Saturday, January 30, 2010

American Express, a Global Brand

Founded in 1850, American Express has had quite a storied American history. Starting off as a dusty traveler of western expansion, forwarding freight and valuables to the growing and prosperous nation, the express company has grown into a American success story. After serving as the official currency exchange service on Ellis Island as well as wearing other various delivery and financial hats, the organization evolved into a company that created and sold financial products such as money orders and travelers cheques.

The general themes of the now "global payment company" include American perseverance, innovation, good citizenship and dedication to history and far-reaching customer service. These themes have stayed fairly consistent from the 19th century until today. Examples of the far-reaching customer service, good citizenship, historic link & innovation themes all rolled into one dates back to the brands heyday and consequently can still be witnessed today in some of their practices & marketing concerns. During World War 11 American Express was appointed official agent of the British government in charge of delivering relief parcels and money etc. to British P.O.W.'s in Germany and elsewhere. Also the fact that the brand was actually present & providing financial assistance to the throngs of immigrants on Ellis Island carries the themes of historic links, customer service & innovation. American Express also introduced Traveler's Cheques in 1891 and has been offering cards in markets outside the U.S. since 1958; traits showcasing innovation.

Then in 1983, American Express was one of the earliest users of "cause marketing" when they ran a promotion that for every time a member used their card they would in turn donate a penny to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Small businesses are also important to the brand, and they demonstrate this today with their providing of credit & assistance to small businesses and companies through their "Small Business Network."

When I think of American Express, the brand to me means trust, quality and American perseverance. First, they have been ranked by Business Week as the 22nd "most valuable brand in the world" and in 2005 it ranked in the top twenty of the "2005 Most Trusted Companies." They survived an attempt in the 1930's by J.P. Morgan Chase to totally absorb the organization, and have continued to evolve and grow. They have been around since 1850 in different capacities and have played an intricate role in American history (to make money of course..but still).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Advertising Predictions

In thinking about the future state of advertising and attempting to make valid predictions about the possible health of and avenues through that the industry will indeed travel in the near future, I will draw from (correct, in my opinion) predictions of advertising contained and proselytized in the now iconic book "The Cluetrain Manifesto." I will therefore concentrate on Internet advertising. Internet advertising is interesting in my opinion and it presents a bit of a paradox - large amounts of consumers etc. are online which translates into a ton of opportunity to have many different brands shown and discovered. But the conversation and the ever- burgeoning culture online may not put up with the old methods of one-way advertising.

I believe that the sum of advertising on the web will continue to keep rising. This will be in part because of the massive amount of "eyeballs" on such social networking sites as Facebook (over 350 million people) & Digg. Interestingly, many Internet companies have been saying for years that advertising is how they are going to be making their money; but this may be changing. Brian Solis states recently in his social marketing predictions for 2010, that the role of the new marketer will entail earning media and not buying it. This fits in nicely with Levine et al. who stated over 10 years ago in Cluetrain that "word-of-web", and not traditional advertising is the future of advertising. I agree.

I believe most traditional advertising will be rendered obsolete in the near future, with most consumers utilizing what "real" customers have to say about a product. Amazon's user reviews is a great example of this. Ad's (i.e. banner ads online) will always have the hypnotic, subliminal effect on getting people to buy their products, but the conversation between consumers occurring on the web now will eclipse old advertising.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An analysis of two "job seeker" websites.

Preview: (Link to evaluating website handout here:)

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (P.I.A.L.), “Some 69 percent of all Americans have used the Internet to cope with the recession as they hunt for bargains, jobs, and ways to upgrade their skills…” (Rainie and Smith, 2009, para. 4.). In a 2002 piece titled “Online Job Hunting,” the P.I.A.L. Project discovered that fifty-two million Americans had looked online for information about jobs, with an almost 60 percent jump in online job hunters since 2000 (Boyce and Rainie, 2002). Considering the recent recession, combined with the torrent of new “job seekers” websites out there, this online target market has become one of the most populated, sought after and profitable demographics.

I will flesh out this specific target market of online job seekers, exploring and detailing who is in it, their wants, needs and desires. I will then analyze two competing “job seeker” web sites to see how they in fact respond to that burgeoning target market.

The Internet is a great source of information and an effective tool to utilize if you’re searching for that very first job, a new job or if you are one of the deluge of unfortunate workers who’s been let go because of the recent recession. I posit that because of the ever-emerging power and versatility of the Internet, coupled with the current contagion of economic woes, job seeker websites will fiercely compete with each other and attempt to cater to this entire specific target markets growing needs. So, who are these people that access online job sites, and what do they want and need? Also, just how large is the target market?

According to ClickZ, in 2002 alone there were 13.5 million adult visitors to the “top 10 standalone career websites” (“Job Hunters Choose...,” 2002, para. 1). According to the P.I.A.L. Project, African-Americans are much more likely than whites to look online for information about a new job - 61% to 38% (“How the Internet…,” 2005). But according to Quantcast, African-Americans are using 58% less than whites on a monthly basis. This discrepancy in just one aspect of the target market proves the importance of a detailed analysis between some of these career sites, and as I mentioned I will conduct one below between two of the most popular sites.

The same 2005 P.I.A.L. Project report also states the overall percentage of men that use the Internet is 66%, with women at 61% (2005). Covering the specific demographics of the average ages of people that are most likely in need of a new job, it reports that 78% overall of 18 to 29 year-olds uses the Internet and 74% of all 30 to 49 year-olds uses the Internet (2005). As the ages rise though, the percentages of online use go down.

This seems to back up the evidence of which age group is most likely then to utilize online job sites. According to Boyce and Rainie (2002) online job searching is a young person’s game, with more than 60% of Net users between the ages of 18 to29 searching online for jobs, compared to 42% of people ages 30 to 49 and 27% of those aged 50 to 64. Also, on a normal day “twice as many men go online to hunt for jobs as women” (Recruiters Network, 1997-2007, para. 1). So, what are the professional and educational attributes of the people who are accessing and utilizing these various career sites?

According to the website, the largest percentage (25.7%) of people who visited their job website in November 2009 had two to four years of work experience, and the largest demographic (30.1%) of professionals were administrative/staff workers (2009). In terms of education level, the largest percentage by far (43.4%) of people who visited their website had a master’s degree, with the lowest percentage (2.6%) having an associate’s degree. These percentages make sense because the P.I.A.L. Project states “high socioeconomic status is correlated with online job searching” (“Online Job...A Memo,” 2002, para. 5). What are the specifics when it comes to people choosing certain job websites to visit and then staying to use their career services?

ClickZ states that “there is an emergence of two distinct groups of online job seekers; active and passive” (“Job Hunters Choose...,” 2002, para. 2). A small percentage of visitors to the top career sites appear to be serious users of multiple sites, while the majority tend to flock toward one of the more popular sites and surf it exclusively, albeit more passively the piece states. Both sets of groups look for and want certain characteristics in a job writes HRM Guide: interesting work; opportunities for advancement; people-oriented employers; innovative and financially strong companies etc. (“Job Seekers Want…,” 2006).

But what does this target market want and need from a job website? The P.I.A.L. Project states that they want “immediate access to employment listings, resume distribution and many included members (e.g. employers) (“Online Job...A Memo,” 2002, para .9). Salary information, career advice, and the ability to search for jobs without registering on the site are important attributes too for job seekers, writes (Doyle, n.d.). Social media sites like LinkedIn and MySpace are fast becoming important sites to check out when searching for a job. writes, “Networking (online as well as offline) is still the primary way people find jobs and these sites are simple and easy to use to make connections that will help with your job search” (Doyle, n.d., para. 4). Although this is certainly true and becoming more so every day, I will concentrate on comparing two websites whose central mission is operating solely as a job seeker website.

Analysis of two Websites:

The first job seeker website that I will analyze is and the second website I will look at is I will compare the two sites to discover the specifics of the demographics that use each website, and also to find what factors account for one site being better than the other, if this is in fact the case. I will analyze the usability, structure and marketing communication of each website as well and determine the more popular site. I posit that will be more popular overall than I will begin with includes all the usual, stock features of an average job seeker website. It has options to browse job categories (contract and freelance etc.); access to career fields; options to post resumes; the ability to search by industry and by company; the ability to have jobs emailed to seekers; advice and resources and quizzes to take that supposedly point a candidate into the right direction professionally. The site does have a couple attributes that are specific to just These include a “job discovery wizard” that takes into account a job seekers skills and then calculates the best-fitting profession for them. Patent-pending job searching technology that targets jobs matching keywords in resumes is also available on the site.

The actual color of the site is rather bland (a light yellow that reminds me of being sick) and the usability is below average in my opinion. I say this because their search results are inaccurate and quite difficult to wade through, as I put in public relations and then marketing and a ton of jobs popped up that had nothing to do with either profession. According to user reviews on xomreviews, the site will also frequently spam people who have registered with pointless messages (User comment, Sept. 2007). Another criticism found on xomreviews said that job postings have been stolen off free job boards and then indexed on the as their own (User comment, June 2009.) Some audience data from the Internet seems to give some credence to these negative reviews.

According to Quantcast, females are seven percent more likely than the statistical norm to use this site (All Quantcast data here is from Dec., 2009). Concerning males using the site, as an audience for they are lower (Index score of 90) than the demographic make-up of the total Internet population. Quantcast also computes that 18 to 34 year-olds are 29 % more likely than the statistical norm to use, and 35 to 49 year-olds are 40 % more likely. Some interesting findings from Quantcast states that African-Americans are 107 % more likely than the statistical norm to use and that the site attracts an affluent audience with 4 % more likely than the statistical average to use it ($60 to 100k). I believe that using just these figures, it is safe to assume that most white, young men in the age range of 18 to 34 years-old are less likely to use to find a job. Are they using another site such as We will find out in a bit below.

According to the web information company Alexa, has an “Alexa Traffic Rank” of 422 (with a score of 1 correlating to the highest combination of both page views and visitors over the past three months) (All Alexa data here is from Dec., 2009). Concerning the percent of global Internet users who visit in a month, Alexa calculates it to be a reach of 0.2011, down 1.8% over a trailing one month period. The percentage of visits to that came from a search engine on December 6th alone was 7.7 %, also down 13% over a trailing one day period. According to Alexa, top keywords driving traffic to are “career builder” and “jobs.” I find this quite telling that people searching for “jobs” would then choose, as I found by experiment that also appears in the results (third). Also, according to Alexa, isn’t ranked in the top 100 websites in the United States (its #110). also includes the average tools and resources found on most job seeker websites. They provide the tools for resume uploads and cover letter uploads; making a personal profile; advice sections; job postings; searching by industry and company and also database search tools for employers etc. But where they really differ from in my opinion is with their new “community section,” the ability to set up personal webpage’s and site usability (and a much more inviting page color-purple). Accessing the new community section a person can choose between different “communities” to search around in and interact with. The one that caught my eye was titled “Monster College Community.” Here says you can network with recent graduates and “learn job-hunting skills from experts” (2009). I navigated around this community for awhile and found it quite easy and interesting to hear other graduates experiences in the work world.

On the website Rate it All! I found some positive reviews for Monster’s layout and ease of navigation. For example, one person wrote “When I joined this service I could navigate its resources easily...” (User comment, July 2009). Another reviewer commented on the search engine results on saying, “I love using because I find all the right jobs that are provided within the search categories” (User comment, July 2009). Another person wrote about their new features, “They have enhanced the site so much…check it out” (User comment, Jan. 2009). After seeing these positive remarks and navigating around the site myself, I became quite interested to find hard data on the site and see where it stood.

According to Quantcast, females are six percent more likely than the statistical norm to use, which is about the same as the statistics (All Quantcast data here is from Dec. 2009). Concerning male use of, and quite similar to, Quantcast calculates that as an audience, men are lower (Index score of 93) than the demographic make-up of the total Internet population. Quantcast also calculates with regard to 18 to 34 year-olds, they are 24 % more likely the statistical norm to use and 35 to 49 year-olds are 30 % more likely. With these statistics alone it’s safe to assume quite surprisingly that is more poplar among 18 to 49 year-olds looking for a job. With regard to African-Americans, according to Quantcast, they are 77 % more likely than the statistical norm to use With just these figures alone it looks as if this demographic favors over by 30 %. also attracts a more affluent audience with people making $60 to 100k a year 5 % more likely than the statistical norm to use this site.

According to web information company Alexa, has an “Alexa Traffic Rank” of 507 - 85 points higher than (All Alexa data here is from Dec., 2009). Concerning the percent of global Internet users who visit in a month, Alexa calculates it to be a reach of 0.2056. This has gone up 2.7 % over the trailing one month period and is higher than’s statistics in the same category. The percentage of visits to that came from a search engine on December 6th alone was 8.4 %, signaling that more people are going to than after typing in relevant keywords. According to Alexa, these top keywords driving traffic to are “monster” and “” Lastly, Alexa has rated 133 in the United States for websites. This surprised me, as I thought would rate higher than

In conclusion, after reviewing online data and accessing online reviews from various websites, I believe responds to adult job seekers (18 to 49) better than, although I believe that it is far from perfect. has a higher world-wide traffic rating also. I believe their bare-boned website structure is actually pleasing to this above mentioned demographic. “The site is virtually idiot proof and easy to use… they are able to leverage their newspaper affiliations and web partnerships to maximize exposure and market share” commented a reviewer on Alexa (User comment, 2009). I believe a factor that also accounts for this favoritism is’s job searching technology that targets jobs matching keywords in resumes. Concerning males and females though, the two websites are about equal in terms of use according to my findings.

According to the data and backing up the P.I.A.L. Projects claim in “The Mainstreaming of Online Life,” African-Americans are more likely to use a site like when looking for employment than whites. Also, the data indicating affluent people are more likely to access job websites backs up the P.I.A.L. Projects claim that high socioeconomic status is associated with looking for jobs online (“Online Job...A Memo,” 2002, para. 5).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oxfam International Uses Internet Tech. to Communicate

A great example of an international group that utilizes the Internet to tell its story and also reach multiple constituencies at the same time is the poverty and justice fighting confederation of 14 organizations working together to form - Oxfam International.

Oxfam International has one succinct website (link above) that provides easy access to all of their blogs; Flickr account; Twitter account; Facebook and YouTube content. Oxfam International writes on their site that "Although we have had blogs for a number of years, this site is our first attempt at bringing you a complete list of the latest posts from our growing portfolio." The site also includes the latest videos, photos and updates of Oxfam members around the world - advantageously giving the organization itself, a human face.

An illustrative example of how they are able to communicate vividly their interactions with the world's poor and also how their work is able to change lives is shown through their "Climate Change Blog." One example of a post from this blog contains content by Oxfam's executive director detailing poor Indian citizens he met and interviewed while at a Climate Hearing in Patna, India's poorest state. The really interesting aspect of this particular post is the quotes by local Indians explaining how climate change affects their daily life and existence. "Summer is two months longer, birds are not coming, so there are more insects and our crops are half of what they were" reads one stark comment by a farmer.

Through these testimonials, the blog post puts a human face on climate change impact and helps to make a person feel like getting involved can really make a difference in someones life. Conveniently at the end of this post a link is then provided to take you to a site to "Join Oxfam's campaign on climate change"

On this Oxfam International site, besides the links to social media platforms their members are using, there is also a Oxfam America blog, an East Asia blog and a Poverty blog. I think this site is very effective in showing how the organization is attempting to help the world's poor and marginalized, and it does this using one clear concise platform - the Internet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Microsoft Community Blogs & Advertising

A pretty neat example of a corporate brand utilizing both online blogs and advertising is the computer software giant Microsoft. I suppose its no surprise that a software tech company who's products are geared towards creating online experiences is going to be on the cutting-edge of utilizing blogs and online ad's etc, to connect with its audience, but that's the case.
Microsoft engages in community blogs with Microsoft employees encouraged to blog about the company's new technologies, providing insights and opinions. According to Global PR Blog Week 1.o, Link, Microsoft has over 700 employees blogging today. This blog also mentions how Microsoft employee blogging helps to provide and put a " human face" on the giant corporation and it helps "communicate the company message quickly."

Besides technical banter on products etc., content on some of these community blogs can include ongoing dialogue about the authors' children, sports and humor. I believe this results in the subtle change of the audiences perception of big "faceless" corporations, and gives Microsoft an air of openness and integrity.

Concerning online advertising, Microsoft utilizes some Youtube "spoof" ads, that take shots at Apple. The ads are humerous and can reach a lot of consumers this way. Microsoft also utilizes online videos to advertise products - For example their 2008 Bill Gates and Seinfeld videos . Utilizing videos is exciting and gets consumers talking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ethics in Social Media

One important policy issue concerning the Internet is the broad, delicate and controversial issue of blogger ethics and the more specific offshoot of disclosure. Should online writers have to disclose that they are endorsing a product or a celebrity for compensation? The blogosphere is an area of dynamic communication and of vast value for PR practitioners, bloggers and even everyday consumers. For example, brands are showering bloggers & online "influencers" with money, access and products etc.

But as of yet, there are no hard and fast standards for communicating and sharing information on the Internet. Authors and PR 2.0 advocates Solis and Breakenridge posit that this is a difficult topic because "the fuel that powers the continued evolution of Social Media is the raw and untamed voices of the people." But these virtual voices can cross over into the real world with real consequences, and the Federal Trade Commission may be doing something about it.

According to The Daily Beast , The FTCs new guidelines concerning disclosure will go online December 1st and breaking any of the new rules concerning the disclosure of who bloggers etc. work for, can result in fines of up to $11,000. Can the Internet be regulated you may ask? Good question. But some good information and relevant discussions concerning this topic can be found at TechCrunch. This will continue to be a heated discussion for time to come, as Social Media becomes even more widespread.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Effective & Ineffective PR Online

For our recent assignment I found a very effective and progressive use of public relations online. Traditional press releases are narrowly focused and offer little coherence or genuine value to the people they are trying to reach . Its important to have a release that grabs your attention, is news-worthy and tells an effective story writers can use, and influencers can identify with. Most traditional releases don't exhibit these qualities. A good remedy for this and an example of PR utilizing Web 2.0 tools is the PR Newswire website and especially their multimedia section. I recently saw a PR video on their site for a new product that locates wanderers - The beauty of the site and the subsequent video is that it actually has relevant quotes given by consumers (mother with autistic child,) and authority figures who have experience with wanderers - (police) and experts (on Alzheimer's) that you can actually see and then use your objective judgment if your a consumer. It contains the "because" of marketing. Which brings me to the point - consumers can find these product releases etc. online, at their fingertips. This type of site is also good for practitioners because of its search engine marketing abilities and the convenient ability to reach target audiences transparently.

An ineffective use of PR online is organizations putting press releases on their websites. For example, I went to Starbucks' site and found a news release and video promoting their new ready-brew VIA coffee. Don't get me wrong, this can be effective, I had never heard of this VIA self-brewing coffee before going to their site. But its ineffective PR for a couple of reasons.

1. I would rather hear raving about a product from an independent source (3rd party advocates -key to PR).

2. Too much hype for the most part. Not enough substance. For example, "Beginning November 17th, and just in time for the holiday entertaining season, U.S. customers will have access to a rich, bold cup...." -from (*Although, I do think the mentioning of "entertaining" & "the holiday season" is effective messaging and illustrates the brand knows it self well)

3. No originality.