Thursday, November 27, 2014

Just In Time for Black Friday, Lisa Burdige (GSAS '90) Explains How Marketing Changes Our Purchase Decisions

What did you study at NYU? 

I went to NYU to study creative writing and literature. I never wanted to work in advertising. In fact, for most of my twenties I looked at those “agency experience only” jobs with a bit of disdain. I didn't even have a TV until after I was out of grad school! I fell into my first advertising job about 10 years ago. In truth, I went in for the money, but I stayed for the people – they were interesting, creative and a lot smarter than I had expected.

What is your current position? 

My job now is as Creative Director at Rosetta Marketing. My background is as a copywriter and my forte is developing compelling brand content, telling brand stories and honing a brand voice mostly online and including social media. I know that this sounds very marketing and “jargonny” but ironically, my studies at NYU prepared me for a career in advertising in several ways. Here are three pillars of what I learned at NYU that's made me a really good Creative Director.

1) It’s not the story, it's how you tell the story.
2) Have something to say, or no one will listen to you.
3) Do your research.

For those who aren't familiar with it, how would you explain the concept of "content strategy"?

That’s a good question. Right now, there's a lot of talk about how content is king. And if you think about it it makes sense. If you don't have anything to talk about, you don't have a reason to communicate. Brands want to communicate with consumers as much as possible -- via broadcast like TV commercials, via social media, via traditional print ads. By generating content, they have something to talk about. But a brand can’t talk about just anything – they can, but consumers may not take them seriously. That’s why you need really good content strategy to help you determine content that’s appropriate for a brand and of interest to its consumers. Think about it this way – maybe you have your foodie friends and your fashionista friends. Who do you turn to when you want to find a great restaurant? Probably your foodie friends. Just like you’d probably ping your fashionista friends when you want to know if your patent leather boots are going to make you look dated. By establishing trust that your brand knows what they’re talking about, you establish a platform to start a conversation.

A brand wants to tell you as much as possible about itself – what it is, what it does, why it’s the best or better than the competition. . . But brands that only tout their own agenda don’t get a lot of traction. In order to engage with a consumer, you need to provide something of value to the consumer. Sometimes that can be transactional like a coupon or a prize but there are other ways of providing value – like entertainment, relevant information, or an opportunity.

With the holidays coming up, it's interesting to think about how much the internet has changed the way we make purchases. Now that brands are thinking more about content strategy and social media, how is that influencing our purchase decisions? 

Social media is definitely influencing our purchase decisions. People tweet out and share good deals. People post what they want on Facebook – which is basically free advertising. Lots of people “shop” Pinterest. I personally think Pinterest has so much growth potential. In many ways, Pinterest is a virtual catalog curated by your friends and connections with common interests – which is both cool and scary.

But even Snapchat is driving point of sale. According to DMR, 58 percent of college students would likely buy a product from a brand that sent them a Snapchat coupon. It seems suspiciously convenient that Snapchat’s newest money sending feature was launched just in time for the holidays.

For Gen X and Millennials, Social Media is status quo – so it’s obvious that it will influence holiday purchases – but the phenomenon definitely spans the generations. All and all I recently read that 90 percent of consumers collectively will be shopping online.

What about Black Friday? 

Black Friday is interesting in itself as a content strategy case study. Creating a holiday is a marketing trick. We think about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as real holidays -- they were basically created to sell greeting cards. They stuck because people cared, or thought they should care, about their moms and dads.

Black Friday was also invented – why did it stick? Why were we able to create a bona fide calendar event – a cultural institution -- around shopping? Maybe it’s because it exploits the confluence of a bunch of different cultural and emotional factors. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and people are stuffed with thoughts, social posts and marketing messages about family. The end of Thanksgiving signals the unofficial beginning of the winter holidays – with all its urgent marketing messaging around “not missing out” on getting the perfect gift. (We basically suffer through a marketing advent calendar from Thanksgiving to Christmas – each day instead of a chocolate we get a “deal”. ) But when I think about it, the insight that drives the success of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) is that people want to be in the know. They want to be insiders. The great deal is the tangible benefit of that satisfaction.

The reason that Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday are case studies in genius content strategy is because they offer so much to talk about – and argue about – and complain about.

Who's giving out the best deals? Where do you find them? Should you shop on line or support local? Are these deals even legit – or are they just hype? Should there even be shopping on Thanksgiving weekend?

The desire for what you really want for yourself, your friends and your family gets amplified in the conversation about other people’s purchases. And yes, it creates desire for “stuff” you get exposed to. After all you don’t want to be the one giving lame gifts.

For more information on Lisa visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @LisaBurdige.

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