Here is the essay.
In this digital and connected world, people are exposed to an overload of fragmented information. They often feel confused and distracted. As Robert B. Cialdini mentioned in his book Influence, to deal with "the ever-accelerating pace and informational crush of modern life," humans tend to turn to mental shortcuts for decision-making. For example, taking advantage of people's trust of authority, advertisers are inclined to present an image of doctor in toothpaste commercials to enhance the credibility of the brand. Integrated marketing communications (IMC) represents both the present and the future under this "extraordinarily complicated stimulus environment," which enables marketers to weave bits and pieces of information together into a distinct tapestry. This enables consumers to choose products by examining the images that are most relevant and pleasant to them instead of spending copious amounts of time examining unorganized information.
One day, when passing by a McDonald's, I further recognized how important it is for this image to be relevant to customers. I glanced over at the big LED screen outside the store. A poster with the classic yellow background caught my eye because it said, "Q: How can singles buy a second dessert at half price? A: You can now save the special discount on WeChat's mini program for later!" Purchasing two desserts with the second one at half price had long been a sales promotion strategy of McDonald's in China. I, as a single personal with a small appetite, had always felt discriminated against by this policy. However, in a project for my digital and social media marketing course, I had led a group project to promote the use of McDonald's WeChat mini program as part of the company's digitalization strategy. We had actually recommended that McDonald's give people an e-ticket on WeChat, the most widely used social media application in China, and let them save the discounted second dessert for another time! We even designed a mechanism to allow customers to send this e-ticket to their friends and long-distance partners so that this mini program could attract more new users. Therefore, I was so surprised that McDonald's "copied" and carried out part of our idea! They should have really hired us as consultants, so they could have adopted our whole plan.
This extraordinary experience reinforced what Professor Sam had always told us: "You are not only a marketer but also a consumer." All marketers should not forget to put themselves in the place of consumers. From a sales perspective, McDonald's previous promotional tactic was a success since it elevated sales per customer transaction. However, the company could have taken it further. As a group of undergraduates, we employed questionnaires and conducted a rigorous marketing analysis in R, arriving at the conclusion before the giant international franchise. In that moment, I added science to my tool kit, and it became the warp of my woven fabric. It laid the foundation for market research.
When I joined Coca-Cola as a summer intern in the department of Strategy, Knowledge, and Insights, I was initially dazzled by the range of research they conducted. They researched everything from idea conception to package design before launching a new product. However, just as I was enchanted by the sophistication of those studies, my manager helped me understand that research and marketing intelligence did not always guarantee success. She told me that while a sweeter flavor always won in blind tests, it did not always sell well. This idea was very thought-provoking. It taught me to not blindly follow data analytics and obsess over advanced tools like AI and Big Data that are just the little "toys" of a marketer. I learned that there was more to marketing than the warp of science.
I gained the weft of the fabric when I interned at an NGO called Soap Cycling and managed their social media accounts. Initially, I struggled. My first assignment was to develop a WeChat post for an offline volunteer activity. After analyzing the styles of previous posts along with the views, likes, and comments, I employed a new style of narrative. However, the result disappointed me because the post was viewed only 86 times, some of which were from me. Though I doubted the necessity of a business-to-business organization to apply such an advanced marketing tool, I still experimented with various ways to tell an engaging story. Soon, my Valentine's Day post, which featured the collaboration between Soap Cycling and the Standard Chartered Bank, received more than a thousand views. The post unveiled a romantic story between the companies and achieved remarkable success. Many employees at Standard Chartered Bank shared this post since they were so proud of the partnership. This post even prompted a manager from another bank to contact Soap Cycling, which amazed me the most.
After that experience, I was inspired to explore other similar ways to gain exposure and traffic. I drew ideas from my understanding of celebrity culture. In China, there is a unique fan culture in that a celebrity's fans do volunteer work in the name of that celebrity to help them generate a positive pubic image. I decided to invite the fans of a celebrity to join our volunteer activities. I successfully reached the fan group, which had over 100,000 followers on social media. In return, I reported on their activities on the company's social media to promote the celebrity's positive image. The posts recounting their work received a record-breaking number of views. This experience gave me the weft thread of my fabric. This thread built on the science warp and wove in and out as necessary. These creativity and endless choices are what draw me to marketing.
Therefore, I leveraged my science warp and art weft when I interned at Unilever. I worked on the team responsible for launching an American nutrition supplements brand in China. I was fortunate to be assigned to lead our first internal PR event. We originally planned to build a well-designed pop-up store with engaging games to inform employees about the basic information of our brand and products and to encourage them to share photos on social media.
However, due to the pandemic, I was forced to change plans. I learned that sometimes I have to unravel the fabric and reweave it. I soon recognized a new opportunity in the crisis-employees were now hyperaware of their health status. After discussing an idea with my managers, we decided to separate the elements in the pop-up store, redesign them into myriad forms, and distribute them throughout the office. From meeting rooms to e-mails, I utilized real-life scenarios and online channels to deliver a consistent brand story. For instance, I placed some cards with our product image in the dining hall that said, "Did you know? A human needs to take in around 20 kinds of vitamins a day. Does your lunch have enough?" In this way, the employees were primed to realize their need for more vitamins, and I triggered their browsing and purchasing behaviors. This activity ultimately generated around 12,000 in sales volume, and its planning and execution process taught me that the final fabric is often the result of continual adjustment and fine-tuning.
Various aspects of these diverse experiences will help me foster an inclusive learning environment in your program. In college, I had more than twenty group projects and demonstrated the ability to effectively manage team conflicts. During my internship with Coca-Cola and Unilever, I was the glue that held together my cross-functional global team. In the same way, in your program, I will continue to lead group assignments to generate more marketing ideas for businesses and hopefully beat a Fortune 500 research team again. Moreover, my psychology background and innate empathy will equip me to understand customers. If given the chance, I would also like to share evidence on the latest marketing trends in China, such as livestreaming promotions, with my classmates.
After my graduate studies, I plan to secure a management traineeship at a fast-moving consumer goods company since it will allow me to experience diverse positions and expose me to business processes. In five years, I aspire to work as a brand manager and help my brand deliver its own story and value. Long term, I might transition to a start-up company or an NGO, taking on new challenges and growing with a different brand. Most importantly, I want to influence people by communicating a brand's values, much like Olay does when it tells its female customers to be "fearless of age." I intend to challenge people's stereotypes surrounding ads and marketing. Instead, I will inspire consumers to see their self-image and recognize their self-worth in the products, feeling a sense of belonging and empowerment in the images, tapestries, and patchworks.
I firmly believe that Medill's IMC program perfectly aligns with my career goals. Since I first learned of this program in my IMC class, I have been convinced of its great reputation, esteemed founder, professional faculty, powerful alumni, and unique opportunities. In addition, I fully resonate with its philosophy: "The future belongs to those who understand the art and science of marketing communications." The systematic training in the use of the warp and the weft and the unique curricum design can teach me to weave my own artwork.
Here are my concerns.
1. Is the metaphor of weaving(weft,warp) effective to describe science and art of IMC?
2. Is the narrative in Coca-Cola, NGO, and Unilever clear and intriguing?
3. Are all the essay questions addressed?
4. How could I further improve this essay?