Black History Month Interview with Brionna Simons

Taylor Gombar 2.22.2018

Black History Month

This February we celebrate the impactful marketing contributions ignited by our local community of color. This vibrant celebration of cultivated talent is not solely recognized during Black History Month, but continually embraced within board rooms each day. We spoke to Brionna Simons, Director of Content for AMA Colorado, on the topic of diversity. As a woman of multiple nationalities, Simons shares her stance on racial segmentation, minority targeting, and campaign messaging.

Brionna Simons

Brionna Simons recently expanded her reach to content creation for AMA. Simons identifies as a Black woman. “My mix is Black, Mexican, and White. I was born in Asia, where I lived for seven years.” Stemming from military roots, Simons has gained a thorough understanding of race across borders (Las Vegas, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Taiwan, Japan, and Colorado). Recently, Simons has deepened her education through the University of Denver’s Masters of Marketing program. Her interests in sustainability and hospitality are supported with six years of experience in luxury hotels and athletic clubs. Simons seeks to grow in a sustainable company spearheading integrated marketing campaigns.

What responsibilities do Black Marketers play during Black History Month?

Simons believes that all members of the Black community, especially teachers and parents, have a role in educating the next generation about Black pioneers across all industries. Simons shared the importance of, Former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s portrait now hung in the National Portrait Gallery. She also directed us to her news sources, like Her Agenda, that mold a picture of today’s working professional overcoming adversity.

Share with us your thoughts on market segmentation and racial targeting in marketing.

Based on her experience in the field, Simons responded, “I am choosing to remain indifferent at this point.” She shares how racial profiling can be a form of “professional stereotyping.” Yet, segmentation helps to match customer needs with market offerings. It also creates customizable messaging that resonates, rather than developing mass communication releases.

Marketers cannot overlook the variables we are using to develop our segmented clusters (race, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.). Simons shares, “It is a little silly to see entire articles about market segmentation based on race. Every African American family is not identical. There are several varying factors.”

Marketers may wish to consider why we select a certain variable, how we use those variables, and the cost/benefit of developing such clusters.

One warning Simons offered to marketers is the tendency to drive paid media that is grounded in racial segmentation. Simons states, “Consider toothpaste — commodities do not need to be tailored based on race. It is toothpaste.” As marketers, we are only exercising short-sided segmentation for commodities that may not benefit from defined minority targets.

Share with us any adverse viewpoints you have encountered with customer personas.

Simons’ shared with us an example of the Gerber Baby Food Label taught in her graduate coursework. The Gerber story was intended to demonstrate the importance of tailored packaging to international markets. “Gerber tried to penetrate a country in Africa. My lecturer claimed that Gerber failed because ‘they’ could not read. The errors in this example were that the campaign assumed Africa was one population, when there are over 50 countries in Africa. The campaign also suggested 100 percent of Africans are illiterate,” Simons said. According to the World Bank, literacy rate for men ages 15 to 24 is 99 percent in South Africa (World Bank 2015). Simons explains, “Marketing is about metrics as much as it is about creative. Marketers have to know their percentages and statistics.”

As we listen to what-not-to-do stories in marketing we must remain objective. Let us not overlook when marketers make broad statements about one variable, such as— country of origin or literacy rates, it may influence other variables like race.

Marketers hear a lot about the marketing mix (Product, Place, Price, and Promotion). What variable is most important to racial differences?

“I value communication the most. Marketers can have an excellent product or service, but if it is not communicated properly, it will not succeed,” Simons shares. We discussed how promotion is often misaligned to demographic identifiers. There is value within communicating a customized message to an audience. “Your words carry weight,” said Simons. However, let the customer tell their story. Marketers may seek to integrate interviews into their promotions to allow others to speak for themselves. Marketers could also curate in-the-field content.

Simons concluded our interview by stating, “You do not know what you do not know.” It was suggested to understand that campaign brainstorming develops from various perspectives. And perspectives of difference originate from diversity at the board room table.

Denver Trailblazers

Denver’s community is rich with African American trailblazers who courageously redefine equal access/opportunities within their companies. Let us continue to acknowledge the extended community of marketing leaders shaping Denver.

‘Your Customer is All You Have’ – Coffee with Lynsay, a SME on Digital Marketing

By: Brionna Simons

Lynsay Russell is a Tennessee native with 10 years of digital marketing experience across retail, agency, and medical technology companies. She’s currently the Senior Manager of Global Marketing Operations at Medtronic in Boulder, Colorado and serves as a mentor at the Leeds School of Business. “SME” is a blog series about Subject Matter Experts in Colorado’s marketing industry.

When I requested a coffee meeting with Lynsay Russell, eight-year AMA veteran and co-director of executive relations, she scheduled me for a Friday night at Denver Central Market in RiNo. How fun! Lynsay and I spent over an hour talking all things digital marketing. Read below to learn the true meaning of marketing’s most relevant strategy plus what trends and tools you can expect in your digital marketing career.


Lynsay’s first boss after college encouraged all employees to invest one hour a week in researching industry trends, which led Lynsay to become a subject matter expert in 2008 on social media before it was social media.

“People were like ‘Well what is this term social media?’ I came to my boss and said I’d really like to look into this, I want this to be my special project. He’s like ‘Yeah, go for it.’ I dove head first. I read a book called Groundswell and I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

After a series of pitches to corporate executives about a digital marketing strategy to improve customer satisfaction, Lynsay earned her spot on Pilot Flying J’s marketing team where she served as an agent of change and built out customer-centric digital marketing practices for six years.


Lynsay regularly educates herself and others on trends in the digital marketing space. She describes digital as a constant dance between logic and impact and emphasizes the importance of understanding technology and its implications. For ongoing education, Lynsay and her team regularly attend national conferences. (She’s been to South by Southwest four times!)


“The biggest thing is just experience with digital marketing. Certifications are highly regarded, and they’re basically all free!”

Start with certifications from Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and HubSpot. Gain experience with running a blog, building emails and implementing a campaign, and managing a website and doing the SEO behind it.

One of the newer digital strategies that Lynsay implemented at her company, a global leader in medical technology, is Account Based Marketing (ABM). ABM is essentially highly-targeted advertisements for top accounts. ABM tools include Terminus and BrightFunnel. Other integrated tools Lynsay uses in her day-to-day tech stack include Oracle’s Eloqua, Adobe Experience Manager and Analytics, and Salesforce.


“One is technology and one is people. Marketing and advertising has to catch up to the human experience.”

In technology, Lynsay anticipates more interactive videos and virtual reality (VR) will surface in a bigger way for consumers. Regarding people, Lynsay believes that companies will learn to avoid having to deliver apologies about advertisements (think: Pepsi and Dove) if they begin to truly understand their customers. Lynsay passionately defends consumers for being smart and complex people and feels that a true marketer is, at her core, a people person.


“A lot of people say put your customer first. And I want to say: understand that your customer is all you have. Being customer centric isn’t enough. Authenticity is demanded. We don’t give a f*** about your brand unless you truly demonstrate that.”

In her spare time, Lynsay enjoys blogging on her website about “living whole, living free, and living powerfully.” She’s a certified yoga instructor and teaches on Saturdays at prAna Boulder. Her favorite Super Bowl ad was the Jeep Jurassic commercial and her favorite part of AMA is being able to connect with so many different people and “share the suffering.”

Girls Just Wanna’ have “FUN-damental” Rights: Gender and Messaging in Advertising

By Taylor Gombar

Women’s equality and sexual harassment claims were brought center stage at the 75th Golden Globe Awards. Female activists unapologetically spoke out on gender disparity in the workforce and drew attention to media intimidation. A united voice arose through a sea of black solitude—the voice of misrepresented women shunned by those behind the curtain. As marketers, we understand the benefits of gender segmentation and gender-specific targeting. Let us not ignore gender differences, but begin to shift the representation of women in advertising.

Women’s Shifting Attitudes & Behaviors

Women have fought gender stereotypes since the swaddled pink nursery blanket. Yet, recent studies unveiled supporting evidence that a leader’s effectiveness is not determined by gender. So why are women feeling bound by the stereotypes that accompany their gender (domestic, emotional, indecisive, and sexual, etc.)? Biased media may be a contributor. Media may be driving a glass ceiling in their quest for the corner office.

Lifestyle commercials and workplace misconduct are not holding weight against women’s united voice. Social movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up have spotlighted women eager to share the true story. The true story emphasizes women securing leadership sponsorship and upper-management titles. The story also shines light to the various entrepreneurial ventures and start-ups founded by women.

Today’s Women in Advertising

So where are conflicting messages still arising? Advertising is a medium misrepresenting women’s lifestyle changes. Women are not only sexualized in the workplace, but they are also sexualized in product campaigns targeted at them. One advertising commercial features a woman in a bikini making sexual passes at the brand’s mascot (See: Yellow Tail Wine commercial). And when women are not sexualized in commercials they are shown pitted against each other (See: Real Awful Moms).

We have found that inaccurate depictions of women are not holding weight against their united voice. Social movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up have been to spotlight the voice of women eager to share the true story. It is our social responsibility to ensure that our published media reflect consumer attitudes. We must own our power of voice in marketing and begin leading the paradigm swing in favor of empowered women.

What’s the Answer for Marketers?

It is important to understand consumer attitudes and the parallel between your offerings. Societal beliefs are critical when leveraging product symbolism and value-expressive taglines. Gender-orientated content may begin to resonate when marketers form their communication strategies around the social judgement theory. Social Judgement Theory: The theory suggests that memorable content supports preexisting attitudes. When women view themselves as equal, brands must support previous notions to remain relevant to their target.

It is also our social responsibility as marketers to ensure that our published media reflects consumer attitudes. We must own our voice in taglines/production scripts. We must use our voice to support the career aspirations of our female buyers. And as copywriters and designers we can contribute to the paradigm swing in favor of empowered women. It is time that our voice reflects societal normalcies and tested truths.

Brands Leading Empowered Messages

So what brands are driving relevant messages to women? A few brands include: Always— “Like a Girl” campaign, Neutrogena—“See What’s Possible” campaign, and Ked—“Ladies First” campaign. Dove’s success is largely attributed to its emotional marketing campaign— “Real Beauty” campaign. The campaign positioned its skincare at women and inspired self-confidence. Dove gave women hustling for the corner office the confidence they need in the boardroom. Brands like Dove understand gender-targeting and have not ignored gender differences. However, Dove uses the differentiated attitudes as a discussion point to their product positioning. They understand the career aspirations of women and use their advertising to promote self-actualization.

As marketers, we must take the microphone and continue to drive accurate representations of women in the 21st century.

What’s happening at DIA? Goat Yoga, Ice Skating, and New Signage

By Brionna Simons

Last year, the Denver International Airport, or DIA as affectionately named by locals, made several headlines as it welcomed a record high of 60 million passengers. Other buzzworthy news included hosting a free holiday ice skating rink and being ranked #1 in the nation for best airport food. DIA, the country’s sixth busiest airport and largest airport by land size, has been a central hub for 22 years and growth is not slowing down. To upkeep with its 2020 vision, DIA recently installed a new 1,000-foot welcome sign and hosted a surprise goat yoga session for passengers. What all is happening at DIA and how should Colorado marketing professionals prepare for its growth?

What’s DIA’s goal?

Per, of of DIA’s objectives is be “America’s favorite connecting hub.” One way to establish this positive brand association is to demonstrate that “going to the airport can be unexpected, relaxing and fun,” said Heath Montgomery, Media Relations Director at DIA.

Implementation #1: Goat Yoga

One way that Montgomery implemented a fun experience for passengers was a pop-up private studio called the “DEN Zen Room” in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga. For passengers, the yoga class with adorable roaming goats was a delightful and interactive experience that made their experience at DIA unforgettable. (I wish I caught DIA’s Facebook teasers with the hashtag #DENZEN because I would have loved to attend!)

Implementation #2: Ice Skating Rink

Another approach that DIA used to bring joy to travelers was to enhance its free public ice skating rink. In its second year, the rink’s size was increased to 40-by-60 feet, operated for 44 days, and featured visits from local celebrities. Guests included the Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche, and the University of Denver’s figure skating team. DIA also hosted a charity hockey tournament benefiting a fallen Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy. Community partnerships like this are essential to a DIA’s public image for Colorado residents.

Implementation #1: New Signage

DIA also installed a 1,000-foot LED light display on Peña Boulevard. The $11.5 million-dollar signage project was designed to become an iconic ribbon of moving light along the main road to and from DIA. What’s interesting is that Panasonic was originally contracted to build and fund approximately 40% of the project, but that changed once both parties learned about the advertising limitations on federal highway systems.

Apparently, marketing on Peña Boulevard is limited to on-premise properties, which is basically the airport and outlets within. Since Panasonic pulled out, DIA is footing the cost and expects the payback period to last 10 years. DIA’s story with this new sign is an excellent demonstration of the importance of knowing the legal environment in the marketing mix.

What marketing agency is taking the lead?

This past June, DIA signed a $15 million-dollar, five-year contract with Karsh Hagan, an award-winning marketing agency based in Denver. Last month, I sat down with Karsh Hagan’s Creative Director Dave Cook who shared his creative marketing strategy with me: “Think from a PR perspective… How will the press write about it?”

Press releases are important to reinforce any organizations’ mission and to generate buzz about upcoming improvements. For the DEN Zen Room alone, DIA generated over 15 unique press articles including coverage from CBS, plus over 8,300 views on YouTube. Congratulations to DIA on the well-earned, earned media!

DIA’s 2018 Marketing Initiatives

In 2018, a DIA traveler can expect a $1.8 million-dollar renovation in the Jeppesen Terminal. Additionally, there will be a $700 million-dollar expansion of Concourses A and B. Changes will include 16 added gates, 17 new shops including Colorado-centric retailers, and a food hall that mimics the eclectic vendors in RiNo’s Denver Central Market.

Impact on Denver’s Marketers

Should marketing professionals factor in DIA’s growth into their marketing plans? Yes! We know that The World Trade Center Denver invested $200 million into a new complex specifically to attract the influx of airport travelers. The new campus is strategically located at the RTD’s 38th and Blake Station stop in RiNo. It aims to become “a giant welcome mat” for Denver’s visitors traveling 33 minutes on the A Line from the Airport station.

Follow DIA here
Facebook @DenverInternationalAirport – Instagram @denairport – YouTube @DenversAirport

The IKEA Dresser May Last Longer than your Operational Efficiency

by Taylor Gombar

Enough already! Let’s understand strategy before five more colleagues endorse your LinkedIn skillset. As marketers we can agree to the vital need of strategic positioning in a business plan. Marketers cannot confuse long-term marketing strategies with operational efficiencies. Operational efficiencies merely increase productivity levels. It is easily replicated by any competitor’s larger workforce or lower price.  If you continue to strategize based on operational flow, the IKEA’s MALM dresser may last longer than your competitive edge.

Marketing Strategy Versus Operational Strategy

We are aware of the fundamental elements of marketing: objectives, strategies, tactics, and outputs. But, can we discern the difference between inputs and outputs? Coca-Cola produces Fanta in high quantities to keep overhead costs low.

Coca-Cola’s economy of scale is only an operational efficiency. The company’s economy of scale is an operational efficiency that keeps costs low — not a marketing strategy. If that was Coca-Cola’s strategy, Coca-Cola would fizzle to Pepsi’s strategy before hitting shelves.

A marketing strategy can and should align resources for operational efficiencies to occur. So, a supply chain structure is not a long-term marketing strategy, rather an operational strategy.

The IKEA Example

IKEA exemplifies a business strategy that is not easily mimicked by competitors. IKEA leverages a marketing mix that ensures low cost, self-service product creation, and simple distribution. Customers have a self-made product, which they made a lower cost.  IKEA’s strategy success originates from a mix of product, place, price, and promotion. IKEA’s strategy is not a reliance on operational efficiency. The company considered the design of its store concept in addition to its distribution channels.

Still unsure of the difference? Let’s consider how Walmart rose to popularity with its reduced inventory carrying cost and competitive pricing. Yet, consumers saw how Walmart’s operational efficiency did not hold weight to Amazon’s strategy of Prime Membership pricing and home-delivery distribution. Operational efficiency became instantly ineffective upon market entry of a lower cost provider.

Staying Focused

We cannot overlook all elements of the marketing mix in our business strategies. Price can offer operational efficiency but it does not establish long-term market positioning. Just ensure you are creating a strategy with product, price, place, promotion elements before you are endorsed on LinkedIn.

Hiring? Get 50% off our Passive Job Seeker Account

Post your open jobs on the AMA Colorado Career Center and get them in front of the most qualified group of marketers in Colorado! Your job posting will be delivered directly to their inboxes with our exclusive Job Flash™ email, and will be featured at the top of our job board for 30 days.

Visit today and save 50% off our Passive Job Seeker Account by using coupon code START18! Hurry, this offer expires on March 31!

  • Job emailed to qualified professionals
  • 30 day job posting
  • Job stays near top of list on job board
  • Job highlighted on job board
CO AMA Blog | Politics

New Year, Same You – Brands Taking Political Stances

By Taylor Gombar

Brand reflection is upon us with the turn of the New Year and the anniversary of the presidential inauguration. Throughout 2017, companies exposed consumers to various political positions through product campaigns and media releases. New Balance sneakers praised Trump’s opposition on the Trans-Pacific Partnerships, while Cards Against Humanity purchased vacant land along Trump’s border construction. Although marketers were criticized for their political stance, recent reports indicated consumer purchase habits are tied to vocal campaigns.

According to Edelman Earned Brand Study, 65% of consumers refuse to purchase from companies that remain silent on important issues. In October 2017, Uber faced public scrutiny when turning off surge pricing during the New York immigration protest. Lyft took a competitive stance and donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, increasing consumer flips from Uber. So why don’t most brands speak up? Generally, brands forget about the 50% of belief-driven buyers. Belief-Driven buyers hold a strong passion for brand beliefs and use their purchased brands to express themselves. Backlash is inevitable from non-supporters. Yet, marketers cannot forget the 25% of belief leaders that will rally behind the brand. Although a brand could take a stance that is not favorable by opposing customer beliefs, the message may resonate with an agreeing buyer.

Forbes outlined a basic rule for companies navigating the new political space— consider political activism versus exploitation. Pepsi exemplifies a brand that exploited politics to drive sales. Backlash arose when the company trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement through product positioning tactics. The company used the movement to suggest Pepsi as the answer to national peace. Yet, Pepsi overlooked the political activism agenda. Political activism is the act of expressing brand values through contributed efforts. A company must remain empathetic and choose not stray from their vision when choosing to speak out. A brand possess humility and by leveraging that humility a brand can resonate with a larger message, not solely a product campaign.

So, marketers, do not align your political messages with a “New Year / New Me” agenda. Remember your key target and your value set. Do not defer to silence in the wake of political turmoil. Belief-driven customers look to you to express their political views; be there with them.

CO AMA Blog | TEDx

TED Talk Wrap-Up: What I Learned from an Activist and Former Skinhead

By Brionna Simons

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit global community devoted to spreading ideas. A Tedx event is a local level conference showcasing live speakers whom each present a TED Talk, which is a short and powerful talk that sparks deep conversations and connections.

On November 11th, thousands gathered in downtown Denver to attend the TEDxMileHigh: Wonder Conference. Speakers were revealed the morning of the event and included experts from several disciplines and cultures, such as a marijuana policy influencer, an atmospheric scientist, and a spoken word artist. Each of the fifteen TED Talks delivered that day centered around the theme: “What do you wonder?” As an audience, we laughed, cried, and shouted in agreeance with the speakers. Nearly everyone received a standing ovation.

The afternoon session of the event focused on women’s empowerment and featured all female speakers. A special highlight was the emcee’s interview with Tamika D. Mallory, a social justice advocate known for her role as co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington. Mallory’s work inspired over five million to come together worldwide for women’s equality on January 21, 2017, including over 100,000 in Denver’s own Civic Center Park. Mallory’s ultimate advice was to follow women, especially women of color because “we know how to draw the map and drive the car.” She also challenged attendees to stand up for people that they typically do not, because in the fight for social justice, “… our pain [and liberation] is together.”

Another highlight was the final speaker Christian Picciolini, an award-winning peace advocate and former skinhead. Picciolini described his previous lifestyle as a white supremacy group leader and admitted that the hate music he produced decades ago inspired the mass church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. Several of us in the audience were stunned. Picciolini concluded by encouraging audience members to treat people we dislike with compassion because they least expect it. His theory is that extremists have “potholes,” or parts of their life journeys that lack demonstrations of kindness and love. Since reforming, Picciolini has helped over 200 violent extremist leaders disengage.

Although Mallory and Picciolini have different life experiences, their advice for improving the world is similar: be kind to people unlike you and un-liked by you. This made me wonder… can the ideas from a Black female championing a new age civil rights movement and a former neo-Nazi leading an anti-hate campaign remain separate campaigns or should they be combined? As marketers, what tactic do we use to expand a single idea?

A visit to Mallory and Picciolini’s websites and social media profiles illustrate their unique platforms and audiences. Mallory serves as a change agent for multiple social justice issues in the Black community, while Picciolini advocates peaceful relationships as a strategy to end hate and #makegoodhappen. Some marketers feel that an undifferentiated marketing strategy, which is mass communicating a single idea to a perceived homogenous population, to be the best solution. However, the mission of TED, much like the goal of marketing professionals, is to spread powerful ideas that change attitudes and lives. I believe that the ideas of TED Speakers like Mallory and Picciolini are meant to remain independent because that’s when they are most compelling, most impactful, and make us wonder.

50% off Passive Job Seeker Package for Employers

Employers, find the most qualified marketing professionals on the AMA Colorado Career Center. Visit today to post your job openings and search for your next employee.

Try it now and SAVE 50% off our Passive Job Seeker Package. (Reg $549)

Use promo code HIRED17 by December 31st, 2107, to save on your posting today.

  • Job emailed to qualified professionals
  • 30 day job posting
  • Job stays near top of list on job board
  • Job highlighted on job board

Get a Complimentary Resume Critique!

Increase your chances of being contacted for your dream job. AMA Colorado offers a FREE service to you as a job seeker — RESUME CRITIQUE!

This service gives you the opportunity to have your resume sent to a resume-writing expert. Within 48 hours of opt-in, you will receive an evaluation outlining your strengths, weaknesses and suggestions to ensure you have the best chance of landing an interview. Here’s how:

To submit a resume when uploading it to AMA Colorado:
1. Visit the “Manage Resumes” section of your job seeker account
2. Click “Upload Resume File”
3. Choose the file to be uploaded
4. Click “YES” next to “Submit my resume for a free evaluation from a trusted resume expert at TopResume
5. When you receive the pop-up, click “Evaluate my resume”
6. Proceed with the upload by clicking “Upload Resume”

To submit a resume already uploaded to your account on AMA Colorado:
1. Visit the “Manage Resumes” section of your job seeker account
2. Locate the resume you would like to have evaluated
3. Click “Free Evaluation”
4. When you receive the pop-up, click “Evaluate my resume”

You will then receive email confirmation from your personal resume expert.