Go Wide and Deep

As a marketing student, I’m scared. For the first time, there are other students who are better suited to take a job in marketing over myself: journalism and computer science majors. Before you start calling me insane, let me explain.

As online marketing starts to really spread out into two paths of content-driven marketing and product-driven marketing, people with those areas of experience will be better suited for the roles students like myself are going after. Who better than a journalism major well versed in writing feature stories or an undergrad with a deep knowledge of building web applications?

It’s true that most journalism students will still try their luck at writing for a publication and many computer science students wouldn’t even consider marketing as a career. However, there will be a few in each field of study who will venture towards marketing (at some point) and those are the ones I’m worried about.

These students may not be marketers at heart, but they have a deep knowledge for areas greatly needed to drive sales and ROI at most businesses today. And what they lack in marketing depth, they can make up for in marketing breadth. They understand, or learn to understand, a wide amount about marketing, but may not necessarily be the best at marketing there is (a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak).

Marketing Breadth

I see what Coke’s attempting to do by creating their own publication and how companies like Dropbox are using referral models like The Great Space Race to get students using there software or a freemium model to get people to upgrade to a paid service. Continue reading

On Facebook, Embrace Your Fans for Ideas and Think Small(er) For Development

On Friday, I finished my first week interning in Facebook’s New York City Office.  I figured I’d share two lessons I picked up about social marketing this week and how I applied those learnings in building a simple Chrome Facebook Extension for McDonald’s.

  1. Use your fans as guides in building your social campaign: While you need to build your content to help shape how you want your audience to perceive your brand, there’s a lot of good to be had from also adapting to what your fans want.  One of the case studies we were shown was for Lacta, a Greek chocolate brand that noticed a lot of their fans were comparing their loved ones to the candy bar.  Lacta decided to embrace this trend by building an app that allowed users to create a chocolate bar with their friend’s name.  The messages were shared to the wall with the photo as well as appearing in their photo albums with the person’s name tagged.  This simple idea blew up in Greece as over 135,000 users sent nearly 300,000 virtual Lacta bars out to their friends.  Unlike many other brands, Lacta saw their fans as an inspirational tool in how to build their marketing efforts.  Because they listened to for ideas on how to cater to their followers, they were able to get huge returns on their campaign. 
  2. Think small (in both action and development cost): Many advertisers on Facebook think they should be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook to build complex apps (or as I like to call them, microsites that just happen to be on Facebook).  They expect that once there, users will go through all of the ridiculous steps that are expected of them.  In reality, Facebook is better suited for lightweight actions like the app Lacta chose to build or the creative content Starbucks shares with their fans.  It’s fun (not frustrating) and makes you want to like, comment, share and in the case of the Lacta app, do.  Instead of spending a lot of your money building complex apps and asking your fans to give back so much in return, build something simple — they’ll be a lot more likely to return the favor.  (One of the problems that happens is advertisers spend a lot more money developing apps instead of spending that money to market them on the site. If you don’t pay for media to reach those fans, chances are they won’t see it.)Starbucks Facebook Creative

The Facebook “I’m Lovin’ It” Button (download here)

Taking these two lessons into account, I ended up building a simple Google Chrome extension for McDonalds’ fans on Facebook (although build is too generous a verb — thanks to Ben Schaecter, whoever you are, for posting your source code on GitHub and giving me the opportunity to modify it!).

I was noticing a bit of a trend on a couple of the McDonald’s posts where users were commenting “I’m lovin’ it,”  the Mickey D’s-style way of saying “Like” on Facebook.

I thought, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could somehow replace the “Like” with an “I’m Lovin’ It” button?  Like with Lacta, it’s a simple idea.  More importantly, it isn’t a whole complex ordeal for the user to accomplish on the other end — and, if it was, I only wasted an hour and $5 building the extension.

From "Like" to "I'm Lovin' It"

Even though this idea is simple, there still are a number of flaws with this deliverable — mostly, that it isn’t that social.  Users download the extension, but Facebook won’t tell your friends via the News Feed that you downloaded the “I’m Lovin’ It” button for your browser.  That means, unless your friends think this is extremely cool and worthy of sharing, there’s a really good chance something like this wouldn’t be seen by others.

(I do think this concept could definitely be adapted into better creative that’s more inherently social and probably not a Chrome extension. However, I knew I could easily build this application as a non-developer and that was extremely important to me.  It’s a half-baked idea at best.)

Regardless, I’d be much more willing to try my chances with this low-cost, low-effort extension over a highly expensive microsite on Facebook.  Why?  Because although a complex app built on Facebook has the automatic functionality of posting to the News Feed and may be cool in concept, if no one wants to use it, nothing will ever get shared. And, because as Lacta, Starbucks and countless others have shown us, simple can be a lot more sticky (and viral) with users — that type of return is the exact reason we all market on Facebook in the first place.

5 Steps for Marketers to Become “Growth Hackers”

There was a really awesome post on Andrew Chen’s blog the other day on how Growth Hacker is the New VP of Marketing. Basically, the gist of it was that marketers today need to be a hybrid marketer and coder, particularly in the startup world.

While I do believe we will see a number of developers helping on the marketing side, I think that this role will be mostly taken on by the marketing types.  The problem is there simply aren’t enough developers. It doesn’t make sense for a company to make an all-technical growth team instead of putting those folks on product where they’re more essential. Also, marketers will be better marketers than engineers will — it’s just a difference in how both types think.   Lastly, I think engineers who are also growth hackers are more of the entrepreneurial type — they’re probably already building there own company.

So what do marketers need to do in order to become growth hackers? I think there are a few steps.

  1. Get analytical and know how to optimize: You need to be thinking in terms of ROI or the bottom line or how to move the needle.  If you aren’t able to figure out how many people who clicked on A button caused X number of people to buy Y, that’s a bit of a problem.  It’s really important to not only understand how to track this information, but also to be able to optimize it for better results.  So for example, figure out why only Z number of people clicked on A when you expected Y and understand how you can fix the problem.
  2. Understand API’s and their capabilities: The digital marketer (and engineer’s) best friend is the API.  It not only can take out a lot of the hassle in building your product, but can also help enhance it and and help it grow.  Nowaday’s, nearly every growing startup has an API.  My suggestion would be to look at those sites API sections, see what their capable of, and read case uses.  It’ll give you a better understanding of how you can leverage that API for your own company.  I had this crazy idea I wanted to implement in school for my marketing friends called APIron Chef.  Essentially it would be like the Food Network show: you have to create an application using a secret ingredient (i.e. the main API) as the main flavor.  You can certainly use other ingredients (i.e. different API’s), but your main ingredient still needs to be the main API. In my friends case, we’d create wireframe mockups for our app idea — I kind of think of it as a hackathon for non-technical folks. (I actually am going to be doing this next semester, so if you go to BU and are interested in participating, stay tuned).
  3. Learn how to build (without technical skills):  There are some really awesome websites out there that can actually help you do your marketing much easier.  If you don’t know how to build a landing page yet or easily set up a blog, that’s a problem.  You should know about tools like LaunchRock and understand how to use them. Once you do, you want know how you lived without them.
  4. Attend a Hackathon, or hang out with some engineers: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in regards to the way engineers work compared to marketers, it’s this – time is valuable.  It sounds so logical and yet in ad agencies they sit there endlessly trying to come up with new headlines to use for days until they finally come up with one great one.  An engineer thinks “How much value will I get out of the time and effort I put in?”  Unlike an advertiser, they’d spend 20 minutes brainstorming different headlines with one other person, pick the five best and then A/B test them in display ads online or on their website until they’ve found the most impactful message. Try attending a hackathon or working with some engineers — it’ll give you new insights on how you can work and be more productive in your job. How does this relate to growth hacking? The more time you don’t waste, the more time you can use to market effectively — it’s all about being efficient.
  5. Learn to Code: I know it’s scary, but it’s super important if you want to become a better growth hacker.  Seriously. Check out this post if you don’t believe me.

There’s a new digital line being created from social media savvy to hard core hacker.  You don’t necessarily need to be a technical wunderkind, but if you’re a marketer and you’re not willing to do at least bullet points 1-4, that may be a problem.  The new era of marketing is not coming, it’s here now.

(Side note: please don’t ever call yourself a Growth Hacker.  I really hope the term goes the way of Rockstars and Ninjas) 

To: The Browser I Love to Hate

Dear Internet Explorer,

Your browser sucks.  I know you know this, but as a concerned web user, I wanted to make sure I really drove the point home. So again, let me say: your browser sucks.

I’ve heard the good news though — you’ve come out with Internet Explorer 9, a huge improvement that even the New York Times has called amazingly fast.  And I’ve seen the flashy ad.  It’s cool and all, but it won’t get me to try your new browser.

The thing is, your new commercial only makes me laugh.  Microsoft has never been known for beauty.  That’s Apple’s game.  You should stick to what you do best: promoting productivity and building efficient software.  Although Internet Explorer has often been inefficient, your new browser is supposedly much better.

I know this because of your less flashy, but quite humorous YouTube video you recently released:

You see, this ad makes me want to go out and try IE9 (and not the one I’m seeing during every single TV show I watch).  It’s more effective because it plays up the joke that Internet Explorer sucks (but is now a good browser).

I know what you are thinking: the humorous video is for the nerds and geeks who’ve always made fun of IE; the flashy video is for the normals who still consider AOL the Internet.

Here’s the thing though: even most normals hate using IE and those who do use IE will only get confused by your ad’s messaging.  The normals will think they already have the new browser — they aren’t smart enough to figure out they need to download a new version.  If they are smart enough though (which they aren’t), they won’t know how to upgrade from what ever version of Internet Explorer they’re on without the help of an IT person or their young son/daughter.

Right now you have a great Tumblr page and a really awesome video that makes fun of your old product being god awful. However, you’re still putting most of your eggs in one really flashy yet ineffective basket.

Instead of the flashy ad approach, this campaign should be extended in two other ways to really drive mass IE9 adoption:

1) Make your offline campaign the same as your online campaign. Instead of spending all your money buying media time for your More Beautiful Web spot, build your entire campaign around the idea of the Browser You Loved to Hate.

Extend the web campaign offline because it’s much more effective in brand messaging and getting the word out.  Put your Browser You Loved to Hate spot on TV.  Build your magazine and out-of-home ads around this idea as well.  Drive people to the Tumblr site.

Admitting your old product sucked is a really brave approach to take.  It would be even more brave if you proclaimed it from a higher mountain top.  It will get people talking and actually provide you with more buzz than the spot you currently hold so dearly in your heart.

2) Make the campaign more social and help me evangelize your product to those who need it.  I think some of the content you have on your Tumblr page is great, but it’s not inherently social — sure I can pin some of those funny infographics, but this campaign has such a possibility to be social in a really unique way.

You know what I’d love more than ever? The ability to send my dad an email from your website with a link to download the new IE9.

Every time I go home, I yell at my dad if I see he’s using Internet Explorer.  I’ve downloaded Chrome and Firefox on his computer, but he still uses Internet Explorer because that’s what he thinks of as the Internet.

Build out the functionality to allow me to share the new Internet Explorer with those I know suffer from your retched original product.  Let me give them the opportunity to use your new product.  It may take a while to convince me, but I’m still more than happy to evangelize your better browser to those who don’t know any better.

If you give your website the functionality to allow me to remotely install your new browser on my dad’s computer, I’d be more than happy to do it.  Give me that option and  I may even download IE9 for myself in the process.

So Internet Explorer, now that you know what needs to be done, it’s time to get to work.  I know you spent all that money on the highly produced More Beautiful Web spot, but people will not care.  Show your audience what really matters and give them more of it — I have a feeling you’ll see better campaign results because of it.

Sincerely,

Maurice Rahmey

How to Take Your Education Beyond the Classroom

This post was originally written for Bostinnovation.  This is only an excerpt of that post.  For the full article, please click here.

As a digital marketing student, I’ve discovered that I can’t only learn about the industry from what my professors teach me in the classroom.  There’s only so much you can be taught from a whiteboard and textbook.  I’ve found that the best way to learn about marketing is by pushing myself to work beyond the homework assigned in class.

Over the past two years at Boston University, I’ve come up with a few ways, both on campus and within the city itself, to supplement my classroom experience.  In no particular order, here are a few of the ways students can enhance their education while in the city of Boston: Continue reading

#TVNext and 2 Solutions to Enhance Current Online TV Ads

This past Friday, advertising agency Hill Holliday held an event called #TVNext for their clients as well as the press on emerging trends in television consumption (how I fit into either of those groups is a mystery to me too).

The event featured panels called TV Gets Social, TV Gets Connected, and TV Gets Portable. Representatives from companies like CNN, GoogleTV, XBox, and Hulu were on hand to discuss the future of television and television programming (a more comprehensive list of speakers and the event schedule can be found here).

As exciting as the event was, I wish there was more talk about advertisements for online programming.  Advertising on sites like Hulu is boring right now.

The main problem is that these advertisements don’t take advantage of the medium they’re on.  Online video ads are treated like television video ads and don’t embrace the single greatest benefit of the Internet: interactivity.  I don’t know if the problem with these ads basically being ported from their television counterparts is the fault of the agencies producing them or the Hulu website not allowing a new style of advertising.  Regardless, advertising for online video is still ripe for a revolution. Continue reading

Interview with Deb Trevino, Director of Corporate Communications at Starbucks (Part II)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Deb Trevino, the Director of Corporate Communications for Starbucks.  In this position, Ms. Trevino covers a breadth of roles: she handles financial communication, business and brand communication, corporate social responsibility, and crisis communication.

This is Part II of my interview with Ms. Trevino.  Topics discussed here include Starbucks in the global market and the coffee chain’s integration of corporate social responsibility within company policy. (Part I, found here, discusses branding, the new Starbucks logo design, and digital media.)

Starbucks Around The Globe

Maurice Rahmey: From a global perspective, how does the branding of Starbucks differ in other countries?  From a PR standpoint, what are the differences between the US market and other markets?

Deb Trevino: There are a lot of differences.  From a PR standpoint, I would say that, just the way that the trade works in every market is very different.  We always have to alter our approach depending on the market that we’re in.

More broadly, from a business standpoint, you will see a lot of differences in Starbucks around the globe – a lot of consistency, but also differences based on really making those stores relevant for the customers.  It may mean different product offerings. It may mean different hours.  For example, whereas in the US people will come to Starbucks primarily in the morning, in China we have very light business in the morning.  We have more traffic in the afternoons and evenings.  Business is very different depending on where we are, as is our PR approach.

Continue reading

Interview with Deb Trevino, Director of Corporate Communications at Starbucks (Part I)

I guess I have Starbucks on the brain. Besides my soon to be post on what happens when you conduct the “$20 Starbucks Test,” I’ve also had the opportunity to interview Deb Trevino, the Director of Corporate Communications for the company.

In this position, Ms. Trevino covers a breadth of roles: she handles financial communication, business and brand communication, corporate social responsibility, and crisis communication.

Ms. Trevino was a pleasure to talk to and I really appreciated her insight. I only regret that I forgot to ask her what she thought about the “$20 Starbucks Test” I’ve been so interested in attempting.

Below is Part I of my interview with Ms. Trevino. Topics included in this post include branding, the new Starbucks logo design, and digital media.

Update: Part II is now posted. Click here to read about Starbucks in the global market and the coffee chain’s integration of corporate social responsibility within company policy.

The Path to Starbucks

Maurice Rahmey: How did you get to where you are at Starbucks?

Deb Trevino: I joined Starbucks about two and a half years ago and I came to this role from a similar one at a company called Getty Images, which is also based here in Seattle. Throughout my career, I’ve really worked in public relations, communications and marketing communications – some combination of those things. It’s really just a culmination of the experience that I dealt with throughout my career that got me hear.

The Starbucks Culture and Brand

MR: Before I get into my own questions, my professor (Prof. Steve Quigley) wanted to actually know how your internal communication within the company fosters a strong and consistent customer centric culture within the stores. Would you be able to help me out with that?

DT: One of the most important things we do is communicate to our employees (we call them “partners”). We really consider them our advocates and our evangelists and they need to be engaged in what the company is doing – everything as simple as the products we’re offering to the story behind those products and how they’re sourced. They need to understand what we do from an environmental standpoint. All of those things are really critical so that when they interact with a customer on a daily basis they’re really representing the best of what Starbucks is all about.

Continue reading

Update: My Attempt at the $20 Starbucks Test

About 3 weeks ago I tweeted about a so-called “$20 Starbucks Test.” Enamored by the idea, I wrote my own post on how I planned to attempt the test myself.  I created a poll with three locations where I had the option of conducting this informal experiment: Boston, New York, and San Francisco.  I haven’t forgotten about this post.  The poll is now closed and I’m proud to announce that in a close vote, Boston beat out San Francisco by only 3 votes.

Congratulations Boston residents! You now have to suffer listening to my startup pitch over a free cup of coffee.  Before I continue on my agenda, I need to find a worthy Starbucks location in the Boston area and pick which of my entrepreneurial ideas I want to present to people.  Both of these details will be revealed in the actual blog post recapping my coffee shop adventures.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for my multi-part interview with the Director of Corporate Communications for Starbucks, Deb Trevino.  It should be up very soon!

3 Digital Trends for PR Students to Embrace in 2011

Over the break, Ginny Soskey and I had the opportunity to visit the New York office of PR firm Edelman.

Interested in learning more about digital innovations and trends in the industry, we found ourselves meeting with Steve Rubel, Senior Vice President and Director of Insights for Edelman Digital.  In this position, Mr. Rubel studies trends and innovations in media, technology, and digital culture.  He then fuses them into actionable insights that help Edelman and its clients remain at the forefront of their industry.

As we spoke with Mr. Rubel, he told us about 3 digital trends affecting PR in the next year (The full list of 11 emerging digital trends, with company examples, can be found here).  They were:

  • Digital Curation: The plethora of content will give rise to digital curators who can separate art from junk
  • Thought Leadership: If there’s one constant it’s that humans crave stories. Technology creates new expectations
  • Transmedia Storytelling: Companies recognize they must activate credible individual expert voices that can create content

Although these three trends were created with companies in mind, students can also utilize them as well.  Here are some examples:

  • Digital Curation: Twitter allows you to share valuable and insightful information with your followers.  Industry leaders, such as Mr. Rubel, constantly post articles they feel are valuable for those following.  As a student curator, tweet out relevant and industry related information.  It’ll show you care and that you know what’s important.  It may even land you an internship or job.
  • Thought Leadership: While sharing information is important, sharing your opinions is even more crucial.  Although you may not think of yourself as a “thought leader” yet, telling people what you think and backing up those opinions can help establish your credibility.  One of the hottest new social applications of the year is Quora, a Q&A site created, edited, and organized by its user base. Company CEO’s, such as Mark Cuban (entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks) are utilizing the site to break down the barriers between themselves and their publics.  Their answers also give the people what they want – an expert opinion.  As students, Quora allows us to also answer questions and prove our knowledge about the topics we love.  We may not be “thought leaders” yet, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get a head start.
  • Transmedia Storytelling: With so many different mediums out there, students have the ability to brand themselves across the web.  In my previous two examples, I mentioned how Twitter and Quora can be utilized to benefit the student.  Your story doesn’t have to only be told by one application.  On the contrary, embrace more than one medium.  Find your outlets and use them to tell your personal story.  For example, use LinkedIn to show your career achievements, Quora to prove your problem solving capabilities, and Youtube to show those amazing public speaking skills.  Make yourself well rounded, not a one website pony.

Just like companies, PR students have to embrace and utilize digital trends in order to differentiate themselves from others in the field.  Digital Curation, Thought Leadership, and Transmedia Storytelling are three ways to help stand out from the crowd.