Monday, April 29, 2013

CMO's Jump-In Tips on Going Digital with your Luxury Brand

As a CMO selling luxury products, social media can be a great way to reach your target audience in ways that are impossible using other marketing media. As an undergraduate in Northwestern’s Medill IMC program, I have been examining the luxury brand space in the digital world, and have found several articles that address the successful social marketing of luxury goods.

Jumping into the digital world as a luxury brand can seem daunting. Perhaps even downright scary. It is undeniable that going digital is—and will continue to be—vital to the long-term health of your brand. However, in a world so consumed by easy access and instant gratification, how is it possible to maintain your brand’s integrity?

Developing and controlling the perception of your brand should be your primary goal. According to Domenico De Sole, the chairman of Tom Ford International, it is essential to establish well-articulated branding information (mission, values, DNA) first. Making sure everyone involved with your brand, especially those on the ‘front lines' (phones, Twitter, etc), is well-versed in this information is just as important. Ford’s success even through the 2008 financial crisis proves that customers will support uncompromising decisions, so long as they are representative of the brand’s values. For at the end of the day, “quality will be remembered long after price is forgotten,” says De Sole.

So you’ve established branding information. It is now time to begin the journey towards translating your brand DNA online. If used correctly, social media will more fully integrate your brand with your consumer—an often-overlooked relationship that is especially important for luxury brands. 62% of affluent adults prefer to purchase online according to a recent report from the Shullman Research Center, proving that luxury marketers really should make their online presence a priority. Setting up an experiential website and Facebook page is easy—deciding how you’re going to interact with consumers on an hourly basis using social media sites such as Twitter is much more difficult. 

Luckily you have options. Take a look at Chanel and Bergdorf Goodman for two polar opposite approaches to luxury tweeting. Chanel follows no one, and engages with no one - maintaining the aura of exclusivity from the iconic brand. Bergdorfs, on the other hand, follows over 1,000 others, uses winky faces incessantly, and has established its own hashtag: #getscattered (Cute, yes. Luxury, perhaps not). Although it can be risky to compare a brand with a retailer, since both  coexist in the luxury space, these two examples will show you just how many different options you have as a brand operating in social media. Above all, do not forget about those brand values you’ve already established—keep them consistent as you interact with consumers, otherwise your message will get lost and you risk losing potentially lifelong customers.

From my review of these two articles and work in the Medill IMC Program at Northwestern, here are three action items I recommend you implement immediately:  

1.     Maintain your brand’s integrity. No compromises!
Moving into the digital space will have huge payoffs for your brand. However, compromising your brand's integrity in the process will greatly diminish that success - and could prove fatal for your brand.

2.     Step into the customer’s shoes, and judge your brand by its weakest points.

According to Jason Cohen, executive vice president of creative at The O Group, it is invaluable to “step back and judge your brand the way the luxury consumer will—by its weakest point of execution.” Luxury consumers will expect a lot of you as a brand, so why not push yourself to meet those expectations?

3.     Take a risk, even if no one else is.
Luxury brands are starting to hold back—afraid to jump in!—rather than taking a risk and gaining the potential payoffs. Those who do take risks thus have the potential to gain even more, simply because other brands are content to sit back and plan before making a more calculated decision. 
For an example of a risk well-taken, check out Jimmy Choo's 2010 "Catch a Choo" campaign - which reinforced for both existing and aspirational customers that "its product is to be coveted."

In the luxury world, we have the tendency to strive for perfection in every aspect of business. After all, luxury is aspirational and thus demands perfection—right?  Wrong…in a way. Accept that the digital space will be another area for you to succeed or fail, set up all the tools necessary for success and a safety net just in case, and then take the plunge. 

Allie Gullquist is a senior at Northwestern University in the Medill Integrated Marketing and Communications Certificate Program. She plans to begin work in L’Oréal’s Luxe Division in New York City this August (brand to be determined!). Follow her on Twitter: @alliegully.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

TFA Inspiring Early Childhood Education

   As a Northwestern student, majoring in Communications and the Integrated Marketing Certificate program, who is preparing to graduate and immediately begin training with Teach For America to teach kindergarten in the fall, I can’t help but wonder about what lies ahead as I begin this journey. Many may be skeptical about TFA Corps members- Are they capable teachers? Do they really help change the trajectory of education for students in America? Do they continue to pursue education past their commitment with the corps? And most importantly, would I want a TFA Corps member educating my child? What I’m glad to report that I have found is that majority of TFA Corps members do continue working in education past their 2-year commitment to the corps. Moreover, TFA alumni create their own programs and education initiatives after the corps. “Finding Our Listening Ears” by Kelly Powers and Jesse Illhardt illustrates how corps members use what they learned during their time in the classroom to create their own educational programs. “Would You Want Your Child Taught By A Teach For America Teacher?” by Heather Harding gives an account of a mother who comes face-to-face with this question when her son is placed in a preschool with a TFA alum. Both of these articles focus on early childhood education, as that is my placement with TFA.

      Teach For America is an eye-opening experience that inspires Corps members to continue to strive for excellence in the education system long after their time in the corps. Powers and Illhardt (now both TFA alumni) illustrate that TFA sparks great leaders who create innovative programs for education during and after their time in the corps.  Powers and Illhardt’s blog explains how Early Childhood Education (ECE) is an extremely important and critical time for a child’s learning and development, and all children should have a quality pre-school education. “The term ‘early childhood education’ recently flooded American homes as news broadcasters recapped President Obama’s second inaugural address. Weeks after the fanfare has subsided, our country is left with an immense challenge: how can we provide our neediest children and families the high-quality educational start they need?” write Powers and Illhardt. The two TFA alumni believe that education reform is possible, and can start in your own community. These former Corps members saw a problem and realized a solution, and thus started a unique and effective early childhood education center in Chicago for children birth to 5. (The program is called VOCE- Viewing Our Children as Emerging Leaders). Powers and Illhardt explain how hard it was to initially get the community excited about this new learning center. Eventually though, two dozen families were eager to participate and be involved in their young child’s education; putting them on the best track now so that they would have more opportunities in the future.
      As mentioned, Powers and Illhardt explained how difficult it initially was to get parents excited about enrolling their child into this new program created by TFA alumni. In Heather Harding’s blog “Would You Want Your Child Taught By A Teach For America Teacher?” she speaks directly to the skepticism of a TFA program and its educators. Harding explains her own connection to TFA and how her skepticism about her son’s TFA teacher brought her values and convictions about education to the forefront. As she re-evaluated what she wanted in an educator for her child, Harding found that the answer revealed itself in the way Ms. Laura (her child’s teacher) worked with her son. Ms. Laura’s passion, enthusiasm, and skill proved to Harding that TFA teachers make a positive impact on the institution of education.
      While every Corps member will have a vastly different experience, and while parents and students will also have different experiences with Corps members, it is important as always to keep an open mind. Prejudices will arise and questions will be asked, but hopefully constant re-evaluation will only make TFA Corps members better teachers. For TFA Corps members, I would recommend embracing and learning from criticisms and questions about what it means to be a Corps member. For governmental institutions and schools, I would recommend keeping an open mind when presented with the opportunity to work with Corps members. And for parents, I would recommend fostering open communication with your child’s educator. While not at all an easy task, if we all work together, we can close the achievement gap in America.

Julia Bareiss is a senior at Northwestern University majoring in Communication Studies. She plans to begin work with TFA starting in June 2013 and will be placed in Milwaukee teaching early childhood education. Follow her on Twitter: @juliagulia13 and on her blog Life Of Jules at

RSVP, in english please. (1/5 - Things to Remember for a National Ad Campaign )

While the title is catchy, it really doesn't speak directly to your targeted reader.  I would recommend you re-do the title to something shorter and more pointed to your reader.  Maybe something like "Not Deeply Understanding your Target Markets = Risks and Failures"  Or something like that.

Now, remember we are speaking with a very sophisticated but time compressed audience.  So we need to immediately get their attention and quickly move to your studies.  Therefore, your opening paragraph should be  2 short sentences focused on engaging the target reader and then establishing your expertise on the topic.  I would recommend starting with something like:

While agencies "preach" target markets, the explosion of social, mobile, and web touchpoints makes it imperative to really understand who they are and where they go to get information.  As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC marketing program and an executive with XXXX agency, I have been researching some of the perils of marketing in today's more complex marketplace and have found two articles which offer guidance and directions agency managers need to know.

Now, don't start with step 1 but start with the research.  I would start by discussing the Year of Mobile.  Cite the author and have another link to their site.  Tell the reader about the article in a single paragraph to highlight the key findings from the article.  Keep it short.  Avoid personal stories but keep your analysis of the article in a natural voice...which you are using very well in this document.

PS, one other thing.  It looks like this is a typewriter font.  I would change it to something which looks more modern like Ariel or another newer font.

Step #1 - Know your audience, determine the media, speak their language and they'll respond.

The various media outlets we have at our disposal today allow marketers extraordinaire to e-eavesdrop on our customers.  Finding out where your customers "are", what they're talking about and how they like to communicate are the keys to getting the RSVP you're looking for.
You really don't need the RSVP theme.  Start with the first article.  It looks interesting Don't you hate it when you send out 50 invitations, 5 people respond and 55 people show up? Me too.

Before you lick the stamps and mail the letters figure out who your customers are and THEN invite them to the party.  I manage several national ad campaigns during daylight hours and find it so easy to jump to " The Year of Mobile " when a client asks how they can expand their reach.  I've seen presentations from partners on geo-fencing and call transcription services and these are natural ideas to jump to.  Everyone wants to be invited to the party, right?

Perhaps a mobile campaign IS the right way to go.  Companies like xAd offer both search and banner options that may fit your clients' audience and there are many reasons for a "why wouldn't you do it?" argument...but...getting back to the RSVP...where are your clients? what are they talking about? and, how are you going to get their attention?
While personal stories are interesting, either make this your second article or drop it.  It makes the blog too long and more difficult to read. I was recently involved with a client who conducted a trial with CityGrid for several months.  Previous to this test they believed that their B2B model wasn't a match with advertising on an interactive network, but much to their surprise, it is now their top converting platform with conversion rates in double-digit excess of their other efforts.  Why?  Well, it turns out that people who are faithful CityGrid users (, etc.) are the same customers our client is looking for.  They like food, they like eating and apparently they like reading advertisements while they're at it.

It isn't a novel concept, I know.  But I'm a bit of a traditionalist (and, yes, I keep Emily Post on hand).  Once you find your guests and pick out the best invitation, attract them with a message that sounds like them (skip the photos of your dinner/cocktail/dessert please).  They want to know about how awesome the party is going to be, and how going to the party will do so much for their social status.

Cutting-edge technologies and new media platforms can drive insane results...or, they can fail to provide any calls, clicks, emails, "likes", pokes or tweets because your customers aren't there [yet].  Stay tuned for steps 2/5 of Things to Remember for a National Ad Campaign...and remember, know your audience, determine the media, speak their language and they'll respond.
This should be your second article.  Structure the blog to have the first article, the graphic, and then the second article assessment.  Tell the executive what you want him/her to understand from the article.  If you like it, they will like to know what you found. This post was written by Christina Kellman - Interactive Strategy

After the 2 sentence intro, the second paragraph on article one, the graphic, the third paragraph on article two, now you are ready for the action items.

Start with something like "From these two articles and my studies at Northwestern, here are three action items I recommend you initiate.

THEN, give them 3 bullet points.  They most be short [2-3 words] and really memorable.  Draw them from the two articles.  After each bullet point, you can put a dash and then a single sentence of explanation.  No more than that.

THEN, give us a great, short summary paragraph.  1-2 sentences.  Encourage the reader to act on the three action items and tell them the benefit.

Then you have your personal paragraph.   Try this format and, when you are happy, publish it and let's get testing.

Christina Kellman is an Interactive Media Manager in Orange County, CA. In addition to her active role with the agency, she is in the midst of obtaining her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Want to Follow her on Twitter?

How Corporations Can Avoid Twitter Failures

Disaster strikes corporate Twitter accounts regularly. You’ve all heard the horror stories.  The failures range from major fails like a KitchenAid tweeter sharing an inappropriate comment about President Obama on KitchenAid’s handle instead of her own to more modest issues like a business pushing one-way self-promoting content instead of truly engaging.

The good thing is that you can do things to avoid an episode like one from the “7 Worst Tweets of 2012.” By putting a few social media guardrails in place and heeding some of the advice found in “9 Twitter mistakes to avoid,” you can keep your account on course and avoid failures.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
Here are a few things you can do to make your corporate Twitter account fresh AND reduce risks for your organization.

1. Ditch the Jargon – people come on Twitter to find information that’s useful to them and engage with others, not to listen to a bunch of internal corporate speak. Speak in your audience’s language, talk about what’s important to them, use fun themes and keep it simple.

2. Listen While You Work – listening on social media is a great way for you to glean consumer insights.  It’s also important to stay informed about what’s going on to decide what’s appropriate to tweet. This will help you avoid a situation like when the American Rifleman tweeted an upbeat post addressing “shooters” the day of the Aurora, Colo. shootings.  Listen and think before you tweet (and be weary of scheduling tweets too far in advance in case there is a major event that is out of synch with what you plan to tweet).

3. Know Your Limits – many Twitter horror stories come when employees inadvertently tweet something from a corporate account instead of their own personal account or they post something on their own account that reflects poorly upon the brand. It’s important for companies to set boundaries on the business Twitter account, limit the number of employees that have access to it and put a solid social media policy in place that applies to everyone at the company.

From miniscule to monstrous, corporate Twitter failures are reality.  What else has helped you avoid Twitter failure? 

Kristen Lease is a Senior Communications Specialist at GE Capital Fleet Services where she is responsible for employee communications and social media. She is also pursuing her master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Follow her at @klease08

Survivor TV: Social Media Makes Marginal TV Programming a Hit

There is a lot of talk these days about how no one watches television anymore.  As we know, the almighty advertising dollar, like it or not, drives most of the content decisions on television.  If the audience goes away, so does the advertising revenue, and ultimately, so does the content. 

Rumors of the death of television are greatly exaggerated
In the Mashable article “TV Advertising Still Dominant,Still Growing,” author Lauren Indvik discusses the projected trends in advertising spend, as reported by, showing television as dominant, and more importantly, continuing to dominate, the ad spending landscape through 2017.  While the gap in television versus digital spend is closing, television will remain the big kahuna.

Multitasking:  the new normal
Meanwhile, social media habits clearly influence how consumers use television content, but not necessarily all content.  Advertising Age’s Simon Dimenco and Senior VP/Director of Digital Strategy at Hill Holliday, Mike Proulx, discuss social-TV analytics in a recent Q&A article, and the so-called “Twitter TV Rating,” on tap for a fall, 2013 rollout from Nielsen, after the merger with SocialGuide.  The acquisitions of SocialGuide by Nielsen, and Bluefin Labs by Twitter, imply that measurement metrics convergence is imminent.  Is there a correlation between ratings and social media chatter?  For now, the jury is out.      

“Twitter TV ratings?”
While the MTV Awards and VMA’s generate a ton of social media buzz, other events, such as the tribute to Whitney Houston at the last Grammy Awards, not so much.  A respectful social media community, perhaps?   In these cases, social media buzz was inversely related to the TV rating.  One theory:  you can stay current on the VMA’s, for example, without actually watching the telecast.  The corollary:  for other genres, like drama programs, well, you just need to be there. Plus, the sense of urgency tends to wane when time-shifted programs are viewed.

The related complexity that arises here is the disposition of the consumer.  For example, some are social media introverts and for others, it’s just too much work.  As Proulx astutely points out, “The mass audience still uses TV as a means to veg, as a means to unwind.  And if that’s the case, do they want to be, for all intents and purposes, working when they’re watching television?”

So, as they say in the TV biz, stay tuned.  With the healthy prognosis for television ad spend, there will be a lot more to come in this quest for quantifiable and actionable TV+social media measurement.

About Susan McLeod  
Susan McLeod is President of media management firm Conroy Media, Ltd. in Willowbrook, Illinois ( and is a masters candidate at Medill/Northwestern University's online IMC program.  Follow her on Twitter at @SusanMcLeod.

Want a Better World? Talk to Your Neighbor.
MC Dinner, Washington and Lee University

It’s a small world, made even more compact by planes, trains and social media.  

CNN, Facebook and Twitter have changed the world view of people in every country and, as individuals, it is vital we acknowledge this new world view.  As CEO of an international exchange organization, I came across two articles that hit home as they articulated the importance and benefits from developing a commitment to a cause of importance to you and the world.

From the Beatles, “Ticket to Ride” to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”, there are numerous anthems to travel.  Americans love to travel as evidenced by the fact that one third of Americans have passports and more than six million live abroad. The most common answer I hear to the question why people travel is that they want to experience the difference… to see other cultures.

Americans, however, often lack in a global view of the world and overall awareness of current affairs and what is happening beyond our borders.  We experience acculturation with members of our families that immigrated and we readily celebrate and adapt their traditions as our own. I am sure we all relate to returning from our travels with the token mementos of the places we visited, or mouth watering recipes that we incorporate into culinary favorites.  That same interest in experiential learning, of immersing ourselves in another culture, seems to fade once we are settled back into our daily lives. - Cari E. Guittard Turn on the World News 
Do you know your neighbor?  With more than 40,000,000 internationals living in the U.S., not only is it as simple as turning on the World News to understand what is going on, it’s as easy as taking advantage of the opportunities in our own backyards.  Knowing your “neighbors”, the same ones that have lent their global talents to our economy, not only builds trust and safer communities as described by Philip Seib, but lends itself to once again embracing the differences and developing a network of diverse and culturally rich friendships.

There are endless opportunities and available resources, as close as our backyards, to learn more about the cultures of our neighbors and neighboring countries.  As stated in the articles and from my own experience;  

Commit by connecting:

1.       Engage with a smile and say hello.

2.       Ask questions and listen to your their insights.

3.       Immerse yourself in new cultures via world news and knowing your neighbors.

From our small corners of the world, embracing the concept of effective engagement on a global level can seem daunting, however, the steps are manageable and the results are rewarding.

Victoria Lynden.  I am the CEO and Founder of Alliance Abroad Group, an international exchange company based in Austin, TX.  I am dedicated to developing programs and services for people who would bring positive change in their communities in the United States and abroad.   I am a graduate student in Northwestern University's IMC program.  For questions or comments, I’m on twitter @VictoriaLynden.


Balancing Act: Editorial vs. UGC in Travel Media

Have a passport and Internet access? You’re well on your way to a career in travel journalism. At least, such is the promise of the digital age. Once the professional turf of a handful of hospitality experts and sociopolitical commentators, today the proliferation of free blogging and desktop publishing tools have transformed the travel writing trade (and all journalism, for that matter) into an egalitarian industry. Wordpress. Tumblr. Blogger. Even Twitter. With these content management programs and more, it’s easy—and free—for just about everyone with a camera and a sense of place to offer up their own travel-related musings to the vacation-planning set.

The Bottom Line

Mainstream publishers, too, have seen the bottom-line impact that fostering such user-generated content (UGC) can have on their brands, many of which still struggle to monetize digital content. In a time when consumers have come to demand free digital content, and media outlets have yet to develop a widely accepted pay-wall strategy for premium content, it stands to reason that any publisher encouraging UGC within the walled garden of its own domain would benefit from this flood of free content.

But are we losing something in the process? Can we really trust hotel, restaurant, and destination reviews from such a deep and rising well of unknown authors—particularly when shilling on behalf of marketers has become so commonplace across review sites such as Yelp? According to an American Express survey of U.S. households, most families spend between 5 to 7 percent of their total household income each year on vacations. Additionally, the U.S. Travel Association reports that the global travel industry accounts for more than $568 billion in direct spending each year, a figure based solely on leisure travel. With so much at stake, can we really afford to trust the tidal wave of unverified travel information circulating online today?


Digital marketing firm RankPop published a recent piece on its blog entitled User Generated vs. Editorial Content—Who Wins?, which takes an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of both UGC and editorial content across verticals and topics, calling it an “epic battle” and asking “who will stand victorious when the dust has settled?” It’s a question that I, and many of the travel and lifestyle writers and publishers I know, certainly share. The blog continues:
In one corner we have User Generated Content and in the opposite corner we have Editorial Content. Both are fighters in their prime with many positive things going for them; UGC has speed and variety on its side, but Editorial Content has the weight of experience and expertise.
It’s a succinct summation of the key benefits of each method. UGC offers fresh, free-flowing content, and it can also be a great barometer of social preferences. But what it delivers in volume, it lacks in accuracy and quality control. Editorial, on the other hand, is traditionally a more validated source of information—though admittedly, that’s arguable in today’s misinformation age, when even venerable outlets like CNN regularly fire off unverified Tweets just to break news. In the realm of travel journalism, at least, such risks of unchecked content are somewhat quashed, as most travel content is assigned in advance, researched, and not beholden to the news cycle.

Explore the Debate: 12 Best Practices for Content Marketing


The tug-of-war between editorial and UGC is far from over. And in truth, both types of content offer a range of benefits to digital publishers. So perhaps the question isn’t which one is more beneficial to adopt—but instead, how best to manage the volume of content pouring in from both sources? Amid the debate, the current landscape of travel writing and publishing begs for the growth of one key position: the travel curator. A few digital outlets have begun to create such roles, while others are struggling to define just what that means for their brands. But however the position shakes out for each publisher, it isn’t hard to imagine the benefits of employing reputable content curators from serious editorial backgrounds who are equally comfortable contributing original content or hand-selecting UGC for prominent site features. So keep those passports current, and go ahead and splurge for the WiFi on your next vacation. You just may be writing the next great travel feature after all.

Do you agree? Leave a comment and let me know what you think about the future of travel publishing.

Reagan Johnson is a digital media professional with 10 years experience in travel journalism and content strategy, and is currently a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School studying Integrated Marketing Communications. Follow her on @byreaganjohnson.

Image courtesy 123rf

It Doesn’t Happen By Clicking Your Ruby Slippers

Have you spent any time lately on building awareness of all the great work you do?  (I can actually hear the crickets.) Hmmm...that’s what I thought.  

While so many of us are good at working hard (my closest colleagues are some of the biggest martyrs I know), we often fall short when it comes to working smart—especially when it comes to promoting our own brand.  Professional recognition, from business awards to executive profiles to placements on corporate or community boards, is a great way to increase your personal visibility and brand awareness.

Tell Your Story
The most recognized leaders of our time all have one thing in common:  they passionately believe in their work.  They communicate it.  They tell and promote their story.  And, the next day, they get up and do it all over again.  Whether you are a corporate exec or entrepreneur, make sure you learn how to tell your story really well.  Practice it on family and friends to start.  Say it to the mirror in the morning.  Write about it.  Record it.  Once you fully believe in yourself and can share your story with others, the more likely they will help tell and share your story.  What’s your story? How do you differentiate yourself? 

Ask For What You Want
Pam Jeffrey, president and CEO of the Jeffery Group and founder of the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Top 100 Most Powerful Women Awards believes women should ask for what they want.  Whether that means nominating yourself or asking a colleague to nominate you for an award, you need to proactively go after it.  On many occasions, you will be surprised on how many women are willing to help.  So if you want to be recognized, go for it.  Don’t be shy.

Teach & Mentor – Pay it Forward
Sometimes the best way to gain professional klout is to teach what you know to others.  Look for guest lecturing opportunities at local universities or speak at your professional association’s monthly luncheon.  Sometimes the best way to get recognition is to get away from your office, company and usual lunch buddies.  It’s often the people that you DON’T work with everyday that recognize your greatest talents.  And whatever you, don’t forget to help others along the way.   Proactively reward good work.  Be a role model for encouraging people’s natural talents. 

Be Authentic
Lastly, be authentic in all you do.  The worst thing you can do is to try and be something that you are not.   You won’t be able to pull it off and others won’t believe it.  Make sure your story is unique to you and showcases your passion for what you do.  Then, get out there and promote it.  Go ahead, stop waiting for those magic ruby slippers (and the wand, of course) and go out and tell your story.  Celebrate you. 

Melissa Murphy is marketing and business planning consultant that works primarily with female entrepreneurs and small business owners.  Previous clients include Charlie the Tuna and Morris the Cat.  She is also a graduate student at Northwestern University. Follow her at @melissamurphyco.  

For more tips, see Ten ways for women to raise their professional profiles.