Category Archives: Leadership

Career Advice: Ignore Everything Everyone Ever Told You

On test one, I gave the example of Gary Vaynerchuk as an example of a sensor in regard to personality types.  Gary is an industry leader and thought leader because he hustles and is not afraid to say what he believes.

gary-vaynerchukAs a college student nearing the end of your college career, you have probably received a ton of advice – from your parents, teachers, advisers, etc.  Gary’s advice is to ignore a lot of the advice you have received.  In his speech to NYC interns, he delivers a 20 minute career presentation that probably is unlike any advice you have ever been given.  Take a look at the video, and ask yourself a few questions:

1. Do you agree with Gary’s advice and positioning for soon to be graduates?

2. Do you think you have been given bad advice in the past in regard to your career and your future?

3. Did the video change the way you think about your future career and goals?  Why?

4. What are your career goals?  What do you want to achieve in the next 3-4 years?

Leave comments below and we can discuss next class.

Chris Lovett


BMGT 311: Assignment 3 (WED)


We had a speaker tonight that gave a variety of career tips for college graduates just starting out.  Some of her advice included:

    1. Look, Listen and Learn
    2. Be Eminently Coachable
    3. Build Relationships
    4. Stay out of your Comfort Zone
    5. Leverage your Strengths / Build new strengths
    6. Be Efficient – Touch everything once!
    7. Produce Results
    8. Live your Value – Be True to who you are
    9. You are in charge of your career – only you can make it happen
    10. Have Fun!


She also gave more tips for students looking to begin a marketing career:

    1. Intern or work part-time to gain skills and work experience ASAP. 
    2. Start building a portfolio of work to share.
    3. Volunteer often at school or in the community to add to your portfolio, work experience and network.
    4. Network:Build a professional network in the marketing community and include friends and family.  Learn about their work and opportunities for entry-level positions.       Buy someone Breakfast – it’s the least expensive meal of the day!
    5. Read about the industry, trends and news and have a point of view.

Having someone at her level come and speak to our class is a big opportunity.  So now on to assignment #3:

Do a recap of the guest speaker:

1. Which one of her tips do you feel is the most important?  Why?

2. Find an article of other companies leveraging data to market their companies more effectively.  What are they doing?  How are they producing results?

Due before next week.

Chris Lovett








BMGT 411: Assignment #1

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JC Penney has been in the news of late.  In the last few years, their STS (Same Store Sales) have declined at an alarming rate as has their profit.  They hired a new CEO only to remove him after poor performance.  Here are just some of the things that happened at JC Penney over the last few years:

– STS Dropped 25% in 2012 (First Year of Ron Johnson at CEO)

– Laid off 20,000 workers, in stores and at corporate

– Is in a lawsuit with Macy’s over a Martha Stewart exclusive agreement

– The stock continues to hit new lows, now trading near $12 a share

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Find an article that talks a little about what happened at JC Penney?  What would your recommendations be to have prevented this?  What in regard to marketing strategy could have JC Penney done to do this differently?  Do you think JC Penney will survive?

Post your comments below and link to the source of the article.

Chris Lovett




Customer Experience and a Fish Sandwich

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Yesterday I decided to get out of the office and grab lunch at one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh, Wholey’s.  I have been going to Wholey’s for years, and I truly love the experience.  Fresh fish is what they are known for and at reasonable prices.  I love everything about Wholey’s – the atmosphere, the smell, the Pittsburgh grit.  Most of all I love how no matter how much in the world changes, when I walk through those red doors, it’s still the same.  It’s about the food and nothing else.  Wholey’s is everything that is great about Pittsburgh.

I grabbed a Big Whaler Fish sandwich, of course, and I went upstairs to eat away from the crowd.  When I got up there one of the owners was there, a member of the Wholey family.  He introduced himself then asked a question I was not quite ready for:

“Can I taste a piece of your fish?” He asked me.  So without hesitation, I broke him off a large piece of the fish and he took a taste.  He confirmed it was good, and stated, “I’ve worked my whole life for that sandwich, and I hope you like it.”  He continued to tell us that it’s an entire pound of fish sourced in British Columbia, and they are proud of the price point of $6.99.  It was a good discussion.  He walked away, and I finished my lunch.  It was clear customers and customer satisfaction meant everything to him.

I did question why an owner of Wholey’s would ask a customer for a bite of their fish sandwich like I was a member of their family.  Why didn’t he just get his own fish sandwich?  He owns the place right?  I shrugged it off then went about my day, catching the bus back to the office.

Then two things came to me:

1. He did in fact consider me family.  They treat their customers like family – and that is why they have been in business for over 100 years, because their customers are family to them.  I gave him a piece of my sandwich, and he would have done the same if I had asked him.

2. He was testing the experience in a real environment.  If he asked for a sandwich from the kitchen, the staff would have used the best fish, the best batter, clean oil, etc.  He wanted to see what the experience was like for a real customer.  He wanted to experience what his customers experience and wanted to ensure it was up to his standards.

This reminded me that when we are designing experiences for our customers to make sure they are designed with the customer in mind, and when they are tested to test them in as real of an environment as possible.  Amaze, delight, and surprise.  It’s the Wholey’s way.  And I am betting they will be around for another 100 years if they make sure that experience stays amazing.

You can learn a lot if you get up from your desk every once in a while and take a walk to Wholey’s in the strip.

Chris Lovett



The Formula for Successful Marketing Career

I still remember one of my past interns asking me this question back at a previous job.  She was driven, and wanted to succeed in marketing, and asked me if I had any tips for her.

She noted that she already talked to multiple people, and was not sure on which career path to take to be a successful marketer.  I will give you the same advice that I gave her a few years back.

  1. There is no path.  Gone are the days where you work for one company and climb the corporate ladder directly up.  If you talk to 100 successful people in marketing, they will all tell you a different story, and how they got there.  There is no “one path” to becoming successful in marketing.  To become successful, you have to make your own path.  You define success, and being successful can mean a million things.  Figure out what you want to do, and find a way for you to get there.
  2. Over Deliver.  Always.  On every project, give everything you can to it.  Don’t just skate by and deliver what is asked for.  The key to being successful in marketing at any level is adding value.  Anyone can deliver a project – you have to make it special to stand out.
  3. Never stop learning.  Never.  Marketing is a hyper competitive field, and you will need to stay at the top of your game to continue to grow in your career.  Think about 5 years ago – where the smartphone did not exist, and tablets were not mainstream. Now think about today, where social media and mobile marketing are a great way to reach and engage with customers.  If you stopped learning 5 years ago – you are dead in the water today.
  4. Try new things – even if you think you will fail.  Sometimes to move up, you have to move sideways, or even backwards.  Having a well-rounded background is a key to growing in marketing, so be sure that your skills are always up to date by trying new things.  Volunteer for side projects.  Take classes on the side.  Don’t fall behind, because there are a million people waiting to jump ahead of you.
  5. Don’t focus on job titles or money.  Job titles and money will come with time – but you have to earn it.  One thing you will find about successful people in marketing is they worked hard and paid their dues to get where they are at.  You will get there someday, be patient and humble.  Good things come to those who work hard and are dedicated.

Lastly – if you say you are going to do something do it.  It seems simple, but make that a goal of yours in your personal and professional lives.  If you say you are going to call, call.  If you promise a project on a date, deliver that project.  Always follow through.

So those are my tips – but I figured you might enjoy some tips from folks I admire in the field.  I have asked some of my friends in the biz to share their tips with you, and they are below.  Great advice from great hard-working people.  Another great tip in marketing is learning from others, and the folks below share some great advice on being successful in marketing, and how they got to where they are at.

Name: Angela Ferguson

Education: Bachelors in Communications & Rhetoric/Certificate of Professional Writing from University of Pittsburgh; MBA with concentration in Management from Point Park University

Internships: American Red Cross Southwestern PA Chapter, Marketing Communications Intern and Disaster Public Affairs Volunteer; Big Science Sound Studio Public Relations Intern

Current Role: Assistant Marketing Manager, Market District Format, Giant Eagle, Inc. Responsibilities include managing multi-million dollar marketing budget; communicating to customers through print, broadcast and digital media, direct mail, street teams and outdoor placement; creating a food experience by coordinating monthly large-scale, multi-store sampling events and guest chef appearances

What most excites you about what you do? First, I get to talk about, research and market on-trend foods with a group of people who are passionate about the business. The Market District format is a testing center for new programs with enterprise-wide implications, so creativity is welcomed. The marketing team is lean and therefore every day is busy and unpredictable. Also, the work is active and dynamic, involving interaction across teams with merchandising, legal, operations and HR professionals.

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? The Grand Opening of the Columbus, OH, Market District location. The store was built from the ground-up at the right size, with the right product mix, in the right market. We introduced the concept to a new market and built brand recognition. We brought in a celebrity host, Adam Richman of Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, hosted Team Member Friends & Family, neighborhood and VIP open house events and opened to the public with weeks of ongoing activity — all while maintaining our marketing budget…and sanity.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  Three tips: 1) Do something to differentiate yourself from the student next to you; 2) Don’t burn bridges, even if you think you have a boat. Your network will get you further than any job search website; 3) Be yourself and keep your confidence. Going from upperclassman to rookie is a big adjustment; you’ll have to work hard to prove yourself.

Name: Chris Droesch

Education: B.S. in Management Information Systems, Case Western Reserve University, MBA, Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business

Internships: Nope. I was considering a career in the military and spent the summer between junior/senior year of college training at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, VA

Current Role: I work on an innovative banking experience. My official title is Senior Product Analyst Online. It’s a product management role, which means I work on identifying and implementing new features.

What most excites you about what you do? I love getting to work with teams from different functions: sales, engineering, marketing, and design, just to name a few. Also, there’s no better feeling than hearing a customer tell you that the product you work on changed their life.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  When I was in college, I was afraid to pursue a career in marketing because I thought that marketing departments were the first to get laid off in bad times. This is simply not true. I also thought marketing was the same thing as “advertising.” There are many aspects to marketing; advertising is only one piece in the marketing puzzle.

Name: Diana Besoiu

Education: Grove City College,B.S. Marketing Management,Minor: Communications

Current Role: Social Media Manager – Manage my organizations social media properties including: content creation, execution, strategy, analytics

What most excites you about what you do?  The ability to think creativity (both proactive and reactive) in a quickly changing space

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? Vision casting for enterprise and lines of business. Love the ability to think freely and put all options on the table. It’s always nice to see where things could be, where they could go with the right amount of resources.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  Educate yourself. Learn real-world advice and keep up to date on ever-changing trends and advancements.

Name: Alexa Davenport

Education: BA (Advertising), Michigan State University

Internships: Michigan Opera Theater, Production Department, Sales Intern at WLAJ/ABC 53 Lansing-Jackson, Delegate, 52nd Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival

Current Role: Assistant Vice President, eMarketing

I manage the onsite advertising on our site as well as the offsite display/mobile/tablet marketing for all lines of business within the bank. Our team works with each line of business to understand their goals for the year, and we collaborate with the ad agency to determine the best strategy to meet and exceed them. We approve media plans and creative and work with internal designers and developers to design and build new site content, landing pages and microsites.

Once a campaign is launched, we monitor performance on a weekly (at minimum) basis and work with the agency to optimize the media and creative. We report back to each line of business on a monthly basis, and help increase the general knowledge of the online space for each of our partners.

I also manage the budget and billing for our department to make sure that (1) we stay under budget, (2) we deliver within our monthly forecast and (3) our bills are paid on time.

What most excites you about what you do?  The online landscape is constantly changing, so (to be completely cliché) every day is new. The tactics and strategies I used at the ad agency 4 years ago are almost obsolete, so we have to stay on our toes to make sure we stay relevant and interesting to our consumers. The work can be stressful, but its nice to push yourself to do things differently and because we work with multiple agencies, it gives me a great opportunity to learn from many different points of view to find the most efficient way to accomplish a project.

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? Launching an innovative banking experience in 2008.  I was the digital media planner at my current banks previous agency and it was the first project I really “owned”. My media director had recently left the agency and the bank trusted me to plan and execute the first majority-online launch of what has become the lead product for the bank. Of course I had a ton of help from the offline media director and the account team, but at the digital “expert”, I had the opportunity to lay out the launch strategy, recommend the websites and sponsorships and work with the creative teams to coordinate the messaging.

The launch was a success and probably a big reason why the bank hired me 2 years later.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  Learn paid search and online marketing in general.  There aren’t many people who are ‘experts’ in search, because it’s so data-driven, but this job will always be in high demand and you can work in any industry as long as you have the basic knowledge.

Also, TV will never go away, and neither will print and radio (to an extent), but advertising spend is quickly and dramatically shifting to online; if you don’t understand the medium and learn to work with the constant flow of information and data, it will be incredibly difficult to adapt.

Name: Maura Pohland

Education: B.A. in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh (minors in Lit, Children’s Lit, and Psychology)

Internships: I had two, which were absolutely invaluable. Both were through the University of Pittsburgh — one was in the Media Relations office, working mostly on PR-related activities, and the other was in the Career Services office, creating an event series from the ground up that would connect students and professionals to talk about career options.

Current Role: I am a Marketing Specialist on the Advertising and Design Support team. This basically means that I support a team called Affiliation Banking (comprised of University Banking, WorkPlace Banking, Military Banking, and Employee Banking) with marketing across the board — events, advertising, collateral, promotions, social, messaging, etc. I like to say that my role consists of getting the train to the station on time without the wheels falling off — plenty of time management along with adherence to standards such as brand guidelines, customer engagement, relation to business goal, etc. In this role I get to do a little bit of every part of marketing but they are all grounded in project management and creativity.

What most excites you about what you do?  I love that every day is different — one day I’ll be collaborating with WorkPlace Banking on creating a sweepstakes promotion for their on-site tabling events, the next I’ll be working with University Banking on determining what messages resonate with students today, and the next I’ll be brainstorming with the University Access team on what can be created to further build excitement in-branch around the student audience. I also love that I truly believe that these business in particular are destined for great things. I have such a belief in what they can do, and it makes me passionate every day to push a little harder for their success.

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? The first is the University Banking 2012 sweepstakes promotion that we created for use at 50 schools at which our bank has an exclusive relationship. To me, promotions are always fun in that we get to play more so than usual with tactics and creative, and namely within this project, we created 50 porcelain piggy banks to be used as tabling enhancements, produced entry forms that had a perforated portion that could be turned into an origami piggy and served as the customer takeaway, and in conjunction with that, created a video that showed a real person making the origami piggy that could be used as instructions. It was a really enjoyable project to work on and bring to life, and we doubled the amount of paper and online entries received. A definite success!

The second project is currently still in the works, but its overall objective is to confirm and create customer-authentic messages and communications for the student audience. This is something we’ve never done, and it’s needed more than ever as customer insight becomes more and more important in what we do as marketers. I always find it enlightening and energizing to hear true feedback from the demographic we target in our everyday work because that will only make our deliverables more successful in the end.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  NETWORK! It absolutely pays to know people — they can refer you for an open position, keep you up to date as what’s available in the market, and especially give you guidance and serve as a mentor as you look to expand your career. Don’t discount someone just because they can’t do something for you right now — you never know when it will pay off. So, with that, be nice to everyone!

Last tip: learn from the world around you.  You just got a huge opportunity to from the advice above.

Chris Lovett

BMGT 311: Assignment #4 – Ethnographic Research

Some call it Ethnographic Research.  Some call it hyper qualitative research.  But it’s all about getting closer to your users or potential users to “deep dive” and “needfind” to develop a solution to marketing problems.  Quantitative research is great – it tells marketers what is going on.  But it often overlooks the “why” and the “how” and even other opportunities.

1. Can you give an example of a company doing this type of research?

2. What was the result?

3. What is your opinion of these research techniques?

David Kelly, a pioneer on this research technique, talks below about creativity, and examples on this process and how to drive creativity throughout an organization.

See you next week.




PodCamp Pittsburgh 7: Build Your Digital Toolbox


I am thrilled to be a featured speaker at this year’s podcamp #pcpgh7.  What is podcamp?  It is a free event where you can learn social media and interactive marketing in a very “un-conference” like environment.  No pressure.  No stuffy suits.  Just real people talking about what they love to do each day.

My session is all about engaging with students using social media.  Blogs, interactive teaching, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  Our role as instructors needs to be, whether we like it or not, to engage with our students on their level.

Would you take your car to a repairman that did not know about cars?  Should students trust instructors that are not aware of social media and how to use it?

The way students are learning is different.  Many high schools are going paperless.  Online coursework is evolving through organizations like Coursera and Venture Lab – giving students the opportunity to learn in new and exciting ways from across the globe.  As instructors – we need to embrace this change and become just as engaged as our students are in social media.

If you know anyone in higher education that is looking to increase their online and social media presence, please join me at podcamp pittsburgh 7 – and start building your digital toolbox!





What I learned this week: 8.24.12

3 weeks in a row!  I probably should get some sort of reward for my dedication to this blog.  Your continued reading is reward enough, actually.  I am up over 1,000 views since I started this blog.  I am humbled.  Thank you.

1. Another company uses social media for product marketing research to launch new products: Lego Cuuso and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover

Developing new products is scary.  Some fail.  Some don’t.  But they all require a very heavy investment in the form of marketing research, concept testing, and profitability analysis.  It’s not easy to launch a new product.  A fan of Lego developed a concept for a Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover, and it gained 10,000 supporters in record time to possibly become Lego’s next toy.

Enter crowd sourcing.  What if you knew there would be demand for your product by testing the concept with thousands of fans for free before you invested any money.  Well that’s just what Lego did with their Lego Cuuso Project.

It’s actually pretty simple.  Fans develop a new Lego concept, and put it on the site for review.  Once the concept get’s 10,000 supporters, Lego reviews the project design, and decides whether or not to bring it to market.  If it makes it, the creator gets 1,000 in royalty sales on the product.

While some companies and people may be afraid from outside innovation, it is a really great way to source ideas and bring products to life that consumers really want.  I want one.

2. There is no Kobe beef in the US

I have always wanted to try Kobe Beef.  Heck, I thought I did.  Wrong.  There is no Kobe Beef sold in the US.  It’s true according to this article from Forbes.  So next time you see 20 dollar Kobe Beef sliders on the menu, skip it.  It’s a blatant lie.

3. We (I) need to become more visual

People have short attention spans, and are busy.  I am finding out more and more that a well designed 1-pager at work goes further than a 20 page PowerPoint deck.  One of my mentors told me a few years back that many great companies like P&G have a one-pager culture, where every plan, from the simple to complex product launch, are presented on one page.  I think that is why infographics are becoming so popular – they are quick hitting visual guides of a lot of information, but so clear you just get it.

Example on how credit cards are using social media – much more impactful than a bulleted list.

My goal is to get more visual in 2012/2013, and you should too.

Let’s have a great week this week, and learn something.

Chris Lovett

Innovative Company: Birchbox

I think one trait of successful marketing pro’s is they are alway’s on the lookout for innovative ideas, inside or outside of their industry.  When I worked in retail, I would shop a different competitor’s store each week.  My theory is simple – you don’t know what you don’t know.  I think good ideas can be generated from any industry, and it is important to look outside of our current ones at times to generate the best ideas.

So let’s take a look at Birchbox.  Birchbox is a startup launched in 2010 by two business women who went to Harvard.  The premise of Birchbox is to send members a box of the latest samples of beauty items like perfume, nail polish, makeup, and other items for a fee of $10 per month.  Subscribers get to try the latest in beauty products, to see what they like, without having to commit to a large size, and something they may not like.  In 2012, the last time Birchbox released sales numbers, they had over 100,000 subscribers.  That number alone would generate about 12 Million in annual revenue.  So successful, that they recently launched a mens line up.  Although, because they have a very engaged audience, those companies that are placing samples in the boxes are probably paying to get their samples to their audiences as well.  Overall, it’s a really cool concept, and I actually joined the waiting list for a Christmas gift for my wife.  What makes Birchbox a success, and worth looking at for inspiration?

Loyalty: Their subscribers are extremely loyal, and in turn use word of mouth marketing to get their friends and family to sign up for the service.  And these woman talk about it – a lot.   Getting their Birchbox is like an event each month, and Birchbox is armed with thousands of fans who use social media to talk about what is in their Birchbox.

They sell surprises: Imagine an ordinary business telling you you would get a box of something, for $10 a month.  They would not tell you want you get – you just pay – and you get something each month.  That’s basically what Birchbox does – they handpick samples, and part of the excitement for women is getting that brown box each month, and discovering what is inside.  It is a business model that would most likely fail in most industries, but Birchbox has figured out a way to sell surprises – with customers really having no idea of what is in it for them.  I have talked to friends, and they say the excitement they feel when they see a Birchbox in their work mailbox is almost like euphoria, with a few describing it as a special treat they earn each month.

They are grounded in social media: Birchbox is highly engaged in social media, from Facebook (180K fans) to Twitter (50K follows), and engages on Pinterest and YouTube as well.  As a company helping women discover fashion and beauty trends, they are highly engaged and enthused with their following, engaging in conversations and providing tips and not just sales pitches.  It is refreshing, and a reason the company has done so well.  Sometimes being on social media is not just about getting the most fans, but building an army of advocates that sell your brand for you.

It’s customized: Subscribers fill out a questionnaire when they sign up, detailing out preferences and skin type.  So each subscriber gets a unique package that feels like it is just for them.  It seems like part of the excitement – knowing you are getting something that was created just for you.

e-commerce is built in from the ground up: The samples link to a full e-commerce site, where subscribers can buy full size versions of the products they like most.  It is a great way for the companies that give samples to reach a highly engaged audience, with easy access to their products.  And they can be sure there will be satisfaction as they have already tried it.

More background on Birchbox below.

So – tell me – have you tried Birchbox?  What do you love about it?