Meredith MBA students create exciting digital marketing projects

I am so proud of my MBA students at Meredith College that I just have to brag about the creative digital marketing projects they just completed for our summer hybrid course on digital marketing.

We met once a week for 6 weeks together and then co-created the rest of our content together on-line in a course blog.  The students found interesting and exciting articles about trends in digital marketing and together we critiqued the direction digital marketing is going, culminating in the creation of their own digital marketing projects.  These projects could be for their own personal brand, for the company they work for, or to help out another local company that needed their new digital expertise.

Here are the projects that they created and the goals they set for each project:

1) SunTrust Bank’s Institutional Real Estate (IRE)

  • Use social media to increase awareness in the bank and the marketplace.
  • Increase new client relationships and resulting business opportunities through
  • Be seen as the experts in their field through thought leadership

2) Furever Dogs, custom made dog products to pay for owner’s pet chemo treatments

  • Increase sales through a more prominent internet presence
  • Leverage digital presence to increase word-of-mouth referrals
  • Build loyal relationships to increase repeat business

3) United Property Management is a property management company that targets and serves individuals and families of lower incomes.

  • Create an interactive website to attract more families

4)Michelle Lewis Design, event planner, invitations, etc.

  • Goals to increase sales, customer base and expand name recognition.
  • Improve presence on Facebook with recommendations; likes
  • Create accounts on Twitter, YouTube Channel with videos and free tips
  • Develop Pinterest page to drive ideas for customers and an informal blog to get to know the designers

5) Syncfusion, computer software company

  • Focus on listening online; harness employee engagement
  • Increase brand awareness by including embedded videos in news releases
  • Utilize social media monitoring tools

6) GENBAND is a B2B telecommunications company providing network equipment solutions based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) infrastructure, multimedia applications and solutions for fixed wire line, mobile and cable network service operators.

  • Increase company awareness through better use of LinkedIn
  • Increase product knowledge through more attention to the company blog
  • Increase use of Skype to improve customer relationships

7) The Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC) is a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring the future of mountain biking in the Triangle area of North Carolina through the promotion of responsible riding, establishment and maintenance of mountain biking trails, and preservation of North Carolina’s natural resources.

  • Build membership using online social media
  • Build thought leadership using blogging
  • Create LinkedIn group to harness corporate sponsorships and increase club awareness

8) KS Personal Branding

  • Develop multi-author blog
  • Goal of Klout score of 35 by graduation
  • Convert videogame to open source

9) CT Personal Branding

  • Polish Facebook page for more professional look
  • Follow appropriate professionals on Twitter and re-tweet relevant topics
  • Update profile
  • Join the Women’s initiative network at employer
  • Complete informational interviews to network with prospective hiring departments at current employer

10) Tinted Image is a window film application company

  • Utilize Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Harness recommendations from satisfied customers
  • Use reviews to engage customers in conversation

11) Schneider Electric (SE) is a global specialist in energy management focused on offering its customers energy efficient solutions that reduce energy consumption up to 30 percent.

  • Use focus groups to understand how customers want to engage with company
  • Be flexible in using social media

12) @MysteryCoach, an online long-distance running training system

  • Distribute training system through website and e-book
  • Give away samples of e-book to influential running bloggers
  • Use social media sites (YouTube, Twitter, FB, Google+, WordPress, AdWords and SEO) to advertise and develop circle of users for engagement/conversation

If you have any feedback for my students, please send them a tweet @MeredithMBA.  I know they would love to hear from you!


Buzz does not equal Buy

I applaud this effort to try to figure out what Dads are buzzing about, but I don’t think they asked the right question.  The survey asked, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”  All this is asking is whether or not the person has heard about the brand–it has nothing to do with purchase intent.  If we really want to know the brands that Dad’s perceive as the best brands, we need to ask them “What brands did you buy this week?

If you asked the Dad in our house this question, there is one brand he would tell you he buys on a daily basis.  Can you guess which one?! (Hint: this is a picture of my own personalized cup!)

Update: Why are layoffs the first resort for Pepsi?

Update 3-24-12:

Meanwhile, CEO Indra Nooyi’s compensation increased about six percent in 2011 over 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal today.

PepsiCo Inc. PEP -0.14% Chairman and Chief Executive Indra Nooyi received 2011 compensation valued at $17.1 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released Friday, a 5.8% increase from the prior year driven primarily by an increase in the value of pension benefits.

Nooyi’s 2011 compensation included $1.6 million in base salary, up from $1.3 million, her first increase in base pay since becoming CEO in 2006. Stock and option awards totaled $9.5 million, roughly equal to year-ago levels, while her incentive plan compensation fell to $2.5 million from $3 million last year.

Nooyi’s pension value and non-qualified deferred compensation earnings was about $3 million, up from $2.1 million in 2010.

PepsiCo is undertaking a turnaround this year that will try to boost the company’s performance, especially in its Americas beverage division where sales have been lackluster. PepsiCo is slashing 8,700 jobs and boosting its marketing budget this year by up to $600 million that it will invest mostly behind a dozen global brands.

Update 2-9-12:

PepsiCo Inc. plans to spend up to $600 million more on marketing this year to try improve sales in North America and will lay off about 3% of its global work force to pay for it as part of a much-anticipated strategic overhaul to try to catch up to global rivalCoca-Cola Co.

PepsiCo’s job cuts will affect some 8,700 employees in 30 countries, and are part of a broader productivity program to slice $1.5 billion in annual costs from the global drinks-and-snacks giant by 2014.

Update:  1/13/12

Despite Pepsi’s move to cut costs and resurrect the Pepsi Cola brand, the board says it will stand by it’s CEO, Indra Nooyi.  It sounds as if everyone agrees that Pepsi needs to be more aggressive in advertising its flagship brand, to compete with Coke.  Once again, I don’t see a reason to layoff people to achieve that goal.  Why not enlist those employees in helping transform the company, to once again improve the profitability and market share of the Pepsi brand?


Due to a stagnant stock price over the past three years, Pepsi feels it needs to do something to demonstrate its commitment to earnings growth and to move in a positive direction by laying of 1% of its workforce, or 4,000 people.

Why are layoffs always the first response to distress?  Pepsi has an abundance of products; maybe they have just spread themselves out to thin with their acquisitions and focus on the Frito-Lay snack division.  Plus, this focus on “better-for-you” products at the expense of good ole’ Pepsi advertising and head-to-head competition with Coke will not keep Pepsi in the top of mind with consumers.

Consumers don’t eat soda and snack food because they are good for them–they eat them because they taste good and want a snack (and not always a healthy one!).  In addition, consumers like the head-to-head competition between Coke and Pepsi; it forces them each to bring their best advertising, packaging, and new products to the table for consumers; it brings out the best in both of them.

Because of our research on downsizing, which you can download for free here, and my former work as Account Executive for the Pepsi Cola account, I don’t think downsizing is the answer.  I think that getting back to basics and remembering what makes Pepsi exciting for its consumers is what will bring that stock price back up.  When I would call on Coke, they would never utter the “P” word.  Maybe it was arrogance, or maybe it was a total devotion to dominating the market.  Maybe Pepsi needs to take on that same mind-set.

Just my two cents.


The white Coke can: What’s all the fuss?!

A WSJ article is NOT very supportive of Coke’s newest can introduction: white Coke cans for the  holiday season to support the polar bears, who have been one of Coke’s long-time holiday symbols.  The criticism over this new white can is that consumers confuse regular Coke with diet Coke and get frustrated when they drink more calories than they bargained for.

I’ve taken a photo of both cans side by side so you can decide:  is this really something to fuss about?

By way of full disclosure, I used to call on the Coca-Cola account and worked in this industry in the aftermath of the New Coke/Coke Classic fiasco, and my sister-in-law works for the World Wildlife Fund.  I have not talked with her or with anyone at Coke, but I’ll just put in my two cents.

Coke would not have introduced this can unless they had done their homework by pre-testing consumers to find out how they felt about it.  After the New Coke/Coke Classic fiasco, I learned that the world of Coca-Cola marketing, packaging, and labeling is full of lawyers and market researchers, to make sure they are always doing the right thing by their brand.

If you read more about the Arctic Home campaign, you will see that Coke is finding a way to work with their partner, WWF, to preserve the arctic habitat.  This is an example of a win/win cause marketing effort where consumers should be able to understand why Coke is supporting the polar bears. 

When I worked in the industry, I sold plastic soda bottles to Coke and Pepsi and they changed their labels all of the time.  It is a way to change your packaging to create excitement for your brand.  This can artwork is no different.  Sometimes you have to try new things to get the consumers’ attention.  Sounds like this can did just that.


TOMS and Social Responsibility

Karen was recently interviewed by Mary Ellen Biery for Sageworks and its blog on  Here are some excerpts:

Privately owned shoe maker TOMS built its business model around social responsibility, giving a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. Company founder Blake Mycoskie recently added a line of eyewear that provides eye care to people in need for each pair of glasses TOMS sells.The idea is popular; Mycoskie has more than 38,000 Twitter followers, and TOMS has more than 17,000 Facebook fans. Even from a financial perspective, TOMS appears to be winning. It gave away 1 million shoes between 2006 and 2010. Presuming it sold that many, too, and with company website prices ranging from $44 to $140 a pair, the company has ramped up a robust sales machine in four years.

“Consumers more and more are looking to buy from socially responsible companies, and they’re actually willing to pay more for products in certain cases,” says Karen Mishra, assistant professor of marketing at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. She and her husband, Aneil, have co-authored two books on how leaders can be more effective by building trust.

For some businesses, being socially responsible can help reach a new target market or customer. But customers are savvy and see through disingenuous efforts, so use caution, Mishra says. “I don’t think it’s necessarily for everybody.”

Mishra offers these tip if you’re considering a socially responsible component to your business:

Find a genuine connection to any cause you openly support, or customers can be confused or turned off.

Ensure partners are ethical and can deliver on the promises you’re making to customers. TOMS provides details on its “shoe drops” and partnering organizations to show accountability.

Use caution in ramping up any program to avoid overpromising customers and hurting your business.


Occupy Wall Street Protestors Distrust the Mass Media

Even as the Occupy Wall Street protestors garner significant attention from the mass media, apparently many of the protestors distrust them:

Stories about the protests accounted for 12 percent of all news reports by the end of last week, compared to just 2 percent the week earlier, according to Pew, which examines stories from 52 different outlets to determine the topics that drive each week’s news. But many activists said that news outlets are not telling the full story about the protests.

“If you watch CNN or Fox News, it’s all about how we have no common goal,” said Johnny Smith, 25, a trim man in slacks and a button-down shirt. Smith lives in Queens but has been spending his days at Zuccotti Park for over a week. He said that social media outlets such as Tumblr and Reddit are more reliable sources for news about the protests: “[They] did more for us than MSN or Fox,” he said.

Some protesters bore visible signs of their animosity toward major cable TV outlets. One 19-year-old activist who wore a Guy Fawkes mask and called himself “Blood Bandit” said, “Have you seen Fox News around here? Guess what, we chased them away.”


Is Pew Measuring Media Trustworthiness or Simply T.V. Consumption?

Jack Shafer at Reuters has written a thoughtful piece about the latest Pew survey on media trustworthiness:

Pew’s respondents are far from being connoisseurs of news. Instead, they appear to be slaves to their televisions, with 66 percent of them claiming to get most of their news from TV. Now, I’ve got nothing against television. I own two and keep one in my office. They are wonderful devices. But as dispensers of news, they’re not sufficient to the task.

One way to understand the increase in negative opinions about the press is to go back to 1985, when Pew started these surveys. Back then, there was no Fox News Channel and no MSNBC. Cable penetration was only about 42 percent of households, with only a smattering of satellite viewers. Today, more than 90 percent of households subscribe to cable or satellite. I reckon that Pew is actually measuring an increase in TV news consumption—probably of the cable variety—and less a decline in underlying media trustworthiness.

I on the other hand, am a new junkie, thanks in large part to my late father, a journalism professor who regularly had my two brothers and I debate the news of the day over the dinner table.  I watch much of the the Bret Baier  Special Report most nights, especially the roundtable of experts at the end of each show.  I listen to All Things Considered on NPR in the car, and I try to read as much as I can of the Wall Street Journal each day, along with the business and national news sections of the New York Times.  So I consider myself to be a news connoisseur.   I trust the media both more and less now than I did a couple of decades ago.  I trust it more to give me fuller information, but it’s also more biased in terms of the perspective it brings to bear (pun intended) on that information, whether conservative (Fox News, The Wall Street Journal) or left-wing (NPR, The New York Times).

So, with that, do you trust the news media more or less than you did a decade ago?


Americans Distrust the Elite Media

More Americans distrust the elite media than trust, according to a recent poll by Gallup:

More significantly, the reason Americans don’t trust the media is that they perceive it as being “too liberal” by 47% and only 36% see it as “just about right.” Thirteen percent see it as too conservative. Democrats saw the media as being “just about right” 57% while Republicans saw it as “too liberal” by 75% while 50% of the Independents felt it is too liberal and 32% view it as “just about right.” Republicans overwhelmingly (75%) view it as too liberal and only 20% view it as just about right.


CNN Needs to Go Back to Journalism School and Learn its ABC’s

I was taking a lunch break yesterday with my interns and eating in the lunchroom in which a t.v. shows CNN all the time right above the lunch table.  As the subject was Millennials, “Slacktivists,” and social media, I paid some attention (one of my interns belongs to the Millennial generation).  This is what I saw:

Notice what’s wrong?  If you’re a fellow graduate of Ms. Matthew’s 9th grade English class from Okemos High School, or any other decent college preparatory curriculum, and then had constant practice in writing throughout college, as I did, you’d immediately realize that “Affect” should be “Effect.”

The video went on for at least a couple of minutes, a lifetime in television, and yet the title was never corrected.  I think CNN’s staff should pay less attention to social media perhaps, and more to traditional media, i.e., the written word.


Retire Ronald McDonald?

McDonald’s in under pressure to get rid of their iconic spokesman, Ronald McDonald, according to the Wall Street Journal:

More than 550 health professionals and organizations have signed a letter to McDonald’s Corp. asking the maker of Happy Meals to stop marketing junk food to kids and retire Ronald McDonald.

The McDonald’s letter, scheduled to run in ads in the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Metro, Boston Metro, San Francisco Examiner, Minneapolis City Pages and Baltimore City Paper, has been signed by such groups as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, as well as by well-known nutritionists and doctors like Andrew Weil, a doctor and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

I’m not sure what I think about this.  I think parents should be responsible for what their children eat, but advertising to children is both pervasive and effective.  Yes, my children eat at McDonalds and probably shouldn’t, but they also eat mostly healthy food and get plenty of exercise.  We’re moving back to North Carolina, and I must wonder, are the Chik-fil-A “Eat Mor Chikin cows next?  After all, those shakes, waffle fries, and atrocious spelling can’t be good for kids either.