Category Archives: General

Catch 22

book-publishing1I was talking with an author yesterday. His name is Michael Henry; he’s got a new novel (his 8th) on the way. It’s called Murder in the Grove – the plot is rooted in the riots on the Ole Miss campus in October, 1962. It sounds great and I can’t wait to read it.

During our conversation, he mentioned that book publishing is a “Catch 22” these days: Publishers are hesitant to work with authors who haven’t already sold a lot of books, but how’s a new writer supposed to sell books if they can’t find a publisher?

He said it’s the same in the music business. Recording companies favor musicians who have previously sold a lot of music.

And I started thinking how that’s similar to what I hear from students all the time: To land a marketing job, they need experience on their resume. But how do they get experience if employers won’t ever hire someone without it?

Unfortunately I don’t have much advice for authors or musicians.

But when it comes to internships and jobs for my students, I tell them to grab something – anything – to get their first gig out of the way. Then build the resume from there. Sometimes students hesitate to take an internship because they don’t think the opportunity sounds exciting, of they feel the responsibilities might be menial.

But a dull internship is still an internship.

My first internship was at a marketing agency in London. Although that sounds great to say, the experience was anything but. On some days they’d send me to the store to buy more milk and tea for the break room. On other days, I’d sort through file cabinets and organize brochures. Although I got to meet a lot of nice people, the job was generally boring and lasted just a semester.  But from that point forward, I had a track record. Having that internship made getting the next (better) one easier.

Years later, it was a similar paradox when I left my corporate job and started consulting, I knew the hardest client to get would be the first one. How much would I have to tap dance when a prospect asked for references or wanted to know whom my other clients were? I was open to anything, and the first marketing project I landed involved creating display boards for a trade show for a small insurance company. I remember standing there with foam boards and Spray Mount wondering if I’d made a huge career mistake.  But that project led to a better one, and then a better one, and within a few months I had landed some nice projects with the corporate offices of Wells Fargo Mortgage, Farm Bureau, Nationwide, a few municipal governments and other entities.

There will always be Catch 22s. The trick is doing what you need to do to move past it.

For more information on Michael Henry’s books, click here

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Filed under Branding, General, Strategy

Pick the Right Internship

intern3Students often ask me about internships:  Where to get them, how many they should have, what they should look for, when to start searching.

This is serious stuff for integrated marketing communications and journalism students – no one finds a job after graduation if they haven’t had some type of real-world experience.

Earlier this week a student who was fortunate enough to have several internship opportunities to choose from asked me how to pick the right one.

Here are some thoughts, not so much from my perspective as a professor, but as a guy who has hired a lot of people (including new college graduates) for both internships and jobs over the years.  Disclaimer:  It is my opinion.  This does not necessarily reflect the views of the Meek School of Journalism or Ole Miss; the career placement office may give different advice.

It’s not just the job.  At least in marketing communications, an internship shouldn’t be so much about specific job duties as it is experiencing things, meeting people, and building a network.  Sure, it would be great to have work published, build a cool new app or website, or organize an industry conference.  But answering phones or fetching coffee isn’t a bad gig either if you’re doing it for the right people – people who will be impressed with you attitude, recognize initiative and can help you find your next job.

A couple weeks ago I met Renie Anderson, senior vice president for sponsorship and partner development with the NFL.  Her first job out of college?  She worked as a temp, which led to a job as a personal assistant, which put her in touch with the right people, and her career took off from there.

Think about brand.  Get the best one you can onto your resume.  A few years back, a student asked me to help her evaluate two internship offers.  One was a decent job with nice pay and pretty impressive responsibilities, but at a small agency few people had ever heard of.  The other seemed like a slight step down in terms of duties and scope, but it was with consumer products giant Unilever.  With it, she’d be based in Bentonville, Arkansas, working on the Walmart account.  I steered her to the latter because in three months when the gig was over, it would look better to have Unilever and Walmart on a resume than….hmm, I can’t remember the name of the other agency.

Brand matters.  It matters big time.  Having recognizable ones on your resume is extremely valuable.

The people count.  Think about the individuals you might meet and the relationships you will build – people who can introduce you to others and provide strong references.  Go for those opportunities where you’ll be exposed to as many others as possible.  Remember, networking isn’t just about who you know, but who those people know.

Remember grades, but…  Sometimes students ask if grades matter.  For internships and first jobs out of college, yes they do.  But it’s because that’s often a criteria companies use to winnow applicants.  Once you’re into the workplace, no one cares.

Generally speaking, I think the emphasis on grades is overrated.  I actually don’t ever recall looking at GPA whenever I’ve hired someone; I assume if they got through college their marks must have been adequate.  Instead, I want to see what the person has done, I want a portfolio of work, I want experiences, I want references, I want to know who they know.  Yes, grades can sometimes be indicators of how hard someone has worked in the past.  But I’m not convinced it is much of a predictor of future performance.  I don’t really care that a professor may have given an “A” on a project – I care about what that project accomplished.

Of course if you plan to go to graduate school, that’s another story…

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Filed under General, Integrated Marketing Communications

Smokin’ Santa — and Other Old Ads

mime-attachmentI’m a marketing guy, a history buff and love studying cultural trends.  So it’s no surprise I enjoy ads and promotions from yesteryear.  If advertising is a reflection of who we are as a society, then old ads are a window into the past in terms of who we were and what we valued in the past.  Take a look at these promotions from a long-gone era.

On August 30, 2012 I also wrote about Dodge’s attempt to market to women in the 1950s, click here to read it.

 

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And no commentary on this topic would be complete without a look at a Flintstones TV commercial for Winston cigarettes, click below to play it.  (Few students today have even heard of the Flintstones; that show was back in the stone age of television.)

 

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Filed under Ethics, General

Unique Marketing Communication Ideas

I asked some of my students to tell me the most unique or unusual marketing communication tactics they recall.  Following are a few of the replies in their own words.  Fun stuff!

One of the strangest advertisements I have seen was on a bus. The bus was promoting the television show shark week. The outside of the bus had a shark swimming in water. The interesting part was that the doors of the bus were actually the shark’s mouth. So when you entered the bus it looked as if you were entering a shark’s mouth.

In October, I saw a marketing tactic on the Internet to raise breast cancer awareness. There was a speed bump at Taiba Hospital in Kuwait , but instead of white or yellow lines across it, the lines were pink, and a sign near the speed bump read, “Felt the bump? Have your breasts checked.”   I later read that the tactic was a great success and the average of women who received  breast examinations at Taiba Hospital rose from 60 to 200 per month.

One of the weirdest advertisements that I have seen was in a bathroom. The bathroom was promoting adoption for teenage moms. It was a poster with a young girl pregnant thinking about giving her baby away. The weird part about it was, was that it was actually promoting adoption.

I was on Times Square in New York City and I went to the Charmin Bathroom Experience. It was a place where you could use the bathroom and in the decorated bathrooms, there were all the different types of Charmin toilet paper.  While waiting in line, workers would come around handing out Kleenex brand tissue paper. Some of the tissue paper had Vick’s Vapo-Rub put in it.  There were also fun activities like sitting on a giant toilet and getting your picture taken and dancing with the Charmin bears.  I thought this was a method of interactive advertising in that a person who visited there had a good time, and it was Charmin who provided the fun, that might switch their toilet paper loyalty.

I use to live next to a Porto Potty company and wondered why they had ads for local insurance agencies and businesses on the side of the units.  The owner spoke with me one day and said that he had contracted at one time or another with these businesses.  I thought it would be in poor taste to advertise on a Porto potty, but there were no restaurants ads or groceries store ads on them. That would make it in poor taste if it did.  Those the owner said the advertising was a real money maker for him.

I learned about VITAE shelters in Portugal.  They put advertisement on the inside of the trash can dumpster lid.  It is a picture of what appears to be an old homeless man.  It states, “HELP. So that no one has to come here for food. VITAE.” I think this ad is very bold and effective.  I would stop and definitely think a minute or two about VITAE and what I could do to help if I saw this, as I assume many others would to.  You would never think throwing your trash away could be so effective.

The other day when I was waiting in line to check out in Walmart I noticed a girl in front of me had on a t-shirt that said “What Jean Type Are You? Scan Me To Find Out!” and had one of those scanning squares for smart phones on the back of her t-shirt. I have never personally partaken in one of those interactive scanning ads, but the thought of someone actually going up behind that girl and holding their phone up to the back of her t-shirt seemed very odd to me. I did not catch what company it was for, but there was a website listed below the scan logo on her shirt

One of the most interesting advertising locations that i have noticed has been on the table at a Mexican restaurant in my hometown.  There are different advertisements from car dealerships to realtors to spas.  It always grabs my attention every time i eat there and always starts a new topic for the table.  I think that this is a very unusual place for an advertisement, but it does catch your eye and is a great idea for someone to think of.

Advertising that I’ve been seeing recently that I’ve found a bit odd is restroom advertising. You’ll just be sitting there, doing your business, and directly in front of you is what almost looks like a classified page, full of advertisements. The ads range from football tickets to emotional abuse help. I guess ads on toilet paper would just kind of add on to this.

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Filed under General, Integrated Marketing Communications

What I’m Up To

Here’s an article that recently appeared in the Mississippi Business Journal.  It’s a good highlight of the Ole Miss IMC program.  Click here

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“Bout Time

It’s about time I resurrect my blog.  I’m now in Oxford, Mississippi — a beautiful place.

I thought about deleting all my old posts, rebranding this site and starting anew but decided to keep the past…and just roll into the future.  Look for more (although shorter) commentary on marketing news, my thoughts, and especially more sharing of interesting (and sometimes unique and downright strange) things I see in the world of integrated marketing communications.

This site is called Scott’s Thoughts — but I look forward to your thoughts as well.  Let me know what you think.

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Marketing and Free Speech

A couple weeks ago, a federal judge temporarily blocked the implementation of new rules that were set to go into effect for cigarette packaging next fall.  For several years, the FDA had been planning to require that tobacco companies incorporate very graphic anti-smoking messages on packages – and to do it far more prominently than current health warnings, which are text only.  The new labeling would require both words and large images, and would also extend to advertising.

A couple of the proposals are pictured here.

The tobacco companies, of course, have been crying foul all along.

Now on one hand, mandating certain requirements of product packaging and advertising is nothing new.  Look no further than pharmaceutical marketing, where a sizable portion of ads (both print and broadcast) is devoted to a description of undesirable side effects.  Do you really think Pfizer or Merck wants to inform customers that they could experience bizarre ailments – or even die – from using their product?  No, but that’s just the way it is.

I’m well versed in financial services marketing, where disclaimers, legal notices and other fine print can eat up half the space of an ad.

When Campbell’s packages soup, they probably don’t like showing how much sodium the product contains, but food labeling laws require just that!

So in some respects, the tobacco companies are just blowing smoke (pardon the pun) when they say these new labeling regulations will keep people from buying their product (which is the point, by the way).

But the tobacco companies sued on the grounds these restrictions are a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech.  They say the new labeling goes beyond just communicating purely factual information (as the current warnings do), and will impede sales of the product itself.  “The government can’t require a company that sells a lawful product to urge the public not to buy it,” say one of their lawyers.

It will be interesting too see how it plays out; some pundits are saying this will wind its way to the Supreme Court.

This is a tough one for me, because while I’m not a smoker, I see the point – it’s a legal product.  And I’m a huge “free speech” advocate.   Sometimes it’s hard to balance free speech and marketing.  It would be easier for me to justify banning the product entirely than to essentially kill the ability to promote it.

And at what point do we start requiring similar packaging changes for other unhealthy products?  Should a wrapper for a fast food hamburger be required to show a picture of a clogged artery?  Should a candy bar have a picture of a fat person?  Should a bottle of vodka come with a picture of a deadly car accident?  Would this be effective, and perhaps the bigger point is would it also be a violation of free speech?

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Filed under Ethics, General