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  • Personal Branding Interview: Tina Wells

    Today, I spoke to Tina Wells, who is the CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, which is a youth marketing agency that specializes in youth needs, desires and trends. In this interview, Tina talks about her entrepreneurship path, the obstacles she faced, and how to appeal to the young consumer.

    When did you get the idea to start the Buzz Marketing Group?

    I was 16 years old, and writing product reviews for a newspaper for girls called The New Girl Times. I’d send reviews back to the companies I wrote about, and they’d always inquire about sending me additional products for feedback. I thought it was a great side gig. I never imagined I could make money doing it. I spent two years building my free product review service, and even hired some friends to help. It wasn’t until a “client” (my services were free) told me she’d paid someone $25,000 for feedback similar to mine. I was floored. I was a freshman at Hood College and had just started taking an intro to business class with the head of the department. I asked for a meeting to discuss what I had been up to, and she was equally floored. I told her my idea to legitimize the business and she worked with me to develop a very extensive business plan.

    What obstacles did you face as a young entrepreneur and what can you share about how you confronted them?

    My biggest obstacle turned out to be my greatest strength. I was young and didn’t even know what I was doing. But because I was young, I was more an advocate for young people. I still feel like it’s my job to advocate for the youth market.

    You have a new book coming out about tapping the Gen-Y consumer. What concerns do companies have when targeting this age group?

    Millennials are fickle, not really brand loyal, and don’t want to spend tons of money anymore. It’s not easy to attract customers anymore, and only the best will survive. Millennials love marketing, but I think that because they love it, they’re not easily wooed. It’s more of, “yeah, your commercial is cool. Whatevs. I can get the same thing on eBay in 5 days for 10% of the cost.” It’s rough.

    What are your top three tips for connecting with the Gen-Y consumer?

    1. Don’t assume you know more than Millennials. You don’t.
    2. Offer value. If you don’t offer any value to them, they don’t have a reason to give you money.
    3. Immerse yourself in youth culture. We all can be youth marketers in some way. Go to a football game on a Friday night and see what teens are really up to.

    When looking back, what were a few critical decisions you made that have had a long-term positive impact on your brand?

    1. I understood my core competency. I had the opportunity, very early on, to go 100% dot com. That would have destroyed my business. Just because it was popular in the late 1990s didn’t mean it was the right thing for me.
    2. I expanded my original network of teens (13-19) to include tweens and young adults. Both of these groups are critical to my business today.
    3. I started taking classes at Wharton a few years ago. Who knows when I’ll be done. But it’s important for me to keep learning and to continue growing.

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    Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, is in her 12th year of business after starting her career writing for New Girl Times magazine at the young age of 16. Buzz Marketing Group, a youth marketing agency that specializes in youth needs, desires and trends. Tina’s ascent from teen dreamer to CEO has landed her a long list of honors such as: Essence 40 Under 40, Billboard’s 30 Under 30, AOL’s Black Voices Black Women Leaders in Business top ten list, Inc Magazine’s 30 Under 30 and 2009 Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Tina has also been appointed to the National Board of Directors for the Friends of Orphans, and is on the Board of Directors for the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has been quoted and featured in such high profile publications as O Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Essence, Entrepreneur, CosmoGirl, and Ebony. Follow her on Twitter @fashiontw.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Interview, Marketing, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies
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