The Ever Evolving Dynamics of Marketing in 2015

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It is hard to imagine a time in history when the art and science of connecting producers with consumers has experienced as dramatic and disruptive period of change as it has in the past few years. The wave of intense technological discoveries and the age of digital communications will continue to alter the science and the art of forming relationships and behaviors between sellers and buyers in 2015.

Digital marketing will continue to be the predominate vehicle used to complete the communication process. Once dominate print and video media will continue to exist but its predominate role will be part and partial of the digital environment, having little or no sustainable independent role apart from the digital realm. Former tactics of utilizing individual digital channels will be replaced with the need to create a common brand experience across the full spectrum of the digital experience.  The introduction of advancements to existing technology like mobile, wearable technology and data analytics will require the refinement of the creative effort.  We are entering a period where basic targeting of the right message to the right person will also demand the message be delivered at the right time and in the right place across multiple channels to include mobile; video, and social sharing.  “The industry will begin to evolve beyond marketing automation aligned around personas and the buyer journey to create a connected cloud of technology designed to gain a deeper understanding of customers,” said Tom Stein, CEO of Stein IAS Americas. “Right now there are a lot of unconnected technologies, everything from data management to predictive analytics. The next big leap is for us to connect all the relevant technologies in the interest of the customer experience and the customer journey.”

Predictors of the trends in 2015 are in agreement on at least one factor: Content is, and will continue to be, king. Consumers can’t wait to devour and share a brand’s content.  With this upsurge in content marketing, organizations are realizing that the quickest way to motivate an audience is through valuable content. But the content will need to be more inspiring, personal and entertaining to be relevant in 2015 and beyond. Personalization is expected to become a widely adopted practice in 2015, leading to the growth of one-on-one marketing which will help build relationships and humanize a brand.  “The use of videos and visuals will be on the rise”, says Tom Malesic, president and CEO, EZSolution. “Consumers are more likely to purchase after seeing a video than if there was no video at all. In addition, it shows that you are personal with your customers and that you care about your products and services.”

Social media has gravitated to top of the “must have list’ for marketers in 2014.  “With the upturn in the economy, small businesses have more potential for success than ever. The most significant increases will go to businesses that have a flexible and effective online strategy, and who can rapidly respond to changing desires of customers. The growth of social media as a platform for connection is causing more and more people to get their recommendations from others online. Businesses that have a significant online presence will be in the forefront of the new referral and relationship marketing systems,” says Pamela Bruner, business coach with Make Your Success Real. Jason Parks, owner, The Media Captain says, “As Facebook’s organic reach continues to decrease, small business owners are taking notice. If they want to get in front of their customers for 2015, I believe it will be essential that they start looking more into social media advertising to expand their online marketing efforts. Gone will be the days where companies allow employees to post content without conducting a deep dive into their audience first. Executives are getting more sophisticated and realize that unless their corporate social media plan is formulaic with clear, set goals, metrics and tools to provide those metrics, they’re paying top dollar for employees to spend time on online efforts that have questionable value.”

The importance of mobile will grow in each and every aspect of business in the coming year with many predicting that the mobile web will become even bigger than desktop usage. With the growth in popularity of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and wearable technology, the most effective campaigns will be built to be mobile-first. With 80 percent of users deleting emails that aren’t optimized for the mobile screen, reliable and functional mobile technology has never been more important to reaching an audience. Being able to pay for purchases from an iPhone or send currency on Snapchat, Venmo, Text To Give, PayPal or Bitcoin will become more common-place in 2015 as technical and security issues are resolved and enhanced. Marketers will need to adopt new ways their customers can pay for goods and services.

The rise in popularity of wearable devises will generate exponential opportunities for sellers to capture and utilize real-time data to create entirely new ways for users to interact with their favorite brands. Micro targeting strategies are expected to dynamically rise in 2015 as marketers take advantage of the increased opportunities for data collection and its utilization for the creation and dissemination of instantly relevant advertising.

“Marketing is changing fast, and business leaders will be wise to consider these changes as they plan for 2015. First, marketing teams will need to be increasingly staffed with more technical personnel rather than just creative types. The creative side of marketing is critically important to develop clever ads and copy. However, marketing increasingly involves things like online advertising, re-marketing and social media promotion. Therefore, marketing staff will require more technical skills. Ideal candidates will have a balance of creative and technical skills,” says Dave Scarola, Vice President, The Alternative Board.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

 

Is Today Your Day to Answer the Call?

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The following you will read two stories of accomplished women, who when faced with the opportunity, combined their passion and embrace for the entrepreneurial spirit to achieve new visions of personal and professional accomplishment.

As recently featured in Fortune Magazine, the shy and extremely private, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken rarely speaks to the press or goes out of her way to draw attention to herself. In her own words she has said, “I’ve always been quite happy to be anonymous.” But often times, personal ambitions and life’s intended direction are altered in their course by factors beyond an individual’s control. The only child of the late Freddy Heineken, Charlene is the sole heir to the Heineken fortune and the controlling shareholder of what is now the world’s third-largest brewer. Charlene spent her life happily below the radar in London, raising five children with her banker husband Michel, who was a former child actor and Olympic skier, until the death of her father Freddy Heineken, who brought the premium beer brand to America after Prohibition and built the company brand into a world brewing power-house estimated to be worth $45 billion.

Charlene De Carvalho-Heineken now controls 51% of Heineken Holding NV, a public company listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, which in turn owns 50.05% of Heineken NV, also listed on the Amsterdam exchange. Though she joined the board of Heineken Holding NV in 1988 she showed little interest in the daily operations of the family business until after her father died. On the day of Freddy’s funeral in 2002 Charlene, with the support of her husband Michel de Carvahlo, Vice Chairman of Citigroup, decided that it would be prudent to have a member of the Heineken family involved in the companies operation.

With considerable trepidation, she faced up to the challenge that fate thrust upon her and got actively involved in Heineken’s brewery operations all around the world. Aided by Michael, the couple was instrumental in the decision to bring in Jean Francois van Boxmeer, as Heineken’s CEO in 2005. Since then the company has acquired the brands Dos Equis and Bohemia and successfully fended off a take-over bid by SABMiller’s late last year in an effort to insure that controlling interest in the family founded company would be passed on to the next Heineken generation. Clearly the once unassuming and somewhat disinterested heiress to one of the world’s most formidable and successful companies has risen to the challenge to become, what husband Michael calls his wife, “The lady who throws the switch.”

Megyn Kelly grew up in a middle-class suburb of Albany, NY. She was the youngest of three children born to a father who was an education professor at the State University of New York at Albany, and her mother who ran the behavioral-health department at a Veterans Administration hospital. At age 15 her life and comfortable middle-class life-style was shattered by the untimely passing of her father. As a high school senior, Megyn listed her future hopes in three words: “College, government, wealth.” After a high-school aptitude test suggested that a career in journalism news would be well suited for Megyn, she sought to attend the communication program at Syracuse University, but after being rejected to the program she switched her major to political science and went on to receive a J.D. from Albany Law School and embarked on a successful career in corporate litigation.

But in 2003, Megyn decided to turn her focus back to her original career choice. Armed with an inert sense of purpose, personal enthusiasm and perseverance she reset her sights on a career in journalism news and cut a TV news demo tape with help from a friend and began cold-calling station managers. Bill Lord, then the news director of WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington had never given a job to somebody off the street with no experience, but Kelly’s tape and her subsequent interview motivated him to act. “She was very intelligent, there’s just no getting around it,” he said. “She was enormously confident. She seemed very, very motivated. She had ideas.” He hired her on a tryout basis which led to a longer term contract.

Today Kelly is the host of her own prime-time news program on the Fox News Channel. With an audience of 2.8 million viewers “The Kelly Files” became the highest-rated non-sports program in its time slot in all of basic cable in 2014. For Roger Ailes, the Fox News Channel chairman and chief executive, Kelly has become his “breakthrough artist,” the one who will define Fox’s future. Time magazine has named Kelly as one of the 100 “most influential people in the world” for 2014.

The entrepreneurial spirit can mobilize individuals under less than ideal circumstances to set an example of what hard work and passion can yield.  What’s your calling?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Winning the Super Bowl Advertising Contest Well Beyond the End of the Big Game

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It is no secret that professional football is one of America’s favorite pastimes. As the center of attention for millions of fans each football season, the National Football League (NFL) has become an iconic and uber-valuable commercial brand. Despite the negative effects of ongoing player misconduct and this season’s ball-deflation controversy, the NFL will garner nearly 10 billion dollars in overall revenue this year. And while not the largest revenue source, advertising will account for about $3 billion of total annual revenue for the league. During this year’s Super Bowl alone advertisers will fork over more than $2 billion dollars to gain the attention of Super Bowl viewers. With more than 108 million viewers in play, the championship game is the most watched event in America allowing it to command nearly $4.5 million for a 30 second commercial spot.

In most advertising venues commercials are often considered interruptions and annoyances to the featured entertainment. But Super Bowl ads are different. While the majority of viewers of regular entertainment use commercial breaks to retrieve a snack, a cold beverage or just to take a comfort break, 98 percent of Super Bowl viewers stay with the program to view the commercials. In some past events, the commercial performance was judged more entertaining than the contest on the field. Still, research from advertising consulting company Communicus shows that most brands face huge odds in making their Super Bowl ads pay off. Four out of five Super Bowl commercials fail to persuade consumers to change their minds about the brands they favor or reach a particular target audience.

Regardless of the high risk, this year’s returning lineup of advertisers will include advertising veterans like;  Anheuser-Busch, BMW, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay, Unilever, GoDaddy, Kia and Toyota/Lexus. But after setting a spending record in 2014, most automotive brands will be sitting on the side lines during this year’s mega game.  Reasons not to advertise during the big game, according to automakers, were based on spending advertising dollars elsewhere, and timing of vehicle introductions. “Perhaps we’ve reached a breaking point. It’s like reaching a wall,” said Jon Swallen, Kantar Media North America chief research officer. “At some point, you top out, and the last few years have arguably been the top-out point.” There will be about 15 rookie advertisers in the 2015 game, including cruise line Carnival Corporation, the candy brand Skittles, and web development platform Wix.com.

Building anticipation for upcoming Super Bowl ads is essential for getting the most out of expensive air-time for game marketers. The strategy involves “leaking” a commercial in advance of the big game and is a strategy that has been used successfully in the past by PepsiCo’s (PEP) and Volkswagen. The practice is similar to that used by movie studios releasing a “movie trailer” in advance of a cinematic premier. The effort lowers the risk for advertisers, as the brands can gauge how their Super Bowl marketing strategy and messages are being received by consumers. Many marketers believe that pre-releasing their commercials increases the chance they will win the Super Bowl Advertising game well before the kick-off of the main event.

While the results of this year’s advertising game, as well as the winner of the sporting main event, will follow after the end of Super Bowl Sunday,  it is expected that the size of the audience and the impact of connecting a sponsors brand with more than 100 million viewers will most likely not diminish over past super events. And just like the players on the field who envy the chance to relive their best plays in video replay, advertisers relish the opportunity that their commercials will make the games highlight reel; many times over and well past the end of the game.

Getting the E-commerce Experience Right Has Never Been More Important

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As more and more consumers turn to the Web for their holiday shopping, performance of e-merchants online experience is becoming increasingly important to the bottom line.  A recent Harris Poll indicates that 68% of U.S. adults expect to shop online for gifts this upcoming holiday season and more than three quarters of adult US online shoppers feel that website reliability and reputation is extremely high in their consideration of an online merchant and their eventual purchase decision.  What’s even more concerning is that 89 percent of the survey respondents said they would simply stop shopping at a particular online store as a result of a poor Website experience. Web performance is clearly important to a majority of online shoppers, who will often flee one retailer’s site for a competitor’s for faster service. With so much riding on meeting the customer’s expectations it is increasingly important to insure that your website is prepared for the seasons increased usage and that its performance meets your customer’s expectations.

Speed and availability is critical to a positive customer interaction.  Online shoppers have unlimited choices and have little patience when they are delayed or frustrated by a sites poor performance.  Implementing traffic management and web content optimization tools will improve site response times and help balance system workloads.  

Security and liability are critical concerns for online shoppers. Hacking of customer data is on the rise and retailers are being held liable for the costs associated with lost and stolen customer data. Securing customers personal credit card information and passcodes is vital. Customers will return to the site only if they feel confident that their information is safe and secure.  

This is the year of mobile. More and more consumers are embracing the use of their smart phones and pads for every day shopping, whether over the internet of while in the store. Optimizing your website to accommodate the latest mobile apps and software to interact with the roaming consumer will enhance user experience and elevate customer satisfaction.

Don’t leave your websites performance to chance. Investing in an effective website optimization and monitoring tool will improve the likelihood that performance issues will be identified early enough to be resolved before they adversely affect the customer relationship. Regular testing of the site over multiple web browsers is very important. Online users will often use different browsers to access the internet depending on the devise. Your site should offer a consistent and positive e-visit regardless of the method of access. And remember, a website that is “down” and inaccessible for even a brief moment during busy shopping hours is akin to closing the door and turning out the lights of a brick and mortar store at rush hour. Once turned away, studies have indicated that as many as 44 percent of inconvenienced customers will never return.

Once what was considered the normal customer interaction is changing as technology advancements have improved and been expanded to offer new bells and whistles to entice new customer interactions. Initiating unproven and untested site enhancements at the busiest time of the shopping season can result in a calamity for even the best designed websites.  Better to be prepared than to be first with a failed site performance that will damage your brand.

The holiday shopping season will determine the success or failure for the vast majority of retailers, getting the user experience effort right has never been more important. Online shopping is opening new opportunities to expanded global markets for even the smallest of businesses. But with the increased exposure comes a corresponding increased risk to getting the customer experience wrong. E-commerce retailers whose websites are prepared, tested and diligently monitored will be rewarded with a positive and profitable consumer experience.

Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Move Over Santa, Here Comes The Great Pumpkin!

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Once reserved for the single last day in October, Halloween was a time when younger children donned costumes and set out throughout the neighborhoods of America, knocking on suspecting home dwellers and recounting the term “trick or treat,” the seemingly timeless plea for candy instead of a trick; the latter usually manifested in a soaped window, a tissue adorned tree or burning bag of poo on the front porch. Celebrated for hundreds of years in communities across North America, Halloween is becoming a more popular holiday and an increasingly bigtime marketing opportunity for commerce.

The Great Pumpkin, of Jack-o-lantern fame, and his compatriots the ghosts, goblins, witches and ghouls are arising from the patches, cemeteries and the darkness of night to claim a stake in the list of universal celebrations. It is estimated that consumers will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year, an average of $75 per person, an increase of nearly $30 since 2005. Children’s trick or treating is still Halloween’s leading characteristic, but adults are the main funders of the increased holiday spending.

Research conducted by The National Retail Federation (NRF) found that while the majority of Halloween celebrations were among 18-24 year olds, more than 60 percent of those above the age of 34 were now expected to join in the revelry by conducting larger “event” parties attended by elaborately adorned party goers. This year, spending on house decorations for Halloween is expected to rival that of the Christmas holiday season and candy buying at Halloween will outpace that spent on Easter for the first time. It is clear that the Great Pumpkin has arrived and is throwing down a respectable challenge to the Easter bunny and Santa Claus.

Marketers, take note! Positioned perfectly between the lucrative back to school selling events and the profitable Christmas holiday sales season, Halloween is an opportunity to build on your year-end strategy for closing the gap on profitability. Whether digital, mobile or traditional, the trick is to engage in effective Halloween marketing activities to capture your share of the holiday’s treats.

 

Defining the Role of Strategy in an Organization

 

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One of the most used and least understood terms in business is strategy. While nearly every organization’s success can be traced to a well-founded and directed plan of action, or strategy, many within today’s company hierarchy would be hard pressed to articulate their company’s strategic plan or their specific role in the process of implementation. Much of the misunderstanding stems from a lack of clear articulation of the plans content and who in the organization is responsible for its success.

The Roman philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying: “If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable.” Strategies role in any organization is to collectively focus its resources and assets on achieving a tightly defined course of action towards achieving a set of common goals and objectives. Flexibility is necessary in deploying a strategic plan in order to address original assumptions that become ineffectual when the plan meets the reality of an ever changing marketplace. But while some flexibility in the process is necessary, maintaining a clear focus on the desired objective is essential to garnering cooperation and understanding from all those who are on board.

Whether a company’s strategy is founded on the internal strengths and beliefs of the organization or guided by a belief based on their customer’s sense of the company’s value to fulfill their expectations, without a clear and compelling vision of where it is headed, an organization is destined to be lost.

The leader’s responsibility to its organization is to set forth a vision for the company that engages the understanding, acceptance and participation of its associates. Peter Drucker, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation noted, “An effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision.” While leadership provides the vision and forms the strategy, it is the organization that engages and carries through on its implementation. Successful strategy is dependent upon the participation and buy-in of all individuals in an organization who have clearly assigned roles and a timeline with predetermined milestones along the path to success.

Have you sufficiently defined the role of strategy in your organization?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Compensation In Collegiate Sports, A Big Win Or Loss For Brand Value?

 

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With the National Football League’s (NFL) current troubles with misbehaving players, the importance of protecting the brand is getting a lot of attention once again. The NFL, known for being on the cutting edge of everything to do with marketing, finds itself in an unenviable position when it comes to player conduct. The league is once again floundering, demonstrating some significant uncertainty when dealing with terrible player behaviors which threaten to damage the league and teams’ all-important brand value.

The NFL is not the only valuable sports marketing powerhouse experiencing challenges to their brand value. Those old enough may remember when college sports programs were little more than an extracurricular activity, where physically-gifted amateur athletes earned college tuition through scholarships. They may also remember when those programs began generating millions of dollars colleges and universities.

The Texas Longhorns, now reported to be worth in excess of $139 million, is at the top of college football’s most valuable brands. The top 20 university football programs brands have an average value of $85 million and earn in excess of $1.2 billion each year. Obviously, college sports are far from being an extracurricular activity any more. Once, many decades past, college sports programs were funded and supported primarily by the academic side of the higher learning equation and aided by some rabid, well-heeled alumni supporters. Today, many of our most famous schools of higher learning would be hard-pressed to survive without the riches generated by student athletes. So there is debate as to why such riches can be generated for the institutions, while the players are still forbidden to profit, over and above the tuition assisting scholarships, from their talents.

The college gridiron and hardwood courts have become little more than a training ground for aspiring players who have their sights set on lucrative careers in the NFL or the National Basketball Association. It may be one reason why student athletes, many whom will never graduate with a degree, are so willing to suffer through four years of hard, dangerous work-play without compensation for their generous talents. But just last month, a federal judge ruled that the NCAA’s decades-old rules barring payments to college athletes were in violation of antitrust laws.

The decision will permit universities to offer football players in the top 10 conferences and all Division I men’s basketball player’s trust, funds that can be tapped after graduation. The move will give amateur college athletes an opportunity share in the billions of dollars in television revenue they help generate for their colleges and the NCAA. Compensation will not only be paid for playing talents, but for the use of their images as well, both before and after their scholastic career.

How much each player will be paid and who among the thousands will be eligible to receive the compensation is still not clear. North Carolina (N.C.) State athletics director Debbie Yow, said, “So far it seems that everyone has the same questions, and we don’t have any answers yet.” Meanwhile, school administrators are consorting to determine where the money for the new financial assistance programs will come from, acting as if the millions presently being earned and shared with coaches and administrations are not sufficiently large enough to share with the players.

The new ruling could become the biggest shake-up in college sports history, causing much consternation in the university board rooms, administrative suites, and marketing departments on campuses all across the country. But with the popularity of college sports at an all-time high, the wrangling and hand- wringing is not likely to dampen the enthusiasm of the millions of fans in the stadiums and tail-gating parking lots. Unlike the player misbehavior and criminal activity which threatens professional and collegiate brands, compensating the players may just strengthen the collegiate brand’s value among the millions responsible for generating the pot of gold.

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.