Amanda Tessier

Marketer & More

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M&RL Mania

“What are some current artists?” asked my business professor, standing nervously at the front of the room as he attempted to connect with this silent class.

After several moments of silence, I replied, “Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.” It took several repetitions of the names for him to vaguely understand what I said. He shortened it to “M&RL.” He was oblivious to the power and influence of this charismatic duo.

Later that day, Ryan Lewis made two announcements via Twitter that involved some major brands.

Up until now, M&RL have appeared to be an independent entity of money-hungry businesses. They refused to join forces with record labels; their lyrical content even discusses the influences of major brands (take a listen to Wing$). Now cellular and fashion companies are jumping onto this brand of the creative DJ and energetic performer.

Ryan Lewis isn’t alone in these deals. Dr. Pepper’s campaign focuses on being one of a kind–just like Macklemore–and depicts how the now wildly successful Seattle native worked on his dream to become a rapper from a young age.

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I saw all three promotions within a short timespan of about twelve hours and cared enough to write about them here. I am a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis fan with enough interest to have found Macklemore’s high school mixtape, but not soon enough to have beaten everyone else to the discovery of The Heist. Regardless, the promotions got my attention solely from the people featured. These partnerships were surprising to me; as I said, M&RL seem to take pride in their lack of affiliations with powerhouses. They are a self-made success story with some help along the way from their band of loyal tour managers, videographers, and musicians. To become involved with these companies feels like they’re messing with the magic that made them so popular.

Additionally, notice the song selection in the Dr. Pepper advertisement. It is “Ten Thousand Hours“, the first track off the The Heist and potentially a new single (although I’m still hoping they’ll create a music video for ““Jimmy Iovine”). The song describes the tremendous amount of work it took for M&RL to arrive at this album (let alone this level of success). I make a guess at a new single because the other songs are waning on the charts and the duo may want to reach listeners through this promotion (rather than pushing another song to radio, especially if radio won’t play it).

For the general public who recognizes these names (unlike my professor), these ads should resonate. Individualism, attractiveness, and authenticity are communicated with M&RL as the endorsers. However, if you haven’t heard the story of Macklemore’s rise to fame (spoiler: addiction is a key component), a lot of hard work was involved. It took dedication that isn’t necessarily depicted in these advertisements. There are hardships that the teenage Macklemore in the commercial never faced. Although not every detail can be included in a short television spot, this is no standard “rags to riches” fairytale.

If M&RL are going to commit to working with companies, I hope they use their full creative capacities to leverage the influence for themselves as well. When incorporating a music brand with a product brand, I would love to see the production that went into the photography, the video shoots and the creative concepts. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis produced and shot many–if not all–of their existing music videos with a small team that contributed to the process; I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted some degree of control in these projects. Ryan Lewis’ tweet also suggests an ongoing or existing relationship with Buffalo Jeans; I’m curious to see how it progresses from here.

As powerful as these two men are, they are unable to reach every audience. My professor lacked all name recognition for the group, but I think Dr. Pepper and T-Mobile would be okay with that. These promotional pieces are meant to reach the young, connect with teenage and young-adult culture, and the give the companies the infectious likability that made Macklemore and Ryan Lewis so famous.

Humble Pie at FutureM

Purple moleskin in hand and business cards in my purse, I manage to get myself out the door by quarter of eight and join the street with the professionals, commuters, dog walkers, and college students with eight AM classes. Usually I’d be like one of them–sleepy-eyed (okay, I might be a tad drowsy), mildly grumpy, and wishing to plop myself back into bed. This day is different.

I looked a lot more like everyone else on Boylston Street last year when I hesitantly ventured in the Financial District to see 20/20, a presentation of twenty professional twenty-somethings discuss their recent work. I had been told to download a free ticket and see what had been recommended as Boston’s marketing conference, FutureM. This was the only session I would have time to see (and arguably the only session I knew how to get to–many events were being held in Cambridge) so I walked amongst the skyscrapers and into an eye-opening presentation.

Over the next four hours, I listened to people discuss the marketing of Lady Gaga, the potential of Google Glass, and the emerging field of Neuromarketing. As a freshman in college, I was unaware that marketing encompassed so many areas or had so many possibilities. FutureM not only expanded on what I did know, but it showed me what I had left to learn. It taught me who to follow on Twitter, how to network at events, and how to get involved in the marketing community of Boston. When I saw tickets go on sale for FutureM 2013 this summer, I purchased mine immediately.

On this morning (one year after that groggy day in the Financial District), I’ve got a slightly better grasp on the professional community and a sense of what areas I have an interest in. I’m doing social media and small marketing and advertising projects for local businesses and organizations. My skill set is growing and I’m learning what areas I’m not interested in. I also realize the shortcomings of my education; I’m encountering challenges professionally that I have yet to discuss in classes for another year or two. FutureM fills in those gaps.

This year’s conference was an incredibly humbling experience. Listening to executives speak about their work and research shows me how much I’m unfamiliar with; I love that feeling. College provides a great deal of support and guidance–sometimes too much–and can cause me to overestimate my abilities. I’ll easily grasp a business concept or ace a case study. Those are great feelings (why would I reject a good grade that I worked hard for?) but it gives a false sense of empowerment that doesn’t translate to the working world. I also lack an understanding of what areas I could use improvement in; when everything comes back with a comment of “good,” what can I do to make it great?

Every panel or speaker provides me with greater insights into my work and the creations of others. Hearing the social strategist of Walmart speak provided verification that the way I think about social media–as a reputation building platform and a brand reinforcement tool–isn’t far-fetched. He also elaborated on the technology and the data used to select the best posts; I had never previously considered that. Discussions on the power of big data revealed how calculated everything in marketing from consumer behavior to social media analytics has become. The rise of the mobile platform strengthens the argument that we need fully integrated campaigns across many mediums, not just isolated channels. Finally, the consumers are now part of the conversation everywhere and it’s time businesses learn how to respond.

I keep all of these experiences in my head as I go about my work in the classroom and in the office. I apply them to every situation I see fit and try to learn from the work of others. Most importantly, I aim to observe the emerging trends so when I arrive at FutureM the following year, I’m prepared to engage in conversations and learn from the best all over again.

Radical Marketing

A few months ago (after becoming annoyed with myself for learning about Macklemore just late enough to jump on the bandwagon), I set out to discover new music. I began exploring the Internet and learned that finding talent isn’t so easy.

There’s no single source for finding up-and-coming artists. They’re sprinkled around the Internet, typically on sites such as YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, ReverbNation, and the like. In all honesty, many of the people I found were (in my humble opinion) mediocre at best. Their music videos were more like bad pornography. The rapping was predictable and the auto-tune was overused. Making unidentifiable grunts isn’t artistic, it just doesn’t resonate well from my earbuds. I finally stumbled upon a few acts I liked, one of them being Radical Something.

I sifted through their SoundCloud and found dozens of songs–a dream for anyone who is frustrated by Myspace’s and Spotify’s relentless advertisements. The more I listened, the more I liked it. It combined a beachy vibe with rap that had a positive message and choruses that were sung by a real voice rather than a machine. As much as I love hip-hop/rap music, I grow weary of lyrics that objectify women, glorify violence, and focus on nothing but sex.  This is a Jason Mraz feel crossed with Sam Adams circa 2010 mixed with a little bit of The Script and John Mayer. Essentially, they’re unique.

In my experience, one of the shortcomings of the music industry is creating a true community between the artists and the fans. It’s understandable; if Justin Bieber is pushing forty million Twitter followers, he can’t send personal messages to every single one of them. However, Radical Something has about fifteen thousand accounts that have opted-in to their feed on Twitter alone. They’re able to create far more meaningful experiences via the Internet and they’re utilizing it well.

I received a Ticketmaster alert when they concert was booked for Boston, but many people wouldn’t have set up that feature. Fortunately, the band has repeatedly sent social media blasts with their concert dates. This is smart for two reasons: (1) by tweeting the same message multiple times, they’re more likely that a larger portion of the followers will see it and (2) seeing the same message multiple times can persuade an individual to act. Radical Something then put a phone number out so fans could text and receive information about upcoming albums and tour dates. How do I know it’s legit? I received the picture below from the group’s rapper, Alex Lagemann (also known as Loggy), along with album information upon texting the given number. I’ve since texted with questions regarding the concert and received answers within 24 hours.

Loggy

All this is important because within a community, there needs to be some reciprocity. People who put in the effort to be supportive want something in return; in regards to musicians, it’s usually some form of recognition. Not only does Radical Something respond to their fans via text message (which is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard of), but they also respond regularly to tweets. I’ve posted information numerous times and received favorites and courteous replies. As a listener, I feel like my interest is of importance to them.

They have also coordinated their efforts well regarding their recent album release. Prior work has been available for free legal download from Soundcloud, encouraging people to put the music on iPods. They established a fan base before releasing the latest work, Ride It Out, which was only available for purchase, not legal download. Ride It Out is a thirteen-track compilation that picks up where their previous work, We Are Nothing, left off. It has a similar sound but expands on their capabilities and further develops the group. They put the album up for pre-order on iTunes, but allowed listeners to access it via SoundCloud. In recent weeks, they’ve created music videos for many of the songs. In a visual society, this is particularly valuable. It’s quite easy to share a music video via social media and visual content gets as much as twice the activity as a textual post. Additionally, I like the music videos; it’s a pleasant surprise when it doesn’t ruin my perception of the song (cough cough “We Can’t Stop” cough cough).

They’ve continued creating music even after the album release (it’s like the cherry on top). One of the opening acts for some of their shows–Outasight is featured on a single called “Ghost Town”, along with Kinetics (the author of the hook for B.o.B and Hayley Williams’ “Airplanes”), which was released on September 17th, about two weeks after Ride It Out became available. They’re generating buzz for themselves and their fellow musicians, mixing fan bases and raising awareness for all groups.

The next challenge will be reaching audiences that may be appropriate but are unfamiliar with Radical Something–such as Jason Mraz or Sammy Adams fans. Radical Something is currently using Jamplify to incentivize fan  for promoting their concert through social media; those who post are entered in a contest to win VIP tickets. By encouraging existing fans to post this content and broadcast it to their followers, Radical Something is increasing the chances of gaining new listeners. However, that reach may not be broad enough.

This is the challenge with music and its promotions–it largely stays in within the same, self-selected audience. The musicians post on Twitter; perhaps they get a few dozen retweets from followers, but even that extended circle only goes so far. It’s breaking through to new groups of interest that can deliver significant results and increase their number of loyal listeners. Translating online activity into physical sales and personal engagement is the meaningful and financially powerful component.

I’m happy to see the success the group has had so far and I’m interested to see how they will promote their music in the future. I hope they’ll continue to be great listeners to their fans by responding to tweets, text messages, and giving us the information about their creative process. Most of all, I can’t wait to see them perform in Boston on Sunday!

My Favorite Apps

I’m an avid iPhone user (if you even call this device a phone with all it’s capable of) and I’ve tried more apps that I can count. Social media applications, mapping services, reservations, anything and everything. I’ve found a few favorites and I’m hoping you’d enjoy them as well!

As a disclaimer, if you have an Android phone, I apologize, I don’t know how many of these applications are available for those devices. I can only guarantee that they are used for the iPhone.

Snapseed: Google owns this photo editing app and it’s immensely helpful! You slide up and down to select how you want to edit the image, then left to ride to choose how strong you want the effect to be. It also has preset filters (similar to Instagram) but you change how powerful the effects are here too. It does your standard cropping, rotating, and tilting as well. This is really helpful if you have that awkwardly taken picture where the background consumes 75% and you’re in the corner. You can adjust the image right on your phone before making it your profile picture.

Embark: This application helps you plan your route via public transportation in many of the world’s larger cities such as Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC. It gives you a multitude of travel times around the one you’ve selected and provides maps of the subway systems. As anything in Boston knows, our system is rather temperamental, and the alerts are often up-to-date and accurate. It makes planning for trips immensely easier, especially if you already know the stations you’ll be traveling to and from.

Ness: Don’t know where to go for dinner and the burger place on the corner looks a little sketchy? Ness to the rescue! Based on your previous ratings of restaurants (it uses a five-star system), it will suggest restaurants in your area that you will probably like. You can filter places based on type of cuisine, time of day, price point, and location. It’s perfect when you’re in the mood for desert and need to find the nearest ice cream place!

OpenTable: Another app associated with food, it is more useful if you already have an idea of where to dine. If you need to make a dinner reservation but can’t get to a computer, OpenTable is your buddy. Put in your location, what time you’re looking to dine, and how many people will be attending to make a date. If you know your restaurant, you can search it right from the beginning; otherwise, OpenTable with provide you with a selection of options that you can filter through based on price, cuisine, and a few other selections.

Mailbox: This is a nifty little app that could very easily replace your Gmail application. You can add all your Gmail addresses to it and it has features the provider’s app doesn’t, like setting a reminder to answer an email later. It can combine all inboxes into one so you aren’t logging into multiple accounts constantly. All typical features are included, such as being able to archive a message and create lists, but it adds some really helpful organization tools that make email much more manageable.

Ticketmaster: You can set up alerts that go off when your favorite bands and musicians are at nearby locations. I personally enjoy the badge icons that let me know when tickets are going on sale. You can sign up for emails as well, but since my inbox gets clogged as it is, I choose notifications to get quick results I’m sure to see!

Charity Miles: As you walk, run, or bike, this app not only tracks how far you’ve traveled, but donates to a charity of your choosing with every mile. Not only does it motivate you to go that extra mile (literally), you are able to give those miles to Feeding America, the Wounded Warrior project, and many other organizations thanks to some generous sponsors of the project.

Google Voice: If you dislike your phone number like I do or simply want a second number to give out in case it gets in the wrong hands, sign up for Google Voice. You can select your number from dozens of options for that new number, and you can select what phone will ring when it’s called. Additionally, it transcribes any voicemail into a text and/or an email for you (depending on your settings) in case you can’t listen to the call but can read the message.

Hopefully these applications make your daily routine a little easier. Any suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them (even though my iPhone is nearly at capacity)!

The Untamable Twitterverse

I’m more passionate about Twitter than I typically like to admit. It’s a great place to browse a variety of content in a very short timeframe, and the structured format makes it easier to decide what to engage with and what to pass over. I’ve come across several users and companies that really utilize the platform well and others….not so much. Here are a few examples of what to do on Twitter, and more importantly, what not to do.

The Admirable

This social platform can be a phenomenal tool for large, faceless businesses to connect with their customers. I saw this with Windows when I tweeted about their platform.

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Even when my response didn’t offer the answer they were probably looking for, they still replied. They found my tweet (although I didn’t make it a very difficult hunt) and they were quick to follow-up with a positive note.

A smaller business taking control of their online presence would be Boloco, a quick-service burritos restaurant with locations primarily in the Boston area but some shops along the east coast. They always tweet back, whether you’re complimenting, complaining, or just commenting. Their social media monitoring is so stellar that now people are writing blogs about how it turned them from a Chipotle fan to a Boloco fan and others are tweeting about it:

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That’s smart marketing; people are now spreading the word about the business, and that’s much more valuable than any paid advertisement. I’ve seen Boloco humorously address tweets saying Chipotle is 1000000000 times better than Boloco. Boloco’s answer was, “wow, that’s a lot of zeros.”

Each of these businesses is monitoring what people said about their brand and engaging with it. That’s crucial for anyone, an individual or an organization, who is striving to create an online presence. Timely and appropriate updates keep your followers engaged and show that you’re invested in the content you’re creating.

The Avoidable

Twitter is meant for interacting, so when it company fails to do this, it’s a big red flag. AT&T loves to send out messages to consumers, but they’re not big on responding. When I found myself in a bit of a jam and wanted some help, they didn’t answer my tweet:

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Although I did find a phone number on my own and then received great customer service from a representative, this lack of response wasn’t helpful or wise. As a college student, I’ll be selecting my own phone company in a few years and I don’t have a lot of loyalty to any organization. AT&T charges more than Sprint for the service I’m looking for; if they aren’t available when and where I need them, how are they going to justify me spending more? They’ll need to have a strong presence on the digital platforms if they want to have consistent customer service. Additionally, they’re supposed to be an innovative phone company–this lack of action suggests otherwise.

These little mistakes add up and can change how customers feel about an entity. As an individual, it can change how other people view you. These may include potential employers, people from your circle of friends in the physical world, or followers familiar with your online persona. Build a strong reputation online to present yourself in a positive light.

The Maybes…

These are the users who may be annoying but effective in their use of Twitter. Take Clinton Sparks, for example. An established DJ with a growing following who always seems to be on Twitter. If you’re unlucky enough to be online at the same time as him, he’ll clog up your feed with retweets. Not just a few retweets, but retweet after retweet after retweet:

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I’m initially frustrated by this page of messages, but it does occur to me that he’s (1) connecting with fans and (2) alerting his followers of his activity. Perhaps his retweeting frenzy is gaining him attention and loyalty, but at what cost when he annoys other followers?

Maybe it’s just the musicians, but they seem to be the ones posting the most questionable content. In my pursuit of new music, I came across Alexandre Korm. I’m still deciding how I feel about his music, but I’m certainly not a big fan of his Twitter account. Check out this recent posting:

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It certainly got my attention, and a few retweets, but depending on your audience, this might not sit well. It reminds me of the spam emails I used to get in middle school that demanded you forward the message to 10 people…or else. Note exactly the image a rising artist wants to be projecting.

Moral of the story: tweet steadily throughout the day, rather than all at once. Obviously we’d be rather unproductive human beings if we logged onto Twitter every hour to post, so utilize a service like Hootsuite or Buffer where you can schedule your content. Additionally, keep any questionable material off the web. If you really want to post something and aren’t sure about it, run it by a friend or family member first. Your digital footprint can never truly be erased.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned a lot about how to best utilize Twitter from watching users have successes and have failures on the platform. The good habits I apply to my own work. I’m always quick to reply to anyone who has tweeted at me and I take notice of those who engage with my postings. I schedule some of my tweets to post at times when I’m unavailable (at work or in class), but my content is always authentic. I’ve read any articles and watched any videos I post about–I want to be sure my account accurately represents me.

Twitter is also an evolving environment. New trends are being set everyday and the content is constantly changing. The sheer volume of content is increasing. I try different techniques, whether it’s posting at different times or creating a better mix of information, and evaluate based on engagement.

Biggest thing: always, always, always keep it professional. Having a “protected” account doesn’t do a whole lot–it’s really easy to get past (without hacking into an account). In the digital age, the first impression you make will often be online. If there’s a tweet that’s politically incorrect, a little questionable, or just outdated, take it down. Use allmytweets.net to quickly see hundreds to thousands of your tweets on one page and easily delete them. Although you can’t erase the message from the minds of those who have already seen it, you can prevent any unflattering material from doing further damage.

The Power of Social Media

I love social media. I love it for more than just its humorous gifs and viral videos. It allows thoughts and opinions to spread across the Internet; it enables connections made in our physical reality to continue in the digital reality. It allows access to information about business ventures and new marketing strategies from all over the globe.

This past week really showed me the power of social media and how it can make an impact. This isn’t about social media campaigns conducted by companies; this is about individuals using it to make their voices heard among the thousands, even millions, trying to get their opinions noticed.

I published a post nearly a week ago reviewing the promotions and execution of the Sammy Adams and Hot Chelle Rae concert produced by Music Choice and Comcast Xfinity. I spent days revising the version that eventually landed in the hands of a marketing director. The final draft sat on my computer for a day or two as I debated if I should even publish it; I didn’t want to insult those who had organized the concert. If I were ever seeking employment from these companies, I wouldn’t want it to diminish my qualifications as a candidate. I also was fearful of appearing as an overly-critical attendee; I have very few professional credentials to give myself credibility as a critic. I decided to publish it–I felt I was thorough in my argument and that I could defend it if necessary. A small part of me secretly (well, not-so-secretly now) hoped the piece would be found by a member of the marketing teams and I would receive some feedback. The larger part of me doubted anyone with such insight would ever read it.

Along with publishing the work on my personal blog, I tweeted out a link to it.Image

The piece, as I was pleasantly surprised to learn, had not fallen on deaf ears. Within 2 days I received an email from the director of marketing for Music Choice asking to speak with me about my experience at the event. He was gracious enough to spend a long phone call discussing the intentions behind each aspect of promotions I had critiqued. After the 45-minute conversation, my mind was spinning from what I had learned. The complicated process of producing such an event far exceed my expectations. I was extremely grateful that someone had taken the time to listen to my opinion and respond to it. The correspondence also improved my opinion of Music Choice.

I am thoroughly impressed with Music Choice’s professionalism in contacting me. Without tagging the company in the tweet, their monitoring of social media was thorough enough to uncover my piece. It reveals that they are invested in reviewing what is said about their organization. I’m very appreciative that they wanted to answer some of the questions I had about the show; it’s a testament to their dedication to viewers and listeners.

A few days later, I posted another tweet and tagged the radio personalities who had conducted the pre-show interview. I had spoken with them at the show (they’re such friendly people!) and was fortunate enough that one of them had retweeted my link. Thanks to his following of over 50,000, the hits on this blog jumped to 51 in one day (for me, that’s a lot).

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Thanks to one concert, I’ve connected with 2 local radio personalities (along with their producer) and the director of marketing for Music Choice. I couldn’t be more appreciative of their time and interest in helping me. I have learned in immense amount from each of them and have received information unattainable in a classroom setting.

Additionally, many other people have  found my blog; there’s potential that I could someday cross paths with those readers as well. This is one small component of establishing my online presence, but it’s also a deliberate process that helps me network in the physical world. Each one of these professionals has years of experience and learning even a piece of it is extremely helpful to me. I’m overwhelmingly grateful to have connected with each one of them.

Social media is one great big learning opportunity. You can use it to broaden your horizons, expose yourself to a diverse range of topics, or you can use it to gripe about #FirstWorldProblems. I hope my experience is an example of how to utilize it and embrace it (and not grumble about the little frustrations). Digital is the new frontier; it’s time to start exploring.

#AmpYourCampus

Disclaimer: I’m not (yet) a professional, so my criticisms here are from personal opinion. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the work these businesses have done and am thankful for the time and effort they put into planning this event. That being said, I think we can all agree the attendance was not what anyone anticipated. Perhaps two-hundred people attended and the venue is capable of holding over a thousand guests. There were some shortcomings in the promotions the prevented the event from reaching its potential scale.

Music Choice and Comcast Xfinity teamed up to produce #AmpYourCampus, a contest in which college students could vote to get Hot Chelle Rae, a pop/rock boy band, and Sammy Adams, a rapper out of Cambridge, to perform a concert in their city. Boston University won and the event was scheduled for April 30th at the House of Blues on Landsdowne Street. There was also a live chat with the artists prior to the show that was streamed online; guests could win tickets to be admitted to this interview.

This sounds like a thorough and comprehensive campaign; having college students vote to bring the performers to their city sounds like a guarantee of high interest and large attendance. The exclusivity of the event brings in this younger audience and would increase its demand. It promotes an awareness of Music Choice and reminds these young adults to consider Xfinity by Comcast during their college years.

All of these things appear reasonable expecations, but there are a few factors that prevented this from being the grand music event envisioned.

Artist Selection

Sammy Adams is the clear choice for a college show; the song that made him famous is “I Hate College.” He’s made a name for himself performing at colleges across the country. His recent collaboration with Enrique Iglesias and remix of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” has increased his reach. His music focuses on a fun party lifestyle (one of his songs is “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll“); what says “college” more than that? Although I’m biased (I’ve been a fan since 2009), I believe he was an appropriate choice for this demographic.

Hot Chelle Rae…not so much. They’re too clean. I know their one hit, “Tonight, Tonight” and that’s it. My mother probably would have approved of me listening to them when I was in middle school. Sammy Adams would not have been welcomed as easily. I certainly wouldn’t want to be caught listening now to the same material I sang in the shower when I was thirteen. However, I’m not a dedicated fan; I might be missing something that others find overwhelmingly appealing. I’m not saying this group is bad; they certainly serve a market, just not the college market.

The combination of these artists is also odd; their images are completely different. I can’t speak to any market research that went behind this, but from a consumer perspective, it seems like an odd combination. Their backgrounds don’t have any overlap. I don’t think they even compliment each other. Totally different demographics.

Music Choice was active on Twitter, spreading word of this promotion and posting when and where they were giving away tickets. They were the only presence; if you knew to look up #AmpYourCampus, you would see all their information. Otherwise, it could very easily go unnoticed. I didn’t even see them mentioned in the trending topics on Twitter; I follow Trendsmap Boston and regularly check what’s popular, yet I never saw it once. Sammy Adams tweeted out the information a few times, and his reach exceeds 200,000 people, but only so many are in the Boston area. It simply wasn’t enough to make a large impact in the Twittersphere.

Too much emphasis was put on this concert spreading by word of mouth; I think the numbers speak for themselves regarding that method.

Obtaining Tickets

Free tickets sound amazing until you know everyone present at the concert got them just like it; it lowers the value of the occasion. Additionally, the first places I look for tickets to new events are StubHub and Ticketmaster. Due to the fact that this show was categorized as a private event, it was not listed on either webiste. I actually called House of Blues Boston the day before the show to verify that it was actually occurring. People looking for an event would have completely missed this; that’s not the most effective method to drawing a crowd.

The process to obtaining these tickets was confusing, even for those even in the loop. By voting for the artists to come to Boston, I unknowingly entered myself to win tickets (not complaining about this). Several weeks later, long after I’d forgotten about the contest, I received a very confusing email that was phrased as though I might be eligible to receive tickets. I didn’t understand that the attached voucher would guarantee my guest and I access to the show. The concept of the live-chat was also not thoroughly explained and I was only more confused by it. I desperately tried to find a relevant phone number to call and ask about this arrangement, but none could be found. When all else fails, turn to twitter: I tweeted at both Music Choice and MGR marketing, some of the groups involved in organizing this. Fortunately, I was immediately put in content via email with people who explained the entire thing. I had been given free tickets, I would find out shortly if I could attend the live chat with the artists, and this concert was open to Boston area students (I was concerned if it was only open to Boston University students–I attend Emerson College). Although I eventually got the details, I doubt most prospective attendees would go to this much effort, especially if they weren’t originally fans of the groups performing.

Timing

This concert was scheduled for April 30th. For most Boston area colleges, this was right around finals week. Northeastern University had already finished exams and Emerson College was in the midst of them. Other schools were still preparing for them. A Tuesday night event did not coincide well with an 8 AM class the next morning. I understand there may have been limitations to when this concert could have been planned, such as when venues had openings and when the artists were available, but it did not work well for the designated audience.

The Sponsors

I’ll be honest, I had no idea what Music Choice was. No brand recognition whatsoever. Only after my friend reminded me did I realize it consists of the televisions stations that solely play music. Comcast seemed to be promoting its Xfinity service for college students. If not for being a marketing major, I doubt I would’ve given either company much attention.

There was lots of “swag” given out while attendees waited in line to enter the venue; t-shirts, flags (with “Boston Strong” printed on the back), and promotional cards were distributed. What the brands didn’t take into account was that these kids were leaving college shortly after the concert and many students are not local. The only items of mine that remain after extensive packing and a stressful trip home are the Music Choice t-shirt (which I wear to bed–a lot of people see it, don’t they?) and the “exclusive access pass” to see the pre-show interview. So much for the little flag, the cards, and every other item distributed. Sorry to say, but it was largely a waste of money (or was it, since I’m writing this blog?)

I’m also finding it excessive how many brands are using the term “Boston Strong” and slapping it on anything. I appreciate the support for the city, I really do, but putting it on a little flag with Music Choice’s logo is a little self-promoting. I’m incredibly grateful to the performers for coming out to support the city and give us a sense of normalcy after the tragedies, but let’s not abuse the event and turn it into a campaign to gain public approval.

Dying Industries

Some of the objectives were likely intended to increase brand awareness and position the companies as viable options for television and music services. However, this medium is a dying platform for this demographic. As a on-campus resident, I don’t have a choice over my cable provider. When I move off-campus, I already know I will not be investing in cable. Although I’m not an avid television watcher, my friends who are (and remember, I go to a film school; the Emmy and Academy Awards are practically religious events there) use services such as Netflix and Hulu. That’s also eliminating the fact that many students pirate their material (just sayin’).

If we assume that students are purchasing cable in their apartments in dorms, I would like to know how many are using Music Choice. The rise of services that allow you to customize what you play are dominating the market. At most events I go to, Pandora is played. If people have specific playlists or song choices, they use Spotify. Even the new Myspace and Twitter’s #Music are breaking into the music streaming business. There’s too much competition; additionally, young adults are increasingly using the internet. Although an interactive music channel has been developed by Music Choice, there are too many barriers to entry. You have to set up another account to be able to vote on music videos, upload pictures, and make comments. It doesn’t foster a collaborative community. Sorry, Music Choice, I think you’re fighting a lost cause.

Successes

Although I have many criticisms of this event’s promotions, I think the actual event was executed quite well. The pre-show interview was engaging; the hosts, local radio personalities TJ and Loren from 103.3 Amp radio, were humorous, appropriate, and very professional. I thought they engaged well with the performers and seemed very comfortable on stage. They invited attendees up on stage to ask questions and were able to orchestrate the conversation well and in a timely fashion.

The performers rocked the show despite the small crowd. Hot Chelle Rae came on stage first and seemed energized and excited. They were talented and sounded good. Although not my favorite group, I certainly enjoyed their performance. Sammy Adams was second on stage (his friend and YouTuber Sam Pepper popped on stage for a moment between acts while Sammy’s talented DJ JAYCEEOH set up his equipment). Musically, I have no complaints.

Everything considered, I enjoyed myself at the concert. I was happy to have a free event to mark the end of my finals (I was one of the fortunate few who had already completed all the exams and essays) and seeing Sam Adams was enough to make me happy. However, the atmosphere of the show would’ve been a lot better had more people attended, and that’s where the promoters fell short. As grateful as I was to get right up near the stage, the room lacked that extra energy from an excited audience.

Responses

Whether you’re a fellow concert attendee, one of the professionals who worked on the campaigns, or simply someone with an opinion, I want to know if you agree (or better yet, disagree) with me on this matter. I certainly can’t guess all the motives behind this initiative; furthermore, I don’t know the companies’ metrics of success, so I don’t know if they even care how many people turned out to the show. I want to know the thought process and the planning that went into the show, so if I’m completely incorrect in all my assumptions, I want to hear from you! However, if you think I’ve got valid points, I want to learn about your experience too. There’s a comments section below for a reason–utilize it!

JCPenney

I recently saw a report by Ad Age that nicely laid out how the advertising budget was distributed across mediums for JCPenney. The image in it shows that JCPenney is spending the vast majority of its funds on television and the smallest portion on Internet display.

This disparity could be justified if they are targeting an older demographic. Those individuals would watch television with dedication and would be less likely than young adults to have a second screen present (such as a smartphone or laptop). They do carry clothing I’ve heard referred to as “grandmotherly.”

However, I think there’s substantial evidence that this is not an audience they’ve prioritized. There’s a section of inexpensive costume jewelry that appeals to trendy, budget-conscious individuals. The Sephora section is lovely, but I never knew my grandmother to shop there. The clothing department for teenagers is valuable; I’ve purchased many dresses for events there.

If they are targeting the older demographic, bravo! Television is the route to take. However, based on their advertisements, they are going for a price-conscious young-adult demographic. Based on the assumption that this is the group they are primarily targeting, it’s necessary to ask:

Why is online advertising the smallest category? Young adults aren’t watching television like they used to. They’re skipping past commercials, using paid services that eliminate them, or are pirating (you know it happens). I had to go to YouTube to see that advertisement because I seldom watch live television. If I am, I’ve got a second or third show to turn to so I can avoid the commercials. Better yet, I’ve got my iPhone or laptop beside me—or both! Why would I watch their advertisement when I have so many other options?!

Given that teenagers and young adults are on these devices, I would expect the company to expand onto their platforms. Their twitter is dull. They link mostly to their website. It’s just advertisements crunched into 140 words. I, and I assume many others, want to see more interesting content. Photographs of merchandise or a short video showing the assembly of a new display would be interesting. Behind-the-scenes content of photo-shoots would be wonderful content! Better yet, JCPenney ought to be on a website like Pinterest. It would help their brand if they could compile outfits and compare the price of the total purchase when bought at their store versus another. These tricks would give the brand more identity as a cheaper alternative to Macy’s and a hipper one than Sears. 

Although I’m giving all these suggestions, I won’t pretend to know what’s happening behind the scenes. There’s probably a skilled and very stressed marketing team revamping the store. They probably have fabulous experience and credentials, but I want to offer a voice. This is my modest opinion; I think a lot of the changes they’ve tried to make are in the right direction. Being fair and square is a great concept, but it needs to be executed more skillfully. There’s so much that still needs to be done. As Jeff Barrett (@BarrettAll) mentioned on Twitter, it’s going to be customer service that brings the change. I couldn’t agree more with that—even if the brand completely revamps itself, they need employees who will represent the company with respect, friendliness, and optimism in order to make it ultimately successful. If the shopping experience isn’t memorable or at least worthwhile, no amount of advertising will convince a dissatisfied customer to return. JCPenney’s best chance of success is getting more business from existing shoppers than trying to entice newcomers. Every customer counts now; make their experience positive. 

PS: While we’re at it, could we just give the website a revamp too?

The Magic of JT and Britney…All Over Again

This article requires a disclaimer: I’m not, and have never been, a girl who gushed over Justin Timberlake. I was a fan of N*SYNC and Britney Spears during the 1990s, but my adoration of JT has since been limited to respectful admiration of his successful business ventures. Now that both members of the Mickey Mouse Club are garnering the attention of the media and are pinnacles of pop culture, there’s something to be said about how their person-brands are being used to represent corporate entities.

Justin Timberlake beautifully extends the metaphor of the classic black and white suit through his music video for his newest release, “Suit & Tie” (what a surprise) except for one little glitch: the presence of an iPad. In a video that incorporates themes of classic elegance from times past (old style microphones and cigar smoking included), I’m not sure that the iPad is historically accurate.

I wonder how much Apple paid for those few precious seconds in a music video that’s already received upwards of 1.3 million views. This subtle endorsement is likely far more valuable than a paid advertisement because the product is depicted as part of the culture that Justin Timberlake is dually part and representative of. He’s sleek, sexy, sophisticated, and multitalented. He’s an appropriate fit for Apple with his clean reputation and involvement in the technology industry (encompassed by his role in The Social Network and part ownership of the new Myspace). Mr. Timberlake is a multidimensional brand. He began as a child star, rose to become a prominent member of N*SYNC, has had a successful solo career, established himself as a respectable actor through serious roles, and became an investor in the reinvention of a social media platform. Apple strives to be equally multifaceted and also have a level of class. Just like Justin, the company wants to have timeless elegance.

Justin is not alone in incorporating his image with a brand. His former love and friend from the Mickey Mouse club is an equal participant, if not a more active one, in the game of product placement. Britney Spears has made a notable return to the music industry with her collaboration with Will.I.Am in their song, “Scream and Shout.” Even before the song’s release, it was used as part of a Beats Audio commercial, generating enough hype for the song to be ranked number one on the iTunes charts.  The success of the track has only been expanded upon the release of a music video and a remixed version including Diddy (also known as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, or whatever he decides to call himself), Hit Boy, Waka Flocka Flame, and Lil Wayne. Britney’s jacket in the music video includes a large design in the shape of the Adidas logo. Although her image is far from that of an athlete, her presence as part of the brand represents the company’s efforts to identify with a culture outside of sports.

Adidas walks a fine line between athletic wear and day-to-day fashion and its brand reflects that combination. Although it is largely known as a clothing company geared towards athletes, Adidas is not as strong as its competitor Nike. Adidas is to Nike as Pepsi is to Coke. It’s the market challenger, fighting to keep and obtain market share while differentiating itself. It seeks to be modern and trendy. Pepsi backs Beyoncé, Adidas back Britney. Adidas’s website features young, attractive models, usually multicultural. The apparel is often intended for street-wear rather than physical competition. Britney’s image from the 90s was that of the girl-next-door turned blonde bombshell and some of that reputation still remains intact for the now young adults who grew up with her. They are the target market, making Britney’s comeback the perfect time to choose her as a representation of a brand that strives to be hip, modern, and fashionable.

These intertwining brands are aligning themselves with other entities that represent qualities of their image. Ironically, the Beats Audio advertisement featured a t-shirt with the Nike swoosh on it. Companies are increasingly trying to get recognition and build an identity, but the media sphere can become so cluttered that they overlap, perhaps unintentionally. If brands hope to stand out against the competition, their images will have to be clear, concise, and succinct to reach consumers. Apple and Adidas chose wisely this time, but they’ll have to keep updating their campaigns to ensure longevity.

Want to see the videos I was discussing? Here are your links!

Suit & Tie: http://goo.gl/Q1nP4

Scream & Shout: http://goo.gl/JQDqp

Beats by Dre Color: http://goo.gl/BP7OG

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