Saturday, November 5, 2016

Brand Managers - 3 Steps to Increase your Brand Trust

As a brand manager you know the stakes are high. Trust is hard won, but easily lost. And cultivating brand trust with your high value markets is your primary charge. As a graduate student at Northwestern University with a passion for branding, I have found two interesting articles on the importance of brand trust you will find interesting.

Josh Zywien in his article Is Your Brand Trusted? Here's What Happens When It Is—and Isn't at MarketingProfs presents an insightful analysis of how “Amazon's customer experience is so consistent and convenient.” His succinct report of customer relationships covers both Amazon's B2C example as well as B2B examples Salesforce and IBM. Josh then provides "Four Questions to Assess Your Level of Brand Trust." The compelling article advocates trust as a brand pillar.
Josh Zywien
Is Your Brand Trusted? Here's What Happens When It Is—and Isn't

Sasha Strauss states in 7 Social Media Tips for Business and Brands, “To have your customer listen to you is an honor… an honor.” He establishes the client relationship as a journey over time and he offers a map. According to Sasha, it starts with a strategic assessment of the audience, includes who is also trying to communicate with them, and advances to what the audience needs emotionally from the conversation. His insights will guide any brand to show up to the conversation on-topic, every time.
Sasha Strauss
7 Social Media Tips for Businesses and Brands
KPCC Southern California Public Radio

Josh Zywien is an accomplished writer and expert in content marketing. Sasha Strauss is a passionate and successful strategic brand builder. Through my assessment of these two articles and my work on branding at Northwestern, I have three recommendations you should consider when planning your next branding project. They are:
  • Brand Authentically – You cannot fake values and behavior; be yourself every time and everywhere.  
  • Listen with Enthusiasm – Seek out your communities and participate. 
  • Champion Trust – Be transparent, and you'll empower your customers with knowledge. 
These recommendations may seem like a tall order. But it's what we expect from brands we engage and promote. These three cornerstones will help form a firm foundation for your brand marketing.

As a visual communicator I'm passionate about authentic branding. I've worked with B2B companies for more than 15 years to deliver compelling and relevant brand marketing content.
Anthony Bryant

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Gaming's Early Adopters: What to Make Room For Next in Your Entertainment Stand

Gamers know that home video game consoles are going through a dramatic change. As a lifelong gamer and Information Design student at Northwestern, I subscribe to the popular idea that gaming hardware will eventually be phased out, developers and manufacturers say that the box is here to stay. While these gaming machines of the future may be very different than the ones we are used to, the need to own a device in order to gain access to and play a variety of exclusive content is a model that works. We just may not see concrete generational leaps like in the past, instead having console updates and swappable hardware parts released on a regular basis.

In the article "Next Xbox: what will Xbox Two be like and when will we see it?," published on, Aoife Wilson and Jon Porter describe the driving forces that will shape the next true console generation. They show how the successes of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One will help the company discover what ways consumers want Microsoft to improve. The article speculates that with the rate of technological advancement, powerful hardware will become standard and the focus will instead shift to the exclusive content and unique experiences that will be tailored to one specific system.

The internal components of Project Scorpio
At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft revealed that they are working on a new piece of hardware, codenamed Project Scorpio. The system is said to be extremely powerful and able to support the cutting edge in gaming technology, like virtual and augmented reality gaming. However, in his article "What's Next After Xbox Scorpio? Microsoft Already Has Ideas," Eddie Makuch tells readers that Microsoft is already thinking about what comes after Project Scorpio. A tweet from the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer stated that Xbox staff "Already have ideas for what could be after Scorpio." Makuch aptly states that "You shouldn't read too far into Spencer's comments, as it would be a bigger story if Microsoft was not thinking about what's coming next."

Here are a few tips I have for gamers preparing for the next Xbox.

  • Follow Phil Spencer - Since he took over Xbox at Microsoft, Phil Spencer (@xboxp3) has famously dropped hints about upcoming announcements through Twitter. Keeping an eye on his social media presence is a great way to know when to expect something big from Microsoft.

  • Open Your Mind - The next console generation will likely look different and perform differently. After Microsoft first revealed the Xbox One, there was a lot of fan backlash about certain aspects. Some changes were made in response to consumer feedback with both positive and negative outcomes (such as rendering the Kinect all but obsolete). Don't judge the new hardware and its functions too harshly before giving them a try

  • Keep Playing - In the past, as console generations have gone on, sales stalled as consumers anticipated the next piece of hardware coming. Microsoft promises that any games and accessories you already own will be compatible with Project Scorpio. So don't hesitate to buy a game before Scorpio is released, it will work with your next Xbox.

Whatever Microsoft delivers with Project Scorpio, it will likely be the most powerful computing device in most households, and may end up having the longest shelf life of the console family.

Nick McGreevy is a graduate student in the Information Design and Strategy program at Northwestern University's School of Professional Studies. An avid gamer, I have played since I was old enough to hold an Atari joystick. My passion for video games has led me to studying the industry and blogging on gaming topics and nerd culture. You can find me on IGN, WordPress and LinkedIn.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Parents: 3 Ways to Help Teens Improve Their Grades

As a parent, you are always looking for ways to improve the academic performance of your child. As a graduate student at Northwestern University and educational advocate, I have found two articles that highlight steps you can take to improve their performance.

In “Schools Are Slow to Learn That Sleep Deprivation Hits Teenagers Hardest (New York Times, March 29, 2016), Indiana University professor of pediatrics Aaron E. Carroll reports on a 2014 study that found an hour delay in a high school’s start time doubled the amount of students that got a full night’s sleep and led to marked academic improvements.

Photo Credit: Chattanooga Times Free Press
In “The Powerful Thing That Happens When the Sschool Day Starts in the Afternoon (Washington Post, August 5, 2016), reporter Jeff Guo tells the story of one school district in Europe that experimented with an afternoon start of the school day. The new schedule gave a surprising boost to boys’ grades. 

After reading these two articles and from my work as an educational advocate, here are three action items you and your schools can do tomorrow to help your children.
  • Push it back: Instituting later school start times can improve students’ academic performance.
  • Decrease homework: With so much on their plate, students are not getting to bed on time; schools can ease the evening workload by decreasing the amount of homework.
  • Sleep for performance: Families can play a key role in promoting sleep by smartly scheduling activities, developing a routine, and limiting use of electronics late at night.

With these changes our teens can get their much needed rest and get on the path to scholastic success.


Roger McMinn is a marketing professional, education advocate, and graduate student in Northwestern University’s Information Design and Strategy Program. You can follow him on Twitter @RogerMcMinn1.

Parents, Take Time to Read With Your Children

As an author in the child development industry, it is important to make the parent/child reading experience a fun place for children and adults to expand their imaginations. As a graduate student at Northwestern University focusing on child development in reading, I have found two articles on nurturing a child's imagination which you will find interesting.

In Regan McMahon’s article titled "How to Nurture Your Child's Love of Reading" about reading to children, gives great tips on how to lead by example. “...parents influence kids' appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modeling reader behavior”; what a simple yet strong statement. Reading is less of a good habit, but more of an exploration and experience. From toddlers to young seasoned readers, sharing a book together is a moment that is more beneficial than realized. McMahon states that reading aloud to children is also a wonderful tactic, as they can relax and learn more than just about the story they are hearing; they can “hear the rhythm of the language and learn correct pronunciation.” Series of children’s books have been around for decades. This helps continue the excitement of reading. Another inspiring way to encourage reading, is to pay attention to certain subjects children are interested in or favorite authors. McMahon touches on e-books for reluctant readers, as they may have other elements of enticement, but believes they are too distracting. A page turning animation can be found through e-books, which solidifies how the experience of a tactile book is timeless and important for a long-time reader.


The pediatrician, Perri Klass, finds the benefit of tactile books so important, that she gives “developmentally appropriate children’s book at every checkup.” In "The Merits of Reading Real Books to Your Children", Klass speaks of certain benefits of electronic books to help with connections between words and images, but the elements and animations found on these devices are a “cognitive overload” and take away from the human experience with their parents or family. Less communication has been found through studies when electronics are involved compared to more communication when playing with traditional toys. Along with these findings, even more interaction and communication is shared when using picture books. A fascinating discovery in Klass’s article explains how parents benefit from story-time as well. Parents, without realizing it, gain much more from the physical touch of their child when side by side reading a book together. It is an endless exchange of care, love and learning.

From my review of these two articles along with my learnings from Northwestern, here are three action items you should consider when raising your children.  

Action Items:

  • Challenge Your Children - A child’s intellectual and emotional levels gain greater development with a tangible book in hand.

  • Explore Through Imagination - Scenes in children’s picture books support a child’s vision, and ultimately allows them to continue the story in their mind.

  • Develop Positive Thoughts - The content for children in books must develop their mind in a positive and constructive way.

Real books and e-books will continue to co-exist. The key is they should be utilized for their most beneficial purpose. The elements and experience are completely different, even though they both contain stories. The strong human inspirations that come from the simplicity of a book should not be overlooked. It is important to expose books to children at a very young age and continue to young adulthood so they may become lifelong readers.

Jennifer Bozek
Jennifer is a graduate student at Northwestern University in the Professional Studies program Information Design and Strategy. She is also a self-published children's book author and illustrator as well as an advertising graphic designer. 
Visit my blog at:
You can find me at LinkedIn and Twitter

B2B Publishers: 3 Ways to Protect Your Digital Revenue from the Bots

As a B2B publisher, you recognize the revenue opportunities offered by growth in digital and programmatic advertising. However, with these opportunities come risks. Two articles highlight the carrot and stick that come with digital advertising.

In Advertising Age, George Slefo reports that spending on digital advertising in 2015 surged to an all-time high of $59.6 billion dollars. This represents a 20% increase over the record-setting numbers of 2015. Increases were driven by mobile advertising (up 66%) and social media (up 55%). Digital video also saw a substantial increase within display-related advertising, climbing 30% over the prior year. The Interactive Advertising Bureau presented this information in a report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Non human traffic is stealing your money.

However, in an earlier article in Advertising Age (by the same author), a 2015 study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates that nearly 14% of that amount—or $8.2 billion dollars—may be fraudulent. The sources for these losses are varied—non-human traffic, malvertising-related activities, and infringed content are the major causes determined by the IAB. Further, companies spend approximately $169 million each year combating this invalid traffic. But what may be less understood is the role that online publishers and content providers play in allowing this fraud.

Protect Your Content

As a B2B publisher, my company has developed three techniques for others to use to protect their content:
  • Stay human. Publishers must measure how much of their traffic is human. This is a constant need for vigilance, and it should be part of every measurement of usage on your site.
  • Find a partner. Third-party ad verification vendors offer checks and re-checks of your data. Use them to measure the accuracy of your reporting.
  • Assess and reassess. Review your campaigns in detail, especially for block traffic at suspicious times of the day or days of the week. If the traffic pattern looks suspicious, it probably is.
Fraudulent advertising results damage a B2B publisher's reputation and revenue stream. Be proactive in uncovering and eliminating fraudulent ad traffic--before your customers do it for you.

About the Author
Conor Lynch is an editor and publisher with Harborside Press. He is also in the Graduate Program on Information Design and Strategy at Northwestern University. He can be reached at @cplynch2310 or on LinkedIn.

Graphic Designers: 3 Important Logo Design Trends You Need to Know

As a graphic designer you know that a logo is a graphical representation of a company's products and services. This makes it important for you to understand logo design trends when you are faced with a logo design project. As a graphic design consultant, and a graduate student at Northwestern University, I have had experience with logo design and I found two great articles that highlight the logo trends of 2016, thus far.  

In Bill Gardner’s article, 2016 Logo Trends Report Sees Simplicity As King, for Graphic Design USA, he mentions the comeback of KISS. Which is a creative acronym for “Keep It Simple Stupid.” The main point of Gardner's article is, logos are simple. Gardner writes that designers are “rebelling against complexity” and moving towards simple minimalistic shapes for their logo designs.

In the article, A Closer Look at 3 of Today’s Logo Design Trends by Amanda Aszman, for, Amanda shared the same sentiments as Gardner, and mentioned a few other trends. One of them being, logos are becoming geometric. More companies are adopting simple geometric logo designs with the hopes that it will represent the simplicity or uncomplicatedness of their service or product. Circles, in particular have been the most popular geometric shape so far in 2016.

Based on these two articles and my experience as a graphic design consultant, here are my three recommendations to consider when designing your next logo:

1.    Keep it simple: Avoid complex logos, stick with a simple logo. Simple logos
show that what your company has to offer is uncomplicated and simple

2.    Go geometric: When designing your logo, utilize simple geometric shapes.
They provide your logo a clean and minimalistic look that is on trend.

3.    Count on Circles: Circles in 2016 were popular and will remain popular.

Following these three trends will be helpful in designing a logo that will set any brand apart from its competitors.   

Max Do
I am an Information Design Strategy student at Northwestern University, as well as a graphics consultant for the largest healthcare brand in the U.S. I am a versatile designer with experience in print, web and digital design.

You can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Student Affairs Administrators: 3 Ways to Combat Food Insecurity on Your Campus

As a college or university student affairs administrator, food insecuritymeaning a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy liferepresents one of the greatest challenges your students will face on their path to academic success and personal growth.

As a graduate student in higher education at Northwestern University, I have begun research into the student hunger crisis across the nation. I have identified two articles that you should read to build awareness of this issue and ultimately prepare a response on your own campus. 

In "The Hidden Hunger on College Campuses," Laura McKenna of The Atlantic explains how demographic shifts within higher education are linked to the growing prevalence of food insecurity. More college students are now older, lower-income, raising a family, and attending school while working another job. It is little surprise that these students are facing food shortages as they struggle to make ends meet and pay for the rising price of college. McKenna also presents the results of a path-breaking study conducted by Temple University Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab, which found that more than half of all community-college students struggle with food insecurity.

A look inside the new food pantry at George Washington University. Photo Credit: William Atkins/Courtesy of GWU

Dr. David Steele-Figueredo, President of Woodbury University, offers more sobering statistics about the college hunger epidemic in his article, "Is College Student Food Insecurity Real?" He notes that 4 in 10 University of California students lack a consistent source of high-quality, nutritious food—so even one of the most renowned university systems in the world is not immune to this problem.

Yet there are some promising interventions that can help students receive the food they need to thrive at college. Steele-Figueredo highlights a national student-run organization that began at UCLA called Swipe Out Hunger, which takes the money from students' unused meal plans and converts it into food pantry items and meal vouchers for their food-insecure peers.

After reviewing these two powerful articles and conducting additional research, I have identified three action items to consider as you develop a strategy to support hungry students at your institution:

  • Recognize Tell-tale Signs: Students who exhibit learning difficulties, or skip class to work another job, may struggle to receive adequate nutrition and need additional support from the institution (e.g., financial, medical, counseling resources).
  • Eliminate Red Tape: Work with financial aid professionals at your institution to help food-insecure students apply for assistance from the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You should also connect these students with local non-profits or government agencies that provide social services, such as affordable housing options or transportation subsidies.

Simply acknowledging that college student hunger most likely affects some of the students you encounter every day won't alleviate the problem. By taking proactive steps to form a network of support with campus partners, external organizations, and concerned students, you can ensure that your institution meets the needs of its most vulnerable population.

About the Author

I am an aspiring student affairs administrator pursuing the M.S. in Higher Education Administration & Policy degree program at Northwestern University. My professional interests are wide-ranging and include: career and academic advising; co-curricular student life and experiential learning; university-community partnerships; civic engagement initiatives; and assessment of student learning outcomes. You can connect with me on Twitter @jeffrey_scholl or through LinkedIn.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

3 Things Every School Leader Should Have on Their Radar

As a School Leader, you witness the special ecosystem created each year as a unique set of students and teacher embark on learning together.  Yet, creating this ecosystem is not easy and it feels like the ground might be shifting under our feet.  As an Independent School Board Member, I ran across two articles that speak to this changing landscape.

In Four Roads Converge, an article published in Independent School MagazineAl Adams discusses how improved access, an environment of inclusion, overall student success and a focus on public purpose contribute to “each student bring(ing) a unique set of gifts that enriches the school’s learning community” (40). There is much to be gained from a heterogeneous environment, but the real work to strengthen community is found in how your culture fosters and supports this difference.

And, it's not just students.  In Jeffery Marino's article, California Fails the Affordability Test for Teachers, he highlights the growing gap between housing costs and teacher salaries in California.  He states that only 17% of teachers can afford to live near where they teach.  He quotes Eric Heins, President of the California Teachers Association, “Costs associated with living in the Golden State make the teaching profession look less attractive to young people considering a career in education. We are facing a massive teacher shortage, and unless the state and local school districts do something to make education a more attractive and financially sustainable career choice, that shortage is going to get worse and negatively impact millions of our students for a long time to come.” Turns out who’s in the classroom is impacted by where you live.

What can we do? We need to have the following action items on our radar:
  • Demand Difference - We must look at every classroom and build an ecosystem that thrives in its difference.
  • Be Like Fresno - We must understand if we can be like Fresno, a place Jeffery Marino highlights, where one can teach and afford to live. 
  • Know Our "Uber" - When more and more students can’t afford tuition and teachers can’t afford to live where they work, education is ripe for disruption.
       We can put these on our radar or react to them later. 

      Laurie Price is the Founder of SquareRoot Project, an Independent School Trustee, and a graduate student at Northwestern University in the Information Design and Strategy Program.  You can find her on Twitter @LauriePrice20 or Linked In

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Beuaty, Fashion, and Entertainment Brands Experts: 3 Tips to Make You Help You Unlock Diverse Opportunities in Asia Pacific

As a professional in beauty, fashion, and entertainment industry, you know how Asia Pacific has become a global growth engine and opportunity areas with the most dynamic markets, including China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. As a graduating senior at Northwestern University with a multicultural background and extensive knowledge of Asia as well as several internship experiences in marketing industry, I have found two articles highlighting the importance of business opportunities in Asia.

According to CNN’s journalist in Hong Kong Peter Shadbolt in this article, cosmetics and beauty products now outstrips groceries as the biggest selling item in its department stores in China. Japan’s annual beauty and personal care market is still the largest in the region at about $50 billion, second in the world only to the United States, according to Euromonitor International. While South Korea’s domestic market is only a third size of China, in terms of soft power the country punches well above its weight thanks to Asia’s insatiable appetite for Korea’s drama series and their stars. Korean beauty brands are now the hottest ticket item in China, and is setting the standard for the growing market in skincare products that have become so popular in Asia.
Found in
According to The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo Anna Fifield, South Korea has become famous in recent years for skin-care products for women as well as men. The South Korean beauty-product industry boasts about $10 billion in sales annually, and exports to China and Southeast Asia have been growing at a rapid pace. Cosmetics and skincare are a huge prospect in South Korea as well as other parts of Asia, thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Korean dramas and music.

3 Recommendations
Drawing on these two articles and my experience as a student of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, I have listed three actions that I would recommend to companies who want to become leaders in the growing Asian beauty and cosmetics industry.

1. Utilize Main Social Sites in Asia: Social networking sites such as China’s Weibo or other messenger services such as Korea’s KakaoTalk or Line are used to collect big data and analyze consumers’ interests and as a platform to promote brand marketing campaigns.  
2. Don’t underestimate men’s grooming: The main target audience is not only females in terms of beauty and cosmetic products; demand for male-specific cosmetics is growing and men’s toiletries subcategories are becoming more sophisticated.
3. Tap into K-pop tactics (Hallyu): Along with popularity of K-Pop, the dramas, TV shows, music and film are gaining great interest all over Asia including China, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines. Utilizing this Korean wave to present products can be an effective to expand to broader Asian industry.

Rinah Harin Jang
I am currently a senior at Northwestern University studying Communication Studies and Business Institutions along with pursuing a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communication from the Medill School of Journalism. I am graduating in June 2016 and looking for full-time employment in Brand Management and International Marketing. Feel free to reach out or connect with me at @RinahHarin or LinkedIn:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Brand Marketers: Big Events and Big Celebrities are Key to Big Awareness

A key piece of strategy for the in-house marketing team of any major brand is implementing a specific image for the public to consume. By aligning the brand with public figures with certain key values, brand marketers can feel sure that their brand stays salient and is exposed to their desired audience. While the focus here is on fashion, the prevalence of pop culture allows all industries to benefit from celebrity and event association.

Steph Curry's partnership with Under Armour has led to an increase in the brand's sales

Brands should understand the power that celebrities hold over consumers, especially because this has increased exponentially with the advent of social media. The New York Times highlighted the “Marketing Power of Sports Stars” in a feature under their Fashion/Style category that focused on professional athletes and their style ambassadorships. In particular, the article mentioned Roger Federer’s failure to rip his Uniqlo shirt during Wimbledon as “an incredible moment where the athlete was trying to express himself and Uniqlo’s quality almost gets in the way,” said Justin Kerr, chief merchandising officer and co-marketing director of Uniqlo U.S.A. “We couldn’t have planned it.” This vignette shows the benefit of having celebrity relationships with brands. Brands receive organic, wide-reaching exposure that sends a loud and clear message to consumers.

Similarly, major events that draw hundreds of celebrity attendees have become prime opportunities for brand marketing efforts. Bethany Biron in Digiday discussed the implications of Coachella, one of the largest music festivals in the world, as an event with “critical mass...that fashion designers and retailers are clamoring to cash in” on. Marybeth Schmitt, North America communications director for H&M, described the meaning that brands can find in such events: “the festival’s roots may be in music but it has transcended into a full fashion and lifestyle experience.” Labels are able to make branded content for the show, seen in the H&M promotional photo above, as well as leverage celebrity “endorsements” during the event to gain exposure to the wide range of audiences that consume news on Coachella fashion.

The following are ways to use insights on your target market to align your brand with consumable and digestible media:

  • Choose one key event that draws audience members that would align with the core brand values. Which types of experiences does your intended market value? What kinds of events do they care about? And of these, which draw the most media attention, particularly media that they can consume and digest?

  • Utilize celebrity endorsements that again align with the core brand values; have them post on their social media channels. Celebrities can be seen as influencers for every aspect of a consumer’s life. Proving your product’s worth to a single celebrity will encourage many of their fans (who most likely attempt to live according to similar values as specific celebrities, even unknowingly) to regard the product highly. While this essentially is a form of advertising, it is more valuable than standard advertising because it gives the impression of a personal recommendation.

  • Promote using an integrated approach (similar to native advertising on internet) with the event/figure involvement. While events and celebrities are a good way to help the brand reach its market and strengthen its equity, this approach can be construed as overly orchestrated. Don’t use excessive hashtags or repost the exact same thing on every social media channel, as today’s consumers, who are both social media savvy and value brand honesty, will perceive it as a heavy-handed advertising attempt and will therefore disregard it.