Kristen Marino

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Hubble: A Documentary Review

Hubble is a fascinating depiction of the journey of seven astronauts into space to repair the Hubble Telescope. Through the narration of Leonardo DiCaprio and the voiceovers of the media, the astronauts aboard and the crew on Earth, Warner Bros.’s 2010 documentary takes viewers into the world of outer space.

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The film draws viewers in by the perfect combination of a slow yet confident tone, music matching the emotional poignancy of the scenes and astounding visualizations of stars, galaxies and planets thousands of light years away. It shifts as the scenes change, but the music is often rich and classical in nature with varying rhythm, dynamics and timbre as appropriate.

“From this small sliver of aScreen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.35.56 PM view, scientists estimate there may be a hundred billion galaxies across the universe…billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars.”

The story shifts periodically, inter-laying the astronauts’ preparations for the mission, the takeoff and even the mission itself with beautiful, high-quality visuals of the magnitude of our solar system. The narration is compelling as it speaks in authentic awe of the depths of the universe, as well as in energized tones while telling (and showing) viewers the story of the astronauts’ actual experiences. Being able to actually see them floating around in the Space Shuttle Atlantis and in space as they struggle to repair the telescope was amazing and truly brought the story to life.

Hubble also features clips of the Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.27.26 PMastronauts laughing and interacting with each other, which helps to humanize the seemingly incredible idea of being in outer space. This helped the audience relate to them and become more emotionally invested in their story.

After watching this film, it is clear that emotionally connecting with viewers – really finding a way to draw them in and make them care about what you’re discussing – will be helpful when crafting final presentations. Ours is about Burt’s Bees, so perhaps we could provide a narrative in the beginning of our presentation about the persona of the person we decide to target. This will bring our persona to life and help the audience relate to and connect with our proposal.

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My First Time at TOPO

After living in Chapel Hill for almost three years, I finally had the chance to have dinner at the famous Top of the Hill restaurant on Franklin Street for my friend’s 21st birthday. I was excited, as I’ve had years of built-up expectations of people telling me how great of an experience it was. The food, the atmosphere, the location and the service was supposed to be stellar, the pinnacle of one’s time at Chapel Hill. I especially thought so after I saw the long lines to get tickets to eat there for the National Championship game.Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 9.50.07 PM

Though I had a great time with my friends, however, I was a bit disappointed in my experience. The servers were nice enough and it was cool to be seated on “top of the hill” (though we were indoors), but I actually found the food fairly pricey and the menu very limited.

Then, when the food arrived, it was good, but it definitely did not live up to my expectations. I felt a bit disappointed and surprised as I ate what I thought was only slightly better than average appetizer, when I had expected a delicious meal. Of course, it’s definitely possible that my expectations were unrealistic as a result of waiting so long to experience TOPO, but even so it was a bit anticlimactic.

The atmosphere of the restaurant also seemed a bit too posh for my taste. I’m sure there are people who like this experience – and on rare occasions I do too – but it felt a little unsettling in that moment.

Of course, I don’t know exactly how much others actually enjoy TOPO for the food and atmosphere and how much they do just because it’s part of the quintessential Chapel Hill experience. But, I’d say that a key insight gleaned from my experience is that TOPO’s popularity might be much more due to the social and cultural benefit than the actual food and menu offerings; that people might choose to have dinner there not for its array of unique food and decent prices but for the “bucket list” experience.

With this in mind, I would suggest that TOPO modify its promotional material to advertise its place as a UNC staple and steer away from advertising its (sparse) food offerings and prices that are a bit too high for most college students’ budgets. It might also be good for it to expand its menu options.Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 9.42.44 PM

The Top of the Hill is without a doubt an important part of UNC’s culture, but in my opinion its appeal is a bit overstated. I enjoyed my experience there and would go again for a special occasion, but it did not meet my (perhaps too high?) expectations.

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Freedom to Be Creative

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During my education – in both high school and the first half of college – I have had lots of opportunities to be creative. But even in those moments, there have almost always been clear guidelines, instructions or requirements that have, in a way, stifled my creativity.

After my sophomore year I had more freedom to choose topics and projects in which I was actually interested, but it wasn’t until I watched the documentary “Briefly” by Bassett & Partners that I realized how much the years of restrictions had affected me.

While watching the documentary, I was almost shocked to hear the various creatives talk about how flexible the creative brief was. The idea that a “great project is a brief and response that resonate but don’t agree” was so new to me because in almostScreen Shot 2017-04-16 at 4.56.45 PM all of my previous experiences, the end result should have naturally and logically followed the initial assignment.

It was also surprising that the team actually prefers clients who don’t have one campaign in mind, but rather those that have a long-term marketing or branding goal. For example, Samsung’s brief to become the “credible number two to the smartphone leader” was intriguing because it wasn’t simply requesting an advertising campaign – it wanted a strategic plan to develop its name.

This relates perfectly to the statement made by one of the creatives in the documentary. “I don’t believe in briefs,” he said. “I believe in relationships.” In other words, creating a compelling campaign is not as simple as following instructions by the client. Rather, it requires a dialogue, an honest conversation about the brand’s ultimate goals, values and priorities.

Finally, the idea that you should “use the projects you’re given as a way to start to define how you think” greatly resonated with me. All too often I view assignments as short-term requirements I must complete to receive the grade I want or to add something to my resume. But when it comes down to it, I should view assignments as creative opportunities to explore what I care about; what I might want to pursue after graduation and what type of person, thinker and professional I might want to become.

Because, for better or for worse, May 2018 is only one short year away.

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Being Creative

Seconds tick by as I stare pointedly at the blinking cursor on the blank page of my soon-to-be masterpiece. The world around me starts to fade and I feel myself being drawn in to the project at hand, imagining possibilities and carefully considering my approach.

There is nothing like the feeling of finally completing a project I’ve spent days perfecting; finish-writing-project-630x472finally printing the tangible representation of my hard work, dedication and thoughts.

Arriving at that moment, however, is no easy task.

How I begin a project will vary enormously. If I have ideas or rigid instructions, I will start by typing an outline. Then I will conduct the necessary research and update the plan as I go so that when I am ready to write I will have most of the necessary information.

However, though there are certain guidelines I still must follow, I’ve gotten to the point in my academic career where I have a good amount of freedom to write about my interests. This free reign is both a blessing and curse: it requires me to think more creatively and sometimes makes it more difficult to start assignments.

During these moments, I’ll often start researching different topic possibilities and seeing where the searches and related links sections take me. I’ll ask friends or professors for starting points or look back to previous assignments or readings I’ve completed for inspiration. This works occasionally, but many times I must look to other techniques to stimulate my creativity.

I might close my laptop and take out a pen and paper to free write and brainstorm.3b34178fb56572dc_DSC_0238.preview I might take a short walk, shower or get some coffee. Or if the deadline isn’t pressing, I might simply go to bed or switch to a different task, returning to the troubling assignment when my mind is clearer.

If none of the above options work, sometimes I’ll take a 20 minute Netflix break to relax and stimulate creative thoughts. I might also browse Pinterest, Tumblr or Twitter for interesting ideas, or watch music videos on YouTube.

Hopefully by the time I’ve tried all of these techniques, I’ve found at least one viable idea.

I’m usually more creative when I’m a) well-rested and energized, b) caffeinated, c) with others discussing possibilities, or d) so tired that my filters lower and I feel freer to brainstorm and produce ideas that might normally be too outlandish for me to develop. Those sometimes outrageous ideas can sometimes be helpful, though, because I can later scale them back and turn them into something great.

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Asking the Right Questions

While learning the answers to close-ended questions might be interesting, one can easily find those from a survey. To understand why a person feels, thinks or behaves a certain way, researchers must ask questions in qualitative methods of data collection that prompt storytelling.

Using open-ended, thought-provoking prompts encourage participants to reveal the underlying emotional or attitudinal drivers of behavior. This can help organizations design campaigns that will resonate with the audience.


Here are some examples of poorly worded questions and how you might improve them.

  • Have you ever sent a text message while driving?
    • Tell me about what you do when you’re driving.
    • Tell me about a time when you were driving and had to communicate with a friend or family member.
  • Would you say you travel abroad frequently?
    • Tell me about the last time you traveled abroad
    • Take us back to the last time you traveled abroad. Can you describe it?
  • Do you post a lot of pictures on Instagram?
    • You just came back from a fun social gathering with your friends and took a lot of pictures. What will you do with them?
    • How do you share your pictures with the world?
  • Do you prefer to shop at big boxes or locally owned stores?
    • Walk me through a typical shopping day.
    • What are some of your favorite stores to shop in – and why?
  • How often do you eat sweets?
    • Tell me about the last time you ate something sweet.
    • How do you balance being healthy and enjoying sweets?
  • Do you tend to buy things that are on sale?
    • How do you weigh price and brand name, or quality?
    • Walk me through how you decide whether to purchase a product.
  • Do you like to eat pumpernickel bread?
    • Tell me about a time you ate pumpernickel bread.
    • What first comes to mind when you hear “pumpernickel bread?”

Asking the right questions is crucial because it allows researchers to discover the true reasons for behaviors or attitudes. It also gives them opportunities to learn new, unexpected information or insights because it lets participants speak freely and express their streams of consciousness. By using open-ended questions, researchers approach the interview with an open mind without trying to fish for specific answers and allow participants to lead them to important discoveries.

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The Art and Science of Being Insightful

We make observations every day. Whenever we notice what someone is doing, thinking or saying, we are making factual claims about the people and companies around us. This process is essential for organizations and individuals to start thinking about how they should best build meaningful relationships with their publics.

But…those observations are not enough.

Professionals must interpret the findings. They must critically analyze the observations, as well as consider context and psychodemographics, to deduce the WHY behind the facts. Only then will companies have unique findings that can lead to compelling, emotionally and culturally relevant strategies and tactics. These can resonate with audiences and allow companies to reach them effectively, efficiently, uniquely and appropriately.

Suppose, for example, that you are the lead for a social campaign designed to encourage phone calls among teens. You would most likely find this data during your secondary research:


After examining this, you would find that teens do make phone calls – but mostly after first using at least one other method. This suggests that teens reserve their phone calls to people they have spoken with multiple times before – presumably, those with whom they are close.

Those facts are a start. But simply knowing them will not enable you to launch an effective campaign. Instead, you need insight. You must understand WHY teens display this behavior before you can persuade them to change.

Perhaps after primary research you find that teens lack adequate social skills to think on their feet during a phone conversation with someone they do not know well, which gives them feelings of anxiety and makes them resort to texting. Or, perhaps there are teens who prefer phone calls, but due to peer pressure do not engage for fear of ostracism.

Those insights would let you craft an effective, multi-faceted campaign. They allow you to narrow your target – teens who give into peer pressure or who lack social skills – which helps tailor your messaging. If you relied on facts alone, you’d be unlikely to cause a behavior change because you wouldn’t be attacking the core driver of the action. Being insightful is a science and an art; it is using your facts, context, analytical skills and creativity to determine the reasons behind behavior so that professionals can create meaningful change.

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Open Space in the Soda Market

Brands must have meaningful purposes and target specific niches. They must evoke positive emotional connections with consumers so shoppers will purchase them. While three soda brands – Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper and Pepsi – have unique messaging, there may be space for a new brand focused on individualism and defying the mainstream.

Coca-Cola’s Facebook messaging radiates with themes of closeness, warmth and nostalgia. It evokes happy emotions that create strong, positive affective links, which might persuade consumers. Its “#ShareACoke” hashtag reflects this, as well as its advertisements.

Coke’s planners probably discovered when, where and why people have soda. It probably learned that people have it when socializing and want to feel connected. Coke’s advertisements resonate with me because they remind me of memories with friends, leaving me more likely to remember those happy moments when I see Coke. These communications are probably not meant for those who do not enjoy socializing or soda.

Dr Pepper focuses on taste, necessity and craving. Its Facebook is filled with themes of wanting, relating to how people feel when they simply cannot go without the sugary beverage.

Researchers probably discovered when and why people want Dr Pepper and how they feel when they cannot have it. They might have found that people want it immediately and hate to wait. This could have led to copy about satisfying your craving, appealing to people’s physiological states and trying to evoke desire. This does not resonate with me because I strongly dislike Dr Pepper. Likewise, this strategy would not work for those who do not crave drinks or dislike Dr Pepper.

Finally, Pepsi’s messages are filled with celebrity, fame and football. They appeal to the need for social desirability, suggesting that if people drink Pepsi they will be popular, well-liked and trendy. For example, Pepsi recently did a massive sweepstakes.

Planners at Pepsi could have discovered that people drink soda to feel popular. They might have learned that people want to feel accepted and wish they could be like celebrities. This does not resonate with me because I prefer Coke, but it could work on those who want to be trendy and do not have strong preferences.

After evaluating these competitors, I think there might be an open space for a new brand. It could focus on individualism, being yourself without regard for what others are doing. While Coke focuses on camaraderie, Pepsi on being trendy and Dr Pepper on cravings, there might be a niche of those who want to be different and not stick to the status quo.