Teaching Feature: Jayne Van Dusen, Algonquin College

Q&A with Jayne Van Dusen (pictured above), Advertising & Marketing Communications Management, Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada

Tell us a little about yourself and your career in advertising education. What got you started and how did you get to where you are today? 

I’ve always been fascinated by advertising and marketing communications, and from a young age knew that I wanted to work in our industry. I think I was drawn to the creativity and story telling and imagined that I would be a copywriter. As things turned out, it was actually strategy and account management I was better suited to, but I was still connected to the creative process and a part of making good advertising happen.

After 18+ years working mostly for small agencies here in Ottawa I was given the opportunity to teach at Algonquin College. It was definitely a transition to leave the fast-paced and deadline-driven agency life to focus on teaching and nurturing, but I love it. Working in advertising education allows me to concentrate on the areas that interest me most and to share a love of all things branding with the next generation. 

Have changes in how we produce, consume and interact with advertising affected how advertising is taught in schools?

Absolutely! The best thing about teaching in our field — but perhaps also the most challenging — is the need to stay current. Digital, and social in particular, are game changers. Our challenge, as teachers, is to continue to impart the fundamentals of communication and persuasion, while incorporating new tools and thinking into our curriculum. The basics of what we do has really not changed fundamentally since the early days of advertising in North America, but how we do it has changed radically, particularly in recent years. 

Do you teach Lovemarks in your curriculum? If yes, how do you do this? 

I was introduced to Lovemarks on a class visit to Saatchi & Saatchi in Toronto about 8 years ago. One of our grads was a junior there and she had arranged for more senior staff to deliver a terrific presentation on the Lovemarks premise. That really resonated with me, and my students, and since then I have always incorporated Lovemarks into my Branding course. The concept, of course, fits into our discussions of emotional branding. Students are asked to share in class and on our discussion forum the brands in their lives they are passionate about beyond reason. We also spend time examining the Lovemarks quadrant examining what it means, and what it takes, for brands to achieve Lovemark status. 

What is your method in exposing in your students to the approach of emotional branding? 

The topic of emotional branding is woven throughout every module of my 15-week Branding course. It is impossible to learn about building brand equity without the understanding that brands must make their audiences feel something. There are a number of ways that the importance of emotional branding is reinforced:

  • Class lectures that focus on concepts such as brand personality, brand touchpoints, brand story-telling, brand experience, and “the third place”.
  • A brand proposal that student teams develop for a real client. (This year that was a local, fashion retailer seeking guidance for her start-up brand.)
  • Individual onine exercises where students share their own emotional experiences with brands. A recent exercise had students tweeting their lovemarks, which was what brought my students to your attention.
  • A brand story-telling assignment that has students write the true story of a brand, followed by their own creation, a story in which consumers will want to take part.
  • A semester long team project where students build a brand portfolio for one particular brand which relies heavily on the concept of using the power of emotional branding to have their brands be more relevant and resonant in people’s lives. 

Do your students react positively or negatively to the idea of the concept of ‘love’ and meaningful relationship in branding? What do you think influences their response? 

I’ve yet to have a student react anything but positively to the concept. The most powerful influence is their experience as consumers themselves. I find most students “get it” and respond right away to the concept of brand love. They willingly share their stories about the brands they have taken into their lives. Many of our online assignments between classes enable the students to share on discussion forums their own brand experiences and thoughts about concepts such as “the third place”. I find that I learn so much about my students and appreciate their uniqueness after reading their very personal observations about brands.

I’ve often joked with them that there ought to be a brand compatability test for all new couples to take to ensure they’re actually compatible. What if one loves Hellman’s and the other Miracle Whip? Could be a deal breaker! When we look at powerful brand loyalties, it doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch. 

What is the greatest challenge today for your students as they embark in a career in marketing/advertising? 

The greatest challenge will be to stay on top of the constantly changing nature of our business. While the fundamentals of using brand strategy to build brand equity will remain the same, the particular vehicles and tools to drive conversations and encourage sharing are being reinvented as I write this.

Of course it’s not just digital technology and new social platforms that make this so, but also the changing nature of consumers and their expectations for brands.

What advice would you give any new graduate from your programme as they start their career in the creative industry? 

My advice to grads would be:

  • Engage with the various forms of brand communication all around you. What better way to see what’s working, what’s not, and what could be done differently;
  • On the job, whatever the project, focus on opportunities for creativity and innovation. The future for branding will be likely about developing compelling content. You will have the opportunity to shape the future of brand communication from social films to 6-second Vines to whatever the next innovation turns out to be;
  • and finally, start building your personal brand now. This extends to what and how you share on social networks. Be engaged, be creative, and be known for these things.