Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cristo Rey Network

During our trip to Chicago, one of the most rewarding visits was not to a corporate headquarters, but rather to an extraordinary Jesuit high school called Cristo Rey. Located in the Hispanic quarters of Chicago, where the area is overridden with gang-violence and experiences a 75% high-school drop-out rate, Cristo Rey offers a tution-free education that allows students to pay off their tuition fees by working one day a week. As part of the program, students are assigned to work for major companies and firms in Chicago; corporations like Deloitte, Chicago Board of Trade, USA Soccer Association, and Univ. of Chicago Hospitals. What's more is that 99% of graduation students end up going to college, typically sponsored by an affiliate Jesuit College. Given the incredible success of this school, model schools have been created under the provision of the Cristo Rey Network in cities such as New York, Boston, and Tucson.

From a business perspective, here's what I found most interesting
-Before establishing Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S., Rev. John Foley consulted with a major Chicago business firm to help create a viable business model.
-Cristo Rey dedicates an entire sector of its school in helping recruit new companies and building new partnership.
-Cristo Rey was able to raise large pools of capital from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation as well as from a major venture capitalist.
-After graduating from college, graduates from Cristo Rey are usually offered high ranking positions from the companies that worked for during high school.

Lessons to be learned:
Too often we see many failed attempts in improving the state of our inter-city schools. The best hope for non-profits is though the application of business practices and approaches. The ideal situation is the perfect fusion between big business and non-profits. Instead of solely donating funds, big businesses can make more meaningful impacts on their communities by consulting their advice and resources.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back from the Windy City

Sorry guys for the lapse in posts... once again, I happened to be gone on a business sabbatical.

As part of my Jesuit high school's Business Club, a.k.a. "the," (started by myself and Kevin), we arranged a trip (with 18 student members) to Chicago to visit Loyola University and to make several corporate visits. This year, we met some truly inspiring people, all holding different business backgrounds and positions. Here's a sample agenda from our trip, and over the course of this week, Kevin and I will chronicle each stop that we made and its significance. We will also try to include some photos that we took along the way. Fun times.

Friday, February 23

-Chicago Board of Trade
-Leo Burnett
-Cristo Rey Jesuit High School
-Meeting with Loyola Dean; tour of Loyola Business School

Saturday, February 24
-Deloitte and Touche
-Catalyst Ranch
-Vosges Chocolate

*Stay tuned for more tomorrrow. Hop on and ride with us*

Friday, February 16, 2007

Google Presents: It's Own Advertising Campaign?

What I love about Google is there unabashed willingness to experiment, explore, and create. Sure, they have a lot of money to play with, but without trying new things, innovation cannot be realized. So, with the acquisition of Youtube, Google thought they ought to try filming their own licensed videos. The result was the creation of Gmail Theatre, a four-minute Youtube series, broken up into four one-minute commercials.

Released just a few days ago, the series is part of an effort to promote Google's ever-so-sleek e-mail service, Gmail. According to Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics, the estimated cost for these low-tech commercials amounted to a few thousand dollars, practically penny change. And if the response rates to Google's commercials reach levels comparable other popular Youtube videos (approx. 250,000 hits), the ROI potential looks quite promising. Pretty entertaining stuff, simple while carrying a lucid message. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Time For Change?

Just last month Leo Burnett of Chicago lost their long-held Altoids account to San Francisco's Hal Riney. Burnett has done an excellent job in the past, but the executives at Wrigley felt change was in order and they have certainly done so, not only with their advertising, but also with their product. Recently, they introduced dark-chocolate-covered mints. The curiously strong candies come in peppermint, cinnamon and ginger flavors. They even allow you to personalize your own box of these new mints so you can send them to your valentine. This new product has proven successful and the company looks like its on its way back to success after a brief slump last year. Their new website possesses a similarity to the Guinness beer commercials. I liked this image for Guinness, but I do not particularly agree with this new appearance for Altoids. It looks like they did not spend much time with the website's construction due to its brevity and lack of creativity. When I went to their newly structured website for the first time, I was a little disappointed. Although I don't particularly love the work of the new advertising company, I still love the product.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Every journey needs a Journal

In one of Katie Kempner's latest podcasts from The Hook, she sat down with Judy Barry, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing for The Wall Street Journal. During their discussion, they talked about the new efforts the Journal has taken to distinguish itself as the world's top business news publication. Among the most notable improvements, the Journal completed its January 2, 2007 re-design debut, featuring a smaller paper with bolder text and vivid pictures. In addition, the Journal is making strong headway towards offering a better, up-to-the-minute business news service through its site. In its Weekend Edition, the Journal is focusing on offering more leisure articles pertaining to entertainment and executive lifestyles. So, clearly the Journal believes that print media is far from being a dead business.

According to Judy Barry, it appears that readers are liking the new changes. I would agree, especially with revived marketing efforts such as its latest ad campaign. For the first time, the Journal seems to really get it. It's evolving its brand image, and it understands its present/future role in the lives of its everyday reader. Serving up videos of major business/popular moguls, its new campaign gives the Journal much more personality as well as consumer interaction (reminds me a lot of the American Express "My Life, My Card"). As part of the deal, the Journal is asking devoted readers to submit their own stories of how the Wall Street Journal has played an inspiring role in their own personal successes.

Check it out. I chose the Jake Burton video because I liked it best:

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Gay Marketing?

Ok, so, I'm kind of apprehensive to be talking about a contentious topic like this, but I think its safe to say that Bravo's new interior design reality series, Top Design, is geared towards a predominantly gay and female audience. With hit shows like Project Runway, Top Chef, and Queer Eye, Bravo has proven that hip and provocative content sells. While a lot of these shows share a lot of commonalities, Top Design, hosted by interior design aficionado Todd Oldham, seems to be more specifically focused. Unlike Queer Eye, Top Design doesn't offer the same universal appeal.

Reasoning: over 90% of its male cast is homosexual, including a recent hollywood drag-queen who played the role of its "mystery client."
It's subject matter: interior design (not cooking, like on Top Chef).

Nonetheless, I really think Bravo has got a solid business model on its hands. Believe me, I do like the show, especially the fact that it brilliantly blends consumer brands into the experience of the show. In one viewing, I saw product placements for Select Comfort, Pier 1 Imports, Thompsonville, Brizo faucets, and Elle Decor magazine, not to mention a slew of ads on Additionally, Bravo has done a great job of offering an interactive website with video blogs, podcasts, and viewer contests. So, I think Bravo realizes the market potential of a show like this. It figures that the "gay appeal" of the show is wide-spread enough to really capitalize on a seemingly untapped consumer base. Certainly, marketers are responding positively. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Feeling Your Impact

Tremor is a website targeted at the teenage population in hopes of attributing a youthful insight to the product developments of old, new, and never before seen items. Started by Proctor & Gamble CEO Steve Knox, the site promotes its members not only to critique, but also to create new ideas and help choose what might be the best design or product. In exchange for such insight, Tremor sends its participants exclusive products which have never before hit the shelves. I am currently a member and am just starting to experiment with the service. I think Tremor is a cool way to connect the perspectives of the youth with the wisdom of the old in order to help better determine what will and won't work.

Monday, February 5, 2007

And the MVP goes to...

Doritos. Hands down. While it's still debatable over which two (out of five) ads should have been shown on Sunday, the basic fact that that is was interactive, viral, and consumer-generated speaks a lot to the direction of advertising. On the other hand, General Motors tried, and failed, because it only allowed college contestants to participate.
Doritos did an excellent pre-game job of generating a lot of hype with its Crash the Super Bowl ad contest. And after viewers finally realized that its wasn't "essentially" produced by an advertising agency, publicity stormed. I'll even bet that these ads do wonders for its business. What do you think?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Countdown to Kickoff

Wait a minute... before you head out to your nacho-filled Super Bowl event, take some thought into visiting SuperAdFreak. The site has got 20 guest bloggers set to critique the Super Bowl ads for you. (Some will post during the game, others after). Names include Joseph Jaffe, Seth Godin, and Jeff Goodby. Their critiques will be cross-referenced by commercial and by blogger.
Should be some great commentary. Are you ready?

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Cool Thinking, GM

Today's Detroit Free Press had an unusual, trendy article on General Motors in its Business section. Typically, the Business page is overloaded with automotive nonsense, and rarely do I find anything attractive. But its commentary on GM's new page is really interesting. Its a "campaign" in which GM is inviting charismatic, college-aged students to audition as the site's official spokesperson. The identified winner will be given the opportunity to document the many world events that GM sponsors, such as the upcoming Sony BMG After-Party and the Grammy Awards. Casting is done through video blog submissions.

It's good to see that GM has moved outside of its comfort zone to offer something hip, engaging, and not so GM trademarked. Too often, GM's marketing is predictably wide ranging, and not consumer driven. While GM claims that the site is geared to its new line of trucks, I don't see a real distinction. Nonetheless, it's a great interactive, viral way of experiencing the GM brand. Best thing from GM since the Apprentice GM Tahoe campaign. I believe the site was rendered by Deutsch Inc.

Oh, did I mention that Damien Fahey of MTV is repping the site as well. Check it out, what do you think?