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


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.


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:

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.

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.

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

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.


Three Tips for Controlling Your Reactions

Gut reaction. Emotional response. Whatever you call it, it shouldn’t be a stretch to find a time when you’ve experienced it. Encountering an event of displeasure often causes a flood of immediate reactions derived from a place of thoughtless spontaneity. Unhelpful, to say the least.

As Jonathan Haidt illustrates in The Happiness Hypothesis, we are the rider on our elephant’s back. It can be a lofty challenge to control the quick and powerful swings of the elephant’s movement but learning to take charge of our elephant is a gradual process. Here are three steps to get you moving.


It’s annoying.
You’re engrossed in finding type combinations, finding the perfect image and… *biiing*, you’re interrupted by a pressing email. Pushing you out of your attentive state (we’ll revisit this in #3), you now have to handle that project that was supposed to be due next Friday, this Friday. Before handling it, you emotionally react, “That’s so annoying!”

So what? To start, you personally being annoyed is much different than an email (1s and 0s) that is annoying. The email you’ve received is in most cases, unaffectable, and in all cases, inanimate. On the other hand, your reaction is very much adjustable. You have become annoyed because of the email and thus have the ability to reverse course. Being willing and able to accept you are the one who is causing your own annoyance allows you to adjust and resolve with a more effective trajectory. That email didn’t do anything wrong.

It’s difficult.
Whether you’re the new kid or a seasoned vet, receiving an overly difficult or complicated task can cause a rush of emotional distress. Almost instantly you spill out, “This is too difficult.”

Think about the things you do that seem to come to you naturally. What is it that you do exceptionally well? You know all the steps; you know all the possible outcomes. When you receive a seemingly difficult task, you really receive a problem without a clear path to completion. Instead of shuddering in the shadow of the task, plot your course. What steps can you take to clear out a path? Where can you apply what you know and learn what you don’t? The difference between a task you can breeze through and one you stumble over is clarity.

It’s boring.
It’s 2:15 p.m. Tuesday is droning on. You’re glazing over a monotonous project. Perpetually distracted, you can’t seem to hold attention to what you’re doing. “This is boring…”

The default perception of boring most likely coincides with dull. And you might be right. But we can find a common thread to the pesky (inanimate) email in how we react to it. Take a wider view and decide what is boring and who is bored. Don’t hinder yourself. Being bored isn’t about a bad project, it’s a lack of attention. Try seeking out a unique approach to the typeface you’re required to use. Involve yourself in finding a dynamic image to fill a lackluster placeholder. Finding a detail or an approach to the project that you can find actionable and involved focuses your attention and reduces boredom. Sometimes you need to create an angle that allows you to be attentive, and that’s OK.

In the end, it’s not about what happens. It’s how you react to what happens. Your elephant may jerk left, and then jerk right, but it’s up to you to recognize a misdirection and bring your elephant back to center. Roll through the punches with an approach you can control and you’ll be surprised how little you flinch.


Networking for Introverts: 7 Tips for Your Next Event


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.


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!


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

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. 


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


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 “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.


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

HUBgrown: Q&A with Janet Aronica, Cube Riot


Upstate New Yorker Janet Aronica graduated college during the height of the recession and found herself moving to Boston for a social media marketing internship.

“The people were so helpful. I felt like I had a much greater chance of success finding my first job in Boston than anywhere else even though the economy sucked. So I moved.”

After six years in various marketing roles, Janet is using what she’s learned from her past jobs to become an entrepreneur launching her first fashion startup, Cube Riot. The company’s blazer line will debut this fall, but Janet’s aspirations for the company go well beyond its finely-crafted apparel. She’s also on a mission to produce quality content for the modern career woman. Cube Riot is as much about creating a community to inspire women at work as it is about clothes.

We asked Janet about her inspiration behind Cube Riot and her experience launching a startup in Boston. Here’s what she had to share.

HB: How did you first get the idea to start Cube Riot?

JA: It comes from personal experiences and talking about those experiences with others and realizing they were feeling a similar way.

For me, it was when I was working on a re-branding project at another startup that I started to think about how to step up my game at work. I considered all aspects of that. How do I package my ideas better? How do I sound more credible? How do I dress like a grownup? I was a hot mess in all of these areas and really confused.

I started reading a bunch of stuff on career tips and fashion advice. When I did that, I didn’t find A) A good resource for career advice that spoke about this stuff in a tangible way and B) An awesome and fun brand for professional women.

Currently, shopping for clothes for work is just about as much fun as doing your taxes. I think it can be more fun. After seeing that white space in the marketplace I couldn’t help but go for it.


HB: You began marketing Cube Riot months ago before you had a product. How has that benefited the company leading up to the official launch?

JA: Marketing and writing has helped us perfect the messaging, build a community, and learn more about what our audience likes and doesn’t like.

For instance, there are many controversial topics when it comes to women in the workplace. To be useful to our audience I want to be involved in those discussions to some degree, but we also have to know when to sit things out and shut up. That stuff is important when you’re building a brand.

HB: You’re not just designing blazers, you’re using Cube Riot as a platform to share your knowledge and past experience with other young professional women. Why is this important to you?

JA: Going back to why I started the company, the career tips and the apparel always went hand-in-hand for me. I think the career advice makes the blazer more meaningful. It’s not just that it’s a cute blazer. It’s how great you feel, what you have the courage to say, and how you act when you have the Cube Riot blazer on. For the Cube Riot woman, that confidence will not just come from visual marketing channels like Instagram and being associated with that stuff, but it will also come from the knowledge gleaned from the content.


HB: What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered trying to launch a startup? Any challenges specific to launching out of Boston?

JA: The biggest challenge is learning the apparel industry. That’s tough no matter where you live. Getting factories to take a chance on me, building those relationships with fabric and trim suppliers… not knowing what I don’t know…that’s all been new and exciting, but it’s also sometimes frustrating.

On a positive note, I love a challenge. I’m obsessed with the process. I love connecting the dots. It gets me excited.

Also, I’ve had McGarry & Sons, my product team, with me throughout all of this and they really took me under their wing. I’m so glad I worked with them because they certainly prevented me from making some very costly mistakes.

After discovering McGarry & Sons we then found great factories in Massachusetts. I’ve been able to find good marketing, graphic design, and photography talent both here and remotely.

I think Boston has a lot of resources to build an apparel brand if you’re willing to network and put the pieces together. I think sometimes the fact that there’s less noise here than other places can be an advantage, too, because it forces you to focus on the consumer and what the opportunities are in the marketplace.


HB: While you work on getting Cube Riot off the ground, you’re also working as a marketing consultant. Any advice to others that are trying to juggle full-time work with starting a business?

JA: I’m grateful to get to do consulting. I’m insanely lucky. But I’m going to keep it real: It’s hard to balance both. Bootstrapping is hard. Starting a business is hard.

I’m definitely no beacon of work/life balance, and I’m still figuring this out. But here’s what I’m learning…

  • Running is amazing! I always knew this but I appreciate it even more now.

  • It can be calming to create a routine even if you don’t think you’re a routine type of person.

  • When in doubt about what to say, cutting to the chase usually works out long term.

  • Recognize when decisions are low-impact and/or if they can be easily reversed because that’ll help you decide things faster and get more done.

  • You’re gonna be stressed. You just are. But don’t be a jerk to your friends and your family. But if you are, say you’re sorry. They love you. The real ones will get it.

  • And find founder friends to talk to!

HB: In your opinion, what makes Boston’s business scene unique? What’s happening here that can’t be replicated anywhere else?

JA: The community and the people are magic. Even though our B2C startup scene is still growing, people have a lot of 2nd and 3rd degree connections that I need in the retail and apparel world and the Boston scene has been pretty open about giving introductions. From what I hear, that helpfulness is very unique to Boston.

I’ve had so many conversations where people straight up asked, “How can I help you?” or “Who do you want to meet at this event?” That’s huge.

Connect with Janet on Twitter and make sure you check out Cube Riot (launching soon)!  

4 Thought Leaders on Thought Leadership

“Thought Leadership.” What do you think of when you hear this term? If you’d asked me this a few years ago, I would have envisioned CEOs on stage at a big conference, or maybe a nice profile piece in a trade or business publication. But over the past year or two I’ve been rethinking how we define a “thought leader,” in part thanks to the work that Mitchell Levy is doing over at his Thought Leader Life blog and podcast.

So when I heard Mitchell’s voice (which I recognized because I’m a regular listener of the FIR Podcast Network) at the AMPlify conference before he got up to speak, I knew I had to connect with him. That connection turned into me co-hosting Thought Leader Life for the month of June (which stretched well into July if you’re really going to get technical).

Mitchell has argued for a long time now that everyone inside your organization can and should be a thought leader. I’ve come around to something very close to that same conclusion, and was able to put our arguments to the test through chats with four well-known thought leaders (in anyone’s book).

I was able to get some great insights on the topic from Mitchell and our four guests: Scott Monty, Paul Gillin, Emily Reichert and Ann Handley. The conversations involved mostly — but not entirely — B2B brands, and focused specifically on how to develop individual #ThoughtLeadership brands alongside the corporate brand. The primary question I wanted to answer was how organizations can strike a balance between individual and corporate brands.

In this first video, Mitchell and I set the stage for our interview series.

In this second video, you can hear our interview with Scott Monty, who argues that organizations are missing a huge opportunity by not taking advantage of the employee’s natural proclivity to be social. Companies that fail to appreciate the value of personal brands are more likely to disappear, he argues. All three of us agree that that CMOs face greater technological responsibilities than any other C-Level executive. Scott also made an interesting observation on our claim that all employees should be thought leaders: he differentiates “thought leaders” from “thought doers” and wonders aloud who will be responsible for carrying out the vision communicated by these leaders.

The third video is our interview with Paul Gillin, and we discuss why organizations need to take advantage of their employees and advocates and support their individual brands in order to advance the business. Paul argues that one of the most seemingly obvious but oft overlooked people to spread the message are employees — especially digital natives. Then the topic of money comes up. Paul explains that monetizing in the traditional sense has become very difficult, especially with interactions between the thought leader and the audience becoming more direct — see the disintermediation happening in the music industry for a prime example.

The fourth video — my personal favorite — is our interview with Greentown Labs CEO Emily Reichert, in which we delve into the tradeoffs in balancing your personal and corporate brands in depth. Emily argues that CEOs should always be thinking about how to use their personal brands to help build the corporate brand. They are two separate identities, but they must work together to grow together. Greentown Labs provides opportunities for member companies to become thought leaders in their own space. Emily also explains why she appreciates companies that actually outshine Greentown Labs in terms of marketing, because that means that Greentown has been successful in getting its member companies’ brands out.

The final video captures our conversation with renowned author and marketing content expert Ann Handley of MarketingProfs. Ann, a big fan of employee advocacy, encourages all 40 employees at MarketingProfs to build their own brand, and even provides training and content they can personally share to their own audience. In the interview, she elaborates on her recent article about establishing your “voice,” whether corporate or personal: to find your voice, think about three adjectives that best describe who you are. Her best advice for corporate CEOs is to sit down and discuss your voice and how to amplify it through your employees using social. We also chat about fear — why some corporations are fearful of letting their employees talk on social. Mitchell notes that it’s ironic how you trust employees to do work for you, and then not trust them to talk about what they do.

All in all these are five great conversations that add a lot of insight into how to succeed with both your personal brands and your corporate brands. I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed putting them together for you.