Connect with us:

The 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing Blog

Best practices, training and innovations in Digital Strategy.

Is Marketing Storytelling? Part 2: The Importance of Theme

November 23, 2015 – 12:42 pm
Allison Turza Bajger

Any good story needs a compelling theme to tie the plot together and hold the audience’s attention. A captivating marketing campaign is no different.  The Business Dictionary defines a marketing theme as “a central, recurring idea or message that connects individual ads (comprising an advertising campaign) to produce a cumulative effect that is far greater than the total effect of the individual, disconnected ads.”

A marketing theme needs to remain consistent as a narrative thread that ties together ads across multiple platforms (i.e. mobile, print, email, etc.).  One of the most successful marketing themes of all time was Nike’s now ubiquitous refrain: “Just Do It”. What’s more, the slogan directly translated into financial success. In 1988, Nike sales were at $800 million. In 1998, sales were more than $9.2 billion.

“Just Do It” and the Nike swoosh are part of the same theme: action. The swoosh itself almost looks three dimensional and seems to be moving or rounding a curve. It is action. In fact, the word “swoosh” is evocative of the sound you here when a famous Nike spokesperson like Michael Jordan dribbles around a defender and soars in the air for a high-flying dunk. It is action.  The company name, Nike, pertains to the mythological Winged Goddess of Victory and she symbolizes flight, victory, and speed. Again, it is action.

The “Just Do It” slogan, which was integral to Nike’s legendary marketing campaign, is likewise meant to spur consumers to action – whether it’s to get up and exercise (wearing Nike apparel, of course), play a pick-up game of basketball, or run a marathon. In all of these instances, Nike tells its consumers to “Just Do It”.

The company’s marketing campaign was so successful because it was perfectly aligned with its products and brand identity.  In other words, Nike’s brand was also the theme of their successful marketing campaigns. Athletes, sometimes famous professionals, are seen kicking soccer balls, jumping through the air in slow motion as sweat falls of their face, and scoring goals in its commercials, print advertisements, Facebook ads, and even tweets.

The takeaway: a marketing theme must be related to a company’s products or brand in order to capture an audience’s attention and prompt them to make a purchase. So, as the Nike marketing campaign demonstrates, when thinking of marketing as storytelling, theme is indeed a crucial element.



Is Marketing Storytelling?

November 13, 2015 – 12:33 pm
Allison Turza Bajger

Whether it’s Tony the Tiger or the mermaid siren plastered on every Starbucks cup, a strong, even iconic character can intrigue an audience and spur a purchase while enhancing brand loyalty.  For Starbucks, the green mermaid is exotic, beckoning, and suprisingly evocative of fresh coffee. For Kellog’s Frosted Flakes, the tiger is wholesome and all-American, meant to cheer up your morning with “greeeeeat” cereal.

But character in the marketing context doesn’t just have to literally be a “character.” The Google logo, for instance, has a personality that has developed into a character in and of itself. The almost universally recognized fruit loop colored letters are simple and playful. The name “Google” also implies the act of looking at something while the two “o’s” in the company name look like eyes. Naturally, we use Google to look for things in an exceedingly simple fashion. We peer through the Google “o’s” and into our computer screen while searching for information.

Moreover, to think of Google employees is to conjure up images of dressed down Californians, playing beer pong while brainstorming, and lounging on bean bag chairs: the contemporary startup ethos. This is all part of the Google story. It forms the bedrock of Google’s successful marketing strategy. In fact, it was so effective that Google built a massive company without advertising for many years.

In storytelling, character development is important, and Google’s logo has done just that. It changes frequently, whether it’s a white, colorless logo after a tragedy or a picture of Martin Luther King on Martin Luther King Day. Google is using images to tell stories or commemorate important events itself – this Jedi warrior trick takes storytelling and characters to a whole new level, building character from a character. Here is a mix of various Google logos.

Another interesting and iconic logo that has become a character for a brand is the Rolling Stones’ big red lips. The lolling tongue is emblazoned on their CD’s, t-shirts, and sometimes even concert stages. Symbolic of Mick Jagger’s big, full lips, it is sexy, raucous, racy, ruby red, and encapsulates all that is 60s rock-n-roll. It’s a logo that builds upon Mick Jagger’s personality. It is an image with character.

Another company that creates a character via storytelling is tentree. The company is located in Canada and endeavors to connect consumers and the environment. For every item sold on the online clothing outlet, the company plants ten trees. In the ad below, the trees were planted in Africa. Tentree’s clothing exudes a rustic but stylish vibe and the company’s connection to the environment is emphasized throughout its website. The striking image in the ad below creates a character. Perhaps, it’s a farmer who has strong, dirty hands but an ability to delicately hold a tightly wrapped clump of seeds, which will one day lead grow into a tree.

Tentree recognizes the value of creating a character to sell your brand, ideas, or products; it is the first step in using storytelling as a means to marketing success.

Stay tuned for the four remaining concepts that meld storytelling and marketing!





Achieving Imperfect Perfection with Packaging

November 3, 2015 – 3:08 pm
Allison Turza Bajger

When it comes to brand identity, you can’t get more iconic than Burger King’s whopper. But even that old burger needs some sprucing up every so often. With Chipotle and Shake Shack cornering the fast and fresh dining space, the old timers like BK need to compete. The result: commissioning Turner Duckworth to reshape the visual identity of the whopper’s wrapper…and it was a success.

The new whopper wrapping is full of minor imperfections, which hints at unique, hand pressed patties. And flame grilled is branded – slightly askew –  on the brown and faintly reminiscent of organic and recycled cardboard cover. In short, it says all things fresh, new, and millennial. What’s more, the hint of green conjures up images of crispy, cool lettuce and makes you think fresh.

Character, that’s what the new whopper wrapper imbues. It’s subtle without imposing McDonald’s golden arches in your face. Being brave and reshaping your brand in a smart way can invigorate a company. The design must be simple; it cannot overachieve. And the new coffee cup has a brown light bulb with emanating yellowish light that makes you feel alive, invigorated, and full of bright ideas in the sleepy early morning hours.

In the end, it comes down to imperfect perfection. The new design achieves this and it may just lead to a better ROI. Whether you’re a start-up or an international burger chain, branding always matters. So do the customers. If your burger looks unique and personalized they might feel the same way too.





With Great Data Comes Great Responsibility

October 1, 2015 – 1:16 pm
Brian Rice



I am data. You are data. We are all data…and that’s why we have to zone in on our processes of data analytics and science as people because that is what the data is, people.

I am not alone here. I have had conversations with many of my peers and competitors who are all fully aware of how we must take an emotional approach to our work. This is because there are emotions and at times, very important life events that we are affecting through enablement and change, hopefully with the best of intentions.

What college should I attend and why?
Predicting intent to move, the changing of home caretakers, purchasing expensive items that will have a big impact budgets, choosing your next job – all these decisions affect so much more than a click or a day of someone’s life. We are mapping the flow of this traffic, its direction and the related content. Our research data, when brought to action, becomes the behavioral data about the people who make these types of decisions.

I feel the pressure of the people, not the CPM!

Marketing, advertising and research through audience science, development, management and optimization, are all very important. However, without an emotional understanding of the people and the goals, we can easily fail.

Even understanding and creating the right content might not be enough to accomplish goals focused on the people – not just a CPM or CPC. The IP models get loaded into the DSPs for programmatic media buys and we can often forget they are actually people. We can no longer run those buys the same way we have watched display advertising become a commoditized market of price and reach, not quality and relevancy. We need to bring favorable and tolerable marketing for the people!

But here is why advertising has the opportunity to really harness the power of the people – by really listening to the that data, analyzing it, finding stages in the buyer’s journey and making it speak to us. However, if you don’t engage with the proper content that says “I hear what you want and we are giving it to you through incentives that increase our life time value through a data/people relationship”, then we are not committed to a greater outcome and relationship.

We can bring the horse to the water from audience analytics but will they have a drink?

We need to emphasize:

  • Creative solutions
  • Relevant content
  • Offers and meaningful CTAs
  • Lead and prospect nurturing through real-world CRM solutions

The ‘Relationship’

It must be a fair relationship between your data partners, ad agencies and company processes. This how we get to a win-win situation, for both the business side and the consumer satisfaction side. This is also why it never matters who the smartest guy in the room is it’s the contribution of each individual – their skills and experience independently based upon the goals we are all there together to achieve. The lions need to form Voltron.

As for us data, audience, people profiling folks – we can help by doing our part. However, it’s rare to be able to have an audience scientist who is skilled in UI, UX, design and content. This is an illusive mash up and usually is only found in the old school direct marketers that have evolved with data for over 15 years plus of experience. This is because back then, it had to be done this way. The creative in DM/DR was responsible for processing the data and then communicating the meaning of these analytics back to the creative – much more than A/B testing.

Insights are only relevant in advertising and marketing if action can be tied to them. Data can be extrapolated from most of the insights, especially from research data and not old survey panels. Keep in mind, I don’t just mean for media planning and buying. This applies to making actionable decisions based on locations, banners, landing page optimization, customer programs, sales times, seasonality, AdWords, competitive analysis, consumer experience and much more.

Intent, from cookies to IP addresses, started and has been evolving since about 2012.

Nowadays, the cookie is basically irrelevant in intent modeling and audience development for so many reasons, mobile being of course the big one. There are no cookies in this terrain and all around the cookie…well it’s just not clean data in! So now, we need to uncover real predictive intent and this comes from research analytics and modeling that can be tied to indexing page consumption at the UA/Device level. Actions can then be taken from all aspects of communications and engagement, creating many important triggers.

Data is becoming more and more useful for practices such as Venture/Private Equity, PR, Product Development, Market Analysis (sizing, opportunity, competition, etc.). I cannot stress enough how we can no longer just load IP addresses into a DSP and start programmatic buying with old methods. While this is an important use, it needs proper recency and frequency models attached to it for optimal performance, in brand as well as direct. Many are busy in their labs as we feel, with so much data these days, there is limitless work to be done.

The bottom line

While it’s really fun to see what comes out of an audience profile in the early part of the build and then, how many segmentation and utilization doors get opened, I often find that it’s very easy to get lost in the data.

So how do we maintain a clear focus?

First off, if we are tasked with a project that has a defined end result, this helps a great deal. Additionally, being focused on improving campaigns, strategies and ideas all of which are based on the who, the what, the where and the when, provides you with a clear road map to follow.

With so much research and work being done to avoid digital ads all together for consumers, it’s clear we’re not performing optimally.

As Marketers, we have the power to do better! And therefore…we must accept the responsibility.



1st Party Data – The Key to Opportunity Is Already In Your “Hands”

September 18, 2015 – 7:11 pm
Brian Rice








You may not realize it, but you may be growing your business by harnessing the power of the data that you already have in your CRM.  This is what we call 1st Party Data.

While we hear a lot about 2nd and 3rd party data nowadays, what about 1st party data? What is it? Well, it’s the data that belongs to you. The more of it you have -  and the more you know about each individual – the more powerful the rest of the process will be.

You can utilize your preexisting 1st party data even more effectively from referrals, upsells, and new customers to increase your profits. Here are some helpful terms to keep in mind:

1)    Onboarding – a new term that refers to exporting your data and then importing it into a data management platform that can model your best customers, enabling you to learn more about them by appending 2nd and 3rd party data.

2) Look-A-Likes – this means using data modeling to create the closest, unique look-a-likes of your best customers…the top 20%! This is a sensitive process for many reasons. First, it is paramount to target and then omit the data that’s not relevant to your goals or business services/products. Second, you must know what data to retrieve.  Third, locating sources to retrieve that data is essential. Web behavior, demographics, lifestyle, and household and transactional data that is appended to your file will enable you to determine consumer intent, demand, desire and the reasons consumers share positive reviews.  As a benefit, this process will also directly and indirectly refer you new customers.

3) Actionable Data – that’s what look-a-likes and onboarding create when you’re 1st party data is in the right hands, with the right minds and aligned with the right tools.

The goal is always twofold: to know more about your customer than you could have ever imagined and to use your  data effectively.

Whether you’re attempting to harness 1st party data, 2nd party data, or 3rd party data, the goal is always business growth. Here are some great ways to achieve that growth:

1. Referral Program – This straightforward method can start by creating one-off incentives and to see what quick and varied results that fluctuate in relation to different types of customers.

2. Upsell/Cross-Sell – Finding the correlations between customer data and the other products/services your company provides (or other products/services that your company can partner with other companies to provide).  This improves your customers’ access to your products/services.

3. Prospecting – what methods are working the best: PPC, SEO, Email, Mobile, Direct Mail, TV, Radio, etc all need to be examined.

4. Mobile  – I will not put stats here; we all know the smartphone has changed how we communicate with and market to our customers. The more value we can deliver via mobile devices, the better.

5. Retention – This is a reverse model at first, looking at lost customers and opportunities and analyzing what went wrong and how we can fix it. The important question to always keep in mind, ”What can I do for you to make you happier?”

6. Loyalty – This comes from first addressing any retention issues, as noted in #5, and using analysis from the most loyal customers to determine what needs to be consistently provided via communications, content, offers, and customer service.

7. Personalized content – Content is exceedingly important, and the more personalized it is, the better. I remember when PURLS (Personalized URLS) were introduced to direct mail. The result: an instant lift in response by a minimum of a 0.50%.

8. Alerts  – Alerts allow you to inform your customers about improvements in your products and services. It’s important to find the best method to communicate your message, as an alert is helpful in re-targeting consumers who have not yet transacted.

9. Incentives – everyone likes a bonus, look at the cosmetics business for example whether via  web or in-store purchases samples are provided…leads to new purchases and data on what samples are performing better than others to convert into  sales of new products or sale items.    As mention in #1 this will also over time show what incentives/offers  customers like the best and can now be consistent via a Referral Program .

10. Birthday Wishes and Gifts  – A birthday wish is always appreciated especially when it comes from a non-expected source, a birthday gift…well who doesn’t want one of those.

These are the options. Now it’s time to decide what first steps are the best for your business.This process works most smoothly if it involves the right people and the right teams, depending on the size of your organization.

For example let’s say you own two local pizzerias, the counter staff, waiting staff, and delivery staff are the key to the customer experiences and what may be missing from making your customers happier!

Now let’s say you are the CMO of Domino’s with more staff in the three areas…the difference is that you have a lot more staff to communicate and as a result, it would be optimal to set up a simple survey system that lets the employees choose whether or not they want to be anonymous in the system. This garners the most honest data possible.

Domino’s showed the power of analyzing and making data actionable with their revamped online ordering system that allowed customers to watch their orders from start to delivery online.  This is the quintessential system with all the bells and whistles you could think of that creates internal efficiency via transparency.

So to summarize, we hear the following terms quite often these days:


2nd Party Data

3rd Party Data

However, it all starts with 1st Party Data and the Data in your CRM, your web logs, your POS, etc. but as mentioned above in the two examples of a local pizzeria to a major chain your employees that are the stakeholders in deploying your customer service strategy can provide amazing “hands on” experiential data.




Successful Entrepreneurs Pick Up Coding Skills!

September 14, 2015 – 9:59 am
Allison Turza Bajger

It goes without saying that successful entrepreneurs have to be well-rounded, as the early days of a startup’s life require its CEO to possess a wide variety of skills. One such skill that can benefit most entrepreneurs is computer programming. Computers, websites, apps, and smartphones are essential to most businesses and they would not function properly without computer code. As a result, a basic knowledge of coding is incredibly useful and it can be obtained from the following places for free:

  • Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science: This online, entry-level class is Harvard University’s introduction to computer science and the art of programming. The computer languages addressed include C, PHP, JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML. Students also complete problem sets inspired by real-world problems. It’s worth noting that MIT also has free online courses that cover more advanced aspects of programming.
  • CodeAcademy: Millions of people have used CodeAcademy’s free courses to burnish their coding skills. It’s an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 8 different programming languages, including Python, PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, AngularJS, and Ruby. The markup languages HTML and CSS are also covered.

  • Code Avengers: An entrepreneur can use Code Avengers to take free introductory interactive computer programming classes that cover JavaScript, HTML, Python, and CSS.

  • GiftHub: GiftHub provides hundreds of free textbooks that discuss computer programming, including more than 50 programming languages. Unlike online courses, the books are excellent, quick references when an entrepreneur confronts a coding dilemma in the field.
  • HTML5 ROCKS: Google released a new developer resource dedicated to all that is HTML5 a few years ago called HTML5 Rocks. The open source site provides a good (and free) way to learn and experiment with coding.

Whether you’re getting ready to launch a startup or you have been a successful entrepreneur for many years, knowledge of computer programming can only help your business. These free resources are great places to start your programming journey!



Think Big in the Startup Universe

August 10, 2015 – 8:26 am
Allison Turza Bajger

Darian Shirazi, the first intern hired at Facebook, was recently interviewed on CNBC (and yes, he picked up some equity in Facebook before moving on to start his own businesses).  Shirazi spoke about his time and experience during the early days of the social media behemoth’s existence and shared an interesting insight with the cast of Squawk Box. He explained that the one difference between Facebook and most other startups was the fact that Mark Zuckerberg was always “thinking big.”

From the outset, Zuckerberg was focused on building a massive, life-changing social media ecosystem.  Unfortunately, this notion of “thinking big” is often lost upon early stage entrepreneurs as they get too bogged down in the muddy morass of small day-to-day problems or challenges.

One of Google’s guiding principles, “think big, act small,” echoes Shirazi’s observations. The Google principle encourages the company to formulate abiding large scale goals while recognizing that results can only be achieved via small steps. As Google clearly recognized, the successful entrepreneur must demonstrate a commitment to continual growth.

Facebook, for instance, was able to surpass all of its competitors (think Myspace) because it had the best growth model.  The model could be quickly and efficiently repeated; this repeatability was the vessel carrying the “big thoughts” and “big ideas.”  Zuckerberg’s consistent, grand vision enabled him to effectively handle large scale growth. As a result, Facebook pages now light up computer screens around the globe.

In the end, a successful entrepreneur has to strike the appropriate balance of building for the longer term or “big” future while still taking small steps, setting small goals that can be readily met, and making things happen every day.


Masses of Millennials Bitten by the Entrepreneurship Bug

June 15, 2015 – 3:03 pm
Allison Turza Bajger

Recently released statistics based on data from more than 70 economies and 200,000 participants revealed that 18 percent of all young people from the ages of 25 to 34 are starting businesses in America (source: The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). Even more surprisingly, throngs of millennials are building their startups while maintaining other jobs.

With so many new gladiators entering the startup arena, a sound business strategy is paramount. In order to successfully navigate the dense thicket of competition in the marketplace, a few important principles should always be top of mind. Most importantly, young entrepreneurs must practice proactive time management. This notion is even more important for those young people trying to build a business and a brand while working a separate 9-5 job.  Effective time management forms the foundation of any successful startup.

The steel backbone of a winning time management strategy is forged by a consistent return on investment  (“ROI”) mentality.  The budding entrepreneur should view his or her time as money; it is not to be wasted. Accordingly, key performance indicators can be utilized to determine whether time is being spent wisely. Every undertaking starts and ends with evaluating goals. As PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel stated, every startup should continuously be asking itself “what is valuable?”

Data indicates that now is as good a time as ever to be an entrepreneur, as banks are more willing to lend post recession and it’s cheaper and easier to build products thanks to innovative technology. An entrepreneur must therefore strive to create an organic and agile workflow. Flexibility is key and high performers are focused but not fixated.

Innovators and economic disruptors ultimately win in the startup space. Accordingly, all young entrepreneurs must be open to inventing, re-inventing, and pushing traditional boundaries. The next big thing is always around the corner, so, to all you young entrepreneurs out there, as CIA agents say before embarking on a new spy mission, “good hunting.”


The Secret Recipe For Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: Q&A with Jason Stile

June 5, 2015 – 8:25 am
Allison Turza Bajger

Blueliner LLC is the entrepreneur’s company. We are comprised of many talented and eager marketing and tech-focused entrepreneurs and we always love reaching out to other like-minded entrepreneurs to see how they turned their dream into a reality.  It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Jason Stile, Founder and CEO of Ajustco.

Jason is a serial entrepreneur who has been coming up with ideas since childhood. He currently has two innovations in the market, one of which is the award-winning barrel bolt lock AjustLock.

AB: What’s been the most difficult aspect of running your startup?

JS: It is a tie between raising the initial capital in the first round and getting production to a level that is ready for the market.  I spent the first year going to investor pitches and receiving a lot of similar responses such as, “I like your product but I know nothing about consumer product companies, I only know about tech start-ups.”  It also took about a year and many trips to China to get production right.

AB: In one word, how would you summarize your experience as a CEO?

JS: Adventure

AB: What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs in any industry?

JS: When you have written your business plan and produced your financial projections for the first 3 years, whatever amount of money you think you need to get through those 3 years, TRIPLE IT!!!  That is how much you will need to survive.  A wise man once gave me that advice and I didn’t believe him until I have now lived it.

AB: How do you motivate yourself to keep growing your company?

JS: I have a responsibility to my investors to give them back a return that is multiplied enough times to justify the initial risk that they took in me and our company.  They all believe in me and are counting on me to hustle hard every day until we make it work.  They are a big part of my motivation.

AB: What’s your favorite activity to partake in outside of the office and why (ie., to stay “normal”)?

JS: I practice an Internal Art called Hermetic Philosophy.  It is the study of how everything in Nature functions including how our internal world functions, especially our instincts, emotions, and our mind.  What is great is that I can practice it at work and out of the office as well.  It has become integrated into my entire way of living so there really is no separation.  It is my favorite activity because it helps me to connect with my Inner Being, something I have been seeking my whole life.  These teachings help me create inner harmony and order which in turn brings me a happiness that is lasting unlike a temporary pleasure which only lasts a short while.



Homepage Slider (Virtual All Stars)

May 8, 2015 – 11:13 am
Allison Turza Bajger

google parnter