In the Zone


Like most people, I really like spending time in my comfort zone. I wake up at the same time (even on the weekends dammit), eat at the same restaurants, go to trivia every Tuesday night. My friends and I even joke about our #NoNewFriends rule.

After completing multiple internships, I graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in marketing and started my first role with a financial services company in a marketing capacity soon thereafter. I recently moved to a new role within my company as a Client Service Associate in DB Combo. Meaning – I’ll be servicing retirement plans that have both a 401K and Pension component. Not a marketing role. Now, as someone who hates the unknown and thrives on familiarity, why did I think it was a good idea to take a role that’s not even in the same zip code as my comfort zone?

Being comfortable is one of the scariest places you can be because you stop taking risks and challenging yourself. I firmly believe that it’s impossible to grow from a place of comfort. You need to purposely put yourself in those situations that raise your stress level, give you some anxiety and push you a little bit.  I work hard to be a yes woman and try new things that will stretch me: I don’t play golf but I’m planning a charity tournament and recently I signed up for a workgroup with a bunch of IT people to learn about information security.

This new role is uncomfortable for me now, but I’m learning something new every day and being challenged constantly. It’s hard to leave what you’re used to but ultimately, you’ll be better off by choosing to step headlong into that discomfort. Who knows where it will take you!

Trying new things is difficult. If it weren’t, breaking out of your comfort zone would be easy and we’d do it all the time. I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone today. Sign up for that after work networking event, speak up in a meeting, apply for that job you’re not 100% qualified for… take a risk and put yourself out there!

Taylor Swift, CMO

Swift on the cover of Time Magazine, November 2014

Swift on the cover of Time Magazine, November 2014

In high school I loved Taylor Swift; I even went to one of her concerts. A huge country fan, over time I began to resent Swift’s gradual shift over to the poppy side of the music world. 1989 changed everything. She does whatever she wants and doesn’t care what she looks like doing it (Read: Taylor dancing in Shake it Off music video)

I like Taylor Swift now, and I’m over it. She’s done what she wants to do, and she hasn’t apologized for it along the way. Not only is she a great writer and singer, she is a brilliant marketer. At 25 she has more marketing tricks up her sleeve than most seasoned professionals.

First, she has managed to re-brand herself from a country princess to a pop queen, and she has managed to do it without burning any bridges in the music community. She did it slowly, over time as each of her albums became progressively less country and more poppy. Her music is so good though that singers (and fans alike) from both generes love her and have continued to follow her career and her music as she bridged the gap. Influencers are important for any brand and it’s even better when your influencers are authentic and enthusiastic supporters of your brand.


Engagement with customers, or in this case, fans, is something that a lot of brands struggle with. Taylor Swift is amazing at it and I think that is one of her greatest strengths. She’s truly interacting and engaging in the lives of these fans. She knows who they are. She’ll both talk to them and listen to them. This winter she got in the holiday spirit with Swiftmas in which she unapologetically stalked her fans on social media to find out about their lives to she could hand pick Christmas gifts for them. The rational side of me wants to think that she had one of her many assistants do the actual cyber stalking but Taylor still handwrote letters along with the gifts to each of her fans. She also recently sent a fan a check for $1989 to help with the fans’ student loans. Seriously. She actually went out of her way to do these small things for fans. I have never heard of another artist/actress/politician, anyone famous doing things like this. Doing things like these coupled with never being involved in any type of scandal has endeared Taylor to millions of fans across the world.

She also knows exactly what her fans want and caters to that. This is a quality that many brands lack. Apple is one of the few brands that seriously knows their fans and works tirelessly to come up with products that they will like. Swift released her first album when she was just 16. Her most recent album release, 1989 was just shy of her 25th birthday. Swift’s fans have grown up with her through her five albums. Her debut album featured angsty teenager songs such as Teardrops On My Guitar and Picture to Burn. Known for writing her songs almost entirely by herself, Swift, a teenager herself when her second album was released in 2008, is able to tap into the spirit of the average teenager and write songs that speak to them. The album’s most popular song You Belong with Me was about a nerdy high school girl who ultimately ends up with the hero football player. With the releases of Speak Now and Red Swift, now a snarky twenty something took to mocking her exes in her songs – something that all twenty something women love to do. She has gained a lot of notoriety for those stunts but I think her writing songs like that has done a fantastic job of generating her great PR as the media (and America) tries to guess which song is about which former fling as well as allowed her to differentiate herself from every other pop star out there. Finally, with 1989 Swift has really come into her own skin and flawlessly made the leap from Country to being firmly ingrained in the pop music world. Instead of hating on her exes, in this album Swift makes fun of herself and more importantly has fun with it. Swift has been described as a “serial dater” which she fully owns and dramatizes in Blank Space.

As a marketer I have come to really respect Swift first for her perfect rebrand of herself and also because she’s just really awesome at marketing herself and her products. I’m excited to see what new and innovative thing she comes up with next..

McDonald’s latest commercial: Genius or Tacky?

I was watching the Golden Globes on Sunday night when this ad came on. I will admit that I was drawn to it and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. However, I do think I was so mesmerized by the ad because of the children singing. As soon as the ad was done my roommate [A health sciences major] said “There’s no way those are all real. McDonald’s would not say “Pray” on one of their signs”. She said exactly what I was thinking: there’s no way McDonald’s would have their employees crawl on a ladder up to their sign in the middle of a flood and write a pray for us type of message – it is both politically incorrect and beside the point when a town is dealing with a tragedy. While that was my main problem with the ad, internet outrage broke out over some of the other imagery that the signs painted.


The commercial provoked strong reactions, with some saying they were moved by it and others saying it was tacky for a company to use tragic events to polish its image. Most of the national criticism of this ad was because the signs featured references to 9/11, the Boston Bombing and the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster which people find insensitive.

Recently McDonald’s has been trying to refresh their brand after falling sales the past two years. They have been focusing on the “lovin it” part of their “I’m loving it” slogan. A previous ad in this series was a cartoon ad in which long standing enemies like Batman and the Joker and Bears/Packer fans become friends and love each other. This new Signs ad was meant to illustrate the role that “beloved” McDonald’s restaurants play in communities. I think that McDonald’s trying to humanize their huge corporation is a good thing but they should not be doing it by capitalizing on tragedies that are still very fresh wounds for many Americans. Regardless of what your personal opinion of the ad is, McDonald’s can chalk it up to a win as they are getting tons of free publicity from it because everyone is arguing about it.

Marketing to Millennials

I am a millennial. We have also been referred to as Generation Y, the We generation, and Echo Boomers. Millennials are the group of Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s. We have surpassed the baby boomers to become the largest generation in the U.S., representing one-third of the total U.S. population in 2013. We have distinctly different behaviors, values and attitudes from previous generations. These behaviors, values and attitudes are something that marketers need to pay attention to.


First, millennials are the most educated generation to date. About 61 percent of adult Millennials have attended college, whereas only 46 percent of the Baby Boomers did so. Thus, we are savvier than our baby boomer parents and won’t fall prey to marketing media blitzes. We actively tune out and ignore most traditional advertising. If brands want us to adopt their products/services they need to create relationships with us – relationships that are based upon more than just buying and selling. Millennials have the tendency to think we have the power to make brands succeed or fail, and why wouldn’t we? – just look at the Arab Spring movement. We want to engage with brands – 59% of millennials have “liked” a brand on Facebook and 40% subscribe to some sort of brand email. In order to connect with millennials brands need to create compelling and engaging content.

Second, going along with creating compelling content, brands who want to connect with millennials need to be all over social media. Millennials are a group that highly weights our purchasing decisions on the thoughts and shares of our peers. Twenty-five percent of millennials share online shopping content to our social networks; a rate of nearly four times that of the average user. We also share more content in general — twice as much as the average user. We spend the majority of our time on the internet on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Pinterest. Brands need to be on all of these sites and they need to differentiate the content they put out as well. If I follow a brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin I do not want to see the same exact post on all three sites. Brands can (and should) use social media to engage with their consumers. They can create great PR for themselves, and avoid major PR disasters simply by tweeting at consumers.


Lastly, millennials are incredibly mobile. According to Nielsen data in the second-quarter 2014, 85% of Millennials aged 18-24 own devices and 86% aged 25-34 own them, an increase from 77% and 80%, respectively, in second-quarter 2013. We have grown up as the internet has and have always had technology at our fingertips. Brands need to be aware of this and connect with us as much on mobile as with all the other platforms. This means, responsive website design, geo-targeting, and swapping out banner ads for mobile ads.

Check out this quiz to see how “millennial” you are

2015 Marketing Resolutions

2014 was a big year for marketing — the desktop computer continued to lose major ground to mobile devices, wearable tech caught on, and crowd sourcing was huge. 2015 is sure to have major gains in the field as well. Here are some of my predictions:

  • Instagram: With over 200 million users this app should be marketing central for any company looking to engage with their customers/clients and most importantly potential customers and clients. Instagram is a fantastic platform to share images of pretty much anything and many companies have not figured that out yet. It is a tool that any small business looking for growth needs to master. I predict that in 2015 we will be seeing a lot more of the promoted pictures popping up in our feed as well as many more companies making the leap to get an Instagram in the first place.


  • Social payments: Here, I’m talking about both one click purchase capability from sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and especially Pinterest but also peer-peer payments like venmo and more recently, Snapcash. While everyone in my peer group is wary of Snapcash I think as long as companies educated the consumers a little better than a 10 second video, payment systems like this could really take off.
  • Geo-fencing: I think geo-fencing and geo-targeting are really cool concepts and I hope they take off in 2015. While getting promotions into the hands of consumers is the top use of this technology it can also be a powerful tool simply for educating people. For instance, I could be the local high school running a fundraiser at the town’s chipotle. I could put a geo-fence around the largest local employer and send a text to everyone there letting them know about the fundraiser. With something like a fundraiser their success depends on awareness so this would be a great tool to educate people about all kinds of things.
  • Content is King: Shout-Out to Drake for drilling it into my head the last four years that Content is king. This is a concept that not all companies know, but more and more have been warming up to the idea and I think in 2015 the number of companies producing good, native content is going to rise at exponential levels. Everyone can have a huge sale or donate a bunch of money to a local shelter to generate some good PR, but not everyone is capable of producing good, engaging content. In this day and age content is one of the few things that companies can use to differentiate themselves from the competition. I predict in the next year companies will seriously step up their game and make creating original content (owned media) a larger part of their marketing budget. The Oreo Super bowl tweet a couple years ago is a brilliant example of this – it was original, it was timely and it was a hit.


What do you think will happen in the world of marketing in 2015?