Has The Real Meaning Of Labor Day Been Lost?

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It began in 1882 when a labor activist and officer of the Central Labor Union of New York, Matthew McGuire, first proposed a holiday to recognize and honor the country’s blue collar workers for their contribution to the prosperity of the American economy.  Blue collar labor was soon to become the strength behind the booming Industrial Revolution and the world’s most successful free market economy.

The holiday was a state-by-state observance until President Grover Cleveland signed legislation making it a national holiday in 1884. In the early part of the first 100 years of its existence, Labor Day became a day of rest, celebration and recognition of the contributions made by the American labor movement. Soon, generations of Americans were to become better known for how they labored as for who they were.

Today the holiday is observed more for its marking of the end of summer, closing of public swimming pools, starting of the new school year and the fashion end-point of wearing white; than it is for the contributions of the American worker. Punctuated by grand family and friends picnics, concerts and numerous outdoor celebratory activities, today’s typical Labor Day revelator would be well-challenged to cite the real purpose and significance of the holiday. The Labor Day parade, once a staple of nearly every industrial community throughout the country, is now re-enacted by a relatively few towns and burgs and the day’s once elevated purpose and importance is orated by a scant few industry leaders and politicians. The day initiated and set-aside to recognize the importance of work to the advancing of the American way of life is becoming a day off for fewer and fewer American workers.

The celebratory parades and public orations have morphed into Labor Day sales events and boisterous marketing content in a time more likely to see our society’s praise and appreciation focused more on the technological gadgets that have come to replace many millions of the traditional blue collar jobs in a new revolutionary world economy. In a time of celebration of all things high tech and innovating, our appreciation and recognition for the contributions of past and present labor generations are being over-shadowed and mostly misunderstood by the new Millennial’s generation.

Our grandfathers and great grandfathers once toiled in massive shops of machining and assembly, inventing and refining the mechanizations that resulted in the replacement of their very professions. Their efforts spawned a new era of opportunity and prosperity for countless workers who labored in new professions in an ever-innovating economy. But as technology advances at an ever-faster pace, new levels of laborers are seeing their professions disappear with few promises of more promising professions to follow. Is the fog of the newest technological revolution soon to dissipate to reveal a more positive outlook for the American laborer or is it more likely to lead to the celebration of a new holiday, Technology Day?

As we debate the question and ponder the future of labor and its place and impact on our society, let’s take this Labor Day to honor and celebrate all those who have lead us to enjoy the greatest and most generous of societies.

Ice Bucket Challenge A Social Media Success Raining Cold Cash

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We’ll never know how many people will ultimately feel the thrill of the chill in the splash-for-cash craze known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. But there’s not an icicle’s chance in the Sahara to doubt that the viral social media blitz taken to backyards and ballfields across America has been a windfall for the ALS Foundation.

Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates has been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since 2012 and is credited with launching the phenomenon where supporters pour buckets of ice and water onto themselves in order to raise awareness and cash for the disease. Frates is pictured above at Fenway Park in Boston.

Participation across the country just in the last two weeks has reached tsunami level and shows no signs of ebbing any time soon.

As of Sunday, Aug. 17, the deluge of donations had reached $13.3 million raised for the non-profit ALS Association, up considerably from the $1.6 million during the same period last year. More than 1.2 million challenge-related videos have been shared on Facebook. The ALS Association’s mission is to treat and find a cure for ALS, as well as providing care and support for those suffering from it.

Of those giving cold cash, 260,000 are new donors. Those challenged by friends on social outlets like Facebook have 24 hours to complete their own dousing, or contribute $100 to ALS. Obviously those wielding buckets are contributing financial flood as well.

There is basically no method to track how many have taken the challenge as the ether, social and otherwise, continues to be awash with individuals being doused. But the roster of the wetted is a cavalcade of sports, TV and silver screen, political and entertainment personalities, including Justin Timberlake, Martha Stewart, Michael Strahan, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, Oprah Winfrey and Ethel Kennedy. President Barack Obama passed on the challenge and said he would make a contribution.

Members of the Junction Creative team joined in accepting their challenges. Director of Operations Marci Cropp made a video-selfie of her dousing, in honor of a friend dealing with ALS. Account Executive B.J. Small was drenched, as well.

As many as 30,000 Americans are living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease at any given time. Beloved professional baseball player Lou Gehrig brought ALS to the national and international forefront, when it ended his career. The disease is so often associated with Gehrig that it bears his name. It strikes worldwide between the ages of 40 and 70 most commonly. Life expectancy for those with ALS is between two and five years. It is not contagious and is responsible for nearly two deaths per hundred thousand population. It is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As motor neurons from the brain to spinal cord to muscles die, patients in later stages of ALS become totally paralyzed.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has been the perfect blend of motivations as a project that would appeal to the masses: a worthwhile cause; compassionate enlightenment of the disease by those close to those suffering the most and, as exhibited by the challenge itself, even total strangers; an opportunity to produce unique selfies; and a theatrical curtain call for adding value to social media posts.

As with most popular movements, the challenge has its cynics and jealousies as the legion of the drenched continues to swell. Some see the rising tide as mere grandstanding. The term “slacktivism” has been attached to the effort. Slacktivism is the act of “donating” a social media post in lieu of cash; as if an individual post is of higher value than a monetary contribution.

Pete Frates may have triggered the tidal wave of cash for ALS, but the challenge actually rained funds onto other charities earlier this summer. “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer was plunged live, on-air to support a hospital in July. As well, there are Facebook posts of the challenge being accepted by supporters of the cause “Girls on the Run.”

It may be impossible to quantify the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in terms of total social posts, buckets of water dripped, ice cubes tipped, and shivers and squeals from the shock of each personal, polar vortex. Motives themselves may continue to be challenged.

But the cold, hard-water fact is, more people know more about ALS now than ever before, and the cause is saturated with funding to do its good work.


Junction Celebrates Its Five-Year Milestone

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The American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, say those on the frontlines working to fortify the country’s financial future.

Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), celebrating its fifth year, provides marketing and strategic services and solutions that support feasible long-term growth across business, brand development, and digital execution for small businesses to Fortune 500 enterprises.  Founded by Julie Gareleck, Junction has expanded its portfolio to service clients in the Northeast and Southeast with office locations in Atlanta, GA, and Gettysburg, PA.

Junction was born from Ms. Gareleck’s experience in leading a venture capital organization and as a marketing strategist, and amid the country’s most significant business and economic downturn in 80 years.  Gareleck says she, “quickly recognized the need for a different approach to strategy in order to mitigate and adapt to the challenges and new realities of the business environment.”

The hybrid agency, which combines the intellectual capital of a business consulting firm with the creative execution of an advertising agency, has found a “consultative approach” to be not only productive by effective.

“We partner with our clients. We want our relationship to be transparent so our team is really an extension of our client’s internal team,” Gareleck says.

Junction believes that success has limitless potential when clients are educated and engaged in the conversation. “To have a complete understanding of the goals, objectives and expected outcomes is critical,” Gareleck says. “Think big,” she urges, “but make the plan realistic.  We can create pie in the sky strategies but most likely will end up collecting dust on a shelf.  Our strategies are designed to drive real success.”

Junction commemorates its first five years, celebrating successful comprehensive marketing strategy and brand development campaigns that have enhanced the sustainability of both small business and Fortune 500 enterprises. The company’s excellence has been lauded with various business awards to include Horizon Interactive Awards for Best Integrated Campaign, Best Consumer Website, and Video production. But Junction realizes that its greatest reward is in the financial viability, even resurgence, of its clients. In the next five years, Junction will continue to maximizing its technological and human resources to spearhead efforts that facilitate growth for other entrepreneurs and businesses.

“Our first five years have been exciting, challenging and at times exasperating for our business and our clients. The lessons learned and the experiences shared with our clients and partners, have afforded us an opportunity to discover and implement many high impact solutions to today’s complex marketing issues,” Gareleck says. “Our passion for delivering value is at the heart of everything we have accomplished in our first five years. We will remain authentic, collaborative and committed to exceeding expectations.”

For most businesses, developing and executing against a strategy is “nice to have” but not always a priority. Gareleck stresses how critical strategy can be to the success or failure of any business. “Businesses that embraced strategy in the downturn are thriving and we have found are in a more stable state than those that ‘winged it’ or had the mentality that things would improve … eventually,” she says.

Such planning is critical in any economic conditions. “Strategy – regardless of the state of the economy – is so important for short-term and long-term growth,” Ms. Gareleck adds.

With success spawned by Junction efforts, the company also facilitates the management of growth.

“We have built a client base – some who have been with us since the inception of their business. We are a partner who can assist our clients as they grow, essentially providing what is needed regardless of the lifecycle of the business,” Ms. Gareleck says. “Growth, while it is the hardest part of the business to predict, plan, or manage, is the most rewarding part of the business. We don’t shy away from the difficulties – rather we roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

In addition to strategy, Junction assists companies looking to refine an overall business plan, marketing and sales strategy, or operational strategy, and receive ongoing or project focused consulting. Junction is adept at designing clear and focused sales strategies to deliver a competitive advantage in the marketplace. For integrated online and offline marketing plans, Junction creates a comprehensive roadmap of marketing solutions that bridge business, sales, marketing, and technology.

An explosion of new digital and mobile technologies in the last quarter-century has revolutionized how businesses attract, connect and engage customers. Junction has maximized emerging technologies to provide successful strategies to harvest the benefits of new marketing approaches.  Junction’s technical architects understand how the right solution can achieve organizational goals and objectives, increase visibility, and drive revenues.

Accordingly, Junction’s creative team includes experts in interface and design solutions; information architecture and user experience strategy; integrated solutions for campaigns; advertisements (including Flash, Banner, Print); websites and microsites; video and animation; mobile applications; social media strategy; and search engine optimization strategy.

Junction’s CEO has seen a paradigm shift in the last five years, as businesses consider strategy relevant to the period. “For Fortune 500 companies, priorities have shifted,” Ms. Gareleck notes. “We’ve also started to see more stability among groups – with opportunities to add head count internally or growing partnerships with firms like ours.”

Smaller companies have shifted focus as well.  “Many of our small to mid-size businesses were strategic in their approach to growth since 2010.  Those companies are focusing now on the next level of growth and exit strategy in some cases,” Ms. Gareleck says.

Companies like Junction Creative, whose charge it is to provide strategy and collateral to enable businesses to maintain a leading edge in an ever-changing world, must keep in lockstep with the evolution.

“Much like our clients – it is always a challenge to mitigate changes in the industry and plan for growth,” Ms. Gareleck says of the challenges of the first and next five years. “Staying on top of the changes in technology, consumer behaviors, and evolving marketplace is something I am focused on every day. We have to be in order to drive impact for our clients.”

At a vantage point to monitor business growth and sustainability, Junction Creative’s CEO thinks the economy can pull out of its doldrums. But it won’t be quick, or easy.

“The dotcom bust hit one sector of business. The downturn in 2008 affected every industry sector and nearly every size of company,” Ms. Gareleck says. “With businesses facing new regulations, healthcare changes, advancements in technology, the hurdles are certainly obvious but not insurmountable.”

The CEO lives and speaks from experience. “I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so at a very young age I was exposed to every facet of business,” Ms. Gareleck says. “It takes commitment, focus, and guts to take on the risk and ultimately make it successful. When I first started, I was the CEO yet also responsible for taking out the trash.  It’s not always glamorous but is certainly rewarding.”

She also warns against shortcuts. “When folks say it takes blood, sweat, and tears – they mean it,” Ms. Gareleck adds. “To get the economy back on track will take the same focus and commitment.  And it most certainly won’t happen overnight. We have to work harder to survive what the next five years will bring.”

In its five-year history, Junction has assembled a nimble and diversified team of strategists, account and project managers, designers, information architects, content specialists and developers.

“It is a unique and talented team,” Ms. Gareleck says of the Junction professionals. “This collective of talent allows us to be comprehensive with unique insights and expertise across industry vertical,” she says. “Our team includes entrepreneurs and former execs from big agencies and Fortune 100 companies.”

Ms. Gareleck believes Junction is positioned for success in its next five years, as her team of individual and cohesive abilities is the cornerstone behind devising and executing the company’s strategies. Because amid the uncertainty, marvel and immediacy of the ongoing business environment, is one constant – the human element.

“People still trust and are influenced by people,” Junction’s CEO reminds us. “Even with the changes in technology and all things local, mobile, and social, the one common denominator is PEOPLE,” Ms. Gareleck says. “Technology has allowed us to capture data to inform better campaigns, strategies, and the like. We are still talking about the human sensibility when it comes to making any business decision.”

Marketers Strategize To Make The Grade This Back-To-School Season

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It is hard to believe but the vacation is about over for millions of school aged youth. With many school districts opting to open schools in mid-August, the second largest shopping season of the year is in full swing.

Second only to the Christmas holiday, the back-to-school shopping season accounts for more than $72.5 billion in retail sales. Successful marketers needed to get out in front of the competition this year and debut their programs as early as July. Research shows that 75 percent of shoppers begin preparing online for their shopping activities three to four weeks before school starts. Tablets, computers, mobile computing devices, back-to-school apparel and school supplies top the list as the most popular items of interest for most students. When it comes to shopping for college, students begin shopping for dorm furnishings, bedding, refrigerators and decor items in the spring of the previous academic year and peak in mid-July.

The Internet accounts for 36 percent of shopper dollars, with more than 55 percent of parents looking to go online for back-to-school bargains. Mobile technology is making its presence felt at traditional brick and mortar retailers this year, with 78 percent of smartphone owners using their devices to lead them to back-to-school shopping ideas and bargains at specialty stores, big box retailers and small retailers.

The most popular offers consumers are looking for include price discounts, coupons, rebates and free shipping for online purchases. Some retailers are kicking off their season with a day similar to “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday,” the two biggest holiday shopping days of the year. Digital marketing success will include product listing ads and ad extensions that make finding the retailer easier. Key marketing strategies include: creating programs that think outside the box; extend discounts and loss-leader bargains beyond the start of school; and making an appeal to the younger consumer by “going mobile.” Parents and students alike will be mobile-searching the web to determine in-stock status of their favorite products and which among all the competition have the best deals.

Old Navy has unleased their “out of the box” advertising challenge to competitors with a new quirky music video called, “Unlimited,” which is designed to appeal to the teen-age target audience. The online video seeks to build on Old Navy’s past success from a series of TV spots. The video managed to score nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube in the first week of release. The campaign also includes in-store and digital marketing collateral and a social component tie-in with the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Target is also choosing a social component to kick-off its back-to-school marketing campaign to increase awareness of its “Up & Up” brand of schools supplies. The retailer will give one Up & Up brand school-supply product to a student in need for each Up & Up school supply purchased. It hopes to donate $25 million of the brand of school supplies to the Kids In Need Foundation. If Target reaches its objective, it will be the largest single donation the retailer has ever made. The program will be supported with TV and print ads as well as social media messages featuring progress milestones on the way to its goal.

As back-to-school gets underway, which retailer will make the grade for the best marketing strategy? The results will be in just in time to kick-off the holiday seasons!

As Another Season Looms, The NFL Continues Its Marketing Gameplan For Women

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Training camps for the National Football League’s 32 teams are abuzz with the preseason grunt and grind in the weeks leading up to kick off of the league’s 95th season, which opens in early September.

While at its core, professional football may still be a game, often played with childlike fervor and enjoyed by fans of adolescent behavior in the stands, make no mistake, it is BIG business.

Forbes magazine put the NFL’s net worth just north of $9 billion dollars before the 2013 season, making it a major heave of the pigskin beyond any other sports league on earth, in net worth. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has gone a step further, saying he wants even more – to reach $25 billion in annual revenues by 2027.

Realizing the male market has been saturated, the NFL has shifted emphasis in recent years, making major marketing passes at potential female fans. The strategy has scored big time. The gals have taken a rightful place and become players at least within the financial field, amid this game of blood and guts.

It has also helped somewhat that professional women have climbed, though a gradual a rung at a time, up football’s corporate ladder. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports says the number of women in management positions went up 30 percent last year.

Amy Trask was one of the most powerful figures in the NFL, hired in 1997 and becoming CEO of the Oakland Raiders. She resigned last year.

Charlotte Jones Anderson is chairman of the NFL Foundation and responsible for philanthropic efforts toward youth football, player care, and medical research. She also happens to be executive vice president and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys, and daughter of team owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

Women have become a significant economic constituency for the NFL – making up half of the professional football’s fan base, the league says. Not only that, over 350,000 of them attend games during each of the 17 weekends.

Female fans who don’t make it to the game represent a significant audience from their spots at home on the couch, or at other locations on game day. The numbers cause advertisers to accommodate. The Nielsen TV ratings indicate that more women now watch the Super Bowl, than they do the Oscars. The ladies are no longer content to just sit on the sidelines, while the fellas have all the fun.

The NFL markets intensely to women, appealing to a sense of style as well as team loyalty. “Step into the Women’s Style Lounge for the latest clothing and customizable NFL gear for ladies,” the league urges at its NFL.com shopping portal.

It was actress Alyssa Milano who started her own line of flattering football fashions six years ago, called “Touch,” when she’d had enough frustration with the lack of team apparel options for women.

“I knew that women made up 50 percent of the attendance in sports,” Milano says, “and I figured if even 7 percent of those women wanted something, an alternative to either the big jersey, or the pink, then we’d be in good shape.” Her line now covers all major sports, including NASCAR.

Marketing efforts toward women this upcoming season could be more challenging for the NFL, in the wake of its recent decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice for two games, after allegedly assaulting his fiancé and now wife, and knocking her unconscious in an elevator in February. Some women’s groups says the punishment is too light and sends mixed signals about women’s standing with the league.

The NFL may not be relying on its new marketing strategies toward women as the sole play that will push the ball across that $25 billion goal line in the next 13 years. New broadcasting deals with multiple networks and possible league and season expansions could account for most of the added worth that will carry the league to financial victory. But as a new season begins, the league may wonder why it took so long for it to gameplan for the 70 to 80 percent of all consumer spending that its new female fan base is responsible for.