Monthly Archives: July 2023

Get Ready to Navigate the Office

Entering the real work world can be a startling experience for new college grads and for college students working an internship or part-time. They may have technical knowledge about their area, but are they confident going in to an office? Hiring companies look for not only technical skills and abilities, but also the softer skills needed to get along and build relationships.

Soft skills are commonly thought of as how to communicate, how to dress, how to act at meals, and how to network properly. While students have been social and probably done many group projects, there are still skills to be built to make sure they know the basics of getting along and being productive.

For today’s graduates, they were in college during COVID and they may have been remote or distance workers. Even as students, many had virtual classes where they didn’t need to relate personally to their counterparts, and subsequently have not built the skills needed to be part of, or lead, teams at work.

One basic needed skill is emailing. They need to recognize messages, and commit to time deadlines. (No paper extensions are given in the work world.) Another big topic is determining what to wear. (What actually is business casual?) Students need to learn how to formally address someone, not just write “hey, what’s up.”

Networking is another needed skill. Knowing how to mingle and make small talk can help build relationships in business. Another relationship building activity is the business meal. For too many students, manners and meal etiquette are often lacking. Knowing how to be at a business meal means knowing what to order (and not to order), how to contribute to the conversation, and how to watch for clues from business leaders.

The real world awaits. Go get it!

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: How comfortable do they feel entering a professional work environment? What are their top concerns and questions?
  2. Based on the topics posed by the students, divide students into teams and have teams address training for that topic.
  3. Example: Have students practice professional email skills by writing a memo to a boss and a project delay.
  4. Example: Have students determine a wardrobe of clothing that can be worn in an office or out to a business event.
  5. Example: Have students prepare and deliver a professional-level presentation.
  6. Example: Design a network event and have students mingle together as if at the event.
  7. Example: How to dress and travel for business.
  8. INSTRUCTORS: Talk with colleagues or career services on hosting networking and business dinners for students.

Source: Ellis, L. (16 June 2023). New grads have no idea how to behave in the office. Help is on the way. Wall Street Journal.

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The Barbie Brand Goes Big

In my modest opinion as a marketer, nobody does branding better than ‘Barbie’ from Mattel It takes toys and keeps them relevant over decades. Case in point: Barbie dolls. While Barbie has had some ups-and-downs over the years, she is still a powerful brand icon. And this summer she gets her own movie!

The iconic doll has been a staple in American kids’ lives since the 1950s and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Barbie is now 64 years old (but doesn’t look a day over 19) and she has finely honed her marketing skills over the years.

This summer’s Barbie movie has more than 100 Barbie merchandise collaborations including an Airbnb stay at the Malibu Dream House (hosted by Ken). Other merchandise includes:

  • Barbie-themed Xbox Series S
  • Barbie roller skates from Impala
  • Barbie ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery
  • Pink-colored clothing at Gap
  • Hot Wheels Barbie Corvette
  • Barbie sneakers from Superga
  • Barbie pool floats at Target and Amazon
  • And much more…

The movie is a strong play from Mattel to increase growth by making Barbie a trending, pop culture sensation. To expand the potential sales, Mattel has partnered with other companies for even more pink Barbie-0branded products. Some agreements pay Mattel a flat licensing fee; others may be giving Mattel a percentage of the sales.

Think pink!

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who has played with a Barbie doll in their youth – or now?
  2. Why did Mattel want a Barbie movie?
  3. Discuss the four primary marketing strategies: market penetration, market development, product development, and diversification.
  4. Which strategy is being used for this product? Why?
  5. Divide students into teams. Have each team select one of the four different strategies and explain why that strategy could be used to market Barbie.
  6. Show the movie clip:
  7. View the Malibu beach house rental:
  8. Show Mattel’s Barbie website:
  9. Optional: Have students search for Barbie-branded merchandise and collaborators.

Source: Lieber, C. (29 June 2023). The summer of ‘Barbie’ has only just begun. Wall Street Journal; Vega, N. (29 June 2023). ‘Barbie’ roller skates, Hot Wheels and dog toys: Brands are going all in on merch for summer’s hottest movie. CNBC.

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Online-Only Brands Move to Open Brick-and-mortar Stores

Physical retail weakened during the pandemic, and in some cases, it hasn’t come back. However, there are former online-only companies now reexamining their position on brick-and-mortar stores. Why the shift in strategy and distribution?

For example, in 2010 Warby Parker’s main strategy was to cut out the middleman and sell directly to consumers at a cheaper price than consumers could get in stores. Now they have a different story to tell – or sell.

By the end of 2012, Warby Parker had opened 200 stores in 36 states. These retail locations now account for 60% of the company’s total sales. That’s a big shift. It’s also very good news for commercial real estate companies. Vacancy rates at shopping centers declined to 5.6% in the first quarter of 2023.

Warby Parker isn’t the only digital native company that has embraced the shift. Companies such as Everlane (apparel), Casper (beds), Away (luggage), and Allbirds (athletic shoes) have also moved to include storefronts and retailers.

What’s pushing the move? One factor is the increasing cost of online advertising and acquiring new customers, making stores a viable option to finding new customers and adding revenue.

Which do you prefer – online or brick-and-mortar?

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What has taken place in online and in-store shopping?
  2. Why do companies avoid opening physical stores?
  3. Why are some online companies now embracing physical stores?
  4. Divide students into teams. Have team find an example of online company that moved to physical stores. How did the company accomplish this?
  5. Now, have each team select a company that currently sells only online. Have the teams develop a marketing strategy for bringing that company into the physical store to sell its wares.

Source: King, K. (13 May 2023). Online-only startups adopt a bold new strategy: Opening actual shops. Wall Street Journal.

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