Mower’s Partnership with MassRobotics Rings Gold and Silver Bell Awards

The Mower Boston team won both Gold and Silver Bells at the 50th Annual Publicity Club of New England Bell Ringer Awards.

Presented by the Publicity Club of New England (now the PR Club), the region’s leading communications trade organization, the Bell Ringer Awards are a symbol of outstanding achievement for New England public relations and communications professionals. The awards celebrate and honor the teams that raise industry standards of creativity and craftsmanship.

Mower’s “Creating the Hub of Robotics” campaign moved MassRobotics from concept to reality as the two worked together to develop the organization’s aspirational story (Rallying Cry), brand identity (logo, website), strategic public relations and marketing program that helped brand and promote the compelling concept.

The MassRobotics team had this to say about our work:

“The team at Mower is a significant contributor to the success of MassRobotics and has been an integral part of our team since the beginning. Their creative staff has provided support from logo design and website development, to setting up and managing social media accounts. Our Twitter and LinkedIn are always fun and engaging, and it’s amazing the number of shares and comments we get every day. They manage our content, press releases and media outreach – we’ve had a tremendous amount of media coverage this year in print, online and on TV.

They created promotional videos that capture the essence of MassRobotics; these videos are key tools in our growth as we approach additional partners, sponsors and new residents. Most recently, they helped us celebrate our first anniversary in our space with a video commemorating all we’ve accomplished in a year. The video has been watched thousands of times and is being shared all over our social networks. 

Simply stated, the Mower team is our marketing department. We rely on their recommendations for marketing campaigns, messaging and more – we even asked them to help us figure out what color scheme to paint our office!

This extremely responsive team keeps pace with us, and that’s not easy in the startup world where you’re never sure what the next day will bring. For example, when we hosted this fall’s Robot Block Party, it was like throwing a party, inviting everyone you know, but really having no idea if anyone would show up. Mower secured so much coverage and facilitated so much conversation in advance of the event that when we showed up for it, there was already a line out the door to attend. It became one of the most attended and memorable events for all of HUBweek.

We can’t say this any more succinctly: Mower has built our brand! And we can’t thank them enough for their continued support of our mission.”

In addition to the tremendously successful launch, which received both regional and national print, TV and radio coverage, MassRobotics was also awarded a $2.5 million MassWorks grant, allowing the organization to triple its space, which was more than 80 percent occupied upon opening and reached 100 percent within the first three months.

Mower also contended for the Super Bell for the first time in agency history, the Bell Ringer’s “best in show” award, by earning one of the five highest scoring entries of the evening. 

Learn more about our work with MassRobotics by clicking here.

 

What’s in a Name? Four B2B Naming Pitfalls to Avoid

Do you know if your company’s name and identity are holding it back? Too often, a business’ name does not communicate the company’s focus, or a business has settled for name that is cumbersome, hard to remember and difficult to match to URLs.

To create a successful business name, avoid the following pitfalls.

Pitfall No. 1: Wishy-Washy Criteria

Too many naming exercises base success on whether the “right” person likes it or not. But the key to a good name is more than key people liking it — even if those people are the CEO or president. The first step to creating a name that resonates is having a list of criteria it needs to meet. Here’s an example. The name must:

  • Be memorable and evoke the brand feel and aspirations
  • Have an aspirational quality: a certain “bigger than your average business” sound
  • Sound different from other businesses, similar or otherwise, so there’s no confusion when searching for it

Every team member must agree to these and other criteria as a baseline for a successful name. Establishing such criteria mitigates the possibility that “likes” and “don’t likes” will drive decisions. Instead, the stage is set for future discussions in which name choices can be made according to whether they match the criteria.

Pitfall No. 2: Lack of Brainstorming Methodology

Typically, companies often gather the best minds and creative thinkers to brainstorm for a name. They come up with dozens of names – written on white boards, scribbled on pieces of paper, sent around via email and text in rapid-fire succession. They leave lists on each other’s desks, call each other with the excited “what about…?” and kick around the pros and cons of an ever-changing list of favorites.

Many of these tactics make sense and should be part of the creative process. But, unfortunately, brainstorming names without methodology often leads to creative ruts.

Strong methodology harnesses and guides creative powers in a purposeful, productive manner. At Mower, we intentionally steer team members away from looking for final name candidates from the start. The brainstorming journey includes group exercises, individual exercises and a process designed to keep the team from getting hung up. This disciplined approach can lead to a significant list of names that work according to the established criteria.

Pitfall No. 3: Rapid or Random Dissemination

Many strong names die as victims of rapid or random dissemination. The naming team gets excited about its finalists and decides to present the list to one or more decision-makers. Perhaps a meeting is set up or a group email string is started, with language such as: “We have come up with a shortlist of five name candidates. Here they are. Let us know what you think.” A quick response, such as “none of these do it for me,” can send the team back to its starting point after weeks or months of work.

In terms of time and energy, the cost of such failures is astronomical.

“Reference dependence” provides insight into why such approaches don’t work. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate in economics and author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” writes:

“…reference dependence is ubiquitous in sensation and perception. The same sound will be experienced as very loud or quite faint, depending on whether it was preceded by a whisper or by a roar. …Similarly, you need to know about the background before you can predict whether a gray patch on a page will appear dark or light.”

We understand that when presenting any work, especially something as subjective as a name, we need to anchor each decision-maker’s reference point. It’s important to bring the decision-maker from whatever frame of reference they might have had before looking at a name to a new frame of reference appropriate for evaluation. This includes:

  • Taking them through all the steps of the process
  • Listing the agreed-upon criteria front and center
  • Presenting each name carefully with its interpretations, trademark issues, potential URLs, etc.

With their reference point adjusted, the conversation stays focused on whether a name works based on the established criteria for success rather than simply if they like it.

Pitfall No. 4: Careless Rollout

A careless rollout might look like the following letter or email:

Dear Company,

We have chosen a new name for our geothermal division. We’ll update you soon about what it will look like and any tagline we come up with. We hope you like it.

Jane Doe

CEO

Just as you need to take decision-makers through a journey to help them appreciate and decide among name candidates, you must take internal — and eventually external — audiences through their own journey.

The most important part will be helping employees understand what’s special about a new name and how it advances the company’s goals. This will ensure that the new name will create a surge of enthusiasm among employees who feel a new energy about the organization and its purpose, rather than creating headaches. For many companies, this is tantamount to rebirth. It should be reflected in marketing materials and new outreach to prospects and customers.

For instance, in one renaming and rebranding initiative, we heard that employees were extremely excited about one particular device. It was a single page split into two columns where the left-hand side had bullet points under the heading “We are,” and the right-hand side offered insight into “We aren’t.” This helped employees in numerous ways that they could understand and use — from how they answered the phone to their enthusiasm about collaborating with superiors.

Coming up with a name is never easy. Yet, we’ve learned through experience that a disciplined approach will maximize the chance for success, not only in choosing a name but also in raising energy and enthusiasm with stakeholders at all levels of the business.

 

Eric Mower + Associates Updates Brand to Mower as Part of Milestone 50th Anniversary Celebration

New York, NY – As part of its 50th anniversary, one of the largest independent marketing and public relations agencies in the U.S. is taking a page from the very same playbook it often recommends to clients looking to embrace change. Eric Mower + Associates has unveiled a refreshed brand – Mower – that reflects a sharpened strategic focus and energized commitment to creative solutions to fuel its clients’ growth.

“We’re not just celebrating a milestone, we’re focusing on what it will take for Mower and our clients to be successful for the next 50 years,” said Eric Mower, chairman and CEO of Mower. “Clients are attracted to Mower because of the energy, talents, expertise and creativity of our people. Change is a constant in our industry and we must stay ahead of the curve on trends and technology to remain relevant for our clients. The rebrand to Mower embodies the more direct, open and flexible realities of marketing in today’s world.”

Eric Mower began as a four-person Syracuse agency in 1968, growing the company to 175 employees with nine offices, including New York City; Atlanta; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Syracuse N.Y. The agency has won some of the industry’s top accolades including Cannes Lions, Clios, Addy Awards and Silver Anvils, while earning Bulldog Reporter Agency of the Year honors in 2016, twice being ranked by Advertising Age as a “Best Place to Work,” as well as a “Top Place to Work in PR” by PR News. Earlier this year, Mower was ranked # 4 among U.S. agencies by B2B Marketing. Mower’s unique Brand as Friend® philosophy harnesses the core aspects of affection, relevance and trust to help clients more closely connect with key audiences to drive marketing success.

“We’ve been at it for 50 years, but our work has always embraced original thinking and the courage to take a strategic stand that helps to differentiate our clients,” said Mower. “Mower is a new expression for our brand that illustrates that we’ve always been more about ‘we’ than about ‘me.’ For five decades we have attracted supremely talented professionals who serve their clients with dedication and care. We built a reputation for persistence and determination by attracting successful people that bring a press on attitude in solving client problems and identifying results-producing programs.”

The Mower branding was shared last week with all employees during a series of events aimed at further communicating the purpose of the change, reminding staff of the storied history of the organization and celebrating the launch. Clients are being brought up to date on the brand name refresh and everything from the firm’s mower.com website to signage at each office location are being updated.

Mower is focused on integrating digital-enabled and data-driven marketing tools in all client campaigns, with breakthrough creative and sophisticated public relations and public affairs programs to build awareness, shape perceptions and drive actions that build brands and generate sales.

What’s a Facebook user to do? Acknowledge the reality of a flawed platform that we’re still going to use

By Steve Bell and Allie Friedman

Google [itself a provider of opportunities for intrusion] the phrase “What should people do about Facebook now?” and the first page of responses is all about getting off Facebook.

None are from this month, or recent days, however, when the revelations about Cambridge Analytical stealing your data emerged.

So, don’t say you weren’t warned. It’s called Facebook. Its DNA doesn’t have a privacy gene. And since it first appeared, critics of all persuasions warned it was a deal with the devil.

But, indeed, what do businesses and individuals do now?

Facebook rushed out new options to provide “more” control over privacy, and make it easier to find them. An NPR story from March 28 also notes that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg solemnly promised improved privacy options – in 2010. How’d that work out for you?

Face reality here. No one’s putting the Facebook genie back in the bottle. We may worry about air pollution and global warming, but most of us still drive a car. We know running will lead to injuries, but we still run. We may not love our jobs, but we need the money.

Point is, even if you’re not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and LinkedIn, even if you don’t have a smartphone and stay off the internet, your information is still out there for the plundering.

If you are a company or a non-profit, a school or college, your information is available in public. What can you do? Be smart, careful and thoughtful about what you share.

The lawyer and PR person’s admonition goes like this: “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.” And former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer added “never put it in email” – advice he apparently could not follow.

NPR reported that Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer said: “We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed.”

The changes make it easier for users to see what information they’ve shared, delete certain personal information and control ads that they see, according to NPR.

In the end, will businesses leave Facebook in any meaningful numbers? Not likely. Nor will individuals. The very currency Facebook prints its billions on is your information. It’s not going to stop mining that data. To expect otherwise is like telling a tobacco company to sell a healthy cigarette. A business or a person can limit access, but it’s counter-intuitive to think for a moment that you could stay private and stay on Facebook.

Or, that if you were to leave Facebook that your information would somehow migrate to a vault only you can open.

Facebook started and spread like the flu with the idea of sharing. We share where and what we eat; what we buy; where we vacation; what our children do; what we think today; what we love and what angers us.

Expecting Facebook not to share this information is like waiting for a subway train with no other passengers. Not going to happen.

In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 83 percent of mothers and 74 percent of fathers say they agree or strongly agree that they get parenting information from social media. Where is Amazon, Kimberly-Clark, Earth’s Best, Baby Bjorn and Beech-Nut going to seek and find these parents?

What’s the key to the success of Amazon and Google? Data. How did Spotify turn the music business upside down? Data. All of these global companies that attract millions of users leverage the information they get from them, whether it’s the products they buy, the songs they listen to or the places for which they search.

That’s not a secret. And it’s most certainly not stopping people from online shopping. It’s part of what you sign up for when you download an app, create an email account or type “where to eat dinner downtown.” Whether you like or it not, it’s the world we live in today and we can’t place all of the blame on the company.

Even the supposed solution to, or inoculation against, Facebook’s sharing too much information is #deleteFacebook. It’s a hashtag, people. You’re sharing a decision on social media about leaving social media?

We know soft drinks are unhealthy; we know too much beer or wine is dangerous; we know cars crash and household cleaners are fatal if swallowed.

Reforms are needed in Facebook’s operations. Social – there’s that word again – pressure will drive change. The Federal Trade Commission may institute new rules and protections. And, Facebook itself, having lost almost $50 billion in market capitalization on paper in two days last week, will adjust.

Be wary, however, not of Facebook today, but what’s next. You can start your car with a phone app; you have a Google Home or Amazon Alexa at your house or Apple’s Siri on your phone and in your car; you may even have a camera in your refrigerator so you can see from the supermarket aisle if you need milk.

What’s next should be the bigger concern.

For more information:

https://digiday.com/media/facebook-has-a-real-problem-nbcuniversal-ceo-steve-burke/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digidaydis&utm_source=publishing&utm_content=180328

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/technology/personaltech/social-media-timeline.html

Community Building 101: The Acid Test Every Message, Blog Post, Tweet and Idea Must Pass

If you’re in business, you understand value. You ensure every action adds value to your business goals or bottom line. But do you evaluate your community-building initiatives as stringently?

Why social communities are important

Social communities can make or break your business. Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, there’s no better way to “cut through the clutter” than having a community of customers, prospects and influencers that has your back.

Social communities are valuable and can be your brand’s strongest advocates. They can also be a big driver for bringing in new customers. CrossFit and SoulCycle are both great example of using the social aspect of their brands to differentiate themselves in an otherwise crowded market.

But social communities don’t happen overnight.

First, choose the right audience for your specific cause or topic. This is where customer service is crucial, no matter the business or industry. This is the group that should remain at the center of all your marketing and community initiatives. Some quick, but important, questions to ask include:

  • Is the audience appropriate for your business?
  • Has your audience changed since you first started building a community?

Keep in mind that irrelevant, legacy audiences can be a source of blind headaches when they voice their disappointment in the way the company has changed. On the flip side, relevant legacy audiences can be your best friends – especially in times of trouble.

Once you’ve nailed down your audience, you’re ready to nurture your budding community with these four methods:

Listen

If you’re not engaged in social media listening, you’re missing out on tons of insights about the people who are actively talking about your industry and brand. Keep track of what the top influencers and prospects in your industry are reading and sharing. What hashtags are they using? What types of content are they sharing? What do their bios look like? What are their pain points?

Autonomy

While you want to control every aspect of the community-building efforts, you can’t. Control what you can and act responsibly, but know that at time you need to let your community develop organically. Allow your newfound audience to build its own momentum.

Engagement

Once you’ve kept an eye on the pulse of activity within the community, opportunities to engage will present themselves. Ask and answer questions, comment on their posts, like their activities, share their content and follow them back. Over time, they’ll notice your engagement and appreciate it – and they will likely return the favor.

Reward

People love rewards and they love validation of their actions. Go ahead and thank people for sharing your content. Invite them to company events and webinars. Use your social platforms to maximize brand loyalty by first engaging your social community. Let them be the first to know about your brand’s news, rewards programs and more. This creates an exclusivity that people naturally crave. In turn, you can make your social media platforms the place customers are encouraged to refer your business through different contents, recognition and more.

Great! Now What?

It’s easy to forget that your business is not the center of your customers’ universe. Their lives are filled with experiences, information, relationships and stories that have nothing to do with you.

To them, you are an occasional blip on a crowded radar screen — and if you can maintain some frequency to your blip and some relevance to the audience’s radar screen, you’ve done more than most.

Focus on how well you engage those you attract.

Maintain awareness of your audience and how you want it to change over time as you continue to engage your social community.

To do this, we believe every social initiative, down to each tweet, should pass a quick “acid test” to evaluate its strength.

The Community Acid Test Every Message, Blog Post, Tweet and Idea Must Pass

  • Do we believe it?
  • Will it interest at least 50 percent of our target audience members?
  • Will they believe it?
  • Does it in any way risk making an audience member feel disrespected?
  • Will they feel good passing it along?
  • Does it build on themes our audience has already discussed?
  • Do we mind if the audience runs with it?
  • Can it impact the company in any negative way?
  • Does it add value to our audience’s life?
  • Does it help advance our cause or mission?
  • Does it help audience members feel good about their relationship with us?
  • Does it help build positive bias towards our brand in some way?

Depending on the answers to these questions, teams can easily decide whether to move forward with a specific tactical initiative, such as a particular blog post or tweet.

For example, suppose you sell energy recovery ventilation (ERV) technology for HVAC systems. Over time, you’ve built a social community of salespeople, facilities managers, HVAC equipment suppliers and commercial real-estate owners. For these audiences, you can offer tremendous expertise about HVAC, ERV and a host of associated benefits and opinions. You can start discussions about technology, help your audiences understand the competitive landscape and trade-offs, and opine about a wealth of topics ranging from clean-energy installations to various energy efficiency strategies.

As you can imagine, such an acid test varies from industry to industry. Creating and using your own acid test to evaluate your social content will ensure that you add value to the all-important intersection of your organization and your audiences’ lives.

In return, the community will add value to your business for the long term.

The Design of Voting

We can fly a man to the moon, but we can’t design an effective ballot. What gives?

It’s amazing to know that we, as American citizens, cast votes to elect our officials; however, it’s equally disappointing when your experience at the polls is nothing short of confusing.

Earlier today, I cast my vote at my local polling place. Having done this for several elections, a few things stuck out:

  • many voters didn’t know what precinct they lived in,
  • others were unfamiliar with the voting process, and, most importantly,
  • the ballot appeared to be designed by a third-grader.

And “designed” is used generously. Shouldn’t this be simpler?

Fundamentals

Ballots should be designed for two things:

  • Legibility: Know your audience and assume that voters will have a difficult time reading small or light type. Typeface matters!
  • Ease-of-use: The last thing a voter should be when reading a ballot is confused. Keep the design as simple as possible while still communicating key information.

That’s it. A legible, easily understood ballot will make for a much better polling experience – which should be more a celebration than a frustrating nuisance!

How do we guarantee this result? A few design enhancements can go a long way.

Embrace space

First, we must separate key blocks of information. The federal election, state election, and local races and questions should all be given ample white space in between each other. Similarly, each candidate should be clearly marked and given air to breathe. Cramming several candidates into less space may save paper, but doesn’t provide clarity or a satisfying experience to the voting public.

Simple instructions

Work under the assumption that this will be everyone’s first vote. Perhaps the voting area of the ballot comes with a line of text reading, “Vote for one of the following candidates. If you vote for more than one, your vote will not count.”

For local elections (perhaps state representatives), ballots might read, “Vote for one of the following state representatives. State representatives work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and represent districts across the state.”

This seems overly simple, but can help voters feel more confident about their voting responsibility.

Sizing

My ballot used similarly-sized type for the entire document. There was no dominant element and all the information held similar weight.

Altering the headline size on a ballot can make a huge difference. Each section (federal, state, local) should have its own heading, all consistently sized. The next level of information (the candidates’ names) should have a smaller type treatment. Finally, supporting information like a candidate’s party, address or explanatory text for a question should have a tertiary treatment and size. The size and weight of type should work like a funnel or headline structure for a web page.

Civic importance

Just as it’s the responsibility of Americans to cast an educated vote, it’s just as important for local and state governing bodies to design a simpler voting process.

With so much cynicism and voter apathy surrounding voting, the experience must be made simpler and more enjoyable. Americans should feel empowered every election, not frustrated and pressured.

In short: save the ballot and save our elections!

Networking for Introverts: 7 Tips for Your Next Event

networking_introverts

Have you ever been uncomfortable in a room full of people? Do you revel in the thought of just reading a book by yourself on a Friday night after a long week? Do you get more accomplished alone than in a group?

You might be an introvert.

Introversion often gets confused with shyness, but being outgoing and introverted are not mutually exclusive. In the case of introversion and extroversion, we are talking about the amount of stimulation that recharges you. Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explains:

“Introverts…may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Introverts are needed in every industry and marketing is no exception. As marketers, we need to listen to our clients’ challenges to make informed and customized suggestions. Great ideas don’t always come from a group brainstorm, sometimes they occur during a solo walk to the café or while you’re enjoying a dinner by yourself

One area where introversion presents challenges is networking. I confess: talking shop to strangers is usually the last thing I want to do after a long workday.

If you’re an introvert and find yourself anxious leading up to a networking event, here are a few tips:

Bring a friend
This helps get your feet wet. If you are really interested in a topic or hearing a speaker but dread the awkward “mingle” time full of small talk, bring your extroverted friend to start conversations.

Pump yourself up
You are awesome. Staying at home or hiding in the corner is not only stunting your growth, it is doing the world a disservice. Your voice is needed because you are the only one with your perspective and experience.

Find another introvert
One-third to one-half of the world’s population is introverted. That fraction decreases in social settings, but I guarantee you will still find one. Introduce yourself. It can be as simple as “Hi, my name is…” or “Hi, what brings you here?” Focusing on making one meaningful contact is less intimidating than trying to meet X number of people.

Choose an event that incorporates activities
Check the event description or contact the organizers to see how it is structured. During the Diversity in Tech event I attended two weeks ago, the facilitators from Resilient Coders instructed us to get into small groups for a variety of activities. After some individual work and small group discussion, we all heard from each of the groups. This balance of alone time and outward discussion allowed introverts and extroverts to have their voices heard. Jiaorui Jiang, a fellow introvert I met at the event, felt the same way.

“The fact that it’s called a ‘networking event’ is intimidating actually,” Jiang said. “I would much rather go to events that are talk or activity focused so at least I know whoever is attending and I have similar interests and have things to talk about. But if I don’t feel like networking, I would really appreciate a safe space where I can get some alone time and not being judged.”

Shut your phone off
This one is difficult, but important. We have become so addicted to our mobile inboxes, newsfeeds and texts that walking around with faces glued to screens has become the status quo. It’s too easy to hide behind your screen and avoid interaction. Turning your phone off is a good reminder and challenge to talk to the actual sentient humans around you.

Practice your elevator pitch
If your barrier to attendance IS talking about your work, practice. Ask a coworker to hear your two or three sentence speech about what your company does and your role in it. Then ask a friend to hear the refined version. Are you missing anything? What questions might come up for someone who has never heard of your company or position?

Be interested
Seek out the speakers or attendees on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. See what common interests you have and come up with questions to ask. Find people volunteering at the event and ask about their organization. You can even come up with a blog topic related to the event and use it as an excuse to talk to people. Introduce yourself by saying, “Hi I’m writing a blog on XYZ, can I get your opinion on …”  That’s what I did!

Also, read Susan Cain’s book or listen to her TED talk.

Big Game. Big Ads.

February in Boston. The Celtics are off to a great start. The Bruins are holding down third in the Eastern Conference. Sox pitchers and catchers report to Ft. Meyers in 10 days. But, this weekend, it’s all about football. For the seventh time since the 2001 season, the New England Patriots are in the championship game.

Of course we’ve all been wearing our Pats gear* for the past two weeks in preparation for the Big Game. But we’re communication professionals as well, so we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited for the ads as well. In honor of the unique art form that is the Super Game ad, we thought we’d take a look back and recall our favorites from past years…

Reebok “Office Linebacker with Terry Tate” (2003)
Matt: I loved this – physical comedy, great dialogue and they never tried to sell me something–it was just fun and memorable.

terrytate

Doritos “Tea Party” (2013)
Amanda: It’s light hearted, makes you smile, and who doesn’t love one of the most delicious, dirtiest snack foods!

teaparty

Snickers “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” (2010)
Stephanie: Snickers has done a great job with these spots because viewers EXPECT these “You’re Not You…” commercials and always look forward to who will be featured next. Betty White is seriously the best.

bettywhite

Monster.com “When I Grow Up” (1999)
Kevin: It was epic at the time. Nothing but copy cats since. Solid and simple concept, executed masterfully.

monster.com-grow-up

Ameriquest Mortgage “Surprise Dinner” (2005)
Keith: I love the contrast of visuals in this one. The white color palette and the sweetness of the situation until it all turns in an unexpected way. 

cat

Volkswagen “The Force” (2011)
Christine: Just brilliant. I love the fact that it’s in the eyes of a child. Simple yet memorable!

force

Always “Like a Girl” (2014)
Katherine: This one is my favorite. The spot has stuck with me because of its authenticity, empowering message and courage to take on serious social issues.

likeagirl

E-Trade.com “Wasted $2 Million” (2000)
Jonathon: 17 years later and this is still the first ad that comes to mind for me. The cost of ad buys had been big news in the months leading up to The Game; E-Trade capitalized on the news stories and put out this bizarre yet perfectly on-message spot.

monkey

We’re all looking forward to the new crop of ads this year. And, of course, GO PATS!

 

*Full disclosure: I’ve been a lifelong 49ers fan. Joe Montana > Tom Brady

Almost Missing My Flight Restored My Faith in Humanity

It’s 6:25 p.m. and the back of my neck is prickling with sweat. My flight leaves in 17 minutes. Not boarding, leaving. In the 30 minutes that have elapsed since being in line, I have moved approximately 12 feet closer to the TSA official checking IDs and boarding passes.

I start doing the math. If it takes me another 15 minutes to get to the scanners, I will have 60 seconds to get my luggage and sprint to the gate. Not possible. I start to think about all of the money I will have to pay for another flight, the inconvenience for my family picking me up and I realize that I cannot miss this plane. I will have to rely on the goodness of other people.

I spent most of my queue time talking myself out of this option. I don’t want to be that person. After all, I am the one who left work late, took a Lyft Line rather than a regular ride and knew that the TSA is short-staffed. I don’t deserve to get the expedited version of the bag check experience. Despite that, I start asking my fellow line-mates if I can pass.

flight_800“Excuse me, I’m nervous that I will miss my flight, may I go ahead of you?”
“Sorry, do you mind if cut in line to make my plane”
“My flight takes off in 16 minutes, could I…?”

Each time I brace myself for anger, frustration and annoyance; and each time, I am pleasantly surprised. Everyone lets me pass, including the one or two slightly peeved travelers. Not only that, many of them seem genuinely concerned for me. One guy loudly announces that I should ask the entire line at once, after which the remainder of the line moves over to let me through.

The humanitarian aid does not end there. Once I go through the screening booth and collect my belongings I decide that I do not have time to put my sneakers back on. As I round the first corner of the terminal, I slide several feet in my socks and I realize this was not a good idea. Naturally, I continue running shoe-less anyway.

I’m approaching the third turn on my route as I hear “Miss! Miss!” My driver’s license had fallen out of the overflowing pile of belongings I am clutching to my chest. A nice gentleman not only alerts me of the issue, he goes out of his way to pick it up and hand it to me. I try my best to quickly and genuinely thank him so I could continue around the corner. I make the turn, looking for gate 38 – the one all the way at the end. JetBlue attendants are holding the door to close the tunnel as I swiftly slip in, phone in hand.

So yeah, I’m grateful for humans.

From Client to Partner: Tips to Create Lasting Relationships

shutterstock_75203164Like many, I waited tables during college. I worked at a local fine dining establishment, which mostly catered to out-of-towners, but had a fair number of local regulars as well. I could have easily gone from shift to shift making good money, but I quickly realized that the job was far more enjoyable when I started establishing my own “regulars.” Getting requested wasn’t just a matter of offering quick and friendly service, it was the result of making myself an integral part of the dining experience—my diners knew that I could recommend the best wine for their palate or what the chef may be offering off menu. By adding value to their dining experience, I became a trusted consultant, a partner if you will.

Years later as an ad agency account executive, I’m still in the service industry, and the same general concept applies in terms of adding value to the customer experience. Almost any agency can turn around a specific project request, but the good agencies form long-term relationships with clients based on trust. Given shifts in the marketplace, retainer-based agency of record relationships may not be as common, but years-long relationships can be built from project-based accounts by simply following a few guidelines:

  1. Don’t just take orders: Your agency is not Kinko’s, nor should it try to operate like one. Clients hire agencies for their design or strategic acumen (or both) to achieve objectives that serve their best interests. Offer recommendations and provide your perspective for “why” rather than simply asking, “what do you want?”
  2. Look for insights: You typically won’t spend countless hours researching the competitive landscape or digging into industry jargon if you’re not getting paid to do so. But keeping an eye on your client’s marketplace and competition as part of your day-to-day does prime you to speak in an informed way about your client’s business and recommend tactics or storylines they should explore.
  3. Think critically about design: We live in an age where design isn’t something that only luxury brands are thinking about. As marketing and design experts, “because it looks good” should never be a sufficient explanation of design intentions. As a brand advocate and steward, it is up to you to ensure a consistent and meaningful experience for your client’s customers—which means always thinking about the colors, shapes and other design components that define a brand.
  4. Be a good storyteller: Just as you should demonstrate thoughtfulness about design, you should be thinking about the story you’re telling. Whether B2C or B2B, marketing is all human-to-human and we all love a good story. Are you ensuring the stories you’re telling align to the brand? While you may not always be your client’s customer, put yourself in the customer’s shoes to ensure the words resonate.
  5. Become invaluable: By following the above items, you’re well on your way to becoming invaluable.  Beyond these things, it’s the details that matter and have impact. Pick up the phone instead of emailing or, better yet, schedule time for coffee with your clients. Be grateful. Be genuine. Be unexpected.

Becoming a reliable partner helps create an enjoyable and productive working relationship for both you and your clients. Not only can those relationships be long-lasting, but your “regulars” are more likely to refer you to others, resulting in even more happy clients.