2013 Conference Six Questions

Six Questions with Scott Stratten

scott strattenScott Stratten is the President of UnMarketing.


1. What’s the biggest mistake an institution — of higher education or otherwise — can make in its marketing strategy?

Trying to be cool and “relate” to students. If you’re thinking about using “YOLO” or “Swag” in your materials, you need to go for a walk and clear your head. It’s like a parent trying to be their kid’s est friend. It’s just awkward.

2. HighEdWeb draws digital marketing professionals from across the spectrum of professional experience. Would you share advice for those who have landed their first jobs and need to expand their knowledge base quickly, and tips for the seasoned professional to stay current and innovative?


Outside of giving generic advice like “read TechCrunch/Mashable” you have to let your passion for the topic drive your ongoing knowledge. What I mean by that is I’ve been in the digital space since the 90s and not once have I opened my browser to do “work” when it came to reading about my industry. I love it, I have an insatiable appetite to consume content about it. If I was doing it as a job, I’d find a reason not to do it and surf Reddit all day. I let my industry friends and people I respect curate a lot of the content I read. When they share an article on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn they’ve vouched for it. Also, setting up a Google News Alert for industry key terms also helps. I don’t recommend using “trending topics” on Twitter as a good thing to navigate content you consume, unless you want to learn what hat Bieber was wearing today.


3. Your new book is “QR Codes Kill Kittens.”  Give us a preview of its general premise — and feel free to skewer QR codes as much as you like.

It’s like a picture book for people fed up with the way businesses do things. Seriously, I’m putting out a picture book. A picture book with a kitten on the cover (show here). I have the greatest life ever. The QR code is the anchor for all the sections, since they’re a train wreck. I said in a talk once that every time someone scans a QR code and it doesn’t work, a kitten dies. It went over amazingly, and I stuck with it. QR codes on billboards off the freeway, in airline magazines, on a freaking banana. Come on. It’s not that they aren’t a good idea in theory, it’s just we marketers that have screwed them up royally.


4. On institutional social media accounts, do you see an advantage in putting a name and face to the person(s) who run it? For example, the University of Rochester (@UofR) is successfully upfront about its Twitter account being run by Lori (down to its profile pic) but not many other colleges or universities take this approach.

I think Twitter is especially important to have a personal connection with it. Facebook feels different, but Twitter I want to know I’m talking to someone. It’s a great touch, and makes the connection a little warmer. Plus I’m less likely to freak out on a person than I am an institution.


5. You don’t shy away from deflating marketing trends that are more style than substance. How can we best identify what isn’t working — and make an effective case to VIPs not to jump on the bandwagon du jour?

It’s bright shiny app syndrome. Since most marketing has to be planned 3/6/9 months out, when the glossy-eyed VIP comes to you and demands that you start recording “seven-second” Vine videos on that “Tweezer” site, let them know you’d be happy to, and ask them which part of the current marketing plan we should remove to fit in this new initiative.


6. Halliburton has just come to you for marketing advice. What do you tell them?

They wouldn’t want my advice; I’m Canadian :)


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By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.