“Help Japan” Scams

I’m always amazed by humans’ response to natural disasters. You hear amazing stories of survival, see extreme acts of compassion, and a general goodwill from the rest of the world to help rebuild the affected area. And then, you have the scammers. Forbes published an article this morning about people who rushed to register pertinent domain names, some claiming they do intend to actually help victims. However, many of these sites also popped up after Katrina and the Haiti disaster. Forbes also links to articles with tips to spot a fake relief organization. There are hundreds of legitimate and reputable organizations that deal with these kinds of disasters all the time, and I would recommend going through one of them vs. choosing an independent source. It’s unfortunate that in the aftermath of this disaster, people still find a way to take advantage of the situation. This is one effect of the digital age… while the news spread faster, with more raw footage, and more accurate pictures of what’s happening, it also allows scammers to make a buck faster.

Photo Job Shadow Project

A big thanks to Nicole at EmployedPanache for inspiring and sharing the Photo Job Shadow Project! The premise is to take pictures throughout your day to give some insight into what your job looks like. So, here’s a quick look at my day as a Marketing Coordinator.

I skipped all the waking up and getting ready, but that usually happens from 7:04 am until 7:37 am… I’ll spare you the details!

8:00 am: Arrive at the office and grab some coffee and a granola bar to be consumed while checking and answering my e-mail.

Email, Coffee and Granola Bar at 8:00 am

9:00 am: Go through the different magazines for the month and verify our ads were placed and run correctly. After verification, compare invoice information to the Media Plan to ensure accuracy. Approve the invoices and deliver the invoices to the Accounting Department for payment.

Verifying ad placements in various publications

10:30 am: Continue work on a PowerPoint Presentation for the Sales Team.

Creating the sales presentation in PowerPoint

11:00 am: Realize I don’t have all the pictures that I need for the sales presentation, so I head out for a mini photo-shoot! (Logos have been intentionally blurred)

Company logo for sales team presentation

12:00 pm: Finished the photo shoot and picked up a super healthy and nutritious lunch from Taco Cabana, minus the healthy and nutritious part! Checked to see if my grades were posted yet while enjoying my enchiladas… STILL no grades posted.

Delicious enchiladas from Taco Cabana!

1:00 pm: Our tabletop booth was delivered, so I can check the new graphics we just received! This booth will be sent to a tradeshow in about one month, so I’m hoping the graphics are perfect (just as they were in the proof I verified a month ago).

Tabletop Booth

1:45 pm: Graphics are hung, and they look great! One of the magnets on the booth hardware isn’t sticking very well, so I’ve got to ask the manufacturer about replacing it. (Logos have been intentionally blurred)

Booth graphics!

2:00 pm: Unpacking a few shipments of company promotional items. I’m in charge of the promotional room, so it’s like Christmas every few weeks in my office!

Organizing the promotional room

3:00 pm: Pulling pricing for more promotional items, it’s an on-going process!

Checking quotes for promotional pricing

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm: Edit the pictures from the mini photo-shoot, answer more e-mail, accept more packages, then head home!

My schedule is never the same from day to day, and it’s always a balancing act! It’s also pretty cyclical, this week was verifying and unpacking all the orders, which means that a few weeks prior it was designing and proofing everything. The most challenging aspects of my job are keeping the priorities straight, and managing the relationships with our vendors and suppliers. I enjoy the fast pace and variety of projects in my position as a Marketing Coordinator.

Happy Friday!

This week has been a mix of fast-and-furious and slow waiting. I had a mid-term exam in my Buyer Behavior class, started round 2 of Accounting, and received a number of promo packages and proofs at work. This weekend is birthday celebrations with two family members, and some singing! Whew… what a week! On another note, if you find the time, I highly recommend a browse through the following links:

For my fellow marketing nerds, via Forbes: BRILLIANT Multi-brand partnership

For my fellow students, via ERE blog: Thoughts on Education

For those who were unsatisfied with the “Oscar All Access” offering from ABC, via Mashable: Get A Refund

For the blogosphere, via Employed Panache: Photo Job Shadow (I’ll have my contribution on the blog next week!)

For all those who buy from Amazon, via WSJ: The latest on out-of-state taxes for online retailers

Like the links? Follow me on Twitter @ashleyfaus for links, updates, and blog posts!

How Does Your Packaging Affect Your Personal Brand?

Sheath Dress, Cardigan and Heels
Sheath Dress, Cardigan and Heels
Heels and Argyle Tights Detail
Heels and Argyle Tights Detail
Earrings and Necklace Detail
Earrings and Necklace Detail

Like the outfit? See more details here!

Just like products, we package ourselves in many different ways. And, just like products, the packaging is often the first thing you notice. For business people, our packaging is usually in the form of our clothing and appearance. Are we clean cut and put together, or sloppy and scattered? It would stand to reason that you want your Account Manager (or similar position) to be organized, detail-oriented, and able to meet deadlines on time. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable with this person handling your account if they looked like they cared about their own “account”? I’m not saying you have to buy $1,000 suits and get $100 manicures and haircuts, but you do need to take some time to make yourself look presentable. There’s been quite a bit of controversy over dress codes and appearance requirements in the media lately, but I think these stories bring up some valid points about personal branding. Is your packaging showing off the best qualities of your personal brand? If your personal brand stands for creativity, does your appearance reflect an out-of-the-box thinker? If your personal brand stands for analytic thinking and spreadsheets, does your appearance convey this? I recommend evaluating yourself the same way you evaluate products, services, and people every day. Define the top three qualities of your personal brand, and make sure you’re packing yourself in a way that showcases these qualities! Like the my “packaging” for the day? See more details here!

A 3C Lunch

I’ve been in the corporate world for a few years now, and I’ve encountered some normal-but-kind-of-awkward lunch situations. Who orders first? Are we planning to stay for a while, or make it quick? I’m always a little weird when it comes to who picks up the check, particularly in a situation where most of the parties are “equal”. So, I figured I should write a post and see what the rest of the corporate world would do in these situations.

The company lunch. This one isn’t as awkward about picking up the check, as it’s highly likely that the most senior member at the company lunch will take care of it, and let you know well in advance. The awkward part here is knowing who picks the table, who orders first, and how long you’re staying. Theoretically, the most senior person who’s paying would make all these choices, but this has not been my experience. In a male-dominated field in the South, most of my bosses and colleagues try to be gentlemen by letting me walk in front, order first, etc. This is really awkward, because it means I generally have no senior person to set the price point or length of stay. Should I get the soup or the steak? I know they’re trying to be nice, but it puts me in a weird position because I’m technically not the person who should be setting the tone for the meal! I’ve been trying to deal with this by immediately asking a more senior person what they usually order, or what sounds good to them. This usually helps pin down a price range and length of stay, and I think it comes out pretty naturally vs. “Yeah, I don’t know how this lunch is supposed to go, so can you tell me?”

The colleague lunch. This one is a little more dicey regarding who picks up the check. Again, old-school etiquette would either advise that the most senior person pick up the check, or that the person who initiates the meal picks up the check. But what if you’re both equal? And, what if it’s not really a formal invite, but more of a casual meal? For example, when I attended the tradeshow, I ended up spending most of my time with a more senior colleague from a different department. This colleague is not my supervisor, and rarely works with me, so he’s only “senior” by tenure at the company. We both have to fill out expense reports, and we both have to eat and make it to the show floor. Who pays? He said that generally the most senior person picks up the check, which would be “standard” business etiquette. What about when you have three senior people who are all the same level, but in different departments? I still haven’t figured out a graceful way to determine who pays in this situation, or who orders first to set the tone. Again, the soup or the steak? The $5 quick meal or the $30 stay for hours meal?

The client lunch. This one should be pretty easy, as the company representative would usually pay for the client’s lunch. But what happens when you’re the client, but the person inviting you is basically on the same level? My issue here is that I’m not really the final decision-maker, but I am a very valuable gate-keeper. If your offering doesn’t meet my standards/instructions, it doesn’t get sent over to the final decision-maker. All else being equal, I do get to make the choice between two or three items that meet the standards from the decision-maker. So, you do want to keep me happy… but happy enough to invite me to lunch? Or, are we splitting it, as a “friendly” way to have a much-needed discussion in-person, without the boring office atmosphere? I think this situation qualifies as quasi-client, which makes things much more muddy.

So, for those of you who’ve been in the corporate world for much longer, how do I handle these awkward situations? Am I the only one that thinks it’s awkward? Is it just a lack of experience?

In-N-Out Burger Comes to Dallas

I spent a few years in California, and the pride and joy of the fast food industry in this state is In-N-Out Burger. I’ve also heard others from around the US mention that In-N-Out Burger is AMAZING, and if only there was an In-N-Out Burger where they lived! I don’t mean to start a fight, but I’m not that impressed with their burgers… don’t get me wrong, they’re tasty, but I can get great fast-food burgers from several different establishments in Texas. However, I can’t debate the success of their business model, as they’ve grown exponentially since their inception. A classmate of mine was kind enough to help me out with a link to a story in D Magazine about In-N-Out Burger coming to Dallas. So, what do I think about this latest fast food invasion?

In-N-Out Burger will be successful. Flat out, I can’t deny that In-N-Out Burger will be successful, and I think they’ll take DFW by storm. Texans love a good “local” business, as evidenced by the success of many In-N-Out Burger counterparts, including Raising Cane’s Chicken, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, and Chic-Fil-A. Texas is a state with pride, and we love to see a company pull itself up by the boot straps and deliver some goodness to customers. In-N-Out does just that, with limited expansion over the last 50 years, and meticulous quality control.

A business model that works for Dallas. As mentioned above, many “local” chains have been successful in Dallas and Texas at large, by offering limited menu options. The limited menu options stress that limited product focus allows for increased quality. Take a look at some of In-N-Out Burger’s indirect competition: Cane’s “One Love”, offering a choice of chicken tenders, chicken tenders, or chicken tenders. What about Chipotle or Freebird’s (an Austin transplant that also garners a significant cult-like following) which offer customizable burritos. On the menu, you only see 5 offerings, just like In-N-Out. But, dig a little deeper, and you find seemingly endless ways to customize your order. Sandwich shops like Which Wich, Subway, and Jimmy John’s have also found success with a model of limited menu offerings that are ultimately customizable.

Winning the customer on culture. Further, the limited product focus allows the restaurants to sell you on “culture” vs. product. It’s easy for competitors to duplicate products, but extremely difficult for them to create the culture, buzz, and dedication to a brand. In-N-Out Burger fans talk about a devotion to the brand as a whole, not just the great burgers. We’ve seen success of culture over product in Texas again and again, which indicates that In-N-Out’s strategy of brand and culture should make it fare well in our great state. Dallas, in particular, is a great test market for the state, since our area hosts a variety of culture, business, art, technology, and several colleges. You’ve got the perfect mix of people who are open to brand devotion, and those who just want a great burger.

The “secret” menu. One key to all the product craze, culture and brand devotion, and endless options from only 3 or 4 menu offerings, is the “secret” menu at In-N-Out. Ever heard of Animal Style? What about Protein Style? You won’t find these on the menu, but you’ll hear someone order it and wonder, “Wait, what’s THAT?” It’s like a treasure hunt every time you head to the chain, trying to figure out what else you can order from the underground offerings. Check out the article in D Magazine for more options on customizing your burger.

So, while their burgers don’t necessarily make me go wild, their brand and strategy are a marketer’s dream! I have always found In-N-Out Burger to be an excellent source of marketing inspiration, and I can’t wait to dive into the social media and insane sales that are sure to follow the opening of their first DFW location. See… their marketing is already working, as I’ve just given them free publicity 🙂

Happy Friday!

It’s been a productive week for me! Here’s a few articles I came across that I thought would make nice weekend reading material:

On building relationships vs. cold calling: A Cautionary Tale

Hate getting sniped on eBay? Become the sniper! via ERE blog: Gixen

Are women their own worst enemy? via The Huffington Post, The Trouble With Bright Girls

On new social media uses, via Forbes: Will Aviation Go Social?

Like the links? Follow me on Twitter for links and posts everyday!

Chipotle BOGO

Have you guys seen this Chipotle BOGO deal? Apparently, it’s been going on for about a week, but I’ve been in class, so I missed it! However, it’s an interesting marketing situation. They’ve partnered with a TV show to be able to generate buzz for the show, and increase customers for Chipotle. Is it working? Well, when I arrived at Chipotle for lunch today, then line was LITERALLY out the door and wrapped half-way around the side of the building. I haven’t seen the viewership numbers for “America’s Next Great Restaurant” yet, but my guess is that this promotion will help them out at least a little. Brilliant partnership marketing, and makes me happy with a win-win-win situation! Chipotle wins by increasing their sales in the short-term, and hopefully increasing long-term sales by getting people hooked on their food. The TV show wins by getting more eyeballs on their trailer and more buzz for the show, which will hopefully increase viewership. The customers win because they get reduced pricing on their food.

Also, I like how they’ve used social media to get this going. They’ve created a whole Facebook campaign, and you can watch the video directly in Facebook. Twitter is showing several people sharing the deal, which I also shared via @ashleyfaus. It just goes to show that we’re more connected than ever, and word travels fast. This is especially effective for quick or short-term deals that hit the younger generation. A reality show and burrito combo? Sounds like a perfect combination for social media marketing!

My gut-check says this was a smart partnership for both companies, and I know I’m going to play into the marketer’s hands by checking out the trailer to get my BOGO!

Buying into the Illusion

Dress, heels, and blazer to dress up
Dress, heels, and blazer to "dress up"
Dress and heels
Dress and heels
Up close and personal
Up close and personal

Like the outfit? Check out the details here!

First, a disclaimer: I totally buy into the illusion, so this is more humorous than judgmental. But let’s face it, to some extent, we all know it’s an illusion. I’m talking about the illusion of formal business attire or “dressing up” for the business setting. When we had the Big Bosses touring the office, we were told that we needed to “dress up” while the Big Bosses were in town. While at the trade show, I saw women in sky-high heels trekking around the show, but watched them switch to tennis shoes for the walk from the shuttle to the convention center. The illusion is the perception that formal business attire creates, and we all buy into it. Why? Here’s my take, as deduced from articles, experience, and conversations:

Be dressed equal to or better than the person you’re speaking with. This piece of advice is offered to help you convey authority, success, and respect for your party. If you want to appear to hold a position of authority on a subject or in a company, one way to do it is to show up looking different than your guest. Hopefully, looking better than your guest, as it projects an image of a detail-oriented, thoughtful person. It shows that you understand the power play, the occasion, and preparation for such a meeting.

Expensive clothes and accessories equal success. It’s been said that you should dress up to convey success, as formal business attire generally costs more than shorts and a t-shirt. It gives the impression that you must have been successful at whatever endeavor allowed you to purchase that suit or that watch. And, if you were so successful with your previous deals, surely you’ll be successful at whatever partnership we’re about to embark on. There’s also the intimidation factor that goes with having more money than the person you’re meeting, so it gives you more of an air of authority, knowledge, and generally desirable qualities.

Projects a “professional” image. This is what’s really humorous to me, that we all think formal business attire equals being professional. You can be completely drunk and obnoxious in a suit just as easily as shorts and a t-shirt. You can finish your work in a timely, detailed manner just as easily in jeans and flip flops. For some professions, yoga pants actually improve your job performance by increasing freedom of motion. Imagine crawling around to hook up a computer network in a full suit or a skirt! Many office environments require this type of skill, but this particular profession in an office environment can be impeded by standard business attire. “Professional” also includes modesty, which is much less of a problem for men than women in today’s culture. That’s why it’s also humorous that the mechanics had to wear jeans when the Big Bosses came to tour. It’s not considered immodest to see a man’s calf, so wearing longer pants doesn’t increase their “professional” image by making them more modest. By contrast, a skirt is generally considered more dressy, even though it is often less modest because it shows more skin. We place so much importance on the appearance of professionalism that we sometimes overlook the reality of professionalism. The reality entails completing your task to the standards set before you, not necessarily looking good while you do it.

Here’s the flip side: When you’re so successful that you achieve the right to dress however you want. This is the Big Boss who shows up to the meeting in jeans with holes, sandals, and an old t-shirt just because he can. This guy STILL has the confidence that makes his guest understand the level of success his actions and skills have helped him attain. How do you tell the poorly dressed, clueless intern from the uber-successful, rich boss? The intern will realize his mistake and shrink, trying to making himself smaller so that you see less of his “unprofessional” attire, while the Big Boss struts in with no qualms about how he looks. That’s why I think it’s all an illusion, because you see the Big Bosses of the world giving off an image of confidence and success, no matter what they wear. Formal business attire and “dressing up” seem to be a way for the lower-level workers of the world to project the same air given off by the high-level players. Don’t get me wrong, I dressed in heels and a dress for the Big Bosses, but I had to secretly smile about the fact that I did my job just as well when I arrived in khakis and a company polo the day before. Like the outfit? Check out the details here!