Category: Brands


The American Girl Place and Content Marketing Perfected

January 26th, 2011 — 12:56pm

While in Chicago this weekend I brought my seven-month-old daughter to the American Girl place. I’m pretty against the kind of commercialism that American Girl dolls encourages, so I figured it’d be good to take her there now while she won’t remember it.

I didn’t know a whole lot about the American Girl phenomenon, and I won’t pretend to be an expert after having visited one store. But I will say that I am amazed at how well that brand has perfected content marketing.

If you know anything about American Girl dolls, then you know I’m not saying anything new. You’ll just have to forgive me. As a new dad, this whole franchise was foreign to me.

For those who don’t know, American Girl dolls are, at first glance, simply grossly overpriced toys. But take a second look and suddenly you get it.

It’s not the doll.

It’s the story.

Each American Girl doll comes with a story. Kitt is from New York and wants to be a writer when she grows up. So-and-so grew up during the Great Depression and is working as an actress to help pay the bills. Etc. Etc.

American Girl’s primary value isn’t in the doll. It’s in the story. But because they’ve invested so much in the stories, they’re able to spin off a hundred different products from it.

And once you’ve visited the American Girl Place in Chicago, it all clicks. Books. Videos. Movies. A magazine. You name it.

They probably have an iPhone app.

(UPDATE: They don’t. But they do have an online university where girls can go to play games and different activities online.)

Comment » | Brands, Marketing

Dean Lavine addresses Medill graduate students over lunch

November 2nd, 2007 — 1:26pm

Medill logoMedill Dean John Lavine told a group of Medill graduates today, “we are aggressively looking at a set of new clients” for their graduate run Medill News Service.

As we at Medill here have started turning more towards multimedia journalism, the clients who subscribe to our graduate-run wire service haven’t been able to support some of the Flash-based video pieces we’ve produced for our Web site Medill Reports.

The Medill News Service, a wire service run by graduate students at the Medill School of Journalism has provided local coverage on Chicago politics, business, legal affairs, etc. for area publications since 1995. Basically, Medill graduate students report in Chicago, and Chicago-area publications who can’t afford the reporting pay for the stories. (Clients include the Daily Herald, the Daily Southtown, the Northwest Indiana Times, the Chicago Defender, among others.) The Medill News Service also runs a Washington Bureau. Washington clients include the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and the Greeley Tribune in Colorado.
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3 comments » | Brands, Medill, New Media, News, Newspapers, Online Communities

Christian Century opens up site to independent bloggers

October 27th, 2007 — 5:05pm

A big move for an old magazine
An editor over at U.S. Catholic, where I worked this past summer, informed me that the Christian Century, a Christian magazine with more than one hundred years of history opened up its site to independent bloggers. (Founded in 1884, it was renamed the Christian Century in anticipation of the 20th century!)

Christian Century logoFirst off, I wanted to point it out and give kudos to the staff over at Christian Century for making the move.

Secondly, apparently the way it all started was one writer, Real Live Preacher, taking it upon himself to come up with the idea and recruit all bloggers to make it happen. This fact illustrates an important facet of opening up your site, or your platform as a more traditional or mainstream news and information site. The mantra, “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t work.

There needs to be someone, whether it is a writer on staff or a community outreach coordinator or advocate, reaching out to bloggers to convince them to contribute. They can write anywhere. You have to convince them it is better to do so on your site.

Or you may have to do more…
This past spring I worked with a dozen other graduate students in the spring on the Medill Media Management project. In the course of our research into hyperlocal community news sites, we spoke with some editors at the Rocky Mountain News. When they launched YourHub, a community news site reliant heavily on user generated content, they stressed the importance of soliciting content from the community. Actively. One editor told us that if you have to go door to door and explain to people what a blog is and how it works, then that’s what it takes.

Now not all of us have the resources of the Rocky Mountain News, but to be in conversation with the community (or audience, or readership, or viewership, or whatever), you need to truly be in conversation with the community.

Comment » | Brands, Journalism, Media, Medill, News, Newspapers, Online Communities

Medill School of Journalism trains journo-bloggers

October 26th, 2007 — 10:38am

I’ve read a couple of articles recently describing blogs as the next prime internet real estate that main stream media companies are gobbling up.

Media companies, in other words, are buying up audiences. This is one way they can compete in the new Web 2.0 arena.

Black Medill LogoHere at Medill, Rich Gordon, who directs New Media studies, has revamped the New Media Storytelling class. Whas was once a crash course in HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and even a bit of Flash, now involves identifying an audience, setting up a Wordpress blog, installing Google analytics and posting daily. They are embracing, it seems, the importance for young journalists to build their own audiences and establish their own brands.

Does anyone else know of other J-schools embarking down the same road?

Here’s a link to the class blog and below are a few of my favorites from the course, which (in full disclosure) I am not enrolled. It appears the class site, as well as the individual student’s blogs, are just getting underway. But definitely interesting.

The Sidewalk – a blog on urban development by Ki Mae Huessner.

Sprockets & Cogs – a “tech-ish” blog by Amy Lee.

My Fare Chicago – a food blog by Kelsey Blackwell (which I’ve always thought was a great idea. You’ve got three posts idea easy, and that’s before snacking!)

2 comments » | Brands, Journalism, Media, Medill, News, Newspapers, Social Media

The virtue of sticking it out at old (established) media and marketing companies

October 18th, 2007 — 10:41pm

“Quit.”

That’s what Christie Hefner, CEO of Playboy Enterprises, Inc., told a convention of new marketers to do if their aging bosses didn’t “get” social media last week at the Forrester Consumer Forum on social media and branding in Chicago.

Get your resume out on the street, she advised.

If they haven’t seen the writing on the wall yet, you won’t be able to change their mind.

Her remark drew a laugh, and the lively room of new media advertisers and marketers (with titles such as “digital strategist” and “engagement officer”) smiled at each other in the confidence that they “get it.” But here’s why they were wrong.

If a CEO or aging marketing exec doesn’t “get it,” they’re probably on the way out

After Hefner finished her speech I spoke with a couple of account directors from Whittmanhart in Chicago. Hefner’s main point, they noted, makes sense given her position: don’t align yourselves with those who shun social media. But it doesn’t necessarily hold true for young hires.

Trusted brands don’t sprout overnight. From a media perspective, magazines are a perfect example. While plenty of them are struggling with their print editions, it may make sense to stick with them. After those aging marketing executives take their leave, it may prove easier to open up their brand and their platform than to establish brand equity in a startup from scratch..

My favorite example is Ebony, which has struggled to define itself online. But what brand has more equity than Ebony? For those wishing their companies would “embrace social media,” moving to a startup or latching onto something less-established might provide short term relief, but sticking it out could pay off in other ways.

 Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research Inc.

Comment » | Brands, Journalism, Marketing, Social Media, Technology

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