Mostly Marketing by Theresa B. Clarke

Sharing my love of marketing. Helping marketing students, marketing practitioners, & marketing professors connect with one another. Passionate about nurturing new marketing talent. Enjoys sharing novel ideas about a wide variety of topics…but mostly marketing.

How One of my Students Collected Nearly 1,300 Boxtops

This is the story of how Kristianna Cory “KC”  Hoffman acquired nearly 1,300 boxtops (a.k.a., Boxtop$ for Education) as an extra credit assignment in my MKTG 470 course.  KC blew me away when she turned in 1,297 boxtops on the last day of class.  The key to her success was successful networking through personal selling, email, and social media.  With KC’s permission, I am sharing her story…

#helpKCpass college – the hashtag that saved it all

well, maybe not saved… but definitely helped

When I first got the email over the summer about collecting boxtops for extra credit, I was interning at a little distribution office in Trenton, NJ. That very same day, I drafted my own email to send out to the company about the opportunity. The exact email read as follows:

Hello lovely employees of Hughes Enterprises!

One of my marketing professors for this upcoming semester has emailed and informed us that she holds a contest each year for extra credit.  She asks her students to collect Boxtops for Education and at the end of each semester, gives out bonus points based on the number each person has collected.  Extra bonus points go to the person who collected the most!

She then gives all these boxtops to her son to bring into his school! The school gets money from each boxtop, students get extra credit in class, and it all benefits a great cause (2 if you count me passing my class)! Talk about a win-win.

So the point of all this (and yes, I promise there is one) is that I am asking for you to please bring in any boxtops you may have lying around your house (or your parents, brothers, sisters, kids, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.).  I will be putting a collection box on the front desk and you can just swing on by and drop them in there. Easy peasy!

Thanks in advance for your help! 

KC Hoffman’s College Degree – Made possible by James Madison University and Hughes Enterprises

Your lovely Hughes Intern,
KC Hoffman

That same day, I got some replies to my email like this one:

Not to sound dumb but what is a box top?

To which I replied with an explanation, link to the Boxtops For Education website, and an attachment with examples of products with boxtops (all found on the Boxtops For Education website!!). Turns out the guy had 9 kids, all home schooled, and almost every single product at his house had a boxtop on it! Jackpottt!!!

I also got some teasing replies like the one below:

I hope a couple extra credit points are not that detrimental to you graduating. Should have hit the books a little harder!

Ha. Ha. Ha. Hope he doesn’t close his deals with jokes like those :-p

Anyway, the response I got to this ONE simple email was astounding. By the time I left Hughes a mere 2(?) weeks later, I had over 300 boxtops and I had yet to cut out a single one on my own. I by no means ever expected that much involvement. And on my last day of work, I baked treats for everyone, and then handed out little personal goodie bags to those who had contributed boxtops with a note that said “KC Hoffman’s College Degree – Made possible by James Madison University, Hughes Enterprises, and ___(insert their name here)___”. They all got a good chuckle out of it and I got well on my way to those extra credit points.

That same week, I also posted to Twitter and Facebook a simple message asking for friends to send me boxtops as well, using the same hashtag of #helpKCpasscollege – it was a little humorous and also informational but it was so long ago that I can’t find the actual Tweet. But knowing social media, I actually doubted anyone would even read it.

But again, to my surprise, about a month later, 3 different friends had told me that they had bags of boxtops for me! They had apparently, like me, just told a few people about it and collected bags worth, barely doing anything themselves. One of the girls was one of my friends from elementary school, whom I hadn’t talked to since literally 5th grade! So I met up with them all over Thanksgiving break to get the boxtops and to personally thank them for helping out. All had offered to drop them off in my mailbox but 1) I hadn’t seen any of them in a while and 2) I thought it would be better to thank them in person.

Last but not least, I told my mother about the assignment. Who then told all her friends, her one class of college students, and my Grandmother, who then in turn told all their friends. Next thing I know it, I’m coming home to visit and my mom’s telling me to close my eyes and hold out my hands because she’s got a surprise for me. I do what I’m told and she put a bag of about 20-25 boxtops in my hands. I thank her profusely and she goes, “But wait, there’s more!” (she likes to make things dramatic like that) and proceeds to hand me, one by one, 18 more bags of boxtops, each bag from a different person. I didn’t even know how to react.

And when I went to my grandma’s house, at least 10 more bags. And this happened all semester. Until I reached almost 1,300 boxtops.

Now, If you want to know how I did it, the answer is simple: I didn’t.

And that’s the God honest truth. I MAYBE cut out 7 boxtops on my own.

Everyone else did it for me. They’re the reason that I collected so many boxtops. They’re the reason I got the extra credit I did. And they’re the reason Professor Clarke’s son’s school is getting the money from them.

All I did was put it out there. When I could, I tried to be funny, genuine, and make an impression that people would remember. One that they would remember as they were putting that box of Frosted Flakes in the garbage. Did I have any idea that it would be this successful? No way. I thought people would read it and forget about it 30 seconds later. But for some reason, it stuck. Whether they wanted to contribute to a good cause, help out a coworker, or make sure KC passed college, they collected boxtops and made an effort to give them to me. And in return, I made a genuine effort to thank them and remind them of where their contributions were going (and not just to my GPA).

The bottom line is that word spreads. I sent my message out through 4 mediums: email, Twitter, Facebook, and my mother. I did not promise them anything, bribe them, or even guilt them into cutting boxtops out. I also did not pester them. I announced it once and reminded them every now and then, that was it. I didn’t blow up their phones or social media feeds telling them that I was collecting. I sent it out, and let it be.

And I had over 30 people contribute, many of whom I didn’t even know. Friends told friends who told friends and that was the end of that.

I also framed it in a way where it wasn’t all about me. Yes, I used the joke about “helping KC pass college”, but I also made it a point to let everyone know that there was a reason for the collection, a bigger reason. I also made sure to point out just how easy it was to do. Deep down, people like to be charitable. And it may be a hard truth, but most people like the easiest and least amount of work kind of charity that can still make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like their making a difference. And what’s easier than cutting out some cardboard from something that’s already at their house? No extra money spent, barely any time and effort involved, yet still the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping both a college student “friend” and an educational system.

And there ya have it folks. That’s all I did. It wasn’t magic, or buying everything off the shelves, or bringing scissors to Wal-Mart and stealing them of the tops of containers. I just took a few seconds and used the connections that I already had, and some that I didn’t even know I had. I played on their willingness to help, their desire to contribute to a bigger cause, and their need for minimal effort. And ya know all those sayings about everyone doing a small part and making a huge difference? Well, I think this was a pretty prime example of that.


The Fall 2013 Google AdWords Assignment in MKTG 470 at JMU

As usual, my MKTG 470 students at JMU completed a major course assignment using Google AdWords.  The primary learning objective was to acquire hands-on experience using AdWords to drive traffic to any one of their own web pages and any one of their own blog posts of their choice.

Through this assignment, students developed some initial skills in paid search.   With a total account budget of $25.00-$30.00 and a window of 14 possible days, students had an opportunity to learn how to structure accounts, create campaigns and Ad Groups, develop and manage keyword lists, utilize effective matching options, test ad copy using A/B testing, modify keyword bids,  assess account performance, adjust daily budgets, utilize keyword tools, and much more. Through GoDaddy, students new to AdWords were able to utilize a $100 AdWords credit to complete this assignment.

I want to recognize a few students from my Fall 2013 Internet Marketing class for exceptional performance in a few key areas from this assignment.

Aside from seeing my students perform well, another rewarding outcome is having former students contact me to volunteer to help current students on this assignment.  I love receiving a call or email from a former student saying “Hey Dr. C., let me know when you are doing the AdWords assignment in 470 so I can come in and help!”
My classes were treated to three separate visits from JMU Google Challenge alums to offer their assistance.   Having been through this assignment themselves, as well as participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge, these alums know what it feels like to be a newbie at AdWords. Thank you to Andrew Nelson (Director of Search Marketing at Silverback Strategies), Shay Meadows (PPC/SEO Account Manager at Silverback Strategies), Sarah Carpenter (Paid Search Analyst at RKG Digital Marketing), and Mollie Delp (PPC Analyst at Dynamic Web Solutions) for volunteering their time and sharing their expertise.  Andrew, Shay, Sarah, and Mollie ~ thank you for sharing your passion for digital marketing and for giving back to JMU in such a wonderful way.


SEO Assignment Using the Phrase “JMU Experience”

As an application of SEO, my Fall 2013 MKTG 470 students were tasked with learning how to optimize any one web page or blog post within their site using the phrase “JMU experience“.

This assignment was introduced at a very interesting time in the semester…just 13 days after Google made an official announcement about their new Hummingbird algorithm.

Even though the media started shouting “SEO is Dead!”, and “SEO is Dead Again!” I know that “SEO is NOT Dead” and we just need to approach things in a different manner.  So I forged ahead with the assignment using insights about how organic search, social media, and content are becoming increasingly intertwined.

On October 10, 2013, students performed a diagnostic test to determine where their personal websites were currently ranked organically using the phrase “JMU experience”.

  • In the majority of cases, students reported that their page was not found within the first twenty search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • The students were challenged to get one of their web pages into the top twenty results pages in the next six weeks through optimization of on-page factors, but especially through off-page SEO link-building efforts and use of social media.

On November 21, 2013, students performed a second diagnostic test to determine where their site currently ranked organically using the phrase “JMU experience”.

  • On this date 72.1% of the class observed an improvement in organic rankings and made it into the top twenty pages.
  • Out of 200 possible pages that could be listed in the top twenty pages, 62 of the pages were created by students in my class, representing about a 31% share of the rankings.

I wish to congratulate these 62 students for their effort,  application, and performance in optimizing a page or post using the phrase  “JMU experience”.

A special congratulations is extended to the students with the top three highest ranked pages from the Fall 2013 classes:

  1. Kaci Lassiter

  2. Monika Kelpsaite

  3. Alex Kuhn

Tips for Writing Good AdWords Ad Copy

As my Fall 2013 MKTG 470 students are now half way through their Paid Search (PPC) assignment, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my favorite resources for writing good AdWords ad copy.
Google’s six guidelines should be used to create an ad that’s accurate, to-the-point, and engaging.
  1. Highlight what makes your business, product, or offer unique
  2. Include prices, promotions, and exclusives
  3. Tell your customers what they can do
  4. Include at least one of your keywords in your ad text
  5. Match your ad to your landing page
  6. Experiment
Ensure that the ads meet the editorial guidelines provided by Google or they will not be displayed!  Just ONE violation can get your account suspended.  When in doubt check the full list of Google’s Editorial Policies.
What are some of your tips on writing good AdWords ad copy?

How to NOT SUCK at Social Media – A Beginner’s Guide for Business by Malcom McCutcheon

Malcom McCutcheon is one of my former students from the time when I was an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Old Dominion University.  Malcom worked as a digital marketing consultant and creative director and has served a full spectrum of clients since 1996.

He is the founder of Bossa Nova Interactive, a digital marketing consultancy with an emphasis on helping businesses to be found by their local customers.

Malcom is also a treasured friend and among my army of technological angels.

How to NOT Suck at Social Media by Malcom McCutcheon I recently learned that Malcom wrote a book entitled How to NOT SUCK at Social Media.  The book is based on Malcom’s direct experience working with older clients that do not fully understand how to use social media effectively.

Malcom is offering a FREE digital download of How to NOT SUCK at Social Media – A Beginner’s Guide for Business this Thursday, October 24, 2013, via the Amazon Kindle store for a one day promo.  He is hoping to get a lot of downloads on Thursday and a few honest reviews.

The book covers why businesses suck at social media, how to set up a social media presence in a number of channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Yelp), social media strategy, social media goals, and key social media tactics.

The companion website for the book is located at

I hope you will join me in downloading, reading, and sharing How to Not Suck at Social Media by Malcom McCutcheon.

Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of How to NOT SUCK at Social Media- A Beginner’s Guide for Business on Thursday, October 24, 2013.


A short promotional video for the book is presented below.


James Madison Marketing Student Websites for Fall 2013

I am very happy to present the web sites from my fall 2013 students enrolled in MKTG 470 at JMU.  My students purchased 12-month economy hosting plans and .com domain names using

During the next few weeks, my students will begin transforming their WordPress site into unique creations.  They will establish a site theme, edit their “sample” page and convert it to an “about” page, create new web pages, manage their navigational bar, create permalinks, get their blog started, customize authorship of their blog, work with widgets, add images to their website, and create hyperlinks to images and text.  Later in the course, students will explore various plug-ins for search engine optimization and site analytics, change their site theme to reflect their individual personalities, add blog posts, enable social media sharing, engage in paid search to drive traffic to their site, and much more.

I am very excited to help my students hone their technological skills.   Below is a listing of my fall 2013 students and their URLs.

Leah Albert
Dylan Anderson
Alexandra Aparicio
Nichole Barnes
Christopher Belcourt
Sarah Bonsall
Maggie Breitmayer
Carly Calhoon
Mike Cascino
Eunice Chun
John Coffey
Ryan Collier
Chris Deck
Shannon Engel
Jordan Epler
Mike Etemad 
Carl Ezyk
Casey Fitzgerald
Michael Freas
Meredith Freund
Kelsey Fuller
Christina Georgia
Jocolyn Giovino
Trevor Grimm
Alex Grizzell
Dalton Gross
Alexander Guerin
Morgan Haskins
Austin Highfill
Kristianna Hoffman
Stephen Holc
Samantha Huff
Ziyang Huo
Melissa Jackson
Laura Jennings
Hao Ran Jiang
Hannah Johnson
Sally Kardos
Aleksandra Karol
Dan Kehr
Monika Kelpsaite
MJ Kim
Melissa Kniceley
Alex Kramer
Alexander Kuhn
Rachel Lam
Austin Lane
Kaci Lassiter
Megan Maloney
Linden McCue Emery
Kate McGrath
Haider Mukhtar
Stephen Murphy
Melissa Nicolich
Andrew Novak
Jessica Palek
Jaydeep Patel
Kelly Pollhammer
Rachel Poock
Abby Potter
Courtney Railing
Yasmina Ramirez
Marc Rasmussen
John Ricketti
Michael Roche
Ashleigh Rojanavongse
Nicholas Root
Emily Rupertus
Rory Salzberger
Kayla Santrock
Nick Scallion
Brendan Shockley
Jacie Specht
Wayne Spindler
Emilie Tardiff
Arielle Tenorio
Jonathan Thompson
Stephen Thompson
Joanna Tucker
Mustafa Wakilpoor
Joshua Wallace
William Walton
Freddy Weber
Taylor Wertheimer
Kacy Williams
Joshua Wilson
Erica Wise

16 JMU Marketing Students Pass the CeMA Exam

Sixteen James Madison University marketing students passed the Certified eMarketing Associate (CeMA) examination in May of 2013.  CeMA is an e-marketing certification program accredited by the eMarketing Association (eMA).  The program provides professional certification to those who demonstrate competency in the e-marketing arena.  As stated by the eMarketing Association:

eMarketing AssociationThe CeMA certification is a substantial credential for students as well as professionals who are new to the e-marketing profession. The certification is recognized globally and is the only e-marketing certification recognized by a state office of education.

All students listed below have passed the certification exams and are now Certified eMarketing Associates.  Special recognition is extended to Bryan Broscious for earning the highest CeMA exam score in the spring 2013 MKTG 470 class.

Please join me in congratulating these JMU marketing students on their professional accomplishment!

Megan Anise
Laetitia Biscos
Bryan Broscious
Morgan Burton
Vanessa Escobar
Brittany Glenn
Jacquelyn Gray
Lauren Hale
Lauren Kiser
Patrick Nowzari
Kenneth Salamon
Shelby Shaffer
Sangvok Sung
Carolyn Thiel
Elizabeth Vincent
Alysa Wilkins

Results from the Spring 2013 Google AdWords Assignment

My Strategic Internet Marketing students at James Madison University recently completed a major course assignment using Google AdWords.  The primary learning objective was to acquire hands-on experience using AdWords to drive traffic to any one of their own web pages and any one of their own blog posts of their choice.

Through this assignment, students developed skills in paid search (pay-per-click marketing).   With a total account budget of $25.00 (their own money by the way) and a window of 14 possible days, students had an opportunity to learn how to structure accounts, create campaigns and Ad Groups, develop and manage keyword lists, utilize effective matching options, test ad copy using A/B testing, modify keyword bids,  assess account performance, adjust daily budgets, utilize keyword tools, and much more.  Students were also treated to an informative presentation about Search Engine Marketing from JMU Alum Lindsay Crone.

I want to recognize a few students from my Spring 2013 Internet Marketing class for exceptional performance in a few key areas from this assignment.

Lindsay Crone Speaks to Strategic Internet Marketing Classes at JMU

Lindsay_Crone Today my MKTG 470 students were treated to a presentation from a very special JMU Marketing alum ~ Lindsay (Matt) Crone, Senior Creative Editor at The Search Agency.

Lindsay shared information about her career path since graduating from JMU in 2008.  Her presentation included many useful tips about searching for jobs, positioning yourself professionally within social media, and discussing key skills during an interview.

She highlighted some of the integrated online services offered by The Search Agency such as SEO, affiliate marketing, comparison shopping, landing page optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and display advertising.  She also gave many useful tips about running successful Google AdWords campaigns.

On behalf of my JMU Marketing students, thank you Lindsay!  We appreciate your willingness to share your time and expertise wish us.

James Madison Marketing Blog Partners – Spring 2013

To help my spring 2013 MKTG 470 students improve the quality of their websites and prepare for the end-of-semester peer review, each student is randomly assigned a “blog partner”.

Blog partners are encouraged to work informally together and provide feedback throughout the semester.  Partners may want to “pre-grade each other’s blog posts” before they are due or set up occasional meetings to review each others blog.  As another option,partners may wish to set up a review schedule and communicate electronically.  It is entirely up to each  partner team to determine how often they wish to communicate and help each other develop great blogs.

11:00 Section Blog Partners – Godwin Lab:

Jessica Alea Lauren Kiser
Ellen Barker Sarah Konspore
Laetitia Biscos Nicole Martin
Kristen Booth Kevin Meder
Rick Brightwell Lila Mooney
Bryan Broscious Patrick Nowzari
Grant Burshem Heather Paxton
Morgan Burton Hugo Ramadier
James Carter Shelby Shaffer
Catherine Crews Colin Squier
Frank Doss Rachel Sturm
Vanessa Escobar Sangbok Sung
Brittany Glenn Carolyn Thiel
Amanda Glover Josh Tigges
Jacquelyn Gray Elizabeth Vincent
Natalie Iannello Caitlin Webster
Mathew Ingham Shiyao Yu


12:30 Section Blog Partners – Showker Lab:

Megan Anise Geoffrey Harris
Frank Ashby Jonathan Morosini
Michael Baker Sarah Nuzzo
Anna Bosshard Vilina Phan
Caroline Burger Patrick Robinson
Kirsten Chaney Kenneth Salamon
Jenn Donovan Nicholas Scott
Evan Duso Rachel Tacci
Mandy Gassman Heather Terk
Lauren Hale Bret Thompson and Alysa Wilkins
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