How Are Marketers Optimizing the Customer Experience?

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

Customer experience has been tabbed marketers’ most exciting opportunity this year, and a new study [download page] from Econsultancy produced in association with Ensighten indeed finds 41% of company marketers to consider customer experience optimization critical, with the vast majority believing this will result in higher engagement and conversion rates. So how are they optimizing the customer experience?

According to the study, based on a survey of 613 marketers (55% of whom are in-house marketers and 70% of whom are based in Europe), almost half of company marketers are thoroughly ensuring complete visitor privacy (47%) and monitoring website performance (47%), with many more at least partially doing so. Of note, the survey separately finds 41% of company respondents agreeing that privacy concerns prevent them from personalizing customer experiences as much as they’d like to, with 29% disagreeing.

Beyond privacy assurances and site monitoring, though, fewer than one-third of company respondents reported thoroughly optimizing other areas, including:

Executing website testing and optimization (25%);
Speeding up web page load and responsiveness (23%); and
Improving visitor retargeting (16%).

(See here for more on what UK consumers and marketers see as the most important elements of the digital experience.)

Meanwhile, company respondents are most likely to be using customer data to optimize the desktop website (83%) experience, while two-thirds optimize email and half their mobile website. Fewer than half are using customer data to optimize search, social and display, which the study’s authors theorize might be “indicative of the isolated attitude organizations are taking towards their CX optimization.” As for offline channels, the call center (68%) experience is the only one to be optimized by a majority of respondents.

The types of data most often collected by company marketers for the purposes of customer experience optimization, according to the study, are behavioral (81%) and transactional (78%), with supply-siders also reporting these to be most popular (though in the reverse order). The analysts note that marketers should try to diversify (fewer than one-third are collecting social and attitudinal data), pointing out that 45% of company respondents aren’t using a single customer profile at all for their applications.

The trouble appears to be that respondents are having difficulties collecting and analyzing the data. For example, company respondents were more likely to say they had a weak than strong capability in a number of areas, including:

Collecting user data from CRM, POS and other online data sources (34% vs. 18%);
Collecting data about individual website visitors (23% vs. 18%);
Analyzing user data that come from different systems (47% vs. 11%); and
Integrating user data from different systems into one profile store (45% vs. 9%).

While a majority (51%) said they’re better at collecting data about individual website visitors than they were last year, only about half as many reported being better at collecting user data from CRM, POS and other online data sources.

Overall, 85% agreed that they’re not able to extract the full value from the data sources they have access to, and more than 6 in 10 agreed that they often feel overwhelmed by the volume of incoming data, an issue that has been noted in studies for several years now.

Interestingly, poor marketing technology isn’t too blame, per the survey respondents. And while the state of data quality isn’t getting better, that isn’t the main culprit either. Instead, company marketers are most likely to blame insufficient resources (including budget and staff) for preventing them from optimizing customer experiences as effectively as they’d like to. Given that lack of justification or ROI isn’t a key hindrance, perhaps those resource constraints will change with time…

In other results from the study:

Web analytics (93%), CRM/data warehouse (64%) and customer satisfaction surveys (59%) are the top sources from which company marketers are pulling data for customer experience optimization;
In-house marketers are most likely to be leveraging attribution (52%) and customer lifetime value (45%) for data modeling, a result that ties back to them estimating that 76% of the data they’re typically using is first-party data;
Just 1 in 10 company marketers best describe their data integration as “tied together customer data from multiple channels, technologies and databases,” while 70% best describe it as “started to connect the dots, but have a long way to go;” and
One-third of company respondents said they thoroughly leverage customer data to better understand current customer needs and behavior, and 1 in 5 say they thoroughly do so to optimize marketing budget allocations (21%) and marketing mix decisions (18%).

About the Data: There were 613 respondents to the research request, which took the form of an online survey in November and December 2014. Respondents included both companies or in-house marketers (55%) and supply-side respondents, including agencies, consultants and vendors (45%).

The retail (20%) sector was most heavily represented, followed by financial services (13%), media (9%) and technology (8%). Company respondents came from a range of company sizes (in terms of revenue), while agency respondents were more heavily skewed towards smaller companies.


It’s Q4. Do You Know Where Your Target Demographic Is?

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

As the end of this year approaches, marketers are already planning for 2015. And as marketing becomes an increasingly audience-focused affair, understanding the demographic profile of media audiences is becoming more critical than ever. A new MarketingCharts Debrief, Media Audience Demographics, provides essential data for marketers by breaking down the demographics of various media channels.

The report dives into the demographics of a host of traditional media channels, looking at how they have changed over the past 5 years and the audiences that their online equivalents (such as online radio) attract. In so doing, the data confirms some anecdotal trends and raises questions about others. For example, is the broadcast TV audience really “graying”? In fact, while the 55+ segment does now represent a larger proportion of adult broadcast TV viewers, that’s a reflection of this segment’s growing share of the adult population overall, as this segment over-indexes in weekly viewing to no more extent than it did 5 years ago. The data contained in the Debrief actually suggests that it’s cable TV’s audience that is “graying” faster than the audience for broadcast TV.

Besides TV (broadcast, cable and online viewers), the Debrief also examines the audience breakdown (in terms of age, household income and race/ethnicity) for:

Radio (terrestrial, online listeners);
Newspapers (national, local, website visitors);
Magazines (monthly, weekly, website visitors); and
Five leading social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest).

Other topics answered by the report include: the media that are most appealing to affluent Americans; the online media that have the youngest audience skew; and the social platforms that draw the most diverse audiences.

The 49-page Debrief contains 40 charts and a handy table identifying the top-indexing groups for each medium analyzed. It also comes with MarketingCharts’ value guarantee:

– If you can find this data for free (taking into account breadth, recency, and source quality), we’ll refund you your money. If you can find it, analyze, and chart it in a couple of hours or less (~$100 of your time), we’ll hire you!

Head on over here for your copy of the report.

About the Data: The media data (with the exception of social networks) is derived from Experian Marketing Services’ Winter 2014 Simmons National Consumer Study. The high quality, nationally representative study is the result of a comprehensive, continuously fielded survey of approximately 25,000 US adults, including both English and Spanish speakers. All data concerning offline media is from a base sample of US adults; data concerning online TV, internet radio, newspaper websites and magazine websites is drawn from a base sample of US online adults.

The social networking data is derived from comScore figures analyzing online US adults’ cross-platform activity in June 2014.


Which Digital Channels Are Marketers Best Able to Measure for ROI?

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

Despite increasing pressures to prove their worth, American CMOs continue to have difficulty quantitatively demonstrating the impact of their activities, according to a recent study. Now, a newly-released survey [download page] from Econsultancy and Oracle Marketing Cloud that analyzes global marketers’ ability to measure ROI from a variety of digital channels finds that there is only a single discipline that most marketers rate themselves “good” at measuring.

The survey – fielded predominantly among European marketers, who made up three-quarters of the sample – found that 52% of company respondents consider themselves “good” at measuring ROI from paid search (PPC). Similarly, 53% of agency respondents rated their clients’ ability to measure the ROI from paid search as “good.”

No other discipline was able to crack 50% of respondents rating themselves “good” at ROI measurement. In fact, email marketing (for acquisition) was the only other channel for which respondents (both marketers and agencies) were more likely to rate themselves as being “good” than “okay.”

On the other end of the spectrum, just 13% of company respondents rate themselves as “good” at being able to measure the ROI of video advertising, and just 12% of agency respondents agreed with respect to their clients. By one measure, though, content marketing fared even worse: a plurality 43% of company respondents rated themselves “poor” at measuring content marketing’s ROI. That was the only channel of the 19 identified in which more respondents considered themselves “poor” than “okay” (41%) or “good” (16%).

Social media investment also appears to be a pain point, according to marketers and agencies, echoing the sentiments of US CMOs as noted in the study referenced above.

Despite those difficulties, inability to measure ROI is not the primary hindrance to increased digital marketing investments, per the Econsultancy study. Instead, marketers were most likely to say that a restricted budget for all types of marketing prevents more investments in digital, while a lack of staff to make the most of digital investments was the second-most cited barrier. Interestingly, agency respondents see a lack of understanding about digital and company culture as the biggest impediments to clients investing more money in digital.

That’s not to say that there’s not money flowing to digital marketing, though. Instead, this latest annual study finds digital marketing budget expectations to be at their highest point since the survey’s inception in 2010, as 77% of respondents plan spending hikes this year, up from 71% in last year’s survey. Of note, 71% of company respondents agree that it has become easier to secure boardroom buy-in for increased digital marketing budgets, an increase from 64% last year.

Moreover, despite the challenges in measuring ROI, budget enthusiasm for content marketing leads all others, with 73% of company respondents planning to increase spending on content marketing this year. Many are similarly planning budget hikes for lead generation (68%, up from 60% last year), SEO (60%, down from 63% last year), and email marketing for engagement and retention (60%, down from 62% last year). Fewer than 4 in 10 anticipate spending increases for sales enablement (39%) and affiliate marketing (38%), though.

Meanwhile, paid search occupies the single largest share of company marketers’ digital marketing budgets, at 13%, followed by content marketing (10%).

Not surprisingly, it’s a different story for offline channels, slated for spending increases by just 28% of company respondents. Among offline channels, live events (38%) comprise the area cited by most respondent companies for budget increases, though a plurality (46%) will keep their event budgets steady. This is most likely tied to the B2B sample; in North America, in-person events capture the largest share of B2B budgets and are said to be the most effective content marketing channel.

Still, despite all the increases forecast for digital marketing over the past few years, respondent companies estimated spending 38% share of their total marketing budgets on digital, a figure which is unchanged from last year. Additionally, digital is this year estimated by company marketers to account for 34% of total revenues, down slightly from last year’s 35% average.

Overall, company respondents estimated that 39% share of their digital marketing budgets go to paid media, with 35% to owned media and 26% to earned media. As far as budget increases go, earned media gets the nod (71% of company respondents) over owned media (67%) and paid media (61%).

Finally, acquisition marketing continues to be favored over engagement/retention as an investment focus, echoing results from a separate Econsultancy survey released last year. In fact, the investment focus on acquisition appears to have increased over the past couple of years at the expense of engagement and retention.

About the Data: The Econsultancy / Oracle Marketing Cloud Marketing Budgets 2015 report is based on a survey of almost 600 client-side marketers and agency respondents. Information about the online survey was emailed to Econsultancy’s user base of digital professionals and marketers, and promoted online via Twitter and other channels during December 2014 and January 2015.

A total of 588 respondents took part in the survey, including 58% who are client-side marketing professionals and 42% from the supply-side (including agency marketers, consultants and those working for technology vendors or other service providers).


In the Multiscreen World, Context Is King

Today’s multi-faceted world is filled with equally multi-faceted devices; smart phones, tablets, laptops, televisions with internet capabilities, and desktops, are now being used simultaneously in our day to day lives. Marketers are now faced with the task of creating context driven advertising to suit the needs of this new device driven market that will engage the consumer. The following article discusses the changes of today’s digital world and how advertising must change to fit those changes.




Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!


With the appearance of each new device, the experts have weighed in on what it will mean for the future of advertising. In the late 1930s, industry commentators worried about whether advertising could ever succeed on television screens. A letter to the editor of The New York Times asserted, "It will prove difficult to prepare and present a television advertising message", while the author of Television: A Struggle for Power claimed "there is considerable doubt that advertising will be successful when presented to the eye as well as the ear." So, there are always skeptics. And that's not a bad thing: they motivate the dreamers among us to prove them wrong.

But the truth is we won't build the future of advertising device by device. We need to learn to look at these devices as a way of understanding the context in which consumers are looking for information. Real people use these newest devices — phones, tablets, "phablets", touch-screen laptops and Web-enabled TVs — to connect with each other, shop, navigate the world, watch videos, play games, and take pictures. It's how, when, and why people use their devices we should be paying attention to and less so the devices themselves.

Part of the reason for this is that we can no longer deduce a customer's context purely by the device she is using. We used to assume that your mobile meant you were on the go, your tablet meant you were at home on the sofa, and your desktop meant you were at work, but this is no longer accurate. These devices are now bleeding into new realms and your behavior is very different depending on the context in which you're using the device. Think about your own life. You might email on your laptop in front of the TV and simultaneously use your tablet to look up a takeout menu, or listen to music. Don't believe me? Spend time with a 16 year old!

Today, most people constantly switch between devices in order to stay connected. And despite advertisers' initial concerns, consumer eyeballs are not necessarily being "lost" from one screen to another. Rather than splitting a finite number of hours across a greater number of screens, consumers are often using multiple screens simultaneously. This is the new multiscreen world.

And we're starting to see remarkable data suggesting just how quickly the multiscreen world is taking hold with consumers. For example, let's look at the Holy Grail of traditional TV advertising, the Super Bowl. Traditional Super Bowl campaigns focused a huge amount of brand energy on one, expensive slot of air time. Now, even if people leave the living room to grab chips and soda from the kitchen during the breaks, it doesn't mean they'll miss your ad. Super Bowl advertisers can bank on an extended online audience to justify and add value to their TV buys. This year, Super Bowl ads on YouTube were watched more than 76 million times before game day and we saw a total of 200 million views on 100 video ads and teasers tied to the Super Bowl.

The multiscreen world creates opportunities for marketers by helping them reach people in the right context with the right message on any device. For example, a pizza restaurant wants to show one ad to someone searching for pizza at noon downtown on their smartphone (click-to-call and restaurant locator), and a different ad to someone searching for pizza at 9pm on their laptop or tablet at home (link to online order form or menu). Context-aware ads like this are more likely to get a positive response because they help people achieve something quickly and simply so they can get on with life.

Advertisers should focus their investments on the contexts they care about. For example, our pizza restaurant may be having a slow day and want to attract more walk-in customers for lunch. Their ad could show lunchtime discount offers, directions and a click to call function to people searching mid-day for pizza within a 5 mile radius of the restaurant location. Or, if someone's searching for your retail housewares store on a mobile device during business hours, your ad can direct them to call you or provide a map of your location, whereas if they search for you when you're closed, you can direct them to your website to research and make purchases online.

Context-aware ads create a connection, they entertain, inspire and influence. They don't feel like an intrusion because they provide a great experience that's based on the user's context. So rather than focus solely on the device as the centerpiece of your next campaign, go a level or two deeper to examine the context. That's where the opportunities lie in today's multiscreen world.


10 Inspiring Success Stories

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

What the New Facebook Newsfeed Means for Brands: Five New Rules for Facebook Marketing

Recently, Facebook has made some major changes to its newsfeed that will ultimately change how you and your business interact with the consumer. Dramatic fluctuations in reach and engagement, the way your fans view your links and photos, and the dramatic cross-device changes, will either help or hinder your Facebook experience. The following article outlines these changes and how you can use them to your advantage and how to change your Facebook engagement to suit these new changes.

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

Facebook unveiled a reimagined newsfeed experience that has enormous implications for every brand with a Facebook page. Here are five of the big shifts you should have on your radar.

Edgerank Is Dead
Facebook has given up on trying to filter your content for you in favor of serving separate feeds to users. Think of it now as friends, photos, events, pages, and a firehose of everything you're connected with.

Expect to see dramatic fluctuations in reach and engagement as you figure out when your core audience is engaging in a longer (desktop or tablet) session. It's very likely you'll start posting more often to different time zones as you try to catch users relaxing in the evening or sneaking Facebook time at work.

Note: Facebook has not explicitly stated that Edgerank has been killed. There's just no functional reason for it to exist in a multi-newsfeed experience.

3rd Party Video Finally Gets Some Love
Facebook is now featuring videos from third parties (think Vimeo and YouTube) on equal footing with Facebook videos. That means full-width content and in-newsfeed playing.

Your video thumbnail is now a full size opportunity to convince your fans to watch and share your videos. For brands already pushing the envelope of newsfeed content, this will be an easy and rewarding shift.

Images Are Even Better
The rise of the visual web isn't new news but it's great to see Facebook making strides to make the newsfeed experience even better for photos. Your images might not be better but Facebook is committed to doing a better job of displaying them.

For brands with limited visual content, this should be the final wakeup call. If you can't produce compelling brand imagery, Facebook no longer represents an organic opportunity.

Links Matter Again
You've probably seen the updated tiles in your newsfeed from friends connected to Instagram or Pinterest. Now Facebook is rolling out the larger thumbnails and excerpts as a default link and application action treatment.

If your brand has a lot of great content on a blog or community site, now links to that content will show up in a big way without sneaking links into image captions. Judging by the content on a lot of brand pages I've seen lately, most weren't optimizing links for newsfeed anyhow. Congratulations, waiting for things to get better just paid off.

Cross-Device Design has Arrived
Facebook just gave the web design community something wonderful. Now when you're talking to a crowd about the importance of a device-agnostic web experience you can just say, "like Facebook" and even the staunchest troglodyte will nod in understanding.

Thanks Zuck.

The next step for brands is to sit down with your community managers and content team. Ask them to start answering two questions before posting something to Facebook:

  1. Why will our fans care about this content?
  2. Why will they share this content?

Best practices of strategic paid support, tight copy, bright images, and time-of-day optimization still apply.


The Best Advertising is Sincere

"Without a sincere curiosity about and empathy for the people we hope to reach, we stand no chance of developing a compelling conversation with consumers."

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

In the throes of apprehending the future of advertising, much has been, and will be, said about new channels, emergent technologies, innovative measurement protocols, morphing agency roles and the like; much less, probably, about how we actually create marketing that works, that's worth consuming, and that's worth running in any channel. Under the klieg lights of The New, we risk losing sight of what makes all of it possible — an old-fashioned virtue that's equally at home in social, mobile, and digital, and also in ad agency conference rooms everywhere, despite what the stereotypes might suggest. I'm talking about sincerity.

Each June, the agency where I've worked for almost a decade, Ogilvy & Mather, hosts a visiting professor for a kind of reverse internship, throwing a seasoned academic into the mix of our NYC flagship office, teeming with 1400+ bloodthirsty marketers. Or at least I think that's what the professors expect, because when the two-week "internship" is over, they often say to me something like: "I always thought advertisers were master manipulators / slick bamboozlers / out-and-out liars, but what struck me most in my time here was how earnestly everyone was trying to understand and help consumers." They're nice about it, but that's the idea.

And they've captured a classic outsider's truth about advertising, something that we rarely appreciate about our business because it is so deeply part of the background: that most of it is conducted with utter sincerity.

Really, you say? What about the cheeky work for Axe, or Summer's Eve's "Cat on a Mission" blog, or any recent Superbowl spot? Yes, of course, but let's be clear: I make no claims about the tone or the 'irony index' of the work produced; I'm talking about the people and the process that produce it. After all, the earnest pursuit of consumer insights can lead you to shoot a snarky YouTube video if that happens to suit the entertainment profile of the target you want to reach, but you will have got there honestly.

Given that sincerity itself isn't usually very funny, dramatic, innovative, saucy, scene-stealing, or luxurious, it is rarely chosen as the animating spirit of our end-product. But it is totally embedded — indeed, institutionalized — in the process of making advertising. And there's a very good reason for that: without a sincere curiosity about and empathy for the people we hope to reach, we stand no chance of developing a compelling conversation with them. Indeed I would argue that sincerity drives the success of the best and most successful marketing, no matter what the execution may turn out to be.

Let me share a few examples. As Ogilvy's lead for ethnographic research, I head a small team that makes documentary videos about the lives, habits, values and affinities of various groups that our clients hope to reach. In this role I have the rare opportunity to parachute into an incredible range of micro-worlds, both within the US and globally. They are invariably FASCINATING, and so we take bets on when this seemingly endless stream of human interest will run dry — anticipating a day that must come, when one of these projects turns out to be boring. Not too long ago we thought we'd finally arrived: an ethnography of suburban lawn-care. Had to be deadly, right?

Nope. First, lawn-care is generally provided by small-business owners, who are, as a rule, not like anyone else (or one another). Second, it involves a range of chemistry products, from fertilizers to weed control, that purveyors and their residential customers are BOTH afraid of. The staking of the lawn sign is a moment of truth as potent as any in retail: what have you put on my lawn and why can't my kids play on it? And for the purveyor: Do I really want to store this stuff in my garage? The capper for us was the trade concept of "junkie lawns" — owned by people so bent on a well-manicured look that they require steroid-like fertilizers followed by slash-and-burn herbicides. And naturally these are the same customers who ask about "greener" solutions when the lawn signs go up…What's a poor business owner to do? These are the existential questions.

Or take the neighborhood UPS Store in NJ that routinely ships custom fresh sandwiches across the country in time for lunch, with fees approaching $80 (for shipping alone; sandwiches are billed separately). Who ships a sandwich from a different time-zone? How are the sandwiches? While we never quite got to the bottom of that first question, we did (1) confirm that the sandwiches are excellent, and (2) get to observe the complex web of mutual accommodation — including custom packaging, billing, systems integration, and tracking — that had developed like a vast and ornate coral reef between the sandwich shop and the shipping store, giving new meaning to the word Logistics.

Or the exploration of evolving consumer attitudes toward all things Green that we filmed recently. Alongside the well-documented gap between people's green values and their actual behavior, we began to see a shadow-gap along gender lines — an apparent discomfort among men, even those who, by temperament, age, or social context, were best positioned to embrace green. And then it hit us, as we watched a young man in SF rifle diffidently through his cloth shopping bags: the iconic symbol of green — the canvas tote — is essentially a purse. How many men will want to advertise greenness if it means carrying a purse? In this respect, Green is in danger of becoming the new pink, and we owe it to the planet and to green brands everywhere to give the movement an equal opportunity badge.

I share these stories for two reasons. First, because you can't make this stuff up, thus demonstrating how much more fun it is to discover truths (sincerely) than to invent them (however cunningly). And second, because the trumpeting of all that's new and shiny in our business mustn't drown out the fundamentals guiding the best work in any medium: what we might call experience-near insights, gathered by market researchers in earnest pursuit of the truth about what people are feeling, experiencing, and creating out in the world today.

If we get that right, we've got the best — maybe the only — shot at developing communications that will actually matter to client brands and the people who love them.


Marketers Say They’re Shifting Focus Away From Traditional Media

“With the changing times and the huge shift into the digital world, newspapers are feeling the crunch as marketers shift away from the more traditional approach of print advertising. With the turn of the ‘downloading age’ and more consumers receiving their information online, marketers have had to shift their focus to where their advertisements will most likely be seen.”

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend!

Nearly 1 in 3 marketers plan to decrease their organization’s focus on newspapers this year, per results from a survey conducted by Aquent and the American Marketing Association (AMA). In fact, traditional media occupied the top 6 areas slated for a decline in focus this year by respondents. Beyond newspapers, a significant proportion plan to shift their attention away from consumer magazines (28%), radio (24%), trade magazines (22%), and TV (21%).

Not surprisingly, these marketers are looking more at various digital channels this year. Topping the list is mobile media, with 82% of respondents saying they’ll increase their organization’s focus in this area. That aligns with recent research finding mobile to be perceived as the year’s most disruptive media and marketing trend. Recent survey results from Econsultancy also revealed that mobile is the most exciting opportunity for digital marketers this year. Meanwhile, many respondents to the Aquent and AMA survey also will increase their focus on social media (76%) and marketing automation (75%).

Given their increased focus on digital marketing, it’s not surprising that these marketers believe that the most in-demand positions this year will be related to the digital space. Asked the top 3 positions they think will be most in demand, respondents pointed to social media marketing (25%) first, followed by online content (21%). Interestingly, mobile marketing was further down the list, cited by just 12% of respondents. But, mobile marketing skills will be hotter in 2-3 years, according to the respondents. While half see social media marketing as the hottest job in 2-3 years, mobile marketing isn’t far behind, at 40% of respondents.

About the Data: The survey was conducted online within the United States by Inavero on behalf of Aquent and the American Marketing Association among 2,620 marketing professionals, from senior-level executives to entry-level marketers across a variety of industries and organization sizes. Marketing professionals working within agencies represented 24% of responses. Marketers from health-care, financial services, professional services, and retail, e-tail & distributors were also well represented, with each providing more than 15% of the total responses.

The survey was conducted between the Oct. 31 and Nov. 19, 2012. Respondents included marketing professionals on lists provided by both Aquent and AMA. With a pure probability sample of 2,620, one could say with a 95% probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.9 percentage points. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.


4 Myths That Keep Students From Becoming Social Entrepreneurs

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend.

When it comes to campus-based social entrepreneurship, there’s some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that countless students are launching innovative organizations that help members of their communities start businesses, create jobs and build assets.

The bad news is that thousands more could be starting similar organizations—and they even want to—but they decline to do it.

I came to the world of social entrepreneurship by co-founding—with my Rutgers University classmate Rohan Mathew—a group called the Intersect Fund. We offer coaching and microloans to emerging entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses and build credit. Since launching in 2008, we have served more than 500 clients and disbursed more than 200 loans.

Along the way, we helped start a group called Lend for America (LFA), which seeks to enable college students at campuses across the country to start microfinance groups. Under Executive Director Vanessa Carter’s skilled leadership, LFA provides internship programs, yearly conferences and site visits for students who seek to empower those in their communities who struggle to make ends meet.

In my view, this abundance of support removes any legitimate excuse to put off starting a campus-based microfinance group that can built better communities across the country. Still, some students balk at the prospect of launching their own organizations. I’ll now debunk the major myths that keep them from acting:

1. “No one will take me seriously because I’m just a college student.”

Think again.

Late last year, the Aspen Institute’s FIELD program, whose mission is to study and strengthen America’s microfinance industry, released a report called “Catching the Fire: The University Microenterprise Movement in 2012.” The report’s authors, Elaine Edgcomb and Luz Gomez, wrote that campus-based groups have “built growing microfinance programs and are piloting innovative products.” They argue the movement is gaining credibility and momentum.

Students who accomplish things in their communities—like helping to start businesses and create jobs—gain recognition. But they also earn the public’s trust—the “single-most critical factor in succeeding at scale,” according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. For example, Elmseed Enterprise Fund, based at Yale University, is a student-run organization that has served Connecticut’s entrepreneurs for more than a decade, winning acclaim and support from its community along the way.

2. “To make a difference, I have to do work in a remote, developing country.”

Wrong. Countless students are making a huge difference right in their own backyards. The Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), founded by students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, comes to mind.

CEF helps its members save money, find jobs and secure housing. One member which CEF recently featured on its blog, an aspiring medical technician named Lottye, found help moving from a women’s shelter to an apartment. “I am really enjoying my little place now,” she said. “It’s so nice to have a place that is just mine.”

Lottye is ready to take her next big step.

3. “I have to raise a lot of money before getting any real work done.”

That’s the misconception that nearly kept the Intersect Fund from serving any clients. For months, Mathew and I cast around for five-figure grants from corporations before we had any real track record or reputations in our community. Our efforts yielded predictable results—not a whole lot to write home about.

Later, we lowered dollar-figure expectations and sought a $5,000 grant from a local bank. They gave us $1,000, and we used it to host our first business training class in a church basement. We gradually recruited clients, gained positive testimonials, and began gaining credibility among groups who served the audience from which we sought to recruit clients.

4. “People in my community will be suspicious of my work because I’ve only lived here for a couple of years.”

When Brown University students founded the Capital Good Fund (CGF) in 2009, they struggled to overcome the same barriers all campus-based groups face, including finding the time and assembling the right talent. Since then, they have helped hundreds of Rhode Islanders establish credit, buy laptops, gain United States citizenship, outfit their homes with smart energy meters, and more. (They’re an ambitious group.)

Last fall, Rhode Island State Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo unveiled Empower RI, her major financial literacy push and announced CGF would play a major role. The organization counts financial coaching among its long list of services and will place staff and volunteers throughout the state to serve interested clients. It’s unlikely Raimondo would have granted her imprimatur to a group of whom she was suspicious.

Starting a microfinance group—or any social enterprise—is difficult but well within your reach. Before you change the world, though, you may just have to change your attitude. You can do it.


Trademark Wars: Italy’s Jesus Jeans In Throwdown Over the Lord’s Name.

Enjoy the read, TCB360 Smart Business Network listeners – LaTanya Junior, Your Brand Friend


The Lord works in mysterious ways. Some American apparel manufacturers attempts to start up clothing lines that contain the name “Jesus” have been thwarted by the Italian maker of Jesus Jeans, which trademarked its name in the U.S. back in 2007. 

Jesus Jeans, which is apparently considering making an eventual marketing push in the States, is more than happy to have its legal team send cease-and-desist letters to anybody who is trying to make money selling pretty much any type of clothing with the Jesus name on it.  

The founder of Jesus Surfed, Michael Julius Anton, is ready to face off legally against Jesus Jeans, a fight that plenty of other manufacturers, such as "Jesus First," "Sweet Jesus," and "Jesus Couture," among others, are willing to join in, the Wall Street Journal reports. One manufacturer, “Jesus Up,” is still trying to work out an agreement. "How anyone can claim the name Jesus for themselves and put a trademark on it is beyond me," said Jesus Up founder Jeff Lamont, who also told the Journal that the company name had come to him in a message from God.

Wherever the message came from, Lamont was late to the game on the trademarking front. Jesus Jeans had been trying to trademark its name in the States since 1999 and finally succeeded in 2007. It has still been rejected in plenty of other countries, though such as Germany, Switzerland, China, Hungary and Ireland. However, such countries as Austria, Belgium, France, Spain and the Netherlands have allowed the trademark. The European Union gave it the “Jesus” community trademark, which is good across the entire Union.

The company tells the Journal that it is only interested in going after businesses: "If somebody—small church or even a big church—wants to use 'Jesus' for printing a few T-shirts, we don't care," said Domenico Sindico, the general counsel for intellectual property at BasicNet SpA, a publicly traded company that owns Jesus Jeans.

While BasicNet has the law on its side, some Jesus lovers surely think the company’s decision makers will eventually be sent to hotter climates when they reach the pearly gates. These kinds of feelings have existed since the company got started in the early 1970s and went with an ad campaign   that consisted of an image of a woman’s derriere clad in cutoff shorts and the text, "He who loves me follows me,” in Italian. The Vatican was not amused.

The company was first inspired, the Journal notes, when original owner Maurizio Vitale was in New York City in 1970 and saw a poster for the original Broadway production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” So blame Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice if you want.

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