Category Archives: Marketing

Corporate Social Responsibility and Irresponsibility

Here is some more of my homework for Strategic Comminications class at Webster University. The topic of Corporate Social Responsibility is one that we have addressed several times. Here is one of my writing assignments followed by some of my online discussion posts offered as food for thought.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Irresponsibility

“Cuties” is a film recently added to the network Netflix that director Maïmouna Doucouré claims is “social commentary against the sexualization of young children” (Sandler). Enough people were either offended by the topic of the film or the marketing of the film to organize petitions, boycotts and the hashtag campaign #CancelNetflix (Sandler). Netflix did in fact experience a higher number of cancellations than usual in September 2020 as a result of what some interpret as the normalization of pedophilia and child porn (Sandler). In the long term, will the reputation of Netflix be harmed permanently?

Findings in the paper “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility” suggest that the negative backlash against Netflix will be short-lived (Chen 486–524). Sometimes the same firms engage in acts that are perceived as both Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Social Irresponsibility (CSI) (Chen 486-487).

Netflix believes that showing the film “Cuties” is an act of CSR because it exposes and criticizes the sexualization of children, even though enough former viewers to create a noticeable spike in cancellations believes they have displayed CSI instead (Sandler). Netflix formerly employed actor Kevin Spacey to star in their original series “House of Cards” which was very popular and profitable for Netflix (Czarnecki). Netflix lost millions by firing Spacey to demonstrate support for the #metoo movement, but gained a great deal of good will from the public in return (Czarnecki).

It seems logical to assume that it is important to try to avoid the appearance of corporate hypocrisy – the difference between the perception of the values a firm vs. it’s actions. Is Netflix going to be judged as engaging in corporate hypocrisy, and therefore suffer in reputation? According to authors Chen et al in “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility”, hypocrisy does not always do harm to firms (Chen 487-490).

One factor that insulates a corporation against negative effects on its reputation is the perception of warmth (Chen 490). By accepting a significant financial loss to mitigate the “House of Cards” scandal (Czarnecki), Netflix raised their perception of corporate warmth to a great degree by promoting others interests above its own (Chen 490). In addition Netflix is “… a company that’s reinvented itself from being a tech-based internet-content-delivery machine to a creator of world-class content. Those two things combined have translated into an unprecedented reputational gain” (Czarnecki). Is there a rational reason for people to feel warm emotions toward a provider of entertainment as opposed to some other product or service? A paper by Eduard Sioe-Hao Tan suggests why that might indeed be the case (Tan 45). “A lay person’s understanding of what it means to entertain somebody involves being amusing or giving pleasure, activities associated with being a good host to a guest.” The entertainer may be considered responsible for voluntarily rendering a personal service to the viewer (Tan 45).

The perception of competence is another attitude that can mitigate CSI in the minds of stakeholders (Chen 490). Amazon is a company that is considered very competent but lacks the emotional connection enjoyed by it’s book-selling rival Barnes & Noble which connected with shoppers emotions by associating physical bookstores with nostalgic values (Czarnecki). Now that Amazon has evolved beyond just a delivery system of entertainment and is also in competition with Netflix as a producer of original entertainment content, the battle over viewer’s emotions will be interesting to observe. At a time when the spotlight is on racial injustice to a greater degree than is normal, Amazon and Netflix both made donations to organizations working toward racial equality (Hessekiel). Amazon donated 10 million, and Netflix donated 1 million. The amounts could reflect the resources available to each company for such expenditures, the awareness by Amazon that it needs to buy moral credits more than Netflix does, or perhaps some combination of the two. In that light, what is the meaning of WalMart donating 100 million?

Speaking of morality credits, another strategy that a firm can use to protect itself against harm to its reputation is to express aspirational messages of what it would like to do, or about the kind of society it would like to promote. The message of having certain values will give the corporation moral credits even if its behavior doesn’t always back up what it preaches (Chen 487-490). Whether a corporation’s behavior is always consistent or not, a strong investment in CSR does seem to have a protective effect on any future transgressions, intentional or accidental (Chen 517-518).

Works Cited

Chen, Zhifeng, et al. “Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility and Corporate Hypocrisy: Warmth, Motive and the Protective Value of Corporate Social Responsibility.” Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 4, Oct. 2020, pp. 486–524. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1017/beq.2019.50. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Czarnecki, Sean, “Netflix tops the list for best corporate reputation.” PR Week, 2019, www.prweek.com/article/1580994/netflix-tops-list-best-corporate-reputation. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Hessekiel, David. “Companies Taking A Public Stand In The Wake Of George Floyd’s Death.” Forbes, 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/davidhessekiel/2020/06/04/companies-taking-a-public-stand-in-the-wake-of-george-floyds-death/#4e3e52d47214. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Sandler, Rachel. “Netflix Sees Spike In Cancellations Over ‘Cuties’ Backlash, Analytics Firm Says.” Forbes.Com, Sept. 2020, p. N.PAG. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=145929254&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Tan, EduardSioe-Hao. “Entertainment Is Emotion: The Functional Architecture of the Entertainment Experience.” Media Psychology, vol. 11, no. 1, Feb. 2008, pp. 28–51. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15213260701853161. Accessed 28 September 2020.

Some of my comments on Corporate Social Responsibility and Facebook

“My view of Facebook is that they are mainly supplying a platform for people to use as they want, with spaces for advertising. Of course there are some extreme things that get banned. Sometimes I think the bans are fair and sometimes I don’t. One thing I have noticed is that they put a voting badge in the interface so you can quickly check your status or register. Let me try it right now…

Ok I noticed they spelled my name wrong on the paper I got back from the election board, so I’m going to have to look it up under the misspelled name. The voting button leads to a voting information page hosted by Facebook which has links to the usual stuff that any web page that is put up for public information would have – how to register, what are the requirements, what are the deadlines, etc. Kind of similar to what a lot of information sites put up about COVID-19 or any other important issue. It’s good for democracy (I know we have a democratic republic) for as many people to vote as possible who are eligible, so that is an example of CSR.

Another feature I like about Facebook is that you can do searches on advertising regardless of whether it’s an ad that would be shown to you normally, and see who paid for it. That helps a lot with transparency.

It’s my opinion that Facebook is not inherently good or bad, like with most things it’s what you do with it that makes your life better or worse. The people at the top running it can be good or bad and the decisions they make do affect people. I think there is potential for abuse and with any platform or any media we have to be informed about how it works and insist on transparency to keep it in check. I am very interested in media literacy and how it can help protect us. I agree with people who say that too much use is not that healthy, and I think that about TV and a lot of other things too. There are a lot of things that can be a good tool used mindfully and purposefully, including food, something which I’m using more mindfully lately with beneficial effect. As we keep learning in this field of study, we all think we are better at determining how to use media than other people, which means other people think they know better than us how to use it safely. I do worry about us serving media rather than media serving us.”

grocery_pickup_093020

“Speaking of voting, got these in my Walmart grocery pickup bag last night. It’s been awhile since I got a free sample. I like free samples and I like the voter registration encouragement. I tried texting the number and it works. When you get to the page on your mobile device, it gives you English and Spanish options. The data comes from https://www.ballotready.org/ and the card is branded with WalMart and the Consumer Action network. The Consumer Action Network is here – https://www.consumeractionnetwork.org/.

I looked at the web page for the Consumer Action Network and the issues they are involved with currently seem to mostly be based on beer and liquor sales and how to make it easier for consumers to buy beer and liquor. What do you think led to this particular partnership?

https://phone2action.com/  is involved in the technical part of the process.

I like getting the freebie of the reusable cleaning cloth. It’s good promotion for the product and always fun to try out a free product sample. Is the product good for the environment? There is enough info on the package to research it.

I was unable to get the QR code to work. It might be printed too small to work with my phone.

I’ve been uploading a lot of images to Facebook to move them from my phone to a computer for editing. With my technology setup at the moment it’s a fast way to do it and sometimes gets a discussion going in my feed. So I put my commentary that I’m writing here with the photo in Facebook. Since I was either mentioning voting in my text, or the image had to do with voting, an algorithm popped up in Facebook with a link to the voting information center that they put together. So – both Facebook and Walmart and a lot of people are very invested in voting. I could not detect any political partisanship in either campaign. I’ve always thought that everyone who could vote, should. And try to participate in civic duties and civic activities whenever possible. The government chapter we read in our textbook has some things to say related to this.”

“Also interesting is the choice of graphic on the voting drive card. It sends a specific message to people who know the origin of that type of image, and there are things in it that would resonate with people just because of the elements it contains even if they don’t know the history.”

 

Social Media at the Time of the American Revolution

No I’m not talking about the revolution that is being attempted in the US right now, I’m talking about the 1770s. Here is another history themed homework assignment that I enjoyed writing. What social media tools would I recommend if I could go back in time and be a consultant to Samuel Adams and friends?

“Samuel Adams and fellow revolutionaries used many techniques to achieve support for the United States Revolutionary War. With the use of “pen, platform, pulpit, staged events, symbols, news tips, and political organization”, these revolutionaries used events, manufactured if necessary, to appeal to and engage the senses of their hoped-for compatriots in the fight for independence from England (Broom and Sha 75). In the imaginary world of this assignment, I’m a time-traveling public relations consultant with the power to bring today’s social media tools to Sam Adams and the revolutionaries to help them win their campaign.

I’m going to recommend to Samuel Adams that he should add social media to the tools he is already using to make communication over long distances easier, cheaper, and less risky, with the potential to reach many more publics than presently. Some of the acts described below were considered by the British administration of the time to be treasonous and potentially punishable by death (Thernstrom 137), so the network and devices that Adams and his followers use will have to be secure from British spying.

Pen
The pamphlet “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was a powerful piece of writing in favor of revolution that had a circulation of more than 100,000 copies throughout the colonies (Broom and Sha 76). Paine argued for independence with some fiery language, but the pragmatic argument that the colonies needed to be independent to form alliances with other nations in order to get assistance in fighting the British forces was considered the most persuasive (Thernstrom 143).

Thomas Paine and other eloquent and persuasive writers of their time would benefit from having their own blogs to publicize their content and collect subscribers so that the contact information can be shared with members of the revolutionary movement who are planning events and protests. Since readings of Common Sense were popular in taverns and coffee houses of the time (Thernstrom 143), audio and video presentations of this material that are shareable on social media will increase the reach tremendously. Most colonists at this time were not literate (Bitter 21), but would be able to consume videos and podcasts with the right receiving equipment.

Platform
A platform is easier to remember and rally around if it’s short and resonates with the public. “Taxation without representation is tyranny” is the well known slogan that describes the platform of the revolutionaries (Broom and Sha 76).

A graphic with a unifying image, such as the Liberty Tree, with this slogan should be prepared to use on social media outlets as a profile picture, header graphic, avatar image and any other identifying graphics that you need to reinforce your brand on social media platforms.

Pulpit
The British parliament passed the Quebec Act of 1774 which opened some additional areas of North America up to colonial American settlers, but with French law presiding and Catholic churches enjoying advantages over Protestant churches. Protestants were the majority of colonists and anti-Catholic feeling added more resentment against the British imperial government (Thernstrom 139). A further religious-based rift between Britain and America was widened by the Great Awakening, a renewal of Christian fervor in the colonies that made the old country seem more decadent and therefore less desirable to the colonists in comparison (Thernstrom 145).

Christian and Biblical references can be inserted when appropriate into communications to keep emphasizing the perceived moral superiority of the new society that is being created. Revolution-minded colonists did not shy away from including Biblical allegories and passages on items such as flags and needlework (“Religion and the…”), and such images could be adopted into memes or other sharable graphics. Ministers played a great role in propagating the idea of revolution against the British as a righteous cause (“Religion and the…”), and therefore making sermons available as shareable audio and video presentations could be very advantageous.

Staged Events
A provocative event can capture the attention of many members of the public who were otherwise indifferent (Broom and Sha 76). The Boston Tea Party was an event that could be considered staged. In all the other colonies except Massachusetts, ships carrying British Tea turned back when confronted by colonists who opposed the tea act because they had been persuaded by colonial tea wholesalers that it was dangerous for future liberty to grant a tea monopoly to the English East India tea company (Thernstrom 138). The Massachusetts Governor did not want to back down so he ordered all ships in Boston Harbor to remain until they unloaded all their cargo. In response, Samuel Adams and 150 followers dressed as Native Americans boarded the ships and unloaded 90,000 pounds of British tea into the harbor. This property destruction did not meet with universal approval even from colonists who opposed the tea act, but many lost sympathy for the home country when the British government reduced liberties in Massachusetts to the point where the colonial charter of 1691 was virtually null and void (Thernstrom 138-139). By provoking a harsh response from the British, Samuel Adams and friends re-ignited a lot of the anti-British sentiment in the other colonies that had risen during earlier unpopular tactics of the British but had temporarily quieted after most of the offending acts had been repealed or were left un-enforced (Thernstrom 138-139).

I recommend that Adams and followers should not publicize pictures of tea being destroyed, but instead try to propagate stories of British oppression throughout social media. Video footage of colonists trying to exercise some of their previously held rights, such as assembly, but being confronted by British officials and troops could be very effective and can be uploaded to YouTube, embedded on blogs, and more.

Political Organization
The Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence were both formed in Boston to bring about the actions that the revolutionaries public relations efforts had inspired (Broom and Sha 76). The Massachusetts Committee on Correspondence urged the other colonies to limit importation of British luxury goods as a protest against the Sugar Act which they saw as an example of unfair taxation but received only limited support at that time (Thernstrom 131).

Social media is terrific for boycotts – a multimedia campaign with hashtags such as #boycottbritain or #boycottbritishgoods could be very effective as the colonists power to boycott has caused economic damage to Britain on more than one occasion (Thernstrom 132, 137).

Symbols
The Liberty Tree is an an example of a symbol that the revolutionaries adopted to identify their movement and get potential recruits emotionally involved (Broom and Sha 76). The original Liberty Tree was an elm located in Boston. Under its branches, critics of the British government met and launched a protest, inflamed by the Stamp Act, which they believed ushered in an unwelcome era of taxation without representation. The Stamp Act required revenue-raising stamps to be sold by the imperial government and be placed by the colonists on any printed matter. In addition, since violators of the Stamp Act were not to be tried in colonial courts but rather British admirality courts which heretofore had restricted themselves to navigation related cases, the colonists revolted in order not to set a precedence for trials without a jury (Thernstrom 131-132).

The “Sons of Liberty”, who led protests against the Stamp Act throughout the colonies created effigies of stamp officials and subjected the effigies to various indignities including symbolic hanging from the Liberty Tree. Using other methods to intimidate would-be stamp officials into resigning, such as property damage and marches, the “Sons of Liberty” wanted to keep the protests mostly symbolic but were sometimes joined by sailors and workers who had patronized the local taverns and were primed to engage in some burning and looting. The pressures from these acts of civil disobedience and property destruction were enough to make the Stamp Act unenforceable by the British (Thernstrom 132).

The Stamp Act was able to unify the colonies in their outrage more than the previous Sugar Act had been, although more widening of rifts between the British government and the colonists would be required to get the protest leaders more interested in revolution (Thernstrom 133-134). A popular manifestation of opposition to the Stamp Act was a skull and crossbones placed on papers where the hated taxation stamp should have gone. Many newspapers throughout the colonies used similar imagery (“A Pledge to…”), displaying how a symbol can spread socially even with non-electronic technology available. The skull and crossbones could be an even more popular image with electronic help to go along with hash tags such as #thefatalstamp.

News Tips
The Boston Massacre is one example of the revolutionaries’ ability to get their side of the story out first in order to promote their interpretation of events (Broom and Sha 76). Many colonists were persuaded to see the killings as deliberate acts of tyranny by Samuel Adams and the colonial press (Thernstrom 137).

Citizen journalists allied with the revolutionary cause are encouraged to take pictures and video of the massacre and send to as many social media channels and media outlets as possible, along with personal accounts and reports, to make sure our take on the event is prominent in the public discourse and disseminated as quickly as possible.”

Works Cited

“A Pledge to Violate the Stamp Act.” NCpedia, 2020, www.ncpedia.org/anchor/pledge-violate-stamp-act. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Bitter, John. “Which Came First – Journalism or Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1987, pp. 21-22. Accessed 20 August 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.” Library of Congress, 2020, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel03.html. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Blasts From The Past

When I worked for Webinar Resources, I wrote a lot of blog and newsletter articles. I’m going through some of them for an assignment I’m doing in my Strategic Communications class. Here is a Wayback Machine link to some of the articles I wrote between 2009 and 2012. Enjoy!

Webinar Resources Blog on the Wayback Machine

Webinar Resources Newsletter Archive

Here is how my homework turned out.

“In the article “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It” author Kimberly E. Stone makes the case that social media should be used to reinforce what traditional marketing is doing, but not take over or take the lead from traditional channels.

She believes the best uses for social media in the present day are:

  • Gaining intelligence
  • Interacting with customers
  • Managing crises

It would be interesting to review how I thought social media should be used back when the company I was working for was heavily into business blogging and I was writing blog and newsletter articles about how and why to use social media. I found articles I wrote on our old blog from 2009-2012 on the Wayback Machine. Here is the link I used to view my old articles.

https://web.archive.org/web/20120910054954/http://blog.webinarresources.com/blog/customer-acquisition-2

What did I think social media was good for during that time?

  • Making it easy for customers to share your content
    Videos
    Applications designed to build subscriber lists
  • Making shareable archives
  • Broadcasting
  • Listening
    What are customers currently interested in
    Is anyone talking about us in a negative way
  • Cutting the cost of distributing your content
  • Customer relations
  • Community building
  • Creative expression
  • Collaboration
  • Leveraging the investment in content by repurposing in different channels
  • Manage reputation

My list is much more broad, but although I worded some things differently my list mostly includes everything that is in the author’s list. I did say in one of my articles that I learned in a webinar put on by Compendium Blogware that an organization has to get their “SEO, Social, Content, Email Marketing and PR people to communicate with each other”. A PR practitioner can play a role in facilitating communication within an organization as well as between the organization and its publics (Broom and Sha 189). So I do agree with the author’s premise, that social media should augment traditional channels but not replace them.

While I was writing these articles I was mostly writing for small companies. I touted the benefits of social media partly for the lower price point of entry over some traditional marketing channels. That did not mean I favored not using the older channels if there is a budget for it.  Whatever is new is always exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have to jump on every new thing if it doesn’t fit. The goals of all the channels that are used should be to present a consistent experience in keeping with the organizations brand and objectives. All channels are not appropriate for all audiences, so it isn’t necessarily good to use every one that is available. Also, during Marketing 5000 class I learned there is at least one older channel that is coming back into favor if used in an updated way – the catalog. To choose the right mix means keeping up to date on the trends as popularity waxes and wanes for certain channels.”

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Stone, Kimberly E. “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It.” Forbes, Sep 18, 2012. Accessed 15 September 2020.

What is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing?

I’m enrolled in Strategic Communications class at Webster University for the Fall 1 Session.  For one of my assignments, I was asked to answer some questions and then engage in discussions on the topic. Here is my answer plus some of my subsequent remarks.

Define “public relations” and “marketing” and explain why these functions often are confused.

According to Broom and Sha, public relations is a function of management that organizations use to build and maintain relationships with the public to the benefit of all stakeholders (Broom and Sha 2).

In marketing, organizations study what consumers want and need and strive to provide attractive and useful offerings in exchange for something of value (Broom and Sha 5).

In your answer, point out the major difference that distinguishes these functions.

The major difference between marketing and public relations is that in the former, there is an exchange between the involved parties of goods, services, money, or some other consideration that has value (Broom and Sha 5).

Contrast publicity with advertising. In your answer, address issues related to message control, expense and relationship to marketing.

Publicity is something that an organization might cultivate, or it could happen to them involuntarily due to some kind of unforseen issue or circumstance. Publicity professionals can use their knowledge to tailor their publicity submissions while targeting the right recipients so that the information is used in a way that is favorable to the organizations goals. They can’t compel or control how the information is used however (Broom and Sha 7). Some publicity can be had for free, while other publicity might involve expenses such as labor to research and prepare the strategy and content or mailing printed information.

Some of the same skills that publicists use are used by advertisers and in some organizations the same people people might perform both functions. Organizations are not necessarily consistent in how titles and functions are used and the public can be influenced by the portrayals of both types of jobs by portrayals in the media which are not always accurate (Broom and Sha 7).

In advertising, the organization is paying for the exposure which gives them control over where the message is placed, the timing and the content (Broom and Sha 10).

Works Cited:

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

I took this picture early in the summer because I figured it would come in handy in marketing classes. One of the times that I used the Wal-Mart grocery pickup service, I got this surprise free bag with my order with free samples in it. Is this marketing or PR? Can they be doing both at the same time?

The book  (Broom and Sha) mentions that some efforts at PR are looked at with suspicion because it looks like the organization is trying to gain while appearing to be doing good, or some people already dislike and distrust the brand. There was a very different reaction among people depending on political affiliation with the stimulus checks, for example.

Wal-Mart is a brand that some people have strong reactions to. Wal-Mart gave me this bag of goodies when I had already used their services for awhile and it was a surprise. This was given out when a lot of brands were giving out some freebies to help out with COVID care and also get a little promotion.

For example at Schnarr’s, some companies gave us free hand sanitizer with their name on it to use for the store. Before masks were available at a reasonable price, I had a large stash that a client had given me for crafts, so I had plenty to share for awhile. If a customer came in the store really needing one to tide them over, I gave them one from my stash in a ziploc bag that I had packed after making sure my hands were clean. This is something I would have done whether or not it was good PR for the store and no one asked me to do it, but the store was my main exposure to other people at the time and it was something immediate I could do to help. I gave some plus some gloves to an old friend who works at a radio station. I didn’t give them to him because he works at a radio station, rather it was because he has health issues that make him very vulnerable and he was understandably  scared. I did not ask him to mention me or Schnarr’s (where he started buying stuff without being asked) on the air. I don’t know if he did or not, I didn’t ask. For me it was not a quid-pro-quo situation, but I was not at all displeased to get a new customer at the store.

The front and back of the thank you card in the Wal-Mart goody bag
The front and back of the thank you card in the Wal-Mart goody bag

The Wal-Mart bag doesn’t really have anything useful for COVID, but it was something that brightened my day. I loved some of the free samples and others I gave away. I have not re-ordered any of the free sample products but if someone wanted to Wal-Mart made it easy to re-order. I might re-order the deodorant if they have a non-spray version. It smells wonderful. Other than brightening my day and being good for health in that sense, this bag seems more marketing than PR. I think it’s effective because it thanks people for trying the service, and gives them incentives to try it again and at the same time makes it easy and convenient with the bar codes and QR codes. They knew they were probably getting a lot more new customers because they were one of the first to have pickup services and it was fully in place and working well before the pandemic so they didn’t have to put it together in a hurry.

fronts and backs of seed packets

Here is another example of something I’m giving away. Like a lot of gardeners, I tend to have more seeds than I need of some plants and I save some to trade and give away. A few years ago, I designed and printed out some of these little seed packet templates to fill with seeds and give away at Schnarr’s Hardware along with candy and other goodies like safety lights as “treats” on Halloween.

After the COVID-19 pandemic started, some friends and customers asked me if they should be concerned about food security and if so what to do about it. I didn’t really know the answers, but I know that when people are out of work that there is less money to go around and people who are poor will struggle more than usual to get their basic needs met. It’s not a new idea for people who find it difficult to afford food or live in “food deserts” that lack  stores to buy healthy food to engage in community gardening as a way to supplement the food supply. I gave some plants to someone who was trying to get a community garden started in his neighborhood.

Schnarr’s customers are mostly not of the group that needs to worry about meeting  basic needs, but there are a lot of customers that engage in gardening and might want some extra seeds to grow themselves, give away or trade. Also with possibly more kids being home schooled there might be more interest in home gardening so that kids can learn about plant biology and other related topics. I decided to reprint some of my little seed trading envelopes and package up some of my extra seeds for free giveaways as I harvest them.

Schnarr’s sells garden seeds, so is it a good idea to give some away? Mindful of not wanting to hurt sales I put small quantities in the packets, 4-10 seeds in each depending on the size of the seed. Someone who is not sure about trying a new plant or is casual about gardening in general might get inspired to do more if they try a free sample. That could bring us more sales in the long run of garden supplies. I put the Schnarr’s blog address on it so that people can read the large amounts of gardening information that I have contributed there. I think the information I put there will benefit those who want to learn more about gardening, but of course more readers also means more exposure for the blog. Those are a couple of ways that I think this giveaway can help Schnarr’s a tiny bit.

More importantly, how does this small action help the community? With the increased demand on gardening supplies in general that we have seen since the pandemic began, we are sold out of some seeds so even if someone wanted to buy a larger package of seeds from us, with some varieties they will have to wait. Some of my plants are species we wouldn’t carry anyway, so customers get the chance to try some new things. I also am convinced that since growing serious amounts of food is not easy, the more people who know how to do it the better off we are as a society. Added to that are the benefits to overall health of getting outdoors, interacting with nature and engaging in exercise. There has never been a better time to garden, if one is able, with the extra stress many of us are under – horticulture has therapeutic uses for mental and physical health.

I also put some of these seed packets in the little goody envelopes that I put in orders from my online store. I give a few to friends and fellow Master Gardener volunteers from time to time but since I’m not seeing those groups of people as often as I normally do, I need someone to give some of the seeds too!

What do you think, am I doing PR, marketing, or both?

Article Review #2: – Trends in Non-store Retailing

This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Dr. John Jinkner
MRKT-5000: Marketing
20 April 2020

Name of the Article: “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes”
Source: Multichannel Merchant
URL: https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/catalogs-remain-staple-retailers-toolboxes/

Article Summary

Author Lisa Henthorn in the article “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes” first addressed the decline of printed catalog use by many retailers in the late 2010s during a recession that coincided with the rise of social media and the continued adoption of ecommerce (Henthorn). Some retailers who took the opportunity to cut costs also lost a lot of revenue. Land’s End, for example lost $100 million in revenue the year after ceasing printed catalog production (Henthorn). Other retailers returned to using printed catalogs after noticing that catalogs were still popular with many customers and influenced purchases in stores as well as directly from the catalogs (Henthorn).

It has been noted that the majority of millennials, consumers in the 21-35 year-old age group, have used catalogs to make purchases influenced by a catalog (Henthorn). Neil O’Keefe, senior VP of marketing and content for the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) believes that millennials enjoy catalogs because they have viewed less printed marketing material than past generations and the imagery in catalogs attracts them (Henthorn).

Catalogs continue to be part of the omnichannel marketing mix employed by many retailers today (Henthorn). The purpose of omnichannel marketing is to give customers a seamless and consistent shopping experience as they interact with the brand via the channels of their own choosing (Sopadjieva). A study published in Harvard Business Review showed that the majority of the customers surveyed in a 2015-2016 study were multi-channel customers and shoppers that used only a single channel were markedly in the minority (Sopadjieva). Multi-channel users were also found to spend more on average both online and in stores, as well as being more frequent and loytal customers (Sopadjieva).

Henthorn makes the case in her article for not only continuing to use catalogs along with other channels, but also leveraging technology and data from all channels to make the catalog shopping experience more personal for the shopper and relevant to seasonal campaigns (Henthorn).

How this Article Relates to our Course

Printed catalogs can be either a stand-alone shopping channel or part of a multi-channel or omnichannel mix (Pride and Ferrell, 473). I chose to write about the state of catalog marketing in the present day because I currently work part-time for a company that includes printed catalogs in the marketing mix and wanted information on how to use the printed catalogs more effectively.

L.L. Bean is a company that is featured as a case study in our textbook (Pride and Ferrell, 487-488). L.L. Bean began as a mail order company and now continues to use catalogs along with retail stores and online retailing. Unlike the previously mentioned Land’s End which reduced the use of printed catalogs and lost considerable revenue, L.L. Bean has thrived by retaining catalogs as part of its marketing mix while using technology to send a number of specialized catalogs to targeted customers (Ruiz) as suggested by author Henthorn. Henthorn mentioned catalogs being popular with millennials because they are more of a novelty to that generation, and author Ruiz picked up on a similar observation by quoting a customer named Melissa Berggren who felt that the trend away from catalogs during the recession years made catalogs seem fresh and interesting again. Ms. Berggren also appreciated the upgraded concepts and production values of some of today’s catalogs which she likes to use for decorating inspiration rather than just product listings (Ruiz). Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, notes that brands need to really work hard to gain attention from customers (Ruiz). When customers enjoy interacting with a brand in any channel, that company has a competitive advantage (Garnier and Poncin, 363).

IKEA is another brand that is using multiple channels to reach customers according to their preferences. Brick-and-mortar retailing dominates, but the catalog, apps, social media and e-commerce channels are still very important (Pride and Ferrell, 489-491). IKEA also put extra effort into making their stores into destinations with cafes and displays that are compelling and tailored to the clientele in the vicinity (Pride and Ferrell, 490). Researchers Garnier and Poncin studied the use of catalogs by IKEA because they are a company that still has a popular printed catalog even though they offer several other channels (Garnier and Poncin, 362). The researchers’ goal was to study the effectiveness of online catalogs as compared to e-commerce web sites and printed catalogs (Garnier and Poncin, 361). Although their findings suggested that online catalogs might not be a necessary investment if a company already has an e-commerce web site (Garnier and Poncin, 366), there are concepts in their paper that can apply to any marketing channel. Customers seek both utilitarian and hedonic value when they shop (Garnier and Poncin, 364). Hedonic value is the “search for pleasure, fun, and experiential stimulation” (Garnier and Poncin, 363). In the brick-and-mortar realm, L.L. Bean is giving customers a more compelling experience in its flagship store by including a cafe and demonstrations, making this location a tourist destination as well as a channel for engaging with the brand (Pride and Ferrell, 488). Like IKEA, L.L. Bean successfully added to the hedonic value of customer store visits. Catalogs that only repeat product listings that are on the company’s web site risk creating a negative impression on customers by wasting paper and the customer’s time (Ruiz). Printed catalogs that contain content that adds to the hedonic value, such as stories, are being used by many brands that know their customers like to be inspired by catalogs (Ruiz).

Marketers that do still use catalogs should take into account what their customers like or dislike about catalogs today to use them effectively. For example Patagonia prints its catalogs on recycled paper to reduce the environmental concern that customers may have about paper catalogs (Ruiz). Land’s End surveyed its customers and found out that 75% of online purchasers had used the catalog to review products, a finding that caused the company to reconsider the role of catalogs in its marketing mix (Ruiz). As we’ve been learning, all marketing should be centered on the customer (Pride and Ferrell, 5). The marketing environment is always changing (Pride and Ferrell, 12-13) and the same forces that influence the marketing environment in general also can cause older channels to be used by customers in new ways.

Works Cited

Garnier, Marion and Ingrid Poncin. “Do enriched digital catalogues offer compelling experiences, beyond websites? A comparative analysis through the IKEA case.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 47, March 2019, pp. 361-369. doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2018.12.011. Accessed 19 April 2020.

Henthorn, Lisa. “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes.” Access Intelligence, LLC, 2019, https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/catalogs-remain-staple-retailers-toolboxes/. Accessed 18 April 2020.

Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.

Ruiz, Rebecca R. “Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times.” The New York Times Company, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/business/media/catalogs-after-years-of-decline-are-revamped-for-changing-times.html. Accessed 20 April 2020.

Sopadjieva, Emma et al. “A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works”. Harvard Business School Publishing, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/a-study-of-46000-shoppers-shows-that-omnichannel-retailing-works. Accessed 20 April 2020.

Links to some of the resources I cited above and for some that I did not use are on a Pinterest board here:
Marketing 5000

Article Review: Marketing “Green” Products and Being a Good Corporate Citizen

This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Dr. John Jinkner

MRKT-5000: Marketing

6 April 2020

Article Review #1: – E-Marketing, Digital Media and Social Networking

Name of the Article:  “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales”

Source:  Journal of Interactive Marketing

URL:  http://dx.doi.org.library3.webster.edu/10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005

Article Summary

Authors Lu and Miller examined how loyalty rewards programs (LRP) combined with customer relationship management (CRM) and social media campaigns could increase sales of “green” products in a retail setting.  Concentrating on grocers who sell foods that are marketed as organic, healthy and sustainable, the article explains that while the demand for “green” foods is growing, there are barriers to the acceptance of these products among some consumers (Lu and Miller, 87-88).  Some potential customers hold the perception that environmentally sustainable foods are too expensive, aren’t adequate substitutes for conventional products and are not worth the extra cost.  With additional knowledge about the value of such products, some consumers can be persuaded to give them a chance and be converted to motivated buyers (Lu and Miller, 88).

Because Facebook was the most dominant social media platform in the world at the time of the study, the authors used it to examine the relationship between Facebook content and sales among “green” grocery retailers in a large city in Australia.  Facebook is a platform that marketers can use to practice social customer relationship management (SCRM), an updated form of customer relationship management (CRM) that adds social media into the marketing mix (Lu and Miller, 89).  Intuition and previous studies showed the authors that effective content on Facebook should increase sales.  Their study focused on participants in loyalty rewards programs which are proven to increase profitability if used effectively (Lu and Miller, 90).

Social media gives consumers more control over marketing because they can create and share content rather than just consuming content that is pushed to them by the brand (Lu and Miller, 89).  Both brand-generated and consumer-generated content can increase the level of interest and engagement with a brand, which has a positive influence on actual shopping activity (Lu and Miller, 89, 91).  “Green” products do often require more knowledge on the part of the consumer to realize the value and to stimulate a purchase (Lu and Miller, 91).  Many “green” consumers organize themselves into social media-based communities that share common values and exchange information (Lu and Miller, 91).  Consumers need to be motivated to effectively consume information presented by a brand (Lu and Miller, 92).  It makes sense to leverage the power of social media along with the heightened brand engagement exhibited by long-term loyalty reward program participants (Lu and Miller, 92) to increase the acceptance of environmentally responsible products.  Lu and Miller found that thoughtful SCRM strategies did increase the sales of “green” products to long-term LRP members (Lu and Miller, 97) and that these loyal customers responded more to messages about the health benefits of sustainable products than they did about the environmental benefits or the price (Lu and Miller, 98).

How this Article Relates to our Course

In Chapter 1 of our textbook, “Marketing”, we are reminded that environmental factors that influence marketing can change quickly (Pride and Ferrell, 13).  As we are now suddenly dealing with a global health issue that has severe effects on many aspects of life, one way consumer needs have changed rapidly is that we need supplies to protect ourselves from infection.  Health, physical and mental, is at the top of nearly everyone’s concerns right now.  I work in a store that has a loyalty rewards program, engages in social media marketing, and sells some environmentally conscious products, considerations which made the article I reviewed of particular interest.  We also sell supplies, some in stock intermittently, that customers want and need to cope with the pandemic.  I’m observing and participating in real time how to change course rapidly as we respond to consumer demand as well as reading about it in our textbook.

Perhaps some might assume that such an event in history is a time for mere coping, not marketing.  Marketing concept is a philosophy that an organization adopts when it takes into account not only the needs of customers but the welfare of all the stakeholders that it has an effect upon (Pride and Ferrell, 13-14).  Customers of the store are stakeholders, as well as are owners, employees, vendors, service providers, delivery people, the families of all those groups and the community as a whole. Profiting by satisfying customer demand at the expense of other stakeholders was already frowned upon by many as a business practice before the current challenges we are facing (Pride and Ferrell, 14).  Brand managers would be wise to be wary of being perceived as exploiting a crisis.  For example, businesses that inflate the prices of crucial items or make false claims about the usefulness of products have been reported by name in an article published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (Stewart).

The article I reviewed is enlightening when considering how marketing concept applies to serving the community in the present time.  Since long-term loyalty rewards program customers are the most profitable customer category for a retailer (Lu and Miller, 92), it is less than rational to reap short-term gains at the risk of offending long-term loyal customers with behavior that is not community-minded.  I hypothesize that a brand that already takes into account all stakeholders and has effectively imbued its organization with the philosophy behind its marketing concept is at low risk for carelessly implementing an action that will backfire because the first instincts of individuals within the organization will be to serve rather than exploit.  Now is not a time to cease marketing but to use actions as marketing while serving all stakeholders with a view to their long-term health and welfare, fiscal and otherwise.

Works Cited

Lu, Qiang Steven, and Rohan Miller. “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales.” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 46, May 2019, pp. 87–100. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005. Accessed 06 April 2020.

Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.

Stewart, Tynan. “Overpriced toilet paper, $12 masks: Missourians complain about coronavirus price-gouging.” Stltoday.com, 2020, www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/overpriced-toilet-paper-12-masks-missourians-complain-about-coronavirus-price-gouging/article_4bedcd86-c828-5be2-9f03-c3e010ef820c.html. Accessed 6 April 2020.

My Opinion of What Marketing is About

I found out at the last minute that I had homework for my first Marketing 5000 class which starts in a few minutes. I wasn’t sure how to turn it in (the class is online) so I’ll make it a blog post. Enjoy!

When I was working on an undergraduate degree, I was a participant in Student Government. I wanted to get better at what I was trying to accomplish so I bought and read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. A friend of mine was over at my house visiting and saw the book on my desk. He exclaimed, in a horrified tone, “You shouldn’t read that! It tells you how to manipulate people!” My answer was, paraphrasing, “I don’t think manipulation is the right word. I remember reading in the book you should give compliments to the person you are attempting to influence, but they should be sincere compliments – you should look for something you genuinely admire about the person or the strategy won’t work. Also it says that business deals should benefit both parties.”

I’m aware that some businesses take a “churn and burn” attitude toward their customers. For example there is a retail store I’ve worked for briefly that does not care if the service in the store is horrible because they can always get in new customers by aggressive coupon marketing. At least that appears to be the attitude held by those in charge – I don’t have a statement saying so from them, I’m surmising it by the way the company is run. Their treatment of employees is similar: the equipment, such as lockers and cash registers is always breaking down, the toilets frequently back up and the bathroom stinks almost perpetually. Some of the managers are verbally abusive and don’t give bathroom breaks or answer new employee’s questions about how to do things without an accompanying put-down. As a result of things like that the turnover rate of employees is high which in turn creates even worse service for the customers. I’ve worked at other retail stores that have as part of their “basic beliefs” or “mission statements” goals like “respect for the individual” and “enhancing the quality of life in our community”. In both places the statements of beliefs and philosophy were distributed to all and posted in prominent locations. These businesses are seeking repeat business from customers and want to retain good employees while still trying to meet the challenges of staying profitable.

Dale Carnegie’s urging to make business deals that benefit all involved parties is an example of what is referred to as marketing concept in our textbook “Marketing” by authors William M. Pride and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing concept aims to meet the organization’s goals and the needs of customers through a management philosophy that involves not only the marketing department but all departments and activities of the organization (13-14). In light of this explanation of marketing concept, it’s not too surprising to me that the same company that is willing to treat employees poorly also does not mind treating customers poorly. My Mom and Dad passed on to me the teaching they got from their employer Boeing that other employees are to be considered as “internal customers”.

A business can sometimes legally choose to attempt to meet its customer’s needs while disregarding the long-term welfare of society. For example if a business moves manufacturing to another country to avoid environmental regulations or reduce labor costs, in the short term their profits will go up but society will suffer. We are seeing the effects right now in the coronavirus pandemic of having so many of our needed supplies come from far away. If a company can manufacture goods so cheaply that it’s cost effective to ship them thousands of miles, that might work until there is some kind of crisis that exposes the weaknesses of such practices.

In my opinion, here are some other examples that I’d like business leaders to think about:

  • Can our employees afford to buy the products? If they can afford them, they can use them and tell customers about them.
  • If the people in the target market don’t have jobs any more, can they afford to buy the products?
  • If we force our workers and the community to accept unhealthy conditions, will we always have a healthy and productive workforce to draw from?
  • If I try to take unfair advantage of the providers of goods and services, am I ok with that store or that vendor going out of business? For example, if you nickel and dime your webmaster to death until they have to get another job to stay solvent, will you care if you have to pay to get a whole new web site because you can’t find anyone reasonable to maintain the old one?

We could probably all go on and on with examples! If there is not enough public outrage or their government refuses to hold them accountable, businesses can get away with unsustainable practices for a long time.

In our textbook there is a case study about New Belgium Brewing on pages 26-27. NBB not only put thought into the quality of the product, they think of their employees, the community and the environment as stakeholders whose well-being is important. It’s part of their brand to care for all the stakeholders and they are still profitable and growing. A marketing concept is intended to benefit both profits and the full range of stakeholders.

I can’t afford to do all my shopping at Whole Foods, but I do shop there sometimes when I need something that other stores don’t have. Once I was trying to buy suet for making wild bird food cakes. The butcher at Whole Foods told me they did not sell suet. Since they do some of the meat cutting there in the store, I asked the butcher if I could buy a quantity of fat trimmings to experiment with. He told me I could have them for free and he’d save me some and to come back tomorrow. I did and got a nice big package of fat which helped feed a lot of birds. This employee did not know if I would buy anything from Whole Foods or not, but knew it was in keeping with their brand to provide that service. Whole Foods also donated a quantity of unused plastic containers to Litzinger Road Ecology Center where I am a volunteer. We used some of the containers as suet molds. With actions such as these, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to all stakeholders while reinforcing their brand.

Some consumers probably think of a brand as a name of a product or a logo, but a brand can also include things like sounds, colors, pictures, experiences, environments and actions. A marketing concept can help a business select actions that are good for profits and also for society.

Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages

In Mass Communication class this past fall, I wrote about the following propaganda techniques in my paper “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?” – Name Calling, Glittering Generalities, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon, Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. I found some really interesting information about trolling that I saved in the extra links section below my paper for further study later. Recently in Media and Culture class, we watched a 60 Minutes video report titled “Brain Hacking” which inspired me to do a little experiment on social media the next day.

I saw a meme shared by a friend on Facebook that contained a false but somewhat plausible sounding claim about current political events. I shared it in my Facebook feed, which is public because I use it for marketing as well as other purposes, to see what kind of reaction I would get. I and others made some comments below it that I plan to investigate more and write up in a more polished way later. For now, one of the most important things I observed was that the meme drew comments from people I’ve been Facebook friends with for years (and friends in real life in some cases) who never respond to my more typical, much higher quality content. I can speculate on many reasons why this was so, some of which I may be able to prove and some I may not. One thing I can definitively assert however is the effect of the trolling on this blog, a separate channel from Facebook but with lots of cross-links back and forth. I posted the trolling meme on November 20, 2019 and here is a screenshot I took this morning of my blog stats.

blog traffic increased by trolling
Yes I’m a graphic designer and I could have easily faked this graphic – but I give you my word that I didn’t, for what it’s worth!

With more research I hope to understand more about how trolling works, but I think it’s pretty clear why so many people do it – it gets attention!

In my current Media and Culture class, one of our recent assignments was to find and analyze examples of a successful political ad and and unsuccessful political ad. I found something really great – a successful political ad about political ads, very interesting for that reason alone, which was also a Facebook trolling experiment perpetrated by a presidential campaign.

A political ad that comments on advertising and is also a trolling test.

Even though “trolling” is a word with negative connotations, I think this is a very successful example and in a way could be considered “good” propaganda as I consider my own trolling test to be. In both cases we tried to be somewhat ethical while trolling by eventually coming clean about what we were doing in order to raise awareness. Regardless of which candidate one supports, I think all can benefit from seeing and analyzing the Warren ad. In order to truly be able to interpret media messages it is a good media literacy skill to be aware of the ad policy on the channel on which you are viewing the content. It’s a hot topic right now in the news as channels scramble to modify their ad policies to bring about the election results they want, appease users who fear “fake news” and trolls, and still get a slice of that fat advertising pie (according to Bloomberg over a billion in 2016 just for the dominant presidential candidates).

The original Warren ad led off with a shocking statement to get attention. After explaining the purpose of lying in the ad, the copy then makes accusations that would take research to prove or disprove which I’m not going to attempt here, but would probably be believed or dismissed by many depending on how the audience has been primed. The photo of Trump and Zuckerberg shaking hands will likely get an emotional reaction out of a lot of people. Even though a handshake is a standard beginning and end to a business meeting, the photo suggests they are partners. I don’t know if the photo was purposely chosen to show eye contact between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Trump with the President appearing to be speaking and Mr. Zuckerberg listening, but it could be interpreted as trying to show the smaller, slighter, younger Zuckerberg as being under Trump’s thrall.

Was the Warren ad effective? When I did research trying to find information about this ad, I learned that it inspired commentary and articles on NPR, CNET, CNBC, The New York Times and others. The media coverage I’m sure is something the campaign wants since their stated goal is to raise awareness of Facebook’s current advertising policy. Based on a quick glance at Warren’s Twitter feed, the amount of likes and shares this ad instigated was a very good result compared to normal results. The call to action at the end is a common feature of many good ads – it lets viewers do something right away if they are so moved.

There is a Facebook Ad Library that allows you to view current and past ads, even ones you were not otherwise shown because you were not the target audience. It’s interesting to see what each campaign is running! Also if you do searches about a candidate (for example “Donald Trump”) vs. those that are paid for by the Candidate’s own committee (for example ” Trump Make America Great Again Committee”), you can get very different results. Try it!

The photo in the troll ad reminds me of the Webster University Journal article we discussed toward the beginning of the class about Senator Josh Hawley and the Confucius Institute. A lot of photos could have been chosen to use in that article. It’s interesting that most of the other articles I found have photos of activities at Confucius Institutes, Chinese people or Chinese culture, or some kind of protest. But the Journal article has a photo that could be considered kind of loaded, especially when you consider it in conjunction with the article’s contents. Why do you think a photo from Cape Girardeau was chosen instead of one from the St. Louis area when Webster University and the Confucius Institute it hosts are in St. Louis County? Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they are available. Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they convey a latent message. Do you think there are latent messages in these two photos?

political photo choice in an ad and in an article
Photo from the Warren ad on the left, photo from the Webster University Journal on the right. What messages might be sent based on Scale? On Relative Position? Anything else?

After reading my paper “Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown what do you think of the above two photos? Still photos and motion pictures use a lot of the same production elements. Following are some more questions I would ask the writer, editor and publisher of the Journal if I could.

Why was there no mention made that there was a Senate hearing on the issue with a member of the FBI giving testimony about why the agency was concerned?

Why was no mention made of other politicians from both major parties writing similar letters to colleges in their states? Some of the other Universities’ actions were mentioned, but not what prompted them. Why is that?

Why was no mention made of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report? The excerpt below is from page 21:

“Over the last several years, members of Congress, U.S. government officials, and academics have raised a number of concerns about Confucius Institutes, including about academic freedom, contractual agreements, transparency, hiring practices, and self-censorship. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committees all held broad hearings that discussed China at which Senators heard from experts on U.S.-China relations, academic freedom advocates, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, members of Congress from several states issued public letters to U.S. schools with Confucius Institutes urging them to reconsider their arrangement with Hanban.”

I am very much in favor of cultural exchange and the learning languages of other cultures. I think the more we and other nations understand each other the better off we will all be. I don’t know whether the Webster University Chancellor made the right decision or not because I don’t know enough about the legal and financial arrangements to judge. I could not detect anything false in the Webster Journal article, but on the other hand I don’t think there was enough information in it to understand the actual issue. I am pretty sure I know what the Journal wanted me to think about it though. I think my analysis is an example of how we have to read all news stories to be informed and not just manipulated.

To see what I used as sources in analyzing the Journal article I put a link to the Journal article and other interesting articles on the topic I found, plus a link to the Senate report on this Confucius Institutes on College Campuses Pinterest board.

What is the Hallmark Channel Selling?

Here is a paper submitted for Media and Culture class, presented here before grading.


Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Dr. Amanda Staggenborg
MEDC 5310.01: Media and Culture
12 November 2019

What is the Hallmark Channel Selling?

People tend to consume culture that is in accordance with their own attitudes, values and behaviors (Silverblatt et al. 97). If a media product gains a wide audience by appealing to the cultural norms of a large number of people, it becomes an example of popular culture (Silverblatt et al. 97).

During the week of November 20, 2017, the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas subscriber television programming was the highest rated for women in the age ranges 18-49 and 25-54 (Rosa). Hallmark put 16 more new Christmas movies into production in 2018 than 2017 (Rosa), indicating that the channel’s popularity was expected to rise even more.

Back in 2003, the Hallmark Channel was ranked 22nd. It saw itself as family friendly, “Main Street and mainstream”, with potential to become a much more powerful and popular network (Umstead). Also in 2003, the Hallmark Channel’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing and brand strategy also found the concept of “owning holidays” appealing as the channel started timing its programming to follow the holiday oriented calendar of the Hallmark brand’s retail stores (Forkan).

Hallmark stores are in the business of selling a variety of gift products that carry emotional messages (Ferrante-Schepis). On the Hallmark Channel, now one of several channels owned by Crown Media Family Networks which is in turn owned by Hallmark Cards, Inc. (About Hallmark Channel), the emotional messages support the brand and are also part of the product.

To be successful, marketers need to understand the values that their customers hold and celebrate during the holidays. Christmas consumers are moved by traditions and holiday memories (Knaub-Hardy 119-121). Other than just commerce and commercialism, many people celebrate by attending worship services and are conscious of promoting joy, love, community and kindness to others (Meredith). Typically celebrants engage in a lot of family activities such as parties, family portraits and school concerts (Stirland 22). The Hallmark brand has been around long enough that it has become a holiday tradition in its own right (Danailova 184).

The Hallmark Channel audience is about 70% female and about 30% male (Hallmark Channel CEO…) with a median age of 58.6 (Battaglio). Bill Abbot, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, aims to appeal to viewers who are under served by an industry that in the main produces content that features violence, sex and controversy to court young viewers and the affluent audiences that are found in large cities (Battaglio).

Many Hallmark movie plots center around a woman who lives in a big city and has a stressful career (Battaglio). There are few people of color in most casts, a frequent criticism that the channel has acknowledged and is gradually taking steps to correct (Ellenbogen). The protagonist usually finds fulfillment by moving to a small town and engaging in romance with a supportive man that sometimes helps her solve her problems (Battaglio). There are holiday activities we associate with stereotypical All-American small town values and the plots make sure these endeavors include lots of consumption, such as gift giving, wrapping, food crafting and decorating (Battaglio). It makes sense to combine Christmas and romance together because the romantic ideal world view embraces Truth, Love, Beauty, Faith and Justice (Silverblatt et al. 109), values that work well in either context or both together.

Many critics have examined the implications of the popularity of these formula driven movies from feminist and political points of view. Some analysts think the movies make a pro-feminist statement while others are of the opinion that the values celebrated in the movies are a throwback to times when women had more constrained roles in society. Sometimes the movies are praised for giving viewers a respite from exhausting politicized content, and they also invite criticism from others for not including controversial or political messages.

The choice by Crown Media to attempt to avoid controversy is deliberate (Hallmark Channel CEO…). Referring back to the company’s direction in 2003, Crown Media appears to have kept its goal of “owning a holiday” firmly in mind (Forkan). Consumers who are motivated by thoughts of nostalgia, tradition and the better parts of human nature are assumed to respond negatively to programming that reminds them of how different the real world is from their ideal vision. People also reject content that is offensive to their most deeply held values (Silverblatt et al. 97).

Moving to the country has been a cherished American fantasy for a long time. When the United States was founded, many of the architects of the new nation idealized farming (Wolf). In the 1950s, when television first became the dominant form of media, many television programs moved their casts to or created shows in small towns and suburbia (Hine 24). People who moved to the suburbs liked to think they were moving to small towns, according to analysts of the time (Hine 24).

The book Populuxe makes the case that the years 1954-1964 were the high point of American consumer culture. Despite criticism by elite taste makers, many Americans bought products that were not of great quality but symbolized their fantasies about the past and the future (Hine 60-61). Crown Media appears to have tapped into the fantasies of Christmas and holiday buyers but has gone even farther by associating holiday consumption with other cultural myths of American mass consumers.


Works Cited

“About Hallmark Channel.” Crown Media, 2019, www.hallmarkchannel.com/about-us. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Danailova, Hilary. “Party, Gift and Hallmark Stores: Trends in Year-End Selling.” Souvenirs, Gifts, & Novelties, vol. 56, no. 4, May 2017, pp. 182-184. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=123229254&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Ellenbogen, Rachel, “Why Are Hallmark Movie Casts So White? We Asked The CEO” IBTimes LLC., 2017, https://www.ibtimes.com/why-are-hallmark-movie-casts-so-white-we-asked-ceo-2631589. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Ferrante-Schepis, Maria. “Lessons from Three Undisrupted Brands.” National Underwriter / Life & Health Financial Services, vol. 121, no. 2, Feb. 2017, p. 18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=121064821&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Forkan, Jim. “Promo-Wise, Hallmark’s the Holiday Net.” Multichannel News, vol. 24, no. 15, Apr. 2003, p. 23. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=9537921&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

“Hallmark Channel CEO Shares the Magic Behind the Network’s Strategy.” NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, 2019, www.ncta.com/whats-new/hallmark-channel-ceo-shares-the-magic-behind-the-networks-strategy. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Hill, Samantha Rose, “Why the Hallmark Channel Is Completely Dominating in 2017.” Group Nine Media Inc., 2019, https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/hallmark-channel-movies-success-2017. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Hine, Thomas. Populuxe: From Tailfins and TV Dinners To Barbie Dolls and Fallout Shelters. MJF Books, 1986 and 1999.

Knaub-Hardy, Kathy. “How to Sell More Christmas-Themed Home Décor and Ornaments.” Souvenirs, Gifts, & Novelties, vol. 51, no. 5, June 2014, pp. 116-122. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=97170255&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Meredtith, Brian. “Time to Rethink Christmas Marketing.” NZ Business + Management, vol. 30, no. 1, Feb. 2016, p. 54. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=112287637&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Rosa, Christopher, “There’s a Reason You See the Same Women in All Those Hallmark Christmas Movies.” Condé Nast, 2018, https://www.glamour.com/story/hallmark-christmas-movie-actresses. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Stirland, Kirby. “All the Trimmings.” Earnshaw’s Review, vol. 99, no. 6, July 2015, pp. 22-39. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=109111548&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Umstead, R.Thomas. “Hallmark: ‘JAG’ Fits Our Brand Strategy.” Multichannel News, vol. 24, no. 25, June 2003, p. 16. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=10092311&site=ehost-live. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Wolf, Tom, “A Nation Founded By Farmers.” Modern Farmer Media, 2013, https://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/the-founding-fathers-on-farming/. Accessed 12 November 2019.

There are a few more articles that I read but did not use on my Pinterest board:
Media Analysis

The Joys of Decorating

endcap at Schnarr's Hardware in Webster GrovesThis past Wednesday was a pretty gloomy day weather-wise. It wasn’t terribly cold, but it was relentlessly gray and damp. While working at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves on that day, I was given the task of helping to hang garlands and wreaths on the outside of the store. We were preparing for the Old Webster Holiday Open House which runs from 10 am – 4 pm today.

Whether it was the physical exercise involved or something inherently joyful about decorating, almost immediately my dull mood turned lively and creative. Over the next few days I got some of my Christmas stuff out and started brainstorming on decorating ideas for the store and the home I share with my husband Tom. I finally got some ideas for the endcap in the Garden department that I decorated and update from time to time. I added some paper flowers I made with tin birds, seed packets from Botanical Interests, some little tin watering cans, a canvas mat with attractive lettering and some holiday faux greenery and floral pieces.  I’d been stuck for awhile on ideas but I finally felt inspired. If you’re going to the Open House today be sure to stop in Schnarr’s – there are some new holiday items to see and and lots of festive lights and decorations!

For many years when I lived alone in my condo I did not bother with displaying Christmas decorations. I made them because I love to make them and always will, but since I didn’t have many visitors I thought it was not worth the effort just to decorate for myself. Before I met my husband, I was dating a guy for the first time in many many many (did I say many) years and I did decorate a bit while seeing him since I finally had someone else to decorate for. I think I have learned a lesson from these experiences – it’s exciting to work on decorations and displays for business purposes because selling things and creating excitement in a store is a lot of fun. But it’s also worth doing just for yourself, whether you live alone or not. You can choose to shop for a lot of new items, use old favorites or combine old and new. If you find that decorating lifts your winter mood, you are worth the effort all by yourself! You could look at it as a form of necessary self care. Tom and I will have to be somewhat restrained in our decorating at home because we have cats, but we can do something and I’m going to make the effort. (The mistletoe is up already, to make sure we get lots of use out of that!)