IMC Intuition

Thinking out loud about all things IMC

Archive for November 2012

Tactics in Search of a Strategy

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OK.  This is a Friday AM vent.

How much time in any given marketing group is wasted executing knee-jerk tactics, just because the client demands it?

Too many.

How many high performing, exquisite campaigns with measurable metrics have a strategic communication plan?

All of them.

I heard the phrase “tactics in search of a strategy” at a recent IABC Heritage Region conference where we all had an emotional group hug, because it is a common frustration in any communications group.

Whew.  I feel better.  Onward and upward.




Whiteboard Friday from SEOMoz

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Working with these guys would be a dream job for me, much like Mashable or Google….While this idea seems counterintuitive, I feel it makes the best use of the medium rather than clogging your website with endless, unread content. I love Whiteboard Fridays, keep ’em coming!

Click on the link, the video is around 6 minutes or you can read the script and cut to the chase:

5 Trending Insights on Teens and 20 Somethings

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So much has been written about this generation, it boggles the mind, but this is an excellent presentation from the 2012 AMA Symposium on the Marketing of Higher Education sponsor, TRU.  Of course, what got my attention was the data at the end of the slideshow on the significance of community colleges and “The Big Easy” student experience.

OMG! Were they sitting in my kitchen while I was raising my kids? This is a worthwhile investment in 20 minutes of your time.

Click on the link and hit the center arrow for sound:  Now You’re Headed for a Break up

This was created by TRU,, a market research firm that specializes in teen marketing for big consumer product companies like Coca-Cola.

The last word from AMA – gamification

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In his presentation entitled, “The Value Gap,” Jeffrey Selingo, Editor at  Large for The Chronicle of Higher Education, threw out some intriguing stats on the undergrad audience.  He claims they spend per year…

  • 10,000 hours playing video games (!)
  • 200,000 hours sending text & email messages (!)
  • 5,000 hours reading (!)

In the November 2012 edition of Communication World online, IABC described a wide variety of communication strategies/tactics to include gaming for marketing, training and internal communications.  My first impulse was, “yea, right, like I’ve got time for that,” but after considering this data, it’s time to get it on the radar.


Communication World is a member-only benefit of the International Association of Business Communicators,, but I can pass along specific articles on request.


AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, last day

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Three last super sessions:

The Boston University Annual Report – The big surprise is that they only print 500 because you can’t put video in print – so they glue a thumb drive in the print to take the reader directly to the website.  How cool is that?

Higher Education Under Attack:  Why doesn’t anyone like us? Donald Heller, MSU,

The #1 reason the public does not trust higher-ed is the increase in tuition prices, up an average 182% in 30 years for 4 year private, not-for-profit institutions.  When compared to other goods and services, higher-ed costs are rising at a faster pace.  80% of students are enrolled in public or community colleges.  In the last 20 years, states have severely cut aid to public schools, but enrollment increased.

We’ve done a poor job of communicating average sticker and net tuition price.  The “Student loan bubble” analogies emerged drawn from housing bubble when total student loan debt passed $1 trillion.  Reasonable borrowing is still a good investment; college graduates continue to earn more money over time than workers without a degree. What to do?

  • Promote net prices, not sticker prices
  • Reiterate that college is still a good investment on average
  • Emphasize the importance of making good choices
  • Hammer away at best practices for degree attainment
  • Emphasize the economic development benefits for communities that support higher-ed

Spanning silos – U of CA building an Integrated University Brand
U of C snapshot:  10 world class campuses, 3 DOE labs, huge research shools, 60 Nobel prize winners; 235,000 students.

The team’s mission was to elevate the brand; people want integrated solutions; siloed brands lack clarity.The team recognized many obstacles including budget, resource misallocation, marketing management competence is diffused throughout multiple departments, and all of the problems we all deal with in higher ed.

UC, like most brands was built through strong positioning in traditional advertising & PR.  Today brands are built by customers through their experience and emotional attachment; big brands like Disney can control the customer experience through their customer service operations.  A university brand experience is quite messy by comparison, because any department can randomly affect the student experience with virtually no control by the marketing group.

The group knew that trying to force solutions as the brand police was not going to work.  Here is the process they identified as their keys to success:

  1. Commitment from the top
  2. Resources to invole key player to probe relevant issues, to provide thinking time
  3. A Big Idea
  4. Balance
  5. You have to be ready to be a change agent

Then came the Crisis:  An executive pay scandal rocked the UC system, resulting in the loss of public trust.  The team was ready.  They worked with the leadership and suggested a strategy with a singular goal:  Tell the real UC story, in a real way.

Technically, this is a PR campaign.  The team started with extensive research that revealed that the people of California had no idea of the contributions of the University of California, no wonder they questioned why their tax dollars were going to support this institution.

The job of the Integrated Marketing unit was to provide leadership, support to the  individual department communications with final authority on messaging and visual identity.

The Onward campaign was created:
Twitter hash tag:#onwardca

Lesson learned:  You have to inspire organic adoption of the brand rather than forcing solutions; They built a flexible model that could scale and be adapted for all 10 campuses. It’s been a great conference, but exhausting.  Looking forward to the trip home.

AMA, Day 3: Dr. Walter Kimbrough, Hip Hop Prez

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Walter Kimbrough energized and inspired the crowd this morning with humor and personality with his keynote on the brand re-vitalization at Philander-Smith University in Arkansas.  This historically black Methodist institution had fallen on hard times when they hired Dr. Kimbrough, a 37 year old son of a United Methodist preacher who quickly became known as the hip-hop president, earning national recognition as the man who successfully transformed an old underperforming brand into an energized institution emphasizing scholarship and excellence.

  • He reads Seth Godin every day; quotes from Purple Cow – wow
  • He is a fan of Marty Neumeier and The Brand Gap – omg
  • The guy totally gets both brand and communications – unbelievable
  • A college president who’s cool?  unheard of!

His purple cow idea?  He created a lecture series entitled, “Bless This Mic, the Hip Hop President’s Lecture Series” featuring both internationally known and controversial speakers.  This series, in turn, lifted Philander-Smith from a regional to a nationally recognized brand.  Twitter was the major force in getting word out to the celebrities’ millions of followers. They no longer had to pitch their stories to the media; media from USA Today to Ebony magazine started calling him.  The lecture series continues at

Needless to say, this national attention led to his being recruited as the new President of Dillard University, but his personal brand as the Hip-hop Prez lives on:

He blogs:

But more recently, he tweets @hiphopprez, with 5,544 followers and counting.

He used Twitter as an effective crisis communications tool during Katrina, because students wanted to hear the news directly from him, but more important, he wanted to keep the community updated personally.  When does that happen?  Bet the lawyers hated that …but what’s far more important is that his community appreciated the clear line of communication from the President to their lives, their concerns.

So is he the hip-hop president or the Twitter president?  He uses the platform flawlessly and is that remarkable brand Seth Godin encourages all of us to discover for ourselves, and the causes we care about. A new Dillard lecture series, with new branding, rolls out in April – looking forward to it.

Written by Beth Ryan

November 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Top 7 from Day 2 at AMA Symposium on Higher-Ed

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1.  Chronicles of HigherEd:  For the first time in history, student loan debt passed the trillion-dollar mark; the average student loan is $26,600.  Students need to know, “Is it worth it?”

2. Chronicles of HigherEd:  There is still a degree premium, however there are also a record number of college graduates and degrees.  These new students want to learn on their own terms but learn more in hybrid programs (online + in classroom) vs either the traditional classroom or 100% online.  Models for free post secondary education such as Khan Academy, MTI, etc. abound and will continue to grow; even though these schools offer no credits or degrees, a recent artificial intelligence class offered by Stanford netted students key jobs in Silicon Valley.  So tomorrow’s competition is not necessarily the school down the road, it could well be a completely different business model.

3.  Google:  Not using Google Hangout?  Free video conferencing for up to 10 people – gotta try it.

4.  Game Changer:  Cornell’s positioning strategy wins the bid against Stanford for a new NYC campus:  First rule – unify the team to unify the message; Keep the message simple and memorable with the end goal of informing, engaging and empowering.  Start internally, then energize the alumni group, empower surrogates to spread the message, prepare for arguments and manage outcomes.

5.  Loyola University:  Believe in the single brand.  All communications impact brand.  Everything is lifted by brand.  Music to my ears.  Apple is a branded house, as are Target, Starbucks.  You can be a branded house (Apple) or house of Brands if you have billions for marketing  (Proctor & Gamble’s Tide, Downy, etc.), or a hybrid  (Google).  Loyola embraced a branded house strategy because it is ultimately more effective and much less expensive.  Still, there are never-ending requests for logos and other craziness, unique to higher-ed, that saps department resources and fragments the brand.  Ultimately, they choose not to fight the battle on internal communications, but get the President involved on external communications.  We had a group hug at the end as we are all entrenched in the battle against logo-mania.

6.  Stanford University Alumni Magazine:  They built an app instead of using responsive design and this session reported on the results of a follow-up survey.  First of all, word had it the app wasn’t that great.  Who loved it?  International students and young alums.  Who didn’t download it?  97% of a 1600+ person sample.  What’s the insight?  People not only spent more time with the print edition, they like to keep it out on the coffee table as a point of pride in their alma mater.  That was a key learning for me on the ability of print to drive engagement.  Engaging international and young alums is the driving force in supporting a responsive design strategy over an app, because it is a far more flexible approach for mobile rendering.  Almost no one reads the magazine from desktop, no surprise there.

7.  Ithaca College Rebranding and Communications Group Reorganization:  Well, they did it all, new logo, updated colors and launched their “Ready” Campaign; all this while reorganizing and restructuring their marketing communications group.  Now, Ithaca had higher-ed agency support, nonetheless, Rachel Reuben is a force to behold, don’t believe me, check out the links:

Ithaca “Ready” Campaign

Rachel Reuben’s Blog

On to day three.