Tag Archives: Marketing

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Uber: Scandal Turned Success

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Rebecca Messina took over the company’s marketing last Fall 2018 amidst many troubles for which she was now in charge of combating. These scandals included allegations against the company for failure to act on, sexual harassment, theft of trade secrets, as well as mistreatment of drivers and riders. These scandals had an impact on the company’s view for consumers and ultimately the success of the business.

Uber’s scandals cut its market share to from 90% in 2016 to 77.5% in 2017. This is a large drop largely due to problems mentioned above as well as Lyft, its competitor entering the market. In the face of these scandals, however, impressions of the brand have regained their level after the plummet in 2016. The controversy facing Uber still remains today because these scandals have not been forgotten, only subsided.

Uber, under the direction of Messina, knew there was a long road ahead for how to get back on track. She decided the best way to alleviate these controversies was to go in the direction of marketing focusing on promoting growth and articulating a brand identity that unites Uber’s offerings under an overarching umbrella giving purpose and meaning to the company. Some of her marketing tactics include storytelling and cultural moments. Messina operates under the approach “Be it, do it, say it” and feels strongly that in order to do something you have to fully believe in it first. She wants to get this across in the company’s platforms. She feels it is important that consumers know what Uber is doing in terms of safety, hiring, and anything that has to do with the consumer directly. She wants to be more transparent in regard to Uber’s processes.

Messina recognizes Uber’s strength in performance marketing and channels such as customer relationship marketing. A driver’s performance in an Uber ride directly affects the brand and how a consumer perceives the brand. By and large Uber does a good job in maintaining a positive relationship with consumers and plans to continue using this asset. What Messina recognizes as an area for growth is the experiential aspect with the consumer. She feels more storytelling will generate more advocacy. Another area for growth is the seamless use of Uber’s services across one application. An UberEATS user can potentially become a rider, and visa versa. By improving these platforms Messina believes a consumer will have a better experience with the brand.

The Uber brand has done a remarkable thing in the face of their scandals. They first recognized the problem, and then figured out how to combat them effectively. It will be interesting to follow how they complete these changes over the next year and how it affects their market share and consumer perceptions.

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The “Better” Butterfingers

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Butterfingers, previously owned by Nestle, was bought by Ferrero Rocher in March of 2018 for an estimated $2.8 Billion Dollars. The 95 year old brand decided to change up its recipe in hope to better appease consumers. The new recipe is supposed to keep the “iconic” texture but reduce the sweetness and promises to bring a smoother mix of chocolate and peanut butter. The Italian based chocolate company has also released a new ad campaign to introduce the new recipe to the public. Under the name “better butterfingers,” the new campaign hopes to retain loyal customers as well as gain new ones not content with the original recipe.

Kristen Mandel, a senior director of marketing at Ferrero told news outlets that this was the “largest investment” she has seen butterfingers make in the last 14 years. An example of this new campaign is a commercial depicting an Alien who escapes the infamous Area 51 to get his hands on the new “better butterfinger,” it’s a pretty entertaining ad overall and makes me want to go out and try their new recipe.

With a new updated look for the wrapping of the candy, the Better Butterfingers will hopefully start to attract new customers and still hold onto the support from their current fanbase.

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An Interview with Russell Fletcher of Coca Cola

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Russell Fletcher, Vice President of Customer and Trade Communications at Coca Cola shares his insights and advice about the Marketing field from his 31 years of experience.

What is your job title at Coca Cola?

Vice President, Customer and Trade Communications

What duties does your job entail?

I am responsible for key industry associations across our Retail and Food Service businesses, communication strategies including business to business advertising, editorial, public relations and our large Trade Shows and industry events. I also have general management responsibilities for our two state of the art customer collaboration and innovation centers where we meet with customers to work on solutions to grow our businesses together.

It sounds like you’re responsible for many different segments, what does a normal day in the office look like for you?

One of the things that I really love about my job is that there is a lot of variety from day to day. One day I might be working with my team and our agencies on the communication strategy and elements for an upcoming Trade Show and the next day I might be working on our next Trade Media Campaign and PR efforts. I also travel frequently to attend our trade shows and events and to meet with our customers and business partners.

With all of your marketing efforts which digital marketing tools do you utilize the most?

My role is focused on Business to Business Marketing directed at our existing or potential Retailer or Restaurant customers. My team does online advertising in digital publications and e-mail newsletters, banner advertising, content marketing through our Trade Media partners, and some Social Media. We’ve also tested some Pay-Per-Click Advertising but that is not currently a regular part of our mix. We also work closely with the team that manages our B2B website which does frequent opt in e-mail marketing.

What steps in your education and career led you to this point?

I was a Marketing Major in college and have spent my entire career in various Marketing roles. I’ve held roles focused on Marketing Research and Analytics, Promotions, Product and Brand Management, Channel Marketing, Sales, Advertising, PR, and Communications. I have learned and grown through each of those experiences which have led to greater opportunities throughout my career.

How long have you been working in the marketing field?

I’ve been in marketing for 31 Years and the last 19 of those have been with The Coca-Cola Company.

While working in marketing have you noticed any significant changes in the job, particularly in the new digital age?

Absolutely. Macro forces are impacting the underlying consumer context and the commerce landscape is changing how we understand, engage, and fulfill consumer needs in real time. Route to market has become route to me. Tools and consumer touch points are rapidly advancing due to digital adoption and hyper-connectivity. Consumers expect more and are redefining value. As marketers we must move beyond the whom and better understand where, when, and why. We must better engage consumers in new ways as they move to a reality that does not really differentiate between physical and digital engagement.

There is a great quote by Justin Trudeau, “The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.”

I love that quote! While working in this fast paced and ever changing field what is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face on the job?

One of the biggest challenges I face is the demand on my time and the workload of my team. Time is limited so I really focus on time management, prioritization, and aligning the work of my team on the work that drives the most value for the company.

Are there any exciting projects you’re working on that you can tell us a little about?

We just completed a 6-month renovation of one of our Customer Collaboration Centers in Atlanta. The former space included an actual Grocery Store, Convenience Store, and Restaurant. The newly reimagined space has been transformed to be highly digital. The highlight of the new space is a state-of-the-art digital immersion area which is dedicated to help us collaborate with our customers to illuminate and win the shopping & dining pathways of the future.

For more information on the Customer Collaboration Center visit: https://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/new-kolab-collaboration-center-immerses-retailers-and-restaurant

Wow, the new Collaboration Center sounds like a space that Coca Cola really embraced digital and the Internet of Things. After being in this field for years do you think there are any particular attributes that make someone a good marketer?

There are a lot of attributes that make someone a good marketer but a few of the key things I look for when I’m hiring someone include; Drive, Passion, Proactivity, Accountability, and Strong Communication Skills.

Lastly, what advice would you give a student who is interested in pursuing a career in marketing?

A career in Marketing provides countless opportunities with a wide variety of different jobs depending on your interest, passions, and skills. The actual work can vary drastically so take the time to investigate the various options, requirements, working environments, and industries. And, spend time thinking about what you would really enjoy. Don’t overlook smaller Marketing Agencies. These often provide a great opportunity to gain experience in a variety of marketing disciplines while working with a wide variety of clients and businesses in a short amount of time. These roles often lead to great marketing opportunities within large corporations as we frequently hire marketers with agency experience. But most importantly, have fun!

I would like to thank Russell Fletcher for his time and sharing some invaluable things he’s learned and experienced throughout his successful marketing career.

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Interview with Susy Schwede of Cox Communications

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Cox Communications’ Headquarters in Atlanta, GA

This past week, I had the great opportunity to meet with Susy Schwede, a Cox Media Senior Product Manager, at her office in Atlanta at Cox Communications. Susy is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and used to work for Cox out in the Midwest market. She moved to Atlanta a few years ago to build her team at Cox’s Headquarters. Susy had such great insight to both the telecommunications industry and being an effective and thoughtful leader!

Q: How did your educational background in Business Administration, Management and Marketing prepare you for the corporate world?

A: I would say I was really lucky that part of my educational background is I did an internship, so it counted for college credit at the time, and honestly, I think that’s what prepared me the most for my career. I was very fortunate that I interned at State Farm Insurance and had a leader who really told me to speak up if you want any projects. They told me, “we’re going to give you typical intern type work, but if you have an appetite to do more and take on more responsibility, let’s see how we can make that work for you.” I think that with my work ethic at the time, I was an intern taking that and turning it into real-world experience that I could go ahead and use. 

Q: What is the most significant change facing Cox in the next five years?

A: I’ll talk about Cox Media in particular. That’s sort of where our background is and for us, we’re continuing to develop and sell new advertising products, and if you take a look at consumer behavior, customers are potentially cutting the cord. You hear about “Cord Nevers”, people that never subscribed to cable and all these people that are subscribing to streaming services. As we are selling “eyeballs” (what we call impressions to our small and medium-sized businesses), how are we going to continue to deliver the same eyeballs we used to on television now when viewer fragmentation is so high? We’re really looking at investing heavily in product development. You see Comcast doing a lot about TV everywhere and watching through their streaming app. We’re doing the exact same thing as they’re doing. We’re going to bring advertising to the Contour space, so we’re going to be able to reach those people if they aren’t watching on the big screen and they’re watching on tablets or phones or even streaming through Roku or other devices.

Q: When you come to work every day, what’s a typical day for you?

A: Great question. There is no typical day I would say. I usually show up with my list of things I would like to accomplish and then that doesn’t happen. I think the reason I personally love this job so much is that I do something different almost every day or we’re figuring out something new that we haven’t done before, which is great. I can do the same project as long as it’s changing or I’m progressing with it.

Q: What is one thing you would tell your college self?

A: I am always kind of a put your head down, get your work done and people recognize you for the work you do, which I agree most of the time, but I’m not a very good brand promoter of myself. I hope that my boss knows what a great job I’m doing, but I typically don’t champion myself. I think there are ways to do that, to make sure that you’re getting the recognition of the job that you’re doing. I think if I had the chance to go back at different moments in my career to make sure I was letting the people know, “this was my ownership role, here’s what I took on as a leadership role”, because sometimes, and especially now being a people leader, I don’t see all of that because I trust that my employees are doing their work and getting it done, but if they’re sort of taking on a bigger role or shifting responsibilities, I don’t always know all of that. I think now, especially as you see people managing larger teams, you can see how a lot of that can get lost in the shuffle. You sort of have to own your own career and ask for opportunities and really showcase that you deserve them. I think the more that you speak up and do that and build that relationship with your boss or even other leaders within the company, because maybe your boss knows, but are they championing your brand to other leaders?

Q: What have you learned being in the workplace as the single most important quality to have outside of technical skills?

A: Communication. I’ve been lucky enough to be in different roles where I have to communicate with every sort of position in the company. So, I might be talking to a frontline employee all the way up to our Chief Strategy Officer. How you change and flex your communication styles across the board and use your communication to help you get your goal accomplished is key. It’s about keeping your boundary partners informed, making sure that they have a comfort level, knowing what to communicate to your boss and not to communicate your boss, knowing what you communicate to your direct reports and not communicate to your direct reports because you want to be transparent, but yet, depending on your leadership position, sometimes you can’t share with them. I think that’s really a basis for almost everything you do every day, especially in this type of role where you have to work with so many different groups. I think if you can nail communication and how to flex your style to work with different people, um, it will help you out along in the long run. 

Q: Why is Cox different than other telecommunications company?

A: I would say its culture and the people that work here. If you talk to a lot of the folks here, the tenure of employees is kind of ridiculous. It’s insane. It doesn’t happen like that anymore anywhere else. Our VP of Marketing just retired, and she had been at Cox for almost 25 years. I’m on nine years right now, and it’s the longest I have been anywhere. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve gotten promoted in different areas, so I’d never been in one single role too long. I think that’s great because if you are a good employee, you are definitely recognized and rewarded. The other thing is, most people here truly care about their employees and it’s just a different sense of culture with what comes with it and I think people feel that when they’re here, so they tend to stay longer.

Q: What is the most exciting project you’ve ever worked on? Something that you were either really passionate about or you felt like you grew from a lot. 

A: I’ll give two very different examples. When I was in real estate at Cormac Company, we did a huge company reception and trade show, called the International Council of Shopping Centers, ICSE, every year in Vegas. I obviously had no experience running trade shows, had no idea what to expect, and at the time, the president of our company decided he wanted to redesign our booth, change what actually happens there, and change up what we’re doing as far as the event. I was very, very stressed and didn’t really know what I was doing. I think that was a true “figure out how to get it done” situation. I had the contacts where he just had our old booth, but I essentially had to do a complete redesign of everything. It required a lot of grassroots efforts to try and work within a budget. With the social event, I really did it up. I had to theme the whole event, hire entertainment acts, and coordinate everything. I mean, it was, it was worse than coordinating my wedding! I was trying to get like a thousand people all offsite at a Vegas Casino. That’s a lot. I’m really proud of it because I did so many different things that I never thought I would ever do in my career, and sort of figured it out on my own. The other one I would say is here when we onboarded a new partner and took this new partner from beginning to end and all the way through, and now we actually have a very significant chunk of our digital media revenue on the books through this one partner. It’s just been very satisfying to see that we brought something into the organization, figured out completely what it looks like, how it should be sold, actually seeing it being sold, and now it’s making up almost 30 percent of our digital media revenue for this one partner. You sort of get that satisfaction of knowing all the work you put in is actually paying off and it means something to the bottom line of the company. That’s been really gratifying. 

Q: What is the biggest challenge when it comes to wanting to be friends with your employees and also having to be their boss? How do you walk that fine line? 

A: That’s a tough relationship because you care about them so much and you want them to like you, but also, you’re the boss. We’ve been a small team, so we are pretty close, but I also think sometimes that makes it harder because when you’re very close to them, and you do know a lot of personal information about your team, you definitely want to help and do anything you can. For me, I sort of approached my leadership so that I put my direct reports first, so I really try to make sure I respond to their emails first, make sure that they are my number one priority, even if it’s at the sacrifice of me getting some of my own things done. I try to really let them run their own schedule and run their own day. I’m not a micromanager. I don’t like to micromanage. I want them to know I’m here 100 percent to support them for anything they need, but they also need to be the ones to speak up and tell me if they need something because I’m going assume most of the time that they know what they’re doing, but I’m happy to answer questions and help them along the way and help coach them. It’s great if you’re friends with them and everything’s going well, but if for some reason you would ever have to put them on a performance improvement plan or have to coach them through difficult conversations, you have to separate that personal relationship. I think also too, if you’re friends with them, they will take any feedback much harder and personally.

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FIJI’s Big Splash

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What’s better than a marketing campaign that spreads the word about a company? A marketing campaign publicized “accidentally” by paparazzi and other media outlets for FREE. FIJI Water made a splash, no pun intended, at the 2019 Golden Globes. 

Kelleth Cuthbert, a model and ambassador for FIJI Water was photographed posing in the background of hundreds of photos taken at the 2019 Golden Globes. Her strategic positioning in the background of celebrities and nominees images caused a global conversation about the “Fiji Water Girl”. 

Fans and viewers of the Golden Globes took to social media to discuss the Fiji Water Girl, which only helped to start a conversation about the company. From here news outlets, late night talk shows, and celebrities began sharing their thoughts and opinions about FIJI’s brilliant marketing scheme; while only giving the company more free publicity. 

Cuthbert gave a relatable and lively personality to a regular and boring bottled water company. I commend the company for grasping this opportunity and using it to their advantage. Whether it was a planned marketing stunt or just coincidental, the viral joke of the Fiji Water Girl made an impression on millions.

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Is the NBA going twitter crazy?

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Out of the four major sports, there is no debate that the National Basketball Association is dominating the social media sphere. Every night, players hit the internet and comment about everything that has transpired in their games. One of the most profound twitter users in the NBA is Joel Embiid, star center for the Philadelphia 76ers. Embiid is known for commenting on other players as well as other celebrities, most famously with Rihanna.

The active use of social media among NBA players is not just for fun in the eyes of the NBA. The NBA views this usage as a marketing strategy. This league is a player-driven league instead of a team-driven league. People know the NBA for players like Lebron James, James Harden, Steph Curry, and so on. Casual fans rarely pay attention to watch certain teams. Comparatively, looking at the NFL or MLB, fans are brought in with their devotion to specific teams.

With this player-driven and social media strategy, the NBA is available to be present on a platform that is used by millions and millions of people on a daily basis. They are able to be present even when games are not happening, especially during the offseason. Sometimes, the NBA offseason is more entertaining to fans because of the drama and the way that other player chime in. Back to Joel Embiid, it gave his pitch on twitter to try in bring Lebron to Philadelphia this past summer.

As you can see, the NBA wants their players to use twitter, obviously with discretion. By the players interacting with fans constantly and consistently being present, the NBA has been able to stay relevant and arguably surpassing the popularity of leagues like the NFL and MLB.

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The Beautifully Frustrating Art of YouTube Ads

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Let’s face it, if things were up to consumers, ads would almost never exist. If they have to, however, consumers are going to prefer they stay out of our way where they can easily be ignored or passed by—only interacting with them when we want to.


YouTube, however, does the exact opposite of what consumers prefer. With TrueView in-stream ads, YouTube’s ads are obnoxious and stand in the way of content consumption; almost every video is prefaced by an advertisement of around 15 seconds that can only sometimes be skipped.

More significantly though, YouTube will also disrupt their own content to display advertisements within longer videos. With direct intrusion on their own content, such a plan seems detrimental to user friendliness, as it is frustrating and often about something you couldn’t care less about.


How detrimental is it really though? If we’re being honest, I know for a fact that I have never switched away from a video due to an advertisement in the middle of it. As frustrating as it is, it simply isn’t enough to take me away from a video that I have taken time to locate and watch, as it would probably take as long as the advertisement to find something else worth watching. Recently, I have noticed this trend and how ingenious it actually is. For companies, despite being annoying, it guarantees viewership as most consumers, like me, don’t want to switch away from the video they’re watching. It can be a nuisance if it happens several videos in a row, but there’s simply no competition offered to YouTube to really force any consequences upon the streaming service.


So, here we are. Consumers forced to watch advertisements, advertisers who get at least a few seconds of viewership per video, and YouTube who makes money off of its loyal users as well as companies desperate for advertisement click-throughs. The lack of competition lets this strategy grab hold and until some comes around, I don’t foresee it going anywhere.

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Holiday Marketing Has Begun

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As soon as Halloween passed, I immediately started to see companies implementing their holiday campaigns. I saw commercials on TV, Instagram ads, YouTube ads, and holiday email campaigns. It’s crazy to think how both consumers and marketers switch gears to holiday mode immediately after the spookiness of Halloween. Consumers are holiday shopping earlier and earlier each year so it makes sense why brands have to start marketing to those early shoppers.

Brands also seem to skip over Thanksgiving almost and go straight into Christmas. Retail stores are also focusing on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, where they get most of their sales for the entire year. They utilize that day for huge sales to get people in their stores and to buy all of their Christmas presents on that day. People definitely take advantage of those sales and buy in bulk.

I have personally worked in a retail store on Black Friday, and that is no easy task. It is absolutely insane the entire day, there was always people in the store, and always long lines to check out. We always had to make sure we had more inventory than normal so we didn’t run out of anything and could get those sales. The retail world is definitely a fast paced lifestyle and Black Friday is no joke, and it’s crazy that it’s coming up in just over 3 weeks. Marketing for the holidays can be crazy, but also fun at the same time.

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Ulta Beauty’s New Campaign: “The Possibilities Are Beautiful”

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Ulta Beauty recently revamped their branding strategy to focus on diversity. They have released a new video campaign, which portrays a cast with a wide variety of ethnicities, ages, races, and genders. The tagline associated with the new campaign is “The Possibilities Are Beautiful,” replacing the older tagline associated with Ulta Beauty released in 2015, “All Things Beauty, All in One Place.” The new tagline is meant to redefine their brand and their definition of beauty.

Along with the launch of the new campaign, Ulta also plans to begin publishing content with more realistic images and portrayals of beauty. This is all in an effort to define the Ulta brand as a company that is accepting of everyone and encourages diversity. They hope by sending this message to consumers they will increase sales and continue to build brand loyalty with already existing customers. They have even opted out of working with companies and brands who have been associated with negativity involving discrimination in the media.

They have released multiple versions of the campaign, a 30 second, 60 second, full 90 second video, and a 30 second version in Spanish as well. By launching the campaign in two languages, they have targeted a group of consumers who are commonly underrepresented in the beauty industry, while attracting Millennial and Gen Z consumers who have reported favoring brands that embrace diversity. Including men in the campaign targets another demographic group that beauty brands rarely market to, differentiating their brand from others, which is crucial in an industry with so much competition.

So far, Ulta Beauty has reported that this campaign has already contributed to an increase in sales. We will see how the overall re-branding effects the company’s reputation in the future.

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Shark Tank’s Red Dress Boutique

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If you haven’t ever heard of Red Dress Boutique, you are either a boy, or you have never been to downtown Athens. This shop is a popular clothing store that sells up-and-coming clothes, shoes, jewelry, and every fashion accessory in between. However, what many people don’t know is that this boutique was featured on the popular show Shark Tank where famous business executives and investors consider offers and listen to pitches from entrepreneurs who are seeking funds for their products, services, or business.

When Josh and Diana Harbour, owners of Red Dress Boutique, stepped onto the Shark Tank carpet more than four years ago, they didn’t realize they were about to spread their already successful business into stratospheric territories. At the time they were aired on the show, they were already estimated to make $12 million in annual revenue. They did this by not only selling their clothing and accessories, but marketing complete outfits to sell which were promoted through Instagram and social media posts. Once partnering with Mark Cuban, this couple was able to overcome technical challenges of growing and sustaining an online business. Because of their appearance on the show, their company has exponentially grown and they have even had the opportunity of opening up another boutique shop called Fringe in Athens.

One way that Red Dress markets to their customers is by bringing in local college girls who have a large amount of followers on their social media accounts and having them model clothes for them to post on their Instagrams. I have seen this first-hand as three of my roommates modeled for this company by dressing in their clothes for our sorority events and tagging Red Dress in the posts. This is a smart tactic because not only is Red Dress marketing to customers who follow their media accounts, but they are also marketing to all of the girls who follow my roommates and others from their accounts.

All in all, Red Dress Boutique is by far one of the most successful locally grown companies to have been built in Athens. It is widely popular, and several of their clothes are worn for events such as game days and sorority functions. I think it is important to highlight these hardworking businesses, and next time you decide to shop downtown, make sure to stop by Red Dress to see what it’s all about.

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SPARKsouthSeptember 28, 2018
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