Building Dragons vs. Chasing Unicorns

By Luke Jones

We’ve all heard the story of the unicorn, the upstart company that came out of nowhere and went on to be the star of its industry through dazzling technological innovations: Google, Netflix, Uber, to name a few. The temptation is to ask: “How did they do that, and how do I replicate it?” But is that even the right question? Daniel Newman gave a presentation for AMA Chicago that argues it is not the right question at all. He pits what he calls dragons against the unicorns – companies that take pragmatic steps to equip themselves to handle technological change.

Newman’s talk at AMA Chicago’s Evening with an Expert, Futureproof: 7 Key Pillars for Digital Transformation Success, left me with some great takeaways for what companies can do to be more like dragons in order to “futureproof” themselves and adapt to challenges, change and technology.

Create Meaningful Experiences

One of the ways companies can futureproof is by focusing on crafting excellent customer experiences and by using technology and data as a means to this end.

“Experiences are one of the most powerful ways to create a brand,” Newman explained. He cited Disney as an example of a company that focuses on magical experiences, so much so that employees who work at their parks are called “cast members.” Disney understands that keeping its amusement parks clean and pristine is a key aspect of the experience. Before there were even digital analytics, Disney asked crew members to count the average number of steps guests would take before discarding food they had bought, so they could place trashcans in the right spots to minimize litter.

Newman reminded us that “behind every like, click, and experience is a person,” a concept that we too often lose in the era of big data. I found this particularly resonant. I’m guilty of checking reports throughout the day to see how many leads my company has generated or how many sales were closed. It’s easy to forget that these numbers represent real people with wants and needs, but a futureproofed company doesn’t lose sight of that.

Embrace Change

Change may seem like a simple concept, but resistance to change can be an incredibly difficult obstacle for a company to overcome. Who hasn’t experienced that moment of excitement over a new software solution or management structure, only to find that no one in his or her company was willing to take the time to learn to use it? But it’s more than that. Change can be necessary on a large scale in order for a company to survive.

Newman mentioned Target’s credit card breach fiasco a few years ago, which I, along with most of the audience had forgotten about. It certainly created a moment of panic for me when I first heard about it, but I haven’t thought about it once in probably the last forty times I’ve set foot in one of their stores. Target understood that they had to rebuild trust with their customers, first and foremost. One of the ways it accomplished this was by paying exceptional attention to the wants of each store’s local audience, lining shelves with items specific to the shopping preferences of customers within a tight radius of their stores. Newman mentioned how hard it is to find anything Hanukkah related in Naperville, Il, but when he travels to the north of Chicago to Skokie, Hanukkah items seem to dominate the store.

In the 21st century, when we talk about change, we’re often talking about the adaptation of new technology. “If the company doesn’t get behind the technology, the technology will fail,” Newman said. Change is possible in a culture of openness, one where from top down employees see new technology as a way of improving customer happiness. In a company with this attitude, employees understand that change has an important value proposition.

Build a Culture of Innovation

Like technology, innovation is a word that is particularly buzzy, but it’s a little more nebulous of a term. I have to admit, the way I think about it is quite different than the way he talked about it. While innovation is often associated with the invention of something completely new (my idea of what innovation is), Newman noted that it can apply to smaller, more mundane, but still vital changes.

This is where the dragon most visibly breaks away from the unicorn. A dragon may not invent something that comes from out of left field and changes everything, in fact it probably won’t. But the dragon sees that technology can be adopted and developed incrementally, with the desire to meet the wants and needs of the customer as the agent of this transformation.

More than anything, Newman’s presentation encouraged me to think about how all these terms and ideas, technology, innovation, experience, aren’t just trendy words, but critical concepts that work in harmony as a road map for where a company should go. It’s important to remind ourselves that, with these concepts, we really can futureproof our businesses and build dragons.

View a full gallery of photos from the event, courtesy of Organic Headshots.

Luke Jones has been an AMA member since 2017. He currently serves on the communications committee for the Chicago chapter. The marketing manager at EON Clinics, a dental implants company, Jones uses aspirational lifestyle branding to engage audiences and drive growth. Previously at Emerson College where he earned his MFA, Jones created buzz through email marketing for professional theater performances headlined by John Malkovich, Cicely Tyson, and other big names.

Free events! Your membership just got better.

By: Bonnie Massa, AMA Chicago President

Earlier this year, we promised changes to your AMA Chicago benefits to ensure that your membership is the best ticket to your career success. Since July, you’ve enjoyed free registration for Connex, our bi-monthly networking events, as well as each of our Shared Interest Groups (SIGs).

It’s always been the Board’s top priority to gain ongoing feedback for how we are providing value to the Chicago marketing community. We do our best to connect with you at our events, and you may have noticed that we occasionally reach out over the phone, via email and even through traditional mail to find out how we’re doing. We make adjustments and improvements so that your membership continues to make a positive, significant difference for your career.

In case you haven’t heard it already, today’s message is: We hear you.

It is my pleasure to announce that, as an AMA Chicago member, you now receive FREE access to all of our monthly events! Your registration fees are waived for our Sunrise Executive Series and our Evening with an Expert. (By the way, our next Evening with and Expert event is on May 3, and the next Sunrise is on June 7.)

By making these events free, your AMA Chicago membership comes with an added value of more than $600 each year. This change is made possible through our growing network of amazing sponsors. (OK, and maybe a little help from unicorns and rainbows.) Our sponsorship team, board of directors and members like you have made lasting connections across our community to underwrite our events. It’s with pride that we can pass along the value directly to you.

Now more than ever before, your AMA membership is an all-inclusive ticket to the cutting-edge programming, resources and networking with the largest community of marketers in Chicagoland. In fact, are you aware that in addition to Chicago events, your AMA membership gives you access to 100 webcasts and podcasts, a job board, discounts, and member-only tools, templates and forms that help you do your job? We’re working on developing even more ways to engage, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned to what’s on the horizon.

So if it’s been a while since you mingled with your peers or rubbed shoulders with senior leaders in the industry, check out our events at a glance. I can speak for the Board with confidence that we would love for you to find one of us at our next event and let us know how we are doing!

Our ability to make these events free is another step toward making it crystal clear how much we value your membership.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofit organizations to help attract new customers, find the best ways to segment and reach out to existing customers, analyze customer behavior to predict future behavior, and increase the value of their customer base. Bonnie has a BA degree from Lambuth University in Jackson, TN. She is a Market Motive Certified Practitioner in Web Analytics, Conversion Optimization and Social Media. She has achieved a Google Analytics Individual Qualification. Bonnie also volunteers her time as President of American Marketing Association Chicago.

A very special thanks to AMA Chicago sponsors:

[layerslider id=”9″]

Evening with an Expert: 360 Chicago

If you’re a Chicagoan, you have likely noticed that the iconic John Hancock Observatory has recently gone through a facelift! It is now called 360 CHICAGO. And if you were lucky enough to attend the latest evening with an expert that focused on building a brand experientially, you would have had the chance to enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the new space…and enjoyed a breathtaking view while you’re at it!


The evening was kicked off by Nicole Williamson, General Manager at 360 CHICAGO, who walked us through the transformation journey from conceptual design to fabrication and installation.

Here are a few of the defining moments:


An Evening with Three Experts

Essential Skills for Today’s Marketers

Have you ever wondered if you have the right skills to succeed in today’s Marketing World? 

Today, we have a beautiful world that is constantly changing. Each day marketers, like you and I, are facing new challenges that were unheard of twenty years ago or even six months ago.  Each day we wonder how do I make a difference in my job,  team,  organization, industry or career. On January 17th the Chicago AMA asked three marketing experts to consider this subject. 

Our Expert Panelists:

Sona Jones – Head of Marketing & Media (Chicago Ideas)

Allison Cirullo

When Allison started in the industry she struggled to discover her place in marketing. Over the years, her journey helped her find excitement in challenge and change. Her list of essential skills are as follows:

  1. Continue to grow your skills by Reading (Books & Publications about business, finance, and other industries). Attending lectures and seminars focused on a variety of subjects. Never stop learning.  Allison’s Favorites: Harvard Business Review and Technology Landscape publications
  2. Be a Change Agent by being a great listener. Find opportunity in every conversation. Learn to be flexible and accommodating. Motivate others to implement healthy change.
  3. Hustle do what it takes to get the job done. Enough said!

Linh Peter

Lihn’s story and journey is centered on people and relationships. As she moved up the ranks at Target she found great value in investing in others and, others investing in her. So it is only fitting that her list of essential skills are around people and relationships.

  1. Focus on relationships and encourage team members to learn about each other. Take time to invest in others and value people over process.
  2. Your Board of Directors take mentoring to a higher level. Find four or more people you know who excel in certain areas of life and business and ask them to mentor you.
  3. Be Self Aware to do your best to know yourself, your attitude, and behavior.
    1. How you deal with others
    2. How you engage others
    3. Learn how others perceive you and how you perceive others
    4. Ask for feedback from your peers, subordinates, and superiors
    5. Learn from your failures

Sona Jones

Sona’s career path at first seemed full of promise. Right out of college she joined Sony Pictures. She was set, right? However, as years passed she found that her career was not progressing as she had hoped. She had to pivot to re-invent herself. Sona’s essential skills focus on introspection and strategy.

  1. Accountability own up and simply say you’re wrong, when you are.
  2. Your Role entails learning and mastering your role. Become the expert at what you do. Then strategize on how to optimize and leverage process automation and technology to increase your capabilities and effectiveness.
  3. Venture Out and take on small marketing contracts or volunteer opportunities that you can support. By doing so you will expand your experience.

The panelists’ essential skills for marketers will help today and in the future. As the event came to an end, all three panelists encouraged us to do one single very important thing, starting today -Take More Risks!

Are you ready? Are you willing to take a risk right now?

Great! Here is the challenge:  Select a couple of the practical and essential skills that were highlighted by Sona, Allison or Linh, apply them to your daily activities for the next 30 days then share with us how those skills have impacted your marketing life.

We look forward to hearing all of your great stories and experiences.

About the Author: Nick Rich is an Enterprise Architect and Thought Leader on web, social, and mobile based technologies. Nick currently consults and advises clients on content, collaboration, communication technology, and how to foster corporate adoption.



Using Google Analytics in a Few Clicks

On March 22nd, Chicago AMA members and guests gathered at 1871 to hear from Google Analytics expert, Andy Crestodina. In addition to being the Co-Founder and Strategic Director at Orbit Media, he also serves as a mentor at 1871, an Adjunct Professor at Loyola; and was named in the “Top 10 Online Experts I’m Following in 2015” by Forbes Magazine. The night’s topic was “Applied Google Analytics: Insights and Actions,” a presentation that he will be giving as a keynote speaker at an upcoming conference–and we were lucky enough to hear it first!

A well-seasoned speaker, Crestodina breezed through his slides with the ease of a professor teaching his most passionate subject. In fact, he joked that if his soon-to-be-born child could learn one thing, he hoped it would be Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). His over-arching statement is this: Traffic times your Conversion Rate is what will equal success for your website.

Let’s take a look at how he illustrated this throughout the evening. The broad topics covered were:

  • Reporting vs. Analysis: How most marketers get Analytics wrong
  • Turning ideas into questions
  • Analytics Insights
  • Audience Insights: WHO is visiting?
  • Acquisition Insights: WHERE are they coming from?
  • Behavior Insights: WHAT are they doing here?
  • Conversion Insights: WHICH pieces of content are successful?

Before diving into the tips and tricks of Google Analytics, Crestodina ensured that the group was on the same playing field by quizzing the audience on the difference between data (pages of reports) and analytics (words written about those reports).

Analytics are KEY to your business, and he likened them to being the driving wheel of your company–you wouldn’t just hand that over to anyone, would you? He encouraged each of us to take the driver’s wheel and learn to run these reports, perform the analytics and cautioned against outsourcing the analytics 100% to an outside firm.

Additionally, once you have the analytics in front of you, he encouraged the asking of questions, putting the answers into actionable tasks and performing a series of tests to ensure the path taken was helpful, fruitful and profitable to your company.

The reports sections included and discussed in his presentation were: Audience, Aquisition, Behavior and Conversion. These four sections of Google Analytics contain reports that can unlock the mystery of who is visiting your website, where they are coming from, what they are doing once they are there, and which content is getting them to stay. Let’s take a look at a small sample of the reports discussed.

Audience & Acquisition – Mobile vs Not

Within three clicks in Google Analytics, you can discover what percentage of your website traffic is fed from mobile devices. That’s interesting. Take it a step further. Combine Traffic data with a CRO analysis and you can find out if your mobile audience is less or more engaged than your non-mobile audience. Now you have somewhere to start, questions to ask and answers to test.

Behavior – “The Report of Broken Dreams”

Again, with just a few clicks within Google Analytics, you can see the terms that users searched for and then the amount of people that left your website because they couldn’t find what they were searching for. The insight? Write about that topic! Crestodina says to think about your website as if it were a city.  Put your “Billboards” where your “Traffic” is. Know your most popular road (or paths, on your site) and load it up with your best and most searched for content.

Towards the end of his presentation, Crestodina quoted Barry Feldman: “Your website is a mouse trap, your content is the cheese.” He asked the audience: “Are you writing content that your audience desires?” And added, “Strong websites have a conversion rate of 1-3%. Below that, you aren’t going to make any money; over that, you’re going to be a millionaire.”

The message was clear: Traffic times Conversion Rate equals success. Crestodina provided clear steps on how to run a good set of reports that any business owner can start with to help he or she analyze why a piece or a side of that formula is not working for his or her business. The presentation ended a joyful applause and a few whispers of “I wish I could go work on these reports right NOW!”

About the Author

Ms. Ramsey is the owner of Besty Bash, LLC, a creative social media & digital marketing firm in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys listening to live music and chatting about it on her blog,

Twitter: @TweetsByBetsy / @LaurenIgnited

Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

Mark Fenne, Director of Channel Marketing, Weber Stephen Products to Speak on Sept. 29, 2015

On September 29, Mark Fenne joins Chicago AMA to present “Creating a Hands on Brand Experience, ” for our September Evening With Experts Program.

BIO: Mark has held numerous sales and marketing positions over the last 20 years with World Kitchen, the Sanford division of Newell-Rubbermaid, and Wilton Industries building strong global brands including Chicago Cutlery, CorningWare, Sharpie, PaperMate, Wilton, and now Weber. Within each of these brand experiences, Mark’s keen desire for connecting with consumers while they are shopping has grown and become his current mission professionally.

While at Wilton, Mark served as National Account Manager for Target, growing multiple categories in housewares and in grocery. Prior to Wilton, Mark worked for 6 years at Sanford starting out in Channel Marketing before moving into National Account Management. He developed numerous modular Back To School displays for Target and other mass retailers, before assuming full responsibility for one of the fastest growing back-to-school retailers, Walgreens.

In 2007, Mark joined Weber as a Regional Sales Manager, managing Weber’s representative agencies who were responsible for servicing and growing the business in the Central region. Mark’s drive for making the brand more relevant and modern in today’s shopping environment resulted in his promotion to Director of Channel Marketing for the Americas Marketing team in late 2013.

His passion for packaging, merchandising, understanding of the retail environment and love for the Weber brand made him the perfect candidate to lead and launch the Weber Mobile Grill Academy Experience Tour in 2014.

Mark is an avid griller, and considers himself a “home cook with flair”. He is a professional musician and shares his passion for music and food with his wife and 3 teenage boys.

Evening With Experts Event Recap I: CMO Panel

image1On June 11th the Chicago AMA brought together a panel of three industry leading CMOs to tackle the audience’s toughest questions and provide insight on their past experiences and current challenges as marketers. Our panelists stressed the importance of integrating a marketing strategy that focuses on multiple media outlets. Moderator Pete Krainik of the CMO Club stated, “The idea of integrated marketing has not gone away.”

Megan Bueschel, CMO of Mario Tricoci Hair Salons, led the discussion on media channels stating as we see the marketing landscape change more media channels are merging. Our CMOs believe the future holds more one on one media channels. As more media channels emerge and merge Bueschel told attendees that it is essential to prioritize media channels to be relevant to your audience.

Patrick Bernardi, CMO of Hu-Friedy Manufacturing, summed up our evening with the comment, “It’s the CMO’s job to show them what’s possible.” He also stated “… as a CMO you have to be honest with what’s working and what’s not working.” Daniel Ash, CMO of the Chicago Community Trust gave an example of this with insight on the trust’s content strategy. Ash knew Chicago Community Trust’s strategy needed “to be responsive to the community instead of expecting the community to respond to content that was being pushed out to them.” Ash concluded the evening with some final words of wisdom, “Pay attention to the extremes and you will learn how to move people to your brand.”

Andrea MinhasWritten by Andrea Minhas, Co-Chair of Communications, CMO Panel

Evening With Experts Event Recap II: CMO Panel: Current Trends and The Future of Marketing

On June 11th the Chicago AMA brought together a dynamic panel of distinguished CMOs to engage on changing media, customer behaviors, technology platforms, and the value of talent for organizational success.

Moderator Pete Krainik delved into the discussion by asking what are the different ways of finding the future. CMO Daniel Ash commented on his experience with The Chicago Community Trust and outreach campaign On The Table celebrating community philanthropy. It is important to encourage community building and put the community first by modeling the desired outcome. Megan Bueschel, CMO of Mario Tricoci Hair Salons and Day Spas, added the necessity of prioritizing channels and asking where is your audience and what is your brand. Patrick Bernardi, CMO of Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co., stressed the importance of distribution and community advocacy for timage1he brand and the obligation of marketing efforts to align with the brand.

Current marketing trends show emotional and customer experiences are vital to the future of marketing and long-term growth of an organization. Bernardi sees technology enabling an enriched customer experience though the need to know why you are in business must be answered. Ash believes content journalism and human emotion are key to all we do. Customer insight and data have shown social consciousness has disrupted business. Mission matters and legacy brands have an opportunity to enter this space and develop a deeper narrative around the brand. Bueschel agreed with Ash adding social consciousness is the best thing to come from the millennial marketplace and the right direction to go. Mario Tricoci’s campaign Mario Make Me a Model is part reality television with an opportunity to launch thriving modeling careers. Bueschel loves traditional marketing and sees beacons, hotspots, and entrepreneurial channels on the rise. Integrated marketing Krainik observed, is not going away.

An audience breakout session included sharing ideas on what amazing changes will happen in the upcoming three years. Groups determined hyper personalization, beacons, and weaving brands into the consumer story to be significant. Empowering advocates with content as well as curation and data will continue to be strong. YouTube, hashtags, and employee ambassadors should be utilized. Budgets should not hinder video content nor video quality.  Zappos does a great job and an excellent example in quality content.

Talent will set your organization up for success. With all the data available, Ash highlighted a need for respect of consumer privacy and an environment for people to exchange ideas and set a leadership tone. Krainik considered nuanced skill sets for culture. Bueschel emphasized a demand for excellent writing and communication proficiency. Bernardi found contributions from opinioned thinkers and risk takers factor greatly into an organization’s success.

Final thoughts on marketing, Krainik, go with what works. Bernardi, what do you want your audience to understand. Bueschel, find a call to action either through a mystery or gamble. Ash, keep in mind design thinking and extreme users, marketers have to understand both.

Krainik concluded the discussion offering to have the biggest impact, if there is not enough anxiety it is not big enough.


Written by Jackie Maman, Co-Chair of Communications, CMO Panel

Evening With Experts:  The CMO Panel – The Future of Marketing

On June 11th our industry leading CMOs Megan Bueschel, Sandy Kolkey, Patrick Bernardi, and Daniel Ash are ready to take on your questions.  Join Pete Krainik, Founder and CEO of the CMO Club as he moderates on today’s ever-changing marketing landscape. 

Get to know the panel

Megan Bueschel, SVP/Chief Marketing Officer at Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas enhances brand awareness through the “Mario, Make Me a Model” program and established the company’s robust mobile marketing and membership programs Mario PLUS Massage & Facial.  Additionally she also directs public relations strategies and manages new product and service development for the 15 location salon and spa group.

Sandy Kolkey, Chief Marketing Officer at Turtle Wax, Inc. leads the development and launch of a full integrated branding program including broadcast, cable, digital, social, search, ratings and reviews, email and website.

Patrick Bernardi is Chief Marketing Officer at Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co., LLC, navigating in global branding, CRM, distributor communications and online strategies for the world’s principal manufacturer of dental instruments.

Daniel Ash is Chief Marketing Officer for The Chicago Community Trust.  As The Chicago Community Trust commemorates its 100th anniversary, Ash leads marketing communications, and public and government relations strategies that enrich the Trust’s mission.  Ash’s esteemed career in the nonprofit sector aims to advance social causes.

Join the conversation on twitter @chicagoama #camaexpert #cmo

For more information and registration, please visit: