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    Karen’s latest article in the Business Journals touches on the personal impact of the recent round of major layoffs at Target Corporation. Join in the conversation by leaving us your comments.


    My phone was ringing off the hook Tuesday with news and updates from friends at Target, which had just laid off 1,700 corporate employees.

    All the messages brought me right back to my own experience in 2009 when I was part of the marketing layoffs at the Minneapolis-based retailer.

    That uneasy feeling, the pit in your stomach, the sadness of saying goodbye to colleagues, the reality of packing your office and walking out the door with the news media standing there taking video — UGH! It all came rushing back and felt very raw. I understand those going through the turmoil. You can never brace yourself for something like this even when you know its coming.

    When I got my news in 2009, I had just gotten married, moved into a new house, and found out I was laid off the day after arriving home from our honeymoon. Ouch. Talk about a tough re-entry! It took me a few hours to get my head around it enough to even call my newly-minted husband and tell him that the honeymoon really was over.

    But what ended up being a very difficult time was also rather liberating. I’m a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason,” but I understand not everyone subscribes to this philosophy.

    Six years later I can reflect and share a few of the lessons from my rearview mirror.

    It’s OK to take time for yourself

    This may seem like the furthest thing from your mind when you’ve lost a job, but it can be very therapeutic. In fact, I would argue that this time CAN be part of the job search process — if used effectively.

    I was able to take a couple months of downtime to get reorganized and refocused before I made decisions about what’s next. This time also allowed me to slow down and listen to what my instincts were telling me, rather than jumping into something I might have regretted later. I’ve spoken to others from my “Class of 2009” who also felt the same way and were glad they had some time to digest and recalibrate.

    If finances allow, it could mean taking a dream vacation that you’ve been thinking about but didn’t have the time off. It could also mean re-evaluating your passions and career — maybe making a change, going back to school, or moving to a different city.

    It became crystal clear to me after a couple months that I needed to open my own agency, which many people along the way had told me I should do, but now the choice became so much easier. It was something I never would have done if not given this “opportunity.” If you take time to really understand what you want to do and can clearly articulate it, this will also help others in your network be able to help you when the time is right.

    When there are peaks and valleys in my business, I try to come back to the value of taking some down time for reflection and repositioning my compass.

    Continue reading the rest of the story in the March Business Journal here.

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    Karen’s latest article in the Business Journals touches on the biggest advertising event of the year, the Super Bowl. Join in the conversation by leaving us your comments!


    It’s always fun to play Monday morning quarterback when it comes to the Super Bowl ads. There are always some fan favorites and some duds.

    The tone and messaging this year was decidedly subdued and serious, attempting to create a brand connection through emotions and meaningful content told through the storytelling format.

    As I listened to the morning coverage and thought about the ads from Sunday night’s game, I wondered what ads I would do differently.

    What if any of these products were my clients — how would I have advised them? What may have turned an average ad into an outstanding one? What were the advertising and marketing principles at play?

    Here’s what I came up with:

    1. Turbo Tax and the Boston Tea Party

    The first ad I would want a “do over” for is the Turbo Tax spot that appeared early in the game. It featured a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party — but reimagined the outcome without paying to file the tax. It highlighted the company’s “Absolute Zero” free federal and state tax filing.

    There were a few reasons I didn’t like this ad, but first and foremost is the fact that they already have a successful campaign running called, “Taxes Are Your Life — Only Simpler.” The current campaign cleverly shows various life events that impact your taxes, and that doing your own taxes online should be easy, making it less intimidating to the general consumer. It’s the perfect combination of humor and product positioning. Turbo Tax also uses the tagline, ” It’s Amazing What You’re Capable Of,” which instills confidence and empowerment.

    The Super Bowl ad seemingly abandons the current campaign with this one-off historical piece. The ad is dark and heavy, leaving the consumer to either follow the ad until the end to understand the product or make a snack run.

    We are in prime tax-prep season, so the timing of the ad is perfect, but the execution was not. Not only was this an expensive spot to run –— at 60 seconds, it cost almost $9 million in media — it also looked like an incredibly expensive spot to produce with a large pool of talent, costumes, a set and props.


    If I were to advise this client, I would look for a way to expand and build on the current campaign — perhaps with more humor around the life events that impact our taxes. Think of the funny scenarios you could build around having a baby, moving, or even starting a business! The ads would always drive back to the message that doing your own taxes online is easier than you think. I think this is a strong and important message, coupled with the tagline, and they should continue to utilize the equity they’ve earned here.

    Marketing Lesson:

    Don’t change just for the sake of change (or the sake of the SuperBowl)

    Continue reading full article published in the Business Journals here…

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    BUSINESSJOURNALSThe team at Station K & Company is proud to announce that our leading lady, Karen, is now a Contributing Writer for The Business Journals!  Her first article appears today and will be published nationally in all 43 Business Journal Markets.  Enjoy her inaugural piece and join the conversation by posting your thoughts and feedback!

    5 Business Lessons From My Life In A Sorority

    Greek life at most college campuses conjures up images of all-night parties and rowdy fraternity guys. But there’s a side of fraternity and sorority life that most people don’t see unless they’ve been part of it. At its core, Greek life — specifically being in a leadership role in the chapter — is hands-on training for many essential life and business skills.

    Most fraternities and sororities have an executive council of leadership (“Exec”) that runs the chapter, spearheading things like budgets, rushing new members, and philanthropic activities. Each member of Exec is responsible for his or her elected office plus the house as a whole. As an active Exec member— and eventual president of my chapter at the University of Minnesota — here are some of the incredible lessons I learned that still apply to my career today.

    1. The art of diplomacy

    When you lead a group of more than 100 women, you’re going to experience tension, especially when you have to live with them while leading them. You can’t go home at night and tell your spouse about your crazy co-worker and come back the next day with a fresh start — you also have to eat dinner, participate in events, study, and maybe share a room with other members who may not like the decisions you make.

    The art of diplomacy helped me understand that:

    • What you say is just as important as how you say it. People usually give the benefit of the doubt, but only if leaders are honest and straightforward — especially when it comes to difficult decisions.
    • You need to be empathetic. As a house, we were wired to work as a team, so when one person was impacted by something, it impacted everyone. Listen to what’s being said (and what’s not being said) in any situation, and seek to understand first — deal with facts first and emotions next. Both play a role in leadership and decision making.
    • It’s important to maintain positive and constructive relationships with people, whether you live with them or not. Believe it or not, you can be civil even if you disagree with someone! I’ve found that using candor, humor and authenticity usually yields good results.

    2. The basics of running a business

    Just like any business, Exec makes difficult decisions regarding expenses, staffing and house rules. The committee is responsible for the full operations of the house year-round — things like feeding the chapter members, paying house bills, budgeting for activities, and dealing with unforeseen expenses. If you didn’t do your job, you were going to hear from 100 angry girls who had to take cold showers!

    3. The right thing to do might be against the rules

    One of the other responsibilities of the Exec team is establishing and enforcing house rules — including taking action if chapter members needed to go on probation for not following the rules or meeting the sorority’s mandatory GPA. You can imagine how sensitive and difficult this was.


    Continue reading full article here…

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    It’s impossible to miss Procter & Gamble’s presence at the Winter Games. What began in 2012 as a long-term relationship with the Olympics has been expertly executed as a fully integrated worldwide marketing campaign as the “Proud Sponsor Of Moms.” The global campaign brings together 34 brands under the P&G umbrella, and will feature sponsorship of 150 athletes. How did they pull this off? The outstanding execution of P&G’s marketing campaign is built on these key pillars:

    1. Expanded Sponsorship

    2. Tailored Messaging

    3. Staying True To Their Brand

    4. Bringing Content Marketing To Sports Marketing.


    Proctor and Gamble Because of Mom

    If you’ve been watching the Olympics at all, you’ve certainly seen the omnipresence of Procter & Gamble products and advertising. From razors to detergent to paper towels and skincare, you’ve seen it, heard it and read about it – all from P&G. What struck me as different this year is how cohesive and seamless the brands are integrated into your Olympics experience. Not only are the brands integrated into the viewer’s experience at home, they are very visible on-site in Sochi, Russia too. The P&G presence at the Olympics this year brings a new meaning to the marketing mix of sponsorship + advertising + experience.

    It began with P&G Sponsoring the TV Special “How To Raise An Olympian” watched by millions of viewers the night before opening ceremonies. It showcased a handful of athletes and their journey to the Olympics through the eyes of their parents. Heartwarming stories of common people with uncommon talent and how they overcame their individual set of challenges and tribulations to make their dreams come true.  The only advertising that ran during the program was for various P&G products. These brands being combined with the charismatic and hopeful stories created a feeling of happiness and gratitude for the viewers. A powerful alignment for any brand – and it was owned exclusively by P&G.

    The keynote P&G brands all have their own Olympic-themed ads that are running during the games as well – Pampers showcases how a good night sleep in their diapers could lead your toddler to Olympic greatness. Gillette cleverly plays on the word “hair” as they describe how something so small and insignificant to most of us can be the difference between a winning medal or not at the Olympics. No matter what event you were watching, at what time, or on what channel – you were likely to see any of these P&G commercials a number of times – again creating a positive association between your experience and their brands.

    P&G extended their brands and advertising to an on-site “P&G House” in the Athletes Olympic Village stocked with their products for athletes and their families to use. They successfully extended their brand to the grounds of the Olympics and allowed athletes to feel, touch and see the brands in action – at a time when the athletes are likely missing some of the comforts of home. P&G saw the value in having this experience because they are committed to fulfilling their sponsorship 360 degrees to those that they sponsor. Again, they’re not throwing a check at the sponsorship and just walking away – they are walking the walk by adding value and creating a relationship with the people they are there to support.

    Even with the new messages and experiences that P&G brought to the Olympics this year, their advertising was still solidly rooted in the foundation of their “Thanks Mom” campaign. They’ve used this campaign during the Olympics for years, so audiences have come to recognize the ads and the tagline. They keenly and skillfully reinvent how it’s being used and showcase different ways to pay homage to moms. This keeps the campaign from getting stale and outdated, and infuses a fresh voice into the advertising every two years.

    The brilliance of P&G’s advertising throughout the Olympics is the result of these key components:

    1. Extended Sponsorship – they are a key sponsor of the Olympics, which basically gives them the right to use the Olympic logo and name for a (not so small) fee. But they didn’t just throw money at a sponsorship and sit back. They took the sponsorship to the airwaves, to print, and to an on-site experience with meaningful messages that resonated with audiences.

    2. Tailored Messaging – each of the brands that advertised during the Olympics uncovered a unique and compelling message about how the product relates to the games or the athletes. They could choose to run their regular TV spots during the Olympics, but instead they created a series of spots to run specifically during this time that will reinforce their sponsorship and align their brands with the feel-good atmosphere of the Olympic events. This is no easy task – thinking of new ways that shampoo and diapers relate to athletics AND the general consumer in a meaningful way.  

    3. Staying True To The Brand – Building on their “Thanks Mom” campaign continues to build equity in that tagline, while maintaining consistent messaging and voice among the P&G brands during this special time when we rally around our athletes and our country. With each new Olympic season, P&G finds a way to infuse a new component into the campaign, while keeping the sentiment of thanking mom for all she has done. This year, they extended the “Thanks Mom” message with the TV special “How To Raise An Olympian” and with the on-site P&G house catering to athletes and their visiting families. They embraced social media by placing fan engagement front and center with the Twitter presence #thanksmom and #BecauseOfMom.

    4. Content Marketing Meets Sports Marketing – As content marketing continues to grow and we look for new ways to infuse brands and products into the social norm of everyday experiences, P&G has demonstrated how to do this with their sports marketing package. They holistically engaged the consumer with timely and compelling messages at different points along their Olympic experience. Sports marketing of yester-year would mean popping up a few banners along the ski slopes, putting a P&G patch on the athlete’s jackets, and maybe an ad or two. P&G has skillfully demonstrated how to include and engage both the athlete, the viewer, and the consumer with their brands in a way in which most people may not even know they’re doing it.  


    P&G Brand commercial “Pick Them Back Up”

    Bounty: U.S. Olympic Medalist Julie Chu 

    Gilette: “By A Hair”

    Pampers: “Winter Olympics”


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