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To Think in Such a Place..

After giving myself a week to process graduation, I must still admit that there is much processing left to do. I don’t know when the side effects of graduating will truly hit me, but that time will come. I’m sure of it. Rather than mourning the loss of college in my life, I’ve been spending my time reminiscing and remembering. I apologize in advance for the many cliches that I am about to utter throughout the entirety of this post- if anything, I’ve learned that much of what those tell you to expect of college is in fact true. This is no doubt a sad time in my life -I can’t imagine spending my last four years anywhere else- however, this is an exciting time as well. I changed a lot in college and am as a result much less apprehensive about the next chapter of my life. I’m incomprehensibly excited about what’s to come.

Now. I’m not here to tell you that your college experience (or the alike) was any less because you didn’t go to Miami. For me, I’m not sure any other place could have satisfied my specific interests and my psychological identity as perfectly as Miami did. It all started in the halls of Emerson Hall my freshman year. It was here that I began to build my identity in the oh-so foreign land of Oxford, Ohio. Admittedly, I was painfully shy in such a lively, friendly hall.. however, I like to think that it was Emerson and its great people that led me to jump out of my shell in my later years. It was also during my freshman year that I made one of the best decisions of my college career- I joined the Miami Men’s Glee Club. During my 4 year tenure with the Glee Club, I met many life-long “brothers”, I traveled eight European countries, led a 12-day tour of Florida and connected through song with thousands. If you’ve ever talked to me about my college experience, I can about guarantee that I’ve mentioned the Glee Club. From watching ‘Alaska State Troopers’ with my roommate for hours on end to stuffing my face at Harris Dinning Hall nightly to studying late into the night as dorm escapades ensued, my freshman year was so satisfyingly stereotypical. My first year set the foundation for the better days to come.

My sophomore and junior years were a blur. It seems as if they ran together and very much built on one another. With this being said, I do have many fond memories from these years. With an increased courseload along with many new responsibilities, my addiction coffee finally entered the scene (you’re welcome, Kofenya). Another addiction also entered the scene: hockey. I can say with much pride that I attended nearly every home hockey game at Miami’s Goggin Arena since my sophomore year. I can’t say the same about my football attendance however (after all, we did lose every game my sophomore year). Oh and about those new responsibilities.. this was where I finally introduced theater back into my life. Thanks to the encouragement of fellow clubber, Sean Mormino, I joined Stage Left Theater- the student-led theater org on campus. After I fell in love with the group, I ended up on the executive board as secretary and email extraordinaire. During these two years, I lived with former Emerson neighbor, Nick Contini. Nick and I had many great memories during our time spent on and off-campus. Our joint adoration for dining hall nachos, the many talents of Louis CK and weird (many times unwarranted) behavior lent itself to some great times. From my first apartment to my first car to my first.. I’ll save you some reading.. I really grew up during these middle years.

The summer of my junior year truly stood on its own. It was here that I first exposed to the wonderful word of advertising. I interned at TrendyMinds, an agency based in Indianapolis, for three months. Here I learned all there is to know about the industry and spent many great afternoons grilling on the office rooftop and sipping on local craft brews. After I left TrendyMinds, I attended Chicago Ad Week- an immersive program all about advertising sponsored by the marketing department. During this fast-paced program, I visited many leading agencies, networked with industry leaders and contributed to an awesome group project. After this summer, I knew the advertising life was for me.

Senior year. Wow. What a year. With my freshman-esque schedule back in play, I was able to focus on my extracurriculars. I directed ‘Rumors’ (a Neil Simon comedy) for Stage Left, led the Glee Club winter tour to Florida, took on two advantageous capstone projects, contributed to an awesome ad campaign pitch for Snapple and spent plenty of time ‘studying’ uptown. I just get the jitters thinking about it (TG for coffee). Regardless, I don’t regret it one bit. I was given many bucket list opportunities my senior year- opportunities I wouldn’t have traded for anything. It was during this past year that I was able to relive many cherished college memories for the last time.

I still can’t believe that I’m now an ALUM of Miami University. It feels like just yesterday I was moving away from home for the first time. If at any time while reading you felt as if I was rambling, I probably was and I apologize for this. It just felt necessary for me to share my life-changing experience. If you read this post, I’m sure you have played a significant role in my life and I thank you for that. Without you, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today. Really. I mean it 100%.

With love and honor,

Casey

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Marketing to the Millennial Mind

Born in the age of talking ninja turtles and never-ending pop ballads, Millennials are generating quite the buzz in the advertising world. Brands have begun to realize that their future success is dependent upon their ability to attract those in this generation. Ranging from the ages of 18 to 34, Millennials are now reaching their peak earning and spending age. By 2020, they are expected to have a staggering $1.4 trillion in spending power. This means that the time has come for brands to shift their attention away from Baby Boomers (now the second largest age cohort). Brands, meet the Millennials.

In order to market more effectively to Millennials, you must first understand how they think and what they value. Millennials are digital natives; they were born in a world with an established technology network. Therefore, they love technology (especially mobile) and have high expectations for what it can accomplish. For instance, they expect to receive a swift response when engaging with brands on social platforms and expect websites to load quickly and run responsively. Millennials primarily use the digital space to connect with brands, making them the first age cohort to do so. They do not only care about how content is presented, they care about the content itself. They expect content to be immersive, yet to the point, informative, resourceful and creative. Millennials don’t like fluff and filler – they like things to be presented straight and to the point.

By looking at what Millennials value, we can draw parallels with brand characteristics. Millennials value quality and craftsmanship (you can thank them for the term “foodie”), independence and uniqueness, social responsibility and sustainability, and convenience. By looking at what a brand values, it is quite easy to derive with what audience they’re attempting to connect.

Take Starbucks for instance. Starbucks has taken several steps to attract Millennials and has seen unmatched success. To show a commitment to quality, Starbucks has drawn focus to the sourcing of their coffee beans and now performs pour overs (a highly-lauded steeping process) at all of its locations. Appealing to an appreciation for social responsibility and sustainability, Starbucks launched its own youth foundation, participates in community service efforts, donates millions to non-profits, ethically sources its products, and has made a commitment to minimize its carbon footprint (e.g. recycling coffee beans, reducing use of disposable cups, etc.). Perhaps most importantly, Starbucks recently launched a Loyalty program appealing to the cohort’s appreciation for convenience. It is important that brands of all scopes take a deeper look at what they value and how it aligns with the values of their customers.

Aside from taking a look at what Millennials value, it’s also important to understand how they communicate and interact. The average Millennial has access to seven devices, spending a majority of their time with their laptop and television. With a heavy reliance on digital tools, it is no surprise they utilize the digital space for a majority of their communications. Through social media, Millennials are able to engage directly with brands – meaning they can be a brand’s best friend or worst nightmare. This has led many larger brands to set up 24/7 social media control centers to accommodate swift responses. Through brand loyalty programs driven by digital technology, Millennials can receive numerous benefits, including convenience, while advocating for brands. A communications plan that neglects social media tactics and appeals to loyalty will likely fail to please Millennials.

By following the guidelines below, your brand will be able to more effectively communicate with Millennials.

  • Be engaging and responsive
  • Value simplicity and be concise
  • Recognize the importance of quality
  • Value social responsibility
  • Embrace creativity
  • Establish a strong presence on social media
  • Value the mobile experience
  • Create brand advocates and loyalists
  • Be youthful, yet authentic

Rebrand Review: Kickin’ It Old School

Upon the celebration of their 75th anniversary, Kentucky Fried Chicken has made a big splash in the advertising world with the help of the Portland-based agency, Wieden + Kennedy. Following in the footsteps of countless other brands, KFC is drawing from advertising days of old in order to resonate with today’s consumers.

A few short weeks ago, the fried chicken dynasty announced that they would be bringing back the iconic Colonel Harland Sanders. Played by SNL alum and master impressionist, Darrell Hammond, the new Colonel maintains his Southern charm with an added dose of SNL parody. I appreciate this comedic reboot of the Colonel and see his revival as a great move for the brand that has begun to slip into obscurity as of late.

As the centerpiece of a significant brand overhaul, KFC has also redesigned its product packaging, website, and launched a quirky nationwide commercial campaign featuring the Colonel. This new campaign has given the Yum! Brand an opportunity to separate itself from its fast food rivals. With America’s new obsession with healthy, wholesome foods, driven by Millennials, fast food brands are scrambling for new identities. Hamburger giant, McDonalds, has expended the greatest resources in this effort but has been ultimately unsuccessful. Working with multiple agencies on multiple campaigns, McDonald’s messaging has been ultimately cluttered and confused. With a focused campaign with a down-to-earth Colonel, KFC is touching the emotional appeals of Americans. Nostalgia alone may drive the sales of the fried chicken brand closer to the new market leader, Chick-Fil-A.

Before I discuss the relevancy of this campaign in the advertising world and its practical application for your brand, I encourage you to first look at the campaign’s first national television spot.

What does this mean for your brand?

KFC is certainly not the first brand to run a campaign such as this. Over the past decade, retro-themed advertising campaigns that tap into the past have been trending. The most common brands as of late to embrace these campaigns have been beverage producers. Just last year, Miller Lite released a new throwback can as a limited-time publicity stunt tied to the release of Anchorman 2. The new can, a direct replica of the 1980’s can, led to a significant increase in sales that led Miller to make the redesign permanent. Simple brand adjustments such as this can evoke great feelings of nostalgia in consumers, reminding them of a simpler time.

Although this strategy has worked for several influential brands over the past decade, it certainly isn’t the appropriate strategy for every organization. The strategy has been utilized primarily by the food industry as many associate food quality with the past as overly processed foods are now more present that ever before. When looking at these campaigns, we see three primary guidelines for today’s brands to follow.

  • Tap into emotional appeals by telling a brand story
    The greatest way to draw consumers to your brand is through the heart. Perhaps this is achieved in the digital space through branded videos and tailored graphics or in the physical space through a kind gesture or a simple handshake. In the cases described above, nostalgia serves as just one example of the many different emotional appeals.
  • Think differently and take risks when cultivating your brand
    Through its new Colonel campaign, KFC and its ad agency are certainly taking a risk. This is what it takes to be a successful brand in today’s business climate. Brands must not be shy when it comes to advertising. Brands that take these risks often earn the most attention and therefore, the greatest success down the road. Don’t be comfortable when it comes to taking risks. It’s okay to be uncomfortable.
  • Embrace the power of brand aesthetics
    In branding, aesthetics are everything. And no, aesthetics are not restricted to just logos. A brand’s aesthetics must be consistent across platforms and must match the identity of the brand. With the packaging of all its products reflecting the brand with the Colonel’s image and the signature red stripes, you can see that KFC understands this. With powerful aesthetics, a brand is able to tell a story and remove bounds.