Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tiger - Le Tigre

A couple of weeks ago, I started a discussion on one of my LinkedIn groups about the decisions facing the brands using Tiger Woods as their spokesman. The discussion focused on the branding implications - how Tiger's transgressions would affect each brand; whether they should drop him as a spokesman, and what affect that may have on the public's perception of their brand; and whether the "Tiger" brand is finished altogether.

While many stated their belief (mine as well) that the effects of this scandal will in all likelihood heal in time and that Tiger can bounce back, the best way to handle this issue may vary quite a bit depending on the brand. One person pointed out that Accenture, whose brand image centers around integrity, had no choice but to drop Tiger immediately. Tiger is now seen (at least at present) as a direct contradiction to their messaging. Even if people do not respond in the absolute negative to the campaign featuring Tiger, at the very least his image will serve as a distraction from the message and a cause for jokes. Neither helps Accenture sell its services.

But, what about a brand not associated with Tiger deciding to use his scandal to their advantage? While perusing Internet articles recently, I came across a piece from The Daily Finance discussing clothing company Le Tigre's new billboard referencing Tiger Woods. The ad states "Golf needs a Tiger - Let's get back on course", and advertises a deal on polo shirts that will send 20 percent of profits to a golf charity for teaching kids the game.

While some may definitely see the ad as both mean-spirited and a shameless attempt to use Tiger to promote themselves, I tend to think it will ultimately have a different affect on most people. The brand name itself obviously opens the door for some sort of association with the golfer. But, how to use that now is tricky. Le Tigre is clever in their approach. They plainly state that golf is not the same without Tiger Woods. Golf needs a "Tiger" of some kind to bring to the game what he brought to it. Next they offer a solution - a way to "get back on course" and past what has taken place. The solution is a direct association with a charity that exists to bring the game of golf to children from various backgrounds. The message being that through the purchase of these clothes each of us can contribute to a cause which inspires and positively influences young children, and may even give them an opportunity to be the next big star.

A very clever ad campaign at the perfect time in my opinion. Thoughts?

You can read the original article here:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Watching TV With Friends Pt. 2

During the same football game as the last post, another one of my friends made me aware of what was going on in a commercial that aired. It was a commercial I had seen a few times before. But, a key aspect of it completely went over my head. And, as my friend mentioned, it probably went over most people's heads - without any of us realizing it. Watch the commercial below.

I knew the man in the commercial was the golfing icon Arnold Palmer. In my mind, the two ESPN guys behind him are impressed to be behind Palmer in line watching him get his meal. But, as the brief commercial ended, my friend laughed and pointed out what was really going on.

"That's Arnold Palmer making an 'Arnold Palmer'", he said. "Hilarious!"

For those unaware (myself included) an 'Arnold Palmer' is a drink made of half-lemonade and half-iced tea. So, there's Palmer in the flesh in the ESPN cafeteria making actually making the drink that is named after him! The two ESPN employees witness this and think it's awesome. A rare sighting indeed. And, what a funny and clever thing to put in a commercial for a sports program.

ESPN is famous for its "This is SportsCenter" commercials. They are usually short, very funny, and include major stars from various sports. This particular commercial may go over the heads of many. Aside from being aware of Palmer, the viewer would also need to be aware of the particular drink named after him, and be astute enough to notice the actions taking place. Meaning, in most cases, the viewer would have to be of a certain age (among other things, perhaps) for the advertisement to really be understood and appreciated. My friend is my same age. However, he used to be employed at a nice restaurant where he made this drink many times during the brunch hours - a restaurant which, as it happens, is frequented especially by older people.

At first thought you may say that this is not a good choice for ESPN. Why make a commercial that doesn't resonate with as many people as possible? Often times this is a valid point. However, when considering ESPN's aim for these commercials, the approach taken makes much more sense.

ESPN, and SportsCenter specifically, is not out to bring in new viewers with these ads. That is not their goal. The ads don't tell people why they should watch SportsCenter, nor does it list the times that it airs. The 'This is SportsCenter' ads serve to make current and loyal ESPN viewers laugh, enjoy a clever commercial with some of their favorite sports stars, and subtly deliver a reminder of why these viewers choose ESPN. For many people, the ads are just one more thing they love about the network. Much like Superbowl commercials, these ads have sports fans talking at the water coolers after a new one has aired.

An ad like the Arnold Palmer one may fly clear over the heads of some people. But, that is okay. Because the people that do 'get it' appreciate it (and ESPN) much more after seeing it whether they realize it or not. Because of the cleverness. Because not everyone gets it. It may serve as a sort of inside joke between ESPN and those that understand what is being shown. And, what response may this bring out of a viewer? ESPN gets me. I know sports. I know sports pop culture references. ESPN knows too. And they know that I know. We are on the same level. I am getting my sports news from intelligent, yet unpretentious sports fans that know what they are talking about. Through this series of commercials, ESPN is successful in reinforcing the loyalty of their core audience by building a stronger bond with them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Watching TV With Friends Pt. 1

While watching the Monday Night Football game with some friends this week, a couple of interesting comments were made in reaction to the commercials we were seeing. I wanted to share each and talk about them a little bit. The fact that these thoughts came from everyday viewers not involved in marketing in any capacity is precisely why they are so interesting...and so important.

The first comment was made to me while watching an advertisement for BlackBerry. Watch it below, and play close attention to the ending just before the word 'BlackBerry' shows up and the logo is displayed on screen.

While watching this my friend said, "Whenever I see this commercial, I think MasterCard. Every time. Because of the logo at the end."

He had a point. While a trained eye that views this commercial several times can probably make out that the red and yellow figures are supposed to represent the letter 'B' in 'Black' and 'Berry', the company is taking a dangerous risk here in overlooking the similarity. It doesn't have to be exact. The colors that were used, and even the way they come together (or separate) on the screen are synonymous to many people with the MasterCard brand. Although BlackBerry put their name at the end of the commercial as well, there is a reason for using colors, shapes, and other things in branding. These are details that when used repeatedly can serve as symbols for the brand in people's minds. In other words, they do not have to see the brand name in writing to know what the ad is for. And, in this case they may even ignore it because the other cues are already there to guide them. However, this commercial guided my friend to a different product altogether.

MasterCard has spent years making the interlocking red and yellow circles the symbol for their brand. And, it has worked. It has worked so well that when my friend saw a commercial using two shapes with these colors he automatically thought of MasterCard, not BlackBerry. This comment represents a potentially huge problem for BlackBerry. This advertisement does not feature BlackBerry products prominently throughout, nor does it mention the capabilities of BlackBerry. It is the attitude of the campaign, the feel of what you are seeing that is meant to be relatable to the experience of owning a BlackBerry.

So, this means that all the viewer has to go on for what the ad is endorsing is what appears at the end of it. The brand name and logo is what relates the experiences in the ad to the identity of the product itself. Now, if the viewer is fooled by their well-conditioned (by MasterCard) memory into thinking that this is an ad for MasterCard, what does this do for BlackBerry? Not much at all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ad Campaigns That Feature The Workforce

One specific type of commercial that has interested me a lot lately is those that feature the company's "workforce" in the ad. Take a look at the two short commercials below to see what I mean.

Though I, myself, have been noticing it more recently with commercials like the ones above, this tactic is hardly a new one. For example, one well-known, long-running ad campaign beginning many years ago featured the Maytag repairman as the familiar face of a dependable brand. This campaign easily comes to mind, though it is not exactly the same as the ones above. What's different? Well, the major point of the Maytag ads is that the Maytag repairman doesn't have anything to do because Maytag products are so reliable. The others prominently feature the employees proudly engaged in their work.

Still, the ads offer similarities in what they communicate to the viewer. Commercials that use "employees" in their advertising are often attempting to establish an image of sincerity for the consumer. These employees are being shown as working hard to serve each customer in the best way possible. They are proud of the work that they do, and the product or service which they provide. They believe in the company which employs them. They see the value in their efforts.

The intended result is to give the viewer an added reason to believe in the brand aside from the great taste of the cereal, or the absence of baggage fees. These ads work to demonstrate honesty and integrity; a company that is truly for the people because they are of the people. The given company is the consumer, so why not trust them?

While some may very well just find these commercials as annoying as any other, the fact is that these are powerful brand messages aimed at making a real connection with people by portraying the company simply as a bunch of honest, hard working people like themselves. It is a clever strategy utilizing a subconscious desire to identify with a brand. And, it often seems to work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Are Your Salary Requirements?

This is a difficult question for many people to answer when interviewing for a job, myself included on occasion. When I was 16 years old and going out on my very first job interviews for part-time work after school, my mother always instructed me to put down the word "negotiable". It seemed to work for a while. It said that I'm not set on a particular wage and we can discuss compensation.

However, as I moved away from the word "job" in my life and more towards the word "career", I found that this answer was not always acceptable. In fact, some positions I applied for even explicitly stated that they did not want an applicant to put "negotiable", and those that did not answer this question at all would not be considered. This leaves applicants in a tight spot. Go too high and you will not be contacted for an interview; too low and you may get the job, but you could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table that you should be earning.

It is pretty clear to me that hiring managers are looking to find the applicants with the most impressive resume that are willing to take the lowest wage. However, while they think they are striking gold, this practice could wind up being bad news for them. Do they really want the kind of person that doesn't know how much they are worth? Or perhaps worse, a person who doesn't mind being undercut? What kind of output would a company likely get from this type of employee?

I (like many, many people) am actually looking to continue my career with a new company right now, so I have run into this question several times recently. I have also read a few interesting comments on LinkedIn and some other websites that cover this issue as well. Here is what I have concluded:

1. It's always best to give a salary range. Don't find that one exact number that is going to be your asking price. Give yourself room to negotiate once an offer is made. But, first give the company room to make an offer.

2. Do your homework. When applying for a position go to one of the salary websites and search for your desired position by city or zip code. Know what the going rate is. It usually appears on a bell curve. If going with a $10k range, I would go $5k below and $5k above the average.

3. Get the company involved, if possible. If the question gives room for text on the application, or if they want you to include salary requirements when you submit your cover letter and resume, write it all out there for them. This is where the self-marketing and personal branding as a professional can be worked in. State that you have researched the typical salary for this position and you found that, for example $75k-$85k was in keeping with what others in your desired position earn. Then ask them if this is what they have in mind for compensation. Doing this does several things. It lets the hiring managers know that you do your research because you care enough to do so. It also let's them know that you are open to discussion in both the range that you have given, and even open more generally if they have reasons for thinking something different as far as compensation. Invite the discussion.

4. If this question is not asked of you, no problem. Keep quiet about it. Let them make you an offer before you get involved in salary negotiations.

It is not easy to answer the question of what your salary requirements are. Job hunting is difficult all around, and this inquiry just makes it more stressful. Many companies want to see what you will accept before they make an offer. But, low balling is not good for anybody. It is self-deprecating. Plus, you usually get what you pay for and most companies realize this, so a low figure is no guarantee you will land the job. It is always best to do research before going into the interview or answer a phone call in order to be prepared.

I have not always done this. I have slipped up a few times. It is easy to let this happen especially when you are deep in the job hunt and interviewing for a lot of different positions - some of which you have probably now realized will turn into what feels like a waste of time. However, I try to use these guidelines each and every time because being prepared for each opportunity gives me practice. So, that I am definitely prepared when I get to that interview that will turn out to be the perfect opportunity for me. That means that all of these other interviews that led to nothing were not a waste of time at all. They were practice for when the real thing came along.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Of My Favorite Commercials Ever

I first saw this Argentinian Coca-Cola commercial in a class I was taking on innovation. I was so impressed, I emailed the professor and asked him to send it to me. This is without question one of the most creative ads I have ever seen. It uses every single aspect of the Coke packaging to tell viewers that Coca-Cola is for everyone. Point taken.


What did you think?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Branding: From A to Z

Going through my email updates from LinkedIn groups this morning, I found an interesting question posed by a fellow group member that led me into another thought/realization. He asked what everyone thought about the trend to truncate brands into a single letter these days.

He gave a link to an article discussing this and giving a few examples - it seemed the conversation led towards the trademarking and subsequent litigation over these letters, as there are only 26 of them. Basically, this could lead to a nightmare for any company that gets themselves involved with this. I do agree, and I commented accordingly, also pointing out that there will usually be little to no payoff from all of that effort. Unless a company has already achieved this level of recognition organically, or better put, through years of existence and successful ad campaigns, it is unlikely that simply registering a letter and then using that letter alone will garner the desired recognition. Few companies have the ability to be at the top of a consumer's mind when they see a single letter.

What interested me the most though is a little to the left of the actual topic at hand in the discussion. When I clicked on the link provided, several companies wishing to trademark the letter 'A', or 'a' appeared. One of which was well-known (and often utilized by me) online store For this company, the "A" appeared with an arrow underneath it. Most people remember this arrow from the Amazon logo, I believe.

However, I thought it strange that Amazon would be trying to register an "A" with an arrow underneath it as their trademark. The reason being that this symbol is not their logo. The arrow goes from the letter "A" to the letter "Z" in the word "Amazon" on their website. My impression of this was always that they offer everything that a consumer needs "from A to Z". So, logically taking out the rest of the word causes this branding strategy to no longer make sense. No longer do they offer everything from A to Z. They now offer "A" with an arrow underneath that "A" for some reason. My question is, if the Z is gone from the A then what is the arrow there for? What does it mean? Well, nothing, really. At the very most, it could mean that "We are Amazon...and you all remember the arrow, right?"

It seems to me that if this link is to be believed - and, I think that it can be since clicking on the image takes you to a published trademark request - then Amazon did themselves a great disservice by abandoning a subtle, but clever branding strategy in favor of the desire for letter recognition. Of course, it is possible that the arrow under their name (not their letter) no longer has to have a real meaning - because they are "that big". However, something tells me that this is not the case, and they should continue to incorporate their "slogan", albeit in a more pronounced way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ford Displaying Their Talent For Innovation

As the American auto makers try to rebuild their brands after many years of ignoring (or, perhaps miscalculating is a better word) consumer trends and creating a sub par product as compared to many foreign models, the pressure is really on. In some ways much worse than the plethora of obstacles a new company would encounter while trying to break into an industry, these companies must rebuild, re brand, and redefine their offerings to win back the mind of the customer. And, as many know, once customers lose confidence in a brand it can be all but impossible to regain.

In addition to the challenge of developing automobiles that are more reliable than in previous years and selling these claims to the public, auto makers must offer more. Their designs must be up to date with attractive new models bearing sleek designs and new features. Furthermore, it is not enough for American car makers to get up to speed with the competition. They must go beyond and show that they are once again reclaiming the top spot with cutting edge offerings. Second is not good enough. They need to build confidence in their brand.

One vital way of doing this is through innovation. It appears as though Ford is taking their responsibility seriously and may be on their way toward a revamped brand image. While watching football this past weekend, I saw an ad for the new Ford Taurus. This model offers a design that is eye-catching, and honestly like nothing I would ever expect from the Taurus model. However, the angle of this particular advertisement is what is most interesting. Ford has developed an innovation for their vehicles using sensor technology which will cause a red dot to show up in the side mirror if there is a vehicle in the driver's blind spot. The result is essentially the elimination of blind spots. The result of this: a new safety feature that will no doubt make drivers more confident behind the wheel and will potentially lead to a decrease in accidents.

I like this innovation, and I like the ad. I would say that the commercial may be better served showing a family on a road trip as opposed to a man driving alone due to the Taurus traditionally being a family car. Although, perhaps they are trying to get away from that positioning. The new design may be evidence of this. Ford's slogan at the end of the ad is "We speak car. We speak innovation". I like this too. It is appealing and is doing its job of helping to change the average consumer's perception of Ford as being out of touch and behind the times in a lot of areas. Check out the ad below, and tell me what you think.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quality Customer Service...All Too Uncommon

This morning I headed up to return an item at Best Buy, fairly certain I'd come back with a rant in my head about how Best Buy sucks and customer service is steadily going downhill in this country. I still agree with the latter, there seems to be little or no value placed on quality service at most retail establishments. However, today was one of the times I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and sincerely thank a customer service representative for being so helpful.

Some time last week I purchased a screen cleaner for my LCD television using a Best Buy gift card I had received for my birthday. Honestly, I don't do much shopping at stores anymore other than groceries. Some of this is due to convenience, some to increasingly poor customer service with businesses acting like they are doing you a favor by selling you a product. But, this is something I needed, and didn't care to wait on mail delivery for. When I opened the package, I noticed and orange insert that instructed the user to consult their TV's owner's manual first to see if this type of cleaner was acceptable. Sure enough, my manual said that it was not - I should instead simply use a soft, damp cloth.

When I went to the store today, the camera-watcher at the fron placed a sticker on my item marking it as a return and pointed me towards the customer service desk. I waited for maybe five minutes for someone returning a TV (perhaps he took a chance and used this cleaner without consulting his manual). When my turn came up, I explained the situation, and after the rep read the orange insert and looked to be sure all contents were present said the return was no problem. I gave her my receipt. She apologized for the computers working "slower than usual", and began to ring in the item.

Suddenly, a problem arose. The extra amount of the purchase (beyond what the gift card was good for) was paid for using a debit wife's debit card. I remembered that when making the purchase I had given the item and gift card to my wife, so that she could use whatever else was on there to fund her purchase of some cell phone accessory. The remining balance she paid for with her debit card. I explained. The rep told me that purchases using debit cards were refunded in cash, and since my wife was not here she didn't think she would be able to give me "her cash". Annoying, yes. But, I understood.

Then something amazing happened. The rep asked me to wait while she checked with someone else!! What we as customers expect from customer service was actually happening. Right here in front of my eyes. I waited. Another woman came over, they talked. She said it was fine, and I think may have showed her how to put it into the computer. That was it. I was given cash for the balance paid for in cash, and a gift card with the remaining balance on it. I was given no grief. No spiel about how "we normally don't do this", and how I should feel lucky that they are "helping me out". Nothing of this sort was said, nor was it presented in attitude or facial expression.

"There you go", she said.
"Great. Thanks for your help", I said.
"You're welcome. Have a great day."
"Thanks. You too."

And that is how customer service is done. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Can See The Finish Line Clearly

It feels like it has been a long time coming, but this September I will graduate with an MS-Marketing degree from the University of Cincinnati. I feel like I have been there forever, as my bachelor's degree in Business Economics is also from UC.

During the Winter and Spring quarters of 2008-09, I worked as a marketing consultant for an independent energy auditing company here in Cincinnati, Ohio. I chose this company and project as my assignment for the capstone class - the "final" course of the graduate program which is taken last in order to allow the student to encapsulate all of their previous course learnings and apply them to a real-world marketing issue. My desire to work for a client that would allow me to be fully responsible for every facet of the project (proving to the client, my professor, and myself that my acquired skills enabled me to succeed in all aspects of a project), as well as my interest in the emerging "green" movement led me to select this challenging project.

My client wished to expand their company to be a supplier of innovative, high quality, energy efficiency products. My task was to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for a solar energy based window unit. This included such things as primary and secondary research of the market and potential consumers, several go-to-market strategies, becoming noticed in a crowded marketplace (critical for any company, but of primary interest to a small company such as this), and developing a unique and sustainable branding strategy for the business.

It was a long and arduous process, but in the end I felt like I developed something of great value to my client which they could utilize as they moved forward with their business venture. Being able to honestly say that has given me even more confidence in my abilities as a marketer. I am now completely positive that I can add value to any company with which I find employment. I also received an 'A' for the project, and that helps a lot as well.

My last hurdle comes in the form of a marketing research course, which I have turned into an independent study over the Summer quarter in order to be finished by the Fall. Based partly on my extensive work background in marketing research, the professor who teaches the course in the Fall has agreed to work with me to complete the course early, and I am very grateful. As I am now in the market for a new job, I believe it is better to have the master's degree completed, rather than working on it. Being enrolled, I feel, may give an employer the impression that I am merely a student instead of a marketing professional. I want to present myself as someone who is ready to take on the challenges facing him in the workplace, and because of this I want to be finished with my degree as soon as possible.

The course is going very well so far. Upon reading all of the material, completing assignments, and discussing research with my professor, I am appreciating the chance to sharpen my current research skills and to develop new skills and techniques as well. Ultimately, I will come out the other side even more prepared for my career, be it in research or in some other area of marketing. I still have an interest in market research, and if I do not end up going back to it at a different company, I will undoubtedly use these skills to do client-side research for the company where I end up.

I now have only about six weeks left to go, and I can see the finish line clearly. I feel very proud of what I have accomplished in the last two years in this marketing program, and I cannot wait to apply all that I have learned in order to make my next employer as successful as possible.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Value of a Good Tagline

As I continue with the development of promotional strategies for my client’s product, I am constantly thinking and rethinking certain taglines/key words to use repeatedly or, at least prominently in any promotional materials, social media interaction, website copy, etc. This is important because as marketers we want to make sure that the proper points are established and communicated clearly to consumers at all points of contact. Doing this ensures that people are receiving a consistent message, and are remembering the key information we feel necessary to result in top-of-mind awareness, differentiation, and ultimately product/service purchases, repeat business, and referrals.
After our last class meeting where one of my colleagues made it a point to discuss taglines in some detail, I went back to my materials to make sure I was following the correct steps to establish these, and using all of my available research. My colleague’s main point was that taglines are not just made up out of thin air. They are not just something that a marketer comes up with suddenly and decides to apply to their product because ‘it’s funny’ or ‘it sounds good’. Well, maybe sometimes that is what happens. However, those are the phrases and taglines that do not catch on with consumers in most cases. They do not invoke the necessary feeling, emotions, or memorable, relevant information to make people want to spend their money with one business versus a competitor. A successful tagline, as he mentioned, is one that is backed by sound research and invokes the needs and desires of the consumers it is being presented to.
For marketers to be successful at creating a useful tagline, they first must determine the needs of their customer. What is it that the customer must gain from using this product? What are the benefits? What benefits does this product have that differentiate it from the competition? After determining the product or service benefits, a marketer must determine what the desires of the customer are. What are they looking for in a product of this type? What do they hope to gain? Often times, these are similar if not the same as the benefits. However, sometimes they may be slightly different. The goal is to appeal to the customer’s needs through the benefits that the product is able to provide. A lot of this can come from market research. Conducting a research survey among consumers can reveal a lot about the needs and desires of the product user.
After the research is done, and the needs of the market are clearly identified, a tagline that reflects this information may be created.
A key factor in creating many successful taglines is the use of emotional and sensory appeals. For example, in my capstone I used the information provided from my quantitative research, combined with my secondary research on the market, and knowledge of how people would need to relate to my product to come up with several taglines. These taglines explained the product benefits in a way that awakened the senses and appealed to the basic needs of a family when making improvements to their home. One possible tagline is “comfort you can feel, savings you can see”. This tagline reflects two important benefits to the consumer. One is an increase in comfort level in the home through the more controlled temperature that the product provides. The second is the savings the customer will get on their energy bill. Both were then tied together with the senses to make it more real for the customer. The homeowner will be able to feel the difference in comfort in their home – their body will be warmer. They will also be able to see the savings when they compare their energy bills before and after installation of the product. These very basic tools in practice when producing marketing materials can make a large difference in how memorable a company, its products, and its advertising is to their customers. The right tagline can be the difference between a successful and memorable brand, and a forgettable one lacking an image and direction.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Getting the Job Done Independently

Working independently with little supervision is something I am finding to be a valuable and often required skill as I continue with both my capstone project and job search. It seems that most of the jobs I see posted on different online forums require an applicant to be able to work effectively with little supervision or management of any kind. Employers are basically saying they want someone that knows or can quickly learn their job, and then contribute to the company in a significant way. They would like a person who can complete their work, and to have other skills to offer as well. A person who shows initiative in the workplace by adding additional value where they can. An analytical person who can define and solve problems quickly. A person who does not need to be coached on what to do all of the time. This is someone that growth-oriented companies want to have on their team.
I find that as a marketing professional, serving this need could not be more important. Many people in a business do not fully understand what marketing is and how it does what it does to establish their company image with the public, drive sales, and a host of other things. Because this understanding is not always there, it is up to the marketer alone to determine what their role will be, what the marketing needs of the company are, and how they can add the appropriate value to achieve company goals. Throughout my capstone, I have found myself working independently on the marketing process. In the beginning, I assumed that I would have much more contact with my client than I have had since the project began. I figured I would be bouncing ideas off of him, have him respond favorably or not, and then I would have a clearer picture of what his business vision was as I continued on. It has not worked out that way at all.
My client is very smart at what he does. However, he is neither a business man, nor a marketer and does not pretend to be either one (although, in my view there is something to be said about the relationships he has developed within his industry to get so many referrals). He really values my presence, but perhaps a little too much. He calls me his marketing expert and it seems that he expects me to just show him what to do when it comes to marketing. I have received very little direction from him. On top of this, the energy auditing business he is currently running is keeping him extremely busy as of late, making it hard to reach him, or keep a scheduled meeting. Because of this, I have had to step up and be what he wants and what he needs me to be. I decided to embrace this as much as I can, and treat it as an opportunity to be the marketer I will have to establish myself as in the work place. I have done a lot of independent work, and have taken the initiative to come with ideas, and even change them as trends and opportunities change, or as new information reveals the need to make a change for the better in some aspect of the plan. I am showing initiative, creating value, and really displaying my worth as a marketer with analytical and problem solving skills.
As a result, my confidence is being boosted, and I am finding ways to delve deeper into the industry my client is a part of rather than relying on him to take me there and teach me. This is my job as a marketing professional, not my client’s. I was hired on to provide value where my client can not. Otherwise, I would not be useful to his business. I now realize that the absence of micro-management is the greatest thing that could happen to a marketer, and ultimately means more opportunity for me to shine. I am confident that by the end of this quarter I will have presented a plan worthy of his use; a plan that will be invaluable to him as he continues his business in this new area of product supplier. I can truly say that I have pushed myself (and been pushed) to really come alive as a marketer during this capstone experience, and am developing the necessary dexterity to be effective in the workforce.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Building Credibilty in the Marketplace, When You Are Unknown

I recently wrote this article for my MS-Marketing Capstone class. For this class I am working with a small green energy company in Cincinnati, OH to develop and implement a strategic marketing plan to help build awareness and grow their business. We share our experiences in class in order to help each other as much as possible. Everyone has their own project, so their is no competition. Often times our experiences can be applied to situations our classmates are also dealing with. The article is reprinted below because I felt that someone else may find value in it.

One of the issues which I have been dealing with since beginning this project (and will continue with until the end) is how to build credibility as a business when you are a completely new and unknown company. This is not an easy thing. When competing companies are more established and well-known, have a history with the public, and are often trusted more by consumers for this reason it can be very hard to get noticed in the marketplace. Even more difficult than getting noticed is persuading trials of your product or service afterwards.
I see a lot of parallels between this issue of promoting a new company, and an individual with limited experience, say a recent college graduate, promoting themselves when trying to obtain a good job. Other candidates that have graduated years before - perhaps with the same degree - may have quite a bit more experience, and are more likely to catch an employer’s attention. When marketing oneself, it is always helpful to differentiate oneself in some way in order to stand out from the crowd, and hopefully get noticed. Aside from the usual tactics of clever follow-ups and resumes that speak to specific qualities that a candidate knows they can play up and elaborate on in interviews, new media seems to be a good way to stand out in the pool of talent which employers are choosing from. A professional web page, such as a compelling blog about yourself, your interests, qualifications and expertise, or an impressive profile on will offer a lot towards informing an employer about who you are, and how you may add value to their company. On LinkedIn, for example, having many professional connections recommend past work with them (professional or school related) will speak very highly of an individual. These are references which an employer can read without having to have a conversation with only one or two people which may not be as informative (or, perhaps they don’t have the time). Also, this usually takes place before the interview, whereas references are called upon after the fact. Being a member of several professional groups (which they too may be a member of), or having several connections in common may get you noticed and/or introduced to that person whom you want to take notice.
With a new business, the goal is the same as are many of the steps. Traditional marketing techniques are good. However, a small company with little money may find themselves remaining in the same ocean with millions of other fish, only this time their pockets are lighter, and they still have not achieved the desired results. The internet has had a tremendous influence on business, especially for the little guy. Technology has help to level the playing field for everyone whether new or old, big or small, known or unknown. What’s more, companies with young talent – those exhibiting a new and fresh way of looking at things, and who use technology to their advantage instead of shying away from it have a good chance at finding success. New companies that choose to utilize the internet to its fullest potential can see of a world of opportunity opened up to them, and often at little expense.
Right now, I am working with my client on developing a new website for their products. We will use search engine optimization (SEO) tools to ensure that we can be found on a search engine such as Google the same as any large conglomerate. Next, we will continue using the internet to establish ourselves. Social networking sites are amazing at getting the word out on any new product or service, and may also help to iron any kinks out more quickly. Allowing people to follow you and your company, offer feedback, and interact more closely brings people into your world, and gives your business the human touch which so many companies wish they had with their customers. Blogging on your products or on the latest developments in your field also enables interaction with potential customers and allows one to share their expertise and gain credibility in the market. For a young company, perhaps the best part about using social media in a marketing strategy is that so many others do not think of it, or do not think of it as necessary. This seems to be the case with many established companies because they either do not want to change with the times, or they just do not have the young talent to help them understand the value that this type of marketing can have when included in the strategic marketing plan for the company. Either way, the opportunity is there for any company willing to take advantage, and right now the door is wide open for the underdogs – small businesses and new start-ups.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Green Tech and Energy Efficiency

For one of my final classes in the MS-Marketing program at the University of Cincinnati, I am working as a consultant for a local company on one of their projects. This company is a small consulting business in the energy efficiency and upgrades industry. In the last couple of years, I have taken an interest in ways to become more energy efficient myself, and reading up on the field to better understand opportunities in this growing business. So, when we were able to choose which company we would like to partner with from those that wrote up a proposal, I knew that this was my chance to get some real experience in this field while demonstrating my marketing talents to add value to their business.

While I am unable to disclose the particulars of what it is that I am working on, I will say that it is a product that serves as an energy efficient upgrade to a residential or commercial property. My job is to partner with the company's owner to develop a sound marketing plan for this product. The goal being to bring it to market with the correct structure to make it a success and establish a point of sustained differentiation in which the company may build on.

This industry of "green" technology, clean renewable resources, and energy efficiency is one in which I see great potential for me in the near future. If the government gets on track with new programs offering tax incentives, encouraging innovation, and working to bring the best products to market at scale, the opportunity to marketing professionals is immense. I want to be a part of these energy initiatives from a marketing standpoint and use the skills I have acquired in my field to contribute positively to an organization aiming to bring these products and ideas to consumers. This project should give me not only some valuable experience in this field, but will also undoubtedly aid me in making connections to use in the future.

If you are currently involved in this industry in any capacity, or have an interest as I do, please contact me. I would be interested to talk with you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Professional Update

It's been a while since any new post from me here. Mainly because I put to gether this blog for a class I was taking, and well, the class is over. I figured why not give an update on what I've been up to though.

I'm still at the University of Cincinnati working on an MS-Marketing degree which I should have complete by the end of the year. Professionally, I have been working in my company's marketing department, with the title of marketing coordinator. I filled in for the marketing director while she was on leave, and now I serve as her assisitant of sorts, learning new techniques and aspects of marketing as I go. Among other things, some of my responsibilities include researching and contacting potential new clients, and updating and maintaining marketing materials used in advertising and generating client interest. A big part of my job is offering support to our sales force; making sure that they have all of the tools and information they need to effectively communicate our company's message to existing and potential clients. I feel that I am gaining a lot of valuable experience right now and learning a lot of new things in my graduate classes. I should be well prepared to take on a position where I can offer significant value to a company when I graduate.