Nike’s No Stranger

Brand Marketing, Digital Marketing, General Marketing, Social Media

To social activism, controversial ads, or just getting people to talk about things.

Sure we’ve all seen the buzz around the Kaepernick-for-Nike campaign. Some people are thrilled that a company as big as Nike is designing campaigns to make these types of issues a forefront of conversation for the brand. Others are burning $180 Air Maxes in their backyards. But no matter what side you’re on, it’s important to realize that this isn’t anything new for Nike. The sportswear giant has been using advertising and design to address controversial social topics for the last 30 years. Let’s take a look at some other times Nike has stirred up confrontation with their campaigns:

1- I Am Not a Role Model (1993)

Nike features Charles Barkley to make a statement- just because he dunks a basketball doesn’t mean he should raise your kids. This spot calls attention to the seemingly endless debate many Americans have over whether celebrities or famous athletes should be considered role models, and if, as such, they should be held to higher standards by society.

2- Ric Munoz (1995)

Ric Munoz, openly gay and HIV-positive runner, is featured by Nike in this very understated spot. On the surface, Nike is showcasing an athlete’s ability to endure, to thrive even, despite any disability or disease. On a deeper level however, given the time in American history that the commercial aired, it is very likely Nike was sending a subtle, but certainly deeper statement about HIV/AIDs.

3- Voices (2012)

Fast forward a few decades, and even before Colin Kaepernick was a household name, Nike is still making statements.”People aren’t used to women being so passionate. It scares them.” “I’m a girl. That doesn’t mean I have to wear a skirt.” This spot was produced to celebrate women in sport. It also coincided with the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a US legislation that was passed in 1972 to provide women equal opportunities in all educational programs, including athletics.

So for all the debating, all the arguments and controversy, remember that this is nothing new. Brands can makes statements on social issues. In fact, many people WANT brands to take a stand on social and political issues. The controversies and debates are by design, it’s up to consumers to make the choice to have a conversation about it, not just pick fights.

Special thanks to AdWeek for giving me the inspiration to write on this.

Five Big Brands Doing Twitter Right

Brand Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media

Ah, Twitter… A beautiful place filled with highs- OMG, I got 200 retweets!– and lows- Wow maybe I shouldn’t have posted that picture from the bar last night… No matter how you use it, there’s no denying the power that this platform has created for both individuals and companies alike. And just like us individuals, companies have had to learn how to utilize Twitter without making themselves look like fools.

Here’s five companies who are doing it right:

1. T-Mobile (@T-Mobile)

T-Mobile starts off the list because let’s get real- their marketing department has kinda been on fire the past few years. From their rebranding as the “Uncarrier” to their most recent deals, #TMobileTuesdays, T-Mobile is making waves in the telecom industry as other carriers are struggling to adapt to changing consumer demands.

Why their Twitter account works:

  • Visual consistency across the board. From their header to the font color of their links, T-Mobile’s Twitter page plays some pretty slick mind games on you and leaves your brain thinking of T-Mobile anytime you ever see the color magenta. 
  • Secured DJ Khaled as a spokesperson before he jumped the shark. Often times, companies will see something go viral, only to snag it after it’s old news or miss the opportunity completely. Fortunately for T-Mobile, they got him right in time and his personality has become a major asset to their social media presence.

  • Harnessed the power of a hashtag with #TMobileTuesdays. By using a good promotion as a hashtag, T-Mobile is extending their reach on Twitter while also showcasing how their uncomplicated loyalty rewards program is better than the rest of the telecom industry.

2. Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks)

As a company whose presence extends beyond the corner coffee shop and into homes, churches, and almost anywhere else you could imagine, Starbucks needs no introduction. You’d better hope with their record fiscal year in 2015 that they’d be able to afford a good social media marketing team.

What they’re doing right:

  • Frequent retweets and interactions with customers. Arguably more important than promoting the company, positive customer interactions online are what it’s all about. Starbucks recognizes this and uses their Twitter page to frequently share the love.
  • A well-placed hashtag is a happy hashtag. Almost every one of Starbucks’ tweets contains a hashtag, but they do it in a way that doesn’t seem like they’re trying to hard (#lookatus #wecanbecooltoo). My personal favorite would be #ProTip, which is basically Starbucks validating the Secret Menu. Their hashtag strategies enable the company to extend their reach without exhausting their followers.
  •  #MerryChristmasStarbucks. When a hashtag against you goes viral, you can either hide until it’s over or you can make up your own hashtag. Starbucks kept it classy and turned the whole situation around with #RedCupArt, which encouraged consumer interaction with the brand and shifted the Red Cup controversy into a merrier memory.

Five Things I Learned at SPARKsouth

Digital Marketing

On September 29th, 2017, I had the pleasure of spending all day in Atlanta listening to some pretty cool people talk about some pretty cool things.

For those of you who don’t know what SPARKsouth is, it’s a digital marketing conference held in Atlanta, GA designed to help students from throughout the Southeast launch their digital marketing careers. The conference is an all day affair featuring keynote speakers, panels comparing brand, agency, and entrepreneurial tracks, a mentor lunch, and casual networking. For students in digital marketing, the event exists to help them figure out what they want to do with their lives. For professionals already in digital marketing, the event is a place to give back by sharing what they’ve learned in the industry, while getting to recruit some of the best and brightest in the Southeast.

Here are five things that I took away from the experience:

1- Sometimes Passion Isn’t Always Enough

During one of the agency-track panels I attended, the speakers discussed how they came to find themselves working where they are today. A couple of the speakers mentioned that they had never dreamed of ending up working at a marketing agency. One of them had started out in journalism; she said she always knew writing was her true passion. But she said she also came to find that the job she had in journalism was making her miserable. It became clear listening to her story that passion isn’t always enough for your career.

You want your life’s work to be built around something more than a passion. You have to find what fascinates you and pursue that. Although your passions may be what interests you, the fascinations you have will be what drives you. Passion can burnout and fade, but fascination will always challenge you and entice you to keep learning, working, and growing.

2- Where You Start Out Isn’t Always Where You End Up

It became clear throughout the day, listening to and speaking with different professionals, that where you start in your career path isn’t always where you will find yourself in ten, fifteen, twenty years. So many of the professionals I spoke with mentioned starting out in completely different backgrounds. Some were economics majors in college, others focused on journalism or the arts.

I began to realize that it’s not always going to be about what degree you got or what your first job out of college was. You get exposed to so many opportunities throughout your life that you should never limit yourself to only what fits on the linear path you think you have to follow. Instead, let yourself get lost along the way. Give in to the “what-ifs” that you find yourself wondering about. The only opportunities you’ll regret are the ones you turn down.

3- Don’t Let Your Health Take a Backseat to Your Business

Being such the strong-minded Type A person that I am, I was ready to spend the rest of my life pushing the limits and spending every day working until I reach every one of the goals I’ve laid out for myself. But then I sat in on an entrepreneur-track panel, and it got very real. There I was, sitting in a room listening to three very successful (probably millionaires or close to it) entrepreneurs talking about how they spent their whole lives working day in and day out to get where they are. And then they said don’t do it. They weren’t saying don’t be successful or don’t pursue your goals, but they did say don’t do it at the expense of your health. After mentioning several experiences of hospitalizations and stress-related health problems, these people made it clear that you can’t just keep pushing and pushing without finally getting a push back.

Thanks to this panel, I now know that it’s okay to turn the phone/laptop/tablet off at 11pm every night. It’s okay to say no to things sometimes. It’s okay to carve out a little bit of time every day to dedicate to yourself. Although it may not always come naturally, it’s important that we all take the time to slow down occasionally, and regroup to focus on what really matters to us.

4- Balance Self-Confidence with Self-Awareness

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”. Dale Carnegie said it best. Networking is an important and necessary part of working in the business world, but it shouldn’t always just be about the idea of yourself you’re trying to sell to others. It is important that you know your strengths (and can show them to others), but it’s equally important to understand your weaknesses. Everyone loves confidence, but they love the humbled version of it. Let your actions speak to your abilities, and always remember that you can gain more from asking than you can from telling.

5- Never Stop Learning

Maybe this last one is a pretty obvious sentiment, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough. In the field of digital marketing, everything is changing, growing, improving by the second. You had to be able to adapt with it. If you get your degree, find a job, and then think, “well this should be good for the next thirty years”, you’ve got another think coming. As was repeatedly discussed throughout the entire day, this industry moves too fast for your learning to end after college.

Surround yourself with people of perspectives different from your own, learn from them. Get yourself a subscription to Harvard Business Review, then learn from it. Ask good questions, ask a lot of them, and then learn from the answers. You’ll always become a better version of who you were yesterday if you always challenge yourself and make every opportunity a learning experience.

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got. Inspired yet? If not, I suggest you go to the next SPARKsouth conference, it’s always better to hear it directly from the source.

Love It or Hate It: Instagram Stories

Digital Marketing, New Tech, Social Media

I think we can all agree that August 2nd, 2016 was a weird day for everyone not living under a rock. It was the day that our beloved photo- and video-sharing service introduced “Instagram Stories” to the world. Change is good. Change is necessary…Right?

Usually, yes. Especially in an industry that transforms so quickly that companies within are either forced to adapt or die. However this change that Instagram has made through its introduction of “Stories” just didn’t feel right.

First of all, it was a blatant copy of Snapchat Stories. Instagram didn’t even try to create a different name. Was that intentional or just lazy? We know what you’re doing Instagram. We KNOW.

Secondly, is a Stories feature even relevant to Instagram? I always considered Snapchat to Instagram as what Twitter is to Facebook. Snapchat is where it’s okay to get a little weird, not care how pixelated your photos are, and post videos from your drunken nights downtown because hey, they’ll be gone by the time you manage to crawl out of bed the next day. Instagram on the other hand has always been a ~classier~ place where you post pretty pictures and share things that you don’t mind your grandmother seeing. So what’s the point of adding Stories to it? The pictures I deem worthy for Instagram are typically filtered works of art. No way am I going to spend 20 minutes deciding what contrast and exposure to set my photo to, only to have to automatically wiped away 24 hours later. Even Instagram promotes itself as a vessel used to showcase the most aesthetic and creatively appealing content out there. So why include Stories if that content is only temporary and limited to those that follow you?

There are only two real ways that I see Instagram benefiting from this Stories feature:

  1. Celebrity users. The sting from Kim Kardashian’s takedown of Taylor Swift via leaked videos on her Snapchat is still fresh. The whole ordeal lead to thousands of new Snapchat followers for Kim Kardashian and more importantly, thousands of conversations that all conveniently revolved around Snapchat. Maybe Instagram watched this happen and wanted in on future action. Giving celebrities one platform for both permanent and temporary content certainly sounds nice. Especially for users that have already amassed millions on followers on Instagram and don’t want to have to start recruiting all over again for Snapchat.
  2. Advertising. AKA: the big bucks. There was certainly a lot of backlash when Instagram first announced they would be allowing advertisements to be included on users’ home feeds but that has sense died down as Instagram ensured that the marketing content is required to meeting the visually appealing standards of the service. Allowing advertisements into the Stories bar would be just an extension of this and maybe even be more comfortable for users to see. The success of allowing advertising on this feature has certainly already been proven by Snapchat’s recent revenue reports. Maybe Stories is just another way for Instagram to make a little more money.

Regardless of my feelings or speculations about Instagram Stories, it looks like it’s going to be sticking around for a while. It’s a cliché but only time will tell if this feature will be as successful as Instagram wants it to be. In the meantime, you can reach me on Snapchat (@liss.mkc)!

My 2017 Perspective:

Ah well here we are, a full year later and I find myself feeling rather humbled. Yes, Instagram Stories has surpassed Snapchat in daily users by a long shot. And yes, they continue to copy a lot of Snapchat’s best features, like filters and ads (putting their own twist on it of course).

In retrospect, a small piece of me knew this was how it would really play out. How could Instagram Stories fail? Facebook is a force to be reckoned with and when Snapchat turned down their $3 billion offer, we all should have seen this coming. Nobody puts Mark in the corner.

That being said, I have seen my assumptions about the “purposes” of each platform continue to hold true respectively. Yeah, we still post our drunken nights downtown on Snapchat. But with Stories, Instagram lets us show the classier version of our nights. You know, before they went downhill. There you’ll find the cute boomerangs of sparkling drink glasses clinking together, maybe with some fancy stickers added just for funsies. That much hasn’t changed. This example goes to show that Instagram Stories are definitely here to stay, but that they act more as an extending feature of Instagram and less as a carbon copy of Snapchat.

Personally, I still find myself using Snapchat consistently more than Stories when I want to share insignificant little bits of my life, but I see many of my peers taking to Instagram more every day. Truthfully, I just hope Instagram doesn’t make a pattern out of copying Snapchat, because I don’t want to see those damn Bitmojis any more than I have to.


Snapchat is Making a Spectacle

New Tech

Remember that time when Google promised us ‘Google Glass’ and then completely disappointed us? We were so excited when Google announced its plans to create a head-mounted, wearable computer. We thought we had finally made it to “the Future”. And then Google Glass was released, or at least a very expensive (~$1,500) beta version was, full of bugs and pretty much incomplete. It was all downhill from there, and the project has since been discontinued.

But don’t give up just yet! Snapchat is making headlines by attempting once again to take us all to the next level with their new (and limited) release of Snap Specs! Here is the need-to-knows on what exactly these crazy things are all about:


WHO: Snapchat! Well, actually, it’s just Snap now. The company did a little bit of housekeeping back in late September 2016 and now we will know them as ‘Snap, Inc.’

WHAT: ‘Spectacles’ are video-recording sunglasses with a 115-degree-angle lens. The wearer can take up to thirty seconds worth of video at any given time. Although only 10 seconds can be posted, the remaining time recorded will be broken into additional snaps. The recorded media will live on the glasses until you choose to transfer them to your Snapchat app, where they will be saved in the memories section.

It’s a one-size fits all deal, coming in colors of teal, coral, or black. The user gets an inward-facing light to signal that their camera is activated. To be slightly less creepy, everyone on the other side of the lenses gets an outward-facing light so that they know they are being filmed. The Specs come with a charging case with about a week’s worth of juice, although Snap promises that the glasses will last about a full day without requiring any charging. All this coming in at the low, low price of just $129.99.

WHERE: Alright so here’s the thing… Before you head over to Amazon or rush out of the house to go buy one of these new quirky colored wearable tech pieces, know that you probably won’t be able to find them.

Snapchat only just began selling Specs on November 10th, and they are in a very, very limited quantity. So limited, in fact, that you can only buy them from these minion-like yellow vending machines known as Snapbots. images.jpg

Seriously, why the minion face?

Anyways, the first sighting was in Venice, California, however they will continue to pop up unpredictably in different cities for a while. The Spectacles website will be providing a map to the Snapbot’s location 24 hours in advance (oh the suspense) and supposedly a local filter will become available to those on Snapchat who are within reach of the mysterious minion-machines.

WHY: So why risk the humiliating failure that Google went through with Glass? Some believe it’s Snapchat’s way of throwing down the gauntlet with Facebook, it’s biggest rival. If this endeavor is successful, it will prove that Snapchat is ready to start playing with the big boys and move beyond social-sharing into tech hardware.

For another thing, Snapchat is all about being cool and sharing personal moments with others. The glasses don’t look dorky like Google’s did (no offense, Google), so the adoption of this new device is already set up to be more successful with its target audience. Specs are also capable of reaching people on a level that Facebook can’t, simply because Facebook tends to be a little more formal and stiff than Snapchat is. I mean, you wouldn’t want to post a video on there that you grandmother could see, right?

And what’s just really cool is the bigger picture for users that Snapchat is attempting to connect with through Specs. CEO Evan Spiegel was quoted saying that recording video or taking photos with your phone “puts a wall in front of your face”. Snapchat is all about sharing your “in-the-moment” experiences with others, so that wall can be a problem for the user experience. Spectacles are intended to help tear down that wall and let people move out from the sidelines and actually be able to participate in the moment again.

Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not Spectacles will actually make it big. But the main point here is that Snapchat is proving with these Specs that they are still relevant. I’d like to see Instagram try and copy THAT.