Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where are the Marketers in the Employer Brand Conversation?

Heather Polivka

 If you are like most marketers, including yours truly before I entered this field, you probably just asked yourself “what is an Employer Brand?”

As someone who was in product management & marketing for many years, I had no idea that this field existed when I was first approached about my current role as the Director of Employer Branding & Marketing for UnitedHealth Group.

What is an Employer Brand?  It is the image of an organization as a “great place to work” in the minds of present, past and future employees as well as other key stakeholders in the external market such as clients, customers, stockholders, competitors and more.

The Employer Brand is closely associated to, and should be aligned with the Corporate/Organizational Brand as well as its Consumer Brand(s) to be authentic.  Yet the Employer Brand is distinct.  An Employer Brand essentially communicates that if the people of the organization help deliver on our promises to our customers (consumer brand), and realize our reason for being as an organization (corporate brand), then here is what the people of the organization can expect in return (employee value proposition).

Wal-mart.  They have had numerous lawsuits associated with their alleged employment practices.  Those lawsuits have an impact on how the customers and the communities they operate within perceive them. Thus profoundly impacting their Employer Brand and what present, future, and past employees think about the company.

Southwest Airlines has long been a case study for how the Employer Brand impacts the quality of the customer service delivery and the overall operational performance of the organization, resulting in an organization that is the exception to many airline industry performance metrics.  In this case, the Employer Brand positively drives both the consumer and corporate brand realization.

Given recent events, what has been the impact to the Employer Brand of companies like BP, the coal mining industry, General Motors, Toyota, or financial institutions?  Furthermore, what is the impact to the consumer brand at companies like Nestle, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Estee Lauder given recent lawsuits related to alleged unfair employment practices?

What’s my point?  It actually leads to more questions:  Why are Human Resource conferences, webinars and leaders the primary ones engaging in the discussion, development, and ongoing management of the Employer Brand?  When will our Marketing conferences, webinars, and leaders be equal contributors to the conversation?

If you are a marketing, PR, and communications leader, I invite you to set up a meeting with your HR leaders to discuss your employer brand, employer marketing, social recruiting strategies, and mobile recruiting strategies.  You might be surprised what you’ll learn.  And I know they’ll be appreciative and relieved at the value, knowledge, and experience you bring to the equation.

As social media continues to rise to the top of the food chain as part of many marketing strategies today, the evolving roles of our employees as brand ambassadors make the alignment between what we promise our shareholders, our customers, and our employees more important than ever. 

The time has come for us to join the conversation.  Not because it’s a nice thing to do. Because it’s the right thing to do to effectively manage our brands, drive business performance, and impact results. 
Heather Polivka led the development of the UnitedHealth Group Employer Brand, from the methodology, through the research and discovery phase, to the creative execution. Most recently, she launched the company’s social recruiting strategy as a key communication vehicle of the brand and continues to apply leading consumer marketing practices to United Health Group’s Employer Marketing and Talent Attraction strategy. Her passion for driving innovation, and her understanding of consumer behavior, was fueled by over ten years of product management with Target Corporation and as Managing Director of Product Marketing with Lenox Group, Inc. "At the end of the day, it is the authenticity and integrity of the brand that will determine the outcome."

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get the Best Bang for your Stamp

With the recent announcement of yet another postage increase coming in 2011, many marketers may be re-evaluating their direct mail campaigns and how they fit in their budget.  In just 10 years, the postage rate has increased from 34 cents in 2001 to a probable 46 cents in 2011, costing us 35% more to send out mail then a decade ago. This increase will hit those who mail periodicals and catalogs even harder.

For many companies, direct mail is still a viable marketing medium for gathering a direct response from customers and prospects. Sure, email newsletters or social networking are less expensive, but they do not hit all the same people that direct mail does.  Direct mail can reach a different audience and have more space to share the message. It can be a great way to target new customers to sign-up for email correspondence or engage in social networking, complementing your web marketing efforts.

Photo Credit: Steve 2.0


To get the most bang from your stamp, ask yourself:
  • Do I have a good relationship with my printer?  Is my printer competitively priced?  Keep your printer in check by requesting quotes and comparing them to others time to time.  But on the flip side, know that they can help you succeed once they know what you expect and get more volume from you. 
  • Is my direct mail list clean? Unless you are printing a fancy mailer or have a high-end promotional item, postage is probably your biggest expense. Reduce undeliverable mailers by cleaning up your list.  Mailing the pieces “address service requested” is one way to help ensure deliverability for future mailings.
  • Is my list targeted to match my goals and message? Drill down to the most targeted list. Often your best list will be your own database if you have spent some time polishing it and keeping your customer and prospects lists up to date.
  • Am I mailing at the right time? This is common sense, but it happens all the time.  Each of us has gotten the mailer for the event that was yesterday.  Don’t let it be you.
  • Am I offering an incentive to create direct response? This can be as simple as requesting information on a new product, if the product is exciting enough.  Other incentives could be an educational resource (online or print), a giveaway that has a high (perceived) value, or a “chance to win”.
  • Am if giving the customer the right outlets to respond with? Determine if a toll-free phone number, reply card, or a landing page will be most effective for your audience. Don’t forget to include social networking hubs.  To the customer, this may feel like a nice minimal-commitment connection with your company.
  • Do I have a system in place to maximize lead follow-up? The follow-up is crucial to converting the lead into a customer.  Have the technology (CRM software) and lead follow-up process ready prior to mailing. 
Have your direct mail campaigns changed over the years? How have you successfully increased your response and/or decreased your cost per lead? What other tips can you share regarding an effective direct mail campaign?

Jackie Kaufenberg is the Marketing Manager for Altimate Medical Inc. in Morton, Minnesota. They manufacture standing frames for people who use wheelchairs and also have a blog for people with disabilities, and medical professionals. You can reach her via Twitter @jkaufenberg.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tweet to win a “coffee cupping” or tour at Caribou event Sep. 23

Lisa Baker

Don’t miss out on the chance to win a special experience at our upcoming “Pour It Like You Mean It: The Evolution of the Caribou Coffee Brand event”. Just follow us on Twitter and watch for tweets containing “Contest” as the first word.


We want to spread the word about our upcoming programs to both AMA members and their networks. By engaging with you via social media, we hope you like what you see and experience, and interact with us again and frequently.

  • 9 winners will get to participate in a coffee cupping (like a wine tasting but with coffee)
  • 20 winners will get to participate in a tour of the corporate facilities and warehouse

  • Follow @MNAMA on Twitter
  • Watch for MNAMA tweets starting with “Contest” between Aug. 17 and Sep. 21
  • There will be 3-4 contests including:
    •  A specific retweet request
    • A series of trivia questions (you must correctly answer all questions in the series)
    •  Tweet your fill-in-the-blank response using the correct event information
  •  Be the first to respond - we’ll choose winners in order of correct responses

  • Participants must be registered for the event before they are eligible to win contests. You do not need to be an AMA member.
  • Response to contest questions must include the hashtags #MNAMA and #Caribou
  • Winners can only win once; you can win a coffee cupping or a tour, not both.
  • Winners must allow for an additional 30 minutes after the event on Sep. 23 for the coffee cupping and tour.

Watch for details and winner announcements on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.             
Questions? Feel free to leave a comment here or reach us via Twitter @MNAMA. Good luck, and spread the word!

Lisa Baker manages B2B and B2C marketing for health advocacy products at CIGNA Healthcare, and she also owns her own agency - Elbie Marketing, LLC. She has a B.A. in communications and M.A. in ethnographic marketing research and servant leadership.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Creativity or Desperation: It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Barrie Berquist

With the recession still looming, jobs are still scarce and job candidates are almost as numerous as mosquitoes in Minnesota. It is not uncommon for several hundred people to apply for 1 opening at a particular company. With so many applicants, recruiters rely heavily on computers to help sift through the applications and make the first cuts. If your application does make it in front of a human, it usually gets only a few seconds of attention before either being tossed into the pile for further consideration or the pile to be recycled.

Some candidates are altering their job search strategies to include using creative methods to grab the attention of the hiring managers. I heard of a candidate who mailed a shoe to a hiring manager with a note reading, “I just want to get my foot in the door at XYZ Company.” Another sent a coffee mug with a request to take the hiring manager out for a cup of coffee. I have heard of candidates posting video resumes on YouTube, placing commercials on cable TV, and standing on street corners holding signs advertising their skills.

As marketers, many see this as an opportunity to showcase creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking. Others see it as a desperate attempt to stand out from the crowd. What do you think?

• Considering the current economic climate, are these types of efforts creative or desperate?
• Have you or anyone you know used creative methods such as these? If so, what did you (or someone else) do? What was the result?
• If you were a hiring manager, how would you respond to tactics such as these?

Share your thoughts. We’d love to hear them!

Barrie Berquist is a Retail Analyst on the ConAgra Foods Team at Acosta Sales and Marketing. She has been a member of the MN AMA since 2007 and is a member of the MarCom Committee where she serves as the Career Insider Blog Project Manager. She can be reached at barrieberquist@yahoo.com. You can follow Barrie on Twitter

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

U2: Music Marketing Tweaked for a Hypercompetitive Digital World, While Still Appealing to Emotion

Clever use of the four P’s of marketing is only the beginning to a successful marketing plan in a business world that is becoming more hypercompetitive due to corporate partnerships, the growth of the internet, and the consolidation of companies and brands. Amid these challenges, marketers are well advised to draft multi channel marketing plans that use the best digital technology and corporate sponsorships to reach their target market.

For example, a rock band may want to allow people to upload fan photos and videos to their web-site with the hopes of connecting with the emotions of fans who have experienced the bands show, or even something different than that – a Blackberry sponsorship. This drives traffic and sales on the band’s web-site by appealing to the inclusion emotion. Yet, a multi channel plan would also see the band partnering with Apple iTunes to sell individual songs and digital albums, but not DVDs, t-shirts, and other fan merchandise that would be found on the band’s web-site, and also sold at retail outlets like Target and Best Buy.

Also, the band’s web-site is well advised to offer a free downloadable music video as a promotion to buy a concert DVD, or in the case of U2, a complete concert posted free on YouTube – the promotion. The case of U2 is interesting because they were trying to fill the online marketing space in their target market with the hopes of promoting a major tour, several records, DVDs, and importantly pushing other musical brands out of the media spotlight. They were promoting the enterprise of U2 at a significant cost because many people may not buy the U2 DVD that was offered for free on YouTube. Yet many more people are aware of the U2 brand because of their free YouTube show. Note a smaller band could not get away with U2’s marketing plan because they do not have the catalogue of cds, DVDs, and merchandise that U2 has. U2 is in the maturity phase of the product life cycle and uses the above business partnerships to reduce their costs.

Jeremy Swenson, MBA – 2010, is an experienced marketer, marketing manager, sales person, and business analyst/academic. He has extensive product experience with mortgages, loan/lines, checking accounts, savings accounts, money markets accounts, pay day loans, CDs, property and causality insurance, playing jazz, and even some basic experience auditing employee benefit programs. Additionally, his background includes federal work experience as a Rural Associate Carrier with the U.S.P.S. and as an Enumerator with the U.S. Census Bureau (Dept. of Commerce) in 2000. You can reach Jeremy at jer.swenson@live.com.
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