Women on the Rise. Are You Taking Part?


We are in the year of the woman.  Wait.  1992 was the Year of the Woman.  And, 2018 was also dubbed the Year of the Woman.  Both years were similar and saw incredible gains in female elected government officials, as well as gripping testimony against male supreme court nominations. 

In 2018, a record 36 new women were elected to Congress, joining 66 female incumbents who were re-elected to the House.  The rise and continuation of powerful movements such as #MeToo, Equal Pay for Equal Work and #TimesUp also helped give a voice to women.  Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault testimony against the Kavanaugh supreme court nomination was watched by more than 20 million viewers.  Women took the streets, marching again with millions of other women who marched in the first Women’s March on January 21, 2017 the day after the new president who was plagued with alleged sexual misconduct was inaugurated.  Women seized the opportunity to fight and advocate for themselves, their daughters and other women, proving that women’s issues matter.  

2018 mirrored 1992’s Year of Woman, where similarly, the nation watched the testimony of Anita Hill who made claims of sexual harassment against the then supreme court nominee, Clarence Thomas.  The House elected 24 new women and re-elected 23 female incumbents, some of whom are still members of the House today.  President Clinton was elected while being dogged by allegations of infidelity. 

Given the current climate in America, some marketers have seized the opportunity to push and change age-old brand messaging.  Old brands such as Gillette with their “Toxic Masculinity” viral video attempted to ride the tides and update their 117-year old brand with new messaging asking consumers “Is this the best a man can get?”  Nike took on age old female stereotypes with their “Dream Crazier” ad to take a stand.  Both brands saw boycott threats, and both did not withdraw their ads or issue apologies. Others have asked whether brands riding the tides of femininity are genuine or just trying to capitalize on women empowerment.   I’d ask, does it matter?   

Where does that leave us in 2019?  Even with the gains in government and feminism, the reality is that men still hold the majority of elected government roles and heads of large corporations.  Women only make up 5% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and just 23% serve in the Senate and 20% in the House all the while more than half of the US population is female.   According to Forbes, “Women are a huge and largely untapped resource” and according to Harvard Business Review, women, when rated by their peers, bosses, direct reports and others were rated as better overall leaders than their male counterparts, outperforming men in 12 of the 16 competencies measured.  Within the ad world, women have made some gains, but still only 0.1 percent of ad agencies in the US with national or international accounts are founded by women, according to  AdAge.  

Working at a privately-owned woman-started agency is in itself an anomaly, and a privilege I don’t take lightly.  In addition, we are a small shop with zero layers-- freeing us from layers and bureaucracy, allowing us to be focused and get it done with clarity and vision—far from same ‘ol same ‘ol.  So while brands like Gillette and others are talking the talk and riding the “Rise of the Woman” messaging tide, they should also look to agencies who walk the walk.  

How to Impress an Expo West Virgin

I don’t care what type of Expo I walk into – because seeing the trends in a variety of booths will make my day! I love seeing what companies are willing to invest in – whether it’s going off the rails with a huge build out and footprint, or, putting their dollars to use through a smaller presence but with simply great design and packaging. Both make quite an impact. I do get a bit sad when I see some new brands that possibly can’t afford either, as their even being there seems like a waste because everyone is walking right on by – and you see the defeat in their eyes.

The Natural Products Expo West Show® blew me away. I knew how coveted tickets are and was just grateful to attend just for a day. I was like a kid in a candy store, or maybe better to say a vegan in a tofu igloo? It was a designer’s paradise.

Here is a rundown of a few of my faves, broken down:


Print & Packaging Companies

Not super impressed with the variety of packaging companies that were on-site, one did impress me though with a cute sign that only a print nerd like me would love. The sales rep was cool, easy to talk to and let me geek out over the print methods and practically knock over the display touching the papers like I was running out of time. So, shout out to Jeremy Howard at Trojan Litho™.


Favorite Booth with Sustainability Effort Interaction

Meyer’s Clean Day® was so impressive, from the brand ambassadors, the booth and packaging. The booth design drew you in but then you see a big wall promoting “leave your mark to help plants grow”. For every fingerprint attendees made on the wall they would donate $1 to the Center for Plant Preservation. Then (genius minds), you obviously need to wash the ink from your hands so they lead you to an adorable pop up bathroom with a full line of their products to wash and moisturize your hands. Your take away was a branded pencil which normally would not sound groundbreaking - but when you are done using it, the tip has basil seeds that you then plant. I loved the whole experience. Plus ups: As you walk through the expo they have pop-up displays of hand sanitizer. Also, they’re social efforts are super-on point right now - them out.



Fonts, modern retro vibe, neon lights, CBD, Bone Broths, Jerky…Walking through the show you really pick up on the trends of what is hot in natural products, and design right now – and the forward thinking associated with both. Old school upgraded neon lights were some of my favorites to see. Clean simple wall with that pop! A great booth example is Pop & Bottle. I LOVED this booth and packaging design. These clean, super food almond lattes are yummy and you feel good about drinking them – or just having the cute bottles on your desk at work.


Copywriting & Branding

Props to puns and wordplay with Sir Kensington’s booth and the The HoneyPot Co.® brand.

“SK” is an old brand with a new look – and it works! Samples were out by the time I visited, but you can guess that I judge books by the cover art – so I will be trying all of these products simply based on that, and because they made me giggle by “herbing my enthusiasm”.

HoneyPot had me at hello when I started following them, on Instagram but their small but mighty booth got me when I saw this on the banner: “Made by humans with vaginas for humans with vaginas. Because it takes one to know one™.” Hell yeah, you’re right. Clean feminine products from the women like me – I’ll try your products.


The Food!

OMG. We went downstairs and it was all over. Food, food, food! My colleague had warned me to take my time because you’ll need a food coma nap after 10 minutes – she was right, but I am stubborn, and everything looked SO good! I tried more Vegan “meat” products than I’d care to share. Some were, eh, I’ll check back at next year’s expo – but others, got even the consistency down!

Favorite Snacks (that will become my staples)

Tillamook® Cheeseboard snack packs. Crackers, cheese and a fun sweet/spicy jam. Like, I literally texted all my wine-drinking, working mom friends while I was at the booth – we have to be their demographic. These products are heavenly. Unfortunately, they just launched so they are in a limited market. I cannot wait to see them at my local grocer. The ONLY downside I mentioned to the rep was the packaging was way too big for the amount you get – the portion was probably right, but everyone at the show is asking for “less plastic” and eco-friendly packaging etc…I’m sure they’ll figure that out at the National roll-out.

Next up, I Heart Keenwah®. They seem to be available everywhere like Amazon & Target and the flavors are so yummy. I tell myself this is the guilt-free, adult version of Cheese Puffs.

Last, Simply Organic® Simmer Sauces. Who knew? Myself and everyone around me at the booth had the same response “You make sauces??” I buy this brand of herbs and seasonings but apparently, they rolled out a diverse selection of sauces last year. They showcased this specific Green Enchilada two ways, over a baguette, and over tortilla chips. As someone who entertains often, this seems like a quick, easy way to have a dip that doesn’t look like it was straight out of the jar! Yes, with the creaminess – it is an indulgence, but worth it! Upon a deeper dive, they have quite a few new products you can check out HERE.

Some other honorable mentions of my favorite booths

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn, Bonafide Provisions®, Delallo®, Olivina Men®, Pacha Soap Co.™, Seaweed Bath Co.® 


To sum it up, I’d have to say my first time definitely lived up to the hype and I hope to experience it again and again. I will continue to visit other expos and events to keep up on the trends and get my creative juices inspired, but so far – this shot straight to the top of my list.

29 Reasons to Celebrate the Holidays with E29!

"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life." – Amy Poehler

IMG_3239 - Cover.JPG

One of the most important elements of a successful team is acknowledging and appreciating the different personalities, skill sets and experiences everyone brings to the table. That’s why E29 hosts a quarterly summit where all team members comes together for a two-day offsite. Time out of the office gives us a chance to reflect on our clients and internal processes, and to enjoy the company of the people we work with on a daily basis.

IMG_3465 - 2.JPG

This fall our summit was held in Napa Valley in the heart of wine country. We began the day with a team building exercise centered around reflecting on the past quarter. In order to succeed as an organization and move forward it’s important to look back and reflect on what we’re doing well and where we can improve. Our moderator did a wonderful job helping us better understand team dynamics and identifying areas for growth.

After a leisurely team lunch we moved on to our next adventure…wine making! What better way to spend an afternoon than blending, tasting and creating our very own E29 Wine?! The staff at Judd’s Hill did an excellent job educating us about the fine art of blending grapes and balancing flavor profiles. All of us had a chance to mix and match different varietals in an effort to create the perfect red blend. Much like the makings of a good team, we learned it’s critical to appreciate the subtle nuances that come together to make the wine work. After several attempts, lots of tasting (and a lot of spilled wine!) we all agreed on the blend we liked best.  

IMG_3487 - 3.JPG
IMG_1602 - 4.JPG

Once we finished creating our wine it was time to bottle the final product. We shared a lot of laughs learning how the wine gets in the bottle (hint: it involves a siphon!) and corking the finished product. After all the bottles were filled we had one final job – coming up with a name for our first vintage. Everyone on the team threw out ideas and we ultimately voted and agreed to name our first vintage “29 Reasons.” After a momentous year, we figured we have at least twenty-nine reasons to open a bottle and celebrate. Everyone took their bottle of wine, added a label, and wrote down their reason to enjoy a glass.

Our gift to clients, family and friends this holiday season is our very first E29 vintage. It may be the first, but it definitely won’t be the last as we plan to make this an annual tradition. We hope everyone will enjoy drinking a bottle as much as we enjoyed creating it! Interested in getting your hands on your very own bottle of “29 Reasons?” Drop us a line!

E29 Marketing's First Vintage.png

Are You Confident in Your Marketing Plan’s ROI?


A successful marketing plan is the sum of many parts.

You need a winning product or service of course, and a team of talented individuals to make it happen.

Key elements to creating a highly successful marketing plan also include a market analysis, target audience insights, strong brand positioning, clear business goals, communication strategies and the ability to measure performance.

Additionally, if you don’t understand the importance of marketing ROI, your chances of success could be limited.

What Is Your Marketing Plan ROI?

Marketing ROI is used to create a better understanding around the marketing campaigns and tactics that work and don’t work for your brand.

Answering questions related to budget-spend versus ROI creates accountability on your part and reveals how well or how poorly your marketing strategies are performing. 

Marketing ROI should focus on improving your marketing activities so they better align with your company’s strategic goals, not just your marketing objectives. Making sure those metrics resonate within your company and support your business drivers will create further transparency and clarity around your marketing efforts.

Here’s the very basic equation companies use to measure a marketing campaign’s ROI:  

ROI = (Revenue – Marketing Investment) / Marketing Investment 

The 3 Benefits of Using ROI to Fuel Your Marketing Plan  

We’ve already covered the most obvious benefit of focusing on ROI when creating a marketing plan: it helps ensure you see positive returns and it helps you to course-correct when you don’t.

However, that’s not the only reason it pays to consider ROI when developing your marketing plan. Here are three more:

1. Prioritizing ROI Means Prioritizing Accountability

Most companies marketing plans feature a number of moving parts. This means that numerous strategies, agencies and tactics can be responsible for a brand’s marketing success.

Sure, it’s excellent to see positive financial returns, but it’s often difficult to repeat those results – much less improve on them – if you don’t know what was responsible for the success.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

According to the Nielsen 2018 CMO Report, only 1-in-4 marketers are highly-confident they can quantify ROI and, what’s more, 79% of respondents reported that they plan to invest more in their attribution tools and analytics, so they know where their biggest wins are coming from – and where they can cut their losses.

For example, it might look like pay-per-click (PPC) ads are delivering the best results for your business because they result in the most conversions; yet, you might find through further analysis that although your content marketing produces fewer conversions, those customers that do convert lead to much larger returns.

It’s thus important to consider ROI when evaluating the results of each marketing program so you can feel confident in the performance of individual strategies and tactics.   

2. Prioritizing ROI Means Setting Expectations for What Can Actually Be Measured

As they say, what gets measured gets improved. As marketers, if we can quantify current performance then we can measure how programs are contributing to growth over a period of time.

For example, we often need to explain how writing blogs for our company website or running a product giveaway on Instagram contributes to growth. Well, if an ROI-centric approach is taken, then we start by identifying the proper key performance indicators (KPIs) as a first step toward measurable improvement. Since each marketing tactic must ladder up to a greater marketing strategy, and, ultimately, a higher business goal with financial impact, it’s important to determine how each activity contributes to the broader objectives, which activities can actually be measured effectively and how they will be measured. Once it’s clear how each marketing tactic will be measured, we are one step closer to understanding the full marketing plan’s return on investment.

3. Prioritizing ROI Means Using Benchmarks to Set Realistic Goals

This is all about using the data you already have to develop metrics for success, track and optimize along the way. Look at things like Google Analytics, social and sharing metrics, audience and shopper data, sales and/or retailer data, and even 3rd party syndicated data to inform your goals and strategies. 

If you’re lacking any of that information, you can pursue quantitative and qualitative research techniques to gather the data. 

The bottom line is that taking an ROI-based approach means using and evaluating existing data to inform your marketing strategies and measure their effectiveness.

Once you have this ROI approach set up, you can look to build an attribution model for the future of your business. An attribution model quantifies the sales impact of your marketing activities. Based on your past marketing spend and sales, attribution modeling can help you optimize your future spend and maximize your return on investment.

Start with ROI to Improve Your Marketing Plan

Having an ROI based approach to marketing planning is the best way you can be sure to know what strategies and tactics are working to increase profitability and growth.

Otherwise, you’re most likely just using intuition and educated guesses to account for performance – rather than a winning approach based on real data.

Elevate Your Marketing Results with These 29 Marketing Tips


Elevate Your Marketing Results with These 29 Marketing Tips

Want to up your marketing game but don’t know where to start? Struggling to process all the information that’s available?

Then you’ve come to the right place!

To help you implement a stellar marketing strategy that works, we’ve condensed vast amounts of information to bring you these top 29 marketing tips that highlight all the important aspects of a great marketing strategy.

What Do Our 29 Marketing Tips Include?

Within this downloadable sheet, you’ll find easy-to-digest tips that are categorized into 6 actionable sections. These will cover key points, such as:

  • How to implement your marketing strategy and stick to it

  • How to gain traction on social media by making the most of all the tools available to you and ensuring you’re reaching out to your target audience at the right times

  • How to get a head start in digital advertising by applying the right models and strategies and making sure you’re utilizing the most dominant keywords

  • How to use influencers to your advantage while creating long-term, authentic relationships

  • How to revamp shopper marketing to gain shoppers’ trust and loyalty, which includes creating the right “experience”

  • How to make analytics tools work for you by creating a consistent approach to your analytics but without getting too obsessed with the figures so you lose sight of your overall goals

Download Our 29 Marketing Tips Today!

What are you waiting for? Head to our Experiences resource page to download these 29 indispensable marketing tips – and watch as your company skyrockets toward success.

We are recognized as a top Branding Agency on DesignRush!

5 Unique Benefits of Small Agencies for Big Brands

E29 Larkspur Office

E29 Larkspur Office

In recent years, there has been a major shift in the way companies outsource their marketing needs. More and more big brands are deciding to work with small agencies, which begs the question:


Just what can these smaller agencies offer that larger agencies with greater resources cannot?

Let’s find out.

5 Factors That Influence How Big Brands Choose Agencies

As agencies grow over time, there is a tendency for the quality of their work to suffer, and big brands suddenly find themselves pushed to the back of an ever-growing queue.

Here are some key benefits of small agencies that big brands should consider.

1. Small Agencies Are More Committed

Small agencies have fewer resources to attract big contracts.

When they get one worth having, they go above and beyond to deliver the goods. They are more passionate and more eager to please.

The CEO of Ten35, Ahmad Islam explains that you just don’t get that same level of focus from larger agencies.

2. Smaller Agencies Deliver Faster Results

In bigger operations, there is much more red tape to wade through. From various personnel and processes, to elongated chains of communication and approval.

For big brands who want a quick turnaround, dealing with large agencies can be frustrating. Turning your focus to work with smaller, more nimble agency teams is just the tonic.

In the digital age, staying agile is vital.

It’s important to adopt this concept in your marketing campaigns, and you will be more flexible to react to changes in the market with a smaller agency.

3. They Are More Transparent

Paid advertising is increasingly important nowadays. But just because businesses know they must invest in advertising doesn’t mean they are willing to hand over complete control of their finances, with no questions asked.

Forbes believes that transparency can help build better companies, and even big brands with deep pockets want to know their money is going to good use.

Smaller agencies are usually more transparent, making it easier to see the true return on investment (ROI) you are getting.

4. Cost Is More Reasonable

Big agencies tend to charge higher prices, without offering any added value. Once you’re on board, there’s no knowing who is actually working on your project, and if they are really “experts.”

Smaller agencies aren’t just transparent with their pricing, but also with the talent they have available. You may well meet the team before striking a deal, and can be more confident of the value for money you are getting.

5. They Are More Consistent

Typically, working with big agencies involves several points of contact. You might discuss options with one person, sign a contract with another, and then never hear from them again as you’re passed along the assembly line.

While large agencies have a higher turnover, small agencies tend to keep the same core team together for longer.

You have more chance of getting a dedicated team and constant point of contact this way, and over time, you’ll develop a relationship with the team.

It’s Better to Be a Big Fish in a Small Pond

One of the overarching benefits of small agencies, is that big brands will become their top priority. By choosing to work with a small team, you can receive all the time and attention your business needs.

You will form stronger ties with a small team, facilitating a better working relationship that delivers faster results, and a greater overall ROI for your investment.

Also, a smaller agency will grow to know your brand intimately. Their collaborative nature breeds greater productivity, which makes small agencies a greater asset for growing your business in the long-term.

The Agency Retainer or Project Debate: How to Make the Best Choice


When you’re thinking of scaling up your marketing efforts, chances are you might begin working with an agency.

If you have a particular need for a lot of content or creative input, a big decision awaits you:

Should you work with an agency retainer?

While there are benefits to sticking with project fees for each and every assignment you need from your agency, the option of an agency retainer is one that many businesses are opting for.

In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of an agency retainer, and give you the insights you need to make the best choice for your brand.

What is an Agency Retainer?

This is one of the most common agency payment models used today.

Whereas project-based is pretty self-explanatory, an agency retainer needs a little elaboration to understand fully.

Put simply, a retainer is when an agency and client make an agreement that they will work together for a long period of time, collaborating on several projects.

The actual retainer allows the client to reserve a set amount of the agency’s time every week or month, for an agreed rate.

This involves some thorough forward-planning so that you can make accurate projections on the scope of your project(s), its goals, and the time required on a weekly and/or monthly basis.

If you have a clear vision for your goals and the needs of your projects, an agency retainer is an effective way of ensuring you get preferential treatment from your agency.

Some retainers run on a month-by-month basis, though others usually cover a longer time period.

The Key Differences Between Agency Retainer and Project-Based Fees

The key differences are as follows:

  • Agency retainers have a flat monthly fee. Project-based services are paid per project.

  • Agency retainers cover a wide scope of services and deliverables. Project-based services are much more defined.

  • Agency retainers offer dedicated personnel for the account. Project-based services often tend to rotate personnel, depending on available talent.

  • Agency retainers are used for long-term goals that consider ongoing marketing needs. Project-based services focus on short-term goals and one-off assignments.

E29 Marketing offers both avenues and can work with clients on defining their projects, providing the flexibility of hybrid options too so you can have the best of both worlds.

The Pros and Cons of Using an Agency Retainer

To give you a clearer picture of the benefits of using an agency retainer, and the potential drawbacks, here is everything you need to know to weigh up the decision. 

Pro: It is Less Expensive

  • Nothing matters more in business than your bottom line. With a retainer, your rates will always be less expensive, which makes this the best benefit.

Con: You Might Not Have Enough Work to Use the Retainer Time

  • Sometimes, there may be a quiet spell where you don’t have enough work for your agency. This can lead to some retainer time not being used, which could be a waste of money.

  • To avoid this, keep in contact with your Account Director to ensure there is plenty of work planned in advance. By staying proactive, you can ensure your agency is always kept busy.

Pro: You Can Delegate Tasks You Don’t Have Time For

  • There’s a lot to do in marketing, and unless you have specialists on your team, it can be very time-consuming to try and manage everything from planning, execution and analytics yourself.

  • With an agency retainer, you have the time on your account to put to good use. You can be confident all work will be done, which makes it easy to put it on their plate, freeing your time for other tasks.

Con: It’s Hard to Track Where Time and Money is Spent

  • This is a big concern about outsourcing marketing, as you can lose a little control on time management for the people you are paying.

  • However, good agencies tend to be pretty transparent about how they use their time, which means you can request a detailed breakdown of what they have done each month.

Pro: You have a Dedicated Agency that Knows your Business

  • With project-based fees, typically you get a freelancer or agency who will approach the work as a one-off arrangement. They aren’t always concerned with getting to know your business on a deep level.

  • By contrast, having an agency retainer invites an agency to the table, which makes them more likely to take more interest in truly getting to know your brand, your goals, and your audience.

  • The best agencies will be more invested in your business and will want to continue building your brand the longer they are working with you.

Pro: The Costs are Fixed

  • This makes spending more predictable, which is good news for your budget and financial projections. It also gives you more flexibility in project management, as you don’t need to negotiate with different agency personnel for every project or get clearance from senior management.

Con: You Have Several Agencies

  • Digital marketing is a wide umbrella, and below it you may have a separate agency for specific aspects, from web design, SEO or copywriting, to advertising and social media.

  • As these begin to stack up, you might find yourself stressing over managing all these agency relationships.

When an Agency Retainer is the Right Choice For Your Business

For businesses who really have a clear vision for the future, and believe they have the resources, products, and potential to operate for many years - then there is a lot to gain from an agency retainer.

If you are a big brand, or have the plans to become one quickly, then you’ll most likely have a lot of work to do. Being able to delegate this to an agency takes the weight off your own in-house team, allowing the company to be more productive as a whole.

Not only will you save time and money in the long run, you will gain a dedicated agency that understands your business and their goals.

Ultimately, this will result in better content, and a better ROI on your marketing.

You can forge a strong working relationship with an agency that you trust and will never have to worry about their availability whenever you need them.

This long-term partnership is also likely to pave the way for more experimentation and optimization over time.

While the upfront costs may not be possible for smaller start-up businesses, by booking in advance you can actually save money. And, it definitely works out to be less expensive than budgeting your projects individually.

This makes it straightforward to include the agency expenses into your long-term financial forecast and the overall marketing strategy of your company.

When an Agency Retainer is the Wrong Choice for Your Business

If you don’t already have experience working with an agency, then jumping into a long-term arrangement might not be a wise choice.

It’s important to get some experience working with several agencies first to figure out if you work well together.

Moreover, it’s essential that your company has already got a well-defined plan for the future. This must be mapped out, so you can clearly articulate what needs to be done to accomplish your goals. Without this, an agency retainer could be a bad move that leads to more stress than its worth.

By underestimating just how much help you need, you run the risk of upsetting your agency with unexpected changes to the workload. This could lead to tensions in the relationship.

Conversely, overestimating your needs could lead to a colossal waste of money as you have paid for the agency’s time but have nothing to give them.

The Decision Must be the Best for Your Company

An agency retainer isn’t for everyone.

While the benefits are certainly attractive, it’s important to weigh whether or not that is enough for you to go down that road.

An agency retainer is most beneficial to companies who understand the value of a steady relationship. They have a long-term plan, many well-defined milestones they would like to reach, and they are looking forward to focusing on that journey.

Project-based fees are good for smaller businesses with short-term goals and small budgets, but as you grow, the benefits of an agency retainer are well worth considering.

With help from a flexible agency like E29 Marketing, you can figure out a long-term plan best suited to your needs.

As your business grows, you might find the workload is getting too much for you or just one agency. They might specialize in written content, whereas you need experts in graphics or marketing.

By choosing experienced professionals, you can form a network of agencies that are comfortable working alongside each other.

So long as everyone is transparent about their duties and capabilities, you can build strong working relationships that allow your brand to flourish from the help of these specialized organizations. 

10 Captivating Ads and their Captivation Triggers


As much of the work we do at E29 Marketing involves advertising, I asked the team to share their favorite ads and explain their reasons for being impressed. As you know, consumers are inundated with ads, so it is imperative that ads are excellent in order to capture attention and encourage ad and brand recall.

What makes an ad captivating?

Ben Parr's book, Captivology is a wonderful resource describing the seven captivation triggers to capture immediate, short and long attention. The seven triggers are automaticity, framing, reputation, disruption, reward, reputation, mystery and acknowledgement.

1. Starbucks: Afternoon Made at Starbucks

Megan says "My favorite ad right now is a Starbucks ad titled "Afternoons Made at Starbucks." It's REALLY visually captivating. I saw it on Hulu and I think it's a great placement. Hulu is the only place where I see ads besides the occasional one on social (YouTube, Instagram or Facebook). Starbucks has been doing a push to get more people to there stores in the afternoons. I've gotten notifications through their app regarding their "Happy Hours" and it ties in really well with the ad I saw. On a side note, I believe they are testing serving alcohol so this could be a pre-test to see if they can get more people to visit in the afternoons/after work."

Consider the audience who watches Hulu, which is predominantly females 18 – 34 and how much this audience appreciates cool, hip and well…sugar! This ad effectively makes use of the automaticity trigger with sensory cues of color and sound. Zooming in on the drinks and showing the swirling of ingredients together could be argued to be the framing trigger, because it is forcing the viewer to imagine seeing each drink very close their eyes so that they imagine how it would feel to be drinking one.

2. okcupid: DTF

This campaign while somewhat controversial, does a good job of making people think. Once you understand what DTF means and how it plays on the millennial favorites of "WTF?," and "Down to F___" then you understand what it's all about. I like ads that make me feel smart, so when I feel like I understand the ad after spending a little time to figure it out, I feel part of an elite who get it. This is good for brand building and makes use of the acknowledgment trigger by encouraging a deeper connection with the brand because I feel validated and part of a community who use "WFT" and also understand the innuendo of "DTF" and how OkCupid is changing the meaning in an empowering way. Take a look at AdWeek's article about the campaign where the CMO says the DTF campaign boosted buzz by 50%. The campaign is also using the disruption trigger as it includes all types of relationships and for a dating app, it is very well targeted to daters of all sexual orientations.


And the results of the campaign are telling too: "In the crowded category of dating apps, OkCupid has rarely been one of the most high-profile options, but its recent "DTF" campaign seems to be working at changing that." 

3. Geico: Longest Goal Celebration Ever & 4. Old Spice: Talk to the Land

"My [Terra] household watched every single World Cup game. If we weren't home to watch live, we recorded it and watched as soon as we got home. This was extremely different for our family as I can't remember the last time I watched anything LIVE, let alone RECORD something to watch. We are die-hard HBO and Netflix fans.

This meant that I watched a boat-load of Fox TV (ugh) and real, live, TV ADS (gasp!)

There are two ads that stand out for me. No, they don't have talking animals or babies (which I typically LOVE), but both are similar in the following ways:

  1. They make me laugh out loud even as I watched them for the 3rd and 4th time
  2. They have nothing to do with the product being sold - or even really mention/show product benefits other than their taglines (gasp again…), no RTB, no POD, and, I'm not even sure there is a consumer insight?
  3. They are both PURE entertainment, and almost make their products feel irreverent. I didn't feel like I was being "sold", there wasn't any fluffy marketing speak, just pure entertainment.

The first ad is Geico's Longest Goal Celebration Ever, the robot at the end leaves me on the floor.

The second ad is: Old Spice's "Talk to the Land". Why would he need deodorant spray when he's going to crash? The whole thing is so absurd, it's awesome.

My 10-year-old son asked me why we don't have Geico and is Geico better than what we have? I told him that all insurance is the same. He said, "Well, why wouldn't you want to save 15% or more on car insurance?" It's a good question. My 12-year-old son asked my husband why he doesn't buy Old Spice. Another good question. Net, net, even though I loved these ads, I will not change my insurance, or buy Old Spice for my husband.

This begs the question of the role of cable and network TV ads. I would argue that yes, broad-scale awareness can be achieved. but ONLY if it's entertaining. My next question won't be confirmed for another 10+ years but... will my boys purchase Geico and Old Spice? Or, will they stick to boring old State Farm and Aussie Products?"

Thanks to Terra for her very entertaining perspective and accurate observations. The Geico ad also makes use of the acknowledgment trigger in that it was placed during live soccer games and who is more likely to appreciate goals and soccer idiosyncracies than soccer fans?

The Old Spice ad makes use of the disruption and mystery triggers. Disruption because the ad is so strange and unexpected and mystery, because it is a story and we watch in order to know the outcome. Mystery, uncertainty and suspense are very good at keeping an audience intrigued until the end.

5. Smove

You may have seen this one on Facebook or Instagram for the ultimate in selfie-sticks. The ad runs equally well whether sounds is on or off for the viewer as it has captions. What Smove is doing well is capturing attention with frequency and appealing to the audience who wants to look good on social networks. The special offer code makes use of the reward trigger and for the gadget loving yuppie with disposable income, this lifestyle enhancing device looks like it could be a winner. The number of reactions and views of the video don't hurt either.


6. Pepsi: Radio Ad

As Carol is often exposed to ads is when driving long distance and listening to the radio, she says "I really like the Pepsi Stuff radio ads that are currently airing. One, in particular, has the male speaker say stuff so many times, and in such a hilarious voice, it not only drives home the promotion (buy Pepsi, earn points, redeem for stuff), but also makes the listener want to go check out what all the stuff is (and on a 90 degrees day as you're driving around in a hot car, hearing the cans opening in the background actually almost make you crave a Pepsi because they sound so refreshing)… There is no image obviously with radio, it all has to be imparted verbally, and in my opinion, this ad does it well, not only through the repetition, but also with humor."

The ad uses the automaticity trigger with the sound of opening a Pepsi and probably also the disruption trigger in that the voiceover is saying unexpected things to be funny.

7. FullStory

On Instagram, I was stopped in my scrolling for an ad for FullStory. The ad is very well targeted to me and tells me everything I need to know about eCommerce checkout funnels in less than 30 seconds. The role of an ad is to spark curiosity to get the potential customer to want to learn more and therefore visit the website. This one worked on me. Also notice the colors that match Instagram. That was no mistake as people have very strong feelings about Instagram which will be sparked again with this ad.

The trigger/s used? Acknowledgement as well as reward.

8. Monday.com

Another one that does an excellent job of explaining a product 30 seconds is one for Monday.com. The ad is fast, succinct, fun and makes me want to check out the product since after watching it I believe it will save me and my team time. The captivation trigger here is framing, which as Ben Parr describes it is: "Adapting to or changing somebody's view of the world so they pay more attention to you," and also the acknowledgement trigger, because the Monday seems to understand me in my work life and need to manage projects differently.

The ad isn't shy about being an ad and the confidence is very compelling to the viewer. They don't say "confidence is sexy" for nothing.

9. Suburu: A Life Story on the Line

Another commercial Megan loves. "It captures your attention from the beginning by telling a story, while you are unsure what the ad is about. At first, it seems like a love story, taking you through a couples big life moments, which is appealing to women. Then it pans over to an accident, which then made me think it was an anti-drunk driving ad and that the children (in the car) had died. But then it informs the viewer that the family is still happy and alive because of their Subaru Forester. Ending on "That's why we will always drive a Subaru. Make sure your life story is a long one." They use a bit of a scare tactic, but I don't think it is overdone as now many people in their lives have some connection to drunk driving, texting and driving, etc. Typical car commercials are showing how fast and cool their cars are, but this Subaru commercial speaks to its safety awards. The story is very compelling and does a great job connecting to parent drivers who want their kids to be safe."

The trigger being used for this one is the mystery trigger as we want to know how the story ends, so we watch it all the way to the end.

Sidenote from Megan: "Acura tried to create a commercial like that, where they talk about seeing their test dummies as real people to convey how important they think safety is. But they do not do as good of a job conveying the importance of safety as the Subaru commercial does."

I totally agree. As humans we are hardwired to enjoy and be captivated by stories. Where the Subura one takes us on a journey we can imagine ourselves on, the Acura one is just Acura telling everyone how wonderful they are. As consumers we connect better with stories than with brand touting their own prowess.

10. Barbie: Imagine the Possibilities

Our fearless leader's favorite ad is one that is super entertaining and while watching it I challenge you to try not to smile. Amie says "At the core it taps into the insight of how little girls play with Barbie and encourages Girl/Women empowerment." It completely reshaped Barbie for the current times and the creative execution is fantastic.

This one makes use of the mystery and disruption triggers because it keeps our attention by being unique, unexpected and intriguing.

On the Horizon:

Not yet fully mainstream, but something that looks interesting and coming soon are scroller ads for mobile. “Scroller” mobile ads are ads where if you’re reading an article and you scroll, the image scrolls with you. Megan says "With all the competition, it does a great job of capturing attention as it is not what you are expecting." Making use of the disruption trigger due to its uniqueness, scroller ads are sure to soon be commonplace on mobile devices.

Your turn:

What is your favorite ad and why do you think it is effective? Also, there's extra credit for identifying which captivation trigger the ad is using.

A Millennial Marketers Take on #29Rooms from Refinery29

Inside the Palace of Fine Arts, #29Rooms

Inside the Palace of Fine Arts, #29Rooms

#29Rooms is Refinery29’s exploration into connecting with their readers in an experiential way. #29Rooms is an annual funhouse of style, culture and creativity created by a group of global artists and visionaries. It launched in 2015 during NY Fashion Week and has expanded to major US cities, including San Francisco where I attended. You'll find food, drinks, music, singing, pictures, shredding, (temporary) tattoos, donating, boxing, painting, sharing (dreams and secrets) and more! To no one’s surprise, it didn’t take long to sell out. And when they released more tickets, it just built up the hype leading up to the show.

As a media company, it’s not surprising that the #29Rooms brand is on point. The name is geared towards millennials and ready to trend on Twitter. #29Rooms itself has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, their own merch line and a special Snapchat filter. Their branding is the perfect shade of millennial pink.

#29Rooms is one of a kind. Everything from the art, creativity and experiences is exciting and a must-see. It’s culturally relevant and inclusive. #29Rooms is a genius experience that marketers can take advantage of. I am a huge fan of creative marketing placements and experiential marketing. And #29Rooms combines them brilliantly. #29Rooms is an excellent creative placement for brands to showcase their creativity in front of a millennial crowd. Each of the 29 rooms was inspired and created in partnership with an artist, visionary or brand. Each room was unique and captivating in its own way. Each space had its own relevant story to tell. Jake Gyllenhaal, Haagen-Dazs, Planned Parenthood, Pure Leaf, A Simple Favor (Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively movie), Demi Lovato, Janelle Monae, Adobe, Emma Roberts, Laneige and more partnered with #29Rooms.

Experiential marketing is continuing to rise in popularity. Consumers “ are hungry for all things immersive,” said Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum. “It’s a byproduct of us spending an inordinate amount of time on our screens.” The fact that some people attend [#29Rooms] to plump up their own social media feeds is “bringing us full circle,” said Ms. Wong. Many many attendees did use #29Rooms to plump up their social media feed. Just look on any social platform, use the hashtag #29Rooms and you will find thousands of photos, which not only built awareness of the event, but also enhanced the #29Rooms brand. 

#29Rooms’ themes and partnerships were carefully approved to ensure they would fit within the space that Refinery29 was working to create. Some brands utilized their space at #29Rooms better than others.

One of the secrets I found in the room "Tell Us Your Secret"

One of the secrets I found in the room "Tell Us Your Secret"

The movie, A Simple Favor starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick is still building hype. Before the trailer dropped Blake Lively “deleted” everything on her Instagram, only followed people named Emily Nelson and changed her bio to “What happened to Emily?...”. A social media wipe is an increasingly popular tactic to build buzz by top-tier celebrities (Taylor Swift). And now the movie has its own room in #29Rooms. Inside the room, it had the fragmented profiles and voices of the main characters, Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. It also had a large board where you could write your own secret, roll it up and put it on the board for other attendees to read after you leave. It was very memorable and tied well to the movie.



Haagen-Dazs had its own room where attendees could experience their new Trio Crispy Layers Ice Cream with a sample and a hanging column of caramel-colored (and scented) thread. Their current marketing efforts focus on trial, and this was a great opportunity to encourage trial. In the past, they’ve had brand ambassadors in San Francisco handing out samples of their new flavors. Their room put their new ice cream flavor top of mind, for when attendees go grocery shopping, stop by the ice cream aisle and can find the new Haagen-Dazs flavor they tried at #29Rooms.

The water works photo backdrop, featuring the laneige watermark

The water works photo backdrop, featuring the laneige watermark

Laneige had a fun “Water Works” photo backdrop with pink pool floaties and a photographer. They were giving out samples of one of their products, while you waited in line. Once your photos were taken by a professional photographer, they were sent to an iPad, where you could send yourself the photos. When the photos arrived in your inbox they were from Laneige, they had a watermark with Laneige’s logo and the #29Rooms logo and they automatically signed you up for their email list. Laneige had a thoughtful and well-executed plan for their time at #29Rooms.

Mastercard was a partner of #29Rooms and for cardholders, you could get a key at the beginning of the event and use it to skip to the front of the line for one room. Maybe it encouraged loyalty to current cardholders, but it did nothing to enhance their brand or to encourage trial. It also brought minimal awareness compared to the other partners of #29Rooms. 

Overall, I take away a lot of creative inspiration and desire for more things experiential and expressive. My advice to #29Rooms as a consumer, do not let so many people in at once. It dampers the experience and does not leave enough time to experience all of the rooms when you are waiting in line for the majority of the event. My advice as a marketer to brands, take advantage! All attendees left with no less than 50 photos that are sure to be shared across their social media accounts. Let your brand be featured in one of them. 

Lessons Marketers Can Glean From Megan and Harry’s Wedding

The official photographs were released on Kensington Palace's official Twitter account. Credit: Kensington Palace/Twitter

The official photographs were released on Kensington Palace's official Twitter account. Credit: Kensington Palace/Twitter

On Megan and Harry’s wedding day I found my inner cynic having an all-out battle with my inner romantic. I kept trying to decipher which bits were calculated, and which were authentic, which were from the heart and which were from the head. In the end, like any romantic movie, I suspended my disbelief and gave into the awe. I suppose a large portion of the 29 million Americans who got up at the crack of dawn left with similar positive feels.

While other Royal dynasties have crumbled under the weight of the will of the people, Britain's longest serving Monarch Queen Elizabeth II understands that their very survival depends on a favorable public opinion. In the UK public opinion of the Royal Family remains high with over 70 percent support. The Royal family’s wealth is estimated at $33.8 billion dollars and injects an estimated $2.4 billion into the UK economy per year from mostly tourism. Dwarfing this is the estimated value of the Royal Brand at $89.3 billion.

Much was on the line with the Royal Wedding and the entire affair was pulled off with perfection. If they can soften a misanthrope like me I’m sure their fan club just melted with joy. We left the Big Show entertained, enlightened and uplifted. Huge ROI for the Royals and the United Kingdom. How’d they do it?

Control the Message

Quickly after the wedding was announced, Megan jettisoned her career and her 1.9 million Instagram followers, 350,000 Twitter followers and 800,000 Facebook likes. All messages now come from the Royal Press office. For the wedding day, only 1 reporter was allowed into the events and 4 photojournalists. Without these controls, everything can quickly devolve into a circus.

Flawless Strategic Planning & Execution

It’s almost a given that the Royals and the British run things with military precision. With limited concern for budgets, world-class teams were assembled to guarantee perfection. With so much at stake, failure was not an option for the Royal vendors. No doubt the enormity of the opportunity was the true value proposition for Wedding partners. A small business can turn into global brand overnight with a successful execution. Indy baker Claire Patk was tapped for creating the wedding cake and went from 60,000 Instagram followers to over 212,000 today. Book deals and a torrent of orders were in the wake.

Stay On Brand

Big events need small details to personalize the experience. Tatler describes the details of the Barnard & Westwood invitations, “using American ink on English card, they are printed in gold and black, then burnished to bring out the shine, and gilded around the edges.”

For the flowers, “wherever possible, seasonal plants and flowers that bloom naturally in May will be used, including branches of beech, birch and hornbeam, as well as white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves.”

As the newlyweds sauntered in their carriage waving to the adoring masses on the most picture perfect of British days, we witnessed not only a fairytale coming to life, but also a total brand immersion coming to life.

Show Off Your Personality

Queen Elizabeth II seems to understand that William and Harry are the new faces of the brand. With their prime-time ready spouses and cherubic children straight out of central casting a succession plan is firmly in place. The camera seemed to understand this and whenever possible told that story.

Stories were leaked to say how Prince George and Charlotte were bribed with chocolates to behave. And we will always remember the Chelloist’s socks, the awestruck pageboy carrying Megan’s train, the choir singing “Stand By Me” and the authentic tight-upper-lip-relaxed reactions to the spirited sermon from Bishop Michael Curry.

And the hats, from the Queen to Oprah, the head art kept the eye engaged and reinforced that the Windsors know how to throw an impeccable event for a brand that deserves the crown.