As a Southern California transplant working in Rhode Island, I’ve only been to New York City a handful of times.
So, when I was offered the opportunity to attend a business conference in the city, I jumped at the chance.
As a kid growing up on the west coast I mainly knew New York City from movies like Home Alone 2, You’ve Got Mail and Coyote Ugly. My other introduction was the image of Times Square during its live New Year’s Eve broadcast. My image was a bit skewed to say the least.
My first in-person introduction was during an 8th grade trip. It was the early 2000s, and I remember feeling so cool at 13 walking down 5th Avenue, seeing FAO Schwarz, and in awe seeing Wicked on a Broadway stage. But I knew the city had more to offer than shopping and Broadway, and though over the years I’ve made a few more short trips, a sporadic few days or a week as a tourist didn’t give me the experience I craved.
So with a free day before the conference, I took our Lego superheroes out for a photoshoot and a solo exploration of the city for marketing inspiration. I knew the best way to fully take it all in was to travel by foot.
Here are four things I learned about marketing in two days and a 45-block walking journey from the tip of Chelsea to The Met.
- COLLABORATION IS THE UNDERLYING FUNCTION OF SUCCESS
At first glance, the hustle and bustle of the city can seem chaotic. The second the train rolled into Penn Station anxious people quickly gathered up their belongings and made a mad dash for the exit doors. Through the station and out into the city streets, each of them headed in different directions at full speed. The fast pace never seemed to stop. However, if you take a closer look and observe the interactions, you’ll find that though it seems chaotic, each person plays a part, working like a moving puzzle piece helping the functionality of the city, interacting and communicating sometimes with just body language.
Marketing teams run much the same. Like the people in New York City, every successful marketing team works collaboratively. It’s the key to successful work production and every role plays a part in creating a marketing strategy or campaign. While one member may work with analytics, another creative and another strategy, all the moving pieces come together to make it work.
- IDENTITY BUILDS AUTHENTICITY
The city is sanctioned by the five boroughs, but what’s remarkable is the different identities they each own. Whether you’re visiting Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx or Staten Island, you will have an experience that is entirely different from another. Each has an identity that is authentic to them and when you see a shop, park or landmark you know which borough it’s from. They take pride in, produce, and hold what’s authentic to them, though they are all part of New York City.
The separated boroughs are like brands within the same industry. It’s important for each brand to embrace an identity that stands out from their competitors. For example, Nike and adidas are both athletic shoe brands, but they each represent a different aesthetic and archetype. Owning their own identity not only allows them to stand out, but also naturally exude authenticity as they use their identity to lead every marketing decision.
- CUSTOMER SERVICE AND CONSISTENCY CAN MAKE OR BREAK A BRAND
Rumors of NYC often spew talk of rude people and bad service, but that was not my experience as I entered the local coffee shop around the corner from my Airbnb. I opened the door to a warm greeting from the managing barista whose quirky personality and friendly demeanor turned around my whole morning. He went above and beyond to make everyone feel special.
The next day when I returned again, the service was not the same. The workers were perfectly hospitable, but it wasn’t the same energy or service from the day before. It gave off a completely different impression.
This leads to the fact good customer service can make or break a brand. Baristas and customer service representatives are your frontline marketing tool. They represent your brand and good customer service is never wasted. It can make a huge difference in your bottom line but can also be a deciding factor in whether or not your brand survives.
Word-of-mouth is the greatest marketing asset, and if customers have a good experience and share it on social media or in a conversation with a friend or coworker, it’s free publicity and may just earn you a few new customers. If that good service is consistent it works even better.
- QUIET OUTLETS SPARK CREATIVITY
Central Park juxtaposes as a quiet oasis amidst noisy, rambunctious city streets. For many New Yorkers, it’s a quiet escape where they can sit and think and collect their thoughts.
Artists and writers use it to gather inspiration, while others use it as a place to relax and escape work or their city lives.
As I stepped into the park from 5th Avenue, there was a man singing Backstreet Boys’ “As Long as You Love Me,” little dogs in fall jackets, painters selling their art, bubble entertainers and families exploring the park with their kids. All the same, even with subtle noises, the park seemed like the den of silence compared to the boisterous city streets. It was a good place to reflect as my day wound to a close.
In marketing and business in general, it’s important to find a quiet outlet for yourself. Remove yourself from the office environment. A change of scenery and a bit of quiet can give new perspective, which is necessary to think creatively and find new ways to succeed in the marketing world. The best ideas often come when you’re outside of your comfort zone or daily routine.
After two days walking the city, visiting museums and attending the conference, I left the city on the train back to the whispered bustle of Providence with a few treats from MilkBar and some new ideas to take back to the office. I look forward to returning to NYC, and maybe next time I’ll take a journey through a different borough.