Student Spotlight: Linda Hays

Six Takeaways from the KMG Symposium

By Linda Hays

When I started my Kellstadt journey, one of my first experiences at DePaul was attending the Kellstadt Marketing Group’s Annual Symposium. Since then, every year the KMG Symposium is one of my most valuable memories and learning experiences at DePaul. As my second and last symposium as a member of the KMG Board, this year’s symposium was bittersweet for me, but one of the best yet. I walked away with insights into marketing trends, a better understanding of how marketing will evolve, and ideas to apply in my work as a marketing professional. Here I’d like to share with you my key takeaways from this year’s symposium.

How marketers can connect to Gen Z consumers

Becky Thomas of Be Greater Consulting shared the keys to reaching this key group of consumers with $44 billion in spending power – compared to $200 million for Millennials. First, the channels used need to seamlessly integrate into the technology Gen Z spends so much of their time with, particularly Instagram and Snapchat. With these channels and our decreasing attention spans, marketers have limited time to reach a Gen Z audience. This makes video a great medium to market to Gen Z. Marketers need to tread lightly though, so they’d don’t fall into the trap of trying too hard to seem like they’re hip to the Gen Z trends. Gen Z values authenticity and organic content, not “faked” perfection.

How to gain loyalty and insights while protecting consumer data

To better understand customers and increase loyalty, consumer data is crucial. However, scandals like Cambridge Analytica have made consumers more resistant to sharing their information with companies. This panel, moderated by Chicago Blockchain Project founder “Disruptive Joe” Hernandez, explored possible solutions for this challenge. According to Kate Hogenson of Kobie Marketing, the information you want to get from your customers needs to be relevant and you need to get their permission. She said loyalty programs can help customers be more willing to volunteer their information because they perceive they’re getting a value exchange. Jennifer Kautz of Walgreens agreed, saying “You have to know your customer and what they care about.”

Ted Miller of Synchrony Financial suggested blockchain could also be a solution for consumers’ privacy concerns because a blockchain system doesn’t need to know your identity but can identify your profile of behavior that would be relevant insights for a marketer. While many people think of loyalty as being more of a B2C space, Lisa Rowland of Allianz Global acknowledged how technology can support B2B loyalty by “enhancing human connection.” Customer information can enable sales reps with insights and data to make their customers’ human experiences better. “It’s about what you’re doing with the data at the end of the day,” she said.

Branding is like dating, sailing and an interpretive dance

In one of the most energetic panel discussions of the day, we learned what it takes to make unforgettable branding experiences. According to Ken Kring of Walgreens, “Customers are looking for something in a brand like dating: who would they want to get stuck in an elevator with?” It’s not all about offering the right products and services for your customers – they’re looking for a brand they like and perceive to be compatible with their own identities. By making this kind of connection with a brand, consumers develop emotional attachments to that brand. So as Brendan Shea of Walker Sands cautioned, “You better have a very good reason before doing any kind of rebrand.”

Jeff Hoffmeister of Kantar Millward Brown acknowledged that marketers assume that consumers get sick of a brand faster than they really do, but there’s a fear in marketing that a brand gets “stale”. However, Hoffmeister said that marketers need the brand to be the “North Star” of who the company is and what it stands for, to guide the company for its customers. So with this guiding force of a brand, consistency is key.

One of the biggest challenges in branding, though, is when there’s a disconnect between the brand you want your customers to perceive and the brand that they actually receive. That’s when you need to consider Ken Kring’s interpretive dance, working from the head to heart with executives and customers.

Machine learning could unlock secrets to marketing – with caution

In 2019, one of the top learning trends includes transfer learning, which is storing knowledge gained from solving one problem and applying it to another problem. Dr. Utku Pamuksuz explained how using this practice, researchers were able to predict a person’s BMI from their face by using photos submitted by Reddit users who also disclosed their height and weight. Using facial features from this photo data can also be used to predict features such as gender and age. Researchers were also able to predict age groups by using language data and metadata features of Twitter users.

The value of this data extends beyond predicting someone’s demographics, though. It can also be used to verify lifestyle habits such as tobacco usage, anxiety, and stress. This information can be useful to validate something like a life insurance application, but Dr. Pamuksuz cautioned that once this kind of data model is developed it can be used by anyone for anything. Therefore, there is potential for these kinds of models to be used unethically. The question that is still being debated today, then, is whose responsibility It is to control these kinds of data models.

The next evolution of communication goes beyond screens

Though the emergence of virtual reality headsets on the consumer market have shown how technology is evolving the customer experience, the opportunities in immersive technology extend beyond VR. Matt Wren of BUNDLAR spoke about trends in augmented reality (AR) and how this technology can benefit marketers. As Millennials and Gen Z place more value in convenience, unique experiences, and belonging, this makes AR a fitting channel to market to them. Consumers habits of treating smartphones like an appendage also make AR more engaging and adaptable.

Research has shown that consumers are more likely to purchase when they use AR in a retail environment. Some examples include the Zara app, which shows a 3D augmented model in Zara clothes, which increased sales by 9% after launch. AR was also used to launch an Australian wine label, 19 Crimes, to a viral status. The app allows customers to see their wine labels “come to life” with engaging true stories of convicts sent to the Australian penal colony. AR’s opportunities can extend beyond retail applications too – it’s been used to promote universities and educational programs, increase engagement at trade shows, enhance on-site training, and even create a mind-blowing concert experience during Eminem’s performance at Coachella.

Careers can always continue to evolve

While the evolution of marketing was the focus of the speakers and panels for most of the day, this last panel turned to the evolution of one’s own career. With many current graduate students attending the symposium, this topic was also hot on the minds of the audience. Moderated by beloved professor Dr. Zafar Iqbal, this panel hosted four speakers who shared their perspectives and different career path experiences. As Zafar noted, each of the panelists represented the four most common questions he’s asked about career growth:

  • Should I change jobs and/or industries?

  • How do I transition from a well-established career to do something totally different?

  • Should I move from a well-established career to starting my own business?

  • How do I move on from one company I’ve been at for a while into a new career?

First, we heard from Vanessa Velasco, Senior Manager of Events and Marketing with the Society of Women Engineers. Her story of career evolution involved not only moving physically from California to Wisconsin to Chicago, but also from moving from small business to corporate to her current role in nonprofit. When finding the right fit for her at the right time in her career, Vanessa was exploring different areas to “see what makes me most passionate, what lights me up.”

Next, we heard from a familiar face for recent Kellstadt students. Kate Stevenson worked in communications for DePaul University for 14 years before venturing out in a new career as a Senior Consultant at Clerestory Consulting. This wasn’t an impulsive decision for Kate. She felt some stagnation in her role at DePaul, but relied on her own self-discovery and feedback from her mentors to understand her skills, values, and priorities. Once she decided what to do, though, the challenges didn’t end. “You’re your own worst enemy,” Kate said. “There’s a lot of imposter syndrome, so you need the support of your mentors.”

We then heard from Rik Morales, the self-proclaimed “48-year-old intern”. After working for over 18 years with a stable job as an inside sales representative, Rick decided to try something completely different and pursue his Bachelor of Science in Marketing at DePaul. He spoke about the challenges of being in classrooms with younger students he doesn’t connect to on a social level while working two part-time jobs and sleeping only three hours a night. His advice for those younger students is to not be afraid to ask for help. “Try to break that bubble. Talk to some people, find mentors, find some champions, and that would secure their future.” But the best advice Rik received? “Try to enjoy the process. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be crazy, but try to enjoy it.”

Megy Karydes also spoke on her significant transition to become the owner of her own business, Karydes Consulting. She said one of the keys of success to owning your own business is understanding your skill sets, what you do well and what you need help with. For Megy, she knew she needed to hire an accountant right away when she started her business. Just as Rik spoke about the importance of support systems, Megy also spoke on the importance of developing her own tribes to support her as a business owner. She has a writing group to ask questions and get feedback, and a PR/marketing group to get ideas and act like an agency outside an agency setting.


Student Spotlight: Alexandra Kritikou

KMG Case Competition: A Winning Experience

By Alexandra Kritikou

On February 22, six teams of DePaul MBA and MS students participated in the Kellstadt Marketing Group Case Competition. This unique opportunity allowed students to apply concepts learned in class and develop a real business solution to a challenge by Cisco, a global leader in IT, networking, and cybersecurity. The goal of the competition was to give students real-world experience of business strategy development and proposal pitching to a panel of Cisco Executives.

My team “M.A.K.E IT” consisted of full-time MBA students with diverse backgrounds: Michelle Fronmuller, Kelly Kester, Edith De La Torre, and me (Alexandra Kritikou). Our journey began in January when we first got our case: Blockchain and IoT. Our first reaction was “What did we get ourselves into?” The concept was over our head. On top of that we had only two weeks to write our executive summary. But that was the challenge: to understand a difficult concept and create a business plan within a limited time frame. We said “Challenge accepted!”

Our approach was to do the best we could and learn as much as possible along the way. We asked our professors for help and we got in touch with Dr. Lamont Black, Professor in the Finance department at DePaul, and Jeff Wiand, President at DePaul Blockchain organization (DeBlock). They both helped us immensely by helping us understand the technology and giving us some technical and business background. After consulting with them, we narrowed down our research to an industry and things started to come along. It was a fun process too, as my teammates and I had many good laughs and inside jokes which helped lift our spirits. It was also very stressful: the tight deadline, our busy schedule with midterms, and the idea of pitching our idea to executives was nerve-wracking. I think having supportive teammates played a significant role – when any of us felt discouraged, the others would be encouraging and motivating.

The week leading up to the presentation was the hardest. We started writing our presentation two days before the presentation because we focused on the content rather than the PowerPoint itself. Our presentation was ready the night before, with all of us exhausted and in no mood to rehearse. We rehearsed Friday morning and gave it our best shot! After our presentation we all felt happy with ourselves and realized we had come a long way from hardly knowing anything about Blockchain to proposing a business plan. When the winning team was announced we could not believe it...we won! We were all thrilled!

All in all, we all found the case competition a unique and rewarding experience. My key takeaways from this experience are:

  1. Do your research!

    Although time is limited spend it researching

  2. Emphasize on the problem you are solving and spend less time on the solution.

    Back up the problem with statistics and show why it is a business opportunity

  3. Keep the presentation entertaining and practical.

    Tell a story and support your suggestions with some statistics

  4. Seek help from faculty and colleagues.

    You will be surprise how helpful and how willing people are to help out

  5. Trust and listen to your teammates.

    Be honest with your teammates about what you do not know and when you need help

  6. Talk it out with your teammates.

  7. If you understand something you can explain it. This really helped us breakdown the information and simplify it.