So many Successes Start With Unabashed Failures

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Many of the greatest businesses and companies in the world were at one point utter failures. We all know this to be a true statement, and yet it is very rarely that we actually apply this logic to our own lives. There is a relevant reason as to why I am bringing this up today- mainly that about a year ago I made a big mistake, and I only now have come to terms with it for long enough to make a change.

Okay, maybe I was being a bit overblown by saying it was a big mistake, or any kind of significant mistake at all in the scheme of things; and yet, it was large enough that it made a decent impact on the way I worked.

I can admit that I suffer with incredible perfectionism, to the point where one small mistake would mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If only I could count the amount of times that I smashed Sculpey figurines because I made a mark in the wrong place as a kid. Seriously folks, things don’t change- I essentially did the same thing in the recent past, only this time it wasn’t a clay figure I could just rebuild. It was my personal ability to blog and put myself out there in the rudimentary form of writing.

It’s just this- I designed a blog for my own use relating to my experiences in marketing, got excited, flipped the entire thing in one sitting (let this be a lesson- regardless of if it’s a blog or a company, changing things overnight on a whim is a recipe for complete failure), only to realize that I had overshot my goals. Then I walked away.

Regardless of all of the ambition that I had put on this site, it was never meant to be a forum for marketers of the millennial generation to come together and talk about how great marketing is. One thing that I have learned over the last few months is that being in marketing is more akin to being a lawyer than being a social worker (sorry, guys. Generally speaking, it’s true.) We do not all hold hands- in fact, I have no doubt that if you offered a hand to one of your classmates, you would get less of a figurative bite than a literal one. For the most part, we are in this for ourselves, and anybody that says otherwise is lying. So here I am, no longer putting this site up as a forum, but as a conversation between you and I, where we can sit down as individuals and talk about the state of things.

“Melanie, you are so totally having a complex right now. What happened?”

I haven’t exactly gotten to that yet- but I will now. My desire for a writing partner went full-speed from inquiring about partnerships to basically pleading people to hear me out. It wasn’t pretty, I got slapped around a few times (not literally- but according to pain studies, your brain is unable to differentiate between emotional and physical pain. So one could say it had the same impact on me), and ended up being just as bitter as the rest of them. Not even close, actually- I’ll be a marketer that claims that I’m here to tell your story, and I mean it- and as I had not realize previous to my experiences, I can do it on my own. I am a student marketer, and here is my story!

So tld;dr, yup, in any words, take this as my apology, and a promise to write more. I can be in defense of marketing and show how much it can mean to the storytelling process without being a lawyer-type. After all, I am not in this career path for my own health (I mean this when I say it), I am here because I am in love with the stories of other people, and even though I could never make it as a writer, I can tell their stories through the immersion process.

With that, I give the farewell to Marquetting, and the hello to a site of my namesake- but which is equally if not more about you. 

“Marketing is Dead”

July 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Three Food Companies That (You May Think) Have a Heart

July 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

It occurred to me recently, while working my stint at OrganicRestaurants.com,that 90% of the food-buying process is perception. For the last few months, I have been actively absorbing information about which companies are truly working towards health-oriented goals, and which ones are more interested in selling you some pink slime.As we all know, McDonalds, Burger King,and Subway- all toted as obvious offenders to the unwritten codes of marketing morality, are behemouths searching to poison us for a dollar. Processed food is evil, the scum of the Earth, right?

Well, not exactly. I’ll be the first to defend some brands, especially in food, that really don’t deserve their bad rep. Frozen food, that cancer-inducing scum: Non-GMO Amy’s has set a standard to be envied. Burgers? Try a Tasty Burger- their meat is all locally sourced and sustainably raised.

And then, there are those companies that fall somewhere in the middle, the grey-zone of what I will label as “food morality”. These are the companies which I will be addressing- companies which have seemingly unlimited resources to play spin-doctor to their own reputations. They do good things- sometimes even great things- to improve quality of life. Or so it would seem. However, looking behind the money waterfall of their public relations and marketing, comes a grim reminder of their core message: they couldn’t care less about your health.

3. Kraft Foods
Calling all mothers- if you haven’t fed your child a cup of radiation-yellow noodles known as “Mac and Cheese” in the last week, you are either a terrible parent, or simply haven’t heard the siren call of Cheeseasaurus Rex. After all, if you’re a mom, Kraft knows your pain points: kids are finicky, your time is limited, and you’re more or less one hissy-fit away from blowing your top at your Little Princess (or Prince). That’s why Kraft has spent millions on building a family-friendly food-based empire, which aside from erring on the side of conservatism (if you can find an image of a dad cooking with his children or a non-nuclear family on their site, please call me out), very easily fills the need of many busy parents. How wholesome of them- catering to the nutritional needs of children while simplifying the hassle of dinner! Peace at last.
Well, that is until you realize that Kraft is a fond supporter of Genetic Modification, and could already contain trace amounts of GMO wheat in every package. So what? Independent lab tests have already shown a correlation between a diet of GMO foods and a number of ailments. Oh you know, nothing big- just some tumors and severe stomach irritation and inflammation. Not exactly something you’d like to hear about those wholesome, cheesy noodles you’ve had around the house since you were a child. Only, this may not have been the case since your childhood. GMOs have only been in the food source since the early 1990’s. Bonus- they have not been tested on humans, either. Means it isn’t toxic to humans, right? Actually, all it means is that your children are Kraft’s little guinea pigs. Wholesome? Not really.

2. Coca-Cola
What a classic! Who wouldn’t want a nice, refreshing Coca-Cola on a hot summer’s day? If you took things at face-value, it might be easy to think that Coca-Cola has transcended the soda category and become a notable of business ethics. With a tag-line like “Open Happiness”, it seems that all this company wants to do is introduce you to some of the finer pleasures in life. They are the sponsors of so many childhood locations- places like Six Flags and other amusement and water parks nationally. Coca-Cola has even created a vending machine that with a press of a button allows anybody to send a soda and a smile to somebody as close as the next town over or as fara away as Japan. Now that’s impressive. Imagine how much money it much have cost to just develop and install these machines, let alone keep them maintained. They care so much about our having a wholesome, well-balanced life, that they are even helping to sponsor nutritionist events- whoa, hold up. If that sounded wrong to you, it is. Coca-cola is notorious for actively working their way into nutrition events, and have even allegedly thrown enough dollars into the pot that their sponsored speakers are encouraged to remove the stigma around soft-drinks in their talks and chalk them up as being “healthy in moderation”. Healthy isn’t exactly the right word to use here, especially since soda, even in “suggested” doses can cause long-term problems like lower bone density mineral decomposition over time. “But diet soda is better!” you might protest. In reality, diet soda is so terrible, I wouldn’t even feed it to the most heinous of prison-hardened criminals. The reality of diet soda is quite literally horrifying: perhaps they’ll help you cut out extra calories in your family’s diet with the same great taste (like advertised), but it’ll make a severe dent in your health. Still not shaking in your boots? Proven weight gain linked to artificial sweeteners is the least of your problems; try brain-swelling and the slow death of neurons due to one of it’s chemical components released in the blood-brain barrier, formaldehyde. To put it kindly, Coca-Cola is the new snake-oil.

1.Tyson
And finally, we come to the bottom of the basket, and to the one company which, even as a relatively compassionate and forgiving person, I hope falls flat on its face. It’s Tyson. Why would I go after some humble, little (well, big) chicken company. After all, poultry prices would be through the roof without them! And they slice up their chicken into such fridge-friendly portions! Dinner is such a cinch!
I’ll give you that without industrial farming, meat would cost a bit more. But is the less expensive meat really worth it? Factory farms, like those used by Tyson (one of the 4 major meat monopolies in the U.S.) are the ultimate achilles heel of animal rights and environmental activists- and is even becoming an issue of human rights. Subsidized corn being fed to the animals is putting small farmers out of business- the price of corn drops so low that in order to pay the bills, farmers must grow more and more corn in a faster time slot. “Too bad, they should just just adopt a new model. Adapt or die!” critics exclaim. Only problem is, both adapting and dying results in the same outcome- being bought- up by the bigger company. But it doesn’t stop there. This corn is fed to the animals, like chickens and cows, whose digestive systems aren’t built to digest corn, causing many of them to live in pain. This feed is also enhanced to cause many of the birds and other animals to gain weight at a rapid pace, at which point some of them develop musculo-skeletal problems which leaves them immobile. That’s just the price of cheap meat, right?
Oh, but there’s more. Perhaps animal welfare, or the job security of family farms isn’t of interest to you. After all- you’re able to buy food for your family at a reasonable price, so who are you to complain? And Tyson’s marketing seems to think the same. In fact, they think you’re ignorant and that a nice little polish on their PR and advertising will be enough to wash away your worries and whisk you away to your super market’s meat aisle. Like Kraft, they have whole meal plans dedicated to making sure your family isn’t protein-deficient (by packing their meat into every plate you serve). And don’t worry, they won’t be. They’ll also be full of plenty of antibiotics and potentially animals which may or may not have eaten parts of their dead comrades ground into feed. Not that they think you need to know.
Eh, not that big of an issue? How about this: no matter what they do, Tyson will always be serving you this food with the nice little pasture logo and barn. Maybe you know what’s actually going on behind closed doors, but a surprising majority don’t know. A red barn and field on a logo no longer means what it used to. Many of these farms look- and act- more like sewage plants. Those with little nutritional information, or looking to put dinner on the table on a budget simply won’t stand a chance.

These companies are living proof that no matter how good your advertising may be, bad practices are still bad practices. Wrap it all up in a pretty bow on top, but when you learn more about where your food comes from, the ugly truth will begin to show.

So what do we do? It’s not specifically anyone’s job to clean these deceptive messes up- so it’s our job to do whatever we can. In the words of one of my favorite professors, “vote with your wallet”

Damage Control- Lessons Amy’s Baking Company and the Government Can Learn About PR

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s pretty ugly out there, especially when your company’s PR consists of conspiracy theories and fans about to tear down your walls both literally and figuratively. At least, that’s one thing these months have taught us- and re-enforced among those of us in the marketing community.

Without taking any one side, I can tell you right now that the actions of both the government and Amy’s Baking Company aren’t any different in theory. Sure, a woman screaming at her customers (and occasionally speaking cat) has nothing to do with the belabored communication between a government and its people. Oh, but it does. And the message of both goes back to the same point- when damage control isn’t done, the damage will be significant.

Although there have been questionable actions by restaurant owners in the past, none have been as blatant as Amy And Samy of Amy’s Baking company. Featured in the finale episode of one of Gordon Ramsay’s many shows, Kitchen Nightmares, the finale episode showed the couple’s interaction with its customer as it is. One of the most notable lines in the entire episode featured co-owner Samy speaking candidly with a customer in his establishment: when the customer stated that there was “something wrong with the salad” although he couldn’t describe what, Samy took face-to-face action. He promptly told his customer that he, in fact, was in the wrong- the salad he had ordered was perfectly fine, and he didn’t know what he was talking about. Yikes.
That’s nice and all. Except it was broadcasted on national television. 

Adding fuel to the flame, angry viewers further sank the company into infamy on every social media channel the Bakery used- most notably Facebook. However, instead of admitting their flaws and healing bonds through the internet, Amy and Samy flamed their own customers in a fashion that could be best described as self-satirizing.

The lesson here? Use PR for good. In a book I was reading recently called “Real-Time Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott, this point was deeply elaborated on; every opportunity of negative customer feedback is a contact point between an individual and a company which allows the company to prove its dedication to the customer. In the case of Amy and Samy, dedication nothing.

So what does this have to do with the recent set of issues with the government? It’s all about the response made in reaction to backlash. Although Amy’s Baking Company made clear their message (“get the Hell out!”), the American government has been sending its people a much different message- and one which is much more mixed.

In reaction to the recent Benghazi scandal, Obama took the stand to state the goals, misunderstandings, and intent of the U.S government. However, in the time between the event and Obama’s speech, the silence of the government created the kind of communication ferment that encourages negative sentiment. You could bet Fox25 was all over that.

So Obama did his part, announcing the government perspective (whether it was satisfying or not ultimately depending on your own perspective). However, I am left to wonder: even the largest of companies responds to crises in real-time by at least acknowledging misunderstandings and announcing a resolution, even if it doesn’t happen at that very moment and takes hours or days to plan. Where was the U.S. government in those critical hours?

The moral of the story being this- as soon as you know anything, negative or positive, fill your followers, customers, or patrons in, in real-time. 

Also, avoid doing things that are just immoral in general. Like screaming and yelling at customers.

Meow.

So Maybe Facebook isn’t Doomed

May 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Let me take back what I have already previously stated; Facebook, I can tell you right now, isn’t doomed. They’re on the move.

Although I was personally bent to believe that Facebook was going down the path to destruction after the initial release of the IPO, a month later I have no other option but to correct myself. Why?

Within the last few weeks, Facebook has done more than change the layout of their search (again) and introduced the moderately questionable graph search- they’ve truly taken a step to salvage themselves from self-destruction; and it’s come in the form of mobile.

Although I can’t necessarily sing praises about the new setup of the site, changes which were inevitable and I believe slightly unnecessary, I do have to compliment their relatively new take on mobile.

I know I might get some flak for this, but I believe Facebook is actively changing their status from a platform from which a user one logs into other, more niche platforms into a more modernized iteration of what it has always been; a way to quickly and easily build and maintain friendships and relationships.

Although Facebook’s current mobile strategy is far from perfect (bubbles? Really?), it is apparent that Facebook is no longer in a state of stagnation, but on the move to define itself as a key facet of any relationship. Realizing how slow and outdated their app was, Facebook re-designed the mobile site to become a more user-friendly iteration of the full site- fragmenting site extensions into individual, more clean-cut apps. For your pages, try the app for page manager. Want to make your messages more accessible on-the-go? There’s the messenger for that.

But one has to wonder- is breaking up the app actually going to encourage more usage or just confusion? As I believe, both.

While Facebook is most clearly making an effort to polish their offerings on mobile, it is curious as to why it couldn’t be done in one single, all-inclusive and optimized app. Perhaps they know something we don’t. Or maybe they’re just right, and we all just need to catch up to their level. Regardless, I can’t say I am a fan of it.

Judge me if you’d like- but I actually do like the new messenger app; to an extent. While I do think the profile bubbles make access to the messaging app radically better, the execution of the app is, er, lacking. The bubbles truly have no spacial perception of your phone, and they will not hesitate to pop up on the side of the screen when you are trying to zoom in on fine details and block your way- until you have to forcibly drag them down the screen. I also take problem with the inherent size of these bubbles- on an iPhone, they will eat up your screen space without second thought.

Plus, for the love of God, they are bubbles- can I just have the option to pop them.

All on all, I have reason to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt- as long as they keep moving towards innovation, I see them continuing on as the omnipresent force that they are.

Now, about that Facebook phone…

The Ugly Reality of the Economy Needs a Facelift

May 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

I woke up this morning with a very frightening realization of my reality in Marketing- the world, more often than not, is against me and my field.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a pessimistic view, and as a general optimist, it struck me. 
All things considered, I really couldn’t be in college at a worse time; although unemployment is continuing to drop, it still remains at around 8%, and the number of underemployed individuals even after they have graduated from college is staggering. According to the Center For College Affordability, 48% of college graduates are in jobs that don’t require college degrees. Yikes.

This is a reality that I can personally attest to, as well- one of my friends who graduated from Emerson College’s marketing program ended up resorting back to the minimum wage job that she held before college, and moved back with her family permanently for financial reasons. Even realistically, she was one of the lucky ones who was able to afford four years of education at a private university- three of my close friends have recently deferred from school due to the state of the economy, two of which have unfortunately had no other option but to completely drop out.

This is the world I live in, and despite the odds, I was convinced for the last two years that my college education would allow me to land an agency internship by my Junior year. My optimism did not hold up, and while I am honored to have an internship at all this summer, it is not what I had expected.

In my field of marketing, more specifically branding, the world is a place that won’t just open doors for you- especially without connections. My connections being dominated by classmates of my own age, it is enough to say that I won’t be given a managerial position any time soon (not that my current level of education warrants it), let alone any kind of lucrative marketing position -well- anywhere.

But enough of the pity party. So maybe the world won’t just open the doors to me despite how hard I may struggle to make my mark in a world that has already had every inch of it covered with people more well-connected and talented than I am. Maybe I will just have to break down the doors myself.

The question being- how do I and others like myself move one once we know the sobering facts? Should I personally stick my head between my legs and never show my face to the world again? I sure want to. But it’s not an option, and doing so would mean becoming submissive to a world that is bent against my favor. 

Maybe it will kick me in the face, but more than anything, I would like to shape the world into a way such that it will be favorable for not only myself, but my generation. A generation of talents that would otherwise be lost on a world already crippled by a poor financial state and closed doors.

Maybe all of us just need to pave our own way, creating our own business and stimulus for the economy in a back-door kind of way. I’m all for it.

Let’s get the pry bar.

‘Tis the Season For Cleanly Shaven Legs. And Some Marketing Razorburn.

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Know what Spring means? Time for dresses and shorts- and, of course, razors. Already, brands like Schick and Gillette are duking it out over the hotly contested territory that is your legs. Those are prime real-estate in this season- and all these brands want to do is find their way into your hands first.

In such a highly commoditized product category, these companies are feeding the madness of product competition. And I’m about to help.

Introducing: the Razor face-off. Is there actually a notable difference between razors, or are we actually just buying the marketing?

We begin with the first company to land itself a spot in my shower, Schick.

As I mention in the video, while Schick is duking it out in the severely red ocean that is razor sales, the brand has done something notably unique to distinguish itself from the crowd in-hand. The handle seems to be curved in a more ergonomic fashion- or at least what seems to try to be ergonomics. This, however creates more discomfort for the user than meets the eye.

What the razor has going for it? Super-smart moisture positioning. With a moisturizing serum surrounding the blades and a moisture strip below the blades, Schick clearly looked at how we women use razors. Usually a victim of severe klutziness, this brand-new razor’s setup even saved me from knicking myself.

But still, I have to ask: why the wonky grip. But really, whose idea was it, and why did so much comfort have to be spoiled by appearance (I know this is the motto of fashion and all, but I just wanted a nice shave without a hand cramp, goddmit)

Schick Hydro Silk score: 7.5/10

(Please note that I received this object as a free trial and this is not a paid endorsement)