Why are We Dusting Off that Backpack and Heading Back to School?

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A survey done last year by Champlain College revealed that 60% of adults have considered returning to college. It is much more feasible now with the offering of high-quality online programs that have flexible schedules. There are many reasons why adults are going back to school, and finding the benefits far outweigh the cost.

Career Enhancement

Out of those adults surveyed, 70% believe that higher education is the secret to career success. Many Fortune 500 companies would agree: offering paid continuing education courses, discounts on partnering college tuition rates, and some even going so far as to require continual renewal of certification courses.

Post-Secondary Degree

Some adults have returned to school for a Masters or Doctorate in their respective fields. For some, they have finally paid off their student loans, or they have become comfortable enough to be able to finance this endeavor. The result can be a higher status in their career, maybe even a promotion, or higher pay grade.

Keeping Up with the Times

The times and technology are constantly changing and many people want to ensure that they are staying abreast of these changes. According to Forbes, many companies are choosing to hire younger talent instead of training employees on new technology and trends. To combat this, workers are staying current by updating their knowledge base with continuing education.

Finishing the Degree

For some adults, going back to school to finish their degree is the goal. This has many benefits including meeting personal fulfillment and that extra push forward that may have been holding them back from a promotion or from applying for a new position.

Changing Career Paths

Other adults are stuck in a career that doesn't suit them and are looking to change their path. A new degree is the perfect way to do that. Learn a new skillset, gain access to career services and a network of alumni, and enter a new career armed with knowledge.

There are so many reasons for adults to return to college. Despite an overwhelming majority of adults citing student loan debt as their "primary hurdle" in returning to school, most realize that the benefits far outweigh the cost. They are gaining new knowledge and skills needed to further their careers and also gaining connections that cannot be replaced.

Smart Speakers Boost Radio

“Alexa, start my day.” Smart speakers are beginning to change our daily routines and have become one of the most rapidly adopted tech products since the smartphone. Companies including Google, Amazon, and Apple are all carving out their place in the smart speaker market as users are growing at a compound growth rate of approximately 48 percent annually. According to RBC, almost 41% of homes in the US have at least one smart speaker device. Once you’re an owner, it appears their popularity is contagious: more than half of all smart-speaker-equipped homes report owning multiple speakers placed in various rooms, according to Strategy Analytics. You can listen to what you want with the ease of voice command – no buttons, no wires, no clicking, no scrolling, and best of all, no hassle.

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Smart speaker convenience creates a unique opportunity for listeners to listen to the radio more than they did before. Recent research released by iHeart suggests that 70% of smart speaker users in the US report using their device to listen to the radio. On top of this, Jacobs Media studied that a substantial portion of AM/FM radio listeners have increased their consumption of radio after bringing a smart speaker into their home. Study after study continuously establishes a strong correlation between the increase of radio listenership and smart speaker audience growth that is hard to ignore.

Finally, smart speakers are not only functionally efficient, they are also aesthetically pleasing. These modern designs of luxury pivot radio, an almost 100-year-old medium, into the 21st century with power and ease. Americans are still choosing to listen to the traditional media format of AM/FM radio, but they appreciate the sleek design smart speakers offer. Turning on the radio is as easy as turning on the lights with a smart speaker and it’s easy to remember voice activated commands and controls, which create seamless transitions for the bustle of busy lifestyles. And keep in mind, that since smart speakers are fairly new, it’s safe to assume that radio consumption rates will continue to rise as smart speakers’ popularity grows.

New Trend in College Admissions: Going Test-Optional

MORE AND MORE COLLEGES ARE GOING TEST-OPTIONAL

Academic institutions, like Barnard and Columbia, are omitting the requirement for standardized tests that measure academic knowledge, like the ACT and SAT, in the interest of increasing racial and socioeconomic diversity.

The question most admissions offices are asking is:

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CAN TEST-FREE ADMISSIONS CREATE DIVERSITY AND FOSTER SUCCESS?

A Major Study Says Yes

According to a major study covering 28 colleges and 955,774 applicants:

  • Test-optional policies increased application rates 29% for private institutions and 11% for public.

  • Institutions with test-optional policies saw more minority applications and acceptances.

  • Students who did not submit test scores ended up just as successful as those who did within a few years at a university.

The results of this study are encouraging to universities looking to expand their diversity.

Skeptics Aren't So Sure

Johns Hopkins University Press released a book claiming that test-optional policies do not have direct causation on the increase in college diversity and success rates of students.

According to this New York Times article, decreasing the influence of test scores in college admissions enables unmonitored and highly subjective "rampant grade inflation" at high schools to skew admission rates.

There is also concern that the test was created for a reason: to make sure students can handle the rigors of college. How do institutes of higher learning justify giving high scores weight in whether a student is accepted while ignoring low or absent scores altogether?

THE FUTURE OF THE SAT

With the efficacy of test-optional policies in debate, will the SAT and other standardized tests keep their academic standing as an indicator of college-readiness? Only time will tell, but with the number of institutions jumping on board this trend, there will be no shortage of data to evaluate.

At Furman Roth, we make it our business to stay at the forefront of media and industry trends. That’s because our specialty- higher education- is your speciality.

For information on how to best draw in potential students and grow your university's brand, contact us here at Furman Roth Advertising. We're happy to help!

Press Play: Video Marketing in Higher Education

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When there’s an accident on the expressway, the local highway is all but guaranteed to be congested. Hear a strange noise next door? Try resisting that inexplicable urge to investigate. Face it, whether you’re a rubbernecker, tourist, or even a nosy neighbor, knowing what’s happening is nice, but seeing is believing.

When we think about higher education marketing and how it continues to evolve, the power of the visual is equally important—essential to the media mix, in fact. Eighty percent of Generation Z, which is inundated with social media updates, images and “stories” throughout their day, say they use video to help decide which products to purchase.  A whopping 76% consider video as the main content source they can´t live without.

Video not only commands attention and influences decision making - when it comes to social media, it seems it’s also more effective in reaching and engaging target audiences. According to Forbes, 90% of customers say video helps them make buying decisions and 64% of customers say that seeing a video makes them more likely to buy.

In order to cut through all the noise, schools should make a path to connect with their audience through video. We recently filmed a number of videos for Nassau Community College (on a shoe string budget) by using school student extras, our in-house creative team, and shooting enough b-roll in one day to use over several videos. At Furman Roth, we believe that it’s not the size of the budget, but the size of the idea – we are well versed in efficiency and have worked with budgets of all sizes with the same outcome – compelling video that captures the unique spirit of the institution. If you don’t have recent video or exploring video for the first time, contact us today. Take a look at some of our videos here.

Social Media Marketing for Higher Education

Millennials are out.  Of college, that is.  Most industries are currently targeting millennials.  They make up a huge chunk of consumers, so of course businesses want to appeal to them.  Higher education institutions, however, should be thinking beyond millennials.  Gen Z is the generation born between 1995 and 2012.  Unlike millennials, this generation probably never knew life without a computer.  Gen Zers are either ready or almost ready for college, and how universities appeal to this generation will be different than any previous cohort.  These kids don’t use the internet the same way millennials do.  For universities to engage with Gen Z, they'll need to learn how this generation spends their time online.

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 Where in the Internet is Gen Z?

Most universities probably already have a Facebook and Twitter account, but they might not find Gen Z there.  Here are Gen Z's top three social media sites and how universities are using them:

  1. Snapchat.  This generation loves Snapchat, because their parents don't know how to use it.  For a good example of a university Snapchat account, check out New York University.  They've mastered the art of Snapchat engagement. They encourage students to make content, and prospective students can access it. That makes them feel included and excited about the school before they even apply.  

  2. Instagram Stories. This is another platform that's not popular with the older generation, so Gen Zers can use it to get away from their parents.  It's pretty similar to Snapchat. The University of California, Los Angeles is a good role model for Instagram. They do a good job of highlighting their campus on this platform.  

  3. YouTube.  Notice a trend? Gen Z loves visual media.  A university that could engage Gen Z on YouTube would have the eyes of the biggest chunk of the generation.  85% of Gen Z watch YouTube videos.  Some higher education institutions, like West Virginia University, are getting creative on YouTube.  The school compiles Snaps from Snapchat into YouTube videos to engage students and prospective students.

Gen Z is actually a pretty straight forward generation.  They like visuals, the internet, and places their parents aren't.  But don't let that straightforwardness fool you.  Colleges and universities still need to be smart about how they reach this generation.  

If you’re interested in getting started we’d be happy to help improve the social media presence of your higher education institution. Contact us today.

From Inquiring to Registration: How to Nurture Your Student Leads

With the number of high school graduates declining, and more and more colleges offering online and hybrid (or other) alternatives to traditional college programs, the higher education landscape is more competitive than ever. Faced with an abundance of options, today’s college-bound students want to know that the expense will be worth it.

For these reasons, it is absolutely vital that colleges remain top of mind with prospects as they research and undergo the decision-making process. Nurturing campaigns keeps you in communication with your prospective students, and, if done well, lets them know that your institution is the right fit. Here are some steps to begin building an effective nurturing campaign.

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Collect Data.

In order to effectively engage your prospects, you must first learn about them. Information like intended major, where they live, high school GPAs, and entrance exam scores are data points that can be beneficial in developing a communication strategy built on relevant, personalized content. If you are not currently collecting data on your prospects, a simple Request for Information form on your website is an excellent way to get started!

Customize Your Content.

Once you have the data, put it to use! Customized content is a key factor in providing a relevant, engaging, personalized experience to your prospects. Do you have the students’ intended majors? Send them information about successful alumni in the field, or highlight a key faculty member’s accomplishments. If you have their GPA, you may want to let qualifying students know about scholarships they can apply for – easing the financial burden can be a huge point of differentiation and overcome a major barrier.

 Get the Right Tools for the Job.

Nurturing campaigns can get very complex, but tools like CRM systems and marketing cloud software can make these campaigns not only manageable, but in some cases, downright easy. There is no shortage of systems and software out there, and each has its benefits and drawbacks, so do your research! Remember that the right system has to fit with your institution’s processes, begin mapping out your student journey and enrollment funnel, then find a system to fit, rather than vice versa.

From the initial student inquiry through application acceptance and class registration, ongoing relevant and personalized communication can demonstrate to prospects that you understand and can deliver what they are looking for.

5 Takeaways From The AMA ConnectEd Conference

In its 29th year, the AMA ConnectEd conference is a go-to learning experience for marketers and communications officers in higher ed institutions of all kinds.  Touting itself as “higher ed marketing’s premier event,” the conference promises to “make [marketing in higher ed] easier by connecting you with 1200+ peers who are working through the same challenges” – it did not disappoint.  

Over 3 days, we got to network with fellow higher education marketers and agencies, and learn about the latest and greatest in strategies, techniques and case studies covering everything from boosting enrollment, student engagement, increasing alumni giving and much more. So, what are the top 5 things we learned from AMA ConnectEd

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1. It is time to stop talking about Millennials.  

In the opening keynote, Wayne Connell of the Washington Post stressed the need to “retool our thinking about generations.”  Pew Research defines Millennials as being born prior to 1997, making the youngest millennials 21 this year. The youngest of this cohort is getting ready to graduate college, with the oldest of this generation in their late 30s. While Millennials may be a target for graduate programs, it is crucial for higher education institutions to understand Centennials, or Generation Z. The first generation of true digital natives, who do not remember a time without internet. There are a number of surprising trends arising with the coming of age of Gen Z, such as a resurgence in brick and mortal retail and a high priority placed on privacy (which is surprising for those that grew up in the age of social media). 

2. Content is king, and video is its queen.  

Content marketing has been a trend for some time now, and it appears to be here to stay. Former US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in his keynote address, discussed the need for honest, organic storytelling relating to the different student populations that are looking for higher education. While the creation of long form videos may be appealing, being able to convey a message in a brief video can be quite powerful, especially in reaching younger audiences. 

3. There is such a thing as too much data. 

Andre Moraes, Principal Analytical Lead at Google, spoke about the difference between data demonstration (“look at all this data I have”) and data visualization (“here is an interesting insight I found”). The job of a marketers is to synthesize this data and use data visualization to break it out into actionable insights that the audience can quickly understand and act upon.  

4. Marketing has become a very technical profession. 

Since students approaching college age are digital natives, gone are the days when the marketing department’s job largely consisted of wordsmithing and laying out mailers and viewbooks. These elements are certainly part of the marketing mix, but students are exposed to so many touchpoints and messages from so many different institutions, how can you stand out from the pack and help prospects understand what makes your institution different? This is where the technical part comes in.  Institutions collect a wealth of data and using this data to understand your best candidates is the key to developing dynamic nurturing campaigns and personalized web experiences. 

5. An agency should be a partner, not a vendor. 

One size does not fit all, especially in higher education. While there are certainly some similarities, overlapping target markets, and shared challenges, a large state university can have upwards of 40,000 undergraduate students, while a small liberal arts college can have as few as 1,000. The marketing and recruitment strategies and tactics that work for one do not always work for another. An agency should take the time to understand your enrollment funnel, your offerings and your challenges and devise a customized solution, rather than a standard package used across various clients. It is important that the agency be agile enough and with the breadth of experience to work with your institution’s unique goals, to use the right strategy and tactics to convey your university’s unique culture to your ideal target student population(s).  

For Higher Ed Marketers, It’s Time To Get To Know Gen Z

For years, everyone's been talking about Millennials, the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. But what about Generation Z? While the oldest Millennials are approaching their late 30's as of 2018, Generation Z will make up almost 40% of consumers by 2020. Now that they are reaching college age, it is vital that institutions of higher learning focus on getting to know Generation Z better.

Generation Z defined

According to Pew Research Center, Generation Z (also known as “Post-Millennials”) includes all individuals born between 1997 and 2010. Their early lives have been impacted by far-reaching circumstances such as the Great Recession, the rise of ISIS, the election of the first black president, and social movements that support populism and marriage equality. Members of Generation Z are true digital natives, comprising the first generation born into a culture completely dependent on technology. Leaving the house to pick up groceries or take out cash from the ATM become rarer as these interactions move online.

It is vital that institutions of higher learning focus on getting to know Generation Z better.

Best Practices for Marketing to Generation Z 

In order to launch successful advertising and recruitment campaigns for Generation Z, companies and institutions need to approach this cohort differently than when they advertised to Millennials. By getting to know Generation Z, you'll find that they're more future-minded and financially prepared than many of their Millennial counterparts. Furthermore, having grown up in the digital age, Gen Zers are accustomed to conducting online research and are looking to engage with brands they determine to be authentic and socially responsible. Finally, although they may largely lack financial independence, Gen Z is poised to become the largest generation of consumers, in addition to the impact they currently have on household expenditures (with more than 90% of parents reporting that children have influence over family purchases). In short, these "post-Millennials" are already promising to harness tremendous spending power which they will invest in their educational futures, their lifestyles, and their livelihoods -- so the time to get to know Generation Z is now.

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The Parents Pool: Why Market Higher Education to Parents

Parents of today's college-age children are highly involved in many aspects of their life including their choice of school, the admissions process, and the entire college experience. Parents often hold great influence over their student's decisions and expect to have open lines of communication with their child concerning significant choices.

Families represent the largest consumer group today and Generation Z, children born between 1995 and 2009, account for nearly 26% of the U.S. population. This segment of the population represents a consumer market with a current spending power valued at $44 billion a year and will account for 40 percent of all consumers in the U.S. by 2020. The parents of Generation Z, like the Millennial generation before them, are highly involved in the lives of their children and are likely to act as advisers, providing opinions and recommendations.

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While Generation Z is the first generation to grow up in a digital world, parents continue to be a major influence on their life decisions. Generation Z generally gathers information from various sources when making a decision, but still relies heavily on their parent's recommendations and recognizes them as the perfect resource.

According to CNN, the funding for a students college education is a combination of scholarships, income, savings, and loans.

Approximately 23% of a student’s tuition cost comes from their parent’s income and savings.

Parents spend an average of $5,500 annually on their child's college education with most of it coming directly from their income, while 13% of them use money from a college savings plan, and 8% using money from other investments or savings plans.

Parents of today's college-age student have a tremendous amount of sway in their child's decisions. Open lines of communication and a willingness of students to seek out and accept their parent's opinion makes parents a prime influencer. Parental investment in the education of their child gives them significant control over the students choice of school, program, and living arrangements, making parents a prime marketing demographic target.

Stemming Tuition Sticker Shock

Regardless of the size, rank or location of a college or university, sticker shock is a very palpable and common concern for prospective students and their families. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Affordability is among “the most influential factors when students develop their college consideration lists.

Stamats 2016 TeensTALK study, confirms affordability is among “the most influential factors when students develop their college consideration lists.”

So what are enrollment marketers to do when undiscounted tuition and fees are published out of context and outside competition is at an all-time high? Don’t hide the ball. Run with it.

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Address finances early and often in recruitment campaigns. Direct students to easily digestible information about awards, work study and federal loans in an easy to find section on your website. Invite questions. Communicate directly with parents. Consider communications specifically about completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—a top enrollment predictor that takes approximately 20 minutes to complete—during recruitment and even throughout yield.

In 2016, Nerdwallet.com reported high school graduates missed out on as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grant money, mainly because of incomplete or unfiled FAFSAs. Confusion about the process or perception about not being eligible for federal aid are cited factors that led to the lack of applications.

Don’t hesitate to make use of a number of free resources made available in the DOE online Financial Aid Toolkit, including handouts, videos and infographics. There’s even more educational content available across DOE Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts that’s designed for social sharing.

Refer students and parents to your cost of attendance calculator so they gain a better understanding of their estimated net price—the important number. The reported "cost of attendance" is rarely what students actually pay.

Let them know—more than once—because confusion about costs shouldn’t stand in the way of recruiting the best class possible.

How To Do Higher Ed Diversity Marketing The Right Way

Recruiting a more diverse student body is one of the more common priorities popping up on universities' strategic plans today. In the latest in a series of published reports, this month an article in The Atlantic shined a light on how high school graduate demographics are shifting from being around 70% Caucasian today to closer to 50% by 2030.

Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed and numerous others also confirm that, while demographics are changing, universities should be very thoughtful about how they adapt to enroll a more diverse student population that reflects of our broader society.

Luckily, modern enrollment marketing is as nuanced as it is complicated. Big data allows for very creative segmentation, while the expansion of digital media enables colleges to target prospective students that were difficult to reach before.

Universities should be very thoughtful about how they adapt to enroll a more diverse student population that reflects of our broader society.

But if you want to recruit a student body that’s more inclusive than the one you have today, think about how you want to address diversity—ethnic, racial, economic, geographic, etc.—in your messaging and on your campus.

How have you positioned diversity on your website? Are your faculty and staff diverse? What services do you have specific to those students who are the first in their families to attend college? Will minority students actually feel at home on your campus? The answers to these questions and more can shape a very powerful narrative and, more importantly, one with greater potential for success. 

The goal of a more diverse and culturally rich academic environment is a noble one. Just be thoughtful and authentic when you have great stories to tell.

Furman Roth Wins Big in National Higher Education Ad Award Competitions

Furman Roth has won several advertising awards from two renowned national educational marketing competitions, including two 1st place Gold wins from the Higher Education Advertising Awards and 2nd place Silver awards from both The Higher Education Advertising awards and from The Collegiate Advertising Awards, in categories including print, out-of-home, social media campaigns (including Facebook and Instagram), student viewbooks and collateral. These 1st and 2nd place awards were won from a pool of over 2,250 entries from hundreds of agencies throughout the country.

“These wins are a reflection of the great work our creative department is doing,” said Ernie Roth, President of Furman Roth.  “Our broad experience in higher education has really helped us take our work to a new level.”

“Working with so many prestigious colleges and universities has really helped us become immersed in the category and the higher ed marketing environment, and has ultimately helped us do better work for our clients,” added Creative Director Jake Rabinowitz. “It takes breakthrough thinking to stand out amongst these major schools and universities in today’s marketing environment, which has become extraordinarily competitive.”

ABOUT THE AWARDS
The Educational Advertising Awards, of which this was their 32nd annual competition, honors exceptional and innovative creativity in education advertising and communications. The finalists and winners are determined by industry peers and the editors of The Higher Education Marketing Report.

The Collegiate Advertising Awards, that accepted more than 900 entries from schools across the United States, “honors excellence in marketing and advertising specific to the field of Higher Education.”

ON RADIO, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE (RADIO MERCURY AWARDS)

This hilarious video piece from The Radio Mercury awards perfectly illustrates the creative advantages of using radio advertising. For decades, copywriters have referred to radio as "The Theatre of the Mind," and this video sums it up perfectly: On radio, there are no rules. A must-watch for anyone considering using traditional or streaming radio as part of their media mix. 

 

Furman Roth Promotes Jake Rabinowitz to Creative Director

New York, N.Y. (January 5, 2017) – Ernie Roth, President and CEO of Furman Roth Advertising, has announced new creative leadership at the agency, with the promotion of current Creative Supervisor Jake Rabinowitz to the position of Creative Director.

Rabinowitz joined Furman Roth in 2013 and brought a strong combination of creative management experience and executional skills. Since then, he has put his mark on many of the agency’s client brands including B&H Photo & Video, New York Methodist Hospital, Nassau Community College, Windham Mountain Resort, The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science and Golden Blossom Honey.

“We’re very excited to put Jake at the helm of our creative department,” said Roth. “We’ve always been a strong media agency, but we’re also an idea agency – and Jake is a proven ‘ideas guy.’ We’re also particularly eager to tap into his experience in the digital, mobile, and content space. Jake’s leadership will enable us to expand upon our history of growing brands in innovative ways, to better serve our clients.”

Rabinowitz started his career in web content design and production. He was on the forefront of influencer marketing, working and building brands with some of the first social titans like @thefatjewish before moving on to head up marketing for a pre-PokemanGo augmented reality startup. Now, after three years in the Furman Roth creative department, he’s prepared to take the agency in a new creative direction

“Furman Roth has a rich history of turning brands into household names,” said Rabinowitz. “Krazy Glue, Mapquest, B&H… these brands are more than household names, they’re part of our culture – and Furman Roth was instrumental in the development of these brands. I’m looking forward to building on that history, combining it with my vision and creating culturally pervasive brand stories to help our clients thrive.”

University Apps: a Campus in Your Pocket

Time magazine recently proclaimed smartphones "the new backpacks.”  Indeed, with note-taking apps, recording apps, and research apps, today’s college student likely feels as naked as a campus streaker without his or her smartphone.  Nearly gone are the days of massive physical textbooks and backpacks bulging with papers.  

While some voices of academia continue to bemoan the ever-presence of technology in the classroom, universities have begun to embrace the medium of smartphone apps.  They can range from simple homework and grading platforms (think “Blackboard” to go), to university-wide social media sites.  In some cases, the social media apps are too popular among co-eds: Florida A&M’s app “Yeti – Campus Stories,” has recently come under fire for a lack of regulation of explicit sexual content, including an assault.  

Of course, plenty of campus apps find a balance between the cachet of a social component and the functionality of a class component. Many universities have successfully cultivated a smartphone presence, offering the benefits of a campus community with pocket-size portability. Here are a few worth noting: 

University of Virginia: UVA’s “The Good Old App” employs “augmented reality technologies,” in order to create a comprehensive experience for users.  Users on campus can tap into restaurant listings, directions, and even security escorts back to the dorm.  Arguably the coolest feature is that you can snap a photo of a building or landmark on campus and receive information about it.   
 Ohio State University: The Buckeyes were early on the trend, and their mobile app has, for years, offered all sporting event information, course communication, campus announcements, and a photo sharing feature that has become popular for alumni across the globe. 

MIT: As you might imagine, for a school that offers courses in app creation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has an expansive app that provides the usual services (courses, restaurants, announcements), but also offers a self-guided campus tour, top news, and access to campus librarians and maintenance help.  

Harvard University: Harvard actually has a slew of mobile apps, from the standard campus app, to Harvard Virtual Tour, to the Arboretum Explorer (featuring plant identification tools), to Shoestring Strategies, a budgeting app created by Harvard undergraduates.  Ever the overachievers!  

…And there are many more.  It’s worth a quick search to find if your current academic home or alma mater offers an app of its own. 



Dr. Phil Vs. Doc Martens - Why Retail Therapy WORKS.

Hi, I’m Deb, and I’m a compulsive shopper.

Or at least I have been. But then again, haven’t we all?

It happens when you just know that everything will fall into place if only you have that perfect pair of boots, fall coat, or new phone. You think to yourself, let me just pop into this store. I’m just going to look, you promise yourself.

Never mind the novel you promised yourself you’d start, or the meditation class you’ve been meaning to try, or even the pipe under the kitchen sink that needs to be replaced. Because those things take time, and nothing – I mean nothing – can compare to the high we get from a short-term or impulse buy.

Are you retailers getting this?

We want to buy your stuff. Not because we can’t live without it, but because we believe we can’t live without it. That’s what we think: our lives will be complete once we have this or that. The truth is, most people don’t need that new dress or pair of boots, but no one who has ever impulsively shopped will admit that.

Now, I hate to encourage businesses to prey on those compulsive shoppers, but I assume you’re just trying to increase sales and make a profit. Heck, we can think positive, that maybe you’re even helping people in the end. So how are you going to get people into your store, or onto your commerce site?

By helping them feel complete, that’s how. Thread counts are great. Non-stick is great. But are they going to make you crave getting under the covers every night, or help you create the relationship-clinching omelet every morning? They better.

So start thinking about how your products are going to make me feel. Stylish? Pampered? Cutting-edge? Savvy? More confident about both myself and my life? Because that’s what I want. And the faster you can get this feeling to me, the better.

There’s a reason for that. In order to survive and pass their genes on to the next generation, every animal is equipped with a “Motivational Triad.” This triad includes pleasure seeking, pain avoidance, and energy conservation. We seek to enhance pleasure, we seek to avoid pain, and we seek to do all that with as little effort as possible. That’s why Fifth Avenue is so popular.

In advertising, reaching this triad is often promised through a visual image.

Remember when car ads always had a beautiful woman leaning against the sports car in question? We’ve moved beyond that, but not far. It’s still the same message, just altered for a new era. In the end, it’s always about pleasure seeking. Because for humans, it’s instinctual. Eventually, the guys who gave up on finding the beautiful woman from the car ads settled down and started a family. Now our compulsive shopper’s pleasure comes from seeing their child have everything, instead of that sports car they once lusted over.

As you can tell, this post isn’t about media spending, or incentivized unit pricing. It’s about feelings, and if you’re not tapping into people’s emotional capital, you’re not tapping into people. 



Customers Are People Too

What do you see when a customer walks into your store?

Income? 
Sales?
Dollars?

Now let me ask you another question. What color are their eyes?

That’s right, customers are people. So it might help to ask yourself, and them, a few questions. Are those champagne glasses you are selling him the ones he is proposing to his girlfriend with? Is that the jacket she’s going to wear to go snowboarding for the first time? Is that the mobile phone she’s going to FaceTime her parents with while away at college?

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You may be done with your customer after they pay for those running shoes, but if you know how they’re going to use them, it will help you sell more of them. You can find out if people are using their new sneakers to train for that marathon, or if they are using them to take their dog for a walk in the park.

If you’re a big business, you’ll probably do market testing and blind focus groups. If you’re a small store, you may be gleaning anecdotal information, or just applying what you already know. If you’re into social media, you can gather those insights from your business’s Facebook page. That’s the interesting thing about social platforms—it doesn’t work in just one direction. You can find out just as much about them, as they can about you.

In any case, knowing how your products are actually being used is useful for advertisers.

One of our longtime clients B&H Photo & Video, is in Midtown, Manhattan. They’re known for being the ultimate store in the city for cameras, along with all the accouterments. We do a fair amount of radio for them, and it generally (and humorously) focuses on how helpful and knowledgeable the B&H staff is. They’ve also done something incredibly helpful: they’ve set up a fantastic Facebook page with detailed product reviews and helpful how-to videos. It also acts as a live feed for their customers to ask questions and give input. You can really feel the human element behind the page.

So they’ve covered quite a swath of customer engagement: traditional advertising, in-store customer service, and a social media platform that delivers consumer insight.

Now, that mix may or may not be right for your business. But the more retailers, and their agencies, can find out about business prospects, the better. With that insight, the marketing and advertising strategy can then become a lot clearer and direct to your target consumers.

Remember, they’re not your customers, they’re your friends.

How is your business going to befriend people?

6 Tips for Email Marketing

Yes, we’re perfectly aware of the irony of writing about the efficacy of email marketing via a marketing email. But, that aside, here are 5 ways you can improve your email blasts:

 

1. Subject Lines Are Everything
An old rule, yet one that still holds fast and true. And if you’re reading this, chances are it worked.

 

2. Keep It Hyper-Niche
Even though you’re sending this email to a lot of recipients, it’s important to make sure you’re covering something that hasn’t been covered ad nauseam. So make it specific. Make it unique. And make it quick before it becomes irrelevant.

 

3. Keep It Short
“When browsing the web, the average adult has a shorter attention span than a goldfish.” –Statistic Brain

Attention spans are getting shorter. And if you don’t hook someone into your content within the first few seconds, you’re toast. So don’t write dauntingly long-winded pieces that require your audience to work. You’re supposed to be giving something to them… so make it easy.

PRB-Attention-Span-Infographic copy.jpg

 

4. Use Visuals
Any visuals. Gifs, memes, video clips, icons or plain old pictures are what draws the eye and gets attention. Treat an email blast as if it were a children’s book. If you would not read it in a jam, then no one will, even Sam-I-Am.

 

 

5. Make it Mobile Friendly
According to the latest US Consumer Device Preference Report from MovableInk, 66% of emails are opened on a mobile device. And that number is only going to go up. So it’s important to not only make sure the email is formatted properly for mobile, but also if there are any external links (to a blog or a website), make sure that those are mobile-friendly as well.

 

 

6. Be Persistent
Even if you follow all of these tips, chances are approximately 80% of recipients won’t open your email anyway (and that’s on a good day). The idea is to continually provide valuable content to the people you’re trying to reach. Think of it like free samples at the mall, once people know what the Bourbon Chicken tastes like, they’ll be back for more… that is, if it’s good.

IN STORE VERSUS ONLINE – WHO REALLY HAS THE MOST CUSTOMERS?

No one can deny that online shopping has grown faster than Justin Bieber’s social media following. So what does the future hold for brick-and-mortar retailers? And has online shopping reached a plateau? Research conducted by various sources* tells us that, finally, online versus in-store purchases are beginning to balance each other out.   

STANDING IN-LINE VS. SHOPPING ONLINE

First things first: What are people buying online? Tied for the highest percentage of online commerce are the electronics and music/video industries, both at about 74%.  The latter comes as no surprise, with songs and movies so easily downloadable from companies like iTunes and Amazon. There is little chance that this arm of the entertainment industry will ever return to the brick and mortar marketplace. Sorry Sam Goody.

Following these are office supplies (68%), clothing (63%), furniture (66%), toys and games (60 %) and books and magazines (58%).


With discounts as well as free and fast shipping options, companies going online for purchases is a simple option that brings their needs right to their door.

Clothing retailers often have shipping discounts, or no shipping fees policies, after you spend a certain amount. But, if the clothes don’t fit right it can be a somewhat tedious process to return/reorder a better size, etc.

Amazon carries almost everything, and they have put retailers, specifically bookstores, in danger (and even some out of business).  Toys and Games as well as Books and Magazines having a larger percentage of sales online is no surprise considering how large Amazon has become.  Simply put, Amazon offers almost everything at rock bottom prices – so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to compete. 

 WHAT’S THE MOST POPULAR IN-STORE INDUSTRY?

The most overwhelming preference for in store shopping is Drugs and Health Aids, at 91.2%.  This has the highest preference out of any category, making online purchases scarce in this industry.  Maybe it’s the fear of identity theft when insurance is involved, or health products or too personal for the Internet.  Whatever it is, there seems to be no threat to brick and mortar operations in this industry.

INDUSTRIES THAT ARE TOO CLOSE TO CALL

With the emergence of online grocery stores and services, some are beginning to wonder if traditional supermarkets will soon be in danger.  However, many consumers have reported that they won’t buy any fresh products from online services (such as meat, produce, dairy and fish).

When it comes to Computer Hardware and Software 52% tend to shop in store.

Online and in-store shopping both have unique aspects that neither can replace.  What drives a consumer in-store or online depends on the product, the person and the need.  While they each have their own benefits and disadvantages, for now they’re both here to stay. 

* US Census Bureau, Marketing Daily, CSA 

When Choosing a Hospital, Patients Follow Their Heart

What factors are influencing patients to choose one hospital over another?  Is it word of mouth, ratings and reviews, or maybe just a gut feeling?  Learning how patients make their healthcare decisions can help hospitals effectively advertise themselves by shaping their message and knowing when and where to reach audiences. 

These days most patients go online to Google their symptoms and research about potential illnesses before making an appointment. Let’s face it, we’ve all gone on WebMD and convinced ourselves we had something at some point.  In fact, according to Google & Compete*, approximately 77% of patients conducted some sort of Internet search before making an appointment with a doctor or physician. 

After they do this initial “research”, patients consider two major convenience factors:  Location and insurance. Traveling to a top rated hospital on the other side of town, in the next city or even outside of the country is financially unrealistic and hugely inconvenient.  And it’s no secret that Hospital visits can be expensive, so it stands to reason that a patient’s desire for a facility that accepts their insurance plan would rank high on their list of priorities, in order to keep out-of-pocket costs to a minimum.

But interestingly, then come emotions. According to a study conducted at Stanford University, patients are more likely to choose a doctor that they feel emotionally connected with on some level.  During this study, patients ended up choosing doctors whose practices represented a “emotional fit” to their needs.  Those who wanted to feel more relaxed choose doctors whose care promoted a relaxed and calm lifestyle.  Patients who wanted an end result of being more energized and active chose doctors that focused on increasing patients’ well being through activity.

So what’s the takeaway from this for marketers? Well, it’s clear that patients are looking for the best care that suits their emotional needs. And that’s good news, because communicating emotion is a discipline in which marketers and advertisers excel (if they’re doing it right). It’s their job to convey the emotions of a healthcare facility in a way that the facility itself may not be able to do on their own.

It’s our job to understand the culture of a facility and the culture of the patients that they are trying to connect with. But it’s not enough to understand who your patients are… you must also understand how your patients feel. 

*Google & Compete, Hospitals Study, 2012

 

   According to a Google & Compete study, emotion is the most important factor for patients when it comes to choosing a healthcare facility. 

 

According to a Google & Compete study, emotion is the most important factor for patients when it comes to choosing a healthcare facility.