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Archive for June, 2008

Diane Schmalensee - AMA Boston Past President Interview

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The history of marketing has always been a personal interest of mine; I believe we can learn a lot from reviewing the past history of marketing.

During my year as chapter President, I helped celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association; the chapter was started in October of 1940.

With this post, I am starting a series of interviews with Past Presidents of AMA Boston. My first interview is with Diane Schmalensee who was past president during 1983-1984. During my year as President I met with Diane and she provided a lot of good advice, and she has continued to act as a mentor to other incoming Presidents in recent years.

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John: Welcome to the Past President’s interview. Perhaps we can start by you giving us a little of your background before the Presidency?

Diane: I joined the AMA in San Diego while I was in graduate school and quickly became head of membership (along with a fellow student). This was an outstanding way of meeting other members and getting connected. It also helped us get jobs!

When I moved to Boston, I joined the chapter there and held many positions in the organization before becoming president. I loved the camaraderie, learning new things at each meeting, and feeling part of the marketing community.

John: How long had you been volunteering with the chapter before you became President?

Diane: See above. I guess I had been volunteering for about 8 years or so.

John: I recall you had some interesting personal circumstances. How did you prepare for your chapter year?

Diane: I worked for the Marketing Science Institute, whose president was a past AMA Boston president and who encouraged us to follow our interests.

The biggest preparation as incoming president was to prepare an annual plan, complete with the big, hairy goal of becoming the best AMA large chapter of the year. I did that in August, and then had a late summer meeting with my team so that we could go over all of the plans and everyone’s role. It was a fun meeting as I recall, with everyone getting pumped up. After that, all I had to do was watch my team and help them when needed. After October or so, I was actually coasting.

John: Can you recall some of the highlights of the chapter year?

Diane: We made a LOT of money, which we badly needed. We did this by offering several conferences as well as our monthly meetings. We expanded our membership and increase our member retention. We started a networking group for young members and services, research and healthcare interest groups.

The workshops were our big money makers and brought a high level of education-content to the chapter. They usually consisted of 2 -3 speakers on a common topic and lasted half a day. I can’t recall the topics exactly, but we had a half day on research methods and a half day on internal and external marketing for service firms. The speakers were usually local experts (we have plenty here), but sometimes from out of town. If we held the workshops in conjunction with a dinner meeting, we were able to save money on the facility and negotiate better prices for meals. I think we had about 30-40 people attend these afternoon events and then would have them stay for dinner, which swelled the dinner audience to perhaps 100. Of course we always allowed plenty of time for networking during breaks and encouraged people to exchange cards with others there so they could benchmark or stay in touch later.

John: How did you run the chapter then, and how do you think it contrasts with today’s AMA Boston for changes in the industry?

Diane: Today I see the chapter being more focused on advertising and communications than we were then. This may reflect changes in the market. The Ad Club was very strong then, and we collaborated with them on sharing lists for appropriate events. So, our events were less about communications and more about research (about half our members then were in research) and issues such as new product development or internal marketing.

John: How did you communicate with members during your Presidency?

Diane: We had a printed newsletter that we mailed each month. We also had special mailings for our conferences and special interest groups.

John: Who were some of the friends and contacts you developed during your chapter year? Have you kept in touch?

Diane: I recall Chuck Comegys, Alden Clayton, Mary Lou Roberts, Tony Armor, Larry Gulko and many others. We were all good friends and I do stay in touch with some of them.

John: What has the presidency of the chapter meant for you on reflection?

Diane: It was a great chance to be a senior manager. I learned a lot.

John: What advice would you give to chapter leaders as they prepare for their new chapter year?

Diane: It’s best if you can hold other positions first and serve on the Board so you observe what other presidents do. Then, think about what you believe the chapter most needs and make that your goal for your year. Definitely have goals for your team.

John: Lastly, can you tell me more of your background since you left the presidency?

Diane: I have started my own market research and consulting firm, Schmalensee Partners, and feel good about how my clients have succeeded in achieving their goals with my help. I have continued my association with the AMA at the national level - serving on the Board twice, chairing several conferences, speaking at many conferences and now acting as the head of the national nominating committee. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of the AMA!

What Is A Brand?

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Christopher Kenton author of the article “What, exactly, is a brand?,”(BusinessWeek) argues that the definition of Brand as a mutually valuable relationship between the customer and the organization and its product. Rather a brand is an image in the mind of the consumer. It is also a name, a sign a logo or symbols that distinguishes the products and services of one company from all others. A brand identifies the seller or maker. It is something the company owns.

It is not the customer who gets attached to a product what is called brand. The brand experience is a valuable factor, because a customers experience can make or break a brand reputation. It is important to look at questions like; what does your market think of your brand? How does it make your customers feel? Will they use it again? Will they recommend it to friends?  Regarding to Christopher these factors are important but they don’t make up brand.

 “It is a seductive thought for companies that value their clients, but it’s a misguided one. Your customers own their impressions, and you can influence those impressions with the quality of your product, and the experience you foster. But your brand is just symbol that anchors those impressions to the product you create.” (Christopher Kenton.)

 A brand as a symbol has attributes because it brings to mind certain attributes. These attributes must be translated into functional and emotional benefits. For example owning a Mercedes makes the customer fell important and admired because he/she owns an expensive car. The brand also says something about the producer’s values. Staying with Mercedes, this stands for safety, prestige and performance. The brand also represents a certain culture, in this case a German culture. The brand can project a certain personality and suggests the kind of consumer who buys or uses the product. Marketers must decide at which level to anchor the brand’s identity and additionally decide about the brand’s name, logo, colors, tagline and symbol.

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.