Several teams of James Madison University participated in the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge as part of my Integrated Marketing Communications (MKTG 384) course.  The Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge is sponsored by Marketing EDGE, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to Educate, Develop, Grow, and Employ college students in the field of marketing.

As part of the Challenge each team developed marketing plans, using direct and interactive channels, with a goal of encouraging DIRECTV customers to participate in their Refer-a-Friend Program.  Students also created a visual summary presentation and an online video ad.

In the end, over 200 teams competed and seven JMU Marketing teams earned an award or honorable mention.  One of the JMU teams emerged as the winner of the 3rd Place Bronze Award in the undergraduate division.

I asked this team to share their thoughts about the experience and provide tips to help future competitors.  Here’s what they had to say…


JohnBassfordJohn Bassford –  Starting is the hardest part of this project. To me, it seemed a very daunting task, but as soon as we started working on the project, things began to pick up momentum and the pieces fell into place. Communication is important in order to be successful. Do not be afraid to bounce ideas off of teammates. Even if you think the idea is ridiculous, talk it out with the team. You never know what ideas you will help your teammates create by telling them your ideas. Once you find an idea that you all can get behind, use that idea to keep everything within your plan consistent. There will be some arguing and maybe even some very vocal disagreements, but do not forget that this is a team competition. Be open to each other’s ideas and make sure to communicate between each other to avoid confusion on what needs to be done. Don’t overthink things and make sure everything ties in with your main idea. Before you know it, you’ll end up having a great plan.

AlexAlexander Dixon – Take into account how long it takes to finally settle in on an idea, but make it an idea that will resonate with your audience.   We initially brainstormed many different ideas on specific topics that played to our client’s advantages — in our case it was DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket.  For example we had a bunch of ideas on the football packages, their refer-a-friend rewards already in place, and other DTV assets.  We then realized that DIRECTV’s major selling point was their NFL Sunday Ticket, so we decided to combine the two to strengthen the refer-a-friend program.  Brainstorming the ideas on the topics separately initially took most of our time.  Once we honed down on our topic we were able to see ideas that we had on different DIRECTV assets. We were able to use them with our final idea which made it inherently better.  The problem with this all was that once we finally found an idea that would work, we had about two weeks left in the semester to actually create the plan, which made us work quickly and under pressure.  So my main piece of advice would be to not underestimate how long it takes to actually come to a solid idea that will stick out to place in the competition.

KevinKevin Harmon – I learned that staying organized and not procrastinating are keys to success. Once you come up with your main idea, have confidence in it and let it fully develop. Don’t veer too far off your original course, there are a lot of moving parts to this project and constantly changing your ideas will cost you lots of valuable time. Last but not least, have fun with it. This is a great opportunity to apply your knowledge from the classroom in a creative way.

KelseyKelsey Jordan Hinkle – I often still think about my group experiences and what I wish I could’ve done differently. While there’s some I remain unsure of as a perfect solution, here’s what I would advise focusing on to fellow marketing majors:

1. Emotional Intelligence.  A successful group begins with knowing yourself, your teammates, and yourself around your teammates. We learned in COB 202 to start group projects by taking the Myers Briggs test – a great tool for developing Emotional Intelligence. However, it wasn’t until Maymester as a senior, after being forced in COB 487, that I realized how beneficial this test is to a groups’ success. I highly recommend knowing your Myers Briggs score and your teammates within the 1st week. You not only discover personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your teammates, but also this reveals any latent imbalances early-on. So now your team can create a more relevant plan of action to address any potential issues, and also better allocate specific roles/duties. But my favorite part is about this test is how much personal insight you gain, as well as those around you, especially opposite personalities. It explains why you react a certain way to surrounding personalities/situations and how to more effectively control any negative reactions.

2. Logistics.  Go over everything you have to do together. Set up weekly deadlines and stick to them. Google Calendars and Google Drive are lifesavers. Share everything. But, do not overly rely on Google Docs. Don’t assign a task to only one person. Have everyone edit/add writing up until at least 3 days before the due date. Then, pick one person to create a version in Word. Read it aloud slowly together. If there’s something you want changed but no one agrees, change it on your own computer first. Wait for everyone’s approval before changing it yourself. If you want to make a drastic change, be sure to sufficiently back up your ideas. More importantly, don’t be afraid to do so. We actually changed our overall theme less than 2 weeks before the due date, which was incredibly stressful, but worth it.

3. Taking Initiative.  The busyness of the business school, and lack of group rooms, makes procrastinating even more tempting. Do not succumb. Even if “there’s nothing to do” that week, do something. Meet at least once every week for an hour. As a change of scenery, I recommend not meeting in Showker (i.e. the café in Martin’s, Barnes & Noble, Rose Library, etc…)  although, so long as you can find a space, Showker works, too. The issues I faced with most group projects resulted from my own laziness and/or entitlement. When 1 or more members procrastinate, it’s easy to follow suit, especially in the beginning weeks. Start something, even if no one else will. But always try your best to include the team on your work. Regardless of how much more effort you put forth, avoid feeling like you deserve greater control or credit. Vice versa, avoid negative thoughts of what you don’t deserve, whether related to grades or treatment by your teammates. Unfortunately, groups do not work that way, and neither does life.

4. Direct​ Communication​.  The moment you have something you’d like to say to another member,tell them.  Never be afraid of making things worse because, trust me, that rarely happens.  Remaining silent is much more destructive. If you feel uncomfortable telling the person directly, go to your professor as early as possible, not another member of your team.

Thank you to John, Alex, Kevin, and Kelsey for sharing their advice. To summarize their key points:

  • Get started early.
  • Brainstorm and then stay focused on your main ideas.
  • Keep communication lines open within the team.
  • Develop a team plan for completing the plan requirements.

For even more insights, read what the 2014 Bronze Winners from JMU had to say about succeeding in the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge.

Marxman Marketers – Winners of the 2014-15 3rd Place Bronze Award in the Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge Alex Dixon, Kelsey Hinkle (Team Leader), John Bassford, and Kevin Harmon

Winners of the 3rd Place Bronze Award in the 2014-15 Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Challenge. Marxman Marketers – Alex Dixon, Kelsey Hinkle (Team Leader), John Bassford, and Kevin Harmon

Among the 200+ teams from around the nation, the JMU team of John Bassford, Alex Dixon, Kevin Harmon, and Kelsey Hinkle captured the 3rd Place Bronze Award in the 2014-15 Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Challenge by DIRECTV.

The Collegiate ECHO Challenge is administered by Marketing EDGE, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to Educate, Develop, Grow, and Employ college students in the field of marketing.  In this national competition, undergraduate and graduate students conducted in-depth industry analysis and marketing research, created integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy, selected relevant and effective media platforms for implementation of strategy, allocated a budget, designed marketing creative to engage the target audience, developed a client presentation, and produced a video ad. These materials were judged by seasoned professionals from the direct and interactive marketing community.

The 2014-15 competition entailed marketing DIRECTV’s “Refer a Friend” Program to existing customers, new customers, and affiliate marketers using a budget of $1 million. All students worked on the semester-long DIRECTV project as the focal project in my MKTG 384 course at JMU. The project runs parallel to IMC concepts taught in the course such as marketing strategy, consumer behavior, objective setting, media planning, budgeting, forecasting, and the promotional mix (advertising, direct marketing, digital/interactive marketing, sales promotion, public relations, and personal selling).

Bassford, Dixon, Harmon, and Hinkle proposed a “Join the League” creative campaign to infer that DTV is the league to join. Their slogan used wording to refer to DTV as “the league” and to help promote referrals by using the word “join” within a well-researched media mix.  Judges feedback applauded the JMU 3rd Place Bronze team for their strategy, presentation, quality, and effort.

Great thinking through strategic application of all the channels. Great overall presentation of materials, I can see the clear time investment for quality work and detail of thought put into the campaign. Outstanding job overall and preparation for the real world!

As a result of this win, Marketing EDGE will provide JMU with a trophy for display in our College of Business and a $1,000 scholarship to be awarded by the Department of Marketing.  Students on the third place team will also split a cash prize of $500.

Six additional teams from JMU were recognized for superior accomplishment in other ECHO competition categories.

Three teams received Honorable Mention for major components of their integrated marketing communications plans.

Nifty Networking – Honorable Mention for Creative Strategy Chelsey Carbaugh, Nannan Chen (Team Leader), Denice Donovan, and Joey Bell

Nifty Networking – Chelsey Carbaugh, Nannan Chen (Team Leader), Denice Donovan, and Joey Bell

Joey Bell, Chelsey Carbaugh, Nannan Chen, and Denice Donovan were awarded Honorable Mention for Creative Strategy. The team’s creative concept involved marketing DIRECTV’s Refer-a-Friend Program as a unique gift in a “Channel the Love” campaign.




Formidable Three – Honorable Mention for Marketing Strategy Lauren Doherty, Dylan Katcher, and Corrie Breshears (Team Leader)

Formidable Three – Lauren Doherty, Dylan Katcher, and Corrie Breshears

The team of Corrrie Breshears, Lauren Doherty, and Dylan Katcher received Honorable Mention for Marketing Strategy. The marketing strategy for their “SAVE the Most” campaign involved a highly focused three-month media plan integrating direct mail, e-mail marketing, social media marketing, the DIRECTV website, and existing customer communications channels.



Getting Direct

Getting Direct – Honorable Mention for Market Research Kemp Bartlett, Nicole Tiffany (Team Leader), Madison Biernacki, and Madeleine Bourne

Kemp Bartlett, Madison Biernacki, Madeleine Bourne, and Nicole Tiffany won Honorable Mention for Market Research.  The data collection methods for their “Score Big” campaign, included qualitative research and over twenty secondary research sources to back up their marketing strategy.





Three JMU teams earned Honorable Mentions for excellence on specific components of the report.

Advanced Ambition – Honorable Mentions for Creative Strategy | Executive Summary Andrew Tsitos, Casey Sayre (Team Leader), Hao Dang, and Tommy O’Connor

Advanced Ambition – Honorable Mentions for Creative Strategy | Executive Summary
Andrew Tsitos, Casey Sayre (Team Leader), Hao Dang, and Tommy O’Connor

Hao Dang, Casey Sayre, Tommy O’Connor and Andrew Tsitos earned Honorable Mentions for Creative Strategy and the Executive Summary.  Their creative strategy evolved around a “Share the Wealth” campaign included a unique internal sales promotion that motivated and rewarded DIRECTV employees (e.g., installation technicians, customer service reps) for efforts generating referrals.  The Executive Summary is a report section that involved succinctly summarizing in one page the entire IMC plan.



Cre8ive Solutions – Honorable Mentions for Creative Strategy | Marketing Plan Brooks Chilcoat, Katherine Cutrone, Christina Provino, and Trevor Wilder (Team Leader)

Cre8ive Solutions – Honorable Mentions for Creative Strategy | Marketing Plan
Brooks Chilcoat, Katherine Cutrone, Christina Provino, and Trevor Wilder (Team Leader)

Honorable Mentions for Creative Strategy and the Marketing Plan was awarded to Brooks Chilcoat, Katherine Cutrone, Christina Provino, and Trevor Wilder.   Their creative strategy was based on the premise that  people are more incentivized by emotions than money alone. The team’s emotional appeal aimed to create a personal state of exhilaration in a “Spread the Excitement”.  Their marketing plan used a viral marketing campaign as a focal point.




Epic Effect – Honorable Mentions for Market Research | Innovation Nick Spinner (Team Leader), Alexa Balsome, Corrine Cardinal, and Carolyn Rezny

Epic Effect – Nick Spinner (Team Leader), Alexa Balsome, Corrine Cardinal, and Carolyn Rezny

Alexa Balsome, Corrine Cardinal, Carolyn Rezny, and Nick Spinner received Honorable Mentions for Market Research and Innovation.  Both primary and secondary research served as the basis for developing an innovative “Share the Wonder” campaign.  Their strategy centered around using a scratch-off promotional sweepstakes aimed at increasing brand loyalty with DIRECTV.


Congratulations once again to the seven teams from JMU for superior accomplishment in the Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Challenge.

On behalf of all of the JMU students who participated in this year’s Collegiate ECHO competition, I wish to thank Marketing EDGE for their support of such an educational endeavor. As a result of this project, students acquire valuable marketing experience for use in their upper-division marketing courses, job interviews, and marketing careers. A special thank you is extended to all of the practitioners in the judging community for generously donating time to evaluate the students’ materials and provide comments. The feedback is highly valuable to the students, as well as myself as an instructor, in better understanding the highly complex nature of successful marketing strategy.

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Kreate Marketing

Spring 2015 Winners of the Best IMC Plan in Course Award: Taylor Glazebrook, Drew Dyer, and Morgan Foran

Congratulations to KREATE Marketing for earning the top award for the spring 2015 semester!

As is customary in my Integrated Marketing Communications class (MKTG 384) at James Madison University, students vote for the “Best IMC Plan” after viewing all presentations in their section.  There were sixteen teams in my two sections this semester.  Based on the student votes, six of the spring 2015 teams emerged as winners:

2:30 Section Winners:

Best in Section Award:  Heading Direct (36%  of their section’s vote)
Alex Adley, AmyGoffe, Brian Reuss, and Max Truchen

Honorable Mention (three-way tie):  Advanced Ambition (18% of their section’s vote)
Hao Dang, Tommy O’Connor, Drew Tsitos, and Casey Sayre

Honorable Mention (three-way tie):  Digital Crusaders (18% of their section’s vote)
Greg Kozlowski, Taylor Neff, Andres Neira, and Meghan Person

Honorable Mention (three-way tie):  Fantastic Four (18% of their section’s vote)
Rachel Dansey, Jacob Shibley, Chris Talbot, and Allison Tugentman

4:00 Section Winners:

Best in Course and Best in Section Award:  Kreate Marketing (71% of their section’s vote)
Drew Dyer, Morgan Foran, and Taylor Glazebrook

Honorable Mention:  Jacked Marketing (12% of their section’s vote)
Anne Delafield, Heather Luing, Joe Nisivoccia, and Johnny Robbins

My spring 2015 IMC students are to be commended for completing a very challenging course project.  I wish them all the very best as they complete their marketing education at JMU and move into the practitioner world.


HootSuite Certification

Fifteen James Madison University students recently passed the HootSuite Certification Professionals Exam as part of a HootSuite Social Media Marketing Assignment.  Certification requires an understanding of how to schedule social media updates, track social media performance, manage team and information flow in social media, and work with social media reports.

Please join me in congratulating these JMU Marketing students on their new professional credential.

If you are interested in other types of social media certification, check out eight places to get certified in social media.


GOMC logoI am a seven-year veteran (going on eight) as a professor involved in the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC).

One important lesson I learned is that the AdWords account crediting process can be very tricky for students (and professors) during this phase of the competition.  As Google makes improvements to how their crediting system works for the GOMC, participants witness slight (and sometimes significant) differences based on the prior year’s process.  Personally, AdWords account crediting is the one and only part of the GOMC that I dread because when problems occur student teams could be slightly (and sometimes significantly) delayed in getting their campaigns executed.  When student teams are delayed, this causes huge issues for the instructor in terms of overall course management and ensuring all course requirements can indeed be met before the course ends.

As a friendly gesture to help students and professors around the world have a successful experience with this part of the GOMC, I am sharing some Tips for Completing the 2015 GOMC Report Upload and AdWords Account Crediting Process. Specifically the information in this Google Doc is based on my teams’ experience in the 2015 GOMC so far and is aimed at helping teams navigate the somewhat challenging, but highly important, process of getting their AdWords accounts credited properly.

Good luck to all teams competing in the 2015 GOMC and thank you to Google for providing this amazing learning experience.

2015 Google Online Marketing Challenge Team Captains from JMU Marketing:  Danielle Squeo, Olivia Deputy, Shannon Thompson, and Morgan Moore

2015 Google Online Marketing Challenge Team Captains from JMU Marketing: Danielle Squeo, Olivia Deputy, Shannon Thompson, and Morgan Moore

I wish to extend a very special thanks to four of my 2015 Team Captains at James Madison University (Olivia Deputy, Morgan Moore, Danielle Squeo, and Shannon Thompson) for sharing information, responding quickly to my requests for information, and working with me to better understand the report upload and account crediting process for this year’s Challenge.





Marketing EDGE logoMarketing EDGE (formerly known as the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation) provides a number of very helpful resources and programs designed specifically for students looking to prepare for a career in the marketing industry.

Check out the listing of job, internship, and scholarship opportunities below.  Note there are varying deadlines associated with their programs.  If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Terri Herschlag, Program Manager for Marketing EDGE Career Services, at

  • Marketing Scholarship Awards – On average, $75,000 provided to students to help with tuition.  The application process closes on April 15, 2015.
  • Marketing EDGE Job Board
  • Next Generation Leaders Program – NY or SF; 1 year – 2 rotations; networking, learning, and challenging work.  The NextGen program is limited to new college graduates (2015). The next program will begin the first week of September, after Labor Day. 
  • Summer Internship Program – Multiple states and companies attend I-MIX program.  Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled.
  • *Interactive Marketing Analytics Xperience (I-MAX) – The application deadline is June 5, 2015.
  • *Interactive Marketing Immersion Xperience (I-MIX) – The application deadline is April 3, 2015.  This year’s Xperiences is co-sponsored by GoogleThis truly unique marketing intensive presents students with a chance to…
    • Visit Google’s main campus
    • Participate in company specific workshops and get insights into major marketing campaigns and strategies directly from top Google executives
    • Develop a better understanding of new and evolving marketing platforms: mobile, social, and search
    • Receive resume critique that will help prepare them for the tough job market ahead
    • Work on a practical marketing business case
    • Interact and network with marketing students and marketing professionals from across the country
    • For questions about this program, contact Rachel Fontana at

Ad and Marketing Agenices

  • Where should I apply if I want to work at an agency?
  • What are some of the top agencies in the marketing industry?
  • What are the agencies located close to JMU?

These are some of the questions I often hear from my students at James Madison University.  To point my students in the right direction, I developed an alphabetical list of select advertising, digital, and direct marketing agencies.

For most agencies, this listing includes a link to the agency’s home page, about page, contact page, and careers page.  Because my students are often seeking internship opportunities nearby JMU, I included a red asterisk (*) next to the agencies with a location in Virginia or the DC area.

Please contact me if you know additional agencies that should be added to my list.  Thanks for your help and enjoy the list.



For the 2015 Collegiate Effie competition, participants develop a multi-channel IMC plan aimed at engaging back-to-college millennials, 18-24, with the Target brand.

Download the Target Brand Challenge – Client Brief for further details and challenge requirements.

The competition deadline is April 2, 2015.

If you have questions please contact


adwordscertificationAll 16 students from James Madison University’s MKTG 477 course (Internet Marketing Practicum)  passed the required exams to earn their AdWords Certification.  By passing the certification exams in this globally recognized program, students demonstrated proficiency in necessary subject areas critical to gaining competence in Google AdWords.  Certified individuals are qualified to effectively manage Google AdWords campaigns using the latest tools and best practice techniques.

Congratulations is extended to:

Learn more about AdWords Professional Certifications.


Silverback Strategies donated four prizes as awards for the top performing students on my MKTG 477 AdWords Exam.  The prizes created a lot of excitement and clearly served as a good motivator for my students to study over the holiday break.  Thank you to Silverback Strategies!

The top scores for the GOMC Class of 2015 at JMU are:

1.  Morgan Moore
2.  Ashley Musumeci
3.  Jordan Blair and Patrick Cusumano (tie for third)

Class of 2015 AdWords Test Winners

Patrick Cusumano, Morgan Moore, Ashley Musumeci, and Jordan Blair



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