Jan 03

Hey kids, it’s still all about location, location, location.

Did you know the image of the American college town has been redefined from the bucolic New England village with tree-lined quads and ivy-covered neo-Gothic buildings to vibrant cities of “eds” and “meds?”

small schoolSo says Jeffrey J. Selingo, author of There Is Life After College.

Today, in every one of the 20 largest U.S. cities, a college, university or medical center is among the top 10 employers in town. You won’t find those sorts of stats at Colby, Ramapo or Oberlin.

That’s because cutting-edge colleges have re(de?)signed the urban education experience and are running rings around their smaller, rural peers.

A survey called the College Destinations Index ranks the top schools in four ways:

  • Impact of off-college student experience
  • Economic health of the surrounding community
  • Cultural advantages offered within walking distance of campus
  • Employment opportunities

Boston, San Jose, Boulder and Ithaca came out on top.

Colleges and universities in these four areas in particular (Shout out: Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC, scored equally well) have had the foresight to do two things:

  • They’ve fully integrated with the surrounding community (you won’t see Harvard or Yale-type brick walks separating, say, Drexel from its neighboring Philadelphia neighborhoods).
  • They’re located where the strategic jobs of the future will be in greatest demand.

Boston, for example, plays home to countless hospitals, medical device manufacturers, cyber security think tanks and advanced engineering companies (to name just a few). These fields are what Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun calls, “robot-proof professions” and areas where students with a passion for careers in such disciplines should be studying.

Across the country, USC is another world-class example of an urban school that’s connected with the surrounding community and now is a vibrant part of LaLa Land (as well as a great place to pursue a career in media, entertainment and the arts).

There are countless other examples, but the big message here is to think twice before enrolling in a small, isolated liberal arts school (a la Iona, Drew or Haverford). And think twice before declaring a major: incredibly, 65 percent of the jobs that will exist in 10 years have yet to be invented.

So, do your homework, identify your passion, match it with an urban university that will provide the richest cultural experience and maybe, just maybe, you’ll not only be able to pay off those dreaded college loans a whole lot sooner, you might actually one day earn more money than your parents.

 

Dec 27

How the Second Quarter Stole Christmas

cowToday’s Repman is by Nicole Newby…

The Cowboys are breaking records all over the place this season, so my Christmas present came early this year. But the team facilitated a bigger (and much more meaningful) Christmas miracle: a $250,000 spike in donations to The Salvation Army, which will help serve an additional 91,000 meals to people in need.

After rushing two yards for a record-breaking touchdown during the second quarter in last Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott celebrated by jumping into the oversized iconic red kettle behind the end zone. In the two days following Zeke’s leap, The Salvation Army received $850,000 in donations.

But just like every great Christmas story, this one also has a Scrooge. The NFL charged the Cowboys with a 15-yard penalty for “using a prop in a touchdown celebration.” There were also talks of a potential hefty fine for the team. I could go on and on about the ridiculousness of this rule in general, but to penalize the team for drawing attention to a charity during the holidays just screams “bah humbug.”

In response to the potential fine, Elliott said he would match it in a donation to the charity. That must have inspired the NFL’s heart to grow three sizes, because they ultimately decided not to charge a fine. Elliott, however, tweeted that he was donating $21,000 to The Salvation Army regardless, and encouraged his fans to add $21 contributions of their own, which has separately raised about $17,000.

So why was Elliott’s red kettle leap so successful in drawing attention to the cause?  One word: authenticity. This wasn’t a pre-planned publicity stunt and it wasn’t sanctioned by either organization involved. Elliott has a genuine passion for this organization. Aside from his public call for donations, he and his teammates volunteered at The Salvation Army in Fort Worth on Thanksgiving. Audiences saw this and were able to relate to—and rally behind—the cause.

 

Dec 23

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 5

industrial pipes at factoryThe final installment of our predictions for what lies ahead ahead comes from Ann Barlow, who has been named “woman of the year” by PR News and “forever influential” on two separate occasions by the highly acclaimed San Francisco Business Times.

With creds like those, how could she possibly be wrong?

Here are Ann’s predictions for the industrial manufacturing field:

Digital transformation & internal communications

Manufacturers of all sizes are undergoing a digital transformation. The speed with which they need to create new products (i.e., electronics and defense frequently update products versus pipe valves or office furniture, which are on a slower cycle) in many ways will set the pace for how quickly adoption needs to happen. Regardless, nearly everyone we talk with in manufacturing talks about the greatest barrier to adoption is employee willingness to do so. The adoption rate is often complicated by multiple generations and cultures, all of which creates a tremendous need for effective employee engagement and connection. With all of the tools and channels available to communicators, we have a unique opportunity to drive change.

Marketing sophistication

Industrial marketers tell us that for the first time in 2016, they began to evolve from brochures and brochureware websites into building programs around customer experience. They are beginning to use

insights to develop strategies and messaging, and then testing the channels that will be most effective in reaching them.

But corporate brand still matters

Even as marketers implement more sophisticated approaches to drive sales, brand still matters. They need to tell a brand story in ways that will engage employees and prospective employees and shareholders, and in many cases customers as well, since many are finding opportunities to sell as a unified organization rather than individual companies. The latter is often the approach that industrials, frequently a mosaic of acquired companies, haven taken historically.

Mobile becomes more critical

For B2B industrial companies, adopting a mobile strategy is no longer a “nice-to-have” or I’ll “add-it-to-next-year’s-list” kind of initiative. According to Google, more searches are performed on mobile devices than desktop computers, which probably comes as no surprise if you’re reading this on a mobile now. B2B companies will need to smarten up their mobile marketing strategies tout suite to ensure users can access their content on their mobile devices and have a seamless – and meaningful – brand experience.  And, even more simply, remain relevant and competitive in the years ahead.

Integrated measurement

Show me the ROI! B2B companies will start to examine more closely what marketing programs are having a real bottom-line  impact and which ones need a lift. And instead of one-off measurement programs that look at, say, just media placement (quality and quantity, share of voice and tonality), they’ll start to measure, analyze and report on the full mix of integrated marketing activities including but not limited to: media and social, website, paid digital, internal communications and engagement, and CRM and direct marketing. A holistic measurement program that is defined and created at the beginning of an engagement – and reviewed at various intervals – is not just smart business, it’s essential business.

Leading into the July 4th weekend, this column will make a point of examining each, and every, prediction made this week to see if anyone got anything right.

Until then Repman, and the entire Repman production crew, wish you and yours a happy holiday season.

Dec 22

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 4

digHaving already taken a look into the crystal ball in such fields as financial services, experiential and consumer, we next turn our attention to the white hot world of digital (which, as we know, means different things to different people). No matter how you define it, Peppercomm’s Digital Director, Mike Friedin has selected five trends to keep your eyes on…

  • Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will increasingly augment and extend every technology enabled service, thing or application. More businesses will place focus on creating systems that continuously learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously than execute against a set of predefined instructions.
  • Small data must be managed better. Big data gets the headlines, but small data runs the intricacies for many businesses, as we see an increase in Account Based Marketing and personalized experiences driving deeper engagement and customer loyalty.
  • Right time not real time. When and where in the customer journey will become more critical than fast data assembly, and delivering optimal messaging with customers and prospects on a one-to-one basis by automatically replacing entire sections of your messages based on each recipient’s unique behaviors, interests and needs.
  • Advances in Content Marketing sophistication, breaking through the noise with greater contextual targeting, personalization and marketing apps that drive interactive experiences with programmatic flow and logic, especially mobile in-app.
  • Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers continue to gain traction based on the promise to transform industry operating models. While the current hype is around the financial services industry, there are many possible applications including music distribution, identity verification, title registry and supply chain. 

We wrap up our weeklong series tomorrow with a glimpse into the industrial manufacturing sector by our own chief foreman, Ann Barlow.

Dec 21

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 3

experienceSpecial events and conferences have morphed into a much larger service offering called “experiential.”

Melissa Vigue, our most experienced experiential expert, passes along her tips for what to look for in 2017.

  • Rise of brand moments vs. sponsorships. We are beginning to see brands move away from traditional sponsorship activation to create true brand experiences as either stand-alone events or major activations at or near existing events.
  • Increase in cause-related experiential. I don’t want to just go to something, I want my attendance to mean something. And for brands, it’s about going beyond the “donate a dollar at the register” and getting out into the community.
  • Further integration of physical and digital landscapes. Consumers want to be fully immersed in brand environments but it must also be personalized. So as predicted, the personalization trend continues – consumers increasingly want to direct their own experience within an environment. Gamification will play a big role here. Choose your own adventure, anyone?
  • The role of psychology. There is even more of a focus here.  While emotional connections and currency are important when creating experiences – doing something people really want to be a part of whether for a cause or because of the way it makes them feel – there is a movement toward cognitive fluency. What’s that? The idea that people tend to prefer things that they are familiar or comfortable with and are easy to understand. Imagine the impact if you can generate that mindset in a place where they can experience and maybe even purchase products.
  • Being live. While live streaming is not new, 2017 will be the year that its potential can be fully realized through the Facebook and Instagram Live platforms.  Beyond that, streaming is not just about sharing the experience beyond the event, but rather about engaging those onsite and creating an excellent experience for attendees and sponsors.

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the mysterious and sometimes murky world of digital. Our skipper will be Mike Friedin, Peppercomm’s digital director. Remember it’ll be a BYO life preserver blog, so come prepared.

Dec 20

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017 – Part 2

consumerWelcome to today’s second demonstration of Peppercomm leadership’s superb prognostication skills.

Yesterday, you were treated to Jacko Kolek’s look into the financial services crystal ball.

Today will feature a rare doubleheader. In the home opener, Maggie O’Neill, our consumer group leader par excellence will provide her views for what’s just around the corner of the next shopping aisle.

The later blog, whose start time is 2:15 EST, will see Melissa. If you’re on the mound, serving up her 99 mph fastballs to readers hoping to know what’s next in the experiential ballpark.

Oddly, both have predicted Ed and I will be fired and replaced by new general managers by ground Hog Day. Time will tell.

And, now, hereeeeeeee’s Maggie.

  • Consumer trust in brands continues to decline while the consumer demand for 100% brand authenticity continues to rise. And, we are coming off a year of large established brands letting people down.  Brands need to find their unique authenticity and voice (think Shinola) and not just try to insert themselves in a place they don’t belong. And when it comes to trust – transparency, accessibly and responsibility are essential.
  • Consumer brands are picking sides in today’s Trump era.  The divided election and raised voices across the country has propelled many brands to cater towards or against the new president-elect in a much more obvious way than ever before.
  • Personalization remains king.  As we shift our marketing focus from Millennials to Gen Z, the need for brands to personalize the entire brand and product lifestyle experience will continue to grow.
  • Data and analytics are driving almost every decision and the budgets that go along with them more than ever before. An ever-more diversified consumer makes understanding your audience even more important.
  • The traditional path to purchase for most or all consumer goods does not exist anymore.  Traditional product manufacturers must look at the new journey, and learn how to reach customers at all points along it is critical.

Let us know if you agree, disagree or simply aren’t interested in Maggie’s thoughts.

Maggie will be replaced on the mound by our crack middle-reliever (and experiential expert) Melissa “Big Train” Vigue.

Dec 19

Peppercomm leadership weighs in on what’s ahead in 2017

finserveTo say there’s more uncertainty in the world right now is to suggest digital is a critical new factor in marketing communications. No duh to each.

While we at Peppercomm aren’t gifted fortune tellers, our senior executives are very serious students and analysts of the events, trends and what might be’s in the various categories in which they specialize.

So, I thought we’d focus on five key “verticals” and ask our thought leaders in each to tell you what’s next.

Our lead-off hitter is Jacqueline “Jacko” Kolek, the top dog in our Financial Services group. Please feel free to riff on her thoughts, add some of your own or, if you disagree, tell her why.

One of our top priorities in 2017 is to upgrade our soothsaying capabilities.

  • A Trump administration will potentially completely shake up the FS sector, from regulation to tax reform the pain points of clients and products they will need could change dramatically over the next 4 years.
  • The push for a more robust social media presence for FS companies will accelerate as more senior leaders recognize the value of social selling, including in B2B organizations.
  • Silos between marketing, communications and compliance/legal will collapse as firms seek to create a more robust and efficient way to share content across paid, owned and earned platforms.
  • Analytics rule – understanding the customer journey and gleaning insights to inform more than just marketing strategy will become of paramount importance.
  • Millennials are starting to have money, and lots of it and have very different values in terms of investing it. FS firms will have to figure out how to connect and engage with them more than ever before.

Check out tomorrow’s two-part blog that will provide consumer trend forecasts in the AM and experiential ones in the afternoon.

Dec 15

Millions and Millions Killed

138266I’ve been remiss in not extending my condolences to the family of Jim Delligatti. He died in late November at the age of 98.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it should.

The man stands alongside Edison, da Vinci and Franklin as one of history’s greatest inventors.

Jim Delligatti invented the Big Mac.

Yes, Virginia, this is the man who, in 1967, poured gasoline on the slowly smoldering fire that was American obesity and set it aflame. He’s your prototypical firestarter.

Delligatti’s legacy is impressive indeed. Each year, McDonald’s sells 550 Million Big Macs. And, that’s just in the good, old U.S. of A. Mickey D’s sells billions more worldwide.

Just imagine the number of calories Big Mac enthusiasts are shoveling down each year!  Guessing that the average Big Mac packs about 550 calories, my fuzzy math adds up to some 550,000,000,000 calories absorbed annually. Now, there’s a legacy.

I find it amusing, and alarming, that Delligatti lived for another 49 years after inventing the highly addictive Big Mac.

Assuming he ate one of his precious Mac’s every week for his remaining 49 years, Delligatti consumed more than 17,000 of those “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun bastards.” Sorry, that last word was mine.

Anyway, multiply those 17,000+ all-beef parties by 550 calories and ya gotta believe the coroner’s were confused as to whether Delligatti died of natural causes or committed the slowest suicide in history.

There’s so much more to be said. I think I’ll end by suggesting that, while McDonald’s may boast that billions and billions have been served, Delligatti alone can say he’s played a personal role (passively or otherwise) in accelerating the deaths of millions and millions.

R.I.P. Jim Delligatti. The man who brought obesity to the masses.

 

 

Dec 12

What were they thinking?

the-new-york-times-asked-readers-if-they-could-ki-2-2171-1445664152-6_dblbigMy good friend and Peppercomm’s Chief Comedy Officer, Clayton Fletcher, likes to joke that one person can ruin a name for everyone else.

“For example,” he says, “have you heard anyone naming their little girl Kaitlyn of late?” He continues by asking about the name Adolf. “Ever hear a worried mom asking if anyone had seen little Adolf? ‘He’s about six, has a little mustache and is pushy.'”

I cite these politically incorrect jokes because a name really can shape the image of a person or an organization.

That’s why I was stopped in my tracks (which happens daily on my NJTransit commute, BTW) when I stumbled across The Alt.

Serving Troy, Schenectady, Albany and Saratoga Springs, The Alt bills itself as “The capital region’s alternative news weekly.”

All of which would be fine if there wasn’t a certain, far right-wing extremist group known as the Alt-Right (See: Steve Bannon, fake news, etc.).

The Alt’s editor, David Howard King, says the publication, which just launched, intends to “…. differentiate ourselves by writing alternative journalism. Hard-hitting [poor word choice if I’ve ever seen it] stories that daily newspapers don’t have the resources to pick-up.”

And, get this, King says The Alt will “…always remain opposed to normalizing racism and hate speech.”

Wow. Then why choose the damn name in the first place?

I’m delighted to see the return of a FREE alternative print newsweekly in the wake of similar publications going belly-up in Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco.

But, considering the paper’s mainstream target audience, The Alt is knowingly, or unknowingly, alienating at least 50 percent of its readership from the get-go (See results of recent national election popular vote).

It not only boggles the mind but flies in the face of Clayton Fletcher’s astute observations of the impact one bad apple can have on the future of a name.

What’s next? A Democratic National Committee newsletter called “The Clan?”

 

 

Dec 08

Reebok’s “Perfect Never” Campaign Isn’t So Perfect

Today’s guest RepMan is by Peppercommer Nicole Newby. 

1111911thenandnow1Supermodels are synonymous with the fashion world’s vision of perfection. So I was a little surprised at the irony when Reebok recently appointed Gigi Hadid, one of today’s most recognizable models, as one of the faces of its Perfect Never campaign.

This is not a post about Gigi’s physical appearance or what she does outside of the spotlight to maintain that physique. In fact, since she became a face for the brand, I’ve been reading several articles about her athletic background and affinity for boxing. And I have to say, I’m impressed.

All of that aside, this is about brand image—both for Gigi and Reebok. At first glance, it seems like this is a very clever move from Gigi’s management team to make her more relatable and human. But that’s not what her career is based on. Her public image, which has tied her face to high-end names like Versace, Stuart Weitzman and Tom Ford, is built and relies on her having the perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect outfit, perfect figure…

Since Reebok rebranded a few years ago and through strategic partnerships with Spartan Race, UFC and CrossFit, the brand has built a strong foundation of supporters who embody a tough fitness mentality. A career supermodel is not someone with whom they would have a lot in common on the surface.

I understand Reebok’s intention. Gigi works hard behind the scenes, and she undoubtedly has her own insecurities and story to tell. But consumers today are smart and value brand authenticity. The comments on Reebok’s Facebook posts featuring Gigi give direct insight into the audience’s disappointment here. There is a fine line between a campaign that intrigues the audience to want to learn “why” and one that just doesn’t initially make sense at first glance.

Ronda Rousey was a previous icon for the campaign, aptly following her first-ever loss in the UFC fight that cost her the championship belt, shattered her perfect record and knocked her off her invincibility pedestal. She became more human, and Reebok’s campaign exonerated that. These ads exuded a raw intensity and authenticity that made them memorable—and consumers were able to relate and rally behind the message of “being perfect isn’t as powerful as being human.”

With some digging, consumers may learn that the message is still authentic with Gigi, but on the surface it looks like Reebok is just conforming to the same mold as every other fashion brand. And with a target audience of athletes who are vocal about embracing imperfections, this marketing decision isn’t a knockout.