strategizing how to compete and differentiate themselves from other brands with similar products.

We are entering a period of brand parity. With the lack of available jobs, their are more applicants seeking the same jobs, many of whom possess similar qualities, experiences, and characteristics. Outside of referrals or internships, resumes and cover letters are no longer the strategies to set yourself apart from candidates who have similar qualifications.

How do we define ourselves?

We define what’s unique about us. How do companies do this? Brand equity.

Don’t believe it? See for yourself:

(Using the #EllenNeedsErica example from above, how is she setting herself apart? By building brand equity)

  1. Research and analyze what it would take to make a brand distinctive.Barstein has watched the show since the first episode aired. She knows Ellen’s skits backwards and forwards.  She recognizes Ellen’s attitudes and what differentiates Ellen from other shows. From watching the show (and other research) she knows what qualities would be most appealing to the Ellen team.
  2. Engage in continuous innovation.Barstein has made her own YouTube channel and has posted a video everyday about why she should be hired. 
  3. Move fast. She started the day after she received news that she would be an audience member of the Ellen show. Since then, she has kept to task and has made a video everyday. She recognized her window of opportunity.
  4. Integrate old and new media. She uses YouTube, Facebook, and has created a Twitter following.  She has been sought out by student publications at the University of Arizona about her project. She also uses word of mouth by getting other people involved in the making of her videos and other people spreading awareness on social media platforms. 
  5. Focus on domination. Every video and effort stems back to the original idea: she is the best candidate for the job.

Integrated Marketing Communications

Consumers are looking for brands that not only appeal to them on emotional levels, but also engage with them. Companies are looking for the same thing in their employees. Outside of #EllenNeedsErica’s direct peer engagement and encouragement, developing ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are crucial for careers in marketing, public relations, strategic communication, broadcasting, etc. Similar to a portfolio, it creates a brand foundation beyond our paper resume and cover letters. We, the job seekers, want to create a similar and cohesive message, desire, and confidence across all platforms considered by our potential employers.

So, what do companies actually think?

Maybe not all companies are onboard with innovative and non-traditional hiring tactics, but some embrace them.

Vala Afshar, chief marketing officer at the tech firm Enterasys Networks, is one of these people. During an interview with USA TODAY, he said, “The paper resume is dead. I believe the very best talent isn’t even looking for work.They’re mobile and socially connected and too busy changing the world.” He is currently looking for a senior social manager strategist based on tweets.  You can tweet at the company until April about why you deserve the job.

What can we do?

Branding yourself is more important than ever.  We are competing with so many people for the same jobs.  It is more crucial than ever to differentiate yourself, no matter what unique way that may be.

Kudos to Erica Barstein. I would have never had the courage to do what you are doing for your dream job. The best of luck to you Thursday.  We all have something to learn from you.
This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.

Demember, Alyssa. “For UA senior, making it on Ellen Show is everything”

Horovitz, Bruce. “Tweets, not resumes, are trending #icymi” USA TODAY.

“Ten Reasons Why BuzzFeed Should Hire Me As A Fellow”