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.

 

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.

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.

You’ve Cat to be Kitten Me: A Quick Lesson on Cats in the Media

I recently switched desks, moving to another section of the office.

As I broke a sweat hauling a bookshelf, client folders, pictures and knick-knacks to my new space, I realized how much of my stuff is cat-related.

Cards.
Cat butt magnets.
My day-by-day tear-off calendar.
A sticky note dispenser.

(Mind you, these things were given to me. Okay, except the cat butt magnets.) But it isn’t just the tangible “stuff” that’s cat related, it’s also my social media feeds, news sites, emails, TV news segments, GIFs and more.

We all know that dogs are America’s favorite pet. But, IMHO, cats are the ones that are dominating digital media… search algorithms and Google crawlers aside. Nearly two million cat videos were posted to YouTube in 2014 alone, resulting in almost 26 billion views. That year, cat videos received more views per video than any other content category.

For example, since being posted in 2007, Keyboard Cat has received more than 48 million views (and counting) on YouTube. These countless hours of watching cat videos have led to some interesting research.

In a survey of nearly 7,000 people, the Indiana University Media School measured the relationship between watching cat videos and mood. Overall, participants reported fewer negative emotions such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness after watching cat-related online media than before. They also felt more energetic, and the pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed the guilt they felt about procrastinating (#preach).

These views, videos and memes eventually led to the world’ first CatCon, held in Los Angeles in June 2015. Modeled after ComicCon, the “cat convention” attracted 12,000 people that year. This year, the crowd topped 30,000, plus 162 cats.

In the media, cat-related stories tend to go viral. Per BuzzFeed’s “Beastmaster,” the average feline story gets almost four times the viral views as canine. That’s not even going into the social media behind it.

Hashtagify reports #cat having a popularity score of 76.2 (never fear, #dog is right up there at 75) on Twitter. However, it looks like cats aren’t spending as much time on Instagram. On the platform, #cat has a mere 124 million posts, compared to #dog’s 147 million.

hashtags data by hashtagify.me

So, what’s a marketer to do with all of this information?

  1. Cat content works – well, really anything furry and cute works. Users can’t resist liking and sharing animals on the internet. Even in terms of B2B social media, don’t be afraid to break through the clutter with furry content. A cat GIF is sure to spark more engagement and produce more smiles.

  1. Cats are your competition – there are thousands of memes, GIFs and videos out there competing for attention. Use this as a way to challenge yourself to think outside the box when it comes to your strategy. At EMA Boston, we do our best to surprise people. This GIF was sent agency-wide to express this idea… it’s the perfect example.
    1. Animals trigger the emotional appeal of your brand and there is a direct connection between sales volume and the emotional connection your consumers have toward a brand. Build a friendship with your audience by using good humor or a soft story – remember this Super Bowl commercial?

     

     

    1. Millennials love cats (or cat content). If your brand is looking for a way to reach millennials, a good cat-themed campaign may do the trick. According to a survey by Mintel, 51 percent of Americans in their 20s and 30s have cats. Just sayin’.

     

    1. Marketing can be fun, people. Do we need another super-serious graphic filled with stats about the user journey or decline in white paper consumption? If you enjoy your own company’s marketing, guess what? Others probably will too.

     

    1. As the winter grows darker and colder, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder – Google it) begins to kick in, start watching cat videos. It’s cheap therapy. In the meantime, enjoy this cute picture of my feline friend.

     

Epidemic Models and Your Brand’s Story

Think of the last influential brand story you came in contact with. Got one? Perfect. Need a little help? How about Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the eccentric Old Spice Guy? Now keep those in mind.

The mathematical theory used to predict the spread of diseases is known as epidemic models. The simplest model has two parts, an infection rate (the spread of infection from contagious to non-contagious) and a removal rate (the rate at which those infected become no longer contagious), each with a given value of 0 to 1. After the introduction of one infected individual and a removal rate of 0, the disease follows what is known as a logistics curve.
logistics curveThe infection spreads and slowly gains traction. As more and more become infected, the curve turns upward and eventually reaches a plateau as those who are contagious come in contact with less and less of those who are not.

Now think back to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the The Old Spice Guy. Graph their virality and you will have an outcome very similar to the logistics curve.

The concept is released, the sharing starts and the story begins its ascent as engagement rises. Bouncing from person-to-person, this is the most important stage of engagement. If the removal rate begins to rise, the story never reaches its potential audience and sizzles out to a standstill. With a successful story, it eventually clogs your news feed and maxes out on what’s trending. The story reaches its maximum potential contagious users.

What makes these stories different from the one you told last weekend? The difference is that these stories stick with their audience because they are memorable, vivid and tellable. The Old Spice Guy can be easily communicated to others. The concept is loud, causing a reaction and a connection. With a strong infection rate and a low removal rate, more individuals come in contact with the story and share its message.

A brand’s story is inseparable to its identity. An infectious story will stick with a brand—positive or negative. The Domino’s Pizza Turnaround is a wonderful example of a brand’s identity overcoming negativity through a story their users can connect with. Whether or not you choose to eat Domino’s, the story is crafted to be shared and remembered.

There is no formula for virality, but a memorable story starts at the first infection.

HUBgrown Q&A: Melanie Cohn, Dunkin’ Donuts

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Managing social media for a major consumer brand while running a popular networking group and teaching evening classes would make most go-getters to feel overwhelmed. But Newton, MA-native Melanie Cohn makes her demanding schedule look easy. We recently sat down with Melanie to discuss social media strategy, the Boston business community and her role at Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB Agency: What led you to your current role as Social Media Marketing Manager at Dunkin’ Donuts?

Melanie Cohn: I’ve always worked at an agency so there was a big part of me that was curious about the other side. When you’re on the agency side you can only know so much about a brand. From my experience I felt like I could never fully own a brand presence inside and out. I wanted to know what it was like to be ingrained in a brand and have a laser focus. I’ve had experience working with consumer brands so the combination of the two drew me to Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB: Can you tell me what it’s like running social media for the brand that “America runs on?”

MC: It’s incredibly fun and challenging, which is what makes it so interesting! Everyday there’s something new to experiment with. Whether it’s an alpha ad product for our donuts, a new video format to launch a new product with or a social listening tool that’s popped into the market, the landscape’s constantly changing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive in a fast-paced atmosphere, and Dunkin’ moves quickly, which makes the job that much more exciting.

On the other hand, being such a beloved brand, there’s always eyes on every move we make in social. It’s really important to be diligent, strategic and thoughtful about what we put out on our channels and how we engage. Knowing conversation sparks around us quickly, we try to weigh every decision carefully while always keeping innovation and cultural relevance front and center.

At the end of the day though, the fun part always takes over – it is coffee and donuts – what’s not awesome about that?!

HB: So if I follow @DunkinDonuts, are all of those tweets coming from you? Melanie Cohn

MC: Sometimes! We also have a team of community managers who work in different marketing functions that take shifts monitoring and engaging. As for the posts themselves, most of those come directly from me as the publisher and scheduler. Nothing goes out on our social channels before I take a look at it, as it’s important to make sure everything’s in line with our strategy and brand standards.

HB: Do you see any similarities or differences between your previous job at an agency and your current role?

MC: There are a lot of similarities actually. At an agency you’re viewed as the main consultant—an expert in your discipline. When you’re in-house, it’s the same thing but your clients are the other business units. I advise and provide recommendations on social strategy as well as educate our teams on trends and updates in digital world.

The main difference being in-house is that you work much more cross-functionally. You get to collaborate with Legal, PR, Brand team, Loyalty team, IT, CSR and many more departments. At an agency, you’re handing everything off to the client and you don’t really see what happens behind the scenes after your recommendation is made.

HB: In addition to your role at Dunkin’ Donuts, you launched Young Women in Digital two years ago. Can you tell us more about the organization?

MC: Young Women in Digital (YWD) is a networking group for women working in digital marketing, social media, public relations and more. We host bi-monthly events that vary from classes to speakers to panelists and pitch sessions for entrepreneurs. Our main goal is to foster connections between young professionals.

I launched YWD  because at the time my former company asked me to attend networking events and I felt like I wasn’t meeting people who I could relate to. So I thought about how great it would be to go to an event with people similar to me: young women who are emerging in the digital world. I shared the idea with fellow young professionals and they agreed so I pulled together a team and we hosted our first event! About 40 people attended and it spiraled from there. I believe a smart creator or marketer finds a niche or a gap and fills it. That’s what happened here. There was a need, and YWD filled the void. Every event has been bigger than the last and awareness has grown simply through word of mouth and social media. We now have more than 1,000 members!

HB: Did you find that Boston was a good place to launch YWD?

MC: Absolutely. Boston’s full of like-minded marketers who are looking to grow in their careers. The circles are smaller than say, NYC, which fosters a close knit community. Also, the environment is extremely supportive, not competitive. There’s something about Boston—probably its size, the helpful culture and the go-getters here—that makes it a good place to start something once you’ve identified a gap because people are seeking these types of organizations out.

HB: What do you teach at General Assembly?

MC: Right now I teach Instagram for Business once every few months. It’s for mid to high-level professionals with intermediate to advanced skills on Instagram who are looking to take their strategy to the next level. In the fall I’m going to start teaching a monthly class about working with influencers. This is becoming a much larger part of marketing strategies across various industries so we’re right on the cusp of a growing trend.

HB: What recommendations would you give to startups looking to utilize social media in their overall business strategy?

MC: It really depends on the company and its target audience. For YWD, our audience is marketers, who are primarily on Twitter, so that’s our best channel. But if you’re starting a company that has to do with design or art, Instagram may be a great place to showcase your work and generate leads, for example.

I love how Curalate, a social vendor, explains social strategy. They talk about how there are channels that are aspirational or celebratory. Aspirational channels include Tumblr and Pinterest, where people go to share items or lifestyles they want, or wish they had. Instagram is focused more on celebration, and in-the-moment experiences. You need to look at where your company fits into these consumer behaviors, and which part of the customer journey (aspiration or celebration) you can really own. Dunkin’, for example, is a very celebratory brand. People share us in the moment, and post-purchase. We strive to encourage that behavior and excitement, because as we all know, word of mouth is the best form of marketing.

Follow Melanie at @SocialMel and keep an eye out for upcoming YWD events on Twitter at @YWDBoston.

 

Is Boston Consumed by B2B?

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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 Value of Incentives

Potty training. Parents with children who have gone through this process, are going through it or will be going through it: you have my sympathy. When you really think about it, the idea of using a toilet is a foreign concept to a toddler. What’s the real value for them if they’ve been getting their tush wiped for the past three years? Why change a good thing?

Parents have many tactics at their disposal to add value for their children, but most default to incentivization. Kids get stickers, treats, toys and all manner of incentives to use the potty.

Simply put, incentives are a motivation to behave in a certain way. From an early age, we’re exposed to this basic economic (and behavioral) principle. Perhaps this is why most American companies are in love with incentives; consumers are primed for this tactic, even if they are fully aware of the reason behind the incentive.  And yet, there are a surprising number of marketers who don’t use incentives to their full advantage.

Some claim that their audience wouldn’t be swayed by incentives, but even sophisticated audiences can be convinced. There is a reason why pharmaceutical sales reps can no longer give incentives to doctors—including simple things like pens and pizza lunches—they worked! (See Wazana.) Individuals have many motivations to do what they do, the trick is figuring out how to unlock that.

Stephen Levitt writes in Freakonomics, “The typical economist believes the world has not yet invented a problem that he cannot fix if given a free hand to design the proper incentive scheme,” although the solution “may not be pretty.” In marketing this holds true as well, but we try to avoid the “ugly” solutions lest they be taken as bribes.

Incentives don’t always mean giving something away, either. In late 2011 Patagonia partnered with eBay to start the Common Threads Program, which encouraged people not to buy new Patagonia clothes, rather to buy only what they need through eBay. In exchange, Patagonia agreed to only build products that last. By May 2014, nearly 70,000 people had signed the Common Threads pledge. During this time, Patagonia consistently increased its profits. By aligning its values to those of its customers and potential customers, Patagonia incentivized a broader scope of people to buy from them based on those shared values.

By truly understanding our audience, and who we want our audience to be, we gain understanding of what really motivates their actions. Armed with this knowledge we can then provide real incentives that deliver value to both the consumer and the company making the offer.

Now, if only I can figure out my son’s motivation for potty training success…

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Now it’s my turn to incentivize you, and, since this is the internet, a video incentive seems most apt. If this post generates five non-employee comments on the HB website within a week of being posted, I will share a video of myself getting pelted by water balloons thrown by HB staffers. The video link will be posted to our newsletter, so be sure to sign up! Incentivized?

March Madness Ad Spend

For so many of us, March Madness is a yearly ritual: brackets, betting, beer and burgers. And now, the Final Four is just around the corner.

I was curious how much money was spent on advertising during March Madness, but I never would have anticipated what I uncovered. When I think of big-time sports advertising, the Superbowl is what immediately comes to mind. The game is punctuated by event-specific advertising that gets everyone pumped to see the new creative ads and messages. In 2015, Superbowl advertising spend was about $359 million.

capitolone-adBut to top that, television advertisers spend more than $1 billion on March Madness. And Americans spend almost as much gambling just on the Final Four than they to go to the movies in one year.

So it should be no surprise that March Madness is one of the biggest months for marketing opportunities spanning a range of industries: apparel, automotive, financial, food and higher education, to name a few. Because of this, the tournament provides one of the greatest social media marketing opportunities for companies. The NCAA Tournament has grossed a record 166 million total social impressions across Facebook and Twitter and 88% of people use their mobile devices to access March Madness information. The investment on return can be seen in the average game viewership: 9.9 million total viewers. The Kentucky/Notre Dame game peaked with 19.7 million viewers.

Much like Superbowl ads, there are those that are inspirational, sappy, nostalgic and funny. My favorite are the ones that feature past players. If you haven’t seen the CapitolOne ad series, it features Charles Barkley on a road trip with Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson. Hysterical!

So, as you watch Kentucky/Wisconsin and Michigan State/Duke this weekend, which ads stand out to you? Are they effective or do they miss the mark? Are they entertaining or informative? Share your favorite Final Four ad moments with us on Twitter @hb_agency. We’ll be sharing, too!