Wednesday, August 31, 2011

words to live by wednesday

"the happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts. Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, good conversation, are the happiest people in the world. And they are not only happy in themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others."
-William Phelps

I strive to be one of those people. Just a nice thought to get through the rest of the week!

notes on buy-ology by martin lindstrom

During the laid-back summer months that I was not involved with Tech's New Student Orientation, I was able to satisfy the bookworm in me. One of the best books I read this summer was Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom.

The other night I was reading through some of the notes I wrote while I was reading the book and tabbed important pages. I was quickly reminded of how much I enjoyed reading this book. Lindstrom truly delves into the subconscious mind of consumers-- and of the human population in general. He mentioned multiple times that his research and analysis were not solely for the benefit of marketers. He wanted consumers to understand why we tend to make decisions irrationally and how to avoid falling subject to subliminal marketing techniques.

First, I should start off by actually explaining what "buyology" is. Lindstrom defines this clever term as "the subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make each and every day of our lives (3)."

Lindstrom points out that "how we say we feel about a product can never truly predict how we behave (169)." This observation suggests that traditional marketing research techniques may not be sufficient in revealing consumer opinion about certain brands. Enter neuromarketing studies. These studies help the industry--as well as us, the consumers--understand our "unconscious minds control our behavior (11)."

Lindstrom also elaborates on the point that brands are more than attractive packaging and aesthetically pleasing design. Some brand associations are deeply rooted in our memories from years of exposure and continued loyalty to certain products.

Other cool topics in this book include...

The role of mirror neurons in our purchasing decisions. Mirror neurons are "neurons that fire when an action is being performed and when that same action is being observed (54)." How does this play into our purchasing decisions? When we see someone we admire-- or would like to identify ourselves with--with a certain product, we too would like to obtain said product. As Lindstrom says, "it's as though you've just bought an image, an attitude, or both (59)." In much simpler terms, monkey see, monkey do.

My personal favorite insight I gained is scientific PROOF that shopping does in fact make us happier. This, of course, is something I've always inherently known, but it's reassuring to have the evidence to justify my urge to buy that new pair of shoes. As found on page 63, "that does of happiness can be attributed to dopamine, the brain's flush of reward, pleasure and well-being. When we first decide to buy something, the brain cells that release dopamine secrete a burst of good feeling." So there IS such thing as retail therapy.

We can't make decisions without somatic markers. Somatic markers are "brain shortcuts" that are formed when the brain "scans incredible amounts of memories, facts, and emotions and squeezes them into a rapid response (130)." Many of our brand preferences stem from "somatic markers the brand has carefully created (133-4)." Often times our purchasing decisions seem rational, but instead they are many times irrational and subliminal.

"The current recession has created: one big somatic marker linking money and spending to the massive sense of fear and uncertainty that has wracked the world (208)." I think that this quote is pretty self-explanatory in terms of how somatic markers are created and acknowledged by our unconscious selves. We see the turmoil in the economy, and we note that frivolous spending is deemed irresponsible because of people's monetary standing. People of my generation will now have this somatic marker, or memory of a difficult experience, to refer to in future years, so hopefully unnecessary excessive spending will not be a problem...until the next generation comes around.

I hope that you are now intrigued and will go out and read this book. It is truly one of my favorites.

All quotes are from:

Lindstrom, Martin. (2010). Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. New York: Broadway Books.

Monday, August 29, 2011

every accomplishment starts with the decision to try

“a person can succeed at almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm.”
–charles m. schwab

I saw this quote on Twitter today, and it perfectly summarizes my first presentation assignment in my Buyer-Seller Relationships class today. Last week, we were asked by our professor to create a “one-way presentation” on anything—literally ANYTHING—and then sell our topic to the class in an 8 minute presentation. We then proceeded to break off into groups and brainstorm ideas. My group consisted of four other ladies, also Marketing Majors, who were all very passionate about our similar area of study. After a bit of small talk, we started discussing Virginia Tech’s marketing department, classes that inspired us, what we wished we could change and further develop within our college. Then it hit us. We had so many great, marketable ideas to present, so we ran with the topic. After two out-of-class meetings, we were ready to share our exciting ideas with our class.

Our presentation today went great. We received such positive feedback from our classmates, and it is wonderful to know that other students are as passionate about our subject topic as we are. It is truly refreshing to be surrounded by intelligent people who are excited about what they do and who want to make an impact. Our professor gave praise for our ideas for improvement, and even offered his endorsement should we wish to actually pitch our ideas to the university or prospective sponsors. WOW.

After class, my group stayed after class for nearly 20 minutes to discuss our ideas with our professor. We decided that our major presentation project for the semester would build on the foundation that we set today. Our professor loved our ideas, and offered to excuse us from some of the other class assignments in order to conduct research and interviews for our presentation. He had an even bigger vision for our efforts than we could even imagine: remaining in Blacksburg after graduation to further help develop and implement our changes, or even spreading our program to other schools.

I will write about our ideas more in depth as our project unfolds, but the basis involves developing more social and networking opportunities for marketing students with potential employers. The majority of recruiters that visit Tech are interested in accounting, finance, economics, and business information technology majors. Our marketing students have so much to offer the advertising and communications world, but we struggle with making the connections with firms. We want to help equip students with the social skills needed to interact with potential employers, while also making students more confident and more aware of the industry.

Ultimately, I am just thrilled. Thrilled to go to Virginia Tech, thrilled to be a senior, thrilled to be studying marketing, thrilled to love my major and my work, thrilled to be surrounded by students who feed off of each others creativity, thrilled to have professors that inspire me and believe in my ambitions. Developing these relationships has been invaluable to my development not only as a marketing student, but as an individual as a whole. Days like this just excite me for all of the possibilities ahead of me. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here.

In the spirit of loving my school and a wonderful day, I've included this picture of Burruss Hall that I took with Instagram this afternoon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

virginia tech freshmen orientation: living each day like "day one"

I have been MIA from blogging and social media in general for the duration of the summer because I have been involved with Virginia Tech's Freshmen Orientation through the office of New Student Programs. To give a little background on the program, the office selected 11 males and 13 females in the fall semester 2010 to become Orientation Leaders (OL's) for the summer 2011. In addition to this team of 24 OL's, there were 3 male and 3 female Orientation Assistants (OA's) who were returning to the program after serving as OL's the previous summer. The OA's helped mentor the group of OL's and worked more on the logistics of Orientation, rather than with the students.

From the second I walked into Commonwealth Ballroom for my own freshmen orientation in July 2008, I knew I wanted to be an Orientation Leader. Little did I know just how much it would change my life and inspire me to become a better person.

As a Leadership and Social Change minor, I loved learning about leadership theories, strengths, and group dynamics during orientation training in the spring semester 2011. I am a very passionate leader, as I have spent the majority of my college career in extracurricular activities based on leadership or team building. I really appreciated how much time and energy the Dean of Students Office at Virginia Tech invested in the developing our leadership skills as well as our character. I acquired many life lessons through my experience as an OL while also forming meaningful relationships with not only the freshmen I worked with, but also the Orientation Team and Staff. I hope that I am able to articulate just how much I learned this summer, though I know I could not put into words how grateful I am to have had this opportunity.

One important message that I will always treasure from Orientation is what I like to call the "Day One" mentality. Essentially, this mentality is based in a customer service aspect, meaning to treat each day of work at orientation as the first day since it was each student's and family's "day one." In the long hours, intense schedule, and energy-demanding days of orientation, it was easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and relax on our duties. We were working over 16 hour days and were constantly interacting with parents and students alike. It was crucial to give these families everything we could offer so as to make their orientation experience (and official welcome to Virginia Tech) the best it could be. Whenever someone was tired or zoning out or having a bad day, we'd simply remind each other: "Day One."

The "Day One" mentality of orientation will be a mantra I remember forever. I think of it as a positive spin on the phrase "live each day as though it is your last." "Day One" was just a motivating insight when the days were long or if my students didn't participate in activities as much as I would have liked. I think that "Day One" is a succinct reminder that we only have one chance: to impact someone's life, to make someone's day, to enjoy our family and friends, and to experience life. I now strive to treat each day as "Day One" and remember how lucky I am.

I am incredibly grateful to have been selected to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. I now have a better understanding that Virginia Tech's Orientation is more than school spirit and a welcome to campus-- it is a chance for students to connect to each other and to the university, as well as becoming a part of this wonderful community. Each day of the summer, I was lucky enough to be reminded of how much I love my school and the people attached to it.

This is just one of the many lessons I will take with me from my time as a 2011 Orientation Leader, and I plan on sharing more of these insights in later posts.

On another note, today is my last "first day of school," and you better believe I am treating it as "Day One"-- literally and figuratively.