So I just went to a business forum event in downtown Los Angeles. It was great! Before the details and lessons that I picked up vanish, I'm going to document.
Event: ALOUD Business Forum: Fresh Approaches to Branding and Marketing
Lynda Resnick, in conversation with Lisa Napoli, author & journalist (Marketplace, MSNBC, NY Times)
Lynda Resnick began her career at the age of nineteen, when she founded a full-service advertising agency. Successfully running this business so early in her career enabled her to gain invaluable and practical marketing experience. She left advertising in 1979 after purchasing a fledgling floral wire service called Teleflora, where she became Executive Vice President of Marketing, soon ascending to chairman of the company. These days, Lynda is known as the PomQueen for obvious reasons. POM Wonderful is not only a company that farms, markets and sells fresh pomegranates, but it also produces and markets POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice and POM Tea, which are sold in grocery stores, mass merchandise and club stores across the nations. The company has invested more than 25 million in scientific research, and as a result, pomegranates are now known in our culture for their astonishing health benefits.
After signing in, I felt a little awkward. Other than a handful of other UCLA MBA students, I was much younger than the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I love networking but I had trouble getting my foot into the door. So in trouble, I scampered to the coffee table and met a lady working at an insurance company. It turned out that she was the Director of Corporate Communications. They fund organizations like Iridescent but funding was halted due to the economic crash. In any case, she told me she would look out for some possible funding options and get back to me. By this time, it was time for the talk. The talk was structured as an interview. It was a very fascinating talk and I was more and more engaged. Ms. Resnick was talking about her successes in reaching out to different markets. Without further ado, I'm going to highlight some of her strategies:
1) To effectively market your product, you need to invest time and money into finding the true value of the product. This will lead you right into the market where your product will thrive. Lynda and her husband, found some pomegranate trees in some farmland that they purchased. The land was primarily bought for pistachios. For some time, people have talked about the health benefits of pomegranates. Out of curiosity, they began some research studies into the health benefits and they found great results. I didn't know this, but pomegranates have assisted in lowering PSA (the indicator to prostate cancer). I should start drinking pomegranate juice! You need to find the real power or lack of power in the product you are marketing!
2) "Think inside the box." Many companies resort to celebrities to pitch their products out. They rely on the power of others for their success. But instead of wasting time and money with this, sell your product based on the what the product provides - or what's in the product. Make the product the celebrity! As a funny story, Jessica Simpson did advertisements for Domino's pizza. Later, they found out that she was allergic to cheese, and some other basic pizza ingredients. lol...
3) Lynda didn't talk about this directly but she referred to the power of blogging a few times. This blogging tool is becoming more and more powerful in this Internet Era. We often find random blogs all over the place. Person X tells person Y. Person Y tells Person Z, etc. Now, you have a growing network. All you had to do what was put some thoughts in your head into "print".
4) Lynda was asked about her strategies during the economic crisis. She mentioned that it's a great time to give back! A great time for non-profits to push forward. Invest time into things that people care about. She mentioned some major philanthropic efforts from Al Gore and Bill Clinton that were talked about at a recent TED talk.
5) The most important lesson that I took from her talk was the importance of not taking shortcuts. People (like me) dream about being at the top. To get there, you need to slug through the rough roads. If you take shortcuts, it will come back and haunt you. You need to do your research, invest the time and grow - No matter how many connections you have.
During the question-answer section at the end of the talk, I really wanted to ask something. But sitting in a large auditorium with directors, vice-presidents and entrepreneurs scared me. To put it simply, I didn't want to sound stupid. So I thought and developed a question:
"Hi, my name is Guru. I work for a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit that tries to make engineers and scientists out of children in under-served communities. You mentioned the importance of taking the rough road in order to get onto the big stage. You talked about developing a brand. You talked about finding out what people need and the value of your product. This all sounds great. I strongly believe in branding. But, as you said, involves a large financial obligation. As you said. POM spent millions of dollars in this process. You were fortunate enough to be in a position where you had the funding sitting right around you. But, how would it work a non-profit like us, especially in today's economic crisis? How can we do all these things when we don't have the money?"
I was slightly impressed by the question that I whipped out because it didn't sound like that in my head. lol.. Anyway, Lynda's response was something like the following:
"That's a great question. It sounds like you are apart of something really great. I'm happy to hear it. It is tough trying to brand when you don't have all the financial resources but I can suggest a few tools that you can use. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a tool that is becoming more and more useful. Search engines like google pick up on certain words. It is important to have the content on your website written out appropriately so that you optimize the number hits you get. You can pay programmers that specialize in doing this. Buy keywords to increase hits. It's very cheap! Speak to groups in your community who are interested in what you are doing. Find the movers and shakers. Go present to them and convince them to join your mission."
She also mentioned to use blogging to increase visibility. She asked me whether her answer was sufficient. lol. I think she appreciated my question and wanted to ensure she gave me a good answer.
Shortly after that, the talk was over. As I got up to move to the lobby, I was approached by two ladies that worked at a bank right across the street. They said they were impressed by my question and want to know more about what we do. The same thing happened with a lady that works at a local radio station. She told me to contact her with more details about what we do. Lynda also mentioned using the media to increase visibility.
In an attempt to get 5 seconds of face-to-face time with Lynda, I purchased her book which was being sold at the event. I then stood in line to get it signed. When I went up to her, she said, "Oh yes, you're the guy that asked the question!"
In any case, I learned a lot and really enjoyed the event. I loved the opportunity to network and help spread word about this cause that I truly believe in. It's easy to do things for people or things that you care about.
I'm tired of writing so I'll leave it at that for now. Feel free to leave your feedback.