Category: Blogging

Using Trigger Systems to Avoid PR Nightmares



In the latest issue of CSQ, our very own Mike Schaffer writes about how you can use trigger systems to avoid PR nightmares.

In case you’re not familiar with trigger systems (which are kind of our new favorite thing), let’s catch you up. A trigger-system is a planned group of marketing activities that support a business event.

Let’s make that even simpler. Say your company makes widgets. You release a few new widget designs per year. If you were working with Echo-Factory (because obviously, we’re leaders in the widget-marketing field), we’d set up a trigger system, so that every time you were close to releasing a new widget, that’d trigger a series of marketing projects, like creating a new product page on your website for the new widget, and press releases, and social media announcements, etc. etc. etc. (more…)

4 Traits of Entrepreneurial Thinkers

entrepreneurial thinker victor limongelli speaking at friday coffee meetup Article originally published on HuffPost.

Victor Limongelli’s talk at Innovate Pasadena Friday Coffee Meetup last week revealed a lot about what an authentic entrepreneurial thinker looks like.

Victor missed our second interview call Friday afternoon following his talk at FCM. But at around five, three hours after I’d left two messages on this cell—one from Google Hangouts and one from my cell (in case he wasn’t keen on answering calls from restricted numbers)—he called back and left me a surprisingly sincere-sounding apology. Apparently, some respiratory thing that had been brewing before and during his talk at Friday Coffee had hit him full force and put him down for the count the rest of the day. (more…)

Thinking About Acquisition? Think About Branding

(article written for CSQ magazine)

Branding can play an enormous role in creating or destroying value during an acquisition

  Bringing in a CFO to “clean up the books” before acquisition is a common process. Even if the books aren’t particularly dirty to begin with, a good CFO has the ability to help cast the company in the best possible financial light to potential investors. (more…)

The Faux Resurrection of Branding

(Article written for CSQ Magazine)

Invest In Helping Your Customers Like You 

It has been announced that branding is dead, and perhaps has been for some time. Wired claimed it in 2004. Fast Company agreed to it in 2008. A bearded creative director confirmed it just this year. Consultants preach it. Commentators bemoan its loss. One book even goes so far as to suggest that branding is not only dead, but also an art only fit for cows. The apparent causes of its demise are many. Some attribute branding’s passing to a prolonged bout with transparency, often brought on by unprotected contact with social media. Others point to the more vague “digital age” as branding’s ultimate undoing, or SEO, or packaging (as though packaging were somehow totally separate from branding), or even the supposed education of the consumer class. It’s that last one that I find particularly hard to stomach. You only need to spend two minutes reading YouTube comments to realize we consumers haven’t come too far. But every consumer, even those commenting on YouTube, can recognize that branding is alive and well. When you look behind the “branding is dead” headlines, you usually find that what the author actually means is that the definition of branding has, or should be, expanded. But you and I both know we’re more likely to read an article titled “Branding Is Dead” than one titled “The Definition of Branding Has or Should Be Expanded Slightly.”   We’re all suckers for a punchy headline.   Branding Is Bigger Than Ever Branding has grown not just in definition, but in value. Interbrand, a branding agency that manages to maintain 33 offices in 27 countries despite the supposed death of its core offering, recently published its 2014 Best Global Brands report. This report lists the “contribution of the brand to business results.” It’s the closest we can come to quantifying the value in dollars of a brand, and those values are staggering. Perennial branding favorite Apple’s brand is valued at $118 billion. Another textbook branding case study, Nike, comes in at a $19.9 billion brand valuation. If you mention the word “branding” in a classroom at ad school, Apple and Nike are the first two words likely to be shouted back at you, so nobody’s surprised that their brands are thought valuable. But there are also plenty of less recognized branding powers that made Interbrand’s list. Ever thought about the power of a brand to absorb bodily fluids? Pampers gets swaddled with a $14.1 billion brand value, while Kleenex comes in at $4.6 billion. Brands are also plenty capable of planting stuff in the ground and moving dirt around, as evidenced by John Deere’s $5.1 billion and Caterpillar’s $6.8 billion brand valuations. All told, Interbrand’s top 100 global brands this year account for more than 1.4 trillion dollars, which is a lot of money. So much that it starts to lose its meaning. So let’s look at it another way. As the most valuable company in history, Apple currently has a $483 billion market cap. Interbrand estimates that its brand alone accounts for $118 billion. In essence, Apple’s brand accounts for about a quarter of the company’s value. Sound Investment Advice No one has ever accused me of being a financial wizard, but here’s some investment advice I’m confident standing behind: You’re probably not investing enough in your brand. Unless your name’s Tim Cook, you’re not at the helm of Apple, but your brand is probably worth more than you think. Or at least it could be. Branding is much more than just a logo and a tagline. Branding is anything that influences a customer’s perception of your company. And that’s a lot of things. When a customer emails your company, how long does it take to get a response? Is that response helpful? What does the response look like? What tone does it take? When a customer visits your website, how easy is it to find the information they’re looking for? Is your site pleasant to use? Does it look as good on their computer screen? Does it look good on their smartphone? When a customer reaches out to you on social media, do you respond? Do you have an active presence? Do you have something interesting to say on social media, or is it obvious you just have a profile because someone told you that you should? Branding isn’t magic. It’s just making sure that when your customers come in contact with your company, they like what they find. And chances are, you’re probably not investing enough in branding. If you do make that investment, I’ll bet that you’ll not only make your customers happier but also increase your company’s value. Not bad results from something that’s been the subject of more obituaries than I can count.

Internet Lets You Gauge ROI

  If you’re hesitant to spend money on advertising because there’s no way to measure return on investment, online advertising provides a solution. Online advertising is different from more traditional forms of advertising such as print and broadcast because it’s easier to measure an ad’s effectiveness online. Though traditional media vehicles have ways to target potential customers, it’s nowhere near as accurate as the Internet where you can target people based on their location, interests and behavior. Another big plus for online advertising is the ability to make quick adjustments to your strategy. If your SEO isn’t increasing your web traffic, change it. Need to update an online ad? No problem, that can be done much quicker and cheaper than with traditional media. Most importantly, though, online advertising gets results. For example, one of our SEO clients invested $3,000 per month last year and got $800,000 worth of new business as a direct result of that SEO campaign. Online advertising becomes even more effective when part of a multi-media campaign. Your website, online videos, banner ads and more serve to further enhance your print, broadcast, collateral and other media efforts. For instance, Nielsen, the research company that provides ratings for TV and other media, found that online video ads “help to reinforce and strengthen the impact of a traditional TV campaign.” In the same way, traditional media channels can help promote your website or social media pages. Another client saw a steady increase in web traffic due to a good SEO campaign along with traditional media vehicles that encouraged people to check out the website. In fact, the client got the most unique visits right after they ran newspaper ads, put up posters and sent out direct mail. So, don’t throw out traditional media completely. Your goal should be to develop a campaign that promotes one message across all media channels, both on and offline. That’s the kind of campaign that will reach the most people and achieve the best results.

The Best (And Worst) Super Bowl Ads


If you missed Friday’s blog post, I talked about how money can’t save an ad if it doesn’t have a sound strategy. Last night’s Super Bowl ads are further proof that money doesn’t make a good ad. Here’s the best and worst Super Bowl ads as well as a few that fall somewhere in between.

The Good

M&M “Sexy and I Know It” – Laughed out loud at this ad. Kudos to Vanessa L. Williams as the sassy brown m&m.

Volkswagen “The Dog Strikes Back” – Though not as good as last year’s “The Force” spot by VW, this ad is by far one of the best ads this year.

Toyota “Connections” – I love getting to see all the different Camry owners and their stories. Not necessarily a new idea, but a good one nonetheless.

CareerBuilder – I know the apes have been around a long time but they’re still funny. Plus, the apes make me think of CareerBuilder, just like cavemen make me think Geico.

Chrysler “Halftime” – With this ad, Chrysler reminds us that it’s as American as we are, and like all good Americans, it will survive.

Chevy “Happy Grad” – This ad was hilarious. Plus, it puts focus on the car without screaming ‘I’m a car commercial.’ Just a great ad all the way around.


The Mediocre

Bud Light “No Pants” – While the situation is funny, it was more of an ad for LMFAO’s halftime show than for Bud Light.

Hulu Plus – I loved Will Arnett since he was on Arrested Development but this ad just isn’t as good as the earlier ones with Alec Baldwin.

Kia Optima – This ad is way more of a nightmare than a dream. The only reason it’s not in the ugly section is due to the tiny sandman.

H&M “David Beckham” – David Beckham’s hot, so what else is new? Next time show some creativity, H&M.

Acura NSX – In my previous post, I said this ad was mediocre. That feeling hasn’t changed.


The Ugly

Go Daddy – Congratulations, Go Daddy, this ad is terrible. You’ve officially hit an all-time low in advertising.

Doritos “Sling Baby” – Out of the thousands of entries into Doritos ‘Crash the Super Bowl” contest, the fact that this one was chosen to air during the game is frightening to me.

Samsung – I applaud your effort to challenge the iPhone. Unfortunately, you failed. Now you’ve proven Apple has a better product and better advertising.

Honda CR-V “Matthew’s Day Off” – Ferris Bueller, funny in 1986, not so funny in a 2012 Honda commercial.

Have an opinion about the Super Bowl ads? Vote for your favorites on USA Today’s Super Bowl admeter.

Does More Money Equal Better Ads?


Every year, I look forward to Super Bowl Sunday. Not because of the game, but because of the ads. If you’ve ever watched a Super Bowl ad, you know why. They’re supposed to be the best advertising of the year – pure entertainment, very little sell, and plenty of money poured into production. It’s no secret that companies spend a ton of money creating a Super Bowl ad and that’s before they pay the media cost – up to $3.5 million for a 30 second spot this year.

But, does lots of money really make for a better commercial? Ideally, it should – more money should get you better writing, acting, editing and so on.

For instance, money definitely came in handy with Volkswagen’s “The Force” commercial which featured a tiny Darth Vader and Star Wars music. In addition to the estimated 111 million Super Bowl viewers, the ad received millions of extra views online before the game. And, people kept watching after the game too – the YouTube count is now at almost 50 million views. The ad’s success is undoubtably the reason Volkswagen chose to mention it again in this year’s Super Bowl ad.

However, more money doesn’t always guarantee a great ad. An example of this is the new Acura NXS spot that’s airing Sunday. The commercial features Jerry Seinfeld, one of the funniest men on the planet, and yet the ad falls flat. Sure, there are a few parts that make you laugh but that’s due to Jerry, not the script. The spot uses a cliché scenario – the old ‘I’ll trade you awesome things if you’ll just let me have the sponsor’s product,” and goes on too long. After 20 seconds, I found myself asking, “why isn’t this over yet?”

In the end, Acura spent a ton trying to create something really brilliant and all they got was a mediocre commercial.

The truth is, when it comes to advertising, strategy matters more than budget. A good strategy can shine on a shoestring budget just as a poor strategy can cripple a multi-million dollar campaign. A good ad agency should be able to think creatively whether they’re given $50,000 or $50 million.

Enjoy the game and the ads. If you’re like me and can’t wait until Sunday, you can watch the ads now.


What Halloween and Marketing Have in Common


Halloween is just another excuse to eat lots of sugar, play pranks and dress up like Rambo or sexy nurse #3. But, the holiday actually gives us some good insight into marketing.

The best storm-trooper costume the world has ever known. By Geekamongus.

#1 Go for Variety.
As a kid, it wasn’t a successful Halloween unless I had a huge variety of candy at the end of the night. The same goes for marketing. The best ad campaigns use multiple media to reach a target audience. Each medium presents the same message, thereby reinforcing the campaign’s other media vehicles.

#2 Don’t Chintz on Treats.
Back when I used to trick-or-treat, I hated the houses where people would pass out apples or dental floss instead of candy. On Halloween, kids want candy. Give them anything else and they’re disappointed. While you may think you’re doing customers a favor by giving them what they need, says successful brands try to give customers what they want.

#3 Team Up.
At Halloween, it’s unusual to see single trick-or-treaters. That’s because it’s more fun to travel in packs. In marketing, being part of a team is just as important. You get better results when you work with an ad agency that understands your brand and has the resources – creative, media, research – to help your brand grow.

#4 Don’t Play Tricks.
We all know most practical jokes don’t stop after just one prank. The person you pranked has to prank you back and then you have to prank them again and it never ends. Similarly, if your company makes false claims, i.e. you said you were a green company then you’re seen dumping toxic waste into the river, it can cause irrevocable damage to your brand. Transparency is key. Without it, even the best marketing falls flat.

#5 Check for Razorblades.
It just makes sense to skip unwrapped candy or that brownie from the weird guy down the street. For companies, not every medium will be right for the message you’re trying to send. Using the wrong media can dilute your message. For example, using a 30 second TV commercial to tell people about that extremely complex technology you’ve just developed will only serve to confuse your target audience. If you’re unsure about which media to use, find an agency that understands media (cough Echo-Factory cough).

Happy Halloween, kids. Hope it’s filled with plenty of sweet stuff.