What I Want To Be Now That I’ve Grown Up

As a recent college graduate, here’s how a typical conversation goes upon just being introduced to someone new:

“Ah, Communication Studies. So, what do you plan to do with that degree, actually?”
“In a nutshell, I hope to go into social media, marketing, advertising, digital media, editorial content….”
“That’s a little ambitious, don’t you think?”

And you know what- no, I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘too ambitious.’ My four years in college taught me that lesson. Well, maybe not the first two years, but once that switch flipped my junior year, I knew that I was starting to figure it out. Figuring what out, exactly, I wasn’t too sure of then. Fortunately, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what direction I’m headed in these days. All this being said, my brain rarely ever stops being in overdrive (with the exception to two occasions: driving with the windows down, and being near any large body of water), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I grew up thinking I wanted to write for a magazine. I imagined that I would be the next editor-in-chief of my own fashion magazine, and it would be just like the movies. There was one problem with this scenario: I am completely blind when it comes to fashion. No, seriously, I can barely dress myself. I am fortunate to be friends with two of the most fashionable people I have ever met: Lauren, my roommate of two years (THANK GOD), and Laura, my future roommate (!!!). They are the only reason I look even halfway decent when I walk out the door. So, my dreams of working in the fashion industry quickly faded, but my love of writing held steadfast.

Fast-forward to college. I knew that since writing was very much a part of who I was, I needed to continue my education in the field. English major? Nah, I don’t really see myself becoming the next J.K. Rowling (not that I’ve thrown that out the window completely…). Ideally, I would have majored in journalism, but, unfortunately, Clemson did not have that as an option. Even as I sit here and write this, I am so thankful that Clemson didn’t have a journalism degree, because, if they had, I would not have discovered my love for my field: communications. I decided to major in communication studies because I knew that writing was a part of the curriculum, but I really wasn’t sure what else the program would offer me.

After my first two years of general education classes, figuring out who I was, yada yada yada, I started to get bored. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast. I was probably having too much fun, actually. But professionally and mentally, I just wasn’t satisfied. I needed experience, so I went and got some. I started writing for The Black Sheep, a national and local college newspaper that focused on things that they believed college students to be interested in: mainly alcohol and food. I wrote about flasks, fast food, and being a fiscal college student, all with a dash of sarcasm and witty humor. I loved it, but it was easy. So, I began to write for The Tiger, Clemson’s student newspaper. Again, I wasn’t writing the hard-hitting news stories, but I didn’t want to. I stuck to what I was good at: Super Bowl commercials and Saturday Night Live sketches. It was safe to say that I wasn’t bored anymore, but I had been bitten by the bug of wanting more.

Remember that farfetched dream I had of being the editor-in-chief of a magazine? Yeah, well that’s what I did next. I founded and ran Clemson’s chapter of Her Campus, the nation-wide online magazine for collegiate women. I am absolutely so proud of the work I did with Her Campus Clemson; creating something from nothing, recruiting and managing a team of writers, running all social media accounts, and working with other organizations and businesses to create promotions and spread the word about HC Clemson. This experience was one of the most rewarding things for me because it was the first time I took matters into my own hands and didn’t really accept no for an answer. After being turned away from so many other opportunities to get involved on Clemson’s campus, I used the rejection I received as fuel for my fire. The year that I spent as Editor-In-Chief of HC Clemson, it was the only thing I could talk about. I lived and breathed HC Clemson because I wanted everyone else to be just as passionate about it as I was. Whether it was pushing out content via any and all social media accounts, speaking at club meetings across campus, or skipping my tailgating time to host gameday giveaways, I was bringing the voice of Her Campus Clemson to the masses, and I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world.

In the summer of 2012, I was also fortunate enough to have two incredible internships, both in fields I was really excited to explore. Again, at this point in my life, I was still trying to figure out what direction I was headed in; I knew it was communications, but what facet? Where was my niche? Would I ever truly find out where I was headed? [cue dramatic music] First, I interned as a hospitality intern for The Memorial Tournament, and you can learn all about my experience in this blog post. In addition to everything stated in that blog post, I truly learned so much about hospitality, customer satisfaction, and working with a team to create a seamless and smooth experience for the tournament patrons. My second internship was with the advertising agency White+Partners, where I served as the Media and Account Management intern. Prior to this internship, I knew that I had an interest in advertising (see previous blog post), but I wasn’t sure of how much I would enjoy it from the other side of the curtain. As the Media Intern, I was able to learn the nitty gritty details of what went into advertising and the process of working with various media outlets, whether it be radio, digital, print, or television. I was also introduced to the Account Management side, which involved working directly with clients and serving as the liaison between clients and the rest of the agency.  I was just so excited to dive in and experience all facets of the advertising industry; I never turned down an opportunity to get more involved with the agency and I ended up coming away with invaluable experience and knowledge. I am truly grateful for these two summer internship opportunities.

Throughout all of these experiences, I was (not-so-secretly) having a love affair with social media. Something about social media is just so glamorous to me, and I hope that never fades. To me, social media is just so incredible not because it introduces an entirely different angle of marketing and reaching the consumer; social media humanizes corporations and turns consumers into brand ambassadors. In short, no company today will be reaching its full potential without a social strategy, or at least online presence. Once I started to feel as though I was an expert on social media from the consumer standpoint, I wanted to try my hand at the other side of the curtain. I created the Twitter account @ClemsonGirlProb back in October of 2011, and have now garnered close to 5,000 followers. The purpose of this Twitter handle was initially for me to further my obsession with social media, but it quickly turned into much more than that. I started doing a lot of trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t work in terms of reaching my targeted audience, and I am proud to see that I reached over 3,500 followers before I let anyone know that I was the person behind the anonymous Twitter account. I figured out a specific voice for the Twitter handle, and I stuck to it. I made it a priority to use this profile to serve as a source for all Clemson female (and some male) fans for consistent and relevant information and commentary on what was going on in the Clemson community. It was from this experience that I learned how human social media is, and that there is no “9-5” time scale for it to be constricted to. I learned that social media is a never-ending conversation, and that in order to be successful at social media, you need to constantly be plugged in and listening to your audience in order to respond properly. In addition to @ClemsonGirlProb, I also responded to the rise of the #WhatShouldWeCallMe Tumblr accounts and created one specific for Clemson students, #WhenInClemson. As rewarding as it was for me to see my friends posting links to this account on their Facebook pages without realizing that it was me, it was even more rewarding to track the page visits using Google Analytics. At the height of the Tumblr page, I was seeing upwards of 10,000 clicks per day, and several times I had to take a step back and realize what was happening.

This is when it dawned on me: I loved interacting with audiences, no matter what the platform. Whether it be through advertisements that consumers would see, hear, watch; content being pushed out via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social networking sites that users could interact with by making viral or responding to; and, of course, just general interaction with people about something you are passionate about.

My love for social media lead me to many great things at Clemson. First, I was grateful to have earned the position as the first ever Social Media Intern for the Clemson University Division of Student Affairs. This experience only furthered my passion for all things social media and really continued to open my eyes as to how social media can be used to reach audiences. Since Clemson is something that I am passionate about, it was really rewarding for me to be able to combine two of my biggest passions in a professional setting and to see my ideas come to fruition. My experience in social media continued as I completed two creative inquiries with Clemson’s own Social Media Listening Center, a gift given to Clemson University by Dell and Radian6. During my time working with the SMLC, it really hit me how extremely vital social media is in today’s rapidly expanding society, and having the opportunity to work with the Radian6 technology was truly an honor that I am very fortunate to have been given.

During my last year as a Clemson student, I knew that I wanted to get just a little more experience. By this time, I had finally figured out what I enjoyed doing, and I couldn’t have found a more perfect position for me. My senior year, I had the esteemed privilege to serve as Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Student Brand Ambassador for Clemson University. Yes, that’s right; I was getting paid to spread the Chipotle love to the Clemson community. I read something once that said to “figure out what you love to do without getting paid, and that is what you should be doing for the rest of your life.” Well, to say that I am obsessed with Chipotle Mexican Grill is an understatement, so I knew that I could not pass this opportunity up. As I told the regional marketing manager during my interview, even if they didn’t give me the official title, I would still promote Chipotle and be an asset to their brand new Clemson location. Since the chain is not very prominent in the South (read: I went to Chipotle everyday after high school, my friends from the South did not), I felt that it was my responsibility, long before Clemson even had a Chipotle, to introduce the wonderful world of Chipotle Mexican Grill to my fellow peers. Once I got the job, however, it became official. I was constantly tweeting, posting on Facebook, handing out promotion cards, speaking at organization’s chapter meetings, and just spreading my love for Chipotle to everyone around me, especially those that were new to Chipotle and their mission of ‘Food With Integrity.’

So, here I am. A college graduate, ready for life’s next big adventure. I am headed to Chicago and I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin. But, in response to the question posed to me at the beginning of the blog post, here’s what I plan on doing with my degree in Communication Studies: creating content and streamlining it to audiences. My passion for social media and marketing, combined with my natural tenacity and curiosity, make me an absolute asset to a team in a fast-paced work environment.

I’m finally grown up, and I couldn’t be more excited. Adulthood is supposed to be fun, right? Well, if that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

PS- If you made it through this entire post, I commend you.

4 Very Honest Ad Campaigns

It’s no secret that I love advertising. Instead of telling people to be quiet during the actual television program, I am the person that is shhhhing the room as soon as the commercials begin. Going out to a sports bar? You can find me with my eyes glued to the television during the time that people are supposed to be social just to watch the commercials. I prefer magazines that have more advertisements than actual content. In fact, I own several issues of Communication Arts magazine, which solely comprises of advertisements. Heading to the movie theater? The previews are the most exciting part of going to see a movie, DUH. Hopefully you get the point by now.

So, yes, Spring is one of my favorite times of year not because of the Super Bowl but because of the incredible and highly anticipated commercials that come along with it. Speaking of the big game, check out my article in The Tiger from last year on my Top 5 Super Bowl commercials.

Let’s get back to the focus of this post. As I have been watching my various favorite television shows recently, I have noticed an increasing trend among advertisers: honesty. When I say ‘honesty,’ I mean that the purpose of the advertisement is to speak directly to the consumers who choose not to purchase their product by clearly identifying a problem, misconception, or a needed change. In doing this, the advertisement is doing so much more than just trying to entice the viewer to purchase the product. In my opinion, these advertisements bring a brand new type of marketing to the table: one where the advertiser is very obviously in tune to the opinions of the consumer. It will be interesting to look at the success and failures of these four campaigns, but in the mean time, I present to you four very honest current advertising campaigns, in the order of personal relevance and interest.

1. Triscuit’s Gone Topless
A product of Nabisco, Triscuit has been around since 1902 (according to their Facebook page), and has been a classic on the cracker aisle ever since. Only did I really think about the actual packaging until their most recent advertising campaign, but apparently they had heard otherwise. Triscuits’ packaging has traditionally always had a picture of Triscuits topped with something, to show that the cracker was the perfect party dish. Now, however, they are wiping the toppings clean from the packaging after realizing that people didn’t know they could eat Triscuits without them being topped with something. The premise of Triscuit’s newest marketing campaign is “Topper’s Tantrums,” in that “angry satisfied” customers exclaim how angry they are that they had never thought of Triscuits like this before.

This is Triscuit’s first advertising campaign with Crispin Porter + Bogusky, an agency well-known for it’s A-list clientele and it’s innovative campaigns. Not only are there new TV spots and print advertisements, but Triscuit has integrated the new “toppingless” packaging campaign completely into it’s presence on Facebook. I think this ad campaign is extremely interesting because instead of trying to differentiate themselves from other cracker products, the entire goal of this campaign is to announce that Triscuit is just the same as other crackers in that they can be eaten plain. By completely changing their packaging design, Triscuit is really going the distance to communicate with their consumers.

2. Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, not Craft time
This next advertising campaign, also by CP+B, is for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and addresses something that anyone who has ever attended Elementary School can resonate with. Remember in kindergarten when we would create art projects comprising of noodles glued to a piece of construction paper, or strung on a piece of string? Well, the whole premise of Kraft’s ad campaign is that macaroni and cheese is “Dinner, Not Art.” While consumers purchasing macaroni and cheese for craft projects isn’t necessarily hurting the profitability of the product, it is clearly not an objective of the brand. What this specific campaign shows is that Kraft is aware of what is going on in the consumer world and wanted to respond to consumers by essentially saying, “Hey, we’re proud of our macaroni. Don’t waste it by gluing it together.” [I mean, not literally, but that’s essentially what they are saying.]

In addition to the adorable television spots, Kraft actually went above and beyond by turning this simple idea into a full-blown socially responsible campaign. Kraft created an app for the iPad, in addition to the website DinnerNotArt.com, where users can actually use Kraft Macaroni noodles to create digital art, asking users to “save the real noodles for dinner.” And on top of that, Kraft announced that for every noodle used in the digital macaroni art, they would donate 10 noodles to Feeding America. Now THAT’S corporate social responsibility if I’ve ever seen it.

3. Don’t be surprised- it’s from Sears

This might be one of my favorite commercials from the past year, to be quite honest. This was the commercial that really started drawing my attention to these sorts of advertisements. From the very beginning of the clip, you know the exact message the brand is trying to send- and the message is phenomenal. Sears is essentially saying, “hey, we get it, we’re not known for cute clothes and you’ve probably made an effort to avoid clothes-shopping with us.” The woman is obviously embarrassed when asked where she purchased her top, and stunned when she receives a compliment for it. For the rest of the advertisement, the woman is thrilled to show off her clothing and equally as excited to tell others that her outfit is from Sears, which comes as a shock to everyone she meets. This. is. RICH. Complete re-branding at it’s finest. Just like addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem; and, ladies and gentlemen, Sears has done this flawlessly.

This particular advertisement was part of a total re-branding for Sears that started in the summer of 2012. The campaign is titled ‘This is Sears,’ and was an attempt to really change the way people viewed the department store. It was crafted at the hands of mcgarrybowen, and includes several other popular ads, including the recent clip for a fake dance competition show (you know, the one where the dancers run right into the appliances?), but none that are really as brutally honest as this one. They don’t have to specifically say, “we want to change your minds about us,” but they simply end the advertisement with the following- “Surprised? Don’t be?” So, while this is just one particular advertisement among a whole campaign, Sears really nailed it with this one.

4. We promise, we’re not as bad as we used to be.

In terms of re-branding and providing a really honest marketing campaign, Internet Explorer takes the cake. Their campaign for the new Internet Explorer 9 was appropriately titled ‘The Browser You Loved To Hate.’ And that’s because we all did (and many of us still do). The only thing IE was good for when we got out first Microsoft laptop was for downloading Mozilla Firefox, or more recently, Google Chrome. In fact, I personally remember uninstalling my Internet Explorer once Mozilla was on my desktop. Quite frankly, it sucked. And that’s what made the marketing campaign for Internet Explorer 9 so incredible- Microsoft agreed with us. They knew how horrible the browser was. The consumer’s hatred for Internet Explorer was just the right fuel for a flawless marketing campaign.

The first advertisement that was released for the campaign was called ‘Child of the 90’s,’ and hit every twenty-something with a wave of nostalgia. The premise of this particular advertisement was that just like we grew up, so did Internet Explorer. If this isn’t honesty, I don’t know what is. They are directly targeting the people that hated Internet Explorer growing up, the people who had all started using different browsers, and saying, “we know we were bad, but give us another chance.” The implementation of this first clip was genius. The video went viral very quickly, filling up everyone’s Facebook news feed and reaching over 25 million views on YouTube. But Microsoft knew it needed more than just a viral video.

This marketing campaign is also the product of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and was even more successful because it was more than just a single successful advertisement. There were several other clips blatantly bashing IE that really showed the consumer that Microsoft understood; they knew how bad they were and they were doing something to change that. In addition to the video advertisements, they created a tumblr called ‘The Browser You Loved To Hate.’ Here, they addressed all skepticism for the new IE. The top row of the micro-site even has two tabs titled ‘It’s Good Now,’ and ‘No, Really.’ The target marketing for this was spot on. The average tumblr user is  a teenager or twenty-something, so this was a brilliant move. With Apple as their main competitor, Microsoft knew they needed to bring out the big guns, so they did.

If you’re not into advertising nearly as much as I am and you made it through this whole post, bravo, my friend. I hope this gave you a better insight to the workings of my brain. Maybe next time you’re watching a sports game or your favorite show, you’ll stop and think a little bit about the advertisements and why in the world anyone would pay millions of dollars just for that one thirty second spot.