Archive for August, 2013

IMC During a Trip to the Windy City

August 27, 2013

Last weekend I went on a mini-vacation to Chicago before classes started again.  I don’t know where the time went between classes, but it was good to get out of town and get refocused!  During the trip, I couldn’t help but think of the many levels of IMC happening in the various locations we visited.

One of the great sales promotions we took advantage of was the Chicago City Pass.  We were able to skip lines, gain admission to a variety of locations, and get a discount on food and other items.  Because of the City Pass, we visited locations we would have ordinarily skipped.  Most locations had great signage and made customers feel like a VIP with City Pass access.  Prior to purchasing the City Pass, I looked for reviews via social media.  As with most products or services, there were mixed reviews.  Some locations treated the City Pass differently.  All locations followed the guidelines however, there were inconsistencies in customer service.

Overall, I noticed the glaring differences in customer service across locations in the city.  At times, we were even ignored by sales associates.  It seemed as though some of the locations were unaware of the impact customer service has on a brand.  As I traveled through the Skydeck, Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, the John Hancock Observatory, and Navy Pier, I couldn’t help but think about the layering of branding that occurs.  Customers will form opinions about the initial location.  For example, we had a great time at the Shedd Aquarium, but a less than desirable time at the Skydeck.  Those experiences impact the brand of those two facilities.  Both of those locations we visited because wephoto(2) had the City Pass.  So those experiences impacted our opinions and feelings about the City Pass.  We loved our hotel and the Hancock Observatory, but were not pleased with the service at the restaurant we visited on Navy Pier, and I got very tired of having our photo taken at every location we visited.  Those experiences impact how we talk about our overall trip and the city of Chicago.

I also see this “nesting” at work.  I work in a student union, and our customers view what happens in our building as being the responsibility of our organization.  If a student has good or bad food, they associate that with our union, even though dining services is a separate entity.  It is not in our best interest for us to try to make those differentiations.  So, we all work together for the greater good, the brand image of the union.

Our overall trip to Chicago was great and there were a lot of consistencies working toward the brand image of the city while maintaining the individuality of the locations we visited.  The architecture was beautiful and many of the locations we visited had similar banners out front (tying the museums together) and consistent imaging for the City Pass (which helped customers easily utilize it).

Consistency is always key in IMC and branding.  Take a look at Disney.  They strive for each customer, no matter which part of Disney they visit, to have the same experience.  When you get off the plane, when you call the front desk, when you visit the locations, each person says, “Have a magical day.”  These tactics have helped create Disney’s brand.  I don’t think the city of Chicago needs to develop a similar style however, each level (the city, the City Pass, the individual locations) should strive for consistencies.  That’s what customer service and identity standards are for after all!

What are your experiences with “nested branding?”  Any other cities, multi-location companies out there very successful?

A Look Back at Summer

August 26, 2013

As we begin our IMC Week 2, I thought I’d do a quick recap about how I spent my summer break. I remember from school that this was a popular topic second only to the dreaded what did you get for Christmas? interrogation.

Not since high school do I remember feeling the urgency of summer as much I did this past month. It’s a feeling of let’s hurry up and relax – or not relax and get out and do stuff. I was like Bill Duke’s character in Predator after he finally loses his mind. “I’m gonna have me some fun. I’m gonna have me some fun.” Summer usually feels like any other segment of the year, but this year I found myself trying to entertain a 3-year-old to make up for all my busyness during the school year.

Houston is not a place where you can just stumble into fun. The city with its surrounding suburbia pockets is too big for that. Fun has to be researched and found, or you will miss out. I don’t know how many years the circus has been coming to town, but this was the first year that I noticed the billboards before the troupe had already left town. Motherhood must have sharpened my senses.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was probably the highlight of the summer. Not just because of the hilarity of watching my husband be more impressed than my son – the kid was more interested in his lollipop than a performer riding a motorcycle on a wire. “Mommy that’s dangerous.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the circus would also be a pre-consolation for my elephant figurines that the two would later take turns breaking. It’s easy to see from the balance of photos that this is my favorite animal.

Elephants during the preshow.

Circus elephants during the preshow.

Elephants playing during the preshow.

A little flirting before the show.

Circus preshow entertainment

Circus preshow entertainment.

Motorcycle on a wire.

“Mommy that’s dangerous.”

Lion and tigers 1

Lion and tigers. (Oh my!)

Lion and tigers 2

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Elephants on a stool

The things they make us do.

Elephants sitting

Does this trainer make me look fat?

Elephants laying down

Whew, I’m exhausted!

During the summer month, we also attempted to give our son his first experience at the movies. Little did I know that an episode of Curious George had already done that. He knew exactly where to look for the projector and immediately called me out for trying to cheat him out of the popcorn and soda part of the experience. I’ll be right back.

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of family visits, take advantage of our community pool, and celebrate my husband’s birthday. On our last dash for fun, my husband and I went on a date “day” and saw The Butler with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. This movie made me cry, left me (almost) speechless, and turned out to be the perfect ending to a short-lived but satisfying break.

While we didn’t take in the entire town, here are a few additional highlights to take in if you ever find yourself in Houston, TX.

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston area

The Toyota Center

Home of the Houston Rockets and now Dwight Howard

Reliant Stadium Exterior

Reliant Stadium – home of the Houston Texans

Reliant Stadium bulls

Entrance to Reliant Stadium

Houston Galleria area

Houston Galleria area

Williams Waterwall

Williams Waterwall

Williams Tower

Williams Tower

Waterwall Park

Waterwall Park

Who all hit the ground running during Week 1, and who all found themselves still groggy from summer?

Part 1: Marketing free content

August 21, 2013

If you haven’t started following Vocus on Facebook, I would highly suggest giving the company a thumbs up. If I hadn’t, I would have missed an opportunity to get a free copy of Jay Baer’s New York Times Best Seller “Youtility.” All I had to do was simply register for an upcoming webinar hosted by Baer and post a picture of my registration in the comments section of the post.

A few days after I registered, I received a hardback copy of Baer’s book along with a desk calendar filled with marketing quotes from thought leaders like Jason Falls who spoke at INTEGRATE 2013.


Not even a week before I had bought a digital copy of Baer’s book! If only I had waited, the content would have been FREE!

This is the second time this month I was too overzealous to pre-order digital content. As a huge fan of the singer songwriter duo, The Civil Wars I preordered their album on iTunes. As soon as the tracks were released and downloaded to my computer, Starbucks was offering the content for free via their iTunes channel! Coincidentally, it didn’t take long for the duo to reach #1 on the Billboard charts.

What do you think of brands offering free content in exchange for increased downloads or registration numbers?

If you don’t mind the tradeoff, sign up for a webinar that Vocus is holding. You never know when a Facebook post of a stack of books will appear that states “We’re doing it again!”

Interesting Infographics

August 14, 2013

This is going to be a quick blog post but I wanted to share some infographics I found this evening. I love infographics. Each class I have been part of has been exposed to my obsession with inforgraphics at least once. I know, they are so 2011, but I really enjoy looking for new information and seeing the creative ways statistics are presented. Sometimes I pick a topic and simply do a Google Search on “topic name + infographic” just to see what comes up. Below are ten infographics that were revealed when I searched for “Integrated Marketing Infographics.” Some are a couple years old, some are pretty current but they all have great nuggets of data. I hope you enjoy them. Click on each one to expand in a new window.

Integrated Marketing Communications

“17% of job seekers use their smart phone to search for a job online.”


It’s No Game. Integrated Marketing.

“Because integrated marketing should ultimately facilitate seamless, cross-channel dialogues, many brands have begun using the term conversational marketing.”


Are CMOs ready for the digital marketing era?

“79% of CMOs feel underprepared to manage the impact of key changes in marketing.”


Time to Plan: 2013 Email Marketing Calendar [INFOGRAPHIC]

A handy look at US Holidays and seasonal events to help planning social strategy and outreach.


How to build a digital marketing team [infographic]

“Five years from now, your marketing team may be obsolete.”


Infographic: B2B Marketing in 2013

Awareness build preference which helps to drive loyalty.


Infographic: B2B Tech Buyers Leverage Video to Advance Purchase Behavior

“4 out of 10 watch video from mobile devices.”


The State of Social Ads

“Approximately $5.3 Billion in revenue was generated on the top three social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) in 2012.”


The Content Marketing Explosion Infographic

“90% of B2B marketers do some form of content marketing, whether they realize it or not.”


B2B and Data Driven Marketing: About Them, Not You

“64% of companies are-or plan within the year- to deliver a more personalized experience to visitors on mobile devices.”



Jackson, A. (2012). Integrated Marketing Communications. Retrieved on August, 10, 2013 from (2012). It’s No Game. Integrated Marketing. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from (2011). Are CMOs ready for the digital marketing era? Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

Andrzejewska, H. (2013). Time to Plan: 2013 Email Marketing Calendar [INFOGRAPHIC]. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

Barbaric, E. (April 2, 2013). How to build a digital marketing team [infographic]. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

Nishikawa, H. (December 11, 2012). Infographic: B2B Marketing in 2013. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

IDG Research Services. (January 15, 2013). Infographic: B2B Tech Buyers Leverage Video to Advance Purchase Behavior. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

Sanchez, J. A. (March 7, 2013). The State of Social Ads. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from (2012). The Content Marketing Explosion Infographic. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

Kramer, S. (July 17, 2013). B2B and Data Driven Marketing: About Them, Not You. Retrieved on August 12, 2013 from

Striking A Balance Between Consumer Privacy and Marketing Analytics

August 8, 2013
Digital Privacy

Where is the line between personal privacy and market research?

Today marketers have access to vast amounts of data about consumers and consumer behavior.  A person’s path can be tracked through a website.  Calls can be recorded and analyzed as they are made into customer service and support centers.  Conversations on social platforms can be monitored and engaged in.  Customers and prospects can be dynamically presented with special offers based on browsing and search patterns.  It can be kind of overwhelming to digest this much data and the user profile that can be generated from this data can be very complex and revealing.  Where does marketing cross the line between gathering good information to help a company grow versus infringing on personal privacy?

This is a multi-billion dollar question whose answer changes not only over time but also by global region or country.  Norway, Finland, and Germany have some of the strictest privacy laws and restrictions while the United States, Russia, and India have minimal restrictions, and China has virtually no restrictions on the control of private personal data (Forrester,2013).

Most user data comes from interactions people have with organizations each day.  It is people calling with cable problems, browsing a site looking for a new pair of shoes, even people checking in at restaurants via tools like Facebook or FourSquare.  Seems harmless right?  What if someone checked in at the same coffee shop as did one of the Boston Bombers? What if they also happened to share the same Bank?  What if they also had an account at the same library?  These seemingly separate and unique daily activities can be used to build a pattern of association between these two people and suddenly an innocent person could be associated with a terrorist.  This is an extreme example but shows why some of the recently revealed government programs are so highly controversial.  Some people say “what’s the harm in collecting phone numbers, I have nothing to hide.” The problem is the possibility of creating associations and patterns of behavior that could mistakenly identify innocent people with possible trouble makers as outlined above.  There are safeguards in place to help prevent this from happening but no system is 100% perfect.

Outside of the covert systems described above, there are many solutions being used by the majority of large companies to gather personal and behavioral data of individual’s as they interact with company brands.  Calls coming into a call center are recorded.  Social media services are data mined. Emails are analyzed. Organizations use software to build patterns of behavior and preferences for this data. Feel violated yet?  Well, put your mind at ease.  Very few people within an organization have a full view into all the data that is collected and analyzed and most data does not even have a name associated with it.

For example, if someone does a Google search for “Kids Shoes.”  Guess what just happened (other than getting back 1,286,345 results).  Google placed a cookie on their computer that shows they searched for Kids Shoes. (Good news, if privacy settings are adjusted to block cookies, this doesn’t happen so there is a way to not be tracked).  Just in case the term cookie is unfamiliar, a cookie is a small bit of code that is installed on a person’s computer.  The bit of code is used to hold details about a user’s activity on a web site or even multiple web sites.  Google now:

  1. knows that the person searching for Kids Shoes is interested in Kids Shoes
  2. will now search for Google Advertisers who are selling Kids Shoes (and has paid for the AdWords Kids Shoes)
  3. makes a note in its data base that the computer looking for Kids Shoes is likely to be interested in ads for kids shoes.

The user then click on a few search results links including one from Keddy’s (fictional store name).  On the Keddy’s site, some shoes are reviewed and a pair is even added to a shopping cart but not purchased yet.  Guess what, the Keddy’s site added a cookie to the user’s computer that remembers what was looked at, when it was looked at, what was added to the shopping cart and if a sale was completed. The user exits the site and then goes back to work and closes the browser.  Now fast forward a few days and the user is on Facebook.  Suddenly an ad for Keddy’s shoes shows up and it highlights the exact pair of shoes the user put in their shopping cart and just by chance they happen to be 10% off.  How much of coincidence is that!  Well, it’s not.  The cookies that Google and Keddy’s placed on the user’s computer work together to present the ad for a product that was deemed interesting (by being placed in the shopping cart). Studies show that if presented with a familiar product again, people are more likely to buy it, refereed to as re-targeting, the process of getting a product back in front of a consumer increased conversion rate (Li, 2013).

So, is this a violation of personal privacy?  Is your browsing history something that should be protected from marketers?  Should an organization be able to put a cookie on your computer without you knowing about it?  This is where great strides are being made in privacy laws.  Between efforts of search engines and legislators around the globe (with a few exception countries like China) efforts are being made to limit what data are collected, what can and can’t be done with data gathered from and stored on a user’s computer and during other interaction types a consumer may have with an organization.

Search rules have changed considerably to address privacy concerns as well.  Until 2011, each search string that was used by anyone searching in Google was recorded and made available to site analytic services and site reporting applications like Google Analytics or Adobe’s SiteCatalyst (Google, 2011).  With new privacy rules being enacted and enhanced privacy settings enabled in browser applications, a large amount of search string data is now reported as “Unknown” or “Not Available.”  For some sites this can be over 55% of overall site traffic (Pollitt, 2013).  For marketers, this is concerning and frustrating.  Where did all the great data go?  How can marketers get it back?

Many consumers don’t understand how this tracking takes place or that it is even happening.  Privacy guidelines and regulations are put in place to help notify users that their activity is being monitored.  When a notice appears on a web site, users are well advised to read it and understand that their activity may be being monitored and recorded and then used for a number of marketing and/or research efforts.

What do you think?  Should organizations do more to educate or notify their customers and prospects that they are monitoring activity?  Do they have an inherit right to do this?


Forrester. (2013). Privacy and Data Protection By Country. Retrieved July 24, 2013 from

Google. (2011). Making search more secure. Retrieved July 16, 2013 from

Li, J. (2013). Study: Online Shopping Behavior in the Digital Era. Retrieved July 28, 2013 from

Pollitt, C. (2013). Google’s Unknown Keywords Jump from 22% to 55% in the Last 30 Days. Retrieved July 12, 2013 from

Let’s {Not} Talk About Branding

August 5, 2013

Everywhere you go branding seems to be a hot button issue.  “Pick us! We can help you create your brand!”

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 8.46.51 PM

So often branding, or your brand, is viewed as something we need to do or talk about.  As our beloved IMC 618 class and Marty Neumeier taught us, a brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your customers say it is.  Yes, companies have some control over their brand however, it really boils down to how your customers view your product, service, or organization.  That being said, companies and organizations need to stop talking about branding, or a brand, as something you can completely manipulate and control.  Discussions around branding should stem from a great understanding of who you are as an organization and how you are viewed by your clients.  Your promise to them (who you say you are) should be the foundation for every major decision within your organization.

A few years ago, my organization went through what we lovingly refer to as our Branding Project.  We created a process, similar to the Brand Gap, in which we reevaluated who we were as an organization and how we were viewed by the students on our campus.  It was a very long process that we’re still developing today.  Yes, we did come out of the project with a shiny new logo, but that wasn’t the most important development.  We also came out of the project with a much deeper understanding of who we are, why that matters, and what we need to do in order to live up to the expectations of students on campus  Now, a company can’t be all things to all people and by staying true to your brand you may lose people.  That’s ok! Your remaining customers will become more invested and you will find new customers.  It’s important to think of branding as attempting to align your identity (internal) and your image (external).

Screen Shot 2013-07-31 at 8.47.53 PM

If a company aims to improve their brand image, and discussions on branding need to occur, those conversations should run the gamete of the entire organization, not focus solely on the marketing department.  Are your employees happy and do they treat customers with respect?  What kind of environment are customers stepping into when they walk into your business?  Is the facility clean and welcoming?  Do your customers understand the message you’re trying to convey?  Many times, companies measure the results of initiatives aimed to improve their brand image in a marketing scope.  Increased brand awareness is equated to increased website traffic, more engagement on social media, or an increase in sales.  Those are all great measurement tools however, companies and organizations must measure the content of the message as well as the effectiveness of the  marketing.  Organizations today should set separate branding and marketing goals.  Think about measuring the effectiveness of the content and the effectiveness of the content placement.

It is extremely important for your organization to take their brand image and identity into consideration every day.  However, a shift needs to occur from talking ABOUT branding, to talking from a branding perspective.  Incorporate how you want your customers to view you into every aspect of your organization and you’ll find greater success!