Building a Community For Your Brand

Critics by smile.io

Imagine having customers that continue to engage with you beyond your products. This is a sign of a loyal brand community, and some of the most successful businesses are strong because of it.

Building a great brand community can be done in three steps:

  • First, you need a captivating reason for members to join.
  • Secondly, you need to make it worth their time to engage with each other and with your brand.
  • Finally, it has to be easy and valuable for members to share your community with others and help it grow.

Once you have all three steps working together, you’ve got yourself a brand community.

What is a brand community? A brand community is a group of customers who are invested in a brand beyond what is being sold. So, while this might be a new idea for you, many of the world’s best brands have been putting community building to the test for years.

To get an idea of what this community building looks like in action (and to get you inspired to build your own), let’s take a look at 10 of the best brand communities and what makes them so great.

Gymshark

Gymshark is one of the fastest growing fitness apparel brands in the world, and their incredible growth is largely fueled by the strong community they have built around their brand. Using their Gymshark Central blog as a hub, they make it easy for new and returning customers alike to dive into their community without having to do any heavy lifting.

With articles loaded with tips, tutorials, and exercises, their blog is jam-packed full of health and fitness related information that has clearly positioned them as their members’ go-to source for anything health and fitness related. This makes it easy for customers to decide to purchase their products as a way of strengthening their connection with the fitness community.

Gymshark’s strong value-add marketing strategy is also evident through their team of athletes. With a huge social following of their own, each athlete is handpicked to represent the brand to their own communities. This gives them the chance to individually engage with their own loyal fans on a personal level as a reflection of the Gymshark brand.

When you combine these social interactions with their strong purchase intent, Gymshark customers are given many opportunities to continue engaging with the brand over time, and almost as many opportunities to share their Gymshark experiences with their own communities.

This is most clear at Gymshark’s many pop up shops that spring up across the UK. Featuring special sales as well as live classes, demonstrations, and appearances from Gymshark athletes, these are highly-anticipated events that have community members waiting for hours for the doors to open in the hopes of scooping up some exclusive gear and meeting up with other Gymshark fans.

By growing their community both on-and-offline, Gymshark is a prime example of what it means to build a brand experience customers can’t wait to be a part of.

Charlie Hustle

There are very few things that can bring people together to form a strong community like sports can. Rooting for your favorite team automatically creates a connection with other die-hard fans, and that’s exactly what Charlie Hustle has taken advantage of to create their brand community.

This sporty t-shirt brand offers customers the chance to show their hometown pride through their Kansas City dedicated clothing. A brand community doesn’t have to have members across the globe to be successful–sometimes keeping it local helps you score big.

What customers love most about Charlie Hustle is the feeling of community that is intrinsically  displayed in every t-shirt. From their vintage-made-fresh style to the Kansas City branding on each piece of clothing, customers are easily recognizable as a part of the Charlie Hustle community when they wear their tee.

It’s not just the fashion that draws customers in, though–Charlie Hustle’s Communi-Tees line is dedicated to raising money for a local organization. For example, their Nelson-Atkins Museum Tee raises money for educational programs at one of Kansas’s most famous landmarks. Allowing customers to support a cause that’s so close to home is what makes Charlie Hustle’s brand community so successful.

Along with their socially responsible values, Charlie Hustle offers a rewards program to keep their brand community engaged. Their Bleacher Club Rewards encourages customers to keep hustling their way through a tiered VIP program to reach all-star status in order to unlock exclusive rewards like event invites. With a brand that values local community engagement so much, this type of experiential rewards are a perfect fit.

Charlie Hustle has knocked it out of the park by creating a brand that celebrates hometown pride and gives customers an outlet to interact with like-minded individuals.

Starbucks

The Starbucks brand has been synonymous with community for quite a while, thanks to how well they’ve crafted their brand image.

For starters, when you enter a Starbucks cafe you aren’t greeted by mere employees—you’re greeted by Starbucks partners.  This is the term Starbucks uses to refer to their baristas, and this small detail helps make inclusion in the brand community something felt by everyone, not just the customers that come in to get a drink.

Outside each cafe’s walls, Starbucks has continued to do an amazing job of strengthening their community with a number of social initiatives to boost member interaction and engagement. One great social impact initiative is the volunteer matching service they created to help partners and community members engage with each other, and help those outside the community that need assistance.

Between the annual #redcupcontest holiday cup decorating contest and the countless #psl (pumpkin spice latte) photos customers post every fall, Starbucks has taken full advantage of the power of user-generated content to build a community, reposting some of the best-tagged customer photos on their corporate social profiles.

However, this all pales in comparison to the crowning jewel of the Starbucks brand community: their Starbucks Rewards program. As a Starbucks Rewards member, customers can earn Stars for making purchases, playing games, and attending bonus point events.

They can then cash those Stars in for free products, or save their stars for even sweeter reward. With the integrated mobile app, customers have access to their rewards wherever they go. Starbucks even celebrates their community members by offering a free birthday treat to their program members on their special day. Offering personalized rewards like this one help your community members feel connected to your brand. After all, who doesn’t love free coffee?

Glow Recipe

The cosmetics industry is perhaps one of the strongest community-fostering industries out there. With beauty buffs constantly seeking out product recommendations and reviews, having brand advocates to vouch for you is absolutely essential.

With all-natural, fruit-inspired skin care products, Glow Recipe aims to make skin care fun for their customers. Their website is filled with everything customers could possibly want to know about their products from tutorial videos, customer reviews, and skincare product recommendation quizzes. They’ve even included a Glowipedia to allow customers to know exactly how to achieve their favorite look. This type of value-added content creates a strong brand community by giving customers so much more than just face masks and cleansers.

Glow Recipe strengthens their brand community by offering content that really matters to their customers. In order to celebrate their community of empowered women, they’ve started their Boss Babes interview series, which features female entrepreneurs. By offering content that goes beyond their products, they’ve shown a true dedication to the values of motivation, empowerment, and confidence that are so important to their customers.

Glow Recipe knows how important their community members are for their success and that’s why they’ve created Glow Miles. Customers can see how valued they are through this VIP program that offers them exclusive rewards like early access to products and sales and invites to events. Their strong brand centred around female empowerment and confidence creates a customer experience that’s just as beautiful as their products.

The Walt Disney Company

When you think about brands that have a huge community of followers, one of the first ones you probably think of is the House of Mouse. For a company that was founded nearly 100 years ago, Disney has done everything possible to make their brand not just a media company, but a complete entertainment experience. With beloved characters like Winnie the Pooh and Donald Duck, their films and stories are the perfect vehicle for building lasting emotional relationships with each of their customers, no matter where they are in the world.

From the United States to Tokyo and everywhere in between, Disney fanatics are all connected by a deep love of all things magical. This shared passion has led to a number of exciting traditions inside the Disney community that bring people together, including Dapper Day and cosplay meetups.

Perhaps the most exciting event, however, is the D23 Expo. This annual gathering is sponsored by the Official Disney Fan Club, D23, and welcomes members of the Disney community to come together and celebrate all things Disney. This three-day event is the highlight of the year for the most avid Disney community members, and is a fantastic opportunity for new and old fans to meet, create more lasting relationships, and share their own experiences with each other.

While each of these experiences are magical in their own right, the pinnacle of a true Disney community experience is physically going to one of their parks. Gathering with a crowd of other wide-eyed enthusiasts to take part in the rides, sights, and sounds of the world of Disney is the ultimate expression of what it means to be a member of this worldwide community.

inkbox

If you’re looking for a brand community that makes you feel like part of the family, look no further than temporary tattoo makers, inkbox. Their original products were inspired by the indigenous tribes in Panama, who have been tattooing for thousands of years as a function of family and community. To echo these values of inclusivity and togetherness, inkbox’s inkfam community is built around making sure their community members know just how much they’re valued.

With their #tattoosfornow hashtag, they let their community members submit photos of their freshly applied tattoos to be featured on the brand’s website and social channels. By showing each member of the inkfam that their engagement and belonging in the community is valued, inkbox shows exactly the kind of brand they are. That desire for belonging is exactly why over 1000 photos have been tagged with the hashtag, meaning they have a lot of customers that love their ink and love being part of the inkbox family.

The values we enjoy most as part of a family are acceptance, openness, trust, and support. By tying their community to these values, and doing everything they can to live them out, inkbox has built a community that feels safe and inviting–like a family you’re already part of.

Lululemon Athletica

Athleisure has been on the rise for a number of years, and few brands have had as much of an impact on this trend than Lululemon. With luxurious yoga gear serving as the heart of their diverse product line, Lululemon’s brand community is built around empowering their customers to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

One of the key ways they do that is by offering accessible, invigorating experiences to their community members. If you’ve never tried yoga before, Lululemon gives you a chance to join them for a free yoga class or to come to one of their other larger festivals and events. At all of these gatherings, community members can sweat, meditate, and retreat together from the chaos of everyday life. For their most dedicated community members, they’ve even gone as far as opening an experiential store in Chicago, offering several fitness studios, a juice bar, as well as their high-quality athletic gear.

How Lululemon Uses Lifestyle Marketing to Create a Strong Brand Community
Lululemon has transformed their business into a lifestyle brand. Discover which of their strategies are the key to building a brand community for your own small business.

Even though these events do a lot to keep members engaged, Lululemon also recognizes that they need advocates to help their community grow. To help draw a crowd to their events, Lululemon has an active ambassador program that features a number of athletes and leaders in fitness, nutrition, and business. As independent brand ambassadors, these leaders evangelize the Lulu brand, serving as a living embodiment of the brand’s values in the real world.

Joining a new community can be intimidating, but Lululemon has done a lot to make the barriers to both their sport and their community as non-existent as possible. Since great brand communities have to be accessible, by embracing the values of both athleticism and leisure, Lululemon has made their brand community easy to try out and join, but still exciting to engage with through their events and ambassadors.

Itzy Ritzy

Parenting is emotionally rewarding but can also be confusing, so it’s no wonder that in the necessity of sticking together, parenting communities are some of the strongest and largest you can find. Unsurprisingly, the brand community surrounding Itzy Ritzy is no different. Having created a value-add marketing strategy with different types of content, they’ve become a go-to destination for info about everything from diaper bags to teething tools.

Their commitment to their community is most evident in their parent profiles featured on their blog. These interview-style posts outline not only what some of their most loyal customers love about their brand, but also their own personal parenting stories. This type of authentic user-generated content help inspire future customers to join the Itzy Ritzy community to continue getting the support they need.

These type of customer stories are one of the best ways their members can share their experiences with others. To make that sharing process even easier, Itzy Ritzy runs a referral and rewards program that rewards their happy customers for sharing the brand with their friends. This makes it beneficial for customers to leave product reviews, use a unique referral link, or share the Itzy Ritzy brand on social media.

By giving their customers a way to make engaging with them valuable, Itzy Ritzy has built a foundation for a strong and quickly growing brand community. With so many resources for educating their customers and celebrating their parenting lifestyle, new and returning customers are quickly welcomed into the Itzy Ritzy family and shown how beautiful and valuable it is to be a parent.

Building a great brand community is easier than you think

What each of these awesome brand communities have in common is that they know what their customers care about. With this knowledge at the helm, these 8 brands have built a community around enabling their customers to live out those values through a complete and rewarding brand experience.

Whether it’s through rewards, special events, user-generated content like newsletters, or brand advocates, the world’s biggest brand communities give their members the tools to bring other like-minded individuals into the brand’s story, the motivation to keep them engaged, and the power to spread the love as far as they can.

Community doesn’t get much better than that!

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The World Meteorological Organization Has No Immediate Plans To Name Heatwaves

As extreme heat stifles communities around the world this week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that it has “no immediate plans” to give heatwaves names. The July 19th announcement seems to pump the brakes on growing calls to come up with a strategy for ranking and naming heatwaves around the world.

In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster. Globally, it kills 5 million people a year. But heat spells haven’t always spurred the same careful preparations people might take to, say, shelter from a major storm. The goal of naming heatwaves would be to make it easier to communicate the risks they pose to the public so that people can take measures to stay safe. In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster

For decades, names have played a big role in early warnings for dangerous storms. Warning people about hurricane “Sandy” or “Harvey” just became a lot easier than identifying a storm by latitude and longitude. The US’s National Hurricane Center started giving Atlantic storms monikers from an official list in 1953. Currently, the WMO maintains rotating lists of names for the Atlantic and other regions.

Some advocates want to apply a similar naming mechanism to heatwaves. Seville, Spain, is set to become the first city in the world to test out the idea later this year. Officials in Athens, Greece, and California have contemplated doing the same. But the WMO apparently has some reservations, saying that it’s “currently considering the advantages and disadvantages of naming heatwaves.”“What has been established for tropical cyclone events may not necessarily translate easily across to heatwaves,” the WMO said in its news release this week. “Caution should be exercised when comparing or applying lessons or protocols from one hazard type to another, due to the important differences in the physical nature and impacts of storms and heatwaves.”“False alarms” are one concern for the WMO. Heatwaves can be forecast up to 10 days out in many parts of the world. But if the forecast for an extreme heatwave is inaccurate — maybe it’s not as hot as expected or it hits a different region than anticipated — then people might lose faith in the warnings and stop heeding them.

“False alarms”

The other caveat with heat, the WMO says, is that heat-related deaths can happen even when it’s not extraordinarily hot outside. If someone is continuously exposed to more sweltering conditions, say, in the workplace or in a home without air conditioning, they can become ill even if there isn’t an officially declared heatwave.

To prevent confusion ahead of a potential disaster, the WMO also says that any “pilot heatwave naming” should at least be tied into a country’s official warning system in the absence of a broader international framework.

Seville is piloting a project this year that will test a new alert system to warn residents ahead of a heatwave. Extreme heat events will be categorized based on their severity, and those forecast to have the greatest impact on the city will get a name. The first five have already been chosen: Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao, and Vega.

“We are the first city in the world to take a step that will help us plan and take measures when this type of meteorological event happens—particularly because heat waves always hit the most vulnerable,” Antonio Muñoz, the mayor of Seville, said in a June 21st press release.

Parts of Europe literally buckled and burned under a brutal heatwave this week — even in places with typically milder summers. In the UK, record-breaking temperatures buckled train tracks and even an airport runway. London’s fire service responded to more blazes in a day than it had since World War II, according to Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor. And 100 million people in the US are under heat alerts today.

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and more intense as greenhouse gas emissions heat our planet. More than a third of heat deaths can be attributed to climate change, according to research published last year.

Source: The World Meteorological Organization has ‘no immediate plans’ to name heatwaves – The Verge

Critics by EPA

A persistent period of unusually hot days is referred to as an extreme heat event or a heat wave. Heat waves are more than just uncomfortable: they can lead to illness and death, particularly among older adults, the very young, and other vulnerable populations (see the Heat-Related Deaths and Heat-Related Illnesses indicators).

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can lead to other impacts as well—for example, damaging crops, injuring or killing livestock, and increasing the risk of wildfires. Prolonged periods of extreme heat can lead to power outages as heavy demands for air conditioning strain the power grid.

Unusually hot days and heat wave events are a natural part of day-to-day variation in weather. As the Earth’s climate warms, however, hotter-than-usual days and nights are becoming more common (see the High and Low Temperatures indicator) and heat waves are expected to become more frequent and intense.2 Increases in these extreme heat events can lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths, especially if people and communities do not take steps to adapt.3 Even small increases in extreme heat can result in increased deaths and illnesses.4

About the Indicator

This indicator examines trends over time in four key characteristics of heat waves in the United States:

  • Frequency: the number of heat waves that occur every year.
  • Duration: the length of each individual heat wave, in days.
  • Season length: the number of days between the first heat wave of the year and the last.
  • Intensity: how hot it is during the heat wave.

Heat waves can be defined in many different ways. For consistency across the country, Figures 1 and 2 define a heat wave as a period of two or more consecutive days when the daily minimum apparent temperature (the actual temperature adjusted for humidity) in a particular city exceeds the 85th percentile of historical July and August temperatures (1981–2010) for that city. EPA chose this definition for several reasons:

  • The most serious health impacts of a heat wave are often associated with high temperatures at night, which is usually the daily minimum.5 The human body needs to cool off at night, especially after a hot day. If the air stays too warm at night, the body faces extra strain as the heart pumps harder to try to regulate body temperature.
  • Adjusting for humidity is important because when humidity is high, water does not evaporate as easily, so it is harder for the human body to cool off by sweating. That is why health warnings about extreme heat are often based on the “heat index,” which combines temperature and humidity.
  • The 85th percentile of July and August temperatures equates to the nine hottest days during the hottest two months of the year. A temperature that is typically only recorded nine times during the hottest part of the year is rare enough that most people would consider it to be unusually hot.
  • By using the 85th percentile for each individual city, Figures 1 and 2 define “unusual” in terms of local conditions. After all, a specific temperature like 95°F might be unusually hot in one city but perfectly normal in another. Plus, people in relatively warm regions (such as the Southwest) may be better acclimated and adapted to hot weather.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calculated apparent temperature for this indicator based on temperature and humidity measurements from long-term weather stations, which are generally located at airports. Figures 1 and 2 focus on the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas that have recorded weather data from a consistent location without many missing days over the time period examined.

The year 1961 was chosen as the starting point because most major cities have collected consistent data since at least that time. Figure 3 provides another perspective to gauge the size and frequency of prolonged heat wave events. It shows the U.S. Annual Heat Wave Index, which tracks the occurrence of heat wave conditions across the contiguous 48 states from 1895 to 2021. This index defines a heat wave as a period lasting at least four days with an average temperature that would only be expected to persist over four days once every 10 years, based on the historical record. The index value for a given year depends on how often such severe heat waves occur and how widespread they are….

Related contents:

National Night Out 2022 is a success despite extreme heat WIBW

02:30
22:54 Sat, 06 Aug

Reporter – Climate change: Europe’s first heat officer Deutsche Welle

16:55 Sat, 06 Aug
05:36 Sat, 06 Aug
20:07 Fri, 05 Aug
08:38 Sat, 06 AugChina Taiwan Climate Crisis

13:50 Thu, 04 AugEPA Supreme Court Climate Crisis

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The Single Most Important Thing to Know About Financial Aid: It’s a Sham

 

In early March, a 17-year-old high school senior I’ll call Ethan got a text message from Ursinus College, a small, private liberal arts school located about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. It said, “Great news, [Ethan]! Ursinus College has awarded you additional money! Log into your portal to view your updated financial aid award.”

A few days later, Ethan got a letter from Ursinus repeating the same offer. “The Office of Student Financial Aid recently received additional information regarding your application for financial aid and, as a result, a change has been made to your original award,” it said. In December, Ursinus had offered Ethan a “Gateway Scholarship” of $35,000 to offset the college’s listed price of more than $72,000 for tuition, room, and board. Now it had added a “Grizzly Grant” (Ursinus’ mascot is a bear) of $3,500 to the mix.

It was puzzling. Ethan is not financially needy. One of his parents is a nonprofit executive and the other is a public school teacher in suburban Maryland. They own their home outright and earn well over $200,000 per year, putting them comfortably in the top 10 percent of household income nationwide. Ethan’s standardized test scores were good and grades were fine, but mostly not in the kind of rigorous Advance Placement–type classes that are mandatory for admission to selective universities.

All of this was in the application he sent to Ursinus last year, and he hadn’t talked to them since. What “additional information” were they talking about? Meanwhile, Ethan has a cousin who is also a high school senior. I’ll call her Ashley. Her overall academic profile was better than Ethan’s—higher grades and lots of AP courses, somewhat lower SATs. But her economic circumstances were not.

Ashley also lives in Maryland. Her mother, a single parent, dropped out of community college and works in the back office of a local restaurant chain. Her income is well below the median for someone with college-age children, and she has no real financial assets to fall back on.

Yet Ashley wasn’t getting unsolicited text messages offering her more financial aid. Penn State, a public land-grant university that allegedly has a mission to provide broad access to college, had recently sent her a financial aid letter. Like Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II, their offer was this: nothing. Tuition, room, and board would be $49,200—almost $16,000 more than private Ursinus College wanted to charge her wealthier cousin. To pay, she was welcome to get a job, or take out loans.

Ethan and Ashley were learning a lesson about the way the business of higher education actually works in this country: College financial aid is largely an illusion. Government financial aid is real, if inadequate—federal Pell grants and state appropriations to reduce tuition at public universities definitely exist. But the financial aid purportedly provided by colleges themselves is mostly fiction.

The whole public-facing system of college admissions—in which admissions decisions are based on rigorous academic standards and financial aid is supposedly provided to those who are most academically and financially deserving—is an elaborate stage play meant to flatter privileged families and the reputations of colleges themselves. The real system, hidden behind the scenery, is much closer to the mechanics of pure capitalism, driven by an industry of for-profit consultants and relentlessly focused on the institutional bottom line.

That’s a huge problem for students and parents trying to make expensive, life-changing choices about higher education. Many families make bad decisions based on the misleading vocabulary colleges use around financial aid, leading to broken futures and, increasingly, unaffordable student loans. If you have children and are planning to help them go to college anytime soon, understand this: Much of what colleges are going to tell you about money isn’t true.

There are, to be sure, a few extremely wealthy institutions that really do provide financial aid. If you are among the small number of low-income students that Harvard chooses to admit after filling much of its class with legacies, athletes, and the children of wealth, status, and power, you won’t have to pay tuition. The Ivies and a handful of other elite schools have “need blind” admissions, which means they consider your application regardless of your financial circumstances, and offer generous aid to those who need it.

Parents can also find good, reasonably priced public options in some states, which allow them to avoid the shell games involving financial aid. Public universities in North Carolina remain very affordable, for instance. And some states also provide grants to students that are in fact based on their financial needs or academic achievements.

Tuition and fees for the State University of New York system are relatively low to begin with, roughly $8,000 to $10,000 for in-state students. But the state of New York also runs a state need-based scholarship program that, combined with a federal Pell grant, can be enough to cover tuition and part of room and board.

But if you live in a less generous part of the country and your kids are applying out-of-state, or they have their sights set on a private college without an Ivy League endowment, then you have wandered into a very different kind of market, one that has a lot more in common with airlines hawking seats or dealers selling cars than you might realize.

The language of admissions and financial aid suggests that colleges review every application with two questions in mind: “Does this applicant meet our academic standards? If so, how much scholarship aid, given their financial circumstances and academic merit, do they deserve?”

In reality, the large majority of undergraduates attend a college that accepts most or all applicants. And while the “sticker price” for tuition at some institutions exceeds $50,000, most colleges don’t have enough market power to charge anything close to that. For them, the real concerns are, “How likely is this applicant to enroll, if we accept them? And what’s the most amount of money they’d be willing to pay?”

To answer those questions, many colleges hire expensive consulting firms to help them manage a complex process of marketing, admissions, and pricing. The firms design social media campaigns and produce the flood of glossy brochures that pours through the U.S. postal system every year.

They take the wealth of detailed financial information that parents are required to disclose on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and feed it into the same kinds of complex algorithms that airlines use to constantly change the price of seats in the months, weeks, and days before a flight.

They also use a probabilistic strategy for deciding whom to admit, based on a combination of how much they think parents are willing to pay and how likely students are to enroll. Because of online systems like the Common App, it’s easy for students to apply to many colleges. At less desired colleges—the safety schools and fourth choices—“yield” rates, meaning the percentage of admitted students who enroll, are often below 20 percent.

So they admit 3,000 students to fill a freshman class of 600 and hope that past statistical patterns hold. If too many students enroll, there’s no room in the dorms. Too few, and the college goes broke. The whole process is called “enrollment management.” To understand how important enrollment management is in the higher education industry, look to administrative hierarchy:

Ursinus College, for example, has a director of admissions who reports to a vice president and dean of enrollment management and marketing. When Washington College mailed Ethan three “VIP admission” tickets and an all-access lanyard with his name printed on it for an “Admitted Students Day Music Festival” in April, it was trying to increase its yield.

When one college after another sent Ethan a letter offering him tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money, in most cases it probably had nothing to do with their evaluation of Ethan’s achievements. It was more likely because market research told them that students like the feeling of being awarded something, and the enrollment management algorithm suggested that full tuition minus $25,000 or $30,000 was a price his parents might be willing to pay.

The Ursinus College Office of Student Financial Services did not receive any additional information regarding Ethan’s application. That was a fib. An Ursinus spokesman confirmed for me that the extra award was based on his original application and “other financial considerations.”

It would not be surprising if those “other financial considerations” included a report from an enrollment management consultant—the firms Ruffalo Noel Levitz and EAB are two of the biggest—showing that acceptance and pricing projections as of early March were looking soft. When colleges find their enrollment numbers lagging, they act like a car dealer with too many of last year’s models on the lot, and put tuition on sale.

Like most colleges, Ursinus’ $72,000 list price is an imaginary number; on average, it charges students only about one-third of that. It is not providing Gateway Scholarships and Grizzly Grants from a pot of actual money. It’s just pretending to, because that’s what students and parents like to hear.

Colleges, unsurprisingly, are shy to discuss the consultants that shape the inner workings of their aid process, and will resort to linguistic contortions when asked about it. When I asked Ursinus whether it awarded its “Grizzly Grants” based on a report from an enrollment management consultant, a spokesman responded that it works “in partnership with a financial aid leveraging firm” and that “we monitor the progress of the first-year class on a routine basis throughout the enrollment cycle.”

A spokesman from Clark University, which tried to entice Ethan with a “$68,000 Robert Goddard Achievement Scholarship,” told me that the school “does not rely on an enrollment management consultant.” Instead, they said, it “occasionally” hires “outside analytical support” that does “not tell us how much aid to offer any student or group of students” but does “crunch large volumes of data in a timely manner that we then use to assess our progress toward our enrollment goals and estimate/project our total aid expenditure through that enrollment cycle.”

So, not an enrollment management consultant. Just, you know, a consultant that helps them manage enrollment. But while schools may not love talking about it, nothing about this system is a secret within higher education. For instance, after taking a job in the enrollment management industry, former Ursinus vice president for enrollment Richard DiFeliciantonio wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed in which he explained that the “financial aid matrix” colleges rely on is essentially “the same pricing technique taught to M.B.A.s and commonly used by corporations for commercial products.”

He noted that the formula considers a student’s academic achievement mostly as a “proxy” for their willingness to pay for college (as opposed to a measure of merit). This is also why, despite her financial need and solid high school achievement, Ethan’s cousin Ashley was not being inundated with texts and letters offering her more money. As DiFeliciantonio wrote: “Wealthy families are more able and less willing to pay for college while the poorer families are more willing and less able.”

In other words, parents of means who themselves have finished college are often sophisticated consumers of higher education and are able to drive a hard bargain, whereas lower-income, less-educated parents feel an enormous obligation to help their children move farther up the socioeconomic ladder and blindly trust that colleges have their best financial interests at heart. So colleges obey the algorithm and offer more financial aid to the Ethans than to the Ashleys, one of many problems identified in a recent Brookings Institution report.

Ashley submitted financial aid forms with information about her family’s modest income because everyone and everything about the process told her college aid is based on how much money you need, or deserve. She had no idea that information could be used against her. In May, New York University offered her admission if she would agree to delay enrollment until spring 2023—when, maybe not coincidentally, her good-but-not-stellar academic record would not count in the rankings data NYU submits to U.S. News & World Report.

Their price? $79,070. Their aid offer? $0, take it or leave it, with 96 hours to respond. Federal statute limits how much the Department of Education can lend to undergraduates. Freshmen can only borrow $5,500. But there is no limit on how much the department can lend to parents through a program called Parent PLUS. Nor does the department check to see if parents have the means to pay PLUS loans back.

So NYU “offered” Ashley the opportunity to borrow $5,500 and take a $1,500 work-study job. Then it offered Ashley’s mother the chance to take out a $72,099 Parent PLUS loan—more than her gross annual salary, before taxes—for the first of four undergraduate years.

Fortunately for Ashley and her mother, they knew someone who offered sensible financial advice. They turned down NYU and its offer of gargantuan loans and chose a less expensive public university. But as the countless individual stories that compose the nation’s $1.7 trillion student loan crisis show, many families make different choices. They are drawn in by a combination of optimism, blind faith, and familial obligation, and end up with debts they cannot repay. Colleges know this will happen.

Colleges do this because they want and need money. The business of filling up a class has gotten more difficult as the number of new high school graduates continues to recede from the peak millennial years, with further declines expected starting in 2025. Small, private colleges are especially vulnerable, and some have gone bankrupt in recent years.

Understanding the true nature of the college market should reduce some kinds of student stress. If you’re a high school graduate in reasonable academic standing, there are scores of good colleges ready to admit you. The real market tuition price in the big middle of the higher education sector is probably about $25,000, not the $50,000 or $60,000 you might have heard. Applying to college there isn’t like being vetted to join an exclusive social club. Nobody is really judging your worthiness for financial aid. College is just another service with a price.

The words colleges use in the admissions process, embedded in the broader portrayal of higher education in popular culture, tell a different tale, leaving first-generation students with the least money and social capital most vulnerable to exploitation. Colleges are full of great educators who want to help you learn. But when it comes to money, you’re on your own.

By Kevin Carey

Source: College financial aid: It’s a sham that depends on what colleges think families will pay.

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Coca-Cola To Release a Pride Series NFT Collection on Polygon (MATIC)

1
  • Coca-Cola has announced plans to release a Pride series NFT collection to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • Coca-Cola will be collaborating with artist and advocate Rich Mnisi.
  • The Pride Series NFT collection will be minted on the Polygon Network (MATIC).

The world-renowned beverage company of Coca-Cola has announced that it will be launching a Pride series NFT collection in celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community. Each NFT will be unique and ‘aims to shine color-filled light on the community’s members and spread a message of Love.Coca-Cola will be collaborating with designer and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, Rich Mnisi, who hails from South Africa. The team at Coca-Cola further pointed out that Rich Mnisi’s artwork ‘pushes boundaries on the concepts of identity and community.’ They explained:

136 NFTs on the Polygon Network (MATIC).

“Coca-Cola commissioned bespoke Mnisi artwork for this collection to be sliced into individual fragments and dispersed across all 136 collectibles, making each one unique. Our hope with the pieces is to increase visibility by radiating the full spectrum of the community’s colors and spreading a simple message of Love,” the firm said in an announcement last week.

Rich Mnisi and Coca-Cola will collaborate in the creation of 136 NFTs, which are currently being minted on the Polygon Network (eaMATIC). Some of the NFTs are already listed on OpenSea. The Coca-Cola Pride Series NFTs now have a floor price of 1 Ethereum.

In addition, Coca-Cola commissioned the art, hoping each NFT would ‘increase visibility by radiating the full spectrum of the community’s colors and spreading a simple message of Love.’

Furthermore, all proceeds of the initial sale of the NFTs will be donated to charities serving the LGBTQIA+ community. For the first 12 months, the proceeds will be donated directly to OUT, an LGBTQIA+ charity chosen by Rich Mnisi. The organization is the second-oldest in South Arica, professionally serving the LGBTQIA+ community with physical and mental healthcare.

Interestingly, all the funds generated from the initial sale of the 136 NFTs built on the Polygon (MATIC) network, an Ethereum scaling solution, will be donated to multiple charities supporting and fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights. Coca-Cola added that the first charity to benefit will be OUT, the second-oldest LGBT organization in South Africa, which was chosen by Mnisi.

“These free forms represent both love’s permanence and its changing state. They’re to remind us of the power that lies within all of us to choose what love will become. Love is what we make it. Choose to love freely,” Coca-Cola added.

By: John P. Njui

Source: Coca-Cola to Release a Pride Series NFT Collection on Polygon (MATIC) – Ethereum World News

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How To Increase Sales and Traffic With eCommerce Mobile App Development

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There is no doubt that the popularity of online shopping keeps increasing year by year. Customers prefer to use their PCs or smartphones for making purchases of everything from drinks to apartments. That’s so simple, efficient, and profitable that no buyer can stay aside from such an attractive offer. As a result, the popularity of eCommerce apps has also grown. According to the latest statistics, more than 90% of the time mobile users spend on mobile software.

And almost 80% of people have an experience with online shopping. So developing an app does really make sense. This is your opportunity to increase traffic, sales, and revenue in the end. If you haven’t launched a mobile app for your project yet then hurry up to do it. While you doubt your rivals attract customers, sell their goods, and get insane profits. And if you have already developed mobile software for your company then take care of its promotion. Make people want to install and use your app. Try these tips to make your eCommerce mobile apps truly popular and efficient.

Follow the Requirements of ASO

The basic principles of App Store Optimization are called to promote your application in the App Store and Google Play. By using proper keywords, adding informative descriptions, placing relevant screenshots, and so on you will allow users to find your software among thousands of other apps.  By increasing your recognition, you’ll notice a higher amount of downloads.

In general, ASO is powerful enough to guarantee the following benefits:

– increase retention rate. It demonstrates that the number of active users installing your app is much higher than the number of those customers who have uninstalled it;

– scale the loyalty of users. Paid ads also boost your mobile app traffic but organic search forms a loyal community of people truly interested in using your software for a long time;

– further app improvement. By getting feedback from your users you will be able to detect bugs and get rid of them efficiently.

Take Advantage of Email Marketing

Newsletters and promotional emails aren’t dead in marketing meaning, as you may think. No matter new and original advertising tools, email marketing is still known as one of the most efficient and low-cost tools to reach desired goals. By sending regular emails and newsletters you are able to share with subscribers new information about your sales, promote special offers, gift them with personal discounts, and so on.

A customized landing page is a great mobile eCommerce platform to promote your shopping offers. It helps in brand recognition so potential buyers can find out more about your company. In addition, powerful CTA elements will intrigue users and motivate them to try your software for a better shopping experience.

All you need is to create a one-page website with a detailed description of your app’s features and advantages. Don’t forget to add downloading links so the visitors of your landing page can easily reach your software.

Promote Your Apps on Social Media

Depending on the type of your business, you may be interested in investing more funds in SMM marketing. It means you need to grow the number of subscribers and share with them viral content. Such an approach is powerful because an average user spends approximately 2 hours and 27 minutes on social media every day.

If you have a successful account on social media platforms you should definitely promote your app. There are many ideas on how to encourage your subscribers to do it. For instance, you can explain the beneficial eCommerce app features and customers’ benefits. Launch a relevant hashtag and let people share their opinions about your offer. Thanks to using the power of your social media accounts, you can make your app popular too.

Launch Referral Marketing

Have your friends ever shared with you any link, product, or app? This is an example of referral marketing. It means the recommendation of something to other people for a bonus. Person A only needs to have a unique affiliate link or code to share it with user B. After user B installs your app, user A will receive a reward.

As you can see, the mechanism of referral marketing is very simple. No need to invest funds in software ads – your users will be your ambassadors for free. As a result, you can reach your planned goals: increase the number of app installs, save money on advertising campaigns, scale your loyal community, etc.

Try to Work with Influencers 

Influencer marketing isn’t a new thing. You can contact social media personalities with great bases of subscribers for cooperation. Such influencers may advertise your mobile eCommerce app without noticeable signs of traditional advertisement. That’s the point of native marketing: by working with influencers you’ll make your ads look like friendly recommendations.

As a result, online buyers will be much more excited to purchase your products using your mobile software. Once the social media personality shares a recommendation with them, they may rely on it and give your offer a chance.

Develop Your Business with a Mobile App

A mobile app is a key to massive sales nowadays. It allows you to reach new target audiences, motivate your loyal customers to make orders, improve conversation rate, increase brand recognition, build better relationships with customers and, finally, reach your business goals.

It seems you can generate mobile app sales. It’s possible that your app isn’t good enough to bring you desired results. Then you must improve it to make its features and interface user-friendly. But if your software is great but traffic and sales leave much to be desired then rely on the listed above tips. Make a step forward in your eCommerce success now and your business will demonstrate better results soon.

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Source: Increase Sales and Traffic With eCommerce Mobile App Development

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