Can not advertising at all be better than advertising on billboards or through direct mail?

That’s the question I explore in my latest article (Journal of Services Marketing). Using both the home improvement sector and a real estate brokerage I find that things such as word-of-mouth and maintaining a good website can bring in more clients (at a cheaper cost) than actual advertising can. For a home improvement contractor, each time they get a request they need to submit a proposal which is costly. However, a lot of customers that come via this marketing communications channel haven’t narrowed down their company search. If the consumer comes via a word-of-mouth or the website then they likely did their homework on the firm. This means they are more likely to be a paying a customer. Effect of Interactive Marketing Communications Channels on Customer Acquisition – JSM – 2020.

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Teaching in the Fall during the pandemic

For the past few weeks I’ve been re-learning how to teach. With the help of my colleagues at UMW such as Dr. Russell, Jerry Slezak, and Dr. Greenlaw it’s been an eye opening experience. As of this writing I know that two of my classes are going to be face to face (Mktg 460 & Mktg 417 – Section 2) and one is going to be online (Mktg 417 – Section 1). After Thanksgiving though, all my courses will be online. My challenge for the online course, and to a lesser degree the other two courses, is how to make them engaging and active while online. There are things I know for sure, things I’m leaning towards, and things I’m still exploring.

For sure

  • I will have class synchronously but I will record the lectures and put them on my YouTube page so that students who are not able to attend during the class will not be penalized
  • There will be quizzes after each lecture, this worked pretty well in the Spring. The quizzes will take the place of a mid-term
  • The final exam (if there is one) will be online. This goes for all my classes
  • I’ll be using Zoom, it’s user friendly and worked well in the Spring

Leaning towards

  • For the online class, I’ll do poll questions via Zoom to increase interaction
  • Making greater usage of break-out rooms
  • Sending material to students in advance that we can go over during the class
  • Using tools such as Padlet and virtual reality to enhance engagement and create discussion

Learning about

  • Bringing in more guest speakers. If the class is online then the guest speakers can visit virtually.
  • How to create virtual challenges that students can participate in

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Avoid Stubhub

The economics of this isn’t pretty for consumers so be warned. The ticket seller Stubhub has given itself a cash cushion from buyers who had events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally (pre-pandemic) consumers who bought tickets on the platform were guaranteed a refund if the event was cancelled but less than the two weeks after the NBA and the NHL seasons were put on pause, Stubhub quietly amended its policy (on March 25th) to give consumers who purchased from them a voucher worth 120% instead of a refund. They are now the subject of a class action lawsuit, read more about that here. However, here’s why this their voucher idea is good for Stubhub and bad for consumers.

  • The vouchers expire by December 2021, so if you had waited more than two years to see that band finally come to your city and they’re not coming back for a while, well you’ll have to choose an inferior substitute
  • If everybody that had tickets to MLB, NBA, NHL, or concert over the course of multiple months now has vouchers they have to spend by a certain time it’s going to increase demand for tickets. An increase of demand is going to increase prices that sellers can charge (they are free to charge what they want). So I may have paid $100 for tickets to a hockey game in section 211, Row J before the pandemic, if I want those same tickets for the same game a year later I may find that the price is now $130 or more because there are a lot of people who have vouchers that they need to use.
  • Stubhub charges a lot in service fees, for buyers they charge 10% the purchase price of the ticket and for sellers they charge 15% per ticket. So for a ticket that’s priced at $100 the seller will get $85 and the buyer pays $110. What is to stop Stubhub from raising their fees once sports resume? They were “ethical” enough to quietly change their refund policy, what if they raise the fees on customers to 15% to recoup the value of the vouchers? That means the ticket now costs $115 and coupled with increased demand that may further diminish the actual value of the ticket.
  • Similar to gift cards, people often receive them and forget to use them, so there will undoubtedly be some people who simply forget to use their vouchers and it becomes a gift for Stubhub.

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On Teaching and Administrating and Grieving and Celebrating

I started this post nearly six weeks ago, and couldn’t finish it.  I’ve thought about it a number of times since then.  But as we reach the night before what would have been UMW’s commencement ceremony, I find myself returning to it and to the sentiments it started with and that have continued to resonate with me since then.

I know that none of us in education were ready for what the last two weeks months have been, nor are we prepared for the days and weeks (and hopefully not months) to come. Maybe we should have been, maybe we could have seen the slow yet practically inexorable movement of the COVID-19 virus from other parts of the world to the United States and eventually to our own locales. But in the end it came and we are dealing with the consequences for our work and our lives, and they are not insignificant. Fighting this virus requires remarkable disruption in the daily activities, the gatherings, the human interaction, that are part of our schools, our social life, our culture. Even in this age of digital-mediated work and leisure, we still live in work and school settings that are inherently about being with and near other people.

In the ten days before Mary Washington made the decision to move to remote learning and send our students home, I spent an immense amount of time with other people. [More time spent than I did in most weeks, let alone one that encompassed UMW’s Spring Break.] And after we moved to our homes and away from campus, I continued to be part of teams working to figure out how my school could deal with the impact of the most serious disease outbreakswe have seen in the world in our lifetime.  Initially, it was about deciding to close out the in-person aspects of what we offered, then it was dealing with the fallout of that move (such that our students and faculty and staff were not overly impacted), then it was what would the summer look like if students (and others) were not on campus, and now it is how can we, as a school that prioritizes the residential, face-to-face educational experience, imagine a fall semester that may or may not include students on campus, that may or may not include the revenues that residential campuses depend on to pay their employees and support their mission, that will somehow include social distancing and the latest thinking on public health, testing, contact-tracing, and hygienic practices.

I am blessed to be working with a dedicated, hyper-competent, thoughtful group of staff and faculty and Cabinet members, who believe in our mission, who are smart and dedicated to their students and their colleagues, and it is an honor to Zoom with so many of them each week as we work to build a future for our school and our community in the months and years to come.

I am fortunate to work with a President and a Board of Visitors who ask, over and over again, “what is best for the students?” no matter how difficult or complicated the answers to that seemingly simple question might be.

I am privileged to be able to continue to teach and work with the amazing students that make up the Mary Washington community, as they completed powerful senior theses on Women in Computing and the impact of race in historical portrayals of the Civil Rights Movement, as they built digital public history projects on James Farmer, UMW’s academic buildings, hundreds of letters from a Union soldier, and an array of scrapbooks from generations of Fredericksburg women.

I am lucky to have a home and a family who believe in the mission of education, a family who has supported all of its members during this stay-at-home order, family members who make each other laugh as we make each other meals and make each other at home in our house.

I am grateful that I am in a position to both teach and learn from our students AND to shape the direction of our institution at a time when nothing is normal.  I am constantly aware of the responsibility that is involved in being both a teacher and an administrator at this time and place, and I am glad that most days I believe I am making a difference.

And then today, the day before commencement was supposed to happen, I got to preview the video that will be shared tomorrow with graduating seniors, their families, their faculty, and the Mary Washington community.  And it broke me, at least a little. Don’t get me wrong.  It’s funny, and heartfelt, and full of terrifically caring alumni, our president, my colleagues, and lovely sentiments.   [I’ll link to it here once it is released.]

Maybe I should point out here that commencement is one of my favorite times of the year.  It is unalloyed joy.  It is a chance to meet students at their happiest, parents at their most proud, the community at its most relaxed.  It is a payoff for all of us after the always-stressful spring semester (or even the whole academic year).  It is goodbye, good luck, thank-you, and hell, yeah all at once.

And watching that video, knowing that we won’t be donning our regalia tomorrow, marching to the bagpipes, congratulating graduates as they walk the Campus Walk gauntlet of proud professors on their way to Ball Circle tomorrow, well, it broke me. Or at least it broke the dam of emotion that I’ve been holding back these months as we have all worked (students, faculty, staff, family) to get through, to survive (literally) to the end of the semester and school year.  And I grieved for what we have lost as a community of learners.  And I celebrated with happy tears what we have done together and apart.  We are capable of both being sad and grateful, regretful of what is lost and thankful for what has been preserved, sorrowful at what was missed and yet celebratory about the amazing things that have been accomplished.  

So, hear the bagpipes, sing the alma mater, hug your loved ones (be they near or far), and grieve what was lost and be grateful for what has been accomplished and what is still to come.  And know that all of that is okay.

Reflecting on Digital History (Pandemic Edition) through Memes

I asked the students in HIST428–Adventures in Digital History to close out the semester with a meme reflecting on the semester in general or the class in particular.

From Hunter D.

Class meme
From Dennis G.

 

Two from Eilise M.

Digital History should be taken seriously meme
The Farmer group was very passionate meme


Kimberly E.


Erin A.


From Piper G. (And this is definitely an accurate take on my role for the last few weeks of the semester.)


Erin M.


Corey H.


Megan W.

Beanie baby frog memeI found this meme on Facebook but DIY’d it to say “virtually.” That way, it matches the Zoom Experience.

Glynnis F.


 

An exaggeration in which my group needed more scholarly sources on scrapbooks and academics are "responding" saying, "Three, take it or leave it."

Emily J.


 

Katia S. “had this thought, in meme format, while captioning James Farmer’s class lectures on a Friday night two months ago, so I felt like it had to be shared.”


Cat K. noted, “When you’re already stressed because of your online classes and then your power goes out”


Noah P.


 


Mady M.


From Anna W.:

Before Adventures in Digital History vs. after Adventures in Digital History: