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Guest Q&A: Stephanie Rudnick

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For this month’s Guest Column, we sat down with Stephanie Rudnick, MKTG INC’s new SVP, Marketing Communications. An almost 20-year industry veteran, Stephanie shares her thoughts and expertise on the world of PR and experiential marketing, MKTG and the best advice she’s ever received.

What will your role be here at MKTG INC?
I’ll be developing and managing all aspects of the company’s communication strategy and practice, including media and industry relations, external communications and brand management.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Carpe diem” –  Live each day as if it were your last. It’s something I’ve lived by since learning about it in elementary school from my favorite English teacher.

How did you get into PR?
When I decided on my major, it was WAY before PR was as widely understood as it is today. I spent a lot of time working with non-profits in high school in Chicago and loved when the media would come to our events and publicize our causes. When I learned that I could study journalism with a PR focus, it just felt right. I went to college at USC in Los Angeles because I wanted to study in a major city where my teachers were working professionals in my field, but also because the location would offer me access to a wide array of internships. I was lucky enough to have internships every semester – from beauty to music to technology to entertainment and celebrity publicity – which helped expose me to how different PR can be depending on the client. Since then, I’ve done pretty much every kind of PR across a ton of verticals, both agency and in-house. Now that I’m older, one of my favorite things is to mentor young people who are interested learning how to navigate the business and continue to help them along throughout their careers.

What publications or websites do you find most relevant to your career?
It’s part of my job to read, read, read and do my best to stay on top of what’s going on in our industry and in general. So, I start my day with a scan of Twitter, which helps me get a handle quickly on the news of the day. Then, first thing at work, I go old-school and get my hands dirty tearing through the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  I also read the hard copy of the Sports Business Journal and the SBJ’s three daily e-newsletters, as well as MediaPost, EM, Adweek and AdAge. The list goes on and on.

What are some of your favorite work experiences?
I’m so grateful that my job has afforded me so many amazing experiences. I’ve been able to travel around the globe, working, and experiencing working in other cultures. One of the craziest experiences was in Beijing, when just hours before a press conference I was organizing, a friend tipped me off that if I wanted the media to actually publish/broadcast something, I had to give them a gift and CASH. For real. That was fun to have to explain to finance why the company owed me thousands of CNYs in cash and for T-shirts from the hotel gift shop! I also have to share that one of my all-time favorite nights at work was in 2012 at the NFL Draft when my client, Andrew Luck, was drafted first. It was so crazy and exciting and anxiety-inducing being backstage with Andrew and his family and all of the other draftees and their families, waiting for “the call” from the teams. Not sure that will ever happen again, unless my son decides that’s the route he wants to take…urgh.

Who have been your favorite clients?
That’s a hard one but I would say that working with the totally courageous and amazing NBA center Jason Collins was a highlight of my career.

What are your favorite apps?
Amazon, Uber, Starbucks, SportsCenter, Swarm, American Airlines,, Fitbit, WeatherBug, WhatsApp, FlightTracker, OpenTable, Seamless, Timehop and Tile.

What are three things you can’t travel without?
Earplugs, a flat-iron and my Philips Sonicare toothbrush

When not at the office, where are we most likely to find you? (Not that we’ll be looking, of course.)
At home in Battery Park or running around downtown Manhattan with my husband Duncan, and kids Charlie (2 1/2) and Matilda (5 months). And probably reading.

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Learn to Love Your Brand

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Isn’t it odd when you’re thinking about an old friend from your hometown you haven’t connected with in years, and then you see her in the SoHo TOPSHOP out of the blue? Do you find it strange when a word you newly discovered at work appears later that day in a cookbook, the next week on a billboard, and again in conversation over Sunday Brunch?

We’ve all had these occurrences—most experience this phenomenon a few times in their lives, while others encounter them with greater regularity. Is there some hidden cause or meaning behind these events? Would you call it a coincidence, synchronicity, or just a blip in the matrix?

According to the Urban Dictionary, the instance where one happens upon an obscure piece of information—often an unfamiliar word or name—and soon encounters the same subject again is known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Skeptics may conclude that the frequency of these experiences hasn’t changed, just simply our perception of them has.

One version of this theory explains that when we hear or see a word or name that we just learned, it may feel like more than a coincidence because Baader-Meinhof is amplified by the recency effect; a cognitive bias that inflates the importance of recent stimuli or observations. This increases the chances of being more aware of the subject when we encounter it again. Scientific observation shows us that the Baader-Meinhof theory strikes with a keen accuracy, and happens too frequently to be explained away so easily. The reason for this is our brains’ prejudice towards patterns. Our brains are fantastic pattern recognition engines, a characteristic that is highly useful for learning. The brain promotes the information because two or more instances make up the beginnings of a sequence. What we fail to notice is the hundreds of thousands of pieces of information, which aren’t repeated, because they do not conform to an interesting pattern.

Researching this fascinating data made me think about how these organically occurring phenomenon’s link directly to smart and effective branding. Repetition, consistency and frequency are all critical in supporting a brands design language and strategy, and therefore hold extreme value to the success of a brand. With the direct and subliminal communication of a brand’s design elements (shape, color, typography, iconography) and design principles (contrast, scale, depth, perspective), the brand importance is heightened, and there is an automatic imprint of the brand story in the mind of the consumer.

Further proof of how a brand can sustain importance and connect with consumers over the duration of time visually, can be found by examining a brand’s visual language history. A brands “look” often evolves slowly over time, but the core message of all successful brands never really changes. For example, since the brands conception in 1971, Starbucks has kept up with modern design standards by tweaking their logo over the years. While the brand proposition of offering quality coffee and an intimate customer experience in a comfortable atmosphere never changed, the visual interpretation has. Starbucks Masterbrand logo, (seen above in 1992 & 2011), shows that the wordmark portion of the logo is eventually removed; however the logo is still recognizable as a stand-alone brandmark, and still representing the Starbucks brand. This brand expression, when transformed by a Rodarte inspired design on a coffee thermos (above), proves that even with an obscured and pixilated logo, the brand still resonates. This successful branding evolution has led to continued consumer recognition and ultimately trust and loyalty from the Starbucks consumers.

A brand’s consistent and frequent repetitive story is not just in the eye of the beholder; it can extend to other senses as well. Think about the distinct smell of Auntie Anne’s pretzels as you stroll through a mall, the familiar echo of the Intel’s 5-note ding or that satisfying gulp of an original Coca-Cola. And what about “Touch”? You can almost feel the possibilities of how an established brand could connect with consumers when you consider the brand experience from this multi-faceted perspective. It is interesting to consider these patterns of human behavior, and how leveraging our senses can impact the sustained health of a successful branding campaign.

Because our brains are bombarded with millions of messages every day, we can’t be expected to pay attention to all of them – so we heed the most relevant ones and ignore the rest. With familiarity comes trust and confidence. If executed correctly, a consistent, frequently repetitive brand story brings clarity and purpose that eventually leads to consumer loyalty. Whether perceived or not, you have more of an emotional connection—and the experience, service or product is held to a higher level of importance to you.

And with that, I’m headed to SoHo to buy those gorgeous hot-pink, blinged-out limited edition TOPSHOP jeans, that I, for some reason, just can’t stop thinking about.

Written by: Erin Helmer

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