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News & Events

2005 Kellogg Marketing Conference delivers fresh ideas

By Deborah Leigh Wood

1/1/2005 - Experts at the 2005 Kellogg Marketing Conference, held Jan. 28 and 29 at the Kellogg School’s Evanston campus, emphasized the importance of flexibility, innovation and creativity to reach consumers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

For example, United Airlines’ marketers saturated the city of Denver with a colorful media campaign that created mystery around the arrival of Ted, the carrier’s low-fare airline. “Ted” sent roses to a city official. His name blazed from the sides of buses and appeared on neon T-shirts.

Ted’s marketing strategy — which was repeated in Chicago with a little less fanfare — worked, said Sean Donohue, vice president of United Express and Ted, and a keynote speaker at the conference. Although still in bankruptcy, United has recaptured its market share because of Ted, Donohue said.

Ebay, on the other hand, had nothing to lose when it started about 9 years ago by auctioning off a broken laser printer. The item actually sold, said Gary Briggs ’89, vice president and general manager of eBay Canada, and the conference’s second keynote speaker. He said eBay lucked out in marketing because “two-thirds of it happens through word-of-mouth. We look good because our users are brilliant.”

Briggs said eBay’s users respond to the company’s main marketing message — trust — which is compatible with the company’s core values: People are basically good. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Create an open and honest environment that brings out the best in people.

Sometimes a different kind of marketing is in order. “Deep hanging out” is one valuable approach, said John F. Sherry Jr., Kellogg School professor of marketing and a lecturer at the conference’s MBA Update seminar. The real name for Sherry’s research strategy is “consumer ethnography,” and it draws its inspiration from his training in anthropology. He describes the approach as “loitering with intent” in the supermarket aisles and in consumer’s homes — even their bathrooms — to observe their habits and see what they’re thinking. Insights gained from this study can help marketers be more effective in meeting customers’ needs.

To find out how consumers think and how they respond to ads, marketers also use the time-tested approach of focus groups, which can reveal valuable information. Brian Sternthal, the Kraft Foods Professor of Marketing at Kellogg and second MBA Update lecturer, spoke in detail about how consumers process advertisements, including the subtle cognitive processes that occur when they encounter marketing catch phrases.

The 2005 Kellogg Marketing Conference, which was attended by about 600 people, covered other intriguing topics, such as innovative marketing strategies, marketing on a small budget, marketing to the opposite sex, justifying the function of marketing in a company, embarking on a career in nontraditional marketing and maintaining brand strength in the face of growing retailer power.