Blog #11: December Deals and Christmas Kick-offs

Long time no see, right? So sorry I’v been MIA for a while, but I was prepping for finals, studying my brains out, and writing research papers and marketing cases — and then Christmas quickly came before I could even say “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.”

While my Advertising class has come to an end and I don’t need to upkeep this blog site anymore, I figure ‘why not?’ — I have time on my hands this break and I enjoy writing these posts. So how has advertising and marketing affected me in the last few weeks? Well ….

Last Monday (12/21) I went to an Oh Honey concert at Webster Hall in the city to kick-off my winter break. While I am not particularly a hardcore fan of the group, I went for two primary reasons: to help support an up-and-coming band and because my best friend bought an extra ticket so I could accompany him.  I knew of the concert before my friend because I go to school with the lead singer’s sister — word of mouth communication and advertising right there. My friend had heard about it through social media because he is a fan of both the band and the record label to which they are a part of. Plus, I have been to that venue before and have had good past experiences there, which made me more inclined to attend. So how was the concert? It was great and I had a lot of fun!

Aside from the concert, I also had to do all that last minute Christmas shopping at home this past week since I came home so late from school. While I could have done online shopping to save myself the time and hassle, I did not;  I was *that* person who was pushing and shoving in stores for gifts. I looked at paper ads/circulars for the best savings and deals so I could spare my wallet and bring smiles to my friends’ and family’s faces at the same time. While on the gift giving topic, I received gifts that were purchased both online and in-store, and I got a regift too from one of my family members. I am totally a proponent of the controversial regifting tradition, and do not mind at all being on the receiving end.
Additionally, one of the cool things about being home for the holidays is seeing the neighborhood houses decorate for Christmas. And no, I do not mean put a couple of outlined deer on the lawn or icicles hanging from the roof edges. Because why take the subway to Manhattan to see the same old Rockefeller Tree, the outdoor Macy’s display, and the giant ornaments statue across from Radio City with all the tourists?? See, here in Dyker Heights, homeowners GO ALL OUT!! My neighborhood is so famous that we’re featured on social media, late night news programs, and blog posts, and there are huge bus tours (i.e. “A Slice of Brooklyn” for $50 per person over the age of 13) and bike tours that travel around the neighborhood at night the whole month of December. Since I have grown up in this crazy environment for two decades, the displays have gotten bigger, brighter, and more competitive. And it is not uncommon for groups of people to walk around the blocks with a camera in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other because car parking and traffic are atrocious (and even to the point where NYPD blocks off streets with barriers to allow for pedestrian foot traffic flow). Don’t believe me, check it out ….
So when will advertising and marketing impact me again? New Year’s Eve for sure with digital ads, as I say good-bye to the old and countdown to a new beginning with family by my side and with ah-mazing singers serenading me on my TV set. Until then, enjoy these last few days of 2015 ….
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Blog #10: Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ 2015

As a student who is constantly stressing out about written assignments, doing well on exams, and having everything school-realted organized to T, I find sanity and peace in catching up on my favorite TV shows on the weekends (if I can’t watch them live on TV during the week). However, one show that was the exception was AMC’s The Walking Dead, which aired its mid-season finale last week on Sunday, November 29. As I alluded to in a previous blog post, I am a huge fan of the show, and I run informal discussions at my college twice a month for this fall semester. Comic book nerds and sci-fi fans gawk out at trying to buy the highly coveted tickets and passes to the annual San Diego Comic Con in June; anybody who is hot in the television and movie industries are there to promote their latest installment(s) to fans who live and breathe these kinds of genres I mentioned earlier.

While I cannot afford the luxury of flying out to California and spending bookoo bucks on the Comic Con weekend experience, there are smaller kinds of conventions that are similar to Comic Con throughout the year in different cities. One of those kinds of conventions is known as Walker Stalker Con, the zombie, horror, and sci-fi fan convention. When I learned I would be conducting research on zombies in pop culture back in May of this year, I stalked this particular convention out in every way known to man — I was looking at the various cities it was being held in; how much transportation costs would be to those cities; the entry ticket costs alone; the actors and actresses who would be attending; etc. After a very long 7 months, I finally got to attend the Walker Stalker Con New York/New Jersey one this past weekend (December 4-6) at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.

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Photo by me, Erin DeGregorio

While I won’t bore you with the details about how long the lines were or how much autographs and photographs were, I will give you a little taste of the marketing and advertising that was involved at this event. I first heard about the event through the Internet/Google searches and then followed its social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram). Once the date started getting closer and closer, word-of-mouth exploded because people began to connect the dots that certain Walking Dead cast members would be there. VIP passes for the more popular characters instantly sold out at outrageously high prices that ranged between (like Damon and Stefan from The Vampire Diaries at $360 each; TWD‘s Daryl at $400, Beth at $320, and Merle at $320) — but even the less popular characters (who either died or were overall really hated by fans of TWD) still capitalized on the event with general admission people (cough cough me, who couldn’t afford the VIP packages of $1,400 or $700), charging anywhere between $80 and $160 for combo packages of autographs and camera selfies. The cast members from TVD, TWD, and Gotham capitalized on this because they knew fanatics would sell their organs on the black market just to breathe the same air as them or to stammer out a “Hi, oh my God, I love you” when they have the coveted 3 seconds to meet them.

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Photo by me, Erin DeGregorio

Besides having the chance to meet cast members for a price along the expo center’s perimeters, the center was dedicated to artists and merchandise sellers. The reason I bring up these vendors is because they had to market themselves to hordes of fans and make themselves distinctively stand out from the guys on either side of their table in order to make a profit. Many talented artists were there, mainly drawing profiles of the various cast members, comic book heroes and villains, and anything else that could be related to the genres that this convention was dedicated to. Some artists charged lower prices for their pieces of artwork to sell more, whereas some charged higher prices for the more elaborately drawn and/or time consuming pieces. For me personally, after spending $100 to walk in the door alone AND THEN paying for cast members’ autographs or photos with them, I was not about to spend a lot of money on merchandise and drawings. After going around and around and around, I found a younger artist who was insanely talented, and I was willingly to support him by purchasing his stuff. He was selling his pieces at reasonably affordable prices and deals: $10 a pop; Buy 3 for $30, Get 1 Free; Buy 6 for $60, Get 1 Free. Although the convention was a cash-only event that had ATMs within the venue, this artist had his own credit card machine hooked up to his iPad. Great — I can use my credit card to make the purchase, and use the cash I was originally going to spend on it toward another autograph or photo. After I chose the drawings I wanted, he signed them — so I knew who he was — and he included a business card in the bag that contained his contact and social media info, should I want to purchase again from him in the future. While walking away with breathtaking hand-drawn pictures, I realized he did so much advertising and marketing within a 2 minute transaction, that many others probably were not capitalizing on.

The night before the event, I also downloaded the official “Walker Stalker Con” app that had a digital map of the venue and where each cast member was sitting; a list of which guests would be attending; times for photo opportunities with cast members (at additional costs of course); where the screening areas and panels were located in the venue and what time they would be taking place. Let’s be real, this app saved me by helping me plot and plan my course of actions so I would not be wasting time when I actually got there. When I finally got home that night after a long, 8-straight hours of walking and standing around, I updated my social media accounts to essentially brag to everyone who I saw and met.

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Steven Yeun (TWD’s Glenn) and I – Photo creds to me, Erin DeGregorio

Additionally, at this event, they also advertised for the Heroes & Villains Fan Fest at the same venue next month in January via hand-out print ads (small laminated flyers). At this convention so far, cast members from Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham will be there. Although I knew about this event a few weeks ago – again through social media (Twitter) – it was cool to see the promos for it at this event and get hyped about it. Yes, I have intentions on attending this fan fest as well … even though I don’t think my wallet can take any more hits, ha ha ha.

Blog #9: Black Friday 2015 – Bargains or Busts? (Advertising and Shopping)

Miss me and my blog last week? As Gossip Girl once said for Thanksgiving, “I’m trading my laptop for Stovetop. And for the next 16 hours the only thing I’m dishing is seconds.” (1×9 “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”)

Since it is officially December 1, let the ugly Christmas sweaters be received and worn; let the non-stop 24/7 Christmas music be played; and let the “25 Days of Christmas” on ABC Family be finally aired. But before you do take part in those fun festivities, let’s rewind back to this weekend, aka Thanksgiving.

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While Thanksgiving, for some, is a time for family, football, and food, it also signifies one of the most iconic annual events in the American economy: Black Friday. (Blog #6 briefly mentioned how Black Friday & Christmas ads began to circulate even around Halloweentime, giving consumers plenty of time to plan and prep for those purchases.)

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A little bit of backstory — seven years ago, my family and I spontaneously decided to go Black Friday shopping at the outdoor Woodbury Common Outlets in Harriman, NY while we were eating dessert at Thanksgiving Day dinner. Now mind you, this was when the all the stores began opening at midnight and when people were just as crazy as they are today. My family of nine all witnessed some pretty bizarre things prior to midnight in the parking lot – fist fights for parking spots, people using walkie-talkies to communicate what stores would open at what time and what parking spots opened up, U-HAUL trucks parked on the grass, people lugging around their luggage bags, people jumping out from their cars on the NYS Thruway and jumping the guardrails!! And someone even tried buying the jacket right off my cousin’s back while in Spyder! Fourteen-year-old me was hyped on adrenaline because it was just so exciting to be part of the mad rush with no map, no coupons, no flyers, no game plan at all – all we knew is that we had to try to survive the below freezing weather and stick together as one big family while making whimsical purchases.

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But our first Black Friday adventure didn’t end there – we finally left Woodbury around 5 am Friday morning and then decided to hit up the nearest Walmart right down the road because their doors were opening up at 6 am. We ran through the parking lot with our carts, charging for the doors, as if we were gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. To say it was a madhouse was an understatement; people were fighting for products, swearing and flipping the bird at other disgruntled customers. The greatest part about this Walmart trip was the products were not in their typical locations – for example, I distinctly remember that the TVs were in the shoe section and the GameBoys were in the gardening section. So our group took two carts and were scourging for the “desired” products (as I’m writing this I actually remember looking for discounted GPS systems and cameras because those were two of the hottest products back then) in the most obscure places we could find. I remember my second eldest cousin had 2 TVs set in between his feet on the floor at the shoe section, and a woman freaked out and just stole it from him right there in front of all us. PS – We ended up coming home at 9 am, nearly 12 hours later.

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Looking back on that first Black Friday trip, it was the only fun one we had in the last few years. In comparison to this year, my trips to Target (Staten Island, NY) and Kohl’s (Brooklyn, NY) were very dull (maybe because we had prepped from the advertisements and flyers). Both these stores opened up at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day, which took the fun out of waiting on line and rushing in the store in the middle of the night. My family of four went to Target at 8 pm Thanksgiving Day, and it was kinda, but not really crowded – it was like any other shopping trip on a regular trip with a handful more of people dressed in their Sunday best. The only other thing different was the disheveled shelves and products that showed the remnants of the initial 6 pm rush. Then we got to Kohl’s at 11:30 pm and it was an absolute madhouse. Who would’ve thought people would go nuts over clothes of all things? Certainly not me. Yes, we bought a lot of things before coming home at 2:30 am and got some pretty good deals this year, but nothing will ever compare to that first Black Friday adventure.

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