It’s a tough — but certainly not impossible — economy, and if your strategies for connecting with your audience need a bit of a boost, you may want to check out a seminar: Creating a Powerful Voice for Your Brand, sponsored by the New Jersey Communications, Advertising, and Marketing Association (NJ CAMA).

The program, which includes dinner, begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, at D&R Greenway on Rosedale Road. Registration is $20 per person in advance or $25 at the door. For more information, visit www.njcama.org. The event is catered by Christopher’s Personal Chef Service. For more information about the NJCAMA event, E-mail president@njcama.org.

Headlining the program are Brett Fielo and Martha Marchesi of JK Design, a creative and interactive ad agency located in Hillsborough. They will draw on their experience and expertise and provide seminar attendees with advice on the Top 10 branding mistakes, how to create a powerful voice for your brand, internal communication tools for brand support, and more.

Marchesi, the chief strategy officer, and co-chief operating officer (with Fielo), of JK, is excited to be speaking about her passion — the brand — and the best approaches for connecting with customers. “The customer is the customer, no matter what, whether a product is business-to-business or business-to-consumer,” Marchesi says.

JK Design (www.jkdesign.com) started in 1985 as a design shop and has grown to a full-service agency, with more than 60 employees in two locations, with clientele ranging from mature companies to start-ups. The firm is all about the brand, and specializes in all flavors of marketing — business-to-business and business-to-consumer — for Internet, video, print, broadcast, and mobile.

Much of Marchesi’s energy and focus is spent helping clients find a consistent voice across the board. “Many businesses don’t tell the same story, or they have multiple voices telling multiple stories. There’s no brand synergy,” she says. In addition to writers and designers, JK has programmers and developers on staff and can offer apps and software to their clients to enhance and track their message. “That’s what makes us unique,” says Marchesi. At the April 17 seminar she and Fielo will be demonstrating some of the technology developed by JK. “Technology can help brands achieve things they might not otherwise,” Marchesi says.

The holistic approach to marketing — a core value of JK Design — will be featured in Marchesi’s presentation at the seminar. Central to that approach is a mindfulness about customer feedback, whether the customer is another business or the general public. “So many businesses are talking to themselves,” Marchesi says, “but they need to create relationships, make connections, and stay relevant.” JK’s developers have created software to track customer feedback. “I’m looking forward to the demo at the program,” Marchesi says. “We want to show how technology can support a brand, and how that makes a powerful brand.”

Many marketing campaigns start off poorly because businesses don’t know how to connect with the audience. “They tend to say ‘Here we are!’ instead of showing people why they need the product.” She says all businesses need a three to five-year plan, and must spend some time figuring out how to stay important to customers.

Marchesi grew up outside of Chicago, and came by her interest in communications naturally. “I was creative as a child, always putting on plays,” she says. After graduating from Boston University in 1983, she went into news and copy writing, and worked her way into advertising.

She started her career as a copywriter, but made the transition to advertising, and has been in the business for 30 years. Her resume includes agencies like Young and Rubicam, Grey, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Della Femina, where she worked on many large national brands. She spent much of her career making the long trek into New York City, a challenge with three children. “I’ve been a single parent for 10 years,” says Marchesi.

Marchesi lives in Far Hills, and JK, where she has worked for the past two years, is located about a half an hour from her home; a much more appealing commute. “I’m sort of a newbie, but I’ve known and respected the owner of JK [Jerry Kaulius] for a long time.”

Her three kids are, for the most part, grown now. Her eldest daughter recently graduated from Boston University, Marchesi’s alma mater, and another daughter is a junior at UCLA. “She’s so happy out there, and it’s a great place to retire,” Marchesi says of the distance. Her 17-year-old son aspires to be a college football player, and, at 6’6” and 300 pounds, that may come to pass.

As her kids pursue their interests they might consider the strategies their mother’s firm recommends for its clients’ branding efforts:

“Define the most motivating aspects of your brand.

“Uncover the most differentiating aspects of your brand.

“Find a fruitful competitive space for your brand, both strategically and creatively.

“Create a foundation for all brand communications.

“Discover how to build long-lasting relationships.”

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