Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kiva: how 25$ can help change the world

Sorry I haven't updated in a while- but it has been pretty hectic around Tucson with trying to make the move back up to Seattle after 4 years down here. good riddance. But I want to get back to the idea of people helping people; because in the end a little compassion and kindness goes a long way. That's the idea behind Kiva- a company that brings together generosity, prosperity, dedication and hard work under the tag line "loans that change lives".

Several years ago, I read a book called "Banker for the Poor" and was very excited by the ideas presented within it. So naturally, when I saw this website it reminded me of the book, and the purpose it brings.

The idea is quite simple really, people in impoverished nations apply to get micro-financed through small loans for starting small individual businesses, and then pay off these interest free loans over a period of time. On the other side, the loaners review the stories/applications on a case-by-case basis and decide to whom, and how much to donate- once the amount required has been met, the applicant receives his loan. Once the loan is repaid, the loaner can then use the money to fund another entrepreneur. Everybody wins.

I think that the idea of people helping people is one that will forever ring true in every society. We cannot stand by and watch as people suffer- we must act to benefit not only ourselves, and those around us, but to reach out and support whenever possible. The idea of micro-loaning is fantastic and I just wish that it was more well known, because really who can't spare the 25$ we'd spend on 4 iced macchiato Frappes at Starbucks to help a woman buy some wood and start making/selling baskets? Do something good- your world (and your stomach) will thank you. to see the applicants and make a donation

Think about it,


Saturday, June 20, 2009

The US is Lagging!

This year in one of my classes, my group was tasked with bringing a new product or line expansion to the US market. We decided to bring QR code technology from radial obscurity to the limelight in America. The technology allows companies to imbed large amounts of information into the code- everything from advertisements, to coupons to file downloads. This is a tremendous opportunity for companies to take advantage of new, dynamic marketing efforts in a field that is seeing constant change. Through our project we created a fictitious contract with Apple, which would give them exclusive use of the technology and would allow us to deeply penetrate the consumer market. We chose Apple because of its position as leader in integrated marketing campaigns and position as a leader in new technology.

I've embedded the presentation so you can check it out for yourself and see the possibilities this technology offers. In a changing marketing atmosphere this is a dynamic and important venue for development.

Think about it,


Friday, June 19, 2009

Jack In the Box: My how far you've come

I'm sure many of you have seen the new series of Jack in the box commercials. And in my opinion they're day I say... genius. The most recent is my favorite and it has come up in conversations more than once. Mini Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwiches don't only look delicious but come with a great song that's stuck in your head as you're munching away at an interesting combination of Franks RedHot sauce and ranch (mouth watering yet?? no no, didn't think so).

The campaign for these mini sliders- which started surprisingly close to Burger King's own campaign- has proven very beneficial for Jack in the Box. So is Jack in the Box the new hearty, delicious meal? It made me think right away of the salmonella scandal that shocked the American Junk Food industry some years back. Jack in the Box headlined the salmonella scare and customers steered away from the chain like college freshmen run screaming from the library.

So how much does it really take for a company to come from the dumps in terms of perception to being wholly forgiven? How relevant is brand relevance, and as consumers how much are we willing to forgive the brands on which we rely? Sending people to the hospital due to negligence seems like a red-flag for consumers- but is it really? Jack in the Box has "reinvented" itself, both in terms of campaigns and "quality". And now everything is peaches for them.

So that's it then? A few clever commercials and all is forgiven? I'm not sure what this all means to the state of brands in the United States, but people always seem to rely on brand perceptions when making decisions. How far do we really divulge into the brands that we choose on a daily basis?

Think about it,


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mike's...How'd you get in my head!?

In the later months of 2008, a group of students in Hope Jensen's Integrated Marketing Communication class came together to reinvent a current product on the market. After much toiling and tinkering we came up with an idea to offer a "harder", more masculine version of the popular alcoholic beverage Mike's Hard Lemonade. Low and behold, the spies at Mikes must have found our incredibly genius idea and blatantly stole everything, right down to the black can. Check out the pictures- look similar at all? Should have patented our idea.

The class thought our idea had flaws and wouldn't catch on... looks like someone was wrong, no? It just serves as a reminder- don't take any of your ideas for granted; or you'll just miss the boat and make someone else look like a genius.

Think about it,


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bing! it all together

A new chapter is now written in Microsoft's recent trend of re-inventing its services to wholly encompass its users. The launch of its new search engine 'bing' has brought Microsoft full circle in its attempts to maintain dominance in a market where giants often fall and become irrelevant. I took some time to poke around the website and see what the hype (or lack there-of) was all about.

The name 'bing' I think is a very clever one. Rather than going with a more traditional 'search' word like its predecessor 'live', Microsoft went with something more catchy, more untraditional and more easily retained. Just as companies from Kleenex (all paper tissues are referred to as Kleenex in everyday conversations) to Google ("let's google you!") have effectively created new words/definitions for their market segments, I think Microsoft is hoping to do the same with 'bing'. Who knows if 'binging' yourself becomes the next big thing; but with a name like that they're on the right way.

The beta launch of the search engine brings with it limitations (searches aren't fully optimized as of yet, and the map function doesn't work that well) but the search website definitely (and defiantly) shows promise. Microsoft has been able to incorporate exactly what consumers are looking for in today's market into the everyday search: experience. Beginning with the home search page, the experience captures you right away. I even went around and clicked on the informational tid-bits scattered around the screen (see picture).

I'm not a wiz with algorithms that search engines use, but I do know that bing delivered what I wanted, when I wanted it. A search for a movie title (Disney's "UP" in my case) came up with all of the showtimes in theaters around me as the first result. A search for a store (Target) gave me not only the locations near me, specials, and reviews, but also a list of related searches (WalMart, Kmart etc.). This is all great, but what really caught my eye was the delivery of pictures and video.

When searching through pictures you can select not only how many pop up in your search, but also navigate through them by color, faces and size. Although I'm not quite sure how useful that is at this point, I did have fun with it. Also, the fact that videos are embedded in the search means that by hovering over it you can view the entire length of it without leaving your browser.

All in all, only time will tell what the future holds for bing. At this point though I think that the delivery mechanism is dynamic and impressive. Also, 'binging' myself brought up my LinkedIn profile, all Google gave me were tennis scores from a high-school match I played in 4 years ago. Take that Google! So bing yourself, see what you come up with.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Can the Zune HD do to the iPod what the iPod did to... well... itself?

Microsoft's release of the new Zune HD may seem by some as a feeble attempt to jump on Apple's coat tails and try and scrounge up what few followers Apple has left behind. However, I see it as much more than that. Sure its touchscreen media player came a little late, and sure Apple's design of its products is second to none; but at the end of the day isn't it time for something new?

Just as the iPod revolutionized the way we listen to our music, then re-revolutionized the way we watch videos and finally took our fingers for a walk through its applications; the Zune can change the way we interact with the rest of our media.

Apple has built an iPod following based on a simple interface, clever and creative design and simple to use applications. But that which makes it great, also opens up cracks in strategy, cracks big enough, that the Zune may just squeeze through.

I applaud Microsoft's design and development teams. Rather than accept a music-player world dominated by the iPod, they've attempted to understand what the iPod was missing and deliver a new form of satisfaction. So maybe it isn't too late after all. We can never listen to anyone that says it maybe too early or too late for something- who are they to create our time frames? The time is always right at the right time.

Think about it.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Cutting Costs: Why Marketing?

While watching TV today, I saw a commercial for Bud Light which originally aired on the Oscars of the Advertising World; Super Bowl Sunday. The commercial is a pretty light-hearted one- a bunch of employees sitting around a conference table suggesting different ways to reduce costs until one guy suggests cutting out Bud Light from their meetings... and proceeds to get thrown out of a window. The idea is clever and the commercial is quite humorous, but after re-watching it I realized it carries a pretty somber message.

Before the 'prankster' suggested cutting out the Bud Light, one of his coworkers remarked that the company could "cut back on marketing", and no one thought twice about the prospect. Now granted, times are tough and many companies must figure out new ways of looking at their budgets, but is cutting back on marketing really the way to go? While it seems like the easiest initial solution, I think that, especially today, all office members (from executives down to interns) must realize that marketing is vital for stream-lined business to succeed.

Today's economic environment requires consumers to be much more thoughtful with every dollar that they spend. And good marketing convinces people what to spend their money on. So you'd think it makes sense for companies to look at marketing as a guiding hand for the distribution of their products. Now I'm not saying that flashy, expensive commercials are what the customer wants, or much less needs. What I am saying though, is that companies must reinvent the way they deliver their products to the consumers, and understand that cutting out marketing communication is not a solution, not for the short term and not for the long haul.

We must then ask ourselves, what is it about brands and companies that really resonates within us? So many substitutes exist for the products we use every day, its often impossible to differentiate one from the other. So what makes us decide? Sometimes it's hereditary, we'll drink what our father drank (or even refuse to touch the stuff) but more often, its something that caught our attention be it from a print ad, commercial or even something that we read. My point is, while companies may be quick to judge, and cut the satisfaction that marketers deliver, steps must be taken to prove our worth and show our work.

Think about it.