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 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

Technology & Disruption: 5 Rules of Engagement


Today, innovations in technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence are poised to disrupt a number industries – content marketing included. As unprecedented as it sounds, we’ve seen this many times before.

In 1985, Adobe launched Pagemaker (now known as InDesign), THE app that led to the disruption of advertising, marketing and publishing. Pundits forecasted the death of the designer and writer, as entrepreneurs and marketers began preparing their own ads, brochures and newsletters.

In fact, many of today’s creative directors, content strategists and senior designers all got their start in desktop publishing.

Here’s the thing: the smart agencies adapted.

They mastered the tools and produced designs, content, video and interactive properties that the untrained could never match. Instead of killing professions, this is one of many examples of new technologies fueling the marketing industry with the power to create what had never been imagined.

Now, most of our day-to-day tasks can be automated. Need a mobile site? Google can create it at the push of a button. Need a new display advertising campaign? Push a button in your AdWords account and eight new ads appear – right-sized, well-designed, and likely well-messaged.

What’s left for the humans to do? First, take your head out of the sand. Ignoring reality never helped anyone keep a job. Second, follow these rules when it comes to marketing automation:

While most of us might not think that marketing technology should rule our world, we can benefit from a few rules of engagement. Here are our top five:

  1. Stop resisting: Regularly explore what’s new and how it might contribute to your business and, more importantly, your clients’ marketing goals.
  2. Understand the technology: If a client mentions a popular marketing technology (Marketo, WordStream, HubSpot, Silverpop, etc.) you should know it and be able to speak to its relevance and effectiveness for that client. Otherwise, you’re not doing your job.
  3. Use the technology: Manage a campaign for yourself using new technology. If you specialize in direct marketing, use HubSpot and Marketo, if only to understand how they work. If you help your clients advertise, then you’d better offer a keen understanding of Google AdWords and the technologies that have sprung up around AdWords.
  4. Figure out how your role is changing: For example, AdWords and search have made a huge impact on media planning and advertising. But managing an AdWords campaign, getting the right clicks and keeping your quality score high (among many considerations) isn’t easy. Master this and doors will open.
  5. Understand what the technology is NOT doing: Technology is mostly fact-fed. It lacks the emotional intelligence and empathy humans have and consumers want in the content they consume. 

The human role will never disappear. Mastering new technology will ensure that agencies stay relevant with clients and comfortable with our new marketing partner: the machine.

B2B Success: Going Beyond What You Already Know

You’re constantly thinking about your potential customers. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do? How much money do they make? What causes do they support? What are their pains, and what kinds of budgets do they have to address those pains?

Here’s a quick exercise. Look at the following examples and try to come up with the target audience for each:

  1. SolarRetailer sells end-to-end photovoltaic systems to retailers who operate their own buildings.
  2. EarthWindFire sells lobby kiosks to schools and universities, where the kiosk and its screen provide insight into a building’s renewable energy systems and performance.
  3. BizWind sells small wind turbines and associated equipment to building owners and managers who want to add renewable energy to their buildings.

Obviously, the target audiences are:

  1. Retailers with their own buildings/locations
  2. Schools and universities
  3. Building owners and managers

Are these audiences important? Yes. Should their needs and desires determine all the marketing efforts? Probably not, but many companies focus only on a limited view of a target audience. That’s normal.

We’re fairly myopic creatures in many ways, as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman shows in his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” As he puts it, “familiarity is more important than truth,” and usually your target audience is very familiar to you. In the book, Kahneman coins the term WYSIATI, or “what you see is all there is,” to describe the human tendency to jump to conclusions and be overconfident about those conclusions.

We see this all the time in marketing, and many marketers use the following arguments (excuses) to support their minimally researched conclusions:

  • We already understand our target audience. We’ve been working with these folks for years, and we know exactly how they think.
  • We don’t have time or money to do research that will simply confirm what we already know.

We’ve learned that even when there’s no time or money to do research, we can still devote mental energy to question our assumptions. To do this, ask questions and use simple mechanisms to guide our thinking. One of those mechanisms requires us to frame the notion of “audience” differently in the B2B landscape. Instead of analyzing the target audience, we focus on the audience’s audience(s). In other words, when we work with a client, we spend part of our time thinking how that client’s customers need to impress their own customers. In the B2B world, all our clients’ customers have their own customers.

In the above examples, this means we need to target as follows:

  • For SolarRetailer, we must target people who might favor shopping at a store location that uses renewable energy, not just the retail store who is our client’s customer.
  • For EarthWindFire, we need to focus on students, parents, administrators and municipal stakeholders who might pass through a school or university’s lobby, not just the school or university who will purchase the EarthWindFire kiosk.
  • For BizWind, we need to look at businesses and individuals who favor renting space in buildings that offer clean energy or other “green” features, not just the building managers and owners who will purchase the wind-energy installations.

For example, when considering the customer’s customer, the SolarRetailer marketing team will move away from a strict focus on system cost and ROI for retailers. More importance will be given to the compelling look of SolarRetailer installations as seen from the ground. The marketing team might even develop posters and literature that come with the system, informing consumers about the store’s system and its benefits, such as cutting its carbon footprint. Perhaps EarthWindFire will be brought in to place a kiosk in the retailer’s lobby, showing consumers what the PV system is yielding in real-time with cool graphs and carbon-footprint calculations.

Such marketing and messaging will send a clear signal to the retail store’s decision-maker when it comes to purchasing a PV system: SolarRetailer is thinking on my behalf and giving me something that my own customers will love.

We must avoid limiting ourselves to thinking of audiences as “business-to-business.” Instead, we segment in the following manner:

  • B2B – Our client targets businesses that use its products and services to help run their own business more intelligently and efficiently.
  • B2B2B – Our client targets businesses that sell to other businesses. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how their customers sell to those businesses.
  • B2B2C – Our
    client targets businesses that sell to consumers. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how their customers sell to those consumers. (The fictional SolarRetailer fits into this category.)
  • B2Gov – Our client targets local, regional, state or federal governments to influence those bodies with messages that will eventually reach or help end users.
  • B2B2Gov – Our client targets businesses that sell into local, regional, state or federal governments. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how its customers sell to those bodies.

Knowing that we often create our opinions and make decisions in a WYSIATI way, the above nomenclature provides an easy way to get us out of the “what we see” mindset.

In B2B marketing, your customers must always impress their own customers. Thinking about the latter set will help you message most effectively to your own customers and give them tools beyond your products and services to succeed in their businesses.

Make it or Break it

It’s in the nooks and crannies where I find design most inspiring.

While I was in New York for a few days, I got juiced by the creative everywhere. Not sure what I’m talking about? Just look up – Buildings on top of one another… Narrow alleys…

New York shows us how to utilize the space in, around, on, and between buildings for our creative. You never know what you will find 34 stories high.

From brick walls, sidewalks and glass, to garage doors and imprinting on light fixtures, design and type is everywhere. Many times, ad spaces become the focal point and inspiration for the aesthetic of a place or business.

Particularly, it is the typography found around the city that is beautiful. Great design relies on typography (and sometimes solely) and its ability to work with various textures that are present. As designers, the careful attention and detail to selecting or crafting type can make or break your design.

Once you put it all together and find out a way to incorporate design into an outdoor space, it’s the raw elements of Mother Nature that give strong design the striking authenticity of natural weathering.

Enjoy a collection below from my trip. Have something to add? Share it with us on Twitter.

P.S. – Stumbled upon these mannequins with facial hair. It doesn’t fit with this blog, but how could I resist not including them?

How to Survive a Tradeshow on a Broken Foot

The sun was shining. There was a crisp bite in the air that signaled winter was soon approaching. I rounded the corner on Heath Street (riding my beautiful mint green 2016 Genuine Buddy Scooter), on a mission to get to a couple of media meetings, when suddenly… I flipped.

After a brief five seconds on the ground, facing oncoming traffic, the adrenaline kicked in. As people started to crowd around me and help move my scooter away from the Green Line train tracks, I jumped up.

Do we need to call the ambulance?!” one guy shouted at me.

No! Please don’t. I’m fine.” I said.

Luckily, my scooter was unscathed. I hopped back on and very carefully (at 5 mph) got myself to the media meetings and gave the reporters walking tours of two large hotels.

After a weekend of limping around, two x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I fractured four bones on the top of my foot and was sentenced to six weeks in an air cast.

Six. Weeks.

Stephanie Ross sits on her scooter at RSNAWhile the boot put a damper in my wardrobe, it also put a damper in my schedule. I had a tradeshow in Chicago in two weeks, and not just any tradeshow – the largest radiology meeting in the world, drawing 58,000 attendees annually. I was worried I was going to miss it. It was an opportunity to meet face-to-face with my Sweden-based client and a first experience for me with tradeshow media interviews.

I had to go. And where there’s a will… there’s a way.

My colleagues, client and family were reluctant to see me go. Trade shows are on-your-feet, exhibit hall-giant, evening event experiences. Still, I made my way to Chicago and spent three days with my crutches and my client. Was it tiring? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely.

Here are 5 tips for how to survive a tradeshow with a broken foot:

 1.     Triple check with your airline about special assistance.

Call your airline ahead of time requesting wheelchair service on both legs of your trip. Make sure they will have a wheelchair waiting for you at the gate when you arrive. Then, call again to make sure everything is set – wheelchairs, pre-boarding and arrival. Sometimes, they forget to enter it or there is some sort of miscommunication that forces you to not get pre-boarding and hobble alongside the inpatient passengers (I’m looking at you, American Airlines). Pro tip: remember to carry cash to tip the employees who wheel you around – it’s not an easy task.

2.     Rent a scooter or wheelchair

Ahead of your tradeshow or conference, check the website for accessibility services. Most of the time, these large venues allow you to rent a scooter so you can zoom around. The rental was $50/day and it was extremely worth it. I was able to scoot around the tradeshow floor to meet with different reporters and exhibitors (and I was never late, since the scooter was wicked fast).

3.     Wear a comfortable shoe

That’s right. Shoe – singular. You depend so much on your healthy leg when you have a broken foot, it’s important you wear a shoe that’s comfortable. Learn from my mistake: that cute black, Italian leather heel that you thought would even out your lopsided stance doesn’t.

4.     Identify spots for you to sit during slow booth time

Similar to locating the nearest emergency exit when boarding a plane, you should locate the nearest chair, bench, table or clean floor for you to sit. Tending to a booth at a trade show is tiresome – you’re on your feet for hours at a time. If the healthiest feet need rest, you better believe your broken foot will need some too.

5.     Use the boot to network

As I stood at my client’s booth, my foot and I were met with sympathetic glances that soon turned into friendly introductions. I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer the question: “how did it happen?” However, one of the positive outcomes was how many booth visitors we engaged with because of the ugly, gray boot.

Can you wear the boot again next year?” my client asked.

“Sure,” I said, “Maybe.”

(Disclaimer: I’ve been boot-free for 46 days and counting. The boot, however, was unable to introduce me to or attract potential boyfriends. Bummer.)

Is Boston Consumed by B2B?

boston_691x480

If you’ve read our previous HUBgrown posts or if you’re following our tumblr page, you may have noticed a trend—much of the content thus far has focused on Boston’s B2B tech scene. That is in large part because it’s the way I have approached this series, but that’s about to change. Why? Because the conversation around Boston and B2C is evolving, as it should be.

NextView Ventures’ Rob Go summarized the resurgence of consumer tech in Boston and how we, as a city, have the ingredients to build great consumer companies if we get past some of the cultural barriers. (Read his thoughts in more detail here…seriously, you need to right now.)

Back to HUBgrown, we saw glimpses of Boston’s consumer power come into play in our last post featuring Devin Bramhall. That’s just the beginning.

Our next post will feature C.C. Chapman. C.C. describes himself as a New England-raised storyteller, explorer and humanitarian. He is the co-author of the International bestseller Content Rules and is also the author of Amazing Things Will Happen. He travels the world speaking in front of audiences and encouraging them to do more to improve the world and teaching them how to understand and use content marketing better. Over the years of his career he has worked with a variety of clients including Nike, HBO, American Eagle Outfitters, ONE, Verizon FiOS and The Coca-Cola Company.

When I asked C.C., someone with years of consumer marketing experience, what it’s like living in a very tech, B2B-centric place, he (in a very polite way) asked me where I’m getting my information from:

“I’ve never thought of Boston as being B2B centric at all. There has always been a highly charged startup scene in and around Boston and yet we rarely get the attention that is deserved.”

He told me how he reads about new startups every day and, more often than not, most of them are consumer focused.

We plan on bringing you more of those stories in the near future, and more from C.C. in our next HUBgrown profile tomorrow.

 

The Good, Bad & Smelly: A Trade Show Debrief

HbKcBxKJwMvqK3zTY0qt3Txbo2aWichuxoJg0JJJZhAWe’re coming down from eight months of developing content for our client’s conference with over 10,000 attendees. I’m always amazed at how much time and planning goes into a trade show. And then, within days, it’s all over. It’s been two weeks since the show’s closing day and, shockingly, I’m sad!

Leading up to the opening of the show, I get an adrenaline rush from the panic—can all of this get done in 3 weeks?! The answer is—with the great team we have—absolutely! The first two days of the show, we run around like crazy people putting in over 15 hour days. We are developing, designing and producing items that were forgotten, lost or had mistakes. The result? No one knows the items were forgotten, lost or had mistakes because the finished products look exactly as they were intended to look. Once we get into day three, we actually have time for dinner before 9pm and a few hours of sleep. Progress!

Here are some of my key takeaways from this year’s event:

Land of the Lost. You have a strategic plan when packing everything for the event truck. But somehow one box always goes missing and never shows up. Be resourceful and develop a plan to immediately produce materials on site.

What’s that smell? Anything with mayo should never be served at a trade show event. Period. You’re just asking for trouble.

Relationships. HB is so fortunate to work with an unbelievably awesome events team. Good client relationships make the experience more rewarding and the work more impactful.

A few days later on the flight home, we thought  about the successful show and what we could do better next time… because we can always improve. And now, two weeks later, with the post-show blues beginning to fade, I am looking forward to a few months from now when we begin brainstorming for next year’s show and all of the feelings that go along with it.

Why I hate it when you like it!

How we love to “like.”Like2

We use the word constantly and with little thought. Like has become the milk-toast of affection. Not that it ever meant much; I remember using it when a high-school girlfriend asked what I thought of her brother who consistently threatened to beat me up. “I like him,” I cautiously said.  Meaning, “I could live without him.”

Today Facebook allows you to “like” the photo of a firefighter emerging from a burning building with a swaddled baby in his arms. Moments later, you can use the exact same like to show your amusement at a waste-of-time video about a kitten sheltered between a Golden Retriever’s paws. Sometimes you even like things that you dislike, because someone you like posted it (or worse, asked you to like it) and you don’t want to hurt that person’s feelings. He or she will see that you liked it, like that you liked it, and like the next thing you post for your “friends” to “like.” In making “like” the currency of approval for billions of people sharing trillions of pieces of content, Facebook has utterly devalued a word that already struggled for significance.

FacebookDread

Must I really like, comment or share?

 

But the thing I like least about liking is far more insidious: the term’s over-use is among the clearest indicators of our utter self-absorption as we participate in public conversations. Because liking is all about ourselves—the overfed consumer of information wandering the digital landscape in search of the next like. This self-absorbed bottom-feeding impacts much more than our personal lives. It has crept into the professional arena, which I personally find even more depressing. Walk into any meeting where people are evaluating creative concepts, and you’ll hear more likes than you can count. Why? Because if given the opportunity, we default to thinking of ourselves as the center of the universe. Faced with any situation, our instinct is to react to what we like and don’t like.

Our education and professional training should save us from our thoughtless judgements as we strive to do great work. We should never evaluate work with our own likes and dislikes, but rather put ourselves in the target audience’s position. At HB, we deliberately remind ourselves and our clients to ask not whether we like something, but instead ask if it works according to the criteria we set for the audience. But despite these reminders, we easily fall into the trap of evaluating work based on personal preferences.

This individual, center-of-the-universe perspective is one of the reasons why crowdsourcing produces mediocre work. A friend recently invited me to evaluate designs that he crowdsourced with 99designs, a company that glibly notes “Make 850k+ designers work for you.” (I’ll leave ethics aside for this discussion… but really??) My friend also crowdsourced the design evaluation to an informal team of friends and colleagues. I participated in the process, and the web site asked me to rate each design option on a five-star scale and include a comment. I was invited to do this several times as my friend went through design iterations.
99Designs
I assume that, like me, each committee member had varying degrees of knowledge specific to the business: its personality, voice, goals, stakeholders, priorities, industries served, etc. in addition to any other success criteria for the design. But none of this was included in the presentation of designs, so it would be difficult for anyone to remember such details while evaluating. Those details and decision-making criteria would have enabled us to bring intellectual rigor to a process that was quickly becoming about liking or not liking.
The designs I saw, a handful among the 187 that my friend received, revealed that the designers created visual representations of the entity’s name instead of relying on background information and criteria for success. I figured this was because the crowd-sourcing business model encourages designers who want to get paid to play a numbers game—submitting as many designs as possible as quickly as possible. They have little incentive to invest time and energy into the story that should inform a great design, and they probably know that the people coming to them aren’t that discerning; many will probably ignore much of the preliminary work they did, if they did any, the minute they see pretty things and default to liking or disliking.
The crowdsourced evaluation committee is in the same boat as the designers: we’re all busy professionals, wondering, “how little time can I spend on this to honor my friend’s request but not sacrifice too much of my scarce personal time?”  The quickest solution is to avoid deep thinking, focus on what I like, and add a comment or two to show that I took it seriously. I noticed the other evaluators were doing just that, most often speaking of their personal reactions to the designs rather than trying to rate them against established criteria.

Does any of this matter? As it turns out, my friend is happy with the design he selected. He likes it and likes the fact that it cost $10,000 to $20,000 less than a local agency would have charged him. The costs are probably there in the time he invested, the time that numerous designers who weren’t the winners invested, and the time his group of friends and colleagues invested—but those costs stay with those groups and do not hit my friend’s P&L. In the old days, my friend would have gotten Cousin Joe’s niece, who just graduated from college with a degree in graphic design, to do something for a few bucks oFedexn the side or for free. The crowdsourcing model gives him much more choice of selection. What bothers me is that the designs he got, like so many designs I’ve seen from crowdsourcing models or Cousin Joe’s niece, suffer from rookie mistakes that experienced designers would not make.
I don’t want you to like designs that HB creates. I want you to feel they work. Sometimes you might even fall in love with them because they’re so much more than a pretty face. If you’re hoping your brand moves beyond your local sphere and want your visual identity to tell a lasting and layered story over time, liking it is not enough, no matter how many people like it, especially if those people are uncompensated friends taking time away from activities they value more to chime in for your project.
Imagine if the Fedex logo had been crowdsourced by designers trying to get clients to like something they did as quickly as possible before moving on to the next opportunity to make a few bucks. Based on what I’ve seen in crowdsourcing, the logo would most likely have included a plane or a truck, and an envelope. Many people would have liked it, the way they like a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Read about the Fedex logo here and get a glimpse into what sophisticated design can offer.
McDonald's
Perhaps I’m living in the wrong age. The world is moving quickly, we all have too much to do, and liking might be the pinnacle of what we give and get. Even if that’s the case, I believe we each want to discover more meaning, make the greatest impression, have the longest impact… and liking doesn’t help achieve such goals.

As Matthew May concludes in his piece on the Fedex logo: “Lindon Leader’s design is considered by many to be one of the most creative logos ever designed. Not because of what’s there but because of what isn’t.” I don’t “like” the Fedex logo. I think it works according to what I imagine the company set out as success criteria. I love it.

Future Energy: Shark Tank for the environment

Last week my colleague and I had the pleasure of attending Future Energy, an event hosted by Ultra Light Startups at Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge.  Ultra Light Startups is a community focused on helping technology entrepreneurs establish and grow their businesses.future_energy_v2 (1)

Future Energy is a series of events in Boston, New York City and Silicon Valley that connect energy and cleantech startups with private investors. It’s similar to watching Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank except the investors aren’t rude or flaunting their net worth in your face. And even better, the pitches are from companies with products that could have a positive impact on the environment. We’re not talking about baked goods, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches or jewelry lines as we often see on Shark Tank. At Future Energy, you’re privy to seeing future clean energy technologies that will change the world.

Here’s a brief recap of the startups we learned about, including the top three pitches voted on by attendees.

First place: Cerahelix – the helix-NFM is a ceramic nanofilter that reduces the cost of manufacturing by conserving energy and freshwater resources.

Second place: Raja Systems – offers reliable, low-cost isolated power systems that enable a 50-to-80 percent reduction in OPEX for off-grid hybrid power systems with no hardware added.

Third place: Culture Fuels – a technology developer with an advanced cultivation platform that enables large-scale production of algae for use in producing biofuels, aviation fuels, feed, protein and nutraceuticals.

Other Pitches:

Senergy – a crowd-funded investing platform that finances solar energy projects that instantly achieve stable, real-time grid parity for municipal customers.

Spilvenger – offers low-cost, highly efficient robots that have a self-sustained, accurate automated feedback system that feed on collected spilled oil overseas.

StannTron –developing a novel chemical conversion technology of selective removal of CO2 to make bio-products that will enable widespread adoption of renewable biomass to fulfill much of our chemical, transportation and energy needs.

WattJoule – offers a next-generation flow battery product platform that provides cost effective energy storage to a vast global market.

Zephyr Energy – offers a non-rotating wind energy generator with a low wind speed requirement, compact form factor, safe operation and simple, low-cost design.

Curious about the insightful advice the panel of investors shared with these awesome startups? We captured a few major takeaways from the event.

  1. Does your product/service meet your customers’ needs and address their pain points? You might have the coolest technology on the block, but that doesn’t mean consumers will buy it.
  2. Of course you need to know how to sell your product/service, but you must know who will sell it with you. Anticipating your future channel partners is essential for success.
  3. Hit the bar with your co-founders, have two drinks apiece and discuss what success looks like to each of you. This vision may differ and it is incredibly important to be on the same page with your fellow founders. Also important to note: have two drinks so you speak your mind but no more than two because you may not remember what success looks like the next day.

Have you heard any great advice for cleantech startups? Share your tips with us at @hb_agency.